How to Begin Your Historical Costuming Journey (whilst carving a turnip because happy Hallowe’en)

How to Begin Your Historical Costuming Journey (whilst carving a turnip because happy Hallowe’en)

So, one of the questions and comments and messages that I get most frequently is from people who are just beginning in their historical costuming journeys or who have not yet begun and are interested in beginning. However they’re not quite sure where to start. I’m not entirely sure why they’re asking me, but of course I always do my best to give my own little two cents of advice. And I thought maybe it might be a nice idea to make a little chatty video talking about the subject whilst carving a little turnip because who just wants to watch me sit and talk for however long this video is going to be probably quite long. So put the kettle on, grab yourself a snack, and together we shall have a little inspiring chat I hope, and put a face on this turnip. Because ’tis the season. Hallowe’en is nigh, if you couldn’t tell from my meager attempt at set dressing. Actually, I’ve got fairy lights, hold on I’m going to be right back. Ok, am I proper aesthetic trash now? Because I think this looks not very much different, but please enjoy. So, as we were saying, beginner costuming and stuff… You may actually be surprised, or probably not surprised, to learn that I consider myself to still be quite a beginner at all of this. And that is because, I mean to be fair, I really only started seriously putting focus and concentration into my sewing about two years ago. And I’ve only been doing original practice for just over… about a year and a half. So certainly in terms of original practice I am most definitely still a beginner. And I think that’s really where, I would say, my sewing journey began because that’s sort of where I started caring. And also I think where I started to show significant signs of improvement. A rapid improvement and substantial improvement. Because for a lot of the time, for the other 8 years I think that I was “sewing” I was just sort of self-taught and flailing around and not quite sure where to look for information. Because you can very well be self-taught, that’s all perfectly valid. It’s just that you have to know how to teach yourself and what you need to learn. Which I didn’t quite know. And of course there is the fact that I sort of feel like I constantly have no idea what I’m doing. But to be fair, none of us really know what we’re doing. Because we’re all, especially within the historical costuming area of things, we’re all just interpreting and we’re guessing based on the information that has survived history. Which obviously gets into the question of ‘What does survive?’, ‘Has everything survived?’ No, it probably has not. ‘What important things have been lost?’ And ‘Why have the things survived that have survived?’ [adorable squeaking sounds] Awwwhaw! You want turnip? Can piggies eat turnip? This smells good I bet, doesn’t it? And of course if we want to get technical, have any of us really put in the proper 7 year apprenticeship under a master tailor and then gone on of course to study and then practice and then work in one specific area of garment production. No, none of us are just sitting around making 18th century mantuas or, I don’t know, men’s coats for the rest of our lives. We have the privilege nowadays, in our modern era, to have a wealth of historical information and periods and styles that we can reflect on and go and dabble in. Exploring these periods, which I think is just so very magical. So no, we will probably never be able reproduce perfectly, exactly what was done in the period only because we just don’t put in that kind of dedication to the practice. And there’s nothing wrong with that because we put in dedication and practice to other things that, you know, an 18th century mantua maker would not have had the opportunity to. So there’s that of course. But in terms of actual advice Firstly of course, you need the motivation and the direction, I suppose of where physically do you actually begin. If you’ve never even set foot into the costuming world you may need some vague direction of where do you actually physically begin. I think you begin with motivation and with inspiration I suppose. Just this interest in historical clothing or in costuming or whatever it is and a, I guess, perceived dedication to want to devote your time to doing it. So once of course you have this motivation and this interest, which I presume you do if you’ve clicked on this video. An- Oh… Oh no… Then you need to focus on the practicalities of, you know, how much money do you need to invest in this. The answer I think is not very much. “What kind of sewing machine do you need?”
“What sort of fabric do you use?” “Where do you get your patterns?”
And all of that. Everyone’s got their favourite sources for things and of course geographically it depends… …where you live and what you have access to. But I don’t thi- I mean I’m personally of the biased opinion that you do not need a sewing machine to do historical sewing. Obviously, as I have a machine and I don’t use it very much. It’s still very, very possible to make well made and strong and durable clothing by hand Obviously because they did it all throughout history for centuries and centuries and centuries of human clothing making existence before the sewing machine came about in 1850. So that’s quite a long time of hand stitching. I cannot give you machine recommendations unless it’s one of these fancy hand turned Singers. Which I do recommend if you’re doing Victorian, it’s fantastic. But other than that, I don’t know, I’ve been using some Bernina. Don’t even get near me with industrial machine recommendations, because [whoosh]. In terms of finding fabric… See here in New York we’re very spoiled, we’ve got the beautiful garment district and of course if you live in Los Angeles or Chicago I think, Washington. Any big city, I think, will have some sort of garment district or at least a couple of nice independent fabric stores. I’m really very much a fan of the independently owned fabric shops, I think. They just find so much more variety. But of course there are other places that are not fabric shops to get fabric if you are on a very tight budget, or if you Literally if this is your first garment and you don’t want to buy a nice silk or a linen or something because you know you will be terrified to cut into it because how do you know how it’s gonna turn out? If this is your first garment, I would highly, highly recommend just playing around with muslin. Muslin is very basic unbleached cotton. It’s 100% natural fiber which I always, always, always recommend for historical pre-20th century projects. As much as is possible without crippling your bank account. And so muslin is really great just for experimenting with the patterns and the shapes of historical garments How they fit together, and of course it will have sort of a similar effect of the drape of you know, a natural fiber because cotton is also a plant, as is linen. I feel like they behave sort of similarly obviously. Anything before the 18th century would not likely have been a nice fine cotton like muslin is, but muslin is cheap. Quilting cotton, I feel like, can also be very inexpensive even if it’s got some sort of wacky print on it. But yes, muslin is very inexpensive and it’s not hard to come by, you can often get very large quantities of it and just cut it up and drape it and work out your patterns. Working in half-scale is also a really, really great way to conserve fabric while also getting to understand the shapes a little bit so if you want to experiment with Janet Arnold, which I will talk about more in a bit. You know, scaling up a Janet Arnold pattern into half-scale size so that it is only about this- I think half-scale to a human is about this big. So you still get quite a decent sense of what the garment would be without necessarily requiring full amounts of yardage. There of course also are charity shops, thrift stores, that will carry often sheets, curtains that often can be made of natural materials or at least provide a very nice, large expanse of material for you to play around with and experiment for not very much money. And in terms of patterns of course you can always go for the big commercial Simplicity, Butterick, those type patterns. They do, and are getting better about, carrying more costumey things. If you want to work modern of course they’ve got tons and tons and tons of things for that. But they don’t tend to be the most historically accurate patterns and so if you’re trying to learn about the history of dress whilst of course experimenting with practical sewing I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s the best place to learn because the shapes are not going to be as accurate as what exists on extant garments. The closures and the finishings just wont be the same in the instruction. Janet Arnold, the ‘Patterns of Fashion’ books of