Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hey there Little Red Riding Hood!

Winter is fast approaching and this historical lady needs a warm outer garment.  While I have a wonderful early 19th century Pelisse, I need something for my 18th century outings.  The most common outerwear of that period was the cloak.  Cloaks were made of many different materials from common wool to fancy lace and embroidery.  Those worn for warmth were typically wool.  The wool used in these garments was very dense, almost felted, which didn't ravel when the edges were left raw.  Lower and working class women often wore simple cloaks that were unlined with raw edges or hemmed edges and tied with wool braid or simply held closed by hand.  Those of higher social standing may have had cloaks trimmed or faced with silk and a few were fully lined with silk.  Some cloaks had collars as well as hoods.  Some were long and others were half or 3/4 length.  Red seems to have been the most popular color as it is the most commonly found in the surviving examples.  Here are a couple of examples of 18th century cloaks:

From the Met Museum--Red wool bound with red silk. Late 18th century.

Detail of hood.  Radiating pleats were the most common construction of these hoods and this is a perfect example.

From the Boston Museum--shorter cloak in red wool bound with black silk. Late 18th century.

I liked the idea of binding the cloak in black silk so I decided that I would make a red cloak fully lined and bound with black silk.  I used red wool broadcloth from Burnley and Trowbridge which is very dense and heavy.  I first made the cloak with raw edges using the Mill Farm diagrams.  It is made from 4 large right angle triangles with the hood being a large rectangle.  The triangles were stitched together and the neck was pleated.  The hood was stitched in the back, pleated then the neck edge was pleated to fit the body.  The seam was very bulky so I stitched red wool braid over it on the inside to flatten it out.  Because this diagram uses triangles, the hem is not even and must be either tried on with an assistant to even out the hem or placed on a dress form.

Hood pleating detail:

I then cut the same pieces out of the black silk.  I pleated the neck of the body and stitched it into the wool outer garment.  I assembled the hood, turned under the neck edge and pleated it to fit, stitching it in place.  The lining and outer garment were then basted together around the edges.  

Bias strips 4 inches wide were cut out of the same black silk and stitched 1 inch from the edge, right side to the right side of the cloak.  The binding was then turned into the inside and stitched to the lining.

I cut a strip the width of the silk that was 3 1/2 inches wide, cut it in 2 pieces and angled one end of each piece.  I finished these strips with 1/16 inch rolled hems, whipped and gathered the straight edges and stitched them just below the neck seam at the binding seam.

I'm pleased with the finished product. It's extremely heavy but I've found that the combination of wool and silk is very warm.  The hood is huge and will fit over any kind of big hair I can muster!  Here are the final pics, though the cloak needs a good steaming!  My mannequin is wearing it over a 1940's crepe dress -- but then she was never very good at picking out her outfits!

The "eyes" have it! A tutorial.

I have always been fascinated with antique jewelry.  One finds some unusual traditions when exploring the jewelry of the past.  We see mourning jewelry which contains miniature portraits and often hair of the deceased, jewelry with hidden compartments and other mechanical parts, commemorative miniature portrait jewelry --the list goes on.  I think my favorite category has to be the Lover's Eye jewelry that became popular in the late 18th century.

A "lover's eye" miniature is a painted miniature of the giver's eye, presented to a loved one.  These miniatures were painted in watercolor on ivory or gouache on vellum and they were set in rings, pendants and brooches for women and cufflinks, and small containers for men.  The idea behind this trend was that the eye was only recognizable to the wearer and could therefore be worn in public, while safeguarding the identity of the lover!  Portraits from the time rarely show subjects wearing these which suggests that these miniatures were often concealed out of site to further protect the identity of the lover.

These portraits often include a lock of hair or a small portion of the subject's face.  They are typically decoratively set with enamel or jewels and range from a few millimeters to a few centimeters in size.

The most common story of the origin of miniature eye portraits occurred in the late 18th Century when the Prince of Wales was refused permission by his father, King George III (and by British law) to marry the twice widowed and Catholic Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert.  Mrs. Fitzherbert avoided the Prince by escaping to Europe.  The Prince had a popular court miniaturist design and paint an eye miniature and sent it to her with his proposal.  Apparently, his gift swayed Mrs. Fitzherbert and they were secretly (and illegally) married.  The artist, in turn painted the bride's eye as a gift to the Prince.  Soon the Prince's idea caught on and became popular throughout Europe.   There are other reports of eye miniatures created up to 20 years earlier in France so there is some dispute as to the actual date that this trend began.

Eye miniatures remained popular in the 19th century however they evolved into mourning or remembrance jewelry, often portrayed with a tear or with hair from a deceased loved one.  Later Queen Victoria revived the eye miniature to use as presentation pieces.

To me, these are true eye candy! Here are some gorgeous period examples--Brooches:



I fell in love with these the first time I saw them so it was only natural that I would decide that I needed to add some to my 18th century accessory box!  I would love to have had the time to pull out my metalworking / enameling supplies and go at this project hardcore, but I decided to do it quickly and on the cheap!  

Here is a little tutorial on how you can make your own eye jewelry.

  • eye pictures (instructions below)
  • flat back decorative cabochon settings
  • thick permanent craft/metal glue
  • glass cabochons
  • dimensional adhesive such as Aleene's Paper Glaze or Judikins Diamond Glaze
  • Alternative--stick on resin cabochons in lieu of the glass / glaze
  • various beads/ crystals/ pearls for trimming
  • jewelry findings
First you will need to come up with a picture of an eye that looks painted.  You have several options here.  You can take a digital pic of your loved one's face and do some cropping or you can find a stock photo online.  I tried taking a picture but couldn't get the look I wanted so I put a search for male brown eye into google images and found all kinds of goodies:

Save your picture to your hard drive and open it in a graphics editing program like Photoshop.  

Open your filters palette and experiment with different looks.  I played with different brush strokes filters to give my picture a hand painted look.  I also played with the contrast and brightness to bring out the colors.  Pictures often wash out when printed and you want to avoid that.  When you are satisfied with your picture save it.  You will need to resize it to fit your cabochon settings.  My large setting was 30 X 40 mm so I sized my picture to about 32 X 42 mm.  I did this for the different sized cabochons that I was using.  I put the different sized pics into a Word doc and printed it out on photo paper.  If you are using regular paper, you will need to seal your pictures before proceeding with your project.

Gather up the settings and trim.  I used different types of rhinestone chain from the fabric department at Joann's and Hobby Lobby and some from my stash.  Wrap the trims around the cabochon opening to see how it looks:

One thing to note--The individual crystal/pearls are connected by little metal bars.  When wrapping the trim around the cabochon, you will want to push the crystal/pearls together so these bars do not show.  This will make your trim shorter so you need to make sure you have enough!  When you are pleased with the look, use a jewelry glue like E6000 to glue the trim in place.  Allow sufficient time to dry.

Gather up your cabochons and glaze.  You can either cut out your pictures beforehand or after the cabs are glued on.  If you are using resin stick on cabs, you will just place them on the picture and cut away the excess.  If you are using glass, you will need to put a generous blob of glaze on the center of the pic and press the cabochon on it.  You want the entire surface of the picture coated with the glaze. Clean the excess glaze off with a damp paper towel and put a book on top to weight them down until dry.  Once dry, cut away the excess paper.  If you find that glaze got on your glass, you can easily clean it off with rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab!

Put a dab of permanent craft glue in the center of your setting and place the cabochon in.  Viola! Your miniatures are finished!  

The fun really begins when you fashion your miniatures into wearable pieces of jewelry.  Here's what I came up with:

Brooches which can be worn as large pendants on ribbon

Bracelet with baroque pearls

Pendant with freshwater pearls

I love the way these turned out and I will probably experiment with a few more!  Can't wait to wear them! I wonder if anyone will figure out who my lover is!

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Winter Trifle

I love quick projects.  No project fits the bill better than millinery.  Decorating hats is probably my favorite of short term projects!  I have a particular weakness for the little Bergere hats of the 18th century.  Bergere hats are brimmed hats with an almost flat crown.  Women of all classes wore these little hats as sun hats.  I've made a few of these which were lined with pleated silk and decorated to different degrees from fairly simple to fairly ornate with large feathers.  The one pictured below is probably the most traditional treatment of these little hats:  a simple straw hat base with some ruched ribbon around the crown, a bow and a tie that is tied behind the head.

Some were covered with fabric or lace.

This beautiful example from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London is heavily embroidered on straw.

And this stunning example from the Colonial Williamsburg collection is embroidered silk.

So far, I've only found these hats in straw so I was delighted when browsing Jas. Townsend to find a Bergere hat made out of wool felt.  The wheels in my head started turning to design a winter version of my favorite hat.  I decided that it should have a more tailored feel to it as I don't see wool felt as being something that should have lace and frills.  I also decided that any feathers needed to be removable so that the hat could be worn in inclement weather.  So I gathered my supplies and went to work.

What you see is the hat blank, various sizes of Ostrich feathers, a hat pad made of pheasant feathers, a 10 yard spool of black silk ribbon 1 1/2 inches wide, a marking pencil and my ribbon trim book.

I decided to do a shell ruched ribbon trim around the brim with some sort of cockade or rosette in which to stick the feathers.  The ribbon trim would be like the one I used on my Regency ball gown which is my absolute favorite ribbon trim.

This trim is quite simple to do though it is somewhat labor intensive.  Basically you will be stitching a lot of zig zags.  The directions I've seen say to use ribbon twice the length of the finished trim.  I've found this not to be enough when working with silk ribbon as it is thinner than the synthetics and the gathers draw up tighter.  To know how large to make your zig zags, you will double the width of your ribbon.  My ribbon is 1 1/2 inches wide so I need to make marks 3 inches apart along one edge of my ribbon.  On the opposite edge, I need to find the point midway between the first set of marks and make a second set, also 3 inches apart.  I started the first set of marks about 1 inch from the edge.  I marked a length about twice that of my finished measurement to start, knowing that I would have to add more marks as I went along.

Then you will stitch running stitches from one edge to the other creating the zig zags.  While this can be done by machine, I find it more reliable to do this by hand with a doubled length of silk thread.  There is nothing more frustrating to be pulling up gathers and have them break.

Now the fun begins.  Start pulling up the gathers however tightly you like.  Check to see how this fits on your hat and mark more of the ribbon if more length is needed.

Once your ribbon is gathered, pin it to the hat.  Tack it on firmly using a running stitch along the center gathers.

I decided to make a rosette using the same trim.  I marked a couple of feet of ribbon and drew up the gathers to make a circle.  I stitched the gathers in place in the center.

I wanted to do a center piece and place a backing.  I decided to make a felt backing with a little pocket that I would be able to stick my feathers in.  So I cut a circle the desired size and made a wedge for the pocket.

The wedge was stitched on the circle then the backing was stitched on the rosette.

I wanted a large silk covered button for the center but I couldn't find any button forms large enough.  I found a 2 inch flat button so I cut a circle of silk a little over twice the diameter of the button and I added a little stuffing to give the button a softer look.  I gathered the circle, put the stuffing and button in the middle and stitched it to the center of the rosette.

Then I stitched the rosette on the hat, making sure that the pocket faced toward the back so any feathers would be laying in the right direction.

Voila!  Finito!  This hat will not have ties.  It will be held on with hat pins.  The pocket in the rosette gives me some options.

Here it is with just the pheasant feather pad:

Some added small ostrich feathers:

Some added large ostrich feathers:

And finally with just the large ostrich feathers only:

The feathers seem quite secure when stuck in the little pocket and I like that they can be easily removed for storage as I can keep it all in a fairly flat box!