Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Admiral Himself

From the back:

The cravat should be tucked in--because the waistcoat gaps at the top, the cravat is covering that awkward spot. The waistcoat itself should be longer and trimmed differently--I just needed to finish in time for Halloween!Next year I may make myself a pirate wench outfit to match, and fix some of the oddities of the Admiral (and finish the breeches and buckled shoes). :D

And much too late, here is a fantastic guide for period RN uniforms:


HMS KitKat

Since the house is full of Patrick O'Brian novels, bits of British Navy reference, and Horatio Hornblower dvd's, dinnertime chat has become surreal to anyone who doesn't live here (you have to remember J and I have been married for over 30 years, so to us, this is normal). J was looking around the kitchen and noted that "The stores were down to crackers and salt pork," and that he needed to have a word with the quartermaster. Also that "rats had gotten into the Halloween Candy."

I said that the stores of Pellegrino had also dropped dramatically because the crew had been drinking heavily, and while I was dismayed, there was a "Captain's Stash" of Pellegrino set aside for the exclusive use of the Captain, at which point J pulled open the bottom drawer by the sink and said "Some secret!"

I admitted it "was a small ship, so it's hard to hide stuff", but that I would post a Marine in front of the drawer so that there would be Pellegrino at least until we made port. J said the Marine would be better employed in front of the Halloween Candy drawer, because "We need that candy to trade with the natives."

I said that I was going to give the natives the crap candy, like the Twix and the Jolly Ranchers, and eat the Snickers and the Reeses myself. J countered that the natives were more sophisticated now since we "weren't the first boat on the beach", and the ship before us was "giving away entire Butterfinger Bars."

So I think we may have to put into Target tonight and restock.

Sandy at the Jersey Shore

Image was taken somewhere in Brigantine, New Jersey, and appears in an Imgur album by "the knowmad:"

the knowmad's Imgur link

For real time local reportage of hurricane events, look for the related headline on Fark.com ..it's all self-reported and may or may not be entirely accurate (there are a lot of "in jokes" ("pray for Omarion") trolling, drinking and foolery too), but it is the best crowd-sourced news I have found.

Fark Main Page

Also, Sandy visits NYC:

Monday, October 29, 2012

More Progress, and the Pattern

I'm down to the cleanup stages of hemming, and fixing small mistakes and loose places on the trim. The waistcoat fits perfectly across the middle, but not around the collar, where it is too loose because I added a straight panel up the center without taking into account the Admiral's slight pear shape. I am planning on stuffing the gap with cravat lace anyway.:D

The waistcoat buttons are by Dritz, made by fairly compensated German labor, and they are flawless (and heavy). Here is a closeup of the imperfect La Mode anchor button, made by disaffected labor in China: "If you pretend to pay me, I will pretend to make buttons for you."

The anchor buttons, in spite of my attempts to stitch them on in creative ways to make them line up, quietly turn themselves around so that the shanks line up with the buttonholes. I am happy with the Hercules gimp and the thinner braid twist that make up the cuff trim. The braid twist does need to be applied by hand because the sewing machine needle breaks the mylar thread covering and flattens the braid, but the braid itself glides around corners beautifully. And the rayon tablecloth looks great up close with the trim covering the soup spots!

Here is the pattern, Simplicity 4923. I went back and bought a second one on sale yesterday, in a smaller size for me so I can make myself a winter coat, now that I know how this one goes together. The XL size is an idealized size for a 48 inch chested guy with a flat stomach--you will need to add around the waist for middle-aged guys, but the pattern has a lot of accurate period detail with the convenience of some modern things like pattern notches. I added the patch pockets and of course the lapels and the collar on the coat, which I don't recommend doing unless you like to pull things off again or are a better seamstress than I am. (I'd also rework the cuffs to be simple rectangles that fold over to make self-facings, and cut them on the bias.)

