personal musings

It’s 2019! How did I do on my 2018 sewing goals?

Happy New Year!

New Year’s is not my favorite holiday exactly, but I do like laying around with the hubs and dogs and thinking about what transpired and what lies ahead.

I made a big post about my sewing goals for 2018 so I thought before I post about my goals for 2019 I should see how I actually ended up doing.

Generally speaking, I feel like 2018 was not a particularly productive year for sewing. Everything seemed rushed and last minute. I had a lot of real life interruptions, the biggest being my major house renovation finally beginning, so it’s not surprising that sewing took a back seat.


Here are my 2018 goals and what I managed to do with them.

Late 1860s Ball Gown and Day Bodice — I still don’t have a hoop so nothing happened on this one. My next step is to try to make the elliptical hoop from the Laughing Moon pattern. I feel like I can’t let this dress / era beat me but man, it’s been annoying so far.

Early Bustle Era Day Dress — Nope

18th Century Riding Habit — I did not make this either but I did manage to make my first 18th century outfit.

More Regency —  I made one new dress and a spencer

1910s Ball / Evening Gown — I did the mockup but stalled out on actually making the gown. I couldn’t figure out exactly how I wanted it to look. I ended up making a guimpe and (sort of) fixing the hem on my existing 1910 skirt. I need to revisit this era.

Figure out how to make myself a pair of jeans — Nope

Actually typing that out bums me out a bit that I didn’t manage more. Honestly, 2018 was a heavily mixed year for me so it’s not surprising that the mix is reflected here.

My 2018 (intensive and long) list of sewing goals

It’s officially 2018. It’s been a bit of a start since our heat went out New Year’s Day and it’s been quite cold (below freezing) here in Atlanta! Being stuck in one room with space heaters or in the much more spacious and warm studio has had me seriously thinking about sewing goals. I feel like I really dropped the ball on historical last year. I’m in fairly dire need of new Victorian gowns for both day and evening. I had planned on making both — made neither! I also have a late 1860s gown started but not finished. And don’t forget piles of awesome fabrics waiting to be turned into several other gowns. I need to prioritize!

So, in no particular order, my top goals for 2018:

Late 1860s Ball Gown and Day Bodice — I have the bodice half done. I “threw in” my hoop in favor of commissioning Black Orchid Atelier to make one for me. I bought trim in LA last year that I think will work on the ball gown. I might have enough silk for a day bodice. I’m thinking I may try to turn my hoop fail into a circular hoop, just so I have one and so I at least save some of my effort. I just have so many icky feelings about wearing Civil War fashion.

Early Bustle Era Day Dress — I have a stash black and whitish sawtooth cotton to use for this. I just need to pick a final design and make it.

18th Century Riding Habit — I took Lynn McMasters’s fitting class at Costume College so this also is basically ready to go. I should probably mock it up once more before I use my fashion fabric, a kelly green linen / cotton blend that I originally bought to make a Slytherin themed 1890s suit. But as that fabric is not precious and replaceable, maybe I should just get to it instead?

More Regency —  I’m already slated to go to Jane Austen Fest so I want to make something new. I bought a beautiful sari in London to use for a ballgown. I got a fabulous blue and white striped gauze from my husband for Christmas that I’d like to use for something. I only have three meters so most likely it would be an open robe or a sleeveless overdress. I don’t know. I just don’t want to make another white gown to go underneath. I made a white dress last summer.

1910s Ball / Evening Gown — I have a different sari from London for this. I also have a paste rhinestone buckle, most likely from the 1980s, that I got at the Paris flea market as a focus. This dress will most likely be a little loud and more Hollywood than history but I think it will be fabulous. I tried starting the Laughing Moon pattern but didn’t get very far with the mockup. Not sure if I should revisit that or use a different pattern.

Figure out how to make myself a pair of jeans — this was on my list last year and didn’t happen. I need a pair of vintage / retro style jeans. I need to conquer pants, but I have fear.

Of course that list doesn’t include the Elvis and David Bowie themed dressed I had tentatively planned for Costume College. I don’t even know if I can stomach the cost or intensity of my Elvis idea. Nor does it include reviving my 1901 Mourning Ensemble or sewing anything else practical or vintage. Oh and there is also the time of real life too! I’m just not sure where to start exactly, since the only current deadlines I have are Janefest and Costume College. But if I just picked one, hunkered down and started, I feel like the priority list could be possible!

