A Sewing Sunbonnet

While I was working on my entry for the current Historical Sew Monthly challenge, the weather here decided to become unusually warm for May. So I could sit outside and sew on the terrace. Because it was very sunny out there, I decided to whip up a quick sunbonnet over the long Pentecost weekend. Since this month’s HSM theme was “Specific Time of Day or Year”, it became a bonus entry of sorts.

I used the slat sunbonnet pattern by the wonderful Elizabeth Stuart Clark. You can download the PDF for free on the Sewing Academy website.

Being a mid-19th-century pattern, this is a little outside my usual sewing periods. But precursors of this useful bonnet style have been around since at least the 1830s. Most earlier examples are stiffened with cording like this one from c.1835. Twila made a beautiful corded Regency bonnet that is quite similar. You can find her tutorial for it here.

Sunbonnet, cotton, c.1840, Metropolitan Museum.

Slats, like in my version, came in a little later. Here is an especially pretty example in fine linen, with slats, from around 1850. A combination of both slats and cording was not unusual either. Very similar, quilted varieties of these bonnets could be worn in the cold season, too.

Sunbonnet, linen, c. 1850, Metropolitan Museum.

Slats were made from stiff materials that added shape to the bonnets’ fabric brim. The pattern suggests using manila paper or something similar. Since the slats are removed for washing, the stiffening does not have to be waterproof. Though I was not looking forward to having wet paper stuck inside the fabric when it rained. So I used the opportunity to try out Lina’s DIY buckram tutorial on a 12″ by 16″ scrap of cotton canvas.

Making cornstarch paste for the buckram.

It worked like a charm and the fabric can be re-starched as needed. She suggests to iron the buckram dry. A quick dry out in the sun worked fine, too.

The dried cotton buckram.

I cut most of my slats 2″ wide, to speed up sewing the channels. Only the outer ones, near the ear, are 1″ wide, like in the original pattern. It took a moment to fiddle them in between the voile facing and outer fabric. But now they sit snugly in their channels. I did not have to tack down the facing to keep them inside at all.

Cutting the slats.

Here is a front view of the brim.

All my fabrics are white, including the checked cotton percale from my stash. They go together nicely, though I might dye the bonnet a different colour, next time I decide to do a round of dyeing in the washing machine.

To tie up the back, I used two 14″ pieces of 5/8″ wide satin ribbon, also from my stash. The pattern says to add a pair of tape ties inside, to keep the sunbonnet from flying away. Mine is doing fine without. So far at has not even slipped around while I was out there, sewing.

All in all, this bonnet was a fun spontaneous project. It just sort of happened from one day to the next. I think it is even the fastest historical item I have ever sewn by hand, coming together in just over ten hours, from pattern drawing to finish. At the moment, it is the most worn one, too. Here is a selfie of me puttering around in it on the terrace last week.

Awkward terrace selfie…

Did I mention I am not good at taking those? Still I am very happy with this sunbonnet altogether. It is a lot of fun to wear and just shades the face enough to keep me from squinting at my handsewing. Now I am definitely ready for more outdoor sewing adventures this summer.

Nessa

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Adding Some Bling

Actually, wearing and making jewelry were never really my thing. But, since I am into historical costuming, I realized that the ladies of “my” eras really loved their bling. And that changed my mind. Now I really love the look of historical and historically inspired jewelry. Since my costuming budget is somewhat tight until further notice, I can only dream about buying pieces from one of the many talented makers of historical jewelry out there. Hopefully, one day I can support those wonderful people with a purchase.

Until then I had to find a way to make do and started looking around YouTube for some simple jewelry making tutorials. It all looked very complicated to beginner me but eventually I decided to give it a try. Then, some months ago, the only jewelry supply nearby was turned into an outlet store with 50% off everything. That motivated me to try and make some simple bling to go with my costumes. And this are the results so far:

The first I made was the string of corals and matching earrings from some beads I had bought ages ago. This was my first pearl knotting project and it got me hooked. The corals had teeny tiny holes and I probably swore a lot as I fiddled around with my extra fine pearl needle. But in the end, I was very happy with the finished mini parure. I am looking forward to wearing it with my Regency attire. :D

A knotted coral mini “parure”.

Next, I made a sweetwater pearl necklace for the Historical Sew Monthly’s “Fastenings” challenge. Knotting these pearls went much faster. As with the corals I used matching linen twine, finished with clear nail polish.

Knotting away…

The necklace closes with 12″ ribbon ties, sewn through two pretty cast metal rings. Because I am a chicken about losing it, I added a detachable hook underneath. The finished thing makes me really happy. And the best part, neither of the two pearl necklaces cost more than €15 to make.

