Sunday, 1 August 2021

End of July -- Summer Holidays

 Just a quick post this month.

When you read this I shall be on my much needed holiday! My cousin is getting married (or will be married by the time this posts), so we've combined a holiday near the wedding location with the ceremony itself. I've been looking forward to this for a while, although as of writing this, being surrounded by that many people is terrifying! Oh, and we're also doing "Christmas" this week as well, as we've not been able to meet up face-to-face since last summer...

I'm not putting up anything from July, as I want to be able to include whatever I complete while away as well. Therefore the usual X into Y post will wait until the first Sunday in September, and will include both July AND August "What I Did" lists.

Have a good start to the Summer, everyone! Oh, and I guess I ought to wish Happy Winter to the antipodeans?

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

2021 Q3 & Q4 Reading Plan

As mentioned in my June/July post, I have decided to write a rough idea of the books and stories I hope to read in the second half of 2021. These include books for the Hugo Awards 2021 and Advance Reader Copies which I've received, as well as books currently on loan from the library. I'm splitting this list into four categories: Have to Read, Need to Read, and Want to Read, and then Non-Fiction.

Have to Read

These are books which have deadlines within 2021 for any reason

  • Hugo Award 2021
  • Book Group selections (although I don't always complete each month's book and sometimes can't participate)
  • Review copies (mostly Secret Readers, but also Netgalley)

Need to Read

These are books that I've borrowed, either physically or digitally, from the library. As with the Have to group, they have due dates but unlike the above list, they can be renewed, extended, or re-borrowed later. Some books will (mentally at least) be moved from this list to Have to if I can't renew it for any reason - I do NOT want another 6 month break in a book before being able to finish it as I'm currently having with The House in the Cerulean Sea!!

Want to Read

Books which I have to hand (digitally or physically) and that I want to read, but which have no external deadlines beyond personal desire to read them. Also books which aren't in the above two categories, but which need to be finished off.


Non-fiction is harder to read as I find that I read it differently from the way I read fiction works. I make notes and generally read non-fiction much more closely and carefully, and thus it takes a LOT longer. On the other hand, it's much easier for me to pick it up and put down after a few paragraphs or a chapter. For these reasons, I'm listing NF books separately...

I am also adding here a list of "Not quite books", which is mostly related works stuff for the Hugo Awards.

Book List

Have to Read

Hugo Award 2021

Deadline: 18/19 November 2021

Official List of the 2021 Finalists
My list below is an edited version of the official list, above, based on which works are actually included in the packet; for series, I've also edited out the books which I've already read. This list is in alphabetical order by author. I have then made a reordered list of the titles in the order I (currently) plan to read them...

Categories I plan to read and vote in are:
  • Best Short Story - 6 works
  • Best Novella - 6 works
  • Best Novelette - 6 works
  • Best Novel - 4 works + 2 excerpts
  • Best Series - 6 series. 
    • Scalzi - 1 work
    • Wells - 2 works (plus I have the 4 preceding novellas)
    • Kowal - 6 shorts + 1 excerpt
    • Kuang - 3 works
    • Chakraborty - 3 works (1 read already)
    • McGuire - 14 novels (8 read already), plus numerous shorts
  • Astounding Award - if time - 3 works + 3 extracts
  • Lodestar Award - if time - 4 works + 2 excerpts
  • Best Related Work - if time - 4 works (1 book, 3 essays)
I currently have just short of 20 19 weeks to complete all the reading. My plan at present is to read a mixture each week. Last year I did them category by category, and struggled to finish all the categories I wanted to vote in. To avoid that, I want to read a mixture of longer and shorter works each week, if not a strict, one-of-each-per-week scenario. I have worked out a rough draft of what I intend to read each week, for a few reasons:
a) Ensuring that I am not rushing into reading them all in the same week - I do NOT want 2 weeks of 4 hours sleep again!!
b) Making sure that I factor in books with shorter deadlines (e.g. book group books, review copies)
c) Keeping series reads together (Hugo awards), across multiple weeks if necessary
d) Allowing space to buy copies of books where either only excerpts or Book 1 of a series were provided in a packet. I'll probably only do this if the series grabs me well enough that I want to place it more carefully
e) Adding more books in weeks when I'm travelling, on holiday; less on my birthday week; and putting the audiobook reviews to align with when I'm expecting to be doing more sewing and thus less able to read print.

Book Group selections

Review copies (+ archive date)

  • A Death in the Family by Caroline Dunsford (Secret Readers)
  • She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (Netgalley) - 22 July
  • Sylvester by Georgette Heyer (Netgalley) - ?
  • Cecilia by Sandra L. Rostirolla (Netgalley) - 28 July
  • The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan, audiobook (Netgalley) - 31 August
  • The Gatekeeper's Staff by Antoine Bandele, audiobook (Netgalley) - 4 August

Need to Read

Finishing off:

Other Library books:

Unstarted library books, assuming that they are not reserved

  • Blood of Elves by Sapkowski
  • A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff
  • The Hunt by C Neill
  • Elsewhens by Melanie Rawn
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
  • Children of Blood and Bone by T Adeyemi
  • Cursor's Fury by Jim Butcher
  • Redemption's Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky
I also have book 2 in the Daevabad series on loan, but since I also have the ebook via the Hugos, I'll return the hard copy so someone else can borrow it. My intention, renewals permitting, is to finish off these books in the period from Hugo submission to the end of 2021, so that I can start afresh in 2022 as far as library books certainly.

Want to Read

Finishing off:

On my shelves:

These are books which are staring at me plaintively, but are mine already.
  • Prudence (re-read) by Gail Carriger
  • Imprudence by Gail Carriger
  • Competence by Gail Carriger
  • Reticence by Gail Carriger
  • Strange Brew (anthology)
  • Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard


    Finishing off:

    Not Quite Books List


    Monday, 5 July 2021

    June into July

    How in HELL did it get to the end of June ALREADY?! Work is ramping up for me, as Summer is one of my busy times - most changes get held off until there are the least amount of students registered, which is usually the Summer Vacation period. I'm also getting ready to go on holiday at the end of July, and I cannot wait! I delayed this post a little as I wanted to have time to write and to finish off some bit over the weekend. In general, I've decided to include the first weekend of the month as part of both the previous AND current month, depending on whether I'm referring to completing or to starting a task. To clarify, that means that for things I have finished off this weekend, they count for June, but anything I start this weekend are part of July's Completed list. So the craft projects I've been working on throughout June are being completed today and tomorrow, but the book I have started today (Saturday) is being counted under July's reading list.
    Unfortunately I was unable to get to the Re-enactors' Market this month, as although Coventry isn't too far from here, door to door the journey is a nightmare by public transport. That said, I didn't exactly have tons of cash to spend anyway, so maybe it was for the best!

    Challenge for June was: "Sumer is icumen in", with a side helping of Pride Month.
    Challenge for July is "Just do it!"

    Forward planning:

    August - Academia and Allure
    September - Spooks and Secrets

    Completed in June

    1. Crafting

      Bonnet -

      Buckram cut out.
      Need to purchase some wire cutters to proceed further (negotiating budgets now!)
      Parasol -
      Frame acquired
      Geometry of pattern piece completed 
      About to cut out pattern pieces today (5th July). This is going to be a multi-month project, but that's OK!

    2. Baking

      Oops - Christmas cake should now be done today or tomorrow (probably tomorrow because I have had 2 big panic attacks this week, so I'm pretty low on spoons). Under my current rules, however, that means it's July completion. 