"Andrea Schewe" historical costume patterns are all nice, I have used several and they are easy to make "more period" if you feel like it. Her Victorian stuff looks especially good.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

And now a Waistcoat

I'm working on the next layer of the costume--I am going to cheat and use a shirt we already had laying around the house, and some white Dockers that can pass, since time is going fast.

And yes, that is plywood on the floor--that is what happens when you pull up dog-stained carpet. The problem is that we have a cat that likes to eat mice and voles in the living room, so there is blood. I want to get laminate flooring, but I am not sure how to ask at the flooring store how well the laminate resists bloodstains, because it's a real problem. (Right now there is blood on the ceiling from a very annoyed bird, which I was able to rescue and put out again; but I will have to repaint the ceiling.).

Saturday, October 27, 2012


I have to spend some time today moving leaves, so I can find my front steps. I was told by a neighbor to cover the koi pond, as a layer of leaves on the surface can stifle them. Who knew? I am also adding cold water bacteria and not feeding the fish when the floating thermometer says it's too cold, though the fish give me the evil eye when I go away without giving them their pellets. They are already at least an inch bigger than they were in August.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tuppy Glossop

One of K's 2 cats. Augustus Fink-Nottle is not shown, but he is similar in color and style. Photo provided by K.

Star Wars Music, and My Basement

Costume Progress and Stock Roses

Now all the pieces are off the table and more or less sewn together--this still needs ironing (you can iron over the braid with a medium iron and it doesn't melt), the cuff edges finished, one lone missing button on the cuff added, two buttons put over the godet in back, and some trim added around the collar. I was planning on putting more of the Hercules Gimp braid around the bottom hem, but when I pinned it on, the whole look went from Admiral of the Blue... to Organ Grinder Monkey:

(In case you are curious, this monkey purportedly belonged to a guy named John Jay Geiger)

So I will save the bagful of gimp for other parts of the costume. If you are looking for Hercules Gimp in the Chicagoland area, I apologize; it's at my house.

I also have a leftover stock photo for anyone who needs roses--it's 2000 pixels across and could use some color adjusting and sharpening:

Link to Red Roses 2000x1500

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Who are you looking at?

Right outside the dining room window where the sewing machines are, there is a fence, and squirrels sit on this fence. I looked out yesterday and all I could see was this big squirrel butt, with a loooong tail hanging down.

And he just sat there, long enough for me to get my camera and take a couple of pictures, which seemed to annoy him. This is where he first turned to give me a look:

In other news, the Admiral costume now looks more like clothes and less like a science project:

Though every now and then, just to keep things interesting, the presser foot lever falls off the Dressmaker, and I have to open up the needle head and stuff the lever back in and put the pin back in.

I think there is a restraining plate missing in there--the needle position lever is frozen to the left as well, which is fairly useful as long as I remember to mentally adjust the seam allowance as I go. (Since the Dressmaker was free, I can't complain about it's oddities. And it does sew through 4 layers of corduroy.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Time Lapse Shuttle Trip thru LA

Time Lapse Shuttle Roll

Including Randy's Donuts, avoiding a jacaranda tree (and an apartment house), and lots of paparazzi. (The annoying banner in the beginning goes away after a few seconds, too.)

Pictures later of the costume--I swapped the cuffs accidentally because I had decided to put only 3 buttons on each cuff instead of the 6 or 8 the pattern offered, and then promptly forgot which was left and right (I should have marked them with blue tape). The rest of the buttons are almost on as well-- the coat just need edging trim and a little handwork and hemming...once I fix the cuffs.