course are I think, personally, the best place to go for patterns. They are completely different from working with commercial patterns and that’s a whole different subject which I think- probably won’t get in to right now. Just, working with and scaling up and piecing together the printed patterns that don’t necessarily come with instructions. However the shapes in the books are taken from extant garments and so to understand how the garments look from two dimensions to three dimensions. Putting them together that way will teach you so much about the construction of historical dress. That being said there are quite a few independent patterning suppliers out there who- [wailing sirens] that are of course much clearer than a Janet Arnold book, but certainly much, much, much more historically accurate than one of the big commercial pattern companies would be. Only because they are often done and drafted by a specific individual who really really cares about the history of dress and is not just pushing out patterns because Outlander is the hit TV show nowadays and everybody wants to make 18th century undress. I haven’t done as much work with independent patterns or commercial patterns in general as I think I ought to have done and that I would really like to do. I know Redthreaded has some fantastic corset and stays and bodies patterns. If you’re interested in doing corsets and stays, she’s drafted her patterns based off of extant stays in museums and so the shapes are going to be “historically accurate” or whatever that term actually means or doesn’t mean. And of course she provides instructions and grainlines and seam allowances and all those modern conveniences of commercial patterns. There are also of course Truly Victorian which I have just recently worked with and I found them really helpful. The pattern specifically that I used, there was a note in the instructions that says it was copied from an existing pattern from the period and so that was incredible to work with because it was effectively working with a late 19th century pattern, without of course having to find or damage an existing pattern. So that was great. I’m not sure if all of them are, or if some of them are just patterned based off of illustrations from patterning books and fashion plates. I think some of them are, but that’s still, you know, somebody who knows a lot about the 19th century, clearly, and is of course presenting to you their interpretation of what these clothes might have looked like. And the important thing to note is that all of this, as I have said, is an interpretation. Speaking of which, the second most important thing to have on your radar as a beginning historical costumer is research. I really ought to have cut the bottom off of this… Then it will sit flat. I don’t think I ever explained but… apparently before pumpkin carving was a thing turnip carving was a thing. And so… I’ve taken to just carving turnips because… why not? Whole Foods had this listed as a “Sunchoke”. This is most definitely, clearly a turnip. I don’t know what a Sunchoke is. I’ve never heard the term ‘Sunchoke’. Is it like, an American term for Turnip or something? Like an Aubergine, Eggplant type discrepancy? Has anyone heard of a Sunchoke? Because this is most definitely a Turnip. But apparently it was tradition to carve turnips to ward away the evil spirits or whatever in Britain and Ireland. Because pumpkins are obviously a native of the Americas. Historical Jack-o’-lanterns, perhaps that’s what I’ll call this video. Nobody will watch it. So, when looking for research it is very important to focus on primary research, primary sources. As opposed to secondary sources which are sources that were made made, produced, exist outside of the period of origin. And so things like surviving garments, extant garments in museums that survive from the period, written accounts of things that would have been worn, illustrations and fashion plates, wardrobe accounts, wills, all that sort of stuff, of course, are the best information that you can come across. Obviously, of course, there are books written by scholars outside of the period which are also definitely good to consult. It’s also just generally, I think, important to read a lot and of course not just read, but watch documentaries and go to museums and explore history and whatever. Because when you’re making a costume or a garment it just makes so much more difference, I think, to have a cultural, social, political context for the clothes that you are making. It just sort of, I don’t know, when you have an understanding of the agricultural process involved in cultivating certain dye stuffs and fibers for fabrics. I feel like you just have so much more of an understanding of the cost of the labor and the effort that went into producing the materials for these garments. And then of course studying social history and political history gives you an idea of the people who were wearing the clothes, which is hugely important. It would, I think, influence how the clothes moved, how they were worn. You know, what that specific type of person had to be doing during the day. That would reflect, of course, in how the clothes were put on to the body. So if you’re a land worker, if you are, you know, a physical laborer, you’re going to wear your clothes a little bit differently from somebody who has to do no physical labor whatsoever. Some of these things are things that can be learned by physically making the clothes yourself and wearing them. Which is something that really interests me. I sort of like to take a “experimental archaeology” approach to dress history, in that I like to practically reconstruct the clothes in order to get a sense of how they were made and how they were worn, and of course the people that were wearing them. So for example, when I made the 15th century red gown, of course it wasn’t made based off of an extant garment and so some of the aspects of the garment were my interpretation because it was based off of a painting. But I then got to wear it and of course it’s got a skirt that’s 12 inches longer than my height to the floor. And so, just the physical act of walking was so much effort and you really get a sense of “Wow, these noble women clearly weren’t doing very much labor” but they were also very impeded physically by their clothing. They’ve got these sleeves that go to the floor and the hems that sort of trap them in a lake of fabric at their feet and they can’t go anywhere very quickly. So yeah, it’s just really interesting information to think about but I’m getting off on a wild tangent on that. But… books! Books are so very important. I think there’s still so much to be learned from books. The internet is of course a fantastic resource but publishing, printing, writing in books is one of the oldest forms of record keeping in human history and so some really, really valuable information still resides only in printed form. I could go on in a whole separate video on all of my personal favourite books. Janet Arnold’s ‘Patterns of Fashion’, which I know I’ve mentioned probably several times in this video by now is literally my bible. Janet Arnold is my lord and saviour. But I just find her books so incredibly useful to learning about clothes. I reference them constantly, I think, in every single project that I do. One of the most important things to remember though about reading and about, I mean, any form of secondary research, or primary research really, is to read questioningly and to read critically. I cannot tell you how many times I have been told this. But also it’s sort of common sense once you start to read enough and find little areas of contradiction in things and “Oh how come this author has said this one thing?” and “this author is saying something else” But, the most important thing to know is that, especially within secondary sources that were produced after the period. These people are interpreting evidence that they are coming across and so- That’s not to say as a beginner that your interpretation is going to be somehow miraculously more superior than an academic who’s studied the subject for however many years because I know for a while I had teachers who would tell me “Oh, read critically and don’t trust anything that’s written in a book” and to an extent that’s very, very true. You should not just wildly go trusting everything that you read. However there is definitely a learning curve. You have to know a certain breadth of information, I think have a foundation of information before you can go saying “Oh this person is probably wrong.” Which is actually probably good advice in itself. In that if you’re researching a topic, you shouldn’t just read one source and take it for the gospel. You should seek out a wide range of sources, sort of get an idea of what people are saying. What they’re agreeing on, what might not be addressed, perhaps contradicting within texts. And then of course based on what you’ve read, form your own opinion. There is so much information available on the internet that is freely and readily available to anyone who can just click on a webpage, which I think is absolutely fantastic. So things like, museum collections online. A lot of museums are digitizing their collections and putting the photographs and the information of objects online which is fantastic. A lot of libraries are starting to digitize their records which is amazing. The New York Public Library which is, of course, my local library so I can just go there. But they also have a fantastic digital collection of a lot of really, really old and rare manuscripts that have been very useful to me in my research in the past. And then of course there is the whole realm of blogs, of YouTube tutorials, which starts to get a little bit tricky in the academic sense because, I mean, anyone can just sign up for a blog page and start writing about whatever. And so that’s particularly where I think you have to read questioningly and ask yourself “Where has this person gotten their information?”
