Sunday, January 31, 2021

2020: A Review (If I must)

I have no intention of doing a 2020 Costuming Year-in-Review, because I have no desire to relive the painful cancellations of all of the events I had planned to attend. Instead I will talk over the numerous changes that have happened in my life since lockdown began in March. Most of these changes have prevented me from being able to sew, as you will see. 

First, with their graduate classes moving online and therefore there being no point in continuing to rent an apartment several states away, my stepson and his fiancée made the decision to move in with us for the forseeable future. This has been a huge blessing, as their presence has given me the adult socialization I have needed during lockdown, and allowed me to still be able to run errands as needed after all of the traditional childcare options evaporated. While in the before times I was perfectly willing to take my Sweet Pea with me to the grocery store, her age (she turned three in June) made it unlikely that she would be able to keep a mask on the whole time, and I just didn't want to risk her coming into contact with strangers when she is unable to understand social distancing. Also, as an introvert and just in general being naturally risk-averse, I find that the necessary errands such as grocery shopping bring me large amount of anxiety and leave me exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally. Adding a three-year-old to that mix would only make matters worse. 

The second big change was one we were already planning on (although if we'd known how the rest of the year would go perhaps we would have planned differently...) - I got pregnant again! I'm due February 17, and getting very excited to welcome our newest addition to the family. This pregnancy has been different in almost every way from my first, due in no small part to the world being drastically different now than it was in 2017! But it has also just been different, physically. I'm three years older, for one thing, and while that may not seem like a big difference, I have definitely noticed a change! I had less morning sickness this time around, fortunately, but I suffered from overwhelming fatigue throughout the first trimester - which was very poorly timed, considering the next big change!

With Jordan and Zöe moving in, we needed to create space for them in our house. We have four bedrooms (including the nursery) and a finished room over the garage, which was my sewing room. Since they were moving from a small apartment, they had more furniture to bring in than either of the two spare bedrooms would fit. Therefore the most logical solution was to give them the much larger room over the garage, and move my sewing room into one of the spare bedrooms. This change snowballed into us basically redoing every single room in our house! 

Seriously. We redid the dining room, living room, and library. We sold and replaced most of our furniture over the course of the summer, painted, and redecorated. We even acquired a piano! (Something I've been wanting for years.) 

My new sewing room is much smaller than the old one, so I've had to make some significant adjustments. But actually, the smaller space has helped me organize better, and I'm happy with it overall. I no longer have ample floor space for piles of clutter, and my new storage system for my fabric stash lets me see everything I have at a glance. This will help me sew from my stash more regularly, and hopefully buy fabric less. (We'll see.) 

With summer drawing to a close, we started preparations in earnest for Jordan and Zöe's wedding in October. Obviously, because of COVID, they had to scale down their plans significantly, but it was always planned to be an outdoor wedding so we were able to go ahead with plenty of safety measures in place. I altered Zöe's dress and made her a matching mask and embroidered her veil. This took up much of my September and October. 

Then, immediately after the wedding, I threw myself into sewing a 1905 Suffragist ensemble to wear for Election Day only two weeks later. It was quite a challenge, because not only was this a new era for me so I had to build from the undergarments up, but I was also making it a maternity costume! I actually only sewed five of the pieces myself, choosing to outsource some of the undergarments and accessories to both make my workload smaller and to support women-owned small businesses as I'm sure our suffragist ancestors would have wanted. 

That's the only major sewing project I embarked on last year. I did some sewing for Sweet Pea - just everyday clothes - and made some vintage separates and one dress for myself. And I made Sweet Pea a Regency dress to wear to a socially-distanced picnic - the only in-person event I have attended since February. 

I had grand plans for making a whole wardrobe of maternity dresses from vintage patterns from the 1940s, but in the transition from old sewing room to new sewing room I lost three out of the four patterns I was planning to use! I did start on an ensemble from the one remaining pattern, but that got derailed when my husband was exposed to COVID at work and actually tested positive, although he never showed any symptoms. But suddenly we all had to quarantine from each other, and for two weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas I had sole responsibility for a three-year-old 24/7 with no backup. Needless to say, I got nothing done. 

And then after Christmas we embarked on the next big household project - transforming a spare bedroom crammed full of overflow *stuff* from my sewing room, overflow from Jordan and Zöe's room, and just plain junk into a new bedroom for Sweet Pea. I still have not found space for all of my sewing room overflow, but her bedroom is adorable and she loves it! And we cleaned out our garage and shed, both of which had a lot of our junk on top of a lot of junk left behind by the previous owners of this house four years ago! (I saw "we," but as I'm heavily pregnant I really didn't do much physical moving of said junk. I just got to sort through all the stuff I decided was worth keeping.) 

