Open Seams with Herringbone Stitch -A Tutorial

While making my herringboned fichu, I realized it was about time to post a new tutorial. So I thought I would show you how I made the open seam at the back.

Open back seam on my fichu.

Open work is something I had always wanted to learn, because it never fails to look delicate, wherever you put it. But, so far, I have not found a go-to tutorial for it. When making the 18th-century baby caps for my cousins, I tried my hand at fagotting. It is very similar to what I did on the fichu, only with a more complicated stitch. I could not really wrap my head around it and eventually opted for a basic whipstitch finish.

Then I remembered that herringbone stitch can also be used for open work. And here we have it, simple and pretty. If you have not seen herringbone stitch before, here is a very good video tutorial. We will be doing just the same to create the open seam. The only difference will be the gap between the two stitch lines.

Now that you have familiarized yourselves with the stitch… off we go!

You will need:

  • The two pieces you want to join.
  • A thread of your choice. You can match it or just go wild with colours. Sewing thread might be too thin. What works well are fillet crochet yarn (no. 80 or 100), silk buttonhole or one to two strands of embroidery floss.
  • A matching needle. For best results, it should be smallish and sharp.
  • A piece or strip of paper as long as your fabric edge. It need not be wider than 1″.
  • A cushion to anchor your work. A small sofa cushion or throw pillow will do.
  • Pins.
  • A ruler and pencil.

How it is done:

  1. Finish your fabric edges. Before you start, the two edges you are stitching over need to be hemmed. Hemming any other edges is advisable, though, especially if your fabric is on the sheer side. Narrow hand-rolled hems work well. You can use them to get some extra stability for your seam (see below).

    Make a paper template for the seam.

  2. Use your paper and pencil to make a template. Basically you draw two parallel lines, each one as long as your fabric edges. The space between the lines should be between 1/4″ to 1/8″. For the tutorial I started with 1/2″, but eventually went with 1/4″ for the fichu.

    Pin the template to the cushion.

  3. Secure the template on the cushion with pins. Make sure it lies flat.

    Pin the fabric pieces on top.

  4. Now pin your fabric pieces onto the cushion. Match the fabric edges you are working on with the lines on the template.

    Bring up the thread and start stitching.

  5. Thread your needle. If you have wax to hand, waxing the thread is a good idea. Now bring your needle underneath the hem on the back of your fabric and bury the knot between the layers. Then bring the needle to the front. It should come up at the top edge of one piece, a little ways away from the working edge.
    NB: If you have a rolled hem, come up right at the inner edge of it. Working the herringbone over the hems will help stabilize the stitch.

    And stitch away!

  6. Work the herringbone stitch between the edges until your seam is done. Try to keep an even tension to avoid puckering or loose stitches.Take the needle to the back to finish off.
  7. When you reach the end of the seam, take your needle to the back, coming up on the hem.

    Knot the thread and bury the tail.

  8. Knot off the thread and bury the tail between the layers at the hem. And, tadah, your open seam is all done!

    Your finished open work seam. Yay!

And that is it already. Easy, right? The next level would be to use a double herringbone stitch instead. Here is a video tutorial for that one. Try not to get dizzy. I still do sometimes! ;) 

I hope you found this brief tutorial useful. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to let me know. I cannot wait to see your own, beautiful open work creations!

Nessa

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A Herringbone Fichu

After the stays, I was itching to do a pretty project that would not take ages to finish. Thus I picked up a scrap of cotton voile and made another fichu. Like my previous one, I based it on this super handy fichu guide by the Oregon Regency Society. Only this time around, I made it rectangular in shape.

Here is what I did: I started by cutting two rectangles, each 28″ long and 12″ wide. After finishing the edges with 1/4″ hand-rolled hems, I joined up the pieces with an 8″ open herringbone seam. It now sits at the center back of the finished fichu. Finally I embroidered two more rows of herringbone stitch down center edges to match.

Creating the open herringbone stitch.

All herringboning was done is a blue no. 80 filet crochet cotton, which I use for anything but crochet. It works great for sturdy finishes or small embroidery designs like this one. Here is the finished item. Making it took about eight hours in all.

The front view.

A closer look at the herringbone finish.

The back view.

A close-up of the open-work seam.