Monday, October 22, 2012

As Ye Sew, So Shall Ye Rip

So I took off the lapels today; which was unpleasant, as I had topstitched them, as well as whipstitched the brocade to the corduroy lapel underneath. (That is why there are so many sad little cut threads there.) But I drew the new angle, cut it, and sewed the lapels back on. Then I put on the second Hornblower dvd and started to sew on the buttons. (J even was willing to try it on for button placement, pins and all.) The buttons were not perfect, though--the shanks are not lined up with the design on the face, so if you sew all the shanks the same direction, the pattern of the buttons faces all directions. And since it's important for the shank to fit neatly in the buttonhole, I sacrificed the neat rows of anchors I wanted for the lapels. The tops are crimped onto the bottoms of the buttons, too, so I couldn't even turn the tops around to make the pattern line up correctly. I shake my tiny fist at the La Mode button company. Here's how everything looked at the end of today:

To be honest, the button tops are not the least of the problems this costume has. It should really have been made of wool. The buttons, the trim, the rayon tablecloth and the pinwale corduroy are adding up to about 15 pounds of costume already, even without a shirt, cravat, waistcoat and breeches. I understand too why the later uniforms (this one I am making is from 1760) had the skirts trimmed away, fit tighter and the pockets moved around more towards the back, so you could walk. Here is the midshipman's uniform from around 1802, made of the correct blue wool. And the buttons have the midshipman's proper Tudor Rose-- and I bet they all face the same way.

Meglinating Tool

You know you want one! The rest of the .pdf flyer is here, proving that some graphic designer finally had enough of 20 years of assembling Home Depot flyers.


Sunday, October 21, 2012


This is where I realized that I had cut out the pocket upside down. Corduroy and velvet and suede all have "nap," the fuzziness that, if you are cutting out a lot of pieces, means that you have to be sure all of the pieces have the "top" pointing the same direction on the bolt of fabric. In this case it's pretty easy to see the color change on the pocket from the fabric underneath. I also cut the right front panel upside down, but for the moment I am ignoring that because I don't feel like cutting a new side panel, at least not yet. I did fix the pocket, and put on the second one as well:

I may recut the lapels though, it looks like they ended up too wide. If I was putting trim on again I would shorten the buttonhole borders as well. The red line shows where I think the new edge should be:

I would have J try it on more often to fix these issues, but he is strangely unwilling to put it on--he claims there are pins in there. (Well, duh). I am still working on the collar--it turns out the extensions aren't needed on it, so I picked out one side last night. I'm thinking of adding two more buttons to the corners of the pocket flaps--it's something I thought was odd in the source pictures, but it turns out those corners want to curl up, so there is a practical reason for the buttons.

Yesterday I saw a much larger sewing project--they are sandblasting a local water tower. The tower wonders , "Does this make me look fat?"

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ignim, Goddess of Abundance

Soom has another Legend doll out; I'm not too impressed with her name (I mean is "Bastet" copyrighted? I don't think so..) but the doll herself is lovely. It's definitely a doll where you will want to get the fullset with the Bastet head and outfits, and not just the bare doll, so the price does add up. I like her human version very much, though you can see she is a challenge to photograph--she has Onyx's heavy square lower lip, which can look odd if not painted right, but is so pretty in person. Since I already have lots of Soom girls (that need clothes and painting) plus the fact that house repairs have eaten the play money, I am just going to enjoy other owner picture of her. She is on sale from Oct 16th 2012 to October 27th. Here is the link:

Ignim's Sale Link

I sewed the first pocket on the Admiral costume on upside down last night, so there will be some delay on progress pix.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pirate Booty

To my amazement, the Admiral brought me back a blue topaz from Rio.


I'd like to put it in a ring, though J thinks that it might be "a little large". I don't care :D

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Ok, it looks pretty rough right now, but at least the Admiral costume is not just lots of little pieces on table tops. It's this part and 8 pieces of the cuffs, 2 pockets, one godet, 2 sleeves and a lot of braid and bias tape on table tops. And considering I had to do both the collar and lapels from scratch, it's coming along. I finally got tired of the Brother's shenanigans and went downstairs and unearthed the Dressmaker, a solid metal hunk of a Japanese vintage sewing machine that I am not entirely friends with, but it sews through 4 layers of corduroy with no effort. It also wants to sew much faster than I want to, and it has a pedal the size of a postage stamp.

