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! 😀

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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!

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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!

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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! 😀

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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
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!

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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 (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:

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!)

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Spotlight: Singer Featherweight Accessories

Spotlight 3: New (to Me) Featherweight Sewing Machine Accessories

The buttonholer is really quite the contraption!

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! I bought two new accessories recently for my Featherweight, and thought they might be of interest – particularly if you have a vintage/antique machine of your own!

A whole new world… 😉

The first piece of kit I purchased was the buttonholer you may have seen recently used in my Milky-chan JSK restoration project. I knew I absolutely did NOT want to hand-sew buttonholes, and I also knew I had another project coming up soon that would require them, so I decided to start hunting.

I started at The Featherweight Shop for information. If you have a Featherweight, I can’t recommend them enough! If you have another vintage brand of machine, I would advise starting by doing an internet search for your machine and the attachment you’re looking for. In my case I actually didn’t know if a buttonholer was even available for my machine! I just hoped. 🙂

Buttonholes are not sewn on hope alone!

Luckily for me, such a thing exists! (There’s actually a whole list of Singer Featherweight attachments with pictures, for the curious and/or avaricious!) Once armed with that knowledge, the second step was to determine everything that came with the original set. As the Featherweight Shop didn’t have any for sale currently; I knew I’d have to venture into the wilds of eBay, and I wanted to at least be armed with a map.

In many cases, an attachment may be just one single piece, so it won’t be as important. However, I was REALLY glad I looked up the list of included parts for the buttonholer because there are a lot of critical components besides just the piece itself. The cams – little metal inserts – are what give the options for different lengths and types of buttonholes, and this buttonholer is useless without them. There were nine originally, so I knew I wanted to find a complete set if possible. The other critical part is the feed plate cover; it’s absolutely necessary for the operation of the attachment as well.

I really lucked out!!

After going through endless eBay offerings, I finally found what I was looking for at the attachmentsandreplacements storefront. It was a complete set (the ninth cam not visible in my photo is currently in the buttonholer), even including the original instruction booklet! Not too bad for an attachment from 1948. Also a factor in consideration was the seller’s statement that they had cleaned, oiled, and tested it – the red square is their proof. This meant I wouldn’t need to take it to my local shop, but instead could get working with it right away. The seller even sent it packaged in the vintage box photographed below! That box is actually from the late 60s, I believe – it’s for the later version of this attachment for a machine with a different shank. Still, it was a super fun and unanticipated bonus!

It’s amazing what has survived the decades!

The second attachment I purchased was a tucker. Also known as a pintuck attachment, this lovely little piece enables perfect pintucks with minimal effort! I bought this for the same mystery project (debuting soon!) that I needed the buttonholer for, since the idea of hand-measuring and ironing in pintucks to sew made me feel a little dizzy.

Instead, why not use this??

This attachment allows adjustment of both the width of the tucks and the space between them. The really clever bit is the “sticky-outy” part on the left (that’s the technical term). As you sew, it crimps the fabric in a straight line, and that’s where you’ll fold it for the next pintuck!

I didn’t iron a thing; the fold line that I’m sewing on is purely from the crimp!

Despite the simplicity of the attachment itself, it’s not the easiest kit to use. I really had to pull on the back end of the fabric to keep it even against the guide section of the tucker. It was also clear that there are good and less-good fabrics to pintuck with; this scrap of muslin was a little too soft to be easily worked, whereas I think a crisper cotton or linen would have held a better tuck. Even with all that, and without having used it before I managed some pretty decent pintucks on my test scrap:

Also un-ironed! If I did a quick press they would be basically perfect!

I’m regularly asked “don’t you miss having the capabilities of a modern machine?” Honestly, considering all the cool attachments available for my Featherweight, the answer is a resounding “no!” I can neither confirm nor deny a burning desire to collect them all, though… It’s so much fun acquiring these little pieces of history that are not only pretty to look at, but also expand the capabilities of my machine. I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting the two new additions to the family, and I’m sure I’ll have more to share soon!

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Milky-Chan the Fawn Restoration: The Reveal

Project 5, part 4 – Frilly Feminist Fashion (Part 1, part 2, part 3 here)

Bows on bows (on printed bows) – it’s the lolita life!

Welcome back to the Milky-Chan JSK restoration project! Hopefully you’re ready for an overload of pink and white, since I’ve completely finished the restoration on this jumperskirt and I’m pretty excited to show off the results of my hard work. As I mentioned in the last post, I probably would do a few things differently were I to undertake this project again. I would definitely leave out the interfacing, and use a polyester or silk backing fabric for the ties, since tying them solo was difficult, and the knot ended up bulkier than I would have liked. I think I would make them a little longer, as well, but despite these quibbles they turned out looking great!

I was a little warm for this photoshoot since I just finished walking the greyhounds! But I still had fun posing.

The most important thing when sewing lolita accessories or clothes is nailing the aesthetic. Each brand and dress has its own style and I think the thing I’m most proud of is creating new ties that match Milky-chan’s aura of playfulness. The short lace and simple bows keep the focus on the incredible detail on the dress’s print, as well! Even if I were to coordinate the dress with a different color such as white or sax (a light blue color), I feel like the pink waist ties will still look appropriate.