This small project was much fun as I got to do two of my favorite sewing things… decorative stitching and rolled hems. After hand-rolling quite a few of those, the process has become a bit addictive. I think some of you can sympathize here, no? :)

Yours, Nessa

CoBloWriMo 2017 in Reflection

Here is my reflection post, fashionably late as so often, to look back on an exciting month of blogging. Before embarking on the CoBloWriMo journey for the first time, I was really not sure if I could get out a post every day. But then the blog was in a horrible backlog and it left my blogging mood like…

Portrait of Laure Bro de Comères by Théodore Géricault (c. 1818).

Then I decided to just let CoBloWriMo happen and to post as much as I could. And now the project post are finally up to speed again, for the first time in a year. And there is more: I got to know many new-to-me costume bloggers who make the most amazing things. And a sense of community has begun to form between us, as we got to read and follow each other’s posts over the course of the month.

Admittedly, towards the end of August, some personal stuff came up on my end and post started flagging a bit. Then Blogger acted up and I could no longer comment on the blogs hosted there. Working on fixing the issue now so I can follow and comment on the work of all the amazing people I “met” through the CoBloWriMo group.

Lastly, participating has given me back some of my old blogging mojo. I learned how to post from the WordPress app on my phone and actually have new ideas for posts again. There might be a new tutorial and some other fun stuff coming up here very soon. :) In summary, my blogging mood post CoBloWriMo is something like this…

Fashion plate of an evening dress (c. 1812).

Sending a big thank you to the organizers of CoBloWriMo and everyone who participated. You are an awesome bunch of people and I miss you already. I am much looking forward to staying in touch with your blogs and seeing all your projects in future.

Much love, Nessa

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A Percale Crossover Gown (CoBloWriMo #29)

The CoBloWriMo prompt for today is “Ensemble”. It made me realize that I have not yet shown you my new crossover Regency gown. The gown will be the base for future ensembles. I have plans to make a sleeveless bodice and an open robe to have different options for topping it off.

When doing some research I found that there are much fewer surviving crossover gowns than other styles. Here is a pretty golden one. Have a look at the apron front closure which is pinned over a bodice extension. My gown closes in the exact same way. :)

Regency crossover gown, c. 1810-20 (Source: Vintagetextile.com).

View of the apron front closure (Source: Vintagetextile.com).

In fashion plates and paintings, there are a few more representations of crossover gowns. Date-wise, different crossover styles were especially “en vogue” in the late 1790s and then again in the mid-late 1810s. Below you can see two plates, one from each decade. The first is a crossover round gown and the second a French percale gown.

Plate of a crossover round gown, c. 1798.

Robe de Percale, Costume Parisien, c. 1816.

Speaking of percale… When I found this plate, my heart leapt a little. The fabric I used for my gown is also a percale! I realized as much after first blogging about it here. Only my gown is much plainer and does not have such a delicious vandyke trim. In fact, I did not yet trim it at all. Perhaps a ruffle or two will magically appear, once I know what the rest of the ensemble will look like. ;)

Here is the finished crossover gown. I made it using the Laughing Moon crossover gown, tunic and pelisse pattern. The fabric is a woven check cotton percale. After the photoshoot did not go ahead as planned, there are still no photos of me wearing it. So, for now, the dressform will have to do the job.

The finished crossover gown.

The back view. I made the skirt without the optional train.

The side view. The gown has a very “Regency-esque” silhouette, even without underpinnings.

A closer look at the crossover front. You can see where the skirt ties over the bodice.

I am glad to finally share this with you. After the first fitting, I already know that it wears pretty well. Here is hoping that I can finally take it for a stroll soon. :)

Cheers, Nessa

1630s Petticoat Plans (CoBloWriMo #27)

With the stays all done and dusted, it is time to plan ahead. A matching under-petticoat will be next. Since I am not very eager on making a farthingale of any kind, I have chosen to go with a 1630s look. Technically farthingales were already going out of fashion in France by 1620. But, better safe than sorry. ;)

The petticoat will be made of tropical wool. It is not too heavy and has enough body to support the upper layers, with or without a bumroll. I will loosely base it on these instructions by Anne Danvers. 

Up until the 1630s, cartridge pleating was the way forward. This van Dyck painting shows a good example of it. You can see the distinct skirt shape through the girl’s apron.

Portrait of a Young Girl by Anthony van Dyck (c. 1630).

With my cartridge pleating skills being more than rusty, I looked up a few cartridge pleating tutorials. Drea’s and Jennifer’s instructions were both very helpful to jog my memory. Before I get going on my petticoat, I did a quick trial run. For it, I found a willing “victim”… ;)

Practicing cartridge pleats on Cal. ;)

After this little test, I think I can start making my own, bigger petticoat. Wish me luck!

