Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Antique Robots

Let's just say for the moment that you looked at this post title and went "Whaaa?"

We are a household of geeks:  gamer boyz & grrlzs, Whovians, Trekkies, Medieval swordplay, Cosplaying, sell-your-firstborn to George Lucas kind of geeks.  (My son and I had a running arguement for a long time about which was better - Star Wars or Star Trek- I STILL wanna have Spock's baby)
So yes, we have an action plan for a Zombie Apocolypse, and worry about Robots taking over the world.... or at least playing some music or drawing us a picture or two.

A couple weeks ago I was checking out the news and came across an article with video about Boston Dynamics using one of their robots called "Petman" to test out hazmat gear to be used by the military:

You can check out the link to their article and view the video of this incredibly human-like robot....I was left with visions of a Terminator genesis. More Youtube searching by a slightly paranoid me, and I found disembodied robot legs hopping around at MIT,   "Big Dog" robots making their way along beaches and through the woods,  and a "Cheetah" robot that can go almost 30 miles per hour.   And here I am with Boston only 75 miles away.  Kinda makes a girl want to sleep with an EMP disruptor under her pillow.

Going back a few years, I remember watching a history program on European watch & clock makers. One  man they featured was Pierre Jacquet-Droz. Pierre lived in the mid 1700's and was a gifted clock maker well known for his large clocks.   In 1758, he was introduced to the Royal Court and King of Spain, Ferdinand VI, (who was a more of a lover than a fighter unlike some other height-challenged megalomaniacal persons of that era)  King Ferdy was a great patron of art and culture.   Pierre ended up selling several intricate clocks to the Spanish Court and thus the Jaquet-Droz house became reknowned to the other royal courts throughout Europe.

Of course Pierre had to become bigger and better, and in the quest to do so, he along with his sons (who had joined him in the family business) created four Automatons in the late 1760's:
 "The Draftsman" (Le Dessinateur), "The Musician" (La Muscienne), "The Writer" (L'Ecrivain) and "The Cave" (Le Cave).

Each of these pieces were basically lifesized androids, (1:1 ratio) who functioned by intricate clockwork movements.

Each of the different pieces did as their names suggested - The draftsman drew one of several drawings, the Musician played on a small organ, and the Writer wrote a handful of words and phrases. The largest one (The Cave)  was a diorama of sorts -showing a palace and garden with moving figures in different areas. The Cave unfortunately did not survive Napolean's conquest that happened within the next decade (what did I tell you about those megalomaniacal people?)  The other three automatons are still around today.  Here is a video on youtube that shows these pieces in action (the dialogue is in French, but you don't need to understand it to see these lovelies working)  They were on tour for awhile, but now reside in the Museum of Art & History of Neuchatel.  These Automatons were built and traveled around as 'entertainment & advertisements' to increase the sales of watches and clocks among the royalty.
I found this blog post here (from a social network called Watchonista, all about watches)  that has a lot more  detail and pictures of these amazing pieces

internal workings of "The Draftsman"

Drawing showing "The Cave"  - Darn you Napolean!

Here are some things that I find absolutely amazing - 
  • The intricacies of these dolls. (I don't know much about clockwork mechanisms, but I am reminded of  music boxes or player pianos where there are little metal plates with holes or risers on them that cause different motions (or notes)
  • These were created in a time essentially when people were still working by candlelight or gas-lamp. Before they had invented things like the steam engine, electricity, and even had proper sanitation in most places!
  • How genteel these antique robots were - teeming with art and beauty. I wouldn't mind sharing a room with one of these guys.  (On the other hand if I saw Big Dog or Petman coming down the street, I'd make for the nearest alleyway and grab a pitchfork....or a screwdriver.)

The House of Jaquet-Droz is still around today, however has become part of the Swatch Group.  That's right, the same company that gave us these beautiful mechanical marvels 250 years ago, has culminated its engineering capabilities to create the iconic accessory of the eighties - the Swatch Watch
 (wait, what?)

Be still my fashion sensibility!

There is one other thing I would like to share with you, my dear readers.... These aren't robots in the traditional sense,  however I find myself mesmerized while watching them.  They are kinetic sculptures created by Dutch Artist Theo Jansen, and honestly,  a bit creepier than automatons (but in a good way)

  He calls them "Strand Beests" (Beach Animals) and he himself says that he is creating new life forms that he is hoping to put forth in herds on the beach to live their own lives.  Watch them in action on his website.
They are basically created from large PVC tubing with joints and sails, powered by the awesome wind coming off the North Sea.  They are environmentally helpful in that a secondary task of theirs is kicking sand back onto the dunes to help keep down erosion.    So far I am relieved that Mr. Jansen is the only one creating these things,  but if I start seeing wee little baby strand beests, I'm going to start adding saws and bolt-cutters to my screwdriver arsenal.

Merci aux websites pour l'infomation & photos: : Ville de Neuchatel - Musee d'Art et d'Histoire -HORLOGERIE & JOAILLERIE -pictures of strandbeests - Background info on Pierre Jaquet-Droz & his works.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mad Men Sewing Challenge ~ Completed Dress!

Hi Friends!    I have been busily sewing these past couple weeks trying to get my "Mad Men" sewing look completed. (Mad Men 2nd annual Sewing Challenge from Julia Bobbin's Blog) I am very happy with the way it came out.  The dress seems to suit me more than the 40's skirt and blouse did.
Here is my inspiration dress on the character Betty Draper :

And here is my finished look:

I ended up using McCall's pattern# 6146, circa 1961. 

My fabric as I mentioned in a previous post was approx. 7 yards from a Queen size sheet set:

Purple is one of my favorite colors, and liked the sizing of the rose pattern on the fabric. I was having trouble finding large roses on regular fabric at the fabric store.
I used the same procedure as with the 1940's pattern:   Transferred it to wax paper, then cut out the fabric.
You might notice that the pattern from the 60's looks much more like the ones today do with markings, grainline, seam allowance etc.  (the one from the 40's was blank tissue paper with series of little punched holes in it to demark all the info)

This pattern happened to be a size 12, which was a couple sizes too small for me. When I traced the pattern on to the wax paper, I added about 1/2 inch extra on all the seam areas to size it up. Also, I made sure that the bottom of  the bodice and the skirt waist actually fit my waist (I have found that many of the mid century patterns have teeny tiny little waists!)
Other changes included a little extra scoopiness in the neck area to closer match the inspiration dress,  and I added a pleated overlay to the bodice area for the same reason.

I ended up doing a lot of hand sewing on this dress.  The skirt pretty much was a straight yard or so piece of fabric gathered.  I machine gathered it and hand sewed it in,  mostly because everytime I do a large gathering while sewing,  it doesn't end up coming out as well when I machine sew it in and I have to spend much time picking out the stitches and redoing them.

My kitty sat this one out. Instead I had Calvin, my mini dachshund, helping me.
Calvin assessing the situation - fabric is comfy!

Kisses for the helper
Many thanks to Julia for hosting this awesome "Mad Men" sewing challenge!  I am looking forward to seeing everyone's awesome projects.  I will have to actually find some episodes of Mad Men and watch them now too. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sew for Victory ~ Completed look!

Hi there,

Apologies for missing a week of blogging... had some illness in the household and doing mommy duty triple time.      I have also been taking advantage of the few quiet moments in between gingerale and kleenex to finish up my "Sew for Victory" project.   The end date was Monday (4/1), and Rochelle from "Lucky Lucille", hostess of this awesome sew-along, will be putting together a slideshow shortly with all the participants looks. Here is the link to the Flickr pool with all the participants,  however I thought I remember reading that it was a closed group, so not sure if everyone is able to view the photos.

 Here is the total complete outfit.  Once again the beautiful Cape Cod weather played it up.  This was taken minutes before it started to pour down rain.
I took a few more once inside.    
(I've been taking all my pictures with my Nokia phone.  I do love  nokia phones, this being my 3rd,  however methinks I need to invest in a better digital camera. We had some earlier models back when the kids were little and cameras were big, but they have since stopped working.) 
 This is a closer view of the blouse & skirt.

These are inside the house - a close up view of the blouse. This blouse pattern was a crazy one for darts - 8 in front and another 4 in the back!  The blouse was very detailed - it took about 2 weeks to make,  the skirt on the other hand was very simple - 3 pattern pieces, a zipper (they referred to it as a slide fastener in the pattern!)  Took less than 2 hours to make.  The only change I made with the skirt was with the waist to make it bigger.   The pattern even though my hip size, was for a teeny-tiny waist.

 and here I was just playing around a bit with hairstyles to see if I could capture a more authentic 40's look.
If I didn't know any better,  I would
have thought these clothes fit more
in with 'Little House on the Prairie'
rather than tea with Myrna Loy!

And here the clothes are sans me...

Not all that bad for my first sew-along.
The Mad Men sewing challenge is going on and has about 3 more weeks to go...I need to get to work on that look.   In looking at all the awesome sewers that participated in the Sew for Victory Challenge, I was able to find a whole bunch of other blogs written by people like me - my homegirls!  One in particular written by an expat British lady, had a Doctor Who sew-along a few months ago.  Now how could I have possibly missed that?  Hopefully there will be a second one. (I think she now is running a David Bowie sew-along. She was actually able to morph her 40's look with her Bowie one, how cool is that? Her blog is 'Fanbloomingtastic')

Another blogger left me my very first comment!   Her look was a lovely gray & purple ensemble, complete with matching chapeau, totally awesome in my book. She also has a feline sewing companion.  Her blog is "Retro Sewing Romance Writer".

Also, my son Peter has been very anxious for me to start on a suit I promised him I would try to make... Him being an 80's aficionado, has longed for a white suit ala Don Johnson in 'Miami Vice.'  I have bought the fabric
along with Vogue pattern 2836 for a Men's suit.  I'm
a little nervous about starting it,  quite an advanced
pattern. Think I'm going to have to RTFM on this one.  (I'm a bit of a rogue sewer,  I don't usually follow directions, just kind of do what I think, and sometimes this works out well, and sometimes it doesn't).

Lots of fun sewing challenges coming up!  Stay tuned...
Would love to hear more comments if any of you are sewing anything interesting, or just to say 'Hi!'