Steampunk Utility Belt: The Sewing (Stage 2)

Project 8, part 4 – Tempest in a Teacup (Part 1, part 2, part 3 here)

I’d like to once again call out how excellent the Steamtorium pattern is – I never once had any confusion about how to sew this!

Welcome back to the Steampunk Utility Belt project! To my surprise I was able to completely finish the belt and accessories this week. Also to my surprise, I fell totally in love with it. That’s not to say that I didn’t think it was pretty up until now, but I really wasn’t sure I could see myself wearing this outside of very specific events (which are mostly not running due to the current state of the world). Now that I’m finished, though, I’m really happy with it. The lush purple florals are so pleasing to look at, and all the padding and stitching make it a tactile pleasure as well. I have lots of the fabric remaining, as well as some D- and O-rings, so I’m considering drafting a pass case/badge holder to clip on in place of one of the fan pouches, as well as some other fun accessories! For now, though, I’ll be happy reveling in a finished project. 😀

My worktable and floor were absolutely covered in pattern pieces and fabric chunks during this project.

During my last sewing session I’d almost completed the fan pouches, so I started with those for an easy win. Turning them right-side out was a bit of a challenge, and I was mildly dubious that they would really be big enough, but when I finished them they were perfect:

Although to be honest I would probably put them reversed into the pouches, even if it meant more fan emerged from the pouch – who grabs their fans from the top?!

The two pouches were even more crazy with multiple layers that needed to be sandwiched together, stitched, and then inverted to reveal the finished product.

Thank goodness for my Wonder Clips! I 100% could not have completed this project without them – they let me skip basting stitches which really speeded up completion.

I ran into a weird mental hitch with the pouch when I got to the end of sewing because it simply would NOT look finished no matter how much I tried to convince myself that it was done. I kept looking at it while I was working on the teacup holster and finally I realized that the flap looked too bare with no decoration. The pouch images in the pattern all had an octopus or other fun charm on them there! As soon as I’d identified the issue, I had a solution in mind – a piece of embroidery I completed positively ages ago. It’s the logo for a draconic miniatures army that I used to play called the Legion of Everblight – but unless you happen to play that particular game, it just looks like a super sweet dragon emblem which is perfect for me! (I am just a little bit obsessed with dragons, and even had one hanging out on my wedding cake!) Better yet, the colors were absolutely ideal:

Cell phone for scale! Big thanks to my friend Dave of the amazing board game YouTube channel All Games New and Old for suggesting the scale. If you like board games and aren’t subscribed to his channel yet – what are you waiting for?!

With my mind set at ease on that front, I could finally turn my attention to finishing the teacup holster. Why a teacup holster, you may be wondering? Well, aside from how convenient it is to have a teacup to hand, there is a fun steampunk game called tea dueling that requires both participants to have their own weapon…er…teacup to participate! Rather than fencing with swords (which might put me at a distinct advantage), or barbarically using pistols (which might put me at a bit of a disadvantage), civilized neo-Victorians settle their differences by brewing a cup of tea, submerging a “biscuit” (cookie, for us American types) in the cup, and then attempting to cleanly consume the treat without losing any chunks in the process. Per the Honorable Association of Tea Duellists:

“The goal of tea duelling is to get a clean “nom”, which is when you put the biscuit in your mouth and bite it without having lost any pieces along the way. This sounds easy, but as the biscuit has been submerged in hot tea, it will want to immediately fall apart, presenting difficulty in achieving a clean “nom”.”

Coffee and hot chocolate are strictly forbidden by the official rules, and there are a variety of strategies for achieving victory over your opponent such as selecting a particular type of biscuit, angles for dipping that require the least disturbance to remove, and practicing regularly to ensure one’s hand doesn’t shake at a critical moment. And really, doesn’t practicing having tea and biscuits regularly sound delightful? 😀

Why did I have purple cord in my stash already? Honestly I’ve no idea, but it was extremely convenient for fabricating the ties!

So at last, my utility belt is completed! This was a really fun project to work on, and I really do look forward to making some more swappable accessories for it as time permits. I’m awaiting a package from Japan containing the dress I intend to model this with, so join me in the final installment for the reveal – and perhaps, a cup of tea!