In the time it took to write this, my heat finally seems to be fixed! Another good sign!

Any suggestions? Make them in the comments!


Dumpster Fire Ornament Crafting Party

2016 has really taken a toll on me. It started out on a low note with the death of David Bowie. I was in the emergency room the very next day from a kidney stone attack. Then Prince and our never-ending renovation which went over time, over budget and saw us firing our contractor in the middle of the process. I was in London for the disastrous Brexit vote. And of course we in the United States are in the middle of the worst governmental quagmire ever with the results of our election.

Several friends have also had a year filled with the death of loved ones and loved pets, financial turmoil and various calamity.

Was it my worst year ever? No, it wasn’t but I’ve been feeling really sad for the world.

I read about Jennifer Brooks and her viral craft phenomenon, the felt Dumpster Fire ornament (tutorial here). I decided then and there to invite over a small group crafty friends to have a craft party / dumpster fire.

The invite was as follows:

To celebrate (?) this shitshow of a year, let’s make dumpster fire ornaments. I will get the supplies, you bring snacks / drinks. We will only listen to my David Bowie and Purple Rain records and maybe Ace of Spades. Or we can sing The Brady Bunch Theme. If you want to make something in addition to the Dumpster Fire, let me know and maybe I will get more felt. If it goes late enough maybe I will make a frozen pizza. Day drinking required.


fullsizerender-1And the crafting began! My invitees brought some delicious “ball” themed snacks and a drunken highlight was the Milk Punch from the Baton Rouge Junior League Cookbook.

Everyone had a big time crafting, eating drinking and chatting. Some of us even made themed Dumpsters to commerate Prince and Bowie.


My final ornament output.


Jenn poses with her ornaments. Lori gave her the Prince one! What holiday spirit!

When the crafting was done, we all wrote down our grievances and also a few good things about 2016 and we outside to have our own “dumpster fire”.

Lori made an effige of Donald Trump to add to the flames.



At this point we read off our notes, crumped them up and watched it all burn. It was pretty emotional, but also needed after this dumpster fire of a year. I hope you all are also finding peace and joy this holiday season.


And by the way…why weren’t you at Elf Practice?


So I’ve been reading…

I’ve been making it a priority to read more books. I’d really let my reading slack off for several years. I was either busy sewing, knitting or noodling around on the internet. Also, the transition from reading physical books to ebooks was happening at my house. I’d often read books that had already been read and were lying around. With less new books lying around, I’ve had less at hand to read.

My goal is just to read more than I was. I don’t care about lofty quality or literary heritage but if some classic struck my fancy, all the better. Comic books and graphic novels also fill the bill. I don’t have the patience to follow something one issue at a time but anthologies are fine by me.

Here’s what I’ve read recently. I’m not going to go into details about the plots. You can look all that up yourself. No spoilers to make you worry either!

The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

I really liked the concept behind this book. It had an intriguing premise and I was genuinely interested in unravelling the book’s mystery, if a little annoyed sometimes at how it was written. Ultimately, it was kind of unfulfilling and the ending was a bit lackluster. I could see the possibility of a sequel as the ending revelation was one of the most interesting parts of book. Mildly diverting.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I really expected to love this book. I really expected to at least like this book. I really didn’t. It reads fast and has its moments. The photographs are a nice touch but as a bunch of prose is spent on describing them, it seems a little pointless. Also, the central romance was kind of gross. I feel like so much of this story is a retread and recast of Harry Potter, Twilight, Divergent, etc. aka any story with a “special” outsider. Also, at times, it’s just badly written. Apparently there are two sequels which I won’t be reading. I know people loved this book soooo much but it didn’t do it for me at all.

Stills and a trailer from the upcoming Tim Burton film adaptation have just surfaced. I might see the film because the art direction and Eva Green as Miss Peregrine look awesome. I hope they improve on the book.


Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

This book had been sitting on my shelf for a really long time. I picked it up from one of those tables at Barnes and Noble or maybe even Borders (RIP). The only other Margaret Atwood I’ve read is The Handmaid’s Tale, which was also excellent even though it scared (and continues to scare, considering the state of the USA) me. Oryx and Crake is great. Atwood is a masterful writer and she captures emotion and sense of place so well. Oryx and Crake also deals with dystopia and the aftermath of worldwide calamity but in a much different way and setting than The Handmaid’s Tale. I liked all the characters and could empathize with each of them in certain ways. I found the ending of the book unsatisfying though. Luckily, as I was looking up links for this post, I discovered that the book is the first of a trilogy. As far as I can tell, I might get my satisfaction by reading the other books, The Year of The Flood and MaddAddamCool with me.

The Sandman Anthologies

I never read Neil Gaiman’s seminal series at the time of publication. Currently, I’m on Volume 6, Fables and Reflections. I’ve been educated about Emperor Norton. I only knew him as a record label. While I am enjoying reading the anthologies, I certainly have enjoyed some more than others. I can’t put my finger on exactly why but finally reading Sandman is simultaneously giving me the impression that it’s both as great as its reputation and that it wasn’t a big deal that I ignored it the first go round. I don’t know??? Planning on finishing the run eventually.

So what’s next, you ask? On a Pale Horse by Piers AnthonyI never read the Incarnations of Immortality as a teen. Instead I read the somewhat terrible but in an awesome way Bio of a Space Tyrant. I’ll have to see how I fare with On a Pale Horse before I decide to read the rest of the series. I was working on re-reading Bio of a Space Tyrant and I just don’t know if I can manage to re-read all of those even for the nostalgic entertainment value. I also have the first volume of SagaFriends with disparate taste have all praised Saga so I figured I’d give it a shot.




Cried so much his face was wet, then I knew he was not lying

I was reading Facebook in the bath, on my phone (yes I know), in the wee hours of January 11th.

January 10 2016 – David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief. —from David Bowie’s official Facebook page.

Just a few days earlier, David Bowie turned 69 and on the same day his new album Blackstar had dropped. My feed was full of praise from friends who had the album in hand on the day of release.

Several people were commenting that news of Bowie’s death was a terrible hoax. His page had been hacked. No reputable news source had confirmed his death. Some page even stated that it was confirmed a hoax.

It didn’t seem like it could be real, but about 30 minutes later, confirmation from the BBC, New York Times, etc. was online.

Previously, only two celebrity deaths had really affected me in any way: MCA from the Beastie Boys and somewhat coincidently (David Bowie changed his name to avoid confusion with), Davy Jones of The Monkees. I remember, on the some anniversary of MCA’s death, saying something along the lines of “MCA makes me very sad, but when David Bowie dies I will cry big, fat tears.” I didn’t realize those tears would come so soon.

I don’t know exactly when I discovered David Bowie. Certainly I was a fan of Let’s Dance, but  I know he was in my consciousness previous to that. I remember Duran Duran being guest VJs on MTV and playing the video for Ashes to Ashes. Duran Duran also covered Fame as a B-Side. While it was the right era, I somehow missed Labyrinth. I only saw that film last year! It was Changesbowie that really made me dive in. And Ziggy Stardust immediately after that. I remember how excited I was to see the Sound & Vision tour, especially because at the time Bowie was claiming he would never play all his old songs live ever again. While I don’t remember the show that well, I was far back in the pavilion at a large outdoor venue, I remember being transfixed and loving every second of it. I still have the shirt. I need to start wearing it again.

The music of David Bowie has always stayed with me. Some years I didn’t listen to him so much. Other years I would discover or rediscover one of his albums. When I finally got a record player again, I started acquiring Bowie albums on vinyl and hearing them anew. For the past few years I have probably listened to at least one Bowie song almost everyday and if I haven’t actually listened to him, the odds that his songs will just pop into my head are super strong.

David Bowie has been a huge influence on me visually. His powers as a performer, image maker and innovator make up as much of his iconography as his music. I’ve consciously referenced him in my Rococopunk and Wizardpunk. I’ve also considered doing some sort of David Bowie cosplay, recreating one of his iconic outfits.

It’s difficult for me to quantify how much David Bowie means to me or even what exactly he means. He just is and always will be. Even though it is the David Bowie of the fairly distant past that I most resonant with, the knowledge that he was still on the planet with us gave me comforting and happy making feelings.

