What I have been up to….

Oi vey! this past month I feel like I have both done a lot but also have done nothing… Do you ever have times where you feel like that? I do often. So in the past month I have been infatuated with the last imperial Tsar of Russia and his family (Nicholas, Alexandra, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei). This stated with me watching Being John Malkovich… Strange I know but let me explain. So for those who don’t know in the film John Cusack plays a big creep (seriously he is very creepy) and I being the John Cusack lover that I am (High Fidelity being the only real reason for this) I couldn’t stand having him be Craig in my mind. I had to redeem him in my mind. So late one night I decided I had to watch a movie with him in it to do this. It was too late to start watching High Fidelity and I had remembered that John Cusack played Dimitri in the animated film Anastasia

Animated film poster

So this is what I opted to watch that night. When I was little I remember watching this movie and being really scared because of Rasputin… And still to this day Rasputin gives me the creeps (with his corpse falling apart all the time). Anyways I remembered that the movie was based off of a character who had actually existed, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra. Whose remains had still not been found when the movie was made. Of course this set me off on a research spree. I watched a ton of educational videos on the last Romanov family on youtube and began researching what parts of the story in the movie was true and what wasn’t… Spoiler basically none of it was real. This video is probably my favourite of the bunch considering that it is much more personal than the rest (and it makes me want to be a history major).

And after watching videos I began reading books on the subject as well like “The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra” by Helen Rappaport and “The Secret Lives of the Tsars: Three Centuries of Autocracy, Debauchery, Betrayal, Murder, and Madness from Romanov Russia” by Micheal Farquhar. (Wow those subtitles are mouthfuls!)


The books in question

And next on my list is “Nicholas and Alexandra” by Robert K. Massie as well as “The Romanovs: The Final Chapter: The Final Chapter” by him as well.

I  ordered those ones because my library only had ebook versions of them and I despise reading ebooks. There is something about reading solid books that feels better… I think it is because you can flip to the back to read the last page (I like doing that) also a physical book is very comforting.

Anyways aside from my new imperial Russia craze I have been busy with other things as well. Like making a body block for patterns, enjoying my new fountain pen, tambour embroidery, normal embroidery, ect… Here I will elaborate:

Making a body block is something that takes time and math skills. I do have the time and patience for it but my math skills… They left my brain when I finished math in high school. For those of you who don’t know a body block is a form fitting pattern that is specifically fitted to your body that you can make your own patterns with. I decided to make one because after finishing my last shirt and seeing how difficult it was to get it to fit my body after many different fittings ( and it is still a little big especially in the side seams area) I thought I needed to find a way to make something that would make it easier to make and fit my own patterns (because I design them mostly myself) to my body… So I made a body block. To construct my body block I personally used a book called “Dress Pattern Designing: The Basic Principles of Cut and Fit” by Natalie Bray.

The book has mostly written instructions.

The text in question and one of the few diagrams in the instructions.

which frustrated the visual learner that I am but I worked through it and now I have a body block! And so far it seems to have payed off as the shirt that I am currently working on has a fitted bodice and I used my body block for it and it didn’t really need any altering so far.

A sneak peek of the fabric for my new shirt!

I started using a fountain pen in June when my mom gave me her father’s old fountain pen. The pen was around 50 years old and I really like it with its fancy gold cap and all.

So I started using it after I restored it (that means just soaking the nib in a glass of water so clear the passage way) and it did work pretty well although because of the age the pen is not what it used to be and I can only get maybe a half pages worth of solid writing. After that I would have to write, stop, take a five minute break, come back and write for a quarter of a page and it would go downhill from there. So I knew that if I would want to continue using a fountain pen I would have to purchase another one. A new one. So after doing some research I decided to go for the Waterman Stainless Steel Hemisphere pen with a medium nib.

It is light weight, doesn’t really clog ever. Life with this pen is great so since that has been resolved I have started getting into inks. Oh it is a slippery slope. I quickly adopted the “I want to hoard inks” habit. Especially Iroshizuku Pilot inks. They come from Japan and come in a wide range of colours. I personally own two: Ajisai (Hydrangea) and Tsuki-yo (Moon-light).

Ajisai is on the left and Tsuki-yo is on the right.

They are both very nice blues. The first is a soft blue-purple and the second is like your standard blue ink with a hint of turquoise.

Again Ajisai on the left and Tsuki-yo on the right. 

I love them both but I still have my eye on more inks, like ina-ho (Rice Ear), which is a tan khaki colour with a green undertone primarily at the moment. Anyways enough about my greed for pen inks. I will say that using a fountain pen has changed my writing habits as I now write in cursive, which is what fountain pens are designed for.  I think it gives my writing a bit more of a sophisticated look. Less high school girl looking I guess is what I am going for. Also it just seems to go with natural dyeing with that ethereal earth goddess image I aspire to be. But that is just my opinion.

Now time for the various embroideries I have been doing… And by various I mean two. Ha! Alright so both of the samples I have been working on are using the sample pattern. And the pattern that I am using is obviously Russian inspired and it is a sort of ornamental border. I found it by typing in “Russian Patterns” on Pinterest choosing something and then blowing it up, printing it off, and transferring the image to my fabrics. Here it is:

The two types of embroidery I am doing is a tambour embroidery sample and a braided chain stitch embroidery sample. I mentioned tambour embroidery a few posts back and how I had wanted to try it. And now I am doing it see!

The front of my sample. 

The back of my sample, which is the side that you work from. So your beads are facing down and the backside is facing up when you are doing tambour. 

I am still learning but I think I am getting a bit faster as I am working. I’m trying not to let the little imperfections and unevenness of the samples not bother me. I keep telling myself that this is only my first sample but it is hard, I don’t think I’m L’école Lesage (the atelier/school that does all the beaded work for Haut Couture lines like Channel, Dior,etc… And is owned by Channel) worthy yet but hopefully someday I will be. To do tambour you work with a handsfree hoop as you need one hand to hold the needle with and the other one to place the beads with. And the needle you use is like a very fine crochet hook, if you can see that from the picture below:

And so far I have just been trying to get used to the basic chain stitch for tambour embroidery. I am not trying to get too fancy… Yet!

The other sample I am working on is the braided chain stitch sample.

This stitch is fairly simple once you get it (there are a lot of confusing loops that I referred to as ears when I first started out). Here is the link that I learned from. This is a more casual sample that I am working on and is mostly just for me to work and improve on my needle work skills.

And as you can see I am really embracing the Russian colour schemes with these samples with the blue and red. I like it and I am not going to apologize for it! Until next time!


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