Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Of Cars in your Toes, and Climbing Chairs.

Things have been interesting lately.
Jenny's new climbing obsession.

Like waking up in the grey of dawn, to hear a child crying. To rush to his room, to find that the child locks have failed. To run to the bathroom, to find---
All your makeup unzipped from its bags, in the sink with the water running over it---
And the supposedly child-proof 40 oz. of mouthwash poured over the floor---
And a 2 yr old boy, crying, as he has got mouth wash on his hands and is rubbing it in his eyes.

Or posting some adorable pictures of your adorable kids, only to go back and find the said kids, sitting on a destroyed lamp and 2 boxes worth of tissues on the floor. To put these aforementioned kids in timeout, only to come to get them, and find they've removed Daddy's old lego hoard from its hiding place under the crib, and have managed to get ALL THE YARDS AND YARDS OF PACKING TAPE that you mummified the container in, with nothing but their clever little hands and teeth. In 5 minutes. And are now sitting on a heap of Legos, like Smaug.
And they're sooo proud of themselves.

Other accomplishments.
Jenny, at 15 months, says "High Tive" and gives you high fives. She'll run away from you into trouble, but as soon as she decides she's going to get caught, turns, laughing and running toward you, like it was all a joke after all.
 I witnessed her steal a car from Isaiah. He was incensed, and chased her around the room, crying, while she evaded him. As he closed in, she flung it down, like she didn't really want it after all.
She knows when the game is up, and pretends like it didn't matter to her anyway. Or maybe it didn't. Maybe she just wants to watch us run around and panic....
She climbed out of her bed, and beamed at us. She is very aware of her newfounds skills at climbing everything. The night she started her climbing career, I saw the gleam in her eyes of independence, of someone who had just gotten her drivers license.

This is her innocent face. "Why are you looking at me?" She's also very good at that. Right on the heels of doing something she *knows* she shouldn't be doing.

Isaiah, has been reading himself books, and remembering things for a very long time. I read him a Spot (he says "STOT BOOK!") book with pictures, one which includes a drawing of colored pencils. I read it to him, and commented once, "colored pencils, one day I will let you draw with these" But not this day. Lest you poke your eye out.
Now, whenever he reads the book, he points to the pencils, and says to himself, "Pencils. One day", before turning the page.

 Isaiah was very interested in his red car.
 I was trying to figure out what he was doing.
I was still trying to figure it out.
  I think I asked him. He may have explained. I didn't get it.

And then Jenny's head appears above him, like an angel. I finally realize, while I have been photographing Isaiah, Jenny has been climbing the chair on the woodchips.

She is caught, and taken down.

She also tries to turn the hose on. Thankfully she hasn't managed that yet.

Innocent face

Everyday Lord of the Rings inspired Wear: Eowyn Refugee Jumper Type 1

This is what I wear on a normal day. Its comfy, and practical, and I feel awesome.

My version. Don't worry, it doesn't make you look pregnant. I am pregnant. Almost 20 weeks.
It's loosely inspired by Eowyn's Jumper ensembles ("Refugee Outfit").

I really like Jumper outfits with shirts rolled up to the elbow. It just looks so....awesome. Like your life is full of action and adventure. Of imminent battle and defense, or chasing small children and keeping them alive.

Mine is based on the "Gothic Fitted Dress/Cotehardie/14th century women's dress", made by 4 panel construction, self lined from the shoulder to the hip. Laces up the front (yayy nursing!), and is *very* supportive which is very nice. (Here is a picture of one, Here are instructions to making your own) It is a very economical way of cutting, with gores inserted which makes for almost no waste. This dress was made from 4 yards of 33" wide fabric, which translates to about 2-2.5 yards of 60". There was literally a handful of scraps left.

Authentic ones have sleeves, and are made out of wool, linen, or silk.
Mine is made from cotton twill (medium weight) canvas I got for $1/yard on clearance at Jomar in Philly. I dyed it myself with RIT dark brown dye and salt (in a bucket, alas, hence the blotchiness). The lacing cord is a 4 strand braid of the cheapest yarn at walmart. The eyelets were poked through the fabric with an awl (or a chopstick) and hand-sewn with DMC floss from walmart. I stiffened the hem with a braid of scratchy twine from Lowes. (alot cheaper than horse-hair braid...).
All in all, I think the dress cost around $7.

The circlet is gauge 20 steel wire from lowes (110 ft for 5 bucks), around my head twice, wrapped in cotton thread. Worn like this.[insert link] I think it looks good with a braid.

I wear this outfit surprisingly a lot. I love how supportive it is, it lifts the bustline giving the illusion of a waist to this 20 week pregnant woman.  And the gores mean it fits at 20 weeks although it was made from an unpregnant me. And the front lacing means I can nurse in it.
I guess medieval styles were meant to take pregnancy/nursing in stride...
.....almost like its normal or something :)

Baby and me at 19.5 weeks

Somehow, in self timer pictures I always manage to look deranged. Josh took all the other pictures, which explains why they're so much better.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Elven Penannular Brooches Designs

Elven Penannular Brooches

I was thinking about Elven Brooches.
While the brooches in the movie are beautiful, they never struck me as being hugely functional.

Leaf Brooch from the Lord of the Rings Movies
Because, basically its a glorified brooch pin. Which works great to hold lightweight fabrics together. But brooch pins aren't the sturdiest thing to hold a heavy wool cloak shut. I found this out using another brooch pin to hold my heavy wool cloak shut in the Philadelphia winter.

I found, what worked well were penannular brooches (fibula) invented in the Iron Age and used throughout history. Plus they are fairly easy to make, you don't need a forge, and can use old hangers, picture hanging wire, and standard toolbox tools to make them. (See tutorial here, part 1, part 2)
An Ancient Penannular Brooch: Sturdy and Practical
But I want to make Penannular Brooches that look Elven. We know they worked with metal, and loved leaf designs. Arwen was wearing a "belt of leaves, wrought in silver" at Rivendell. And the Loth Lorien elves made them the brooches which Tolkien describes as looking like a "newly opened beech leaf."

Beech Leaves

More Beech Leaves
 So I got to designing things, and here are a few sketches.

The basic brooch part, I can make with hangers, and if I want the vine-like effect, wrap in wire (see tutorial 1, 2). The leaf embellishment, I am still trying to figure out. The simplest would be to buy some metal-stamped leaves (for jewelry making) off etsy and wire (or solder, or glue, or epoxy) them on the ends. The same would go for securing the leaves to the end of the pin (the pin needs to be able to slid around on the brooch, so the leaves need to be attached to the pin, and not the ring)

I could also use wooden beads on the ends, and carve and paint them into leaf shapes.

Or use some sort of clay, and paint it. Or even metal clay ($$$).

Or cut thin metal sheeting, and learn how to stamp/tool metal leaves myself. It would all have to be cold-forging (aka what I can do with a tool box and my brains), as I don't have a forge.

OR paint leather and cut them into the shape of leaves and sew them onto the respective parts of the brooch with thread.

If I was going for pretty-looking and not authentic, I could try foil glued to plastic/glue gun molds, or painted baked salt-dough, etc.

I think using a deep green nailpolish over a shiny metal surface would give a beautiful effect. Like this tutorial, but with a lot more coats, to give it depth. Perhaps even lay wires down on the metal like leaf-veins, and fill in with the nailpolish. A kind of home-made cloisonne.
 We'll see.

UPDATE: So after slicing my fingers a few times, I decided to put beads (only wood or plastic, glass won't 'stick' on alas, unless solder or glue is involved) on the ends, and wrap the wire ends close to the base of the bead so its less likely to slice a finger.
I think, the best thing I can think for the leaves, is to get a flat wooden beads to get on the end. Then to carve and paint, and then woodglue, leaves onto the wooden beads.
For the leaves at the base, I think it would be ideal to use a bead (with a REALLY big threading hole) as the "hinge" of the pin (the pin is wire, and will be affixed to the bead), and then glue on a wooden (or metal) leaf from there....

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Arwen Angel Dress Planning (Part 1): Debut of "Everyday Lord of the Rings Clothes: Epic and Wearable"

This post is about my dress plans inspired from this dress that Arwen wears in Frodo's half-vision of her, when she finds them after he's been wounded.
 I know it should be Glorfindel. But the dress is still pretty.

 It has been dubbed "Arwen's Angel Dress" by fans. I love the dresses in the Lord of the Rings movies.

