Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Time Flies

My gods, it's basically been a year since I last posted over here.
Perhaps some of you have been following me over at my Warm Ray Gun blog, but I feel this page has been neglected.
So here's a quick update regarding a current project!
In my usual last-minute and late night inspirations, I've decided to make a royal blue velveteen riding habit in the style of the 1840s.
It's going rather well, actually, and it may be done in time to wear to Dickens Fair this Saturday.

I'll elaborate more on a future post when it's done and presentable. While it's nothing fancy yet, here are a few progress shots via my Instagram page.

The fabric; a rich royal blue cotton velveteen from Renaissance Fabrics.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Fragrance Review Part II - Crimson Peak

A house that breathes, that bleeds, and remembers.
A house like this, in time can become a living thing with timber for bones and windows for eyes.

My second purchase from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab arrived yesterday, and yet again they did not disappoint. The feature-titled scent from the Crimson Peak collection is sure to be a favorite on my shelf of fragrances.
Their description of the scent is thus; "Snow marbled with blood-red clay, frozen over the scent of decayed wood."
The first impression is almost a sharp 'rain' scent, but tinged with something smoother that reminds me of crisp cold air in a forest. Almost a leafy green note but softer, much like snowfall on evergreens.
As it warms to my skin, the spicy warmth of amber with a metallic hint like wrought iron emerges. The combination is like red clay oozing from the ground, soaking and mixing into the snow-like notes. Over time, the warm wood scent comes forward, with barely a breath of cool florals.
Hours later it's all still there, continuing with a delicate floral, slightly warm, powdery finish.

When I wear it I keep sniffing my wrists, it's a beautiful fragrance.
Like the 'Sir Thomas Park' fragrance, I would gladly wear this daily. Layering the two would make a wonderfully heady scent for nights out on the town.
Of course, I plan on slowly adding more of these CP themed scents to my collection.

I also decided to splurge a little on one of the limited edition jewelry pieces inspired by Crimson Peak, and created by The Black Phoenix Trading Post. Each creation  is limited to 300 pieces, and I had a hard time choosing between the Sharpe family Coat of Arms and the Family Crest.
In the end I went with the truly unique Coat of Arms, with its not-so-hidden skull design.
When it arrives, I'll be sure to model it and share photos here.
I may still go back for the twin dragon Family Crest, the 'Fear' monogram, or one of the memento boxes. It depends on how my wallet is fairing after the holidays!

Thanks to a friend giving me an early Xmas gift, I also now own the absolutely stunning "Crimson Peak : Art of Darkness" hardcover book.
I plan on doing a quick review of that here as well.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Scent Of Temptation

A few weeks ago, I had discovered that Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab had released a line of fragrance oils inspired by the Gothic romance film, Crimson Peak.
Needless to say, I was ecstatic. I would even say, as long-time acquaintance Jillian Venters of Gothic Charm School described her reaction, "my flailing glee reached new levels".

I spent a good part of the day off-and-on scrolling through the list of the inspired mixes of scents, with names like 'The Waltz', 'The Manuscript' and of course 'Crimson Peak'. Scents named after the characters were included, too.
Considering my own tastes when it comes to perfume, and my experiences with scented oils, I wanted something simple. Additionally, I wasn't able to smell them prior to purchase and at $30 per 5ml bottle, I had to be careful. Too many ingredients, and I might end up just smelling like the entire shop. Too much, or in some cases any, patchouli and I'll smell like a hippy (I'm not generally a fan of patchouli).
For the most part, I trust BPAL's expertise, so I chose 'Sir Thomas Sharpe'....

"Give in to temptation: black amber darkens a pale fougere."

It arrived today, and I happily discovered that I made a very good choice.
Gothic Charm School's review described this scent as such;
"The sweetness and warmth of amber, overgrown with moss, ferns, creeping vines, and every other wildly-growing green thing. As time goes on, this becomes more and more enticing."

Since perfumes and scents can vary and change on different people, I'll share my take on this mixture.
Right away, there is a definite amber top note, almost brash in its sharp sweetness.
As it melts to my skin, it softens into a glowing warmth. Almost like a man with an ulterior motive discovering that he is actually falling in love.
During and after the drydown stage, a spiciness comes forward. There are faint notes of floral greens and a powdery finish, like a stolen kiss while leaning on a dusty workbench.
It almost has an air of what many like about the classic Old Spice aftershave, but softer, less obvious. It has much more versatility for both men and women, and I could easily wear this daily.

I also separately ordered another bottle from the CP collection, also titled 'Crimson Peak'.
When it arrives I'll review that one as well, so stay tuned!

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Making of a Crimson Peak Inspired Ballgown

As mentioned in my previous post, the San Francisco Edwardian Ball is coming up in January.
This gives me plenty of time to make something new just for the occasion, and Crimson Peak is full of inspiring material.
Over the weekend, I was able to track down a lovely synthetic duchess satin that didn't break the bank, at $4.98 per yard. Though I wanted so badly to buy silk, I need to be frugal this year. On the plus side, since it's synthetic it will be easier to wash after an evening of revelry!
The other nifty thing about this particular weave of fabric, is that it behaves like a heavy silk and while slightly springier, it's without the overly shiny surface many polyester or acetate satin fabrics have. I'll just need to really utilize some good shirring and tacking stitches on the bodice to get it laying nicely if I do any pleats or gathers for texture.
Initially I planned on finding a nice pale gold, but the only thing I found that I liked, and was bright enough without being too saturated or dusty, was an expensive silk. So blush it will be...