After crying myself to sleep in the wee hours, I woke up in terrible pain. It turned out that I was having a particularly brutal kidney stone attack. Consequently, I spent the majority of the day in the emergency room vacillating between suffering tremendous pain and the heady, soothing yet unpleasant opioid effects of morphine and dilauid. In my haze my thoughts turned to David Bowie. He had, most likely, been in a similar state only a few day previous, knowing that it was his end, versus, what for me, was an episode that would pass. I hope he wasn’t looking up at a hospital ceiling like I was. I was waiting until my pain was soothed enough that I could go with my husband to my home, my bed and my dog. I don’t know what David Bowie would have been waiting for. I hope when it arrived it was what he hoped for and that he found it, painlessly and peacefully.

David Bowie, the man who fell to earth. A wizardpunk if there ever was one. 1947-2016.



Steampunk’d – My recaps for Steampunk Chronicle

In my capacity as Editrix de Mode for Steampunk Chronicle, I’ve started a weekly recap of the new reality competition series Steampunk’d which airs Wednesdays at 8pm C/9pm E on Game Show Network. You can read my Episode One recap HERE.

There are SPOILERS!

My all time favorite television commentators are Tom and Lorenzo, formerly Project Rungay. They are pretty much what I think recappers should be: concise, entertaining, insightful and not completely rehashing the show like you didn’t actually watch it while telling you enough so you could skip it if you wanted to. I don’t think I’m in their league, but that’s what I’m going for. I’ll post the links as the episodes run.

Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award!

Color me shocked and delighted to be nominated for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award by Jeanette of The Perfect Touch. I don’t have a ton of blog followers, although I think I get a few more readers via my reposts to Facebook. It means a lot to me that Jeanette tapped me for this honor. I am not the most prolific blogger but I try really hard to make well written, interesting and entertaining posts. It seems that I’ve succeeded! Thank you Jeanette!

And now, the fine print!

The Official Award Rules are:
1.  Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site.
2.  Put the Award logo on your blog.
3.  Answer the ten questions sent to you.
4.  Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.
5.  Nominate ten blogs.

Numbers 1 & 2, CHECK!

On to Number 3, Jeanette’s Questions:
1.  What is your favorite fabric?
For sewing, probably broadcloth cotton. For wearing, anything soft.

2.  What era would you most like to visit?
The Victorian era around the turn of the century, when everything was happening with technology and the world started to change at a high rate of speed. Or maybe the late 1960s into the 70s. It seemed to be a completely insane time to party and the music would be fab.

3.  Does anyone else in your family share your hobby/hobbies?
My mom and grandma were sewers, knitters and crocheters. My nana was crafty too. Between all of them I got a firm start in sewing and crafting. They gave me my start and eventually, I ran with it.

4.  What part of the world have you not seen and would love to visit?
I’ve always been interested in travel and I have been extremely lucky to have already visited many of my “dream” destinations. There’s still lots of places I haven’t been though. Prague, Moscow, Budapest, Iceland, Hawaii, Seattle and Egypt are some places I haven’t gotten to yet.

5.  Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?

6.  Have you ever ridden a horse?
Yes, but honestly, they scare me.

7.  Do you have your blog printed?

8.  Are you a morning person?
Absolutely not.

9.  Have you invented something?
No. Well maybe some embarrassing dance…

10.  Do you use Pinterest?  If so, how many pins do you have?
Yes. 7k is what it’s telling me.

My nominees are both established and newer bloggers. Time to give them all the love! And Make them answer all the questions!

My Bloggesses:

1.  Gina @ Beauty From Ashes
2.  Fanny @ Temps d’elegance
3.  Anne @ Dogwood Girl
4.  Breanna @ The Lady Nerd
5.  Cat @ The Gluttonous Geek
6.  Diana @ Beyond Victoriana
7.  Megan @ Shoes Before Stitches
8.  Lauren @ American Duchess
9.  Lara @ To Dream Out Loud
10.  Kat @ Madame Modiste

My Questions:

  1. What is your favorite part about blogging?
  2. What is least favorite part about blogging?
  3. Why do you blog?
  4. What was the last project (sewing, craft or otherwise) you completed?
  5. Cats or Dogs?
  6. Do you have a blogging soundtrack?
  7. Do you have a blogging “hero”?
  8. Who is your favorite writer?
  9. Who is your favorite artist?
  10. Who would you push off a cliff?

