Monday, September 25, 2023

A Quick Reminisce on sewing a Lace Dress...

 Late last Thursday night, as I was nearing the finish line, I commented something to My Sweet Babboo about the craziness it has been sewing three out of the four Mother Of The...dresses.  The Rayon Maxi dress had zero drama,  but the other three...oy, there was drama.  With the first was just my own bone-headedness, which included things like twisting the dress before I sewed in the invisible zipper.  Then there was the Aunt Lena Quasimodo dress I made for the Flute Player's wedding...but I am blaming those problems on the fabric.

Rayon crepe is bad enough when it's cut meticulously on grain.  Cutting it cross grain, which I had to do because of the orientation of the print, just was hopeless.

And that brings us to the black lace dress...

My first problem was probably that I picked the wrong pattern.  I picked a really fitted sheath dress...

Here's the pattern, which I actually purchased because I was smitten with the jacket:

The reviews I had read of this dress looked to have very nicely fitted shoulders/ upper chest.  Bingo.  I'd just leave those vertical darts out and maybe add a bit of width and I should be good to go, right?

Nope.  LOOK at the curves in that dress.  

I. Am. Not. Curvy. Like. That.

I had to straighten out the hip curves considerably after sewing up the first muslin and seeing the poufs I had. The second muslin was better but I probably would've gotten along MUCH better if I had just started with a less shapely pattern.

And, to be honest, I probably should have just made a black sandwashed silk dress and used the lace for a duster coat.  Although I probably would have needed more lace fabric; I had bare inches of scraps left over after all was pieced up and done. 

But...back to  my lament to My Sweet Babboo about the drama.  He just looked at me and said, "Why?"

And that pulled me up short.  Why DID I do that to myself?  Well...I hated to drop what would likely have been $250 bucks on the MOTG dresses I was eyeballing.  (I got that lace at a significant sale price) And those RTW dresses were 100% polyester.  My dress was poly lace over sandwashed silk, lined by rayon bemberg.  Much nicer than just being wrapped in plastic.

And it fit.  I think that was the biggest thing.  The dress fit ME.  

And for some strange reason, I just wanted to tackle a lace dress.

You know,  I learned a lot.  I'd never really tried this type of construction before.  The Flute Player saw the dress just before it was finished...and gasped.  'How long did that take you???' 

'A lot longer than I expected,' I replied.  Then she spotted a scrap of the fabric and looked at it closely.  'OH!  The fabric has the little dangly leafs.  I thought you sewed all those on!'

Well, no wonder she was shocked, lol.

I have come to the conclusion that there must be a lot more engineering in the couture world; I think they must either engineer the patterns so that the seam lines hit the fabric just so or engineer the fabric so that it accommodates the pattern.  Each of the little leaf motifs is sort of framed by scroll work and  I ended up with several small void places...where I had to trim out the motif to sew a seam but there wasn't enough room to replace a motif in the now much smaller framed area after sewing the seam.  Granted, it's not obvious with the black background but if you look closely you can spot them.  And I just don't see any way to avoid that...unless the math was done before hand. But that would be way over my head, lol. 

If you look close, you can see that I'm sewing down a motif that I had to trim away from the only conventional seam on the whole lace overlay.  I just trimmed one side off, sewed the seam, and then tacked the loose side down.  It overlaps the scroll work a bit but from a distance...on the black doesn't show. 

But here's a repeat of a picture from an earlier post.  The void spots jump out with the white background; there isn't room to attach a motif without overlapping another motif, which is lumpy.  Fortunately they are not nearly so obvious with the matte black silk.

 One of the things I learned... I am NOT a couture-level seamstress.

I *did* finish and it *did* look just fine and either no one noticed the void spots or they were polite enough to not mention them, lol.   And, should a suitable occasion arise, I will happily wear it again. Assuming, of course, that it still fits at that point, lol.

Unfortunately, aside from the windblown picture I posted Saturday night...I don't have any pictures yet. 

But now...I have a HUGE mess in my sewing room.  It is staggering how many little motifs are EVERYWHERE.  On the cutting table.  On my sewing machine table.  On the ironing board.  All OVER the floor...I can't believe I cut that many off.

And I did manage to throw a bunch of them in a little box as I was trimming, so ...crazy.

I have a dress to hem for a friend's daughter before I pull the black thread out of the machines.  Gonna pin that up on Wednesday and sew it whilst My Sweet Babboo is off primitive camping this weekend. 

So...I'll do that, and I'll clean up all the little leafy scraps.  Gotta come up with something creative to do with those...somewhere down the line...

Saturday, September 23, 2023

In under the wire...

 So that the Facebook thumbnail has a nice photo, here's a picture from the venue after last night's rehearsal dinner...

It's a gorgeous spot, and the weather was perfect.

And yes, the dress did get finished.  With time for me to hem a pair of pants for My Sweet Babboo.

But I did finish hemming his pants, changed clothes, slapped on some makeup and jumped in the car. 

I might or might not have actually applied my lip color whilst hubby drove us to the park, which was about an hour away.

I will post thoughts on sewing the dress either tomorrow or Monday, but I'll post the picture My Sweet Babboo took for me before we did our official pics with the groom.

I will admit to laughing right out loud when I saw the was a wee bit breezy up there on that verandah.

Photo by his sister, The Princess, since I stuck my phone in my purse and didn't pull it out.

The wedding went very well, but my sly son pulled one over on his family.

He had made a playlist for the ceremony.  Now, The Artist is an audiophile...I mean, he listens to music on vinyl...he is PICKY about his music.  And he had his younger brother running the blue tooth speaker with the playlist he had loaded onto an old phone.  At one point in the ceremony, they went aside to a table set up with a unity rope to braid and communion elements, and while they braided the rope music was playing under the pastor who was doing a reading.  When the reading finished and they moved to communion, the volume on the music came up and...

I recognized a recording he'd done of the family singing the Doxology as a meal blessing a few years back when we were all up in Indiana at my in-laws for dinner.

Not fair.

But then he upped the ante...that was followed by a similar recording done on Christmas Day in, maybe, 2016? of all of us singing the Seven Fold Amen, following a carol sing around the piano in the living room. 

Cue the waterworks.  I was FINE, y'all, until he pulled that.  And everyone BUT us and his siblings knew what was coming. They even had the photographer positioned to get our reaction to hearing that.

