Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Downton Experience - Part 1


Downton Abbey will always have a dear place in my heart, partially because it was the d├ęcor inspiration for my wedding, and partially because it was a major piece of getting this blog going. But even without these elements, I still would have been psyched to hear that the Downton Experience was coming to the Mall of American in Minnesota. (Sorry, folks, it's gone now.)

Actually, I totally freaked when I found out. Actual Downton Abbey costumes coming to Minnesota so I could see them in person? Seriously? A dream come true! (Probably the only thing I'd get more excited about would be if the Star Wars costume exhibit ever came here. I would die of happiness.)

Let's clarify - there are two Downton Abbey costume exhibits going around, one bigger, one smaller. The one at MOA was the smaller one - but still well worth the price of admission! There were 27 costumes, all of which you could see at extremely close range (most were not even behind glass).

And yes, photography was allowed, so I am going to show you all of the glorious details! (But I still recommend going yourself! $10 for admission, or less with a groupon deal!)

My husband and I attended as a celebration of our 3rd Anniversary. By this time in our relationship, Nathan has a pretty solid footing on which to enjoy costumes himself, and he was well equipped to take photos. Actually, I was planning to take photos myself, but then upon entering the exhibit, Nathan told me "Now Honey, you just enjoy yourself. I'm going to take photos, just let me know what you want me to take."

"Everything!" I told him. "I'll let you know if we need detail shots of anything!"

He took almost 100 photos. So we're going to break this up into a few posts.

The exhibit thoughtfully provided a lovely full color brochure for the attendees, detailing the materials for each costume, along with when they were worn and by whom. My only qualm with this brochure is that I would have liked more information on what garments were made by the production, which were rented, and which were authentic vintage. A few accessories were marked as vintage, but otherwise there was no indicator of manufacturer.

Click any photo to see it in full resolution.


A silk and wool dress, worn by Mrs. Hughes in Season 2 (1920). Upon closer viewing, there is a lot more embellishment on this dress than you would expect.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Ode to an Iron


The Oreck iron above was my faithful companion for fifteen years. Given to me back when I was a young teen with grand sewing ambitions, I loved the cordless feature, the auto-shut-off safety, and the expansive heating plate of the iron.

I also loved that it lasted for 15 years.

Last week, after undergoing a cleaning, the Iron finally gave up the ghost. We rushed it to our local Oreck store, begging them to save it, but alas, no hope. Once the heating element burns out, an iron is unsaveable.

The Oreck blue is a highly rated but no longer manufactured product. You can still find it on eBay, however, so we are trying to track one down for me. It's been my perfect iron, and it would be tough to replace it with anything other than an exact clone.

Those who don't sew often find it surprising how physical the art can be. A big part of this is the heavy role ironing plays in creating a perfectly stitched piece. (yes, pun intended.) There is almost nothing I create with my sewing machine that doesn't involve some level of ironing, whether my elaborate costumes requiring protective cloth over delicate velvet and silk, or pressing out the stitched corners of the floursack towels for Whimsical Kitchen. (Almost) everything looks better ironed.

For now, I'm stuck using my little travel iron. It's easy on my arms, and indeed, I bought it for use on my bad fibro days. However, as you can see above, it is tiny compared to the Oreck, and I find myself greatly slowed.

I never thought an iron would make me cry, but seeing this faithful companion leave has made me quite misty-eyed. Farewell, old friend.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

How to Make Jedi Robes from Curtains - Part 3

Time to sew the sleeves and hood to the body of your Jedi Robes! (Missed Parts 1 and 2?  Part 1, Part 2)

(I made Jedi Robes because my family is super into Star Wars, but you could also use this pattern to make basic wizard robes.)

Reminder - This tutorial is aimed towards making robes for a child, but you could definitely apply the method for a teen or adult as well, you'd just need bigger curtains (or a sheet or bedspread). You could also just start with plain fabric, but then you would need to add hems and it would take longer. The beauty of this layout is NO HEMMING! Yay!

In Part 3, I will show you how to attach the sleeves and hood to the body.


The robe body consists of one piece right now, and the only seams you need to sew on it are the shoulder seams. Match each front shoulder piece to it's back shoulder piece and sew. I used a conventional 5/8ths inch seam allowance.  Remember to backstitch to secure the ends.