Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Returned from France

We have just spent six weeks in France which was fabulous and the best holiday we have had in a long while. We spent 10 days in Paris, two weeks in Central Brittany cycling out from a medieval village along canals, rail trails and quiet and peaceful country roads and two weeks in the Dordogne in a 16th century manor house feeling like the proverbial goldfish as we so often exclaimed 'what a lovely castle'!

After 21 hours of travel and a day and night in Dubai, we were finally and happily ensconced in our Paris apartment eating hand made orange chocolate from the local chocolate shop, sipping wine and buzzing with excitement that we are actually here! You really remeber how far Australia is from the northern part of this planet when it takes so many hours to get there.

Dubai was fascinating, damned hot, over 41oC and quite a shock after the wet and wild weather we left in Sydney, it gave us an interesting insight into the middle east and we are keen to visit other areas after this brief taste, next trip Petra perhaps? The gold The gold souk, spice, fabric and antique souks were overwhelming in their colour, brillance and range, so much so that we couldn't decide on anything! What, not consume, what's wrong with us? Oh, except for the persian shoes that is LOL!JL's shoes

The evening we arrived in Paris we walked our local streets, strolled by the Louvre and cruised down the Seine viewing all the famous Parisian icons, Eiffel Tower, Conciergerie, Notre Dame Notre-Dame facade and other sites on Ille de la Cite. The most fabulous thing though is the buzz of the place, on a Sunday early evening locals are out Fountain outside Pompidou Centre and about enjoying their city with people on bikes everywhere- Veleibs especially.

Paris is such an interesting and vibrant city, I probably wouldn't want to live there permanently, but for 10 days it was great. We stayed in a great apartment in Les Halles in the 1st arondisement (sp) an excellent central location, just minutes from the Louvre Museum, Seine River and the Ile de la Cite Island. Our street, Rue Montmartre, had morning markets on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursdays each week and we were close to one of the Parisian foodie streets Rue Montorgueil where we could enjoy excellent boulangeries, traditional cafés, wine and cheese shops and plenty of local bistro restaurants. We met up with English friends, Scarlett and Kenneth, for the first four days and because the weather was so good we just walked the fascinating Parisian streets and tried to stay outdoors as much as possible. We still managed tons of sight seeing though and went to al the 'must do' things such as Notre-Dame, Monmartre, the Marais, Ill de la City, Eiffel Tower, the Seine, the Louvre et al. From Thursday Anka joined us from Germany and we travelled further afield to Versailles with Fat Tire bike tours, plus did Parisian rag trade markets and department stores. At the Paris flea markets we successfully shopped :D, I bought the quintessential 'little black dress', a Channel scarf and some lovely hall marked silver ear rings with pink 'diamonds' and J-L found a silver nibbed pen from the 19th century and a Tin Tin watch. So we were well satisfied with our expedition. Oh to have such retro clothing shops at home, not to mention antique stores *sigh*.

The highlights - the Louvre at night, all lit up and full of Parisians, the Unicorn Tapestries, cycling the streets using the Velieb system, in peak hour with no helmets, what a rush! Attending the opening of the Paris symphony season with a Messiaen and Mahler concert, a trip to Versailles by bike and it was great to ride around the extensive gardens but the inside was too crowded, hot and OTT, 18th century isn't our style at all - give us renaissance or gothic please. Not to mention the Jeff Koons 'sculptures' in every room - whose silly idea was that I wonder, it didn't work at all and I like his work.

Then we headed off to Gouarec in Central Brittany for two weeks of neolithic sites, Celtic music and Breton food and culture and best of all cycling! After all the cakes and pastries of Paris we really needed some serious exercise so we could eat even more :D! Central Brittany is a walkers and cyclists paradise, we went riding everyday in perfect autumn weather, sun shinning, cool breezes, leaves changing colour, along Breton canals and the fabulous VTT rail trai bike paths and the local winding roads, its kind of like the Cotswalds but with French food - blissful! We had a fabulous two weeks in Gouarec with Breton Bikes and it was hard to leave, we loved Brittany, it felt like Ireland or Scotland but the weather was far better, as was the food and cider- we miss the pizza from the village, the local pub, the organic cidre, the cafe at Bon Repos, the two village bakers and the galletes and crepes at St Bridget. We loved the Fest Noz's folk music and dance nights, like a bush dance in Australia, local musicians playing Breton celtic music and local folk dancing to it and drinking home brewed ciders, fabulous fun, the locals were friendly and amused by two Australians who wanted to sing, drink cidre and dance and we *loved* it! The gite was extremely comfortable and very homey. The bike tours were just the right length and had fabulous diversity in scenery and things to do and see. The BB Special bikes were fabulous, we loved the gearing and the Brooks seats were superb. We'd also like to thank David and Marion at the camp ground, they ntroduced us to worker's cafes for lunch - we went to them where ever we could find them from then on! We hope we can keep in contact with them by email now that we are home.

