Friday, December 25, 2015

Parson Brown

In the morning it was there again, the snowman with a piece of blue rag tied around its neck. If his windows hadn't looked out on the meadow he wouldn't have minded so much. But every morning there it was, the snowman with the blue scarf. He could see it from every window at the back of the house. If it had just been a snowman without any identifying marks it wouldn't have bothered him. The blue scarf made it plain, it was supposed to be he. Effigy in snow, hilarious.

It was his only luxury, a blue cashmere muffler given to him by a parishioner and only after she had bought it as a Christmas present for a husband whose untimely death had made it superfluous.
He didn't really have nice things, first because his congregation was too poor and second he deemed it unfitting for a man of the cloth. But it was the cloth that was getting him down, a raggedy piece of blue he threw on the fire daily only to have it reappear the following day tied between the snowman's head and amorphous blob of a body.

He hated the snow. Not the Christmas season but the snow, the cold dark days wore on him, there wasn't enough hot cider, eggnog or forced Christmas cheer to animate him. The whole Eastern Currier and Ives-ness of it dashing through the snow was depressing.

'Lucky Pointsett' was all he could think. First Ambassador to Mexico, bringer of botanical oddities and even Secretary of War  for a while. Mexico, how he'd love to have a congregation there. Not much call for an Episcopalian parson in Mexico,  New Mexico or Arizona  had lots of people who wintered in the Southwest. Why couldn't he be their shepherd? It would be hot and maybe he would wear sandals and the bright relief of red potted flowers would look at home, not out of place in the snow.

He could take a joke he told himself. The growing impulse to knock the thing back into the meadow, to exorcise it as the Catholics would was tempered by his desire not to look ridiculous. It was enough that he marched out every morning to get rid of the scrap of blue, stuffing it into his while looking furtive.

Yet he knew he must live in concordance with his snowman as a personal trail and example. Plus he thought, 'The Winter can't last forever'.

Merry Christmas, may you live in concordance with your snowman.

Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

The above is an original work of fiction and is covered by  digital copyright law. If you would like to share please use attribution.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Victorian Mash-up and a little Dickens Christmas

Sometimes one just can't face a crinoline. The press of crowds and the closeness of the venue make it sound less fun, not more. And more fun is what we're after. Since it's not my show I figured I could wear what I wanted and I wanted to wear a bustle. So I did what they would have done and made a day vest for a ball gown skirt to wear to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco.

Lets break it down
Ball gown skirt
Sleeveless day vest.

Black velveteen bolero, with added embellishments, bought from a TJ Maxx years ago. 

 Is the bolero a cheat, sure. But the remade silk velvet one I had in the works went all sleevil on me. It was an armscye thing mostly- all bindy and that's no fun either. I had made my brother a vest and pants so my plate was full already. That's my story anyway.
Canny readers may recognize the vest fabric as left over from my tea dress from last year.

He is the best brother, he and his wife have been so lovely to me this past difficult Summer. He is always ready to indulge me in dress-up road trips. So I can indulge him in new togs, win/win!
The Dickens Christmas Fair is really worth a visit, all the characters come to life with fabulous food, drink and shows. It isn't Christmas for me without a visit.
As  matter of fact our London pals fly over for our Victorian Ball in Pasadena, a legendary Christmas party the next weekend and a quick trip to the Dickens fair. It's worth it.
Simon and Mark, at the SDI ball and ready for frolics!
And finally my ball gown.
May all the lights shine for you this Merry season. However you celebrate, may it be with love.
Ever Your Thimble Servant
Miss Brilliantine

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving, Redux

Thanks for petticoats and redingotes, gigot sleeves and rococo slippers. Fancy dress and hand sewn stays. Embroidery- hand and machine. Crinoline cages and lobster bustles, paper patterns and scaled up grids. Lids, hats that is, all kinds, even paper ones. Stockings with stripes and silk with clocks. Cloaks! Dolmans, lace shawls, pelerines and pelisses. That crazy 18th c. hoodie, the Brunswick. The humble Sontag. Gloves, gauntlets and mitts. Under-sleeves made of lace-suitable for so many periods. Hedgehog wigs and horsehair (stuff it in the sofa or wear it on your head). The Directoire! The actual one and the revival. Cork rumps and mouse brows and white face paint. Tudor doublets and Jacobean ones. Farthingales and cheesy plastic bridal hoops. Nylon netting for all our bombast needs. Parasols. Pierrot jackets, caracos and hot coco. Skating costumes, bathing costumes, tennis costumes. Casaquins and Harlequins. Liripipes, fun to say and to wear. Ouches, rosettes, and fontanges. Shoes! Every single kind. Corsets and pairs of bodies, chemises and shifts. Kilts, chitons and cummerbunds. The fabulous fibula.
In short, every single dress-up thing that gives us joy, online and in real life. And the lovely community that fuels the fire.
Ever Your Thimble Servant,

Miss Brilliantine

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Old Computerola and the Cutting Edge.

