Friday, April 27, 2012


image source: Historic LOLs
Off to Steampunk Empire Symposium goodness!  Have a terrific weekend everyone!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"the raven" doth approach!

The 2012 mystery/thriller film The Raven will be released in theaters Friday, April 27.  It was originally set to be released in March, but as often happens with movies the release date was bumped.  Unfortunately I shall not be able to attend a viewing until after the Steampunk Empire Symposium this weekend.

This sort of film is something for a neo-Victorian freak like myself to be stoked about for several reasons, as I have enjoyed a good Poe story for many a year now.  Despite the seemingly slasher aspects of this story, it will be a pleasure to go through the darkness and horrors of some of Poe's better-known stories in a film setting.  Thus, my boyfriend (who is a huge John Cusack fan) and myself shall be seeing The Raven sometime in the near future.

A featurette of the film for your viewing pleasure:

I am currently laboring through reading aloud Poe's short stories to my boyfriend, and I have noticed that this 19th century writer, although prolific, is rather hit or miss with the execution of his ideas.  They're either bloody brilliant or they leave one with a "So what was the point of writing that?" sort of feeling.

What I was not aware was some of Poe's writings are rather more humorous than dark at times- such as the "Four Beasts in One- The Homo-Cameleopard."  Also, "The Unparalleled Adventures of one Hans Pfall"   is an interesting study on something that it appears the people of his time were very concerned about- how one could possibly travel to the moon.  It's quite a descriptive, imaginative, and well researched account that is created into a true work of science fiction- something that could plausibly occur based on the knowledge and speculation of the time.

So I also highly recommend that one try to read even some of Poe's lesser-known works, as many of them are rather entertaining, and give one much to consider in the ways of technology, the minds of men, and the logic of madness.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

the art of tea dueling

Best Buy's Geek Squad has requisitioned my laptop for the foreseeable future (2-3 weeks!?  REALLY?!), so blogging posts and my own personal internet activity is currently limited to my work hours and whatever computer time I can mooch off of other people's machines.

Let's discuss the very steampunk sport of tea dueling.  Tea dueling is the art of gracefully dunking a tea biscuit into a "Cup of Brown Joy", soaking it for five seconds, and then lifting it and cleanly "nomming" on it- all without dripping tea, losing biscuit fragments into the tea or on the table, and doing so after your fellow duelist.

While the "American Society of Tea Dueling" debuted this competitive sport at AnachroCon in February 2012, this sport itself has been known in the UK for some time now.  Whether that be three years or 300 is anybody's guess; any attempts made by yours truly to pin down the exact origins of tea dueling has been met with failure as of the date of this post.

Nevertheless, Lord TimeTinker posted a revised version of the rules of tea dueling over at Brass Goggles.  I have reposted them here for educational purposes.

Articles of the Honourable Association of Tea Duellists
(As compiled by the signatories of The Hague Convention, December 1899)

Article 1.1 A duel as constituted under the auspices of the International Association of Tea Duelling shall be known as a "Tiffin Party"

Article 1.2 The only permissiable beverage is tea. Coffee and chocolate are strictly prohibitted. This beverage may be any blend of chai as supply allows. The combatants may add milk and sugar to taste. This beverage should be no less than 65 degrees at the time of competition. The beverage should be known as the "Brew Martial"

Article 1.3 Upon agreement of all parties an agreed alcoholic tipple may be added to the Brew Martial on the understanding that it does not unduly reduce the temperature of the Beverage. In such circumstances this shall be known as the "Toddy"

Article 1.4 The drinking vessel, known as "The Keg" shall be no less than three and one quarter inches depth. Kegs should be of pottery or metal.

Article 1.5 The provision of the Brew Martial along with the approval of Kegs etc shall be the responsibility of the "Pot Master". See section 2.

Article 2.1 The duel shall be facilitated by the appointed officer known as the "Pot Master" the Pot Master is responsible for supervision of Kegs and Brew Martial. The Pot Master is also responsible for the provision of suitable bisquits. (See section 3)

Article 2.2 The duel shall be presided over by a president/umpire known as the "Tiffin Master". When honour requires satisfaction and insufficient suitably qualified officers are present the Pot master and Tiffin master may be embodied in one person.