In the second week in Brittany we were joined by Rebecca and Margaret who had travelled from the Shetlands, down through Scotland, Wales and England and caught the ferry across to Brittany and we picked them up at Roscoff on the coast, about 2 hours from us. We then started investigating neolithic and Celtic Brittany and visited Carnac and its neolithic alignements and neolithic sites. What strange and amazing places they are, no one knows why they were built, what for or how they did it, the menhirs and henges are huge granite blocks, how did they position them, are they religious, scientific, there are many theories but no expert agrees on anything so who knows, but they are awe inspiring.

We then travelled down to the Dordogne via Poitiers for our overnight stop. We had leased a small car from Citron and had picked it up from Paris airport to go to Brittany and it had a GPS that had a very interesting view on the way it would take us, it had a habit of taking us either on goat tracks or on huge toll roads that took us 100 kms out of our way, never a dull moment with 'Ms Bossy Boo' as we nick named her. We stayed right in the centre of the city and had a fine dinner in a cafe recommended by the Lonely Planet and the next morning saw as much as was possible, particularly the romanesque cathedral which has recently been cleaned and restored and it is beautiful.

From there we headed to our final destination, Paleyrac in the Black Perigord region of Dordogne to meet with 29 other friends to celebrate Andrews 40th birthday in fine style.

Our two weeks in the Dordogne were absolutely fabulous - though we felt a bit like the goldfish in the bowl for most of it, constantly exclaiming 'oh what a lovely castle'! Highlights, staying in such a fabulous location, a 15th century manor house overlooking the Dordogne valley,canoeing down the Dordogne sliding past castles, manor houses and medieval towns, the caves of the Vezere valley (where the Lacaux, Font de Gaume and other caves are) being stunned by the drawings, carvings and paintings of our pre-historic ancestors, cycling into the village of Cadouin as the late afternoon sun flooded the stones with golden light, watching a pair of swans glide towards us, wings spread, begging for food, traveling along the roman roads, in the ways of Richard Coeur de Lion and Compestella pilgrims, discovering the strange and mysterious ways that our GPS chose to take us, celebrating Andrew's birthday in a 2 star Michelin restaurant - what glorious food that was, not to mention the markets in all the local towns and villages that have been held there for thousands of years, the produce, the handmade sausages, cheeses, breads and the final treat, a balloon trip over the valley - bliss! 

After the Dordogne we returned to Paris for our final three days, our flat had no wifi this time and the internet cafes eluded us once again - by this time I was getting very strong 'withdrawal' symptoms I can tell you. Highlights, the Louvre collection, being back in the 'old' haunts of four weeks ago, the gothic chapel of Sainte Chappel on the Isle de City, Berthillon icecream
on the Isle de Louis, walking our feet off and trying to take in as much as we could.

Then a return trip that was less than perfect, with five and a half hours extension on the plane on the runway at Dubai while the pilot and Emirates maintenance crew tried to get it to fly, failed and then after long discussions with UAE administration finally organised us into us a new plane and on our way again.

We are now home, recovering from at least 48 hours of travel time and adjusting to a new time zone and life without France - we are a tad blue as you can imagine. Photos now need to be downloaded, the best selected, put onto Webshots and then forwarded to you all, so you can see what we saw, though they are never as good as the real thing sadly!

