Tuesday, March 22, 2011

One day I will sew this

I don't know about you but I have a list of costumes that I would one day like to make for myself and other people. This blue jumper outfit that Molly Gibson wears in Wives and Daughters is on that list.

I love the simplistic elegance of this outfit. It is very simple and yet absolutely stunning.

I already have the lace that I am wanting to use picked out. Just to find time to design and construct this.

The bodice front have two darts in each side. It has a wide and low rounded neckline. The jumper is closed with a long row of buttons that runs down the front. The jumper is trimmed with lace that runs around the neckline and running in two vertical lines down the front of the jumper continues around the bottom of the skirt. The skirt is very simple and pleated into the bodice. I believe that Molly has a belt made of the same fabric as the jumper that she wears around the waist.

It can be worn with a variety of bodices.

I loved the book and movie Wives and Daughters and this was one of my favorite costumes. I have already made a jumper that was inspired by this outfit. But that jumper is pink and has a square neckline and is lacking the lace and buttons in the front.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Literature Lilts

Random literature note for the day.

I have really been enjoying the short stories of Eleanor Hallowell Abbott (September 22, 1872–June 4, 1958). She was nationally recognized and her works commonly appeared in the Ladies Home Journal.

I have read, or rather listened to four of her stories.

  • Molly Make-Believe 

  • The White Linen Nurse 

  • Little Eve Edgarton

  • The Indiscreet Letter

  • I have enjoyed all of them and am looking for more of her works. I enjoy the fact that these stories have more substance than a normal short story, and yet they are not too terribly long.

    Abbott's works can be found free online as all of her works are in the public domain.

    You can find them as free audio books on http://librivox.org/
    And you can find them as free ebooks on http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page

    Now if you do not know either of these two websites you need to go check them out right away. They have hundreds of free audio and ebooks that are in the public domain for download. These are two of the websites that I visit the most on my computer. So if you have never been to these websites you need to go over there NOW. You will be impressed.

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Happy St. Pats

    So did I do anything to celebrate St.Pats this years?

    I didn't sew anything green.
    I didn't wear anything green. (and no one pinched me.)
    I did not bake anything green either. The closest I got to green was the salad I made to go with lunch.

    No, this does not mean I am a St. Pats humbug. I just do not celebrate it outwardly. Living in a college town were St. Pats is used as a lame excuse to get drunk for most of the students does not encourage me to wear green. Not only that, I look terrible in green.

    I do like St. Patrick. As a matter of a fact I wrote an extensive research paper on him in 11th grade. It was most interesting. It was a persuasive paper that took the view that the Middle Ages was not a Dark Ages because Christianity grew and flourished thanks to St. Patrick and his contemporaries.

    I could go into details about the paper and all of the neat stuff I learned, but it is late and I am tired. I shall thus save that wonderful topic for next year when I have worked this whole blogging thing out a bit more and have a bit more time to post.

    Have a wonderful remainder of St. Pats.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    What I Have Been Doing

    During the week of Shakespearean posts I was still sewing. So what have I been sewing?

    A 1950 inspired pink dress. I am making this to be my Easter outfit this year. I do not have a pattern and it has been completely designed and altered by me. It is sleeveless with a sweethearts neckline, fitted waist, and a gored skirt with box pleats. I have been taking some pictures as I make this and I shall post them once I have time to download and edit them.

    I also have made/making costumes for our local production of Suessical. These are exciting and bright costumes with alot of trim. Again I have pictures and will post them once I have downloaded the pictures, hopefully this weekend, but no promises.

    I have also made a Victorian inspired vest and a matching beret.

    I am also working on designing and constructing a formal prom gown. This is to have a layered bodice and handbeaded jacket. I am still in the design stage and have not yet progressed to cutting material yet.

    There are several other minor sewing projects that I have completed during this time also that I shall not bore you with the details.

    As I mentioned before I do have pictures and shall post them asap.

    That is for now, just wanted you all to know I am still alive and sewing.

    Happy Pi day!!!

    Saturday, March 5, 2011


    William Shakespeare (18) married Anne Hathaway (26) in November of 1582. In May of 1583 Anne gave birth to their first born Susanna. Two years later Susanna was followed by twins, son Hamnet and daughter Judith. In the years following the twins births there is little known about what William Shakespeare did until he showed up on the London scene in 1592. In 1596 Hamnet (11) died of unknown causes (it is questioned as to whether he might have died of the bubonic plague or drowning) and thus William Shakespeare's only son and male heir was gone.