In the "making of" extras, and the "Art of Lord of the Rings" books, as well as interviews etc, you see how much craft went into the outfits. They emblazoned emblems of the 7 tiers of Minas Tirith on Faramir's buckle straps, even though you never see it, because, as a son of the steward of Gondor, its the kind of thing he would have.
Aragorn's leather jerkin is torn, gouged, etc in many places, with crude repair jobs that suggest he fixed it on his own by a campfire. His shirt has fine embroidery on it, like it was a gift from the elves, though then it was so faded and worn that you can barely tell.
Denethor is wearing AN ENTIRE SUIT OF CHAIN MAILLE underneath his robes, because he's a warrior underneath, even though you never see it.

Alas and totally squandered by whoever wrote the script, and the cherry-tomato-eating-while-your-son-is-dying bit. Really. They made Denethor a cartoon, with none of the manliness, the heart, the regret, that made him so human, that made watching him be eaten out by pride and despair so horrific. (Instead, we're practically cheering as that mean ol' cartoon falls to his death. So sad.)

It was seeing the jerkins and the clothes, and how they were planned and weathered that gave me new respect for costume (or "outfit") makers. It was another way of telling a story. But with tears and sun-fading and sword cuts patched up with crude stitches instead of words.
But the pictures were there all the same...Strider, slightly wounded, patching up his gear by a solitary campfire under a cold starry sky....


Onto dresses.
See the beautiful embroidery/beading around the neck.

Ironically (given the real topic of this post) the elves clothing is my least favorite of all the costume design. I just cant' see Tolkien's elves, especially his men elves, like Elrond, trailing around their courtyards in huge velvet bathrobes whose sleeves drag down on the ground.
The elves climbed trees. And sang silly songs at the dwarves. They were also sad, and grave, and deep. I get that. But I think they would wear clothes that they could move in, climb trees in, swing between branches stringing lanterns in.

But some of Arwen's Gowns are quite beautiful.
I always liked this one, for the brief 4 seconds you see it, before she changes back into her Elvish Business Suit (Chase Dress). But I thought it looked too much like a maternity dress.
Full Length Shot of Arwen's Angel Dress, note the split overskirt

Then I got pregnant, and now I'm "It looks like a maternity dress!"
I want to combine it with her "Rose Dress" (cut from the movie), which also has a split overskirt, but a (removable?) waistband as well. I think the waistband gives much better lines.
Rose Dress Concept
Angel Dress (note when the same dress is worn by a curvier model with less wide shoulders, it cries out for a waistband)
 Here are more shots of the Rose Dress

I love the lines with the waistband

still with wb
no wb?

So, onto my plans.
This is my first installment of "Everyday Lord of the Rings Wardrobe" in other words, stuff I can actually wear to more places than Ring/Costume/Dragon/etc Con. 
Because it seems like such a rum pity to spend so much time making something beautiful, and only get to wear it 4x in your life (not counting photoshoots), and have it hang in your closet while you have to wear jeans and t shirts and modern stylish clothes you don't really love.

I want to make things, inspired enough by LOTR dresses that I feel epic, but without sleeves trailing into the stove or the toilet while I'm swishing diapers. And out of something that I can wash the baby spit up out of (and the mud and blood from arrow-wounds and adventures...)

Yeah. So. Epic and Wearable.

Onto Arwen's Angel Dress. I drew sketches until I had down the elements that I really liked from this dress.
 I really like the deep scooping beaded neckline, the empire waistband (Rose Dress), the split overskirt, and the angel-like sleeves.
From a practical perspective, I can think of 2 ways of making the skirt. Either, I can make an underskirt with a split overskirt over it, like the original. OR I can put a bit inverse-box pleat in middle of a single skirt, and top stitch the edges of the pleat (perhaps with embroidery) to hold it into that shape.
Either way, the skirts will be A line, cut with a rather large top to bottom ratio to give a lot of fullness in the hem. And I'm going to hem-stiffen it, to make the skirt stand out a little without the need for petticoats.
The bodice will be a simple empire design, fitted with darts, with a deep scoopy yoke at the top, which I will bead and embroider to my liking.

I played around with some variations, and I think I like the neck shape being a little more like the tip of an egg vs a rounded square. (compare the sketch above, with the sketch below)
Also, I tried out different sleeve looks, and while I love all 3 (angel, petal, and banded mini-tippetted sleeves), I think I like the banded mini-tippetted ones best. Kind of mini version of elf sleeves.

Practical Construction Notes
For practical (and financial) reasons, I shall make it out of cotton. Also, I  have no experience with knits. So while the original was some kind of knit, this one will be made from regular woven cotton. If I do the angel sleeves, I think I'll make them out of polyester (non shiny!) chiffon, attached to a removable underbodice, so I can wear the dress without sleeves, and handwash the chiffon separately.
The Back: zipper closure. I don't have to put a lot of fullness in the back, because the front box pleat (or under/overskirt) will accomodate my growing belly just fine.

