Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Tales of the past 6. National costume

Do not worry, this is the last post dedicated to my granny's treasures. (Well, I had not had only one granny LOL). So today I am showing the most valuable bits (for me, of course). The national costume.

Latvian national costume had similar principles like Scottish kilts only instead of one family colours and patterns each village had their own. For women its mostly woollen skirt, linen shirt and bodice. Large woollen scarf with embroidery, rich knitted socks and the head bits - from simple ribbon for young girls to really a crown like creation for the bride and down to colourful head scarfs for married ladies.

In my drawers there are actually parts of two different national costumes, as my granny was the only child. She got them from both sides of the family and so they were kept.

This one is from Barta region - black skirt with the red line at the bottom, red bodice and white shirt with black embroidery. It has been well worn and some things are missing - for example, the silver brocade ribbons which decorated the bodice, but otherwise all in all in good condition.


The wrong side (you can see that the decorative ornament is not weaved but just sewn in)
The shirt
Linen, with black embroidery

 The sleeve ends are wide and flat.

 The bodice

Bodice has been worn a lot and is really worn out. It has sateen lining which also is starting to break apart so now it needs a copy to be made. But anyway - I will keep it and I will pass it to my oldest dayghter... People here are strange to keep such old pieces but by some reason we are really proud to still have them.


This shirt is part of Lielvarde national costume, the other part which is still alive is the belt I told before here. The united bodice/skirt bit my mother had been wearing during the WWII as a daily dress and it didn't survived.

The shirt also had been worn a lot and the sleeves needed some serious repair. I remember how my granny started the job, nearly did all the embroydery and then she had a heartattack.

The needle is still holding the red threar. And now I think - do I really need to finish the job or keeping it how it is it will have the memories about my granny.

The original sleeve end, Below the expanded copy (original is the narrow one), made by my granny (not finished, still one row missing)

Monday, 30 July 2012

The green shades of rain

Yesterday's heat ended with a storm - gusty winds, hail and some lost rooftops. Sadly it took also two lives - a child was hit by a roof slab and an elderly lady - by a branch. In our Zoo large block of cages with  4 squirrels, some rabbits and Guinea pigs were lifted in air and then tipped over.
Today the storm was followed by 40 mm of rain, leaving city in a mess with overflooded streets and hopeless traffic jams. But also -all is so fresh and green again!

All who survived will face bright and clean morning tomorrow. It made me think. How many storms I'm ready to take to wake up in a bright, fresh morning. How many loses are worth the new, bright awakening? And the most important question - after so many storms... will it be really still the same myself who will face the new morning?

When the storm sweeps away so much, when the rain washes away nearly everything ... and when it happens again and again, looking for that morning becomes like living through a fairytale never to be told...

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Coping with the heat

When temps reach +34C here, any outdoor activities become difficult. Swimming is nearly the only option to survive. But long travels to seaside... exhausting. So the nearest like (even in the centre of city) is suitable. Off we went...

Imagine summer, heat, and the centre of a million city on a Sunday... OK, you got it. Water was boiling - 4 people per square inch or near to that. LOL While in places where swimming was banned, it was peacefull and serene...

And even untouched... Wild flowers and berries all over the place. But the most surprising were ducks. We saw few different breeds of ducks who were so used to crowds that simply ignored people and were swimming at arm distance from screaming and splashing humans.

So that was it about today... a bit of wildlife in the heart of the city.

Saturday, 28 July 2012


The last few day we do have the real summer. I would even say - a tad bit too much of a summer. At the end of June I was still wrapping myself in leather jacket but today it's +33 C !

According to heat index, it's +40 C outside right now. I need to keep away from computer as I do not want the drips from my nose to overflow the keyboard. Today I probably would listen a story or two about global warming. LOL

So for today out of the drawer I decided to pick up two woolen blankets, weaven by my grand grandmother so they are at leas 120 years old.

Such will fit well for this nice summertime! LOL

Both are very similar and absolutely traditional. One has the gray backgrund with purple stripes - other is black with green.

As you can see, the purple one is well worn - I remember granny  using them still when I was a child.

There would be no point to show things done by some ancient members of the family if there would be no link for today. And there is - my youngest just finished her first traditional belt. Very simple one and not perfect but it was her first and she finished it.  Its nearly 3 m long and will fit perfect for her national costume.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Tales of the past 5

Well, as for today London is on my mind, just a quick peek into granny's drawers.

Some handmade (from rising flax up to weaving) linen fabric.Natural linen /blue colours.

Typical stitch work of 1920's here. Linen curtains. Two vertical bits and a horizontal top bit. Bright red/orange colours, still vibrant.

I will post more tomorrow but right now chanterelles and broad beans need to be cooked. Dinner time!

Have a nice evening and let's hope that the opening ceremony tonight will be as impressive as promised!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Fishscale Embroidery

While digging through granny’s drawer I found another piece - pillow case - which might be interesting  because of once popular but now nearly forgotten technique. This manner of embroidery became a novelty during the nineteenth century. By using a variety of coloured fish-scales, very effective borders and designs could be made at a negligible cost.
The most suitable backgrounds for the opalescent tint of fish-scales were velvet, velveteen, plush, satin, or silk, in various shades of green, blue or pink.
 The best scales were those of brilliant iridescent hues with deep serrations, such as could be found in the perch and in some varieties of carp. Other type fish-scales that were beautiful were also utilised, amongst them the luminously coloured scales of the common goldfish. The most brilliant colouring, or rather iridescence, was found in the female; the scales were larger too.
Typically the scales were prepared while quite fresh by cleansing them thoroughly, or, if necessary, by soaking them in clear water until soft and pliable. The fishy smell would pass off entirely, and the thin membrane would roll up, only adhering at one side of each scale.
I remember soaking them in dishwashing solution before drying out as well as ironing them. In the picture you can see white little spots decorating scales – it’s simple punctuating by needle or awl.The edges were trimmed by scissors to fit the flat decor but Victorians managed to create really stunning 3D flowers.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Work in progress

My little man is starting to get in shape. I like how stable he stands on his feet (who needs a man who needs a full support all the time! LOL). He looks like he is having some thoughts in his head which is a bonus. Now I will concentrate on some clothes because just jeans and jumper... well, I like a bit of style on a man, even just for a casual dressing. But he must wait until tomorrow as for today I have planned to sort out another treasure box of my granny. Handweaven woolen blankets and more linen...

Monday, 23 July 2012

Ancient bikini

I do not write fashion - there are so many who do it way better. But! I told at the beginning - I love history. And this again proves that history is worth to be loved. Fashionistas, hey, we all know about bikini... How it was invented and all that... Also a history, and a well documented one. Then...
how about these knickers?

A bit worn out for a 60 years old bikini? Well, yes, they are a bit older - date back to the 15th century!!!

And the whole history of bra now must to be rechecked as - again - recent discovery in a vault beneath the floorboards of Lengberg castle in East Tyrol, Austria shows a great linen bra, dated about 1480.
So no, it' not about our grand grandmother's generation - now this find takes us back into comfortable fashion designs of 15th century!
Read more here and here, it is well worth it.
 And even more! Look at these wonderful laces!

The info about them here for more detailed read.
And if you really want to know more, there will be a chance for these of you, who will be in UK in October.


Saturday, 27th October 2012 9:30 am

Well Worn Weeds: Underclothes, Linens and Vegetable fibres worn next to the body.

Venue: The British Musem’s Stevenson Theatre.

The Conference will examine numerous aspects of vegetable fibre underclothes, from fibre production to medical philosophy. Highlights include the recent discoveries of 14th & 15th C linen undergarments from Lengberg Castle in Austria, including the two bra/bustier garments.
Doors open 9:00am for registration.
9:30-10:30, MEDATS AGM. Members only.

11:00 Conference begins.
Sessions throughout the day include;
Linen production in the Low Countries – Frieda Sorba
All indecent! – 15th century linen underwear from Lengberg Castle, East-Tyrol, Austria – Beatrice Nutz
Documentary Evidence of the Linen trade in Florence in the mid 15th C – Jane Bridgeman.
Linen and the Plague. – examining the medical beliefs surrounding linen in the period prior to 1600 – Susan North.
15th and 16th century linens, Evolutions in Cut – Jenny Tiramani
5:00 Conference ends.

I think I have decided what I want for my birthday! LOL

And something just for fun... Carry him home! Carry him home!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Arms in progress

I can't say that I have done much since last post. But what I really wanted, I managed. Wiring is in, and only two needles broken! Yay! He will be able stand by himself, sit, move hands and legs! Exactly what I was looking for!

Now I have started working on hands - that will be easy - tiny little job because fingers will not have wiring - I'm not SO keen LOL
 This poor little fella is taking everything on him - all my after-funeral mess what's in my head. I just push that needle in again and again, again and again... It's not even real grieving, it's more like frustration, even some anger and all that right now. But its summer so everything is easier when Sun is shining with full force. Even tornadoes look sweet! LOL
Seriously! Yesterday we had few here. If you imagine these big, scary ones who are ripping everything apart on their way then look at this one!

When I saw this video, all our romantic folk songs came to mind - about God's daughters spinning the gold and things like that LOL Neat little tornado, for fairy tales only. 
Strawberry season is nearly over here and now I'm looking for the mushroom season to start. Chanterelles already are all over the place but I'm waiting for boletes. Bolete hunting is my favourite, then I'm ready spent all day walking in woods :D

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Positive side of learning...