Edo Period Coat Restoration: The Beginning

Project 9, part 1 – How Many Roads Must a Man Walk Down?

Two samurai, late Edo period.

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! Today finds us back in my favorite country, Japan, for a very exciting antique restoration! I’ve been wanting to do another restoration for a while, but hadn’t found anything that resonated with me (or if it did, that was within my budget, haha). Then I happened to be browsing Shibui Kotto on Etsy, and found a tremendous bargain on a traveling coat that I just couldn’t pass up:

It’s fitting, since “shibui kotto” (Japanese: 渋い骨董) literally translates to “cool antique.” 😀

The coat is cotton, for the most part, and it’s a men’s traveling coat from the late Edo period. It’s important to specify “late,” since the Edo period lasted almost 200 years, until 1868! As I’ve mentioned in the past, dating antique Japanese clothing can sometimes pose an issue since the styles didn’t tend to change much for certain garments – particularly men’s garments. The owner of Shibui Kotto has been dealing in Japanese antiques for the last 25 years, so I asked him a few questions about this garment and he was kind enough to elaborate on it for me.

Detail of the collar and fastenings. I’m *fairly* certain the button toggles are lacquered wood.

Condensed, his explanation was:

“Stylistically this type of traveling coat was popular at the end of the Edo period 1868. This we know from 19th century photography and wood block prints. It fell out of fashion by the end of the Meiji era 1868-1912 as western style and products filled the markets. Old traveling coats were not as weather proof as new products. Older coats were kudzu, cotton, hemp, and sometimes imported wool often lined with paper to keep the wind at bay. Another detail found in older coats specific to Samurai is a hole on the back left hip made to extend the sword scabbard though. 4 of the 6 dochugi I have in stock have that detail. The carrying of swords was made illegal in 1874. The specific coat you are asking about does not have that detail but it is the most worn of all the coats I currently stock.”

Did you know that black dyes used to be just really dark dyes in other colors?

Looking at the coat in more detail corroborates this. The toggles on the coat are padded with compressed paper or cardboard, and there’s even a rice paper lining in the collar!

I’m going to have to unpick each and every one of these, mark their positions, and then re-pad and reattach them later…
I’m actually ridiculously excited to find out what this says. My Classical Japanese education consists of one semester in college, though, so I hope it’s closer to modern Japanese!

There are a ton of really fascinating details on this coat, and I still have a lot of questions to answer. For example, you may have noticed that the bottom toggle doesn’t have a corresponding mate to close the coat at hip level like it does at the top. When I inspected the fabric, I can’t seem to find any indication that one was ever there. Now, this could be because it was removed a particularly long time ago, or because the stitches were fine enough to not leave holes behind. However, another idea occurred to me given the length of the cord on the hip toggle compared to the other ones:

Sensei, my thumb is on the tsuba, I promise! It’s just a weird camera angle!

Since this traveling coat doesn’t have a slit for swords like the seller mentioned (and as pictured in the extant photograph at the top of the post), could this toggle have been to allow access to a sword when desired? I’m 5’6″, and on me, at least, tying it to the top leaves the coat open at a perfect angle to access a sword – or two, if the owner was a samurai. Considering I’m right around the average height for a Japanese man of the Edo Period, this seems fairly compelling to me as an option!

I’m extremely excited about this for another reason – the reason I bought this coat in the first place! I often can’t wear haori from my collection to practice with my dojo during the autumn and winter because they’re silk, and shouldn’t be worn in the rain. I have one cotton men’s haori, but it’s not warm enough for the depths of winter. But if I could restore this coat, and then update it to make it warmer, I would have something to wear to night practices even in the snow!

Pictured: this coat, which is currently ALSO not warm enough for the depths of winter.

Overall, this is going to be a bit more involved than my previous restoration efforts! I’ll need to remove all the decoration and toggles, and clean the coat thoroughly. Then I will line it with new quilted batting for warmth, and repair/replace all the closures and decorations. I may even do some sashiko embroidery on the back and sleeves if I’m feeling adventurous. So join me in the next installment, when I try to remove all the paper lining and see just how dirty a 160+ year old coat actually is… 😀

Steampunk Utility Belt: The Sewing (Stage 1)

Project 8, part 3 – First, I’ll Need a Sewing Machine… (Part 1, part 2 here)

Seriously, it turns out it’s pretty critical to have!