Article 3.1 The Tiffin Master shall supply the bisquits. Ordinarily these are "Malted Milk" otherwise known as "Cows". With agreement of all parties these may be subsituted for "Nice" bisquits, known as "Nickies". Unfortunately those honourable snacks, biscuits brown and biscuits fruit are forbidden for use in Tea Duelling under Queen's regulations. In the most dire of supply emergencies when honour must be satisfied then Digestive Wheatmeals or "Rusgetifs" may be subsituted but the size of Kegs may need to be adjusted accordingly. All other varieties of bisquits are known as "fancies" and are prohibited under the Hague Convention.

Article 4.1 Each duel should be attended by the two protagonists or "dunkers" and their seconds. All accept fully the articles of the honourable association.

Article 4.2 Should a dunker suffer a crisis of confidence and withdraw before the duel then their second should step into the breach. The second will be afforded full honours.

Article 5.1 The duel will begin with the laying out of the bisquits by the Tiffin Master. Six bisquits will be lain upon a white napkin on a serving plate. The laying out of the bisquits will be done in the presence of the seconds or in the case of a full tournament by officers appointed to this task known as "Cosies"

Article 5.2 The Pot Master will supervise the provision of the Kegs of Martial Brew ready for the duel to commence.

Article 6.1 The dunkers will take their kegs of brew martial and place them on the table which is set up between them.

Article 6.2 The Tiffin Master will place the charger of bisquits on the table between the dunkers.
Article 6.3 On the command "choose your weapons" the dunkers will each select a single bisquit. No handling or replacing of bisquits is permitted.

Article 6.4 The dunkers will hold the bisquit in one hand with finger and thumb no further than one half inch from one edge.

Article 6.5 The Tiffin Master will give the order "Ready" and both bisquits will be positioned over the appropriate keg no further than six incehs above the lip.

Article 6.6 One the command "Dunk" both dunkers will immediately and swiftly lower their bisquit into the Brew Martial. The Tiffin Master may declare a penalty "a bagging" against any dunker who unduly delays their dunk and the bisquits will be removed and discarded. Replacement bisquits will be chosen by both dunkers from the remaining four.

If a dunker is penalised twice for bagging then he or she shall forfeit.

Article 6.7 if the Tiffin Master is happy that there has been a clean dunk he shall count to five. Dunkers shall not remove their bisquit from the brew martial before the Tiffin Master calls "five".

Article 6.8 Once five has been counted and the bisquit removed the dunkers shall attempt to eat the bisquit. 94% as adjudged by the Tiffin Master must end up in the dunker's mouth for a clean "Nom".

Article 7.1 If a bisquit falls back into the brew martial this is known as a "splash" and the dunker is considered beaten.

Article 7.2 If a bisquit falls onto the table or floor etc this is known as a "Splatter" and the dunker is considered defeated.

Article 7.3 If a bisquit falls onto the dunker's person this is known as a "splodge" and the dunker is considered defeatedwith credit.

Article 7.4 Where both dunkers manage a clean Nom then the dunker who last mouthed their bisquit is considered to be the victor with their opponent defeated.
For further clarification YouTube has provided us with complete records of sanctioned dueling matches such as the one below:

As far as anyone in the steampunk community is concerned, tea dueling matches can occur any place, at any time, without specific sanction of the "Tea Dueling Societies"- as long as proper codes of tea, biscuit, and dueling etiquette are fully observed.  So dunk, drink, and be merry tea duelists!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

steampunk empire symposium

As some of you may have noticed, I've been completing many small projects rather recently.  Why the sudden neo-Victorian accessory rush? 

That is because I will experience my first steampunk convention in a few days' time.

Several of us members of the Steel City Steam Society will be attending the Steampunk Empire Symposium in Cincinnati, OH this weekend.  This particular event was chosen by yours truly more so for its close proximity to the city of my habitation, although it is also wonderful to know that I will know several of the other attendees ahead of time.

The Steampunk Empire Symposium will take place at the Atrium Hotel and Conference Center from April 27 to April 29.  With steampunk merchants, special guests, musical performances, independent films, panels on steampunk and Victorian sci-fi issues and interests, as well as games, prizes, and even Children-geared programs, there's plenty for 19th century nerds of all ages to appreciate.

Special guests include Lord Bobbins of TeslaCon, steampunk author Emilie P. Bush, Steampunk Boba Fett, and musicians such as Veronique Chevalier and This Way to the Egress.  