It's still a very good machine and it deserves a cleaning and a new belt, if I can find anyone under the age of 60 who knows what it is. I still miss my Singer 457 Zig Zag that I dropped down the basement stairs. :(

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lapels, Pockets, Cuffs

One lapel is done now, and the pocket flaps and linings are cut out, and the white part of the cuffs. I used a lot of the tablecloth on the godet inserts for the coat skirt--they were a contrasting color in the Hornblower dvds and I am sweating how much Navy corduroy I have left, so I decided to go for the white godets without knowing if that was "right" or not. I also had a challenge cutting around more soup stains and even a couple of moth holes, and for the cuffs I ended up sacrificing a couple of napkins. It looks like I have enough blue for the sleeves, though, and the pockets will be functional and not just a decorative flap. The gold braid supply is getting low, too.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gas, not Mice

On Saturday the igniter for my gas cooktop shorted out. My first reaction was to go downstairs to the basement to flip the circuit breaker, and then I remembered we have fuses, not circuit breakers.

Normally you can yank a fuse, but the labels on the fuses were circa 1950, and some appliances we not longer have: i.e. "Can Opener." That might have been the right fuse, but at that point I just went back upstairs, broke the plastic clips on the Ikea drawers under the cooktop with my needle-nose pliers, and pulled the plug. It was then that I smelled gas, but I assumed it was the connector above the valve to the cooktop. Since I plan to toss the cooktop, I figured I would call the gas company Monday and report the leak, they would come out with the bubble solution, check the connector, and close the valve.

So out comes the technician this morning, and his sniffer finds gas..not at the connector, not at the valve, but coming up from the basement. Nooooo. It was a T valve right in the middle of water lines, the house vacuum, and ductwork AND a joist, but he was "pretty sure" it was that one. He put a tag on it, shut off the main, told me to call a plumber, and left. So the plumber comes an hour later, and he is baffled by the technical challenge of rethreading the pipe with no room. But he finally puzzled it out, and reached up with a tool to undo the T valve..and it just came off. It was just finger-tight on there. Who knows how long it's been like that? I always thought the smell down there was mice or the sump pit, not gas. It's fixed now, and it doesn't smell down there any more. And I have hot water again, if no stove. But 4 minutes in the microwave makes water hot enough for a pot of coffee.

Hopefully more sewing will get done tonight, though I am sort of tired right now.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


The coat pattern doesn't have lapels on it, so once I cut out the front panels, I needed to take a pen and just eyeball where the lapels should be. For lining fabric I found a good, (if slightly soup-stained) rayon-linen tablecloth that a friend donated to me for projects. (Thank you, Vicki!). The gold braid should cover the stains, and if not, perhaps the Admiral was an enthusiastic diner. The biggest headache was making sure the balustrade-and-peacock pattern was the same on both lapels, and mirror image of each other. Once that was done, I pinned the braid down loosely on one lapel to decide how I wanted to outline the buttonholes. The correct way seems to be to make chevrons on both ends of the braid, but because I have to finish this soon, I am going to shove the cut ends under the edge braid so I don't have to hand-chevron the cut ends of the buttonhole braid. There are 14 sections of buttonhole braid, and I am out of Hornblower dvds to watch while I sew by hand.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Former Mariachi Hat (updated 11/13/12)

The hat looks much better now, though sewing on the little silver beads was probably a little more than it needed. The cockade is just the blue ribbon on the table in the previous postings, with a Tori Spelling pendant attached to it. There is still a loop under the pendant in case I happen to spot a little metal sailing ship somewhere, but it looks fine for now. I also have decided to cut the coat cuffs as the pattern shows them, and put the trim on it as shown in Sir Francis Holborne's portrait below. (I can't decide if it is cute or creepy his son is dressed up like a tiny midshipman.)