    Did the death of his son effect his writing? Did his family life influence his works?

    First let us take a look at an estimated chronology of Shakespeare's plays.

  • 1590 (1623) Henry VI, Part I

  • 1590 (1594) Henry VI, Part II 

  • 1590 (1595) Henry VI, Part III   

  • 1592 (1602) Richard III 

  • 1592 (1623) The Comedy of Errors

  • 1593 (1594) Titus Andronicus

  • 1593 (1594) Taming of the Shrew

  • 1594 (1623) The Two Gentlemen of Verona 

  • 1594 (1598) Love's Labour's Lost 

  • 1594-95 (1597) Romeo and Juliet 

  • 1595 (1597) Richard II

  • 1595 (1600) A Midsummer Night's Dream

  • 1596 (1622) King John   

  • 1596 (1600) The Merchant of Venice

  • 1597 Henry IV, Part I

  • 1598 (1600) Henry IV, Part II

  • 1599 (1600) Henry V

  • 1599 (1623) Julius Caesar

  • 1599 (1600) Much Ado About Nothing

  • 1599 (1623) As You Like It

  • 1597-1600 (1602) The Merry Wives of Windsor

  • 1599-1600 (1603) Hamlet

  • 1602 (1623) Twelfth Night

  • 1602 (1609) Troilus and Cressida  

  • 1603 (1623) All's Well That Ends Well

  • 1603 (1622) Othello

  • 1603-06 (1608) King Lear

  • 1603-06 (1623) Macbeth

  • 1603 (1623) Measure For Measure  

  • 1606 (1623) Antony and Cleopatra  

  • 1607 (1623) Coriolanus

  • 1607 (1623) Timon of Athens

  • 1608 (1609) Pericles, Prince of Tyre

  • 1609 (1623) Cymbeline

  • 1609-10 (1623) The Winter's Tale

  • 1611 (1623) The Tempest

  • 1612 (1623) Henry VIII

  • So did the death of Hamnet affect William Shakespeare and lead to his writing of Hamlet?

    Unlike other poets of the time (Ben Jonson) Shakespeare did not write a play or sonnet that was specifically in response to his sons death. However critics have often linked several of the plays post 1596 with Hamnet's death. For example, In King John, probably written in 1596, Shakespeare depicted a mother so frantic at the loss of her son that she is driven to thoughts of suicide. Observing her, a clerical bystander remarks that she is mad, but she insists that she is perfectly sane: “I am not mad; I would to God I were!” Reason, she says, and not madness, has put the thoughts of suicide in her head, for it is her reason that tenaciously keeps hold of the image of her child.

    Richard Wheeler theorises that Hamnet's death influenced the writing of Twelfth Night. In Twelfth Night  twins, a brother and sister, are separated in a shipwreck and the boy is assumed dead by her sister who is grief stricken. However by the end the brother is shown to be alive and they are happily reunited.

    Wheeler also posits the idea that the women who disguise themselves as men in The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night are a representation of William Shakespeare's seeing his son's hope in his daughters after Hamnet's death.

    Many other plays of Shakespeare's have theories surrounding Hamnet. These include questions as to whether a scene in Julius Caesar, in which Caesar adopts Mark Antony as a replacement for his dead son is related to Hamnet's death, and whether Alonso's guilt over his son's death in The Tempest is related.

    Sonnet 37 may have also been written in response to Hamnet's death. "As a decrepit father takes delight / To see his active child do deeds of youth / So I, made lame by fortune's dearest spight / Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth." Again this is a vague illusion.

    The grief can echo also in one of the most painful passages Shakespeare ever wrote, in the end of King Lear where the ruined monarch recognizes his daughter is dead: No, no, no life! / Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, / And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more, / Never, never, never, never, never!

    Most speculation however surrounds Hamlet, written in 1599-1601, four years after the death of Hamnet. In those four years Shakespeare wrote some of his funniest comedies, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Much Ado About Nothing, and As You Like It.