Closer up, you can see the embroidered hearts! I’m really happy about this detail.

The fun of jumperskirts is the ability to play with different color combinations by matching different blouses and stockings. It’s a very creative endeavor for me! And it’s not just frilly – it’s also feminist and rebellious which is very important to me (as you may have guessed haha!). One of my favorite lolita bloggers, love, your bunny valentine, wrote

“Lolita fashion is both silent and deafening. While many lolitas themselves may espouse an apolitical stance, the act of wearing clothing as ostentatious and elaborate as lolita is a political performance in and of itself – one that rebels directly against the environment of modern Japan in which the fashion was created. Its obviously ‘foreign’ and anachronistic look emphasizes the wearer’s rejection of contemporary society.” (From “Lolita, Rebellion, and the ‘Cocoro’ of ‘Rococo.”)

Image still from Kamikaze Girls (2004), based on Shimotsuma Monogatari by Novala Takemoto

In the movie and novel “Kamikaze Girls,” the two main characters are a lolita and a biker gang girl who become best friends through an understanding that there’s nothing more important than being 100% themselves – even if it means upsetting the people around them in their conformist rural Japanese town. Momoko, the lolita, would rather walk an hour in her fancy rocking horse shoes than be seen riding a bicycle or scooter like everyone else. It’s a proclamation of authenticity and identity that can be hard to find in a world where media and cultural pressures create tremendous incentives for sameness. I identify very strongly with Momoko and Ichigo – the sense of freedom and happiness that come from dressing in a way that fully expresses my individuality is hard to replicate!

Please feel free to skip past the news segments, especially since this video is from four years ago. Tyler can be a bit abrasive, but she’s really smart!

If you’re interested in a deeper dive into lolita fashion and its intersection with feminism, rejection of the male gaze, and self-actualization, I can highly recommend this three-part series on YouTube by Tyler Willis. (Part 1 is above; here are the links to Part 2 and Part 3. NSFW for language and mentions of sexuality.) I particularly appreciate her quote in part 3:

“In a world where femininity is construed as weak, silly, or something to be put away in order to be taken seriously as an adult woman, lolita fashion revels in it. [When you] reach the age when your physical body can outrank your personhood…your body does more talking to society than you do, and what you do or don’t put on it can change the way you’re treated, perceived, or even believed. One of the pillars that sets lolita apart is the fact that the sexual characteristics of the wearer is made separate from the aesthetic presentation. It is not their sexual attractiveness that takes precedence, but instead, their forceful aesthetic statement.”

Pictured: my forceful aesthetic statement. Dress, stockings, beret – Angelic Pretty. Parasol – Lumiembre. Blouse – Crucis Universal Tailor Company. Wristcuffs – Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. Shoes – Sosic Shop. Wig –

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little about the fashion that is such a large part of my life, and also following the restoration of this beautiful dress! I’ve got quite a few exciting projects in the works, including another sewing adventure and the restoration of another piece of antique clothing, so I hope to see you back here soon! ❤

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Victorian Era Perfume Case Restoration: The Finding (and Reveal)

Project 6, part 2 – At Long Last, Victory! (Part 1 here)

No longer must she languish alone!

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing and the Victorian Era Perfume Case restoration! I really, truly, did not expect this project to take so long. “How hard can it be to find a single antique perfume bottle that is precisely 3 1/2″ high and 1 1/8″ in diameter?” I said to myself. I also said to myself “There’s no need to spend too much money on this; surely something simple won’t be too expensive!”

Ashleigh; both snoozy and dubious about my assertion.

I looked all over the internet, but my three main sources to search were Ruby Lane, eBay, and Etsy. Etsy has by far the worst documentation for pieces, but also some of the best prices. In fact, the first potential winner I found was from Etsy. Unfortunately, it did not arrive in good condition:

Taken from my phone, since I had to request reimbursement from the seller. She was extremely kind about it, and refunded me instantly – 10/10 customer service!

After that deep disappointment, I had to go back to the drawing board. At that point I’d been looking for five months with no luck, so I needed to revise my standards. Originally I wanted a perfect match, but that was out the window. Then I was hoping for at least another similar-looking glass perfume bottle – cousins, if not siblings, as it were. As I hit the seven-month mark, I became less and less picky, even to the point of considering modern reproductions!

Honestly the worst part wasn’t the length of time it took to find a replacement, it was the pain of falling in love with a piece only to read the description and find out it was too big or too small. (You’d think too small would be easier to deal with, but the perfume bottle still had to be tall enough to be visible next to the original!) Finally, however, after seven months of combing the internet (and severely impacting the ads Google now shows me), I have triumphed!!

Pictured: victory!