We had a blissful time, now onto planning the next adventure!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Skirt added to bodice

Well this has been a right pain because I didn't believe in myself and I have pinned and re-pinned until my fingers ached! First off I cut three lengths for the gown as I wanted lots of skirt omph, but I am quite small and the skirt fabric quite bulky, especially with the lining and interlining so I pleated it up and I couldn't reduce it enough no matter what I did. JL said that its all to do with simultaneous (sp) equations and walked me through some really complicated maths that made no sense to me but made her happy (grin). Finally I used simple arithmetic to figure out how much fabric I could cram into the bodice if I used 3" pleats and had to take out one of my skirt segments. All of this took two weeks for this bear of little brain to figure out! Then I decided I wanted a split skirt to show off an undergown so had to unpick the skirts lining anf interlining and re do and create blue velvet guards and stitch all this back together, la, la, la! The next big mistake was that the bodice looked way too short to me, shorter than my true waist so I, in my foolish wisdom, decided to lengthen it. Yes, I know, stupid idea, why not just create a new bodice, but heh, who am I to not make big mistakes to learn from. I extended it, this took a stupid amount of time and was not easy with interlining, lining and fashion fabric to contend with. I then pinned the bodice onto it and tried it on, you guessed it, way, way too long, the skirt sat on my hips. So more un-pinning, more ripped fingers, lots of frog stitching later I pinned on the skirt to bodice at its original length and had perfection Bodice with skirt attached1 and here's the back view as yet unlaced and you can see my rope corset spiral lacing Back of gown no lacing yet The skirt isn't as boofy as I wanted, but I think it works. I have found an old curtain in red and gold to turn into my under skirt.

Sleeves for the gown

I spent ages trying to decide what sort of sleeves I wanted, I finally decided on split sleeves and went for five splits and the results turned out well. I used the drafting instructions from the Dress Diary of a Novice Renaissance Seamstress Venetian courtesan gown blog, yet another fabulous resource by a keen 15th - 16 century costumer. Reading her mistakes and successes ensured that my sleeves were right first time, which is particularly satisfying! Here's an image of the sleeve just after I cut it out Cutting out sleeves. The next image shows the sleeve stitched to its lining Sewn sleeve strips and here it is pinned to my still incomplete bodice with some trim that I'm not using but was close to hand to give me a feel for what I was trying to create Side view of sleeves. At the Lawson market on Sunday I found some lion faced pretend gold metal buttons which will be perfect to attach the sleeve to the bodice - very happy camper me!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Camica and corset

I have made my camica for my Italian renaissance gown Camica1using the great instructions on Festive Attyre. I am very pleased with it, I couldn't find any affordable linen so I have used raime which goes under the name of handkerchief linen in Spotlight and it is a natural fibre so it should be as comfortable as either hemp or linen I hope, it has a history as old as linen I understand. Here's some more piccies:Camica_back Here's a closup of the underarm gusset, Camica_gusset
I have also finished my rope corset, Corset_front2 I used the excellent online corset pattern generator at the Elizabethan Costume website to create my pattern and followed the instructions on how to put it together, its a brilliant resource.

This is my first corset attempt and I decided to use rope rather than cable ties for boning as it is for an italian renaissance gown where the line is much softer than the later English and Spanish styles. I used the tutorial Everything you ever wanted to know about boning with hemp cord, but were afraid to ask! that is also found on Festive Attyre. I couldn't find hemp rope in any of our local hardware stores, not even the large one in Penrith, so I used sisal instead, I have no idea if it is as firm as hemp, but it seems to work. The sisal is quite hairy so I hope the fibres don't work through the corset fabric and prickle, I will only know with wear, but so far its very comfortable, much nicer than a bra, I'm tempted to wear it to work. Corset_front2.

The corset is all made from recycled resources, except for the sisal rope. The fabric is moleskin left over from dress making that was still in my stash and its very sturdy and strong, the ribbon binding came from the local second hand shop, it is petersham ribbon, very good quality and very old, looks like its from the '50's! I didn't have enough of the green so I used the white as well, so its my Suffragette corset because green, white and purple were the colours of the Women's Social and Political Union, led by Emmeline Pankhurst.

Its laced using Festive Attyre's spiral lacing method, Zen of Spiral Lacing Corset_back I still have to sew over the metal eyelets.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Winter Magic 2008

Climate action sunBelated posting about Winter Magic the Katoomba mid-winter festival this year, fabulous weather, sunny but extremely chilly. We marched in the parade with the local green group to raise climate change awareness and here's some piccies of us all in our various costumes. Margaret, Matthew, Rebecca and JLMargaret, Matthew, Rebecca, JL JL, Rebecca, David, Franko, Maria JL, Rebecca, David, Franko, Maria JL and LornaJL and Lorna

Farthingale attempt

This my first attempt at making a farthingale using Margo Anderson's pattern and as I have been unable to locate steel boning in Sydney, I decided to try rope as recommended by a number of costumers. I particularly liked Faye's method of spiralling the rope up the farthingale but when I tried to spiral my rope I couldn't get it to work, so used the runnel method as suggested by Janet Arnold but sadly the rope can't support my farthingale's circumference.Farthingale front Farthingale backFarthingale, side view

I will replace the rope with irrigation tubing. The bum roll worked well though Bum roll front Bum roll back

Started my gown

Today I have started my Italian renaissance gown using Mistress Leona Khadine d'Este and Mistress Enid d'Auliere construction methods from their aforementioned workbook. I have chosen these fabrics Chosen fabrics a light blue for the lining, dark blue velvet for the bodice and sleeves, and the light blue and yellow diamond tapestry curtaining for the skirt, all from my stash.

