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Aragorn: one of many modified patterns

I’ve been sewing clothes off and on for while, and sewing pretty constantly since the 1990s—baby quilts, piped slipcovers for vintage chairs, knitting needle cases, costumes for the Giant, and sundry other items. Making calms me, and since I tend to operate at a pretty high RPM, I make a lot of things.

Historical clothing took off for me after the Giant decided he wanted in on the living history thing. Hunting frocks, overalls, and shirts gave way to stays, petticoats and gowns. I’m largely self-taught, and although workshops with Sharon Burnston and Henry Cooke helped immensely, much of what I learned about fitting and draping I learned by reading (books and tutorials, especially Koshka and Sabine) and by making mistakes.

The best way to succeed is to fail, and I am an accomplished failure —you have only to look through the archives here, and you will find waistcoats sewn by drunken, crack-addled monkeys , upside-down Spencer collars, and stays gone wrong. I’m okay with those mistakes, because they helped me (and, I hope, some of my readers) make progress towards better sewing.

Really, I’m not sure how this happened. But there it is: upside down.

I’ve made things of late of which I am proud, or at least pleased with; I have taught myself new skills over the years from pad stitching (still working on that) to hand knotting (getting better) . I’ve gained patience (which is a skill itself) as I’ve learned new techniques, and that counts for a lot.

Hand-knotted lapis bead necklace: a new, slightly frustrating skill

Way back when (for the true origins), struggling through a design studio, I realized that the greatest frustration typically comes just before a breakthrough. That understanding is really the origin of my historical sewing: getting frustrated means you’re making progress. And what’s more frustrating that replicating a historical garment?