    3. House stuff

      1. More boxes moved, empties, filled, and so on.
      2. Steam cleaned the window sill and (most of) the window in landing/hallway
        Most of, because I can't reach the whole thing as it is a wide window that is above the stairs, so there reaches a point where I'm too far down the stairs to reach the window.
      3. Added decorations to the house.
        1. Floating candle arrangement on landing window over the stairs
        2. Cute owl+fake succulent on the toilet windowsill
        3. Real succulents added into some incredibly cute fox pots my husband bought me 
      4. Worked on clearing the upstairs landing. No photos though because as soon as I cleared part, it seems to get other crap covering it!
      5. Moved two inherited sewing boxes upstairs into my sewing room
        1. Box 1 belonged to my grandmother, and I have a vague memory of her saying that Grandad made it for her. It now has a permanent home underneath the part of my desk above my cutting mat as it has castors on so I can pull it in and out.
        2. Box 2, is a lovely wooden box-table thing. I've cleared out the inside, and am currently experimenting with places to put it permanently, but haven't decided where that will be yet. I've also not filled it back up - I combined the contents with existing "stock", so all my threads are together, and so on - and now I need to decide what to keep in it. I'm currently inclining towards using it for pins, needs, tape measures, and cutting things, but I'm not certain. 
      6. Cleared stairs. As with the landing, this area breeds crap, and while it IS somewhat clearer than this time last month, it's not clear per se.
      7. We've also both done bits and bobs of clearing in the kitchen and main room over the month, but still nowhere near done!

    4. Reading: Books, Short stories, and Articles

    I've done SO much better on reading this month and it feels good!
      1. Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson
        Book group book, listened on Audio. Narrators were brilliant. Book was... flawed. Not one I'd recommend, although I'd absolutely love to read a book by Winterson solely focussing on the historical Mary Shelley as those parts were excellent. Very confused on trans vs agender vs nonconforming, and managed to create a character who merged all three into a failure of any.
      2. BBC History Magazine, May 2021
        Gradually catching up with my back issues at last!
      3. Asperger's Syndrome-That Explains Everything: An Attempt to Explain Some of Everything in an Education, Social and Life Setting by Stephen Bradshaw
        Ye gods I loathed this book! It's so dated, even though it was only published in 2012/13.
      4. The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After by Julia Quinn. 
        Been meaning to read this since about 2012, but never quite got around to it. Then I had a £3 off voucher for Google Play ebooks, with this being £3.99, I went for it. Then accidentally read it the same day in one sitting...
      5. The American Gods Quartet by Neil Gaiman
        I read the first two books in the Quartet years ago, but I found this in my Kindle selection

      6. Also finished 79% of the audiobook for The House in the Cerulean Sea. Unfortunately my loan time ran out just before finishing, and I've now got SIX MONTHS waiting list before I can finish it! *cries*
    Planned for July and August
      1. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (Book Group book for July)
      2. A Death in the Family by Caroline Dunsford (Review copy)

        Finishing off:
      3. Into the London Fog by Elizabeth Dearnley
      4. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison
      5. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorofor

        Short stories and articles
      6. Lithuanian National Costume in the 19th Century and in the 2nd Half of the 20th Century: Cultural Pollution and Remains of Authenticity by Egle Kumpikaite and Rimvydas Milašius in Societies 2021, 11(1):17
      7. The House of Aunts by Zen Cho
      8. The Perseverance of Angela's Past Life by Zen Cho
      9. Chicken Chicken Bang Bang by Zen Cho
    I've also bought my Hugo subscription for 2021, so I now have to read those books too. I'm going to write a separate post for my reading planning for the rest of 2021, just so I can see a) how much I WANT to read, and then b) how much of that I read vs reading something completely different!

    Working on the parason - playing with geometry to create the correct size triangle for this frame

    Draft of the parasol cover pattern at the stage of an inverted V while I played with angles.Large parasol frame from Vena Cava

    This is the sewing box inherited from my Great Aunt, now mostly emptied except for the loose parts for my parasol frame.

    The sewing box inherited from my grandmother. I have vague memories of this sitting in the corner of her sitting room when I was very small... It has a lightly padded top, covered with a soft turquoise fabric, and then sides are wood covered with a wicker effect on the outside. The wicker effect is painted a golden colour. 

    Draft / mockup pieces for my Regency stays. Next step is to tack these together, and then try it on for size. The draft in in a very heavy canvas I had lying around from another project years ago. It's very stiff, but I'm hoping that I may still be able to use it as a lining layer for the final project. Yes, the pieces badly needs ironing!

    Buckram pieces for the regency bonnet. Next step is to wire the edges of the pieces when I find something strong enough to cut the millinery wire I have.

    My new decorations. Left is the fake succulent in the owl pot, which is in the loo, and on the right is the floating candle thing I bought for the hallway window area. The mirror is helping to lighten the space in the dreary rain we're currently having! Below them is one of my fox pots with real succulents in it. 

    July Plans

    Since I am not planning to do an update for the end of July, due to being on holiday, here are my plans for the next two months. I also fully intend to blur the two months together to have both Challenges running simultaneously.


    Challenge inspirations: ~Just Do IT! and Academia and Allure

    The aim with the July challenge is to push ourselves out of our comfort zone a little. Not necessarily doing something we'd never do, more a challenge to try that thing you want to, but were afraid of. Here's my thoughts of things I want to do but haven't had the nerve so far
    1. Underwear - cording on my Regency corset
    2. Crochet - complete one of the kits I bought last year from Aldi 
    3. Or more accurately 2a. Shelter are doing a 30 day crochet challenge, which I may join in.
    4. Actually finish the bloody fox toy I started sewing up last summer!
    5. Petticoat for my 1950s style Hell Bunny dresses. This counts because a) I would need it for the wedding I'm attending, and b) because I've been vaguely thinking about doing this for AGES. Doing one myself, as opposed to buying one, would allow me to make it in cottons which I feel would be FAR more comfortable year-around.

    "Sensible" things like those worn by an academic, a teacher or a librarian. One could also be inspired by historical academia, such as astronomy, astrology, steam powered devices, armillary spheres, globes or trains. Travel, research, and natural history also are suggested here. 

    In extremis of ideas or time, "I'm a librarian and I'm wearing it" will do fine!
    1. Sensible clothes - Fan skirt
    2. Sensible clothes - 1890s blouse
    3. Book or steam train print fabric
    4. Planning only - book dragon idea

    Other stuff


    • Finish off bread mix - either bake or dispose of
    • "Christmas" cake - for "Summer Christmas"
    • Variation on Cupcake Jemma's Healthy-ish breakfast muffins


    Cleaning and tidying for July / August is likely to be proportionally less as we are planning on travelling for at least 3 weeks of the next two months. That said, there always remains innumerable tasks to do here.

    I do have a tentative plan to photograph and inventory on Trello all my existing fabrics, with the remaining amounts. This should help a lot when both planning projects, and when deciding what I need to buy - I'm eternally saying "I'm though I bought some of x ages ago, but now I can't be certain", so an inventory would help me to know what I've got, and also how much remains of it. 


    Craft and non-craft related purchases:

    • Wire cutters (if I can't find something to make-do with in my husband's tool stash)
    • A broadly Victorian corset - probably relatively cheap.
      Mostly to use while fitting clothing, with the intention of either commissioning a custom fit one, or making one myself "sometime". I don't enjoy corsetry, but I do love the support of wearing corsets and stays. Ideally I would love to own a corset for each decade of the 19th Century, plus a late-medieval "supportive kirtle".