By the way, I think there are ten loops around the buttons on each lapel, three buttons and loops on each cuff, and two or three rows of braid at the top of the cuff; this is as of Nov 13, 2012 after a lot more reading: "Nelson's Navy" by Philip Haythornthwaite, Osprey Publishing. Uniform standards came in after around 1790, so it's good I went for the earlier style.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Order of the Hairclip

The admiral costume needs some kind of doodad on the left side--I'm not willing to recreate any real award, but a oak leaf from JoAnn's and a hairclip from the Icing's sale box, minus the clip (yay needle-nose pliers) looks pretty good. The plastic Pirates of the Caribbean sword is looking better too, though one of the cushions had to donate a tassel. (The cats eat the tassels off the cushions anyway.)

My problem tomorrow will be cuffs--I have the coat fabric washed and ready to cut out, but the cuffs for admirals'coats seem to be different than captains'--perhaps admirals were to be trusted not to wipe their noses on their sleeves, which is supposedly why those monster buttons are on Navy sleeves. In fact, I think the tab on the captain's cuff's below (Captain Hood) are so that the cuff can be unbuttoned and you can tuck your hands into the sleeves to keep warm. I like those tabs, so I haven't decided if I want to cut them out of the fabric or not (the pattern I am using doesn't have them).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Costco hawk

When I went to Costco to get a flat of juice, there was a hawk shopping for rabbits in the vacant lot next door. The photo is a little grainy, since I was at the end of the little camera's telephoto range, but I like being able to see the details of the feet and tail.

The Admiral Project

J is in Rio right now, and before he left he expressed a vague interest in a Halloween costume. To my surprise, he must have been poking through all the Royal Navy stuff laying around as I work my way through the Patrick O' Brian novels, because he wants to be a Royal Navy Admiral (I had suggested a Captain, but no, an Admiral c. 1760 it had to be.) In some ways it makes sewing easier, as once an Admiral had achieved that lofty status there was no limit or direction to the amount of random gold braid that was applied to the outer coat. In the interest of keeping the costume bill a little more reasonable, though, I am going to try to make an outfit more like what would be the "working uniform" of an admiral--no silk or brocade, and too early for epaulets. I wanted to make it out of Navy blue wool, but for some reason, in Chicago, in October, there is No Wool in the fabric store. I had to settle for pinwale corduroy, which at least hangs pretty well and is pleasant to sew with, and looks like velvet from a couple of feet away. The second problem was that I needed at least 38 gold buttons...16 for the coat lapels, 6 for the cuffs, 12 for the waistcoat, and perhaps 6 more for the waistcoat pockets. The buttons I could find that were right are sold on cards, in pairs, imported from Italy; and the ones I wanted I could not find on the Internet, so I had to drive around Chicagoland stripping shelves of what they had in stock. I also found a felt mariachi hat, which I have cleaned off the tacky silver trim so I can apply tacky gold trim to it, and pin up the corners to make a tricorn hat out of it. Since J has a big head, I also had to soak the hat in hot water and block it over a mixing bowl to make it larger. (you can just see the mixing bowl under the hat). We will see how well all this works out, since all I have for detail reference is a Pirates of the Caribbean coat pattern and some picture guidance from Sir Joshua Reynolds, who I have come to appreciate as a portraitist. Look at this engaging rascal, Augustus Keppel. I bet Gus was a lot of fun in person.

Gus was a commodore in this painting,(there are more Reynolds paintings of him as he moved up the ranks) but the cut of the coat is the same (as far as I can tell) from lieutenant on up in 1760.

Monday, October 8, 2012


It's getting close to Halloween here, and in Chicago, Halloween is a Big Deal. Lots of the houses around here are decorated far more elaborately than even Christmas decorations were displayed back in New Jersey; and the party stores and grocery stores are crammed with costumes, pumpkins, little orange lights, and every kind of rubber spider, rat and creepy thing you can imagine. I have bought only a set of little orange lights from Target, and Nick here-- because he was a gargoyle, had a cute face and was on sale because he had some nicks here and there. Oh, I did buy a spiderweb tablecloth, that the cats promptly pulled off the table.

And because I just found the photo, here is Nick J. at St Basil's--he originally sent the photo upside down since he was "on the other side of the world."