I found this gorgeous sterling silver and cut glass perfume bottle on Etsy, from the appropriately named seller SearchEndsHere. Let me tell you; after seven months on antiques websites I am a little hard to impress, but when I saw this pop up I actually gasped. I adore the combination of the sturdy glass and delicate filigree; it’s the perfect embodiment of femininity to me. I was awfully trepidatious opening the listing, but my luck held – it’s 3 1/4″ tall, and 3/4″ in diameter. The slight difference in height is actually a stroke of luck considering the diameter – in order to support it in the case I would need to add some padding, which would also nudge it just a little higher – meaning that once I got it correctly settled it would be the right height.

Close-up of the maker’s mark.

It’s also the right era which is an even more wild stroke of luck. The stamp on the collar is Unger Brothers, silversmiths out of Newark, NJ. (They were originally from Germany, having immigrated in 1849.) They established their jewelry business sometime between 1870-1872, and began manufacturing a wide variety of silver objects in 1878. They boasted of being jewelers, silversmiths, and glass-cutters. They were most widely known 1895-1907, and were strongly invested in Art Nouveau designs. The firm apparently closed in 1910, but may have lingered until 1919.

Like my original, the glass stopper is intact, but stuck.

I would love to know the name of my perfume bottle’s design – apparently they were well-known for fanciful names such as Le Secrete des Fleurs, Reine des Fleurs, Dawn, Love’s Dream, Evangeline, Bride of the Wave and Stolen Kiss! Extant Unger Brothers catalogs do exist from the early 1900s, but so far I haven’t had any luck finding one digitized. If you have any suggestions for a name of my own to give it, let me know in the comments!

Both of them have more straight edges on the body, and more rounded curves on the top which makes them feel matched to me.

I found a scrap of kimono silk I’d gotten from an Ichiroya order ages ago that was soft and the perfect size to fold into the case to support the smaller diameter of my new bottle. The ivory of the designs matches the ivory satin of the original fabric as well!

I decided to not do any stitching at this time, so I could adjust if needed later on.

So here is my case in all its glory, finally holding two perfume bottles again after who knows how many decades!

…and shut!

It was quite a long search, but I learned a lot from it, and it gives me so much pleasure and satisfaction to see the pair together, with the silver of the cap matching the silver of the case, and the cut glass of the new bottle’s body matching the stopper of the old one. I imagine the sorrow of the woman who broke the original, and then her delight when a loved one gifted her a replacement. Or maybe she commissioned it herself, directly from the renowned Unger Brothers? 🙂 The best thing to me about antiques is the stories they tell or suggest, from being treasured for so long. I hope you’ve enjoyed the story of this restoration, and I look forward to seeing you back here soon for more tales!

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Mary Quant Minidress: The Reveal

Project 4, part 6 – A Fruity Drink! (Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 here)

It’s not a tropical drink without an umbrella in it. That’s just science!

Welcome back to the Mary Quant minidress sewing project! Not only is the dress finished, but my husband also just refinished our patio furniture and set up the sunbrella. 🙂 So it seemed to me to be the perfect time to mix up a fruity drink and show off my dress!

And my cocktail book! (Well, Shannon Mustipher’s cocktail book, to be precise.)

I am SO happy with how this turned out! It’s really comfortable to wear. It’s definitely a minidress – I have to watch how I bend or sit down, hahah! Which I suppose is period-accurate – some gals in the 60s wore their dresses even shorter. The collar is a tad bulky but the structure underneath keeps it from shifting or creasing too much so it’s fine. The waist belt in the back turned out to be really cute, too!

Pictured: contemplating how much longer I can avoid replacing my back fence.

The cotton means it’s machine washable if I really wanted to go that route, but I’ll probably hand-wash it to avoid any damage to the buttons since they’re not the most secure things in the world. I trust my seams though!

The keyhole is a bit daring too; this dress definitely requires the right setting!

The drink I chose from Shannon’s book is the Quarterdeck, with a few liberties taken to suit my tastes. Her recipe is:

2 oz Navy-strength gin
1/4 oz yuzu liqueur
1/2 oz green tea syrup
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

I substituted my absolute favorite gin in the world, from the Dry Fly distillery here in Washington State. (Thanks, Liz – you’ve ruined me for all other gins! ❤ ) I actually used the barrel-aged gin, since it’s a bit more mild, but the regular would have been delicious too! I always have yuzushu in the house so that was easy. The green tea simple syrup I made by brewing 8 oz of matcha genmaicha, then boiling it with 8 oz of white sugar. The lemon juice is from a batch of lemons my parents sent me from Southern California. I ended up doubling the amount of green tea syrup and lemon juice in my drink, and adding an ice cube instead of just shaking it with ice.

If you prefer a non-alcoholic version I would recommend making lemonade with water, lemon juice, and green tea simple syrup, and then chilling it before you pour it over ice. (I’m actually going to be making lemonade with the leftover syrup, myself! It’s ridiculously tasty.) You could add a bit of lime peel to simulate the citrusy bitterness of the gin and yuzushu. And of course, don’t forget your paper umbrella! 😀

Finn wanted in on the action, as always. Well, not so much action, I guess, but at least in on the photo!

I am so happy I chose this dress to make, and I can’t wait to wear it a bunch this summer! Thank you so much for joining me on the journey for this project, and I hope you enjoy what’s coming up next, too! ❤

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