Monday, June 27, 2016

Antique Letter Sorter!

First off, let me say that after years of antiquing in PA, New England is a veritable GOLD MINE of antique glories. I'm assuming it has to do with the fact that "up thar" has been civilized by financially-well-endowed people than "down here". In any case, I've been antiquing/second hand shopping a few times up there whilst going to college, and I've really had to curb my spending. I mean... Brattle Book Shop? Oh, the glories.

I found this beautiful letter sorter in a large antique mall in NH, which was promptly purchased for me by the sweetest of men. We have since speculated a great deal about the original owner. It's great fun. 

It was made of fine leather and embossed in great detail. A name was inscribed with gold leaf on the front, as shown in the picture above. 

1854? This beautiful piece is over 150 years old! However, several questions come to mind. Why is it in such good condition? Was it never used? Who was Eliza L. Heath? And who was D.C.L.? 

Moving along, the inside has three pockets, reading: "Answered," "Unanswered," and "Notes & Addresses." The gold leafing is so intact that I'm tempted to think that Eliza Heath didn't use D.C.L.'s gift very much, or at all. 

But... sigh! The detail! 

The inside is papered with a beautiful print, and included is a copy book covered with the same paper. The pages inside are yellowed and covered with age spots, but it smells clean. 

No markings of any kind, however. Entirely unused. 


Who was Eliza L. Heath? Why did she never use this beautiful letter sorter? The mystery may be no mystery at all- she may have had another sorter that she already used. Or... some dark love story may be lingering around this piece. 

Or maybe some aunt gave it to Eliza as a New Year's present and Eliza carelessly put it aside. 

Regardless of this "mystery", I plan on restoring this piece as best I can and possibly putting some of my best beloved letters in it. I'll be treasuring it for a good long while.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Nifty Tricks: My Great Aunt's Advice!

My Italian great-aunt has done a great deal of sewing over the years, and she's still an active seamstress and crafter. Every time I go to see her, she's got some new project or another going. However, she has one regret about her long life of sewing: she never took pictures of her work

In her old age, she would have loved to have had a scrapbook portfolio of all the things she's done, from costumes to vestments to garments to you name it. So, she's urged me many times to make one for myself. "You'll enjoy it," she tells me, every time. 

So, I took her advice- I started one! It's a bit of work, but I believe my great-aunt when she says that I'll appreciate this. 

I just bought a normal scrapbook, although a normal photo-album would do just as nicely. I just wanted to have a place to put my notes about each project. 

It's funny, though: my great-aunt told me that she's forgotten about a lot of the projects she's done. I forgot about these elven garbs (here and here), and I was pleasantly reminded of them when I flipped through my portfolio just now. I can only imagine how nice that'll be in fifty years when I can pull out this album and show my grandkids (and great nieces, possibly) all the things I'll have made over the years... all thanks to my wonderful great-aunt. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Love & Friendship (2016) Costume Study

Have you seen Love & Friendship yet? It's fantastic. I'm pretty sure I laughed my bonnet off. If you haven't, you might want to trot out at once, even if it's just to drool over the costumes.

Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh was the costume designer- interesting, as she also did Becoming Jane (2007), and both films show a decided preference for the fashion of the 1790's, which would have been the styles Austen herself would have worn as a young woman. I feel like this was a good move on Mhaoldomhnaigh's part- both the novels that this film took from, Lady Susan and Love and Freindship (yes, that was intentional) were written by a young Austen in the 1790's. Bravo. 

Mhaoldomnhnaigh also paid careful attention to echoing the story with the costumes, as any good movie designer should. From an article on the Hollywood reporter

"Mhaoldomhnaigh helped elevate Lady Susan's fearless behavior through a series of costume changes, starting with an all-black ensemble that revealed her as a mourning widow. But as the film progresses, Lady Susan starts shedding off her grief.
"If you actually laid out the costumes, it goes from black to black and grey to mauve, more of the mourning colors for the time, and every time she's in the country she's affecting the widow and trying to be discreet... But when she goes to London, the colors change."
That's when Lady Susan starts to embrace brighter hues, wearing corseted gowns in light pink, scarlet, and purple (with black lace), which Mhaoldomhnaigh is quick to note is also a grieving hue, "[but] she's very slowly discarding her widow's weeds, getting rid of her mourning colors." 