Yours, Nessa

A Flowery Regency Straw Bonnet (CoBloWriMo #26 & HSM #8)

As you might have noticed, finishing up the 1620s stays, and a bum roll on top, has completely knocked me off the blogging train this week. So here is a catch-up post filling out several CoBloWriMo prompts (namely Small Project, Made For Myself, Event, Favourite Resource, and Media) and telling you about the straw bonnet I made for the current Historical Sew Monthly challenge. But, one after the other, before anyone gets dizzy.

First off, the “event” I made it for is the prospective photoshoot I told you about last month. In my area there are few costume groups I know and big reenactment events are few and far between. So I cannot usually attend them without traveling quite some distances. But, on the plus side, there is a lot of scenery around, such as a baroque city center nearby and a few pictorial hunting lodges. For my birthday last month, we went to Schwerin, which has a beautiful castle and park with a Georgian colonnade and all . It would have been perfect for photos. Then the weather made photos impossible with stints of pouring rain, followed by singeing sun. And traipsing in the mud would have ruined the gown…. Oh well, maybe next time.

The design for the bonnet was inspired by this French fashion plate from 1810. Especially by the second last one on the far left and a bit by the first on the far right side.

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Fashion plate of different bonnets, caps and toques from Costume Parisien (c. 1810).

This brings us to the “Media” and “Rescource” section of this post. ;) I have to say that I loove Regency-era journals and magazines such as “Ackermann’s Repository” or “La Belle Assemblée”. Mostly, for the many fashion plates but also for the other period contents, such as letters to editors, etiquette or fashion advisors, short stories, poems and musical notes. Since I got to work with extant issues of Ackermann’s Repository in person, I am more or less enchanted. I even own a Franco-German volume of “Journal des Dames”, which was a total chance find. Sadly it has no fashion plates, only the French descriptions, with German translations on every other page.

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My pride, a French-German volume of “Journal des Dames et des Modes” (c.1828).

Thanks to the Internet, many journals and plates are now freely accessible online, for all those who cannot simply pop into the nearest historical fashion archive. This is why online library databases are one of my favorite resources. These are the ones I use the most:

The Library of Congress, mostly for copies of Ackermann’s Repository, but also some fashion books.

Gallica for French journals, mainly Journal des Dames.

Google Books has some issues of La Belle Assemblée and Wiener Moden-Zeitung available. If you have no yet found a PDF copy of “Workwoman’s Guide”, you can also find it here. :)

But now, to the finished bonnet! Here it is. I used some ruffled fabric carnations and lavender ribbon for it. At first I was also contemplating white ostrich plumes. But eventually, those were saved for future projects. :)

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The finished bonnet.

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A look at the ribbon tie, wrapped under and over the crown.

I finished everything in the course of one evening, with my father looking on. When he was little, his mother befriended a professional milliner, so he has always been excited about hats and hat-making; although trimming this bonnet was nothing much to look at.

Here are the challenge facts to give you a better idea of how the bonnet came together:

The Challenge: #8 – Ridiculous.
Some of the headgear worn in the Regency era looks a bit ridiculous to the modern eye but was very stylish in the period. To make my bonnet less boring, I placed the flowers in a rather unusual way.

Materials: A pre-made straw bonnet I bought at Nehelenia Patterns some years ago; fabric flowers; satin ribbon.

Notions: Matching cotton threads.

Pattern: Based on an 1810 fashion plate.

Year: 1800-15

Time to complete: Roundabout 4 hours.

How historically accurate is it? Somewhat accurate.
The maker shaped the bonnet based on period templates. But the trimmings are made of modern materials.

First worn: Not yet. It was meant for a photoshoot, but the weather did not play along.

Total cost: About € 30 for the bonnet and € 4 for the trimmings.

Love, Nessa

Not in a million years … I thought (CoBloWriMo #20)

Tonight I have some news to share with you: Just in time for the “not in a million years” prompt I finished the binding on my 1620s stays! And this is really something I would not have believed to be doing in a million years.

When I started sewing, I was positively terrified of working on corsetry, let alone fit my own patterns. This, however, was four pairs of stays ago. And things kept getting better with each one.

The first short stays were a catastrophe. Then came the Laughing Moon long stays. They were a big challenge, but the pattern instructions were a great help, as was the generous fitting advice on the Regency Facebook groups. After that, things kept getting better.

My self-drafted morning belt went together quickly, after just a few fits of swearing over the pattern. And now, there are the 1620s stays. When I started them, I was as terrified as ever. Although, aside from being super time-consuming, I have not yet come across any bigger snags.