... it saves money! LOL Yesterday my first felting attempt did cost me 7 needles. I was really started to think that needle felting can become quite an expensive hobby. Today I continued. I tried again. And you know - no needles were broken. From 7 to zero - it's a good learning speed.

Today I decided to try a doll. And I managed to make a basic head. Hair and all that I will add later, tomorrow I will try hands. Now my only problem is - how to incorporate some wiring in arms without breaking needles again.

People do that. I saw on etsy felted dolls with wiring inside. So I just need to figure this trick out. I'm actually quite excited right now.

Learning something new always is such a fun. And I see my progress. Today's head is better than yesterday's Ruffy - better plastic, better details.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

First felting attempt

The past weeks were quite busy and my sewing machine right now is covered in different crap waiting to be sorted out. So right now I simply can't sit down and sew again. But I really needed to do something. By some reason making things always helps to sort out thoughts. My knitting needles are packed away as well... What to do?

Yesterday I went out and bought some felting needles. I never tried but always wanted to try out what it is. So last night I tried. Then tried until 3 am LOL Then today I spent few more hours and now I'm sure that I will invest in few more things for felting. It's fun (OK, not so when you hit the fingers).
OK, I'm not really happy with my first attempt (it would be weird to be) but I will not strangle my little Ruffy I.

The only problem I must sort out right now - how many needles is normal to break? Until I finished this one, 7 (SEVEN!) needles broke. Only 2 of them I can write off because of rushing. The rest went at the last stages when creature become harder. Will try to find the answers because something I'm doing wrong. But all in all - it's such a fun!.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Tales of the past 4

Let's go a bit private today. Two bodices out of my grand granma's drawer. This one especially surprised me. After the close checkup I can say with full responsibility - it's all handmade.

 I can't imagine myself achieving something like that just for a bit of lingerie to wear... When I imagine hours spent over it... Well, but on the other hand, they didn't have the telly then. Nor Internet. LOL

But - seriously... The value of things has changed so much! When you buy a bra at the local shop, you would never imagine your grand granddaughter washing it... You know that bra will last several month to be thrown out to get the next.

So, here are bodices. And here is the lady, who made them and wore them. Maybe even under this outfit.

This photo was made in 1902 and survived all these years along with her sewing machine and few other things.

Ann Beitan.  My grand grandmother.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

And the winners are...

It is time to announce the winners. As there were only 6 competitors, I was close to divide the lot for all 6, but then... It would be not so much fun, isn’t it? So I used the hat method, and my young lady were picking up the 3 names - very old fashion way.
So... The winners of my first giveaway are:
Linda in Arkansas, Ann Babilis and Jennifer (TX)
Please contact me with the address were you want the cards to be sent. 

Congratulations, ladies!

My hands are itching to go back to sewing machine but I do not expect it happening earlier than next month. Until then I will probably fill a post after a post with different family treasures, hoping to keep myself in line with arts and crafts, without too many sidesteps. I had such a well designed plans for these summer months but life is life, it hits hard sometimes and reality changes all the plans. So please bear with my waffling until I will be able to return to my sewing machine and its friends. 

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Tales of the past 3

These are the “Sunday” driving reins, for sledges, made approx. 1880. Here reins were usually made in tablet weaving technic as it gives really thick and strong material. Actually as a belt it feels a bit too thick but for durability of reins – just perfect. 

Tablet weaving with cards is traceable to the early Iron Age. The warp yarn is threaded through flat squares of wood that control the direction of the lift. Various patterns are created by the direction of the turn of the tablet or square. 

Actually these reins also has a story to tell. My grand-grand-grand-aunt was driving sledge in 1889, with 3 horses and was speeding. Yes, they were speeding even then!. She didn't took the corner right, sledge turned over and hit her on the back. Her backbone was broken but she manage to survive, drive home and spent in bed another 6 months after the accident until she gave up. She was 83 then. The reins were kept as a reminder that sometimes even the skilled can loose reins...  

Sometime when I think about my family's ladies of the past I feel shame about all the fun I am missing. They really lived in full force, these old ladies of the past. 

If my great grandma managed to weave a long posh reins, my grandma already had different interests so only few samples had been left, made by her. Her childhood fell in WWI and later there were no much need for Sunday reins anymore, priorities were sheets and towels...  But still - for learning purposes - they needed to do a bit of this and that - who knows what they might need later.... 

And by this reason my grandma also showed me how to do things as well. Just for the knowledge bit... so its not lost... I was not able to find any tablet woven samples done by me but I remember how I was making them as a child. But I find one in other technic, done on pencils. 
So now there are samples of 3 generations in one post. Sadly my mum missed all this fun - her childhood fell in WWII when were different priorities and later she went to college and the right time was lost - she barely learnt how to knit only but never enjoyed that. She was sewing a lot instead. And made many, many other things.