“What are their sources?” Because some of these people are really, really fantastic scholars and, y’know, are trained in this kind of thing and have done their research and what they’re doing is probably more in depth than you may have time to be doing if you’re costuming under a time constraint. And so that of course will be a tremendous resource to you. But a lot of people have started to post and to chronicle their own sewing processes, which may or may not be useful in terms of the historical research side of things but will most definitely be useful in terms of technique. So if you’re curious about “I don’t know how to set a sleeve” there are so many blog posts out there on the internet about “Here’s step by step how I’m draping my 18th century sleeve” and of course one tip I think to look for in blog posts and tutorials and things are people who are framing their content as “Here’s how I’m doing it, this is my experiment” versus the people who are telling you “This is a tutorial, this is how to do it”, because that’s where I start to get a little bit prickly in that there’s no one way to do anything, I think, in the sewing world. There are a hundred different valid ways and produce equally beautiful results. And of course with historical techniques, things were done loads of different ways throughout the centuries and so to say “This is the one way that button holes were done in the 16th century” I don’t think is completely valid to say. So yes, I think it should go without saying that my videos are absolutely not tutorials. This is all just my experimentation with making historical dress and is sort of why I still feel like I’m a beginner at all of this. So yes, I think it is because there is so much information, so easily accessible out there people nowadays are learning so quickly. It’s funny because there are people who I have been following on Instagram who started off as complete beginners and within the span of about a year, a year and a half, have just become absolutely astounding with the work that they produce and it’s all because there are such fantastic resources, I think out there to help people who are learning how to sew, who are learning how to pattern, who are learning just anything about historical dress in general. There are also now so many more people within the historical costuming community. Which of course means that there are so many more people out there to ask for help. One of the most important things, I think, is to find yourself some nice supportive friends. And I don’t mean like, you know, “Go out and make friends.” I mean sort of, in a way, but like A lot of the people who have been most helpful to me are people who I have met on Instagram. People who have been- we’ve been following each other mutually and it’s not just “Hey I’m not sure how to do this type of stitch, do you know how to do it?” It’s more of in a sense of, you know, being able to go on to Instagram daily and see “Oh this is what this person is up to” and “This person is making fantastic progress on this gown and it’s looking so amazing.” Not letting yourself feel inferior to these people because they are producing such fantastic work that of course you don’t feel that you can match up to. Which of course we all feel! But instead, letting that inspire you and say “Oh, this person is doing exactly what I’m doing.” We’re all just doing this in whatever free time we can manage. “This person has learned how to do it this fantastically then perhaps I can learn how to do this too.” And of course it’s always very helpful to find courses, to find workshops and classes that you can take on special techniques. Costume College, I have learned, is a fantastic resource for this. Of course they’re very short, y’know, couple of hour workshops and it may be worth doing a little bit of local investigating, I know sometimes community centres or… Here in New York we’ve got a fantastic wealth of independent classes, we’ve got FIT that does non-credit courses. There is of course the Textile Arts Center, which- You know, all these specialised little places that will teach things that will be interesting to you. Such as natural dyeing or perhaps knitting. The School of Historical Dress in London is literally the single best place on the planet to go to learn anything regarding historical dress. And today of course offer currently short courses, little weekend workshops, sometimes a couple of days at the weekdays but they’re so, so very helpful. And then of course these often involve time and money and travel, but conferences and study days and things are of course not only good for learning very, very, very specialised and valuable information but will also put you- I mean any of these things really, will just put you in a room with people who have like interests. Which of course brings me back to having a community of people who you can look up to, who you can be inspired by, who can support you and you can support in return. I think in order to do this you really have to have a bit of discipline. It’s very important to have patience with yourself because obviously you’re not going to produce a perfect garment the first time you try it. You’re probably not going to produce a perfect garment the first five times you try it. And honestly you’re probably not going to produce the perfect garment any time ever because of course that great beast perfectionism seems to be a running trait amongst any of us crafty, creative folk. In that, we’re never quite satisfied with what we do and we always find the littlest flaws in everything. But it is, I think, worth remembering that we all have those insecurities and even that person who is on Instagram posting that beautiful gown that you’re just swooning over is probably just looking at the side seams saying “Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m posting this on the Internet” but, you know, other people just see a beautiful gown and I think that’s just so magical. It is really nice to have that kind of support to realise that oh this thing that you’ve been agonising over this thing that, to you, is just the bane of your existence and looks absolutely hideous. People are going to find very, very, very nice things to say about it and that’s very encouraging. Encouragement. That’s very important and that’s often times not something that you can provide for yourself. Because it’s difficult to acknowledge that your own work is good and that it’s worth continuing. It’s very easy to just say “Oh this project isn’t turning out how I want it to and therefore I’m just gonna put it away and maybe I’ll get back to my sewing some other time, some other month when I have time.” Which is going to be never! But it’s really, really, really- I cannot even tell you how reassuring it is to know that there are people out there, people who are supporting you, people who are waiting to see what wonderful things you can do, people who believe in you, people who are really interested in following your journey. It’s just so, so wonderful. The costuming community in my opinion is one of, I think, the most supportive and encouraging and loving communities out there. I mean, I’m not part of every community ever, but I just I have to say, I’m very personally proud of us historical costumers. We’re a very non-aggressive, non-competitive, non-malicious group of people, generally. Who just really want to see one another succeed. And what I have found is that there are people with vast amounts of followings and all that kind of numerical glory and whatever, but there’s nobody who really feels that they are better than other people. We’re all sort of weirdly in the same struggle-boat and nobody that I can think of is very exclusive in their in their attitudes. Everybody sort of wants to be approached and really wants to have a chat about what they’re doing and they’ll turn around and say “Oh my god, I cannot believe you think this is decent quality.” And you’re just sitting there like “How do you not think that your work is fantastic? How do you not see this?” So positivity, a good attitude, that is just as vital I think as- I mean, more vital in my own opinion than having a sewing machine. Just believing that yes, this is something you can achieve and you can probably achieve in a relatively short amount of time. You can probably learn enough to be making garments that you can then wear to events, can start wearing for your own experimentation. There are so many people out there who will want to help you along on your journey, so all you really have to do is reach out and ask people. And so finally I think the last important thing is to just be persistent about it. You need to make time to do it. Sewing is of course a skill as any other thing that requires practice and requires time and effort in order to get good at it. I know there’s that 10,000 hour theory that’s been floating around for a while and if you’re not familiar with it then it’s basically you know, you need to put in 10,000 hours of effort into a skill in order to be sort of considered a ‘master.’ And of course it doesn’t necessarily take ten thousand hours to be competent at sewing, but you- The point is you do need to be prepared to put in regular and consistent and devoted effort into the skill in order to feel like you’re improving and getting better at it. Which will of course then motivate you to continue on your journey, because who wants to do something that they don’t feel that they’re getting better at. And so I think the reason that a lot of these people are growing so quickly in their historical costuming and certainly the reason why I feel I have grown relatively quickly in my own stitching is because I have put so many ridiculous hours into doing this. The first original practice garment I ever made was June of 2017. So a year ago, a bit over a year ago. That was the first garment I had made entirely by hand. Granted I was doing this under the tutelage of some very, very experienced people who were able to guide me in what I was doing, which was certainly a very big help but ever since I made that one little pair of pocket hoops I just fell in love with stitching by hand and I just didn’t put it down. I mean, I still haven’t. I worked original practice all summer and then I came home and went back to school and even through my university classes and projects and thesis and all that sort of graduation stuff I just always had an original practice sewing project on the side that I would come home and I would do every night. You know, I had a couple of days a week where I would devote- you know, I’d have about four hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays and “this is gonna be my sewing time.” Just because it was something that was so important to me, it was something that I really, really wanted to get better at, something that really interested me. And I really just wanted to be part of this fantastic community that I could see not only, you know, the people that I got to work with in the summer but online. All these fantastic costumers that I just- “Oh, I really want to be part of this community” You know, you don’t have to be good, you just have to be doing it, I think. An then skill and “talent” and improvement, whatever all that is, will come naturally of course with practice. I’ll tell you a secret, and that is that I used to really hate sewing. I think one of the important things is to realise that the journey is precious. I just saw it as just a necessary means in order to have this wonderful- I mean semi-wonderful… I mean… sort of cobbled together, finished outfit or costume or whatever it was. And the sewing was just this laborious process that stood in the way between that. But ever since I started original practice and started working by hand and started sort of appreciating the slow process of building clothes and the amount of time that you get to spend thinking about the construction of the garment and learning so much about the construction of the garment and how it was made and what it would have been like to make and wear these clothes within the period. I just fell in love with it from then. And not just the costumes, the pretty clothes, but the actual process of making the clothes became something sort of magical to me and now, of course, I make so many! I’ve always got an original practice historical clothing project going on and I’m devoting so much more time to it that I’m producing more clothes, more quickly and now I’m getting to the point where it’s like “Well what do I do with all of these? I don’t have space to store all of these clothes.” “I have to start making things for the people because I just really now enjoy the making of the clothes” You know, “I have to start making YouTube videos because I’m making so much clothing and I have to give myself a reason, you know, an excuse to…” Anyway… you know, I don’t have the space to- I live in a room! I live in Manhattan! A’int nobody got storage space for ten pound wool gowns. So, that’s not to say that you have to adopt original practice in order to start loving sewing but you know you can be very, very- You can do beautiful historical work by machine and there are loads and loads of people who do. And in fact I envy you because I never quite mastered the sewing machine And so, if you can do beautiful period work by machine I very, very much envy you. But my point is to take your time with the clothes and to really absorb the information. The things that they have to teach you is just it’s one of the most magical things about this whole hobby And weirdly I think if you want to get into historical sewing just to have pretty gowns I mean, that’s valid too but I don’t know, I just can’t fathom it. It seems like an extraordinarily time consuming waste of time if you’re not going to enjoy it because these things do take time. The actual process of constructing historical clothing does take time whether you do it by machine or by hand it is definitely far more time consuming than constructing a modern garment or having another hobby like painting or like playing tennis or something. Photography, whatever. Constructing historical clothing takes so much time and it always did. These things were built to last you a lifetime or to be, you know, opulent and adored and if it’s a court gown or something of nobility, it’s something that was meant to display wealth and display the excess of time and labor involved in the making of these gowns and so to put in a similar- not necessarily, you know, months and months I mean, you could very well, but you know, of labour into these gowns, it’s very historically accurate, it’s very original practice, but it’s also very necessary in order to obtain a similar sort of outcome of garment. So yes, my turnip friend, I think, is relatively complete. He’s got a little face. And I’ve got a tealight, we’ll light him up. But I think that’s really all I have to say on the matter. Yeah, so have motivation, do your research, do lots and lots and lots of reading, find yourself a community. Find people who will support you. I think that is one of the most vital things. Not only to pull you in but to keep you going when you have these moments, these inevitable moments of “I can’t do this anymore, this is taking too long” or “I’m doing it wrong” or “This isn’t good” or “I’ll never be as good as this person.” It’s vital to have people to go to who will turn around and say “No no no no no, your work is valid”, “Your work is so beautiful”, “Your work is necessary”, “You can improve”, “You can do this”, “We’ve all gone through similar journeys.” It just does wonders for keeping you doing it and for reminding you how much you love it because I promise you there is quite a lot to love. It is so, so very fulfilling and rewarding I can tell you from my own experience. So… Yes. Thank you very much for watching this probably long video. I’m not quite sure how long it’s been, and my poor guinea pig wants his dinner. So, let’s see what this guy does. It’s gotten quite dark out! So yes, that is all I’ve got for you this week. I hope that was encouraging, inspiring, useful, helpful. If you are a beginner, welcome, I very much look forward to seeing you around and seeing all of the wonderful things that you make and all of your fantastic improvement. Do go down into the comments section below if you are looking other people to connect with. Hopefully you all can have some little chats and find each other on Instagram or on YouTube or wherever else people post nice historical costumey things. And I hope you get around to doing some sewing this week. Make some time, set aside some very, very important sewing time. Pick up that project that you’ve been meaning to do for ages or pick up sewing if you’ve been meaning to do that for ages or… carve yourself a turnip. Read a book. Do some exploring. Do some learning. Get some knowledge. And have a very happy Hallowe’en. [soft guinea pig squeaks] Oh, Ok. No? Fine.