    Draft Plans for 2021 forwards

    In Progress
    1. Accessories
      1. Regency bonnet
      2. Parasol 
    2. 1820s/30s Stays
      1. Breast cups work - adaptation from D cup to my more copious HH/J cup size
      2. Mock-up Because needed for Regency dress mock-up
      3. Buy wooden busk - bought paint stirers!
    3. Circle skirt petticoat (pattern planning stage)
    1. Hats
      1. 1890s/Edwardian brimmed hat
    2. Fan-skirt
      1. Wool blend
      2. 100% wool
    3. Stays
      1. Practice cording
      2. Practice boning
      3. Final version
    4. Edwardian blouse / shirtwaist
      1. Mock up
      2. Final
    5. 1818 Dress
      1. Petticoat
      2. Mock-up
      3. Final
      4. Decoration
    6. American Duchess cape
      1. As in pattern
      2. Again but with a hood
    7. 1890s men's three piece suit
    8. 1830s men's three piece suit
    9. 1950s dress(es)
    10. Circle skirts (in general, because I love them)
    11. 1950s tops - to go with circle skirts
    12. Russian themed
      1. Princess Charlotte's Russian Dress
      2. Matryoshka pincushion
      3. Sarafan - Vasilisa the Beautiful
      4. Sarafan - Firebird (cosplay border)
    13. Cycling shorts (modern, padded)
    14. Cycling trousers (historical, to accommodate modern underneath)
    15. Historical Cosplays
      1. Bagpuss
      2. Warcraft undead lady
      3. Book dragon

    Saturday, 12 June 2021

    Costume from Russian Folk Tales, Part 1

    Costume from Russian Folk Tales...

    This project was begun at the end of 2020 as a rough idea triggered by the Foundations Revealed competition for February 2021. My executive dysfunction wasn't letting me anywhere near that, plus I found I would far rather do this "properly" than to an external timetable.

    So, what is this project?

    This project is part historical costume, part folk costume, and part cosplay. It's actually in two parts, with two characters being developed.

    The Context

     I first fell in love with Russian folk tales, specifically the type called skazki, when I was an undergraduate. I chose to write my BA dissertation on the nature of the Russian Skazka, and I have never lost my love of folklore since then.

    I am specifically focussing on the "skazka" in this project, but Russian has many types of folk tales. One of these days I should write up that, but the difference between the types is far too long for this post. The skazka, or "things said", is the type of folktale I focussed on in my dissertation, and which remain my favourite. The word is skazka in singular, and skazki for the plural.

    Although some people like to translate the word as "fairy tale", that's inaccurate, since Russian folklore in general lacks "fairies" - those creatures are a tradition of different regions, like Ireland, Scotland, and France. However, they do broadly align with the fairy tale tradition - mostly or completely fictional traditional tales. In England, fairy tales traditionally start with the phrase "Once Upon a Time", and the skazka has a similar cognate phrase used to begin tales "Жили были" - literally "There lived, there was". 

    My personal favourite tale is the Tale of Ivan Ivanovich, the Firebird, and the Grey Wolf (Сказка об Иване-царевиче, жар-птице и о сером волке). Russian folktales have other fantastic creatures in place of the Western European "fae", in addition to the aforementioned Firebird, there are magicians, like Koshchei the Deathless, named birds like Finist the Falcon. For more generic creatures, that reflect the risks of the Russian landscape, there are the Rusalki, spirits of the drowned who live in bodies of water, the domovoi, polevoi, and leshi - spirits of the home, field, and forest respectively. There are also personifications of things like the Midday Sun.

    All across Europe many different folktales were collected in the 18th and 19th Centuries. The pre-eminent collector of Russian tales was a gentleman called Aleksandr Nikolaevich Afanase'ev, and where possible I'll be sticking to variants of the tales that he collected.

    One important thing to note about folklore, and folktales in particular: these are from an oral literary tradition. The original tales were never intended to be written down in any country, but were passed on from one person to another over the years. Tales varied with each retelling and with each storyteller, so there is no one canonical version. This goes for tales like Cinderella and Snow White as well. In the study of folklore, a key figure is the Finn Antti Aarne, who wrote the original "Folklore Index" in 1910. This index lists so-called "motifs" which are found internationally in folklore, and which exist across cultures and traditions. In 1928, Aarne's Index was expanded by a US folklorist called Stith Thompson, with the work becoming known as the Aarne-Thompson Index. In 2004 it was updated again by the German Hans-Jörg Uther, expanding the descriptions and numbering, but also removing motifs attributed to a single ethnic group. Russian folktales are a weaving of the many cultures and ethnicities that their polity came into contact with. 

    The Characters & Their Tales 

    There are a number of characters I would like to create costumes for, but here are my current plans:

    Vasilisa (Василиса) 

    There are a number of girls in Skazki called Vasilissa, most notably Vasilisa Premudraya - Vasilissa the Wise, and Vasilisa Prekrasnaia - Vasilissa the Beautiful. Her epithets can get mixed up in tellings, and she can also vary from a peasant girl to a princess depending on the tale. The tale I have chosen to focus on is often seen as a "Russian Cinderella" tale, although some of the similarities may be later additions. I'm focussing on the core of the tale.

    Vasilissa is a peasant girl, daughter of a travelling merchant and his wife. His wife dies, but before she does she gives her daughter a doll, with instructions to give it food and drink if she was in need. An unspecified amount of time later, her father remarries to a widow with two daughters, both older than Vasilissa. At this point it is the standard cruel stepmother and wicked stepsister motif, but the story deviates again when the father leaves on a journey and his new wife moves the new family to a house beside the forest. There are various shenanigans, which lead to all the candles and fires being out in the house, and Vasilissa being sent into the woods to get a light from Baba Yaga. More on Baba Yaga later, but it's important to note here that she is a chaotic witch character who, like many other witches-in-the-woods, is predisposed to eating children. When Vasilisa arrives, Baba Yaga gives her semi-impossible tasks to perform in return for the fire. With the aid and protection of her doll, Vasilisa manages to complete all her tasks within the time limits and (long story short) is ejected homewards with a burning skull-lantern. It transpires that in her absence no one had been able to sustain a light in the house. even when brought in from another place. When she arrives home, the skull causes the whole house to burn down, with the evil step family included, after which Vasilisa buries the skull according to the instructions to ensure no further harm would come from it. What happens to Vasilisa after that varies from telling to telling, with some having her just living "happily ever after", others leaving her apprenticed to a local cloth-maker, and some extending that to having her skill noticed by the Tsar himself who marries her.

    The key elements here, to me are:
    • Peasant costume
    • The doll
    • The skull

    Snegurochka (Снегурчка)


    Snegurochka is an odd character in that she is still evolving. Originally there were two contrasting stories which both had a main character called Snegurochka. 

    In the first tale, she was created by an elderly infertile couple from snow and ice. She grows up a lovely girl, but when taking part in Spring festivities which included jumping over a bonfire, she turns into smoke and vanishes. This tale speaks to me as one half of an infertile couple, seeking to conceive through "other means".

    In the second tale, Snegurochka is the natural daughter of the Spring and Grandfather Frost. She falls for a shepherd, but cannot feel true love because she has a frozen heart. When her mother grants her the ability to love, her heart warms with love for her shepherd but she then instantly melts.

    In more recent times, Snegurochka has gained the tradition of being the granddaughter of Grandfather Frost, and is frequently portrayed in art and festivities around the New Year and Christmas celebrations. 

    Rusalka (Русалка)

    The Rusalka (plural Rusalki) is sn Eastern Slavic female watery spirit, who varies between being a fertility symbol and an evil entity depending on the tale and / or the teller. According to renowned folklorist Vladimir Propp, the association of her with evil was a 19th century change. Ignore any descriptions which describe them as "mermaids" - they're not associated with the sea or salt water, and fish tails are not widely featured in their mythos.