Nursing Access.
I'll either split the front yoke (Option B), and have a seam going down the front bodice, closed with either hook n eyes, or an invisible zipper. I think an invisible zipper would be more practical, as screamingly hungry babies don't want to wait 2 minutes while you get all the hooks...we'll see.
OR I could keep the front yoke unbroken (Option A), and have the dress only sewn to it at the shoulders, and snapping underneath it when shut. 
We'll see.

Dress is coming...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How to Make a Penannular Brooch (Fibula) without a forge : Tutorial Part 1

So, this is how to make one of these. (This is for you, Tirzah...)

Forgive the bad picture. I dropped my camera behind the piano and am borrowing someone else's, whose settings I have not quite figured out....And these dont' have pins on them yet. That's coming in Tutorial part 2

 My version, above, not yet painted or prettied up, alas....

Bronze Age version
Penannular Brooch, invented in the Iron Age and used a lot throughout history to hold up cloaks and stuff.
It's a very practical design, and holds up cloaks very well.
To those of us who do not have forges (unlike these amazing craftsmen...sob sob) here is how to make one that looks kind of like this, using nothing but household materials.

You will need.
  1. Cheap Wire Hanger (the dry cleaner kind. I have been to the dry cleaners once in my life, but I have billions. I think family tends to save them, and I inherited a goodly amount)
  2. Steel Wire Gauge 18 or 20 (You can use other kinds of wire. Steel wire is probably the hardest to work with. But from Lowe's its just sooooo much cheaper than jewelry/craft wire. $5 for 110 ft)
  3. A good pair of Needle Nose Pliers
  4. A good pair of wire cutters. (you're going to need something with decent umph to get through the hanger. I killed my dollar store wire cutters on it. We spent $8 at Lowes to get these Kobalt wire cutters with a little pivot in them, but they've held up really well through making a lot of stuff. Tools are a capital investment, and worth it)
  5. Metallic Spray paint of your choice.
  6. A table let/fat dowel/shower curtain pole/ something strong you can bend stuff around. A SMALL CAN OF TOMATO PASTE WORKS BEST
  7. (Optional) Steel Wire Gauge 24

Here is a glam shot of the tools.

Bend your hanger around your table let/dowel/strong roundish thing.  DO NOT CUT your hanger first, it makes it MUCH harder to maneuver.  You will have to bend it around, then sorta unbend it to get it off. Scrunch it back to its shape, AND THEN cut off the non-circular part. 
Bend it around the Table Leg. (yes, that's half a hanger, I cut off a piece and tried to bend it, then realized how much easier it was to bend it first) UPDATE: A SMALL CAN OF TOMATO PASTE WORKS EVEN BETTER

Voila, its a circle.

I scrunched it a bit to get the radius I wanted.

....And trimmed it to desired size. I laid it down next to the finished one to make sure I was getting the size I wanted.

Bend it first, then trim it. Believe me, its so much harder to get a smooth circle if you cut it first and then try to bend it with nothing for your hands to really grip on to.

Cut a length of your 18/20 gauge stuff, and wrap it around the C. You'll want to match middles to middles, it makes the wrapping wire process much easier. (instead of having a huge 'tail' you have to manipulate around). 
Begin wrapping, middle of the wire to the middle of the C.

Wrap to the ends.

Wrap the remainder of the wire around the ends of the C, to create a little bit of a 'bump' on the ends. You'll need to use the pliers when the wire gets really short, or risk hurting your fingers.

 Also, you'll want to wrap it decently close, as you'll be 'filling in the gaps' by repeating this step twice more.

Cut 2 more lengths of wire, and repeat this process twice more. I think it looks a lot better if you don't cross the pieces over eachother, but keep them all twisting neatly against the C in their own little swirly rows.

I wrapped the coils on the left one closer together, and the one on the right a little wider. See the different effects.

optional. I like to take the really thin wire (gauge 24) and since its so easy to manipulate, wrap it around the ends, to bulk them up a bit and cover up the other pointy ends of wires.
you can see how I've wrapped one end with thin wire to cover up sharp ends, I'm doing the same with the other one now.

In part 2, we'll make the pin, and in part 3 spray paint it to a uniform color. 

Part 2: Making the Pin here