Welcome back to the Steampunk Utility Belt project! As I mentioned briefly yesterday, I spent most of this week without my trusty Featherweight while she was in the shop for repairs. I may have mentioned some trouble briefly in another post, but ever since I did the buttonholes for the Milky-chan restoration I’d been having some issues with my upper tension disc. At the time I thought it was the thread I was using, as I have quite a lot of vintage thread in my collection, but it turns out it’s been about three years since my Featherweight’s last annual checkup. Oops! Luckily, my local repair shop sees approximately 4 vintage Singers a week. 😀 So they’re quite skilled at determining what might be wrong, and getting it taken care of! In my case it really was just that the tension needed adjusting, so my machine is back in action better than ever – and I will be certain to not miss another yearly visit!

One of the things I really like about the pattern for this is it has batch-building of similar parts. I find that to be both good for garment construction, and also emotionally satisfying!

So, once she was back in my possession, it was time to get sewing! After reviewing my options, I decided to start with the belt itself – I thought it would be fun to be able to hook the various contraptions to it as I finished them! The pattern had me batch all the swivel clasps as well as the D-rings in one go – although I will actually have to quickly make one more D-ring tab on account of making the second fan pouch.

I like this fabric more and more the longer I work with it – which is a good sign considering how many more pieces I have to sew!

Six of the swivel clasps went to the belt, and the last went on the cell phone pouch. I got slightly stymied by the darts at the bottom, but I think if I just hand-sew them they’ll be fine. I also learned that there’s a difference between stack spools (spools of thread where the thread is simply wound from bottom to top), and cross-wound spools (where the thread is wound in diamond patterns) – it turns out that I’m only supposed to use stack spools on my machine, and if I want to use a cross-wound spool I should use a thread-holder. It just goes to show that you can be sewing for years and still learn things! 😀 Luckily for me, I have a thread-holder for my embroidery machine, so I brought it out and indeed the stitching was much less jerky with my cross-wound spool!

Here’s a terrific demonstration from the Singer Featherweight Shop folks!

Art Donovan, curator of the 2010 Oxford Steampunk Exhibit, says “In Steampunk, we celebrate the device as a work of art. The form of an object must be equally impressive as the function. This illustrates the value of the object to the user.” This is truly how I feel about everything I use, make, and wear. It may be more challenging, but using my Featherweight to sew gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction. It’s not “better” than anyone else’s way of doing things, but for me, it makes me the happiest!

Pictured: more happiness, in the form of a completed belt!

Even though I didn’t have much time to work on it, I was still able to finish the belt portion, which is actually way cooler in person than I expected! I do need to decide on the closure mechanism – it’s supposed to be a stitched-on grosgrain ribbon, but I’m not 100% sure that’s the way I want to proceed yet so I’m leaving it with no closure for now. Much like this project, since I still have plenty more sewing to do! So join me in the next installment, when (hopefully) I should be able to finish up all the various pouches and put it all together! ❤

Next Post Will be Wednesday!

We get some crazy beautiful skies out here!

Sorry for the delay, friends! I haven’t just been cloud-watching. 🙂 My Featherweight was overdue for her yearly servicing, and let me know by trapping thread in the upper tension disc and refusing to stitch. Oops! She’s been in the shop since last week, and I only just retrieved her yesterday. I’m making great project headway now that she’s back in action, and my next post will be up just a day late, on Wednesday. Thank you for your patience, and I’ll see you tomorrow! ❤

Steampunk Utility Belt: The Prep

Project 8, part 2 – Your Biggest Fan (Part 1 here)

An assortment of my fans! Clockwise from top left: vintage sandalwood fan from my grandmother, moon-viewing fan from a Sister City celebration event, vintage Japanese traditional dance fan, vintage fan from my childhood that happens to perfectly match my Meiji kimono, and vintage Chinese landscape fan.

