The Monk – Thoughts on a book

I know that the post you all want to read is about me and Lady Jen’s adventure at the ball at the Forks, trust me readers we are working on that. We had such a good time we want you give you the best possible review of the event.

In the mean time it’s October, and time for things to get spooky. So I thought I would share my thoughts on what I feel is one of the most whacked out creepy books ever written. It’s The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis in 1796.

Had this book been written today….forget that I am not sure out side of a self published e-book this thing would have ever seen the light of day.

Many of you know I am a fan of Gothic Lit. Not just from the regency era but also spanning into the Victorian is it a ghost or is it a killer in the attic sort of books. So it comes as no surprise that I would pick up The Monk and give it a read.

What did surprise me was just how dark, sexy, and off the wall nuts this book would be. FYI this may have some very light spoilers, so feel free to stop here. I promise though nothing I can write can fully share what a nutty wack job this book really is. Also this is not really much of a review but more of my own thoughts on this crazy book.

It starts with beautiful woman going to church. The town is taken with a young Monk who is everything a man of the cloth should be. We learn that he has been destined for such a life and folks flock to hear him speak. Things are going alright for this Monk until a mysteouse new Brother joins the order.

Things go down hill for everyone all at once at this point. Dark arts, ghosts, evil nuns, angry mobs, killers in a German forest and ghosts all show up. Some of this when I look back at it seems to be in the book for no reason. Like at all. At one point my mind was so blown I has to put the book down and look at the wall for a few moments.

Oh and once the end bit gets going the action and madness just gets kicked up. In bed one night his Lordship was confused as I looked up from the book muttering ” Well that escalated quickly…”

It’s one of those books that once you start it like or not you have to keep going. Also it’s something that once read can’t be unseen in the depths of your imagination. Personally I don’t know even now how I feel about it. Though I am glad I read it and if your up for something wicked and twisted you will be also. Lady Jen will attest that I bring up and promote this book every chance I get. Not sure what that says about me….

Oh and it’s free on Protect Gutenberg so super easy to pick up as an e-read.

So there you have it, The Monk my pick for an October read….if you dare.

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Lady Jen’s Sewing Goals for the Winter of 2013/2014

So the Season is finally over and with it comes the time to reevaluate my Regency closet and see what needs to go, what needs to be replaced, and what is still missing. At the moment I have three dresses, pink cotton print, blue cotton print, and the dark purple cotton voile.

The dark purple cotton voile dress is the one I wore to the Spencerville Ball. It’s one of my favourite dresses but it has a few problems that need to be worked out. The sleeves were a nightmare, something I mostly attribute to a) a flaw in the Sense and Sensibility pattern and b) rushing to get it finished in time. I have very little remnants of the fabric left but I am hoping to redo the sleeves or get rid of them altogether and wear the dress over top of a white muslin or voile dress.

Also at Spencerville I purchased some of the most gorgeous teal cotton that I want to make into a ball gown, but I am wary to use the S&S pattern as it has done nothing but frustrate me since I started using it. I was considered La Mode Bagatelle but I have no heard good and bad things about that pattern as well. So, although I have no pattern decided upon yet I will be using this nice black satin ribbon as the trim. It’s a striking combination and I can’t wait to see it complete!

The one thing I am really really REALLY in need of is a new pair of stays. The Frankenstays have finally bit the dust. I’ve worn them to at least 6 or 7 balls, and two very humid, sticky, reenactments. I’ve replaced the shoulder straps, the sides, added boning, added cording, got rid of the boning, etc. The fact that I was even able to get them to lift anything this past weekend in Chatham is amazing. And they are just plain hideous to look at! So my most current project is constructing a useable pair of stays that I can put on myself at reenactments, in a tent, standing at a 75 degree angle. With all those requirements in mind, I’ve decided to make the Daffodown Dilly wrap stays. Look for a blog post on that process in the coming month or so, as I will be documenting my process step-by-step.

Also this winter I will be making a few more shifts, and a bodiced petticoat! I think I’m going to be super busy this year but hopefully I can get it all done in time for March when the Living history Conference kicks off next season!

Dolls and Dress making

Fun fact it’s only been in the past year I have learned to read a pattern. You would think that after years of doing costuming stuff, both for theatre and for cosplay this would be something I would have learned a long time ago. I have only just learned to sew so patterns are newish to me. Up until now I have managed to get around both these things when working with fabric.

You see my Mother sews but mostly only straight lines. She also can’t read a pattern and when working on a project in the past we have a simple solution…and her name up to this point had been Barbie.