I fitted the toile Fitting the toile and then cut out the fabric Cutting out the bodice and got to work stitching it all together Pinning three layers together Recut bodice front necklineBodice sewn except for armholesBack of bodiceI'm pretty chuffed as I wasn't too sure whether I had the sewing skills to put it all together, but it has turned out well so far.

My last bit of work on it tonight has been to test the skirt and trim Testing skirt fabric next I added some gold trim to the bodice Testing trims 1Testing trims 3I'm not sure if I prefer both or just the simple gold braiding which is quite elegant I think, but the both combined are nice and 'blingie' All elements except sleeves here's a full shot, I shall sleep on it and decide tomorrow.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Italian renaissance gown working bee

Wednesday 22nd July 2008

We have been pootling along quite happily, my efforts are shown in other entries of my blog but I shall keep the group's all together in one place. Sarah has created her toile and is almost ready to cut out her lining and fashion fabric which is a lovely cotton velveteen maroon. Maria has cut out her camica and is in the process of stitching this up. We are all using the the How to make an easy Italian chemise from Festive Attyre and as usual the instructions are excellent. Maria's bodice toile is ready to use as her pattern for her fashion fabric which is a fabulous cloth of gold upholstery material. Here's a piccie of her stitching up her toile for a final fitting Maria working on her toile I'll get pictures of all fabrics at this Friday's GTG.

JL has been working on the caligraphed invitation Creating the invitation and as she isn't a sewer I'm making her outfit as well as mine. I have started on her camica and I have used a white cotton damask fabric as she found the raime to be too itchy against her skin. I have also drafted her corset using the corset generator.

Here's a silly picci of JL and I with her in her 21st century lab coat that she uses to keep her clothes clean when painting and me in my 15th century underwear 15th century meets the 21st

Early July 2008

In a few months time it will my partners and I 10th anniversary and we intend to have a renaissance/medieval/celtic ceilidh and as part of this a group of friends are having weekly GTG to create renaissance italian gowns using these fabulous instructions by Mistress Leona Khadine d'Este and Mistress Enid d'Auliere. So far we've only taken measurements to create the bodice and I think we drank more wine and ate more pizza than actually doing any creative ROTFL! Measurements ongoing

We did however get started on the drafting of our bodices Hmm, harder than we thought we're all new to this and so we were a tad puzzled as we did this but eventually we sorted it all out, well we hope!Is that right?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bliauts and Burgundians

Well I have mussed on many things for two years and have not put one thought on this blog! As I'm heading OS in two months time I thought I would bring it to life again so I can blog away in France. 

During the two years of silent musings I have moved from quilting to costuming and re-creation of renaissance and medieval clothes and I have got interested in the Society for Creative Anacronisms (SCA) but have only been to one newcomers feast so far. I have always loved 'dressing-up' and this is an extension of that.

I have tried my hand at making a 12th century bliaut Lorna in her bliaut and veil using these fabulous instructions and Simple Steps to Look Great in a Veil.

As well as this I have also almost finished a Burgundian gown using some fabulous second hand shop green velvet curtains and using Matilda la Zouche's live journal for ideas and also fabulous help from the Rowany Baroness AElfled, she has been extremely kind to a newcomer to the SCA. The green velvet curtains reminded me of that scene in Gone with the Wind where Scarlet uses the green curtains to make a gown to see Rhett Butler in gaol, so I feel very chuffed at having such a similiar find! Awaiting hem trims

Back of collar

The web is a great resource for costuming 'how-to's' and has so many fabulous resources so it is easy to re-learn forgotten skills like pattern drafting or inserting godets into dresess! I have also made an Elizabethan farthingale and bum roll, pictures also to come, using Margo Anderson's Historical Patterns.

As you can see I have hit on any period or style for myself as yet, but that will come.