Say, chums!
The old computerola went down, seriously down. It was about 100 in computer years and was a Edison brand computerola. "Tired of old computerola rolls leaving wax residue on your keyboard? Edison electrified computerola roles are guaranteed not to and no more taxing hand crank, let the hired man get to the real work!" ( Homes must be electrified for computerola to function). I think you get the picture.
In the mean time the netbook I was using was as slow as dial up so instead of looking at pictures and reading blogs, I sewed!
I had some paisley velveteen waiting in the queue, it was meant for last February's Tea and was abandoned when the silk I ordered for it never arrived. But Renaissance Fabrics to the rescue and we have ball gown!

This thing came together so slowly, I mean I started it in the Summer, complaining it was too hot to sew velvet. I broke it down into it's component pieces and like eating an elephant took small bites.
Less talky, more showy-
The front drape was done free hand and the back portion franken-patterned from TV 364. It's meant to have little side drapes but I pleated it all into the waistband. I'll be wearing it to our Holiday Ball in Pasadena, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I'll try and get some action shots.

The cutting edge part is new super-fast computey, which is great except the touch pad is so sensitive it reads monkey fingers hovering and jumps to it. A little over eager. Windows 10, the same yet not the same.......
I have a vest and trousers to make, I'd better jump to it.

Ever Your Thimble,
Miss Brilliantine

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Return of the Little Dog Post- Happy Halloween!

My dear Sister died in 2008 after a years-long fight with cancer. She was determined, valiant and tiger-hearted. She taught kindergarten until practically her last day. I can't do her justice here, but you need to know or the rest seems more unlikely. I was lucky, lucky to be close (after a career collapse, but who knows what is good and what is bad, ultimately) so I could be with her every day. Her struggle was mine. I could never be part of her pain and physical struggle but I would have taken it on if I could.
When she died, I lost the mainstay of my life and went through a grief that left me on the "blasted heath" with King Lear, buffeted by winds and weather. She was such a part of my emotional life but also my everyday.  And everyday life is what propels you forward.
A year later my little dog Cleo passed away, she was sweet and completely devoted to me. She would follow me from room to room laying on the rug in the bathroom when I showered or under the table when I sewed. No beauty, a little snaggled toothed with cropped pointed ears and a touch of gargoyle around the eyes. She hated riding in the car but on the rare occasions I took her out people would ask "What kind of dog IS she?" I loved her.
So when both my parents fell ill at almost the same time, I was just starting to feel the cascades of grief had started to ebb. My Mother in the hospital after cancer surgery, my Father getting a pace maker for a faulty ticker and Cleo starting to make an appearance in the kitchen or under the table.
This stressed me even more. I would see her out of the corner of my eye all the time. Under the table where she loved to hide but still keep an eye on the world or in the kitchen by the water dish that was out for my mother's dog.  I would tell her I had nothing for her, she was beyond my reach. It felt like another needy soul and I was tapped out. I started to have the stabbing feeling under my left shoulder blade like I had when my sister was sick.
I kept this mostly to myself, knowing it made me sound crazy. I was very aware that the level of stress I was under could very well be the cause. Super natural experience or hallucinations of a disordered mind- it's a toss up.
After my Mother came home from the hospital she wanted a little company and asked her friend Elizabeth to dinner on Sunday. After a few hours when dinner was over she asked me "Where's  your little dog?"  I told her, reluctantly, that Cleo had died the year before, she said "I saw her under the table when I walked in the house" I said it was my Mother's little dog, Amorsito. She said "No, he was on the sofa".
 The jig was up.
I told her I saw her all the time. She gave me such a look of incredulity and said the hair on her arms stood on end. I told her it was fine, she was just keeping me company. And you know after that I felt comforted by her. I realized she didn't want anything from me, just to keep me company. After that I saw her less and less, and then not at all.
My Father died two months later, my Mother is fine. Cleo stays wherever she lives now.
I do wonder if our bias for words is what keeps us from understanding the depths of attachment and emotion of the animals who share our lives. Are they self-aware vis-a-vis our relationship with them or on their own? It's a little arrogant to think so, I know.

Happy Halloween from me and Cleo, wherever she is!
Spectral image to the right of her is an actual spot on the Polaroid, don't be alarmed
Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Monday, October 12, 2015

Make with the Pants, Already!

This is a great pants pattern, I've made it multiple times, so has my friend Athene. They look great on us both, she's tall, I'm 5'5". I love a nice wide leg, I say bah! to the skinny jean, you heard me. (I see many school groups of teenagers at the Museum were I occasionally work and the skinny looks bad on all of them, slim, fat, tall, short. It really isn't a good look on anyone.) However they need pockets, I've amended this defect by finding a nice pocket from some long forgotten 70's pattern and over laid it. See.
With my frankenpattern blouse, Rocket Original sandals and reproduction metal picnic basket from World Market
It likes the pocketses!
And it's not just for denim, I had some mystery wool with just a bit of stretch deep, deep in the boxes.
I'm comin' atcha'! With a handbag.
 No one should be cinched when bifurcated,  I like the slight bagginess in the rise. They are super quick to make, show me your version.
And this goof-ball hat, probably from the 40's but with a different tassel. I'm guessing it was originally something soft like rayon because the jet swings and hits you in the!
I'm about to start another big 1880's ball gown for November, I'll keep you posted.

Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bride of Frankenpattern!

I'm all about the frankenpattern these days. Also I'm loving the pattern mixing. To that end I bring you Bride of Frankenpattern, the skirt!
Sure, it may look like an innocent dress, but it will be used for parts! And since today is the Autumnal Equinox, I made it in tweed. Because even though it's 98, it's still Autumn. The pattern had conveniently been pinned up for shortening in the envelope, thanks to an anonymous lady from the 1930's. These skirts tend to be very long. What with the 3 1/2" allowance for a hem.
Thanks anonymous lady, you saved me a step!

Let's all play find the seam allowance. Here's a hint, they make you work for it. 

Over-dyed for a better match
I like to over dye cotton tape zippers, or "slide fasteners" as they called them. I'm fastidious about some things but not others. I really hate a bulky waist band, they are for suckers. I prefer a nice flat grosgrain ribbon binding. Purist might want to look away now.
Nice and flat, like mama like.

This is the pattern mixing part
Big houndstooth jacket (I think he was a Blues musician) and a shorty sweater with vintage buttons and we are done. It practically makes itself! Look to see me wearing it sometime in December, because I can't even imagine cool weather, it's been so long.
Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

And You'll Find that You're in the Rotogravure

Road trip to the Gatsby Summer Afternoon, was as always, well worth the trip. We drove up to the Bay Area on Saturday, caught up with friends, had a little dinner, a drinky and were up early for the making of sandwiches and the packing of baskets. Here are the photos, you are warned.

Frankendress was a success, if a little slouchy.
Daniel (you elegant fowl) and the fabulous Autumn

Angela of "La Chatelaine Chocolat"
Just flippin' fab!
Sartorial splendor worthy of a stroll in the 'bois'

Caitlin with Chris, she made this bathing suit from a Target sweater, cut off the sleeves and used then for the trunks. Genius!
A fine example of the great costuming on display here.
"The Austrian Woman", Michael, Todi and Cynthia.
Baggy pants shenanigans!

Lounging on the beach, with lifeguards, ladies and beach pajamas.

Kendra giving that far-away look.
More shenanigans with Lifeguard Liam!
This year was a sell out, I think about 1000 people including vintage cars and bathtub gin. The weather was lovely after a few days of a hot spell and there was nothing to do but eat, drink, wander, dance and mooch treats from picnic pals. A roaring success!
On to the next!
Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The 500 Hats of Miss Brilliantine

I love hats.
Parasols, gloves, shoes, you get the idea. I was going to make this adorable free hat pattern from the blog Whatifound.
Then didn't. Riffle through the boxes, get out the lining, follow the pictures. Maybe later.
 Instead I dug deep and found a straw hat blank that had never been blocked and still had the tag. So I got out my 99c Store plastic place mat and set to work making a "block", I used the term loosely.
I cut the edge out and then a disc from the plastic and taped them together.

Just enough structure to give it shape after a quick immersion in hot water.

A little sunshine to set it.

Voila! Add ribbon until satisfied. Not sure about the daisies, they may get replaced with something more serious.

This is why we need a stash. It all came from there, the straw, the ribbon, the daisies. It will look very well with the frankendress. And my little round sunglasses and my parasol and my re-mix shoes. I think I'm done.
Every Your Thimble Etc.
Miss Brilliantine

Monday, August 31, 2015


When last we left Summertime, I was going to frankenpattern a blouse from a dress. Instead I thought I'd make a dress from many dresses. Why do it the easy way. Actually, this is just as easy as using all the same pattern pieces and more fun. Have a look at
the finalists.
Vogue pattern at the bottom was used as the bodice with a little extension to make it waist length.
Bodice from one pattern, skirt from another and sleeve from the third. Don't let different seam allowances scare you. The truth is the openings need to match, so a 30" bodice opening needs a skirt that's 30'' at the top. No one will measure your seem allowances unless you are in home-EC. Believe me, I've been doing this since I learned to sew. I make a pattern as shown only half the the time, the rest I improvise. That's why we ALL need a lot of patterns. Yeah.
This bodice ends  mid-rib, I just extended it to make it waist length.  
I wanted to take some of the fullness out of the sleeve top, not wanting it so puff-tastic. Probably not the way I was taught but it works.  This won't work if you need a sleeve with no ease at the top, but this fits with slight gathers, who's to know. They sold assorted sleeve patterns in the 30's so you could mix and match. Just as they sold patterns for collars, dickeys etc.
Skirt was pretty straight forward, it just has to match the bodice opening.

It's alive!
And a bit of whimsy.
Now I need a hat, I have a few but also have a really cute 30's pattern, so we'll see. I'll be wearing this to the Gatsby Summer Afternoon at the Dunsmuir Estate in Oakland this September. I'm splitting the difference and calling it late 1930's, in case you wondered.
Hope to see you there!

Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine