16th-Century Sweete Bag – Start to Finish

Some time ago, I hinted at a surprise gift I was embroidering for a friend. Two months later, the mailman has done his job and it has finally reached its home overseas. Now I can show off the details to you all.

I made a crewelwork sweete bag, based on an extant original in the National Trust Collection (formerly British Library). The embroidery pattern came from the 16th-Century German Costuming blog. Here Amie provides some very lovely patterns, taken from 16th-c. purses and pincushions.

Sweete Bag, late 16th century (British Library c194c27).

Below I have put together some start-to-finish photos of the embroidery process. Since my yarn stash was overflowing, I worked the pattern in cotton floss and faux gold thread, instead of the period-correct crewel wool. The bag was my entry for the HSM 2017 “Go Wild” challenge as well. So I have put all the key facts into the challenge info at the end of this post.

The pattern outline. Gold vines worked in stem stitch.

Some leaves in satin stitch, worked over a stem stitch outline.

The first flower. I used seed stitch in the center. The big petals are done in satin stitch. All the pale yellow bits are stem stitched.

Grapes! Chain stitch outlines with satin stitch centers.

Another flower done. It is mostly regular satin stitch, with a row of long and short stitches towards the center.

The two shaded flowers are both worked in long and short stitch. The brown border at the bottom is chain stitched.

And we have a parrot. It is a mix of dense satin stitch and long and short stitch over a backstitch outline.

And done! Next I took it out of the hoop and stretched the wet fabric over some cardboard. Then all I had to do was sew it into a little drawstring bag. For the string and tassels I used no. 8 cotton purl yarn.

The finished sweete bag. *happy dance*

My friend and I are both very, very happy about the result. It has been my first big embroidery project in a long while. And now I am itching to start another… ;)

To finish off, here are the challenge facts with all the details:

The Challenge: “HSM #12 – Go Wild!”

How does the item fit the challenge?Wild and exotic animals were often featured in embroidery designs from this period. Parrots, like the one here, were especially popular. Plus, I have really “gone wild” with the embroidery on this project. Oof! ;)

Material: A 12″ x 6″ piece of linen, a scrap of cotton percale for lining.

Patterns: 16th-century purse pattern from “Patterns of Fashion 4”.

Embroidery pattern by Amie Sparrow from here.

Year: c. 1550-1610

Notions: Various yardages of cotton embroidery floss and faux gold thread; poly-cotton thread for sewing, no. 8 purl cotton for the drawstring.

How historically accurate is it? About 80%. The crewel embroidery stitches and sewing techniques are documented for this time but many of the materials I used are modern, except for the linen.

Hours to complete: About 120 hours for the embroidery and two for the sewing.

Total cost: Most materials came from my stash. So, about €7 at this time, for some extra embroidery floss.



Purple Velvet in the 1630s – A bit of research

For the first post in the new year, I am getting back to my promise of a research post from December. I am currently working on my first 1630s bodice. It is all so new and exciting to me that I can’t quite round up my other sewing plans for the year. I don’t even have a project list for the Historical Sew Monthly, yet. Oh dear… What I do have, though, is some research on the bodice! This post will mostly deal with the fabric I picked. But since I have not told you much about the basics so far, we will start with those.

The bodice I am recreating is from the V&A’s collection. The pattern for it has been featured in both Waugh and Arnold but also in this wonderful book I got myself as a Christmas present. Here the pattern and construction is given in great detail, so I can remake it as accurately as possible. There are even x-rays of the bodice. Also on the cover…

The original version of the bodice is made out of slashed silk satin with scalloped edges.Mine will be a bit plainer, made from a purple velvet I fell in love with during winter sale.

Bodice of silk satin, c. 1630, Victoria and Albert Museum.

Now, technically, you should research first and then fall in love with a fabric. But sometimes, life just puts the cart before the horse for you. ;) After some last-minute research at the fabric store, I have now put together a better documentation. First of all, I looked into the prevalence of purple in the 1630s. The first thing I did was to have a look around the sumptuary laws. The French edict of 1634 makes no mention of the colour. In England matters are different. Both the Tudor and Elisabethan statutes restrict the uses of purple silks and velvets to the royal family. This has several reasons. First, purple was a very expensive dye to use, especially for the rich, darker shades. Which was already known in Ancient Rome, where its use was restricted to senators and emperors. Another point is that purple is a liturgical colour. In many Christian churches, it is worn during fast seasons, namely Lent and Advent. And in the Church of England, the monarch is the head of church. That plus purple being known as a “royal” colour explains the restrictions well. This also means that purple was definitely known and used for upper-class clothing. Here is an Italian painting from the latter half of the 17th century featuring a rich purple silk.

