Alison Liz's blog

What a week!

I am seriously shell-shocked. Last Thursday I got an email from the Society of Antiquaries of London, to say they had accepted my application for funding under their Janet Arnold Award for costume research. They have offered me the funding to pay for a trip to Australia to see the original pieces of the waistcoat I am reproducing for the Cook Museum, as well as a visit to Wellington, NZ, to see another waistcoat attributed to Elizabeth Cook, and supposedly worn by James. I can use that to get a feel for the original sizes and construction, I hope.

Interesting morning

I spent this morning at a workshop for museum staff and volunteers, at the Fishing Heritage Centre in Grimsby. It was run by Michelle Harper, a textile conservationist from Stoke-on-Trent, and it was about displaying costume items. Specifically, on how to prepare manikins for use in displaying costume. Unfirtunepately I missed the first session last week, on handling and packing, but I got a copy of the handouts. We spent most of the morning padding out a very skinny female manikin, to allow us to display a MALE 1950s blazer on it!

Corset Done At Last!

I have finally finished the 1770s corset! My fingers will take a few days to recover, I suspect. It even still fits, despite Christmas in the time between planning the pattern out and finishing it. I'm pleased with the way it has worked out, and it is surprisingly comfortable to wear, although I haven't tried an extended time yet. There is space to tighten the laces if the diet continues to be successful, as well. Sadly it doesn't make me magically much thinner, but I actually have a figure of sorts!

Almost there on the corset!

I'm making great progress on the corset for my 1770's costume. I've finished making up the individual pieces - eight of them, plus two shoulder straps. They are made of two layers of heavy calico, with an outer layer of dark brown linen. I've stitched it with black linen thread. The boning would have been whalebone, but using that is illegal these days, so I'm using synthetic whalebone from Vena Cava Designs. I've estimated that it needed somewhere between 20 and 25 metres!

Tambouring is slow progress

Tambouring was very popular in the 18th century. It involves using a crochet hook to pull loops of thread through the fabric, and produces an effect very like chain stitch: in fact you have to look closely at the back to see a difference. It's a technique I am trying to get to grips with, but it is a very different movement from embroidery with a needle.

The joys of tambouring

I am trying to get back into the swing of tambouring, to make a pair of sleeve ruffles for the 18th century costume. I was getting back in to it fairly well, but the hook holder has come off the handle of my tambour hook. Now, do I have any wood glue, and if I do, where the h--l did I put it?

Miracles do happen! Not only do I have wood glue, but it was actually where it was supposed to be - in the tool box! So I have stuck the handle back on, but I can't do any more work until it has set. Ah, well.....

Season's Greetings!

Compliments of the season to one and all! I thought I would be able to get Christmas organised early, since I wasn't working full-time any more. Fat chance! I did manage to get a bit more sorted: I actually made cake, puddings, mincemeat, etc this year for the first time in years. However......Christmas tree only went up yesterday, and most of the cards missed the posting date as usual. Why change the habits of a lifetime? Ah, well......

Left-cross or right-cross?

I've been doing a bit of cross-stitch (boo, boo!) as a way of keeping hands busy while my dad is staying with us. I lend him my chair as it is a recliner, so I haven't got my good light to stitch with. So I thought I would make a sign for my new Studio's door. The builder is starting work on the garage conversion in January - hooray!

Avoiding corset-maker's thumb!

Trying to hand-stitch a corset is tough! I now understand why most stay-makers were men. Pulling a needle with heavy linen thread through two layers of heavyweight calico and one of linen is hard work. I've never got on with thimbles very well, but I've found the problem isn't pushing the needle, it's PULLING it. The first couple of panels gave me a case of corset-maker's thumb, which I have decided is a new type of repetitive strain injury. My hand ached for a good couple of days!

Progress so far

I am making great progress with the Georgian project. At least, it seems great progress to me, now I have time to work on it full-time. I can recommend this retirement lark!

I have had a couple of research visits to look at materials in collections, one to the Kay-Shuttleworth Collection at Gawthorpe Hall, and one to Leeds Museums Discovery Centre. Both have some stunning 18th century items in their collections, which cause me some heartache in the difficulties of getting the fabrics they used, especially the very fine muslins.

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