The finished pearl necklace.

Last week I found two matching fayx pearl drops which I just had to tearn into ear hangers. Now I am all set to wear some sparkle with my 17th-century outfits as well.

Matching pearl drops!

Slowly this is becoming a somewhat addictive side hobby. When I last went past the jewelry store, I discovered they had some pre-made collets, and they were pink! So I simply could not say no to them. It took about two hours to attach all the split rings. The finished collet necklace is more historical-ish.

My first collet necklace, sort of. ;)

Now I am pondering to make a matching bracelet, just in case I need something nice to wear with Regency full dress. And I do not even have a full dress ensemble completed yet. Oops. Looks like my inner Gollum put the cart before the horse. My precious… LOL

But now I have the best excuse to start planning for a new bib-front gown to match the bling. ;)

Nessa

HSM #3: A Regency Smock Apron

As I take a break from sewing the sleeve wings on my 1630s bodice, I am using the time to finally share a bit about my new smock apron with you. It came together in the last “bodice break”. So far, I did not have the chance to wear it with my costume. But that is definitely still on the to-do list, now spring is finally here. And it definitely took its sweet time to come out this year. Another thing still on my blogging sheet is a drafting tutorial for the apron bodice. More about that below.

First off, let us talk about the construction process a bit. I started by self-drafting the bodice and skirt based on this apron in the Colonial Williamsburg collection. Their site does not have permalinks. For a look at the details, just type the accession number into the search box. :)

Regency smock apron, c. 1800-20, Colonial Williamsburg collection. Acc. Number 1995-33

Since I only had the one image to work off, I loaded it into Inkscape and scaled it up, based on the given length of 46″. This did not really provide accurate measurements, but gave a good estimate of the dimensions. Based on that, I drafted and mocked up the bodice pieces. Eventually I came out with this piece, which I hand-finished with 1/4″ hems around the edges. The insides are finished with a bias strip that holds a drawstring case.

The apron bodice.

Hemming the edges…

The bodice front is basically a trapezoid that gets its Regency-esque shape from the gathers at CF. The two skirt panels are joined on the bias in front and contribute to this look, too. It is pretty straightforward but since a few people asked about how exactly it is done, I will try to put up a drafting tutorial once I can track down my draft sheet and notes.

When cutting the skirt, I forgot that my fabric was printed, not yarn-dyed. Duh. So I ended up piecing one of the miscut panels. But it was only half bad. I accidentally matched the pattern and, besides, piecing adds some period appeal, right?

Joining the bodice to the skirt. The armholes are open at the bottom and only joined through the skirt seam.

The apron closes at the neck and waistline. At the top, the neckline drawstring provides the ties. For the waist, I made two narrow 12″ ties from fabric scraps.

Yay, waist ties, turned inside out with a shishkebab stick.

And that was that. The apron is done and currently sitting on the dressform.

The finished smock apron.

As a little bonus, I made a fabric bunny out of the scraps, just in time for Easter. He looks a bit like a Lindt bunny, but will last longer, due to lacking chocolate content.

Mr. Apron Scrap Bunny. :D

And here are the HSM challenge facts:

The Challenge: #3 – Comfort At Home

Material: 1 1/2 yards checked cotton broadcloth.

Pattern: My own, based on an extant apron at Colonial Williamsburg (Acc. No. 1995-33).

Year: 1800-20.

Notions: 1 1/2 yards 3/8″ twill tape; cotton thread; linen twine for the drawstring eyelets at the front.

How historically accurate is it? I did not manage to source a yarn-dyed, woven check on short notice, so I went with a printed fabric (I found a much better one, just when the apron was finished…). So I have to mark myself down. Same for working off one image without a closer look at the construction details. But it is all hand-sewn. :) Overall, I would give it 80% accuracy.

Hours to complete: About 24 hours.

First worn: Around the house. :D

Total cost: € 13.

Nessa

Regency Apron Research

I did it again! I finished a project without writing all the blog posts first. So now seems a good time to unravel the planning behind the Regency apron I just finished for the Historical Sew Monthly.

Some of you may still remember my Regency half apron from 2016. Now I wanted one that covers the top of the dress, too, because that is where I usually dirty myself. ;) To get inspired, I had a quick browse through the full apron styles and colours popular in the Regency era. That was the perfect excuse to look through one of my favourite collections of period fashion plates, the “Costumes d’ouvriéres parisiennes” by Georges-Jacques Gatine and Louis-Marie Lanté, published in 1824. You can view it here on Gallica.

