Thursday, March 22, 2012

Beading: Fatigue & the Basics of Making a Headpiece

The bridal headpiece is very nearly finished (making the lining almost finished me, I've never made one that would be seen in its entirety, in the round).

I spent today cutting and fitting it, and adding a few more beads. One more bout of beading--an hour or so should do it--and it's done. The acid-free tissue arrived today, and I already have a box for storage. I will also enclose it in plastic, as there are some silver beads, which will otherwise tarnish in storage.

It's a long process, to make a really fine beaded headpiece, but it's worthwhile, if you're making it for someone, or you'll be wearing it yourself. For a stage production I'd be inclined to advise a quick and dirty method, unless you were making it with the idea of wearing it after, at 20s themed events.

Still, here is the basic process:

1. Choose your style (tiara, full circlet, etc.) and order a buckram frame online.

2. Sketch out a design.

3. Choose your colors and buy beads and fabric and felt (for padding) as well as any additional trim.

4. Use dental floss for thread. I prefer very tiny quilting needles for beading, as real "beading" needles are extremely flimsy and long.

5. Make a pattern for your padding and your fabric covering. Cover with felt; trim excess. Cover front with fabric. I prefer to sew these on, as glue makes beading difficult.

6. Start beading! For anything complex, do single beads. You can do long strands, and couch them (or not) but they won't be as strong or liable to stay where you put them. I do not trace a pattern onto the fabric, or even use basted tissue. It's best to begin with something simple and geometric, and add slowly to the pattern as you progress.

7. When the beading is done to your satisfaction, add combs or elastic, if any. I usually sew these in, and then glue them. Pad over with felt (you can use glue now, if you like; I suggest jewel glue).

8. If the back will be visible, cut another fabric pattern out. Turn edges under and whip-stitch it into place, using the tiniest possible stitches.

Trial and error will teach you quite a bit. Take your time. If you start to make mistakes, stop. Rest, read, do something else for a while. It's not much fun to unpick bead work, and it can leave visible holes in the fabric.

Time? Most will take anywhere from two weeks to three months, so long as you take frequent breaks in order to retain your sanity and small muscle control.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Laurie Lambkin

That's the official pattern name.I still need to sew and stuff her, obviously, but am holding off until I finish the headpiece, which requires about a day more of beading; then I need to add combs, cut the lining out, piece it, and whip stitch it into the headpiece.

When it's complete, then I'll go back to the toys. The bunny still needs to be washed and blocked. The bookmark is blocking.

Not bad for the Ides of March!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Golf Stockings: Finished

At long last! I began winding the yarn for these on Thanksgiving evening. (I should just be happy I finished before Easter, I suppose.) Lots of Christmas knitting, then the toys,

The socks pattern is one from Sensational Knitted Socks, with calf shaping added. I used a toe I came up with that's a variation on a simple toe usually finished with Kitchener stitch; one round of decreases, five knit rounds, decreases every other round until twice the number of ending stitches is achieved; then, k2tog for the first half; SSK for the second half. Cut the yarn, and run through snugly two times and weave in the loose end. No grafting required, and it's a round-ish toe that fits very well, even on my narrow feet.

The tops are afterthought. The pattern is from The Big Book of Needlecraft, ca. 1927, from the look of the patterns inside (Odhams Press, Ltd Long Acre, London W.C. 1). It's a hardcover from England. I first saw it at the Providence Athenaeum, and decided I wanted a copy for my own. It covers quite a bit, and also gave me the embroidery pattern I used for the Caroline Cloche I made a few years ago.

In order to furnish enough ease, I picked up the same number of stitches with a #4 needle. (The socks were made with #2s.)Then I resumed knitting with #2s, and bound off, after six rows of 1x1 ribbing, with the 4s, but with a small picot (one stitch added after every bind off stitch as I was binding off).

They're a good fit, but next time I will definitely begin with the stocking tops!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Mark of Thanks

I love a mystery. The written sort, especially when it's real Golden Age, or set in that era. There are some wonderful authors doing the latter: Carola Dunn, Kerry Greenwood, and Rhys Bowen, for example. (Daisy Dalrymple, Phryne Fisher, and Lady Georgie.)

The most recent in Ms. Bowen's 30s series is Naughty in Nice, and it's as charming and interesting as all of her books are. I recently won a copy in a drawing from a librarian who reviews large numbers of books online and features them on her blog. She then very kindly gives them away in drawings. No strings attached. Not only that, they are sent with remarkable speed, and a hand-written note.

I wanted to send her something in return. Not another book, goodness knows how many she must have, not even including the ARC (advance reading copies) and other review copies she has lying around, but something book-related. As I knit, I thought a knitted bookmark would do the trick.

Firmly knitted lace, with a touch of starch, in fact. So I've been noodling around with various small "knitting pins" and crochet cotton. I started with American size 4s. Much too big. And quite floppy.

Then I choose the next extreme. I dug some Victorian steel DPNs out of my needle stash. They're so tiny that I don't have a needle gauge to size them, but at a guess they're at least 000s. Perhaps 0000s. Or smaller? (I have sewing needles that are thicker.)

The resultant fabric was beautiful, but it was murder just to make a knit stitch, to say nothing of a SSK. I couldn't even get beyond Row 8 of the pattern.

So I decided to slide back to the middle (in more ways than one); the first needles were from the 1960s, the second pair ca. 1860, and these needles are ca. 1930. These are size 15 Aero Knitting Needles, from England. They're coated and nicely pointed and slippery. The fabric is firm, but a touch of starch won't go amiss. And last night I sailed through the first two repeats with no trouble at all, so I think I'm on to something!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Still Progressing

Bunny is finished; that is, the knitting of. The golf stockings are finished, though not yet washed.

The work on the headpiece continues. I'm hoping to finish it entirely, soon, so that the bride can have it early; I know that she'll need to try out hairstyles before her big day.

Today, though, I gardened. For the first time in many months. No, I didn't uncover my still-mulched roses, but I cleared up dead vegetation and some leaves, and checked the two roses I started from cuttings. They made it through the winter!!

Things are looking up.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

In Progress

That's the state of quite a few things right now. The lamb toy is (and has been) blocking. The bunny is finished, but for his ears. My golf stockings are plaguing me--it's far more difficult to add a stocking top after the stocking has been knitted; it's hard to get the right elasticity in the pick-up and bind off stitches.

And most importantly, I am making a bridal headpiece for a friend of mine. She's a young woman in the local retro and burlesque community, and she's marrying my favorite local dance partner. When she told me of their engagement I offered to make her a headpiece as a wedding gift.

As some of the wedding guests will be reading this, I won't be posting photos until after the ceremony. However, the piece is beaded, on white velvet. It's more of a tiara than a bead-heavy 20s look; she has a lovely dress that conjures up the 50s. I can't really say more without giving things away!

That's what I'm up to these days, as well as beginning to consider a costume for the next big Chifferobe event, which has a theme of Cleopatra!

Pictues of at least the lamb-in-progress to come, as I really need to get these toys off to the babies soon.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Deco Fangirl: Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester

If you are a devote of Art Deco era music, it's quite likely that you've heard of Max Raabe. Herr Raabe is a singer of cabaret and cabaret style music. He studied to be an opera singer, but in the mid 1980s, with a group of friends he got together to rehearse hot jazz charts and ballads from the 20s and 30s. They played their first gig a year later, and much to their surprise, were an instant hit.

He and the Palast Orchester tour not only Germany, but the US, London, (as of this year) and other places. He's brilliant--funny, charming, handsome, and a fine musician with the best comic timing.

My husband and I bought tickets in September of last year for this show, as soon as we heard about it. They played Symphony Hall, in Boston, this past Sunday, March 4. We decided to pull out all the stops, clothing-wise, and made a day of it. We had matinee tickets, so it was 30s daywear. It took me weeks to decide what to wear--I don't have many real 30s day dresses--and a day or two to put it together.

The show was terrific. They are all talented musicians, and the pace of the program was wonderful. Herr Raabe is an elegant figure and will make you think you've fallen into a German film from Weimar Berlin. He was in faultless white tie and tails, with the other men in the group in black tie, and the lovely violinist wore red.

After asking quite a few people inside, we located the stage door and joined the crowd of fans. He did come out, after one of the orchestra members noticed us. I suspect they're all weary of touring, and there was no place inside for a crowd. They probably hoped to get some rest for a change (and I don't blame them). However, he graciously told us he'd tell Herr Raabe, and off he went.

When Max Raabe came out he'd changed into street clothes, and he did look weary, but he was courtly and gracious, and he bent over my hand (fool that I am, I was still wearing gloves, so I did not get my hand kissed...just the same, I'm still fluttering). His charisma is...well. Wonderful. He also signed the new album for us, and was even kind enough to pose for a couple of pictures. From left to right: my husband (in glasses), me, and Herr Raabe.

The new CD is entitled One Cannot Kiss Alone, and it's not quite as much to my taste as the cabaret pieces, but it's clever. If you love 80s music, you should adore it. I don't know if it's available yet here in the normal course of things, but if you are curious about the title song, here is a video they created to highlight the English version.

(Please excuse the absence of a proper link; as usual these days, I can't get Blogger to accept one. Just copy and paste to get to the video.)