Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Joys of Hand-Worked Eyelets (and Other Things)

I finally got started on the pair of bodies (aka Elizabethan corset) that I was planning on making for the upcoming Ren Faire. I used Drea Leed's Custom Corset Pattern Generator, modified it according to her instructions for the strapless, boned tabbed version, and then dived right in. Unfortunately (historically accurate purists, look away!), I don't have room in the budget for coutil right now (Richard the Thread is close by and reasonably priced, but they have a minimum order of five yards!), so I had to make do with the rest of that donated upholstery canvas for my strength layer. The other layer is part of a tablecloth, also from that same bag of donated fabric. I tried stretching both and they seemed fairly sturdy; I know it's not kosher but this is really a practice corset anyway. I'm not a rennie or historical reenactor, so this is more for the experience of making one, and if something comes up in the future I can try my hand with more appropriate materials.

Cream-colored tablecloth with light green swirls + floral home-dec canvas, eyelets in gold jeans thread.

Speaking of inappropriate materials, my wooden busk is a paint stirrer (thanks to the nice employee at Dunn-Edwards for just giving me four even though I didn't buy anything!) and my boning is going to be cable ties. If I were using metal grommets, I could have even more hardware store materials in this, but no, my one nod to historical accuracy is hand-worked eyelets. I never thought I'd say this, but they made me incredibly excited. Like, so-excited-I-couldn't-sleep excited. Once I got the method worked out and my eyelets started looking more regular (and I got faster at it), I just wanted to put eyelets in everything! I think my husband thought I was crazy. Anyway, here's the tutorial I used. I took her advice and used topstitching thread (leftover from hemming jeans for someone) to do them, and it is indeed a pleasure to work with. Although, I am thinking I might need to get some beeswax if I keep up this hand-sewing thing. It took me all of Strictly Ballroom (I love that movie so much!), which I just discovered on Netflix, to finish the eyelets. The first one took about fifteen minutes, but eventually I got it down to two minutes each!

The other thing that's been keeping me up is excitement over the Paper app by 53. It's a sketching/notebook app that comes with various "pens" and a pre-set color palette, and it is seriously awesome. I am rediscovering my love of drawing through it. So much so, I decided to start a tumblr just for my sketches (almost entirely of Walnut) since Blogger isn't the best for posting lots of pictures. I'm still learning the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the app, and Walnut keeps getting up halfway through my sketches (it's like he KNOWS I want him to stay still, that contrary old thing), but it is really so. much. fun.
I love how his mane is so big and fluffy, it starts swallowing up his head.

Today's poem is the first poem I remember loving. I had to memorize a poem for recitation in seventh grade, and this is the one I chose. Do you remember the first poem you ever read/loved?

Father William, by Lewis Carroll

"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head--
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

"You are old," said the youth, "as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door--
Pray, what is the reason of that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his gray locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment -- one shilling the box --
Allow me to sell you a couple?"

"You are old," said the youth, "and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak--
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw
Has lasted the rest of my life."

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose--
What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said his father; "don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you down-stairs!" 

I was initially attracted to this poem by the drawings. The expression on the son's face is the best.


  1. Don't worry about your bodies not being coutil - Elizabethan bodies were made out of alllll kinds of stiff materials, including buckram and pasteboard. It's only when we get to the 19th century that coutil starts to become the standard "must have" for corsetry, and only then because of the extreme silhouette being cultivated. Any stiff, non-stretching fabric like twill, canvas, even mattress ticking will work beautifully. :-)

    1. Thanks for the reassurance...I am almost done boning it and things seem to be holding up okay. I'm nervous about cutting the tabs, though!

    2. Yes! What Lauren said! And pre 1770s bodies/stays/corsets were rarely cotton anyway - usually linen. And even in the 19th century many, many, many corsets weren't made out of coutil.

      My standard is - would a period seamstress look at this material and think "I could make X out of it" - all good!

  2. I do believe I am the someone for whom you hemmed jeans and I wanted to say thank you again for the sisterhood pants!

    1. I do believe you are someone for whom I hemmed jeans ;) You are so very welcome!

  3. Oooh! Your eyelets look wonderful. :) It's so satisfying to master something like that, isn't it? (I never have, so mad respect...)

    Thanks for reminding me of that poem! I think my first favorite was another Lewis Carol- Jabberwocky- my dad used to recite it very dramatically, waving an imaginary sword at "Snicker snack" and then galumphing around the room... .;) I just read father william to Lila and I think she liked it...

    1. I don't know about mastering eyelets, but I've gotten much, much better. I purposely left my first eyelet out of the picture :)

      I love the Jabberwocky; it's such a great read-aloud poem! I didn't discover it until significantly after Father William, but when I realized that Lewis Carroll wrote both, I had an ahhh, that makes sense sort of moment. Way to introduce Lila to poetry early!

  4. I don't remember the first poem I ever read, but -- and you will appreciate this -- I do remember that I had to recite a poem in front of my 5th grade class, and I chose "The Naming of Cats" from T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. (Incidentally, that was the same year we had to read a biography, dress up as the subject of the biography, and give a talk about his or her life to the class. I chose Charles Darwin, borrowed my dad's tweed coat, donned a fake beard, and went for it.)

    1. Oooh, I love that poem! I will have to post it later this month; I don't want to overdo it on the cat craze this week :)

      Wow, fake beard and everything! When I gave my report on Helen Keller, I just took off my glasses, because it didn't make any sense for a blind person to wear glasses!

  5. Hand-worked Eyelets- blimey! I love how inventive you are using all kinds of things! Such great photos, you have a real talent XxxX

  6. Relatively new lurker here, but I know that poem! They set it to music and did a whole tap dancing routine in the made-for-TV "Alice in Wonderland" from 1985 (YouTube clip here). Watching it again, it seems they skipped a few of the stanzas...

  7. I knew we were kindred spirits already, but the fact that you love Strictly Ballroom as well confirms this feeling 100%. The hand worked eyelets look fantastic! I love that you used the gold thread - they pop against your fabric - the overall look is fabulous :)


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