We still need to finish prepping the nursery for the baby's arrival, as it has now become a staging area as I sort through all of the baby stuff I saved from Sweet Pea's infancy. Good news is I have plenty of clothes for the new little one! 

All of this has left me little time to sew, and my sewing room is hardly in a usable state, with all the excess *stuff* that I haven't found room for. I have been going slightly mad from not being able to sew, but I've found little ways to use my creative energy here and there - cross-stitch embroidery, latch hook rug making, and crochet. But I'll get back into it soon (I hope), and inevitably have to find a new routine once the baby is born! And I'll try to get better about updating this blog and my YouTube channel, both of which have been sorely neglected in recent months. Stay tuned! 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

RSV England Trip - Day Four: Portsmouth

Day Four - Friday, June 21 - took us to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, where we could take self-guided tours of the HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, and Boathouse 4.  There were also harbor tours and, of course, a gift shop.  (The connection to Jane Austen being that she had brothers in the Royal Navy.)  

Feeling very nautical in front of the HMS Victory

Before we could join the group for the day's tour, we first had to pack up all our things and leave our beloved Elton House behind.  After our stop in Portsmouth we would be journeying on to Brighton for the next leg of our tour.  

For once I was early!  I was packed and ready, fully dressed in my Regency finery, and had time for breakfast AND some leisure sewing in the garden before we left to meet the coach for the day:  

I was not ready to leave Bath, let alone the lovely historic house we had called home for the past four days!  My housemates indulged me with a goodbye photo shoot:

Our exceptionally cheerful coach driver for the day was Simon:  

It was a beautiful day in Portsmouth, actually bordering on hot!

I chose to tour the HMS Victory first.  I was quite blown away by it!  

The tour was conducted by audio devices that you pointed at various signs throughout the ship, and then listened as it narrated a portion of the events of the famous Battle of Trafalgar that corresponded to the part of the ship you were in at that moment.  It then directed you to the next sign, and by following the instructions and listening to the narration, you got a largely chronological account of the battle from various perspectives of the crew.  It was really fascinating!  

I got a couple photos of myself on the deck, naturally:  

And of course I was most interested in the textiles of the refurbished ship, like the curtains on this hanging bed:  

I wondered if the embroidery had any significance, and if it was a recreation of an original curtain or merely a fanciful artistic choice.  Sadly the narration did not inform me.  

I must say, they've done a fantastic job of refurbishing the ship - especially given how beat up I now know it was after the battle!  I appreciated the attention to detail in all of the furnishings and armaments.  They even painted the hull back to the original colors that it would have been in 1805.  

A few more photos on the deck:  

I was fascinated by how huge the ropes were, and needed a shot of me next to them for scale:  

It really is a magnificent ship, and I can highly recommend touring it if you're ever in Portsmouth (post-Covid, of course).  

After that I took a harbor tour, where I took no pictures.  I just relaxed.  

Then after a quick snack at the bakery:

I was ready to tour the HMS Warrior:  

Quite an imposing sight.  

The signal flags read "Good Luck," according to my Googling.

This tour was even more self-guided, with no audio devices explaining what we might be looking at.  So I largely wandered and took photos of things that interested me.  

There were a few men (some dressed as Victorian sailors) positioned throughout the ship who were available if we had questions.  This kind gentleman was very knowledgeable, and my travel companion Renee and I ended up as a little tour group of two that he guided around one whole deck of the ship, showing us all sorts of interesting things:  

Of course, that being over a year ago now, I remember none of it.  :p  But we had a lovely time listening to him!  

Renee and I also visited Boathouse 4 briefly, before it closed for the day.  My feet were killing me by this time (my shoes were not kind to my feet at all!) so I didn't take many pictures or linger for very long.  

Finally, before leaving, I found a garden to take pictures in:  

It was small, but charming:  

Back on the coach for the drive to Brighton, I resumed sewing lace on the chemisette I was making to wear the next day.  

I also kept an eye on the beautiful scenery we were driving through, including this castle:  

It was hard to get a clear shot in between the trees:  

But I did my best!  

I looked it up and found that it was Arundel Castle, in case you're interested.  

Oh, and I was amused to find that one of my curls had survived the day!  But only one:  

Oh well.