    The evil rusalka is often portrayed as the spirit of a young woman who had died either in or proximate to a body of water, and who then haunted that location. Some stories suggest (or even state) that the women died by drowning themselves, others that they were murdered by lovers, and yet others that these were accidental deaths. Jilted lovers, abused spouses, and unmarried pregnant girls are among those who have supposedly become rusalki, as well as unbaptised children and girls who died before marriage. In some regions, that could also include women who died in childbirth, between birth and churching, and also those who got abortions. Basically any women who wasn't the perfect Maiden-Mother-Crone, one might say.Their raison d'etre is usually vengeance in one form or another - some are pacified by being avenged, but others seek out young men to lure into the water with them where they will tickle them to death. Yes, tickle...

    Visually rusalki are frequently described as "beautiful" (of course), but not always. The further North, the more likely the tradition is to make the Rusalka older and uglier. Where the body is described in detail they are often given big breasts, which are "big-big, so scary"! They usually have either long ed or green hair, however some tales do give them light brown or blonde hair instead. The significant point is that the hair is long and loose, even unkempt. They are almost invariably naked, and sometimes have notably long arms. Where they converge with the Western mermaid mythos is in their attitudes - they have long hair which they like to comb out when out of the water, and they like to sit on rocks or docks with their feet in the water. However they do have feet. Some tales suggest that they use fishbones to make headwear of some type - possibly akin to the unmarried woman's kokoshnik. Although they are usually portrayed as solitary, there are tales where they exist in groups. Almost all descriptions give them a love of music, singing and dancing.

    Traditionally, the Rusalka would come out of the water on "Kupala night" to join in the more general festivities. Coincidentally, this is the same festival that causes the death of the first Snegurochka. In early June there was "Rusalnaia Nedelya", or Rusalka Week, when the rusalki would leave their home bodies of water to sit and swing in the branches of birch or willow trees at night. During this week it was considered dangerous to swim in the water. The week would end with a ritual banishment (or burial) of the rusalki.

    Her fertility connections came from a belief that she would take care of the fields, forests and waters near to her "home", being something of a genus loci or spirit of a locality. In this way, the rusalka is part of the mythos with other Russian spirits-of-place like the leshi and polevoi. It is notable, however, that the rusalka is not consistently believed to actually inhabit her body of water - some tales give their residences as being the tops of tall trees in the forest. Other tales suggest that rusalki migrate annually from the water to the trees during Rusalka Week. In some regions, it was believed that if your local rusalka was having fun, then there would be a good harvest.

    Escaping from a Rusalka was impossible once in the water, but if you met one walking in a forest by accident, you could escape by throwing them a scarf, a sleeve from your dress, or another piece of cloth or clothing. One legend type has it that rusalki steal cloth, clothing, and food from women who fall asleep without praying. According to Zelening, the rusalka would also seek her lovers from amongst the men of these women who fell asleep before praying. If a young man was able to grab a rusalka and put a cross around he neck, then she would "submit" to him and live with him willingly until the next Rusalka Week.

    Rusalki are liminal characters, existing between life and death, and there is almost undoubtable a connection between the Rusalka Week of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the earlier Rusalia festival in memory of the dead.  

    My love of the rusalka myth comes from their duality. On the one hand they are vengeful beasts who lure young men and drown them, on the other they save young children from wild animals and save people from drowning. They want to hurt and cause harm to those who harmed them, and they are also cheerful girls who love to play. At once malicious and sly, and also joyful, humourous, and fun-loving. I like their liminality, but also the fact that you could interpret their state as a refusal to accept a strictly prescribed route in life - they weren't the maiden, the successful mother, or the doting grandmother. Life gave them lemons and they made lemonade - they took the hand they were dealt and rolled with it. I also like that they are all women when in groups, who love to sing, to dance, and to generally play around. 

    Baba Yaga (Баба Яга)


    Baba Yaga is the witch archetype in Russian folklore. Sometimes she's a solitary woman, and sometimes she's a trio. She's an ambiguous character, who sometimes helps the protagonist, sometimes hinders, and sometimes neither. She can be an old wise woman who grants important guidance, or a fearful child-eating monster to be escaped, all depending on the tale. Baba is a word signifying woman and/or grandmother across Slavic languages. The second element, "Yaga" is currently seen as cognate to words that can be translated as horror, anger, witch, fury, disease, pain, or worry. 

    In Vasilisa's tale, above, her status is even more ambiguous. On the one hand she is clearly shown as desiring to eat Vasilisa, yet she also gives the heroine the vital thing she needs - fire/light. Some scholars have interpreted her role here as being a necessary intermediary between dependent childhood and independent adulthood - a repository of wisdom, only to be shared with those who are worth of it, and after they have passed through some right of passage event.

    Baba Yaga is a very clearly described person, who is associated with a number of specific objects and traits. Her mode of transport is almost invariably a pestle and mortar, where she rides in the iron mortar, using the pestle as power, and has a broom behind her which sweeps away her trail. She lives in a small hut in the woods, which usually has chicken legs and may even walk around. Occasionally her hut is instead propped up on blini (pancakes). When she approaches, on reciting a rhyme her hut turns to face her and lets her enter. Like Western European witches, her home is surrounded by a fence but instead of being made of sweets, it's made of bones and topped with glowing human or horse skulls. Inside her hut is a stove, on which she sleeps, and she has a big nose - so big that in some tales it reaches the ceiling. Her nose is powerful, and in some tales she can smell the scent of the hero when hidden. One of her legs is bony - in fact one of her epithets is Bone Leg. Her teeth are described as being made of iron. She is always ugly and old, with grey hair and sagging breasts. Yet for all that she is not the beautiful protagonist, or the heroes prize, she remains a valuable person who demands the respect she deserves. Successful heroes and heroines are the ones who treat her, at least eventually, with respect and humility, and who endeavour to complete the tasks she sets them.

    Her hut is interpreted as being a type of house-coffin used for the dead in the region in early times. These huts were small, just fitting a body, and were raised up on legs above the ground. The entry point to these huts was traditionally placed facing away from the living villagers. This reinforces the interpretation of the symbolic nature of Baba Yaga as a figure on the boundary between life and death.

    Baba Yaga is usually alone, even when part of a trio each sister lives alone. As a mother in some legends, of the sorcerer Koshchei the Deathless, she is never given a mate. She does have magical associates, both human and animal. In Vasilisa's tale, she is associated with three knights - one red, one white, and one black - who symbolise the dawn, midday, and night. In The Geese-Swans, she is supported by the eponymous birds who initially snatch the baby brother, and then who chase the sister and brother as they escape home. However, in neither tale is she seen with the others, merely that they are associated with her.  

    Firebird (Жар птица)

    The Firebird is a magical beast, who can be a blessing or a harbinger of doom depending on her tale. In most tales the bird is precisely that - a magical bird which can be captured or stolen, and which can sometimes talk, but otherwise is just a bird. In her Land of the Firebird, Massie told another version of the Firebird tale whereby the bird was actually a young girl tragically transformed by the evil Koshchei, but I don't have a copy to hand to verify which tale that was from originally.

    In many of the stories about the Firebird she is a quest goal for someone - usually the youngest Prince, and in one instance a royal archer. In almost all of these tales, the trigger for the quest is the finding of one of the Firebird's shed feathers, and triggers a covetous desire on the part of the monarch. In both the Firebird and Princess Vasilisa, and Ivan Ivanovich and the Grey Wolf, the quester must also retrieve the beautiful princess, called either Elena or Vasilisa the Beautiful.

    The mythos of the Firebird has influenced artists in and around Russia for centuries. In particular, Stravinsky's ballet and traditional folk art. 

    To Be Continued

    Well, this is getting a bit long, so perhaps I'll pause here and continue in another post...