Thanks again for the nomination, Jeanette!!!

A Fast Post About Yoga (and Progress)

I have been doing well with my burgeoning yoga practice. I have even added some Pilates into the mix. My new goal is to try to get in one yoga and one Pilates class every week. So far, so good. When I went to yoga today, it was really hard. I had an instructor that was new to me. My body wasn’t cooperating, especially on the left side. It was generally frustrating. Near the end of the class we did a pose that I generally have a lot of problems getting into. Today, while I was far from perfect, I got into the pose much more easily and I was closer to actually being able to do it properly. It was a very small victory that reminded me that I am indeed coming along. Sometimes, that’s all one really needs.

So far, so good: My Yoga Adventure Update

I’ve mentioned that I started doing hot yoga. After a few classes I decided to get serious and buy a five card class. I can proudly report that I have finished the card! And actually, since I went to yoga twice when I was visiting my mom, I’ve done even more yoga than that. Yesterday for my final card class, I did pilates. That was hard but I did it. And I might even do it again. Whoot!

While this translates to only about one class a week since the beginning of the year, it’s still one class a week more than I’ve done in several years. I’m proud of myself and in hopes that I can keep it up, I bought a ten class card when I re-upped. Namaste Bitches.

The Destruction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Last week I drove from Atlanta to Chicagoland to visit my mom. The visit was spurred on by my mom’s desire to put her house up for sale. This is not my childhood home. We moved there when I was in high school so consequently I really only lived there for about threeish year. She put her house up for sale a few years ago, but for various reasons, moving was a non-starter. We had gone through a lot of my old stuff previously but it was clear now that I needed to get serious and be ready to purge and say goodbye.

I opened boxes that had been taped since we moved. I was engulfed in some serious time warps. There were some casualties and calamities, the most notable being The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

In 7th grade, I had to do an academic fair project. We were not limited to science. We could also chose topics from social studies or math. I was fascinated with photos of intricate models of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World from my Childcraft Encyclopedia set. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon being my favorite.

(While prepping to write this entry, I went searching for the inspiration image of the Hanging Gardens that’s posted above. I did not realize that the photographs had nothing originally to do with Childcraft but were of actually models originally made for a Viewmaster reel! No wonder they looked so awesome!)

Luckily for me, the Seven Wonders were a suggestion on the fair topics list! I had to write a paper about the Wonders and I also had to create a visual display for the fair. photocopying some images from library books to slap on the three-sided board was not going to cut it. I had to create my own model of the Hanging Gardens. The task was set and the gauntlet of parental assistance was thrown.

My Dad ended up being the engineer of the project, suggesting that we build the Hanging Gardens out of foam core for both durability and lightness. He had previously helped me build a medieval castle out of sugar cubes and glue which proved to be nearly impossible for a wee Gretchen to get to school so transportability was key. I do remember a couple of simultaneously fun yet Dad maddening Sunday afternoons during which we built the Gardens. It turned out that some Maize latex paint that was leftover from painting some room in our house was perfect for golden glow the Hanging Gardens needed. My Mom was on the decorating committee, which made perfect sense since she was/is the green thumb of our family. We used silk flowers and leaves to make trees and plants. We also made small trailing strands of flowers to give the Gardens that signature “hanging” look. There were even a few real cactus plants on the top floor — for authenticity.

The formerly majestic structure!

I ended up getting a 2nd place prize for my project which both I and my parents took to be a gyp. I received a first the next year in 8th grade when my project was “The Science of Developing and Printing Black & White Film”. Once again, I was aided by Dad, as he happened to have everything non-perishable required collecting dust in a dark corner of the basement.

As much as I love the Hanging Gardens model, it has lost some of its flora and gained a lovely patina of dirt and dust. I took off the remaining trailing garlands and have them saved to use as trim on a hat or something. Or maybe just as a more space efficient reminder.

The Ancient Ruin.

My fascination with the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World never really ended. I’ve seen fragments of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus in the British Museum and the scavenged columns from the Temple of Artemis installed in the Hagia Sofia. I have not yet managed to see the Great Pyramid at Giza, which is the only wonder still standing — but I will! After I unpack more boxes, anyway.

In closing, here are a couple of mythological giantesses attacking the ancient structure.

Terrors of the Gods!