The first thing I noticed was the range of different colours. Black was very fashionable, because hey, it hides most stains. It’s for a similar reason that 18th-century surgeons turned to blue aprons. (See this post by Susan Holloway Scott). Of course, there was lots of white around, too. From my research into the other apron, I already knew about rosy and powder pink being fashionable. But that did not prepare me for this very flashy purple. Just wow. And the one below is not the only example in the collection.

Earthenware seller, in a stunning purple apron, c. 1824.

Beyond the high-waist half aprons, like the one above, there is one rare example of a pinner apron among the plates. Offhand, I could not think of an extant one in this style.

Dairywoman wearing a pinner apron, c.1824.

Much more widespread were bib aprons with narrow shoulder straps, at least based on how many there are in these fashion plates alone. Here are two examples, one black and one white.

A hatter, in a black, strapped apron, c. 1824.

Chamber maid, with a back view of the shoulder straps, c. 1824. See how they are angled?

Sabine made a beautiful repriduction of such a strapped apron. On her blog, I saw a different strap style, too, which makes the apron look a bit like a pinafore, or smock. I still wonder which parlor game these ladies might be playing, too.

Apron with wide straps, Le Bon Genre, Plate 89, June 1816, British Museum.

This made me think a bit, since shoulder straps are my known enemy, in historical and modern clothes. As a lady with sloping shoulders, I could really use a smock-style to keep those straps from slipping. That is why I have been ogling this Russian folkwear apron at the Met for quite some time now. It has a nearly full bodice in the back. But that style is not really documentable for general Regency fashion.

Russian apron, 19th century, Metropolitan Museum, New York.

But then I found this beautiful smock apron in the Colonial Williamsburg collection, and I fell in love! It dates between 1800 and 1820 and is made from blue-white checked linen tabby.

Checked high-waist apron, c.1800-20, Colonial Williamsburg, Accesion No. 1995-33.

In New England, blue and white checks were quite common for aprons, as was the high-waisted smock style. Kitty Calash wrote a wonderful research post on surviving examples and the provenance of checked linens. She also made one for herself.

This became the main inspiration for my own apron. As time was short (yay for short-term sewing projects), I went out to get some checked fabric and settled for a printed cotton tabby. When I found a yarn-dyed variety, known as “zephyr cloth” here, halfway through sewing the thing, I was a bit annoyed with my planning skills. Oh well, next time. One can never have enough aprons, right?

Nessa

1630s Bodice Update

Since the last post, the work on the bodice has been puttering along nicely. The main body is put together now and the sleeves are waiting to be finished.

The 1630s bodice so far. Sleeves are up next. :)

Last weekend, I decided to give things a little break to work on something for the Historical Sew Monthly’s March challenge. So now is a good time to share some progress pics from the bodice construction on here. Please excuse the quality of some. A lot of it has come together in night shifts by the fire. ;)

All the front and back pieces after cutting out and a bit of assembly.

After finishing the draft, things started out with cutting lots of layers from lots of different fabrics. The foundation consists of two layers of linen canvas and one layer of linen buckram (I used heavy, pre-starched embroidery linen). For the boning, I used 1/4″ wide plastic whalebone. I already used it in my stays and absolutely love working with it. My 30-yard roll is almost used up now and I will definitely order more soon. Here is a closer look at the boned and pad stitched foundation pieces:

The finished front and back foundations.

The rest of the bodice pieces each have three more layer. There are the outer fabric and lining which are flatlined together. The foundation is placed on top of these and finished off with a separate foundation lining that goes on top. Putting all these together was a tad repetitive but definitely gave me a lot of practice for the next bodice. ;)

Putting together all the layers.

Since the outer layer is a velvet, I stitched a tape into the bottom hem for extra stability. Though, with the layer of heavy silk on top, the hang would have been fine without, too…

Stitching a tape into the bottom hem.

When that was done, I started on the sleeves. They are just two layers, one silk, and one velvet. Last weekend, I flatlined them. Next up, is binding and gathering. After that, I have yet to pattern the shoulder wings, but an end is definitely in sight now. Yay!

Working on the sleevils…

Meanwhile I have been sewing on a Regency apron for the HSM. I have already posted a few pictures over on Instagram. Right now, all it still needs is a hem, and you can look forward to some blog posts as well. :)

So please stay tuned for a round of Regency fun and updates on the bodice, too!

Nessa

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. :)

Nessa

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! :)

Nessa

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.

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.


Material:
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.


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

17th-century petticoat instructions at Marquise.de.


Year:
1625-30

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

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