    Writing a play about Hamlet, in or around 1600, may not have been Shakespeare’s own idea. At least one play, now lost, about the Danish prince who avenges his father’s murder had already been performed on the English stage. Someone in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, with an eye on revenues, may simply have suggested to Shakespeare that the time might be ripe for a new, improved version of the Hamlet story. Shakespeare was singularly alert to whatever attracted London crowds, and he had by now long experience of dusting off old plays and making them startlingly new. And Shakespeare had certainly seen the earlier Hamlet play, probably on multiple occasions.

    So it is highly likely that Shakespeare was not wholly influenced by the death of his son in his decision to write Hamlet.

    However starting with Hamlet Shakespeare's plays gradually grow darker and he doesn't write the light comedies that he was known for. All of the comedies post Hamlet (excepting Twelfth Night) are dark comedies that have a dismal tones despite the fact that they have happy endings. These comedies (also called his problem plays and his romances) all start out with tragic elements and are very bleak but in the end the characters reconcile and all ends happily.

    So these are a few of my thoughts at the present moment in regards to William Shakespeare. This brings a close to the Shakespeare week and I shall be back to track next week with posts on sewing and costuming with the occasional diversion to literature.

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Problem plays

    The term problem plays was coined by critic F.S. Boas in Shakespeare and his Predecessors (1896). The three problem plays are Troilus and Cressida, Measure for Measure and Alls Well that Ends Well.

    The problem plays are characterised by their complex and ambiguous tone, which shifts violently between dark, psychological drama and more straightforward comic material.

     All's Well That Ends Well  and Measure for Measure have happy endings that seem awkward, artificial and perfunctory. Troilus and Cressida ends with the death of the Trojan hero and the separation of the lovers.

    The problem plays are also known as dark comedies. Critics have suggested that this sequence of plays marked a psychological turning point for Shakespeare, during which he lost interest in the romantic comedies he had specialized in and turned towards the darker worlds of his tragedies. Some critics also apply this term to the plays Winter's Tale, Timon of Athens and Merchant of Venice.

    The term has also been applied to other odd plays from various points in his career, as the term has always been somewhat vaguely defined it is not accepted by all critics.

    I enjoy the term because it does give a fourth level to sort Shakespeare's plays into. There is the histories, the comedies, the tragedies, and then the problem plays or dark comedies.
    The Merry Wives of Windsor
    A Shakespearean comedy. Shakespeare wrote this comedy for Queen Elizabeth. The Queen enjoyed Sir John Falstaff in Henry fourth that she asked for another play with him in it. So thus Shakespeare wrote this play. I am giving it a 6/10. It doesn't seem to have quite the normal Shakespeare flair, but it is still enjoyable. The only cinamatic version that I have seen was the BBC one. It is family friendly.
    Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
    A tragedy and also one of Shakespeare's longest plays that is not in parts. I would almost have to say this is my favorite tragedy, but there are others that I enjoy just as much. I am giving this one a 10/10. Hamlet is an interesting character and he rationalizes everything out and puts a lot of thought into everything. Hamlet has a lot of speeches and almost fifty percent of all the dialogue is his. As far as movie versions go Kenneth Branagh did his version with himself playing Hamlet. This one is incredibly long as Branagh uses the full script. But Branagh does add unnecessary scenes. Mel Gibson did his version with himself as Hamlet and this version is much shorter. Then there is a Laurence Olivier version and I can't remember it much. There are other versions out there but those are the three I have seen. Overall I prefer reading this play rather than seeing it in movie form.

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Comedy Of Errors
    I enjoy this play and as does my family. There are elements that I do not enjoy (the woman of ill-repute, and the conjuring.) Overall I enjoy this play and have lines that I enjoy quoting from my favorite sections. I love Shakespeare's use of twins, mistaken identity and death to life in this play. There is also elements of token exchange. I give this play a 9/10. It is a thouroughly enjoyable play and mostly family friendly, despite the woman of ill-repute. Shakespeare capitalizes on twins in this play with two sets. The results are very amusing. I have read this play several times. There is however no very good movie versions that I have seen and I have not been able to see it on stage.
    Twelfth Night: Or What You Will
    One of my favorite plays. This is one that I have read over and over again and watched many different movies versions and seen on stage several times. It is a family favorite and my brothers and I will often recite lines and dialogue from this play. It uses the elements of cross-dressing, twins, mistaken identity, a small bit of token exchange, and other minor elements. I definetly give this play a 10/10. I often recommend this play as a great start to people unacquainted with Shakespeare. I love this play and as does all my family and so has anyone I have introduced it to. If you haven't read it and enjoy Shakespeare (or even if you don't like Shakespeare) go read it.
    Pericles, Prince of Tyre

    I will admit that I did enjoy this play despite the fact that today it would probably be R rated. That is because it deals with some rather nasty material (incest, brothels and murder). But Shakespeare uses these elements to furthur build the virtues characters of the play. Marina is a wonderfully virtues and note worthy character. Despite all the bad that happens to her she always makes something good out if it. Shakespeare also uses elements from mythology in this play (someone being thrown into the sea in a chest and washing ashore alive). It is totally unrealistic how the plot unfolds, but in its unreality I found it enjoyable. In looking back it did read a lot like Greek mythology. This is one of his plays that as you read it you are feeling as if it must be a tragedy because things seem to just get worse. However, by the end everyone is married and lives happily ever after. Overall I enjoyed the play and have read parts of it a second time. It is however not a story for small children.

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    Final thoughts

    So I found an interesting paper that I thought I would share the link for your enjoyment. It is on women's roles in Elizabethan society and Shakespeare's use of cross-dressing.


    It focuses mainly on Merchant of Venice, As You Like It and Twelfth Night. Basically it is most (but not all as it is limited to three plays) of the information and conclusions that I have come up with just haven't had  time to formulate into a well written article. One of these days I will actually write some of the papers on Shakespeare that I have been longing to write.


    In Shakespeare the cross-dressing element is used only in his comedies. I did not find an example of cross-dressing in any of the tragedies and obviously not in the histories. So why does Shakespeare use cross-dressing? Well, because when used properly it can be very funny and Shakespeare knew how to use it. I also wonder if Shakespeare used it because his actors enjoyed it. Think about it, during Shakespeares time women acting was not acceptable. Thus teenage boys had to act the part of women. So if you where a teenage boy and had to choose between playing the part of Juliet or Viola/Cesario which would you pick? Well, my brothers picked Viola/Cesario. I like to think that Shakespeare put this element in because it might have made his actors more inthused about acting the parts. Mostly he uses it because it adds a great comic twist and who doesn't enjoy mistaken identity. However, today the whole element of cross-dressing can often make modern audiences very uncomfortable.

    Twelfth Night

    As I think most Shakespeare enthusiasts agree Twelfth Night is a very enjoyable story with all of its plot twists and turns.

    Last summer a friend was having a masquerade party. I had buzzed my hair a few months earlier to donate my hair in support of a cancer patient and thus had very short hair. So I decided to go as one of my favorite Shakespeare characters, Cesario/Viola.

    I went in Regency Period dress as I could achieve that with little additional construction as two of my brothers are similar in size as I. It was a fun costume and very different for me as I never wear pants and this was the first time for most of my friends to see me wearing pants. I had memorized all of Cesario/Viola's lines to use when I needed. However, I confess I did a poor job staying in character as most of the girls did not know who I was and thus did not quite understand the girl being a guy who is still really a girl. I still enjoyed all the character analysis I put into the character before hand. I believe it was just further proof that I am not an actress.

    Anyhow, I am planning my next Shakespeare character and am trying to decide between Portia (Merchant of Venice), Katherine (The Taming Of the Shrew), and Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing). There are so many other Shakespeare heroines that I love also, but they are all not as well known. I am thinking Katherine might win. I find her character interesting.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Thematic elements

    So I want to look at thematic elements used by William Shakespeare in his plays. To start with I shall look at the element of cross-dressing. Shakespeare used this element multiple times. You witness his use of cross-dressing in The Two Gentlemen Of Verona (Julia), The Merchant Of Venice (Portia, Nerissa, and Jessica), As you Like It (Rosalind), Twelfth Night (Viola), Cymbeline (Imogen), and The Merry Wives Of Windsor (Falstaff). Now in all of those example it is girls dressing as guys, except for The Merry Wives Of Windsor where Sir John Falstaff must dress as an old woman to escape from impending danger. In the case of Viola, Imogen and Rosalind cross-dressing is a means of self-preservation. Julia and Jessica use cross-dressing as a way to follow their love interest. Portia and Nerissa are cross-dressing for the fun of it and the betterment of others.
    In the future... The elements of faked deaths, rings or token swapping, and more.