Welcome back to the Steampunk Utility Belt project! This week I got all the prep work finished for the project, and boy, was it more than I anticipated! There are a lot of fiddly small pieces to all the various pouches and straps in the pattern, so my first order of business was cutting out every piece of fabric and interfacing (including some exotics like fusible fleece and even fusible foam!).

I’d already washed and ironed my fabric, although since it’s about 30 years old it did stain my iron a little due to the less-colorfast dye. Luckily I was able to clean it all off with subsequent steamings!

When I sew, I like to have everything prepared beforehand. Every button ready, all the pattern pieces cut and darts marked, and so on. This way, when I’m in the mood to actually sew, I don’t have to do any of the “boring” work – I can just sit down at my machine and make the magic happen! I’d be interested to hear if other people work this way as well, or if it’s just me; let me know in the comments!

The pattern cutting took a couple of nights all on its own, but the real marathon was fusing. Part of the problem – utterly self-inflicted – was that the instructions call for a heavier weight of fabric than I selected. Since I really wanted to use this lighter cotton, I also had to add a stabilizer to all the non-lining pattern pieces – which meant in many cases fusing the stabilizer, and then fusing the foam/fleece interfacing to the stabilizer!

Pictured: not my finest interfacing work. Mitigating circumstances: the foam is supposed to be slightly smaller than the fashion fabric. Counterpoint: I still totally failed at evenly fusing the first layer of stabilizer to the cotton. I’m only human, and this took hours. 🙂

I also had to make some decisions during this process. As I mentioned before, I already knew I didn’t want skirt-lifters, and was planning to draft a parasol-holder. After several attempts, I determined three things:

1. I’m too short for most of my parasols to be strapped to my waist, particularly if they’re dangling from straps. All but one of my non-collapsible parasols were hitting my ankles – or worse – the floor. I also worried a bit about color transfer either to or from some of my parasols. (I have one in particular from Alice and the Pirates that’s known for color bleed if it happens to get wet.)

2. If for some reason I must attach a parasol, my collapsible ones all have a ribbon on the handle which I could attach to one of the clips intended for a fan belt, or alongside the phone pouch.

3. This is a utility belt, and parasols are fripperies. Clearly they don’t belong on it. 😉

Very good; no parasol-holder then. Whew! But wait, another decision had to be made: whether to make the small or large fan pouch:

Since, naturally, I have fans in multiple sizes. Sigh!

In my defense, my day job has been extremely busy and full of decision-making lately, leaving me little brainpower left for this sort of thing, but I truly agonized over this. Finally, as you can see from the picture, I just gave up and decided to make both sizes (and hoped I had enough clips/D-rings). I also utilized this strategy later in the week at the optometrist’s office when faced with purchasing new glasses – fortunately for me, my husband was kind enough to give the thumbs-up to just getting the two frames I couldn’t pick between! 😀

You can see here the construction difference between a more traditional folding fan and the Japanese dance fan. Two more things I can’t choose between!

Fan storage may seem silly to agonize over, but fans were extremely important to the Victorians. Joseph Addison said “Women are armed with fans as men with swords, and sometimes do more execution with them.” Well, that might be overstating it a bit, but fans were very popular accessories throughout the Victorian era. They changed in size throughout the era, and were particularly large in the 1880s.

Image courtesy Vintage Dancer

They could be in satin, paper, lace, or even made entirely of feathers! And of course, there was a whole flirtatious language of fans to allow women to communicate silently and tastefully with other people at balls.

Image from 1866 Cassell’s Magazine. What I want to know is who was casually placing their fan on their right ear? And what did the left ear mean? 😮

The fans used from the 1860s onward typically were modelled on fans from Japan, where they have seen similar cultural usage in dance, theater, and intrigue for centuries. There were even war fans, tessen (literally “iron fan”), mostly used as signaling devices! They are still used today in theatrical performances such as noh. For example, “In ‘Hane-ōgi,’ the actor holds the outer rib of the opened fan with his left hand, places it on his right shoulder and moves it rapidly forward. This motion depicts the release of an arrow.” As steampunk celebrates the anachronistic, the complex, and the obsolescent, I simply had to ensure that I could carry the right fan for the occasion at all times!

