Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sewing a basic drawstring skirt

Ever since I made a new dress for the Regency ball, I keep thinking about all the things I can make with my sewing machine. I love clothes but they're hard to find and I'm poor. That means I also need to find ways to make sewing cheaper--that Regency dress cost me almost $200 in materials. So, I checked out my local thrift store, where I found a single curtain panel for $3.99 (pictured left--on the right is a $7 skirt). 


The material is very sturdy. It has a slight stretch, and it also won't rip easily. I like the plaid pattern--if I had more of the material I would have turned it diagonal for some movement in the design. This is the "skirtain" I made: 


The skirt is made from two panels, one for front and one for back. The back panel goes slightly higher (for my booty). If I had wanted a walking slit in the skirt, I would have made 3 panels rather than trying to sew in a placket. I decided against a slit because (1) this was only my second attempt and (2) the material is strong. Also, I was able to use the former side seams of the curtain for my bottom hem, so it looks beautifully finished. 

I didn't use a pattern. I researched different web pages and videos to get guidance, then I measured at the waist and hips, measured how far down I wanted extra ease at the hips and how low I wanted the skirt to hit (length was adjusted from the top because of the original hem). I also looked at one of my other skirts to see how wide it should be at the bottom (same as at my waist, incidentally). 

The easiest step was sewing the panels together. Then it was time to make the waist. After folding down the waist material to see where the ribbon should fall, I put in two eyelets in the back centerI decided only to put a drawstring in back, because I wanted the skirt flat in front--this was hard. After sewing one end of each ribbon to the side seam, I fed each through an eyelet. That was easy. What wasn't so easy was making sure I didn't hit the ribbon when I sewed down the waistband. I'm pretty sure there's an easier way to do it, but this worked. 

I've sewn one more skirt since then. It's made of grey material and has a decorative stitch on the hem, thanks to the fancy new machine my mother gave me. I cut just one panel that I seamed in back, and I put in a slit. I think it would have been better to use 3 panels to make the skirt fall better. I'll try to get a picture later. 

My next sewing project will be an actual dress. I learn a little more with each project, so we'll see what lessons are waiting for me.


Monday, June 9, 2014

The Victorian Perspective on #yesallwomen and #notallmen

from "How Ladies Are Annoyed in London Streets," Pall Mall Gazette, 19 July 1887

  • "Men of bad character every day annoy, accost, and insult ladies in the streets, and unless they absolutely assault the victims of their impertinent attentions nothing can be done." 
  • "I can truthfully say that when alone I have been subject to annoyance from loungers, though I always walked quickly, minded my own business, and never went out in London in more conspicuous attire than black dresses or dark navy blue. The commonest form of annoyance, and one which I suppose no law or policeman can deal with, was this: a man would stare, walk aggressively close, bumming some tune, sometimes for a considerable distance, never attempting to speak, then suddenly wheel round with a suddenness almost to bring our faces together, and I would be obliged to jerk back ; then, seeing it hopeless to expect encouragement he would walk quietly away."
  • "Sometimes, I have been absolutely pursued through the streets for miles."
  • "I may say I was always quietly dressed, never attempted to attract notice, never went out after six."
  • "Returning through Hyde Park from her situation as daily governess in one of the " big" houses in the south-western district, a man accosted her. In vain she tried to avoid him, till he made some indecent move, when a policeman interfered, and she, terrified, ran as fast as she could till she got to Mrs. ??. In all these cases the men were so- called gentlemen."
  • "For the last six years, being married, and not keeping a carriage, I have walked in London almost daily by myself and although the amount of annoyance to which a young married woman is liable to meet with is not sufficient to make it impossible for her to walk out alone, yet it is quite sufficient to be a constant source of anxiety and discomfort."

from "What the 'Male Pests' Have to Say for Themselves," Pall Mall Gazette, 30 July 1887
  • "I say that the annoyance of which they complain is the fault of their own sex."
  • "My experience was that the virtuous girls knew perfectly well how to take care of themselves, and. that the others were no worse off in my company than in that of the young men whom they met at their chapel."
  •  "Mr. Haweis would apparently make it a penal offence for a young man to look at a pretty girl."
  • "Sir, perhaps you will print a letter from a man of the world who in his time has accosted some hundreds of ladies, and will continue to do so, as he sees no harm in it."