But what was going through my mind was all the family members who weren't there today...who were singing at his wedding.

Scuse me whilst I find some kleenex....

ETA ...I have since learned that the particular recordings he played were captured more recently than the dates mentioned above.  But, you know, it's the thought that counts...and it was still the same people, so...yeah. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

And...we're going down to the wire (as per usual)

 I had enough hours in at work this pay period that I could actually stay home today and sew.

And, boy howdy, it's a good thing I did.

The dress shell and lining are done to the facings.  

I was pretty pleased with the dress so far.  It fit well, felt good, and draped very nicely.  Sandwashed silk over bemberg lining is VERY nice, y'all.

All I needed to do was put together the lace overlay and then tack it down to the zipper opening and back vent, then put on the facings.

It sounds so simple... 'put together the lace overlay'.

I started to do the center back seam, then realized it would be a WHOLE lot better to do the long side seams first, while everything was flat.

Ya'll, it took about two hours for each of the side seams.  

First, line up the traced seam allowances.  Then baste along the scroll lines.  Then zigzag on top of the basting.  Then trim away the excess on both sides.  

Only it's black thread on black lace and I couldn't see diddly squat.  On the first one I actually got turned around and started sticthing back the way I came.  On the second seam I marked the directions with pins after I basted.

It doesn't look too bad...

I did the back kinda the same way, only just between the bottom of the zipper and the top of the vent.  I didn't trim anything because I wanted to see how it lined up with the  dress back first.

Then it was time for the shoulders...and disaster struck

Somehow I got whopperjawed.  After I basted, zigzagged, and trimmed the first side, I realized I'd sewn the left back shoulder to the right front shoulder.

So now it's 12:40 AM.  The bobble was unpicked, compared to the pattern, overlayed correctly, basted again, zigzagged and trimmed again.

I put the overlay on top of the dress shell and it looks nice but... I think I'm going to unpick the back seam and do a conventional seam  It's going to be too hard to transition from the folded-under-stitched-to-the zipper bit to the trimmed lapped seam to the back vent.  The seam allowance isn't too noticeable with the matte black silk behind it.  I'd post a picture but my phone battery died just as I was lining things up.

And...tomorrow is pretty much a non-sewing day, although I might get the back zigzag stitching removed and the motifs trimmed from the back seam allowance.

I think I'm going to do a short work day on Thursday so I can finish...I hope.

The Wedding is Saturday...Deep Breaths...

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Piece work

 I have spent most of the day hunched over the cutting table, thread tracing my lace, and then working on piecing the shoulders in.

My back is killing me at the moment.  So, by way of taking a bit of a break, I'll document the process, lol.

I had to fold the lace so the blue thread tracing would show up, lol.

After I thread traced the front and both backs, I rough cut everything out so I would have the scrap bits to use to fill in the shoulders.  

This is an interesting lace; the leaf motifs are only attached by about five threads; they are free floating otherwise.  I had to trim all the motifs from the underlap area of the added bit....and I will be trimming them out of all the seam allowances as well.

Matched up the motifs with the pieced area underneath.    I hand sewed the scrollwork...basically permanent basting, because after I hand sewed it, I ran it through the sewing machine, zigzaging over that stacked curvy line.

Then I trimmed up the under/ overlap.  The design is not quite consistent; some of the scrollwork didn't match up exactly.  But with the black underlay that is not going to show.

Then I laid the pattern back over the piece and finished thread tracing the shoulders.

I have done both the back pieces and the front is about half done.  It's about a 4" repeat...I BARELY had scraps big enough to fill in all four shoulder bits, because I had to match the peculiar slant of the motifs.

But 'barely' enough.  Whew.

I am saving all the little leaf things that I'm trimming off; if I need to sew a few on after it's assembled to fill in gaps where things had to be removed from the seam...I have PLENTY.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Deja vu....

 Welp, I did it again.

This time it was a rotary cutter.

I don't even know how it happened; somehow, whilst cutting the very tight inner curve on the front facing, I caught the far side of my left pinky and cut right through the fingernail.  Then my fingernail wrapped up in the blade and tore loose from the nail bed...I think.  I have a nick on my actual finger, a horizontal cut into the fingernail that suddenly goes up at an angle and then turns again parallel to the first one.  I don't know how much of my finger underneath is cut...or if it just ripped up the nail.  I wasn't going fast with the cutter, but it was a brand new blade, 'cause I was cutting silk...

It's going to take that puppy a minute to grow out.  Gonna be a nice look for the wedding next weekend. :rolleyes:

So I didn't finish cutting the silk shell out until tonight.

But.. I have the lining put together, and I got the darts in the front and the back seam ready for the zipper. before I decided it was time to quit before I messed something up.

The next two days are pretty full; I'm going to try and get the zipper in after I get home tomorrow, then I can put the front and the back together on Thursday...and maybe get it hemmed. Then Friday morning I can baste the lining in...and start the process of cutting and piecing the lace.

I'm gonna be hand sewing all weekend.  And maybe Monday and Tuesday evenings.

At least the bummed up pinky shouldn't interfere with that too much.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

It's gonna be a puzzle...

 I've got the patterns with the final's not perfect but I haven't got time to tweak it four more times for perfect.  I think it's going to be at least as good as ready-to-wear, so I'm calling it good enough.

And crossing my fingers that the final fabric doesn't do something weird that wasn't showing in the cotton muslin, lol.

But I do have a dilemma.  My lace is a very scant 40" wide.

Which means I have this problem:

I put the pattern on just to see how things were going to work.  The hemline is at the bottom, but the top kinda runs off the edge.
I have been puzzling over this. all day.  Finally, driving home from work, I recollected that two years ago I added 6" to the girth of a bridesmaids dress with crazy piecing.  I figure if I can do that, I can piece a bit on the shoulders.

The underfabric is a sandwashed silk with a gorgeous drape that's been in the stash for...ages....  I think any piecing should disappear right into that matte background.  

It's going to be lined with a lightweight Bemberg.

I also made a tracing with no seam allowances; I will lay that on the lace and thread trace the seams. I am probably going to be sewing the lace overlayer pretty much by hand.

But this weekend is the annual women's conference at not much sewing is likely to happen. I will probably cut and least as far as I can...the lining and the underlayer before I cut the lace. If it turns into a disaster, I will omit the lace and just have a black silk dress.  

I may splurge on a dressy jacket if that happens. But I'm hopeful it will work.

The wedding is two weeks from Saturday.  Deep breaths.

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Serial Fun - Final Installment (13)

 So we arrive at the conclusion of the matter.  I really thought I could do it in five or six chunks; I find it highly amusing that we finish with 13, lol.  If you haven't read the whole thing, click HERE, and read from the bottom up.  Thanks for indulging me as I did one more edit through the manuscript.  I have no idea if I will ever do anything else with this, but I have enjoyed sharing it.

I am pretty sure I will have some real sewing content tomorrow, lol.

            To the Princess, waiting in the carriage, it seemed that Gregory and Godfrey were in the manor house for an eternity.  She’d brought a small embroidery project to occupy her time but was having great difficulty in keeping her mind on it.  At one point the door opened, and Rita leaned forward eagerly only to see Henry, the page, come out and speak to a pair of the soldiers who had accompanied the carriage.  They handed their horse’s reigns to two of their comrades and went into the manor house.  When they’d gone, Rita called softly through the one of the open carriage windows, “Henry!”

            Having completed his errand, Henry turned to her and handed her the velvet pillow through the open window.  “Yes, Your Highness?”

            “What is going on in there?” Rita queried with the barest touch of impatience as she stuffed the pillow into the corner behind her back.  “It’s taking forever!”

            Henry grinned and shook his head.  “The Grand Duke is putting the old lady in her place, and the two snooty girls with her.  He’s done it up proper, I’d say.”

            “Did you see Isabella?”  Rita was fighting the urge to go and peek in the window.

            “Aye.  They’ll all be out soon, I guess.”

            Rita sighed.  “I certainly hope so.”  She relaxed back into her seat and half-heartedly returned her attention to the embroidery.  She frowned and told herself that she would stitch until someone came out of the door.  However, no sooner had she re-established herself with her place in the pattern than a movement caught her eye and she saw Henry hurry to the door to relieve Gregory of something he was carrying.  Rita dropped her work onto the seat when she recognized Isabella’s trunk.  Henry took it from Gregory, who turned to offer Isabella a hand down the front step.  The Grand Duke followed Isabella out of the house and shut the door firmly.  Rita bit her lip in excitement.  They’d done it!  Isabella was free!

            Henry carefully placed Isabella’s trunk onto the carriage luggage rack as the footman opened the door.  Isabella gathered her skirts, shifted the slipper she was carrying and took the footman’s hand...then stopped in shock when she saw the Princess.  “Rita!”  She gasped.  “How did you get here?”

            Rita was very nearly bouncing on the seat in delight.  “Get in!” she urged.  “I’ll tell you all about it!”

            Isabella took a deep breath -- the day was feeling less and less like reality -- climbed into the carriage and sat down opposite Rita.  Godfrey climbed in next and sat down beside Isabella.  He smiled at her sympathetically.  “Is your head spinning?”  He asked as Gregory picked up the embroidery from the seat, handed it to Rita and took his seat beside his sister.

            As the footman closed the carriage door, Isabella smiled ruefully.  “It has been rather...” her voice trailed off as she looked at the Prince and Princess.  Sitting side by side, the sibling resemblance between them was obvious.  It was Rita that Prince Gregory had reminded Isabella of at the ball...that was why he looked so familiar...

            Seeing her confusion, Gregory spoke up.  “Isabella, I don’t believe you have been properly introduced to this impetuous young lady.  May I present to you my little sister, Princess Gwendolyn Marguerite Prudence Genevieve Anne...whom I usually refer to as Rita.”  Rita giggled at Isabella’s wide-eyed astonishment.

            “Your sister!”  Isabella exclaimed as the carriage rolled down the manor house drive.  “Rita, why didn’t you tell me?”

            Sheepish now, Rita looked down at her embroidery.  “I was afraid you’d be intimidated by the title, and I just wanted to be a plain friend.”  She glanced up at Isabella and smiled mischievously.  “It all worked out, didn’t it?”

            Isabella took a deep breath and glanced around at the three of them.  It was finally sinking into her that the misery of the past five years was truly and forever at an end.  To her surprise, tears flooded her eyes and spilled down her cheeks.  She gave a queer kind of sobbing chuckle as she self-consciously wiped her tears.  “Yes,” she sniffed, “It all worked out.”

            Godfrey pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and gave it to Isabella.  “I’m sorry to have shocked you like this.”

            Isabella sniffed again, thankfully took the handkerchief and, trying to stave off what felt very close to an embarrassing emotional breakdown, buried her face in the fine linen square and took several deep shuddering breaths.  At long last, she raised her face and wiped her eyes. Finally, she smiled ruefully at him.  “I’ll be all right. Really.” She sniffed again and wiped her eyes once more before continuing.  “In all honesty, I don’t know how else you could have done it.”  She looked around at them again.  “Thank you.”  Then, she looked squarely at Rita.  “Rita, I don’t know what to say to you...”

            Rita grinned at her.  “Don’t say anything.  I’m just glad you’ll be living at the palace for now.”

            “Isabella,” Gregory frowned, “There’s one thing I’m curious about.  Why did Lady Alicia call you ‘Cinderella’?”

            Isabella winced.  “That was the nickname they called me virtually all the time.”

            Cinderella was your nickname?” Rita asked incredulously.  “Why ever did they call you that?”

            Isabella sighed and took another deep breath.  “I suppose it will have to be told sooner or later.  You see, my room up in the tower was drafty and cold in the wintertime.  The first winter after my father died, I carried a small coal brazier up to try and keep some heat up there.  I had to keep putting coal on it, though, and it seemed like I was forever having to run all the way down to the cellar for more.  So, one day I decided I’d take several loads up and pile them by my door, so I’d have some close by if the fire burned low at night.  I was carrying up the last of it when I ran into Hortense and Eugenia.  I was really a mess after shoveling all that coal around, and they were laughing at how dirty I was.”  Isabella’s voice changed, mimicking the mocking tone of her stepsisters.  “‘There goes her Ladyship Isabella in her finest attire!’  Hortense said.  Eugenia laughed and replied, ‘Isabella?  She looks more like Cinderella to me!’  They both thought it was a great joke and the nickname stuck.  It wasn’t long before that was all they ever called me.”

            “No wonder you hated it.”  Rita commented softly.  There was a moment of silence as the carriage turned into the palace drive.

            Finally, Godfrey spoke.  “Isabella, I feel responsible for your trouble.  If I had checked into Lady Alicia’s story, you would have been spared much.  I hope that my wife and I and,” Godfrey couldn’t resist a glance at Gregory, “The rest of us can get you re-established again in society.”  He paused before continuing, in a rather choked voice, “Your father was my closest friend.  I will do everything in my power to make up for letting him down as I have.”

            Isabella smiled shyly.  “Right now, I’m content just to be away from...them.”  The carriage pulled up to the palace and stopped as she continued, speaking to Godfrey, “I’ll try to make you...and my father...proud.”

            Godfrey smiled and nodded.  “We’ll get on quite well, I think.”  The footman opened the door, and Godfrey waved a hand in the direction of the palace.  “Shall we see if the Queen and my wife have your apartment ready?”  Isabella said nothing but smiled appreciatively and nodded as Godfrey stepped out of the carriage.

            Prince Gregory followed his uncle out of the carriage then turned to offer Isabella a hand down himself, as she was still carrying the slipper.  However, after she stepped out of the carriage, he continued to hold her hand for a moment.  “Isabella,” he said in a low voice, “It will be quite possible for us to spend some time together you think we stand a chance of being the kind of friends you spoke of last night?”

            Isabella looked up at him, seriously at first but then her face lit up with merriment.  “Right now, I believe anything wonderful could happen!”

            Still, Gregory did not release her hand.  “So, you believe that would be wonderful?”

            This time, Isabella blushed and dropped her eyes.  “I believe it could.” she replied, barely above a whisper.  Then, with a smile up at him, she pulled her hand free and turned to follow Godfrey, who was waiting for her on the steps, into the palace.  Henry had climbed down from his perch and retrieved Isabella’s trunk and carried it in behind them.

            Gregory turned back to the carriage to offer his hand to his sister.  Rita, embroidery folded neatly with the velvet pillow, had heard the whole exchange.  She glanced up at him as she stepped down from the carriage with the pillow and her needlework tucked into the crook of her elbow and grinned broadly at him when he offered her his arm, commenting, “Little sister, you have started no end of trouble for me.”

            “Oh, really?” she queried, taking his arm as they walked toward the door.

            “Yes, really,” Gregory said with mock seriousness.  “But I believe it will be the best kind of trouble...” He looked at her significantly as he continued, “But let’s keep that our secret for now.”

            Rita stopped in her tracks.  “Do you mean...” she began, but Gregory interrupted her.

            “I’m not going to say what I mean...but I believe you know.”  Gregory let that sink in for a moment.  “Now, don’t tell.”

            “Oh, I wouldn’t dream of it!”  Rita said very seriously.  She was, however, exulting in her heart as they entered the palace.  Gregory and Isabella!  They were going to ‘live happily ever after!’   She could hardly wait to watch it happen.

The End.

Monday, September 04, 2023

Serial Fun - Installment 12

 Y'know, I think I'll just go ahead and post these last two installments today and tomorrow. I'll post whatever progress I make on the MOG dress on Wednesday, lol.   It has been kinda fun going through this again.  

Late the next morning, the Royal Carriage pulled away from the palace with Gregory, the Grand Duke and, after much pleading and debating, Rita, who had to agree to wait in the carriage, inside.  Gregory had placed Isabella’s glass slipper on a soft velvet pillow for effect.  He looked at the slipper, then up at Godfrey.  “I hope this works.”  He remembered Isabella’s terrified face when she thought she’d been recognized.  ‘Under a wicked witch’s spell,’ she’d called it.  He felt anger building in him at the injustice she’d suffered for the last five years and amended his statement. “It’d better work!”

            Godfrey, who carried in his pocket a decree written that morning by the King to present to Lady Alicia, nodded grimly.  “Oh, don’t worry -- we’ll see her safely out of it.”

            Hortense happened to be sitting in front of the parlor window and caught the flash of sunlight on the gilded carriage when it turned into the manor house drive.  She immediately jumped up.  “Mama!” she cried.  “Mama!  It’s the Royal Carriage!”

            Lady Alicia had been on her way to the parlor anyway, so she quickened her pace and entered just as Eugenia came in from the library.  “What?”  She stood where she could see the carriage as it pulled up.  Gregory climbed out (“The Prince!”  Hortense and Eugenia gasped in the same breath) and took the pillow with the slipper, which flashed in the sunlight, from Godfrey, who then followed him out of the carriage.  Lady Alicia’s eyes widened.  “The slipper!  Eugenia, do you remember the Prince saying he would try that slipper on every girl in the country until he found the girl in the mask?”

            Isabella, easing into the room with her broom in her hand, heard Lady Alicia’s question and felt her heart jump.  He was looking for her!  Lady Alicia saw her as she unconsciously smoothed her hair -- a shadow of her stepsisters’ frantic primping – and crossed the parlor toward her, eyes narrowed.

            “You!”  Lady Alicia hissed, swiftly catching Isabella by the wrists and pushing her back out of the door though which she’d entered.  “Stay out of sight!”  She glanced toward the front entrance as a herald’s trumpet sounded outside the door.  There was no time to lock Isabella away -- a threat would have to keep her in hiding.  “You’ll be sorry if you disobey me this time!”  The trumpet sounded again, and Lady Alicia swiftly turned to go to the door, speaking as she went, “Don’t you dare show your face!”

            In turmoil, Isabella flattened herself on the far side of the door.  She was determined she would at least hear whatever the Prince had to say.  With a pang, she remembered the look on his face when he said he’d solve her puzzle.  She didn’t know if she could bear it if he left without knowing she was there...

            Lady Alicia paused a moment at the door to make sure her daughters were composed.  They all took a deep breath before she opened the door and curtseyed deeply.  “Your Highness!  Your Grace!  Do come in!”

            Gregory, Godfrey, and a page who was now carrying the slipper entered.  Hortense and Eugenia followed their mother’s example and curtsied to them.  Gregory glanced at Godfrey, took a breath himself, and began, “Madam.  Ladies.”  They rose in response and Lady Alicia gestured to the parlor.  There was an awkward moment as each waited on the other, but they did finally get situated with the ladies seated and Godfrey and Gregory flanking the page.

            Once again, Gregory took a breath.  He glanced at the flushed faces and glittering eyes of the sisters, trying to decide why they were so unappealing, even though from a purely objective viewpoint they were pretty and fashionable.  Suddenly, he realized that there was something about their expressions that gave him a bit of a chill; a ruthlessness that he could not really point out.  --Of course, he admitted to himself --I could be somewhat prejudiced against them by how they have treated Isabella, but still.... Anyway, there was business to tend to.  He smiled a bit.  “I’m sure you remember the young lady in the mask at the ball last night.  This slipper,” he indicated the page, “Is our only clue to her identity.”  He paused slightly, wishing they had discussed exactly how they would proceed with this part of the ruse.  He chose his words carefully as he continued, “She hinted that she was...unhappy...and I’m determined to find her, even if I must try the slipper on every young woman in the kingdom, be she noble born or milkmaid.  So...”, he nodded to the page, who knelt in front of Eugenia.

            Eugenia’s smile faded a bit when she saw how very small the slipper was, but she pulled off her shoe and tried her best to shove her rather large foot inside.  The page held the slipper steady and glanced up at the Prince, who watched grimly.  Finally, Eugenia sighed deeply and pulled her foot away.  The slipper was obviously much too small.

            Hortense, who knew her feet to be slightly smaller than her sister’s, smiled smugly at Eugenia and, as daintily as she could, offered her foot to the page.  The young man looked up at Gregory, who nodded.  The page shrugged slightly and pushed the slipper onto Hortense’s toes.  Hortense bit her lip as the page pushed the unyielding glass onto her foot but was unable to stifle a small cry.  She clapped her hand over her mouth, but the page took the slipper off her toes and looked up at the Prince again.

            Gregory turned back to Lady Alicia.  “Have you any maidservants, madam?”

            Lady Alicia smiled rather condescendingly at the Prince.  “I’m sorry, your Highness, but there is no one else in this house who could possibly have worn that slipper at the ball last night.  May I offer you some tea before you resume your search?”

            Isabella listened from the next room with panic rising as Gregory once more stated his intent to try the slipper even on servants who were presumed to have been at home.  She realized that her stepmother was not going to summon her to try on the was entirely up to her if she wanted the chance.  With her heart pounding and palms clammy, she took a deep breath and stepped into the parlor.  “Please, your Highness, may I try on the slipper?”

            Relief flooded through Gregory as he turned to look at Isabella.  He had begun to wonder how he would politely insist that Lady Alicia call her when it was obvious that the older woman would not even acknowledge Isabella’s existence.  Now, seeing Isabella in her braids and patched work dress, he was again struck by her vulnerability -- but he noticed the set to her jaw that showed her determination.  She was, indeed, made of strong stuff.  He smiled at her, hoping to reassure her.

            Lady Alicia, however, was determined not to allow Isabella the chance to surpass her own daughters and fury nearly choked her when Isabella stepped into the room.  “How dare you affront his Highness!” she said in an icy voice as she shot out of her chair and began to cross the room to Isabella.  Isabella’s face paled a bit, but she determinedly stood her ground.

            Gregory interrupted before Lady Alicia could say anything else, holding up a hand to stop her from approaching too close to Isabella.  “I’m not affronted, Lady Savoy,” he said in a placating tone.  “As I said, I mean to try the slipper on every young lady.”  As he spoke, he nodded to the page, who took the slipper to Isabella.

            Isabella pulled off her shoe and slid her foot into the slipper easily, hardly noticing the pain of the blisters rubbing again on the glass.  However, before she could even look up, her stepmother sputtered in disbelief, “But... that’s impossible!”  She turned to the Prince. “Your Highness, you surely can’t believe that Cinderella was the young lady at the ball last night!”

            At this, Isabella’s eyes flashed and her chin rose indignantly.  “My name is Isabella,” she stated firmly.

            Lady Alicia turned to her and spoke sharply, “Hold your tongue.”  Then, with an abrupt change of manner, she turned to the Prince and explained in a honeyed voice, “Your Highness, you must forgive Cinderella’s little outburst.  You see, her mother was one of the cooks in the manor house before my late husband’s death, and Cinderella was a very close friend to his poor little daughter.  Cinderella has always been a bit...unsteady...and when Isabella died, she began to imagine that she was Isabella.  I’m afraid she believes it more often than not.”  She looked at Isabella sadly, “We do try to see that she is taken care of, but she gets a bit unmanageable from time to time.”  She looked back to the Prince as all the color drained from Isabella’s face.  “I am sorry for the scene, your Highness.”

            Tears of rage and frustration filled Isabella’s eyes as she clenched her fists in fury.  She tried to speak, to refute the outrageous story, to say...anything.  But she could not manage to make a sound.

            Gregory was astonished at Lady Alicia’s absurd story and, like Isabella, found himself completely speechless.  Godfrey, however, had gotten over his renewed shock at how much Isabella resembled her mother.  Now, quite in control of himself and the situation, he turned to Lady Alicia.  “That little story may have explained the young lady to your social circle, Madam, but I find it impossible to believe.”  He raised his hand to still the indignant reply Lady Alicia appeared to be about to make and continued, crossing the room to stand by Isabella as he spoke, “I have in my possession a very well-done portrait of Bella Savoy, your late husband’s first wife.  No one who sees that painting will have any doubts as to the identity of this young lady--she is the image of her mother.”  He held out his hand to Isabella and indicated that she should place her hand in his.

            Isabella was a bit perplexed but placed her hand in Godfrey’s.  He turned to Gregory and, with a very formal air, said, “Prince Gregory, I have the honor and pleasure of presenting to you my ward, Lady Isabella Amanda Charlotte Savoy.”

            Isabella blushed and made a deep curtsey before she realized exactly what the Grand Duke had said.  Shocked, she looked up sharply from her curtsey, lost her balance and would have fallen if Godfrey had not steadied her.  Her stepmother must have comprehended Godfrey’s statement at the same moment, because she gasped along with Isabella, “What did you say?”

            Ignoring Lady Alicia for the moment, Godfrey held both hands out to Isabella, and she stood as he spoke.  “I’m afraid I owe you a very great apology, my dear.  You see, your father left a will, in which he left very nearly everything to you and named me as your guardian.”  He glanced coldly at Lady Alicia as he continued.  “I believed the story she put out and did not even mention the will when I returned a month after your father’s untimely death.  The truth is, the estate and everything in it is now, and always has been, yours.”

            Isabella’s head was spinning.  She heard words which she felt she ought to understand but were only confusing her.  --Time, she thought, --I need some time.  She looked at Godfrey in a rather bemused way.  “Mine?” she queried.

            Godfrey smiled at her reassuringly, but before he could speak Lady Alicia overcame her shock enough to dispute with him.  “My husband never mentioned a will.  I’m sure if he had left one, I would have been aware of it.  I can’t believe you think you can just burst in and announce that everything here belongs to Cinderella -- it’s mine and has been ever since Maximillian died.”  She turned to the Prince to plead her case, “Your Highness, this must be some hoax...” her voice trailed away as she recognized cold fury in the Prince’s face.

            “I do not doubt, Madam, that there has been some hoax.”  Gregory said icily.  “We may be in some disagreement as to just who is guilty of it, however.  The Grand Duke does indeed possess the legitimate last will and testament of the late Lord Savoy; I myself read it this morning.  You were to receive a small portion of the liquid assets of the estate at the time of his death; everything else was to belong solely to Isabella.”

            Lady Alicia took in the Prince’s statement and realized the significance of his having read the will that morning. “So all this nonsense about the slipper has just been a little charade, has it not?”  She drew herself up to her full height, narrowed her eyes and stated, “You do not expect me to relinquish all my rights without contesting this so-called will in the King’s Court.”

            The Grand Duke raised his hand.  “One moment, Madam.”  He turned to Isabella.  “My dear, you will be returning to the palace with us.  If there is anything you would like to take with you, go and fetch it now.”

            Still somewhat dazed by what was taking place, Isabella looked at Godfrey, barely understanding.  “Today?  Now?  She asked incredulously.  When he smiled and nodded, she grasped the whole situation in a flash and felt suddenly and gloriously released.  She slipped her foot out of the glass slipper and back into her work shoe, took two steps toward the door and stopped.  She turned back to Lady Alicia with a determined gleam in her eyes.  “Stepmother,” she said in a carefully controlled voice, “I would very much like to take what’s left of my mother’s china figurines with me.  May I have the key to the secretary, please, so I may get them?” 

            Lady Alicia drew in her breath sharply and stared at Isabella.  Godfrey and Gregory exchanged glances, sensing that there was something more to the request than seemed apparent.  It was as if the older woman and the younger were engaged in some contest of wills.  As Lady Alicia continued to stare, a slight upturn began to play in the corners of Isabella’s mouth.  Godfrey leaned over to the page and whispered briefly.  The page nodded and slipped out, virtually unnoticed, taking the velvet pillow.  Still, Isabella stood patiently as Eugenia and Hortense fidgeted nervously on the divan.  At last, Lady Alicia glanced at the grim-faced Grand Duke, who raised an eyebrow at her.  “Well, Madam?”

            For the first time in her memory, Isabella actually saw alarm in her stepmother’s face.  Still, she waited.  At long last, with a deep sigh, Lady Alicia slowly drew a small key chain from her dress pocket and carefully extracted one key, which she dropped into Isabella’s outstretched hand.

            “Mama!”  Eugenia cried, horrified by what she knew to be her mother’s surrender.

            Lady Alicia turned to her daughter and rather shakily hissed “Hush!” as Isabella closed both hands over the key and brought them to the base of her throat, oblivious to their reaction.  Sudden tears welled up in her eyes and she closed them for just a moment then, taking a deep breath to collect herself, hurried from the room.

            As soon as Isabella had gone, Godfrey turned to Lady Alicia.  “Now, Madam,” he said in a calm voice, “You were saying you would contest the will in the King’s Court.”  He pulled an envelope, sealed with the royal cipher, from his pocket as he continued, “I do not think it would be to your advantage to pursue that course of action.  If this situation were to come before the court, I am quite certain that there would be sufficient evidence to bring indictments of fraud, unlawful imprisonment and perhaps even outright theft against you and your daughters.”

            At this, all color drained from Lady Alicia’s face, and she sank into a nearby chair.  Shocked, Hortense and Eugenia sprang from the divan, crossed to their mother, and fell on their knees on either side of her chair.

            “Mama!”  Eugenia cried out again.

            “Oh, what shall we do?”  Hortense lamented as she began to sob hysterically.

            With an obvious effort, Lady Alicia collected herself.  “Girls, girls,” she chided, “This is frightful behavior in front of His Highness.”

            Eugenia turned frightened eyes to the Prince as Hortense struggled to stifle her crying.  Finally, she reduced her hysterics to rather hiccuppy breathing, and Lady Alicia waved her daughters back to the divan.  Godfrey handed the sealed envelope to Lady Alicia.  “I daresay a court indictment would not be undeserved.  However, I am not willing to subject Isabella to the stress and publicity of such a trial.  Therefore, King Philip has written out this decree at my request.”

            Lady Alicia opened the envelope and read the contents of the document inside.  “You can’t be serious!” she gasped.

            “I am perfectly serious, Madam.  Max’s will specified that you would be given ten percent of the liquid assets of the estate upon his death.  I’m quite certain you have already spent far beyond that amount in the past five years, but as Isabella’s guardian I feel it would not harm her interests greatly to now bestow upon you one fiftieth of the estate’s liquid assets at this time.... provided you have all vacated the premises within the next forty-eight hours and leave the country straight away.”

            “But...but this is blackmail!  Extortion!”  Lady Alicia sputtered.

            “Blackmail?”  Gregory queried.  He felt absolutely no pity toward these women, who had treated Isabella so abominably.  “Don’t you understand?  You will not only not face criminal charges for your criminal behavior, but you will be allowed to depart with some resources at your disposal.  Do not confuse mercy with blackmail.”

            Eugenia now reacted to the conversation.  “But we can’t possibly pack everything in two days!”

            Lady Alicia handed Eugenia the decree, without taking her eyes from Godfrey, as she explained, “We are only allowed to take our own clothing.  The rest must stay as partial restoration of the funds which we have allegedly spent illegally.”  She frowned and spoke bitterly to the Grand Duke.  “You leave us very little choice, your Grace.”

            “How much choice have you afforded Isabella these past five years?”  Godfrey countered.  “I will send someone over Monday with your share of the funds from the estate, plus a carriage to deliver you to any location you choose, so long as it is beyond our borders.”  He gestured to the foyer, and two guards, sent in by the page, entered the parlor.  “These officers are here to ensure that the particulars are carried out, and they will be relieved by comrades at regular intervals.  I regret that I must look after Isabella’s interests in this manner, but, given the circumstances, I feel that this is necessary.  Do be aware that they are under strict instructions to inspect every bag, trunk or case that leaves the premises to make sure nothing other than clothing leaves the household, and they will protect Isabella’s property. They will arrest any of you who so much as scratches a tabletop.  We will not have any vandalism done here. And also be aware...the three of you will be female palace representatives to insure you do not abscond with any valuables hidden about your persons before you leave.  If anything of value is found on you, the entire agreement will be void and you will be facing criminal charges.  You will follow the terms."

            Godfrey startled a bit as Gregory suddenly ducked behind him and quickly crossed to the parlor door.  Isabella had returned, carrying the small trunk which contained her cache of treasures, which now included her mother’s figurines.  She was obviously surprised as Gregory insisted upon carrying the trunk for her, and rather reluctantly relinquished it to him.  She then turned to her stepmother and held out the key to the secretary.  “Thank you, Stepmother.” she said cordially.

            Lady Alicia took the key, avoiding Isabella’s eyes and speaking to Godfrey.  “I have some correspondence to remove from the drawers, but I will leave the key when I go.”

            Isabella frowned slightly, puzzled.  Then she noticed the guards and her eyes widened.  “What...” she began.

            Godfrey interrupted her gently.  “I will explain everything at length, my dear.”  He picked up the glass slipper, which had remained on the floor, forgotten, where Isabella had left it, and handed it to her.  “I think perhaps we should take our leave of these ladies.  They have a great deal to do in the next two days.”

            The Prince was already heading out the door with Isabella’s trunk.  Godfrey held the door for Isabella as she started through, then turned and looked back at her stepmother and stepsisters.  Hortense was weeping again, and Eugenia was talking to her in a low voice.  Lady Alicia had risen from her chair and was standing with her back to the door.  No one took any notice of Isabella at all.  Softly and sadly, Isabella murmured “Good-bye,” on the verge of tears herself, although she really didn’t know why.  She turned and stepped through the open door.

One more to be continued....

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Serial Fun - Installment 11

 It was a busy Sunday, and I didn't get anything done in the sewing room.  Fortunately, tomorrow is a holiday in the US, so I will likely run to the chain fabric/ craft store across town for an appropriate zipper when I go out to get fixins for the family cookout tomorrow afternoon.  That's something, eh?

I might be procrastinating because this project intimidates the heck outta me, lol.  I gotta just suck it up and get on with it...

But, meantime, I've almost posted the whole frivolity.  I really didn't think it would break down into this many pieces...if you missed the earlier installments, HERE's the most-recent-on-top link...

Part Four -- The Deliverance


            There was a long line of carriages waiting at the palace entrance for the guests who were departing when Rita slipped into the back entrance, laden with her bundle.  She was again counting on everyone being occupied in the public part of the palace so that she could return to her rooms unquestioned.  It seemed she was right because she saw no one at all on her way in.  She awkwardly opened her door, juggling her load as best she could.  She managed to get inside and kick the door shut with her foot.  She took a deep breath and turned towards her bedroom to get everything back in the wardrobe before Esmerelda came up.

            “Well, well, look what we have here.”

             Rita jumped when she heard her brother’s voice, dropping her bundle.  “Gregory!” she exclaimed.

            Gregory didn’t reply to the Princess as he came from her bedroom into the sitting room, looking instead at the armchair in the shadowy corner where, to Rita’s further surprise, sat the Grand Duke.  Gregory pointed to the bundle and asked Godfrey, “What do you suppose we’ll find in there?”

            Godfrey stood up, walked over to the bundle and crossed his arms.  “I’m just guessing...but I wouldn’t be surprised to find a pink dress and a mask wrapped up in there.”

            Rita’s jaw dropped in shock as Gregory nodded and commented, “My thoughts exactly.”  Then, he finally addressed Rita. “Tell me, little sister, have you been playing Fairy Godmother this evening?”

            Rita stared at him for the moment it took her to find her voice, then bent to pick up the bundle again. “ did you know?”

            However, before Gregory could reply, Rita’s door opened again, and the King entered.  He did not look happy.  “Your mother and I,” he began, with an air of restrained fury, “Thought you were old enough to understand the necessity of responsibility and self-restraint; now they tell me you have run off for the evening with no guard or chaperone.” He paused for a moment, and to Rita’s relief the Grand Duke held up his hand and interrupted.

            “Philip, before you scold her too thoroughly, perhaps we’d better hear what happened.”  Godfrey looked at Rita.  “From the beginning.”

            Tears welled up in Rita’s eyes; she had planned everything so carefully and now it looked like it had all fallen apart.  She walked around Gregory into her room as she considered what to reply, dropped the bundle on her bed and returned. “But -- I promised I wouldn’t tell...”  She looked at Godfrey beseechingly.  “I promised...”

            Godfrey nodded.  “All right.  Let me tell you what I know already.  You arranged for a young lady to attend the ball tonight, didn’t you?”  Rita sniffed and nodded, so Godfrey continued.  “That young lady was Isabella Savoy, wasn’t she?”

            Once again, Rita stared at Godfrey, took a shaky breath and asked, “How did you know?”

            Godfrey smiled thinly.  “She took off her mask for a moment and I recognized her.  Now, what did you promise not to tell?”

            Rita swallowed.  “Isabella made me promise not to tell anyone about her.  She’s terribly afraid of her stepmother.”

            Godfrey glanced at the King.  “I’m not surprised, somehow...”  He turned back to Rita.  “How did you meet her?”

            Rita sighed and sat down on the divan, perched on the front of the cushion with her hands in her lap.  She related everything that had happened after she stomped off into the pasture the previous week.  Her father started to speak both times she confessed to going off by herself, but Godfrey restrained him so that she told the story without interruption.

             When she’d finished, Godfrey paced about, shaking his head.  “This is terrible.  I should have checked the whole story out when I got home five years ago.  Something like this never occurred to me.”  He looked at Rita.  “I know you promised, but she needs help desperately.  Why didn’t you tell me this last week?”

            Rita sighed.  “You thought she was dead.  I was afraid you wouldn’t take my word for it and begin an investigation of some sort, and that word would get back to Lady Alicia.  Isabella is terrified that her stepmother will do something terrible to her if she finds out that anyone knows the truth.”

            The Grand Duke sighed.  “I suppose she has good reason to feel that way.  But there’s more to this story than you know.”

            The King looked at him.  “What, Godfrey?”

            Godfrey pressed his lips into a grim line then replied.  “Max left a will.  I was to be executor of his estate, should anything happen to him.  He left nearly everything to Isabella, with Lady Alicia only to receive a small percentage of the estate.  In fact, Lady Alicia was only to be allowed to stay in the manor house if Isabella permitted it.  According to the will, I was to be Isabella’s legal guardian.”

            The King inhaled sharply.  “You never told me that!”

            “There didn’t seem to be any point in it.  I remember seeing a signed death certificate for her -- everything looked in order.”

            The King was puzzled.  “Who signed the certificate?”

            Godfrey shook his head.  “Lady Alicia’s personal physician -- who has since retired and gone back to Flavia.  In hindsight, it appears I was foolish not to investigate further.  Anyway, since I was convinced that Isabella died before I returned, Max’s will was of no consequence.  As Isabella’s next of kin, Lady Alicia ‘inherited’ the estate.”  He gave a rueful sigh.  “Poor Isabella...I should never have let her go through all of this.”

            For the first time since Rita began her story, Gregory spoke, looking out of the window.  “She pretty much refused to talk about that tonight.  I had no idea it was that bad.”  He paused a moment, then looked at the rest of them.  “What are we going to do about it?”

            Rita decided she could offer some advice here.  “She needs someone to swoop down on the manor house without warning and take her and her mother’s things away to a safe place, out of her stepmother’s reach.”

            Godfrey frowned.  “Do you think I could just go and fetch her?”

            Rita looked hopeful.  “Could you just march in and take her away?”

            The King crossed his arms and paced a few steps.  “It would be better if we could catch Lady Alicia completely off guard.  If you just went in with a detachment of soldiers...well, you’d probably have to arrest her and we’d have a trial.  It would cause quite a scandal.”

            Gregory groaned.  “A scandal is the last thing we should subject Isabella to.”

            The King nodded.  “Just what I was thinking.  We need some way of taking care of it quietly.”

            Suddenly, Godfrey looked up at Gregory.  “I think I’ve got an idea.  Gregory, do you remember saying something about trying that glass slipper on every girl in the kingdom?”

            Gregory frowned.  “Vaguely, but I was only joking.  Besides, we know who the mysterious masked lady is.”

            Godfrey nodded.  We know -- but Lady Alicia doesn’t.”  He quickly explained his idea as the King, the Prince and the Princess listened carefully.

            When he’d finished, there was silence as they considered his idea.  Finally, the King nodded.  “It might work.  It would certainly put her off her guard.  You might even be able to get Isabella out without any opposition.”  He looked at Gregory.  “What do you think?”

            Gregory shrugged.  “I think it’s probably the best idea we’ll come up with tonight.  I’m in favor of it.”

            Rita knew of a problem with the plan.  “You’re giving the impression that you’re taking Isabella off to marry her,” she objected.  “Isabella has told me that she won’t marry anyone just to escape her stepmother -- she insists that she won’t make the mistake of marrying someone she doesn’t know well enough.”

            Gregory smiled.  “She’s made of strong stuff, isn’t she?” He observed to no one in particular.

            The King looked at Gregory with slightly raised eyebrows, started to speak, stopped, then finally spoke. “Well, Gregory...what will you do if she says, ‘Thank you, but no’?”

            Godfrey interrupted.  “Look, we’ll just say he’s trying to find her -- we won’t need to say anything about marriage.  When Lady Alicia is forced to admit who she is, then I can take her away as my ward.  I don’t think Isabella will object to that and it will accomplish the same thing -- we will take her with us when we go.”

            The King had another thought.  “Isn’t the rest of Max’s will valid as well?  What can we do to protect Isabella’s property?”

            Godfrey frowned.  “I need to review the provisions in the will...and maybe check on some legal precedents as well.  I can do that first thing in the morning.  I believe you will have to issue a decree, Philip, but I think it can still be handled discreetly...unless Lady Alicia wants a scandal, which I doubt.  Under the circumstances, I think that, given the right incentive, she would be willing to return to her relatives in her native country.”  Suddenly, Rita yawned and Godfrey laughed.  “The Fairy Godmother is fatigued.  I’d say she has done a fair night’s work and should be allowed some rest.”

            The King nodded.  “Gracious, yes, she needs to be in bed,” and yawned himself.  “We can discuss the details in the morning...or at least, after some sleep.”

            “Just a moment...there’s something I want to clear up first...” Gregory gave Rita a knowing look.  “Little sister of mine, just what did you have in mind when you sent Isabella to the ball?”

            Rita blushed and looked at the floor.  “Well...I hoped you’d like her and take her away from her stepmother.”  She looked up at him and said as innocently as she could manage, “Aren’t princes supposed to rescue damsels in distress?”

            Before Gregory could reply, the door opened and Esmerelda entered, then stopped as she saw that the Princess was both present and occupied with visitors.  “Well!” she said brightly.  “Do we know who the girl in the mask was now?”

            The King sighed.  “Esmerelda, this young lady has been most naughty this evening...but as it appears that her motives were pure and the results desirable,” he couldn’t resist a glance at his son before continuing, “We will not be unduly harsh with her.  Get her in bed as soon as you can, but don’t ask her too many questions.  Everything will be made right in the morning.”  With that, he gestured to Godfrey and Gregory, who preceded him out of the door.  He himself kissed Rita lightly on the forehead and said “I will explain everything to your mother…Good night” before he left.

            Relief washed over Rita as she returned her father’s good night kiss and realized that she wasn’t going to receive a scolding after all.

To be continued...