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  1. Thanks Bernadette, I happily falling into the rabbit hole of exploring historical costume and seeing what I can start making, you’re great!

  2. I know this video is almost a year old but I wanted to thank you. I cannot sew even a button but I have wanted to know how to sew and create clothes for over fifteen years. But this really inspired me to try—and also start my vlogging journey.

    Wishing you the best from a fellow NYC resident.

  3. life hack: a cheap way to get fabric for regency dresses and such is to by a duvey from goodwill or a thrift store and use the cover

  4. A year late, but in case you're still wondering – sunchokes are starchy tubers from very tall fast-growing annual plants. They're also called "jerusalem artichokes;" absolutely no relation (or similar appearance) to turnips. They can be prepared like potatoes, though they cause some people a lot of gas.

  5. As someone who has a very antagonistic relationship with her sewing machine, I am so appreciative of the encouragement you give that it's possible to do beautiful work just by hand sewing. I'm so inspired by you!

  6. Glad I have re-watched this video. I recently completed a re-do of my Renaissance Faire outfit in time for my 30th birthday–which I went to the faire to celebrate. xD

    I am truly happy with the difference that my hand-sewing did this time around. I redid the neckline on my camicia by hand and am so much more happier with it this time around. I redid the gamurra by adding a two layer zip-tie boned bodice and I removed the skirt that I had initially tacked on with box pleats and re-attached it with cartridge pleats (also by hand). I have been finding that I like to do a combination of hand sewing and machine sewing. I should post a side by side comparison on IG to celebrate my improvements. 🙂

    The list of amazing sewers and makers I have found keeps growing after I came across your channel. The amount of resources and people willing to share online is truly amazing and I have so many people to thank (and that list keeps growing)! It's a really amazing community and perhaps some day I too will find friends who share my same quirks!

  7. In denmark, traditionally they carved sugar beets. (They grow a lot of suger beets here and they can get quite large!) But now most people who cellebrate halloween carve pumpkins.

  8. If you’re in eastern MA, there is this great little discount fabric store called Sewfisticated where you can get a yard of wool for seven bucks.
    Here is the website. You can’t order online, but it has store information.

  9. please do a video on books! I need to feed my bookcase and have no idea where to start with handsewing. You have no idea how long its taken me to find anything on sewing garments by hand. It's just not something readily available/of interested to mose people.

  10. According to google, a sunchoke is also called Jerusalem artichoke, and looks a lot like ginger root, so they obviously just mislabeled it. Hope you didn't pay too much for your turnip!

  11. I definitely need a community of historical costumers. I recently started sewing this year and just starting to dive into the historical reconstruction side of things. I have fallen in love with the process of sewing and its become a new addition. Hoping to join Foundations Revealed if they open for Fall 2019 and dreaming of attending my first Costume College next summer. Please send me your instagram names or find me on there as Arachnacat if you are interested in building a costuming community too 🙂

  12. So, cooking a big breakfast scramble whilst listening and (somewhat) watching, so, not Nobody. Also; sunchokes are the roots of sunflower seeds and are lovely to steam and mash. Also, Janet Arnold is indeed the bomb.

  13. I have been sewing since Feb. of 2014. The year after my father passed away. Mostly, jackets, how ever I will be doing more and more, during this fall. Both more Victorian and Edwardian.

  14. One thing I Almost Learned Too Late : when learning historic or heritage interpretation of garments on your own — play more often with small scale reproductions. Make dress forms at small scale to learn how garments can go together. Or not. Use thrift store dolls and stuffies to create a minidress form on an old lamp or papertowel holder!. "Practice" means making mistakes and mistakes at 1/3 scale is so much more cost effective than human scale mistakes. That is NOT a sunchoke — which is also know as "jerusalem artichoke" — sunflower botanical family — Helianthus tuberosus. Wonderful and tasty cottage garden flower root vegie.

  15. I second thing I Did Learn Too Late: do not expect to make a living by making historic/heritage costumes for others. But that's not enuf reason to ignore the aspirations.