Now that all my pieces are assembled, I’m ready to get sewing (and fanning, should we have another heat wave!). So join me in the next installment, when I begin attaching all these strange pieces together and hoping that I haven’t missed any important bits! 😀

Review: “Costume College 2021 Goes Virtual”

Review 1: All Together Separately

Image from Costume College 2021 Registration Booklet

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! For a while I’ve thought that it would be fun to do periodic reviews here, and attending Virtual Costume College this year provided my first opportunity.

Costume College is a “three-day costuming arts conference” that normally takes place in Southern California every year. Despite having family nearby, I’ve never actually attended it in person, but I’d read many reviews from other historical clothing bloggers about it so when the virtual option popped up this year I decided to attend.

So many incredibly talented makers!

I’ll be totally honest – one of the biggest draws of attending for me was the vendor list, since attendees were informed in advance who would be “there” as well as that the vendors would be offering discounts. I already knew I wanted to order from Period Corsets, and calculated the cost of attending vs. a potential discount on the corset I was looking at. This was the final deciding factor in my attendance, as even the lowest discount I anticipated would cover the cost of the convention for me. As it turned out, the discount was much higher than I’d hoped, so it was an even better deal! I have bookmarked some of the other vendors for later perusal, but didn’t end up purchasing anything from them during the event.

I FAR prefer virtual shopping excursions from in-person. At traditional conventions browsing booths always produces a lot of anxiety for me, as I like to look at things and then maybe walk away and consider without feeling like I’m being rude to the people manning the booth. I don’t like shopping in person for anything except books, honestly, so this was not a huge surprise. I do hope that the vendors had a good return on their virtual vending investment, as they all had lovely wares to offer!

So…so many things to do…

Another section I barely participated in was the “lounge” or social activities. I find mingling online with people I don’t already know to be somehow even more torturous than doing so in-person, and I happily skipped everything from the Lounge except for checking out the Bargain Basement Auction. At other small conventions I’ve attended in person such as Gallifrey One, I also passed on the “mixers” so this tracks for me. I would be very interested to hear other attendees’ experiences doing the virtual mixers – let me know in the comments if you went to any at Virtual Costume College this year and how they were!

As I mentioned in my recent Steampunk Utility Belt post, I’d hoped to attend that workshop, but Finn’s medical emergency took precedence. So ultimately I only ended up attending two lectures: “Your Dress is Not Finished, Pt 2” with Val LaBore, and “Victorian Parasol Trimming” with Maegen Hensley.

Her dress looks pretty finished! Images continue to be taken from CoCo Registration Booklet

Val’s lecture was great! She showed probably 2-300 images from every decade of the Victorian Era covering such accessories such as pockets, jewelry, parasols, hats, handbags, and more. The research and compilation of all those disparate pieces must have taken positively ages. She did not provide a copy of her slideshow after the fact, but explicitly permitted screenshots of her lecture for personal use, so I took one of every slide for my favorite Natural Form and Second Bustle eras! She had a few minor technical difficulties to begin with, but they were promptly resolved by the Costume College staff which was very impressive!

Shh, don’t tell anyone – this was totally a workshop in disguise!

Maegen’s lecture on Victorian Parasol Trimming was OUTSTANDING. Not only did she show us extant images of everything she covered, but then she performed live demonstrations of all the techniques of parasol trimming as well! She provided her slideshow after the class and told us beforehand not to take notes, but just to relax and take it in since she’d be giving us all the info afterward. She mentioned that she does a parasol restoration masterclass at Black Orchid Atelier and you can BET that your girl is going to be attending that. I may or may not check the site every week to see if registration has opened yet… 😀

After all that learning, I was as tired as an Ashleigh! ❤

Although my participation in Costume College 2021 Goes Virtual was objectively fairly limited, I absolutely felt it was worth it. The conference fees were about $96, and the patterns & hardware for the steampunk utility belt were another $57 or so. Considering the discount I got on the corset I wanted, I was already ahead of the game even before attending any lectures! 🙂 Even though I was only able to attend two of the lectures I registered for, I learned a lot and got many great ideas for my own upcoming projects. Viewing the “fashion walk” was inspiring as well! Even though I didn’t really interact with other makers, I felt connected to all the other people doing beautiful and historical work just like me.