Samian Sibyl by Guercino, c. 1640, Hermitage Museum Saint Petersburg.

As for the use velvet in gowns, I have found a few good examples of it. Also some stunning, extant ones. First and foremost, there is Dorothea von Neuburg’s burial dress from c. 1598. When I saw it in Munich, I almost bumped my nose against the showcase when I tried to take in every breathtaking detail. Then there is this equally gorgeous men’s short cloak at the Museum of London. The velvet that came closest to the colour of my gown was this English metalwork book cover of blue velvet. Isn’t it pretty?

Velvet book cover, London, c. 1620.

What surprises me is how close the textures of these historical fabrics are to my modern stuff. Mine is not even silk, but a woven 100% cotton velveteen. But it is neither dull, nor very long in the pile. It is a little shiny, with a pile that is dense and short, like that of period velvets. Here it is. The nice texture came out when I washed and steamed it this weekend.

After some digging, I found portraits of 17th-century women in purple velvet, too. For once, there is Susan Feilding (née Villiers) from the 1610s.

Susan Feilding by Willian Larkin, England, c. 1616.

And, if one lady knew what was stylish back then, it was Queen Henrietta Maria. She even wore a dark velvet bodice in a style very similar to the one I am making. I cannot help but love her for that.

Miniature of Queen Henrietta Maria by David des Granges, c. 1636, The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

Now that I have put you up to speed on the bodice, sorry about the huge delay, I will dive straight back into work. The boned foundation is as good as done and I am between cutting and setting gores at the moment. I will post some work in progress shots once I get around to it.

Wishing you a happy 2018 and a pleasant remainder of the weekend. :)


Binding That Hairpin Turn

The holidays are coming with giant steps. In between the preparations (boo!) and the gift sewing (yay!), I want to share a mini-tutorial on how to bind narrow hairpin turns. Perhaps some of you are planning to make 18th-century pockets or stays with tabs over the holidays. :)

When it comes down to binding them, the narrow curves are definitely not the most fun part to sew. And in the sewing groups, requests for binding advice are very popular. So I hope these tips will come in useful. They are based off Cathy Hay’s wonderful binding article. It also covers other binding issues, such as corners, and is definitively worth a read.

Now I will show you how it is done on the center opening of my Georgian pockets. Once you know how it is done, it goes pretty quickly.

The first thing to do is to mark three points with chalk or a fabric pen, one at the beginning and end of your hairpin curve and a third one at the center of the curve. They should be as far away from the edge as the portion of your binding that will be folded over. For example, I used 1″ bias tape, so I placed the marks 1/4″ from the edge. If you like, you can connect your marks with a curvy line. It can help you to shape the curve later on.

In the next step, pin on your unfolded binding tape and sew up to the points where your curve starts, as you normally would. I used a regular running stitch for this bit.

Sew the straight edges, then fold up the binding, attach and sew around the curve.

Now, fold up your tape. Find the center of the piece that is still hanging free. Place this center point against your center mark as shown in the photo above. The fold should be against it. Pin down. Then mold the rest of the binding around the curve in the same way, until it lies pucker-free and even. Pin everything down.

The “ladder stitch”.

To sew down the binding, we will be using the “ladder stitch”. For this technique, take the needle through small bits of the tape and the fabric, alternating between the two. Your new stitch should always go in parallel to where your previous stitch came out. Hopefully this makes sense. Also see the photo for a visual! :)

When you have attached one side of the binding, bring it around to the other side. Repeat the previous steps. Only this time, you will sew on the folded edges. This is done with a slip stitch. Around the curve, you can stick with the slip stitch or opt for the ladder stitch again. I choose this method when the hairpin turn is very narrow. Otherwise, slip stitching works fine.

Slip-stich the folded edges to the opposite side, and done.

And that is all there is to binding hairpin turns. For a look at the finished pair of pockets, go here.

I learned that most binding jobs look somewhat scary at first, but the more often you do it, the better it goes. I sewed the pockets after tackling the gazillion curves and whatnots on my stays. After that, the pockets felt easy. And the binding came together almost without swearing. Almost…

Hopefully these tips have encouraged you to go forth and work on some binding. If you have any more questions, please let me know! I will do my best to answer them. :)


Little Project Show & Tell

There have been a lot of little projects going on lately. They are too small to write a blog post about each. So I thought to give it a go and sum them all up in a single post. If it works out well, I might do this more often to fill the gaps between bigger project updates. So here come my three current mini projects.