  16. When i was 13 my parents made a garden, and grew a lot of rutabagas, and i think they looked just like the "turnips' you are carving. I had no idea what to do with them, and my parents did not like to eat them, i think. They were beginners at gardening. I found that my young german sheppard/collie dog liked to chase them like a ball, and would dutifully get it into her mouth and return it to me. I would have freaked to know i could carve it like a pumpkin!!

  17. Sunchoke is a regional term for a Jerusalem artichoke, a rather delicious vegetable that's excellent for regulating thyroid function.

  18. Watching this again a year later…
    so aesthetic….
    I love it, and am planning on carving a turnip, because it looks awesome.

  19. I was born in Scotland & we carved turnips there. Swedes too & we called them turnips as well LOL. When I was little, Dad drove my little brother & I to a nearby turnip farm in the evening & told us "Quick, go pull 1 up & get right back in the car", it was after all, a cold & dark October eve in Scotland for his 2 small children. Catholic schooling had made me a nervous kid, there was no farmer there to tell me it was OK to take a turnip, so I started crying. Poor Dad was trying to make a grand adventure for us & I was so scared that I was howling like a banshee; "Dad, is this stealing? Cos you said stealing's bad." After failing to convince me, he finally said, "#%[email protected] – Joanne, go & get the %*$#ing turnip & get back in the *&^%$# car". His attempt at a fun-packed pre-Hallowe'en adventure with his kids was never spoken of again. Damn you, Catholic education system with your evil green Catechism book & your guilt!

  20. I don’t have any skills when it comes to sewing or anything like that but I appreciate historical clothes. I love watching your videos! You have a lovely voice and calling yourself garbage for things you love makes me giggle. You are so amazing. Thank you for keeping me entertained and teaching me so many things.

  21. I love you and your channel, your very unique and inspiring me! I have a question for you, could you make a video and tell us more about you, like your story, I would love to know more about your and your back story? Thanks for sharing your talents with us your beautiful and your videos have truly inspired me to start seeing, I've always dreamed about creating my very own wardrobe and can't wait to get started! ♥♥♥

  22. I loved, LOVED this video. My favorite part when you said "ain't nobody got storage space for 10 lb gown.. lol. And when you said…. everything, this entire video was wonderful. Thanks. It's been a year but Happy Halloween to you and cesario.

  23. A sun choke is a Jerusalem artichoke, not much like a turnip and also not at all like a regular artichoke, it’s a starchy tuber, indeed somewhat ginger looking but with a texture somewhere between potato and water chestnut :p

  24. I was tearing up when you were talking about someone's work being valid and that you have to work through the moments of doubt. I've been stuck in such a creative rut for years but it's so important to pursue something that's meaningful to you and to find a supportive community for those days when it's all too much.

  25. Thanks, again, for talking about walking (or not) in historical dress. There's always work to do.
    And, yes, in Canada some of us have carved turnips and squash for lanterns.

  26. That is NOT a sunchoke. Sunchokes are Jerusalem artichokes, and look nothing like that. I think yer whole foods guys need to do some research

  27. I have been watching a lot of your videos this weekend. And you have inspired me to fix a pair of my daughters pajama bottoms by hand. I have been putting fixing her clothes off for a few years now. After losing bobbin case to my sewing machine (and other machine skipping stiches) I lacked to motivation to sew. My hand sewing skills are sub par at best. But after watching some of your techniques. I picked up my needle and thread and starting sewing. Not sure how the seams are going to hold up, but I'll soon see.
    At the time of watching this video I was working on my main passion, Painting. I was able to complete one small little painting. And get a few more started. Hopefully they don't become UFOs. Because I already have enough of them! =)

  28. The crumb trail continues
    Costume college 2019 to Making a Regency Bodiced
    Petticoat Jacques-Louis
    David Portrait Doppelgange.

  29. At the end, I teared up at the reminder to find your community, find your people for encouragement who say "you CAN do this, you WILL get better, your work IS necessary!"

  30. What a thought-provoking topic! I thoroughly enjoyed your talk about it.

    I guess my journey started when I was 10 or 11 years old when playing dress-up with some of my mother’s older dresses from the late 1940’s. One of the dresses was a skirt and blouse combo in the same fabric. The blouse had a peplum and cool buttons to close up the front.

    It is a family tradition in my mother’s family for the women to watch Gone With The Wind when it would appear in the movie theatre……it was my privilege to attend with my 3 daughter’s and my daughter-in-law a showing of GWTW at a nearby movie theatre to celebrate it’s 80th anniversary.
    After seeing the movie, the first time(in 1973) I had always wanted to make a pre-Civil War era dress with a hoop and crinolines. In the late 1990’s, I said to myself, “If not now, when?” I found a GWTW dress pattern in the Simplicity pattern book, got some cotton fabric in a small flowered print, and just plunged into it. It took a couple weeks to finish around my job and caring for my kids. I made a crocheted hair net, and a small crocheted drawstring handbag. So much fun!

  31. Ideas in my “Future Projects” notebook:

    late 1600’s Quaker woman’s basic house dress……….One branch of my father’s family tree were Quakers that immigrated from north of London England in the 1600’s and settled in Pennsylvania in the Philadelphia area. Amazon has a couple books on Kindle related to this time period and this group of people.

    Late 1600’s Dutch woman’s basic house dress……one branch of my mother’s family and one branch of my mother-in-law’s family came over in the late 1600’s from Holland on the ship, “Bonte Coe” (which is Dutch for Spotted Cow)

  32. I love watching you 'nerd out' over a new technique or historical tidbit you haven't previously discovered. I can so relate. For me, however, it is the process of 'sheep to sweater' that gets the creative juices flowing. It wasn't enough just to knit. I had to know how the yarn was spun, the fiber dyed and prepared, which animal it came from and why. The infinite complexity of it all is fascinating. Also, the amount a work required to turn raw wool into fiber dyed an prepped for spinning, spin it into yarn, then knit/crochet/weave said yarn into a garment takes 100's of hours. As you said in your video, it is the love of the process that spurs us on as much as the end product.