    Monday, 7 June 2021

    May into June

    May has the wonderful thing known as TWO Bank Holiday weekends, plus I took a day off mid-month. That means that this month has had no less than THREE four-day weeks. Two have been used for house "stuff" and the one-with-leave was for a much-needed collapse break. I'm also hoping that this month will be good for my weight loss. I've finally started losing again, and with the current heat (I die over about 20°C) my appetite is going too. Long may that continue!! 

    I've also been trying to get a better handle on both my executive dysfunction (ExD) and brain fog. For the latter, I consciously have been cutting out gluten as much as possible. I'm not coeliac in any form that I'm aware of, but I do seem to have some difficulty digesting a lot of bready products. I've been only eating GF bread this month, and I'm definitely feeling more alert. My theory is that because my body isn't using extra spoons digesting something "difficult", it is freeing that up for me to use elsewhere. I've also just been informed by the doctor that I'm Vitamin D Insufficient. That's not as bad as being deficient, but they've still recommended supplementing my intake and getting outside in daylight more. I've only been taking the pills since Saturday, so we shall see what effect they have, if any...

    For ExD, I'm using some tips from a few ADHD people. While I don't have an ADHD diagnosis, my ASD symptoms overlap a lot, so I've found it beneficial to take advice from both communities. The main bit of advice I am trying to incorporate is the idea of looking at problems (the example given was forgetting to put rubbish straight into the bin) and then trying to "fix" the issue by forcing yourself to be neurotypical, i.e. trying harder and harder to remember to use the bin. Instead, you look at the problem and find the root cause - in this case, the bin is in a location that's not near where the rubbish is being generated. When you identify the root cause (and not the "because I'm crap" variant of Root Cause), you look for a practical solution to the problem. In the example given, the bin in that room wasn't in a bad place for some tasks, so needed to remain where it was, but the narrator went and bought other bins to be close to each refuse-generating site. This principle is proving really revealing for me - instead of berating myself internally for being crap at achieving things in the "correct" way, I am now trying to force myself to consider new ways around problems. I now have two separate bins in my room - one for paper/card, and another for actual rubbish. This makes it far easier to control the mess I create!

    The last part of the above process was one I hope to start working on in June. Under this process, you make a note of areas where your ExD gets in the way across a week (or longer) and then at the end of the period you look at the specific issues and seek solutions to those. The idea is that it can help identify the actual issues that are causing the issue (like "can't find paired socks easily" or "keep falling over X") and then look for a solution to that.

    Last thing for May into June, is that my parents are hoping (Plague permitting) to come up and visit for a few days during June. This is going to affect my plans for June accordingly, as I need to have certain parts of the house truly clean by the time Mum arrives!   

    Completed in May

    1. Crafting

      This month I've done a lot of planning, and shopping, but less doing. 

      Bought - some wool (for a sarafan), some cotton print (?Regency dress?), some not-silk (for a bonnet covering), and a small amount of cotton to line the wool. I also picked up some trimmings because SALE!
      Made - I've mostly been planning my Sarafan Project*, which has involved figuring out elements of the outfit, and then planning and making pattern shapes.
      Drafted - sarafan
      Pattern pieces - pincushion (to represent the Doll in the Vasilissa story)

    2. Baking

      My baking plans were for the second bank holiday weekend, but that proved to be too nice and sunny to spend in the kitchen! Oops

    3. House stuff

      House stuff has been mostly yet more box clearing runs, and selected deep cleaning.

      1. Bathroom wall tiles steam cleaned
      2. Bathroom floor steam cleaned AND scrubbed
      3. Bathroom window and sill steam cleaned 
      4. Loo window and sill steam cleaned
        Yes, I love my steam cleaner!!
      5. Bought and built a cabinet for underneath the sink, a box to store cleaners in the loo, and a wire basket for bath/shower stuff
      6. Cleared most of the junk off the windowsill and put away in the new cupboard
      7. Found all the various cleaning bottles and put in the box - I apparently own FOUR half-used bottles of Cif...
      8. Cleared the windowsill in our bedroom of crap - this job is one to continue this week, so is only partially a May completion
      9. Put some books on display on my windowsill
        - I'm not sure I'm happy with this, so I want to look into a way to put up some bookshelves in here. The Ginger One isn't confident putting up shelves, so I've either got to find the spoons to do it myself, or find another way to store them. I know what I'd like to do, but I don't know if I can do it. I want to add a single shelf all the way around, going over the top of the door, and above the window. The main negative of that would be finding a way to keep them clean, so mulling this over for a few weeks.
      10. Arranged and put away fabric
        This might seem like a small task, but I apparently have a lot more than I thought! In the process of sorting various boxes, I found some long lengths of red wool (used in the coat I wore at my wedding), tons of scraps of the silk from my wedding dress, and about 1x10m of nice black velvet! I now need to buy mothballs or lavender to ensure they remain in good condition!

    4. Books

      I seem to have unintentionally focused on the same authors this month. I'm also in the middle of listening to the audiobook of FrankKISSStein, but I've not quite finished it so I'll log it for next month. I've also read another chunk of Who Fears Death, but not quite finished it in time for May.

      1. If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho
      2. The Angel of Khan el-Khalili by P. Djèli Clark
      3. Head of a Snake, Tail of a Dragon by Zen Cho
      4. A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djèli Clark
    No pic tax cos drafting images are rather dull! I'll try to do double pic tax next month, Promise!!

    June Plans


    Challenge inspiration: ~Sumer is icumen in~

    *Sings* This month the challenge theme is Summer and Medieval, plus noting Pride in other countries (Official Pride month is not June in the UK, although some of our parades are). I plan to combine Ace Pride colours and Summer themed things.
    1. Victorian / Edwardian walking outfit
    2. Edwardian Hat - sunhat!
    3. Hat decorations - floral probably
    4. Parasol - if I have the budget space to buy a frame and fabric

    Other stuff


    • Finish off bread mix - either bake or dispose of
    • "Christmas" cake
    • Variation on Cupcake Jemma's Healthy-ish breakfast muffins


    • FranKISSStein - bookgroup book for June
    • Who Fears Death - finish
    • The Fifth Season - finish
    • Into the London Fog - finish
    • The House of Aunts - short story
    • The Perseverance of Angela's Past Life - short story
    • Chicken Chicken Bang Bang - short story
    • A Death in the Family - Secret Readers

    Draft Plans for 2021 forwards

    1. Hats
      1. Regency
      2. 1890s/Edwardian
    2. Fan-skirt
      1. Wool blend
      2. 100% wool
    3. Stays
      1. Breast cups work - adaptation from D cup to my more copious HH/J cup size
      2. Mock-up
        Because needed for Regency dress mock-up
      3. Buy wooden busk
      4. Final version
    4. Edwardian blouse / shirtwaist
      1. Mock up
      2. Final
    5. 1818 Dress
      1. Petticoat
      2. Mock-up
      3. Final
      4. Decoration
    6. American Duchess cape, but with a hood
    7. 1890s men's three piece suit
    8. 1830s men's three piece suit
    9. 1950s dress(es)
    10. Circle skirt
    11. Princess Charlotte's Russian Dress
    12. Cycling shorts (modern, padded)
    13. Cycling trousers (historical, to accommodate modern PADDED underneath)

    * I have a post underway to explain more about my sarafan project, which I shall post "soon".