One thing that really helped with it was Cathy Hay’s corset binding tutorial at Your Wardrobe Unlock’d. And now, the unbelievable has happened. Here are the bound stays, drying after a little spot cleaning to remove the pattern marker. Yippee! I made the binding from leftover lavender linen. The rest of it makes up the interlining.

The bound 1620s stays.

Next up are scores of hand-sewn eyelets. Another thing I believed I would not be doing in a million years. But, oh well, one truly grows with every corsetry project!

Nessa

Loving My Awl (CoBloWriMo #18)

When there is one tool in my sewing kit I adore, it is my awl. It is a Clover tapered awl I bought when making my Regency Long Stays.

The new awl, fresh out of the corsetry supply package. ;)

Before that, I used a straight awl for leather work to poke my eyelets. Although that awl has a nice, wooden handle, that was not much fun to do. Instead of properly pushing the threads apart to form a neat hole in the fabric, the old thing snagged a bit. 

For my new “baby” that is no problem. I can also control the width of the holes better, by choosing how far I push it through. Plus, with the plastic tip on, the awl makes a great point turner. :)

My precious… awl.

Just yesterday I saw that others use and love this awl, too. Jennifer, for once, is just using it for the hand-bound eyelets on her new, gorgeous 18th-century stays. They are going to be so lovely! 

Speaking of which … I should get a move on with my 1620s pair. Binding them has thrown me off the blogging schedule a bit. But I am almost done now and ready to swing my awl. Wish me luck!

Yours, Nessa

The Edict of 1634 – A look at French Sumptuary Laws (CoBloWriMo #17)

As promised earlier this month, I have taken a look at the French sumptuary laws of 1634 for the CoBloWriMo “Written Source” theme. Since I am in the middle of making a 1620s-30s costume for a French persona, they were a must for my research, to make the outfit credible for the time period. When I looked around for sources and information on sumptuary laws in fashion, I mostly stumbled across accounts of Tudor or Elizabethan laws. For example you can find good summaries of these two legislations here, here and here.

There is much less material on the French Edict of 1634 to be found online. To be fair, the earlier English versions comprised large rule books of “who wears what”, much like they existed in the Middle Ages. Compared to them, the French sumptuary laws look almost puny. There are a whole of eight articles in the edict, mainly but not only dealing with clothing. For this post I worked with the latest version that was issued under Louis XIII on May 9th, 1634. You can find the original print here on Gallica. Other edicts that were more or less similar were in place before, with the first ones dating back to the regency of Marie de Medicis.

Around 1633, engravings appeared depicting the effects of the latest edict. Like this courtier discarding all the fancy rags he is no longer allowed to wear. In practice, however, sumptuary regulations were handled relatively laxly. This is no surprise, seeing how they were notoriously hard to police or enforce. The general rule of thumb seems to have been that, the higher your social status, the more you got away with. But, of course, others could report you if they wanted to get you in trouble. Though, somehow, I cannot see this happening much. ;)

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“Le Courtisan suivant le dernier édit” by Abraham Bosse (c. 1633)

What follows is a brief lowdown on the eight main articles, loosely translated and with some commentary for those of you who are interested in fashion laws and those looking to dress their French 1630s persona in the proper style. I just went ahead and translated everything, also those parts irrelevant to fashion itself, just to show the full scope of the edict. Comments are in round brackets (), additions for better understanding in square ones []. Here we go:

I) No cloth of gold or silver, no gold or silver ornaments.

All subjects are forbidden to wear clothing or accessories, such as belts, baldricks or sword belts, hat bands, garters aglets, scarves and laces (rubans, best understood as ribbon ties in this context) in cloth of gold or silver; with fringes, trims or embroidery of pearls or precious stones, [gold or silver] embossed patterns, cords, filigree (cannetilles) [or] buttons. [V]elvet, satin, taffeta or any other  silk fabrics, [such as] crepe or gauze, linens, striped, intermixed, laced or covered in gold or silver.

All those were forbidden on pain of confiscation although I wonder what they did with them then. In my mind I have this naughty image of the king playing dress-up. Though, probably not… ;)

II) Fine clothing was to be made of silks with no more than two rows of embellishments, each no more than 1 digit (approx. 3/4″) wide. Men could only wear trims in few places.