Thursday, March 27, 2014

Going Wheatless

Wheat close up, image from WikipediaThis is my second week of wheatlessness. I decided to experiment with it, partly in solidarity with some friends doing the Wheat Belly diet, and partly out of curiosity and the need to mix it up.

It’s been interesting. Even though I haven’t been totally strict, I can sense differences in my appetite and satiety level. This past Sunday I decided to eat wheat again and tried eating cereal. I only made it 3 bites before I felt really bloated. Further experiments reveal that a bite of naan or pita doesn’t affect me the same way—probably not as much fiber.

Last week, the limited possibilities helped me eat fewer Points each day, so that for the first time this calendar year I was actually within my appropriate range. But then it didn’t result in a weight loss and my appetite came back.

I know I’m going to switch back to wheat at some point—I love pizza too much, plus I adhere to Weight Watchers’ belief that there are no “bad” foods—but right now I’m still intrigued by the changes.

What I’m really hoping to get out of this is a re-conception of what constitutes a meal. Sometimes now my meal will be carrots, hummus, and a few crackers. Or French fries and peanut butter on seed crackers. I keep falling into the habit of trying to replace wheat products with gluten-free substitutes, but this isn’t actually a good idea, I think. It’s nice when I have a super craving for toast to have my ridiculously pricey bread on hand, but it can lead to the same patterns of eating as before. I want to be more creative and simple about my meals, more dependent upon straight-forward fruits and veggies, foods with less processing, fewer calories, and more nutrition.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Forever Impact of YA Novels

There's a meme that's been going around on Facebook asking people to list 10 books that affected them, and to make the list without thinking too hard. I didn't make a list. I tend to view these trends with suspicion, possibly things started by Facebook to get me to give them more information. But I've been thinking about. And all the books that initially come to mind are books I read when I was young. Maybe it's that I hadn't read many books yet and so each one had more of an impact? Or perhaps there is something innate in YA reading that appeals to my psyche--I tend toward the latter solution.

Some of the books that profoundly affected me:

The Girl Who Owned a City, by O.T. Nelson. This dystopian, adult-free world appealed to my sense of isolation and the belief that the only person I could rely on was myself.
The Flowers in the Attic series, by V.C. Andrews. This was warped and twisted. Another world of oppression where adults can't be trusted, now with incest. This is one of many books I shouldn't have been allowed to read. Probably not YA, but I didn't know that.
Soul Rider series, by Jack Chalker. Another series I seriously should not have been allowed to read. Chalker is undoubtedly a sick, though fascinating, bastard. This series featured Cassie, another strong heroine, exiled from her home and figuring out her place, but who is also manipulated by the Soul Rider and by some twisted sexual dynamics. Chalker introduced me to the idea that men grasp for power so much because otherwise they don't have much of a function; only one man is needed for many women to procreate. Okay, this one's definitely not YA, but I read it when I was 12.
The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley. This wasn't marketed as YA but as Fantasy; now it's known as a YA classic. An orphan named Harry is unfeminine and out of place but secretly has magical powers and finds her new place as the partner to the king of India--um, I mean Damaria. Also similar is The Hero and the Crown, in which Aerin is treated as an outcast but turns out to be more powerful than everyone.

You can see where this pattern is going, I think. So today I read another book like these, with much more conventional sexual dynamics: Divergent, by Veronica Roth. Beatrice, who renames herself Tris, rejects her Abnegation upbringing because she realizes she is too selfish to belong. She joins a new faction, which strangely seems to be run by mostly teenagers; Tris comments that she doesn't see older Dauntless members. She learns bravery, confidence, a sense of belonging, and love. If I had been 12 when I read this, it would have had a huge impact on me. However, it's ultimately pretty conventional, even in its revolutions. If I had read books like this instead of the Bio of a Space Tyrant series by Piers Anthony, I probably would not be writing a book about rape in Victorian novels. FWIW.