Sunday, September 25, 2011

Treasures of the Gypsy Challenge Doll Finished

Gypsy Maiden with Baby Unicorn
Finally! Got my entry mailed off yesterday, and now I'm in the middle of cleaning up all the bits of material and thread that have somehow gotten all over the house. Fortunately it is a small house.

The doll was made from a simplified version of a Joanne Pinto pattern with some Mimi Winer-inspired face modeling. The unicorn was reduced from a pattern by Lois Boncer. This was a good learning experience. I used minke, lame, and velvet for the first time, and learned I could mend a paperclay horn and make tiny hooves with plaster cloth, and that I could tea-dye three different kinds of lace so that they didn't contrast too much.

Until the next challenge!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Prototype Doll Finished

I finished the first draft of the doll for the Treasures of the Gypsy Challenge. I am learning a lot about what works and what doesn't work.  I hope on my second run-through I can avoid making some of the same mistakes.
Felt unicorn from pattern by Lois Boncer

Body from pattern by Joann Pinto

Power Outage, San Diego, 9-8-2011

I guess I take having electricity for granted, because when even when I found out that power could be out for days I was still walking into rooms with my flashlight in one hand and flipping the lightswitch with the other. It is so easy to take things for granted.

I don't have any exciting adventures to report, no severe deprivations. At first we figured this was just a temporary power outage, but when my Mom called to tell us that the power failure was widespread, we got out the portable radios and got the flashlights and lanterns ready. We decided to keep the refrigerator closed to preserve the food inside it, and it seems to have worked, except that I think I will toss a steak that was thawing.

My husband and I react in different ways. After it got too dark to read he listened to the news for a while, then had a glass of wine and went to sleep. I stayed up reading by booklight, and left a few candles burning so that if I got up in the night I wouldn't have to fumble around for a flashlight.  He says he does not understand why I would use up valuable resources just to read, but I think it I'm just trying to maintain normality, like the British in India who maintained the customs and costumes of a cooler climate in spite of the sweltering heat.

from W. H. Auden's poem "September 1, 1939)


Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

Today the electricity is back on.  I am reading Time Magazine's special edition on the aftermath of 9-11 and thinking about how much can change in a few minutes. I think also of Robert Burn's poem "To a Mouse" (translation)


.....The best laid schemes of mice and men

Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

I will endeavor to enjoy today.  Who knows what will happen next?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

An Eating Experiment

About a month ago I decided to see what would happen if I stopped eating foods that contained a significant amount of white flour or white sugar. I was influenced in this by reading Deirdre Barrett's Waistland, in which she states that we are programmed to eat sugary and fatty foods as a survival mechanism. In a hunter-gatherer society these foods were harder to come by, so you stocked up when you could. In our modern society, this kind of food is everywhere, and the admonition "your body knows what to eat" is a lie. I had already pretty much given up fried foods and foods with artificial sweeteners or trans-fat, so this was just another step.

I've dieted for years, with the usual result of diets. Part of my last diet was writing down everything I ate and I started to notice that when I ate foods with white flour or white sugar it seemed to trigger an over-eating response and also, afterwards, I sometimes felt "hungover". 

When I started the experiment the whole idea seemed a little radical. 

I haven't losr a lot of weight, but  I have to say that I feel a lot better since starting the experiment. The biggest problem sometimes is finding something to eat.   I have to read labels carefully. Who would have thought that so many processed foods have sugar in them - like the "wasabi rice cakes"at my local health food store?  

This is not a low-carb or no-carb diet. I still eat a lot of complex carbohydrates, I'm not perfect.
Surprisingly, the things that I have given up - cake, candy, cookies, etc..I don't miss so much. I thought it would be harder. 

I will check back in a few months on this.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ruffing It

I find researching Renaissance clothing fascinating.  Costume pages abound: from pages that will sell you the proper shoe, to a wiki on the costumes of the tv show The Tudors*.

Here is a compilation of what I found on the web about the history of just one Renaissance accessory, the ruff.

Definition of ruff:  a stiffly starched frilled or pleated circular collar of lace, muslin, or other fine fabric, worn by men and women in the 16th and 17th century. (from

Apparently the ruff evolved from an extension of the fabric of the undergarment showing at the neckline. The flash of clean cloth showed you could afford to have your undergarments laundered frequently. At first ruffs were apparently worn attached to a neckpiece or partelet (Think dickey), then someone realized that you could make a ruffs a separate piece entirely. (Think detachable collar).

Ruffs began to be made out of fine fabric edged with lace, which was very expensive at that time because it was all hand-made. Ruffs got wider and wider.  Wearing a lot of lace meant you had a lot of money. The nobility competed to have the most elaborate clothing, but a new middle class was also wearing these styles.   It wouldn't do to have commoners dressing like the members of the court so sumptuary laws were passed to limit certain fabrics and styles to the upper class, for example, to specify that ony certain social classes could wear double ruffs.

Still ruffs grew -- so large that people wearing them had to use long spoons to eat. Some ruffs were made were decorated with silver wire and metallic thread, pearls and jewels. Some got so large and heavy they required supporting structures like portafraes, suportasses, pickadils or rebatos.

The design of the ruff was not the same across Europe.  Different styles were popular in different places and at different times..

At some point the large ruffs became unfashionable and were replaced by flat lace collars. I guess comfort finally outweighed fashion.

More Resources:

Shakespeare's England: A brief history of the ruff
The Renaissance Tailor: The partlet
Wikipedia: The ruff
Yellow Starch and Lace
How to Make a Ruff
Elizabethan Ruffs

*Apparently The Tudors is full of inaccuracies, so do not depend on it as an easy way to study history. For example, the producers decided not to show actors wearing codpieces, which were quite common during that period.