Indeed, I could just do an all-out cosplay and make a copy of her ballgown, but there are things about it that didn't really woo me. The fit and length of her bodice for one. This gown is the one costume in the film I feel that could have been tailored more appropriately for the era it was set in. Everything else about it was lovely; the minimal straps were fine for the era, including the pearl decoration and that spectacular matching evening cloak.
Additionally, I kind of want to do my own thing with this.


After comparing a warm, super pale blush color, to a candlelight ivory (both similar to Edith's ballgown in the film) I decided to go with the ivory.
I also want mine to tell a different story. It's one that follows Edith's dreams after her escape from Crimson Peak; incorporating the stain of blood red on snow and skin, and her waltz with Sir Thomas. How does a person just walk away from a traumatic and heartbreaking experience like that, and start over? Simple answer; you don't, not completely. It haunts you, and like some sage advice given to me once on the subject of grieving and trauma, "You carry it with you. The trick is *how* you carry it".
Edith indeed has a strength and resiliency that we don't see much of in female leads, particularly in historical drama and Gothic romance. But while she will obviously be able to carry on and be happy, how have her dreams changed when she closes her eyes each night?

As you can see in the above on-set images, the color of her dress changes with the light; sometimes almost ivory and other times more pink, it's warmed by the candlelight in the room. Hers was a very soft ivory blush duchess silk satin, and the photo of my blush fabric isn't quite accurate either, and more pink due to lighting.
This is another reason I wanted to go with as pale a color as possible, like the candlelight ivory, to keep me from resembling a walking Valentine's day card. I'm combining it with a rich red velvet, and a few other details I'll divulge later.
Since I don't have a nice evening coat or cape earlier than 1940, I'd like to try and make a version of her cloak, too. Especially with that amazing shirred stand-up collar!

As for the patterns I'm basing this gown off of, I've decided on two by Truly Victorian.
The 1903 trumpet skirt (works for 1901 too) and possibly the 1890s ballgown bodice, the latter of which I'll alter a bit to fit my needs and be more Edwardian. I may not need it at all.
I nearly went with the 1893 Bell Skirt, but after having made that skirt up before, I realized it's a different silhouette than the sylph-like lines I want for this gown.

The paintings by Boldini were a big inspiration for me, and I imagine nearly all the gowns shown in the ballroom scene of Crimson Peak. If you look at more of Boldini's works featuring women, a good portion of them were represented in that one scene in the film. Particularly Edith, and the rival ladies vying for the attention of Sir Thomas. Even works by John Singer Sargent such as this one, acutely resembling the rival's mother.
It's always interesting when life, or in this case film, imitates other types of art in a wonderful way.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Shimmering Drop Of Crimson On Gold

A gift from Sir Thomas Sharpe, acquired under far more desirable circumstances than its previous owner contended with.
As you might have suspected, I'm also gathering odds & ends, and pulling fabrics from my stash for Crimson Peak-inspired sewing. I'll likely do a replica of one of Edith's costumes from the film eventually, too. The trick is picking which one to do (first), and finding that perfect russet gold silk taffeta if I make her suit.
For now, I am planning a gown for the Edwardian Ball in January. It will be inspired by Edith and the blood red stain left on her memory of Crimson Peak. Or from a still-broken heart; like a mended porcelain teacup it's never quite the same again. Perhaps it still bleeds a little for Thomas.

I have a lush gold silk taffeta in my stash, 6 yards worth, that would be plenty for an 1890s evening gown. The only issue is that it's not a glowing color, much like Edith's pallet in the story, but more dusky.
Then again, maybe after her survival of Crimson Peak her colors would have become richer, deeper and sometimes more like dusk than the dawn-like shades before 'the calamity'.
But, my desire to have a brighter base fabric is because I'll be adding a small dose of rich blood red velvet and crystal trimming on the bodice, and I want there to be a striking contrast between the two.

While I can't spend money on 6 more yards of silk taffeta, I may break my historical sewing rules, and choose a nice quality synthetic if I can find some at my local discount fabric shop. This gown will be worn to a sometimes raucous and always crowded ball. So, if anything gets spilled on it or the hem gets soiled, there will be little difficulty or worry in washing it out!

That's all for now, folks. I'll keep you posted on what I find in place of the silk taffeta XOXO

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Favorite Things

It's a softly grey and rainy Sunday afternoon and while some might complain, I rather like days such as these. Not just because I'm from Seattle; the rain offers a relaxing break from the dry and dusty California weather we've been plagued with during the drought.
Taking a break from the sewing area duties, I decided to make myself a nice cup of tea paired with a snack of cocoa ladyfinger cookies.
The tea is one of my favorites; Paris, by Harney & Sons. Its a delightfully sweet and heady floral, almost like candy in aroma, with a smooth flavor that doesn't taste 'flavored'.
Another favorite of mine is their Dragon Pearl Jasmine tea. A sucker for lovely packaging, I have a growing collection of H&S tea tins. The loose teas come in a black and gold tins, such as the Paris tea seen in the above photo. Harney & Sons tea sachets come in pretty and colorful tins, often with pastels and gold or copper highlights. They look fabulous stacked together in the tea cabinet, and when emptied, they make nice storage tins for sewing thread, buttons, jewelry, soaps or anything you desire.
Getting my mitts on some sachets of Laduree tea is the next step, but for now H&S will do nicely.

In other news of pretty things; a friend tipped me off to a sparkly Ebay listing. I now have a reproduction on its way to me, of an exquisitely beautiful tiara from the tail end of the Victorian period, around 1900. I'm obsessed with Victorian starburst and moon motifs in fashion and jewelry, and I snatched this one up right away.
The original recently sold via auction at Bonhams for $24,599. It was gold and a tiara/ring/brooch combination that unscrewed into the separate pieces. Even though the above repro is just a solid tiara, I think I like it even more in silver.