First I have been working on two small, tuckable fichus with bobbin lace trim. They are much like the one I wore to the market last year, simple triangles that are about 20″ high and 40″ wide at the bottom. The first one is all finished and I am about to start on the second one.

Making cotton voile fichus. One down, one to go.

What I just finished is a length of gold trim for my prospective 1630s gown. It is a simple square knot macramé pattern, worked in cotton and lurex cord. It was a lucky find in the Christmas section at the one-euro store. Out of 6 yards of cord, I got 30″ of trim. Since I am working in increments, to have manageable bits of cord, working through it all will take some time. Hopefully I will have enough trim in time for the finished gown. ;)

Macramé gold trim in the making.

The other project I have just started is a small crewel embroidery piece. When it is done, it will be a sweetbag. I found the pattern on Amie Sparrow’s blog. She has copied some gorgeous 16th-century patterns and made them available for personal use.

Ready for the embroidery on the sweetbag.

Right now, I cannot share too much about this project, because it will be a surprise for a friend. So shh… ;)

And these are the projects keeping me busy at the moment. What are your current projects? I would love to hear about them! :)


Stumbling into a Georgian Room

Last week, I went to visit a local museum, the Behnhaus-Drägerhaus in Lübeck. It is an amazing place that has been there all my life. Set up in two Georgian townhouses, it combines displays of 18th, 19th and 20th-century art with period rooms that are filled with Georgian and Regency furniture. The experience was very immersive as I went there on a quiet weekday. It left me puzzled why I had not come here before.

At the museum two surprises awaited me. One, this painting with a very interesting suggestion for accessorizing my new crossover gown. Just look at that frilly, ruffly chemisette…

Portrait of Henriette von Heintze with her children by Friedrich C. Gröger, c. 1803.

The second surprise was almost a bit out of this world. I found it on the top floor of the museum. Compared to the other two floors, it was almost empty. There was some minor construction work going on but it was open to the public. So I snuck up there. At least it felt like that way… up the historical staircase that got steeper the higher it went. If ever I had experienced the stairs servants had climbed to get to their part of the house, it was here. Once upstairs, I walked into an empty room…

… a Georgian room! It was labeled as the guests’ parlour and breakfast room. Like many others in the museum, it still had the original panelling, stucco and wall paintings that have been restored very well. The creaky wooden boards added to the experience. All that was newer, was the electrical lamp that should date to the early 20th century.

Just being in there left me breathless. I stood there for a good minute, gawping and wondering. Then I sort of started decorating it with period furnishings from plates in Ackermann’s Repository before my mind’s eye. This experience was as strange as it was amazing.

I should visit this special place more often. Maybe, next time, I can come back in costume.


A Cartridge-Pleated 1630s Petticoat

After all the talk about the stays, it is time for a post about the petticoat. Compared to the stays, it went together really fast. The “pattern” are two 150 cm wide and 95 cm long squares of fabric sewn together. I used the 17th-century petticoat instructions on Marquise.de as a guide. 

Trying on the petticoat for the first time.

My fabric was 100% combed wool. It was a bit on the heavy side so I did a sort of double closure with two 15 cm side seam plackets to balance everything. After some research, I found that such side closures are just as plausible as center-back ones. Also have a look at this great video about getting dressed in the mid-1600s by Prior Attire. It features a gorgeous side-laced bodiced petticoat which is just as plausible for the period.

One half of the waistband. I interfaced it with a strip of silk noil and added two eyelets to attach the finished petticoat to the stays.

I also wanted to talk about my petticoat because it is cartridge-pleated. At the time, cartridge, or accordion, pleats existed alongside knife pleats which were slowly coming into fashion. Knife pleating gives a narrower fit at the waist and a slightly different hang. When cartridge pleating for the first time, the process can be a bit befuddling. So here is a little walkthrough. I used Drea’s tutorial to get me started. Before pleating anything, do not forget to sew your hems…

“Hem before pleats” is definitely the second most important rule after “shoes before corset” ;).

After sewing three rows of gathering stitches with linen twine, I pulled the threads to match the waistband. Using the folded-over selvedge really helped because it saved me the hassle of finishing the top edges.

Pulling up the gathering stitches.

When the skirt bottom and waistband matched, I knotted up the threads to secure everything. Since they stay in the skirt, I then buried all the tails. Next I neatened the pleats by pinning them together in even clusters.

Pinning the pleats into clusters.

Next came the sewing. It is somewhat counter-intuitive because you put the skirt and waistband right sides together with the bottom of the band meeting the top of the skirt. But this is the most important thing to do, really. You will see why in a moment. To join the two, you use a whip stitch, putting two stitches into every pleat that meets the band, like so:

Whip-stitching with two stitches per pleat.

Now when the waistband is folded up, it pushes out the finished pleats to create the characteristic cartridge pleat look. It comes out really well in this photo, with the bum roll underneath. Please ignore the makeshift closure. The finished item closes with two sets of hooks and eyes.

The bum roll nicely pushing out the pleats.

Now that everything is officially finished, I have started planning the gown that will go on top. This makes me super excited! Also because I get to write the first proper research post in a long while … Eee! So please stay tuned for the next installment of 17th-century wackiness!

Cheers, Nessa

HSM #10 – 1630s Underthings

They are finished! *happy dance* After what felt like an eternity, the final touches on my stays got done this weekend. Now you can have a look at the complete 1630s stays and petticoat. In this post, I will give you the lowdown on the basic facts and spam you with photos. Individual posts on both garments will follow in due course. Right now, I am just bubbly and happy to see how well everything came out. This mammoth project has really boosted my corsetry (and sewing) confidence. :)

Okay, first, here are the pictures:

A look at the front…

… and the back. On me, I lace up with a 1 1/2″ gap, but Rachel here is not squishy enough for it.

The side with a good view of the petticoat placket. Oops. ;)

Here is a closer look at the knitted i-cords in action. I used them as ties on the shoulder straps and to lace the petticoat to the stays. 

Knitted cord at the shoulder straps.

Cords tying the stays and petticoat together.

Attaching the petticoat with “points” like this dates back to Elizabethan fashion. Then “petticoats” were seen as a unit of a stiffened under-bodice and the actual petticoat. Both one-piece and laced two-piece bodice-petticoats were in use. The Dorothea Sabina von Neuburg stays have eyelet holes at the sides for this, too. If there is no heavy busk like I used it, the front tab was also tied down sometimes, to keep it from flapping up.

You may still remember the bum roll I made to go with this ensemble. Here it is, sitting happily on top of the stays:

A look at the underpinnings with the bum roll.

Now, it is time for the challenge facts. I had already mentioned some of them here or there, but it is best to have it all in one place at last. :)

The Challenge:
#10 – Out of your Comfort Zone

This has been my first go at proper 1630s costume and also my very first pair of fully boned stays. All these “firsts” definitely put this project out of my comfort zone.

1 yd of light orange linen, 1 yd of coarse violet linen blend and 1 yd white shot upholstery silk for the stays.

3 yds tropical wool suiting for the petticoat and a strip of silk noil for interfacing.

Dorothea Sabina von Neuburg stays in “Patterns of Fashion” / Drea Lead’s Elizabethan corset pattern and tutorial.

17th-century petticoat instructions at Marquise.de.


Notions: 20 yds of 5mm wide German whalebone; 12″ handmade wooden busk; 3 yds cotton corset lace; no. 100 silk thread for sewing and silk buttonhole for the eyelets.

Cotton thread, linen twine & hooks and eyes for the petticoat.

How historically accurate is it?
About 90% accurate. I tried my best to get the adequate materials and hand-sewed everything. Because there are so few surviving examples of early 1600s corsetry, the stays are plausible but the evidence is a bit patchy.

Hours to complete:
Lost count. ;)

First worn:
Around the house, to break in the stays and take measurements for the next layers.

Total cost:
The orange linen was €10 and the boning around €15, everything else came from my stash. My guesstimate would be around €55 for everything.

And that was it already. The underthings, and especially the stays, came out very well, much better than I thought. Do you remember how skeptical I was in January about getting them done this year at all? At first, drafting the pattern from so many different sources felt rather scary. But after three mock-ups and a good bit of swearing things began to look doable. In the end, the hardest part was binding the stays. The binding tutorial at Your Wardrobe Unlock’d was a real lifesaver here. After surviving even that, my sewing mojo got a much-needed boost.

So, the next time you feel like your sewing skills have hit a snag, I recommend making yourself a pair of stays. ;)

Love, Nessa

Knitting Faux Lucet Cords

Now that the final lacing holes are on my 1630s stays, I realized that I had run out of cord to tie everything together.

Making the final lacing holes, yippee!

Lucet cord would be perfect, and period correct, for this project. But I have not learned how to use a lucet, yet. So I decided to try something else: knitted i-cords! Those do not require a lucet or loom, only a pair of double-pointed needles and some basic knitting skills. And they almost look like lucet cords.

Knitting an i-cord on 2.5 mm needles.

If you would like to learn knitting an i-cord, here is a very nice video tutorial by Kristen of Studio Knit. Another method for the non-knitter is to crochet it. :)

These are the two cords I finished today, to tie on the straps. I also made four longer ones to lace together the stays and petticoat at the waist. The yarn I used was a small leftover ball of orange cotton from my stash.

Two of my six cords.

I hope you will find this tip useful when you next run out of cord and/or have misplaced your lucet. ;)

Much love, Nessa

My Own Georgian Pockets

After delving into the wonderful world of extant Georgian pockets in my last post, I have finally finished my own pair. Yay! They got done just in time for the Historical Sew Monthly’s “Inspiration” challenge next month. My inspiration were these cute patchwork pockets made by The Young Sewphisticate. For the pattern, I went with an extant pocket from Costume Close Up. I shortened it to 12″, so the pockets would not bump into my knees. Short girl problems. ;)

The finished pockets.

The left pocket is patchworked with fabric bits from my stash and quilted in a simple diamond pattern. For the binding, I used some leftover double-fold bias tape. Instead of pins, I used wonder clips. They worked like a charm!

Binding the quilted pocket.

For the pocket on the right I bought a fat quarter of block-printed cotton. Up close, the off-white base looks almost like nankeen, so it worked wonderfully. I would have loved to get more for a dress; only the store no longer sold it by the yard… bummer.

The second pocket, looking cute.

The binding on this one is made out of scraps left over from my shortgown. On the bias, the brown and white checks get a whole new look. For the top edge, I went back to the green tape, to turn my pockets into a proper pair.

The halfway bound pocket.

The trickiest part about making the pockets was to neatly bind the slits. It is a popular topic for questions on the costume groups, too. So I will talk about it a little more in a separate post. For now, I will go and put the finishing touches on my stays. They have to get done in time for this month’s HSM. So much for setting priorities… LOL!

Cheers, Nessa

1630s Underthings – A simple bum roll

For the Historical Sew Monthly October challenge I am just finishing my ensemble of 1630s underthings. At the moment I am still playing around with the stays and petticoat. But the third piece, the bum roll, is already finished.

Bum rolls have been around in different forms as rump padding since the Elizabethan age. At first they were worn together with the farthingale but around 1620 they began to be worn on their own. This fashion more or less lasted until the Georgian era. When you look at Regency gowns up until the 1810s, there is often a small, sewn-in pad, reminiscent of a roll.

Here a small visual history of bum padding since the early 17th century :

Isabella di Savoia d’Este, Frans Pourbus the Younger, c. 1606. She is till wearing a late version of the Spanish farthingale.

Gertrude Sadler, Lady Aston, British School, c. 1620-23, Tate Gallery. The fullness of the skirt shows more towards the back, hinting at a bum roll being worn on its own.

Madame Molé-Reymond by Élisabeth Vigeé-Lebrun, c. 1786. The nice bump in the back is also created by a bum roll.

Bum pad sewn into the back of a Regency gown, c.1810-13, National Museum of Australia.

My bum roll was inspired by Quinn’s simple 18th-century bum roll. For it, I folded a rectangle of fabric in half and tapered the top edges to form the “horns”. Like so:

The bum roll “pattern” after cutting.

For the ties, I attached two 1 yard long pieces of twill tape into the points before sewing the roll together. Then I filled it with a mix of carbage (fabric scraps) and cotton fiber. Since it will go under some pretty heavy skirts, I made sure to stuff it extra firmly.

The carbage before it went into the roll.

The finished roll is 4″ wide at the widest point in the back. The length is 26″. It equals my high hip circumference, from hip bone to hip bone. Anything else would be too long to fit under the stays at the front.

The finished roll.

Although it does not look very round in flat, it is very pliable and lies nicely against the body. Leaving it tied to the form for a few days helped to shape it. When it was done, I was eager to stick it under a skirt, so I test-fitted the petticoat over it.

Testing the roll under the petticoat.

I must say, I really like that bump! Now it is time to finish the rest of the underthings in time for the challenge. Please stay tuned!

Yours, Nessa