Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Making an 1840's Straw Bonnet

About eleven years ago, when I lived in my first flat, I picked up a straw hat in a charity shop, stitched with cotton thread. I’m afraid I don’t have a picture of how it looked, but imagine something closely akin to a “dixie cup” sailors cap. I realised that when unfolded it would form a good base for a 19th century bonnet, but I didn’t yet know if I wanted an Empire/Regency one or an 1840’s one. So, like many other “someday I’m going to make something really nice from this” items, it ended up in my stash. I took it out from time to time, but never felt brave enough to get started.

And then I had an event coming up, the opening of an exhibition of women’s fashion from the 18th century to today. I was, with some others, invited to the opening and asked to come in clothing from any of the periods represented in the exhibition. I decided on the 1840’s maternity dress I made three years ago. The dress is nice, but I felt I needed a bonnet to look properly attired, so I finally got to work on transforming the straw hat into a bonnet.

First I unpicked the stitches holding the straw braid for a few feet, so I could use that to edge the finished bonnet with. You can see the crease where the brim was originally folded upwards.


Then I dunked the bonnet in water to make it less brittle and cut out a piece for the neck. I had a plan for the cut-off pieces of braid, but later I thought I should have curved the brim down towards the chin instead of cutting it straight. You live and learn.


The pieces of braid just mentioned I used to make a sort of bavolet at the neck.


When the shape of the bonnet was what I wanted it to I started stitching the braid I removed previously to the edge. It turned out I didn’t have quite enough, so I took another braid I had in my stash for the inside. I stitched them both on simultaneously, making sure the straw was wet the whole time.


This is how the bonnet looked when I’d finished the sewing, but before blocking. I shaped it while wet and set it to dry, with a pot of honey at the bottom of the crown to make it flatter.


Then it was time for trimming. This was an all-stash project, so I picked out a scrap of green silk dupioni. Taffeta would have been better, and taffeta ribbons best of all, but I didn’t have any. I hemmed strips of the silk for ties and trim. I wasn’t quite happy with the straw bavolet, so decided to cover it with a silk one that I gathered to the proper length using whipped gathers.


I wrapped a long strip of silk round the bonnet, arranging artful creases here and there. Silk ties were also attached.



The silk was attached with very untidy stitches on the inside, as seen in period bonnets. Makes it easy to change the trim if wanted.


Then I was a bit unsure if I should leave it as was – after all, it looked very pretty that way – or add ostrich plumes. As I was dressing as a close to middle aged, married bourgeoise woman, I decided more was more in this case. I had some ostrich feathers that had fallen out of my feather duster and been saved for a moment like this. I picked out four, and stitched them together two-and-two with silk thread to make them fuller.


Then I attached them to the bonnet, again using long stitches on the inside. They turned out looking pleasantly fluffy, adding just the right oomph to the bonnet.


But the bonnet snagged my hair, so after consulting knowledgeable people I made a half lining using a thin cotton fabric. Not the most historically accurate fabric for this, but it had to do.


And that was that, all finished. I hadn’t added cheek ruffles to the inside, so I wore a cap under the bonnet instead to give a similar effect. It might be an old-fashioned thing to do for the 1840’s, but it looked nice enough. I felt very Cranford.


But woe! I wasn’t quite happy with the size! 1840’s bonnets usually hide the profile completely from view when seen from the side, and mine doesn’t. It annoys me no end, even though I love how the bonnet turned out over all. So disappointing…


Maybe I’ll just sell it - without the plumes it would look lovely on a girl - and try again.

Sources:
My Pinterest board of extant 1840's bonnets.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Early 19th century Swedish Farmwife’s Everyday Dress

Back in April I attended an event held at the open air museum of Fredriksdal. It focused on Swedish civilians and soldiers ca 1800-10. We got to live in the houses, cook in the fireplaces, even sleep in the beds. I didn’t do the latter, as the weather was cold and windy, I’m having a bit of a tough pregnancy, and to top it off, had just had pneumonia. I thought it safer to sleep in my own warm bed, and just stayed the one day, but still had a good time. The event, which was rather small and intimate, still attracted participants from the whole country, and even a few from Norway. Fredriksdal is located in the county of Skåne (Scania) and most of the houses are from there, so those women in attendance who, like me, are from this part of the country, chose to dress according to the local fashion, which in this case meant folk costumes, still in daily use at the time. Our feast day clothes wouldn’t do, so we tried to tone it down for an everyday look. Trickier than you might think, as very little evidence remains as to what was worn then. When it comes to the fancy clothes, much is known, but as usual, no one really cared to document what people wore when working in the kitchen garden.


I made a brown wool skirt for the occasion, which I intend to also use as a petticoat for my fancy folk costume. Brown wool skirts from my parish are mentioned in estate inventories, but are far from as common as the usual blue and green, or the reasonably common black. I had a suitable fulled, twill woven wool at home though, so it had to do, even if it was brown.

It is constructed from straight panels. My fabric was 150 cm wide, but as the extant skirts I know of are usually made from narrower widths I cut my panels in half, and stitched them back up again, making four narrow ones in total, and a width of close to 3 metres. The hem was faced with a strip of unbleached linen. 


The skirt is smooth in front, as seen in extant skirts, and has the fullness taken in by stroked gathers at the sides and back, that are secured with rows of stitches, seen only from the inside. 


It closes by a sturdy brass hook and eye half way to the left side. 


I don’t know how they did about pockets – in some mid-19th century folk costume skirts there are stitched in pockets, like in modern skirts of the time, but for earlier decades I’m unsure if they wore loose pockets or not. I left a slit open in the right side seam anyway, so if need be I can tie a pocket round my waist.


In the end the brown skirt ended up used as a petticoat at the event, as I decided I wanted two skirts for warmth, and wore my usual blue skirt on top. In the period manner I flipped the blue skirt up over my shoulders to keep out the wind every now and then, so I didn't make the brown one in vain.

I also made a new bodice. I intend for it to be trimmed with blue silk ribbons, and replace my old fancy silk bodice as that one has become rather too small. For the event I used it untrimmed though. It’s made from fine brushed wool, lined with unbleached linen, and closes in front with three pairs of brass hooks and eyes, but most of the closure is hidden beneath the skirt. The wide opening would be held by buckles and a chain for best, but for everyday was likely left as was. 


At the bottom of the bodice a rather thick, padded linen roll is stitched, on which the skirts rest. Having a full figure was considered attractive by the country folk at this time and place, and you do feel rather important in an "I break for nobody" kind of way when you come walking along the road in all your matronly fullness, especially when you wear several wool skirts on top of each other. It's far from what is considered an attractive figure today, which make rather few people recreate it as close to the originals as I try to, but go the more 'inspired' route. I'll post more detailed pictures of the bodice when it's trimmed and have the buckles attached.

As for the apron, I didn’t want to use my fancy one, as I expected to cook and do greasy dishes – a good decision it turned out. Instead I whipped one up from a piece of cotton fabric that I had intended to purge from stash. It’s not perfectly period, the fabric isn't quite right and it's much too narrow, but woven stripes were popular, and the fabric had a sort of washed out, sun bleached, worn look to it that I thought would do for everyday.


I never got any decent pictures of myself from the actual event (though I can be seen in a couple of these), so I took proper pictures the other day. The weather is a lot warmer now than in April, so I could ditch the knitted spedetröja I had to wear to the event, despite it feeling too fancy. For the pictures I wore the bodice and skirt over just an unbleached linen shift (for an everyday shift I’m not sure if it should have a collar or not...), and accessorised it with the ever present apron and head kerchief. As the temperature is pleasant I went without stockings or any form of shoes. I want a pair of wooden clogs, but all in good time.



The outfit might have been a little later than the event called for, as most of the sources I base it off are from Ca 1825-50, and I generally aim for the 1830’s-40’s in my fancy version of the folk costume, but ah well. I’m still not quite sure how historically accurate this outfit is, but at the very least I think it's plausible and believable. I may have to revise it in future, but then we always do, don’t we?

Sources:
My Pinterest board of extant clothing and period images from the area. Mostly fancy versions.
Allmogedräkten i Oxie härad, (1978) by Helge Andersson.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Petticoat Makeover, Part Two

When preparing for an outing in 1840’s attire, I realised I didn’t have the number of petticoats I wanted. That is, I could have had an acceptable number, if one wasn’t way too short, the result of a previous makeover. Ooops. Thinking about extant mid-19th century Swedish petticoats, I decided to give it a second makeover. You can see the before(s) here.


I looked through my stash and found a sturdy cotton bobbin lace that was long enough to go around the hem. I whip stitched this in place. I then took a piece of cotton fabric of the same quality as the petticoat, cut a wide strip that I folded in half, seam allowances inside, and whip stitched this to the lace, as seen in the picture below.


And just like that I had a petticoat of a proper length that I really like the look of. Pretty white petticoats are one of the main things that attracted me to the mid-19th century when I was a girl, and I confess I still like them a lot.


Like most Swedish mid-19th century petticoats, mine closes with tapes in the back. That may not seem as secure as buttons, but I’ll tell you one great advantage: if you’re pregnant and feel like you don’t really need any additional girth over your bump, you can put the petticoats on back to front and the plackets can open over said bump, putting a lot less fabric there, letting the fullness go in the back instead, where it's much more wanted. The tapes will make sure you’re able to wear the petticoats no matter what your current size. Of course, this only work for about 1830-1865, when petticoats were pretty similar all the way round. And speaking of pregnancy adjustments to your skirt supports; you might want to use a slightly fuller bum pad to somewhat balance your rear to your currently prominent front.



The three petticoats I wore to the event (one corded, one plain and this tucked one with lace insertion, the first two starched) did a decent job of supporting my skirts, but I still think I need more to get proper oomph... One can never have too many petticoats.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

1840's Knitted Garters

I felt the need to make myself a pair of suitable garters for my 1840’s outfit. I had raided my closet and cut down a pair of too small white cotton tights to make a pair of over knee stockings (a budget variety, if you like me can’t afford reproductions – just make sure to stitch the tops, so they don’t unravel), but like their 19th century counterparts, they wouldn’t stay up on their own. I felt like knitting and knowing I had come across knitted garters in the mid-19th century before, I went to the internet to see what I could dig up.


After a short search, I found that a description of how to make knitted garters were present in The Workwoman’s Guide from 1838, which suited my period just fine, though I have yet to find an example of knitted garters from this period in Sweden. I looked through my stash of yarn, and picked out a soft blue wool, not too thick. I used knitting needles 2 mm (US 0, UK 14), and with 14 stitches I got a width of 4 cm, not too far from the “nail, more or less, wide” mentioned in the description. To really have them a nail wide (a nail being equal to 5,7 cm or 2 1/4”) seemed too wide for comfort. I also made mine shorter than the 2/3 of a yard (about 60 cm) stated in the Guide, as 46 cm worked just fine for me.


I knitted in a hole at one end, described as optional, which might be why I didn’t need the full 60 cm: I just wrapped the garter round my leg, pulled one end through the hole, and tied it off.



This was a quick and simple project, just what one needs once in a while. The garters are really comfortable to wear, and though no one will see them, I like the fact that they are blue. When in active use, I fold my stockings down over the garters though, I feel it makes it more secure and comfortable, as the stockings will just roll down to the knee otherwise, which is really annoying.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Easter Witch

Last year I wrote this on my private Facebook page, and since I made a broomstick last summer I've been planning to take pictures to match the text. Last Saturday I did.



"In parts of Sweden and Finland it's rumoured that on the 
Thursday before Easter - "Skärtorsdag" - the witches travel 
to Blåkulla to feast with the devil. That is of course rubbish, 
a story made up by Muggles to explain something they fear
 and don't understand. There are in fact lots of brooms in 
the air around Easter, as the annual (and mostly friendly) 
Quidditch match between Sweden and Finland takes place 
Easter weekend, a tradition going back to the late 1700's. 
One would hope that not too many brooms are spotted* though, 
what with the International Statue of Secrecy and all that..."

The post led to discussions on how it began as a national game (Finland had long been a part of Sweden by the late 18th century), and when Finland became Russian, the match was kept as a way to preserve friendliness despite the Muggle wars and politics. By now it's been going on for so long it's unthinkable to stop. Whether or not a certain 18th century Muggle war was the horrid result of arguments over World Cup tickets, or are nothing but slander, also came up.



My outfit was inspired by the way in which Swedish Easter withes (påskärringar) are often depicted, like lower class women from about the turn of the last century. Of course witches don't wear such styles today, but you know I like to dress up historically. I wore my insanely pieced dress, a quilted petticoat, knitted mitts and stockings, a headkerchief, an apron from my kitchen, and a piece of fabric for a small shawl. Besides the broom I also carried a copper coffee pot, often seen in images of Easter witches. One needs a refresher if the Quidditch game gets long, and April in the North is often cold.

*Especially important as Swedish Muggle Police said they'd be keeping a lookout for airborne nuisance and other nasty things this weekend. Just a head's up ;)

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Hankasärk II - A Swedish Folk Costume Shift

Some years ago I made a hankasärk, a sleeveless shift from the very South of Sweden, to wear with my folk costume. Now I’m working on a Ca 1810 everyday version of that folk costume for an event I hope to attend in a few weeks, and need a new hankasärk. The old one is a bit too loosely woven for my taste, and a smidge tight. In the beginning of March I made a new one, but I never got round to blogging about it until now.


I had the cover of an old mattress, probably used in the early/mid 20th century in a military or hospital setting. It was made from a very sturdy, handwoven linen, and though it was stained here and there and had a few unsightly mends, I thought I could get a hankasärk from it. The densely woven fabric, with nice selvedges, was too good to pass up.


I had a 1:10 scale pattern, taken from an extant hankasärk, that I used as a guide when making my first one, so I knew what the pattern pieces should look like, and I looked at pictures of extant hankasärkar to see what similarities and variations there were. I then decided on the measurements for mine, measured on the fabric, and cut to a thread. All the pieces are rectangles of various sizes: one for the front and back (there are no shoulder seams), one in each side, two narrow ones to form the waistband, and four to make up the skirt. In the originals there are usually three skirt panels, but my fabric was a bit narrower than the ones originally used, so I chose to use four to get a similar width in the finished garment.


The bodice part is made up with back stitches, with all seams neatly felled to one side. I then hemmed the sides, that would be arm openings. After doing this I discovered that I’d sewn one side inside out – oops. Several friends advised me to let it be; similar mistakes are seen in extant shifts. I pondered what to do while working on the skirt part, and then unpicked the armhole hem that was inside out, and stitched it again, to the right side this time. I left the side seams be though: they were discreet enough not to bug me. All seams and hems were made as narrow as the fabric would allow.


The skirt panels had neat selvedges, so to make maximum use of the width, I whip stitched them together. This made almost completely flat seams when pressed. As I have upcycled the material, there are holes from the previous seams, but hopefully they’ll mostly go away in the wash. 


The skirt is attached to the waistband with stroked gathers. They turned out a bit less tight than I’d wanted (I might be  bit wider than the original wearers, or I didn't do the gathers fine enough), but it’s acceptable. 


The waistband and bodice (with all edges, including the bottom, hemmed) were then joined by whip stitching.


I managed to avoid the worst stains when cutting out the hankasärk, but there are still a few fainter ones. I decided not to let them bother me though. There were also the few holes that had been mended by machine. Though reasonably well done, machine mending on a shift I intend to be from well before a proper sewing machine was invented just wouldn’t do. I unpicked the mending, and redid it by mending a larger hole with a patch, and two smaller ones by sewing/weaving linen thread over them. These flaws make the shift look well worn and cared for, something I don’t mind at all. There’s no fun in looking all sparkling new, like you wore a fancy costume instead of proper clothes, especially not in a lower class living history setting.


For all sewing I used linen thread that I strengthened with bees wax. For the monogram – common in large households in a time were all linens looked more or less the same – I used cotton embroidery floss. Most people in early 19th century Sweden used patronymic surnames, so the first letter stood for the person’s first name, the second for their father’s first name, and the third for son/daughter. It’s a practice still used in folk costumes. You can also see the seam that ended up wrong side out.


This will be my first entry in this years’ Historical Sew Monthly. It could have fit under February’s 'Re-Make, Re-Use, Re-Fashion'but obviously it was too late for that, so instead I’ll put it under April’s ’Circles, Squares and Rectangles’.

The Challenge: #4 Circles, Squares and Rectangles.

Material: Handwoven linen.

Pattern: Based off of period examples.

Year: Ca 1800-1850.

Notions: Linen thread, bee's wax, cotton floss.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty close in both material,construction and sewing.

Hours to complete: No idea.

First worn: Hopefully at an event in a few weeks.

Total cost: About 50 SEK (5,25 Euro, £4,49, $5,6), not counting the work.

Friday, 13 January 2017

The Red Riding Hood Winter Coat

Way back in 2009 I picked up a piece of cheery wine red wool at a good price in a fabric shop that was closing. I wanted to make a winter coat from it, but there wasn’t enough for what I had in mind. Soon afterwards I stumbled on a piece of wool in the same quality, but a shade or two darker, in a charity shop, at an even better price. This could work, and I quickly cut out some of the pieces for it. And then life happened. And happened again, and again. I would pick it up, do some work on it, and then it would creep back into the UFO pile.


When I got it out this summer, seven years and two children later, it didn’t fit very well. I had to do some hard thinking, and then, with the help of piecing and added panels, will it to do as I wanted it to. In the end, the finished result turned out all right, if not perfect. The style had changed a little since I cut out the first pieces, but overall for the better, I think. The coat itself is made from the lighter red wool, which also lines the hood and pelerine collar made from the darker red wool – the winters here are mostly wet and windy, and the cold goes straight through you. Extra layers of wool are a good thing. 
The coat is also piped here and there in the darker red wool. In the pictures, the contrast between the lighter and darker fabrics show best in the hood.


For the construction of the hood I took my inspiration from 18th century hoods, with the pleats radiating out in the back. Since mine was made from double layers of thick wool, the centre of the pleats wouldn’t quite close, so I covered a button in a scrap of wool and stitched it over the hole.


When it was time to line the pelerine collar, I didn’t have any piece of fabric large enough, so I ended up piecing it together from twelve smaller scraps. The facings in the front is also pieced together from four pieces each, and both the sleeves and the lining of the hood ended up being pieced from two pieces each. I wanted a long row of buttons down the front, and luckily I’d salvaged a dozen buttons from an old, worn-out coat I’d made, which would do quite well. I put two of them in the back, and the remaining ten down the front. Even the lining was reused from something else. All in all, the coat looks nice, maybe even expensive, but it’s all clever scrimping and recycling. Elegant economy, as they say in Cranford.


One morning about a week ago it was snowing, and of course I’d have to take the opportunity to get pictures of the coat. After all, a backdrop of snow is much prettier than a backdrop of mud and sad looking, beat down grass.


 Ever had to completely remodel a project after taking it from an extended time in the UFO pile? 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Miniature Row of False Books - Tutorial

Much as I prefer books with proper pages for miniatures, I saw someone’s hack on how to quickly make a row of leather bound fake ones from an old book. Realising that sometimes mass is desired, and every individual volume won’t actually be properly seen, I wanted to try it, but had the wrong kind of book. Instead I came up with a method that worked with the book I had at hand. I had planned to toss it for quite some time, but kept putting it off, as I thought the cover could be of some use - a good decision it turned out.


First, do not use a book of cultural or economic value. Just don’t, it’s a big no-no. Second, use a book with a leather spine or a complete leather cover.

Start with removing the pages. If the book spine is wide enough to make two rows of books, you can then cut it in half. If not, cut close to one side.


Trim the insides and draw the size of books you want. You don't want the top and bottom, so start a bit from the top and bottom edges. I decided I wanted my books to be a series, so I wanted them the same size. Carefully cut out the “books”. Ordinary household scissors might do, depending on how tough the cover is.


Wrap the former book spine round the side of your new “book” to make a cover, and glue in place. Trim if necessary.


 Play around with the books to see how you want to arrange them – individually or in groups, neat or untidy. If one cover happen to be particularly nice, and you plan to glue the books together, put that in front just in case it'll show.


I drew lines with gold pen on the spines of one group of books, but left the others plain, to make it less obvious that what turned into two groups of books were really made from the same material. I plan to eventually have my books sit properly in bookcases, so I glued them together neatly, one with a book leaning at one end for visual interest. 


For now though they are part of The Room of Hidden Things that I wrote about in my last post.