  33. So this has been something I have been thinking about for a few days now; it was something that was mentioned in one of your videos, and something a client said to me (I work as a massage therapist).

    I believe it was the one you built the corset. You mentioned the author of the book would put some panels off the straight grain a bit. That little bit of information echoed in the back of my mind these passed few days. Then today during a massage, there was a statement made about the directional grain of the muscle.

    So, I started to envision a garment with straight grains mimicking the layout of the muscle grains in the human body. Would it function better? Worse?

    I do have a sewing background, but I am still very much a beginner with it. I understand the basic fundamentals of sewing and patterning, but this thought process has made me curious to see how something like this would look.

  34. Sunchoke is another name for Jerusalem Artichoke, which is neither from Jerusalem nor an artichoke. Sunchokes are the tuberous roots of a type of sunflower, and they are definitely NOT turnips! Apparently, someone a long time ago mangled the pronunciation of "girasole" (Italian for "sunflower") into "Jerusalem," and they are supposed to taste somewhat reminiscent of artichokes, though I've never caught the similarity. Can't say they taste like turnips either, though they are very good for you.

  35. I ‘discovered’ Bernadette only a short two weeks ago. That being said, I was in the bakery department of one of my local purveyors of groceries where I struck up a conversation about gingerbread with another shopper. I mentioned that I had been inspired by a beautiful , young vlogger who , along with a friend, had decided to bake some based on a Victorian recipe that she has. The woman’s eyes widened in surprise as she said, “Yes! Bernadette Banner”! I felt shocked, momentarily speechless and like I had found a kindred spirit….whom I will probably never see again, which is fine. So Bernadette, please know that you are known quite well here in Washington State.

  36. a sun choke is a Jerusalem artichoke. ( also called : sunroot, earth apple it is a species of a sunflower. ) you have a turnip . thats odd they posted it that way. love your videos.

  37. My parents (I am from Germany) told me, that they used to carve turnips and put them on sticks to scare people through windows around the time of our modern Halloween.

    Thank you for another lovley video.

  38. the art of turnip carving, a much more difficult sport than pumpkin carving…turnips were what we as kids carved in NI before the arrival of pumpkins…they smelled terribly after a few days !…tfs, an interesting video

  39. I am not so interested in historical garments, but I love fictional ones. The d'hen, a long coat with an enlarged and padded left sleeve for knife fighting, generally in drab colors. The havah, a style of dress with asymmetrical buttoning up the chest and a small collar and full-length skirt. I have no experience, but I want to learn to make them. Your two-year prowness gives me hope, and all your videos give me a starting point. Thank you, Bernadette.

  40. i need a pair of work worthy pants as the store i work in is quite cold in the winter i want wool (or woolish). but to find let alone buy a pair is crazy. so i want to sew my own, lined of course.

  41. I really want to get into historical sewing and my dream job is to be a social historian. I just can't find a good place to start and would feel strange being a 13 year old Victorian in the middle of a town with so much history that's been neglected in favour of more shopping centers for the tourists who come from the cruises

  42. That’s not a period-authentic match there, Bernadette.
    Of course, the old-school matches used to explode spontaneously sometimes, so …

  43. I’m watching this mainly because I’ve never seen anyone make a turnip Jack-O-Lantern. I know from reading that they used to be made from turnips or mangel-wurzels, or even carrots (very large carrots, I’m guessing). But this is the first one I’ve seen being made from a turnip. Next Halloween, I’ll make my own!

  44. About sun-chokes:
    A sun-choke is a real vegetable, Helianthus tuberosus. I used to grow it in my garden. It is more commonly called a Jerusalem artichoke, although it does not come from Jerusalem and it is not an artichoke. The Jerusalem artichoke is a type of sunflower with edible tubers. Cooked, the tubers taste something like potatoes. Eaten raw, they remind me of jicama or water chestnuts. The Jerusalem artichoke is one of the relatively few vegetables native to America north of Mexico (i.e., the USA and Canada). Native Americans have cultivated them since pre-Colombian times. Except that both grow in the ground, Jerusalem artichokes are not the least bit like turnips. Whole Foods might have labeled a turnip as a sun-choke, but … that’s Whole Foods for you.

    Your turnip, by the way, is a variety known as “Purple Top,” which is a very popular type
    that has been around for at least a couple of centuries.

  45. I've always been fascinated with historical garments and their construction. I'v been binge watching all your videos after work and feeling inspired. I love the Regency period.

  46. Sunchokes AKA Jerusalem Artichokes are an indigenous plant. Similar in some ways to turnips but not turnips

  47. Scatterbrained and quite backwards comments : "Sunchokes" are a marketer's way of saying "Jerusalem Artichoke". It's a type of perennial edible tuber in, I believe without explicitly consulting my botanical literature, the extended sunflower family, hence the name. I have seen Fennel labelled as "Anise" in every supermarket I have visited west of the Cascades (except the local Korean mart I think it's 회향). The plant is Fennel, the common commercial variety is "Anise". It's the equivalent of a store selling "Fuji" and "Opal" without divulging that they are all "apples".

    As far as sewing machines go, I can't really make recommendations, except get the most versatile one within your budget. Ikea sells a cheap one, but it won't be able to do as much work as many active seamstresses do (or are they called "sewists" these days? I quite like considering myself a "seamstress" nonetheless. I can't be a "baroness", so why not "seamstress"?) I have a Husqvarna Viking Emerald 116, which I think is the cheapest gear driven machine rather than a belt driven machine, which makes it possible for it to sew through tough materials, such as leather, duck, denim, and most recently, sequins, without too much effort, but also manages finer materials alright. My mother-in-law, who is an upholsterer, uses the same machine for most of her sewing. I also have a serger, but a strong hunch tells me you won't find a serged seam in most vintage garments.

  48. I can definitely confirm the importance of reasearch. I now have 4 shirts that are useable mockups that are from several decades after what I was aiming for. But now I really know how to make that particular shirt

  49. I don't know if anyone has commented on this, but a "sunchoke" is also a Jerusalem artichoke or an earth apple, oddly enough a type of sunflower and not thistle, like artichokes.

