Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Rainbow threads

I bought a job lot of vintage thread on ebay recently, so adding them to my collection required a bit of rearranging.  It's the little things in life!

Monday, 7 March 2016

HSM - Tucks & Pleating - Victorian Straw Bonnet

Learning how to make hats from straw braid was a bit of a revelation for me, and it's a process I've come to really enjoy.

For this late 1830s/1840s bonnet, I first cut out the shapes for the tip, side band and brim separately in buckram.  The straw is mostly machine stitched directly onto the buckram, starting from the outer edge, and overlapping so that the stitches are hidden.  For the tip I made sure the straw overlapped the outer edge slightly, so that when it came time to sew the tip to the side band, I could hand stitch down the overlapping straw to hide the join.  I also finished the inner swirl by hand.

The buckram provides quite a sturdy base for the bonnet, but I also added millinery wire to the outer edge of the brim by ziggering it to a length of straw, then attaching the straw along the underside of the brim edge, sandwiching the wire in-between.

The bonnet is lined and trimmed with thin black silk.

Prior to attaching the pleated trim along inner edge
My initial hopes of getting my sister's Natural Form ballgown skirt done in time for this particular challenge didn't come to fruition, so this bonnet is my entry instead.  It's difficult to see the black against black pleating, but it is there!  To decorate the inner brim edge I cut a long length of black silk, box pleated it, then stitched down the middle and gathered it slightly to give it a bit of body.

The Challenge:  February - Tucks & Pleating
Material: Buckram/Straw/Silk/Millinery Wire
Pattern: Based on one of my tutor's (Jane Smith) self-made patterns.
Year: Late 1830s/1840s
Notions: Poly cotton thread
How historically accurate is it?   Hmmm, not very.  The shape is, but I used machine stitching to attach the straw & millinery wire.  The silk was all hand sewn on though.
Hours to complete:  Difficult to say.  The initial construction was maybe a day's work, then it got neglected for a year.  Adding the silk would probably have been another day's work if I'd done it all at once.
First worn:  In my house, I don't have anything to wear it with yet!
Total cost:  Approx £15-20 for millinery supplies, the silk was long term stash.

Tudor Hats: Part I

   I've just gotten round to photographing some of my hat projects, so expect a few more of these posts in the next couple of weeks.

   Over the course of last year I got really interested in millinery.  In the spring term at Morley College I took up the Victorian Straw Bonnets class, which is taught by Jane Smith, a well known theatrical hatter.  Afterwards I was lucky enough to get a near-enough individual class with her (there was one other student) when the Tudor hat class for the summer term at Morley was cancelled, so Jane agreed to teach us in her studio instead.

   I worked on three different styles; a gable, a french hood, and a dutch cap(?).  I'm not sure of the proper name for the last one, but it's based on the one worn by Anne of Cleves in her famous portrait by Holbein.  In fact all were inspired by wives of Henry VIII, as I used Catherine of Aragon & Anne Boleyns' most well known portraits for the other two, and tend to refer to them by the name of their wearer.

   As is my wont, Catherine and Anne Boleyn had been on the verge of completion for a couple of months after the course ended, but got neglected when I hit a busy working period.  Luckily I eventually got them both finished, so here's Catherine for your enjoyment.

   I'm fairly chuffed with the finished result.  I usually get bored of trimming, but with the Tudors it's a bit of a main feature so I couldn't shy away.  'Making of' photos were sporadic at best, but I've included what I have.  The gable front is made from two layers of buckram, with millinery wire sandwiched in between.  I attached all millinery wire with a zigzag stitch around the edge of the buckram.  This was covered in stretch velvet and fake pearls and gemstones for decoration.

   The main panel was also in wired buckram; bent into the correct shape, then covered in a layer of  cotton domet (to hide the buckram texture) and stretch velvet.  The light gold brocade was a lucky find in my scrap box that I think brings out the pearls really nicely.

   The stripey fillets inside are attached to the main frame (historically, I imagine they are part of a separate head covering (correct me if I'm wrong), but this is a theatrical piece and not intended as a true replica - as my choice of materials has probably already made clear!).  The fillets are made out of vilene, and the striped fabric is black crepe de chine with strips of gold braid sewn across.

The veil is a half circle of stretch velvet lined in cotton lawn.  The stretch velvet was great for covering shaped pieces smoothly, but a bugger for attempting to sew through on the machine, but I persevered.

Stay tuned for Anne Boleyn!

Saturday, 27 February 2016

HSM Procrastination Challenge - 15th c. camicia

I've joined the Historical Sew Monthly group on facebook this year, in the hopes that it'll encourage me to finish and photograph more of my personal projects.  It's not a terribly good start then, although fitting, that I've managed to miss the deadline on January's Procrastination challenge by almost a month!

At the tail end of last year I got very interested in the Italian Renaissance, specifically womanswear from the late 1400s.  While perusing pinterest I stumbled upon the altar paintings of Carlo Crivelli,  and immediately fell in love.  There doesn't seem to be any other documentation of this particular style of dress, so it's difficult to know whether it's entirely accurate, or whether he embellished the look, but I'm determined to recreate something inspired by these gowns.

St Mary Magdalene, 1491-4, Carlo Crivelli, The National Gallery 
St Catherine of Alexandria, 1491-4, Carlo Crivelli, The National Gallery
One of the great things about living in London is that it just so happens that many of these paintings are just a tube ride away, in the National Gallery; so I went to have a look in December.  It's difficult to choose a favourite, but I do love the detail on this one below.

St Catherine of Alexandria, 1476, Carlo Crivelli, The National Gallery 
I'm not an embroiderer though, so all that gold work will involve a bit of fudging if I want to recreate something similar.

St Lucy, 1476, Carlo Crivelli, The National Gallery

For now though, I've got the camicia (the shift worn underneath) finished.  I started this in December, neglected it over Christmas, made a stab at finishing in January, and finally got the neckline trim sewn on in February.  It doesn't look like much (and the matching background doesn't help, I know), but I think it's the first thing I've made that's completely handsewn, and I followed the instructions in Patterns of Fashion 4 in order to make the construction as historically accurate as possible so I'm quite pleased with it.  I even used linen thread, and hunted out the finest linen fabric I could find (even if the weave is a bit open for my liking).

There are no patterns (that I can find) of pre 1500 camicias, as there's so little extant clothing from that time.  My usual periods are the 18th/19th centuries, and there's a wealth of information available on construction, as there are so many existing garments to study.  With this project, I basically just have a few paintings, and educated guesswork based on what still survives from the following century.  I therefore made use of the 16th century patterns from Patterns of Fashion 4, adapting the neckline, and narrowing the sleeves.

The Challenge: January Procrastination
Material: Linen
Pattern: Adapted from Patterns of Fashion 4.
Year: 1475-1500
Notions: Linen thread
How historically accurate is it? As accurate as possible, given the lack of surviving camicias to study.  Completely hand sewn using period techniques.  Lets say 95%
Hours to complete:  If I'd done it all at once, probably 2-3 days.
First worn:  Just at home to check fit.  It's a bit too transparent for modelling photos though.
Total cost: I can't remember what I paid for the linen.  It'll be under £20 altogether.

Moving on to the dress itself will definitely be out of my comfort zone, but I'm excited to get started... just as soon as I've got this years' Victorian ball gowns out of the way - that deadline is fast approaching!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Victorian Ball 2015 - All Finished!

It's taken a while to get round to finishing this series of posts, but hopefully I'll be a bit faster in getting photos up for the Ball this year.  Oh yeah, I'm going again, in May 2016, and Becky is too, which of course means that we both need new gowns!

But more about that later, now back to May 2015.  Unfortunately, as often happens, I stopped taking photos as the deadline approached, so I don't have any making of photos for either gown, aside from the waterfall drapery patterning already mentioned.

For my 1850s dress I found a lovely changeable magenta/blue poly taffeta (for £4p/m).  Being synthetic wasn't ideal, but it had a nice hand, and I loved the colour (and the price!) so I went with it.  Once again Jean Hunnisett was my go-to girl (for both of our dresses), and after umming and ahhing about trim for a while I kept it quite simple - just black lace along the waist and sleeve cuffs, and a little white lace peaking out at the top.  It closes in the back with hooks and eyes, which in retrospect wasn't ideal.  The lowered shoulders restricted my arm movement a lot, and I found that in trying to raise my arms to dance, the top couple of hooks came undone several times during the evening.  In future I would remedy this by adding a little elasticated panel to the shoulders, and stick to a lace up back opening.

We arrived in Bath early afternoon for the dance practise session.  There hadn't seemed much point in paying for a hotel room as our parents live so near by in Bristol, so we turned up in costume, and whiled away the rest of the afternoon before the ball by wandering around Bath getting some nice photos of each other.

Becky did a good job of being friendly to any good-natured passersby who asked if we were dressing up as Jane Austen characters, while I tried hard not to grumble at their distinct lack of costume history knowledge.  

Becky's dress is also low on trimming. Partly this is due to running out of time, but it's also due to my tendency to lose motivation once the structure of a garment is done.  It would have been nice to do something more with the bodice of this one, but at least her skirt is nice!

Her dress consists of an underskirt of silvery blue, with an overskirt consisting of a gold lace panel at the front, and the brighter blue at the back, with the drapery over it.  It has a back opening, and the waterfall is sewn to just one side, hooking into place on the waistband once the back is done up.

As much as I loved Becky's skirt, it proved quite difficult to take a photo that would show off both the gold lace and the waterfall at the same time - and without the wind blowing the drapery out of place!  Maybe I should have used a few swing tacks to keep it in position better while we were outside!

Inside at last!  I'm no stranger to the Assembly Rooms in Bath, but this was the first time I'd ever been to a ball there, and they fit the bill splendidly!  It was a wonderful evening, we met lots of lovely people, and danced the night away.  Having had so little experience of dancing, I had been a little apprehensive about what might be in store for us, but I needn't have worried.  With the afternoon practise session under our belts it was fairly easy to pick things up, and the variety of skill level within the group stopped anyone from feeling uneasy about forgetting a few steps.

Both of us in action!  Photo borrowed from Izabela's blog, please go here to see her photos from the night.

And Becky at the end of the night.  Many thanks to Prior Attire for hosting this wonderful event, we both look forward to the next one!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Victorian Ball 2015 - 'Waterfall' Drapery

I think my favourite feature of the costumes for last year's Ball was Becky's skirt, which featured waterfall drapery down the back, and a gold lace overlay at the front.  I was inspired by this image for the back drapery, and managed to find some lovely (and very affordable) silk that was blue one side and silver on the other.

To figure out the pattern for the drapery I first did a small mock up in paper.

And here's a sneak peak of the toile version in calico.  Next post will be photos from the Ball itself!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Victorian Ball 2015 - 1880s corset/bustle/ruffled petticoat

Once I was done with my own underpinnings for the ball, it was time to tackle Becky's 1880s ensemble.  The first thing on my list was a bustle, which I'd been itching to try for years.

I used red cotton drill from my stash (it had to be red for a lobster tail bustle!), and used a combination of instructions from Jean Hunnisett and American Duchess.  You can see the latter's instructions on her blog here.

I also made her a coutil corset using Norah Waugh, and a ruffled petticoat to go over the bustle.  Once again Jean Hunisett's 'Period Costumes for Stage & Screen (1800-1909)' was very useful, but I also found Izabela Pritchard's instructions (here) very concise and helpful.  Izabela, you may remember, is the one who set up the ball in the first place, so it seems fitting to use her guidance in putting our costumes together.  Unfortunately the only photo I have of the petticoat is the somewhat blurry one below.