    Saturday, 15 May 2021

    2021 Plans Updated and Expanded

     So, I wrote a post earlier this year outlining my original crafting plans for 2021, which was made using the Historybounding Discord channel's prompts. I'm now updating my plan based on the following:

    a) Reality - I now have a better grasp on what I am able to realistically complete in a given month

    b) Using the British Guild challenges instead

    c) Adding non-crafting plans (mostly reading)

    So without further ado, here is my updated 2021 Plan


    Prompts (from this month onwards)

    • Mythology May
    • "Sumer is icumen in"
    • Just do it!
    • Academia and Allure
    • Spooks & Secrets
    • Out to Sea
    • No Buy
    • Winter Woolies


    Mythology, Legends, Folktales

    I've always planned to make an outfit based on Russian folklore, so I'm still hoping to get at least part of that underway this month. It might turn out to be a much longer project, but I wanted to get a catalyst section completed in May. Currently I am hoping to make a version of a sarafan, based on dress from an unknown museum. I had thought it was in the Государственный исторический музей, as I have a copy of a page showing it in an exhibition held there, but since I can NOT find it anywhere in their collections, I have to assume it was a loan item. I'll share the inspiration image(s) I'm using on another post as I hope to write more on Russian folk costume later this month.


    Summer - theme or purpose

    I have a vague plan to make an Edwardian or Late Victorian hat, to go with my walking skirt planned outfit. A nicely decorated hat could double as a summer hat. I may also consider a fan and a parasol as useful things for summer...

    As Pride is still within the remit of June for the updated challenges, I may colour theme it with the Ace/Aego colours.

    Other options I have considered:
    1950s swimsuit or other beachwear
    Summer pattern circle skirt (because I love circle skirts!) - with a petticoat to match if I make this
    Edwardian blouse - nice and cool for summer, but also covered up, because sunburn


    Just do It!

    I have no specific plans here yet, but honestly there are many aspects of sewing which I've not yet had the confidence to try, so there's lots of opportunities here.. This may be where I finally actually work on the Edwardian blouse! I may also use July to get a nice big chunk of my Regency underthings sorted.


    Academia and Allure

    Well, I guess August is the time to let my inner librarian become my outer one! My plan for August is primarily to make an Edwardian (stroke Late Victorian) walking skirt from the pattern I bought last summer. I may line it in something fun though, especially if I can find a cute books related fabric print... 

    This month may also be the one where I try out the American Duchess cloak pattern.


    Spooks and Secrets

    I am not ashamed to state that I am a goth and that I love the gothy aesthetic as much now as I did as a student. I've not got any definite ideas here, but vague thoughts include

    Bonnet trimming - can get quite autumnal and/or spooky without much difficulty
    Cobweb themed circle skirt (and hopefully a top to match)


    Out to Sea - Nautical or Regency (thinking of Trafalgar Day)

    I'd like to spend October working on a spencer, pelisse or redingote for my Regency 1818 project. The fashions for these sorts of coats were strongly influenced by military fashion. A waistcoat is also part of the borrowing of men's fashions for women, and would be a nice thing to make...


    No Buy November. 

    Whatever I make this month must not cost me anything if at all possible. I am personally choosing to make exceptions for items purchased at charity shops or otherwise second hand, as I feel Not Bought New still aligns with the ethos of No Buy.

    I will NOT be applying this to my life in general in November, notably because November into early December has a LOT of family birthdays, plus spreading out buying helps a lot towards making Christmas affordable. In acknowledgement of this aspect, however, I will continue to make a conscious effort to make as many of my Christmas presents as possible. 


    Winter Woolies

    If not done earlier in the year, then both the AD Cape and Pelisse fit here beautifully. I may also focus on the "wool" aspect and try again to learn how to crochet.

    I will also be using December to make presents, so that will be the "Winter" aspect...!


    Reading is one of my longest persisting loves, and I have managed to completely lose my mojo over lockdown. I need to get it back! There is some flexibility in this list for adding new books that I buy, borrow, or which are selected for my book group. I hope to pay for the Hugo voting packet again this year, so I'll also be adding those books to the list. Here's my Short and Longer lists for 2021, where Short List is library books, books I've started reading, and a few others. The Longer List is for books I would like to get around to reading this year, and also books I want to read, but which are stored at the other end of the country from me... I also am resolving to ensure that I read at least 50% of my magazine that I have on subscription (because I accept that not every article is going to grab my interest each month). 

    In "honour" of writing this, I am going to read at least one short story off my list before I go to sleep tonight! 

    Short list

    Started and need finishing:

    Who Fears Death
    The Island of Sodor
    Cold Comfort Farm
    The Fifth Season
    No Longer a Gentleman
    Regent's Park [history book]

    Library books

    Blood of Elves
    Children of Blood and Bone
    Cursor's Fury
    Dreams of Gods and Monsters
    The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
    The Hunt
    The Kingdom of Copper
    A Peace Divided
    Redemption's Blade

    Short Stories

    The Angel of Khan el-Khalili
    Chicken Chicken Bang Bang
    The Perseverance of Angela's Past Life
    Head of a Snake, Tail of a Dragon
    If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again
    The House of Aunts
    The Queen's Army (Lunar Chronicles)
    Book of Souls (Prof Croft)

    Long list (additional possibilities)

    Hugo Leftovers

    A Memory Called Empire
    The City in the Middle of the Night
    The Light Brigade

    Presents (2020 Birthday and Christmas)

    Prudence (re-read)
    Strange Brew
    Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight

    Finally I have 5 or 6 books which were given to me in return for reviews. I need to do my genuine best to read them (or DNF) and write genuine reviews before the end of 2021. 

    Tuesday, 4 May 2021

    April into May

    May rough craft plan, plus What I Did In April, with another cheat for May Day bank holiday weekend :)


    Crafting / Crafting Adjacent

    So, firstly I think I mentioned that my Discord group came up with our own monthly challenge calendar, and I'll be switching over to that list from now on. April here was "Alter and Adapt". I went for Prompt 2 and, with the help of my awesome spouse, we completed the work on my room here... We had to wait until the weekend just gone for the last bit - two table legs, but now it's done! In between working on May's challenge, I also need to work on doing a LOT of tidying!!

    So the layout is an Ikea hack, made up of one 4x4 Kallax unit against the short wall nearest the door, The desktop is in two parts, with one 2m Linnmon underneath the window and along the majority of that wall, which butts up against a shorter 1m at right angles to it along the short wall opposite the big Kallax. Underneath the desks I have 2 legs on the end nearest the big Kallax, then one 2x2 Kallax slightly off centre along the long desktop, with a 2x4 on it's side along the rest of the back into the corner (and therefore underneath one short end of the 1m desktop. The other end of the short desk is a second 2x2 Kallax unit. We bought some cheap heavy duty clamps, which are currently ensuring the desktops don't move as they're not screwed to the units below at all. We may revisit this decision in the future if it proves to be shaky, but so far it's fine... I'll try to share more pics than the one below once I finish getting things looking pretty ;)

    I also spent some time working on the maths and general fiddling to try and adapt the sizing of the paper pattern for the cups part of my 1830s corset pattern. I think I'm there, but I now need to get on with the first fabric mock up. Thankfully the work on my room has turned up a lot of old scrappy fabric, so I can get on with that shortly, I hope!


    In addition to the room-creation work we've cleared out a LOT of paper and card, mostly dead boxes. I have NO idea where these things came from, but they seem to be breeding. We've made good inroads, but I suspect we've got at least 2 more wheelie bin collections to go...

    This month I read The Left-Handed Booksellers of London. I also restarted Who Fears Death, and I'm happy to be back into it. I really enjoyed the former - I've been in a massive reading slump, pretty much since lock-down 1, and this book was fluffy enough to "just read", but still enjoyable.

    Other than that, I got my eyes tested, and have finally got new glasses on the way, which is a relief!


    1. My room!!
    2. A view down my already messy desk!

    3. Box clearance
    4. Left Handed Booksellers of London (Read)
    5. Eye test
    6. Breast cup adaptation


    Plans for May


    Challenge inspiration: Myth May 

    I plan to do a short post mid-month talking about the characters below, what their meanings are for me, how I envisage their costumes, and how I plan to make them. Hopefully with some initial progress notes.
    • Vasilissa the Wise
    • Snegurocha
    • Baba Yaga


    1. Mock-up 1830s corset (no busk, cording, or boning, just size fitting).
    2. Sarafan - draft
    3. Belt for sarafan
    4. Kokoshnik (probably a maiden's one since most female folklore characters are unmarried)
    5. Doll and skull motif elements OR snow and frost


    I am probably going to skip my book-group book this month, as it doesn't really catch me AND we're rather drastically short on cash, so I shall skip a month and save that £10...
    1. Who Fears Death - finish off finally. I started this before the Plague was really on the horizon, and it's a bloody good story, so I want to finish it!
    2. Blood of Elves - I'm slowly reading my way through the translations of the Witcher series, and this one is next.
    3. Rev W Audry book on a History of his Sodor

    Other stuff

    1. Lentil Chickpea stew -
      I found some lentils that are about to die, and I dropped a can of chickpeas, denting it, so I plan to mock up something using those, some mushrooms, and whatever else turns out to be in the cupboard. Economising and reducing waste in one, which makes me happy. Also my first time planning to use the slow cooker - it's usually his cooking implement... If you hear no more of this, it was shit!  
    2. Christmas Cake for Christmas #2
      I inherited cake baking duties from my great aunt once dementia meant she was struggling. Last Christmas was a complete shitshow (actually an understatement), so no cake was made. My mother has deemed our July meet-up to be a do-over for Christmas, so I need to bring a cake. Cakes in our family need plenty of time to get fed alcohol, which means baking the base cake ASAP. Icing can be done in July!
    3. Move. More. Boxes!
    4. Oh, and we bought a couple of organisation things for the bathroom today in the sales, so I want to get those up and rearrange the bathroom. Boring, but easy win task...

      Draft Plans for 2021 forwards


      1. Hats
        1. Regency
        2. 1890s/Edwardian
      2. Fan-skirt
        1. Wool blend
        2. 100% wool
      3. Stays
        1. ✓ Breast cups work - adaptation from D cup to my more copious HH/J cup size
        2. Mock-up
          Because needed for Regency dress mock-up
        3. Buy wooden busk
        4. Final version
      4. Edwardian blouse / shirtwaist
        1. Mock up
        2. Final
      5. 1818 Dress
        1. Petticoat
        2. Mock-up
        3. Final
        4. Decoration
      6. American Duchess cape, but with a hood
      7. 1890s men's three piece suit
      8. 1830s men's three piece suit
      9. 1950s dress(es)
      10. Circle skirt
      11. Princess Charlotte's Russian Dress
      12. Cycling shorts (modern, padded)
      13. Cycling trousers (historical, to accommodate modern underneath)

      Saturday, 17 April 2021

      Working Costumes Images Project

      This post will serve as a direction for Pinterest boards with source images for each decade. I'll be coming back here to edit and add links as I begin each board. I will also try to use this post as a Directory of other posts on this Project.


      }To be added over time {


      I'm calling this project the Working Costumes Images Project.

      Working - the women I am interesting in researching about, were working women. Some worked in the home, others outside. Some were primarily care-givers and household managers. That is still work! They, however, were not women with vast amounts of leisure time, nor ones who wore multiple outfits per day. Their clothing was practical, often home-made or home-finished, and valued durability and comfort over fashion and image. That said, they weren't dead to fashion, and would have made efforts to at least have the appropriate silhouette, and to not look "dowdy". We can still date ordinary women's photo images by the clothing they're wearing, but perhaps not as precisely as for High Fashionistas, but usually within a year or two. That said, the older a woman got, the less likely she was to care about how up-to-date she was, as happens still today. Why get a new, more fashionable dress, if the old one still fits and looks fine? Waste not, Want not... Using "Working", but not "class", I feel can be used to encompass all these women.

      All this said, I'm not focusing on those at the absolute bottom. I am hoping to focus on women who were able to buy shoes for their children, ensure adequate food, and have non-ragged clothing. They may have held down jobs, but they were mostly focused on the job of the home. Unlike the upper middle classes, however, they were often one step away from disaster, and would probably not have had much, if any, assistance at home. Their husbands (because marriage was a career at this time) would have worked 6-7 days a week, and often long hours. Holidays would have been rare outside of religious festivals, until the mid19thC rise of leisure time. Single women would have worked, and many would have remained at home or lived with a (married) sibling. The workhouse would have been a real threat to them, and a genuine fear. 

      Key words:

      • Practical
      • Durable
      • Worker
      • Domestic
      • Appropriate-to-task (i.e. not a ball dress while washing up in the scullery)
      • Comfortable
      • Economical

      Other points

      Fabrics. Wool, linen, cotton more than silks and other high status fabrics. Cotton only once the prices became affordable. Wool remained desirable for its fire-retardant qualities as women were frequently around open flames.

      Piecing. Piecing is period for almost all classes, but for those at the lower end of the social scale, economy was an essential virtue.

      Colours. High fashion colours may still have been worn by working women if they had access to dyes to over-dye things at home, or if they could purchase a second-hand item in the desired colour.

      Re-use. Buying new shoes or gloves when your old ones were still good were wasteful, and therefore less likely to happen. Buying new gloves for Sunday Best, and gradually rotating them into general use before buying new ones for Sundays, however, wasn't unlikely, especially for middle class women. For those at the bottom, gloves would probably have remained optional outside of the need and desire for warmth. The same for shoes and boots.

      Re-fashioning. Making the same item over to line up with newer fashions was also common among all classes. Whether that was changing a belt, collar, or bonnet to match newer fashions, or setting entirely new sleeves into an older dress to match current fashions.

      Practicality. A dress which had multiple potential uses was far more use to a non-elite woman, than a dress that could only be used in one context. Re-wearability was also essential. 

      Durability. A dress, shoes, bonnet, or gloves that could last multiple years was a good thing. Making over your one winter dress to update it to a new fashion was far more desirable than buying a multiple cheaper but flimsy constructed items that didn't last. An item that could stand up to being adjusted, taken in / out, and having minor changes to update it, was a good item.   

      Economy. While a dress might be made of cheaper types of fabric, or better value options, there was no reason why small parts couldn't be made of more expensive things. Ribbons and trimmings were common on clothing for all women, and a working woman might wear an expensive ribbon belt with her best dress, or have a carefully trimmed bonnet with silk flowers. While she might not have been able to afford a lot of luxuries, than as now, people sort out small things to make themselves smile. Life wasn't all drudgery, and small things could make big differences, in life and in fashion.

      Saturday, 10 April 2021

      New Brain Squirrel!

       So recently I've been thinking a lot more deeply about how I want to approach historical costuming for me. Both in the direction of historically adequate and inspired work for everyday, but also for more intentional costuming, e.g. for events.

      So my first issue is physical. Me. I am not young, I am not princess-beautiful, I am not single, and I am not slim. I am (mostly) OK with myself - I don't mind my age, or my looks, and I'm not getting a divorce; yeah, I need to lose some weight, but even without the extra I will never be slim because my frame is naturally broad and solid. I am from working class and middle class stock, and it shows. And I am good with that. BUT I need to work with that, rather than pretend to be something I am not. 