When ever I had wanted a costume that was fabric based, we would dig though the bin of Barbie clothing find an outfit that looked right and then flip the tiny clothing inside out. From here it would be a matter of using the outfit as a guid line with my Mother just cutting and pinning the fabric down on me until it fit. Yes it really was that easy. Or it was before I decided I wanted to go to a local Regency event.

You can’t seem to find a Regency Barbie. Trust me I tried. So we got a pattern and struggled though it. Though since most of the costume stuff me and my Mother have done is more theatrical then historical….annnnd I didn’t know at the time how into this I was going to be getting….we put Velcro in the back of the dress.

Yes Velcro, I will let all those with an eye for historic detail shutter. So yes I have a very lovely green dress that if I was to be in need of a quick change I could slip out fast. To be fair you can’t really tell unless you look close and with a spencer on top the dress looks fine. I wear it all the time still.

Up until recently I had called it “the Velcro dress”. That was about to change. With a doll who was very very far from Barbie.

This past weekend myself and Lady Jen were away to a reenactment and ball. (A full review will be coming very soon) GTRG friend Lady Kathy had asked us over and share some pleasant conversation. It was then that I related my story about dress making and Barbies. Lady Kathy thought that was very interesting and brought into the room her daughters American Girl doll. Who had a wonderful Regency set of outfits. Her suggestion was that next time me and my Mother should look into using this line of dolls in our costume creation.

These dolls are far bigger then a Barbie and are based on moments in history. They also come with a whole back story. If you in fact did wish to make a dress based off of doll clothing I would say look at this line. This was the first time I had seen one up close and her outfit very impressive, also with a larger size I would bet easier then the Barbie clothes to work with.

As Lady Jen picked up the doll and flipped it over she burst out laughing. Sure enough there in the back of the dress was a big strip of….yes….Velcro. After explaining what was so funny to Lady Kathy my Velcro dress was dubbed the “American Girl Dress”

I have a feeling that this name will be sticking.

2D to 3D 2 on me

2D to 3D 2 on me

I wrote a post a while back about starting work on a costume from a video game. When I wrote that I posted a picture of the character and had been very pleased at the fabric I had selected. The next thing was to make the costume. Enlisting the help of Lady Jen for the skirt we managed to get it all done inside of two sewing sessions.

In the past while never a fabric based costume (I tend to work in foam) I do have experience working off of video games and cartoons. Projects like this tend not to have a set pattern, these articles of clothing are right from someone’s mind to the page. The other problem is that they have been drawn/painted/digitized on. The body in the outfit was drawn to wear it.

Alright this is the part where I link this all back to something historical.

While many folks who work on regency garments work from patterns – some like to work off of fashion plates, paintings or perhaps just can’t find a pattern that works. After working off many 2D images I have a few thoughts for anyone looking to work off a flat picture.

1) Draw out the outfit. No matter even if you are just someone who doodles. This will help you work out the flow and feel that the artist was going for.

2) Take a picture with you when you go for fabric and be willing to compromise. Sometimes the fabric in your 2D doesn’t exist.

3) See if you have a pattern that is close enough and work out way early what you will have to mod. With regency outfit you should be able to make this work. For us with the skirt we mashed a skirt patten and a petticoat pattern together, but made note of fabric we would need for the pleats. You may even want to make a mock up out of cheeper fabric. Please note that this is by no means how you draft a pattern but if you are open to experimenting has worked for me in the past.

4) Pick a spot on you that will be your point of reference. As I said before the person you are taking inspiration from was drawn to wear that outfit. Artist wanted the skirt longer maybe they just drew longer legs. More detail in the bust area, it’s not a problem if they make the torso a bit bigger. While the figure you are looking at may not seem out of proportion when you get that outfit on you it may look all kinds of wrong. The way I have always dealt with this is by picking a spot where what I am looking at will 100% sit in the right place on me. With me I always pick my waist.

5) Ask for help and rip it out. With something like this the best thing you can do it have a second set of eyes. Even if it is as simple of having them look at you in your mock up and saying if it looks alright. Note as well if something looks odd not just to you but them as well, get ready to rip out and try again.

For those of you who are wondering I have added a pic of me in the final outfit below. Character image I used was mostly the one I put up a few post back. However I also used game play footage to get a feel of movement and flow.

On my way to the Con!

On my way to the Con!

Have you ever worked from a 2D image? If you did what would you make?

I have an 1812 problem

So as I have said in an earlier post sometimes my work life and my GTRG life sort of come together. I work in history and one of the ways things over lap is the War of 1812.

As I was cleaning my desk yesterday at work I found a very very full file folder in a bin. At first I was unsure what this was. Looking down I saw that the folder was in my 1812 bin. It was the a folder that had grown so large, so thick and so heavy that I had moved it over to a bin. In my hands was what I had thought would be a slim file when it all started.