In an article on WWD , it was noted that while the film's budget was "relatively small", Mhaoldomhnaigh had all of Lady Susan and most of Mrs. Johnnson's (both pictured above) costumes custom made. 

I think the costumes of this film stand in stark contrast to the majority of other Austen period-dramas out there- why? I think Mhaoldomhnaigh's careful attention to the fashion of the period and the characters themselves helped to create a very drool-worthy parade of frippery. 

Also, the fact that Lady Susan and Mrs. Johnson wear custom-made dresses is more unique than just searching through the film closets over at the BBC... such as evidenced in these infamous examples

Lady Susan and Mrs. Johnson aren't the only ones wearing fabulous costumes, though- the entire cast is robed beautifully! 

Catherine DeCourcy Vernon wears several beautiful dresses throughout the course of the film. 

...and her hair (on right) is always on pointe! 

For those of you inspired to sew based on the fashions of this film, I can recommend Mrs. Chancey's 1780's Portrait Style Dress, which is near enough in style to these costumes. 

Have you seen "Love & Friendship" yet? What did you think of the costumes?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Nifty Tricks: Dried Flower Spruce Up!

As you know from my last tutorial, I'm definitely a lover of granny-chic china cabinets. I've been collecting tea cups for a few months now, and I realized all too soon how one can't keep "bringing it all home"- I ran out of space! My beautiful little built-in china cabinet has been filled up, and my fetish for chinaware has been curbed... for now, that is. I was trying to think of ways to spruce up my cabinet, though I am still of the opinion that papering it was the best thing I ever did in terms of home decor. Then, inspiration struck. Dried flowers! I have tons of them because I'm very sentimental and I just can't throw them away, especially when they are the dry-able type. I had two elegant little vases in my cabinet, so I filled them with dried carnations.

The way I see it, it's a win-win situation. I have flowers in my cabinet to delight me year-round, and when we're in a pinch to make the place look nice for guests and don't have time to pick fresh flowers, we can just pull out these vases. They're regular tea-time savers! 

I realized my mom had done something very similar with her china cabinet, and I wanted to share her simple -but lovely!- arrangement: 

I also wanted to share her beautiful Syracuse Ware china... it's so beautiful! 

But, I thought, why stop at china cabinets? Why not extend the benefits of dried flowers to elsewhere in the house? 

One thing I had already been doing was hanging the flowers to dry on the edges of my window treatments. 

It gives a very rustic look to a room- I've even done wild mint and golly, does it make a room smell good! 

Another way to spruce up a space is to place a bunch in a vase and set it on a dresser. 

Roses, eucalyptus leaves, and baby's breath dry extremely well and make for a lovely bouquet, whether dried or fresh. 

Do you use dried flowers in your house? I'd be very happy to find out new ways of utilizing them!  

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Countdown to 100 Sales!

Since the majority of my sales on Etsy have been custom orders, it's taken some time to rack up them up. However, I'm pretty close to 100 now, so help me celebrate! 

Any order placed from now until I make it to 100 will include a free gift, valued at $9.99! 

Head on over to the shop now to start celebrating! 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Tea and Shoot Dress Diary: Finished!

I realized that I'm a horrible person and I never shared my Tea and Shoot dress from last September! Here are the final results, including how the hat turned out!

First, the hat, because the Tea and Shoot really is about hats. I had so much fun reclaiming a tired old hat! Hopefully, I'll have a tutorial up soon on the process. 

The hat, as seen from a different angle. My escort gave me his coat, as it was a tad chilly that day. 

Here we are, enjoying the "tea" portion of the "Tea and Shoot". You can kind of see how my overskirt curves up in the back for a nice neo-classical shape. Also, I got to wear crochet lace gloves. Any day I can do that is a good day. 

Finally, (most of) the front of my dress! 

I had a lovely time wearing my dress... if you're interested in one of your own, do drop me a line! I love custom orders!