Would I attend it in-person? That’s a solid “maybe.” I doubt I would go every year, but considering how close my family lives to the venue, I find it likely that I would attend at least one in-person Costume College as part of a longer trip to see my relatives. Plus I could save on hotel costs… 😉 I hope you’ve enjoyed this review of my experiences at Costume College 2021 Goes Virtual! Please let me know in the comments if you have any follow-up questions for me, and I look forward to doing more reviews periodically of events and books!

Next Post Will be Tuesday!

The best snooze is a hound snooze!

Sorry for the delay, friends! I haven’t just been snoozing with Finn (although if you ever get the chance to snooze with a greyhound, I highly recommend it!). My kitchen has been under reconstruction for a few weeks, and that combined with the heat and smoke that are now regular features of late summer in the Pacific Northwest has made it hard for me to get to my scheduled sewing and photography. I am getting caught up, and the next post will be out on Tuesday! I am going to experiment with posting every Tuesday from here on out as well – please do let me know how that works for you all. ❤ See you soon!

Steampunk Utility Belt: The Beginning

Project 8, part 1 – Steam-what?

I’m unreasonably pleased by a pattern piece called “spoon loops.” 😀

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! It may be a little ambitious, but I’ve decided to work on a second sewing project alongside the Victorian Undergarments one. This project came about because I attended Virtual Costume College 2021 at the end of July, and the one workshop I decided to take part in was for sewing a steampunk teacup holster. It sounded fun, and of course I love tea – so why wouldn’t I want to be able to take a teacup with me wherever I went!?

Example teacup holsters from the pattern’s creator, Sherry Ramaila of Steamtorium on Etsy.

Unfortunately Finn dislocated two toes (!!!) and the resulting flurry of vet visits and hound care meant I had to miss the actual workshop. Don’t worry – he’s recovering well! He’s just a little upset about having both back feet wrapped all the time, and he’s very upset that I won’t allow him to zoom for another 6-8 weeks. Poor little dude! However, the delay meant that I found out that Sherry also produced a pattern for a whole steampunk “utility belt” to carry such necessities as the aforementioned teacup holster, a fan, and a phone pouch.

Example utility belt photo also from Steamtorium on Etsy – she sells them ready-made as well as the patterns!

Jeff Vandermeer, author of The Steampunk Bible, somewhat jokingly describes steampunk as “Mad Scientist Inventor [invention (steam x airship or metal man/baroque stylings) x (pseudo) Victorian setting] + progressive or reactionary politics x adventure plot.” The Victorian setting of steampunk, fuelled by such historical literature luminaries such as Jules Verne, Shunro Oshikawa, and HG Wells, was what originally drew me to the styling, but I stayed for the philosophy. Vandermeer writes, “Steampunk focuses on the Victorian era not only because of its aesthetic and technology, but because it recognizes within that epoch issues similar to those facing society in the twenty-first century.”

Issues like “why do I have more interfacing than fabric for this project?!”

He goes on to say, “Steampunk’s key lessons are not about the past. They are about the instability and obsolescence of our own times. A host of objects and services that we see each day all around us are not sustainable. …Once they’re gone, they’ll seem every bit as weird and archaic as top hats, crinolines, magic lanterns, clockwork automatons, absinthe, walking-sticks, and paper-scrolled player pianos. …The past is a kind of future that has already happened.”

The Victorians struggled with many of the same societal problems we face today – racism, the rise of nationalism, the rapacity of industrialization and capitalism, and the effects of centuries of colonialism. Steampunk as a literary genre imagines a world in which we never advanced beyond steam as a technology, but instead advanced as a society to be more inclusive, cooperative, and creative. As an aesthetic, it fights against the mass-produced and instead glorifies the hand-made and peculiar. Turns out, that’s just my cup of tea! 😉

Also my cup of tea – my new iron! Having a legit steam iron has already been a huge game-changer.

So, I decided to sew the full utility belt as a fun side project! Instead of the skirt-lifters (I prefer my skirts unlifted, thank you!), I will be drafting a parasol-holder that can clip in to the belt. The fabric I chose was given to me by my Aunt Susie; it originally belonged to a late friend of the family and I’m very excited to use it for this project! Join me in the next installment, when I will spend probably hours fusing differing weights of interfacing and regretting my life choices! 😀

Spotlight: Antique and Vintage Teacups

Spotlight 4: Tea and Me

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! Today’s spotlight is on my small collection of antique and vintage teacups! This is going to be an image-heavy post, as I really wanted to share all the beautiful details on these cups. 🙂

So why tea cups? As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up enjoying high tea with my late grandmother – the same one whose tea cups I’ve inherited. Looking back, it really was closer to what the British would think of as afternoon tea, but high tea always sounded fancier as a young girl! The main difference is the height of the table, and the time – high tea is more of a dinner substitute, and tends toward the savory and hearty for food, while afternoon tea has more dainty snacks and sweets. Cucumber sandwiches (with the crust cut off, of course!) and scones were staples of teas in my childhood, along with my beloved Earl Grey. I also practiced chado (the Japanese tea ceremony) with the Urasenke School for over two years. And I drink tea in the mornings rather than coffee ever since coffee started disagreeing with my body. So needless to say I have a large tea collection!

I have four teacup/saucer sets that originally belonged to my great-grandmother Jones, that passed to me from her daughter (my grandmother Ruth). Three are from the Royal Albert china company, and the last is from Foley.

The cobalt blue really sets off the gold trim! And I love the peaches; they seem like such an unusual fruit to feature on a teacup.

Two of the Royal Albert sets are the same unnamed Imari style pattern, dated from 1928-1932. I have one in my cupboard for drinking from, and the other holds fresh water as an offering on my ancestor altar since both of the women who previously owned it have passed away.

My second cup; in situ.
I’ve shown this off before, when I began the Mary Quant Minidress project!

The other Royal Albert set is the stunning Old English Rose pattern, and dates to 1939 (possibly up to as late as 1941). I’m not over-fond of roses, per se, but my late grandmother absolutely loved them. She wore rose perfume, and I always brought her fancy rose soap from my local co-op whenever I would visit. So this cup reminds me very strongly of her!

There is a variant of this pattern with a butterfly handle that I would KILL to have. Photo credit RoyalAlbertPatterns.com
Dainty roses, indeed!

The last set, the Foley, is the Dainty Rose pattern, and it dates a little later – anywhere between 1948-1963. This has always felt like more of a spring or summer pattern to me; I think it’s all the white space in the pattern that gives it a cooling effect!

I own two more vintage/antique cups; both of them I purchased from Etsy.

I seriously could not pass this up when I happened across it one day!

The first is a Soko China Satsuma hand-painted demitasse cup and saucer. Antique Satsuma is from the Meiji era (1868-1912), and has no English markings, so mine is definitely from a later period. Based on the mark which is 湊光, or Minato Hikaru/Hikari, it could be from as early as 1930. However from looking at similar pieces I was able to find online (and one that is a twin to mine!), I believe mine is from post-1940. Due to the English writing on the mark, my best guess is somewhere between 1945 and 1952 (the period of the US Occupation of Japan).

The saucer is a true work of art as well. I love the irises and what I believe to be cherry blossoms!
I’ve done Western-style archery since I was a teenager so I simply adore this cup.

The second is an antique transferware piece that I had a much more difficult time dating on my own. Transferware was developed in the 1780s, and was patented in 1813. Mine does not have a handle, and handleless teacups were mostly phased out by the 1840s. I originally thought that the multiple colors made it likely mine was from the later part of this period, possibly 1835-1840. The lack of signature or maker’s mark does make it more difficult to determine, so I purchased a 24-hour membership to the Transferware Collector’s Club and hit their extensive database!

This cup I purchased specifically for another altar, one dedicated to various nature and hunting deities. It fits right in!