Workshops, panels, and presentations on bartitsu, sword-cane handling, calling card etiquette, neo-Victorian men fashion tips, theology in steampunk literature, steampunk dance, prop making, history of 19th century science fictionand space travel ideas, and Victorian fan language will be available to all.

There will also be a masque at midnight, Sunday, April 29 for attendees.  And for registered "airships (i.e. steampunk groups who will be attending together) there are the Symposium Games in which to participate.  These competitive "Games" against other airships include the strenuous steampunk sports of umbrella dueling, tea dueling, formidable mustaches, tiddly winks, verbal dueling, and airship races.  I'm signed up for croquet and tea dueling myself- more information on the latter in tomorrow's post.

Check out the rest of the goodness in the Symposium's program by clicking on this link.

It sounds like a very educational and inspiring weekend for a novice convention goer like myself.  I am so stoked! Will anyone else here on Blogger be attending?

Monday, April 23, 2012

diy: gun holsters

To ensure that I didn't leave my new steampunk guns at any future events, I decided to make two holsters with flaps to attach to a brown belt.  Instead of using leather, which is rather expensive and requires thicker sewing needles, thicker thread, and stronger cutting implements than I currently possess, I went with costume pleather as my material of choice.

All instructions to make holsters seem to depend a great deal on the shape of the gun one wants to store within them, so there is no set pattern for them.  A lot of the steps I made up as I went along.  

Without further ado, here's the rather freestyle method I used to create my flap holsters.

  • 1/2 yard pleather 
  • chalk
  • toy gun
  • belt
  • sew-on snaps

1. Lay the gun down on one side with the length of the gun on the fold of pleather.  With the chalk measure the shape of the gun onto the pleather.  When you reach the trigger of the gun do not chalk out the shape of the handle, as you want the handle to stick out of the flap.  Instead draw a straight line from the trigger to the edge of the pleather. Leave enough extra pleather after the handle to create a foldable flap.

Note the trigger line that marks where I abandoned tracing the exact shape of the gun.
2. Cut out the shape, keeping the fold intact.  Sew from the barrel end of the shape, from the fold, to the trigger line.

3. Turn the material inside out.

4. Cut out the material from the trigger line to the open end of the pleather on one side of the fold.  Hem all open edges (Note: I have no idea if pleather frays easily, so I decided to avoid the risk by hemming.  I am not sure if that step was totally necessary as hemming doesn't seem to add to the overall appearance of the final product.)

5. Cut a piece of pleather and sew to make a belt loop that fits the width of the belt you plan to use.  Place the gun in the holster and fold the flap over.  Pin the belt loop level to the back of the holster just before it begins to fold over the handle of the gun.  Hand-sew the back of the loop to the pleather.

6. Sew snaps onto the holster, measuring where the flap comes down onto the pocket.

7.  Put the belt loop on the belt, place the gun in the belt, and voila!  You are done with your first holster!  

8. Repeat steps 1-7 for the second holster.  

I am very pleased with this project.  Although they took longer than expected due to some clumsy measuring inaccuracies on my part at first, they look very good for only two hours of my time and $8.99 worth of material plus a belt I already own.

Now I'm thinking of making a small cartridge box, a fan holder, and other pleather goodies to attach to the belt.  Maybe even a snap for a teacup handle.  You know, in case I find a tea party to attend in my steampunk Wild West adventures.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

diy steampunk guns redux

Back in October 2009, around the time I first started this blog, I spray-painted two dollar store dart guns to match a steampunk costume I had put together for Halloween.

Two Halloweens later I accidentally left those guns at the Goblins and Gears Masquerade Ball.  Ever since then I've been hunting dollar stores, Walmart, Target, pharmacies, or any other sort of cheap toy store for guns that would be comparable to the ones I lost.

I was finally successful in my search last month when I found two water guns that seemed like they would be appropriately steampunk.  This time, however, I spray painted the guns a bronze color, then detailed in a gunmetal paint and gold outlining.

Then I took a decorative gap that was already in the guns and glued clockwork to the inside:

Scott thought that the guns looked too shiny and not very steampunk, so he suggested we put a black wash on the guns to give them a sooty, industrially roughed up look.

The results:

Not too bad, actually.  After spraying a clear matte finish on them they look appropriately battle-worn.

Now time to make some holsters for these babies so I don't accidentally leave them behind at another steampunk event in the future.

Friday, April 20, 2012

victorian traffic report

Think Victorian traffic jams aren't as bad as modern day ones?  Here's one hazard we're fortunate enough to have evaded with the progress of technology:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

picks from picard: railways

Today's I'd like to focus on Liza Picard's Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 section on railways.

image source: The Victorian Web
Before the railways the fastest anyone had traveled was on a galloping horse (note: off the top of my head I think this speed averaged a whopping 75 miles per day).  When the trains came the speeds one could travel increased significantly- by the 1850s many trains designed could average 60 to 70 m.p.h., and one company at the Great Exhibition even boasted of being able to run safely at the unheard of speed of 80 m.p.h.  Most express trains of the period, however, usually ran from 36-48 m.p.h.

Another first that the trains brought was the ability for the country to synchronize their watches, as railway clocks had to be very accurate indeed.  

The construction of railways developed rapidly between 1830 and 1847.  Picard says that by 1847 6.7 percent of British national income was being invested in railway shares.  Many elaborate train stations were built around this time, such as Euston station, Paddington station, Waterloo station, and King's Cross station.

Here Picard interjects with some information about ticket taking and a funny anecdote about one of the many incidents of passengers trying to cheat the ticket system: 
A little girl was being sent to her aunt in the country to recover her health after a childhood illness in Bethnal Green. 'About half way on the journey I was pushed under my aunt's crinoline when a man came to look at the tickets... no ticket had been taken for me.'  Even if the ticket collector had suspected her presence it would be unlikely that he could ask a female to raise her crinoline, just in case.
[Insert Victorian TSA joke here.]

By the 1870s the main London lines had been built.  But they were not to everyone's liking- many  of the rails were built on raised arches that ran above the houses and backyards of the often poor residents who resided beneath them.  Shanty towns and other hovels of the poor were often demolished to make way for the new stations.  

Accidents on the railways were minimal.  According to statistics gathered by Picard:
  • fatal accidents were 653,637 chances to one
  • injuries were 85,125 chances to one
  • 40 percent of accidents were caused by passengers getting into or out of the train while in motion
  • 28 percent of accidents were caused by passengers sitting or standing in an improper place
With the advent of rail travel so came the ability for people to travel further away from their hometowns than they had ever been able to before.  Some, like Thomas Cook, used the opportunities provided by rail to eventually establish organized "tours" to Liverpool, Wales, Scotland, and the Great Exhibition in London by gradually learning how to negotiate special terms with various railway companies for large groups of people traveling to and from the same destination:

A typical Cook's party was a group of 3,000 Sunday-school children who arrived in Euston from the Midlands and were safely shepherded across London to the Exhibition, and back to Euston in time for the nigh train.

For the passengers traveling on the trains, the experiences could vary.  With the great din created by the machinery and the steam and soot produced from the engine, it was advised that one keep the windows shut.  Unlike the 21st century, however, smoking restrictions were yet to be invented, so a closed window could leave one to the fumes of a fellow passenger's cigar or pipe.

First class carriages were rather comfortable- one could travel in their own private carriage if they so chose, and one train even provided a drawing room where men could lounge around a table and smoke if they so wished.  Second class was not as luxurious as first class, and was often, especially for long journeys, rough, as the railway lines sometimes made the seats as uncomfortable as possible in the hopes that passengers would go for the more expensive first class option instead.  Third class tickets were more often than not barely glorified cattle cars, open above waist height with no protection from the elements or debris from the engine.  As a result most tickets purchased were second class, then first class, and finally third class.  

By the 1850s and 1860s many of the vendors one recognizes in a modern train station or airport had found their way into the termini of London.  One could buy newspapers, books, food, and even stoves on which one could cook food in a train compartment.

Trains also helped improve communications.  Telegraph wires were first used to reinforce the railway signalling system, but were eventually applied to non-railway business (which Picard attributes to the capture of Franz Muller for the murder of Thomas Briggs on a train in 1864.).

Other than being able to travel great distances simply for sight-seeing purposes, the train system also encouraged the working classes to do something they had not done before- live further away from work.  Before the train systems artisans, tradesmen, and the poor had lived where they worked or just around the corner.  In 1844 it was decreed that every line had to run a train charging only a penny a mile every day for the working class who had to get to their jobs long before the civil servants and merchants of the higher classes went to work.

Traffic had always been a major problem in Victorian London.  Trains made it worse by bringing more passengers and goods into the city than ever before, often miles from their destination.  How, then, was the city to combat this problem?  The answer: build a train system  under the city.

After a slow start a great Victorian engineering feat was created and in operation by January 1863- the London Underground.  The Underground was an immediate success.  Despite a constant foggy mist created by the steam-powered engines in the stations, the carriages themselves were well lit by gas lamps enough so one could read, well ventilated, and comfortably furnished with cushioned seats for first class carriages (with third class reverting to the glorified cattle car of the above-ground trains).  It also helped that trains arrived every two minutes during rush hour, and every ten minutes during less busy times of the day.

Sounds like the Victorians had better systems of transportation in place than does 21st century Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

19th century space alien cover-up?

Scott pointed out a strange article on AM 740 KTRH News Radio's website this afternoon.  

On April 17, 1897, an inexplicable event occurred outside the city of Aurora, TX.  Some sort of unidentified flying object across the sky, crash-landing in a ranch.  An alien pilot was found and subsequently buried in a local cemetery.  His airship was also disposed of, and the incident was hushed up by local authorities.

Or so the stories go.

According to the article "Space Aliens Buried in Texas: City Claims Little green Men in Cemetery:"

Former newspaper reporter turned UFO author Jim Marrs believes it is the 'smoking gun' of all UFO sightings. He says think of a flying object crashing, an alien body, newspaper accounts, and a cover up -- then think when all of this happened.

"This was six years before the Wright brothers flew," says Marrs. "There was nothing man-made in the air. I also checked on balloons, very first powered balloon flight was the same year of the Wright brothers."

And Marrs says there are just too many documented reports from that time to ignore that something happened there.

"The pilot of the ship is supposed to have been the only one onboard," said Marrs reading from an old newspaper article. "While his remains were badly disfigured, enough of the original had been picked up to show that he was not an inhabitant of this world."

Hayden Hewes, director of the International UFO Bureau, says there is material evidence as well.

"There was a tree nearby, and they cut into the tree and went back approximately 100 years and pulled out metal fragments within that tree which matched what had been found at the well site," says Hewes.

Hewes has spent decades investigating the Aurora crash, but has been met each time by resistance from local authorities.

"Allegedly part of the craft was thrown down into the well, the occupant was buried in a nearby cemetery," he says. "The historical and other people around there really put it down because they wanted no publicity."
Not everyone agrees that there was a historically anomalous flight and crash in the Aurora area at the end of the 19th century.  Rosalie Gregg from the Wise County Historical Society claims that residents who were adolescents at the time claim that they never heard of such a thing occurring in April 1897.

Here's a radio broadcast from AM 740 KTRH News Radio discussing the veracity of the urban legend:

What do you think?  Were there aliens in Aurora in 1897?  A human airship pilot ahead of his time?  Or is the story just a tall tale?

Monday, April 16, 2012

"girls! girls! girls!" by ea

I had this video of Emilie Autumn singing one of the songs from her upcoming F.L.A.G. album.  This video was filmed in February when she was performing at Mr. Small's theater outside Pittsburgh, but it hasn't been posted until now due to YouTube literally making it nigh impossible for me to upload it in a period of time that was less than seven hours.  No joke.  Only yesterday was I able to get it onto YouTube.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

adventures in sewing: victorian drawstring purse

At the end of this month I will be going to the Steampunk Empire Symposium in Cincinnati, OH.  As a result I have been trying to get as many smaller sewing projects done as possible to finish parts of my outfits 

One thing I desperately needed was a purse that looked Victorian and could hold both my cell phone and my camera, as I do not have a smart phone and so must carry around both objects.  Also, the exchange of calling cards is a suggestion at this convention, so it would be nice to have a decently-sized reticule to hold my own supply of cards as well as any that I may receive.

As far as purses and Victorians go, I know next to nothing.  The little information I've gleaned from my researches in the past seem to indicate that purses were not very popular until the early 1800s.  Before that women's clothing had deep, detachable pockets in the folds of their skirts  While I haven't found any scholarly material to explain why the purse came about in the 19th century, I would guess that one reason may be the fact that female Regency* fashion just couldn't provide the deep pockets necessary for women to carry around handkerchiefs or money (*thanks to SkeleDuck for reminding me what the fashion of the early 19th century was called).  I have also heard that the rise of the middle class in the Victorian era necessitated some sort of handbag that could carry the objects females needed in their outing activities, whatever these objects might be, although the source for that material is uncertain at the moment.

But for my sewing project I just needed a basic idea for a very basic and practical purse that wouldn't clash with the outfits I plan to wear to the con.  Most Victorian purses seem to be made of elaborate beadwork (making beaded purses being one of the many things middle class women made to pass their leisure hours) but I do not have the knowledge, time, or patience for such a purse, as gorgeous as they look:

image source:

There are plenty of other purse designs, but I settled on one that I figured would be easiest to make- a drawstring purse.  

I chose a purple satin material for the purse.  Any beading or lace or other decorative work can be done on the purse later, but for now I just wanted to nail the actual purse down.  

First I drew a 6x26 inch rectangle from the material.  Folding the material in half width-wise with the right side together, I sewed the ends across from the fold together using a 1/4 inc seam

Using a compass and my tailor chalk, I drew an 8 inch diameter circle on the wrong side of the pattern.    I pinned it the entire 26 inch side of the rectangular piece around the circular piece:

Then I sewed the pieces together.  

Next I folded over the edge of the purse and sewed it, creating a 1/2 inch seam across most of the purse.  I did leave two gaps to make two openings for the string part of this drawstring piece to go through.

Making the openings for the drawstring was an awkward manner.  Not having any creative ideas as to how to solve the problem of making holes in my purse without causing it to fray, I just cut  two slits in the folded edge and folded those back as far as I could and then reinforced the cut areas on the top and bottom of the cut (not on the left or right, as that would have defeated the purpose of having these holes in the purse) with overlock stitches.  Some websites recommended that one use the button template to make these holes, but I couldn't understand the directions for the life of me.  

Then I pinned a safety pin to my satin ribbon that was to serve as my drawstring and strung it through:

I sewed the ends of the ribbon together, worked the sewed ends back into the cloth, pulled the ribbons out of both holes in my folded edge, and voila! the drawstring purse came forth:

Not the best drawstring purse ever made, but more than suitable for its intended purposes.  And there is plenty of material left over for me to try my hand at another one in the future if I so choose.  Overall I am satisfied, if not thrilled, with my handiwork.

As a bonus, here's me with my cousin's completed Sponge Bob Squarepants surgical cap which was mentioned in yesterday's post.  This I am thrilled about, mostly because I was using really bad instructions and ended up throwing away the instructions to rely totally on my imagination and the pieces I already had cut and sewn to piece together what I think it actually a pretty darn awesome creation:

Saturday, April 14, 2012

bustle butt redux

I've been rather lax in blogging recently.  This spring has been particularly challenging as I try to navigate the waters of my choppy career path, which seems to be directed more so by the imprecise science of dead reckoning than by accurate measures of latitude and longitude to guide me (I've been reading Batavia's Graveyard by Mike Dash, a very well written pop history account of the shipwreck of the 17th century Dutch merchant ship Batavia and the bloody mutiny that accompanied the disaster.  Can't you tell by my nautical vocabulary?)

Anyway, while things still remain uncertain, I have taken breaks from my daily stressors to work on various sewing projects.  One of them was to improve the Simplicity "bustle" previously featured in this post.  Some of you commented that the bustle looked too flat, as I certainly thought it could have been fuller.  Many of my issues with this bustle can be explained by the fact that I probably bought a pattern that was too big for my body type- it probably goes around my waist way too much, making the odd and unVictorian shape that it does in those photos.  Since I don't have the patience to make another bustle of the same material using a smaller pattern, I decided to try to improve what I had already made.

So I started by making two pillows out of a scratch material and cotton stuffing.  I had to be careful with how big and stuffed they were they were, as I didn't want ridiculously round and huge artificial Victorian humps.  So I made the pillows relatively flat, with enough volume to try and give my bottom a little extra oomph.  

When those were finished I pinned them to the bustle and hand-sewed them on:

The result?

I think the padding definitely helps.  What will also help is creating undergarments to make a truly full skirt that will give it the volume to make the bustle look less awkwardly drastic on the sides as it does in the above photos.  But once I attain the full skirt needed, I think the alterations to the bustle will be more satisfactory.

Now time to finish my cousin's Sponge Bob Squarepants patterned surgical cap.  I really need to stop letting my friends and family know that I know how to sew, because I've got requests out the wazoo at this point.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

natural selection

I'm really too tired to post a full post, so instead you get Charles Darwin singing about his contributions to mankind's understanding of our origins, much in the style of Professor Elemental:

Monday, April 9, 2012

old timey novelty photographs

I hope everyone had a Happy Easter and is having a good Passover celebration, and is enjoying whatever else may be in for them this month.

While home at my parents' house this weekend I came across an old photo, but not as old as it looks:

This, my dear readers, is my first experience with Victorian clothing.  You know those booths at fairs or amusement parks where one can get an Old-Timey photo, complete with 1860s photography equipment and techniques, for a fee?  When I was nine or ten a friend of mine and I did just that.

I guess my Victorian tastes in clothing were apparent even back then.

Anyone ever do one of these Od-Timey photos?  Which one do you think is yours truly?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

news clips and tidbits

From the newsdesk of Unlacing the Victorians, I will share excerpts of interesting, relevant, irrelevant, somewhat sad, and just plain scary news stories.

image source: The Age
Local communities are trying to save and restore two Victorian era train stations in Australia - the Lethbridge and Lal Lal stations- both of which ahve been out of commission as train stations for decades.

Until 1889, the Geelong to Ballarat line was part of the Melbourne-Ballarat route.

It was an extension of the Melbourne-Geelong railway built in 1857 and linked north-western Victoria and booming Ballarat to Geelong port.

Freight trains still use the line, but Mr Menzies said passenger trains ceased after rail cars wore out and the government saw buses as more economical.

The hopeful part about this article is that the current government is reconsidering the economic feasibility of trains for these lines.  Read more about these two train stations and their potential futures are restored train stations here.

This one is just sad- a boat that was gift from Queen Victoria to Maharaja Ranbir Singh, a monarch who ruled Jammu and Kashmir, has gone the way of thousands of other improperly cared for artifacts:

In today's Kashmir, this royal gift is withering in sun, snow and rain as it remains lying in the open parking lot of the Sri Partap Singh Museum, named after the Maharaja's son.

What remains of the nearly 30-feet-long boat, which is up to eight feet in width, is the rusted decaying structure.

The entire body of the boat is covered with rust, at places several layers deep, and a large hole has damaged the lower frontal part of it. Several smaller holes, of the size of a football, have also punctured the boat at its bow and stern.

Before anyone starts blaming the  Sri Partap Singh Museum , however, I would like to point out that many museums do not have the funding necessary to properly care for every acquisition they receive.  So while they may have wanted to house the boat in a controlled temperature garage or something like it, they may simply have not had the money.

It's still a shame that the boat has not received the care that it should.

BBC News- "Broadmoor: 'Fantastic' views but would people pay to visit?"
image source: BBC News
Want an Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls experience?  An old Victorian mental institution may give you that opportunity if plans to develop it into a hotel go through.

According to the BBC, West London Mental Health NHS Trust is looking for potential developers to turn the Victorian buildings at Broadmoor in Crowthorne in Berkshire.  Unlike the two Victorian relics mentioned above, Broadmoor has been well taken care of and could easily convert to a hotel or housing due to its location near Heathrow and its open-air layout:
One reason Broadmoor Hospital may be more suited to be converted to a hotel lies in the attitudes to mental illness when it was built.

When it opened in 1863 there were none of the drug treatments we are familiar with today.

Victorian patients enjoyed a regime of rest and occupational therapy, and were expected to benefit from fresh air, sunshine and spending time outdoors.

In the early years of Broadmoor, inmates formed a self-sufficient community with a farm, kitchen garden and sports fields.

"The views from Broadmoor are fantastic, across very nice landscape," said Dr Dungavell.
Of course some may not want to stay overnight in a place that once housed infamous criminals such as the Yorkshire Ripper.  But that could just as easily be a draw to tourists who want to stay in historical and unusual hotels.

Finally, as if last month's shooting at Western Psych in Pittsburgh wasn't enough to rattle residents and Pitt students, the fact that there have been a ridiculous number of bomb threats to various University of Pittsburgh buildings in three weeks have certainly not helped.

Below I've posted the most recent article about the threats, "Pitt receives 3 more sets of bomb threats" from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

University of Pittsburgh police, aided by other local departments, swept seven campus buildings during three separate sets of bomb threats on Wednesday.

So far, more than a dozen bomb threats have been made to the Oakland campus since March 14.

The first threat of the day came around 10 a.m., when someone discovered a threat to Thackeray Hall that had been handwritten on a paper towel and placed in a sink in a men's restroom.

The second, which warned of bombs in the Cathedral of Learning, Posvar Hall and Litchfield Tower C dormitory, came to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter and was reported to police around 5 p.m.

Students and faculty members learned of the third set of threats -- to Victoria Hall, the Frick Fine Arts Building and the Music Building -- shortly before 9:30 p.m., when an alert from the school's emergency notification system warned them of a "general bomb threat" to all three locations.

"This is a real twist," Pitt police Chief Tim Delaney said of the now varying locations and means of delivering the threats.

Many of the initial threats were scrawled in restrooms and targeted only one building at a time. Earlier this week, Pitt police began receiving threats via emails sent to reporters, as well as threats that targeted multiple buildings at one time.

Pitt police have enlisted the help of the FBI and a handwriting expert while trying to find the person or people responsible for the threats.

For the first time university officials could remember, the school has offered a $50,000 reward -- enough to cover about three years of undergraduate in-state tuition -- for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of someone associated with the threats.

N. John Cooper, dean of the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, sent an email to some university faculty members this week, urging them to cooperate with investigators should they be asked to provide information about a student.

University officials said they have developed a "person of interest" in the case but have not yet determined how many people might be behind the threats or what the motive might be.

Chief Delaney urged the person or people responsible for the threats to contact him at the station so he could help them sort through any of their issues or complaints.
SERIOUSLY?! Nevermind the fact that it costs Pitt $10,000 every time they have to call the bomb squad and FBI for one of these threats.  It's also disrupting classes and, as many fear, it makes people less willing to take these threats seriously.  One of the theories being tossed around is that the people making the threats are trying to get the police and university to let their guard down and not take these threats seriously.  When that happens, it is speculated, a real bomb will be placed.

As a University of Pittsburgh alum with several family members and friends in and around the Pitt campus, I am very disturbed by it all.  I don't understand the thought process going on behind these threats at all.  Any thoughts on the topic?

Monday, April 2, 2012

1880s life in photographic find

The Guardian had an article this past Thursday about a great find that was tucked away in an old box- photos of Newcastle from the late 19th century.

What makes these photos noteworthy are their unusual focus on the working class.  The candid, rather than staged, nature of many of the images is also unheard of from photography of that time period.

I've posted several of the images below.  You can check out the rest of the collection that has been posted online here, and the Guardian article "Victorian Newcastle brought to life in photographic treasure trove" here.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

monthly theme: les fleurs


For Sophistique Noir's Monthly Theme I am showing off what I have, floral-wise, in my own home decorating and clothing/accessory choices.

Interior decorating:

My dead roses

My Japanese tea cups- a recent gift from Scott
A sweetgrass rose, made in South Carolina


From top to bottom:
1. Premier Designs silver earrings
2. Glass earrings made in Germany- a gift from my sister
3.  A gift from a college friend after her Spring Break trip to Florida.
The "wood" that these earnings are made from is actually coconut shell.

My red clutch, purchased at a student marketplace at the University of Pittsburgh some years ago.
My Latvian knitted cap.  Scott claims this makes me look like a Mr F a la "Arrested Development."

Clothing- all of which I wear to work on a regular basis.  Nothing very Goth or steampunky here, with the exception of the last article of clothing:

Wet Seal

Forever 21


Above shirt, close-up of cherry blossom pattern

An Indian shirt, a gift from an Indian friend

Forever 21.  This shirt has a rather high neck and ruffles that are very much neo-Victorian
Close-up of above shirt- note the crocheted flowers in the lace and the flower pattern on the rest of the shirt

 While I am not a huge fan of floral patterns, I certainly don't hate them.  Seeing flowers is just lovely, especially in overcast, gloomy Pittsburgh.

Check out the other Monthly Theme Posts here.