  50. My adventure started in the early 70's when I was asked to do costumes for the Moliere play, "Tartuffe". Then joining the SCA for about 7 years…and then again when my son was in high school theater… again another Moliere play, "The Imaginary Invalid". Yes, I volunteered to do the costumes, we had 70 pieces to do! I have a Bernina from the 70's, and your hand sewing really impresses me. Yes I have grown a sun choke…not a turnip.
    I recently watched a documentary on how linen is made…fascinating!

  51. The turnip carving definitely originates in Ireland not the UK. Jack O'Lantern comes from Jack of the Lantern referring to the Irish legend of "Stingy Jack". Oh and sunchokes are Jerusalem artichokes, they look a bit like ginger and grow in clusters like potatoes. I grow them in the garden. I love your videos!

  52. Thank you for the wonderful information! I actually bought the Patterns for Fashion volume I when I was in London on a whim, but haven't had much time to read it yet. I will work on it. 🙂

  53. I'd love to see you do a look book on your dress aesthetic. I love your style just like i love your channel.
    I've been doing research on clothing but I'm not confident to sew yet.

  54. Turnips make so much more sense than pumpkins! Life from underneath the ground just resonates with the night of the dead (and buried) than does a colorful squash.

  55. Sunchoke is another name for Jerusalem Artichoke. There has been a trend away from using the name Jerusalem Artichoke because they are native to North America, not the Middle East and are actually the tuber of a particular type of sunflower. However, a Sunchoke looks like a tuber similar to a sweet potato or ginger, that is definitely a turnip.

  56. Can you use new needles on your hand turn sewing machine? I would love to see a video all about the sewing machine. I dream of having one like that in the future.

  57. You're so blessed too be living in NYC! Among the incomparable resources available to you in your research is the Textile Conservation dept at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. These conservators know their subjects intimately, and their knowledge would no doubt prove invaluable in understanding historic costume/fashion!

  58. The "10,000 hours rule" is for you to be a master at something. Think like an athlete at Olympic competition level. That's what your 10k hours is.
    How long do you need to be competent? It's less than 100 hours.
    And just 20 hours for you to be somewhat competent.

  59. Hello Bernadette, I found you a couple of weeks ago, & have been enjoying your videos! My mother taught me to hand & machine sew when I was about 10 yrs old. She was a Home Economics major at college in the late 1950's, and passed on so much of her knowledge to me. Alas, my costume sewing has been limited to making them for my sons' Halloween costume requests. It was fun, but now they're grown & I can get back to more sewing for myself!

  60. a sun choke is a Jerusalem artichoke, a species of plant native to the US. the roots are all knobbly and you definitely have a turnip there XD

  61. I have no background in constructing garments or personal desire to sew in general (although admire all those who do) but I could listen to your videos for hours…I find your focus and the info you provide, no matter what it is, to be completely captivating! Thank you for sharing all you do!

  62. Do work with a script, outline? Do you rehearse? Are you lecturing extempore? Your talking head presentations are remarkable.

  63. A former teacher didn't talk about time frames. He said that you begin by assuming that you must make, say, 500,000 mistakes to get where you want to be. You don't fear them. You don't try to avoid them. They are essential to the learning process.

  64. I didn't see if anyone else has answered this for you, but the "sunchoke" is a local slang name for the Jerusalem Artichoke, a tuber that cooks similarly to potatoes, but whose flower looks like a wee sunflower.

  65. Endearing not tedious. You neglected to tell us your little friend's name. Be careful, dear– you are smearing yourself with turnip goo in your expressive gestures. Not the worst thing, I'm sure. But beware of smells in the near future. (I know– I'm responding to a year old video, but such is modern life; I'm sure you've laundered your shirt since.)
    Community? I'm a modeler (when not writing my memoirs) and our community are nothing but hermitic nuts. We all have ideas on how to shape styrene and that's the simplest part.
    Very nice face, by the way– an excellent little "lash" or "brow" nick on the sides of the eyes.

  66. Only here can I get a pep talk, learn new things, and have a restful time while watching you carve a turnip into a simply adorable jack 'o' lantern.

  67. Thanks, I made a pair of shorts out of some fabric that my mum wanted to make a skirt out of ages ago, but gave to me instead. I doubt you make a lot of shorts, but you still inspired that! Your videos are fantastic to listen to and watch while sewing

  68. You are one of my only inspirations for sewing, but you really do inspire me. I love your work. I am quite young and not yet ready to begin the historical part of sewing, but have started doing whatever little sewing things I can in the little time I have. I love fairytales as much as you love history and when I do expand on my sewing I plan to make outfits from fairytales and possibly make them more historically accurate than in the movies. (:

  69. Interesting how our respective bodies of knowledge in subjects many and varied are all consuming and subsequently divert us from other subjects of interest. I was diverted by the nursing profession and was all consumed due to the fact that if one didn't 'get it' one may be in violation of some serious rules and actually cause harm or God forbid…death to another human. Being 'on the ball' was non negotiable and mistakes were not tolerated. Fear was frequent and becoming accomplished took it's toll so as to prevent one from even considering learning something as deep and complex as the history and construction of Historical Dress more or less impossible. Then of course there are and were children to raise. Nothing compares to the mind numbing task of managing that at the same time. So I am now envious of you younger souls who aimed your goals toward this noblest of persuits and can produce and be knowledgeble about the subject to the nth degree.
    More power to ya. Thanks for reading.

  70. I only learnt to sew in Aug 2018 at the age of 63 – having been a knitter, crochet and did counted cross-stitch, loved them all. Hand pain has stopped this and I was so lost. Then I wondered about using a machine to sew and taught myself once I saw it did not bring on the horrible pain. My dream was to make a dress in silk and lace for my youngest sons wedding this year (August a year after starting). I did it with two weeks to go and even received compliments and asked where I bought it as must have spent a lot on it. Over the year or so I have fallen in love with historical clothing and dream to make them so much. Nowhere to go in them but drawn at first to try a Regency styled dress so been researching them. Oh I grew up making turnip lanterns in Scotland.

  71. The message of enjoying the process is exactly why I love knitting. You get a lovely object at the end, but the process is actually the best bit. I need to approach my sewing it the same way 🙂

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