The finest clothing is to be made of silk fabrics, unadorned except for two rows of silk embroidery or trim (the later articles also mention braids as a third option). Each row cannot be wider than 1 doigt (digit, approx. 3/4″).
On men’s clothes, the embellishment cannot be placed around the collar or the bottom of a cloak/mantle, the shaft or side of their shoes, sleeve seams or upper sleeves, at the center back, around button closures or at the basque (this most likely refers to the bottom of doublets).

And yes, these places could NOT hold any embellishments. I double checked this. But, looking at the engraving above, almost completely unadorned male clothing was the aim of the edict. For women and children, more embellishments were allowed; see the next article.

III) Women’s, girl’s and children’s clothes could hold the prescribed two rows of embellishments in more places than men’s clothes.

The aforementioned braids (galons), embroideries and trims are only to be attached to the tops or bottoms of gowns and skirts as well as in the middle of the sleeves, also around the body or basques of gowns.

IV) No other ornaments as those mentioned before are allowed.

Other ornaments like Italian lace (broderie de Milan) or other satin embroideries (here, “broderie” most likely refers to needle lace, though) […] are forbidden on pain of confiscation.

The list goes on, spanning most of the items already mentioned under the first article, like filigree or buttons, so I left them out here.

V) No silk clothing is to be given to servants. They are supposed to wear wool, trimmed with minimal braiding.

No silk clothes are to be given to pages, servants or coachmen. They ought to be clad in wool, without velvet trim or embroidery, except for two rows of braid on the sleeves or outside of the garment.

VI) Strict punishment for those producing forbidden items of clothing.

Dressmakers, embroiderers [lace makers], doublet makers, shoemakers or others are forbidden from producing any of the banned items on pain of denouncement and exclusion from their trades.

To us this may sound harmless, but being put out of their trade meant losing their entire livelihood since it was not possible to simply enter into another trade. This was indeed a very harsh punishment.

VII) Certain metallic items could still be gold or silver.

In spite of the aforementioned ban on gold and silver ornaments, sword guards, scabbards and buckles on belts, sword belts, baldricks or hatbands can still be in gold or silver.

VIII) Material restrictions for coach builders with strict punishment of violations.

Coach builders are prohibited from using gold embroidery or embellishments inside coaches or on [seat] cushions, […] to gilt wood or line coach interiors with silk fabrics on pain of denouncement and exclusion from their trade.

With this one, I keep wondering what triggered it. Gut feeling tells me that some nobles rode in coaches more lavish than the royal ones. Looking at this article, they were probably on par with the later imperial train carriages… oh my!

In summary, the Edict of 1634 is brief and concise about its restrictions. Officially, class differences as existed in earlier sumptuary laws were not given. Though court wear has still to be seen as separate from these laws, especially as far as high nobility is concerned. A lady of quality would try and dress like the young woman in this 1634 engraving.

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“La Dame reformée suivant l’édit dernier” by Grégoire Huret (c. 1632-34).

For my persona *cheerful wave at Mademoiselle Désirée*, who is from a distinguished noble family but also more modest than most, it means less is more. Sadly, we will have to say good riddance to the super cute linen waistcoat with the silver stripes. However, nothing speaks against some good-quality embellishments. And, of course, the high nobility got away with wearing their gold and silver pretties. At least, according to period painters…

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The king’s brother rocking some serious gold and bling in 1634 (“Gaston de France” by Antony van Dyck, 1634; Musée Condé).

Nessa

Making a 1620s Busk (CoBloWriMo Day 15)

With several small projects happening at the moment, I am getting a head start on tomorrow’s “Small Project” prompt. The first project I am presenting you today is the wooden busk I made for my 1620s stays. I made it using these instructions from Drea Leed’s Elizabethan Costume page.

The finished busk.

For it, I used a 35 mm wide, 10 mm thick pine board. The finished length is 12″ (30 cm). Since the busk’s conical shape was a little trickier to work than the simple Regency-era busk I made using a paint stir stick, my dad kindly gave me a hand with the woodworking.

When it was all sanded and oiled with a tiny dash of canola oil, I felt like adding some design to the finished piece. So I scratched away with a small etching knife and created this little fleur-de-lis. Seeing how I had never etched anything before, it turned out pretty well.

My attempt at an etched fleur-de-lis.

This whole project was so small, it came together in one afternoon. And I am quite happy with it. Although it’s not a real hardwood busk as they were used in the period, it is very stable but also light to wear. The only choice of hardwood at the local store would have been beechwood. But it would have been very, very heavy. So sticking with the trusty old pine was a good idea. :)

Nessa