I think, like many of you, I lost the entire month of April to COVID-19. Shortly after my second full post about the red renaissance dress project, I got the okay from my boss to work from (not my) home. Once it looked like working from home would last at least a couple more weeks, I knew I needed to make other arrangements. So, I packed up my improvised home office, and temporarily moved in with my (retired) parents. This turned out to be a good thing for all of us. The pandemic has brought on a lot of introspection, and a big life change for me is in the works. But more on that in a later post.
Thankfully, none of us have gotten the "'Rona-virus" yet. However, life has still kept us busy. My dad had the misfortune to take a tumble down some stairs and break his leg in two places, but thankfully is recovering well
The other big thing to happen in our family is the arrival of our much-anticipated niece, "C". Originally she was due the last week of May. But, we got word that doctors would prefer if she made her appearance two weeks early, on May 4.
Fortunately, we just had time for the small, social-distancing approved baby shower - which gave me an excuse to make the cutest little baby romper. The challenge, of course, was that I would need to use what I could find in my Mom's sewing room.
After a quick search online for free baby clothes patterns, I settled on this one, which seemed easy enough
I couldn't tell you what the fabric was originally purchased for, but it was only about a yard or so. I think the purple and white flowers are perfect for a spring baby.
The romper is based off an OshKosh design, and has a self-lined sleeveless yoke on top, that closes in the back, with a baloon-style bottom that snaps at the crotch, leaving the arms and legs bare.
Along with the fabric, I found some rick-rack to add some decoration. The rick-rack came from my Grammie, who absolutely loved the stuff. I think it will make for a special outfit - it will have a touch of C's great grandma on it.
And here it is, all finished! I can't imagine her being tiny enough to wear it. Hopefully, she'll grow quickly enough that she can only wear it once or twice. At any rate, I really enjoyed the excuse to make it.
My sister-in-law was kind enough to send me these pictures of little miss C wearing it a few weeks after the shower, with a matching yellow hair bow. She's so cute in it! Soon after this, my brother told me her head had grown too much to for her to be able put her in it - three cheers for a growing baby :)
Ladies in Red (Part 2)
When I made the first sketch of the red renaissance dresses, I just put a generic gathered-necked chemise underneath - the simplest design to both draw and make. But the more I researched the style of dress I was going for, the more I realized that I would want an actual hemd (German shirt/chemise) with a higher neck and actual collar.
In researching German hemds, I came across the wonderful Cathrin Åhlén's blog, Katafalk. She is a trained tailor and dressmaker who has a passion for historical dress. The walk-through of her hemd seemed straightforward but also detailed enough that I was willing to give it a shot.
Of course, the real show-stopper here is all the smocking, done by hand. Hundreds (and I do mean hundreds!) of tiny, perfectly straight folds, with meticulous embroidery in decorative patterns over them - daunting for sure. But with every new project, I want to learn something new.
The next slide show of pictures took many evening hours after work in front of the TV to complete. Each gathering line stitch meant picking up only two or three threads in the fabric, and they had to be a straight and even as possible. And once the gathering lines are all pulled up, each embroidery stitch has to be as neat as you can make your hand stitching. Thankfully (for once), I have a short neck, so there's only a little embroidery that can fit on the collar.
Once the neck was done, the sleeve cuffs follow suit. After the yards of fabric in the collar, the sleeve cuffs went by in breeze by comparison! I used a different color gathering thread, both for variety, and so I tell in the pictures what I was working on.
As I was nearing the completion of this hemd (I will be making a second one, of course), the pandemic hit. Everything about it feels surreal, but at the same time, I am taking things seriously.
After 4 days of working from home, I could already tell I would need to make an effort to reach out virtually, or my natural introvert/hermit tendencies would leave me miserable. So, I planned a little Facebook Live book review/tea party, and invited friends. It also gave me a deadline to finish the hemd, because I knew I would want to feature it during the tea party.
There is a post-script to this part of the project, and it has very little to do with the actual project. Life feels very uncertain with the onset of the pandemic. No one knows how it will play out, but I do know myself, and I know that being entirely by myself during this shut down is not good for my mental health. Theoretically, working from home will give me more time to work on projects...it just may not be from my own home. Stay tuned!
If I ever finish it...
As Aida cloth didn't exist in the Renaissance, most work was done on linen, or some other kind of evenly-woven fabric. From my very first frame-able piece, I've used evenweave, which is an embroidery fabric usually made of a blend of cotton and rayon. However, I came across some Belfast linen for needlework on clearance, which I snatched up, knowing I'd find a use for it. Linen is a little more difficult to work with than evenweave, but it has really given the project a more period-appropriate look.
Secondly, I stumbled across this song on YouTube that I found myself replaying for its beauty and calm. Below is the version I first heard. It's not your typical recording space, and it's not a professional quality camera/microphone by any means, but take a couple of minutes and listen:
There are a few things to know about the song; it is one of the most popular hymns in Iceland. The lyrics are a psalm composed by the devoutly christian poet-cheiftan Kolbeinn Tumason in 1208. He had been mortally wounded in battle, and it was composed on his deathbed. The tune was composed in 1973 by Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson, but it evokes the style of a medieval chant.
Here's the first verse, translated into the modern Icelandic you hear in the song:
Heyr himna smiðr
hvers skáldit biðr;
komi mjúk til mín
Því heitk á þik
þú hefr skaptan mik;
ek em þrællinn þinn,
þú est dróttinn minn
After reading through several different English translations (both word-for-word and more poetic translations), I came up with my own version of a translation that I really liked. Here's the first verse as a teaser:
Hear my invocation, Smith of Constellations,
May your mercy come softly to me.
So I call on thee, for you have crafted me.
I am your slave, you, my Lord on High.
I really have no timeline for how long this cross-stitch will take. I tend to work on these more in the winter, and as we're just getting into the good parts of spring, I may not get back to this until late fall. In the meantime, hopefully by telling you all about it, I'll have more motivation to pick it up again when I have the time?
Twins each with half a brain in reality; the other half displayed here!