It was $10 well-spent, since this teacup is way older than I thought! The pattern is named Archery Lesson, and it was made by Ralph Wedgwood & Co at the Ferrybridge Pottery. According to Alan and Janet Tomlinson, this pattern is often found unmarked, and it is possible that it was copied by other makers as well. Noel Riley, in his book Gifts for Good Children, wrote “The print comes from an illustration in ‘The Sporting Magazine,’ vol. 3, 1794.” Based on extant catalogs, it’s likely my teacup is from between 1798-1801! There was also a mug and octagonal plate with the same pattern that have been documented in publications from 1927, 1973, and 1991.

I really love the bow and arrows inside, too. So much more interesting than just plain china!

I’ve actually never been too hyped about the Georgian/Regency eras, but this discovery makes me really want to sew an archery dress from that period! It seems likely that the tea drunk from this cup would have been either oolong or green tea, as those were the predominant types of that time. My favorite oolong is the Milky Oolong from Harney & Sons, so I could definitely brew that for drinking from this cup. Although bergamot-scented tea was recorded since 1824, it seems that “Grey’s Tea” wasn’t widely known until the 1850s, and it wasn’t advertised as “Earl Grey Tea” until the 1880s. Since it’s my favorite blend – and the one I always drank with my grandmother as a child – I don’t think anyone would quarrel with me at drinking Earl Grey out of my other cups! (I can highly recommend Harney’s Earl Grey Supreme, having tried many variants of this blend.)

Tea is very important to me, being both my caffeinated drink of choice and a huge part of how I connect to my family history. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little bit about tea and getting to know my teacups, and I look forward to sharing more fun material history in my next spotlight!

Victorian Era Undergarments: The Beginning

Project 7, part 1 – Let’s Sew Some Unmentionables!

But are these patterns…truly Victorian?! 😀

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! I had so much fun sewing the Mary Quant Minidress that I decided to dive into another sewing project right away – but this time I’m back in my favorite era. Ultimately, I plan to sew a full dress – to that end I have purchased both Victorian Dressmaker books by Prior Attire. However, there are a couple of issues with eating dessert first, as it were. 🙂 One is that I haven’t tried many of the techniques involved with sewing for this era, so I am a little nervous about learning on a major garment right out of the gate. Another is that many historical costumers recommend starting with the undergarments not just for simplicity’s sake, but also because the dresses require the foundation garments in order to drape correctly. In the case of the Victorian Era, that means a corset and petticoats at a minimum, and for the Bustle Eras, a bustle.

And SO much white linen. This is JUST for the chemise and drawers! 7 yards!

One of the things I learned from the Mary Quant Minidress project was just how useful it was having a video to refer to during the sewing process. As I absorb new skills I’m sure I won’t need them anymore, but I felt like I would want the option still at this point. After looking at several options, I really connected with the style of Jennifer Rosbrugh of HistoricalSewing.com. (I’m also pretty jealous of that URL, haha!) She has a great selection of classes, including one that covers making a set of Victorian undergarments. Another point in her favor was that she uses the Truly Victorian patterns which I’d already been eyeballing!

The only undergarment not included that I would absolutely need would be a corset, but honestly I have ZERO desire to sew my own corset at this point. Judging by the number of patterns and classes I see online these days, it seems doing so is quite trendy! I’m a “make the bread, buy the butter” kind of girl, though, and I just don’t see the benefit of making my own at this point in time. The effort-to-result ratio seems quite lopsided! Plus, there are so many tremendously talented corset-makers out in the world. I narrowed my choices down to two; RedThreaded and Period Corsets, and ultimately decided on the Alice Corset from Period Corsets for the 1880s look I’d be going for.

Photo credit: periodcorsets.com

I happened to need two small buttons for the chemise part of the project, and as you may recall I bought two period buttons for the Victorian Era Nightgown restoration that ended up being slightly too large for that project. Since I get to make my own buttonholes this time, I now have the perfect excuse to use them!

Taking photos of small objects is really difficult! But I think these will be super cute fasteners for the chemise.

And that detachable butterfly train in the first picture? …I couldn’t resist. I won’t actually be making that as part of this particular project series, but I just wanted it so much! I have no doubt it will feature in a future project! 😀 So join me next time, when I begin sewing the chemise (and working with linen for the first time; yikes!)