      To look at this from a historical perspective, in past centuries a woman of my background, marital status and appearance would have been heavily mocked for "aping her betters", or for pretending to be something she wasn't. High fashion is usually, then as now, directed at the young, the rich, and the fashionable. Most of the country just weren't that, and wee unlikely to have seriously desired it. Would living a life of luxury have been nice, of course, but you could daydream while washing the dishes, managing a home, and raising the children, because life as always carries on needing to be lived.

      The upside of this, from my perspective, is that clothing that the average woman would have worn was more likely to be practical and usable in daily life. Ball gowns are pretty, but aren't really practical for wearing on a daily basis. 

      All that said, even lower class women may have owned one or more nice dress. 

      • It may have been a wedding dress, much amended over time, and adjusted to accommodate new necklines or hemlines. 
      • It may have been bought from a clothes reseller - second hand markets have existed for a Very Long Time, and have always been a way in which men and women could potentially access to things otherwise out of their reach. 
      • It may also have been a gift. Gifts of old clothing from employers to servants, particularly in a domestic setting, were not uncommon. These clothes, while no longer high fashion enough for those who were being served, were absolutely acceptable for Sunday Best for those serving them, perhaps with a little adjustment. And if no longer usable as-is, the gifted clothing could happily be made over into something else more suitable to their needs (or indeed sold on via the above mentioned second-hand trade). The giving of clothing and/or fabric as gifts to vassals, to indicate favour, or indeed to curry it, has been used since at least the Elizabethan era, if not earlier[1]

      So what does this mean for me, and what has my Squirrel Brain decided to do?

      For me, it means I want to concentrate more on making clothing that my ancestors would have worn, rather than "Princess Pretty" clothing. That means middle to working class mostly, with a mixture of rural farming society, urban domestic servants and some northern factory mill workers. These were people who were more likely to be illiterate to functionally literate, than readers of magazines. If they did see fashion plates it would not have been because they sought them out, and more like when I look at the houses in Country Life - ultimately not something I ever expect to own anything even close to!

      And as for my squirrel brain? Well that's decided on a new Project, which is superficially simple, but may prove to be Quite Long... Squirrel Brain would like me to find images of at least one working to middle class costume that I like, for each decade of the 19th Century, and possibly early 20th Century too. And then to make them up. Perhaps one working, and one middle class. This isn't to say I can't make the Pretties too - as above, women could still access nice clothes; plus I can make what I like for the fun of it! However, I probably will not count anything like this towards this project. 

      The Plan

      First step in this project will be gathering images. Initially photos to give the impression of a decade, and then picking specific looks to recreate. While I'm doing that, I will probably work on underwear for a while, as that will also be necessary for anything I make outside this little (hah!) project. After that, will be the long process of creating them...

      To be helpful to myself, I'm not going to do this chronologically, but instead let my brain bounce around as it wills it. That has the advantage of while I want to get stuck into more complicated eras to source at the beginning of the 19th Century (i.e. before widespread photography, and when the average person wasn't getting their portrait painted), I can also do easy bits bringing in images I already have from the 1890s-1920s period. 

      I may do years within a given decade for later periods where we have more surviving source material for me to use. Nevertheless, I want to stick to a minimum of one costume per decade, with more being a nice-to-have option.

      I also am seeking to actively avoid uniforms and livery. The stereotypical working-class image of a 19th Century woman is of the domestic servant, but while I am interested in her clothes, what I want to recreate is what she wore when not a work. Basically, going beyond the stereotype of the black dress with the white apron over it. What did she wear on Sunday? What about after she married and left service (if she did)? Those are the outfits I'm seeking to find.

      While I'm happy to look at extant examples of clothing, for this project I want to focus on images from the time. Images show you want was being worn, by whom (status/class), and how. I hope to only use museum examples to pad out the iconographic resources, rather than replace them, although I have no idea how successful that idea will be!

      Is this all I'm going to be doing for the future? Oh no. Definitely not! I have other plans in the pipeline, and idling in the back of my head still, but this is something I want to do gradually over the next few years. In the long run, it may even be able to be a resource that others can use on middle to lower class fashions.


      [1] One example would be the donation of a dress (or dresses) by Elizabeth I of England to the wife of a prominent Irish nobleman who she wished to have allied with her.

      Tuesday, 6 April 2021

      April craft plan

       April rough craft plan, plus What I Did In March. I admit to cheating slightly this month. I had my dose#1 of the vaccine, which completely knocked me flat for a while, so I allowed myself to skitter into the Easter weekend. However, life proved to be uninterested in letting me follow my original plans! I was ill, again (this is getting to be a very exasperating theme!), and I have had to face up to the fact that I am just not going to complete March's challenge. 

      I have instead completed a major chunk of the rework of our spare room this month, so instead of feeling down about the March challenge, I am going to feel good about that! 

      Other positive achievement this month is that my main Discord server has agreed to select it's own monthly challenges. I'll probably be following those more from April onwards instead of the ones set out at the beginning of the year.

      April plans

      Completed (spare room)

      • Cleared the floor
      • Moved the bedframe
      • Filled at least a dozen bin bags and 3-4 bags of paper goods for recycling as well.
      • Hoovered the floors and won the fight against cobwebs, and general ick
      • Steam cleaned the windows and sills
      • Removed damp marks from one part of the wall
      • Taken down the old dirty curtains and nets - to be washed tomorrow
      I also completed (with spouse's essential assistance), a first draft of my "boob mould". This is intended to be a rough mould of my breast cup shape, to help with adjusting the cups on my Regency stays

      Carried over

      1. HelloFresh cushions
        Make a cushion out of junk fabric and the ex freezer bags from HF
      2. May challenge
        Order fabric
        Start plotting out the patterns for 2 sarafans
      3. April challenge suggestions
        Breast Cut out skirt pattern for April
        Cut out mock-up shirtwaist for April
        "Breast block" for my 1830s/Regency stays 
      4. Reading
        Left-handed Booksellers of London / Garth Nix
      No pic tax as they photos are on my phone, and I'm not. I plan to share more as a general before/after post once the whole room is done.

      April Plans


      Back Room
      • Wash curtains and nets
      • Measure window for new blind
      • Steam and then scrub other bit of wall that has damp marks from lack of airing
      • Steam clean front of radiator
      • Move remaining boxes
      • More hoovering!
      • Destruct old wardrobe that is not needed in that room - it's not in good enough condition to move out of the room, unfortunately.
      • Build IKEA furniture
      • Move PC and start organising craft stuff into the big Kallax

      • Left-handed Booksellers of London
      • Blood of Elves (Witcher) - need to return to library soon
      Crafting - Boob mould (a second attempt) with better separation. Last try had a mono which is no use for sizing cups!

      Challenge inspiration: Apparel Appreciation OR Adapt and Alter

      1. Fan skirt
      2. Shirtwaist / blouse
      3. Regency bonnet
      4. Regency/1830s stays - wear under modern clothes

        Draft Plans for 2021 forwards

        1. Hats
          1. Regency
          2. 1890s/Edwardian
        2. Fan-skirt
          1. Wool blend
          2. 100% wool
        3. Stays
          1. Breast cups work - adaptation from D cup to my more copious HH/J cup size
          2. Mock-up
            Because needed for Regency dress mock-up
          3. Buy wooden busk
          4. Final version
        4. Edwardian blouse / shirtwaist
          1. Mock up
          2. Final
        5. 1818 Dress
          1. Petticoat
          2. Mock-up
          3. Final
          4. Decoration
        6. American Duchess cape, but with a hood
        7. 1890s men's three piece suit
        8. 1830s men's three piece suit
        9. 1950s dress(es)
        10. Circle skirt
        11. Princess Charlotte's Russian Dress
        12. Cycling shorts (modern, padded)
        13. Cycling trousers (historical, to accommodate modern underneath)