So what was in the file/bin? Glad you asked. It currently holds almost every single news paper clipping about about 1812 that has come out in the past year, both history biased and event reviews. A photo copy of all the local men who took part in The Battle of York (will be writing more on that soon) and a very large very poorly photo copy of a surgeons journal. Oh and about a pound of random pages on different topics.

Some of it is highlighted, some of it I have no idea where or why I had collected it, and most of it has some sort of sticky note jammed on the front, with notes that mostly say “neat” and “you liked this” on them. A few of the clippings have my father’s writing near the header with his all caps letters reading “1812 FUN” or “MORE FOR YOU TO READ”.

So I put this out to you fellow GTRG’s, what do you think should be done with all of this? Sort? Scan? Keep and write up something? What would you do with a big old pile of info?

Elizabeth – Darcy – A review

So on Sunday afternoon myself and Lady Jen made our way to Muddy York (down town Toronto) to take in the show Elizabeth-Darcy. This production is fast becoming the must see show of the Toronto Fringe Festival. Staged in historic Campbell House Museum, the audience moved from room to room with the action. Hallie Burt and Kate Werneburg not only co-adapted Pride and Prejudice, but play all the parts. That’s right this was a two woman show.

To start I don’t think a better location could have been selected. From the moment we got in line I was all set to go back in time. Nothing like a 1822 home to get you in the mood. Once inside it was very clear this was going to be a very different theater experience. I’ve been in this home many times and was thrilled to step in and find it lit only by candles, blacked out windows as to blocking the busy modern street and a costumed stage manager (Steven Vargo) ready to greet us.

It is now that I want to talk to the wonderful work of Ms. Burt and Ms.Werneburg. As I said before they played all the parts, though when I think back to the show it really did feel like this production was done with a full cast. With such skill and confidence they flipped from one character to another and brought to life some wonderful outlandish people, while making them feel real. It must be noted that the jump from Elizabeth Bennet to Lydia Bennet by Ms Burt, and Ms. Wernburg’s shifting from Mr. Collins to Mrs. Bennet stick out. Both these moments must be seen to be believed. Fine acting though out the whole show.

Now I am told that this adaption is very close to the book and I will have to take Lady Jen’s word on that. You see I have never read P and P, and have tried many times but just could not make it past more then the first chapter. To add to this I have never been able to sit though a film adaption. So for me this was a very new story. I found myself in this wonderful setting with these wonderful actress and wishing we could see more of what the other characters were up to.

I know that it is Liz’s and Darcy’s great romance but with such a talented pair bringing all these people to life, I just wanted more! How did the romance of Jane and Charles go? How did someone like Mr. Bennet wind up with Mrs.Bennet? Oh and above all else what went down with Wickham? I would have been happy to see a full show about him and Lydia. Maybe that’s a good thing and a testament to how good the show really was. It captivated me and I walked away having seen a story I never seen before. So I can honestly recommend this production for those who have never read/don’t like the book.

All in all it wouldn’t be a big surprise if this production wins something at the end of it’s run. If you can only see one show this year at the Toronto Fringe make it Elizabeth-Darcy.

I wish I was a little bit taller…I wish I was a baller…I wish I had a dance and was a caller…

Ok so I hope that all of you sung the title of my post. I hope that you get the joke, if not I will post a link at the end of this post. So no I don’t want to be taller and since I do go to dances I guess I am a “baller”, but I honestly wish I was a caller.

What is a caller you might ask? Good question. For those who take part in English Country Dancing, the Caller is the person who calls out the dance steps. They work with the band and pick the dances, and they make sure that everyone knows what to do. In groups that know the moves they may talk it over before the music starts, as the dances get going they will call out reminding all of us where to go and what to do.

Now I love to dance, but as with many things I get to a point where I feel the need to take it all apart and fiddle with what I know about it. This has led to many 1/2 done bits of projects that lay like a bone yard, in the basement as a testament to stuff that is “hard”. Thankfully (as my Hubby would say) this sort of project needs no bits of fabric, foam or spray paint. So what do I need to be a Caller? I am not really sure.

The next step would be to ask a Caller and I have. The response while friendly has been cryptic.

“Oh you know you just…sort of do it”

This can mean only one of two things:

In some sort of lodge the Callers meet in secret and call masked balls and share the calling craft

OR
It’s one of those things that you just have to “start” doing.

As much as I like the idea of secret society I think I will have to just dive in. Lady Jen and Lady Kenzie have been batting around the idea of a dinner party. If you read my post from a while back you’ll know I am working on a dance based on a video game. Fate? A chance to call my own dance? Me over thinking it all? Most likely all of the above.

OH and if you missed out on the pun that is my title or now have the song in your head, I leave you with this: