Sunday, December 20, 2015

English Gown--upgrade!

I decided to upgrade the English gown in my previous post.  I have several "plain" 18th century garments so I decided to make this one a little fancier.  I needed something to wear to the SAR Patriot's Ball and we wanted to go in period attire.  I simply didn't have time to do my silk gown that I have planned.  This gown, while fancied up a bit, would still not be considered to be a ball gown.  Multicolored cotton chintz was expensive in the day but it was still very much for day wear.  This might have been more appropriate for a daytime country dance.

This gown is made from the J.P. Ryan Robe L'Anglaise (English Gown) pattern.  The petticoat is made using this tutorial which is my standard petticoat method.

I decided to add boning to the center back which was an optional thing in the pattern.  I think it helps the back to lie more smoothly.  I just ripped out a little of the stitching that secured the lining to the bodice, ran running stitches in the lining catching the seam allowance to make the boning channels and slipped in two 18 inch pieces of steel boning.  Then I stitched the neckline back up.

As far as the upgrades go--First I added ruched trim around the neckline.  I cut strips 1 3/4 inches wide with a rotary cutter then trimmed them with pinking shears.  I decided to do the gathering and attaching in one step.  Basically I did this by tacking down the end, taking 3 running stitches on the trim alone, pulling them tight then taking a back stitch through the trim and bodice to anchor it.  I did this around the neck.  I didn't know how much trim I would need so I just seamed it together as I went along.

 Next I added sleeve ruffles.  I used the Mill Farm pattern for embroidered sleeve flounces and I just cut them with pinking shears, stacked them, gathered and stitched them in the sleeves.  I covered the raw edges with cotton twill tape.  I added bows out of silk ribbon and temporarily basted in some removable lace flounces I had made from antique lace to dress it up a bit.

 I decided to wear the gown as a polonaise so I made fabric covered buttons in period using bone button forms.  I found a perfect motif in the fabric print to use as the focal point on the buttons, cut circles twice the diameter plus 5 mm and ran gathering stitches around the circle pulling it tight to cover.  You can see the front and back of the buttons below.  These were stitched to the side back seams.  Silk ribbon loops were stitched inside which are looped over the buttons to drape the skirt.  It can be worn up or left down.

Lastly, I made a matching petticoat.  Typically I use 60 inch wide fabric and cut two lengths for a petticoat.  This allows me to put the pocket slits in the side seams. This fabric was 42 inches wide however so I had to cut three lengths and cut the fabric for the pocket slits.  I rolled the hem on the pocket slits and made thread bars at the bottom of the slit to keep it from splitting.  I made a 4 inch box pleat in the center front with 1/2 inch pleats going around to a 4 inch inverted box pleat at center back.  The petticoat is bound with 1 inch linen tape whip stitched on the inside and the outside.

I decided to make a nice pearl bracelet to wear since I was going to be dressed up.

I made a little hair ornament with silk ribbon and small ostrich feathers which I pinned in my wig.  The gown was worn over the matching petticoat, a medium weight linen petticoat, traditional linen 18th century shift, J.P. Ryan strapless stays, silk clocked stockings and white Dunmore shoes by the American Duchess. I also pinned a silk ribbon bow to the neckline. The wig is The Duchess by The Historical Hairdresser and the jewelry, which includes the bracelet, a lover's eye pendant and pearl and crystal drop earrings were made by yours truly.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

English Gown, take 1

I finished my English Gown last week.  This is the J.P. Ryan pattern.  It's pretty straightforward as it is a solid front with no stomacher.  Altering this pattern was a little difficult however due to the fact that there are no side seams.  The bodice is one piece for the front, side and side back then there is a narrow center back piece.  After careful measuring with my stays, I ended up combining two sizes, which meant buying 2 patterns.  I used the 8 on the bust and the 10 for the waist and sleeves.  I chose not to follow the construction directions however as they instruct you to make up the bodice with the sleeves and to do the same with the lining, then bag the lining.  This is not a period correct construction and since I was making this garment completely by hand, I decided to go with accurate construction methods.

I followed this article for setting in the sleeves and constructing the bodice.  Basically, I constructed the bodice without the shoulder straps and sleeves and the lining the same way.  I stitched them together at the center front then I stitched the lining shoulder strap in.  The sleeves are lined and put in at this point with the bottom of the sleeve attached seam inside.  Then the seam is shifted to the outside and stitched on top of the shoulder strap.  Three pleats are put in the back of the sleeve cap to make the sleeve fit.  After the sleeve is attached, the fashion fabric shoulder strap is attached.

Bodice seams were sewn with a combination stitch comprised of running stitches with an occasional backstitch.  The sleeves were attached with backstitches for strength.  Long skirt seams were sewn with running stitches.  The skirt and shoulder straps were attached with lapped seams with whip stitches.   The skirt pleats were formed freehand--something I've gotten quite good at doing.  I'm pleased with the final result.  Due to time constraints I chose to use hook and eye tape which takes away from the authenticity of this gown.  Otherwise, it's dead on correct.  I also regret not putting boning at the center back.

The materials used were:  Williamsburg cotton print from Renaissance Fabrics, white linen for lining from Burnley and Trowbridge, silk thread, steel boning, hook & eye tape.   Petticoat materials:  cotton matelasses from Renaissance Fabrics,  linen tape from Burnley and Trowbridge.

Front shoulder strap

back shoulder strap showing sleeve pleats

front facing with hook & eye tape

lining sewn to skirt

back bodice showing skirt pleats

sleeve lining

I wore the gown over a matelasse petticoat which was worn for warmth.  It had enough body to not need a hip roll.  The matelasse was 60 inches wide so I used two lengths, sewed the side seams with a running stitch and tacked down the pocket openings.  I pleated the top using fewer but larger pleats than normal--a 4 inch box pleat in the center front and a 4 inch inverted box pleat at the center back.  Typically I would have about 26 pleats in the front but I had about 10.   The top was bound with 1 inch wide linen tape whip stitched to the outside and inside of the petticoat.

front pleats

back pleats

Here are the pics of the gown:

At the Carlyle House in Old Town Alexandria VA

With my soldier

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!