A Fashionable Gift  (CoBloWriMo Day 7)

Today’s post should be about something we made for someone else. Since I very rarely do commissions and have already posted about the cap I made for a friend, I will tell you about the beautiful accessory a friend has made for me.

For ages I had been looking at the pineapple reticule from the Kyoto Fashion Institute, wondering if I could make my own. Being a relatively new knitter, I have not yet mastered knitting in the round. So this goal has remained unattainable up until now.

Yellow silk gown and knitted silk pineapple reticule (Kyoto Fashion Institute, c. 1800).

Last Christmas, however, the wait had an end: A very dear friend sent me one! Her mother had knitted it. She is a super experienced knitter, always looking for the next challenge. For it, she used this pattern, finishing it in record time. I will be eternally grateful to her for this incredible gift! Here it is. I have yet to show it off in a photoshoot to do it proper justice.

My pineapple reticule, knitted in cotton.

Much love, Nessa

An Extant 18th-Century Fichu…

In the last post, I mentioned a surprise Christmas present that reached me this spring. It is one of the most amazing gifts a historical costumer could ever get…. an extant piece of clothing.

In my case, it is an extant fichu with gorgeous lace edging. The friend who gifted me this amazing item had obtained it from the collection of a mutual friend who has been a collector of historical lace items for decades with great dedication. Needless to say, when I unwrapped the box, I nearly fell off my chair…

The fichu is made of fine white silk, the weight of a pongé, but with a much softer hand. The lace edge is a handmade Mechlin lace which is attached over an itty bitty rolled hem. Judging from the style and shape, it dates to the mid-18th century. (Just wow!) For its age, it is in nearly immaculate condition, minus a few age spots here an there. Needless to say I am still shaking with awe when I hold it in my hands now.I store it very carefully in an acid-free paper box and most of the time I only touch it with gloves. Though sometimes, I just have to stroke the light, smooth silk it is made of. Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure. Below I have added some information about Mechlin lace, since it is a special kind of lace really worth looking into.

 If you would like to share the watermarked images in a community or on your page, you are absolutely free to do so. It would be great if this wonderful piece got some exposure.
Just I would kindly ask you to let me know and refer back to this post if you share.
Thank you!

And now, enjoy this pretty sight! :)

And here are a few facts about Mechlin lace for you: It is a bobbin lace that was popular from the late 17th until the early 20th century. This type of lace, also known as “point de Malin” is named after the Flemish town of Mechelen in Belgium, although it was also produced in Brussels and Antwerp. Historically, the Mechlin designs originated from Brabant lace. Generally, the name describes straight lace with continuous patterns. It is also very light and was often considered especially suitable for summer wear.

When I looked at the fichu for the first time, I thought I was dealing with tulle lace because of the super firm ground that feels almost like crinoline net. But this firm, hexagonal net, also known as the “réseau” is actually a typical feature of Mechlin. After the Industrial Revolution it was reproduced by machine, under the name Mechlin net. The lace was popular with the nobility. Especially Queen Anne of England was a big fan. This eventually led to the lifting of the import ban on lace to 18th-century England.

Drawing of the Mechlin net structure (réseau). Source: Wikipedia.

This article from the Lace Lover’s Diary offers some extra information and pictures of more extant laces from different centuries. The Wikipedia article I linked above is also quite informative and has some nice pictures, too. :)

While you enjoy this lovely fichu, I will sneak off on summer holiday for the rest of July. When I have time I might try to join this year’s CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month) in August to get out some long overdue posts to you. Wishing all of you a great weekend, whether you are at Costume College or just enjoying some downtime.

 

Love, Nessa

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A Cap for a Dear Friend

After fixing some image server issues, the blog is back and I can finally tell you about all the projects I have finished over the past few months. Since my last post, the white crossover gown has come together at last. But I will keep you in suspense a little longer, since a photo shoot opportunity (my first proper photo op, yay!) might arise at the end of this month.

So, today I want to tell you about a gift for my dear friend Ann. She was kind enough to go through her stash and send me fabric for my shortgown when I could not find anything suitable on this side of the pond. This is why I simply had to sew something for her in return. Because she had once told me that she does not have a simple linen cap for reenactment, I knew just what to make for her.

For the cap I used my favourite Mill Farm pattern, the same I have used for mine here, and leftover white linen fabric from the bed shift. When making it up, I tried my hand on two period sewing techniques. The first were itty bitty rolled hems around the brim, on the back crown, and the ties.

Rolled hems around the brim…

…. and on the tape ties.

Further, I got to learn a new technique I had been ogling for a while: rolled whipped gathers! And now that I know how they work, I never want to go back to regular gathers, ever again. They just give you much more control over the gathering process and a much neater edge finish besides. To learn rolling and whipping, I used two video tutorials for orientation: This one from Katherine and another from Conner Prairie, which has sadly gone offline. This second one described a rolling process of the fabric around the needle. But I found that you automatically start doing that, once your stitching gets quicker. Here are some photos of the gathering process around the crown, with a look at the finished item:

Finishing the row of whipped gathers on the crown.

The gathered crown (with a rolled hem at the bottom).

The attached whipped gathers, inside view.

The attached whipped gathers, outside view.

Once everything was hemmed and the gathers were in place, all that remained was to back-stitch the tape ties into the brim, wash and iron the finished item. Here are some photos I took before mailing the cap overseas. It reached its new owner quickly so that she could make plans to wear it for the Regency Ladies Weekend at Riversdale House Museum last month. This was only the third historical costume gift I got to sew for someone and I am super glad that she liked it. :)

The finished cap.

The finished cap… back view.

Speaking of gifts: There has been another, very exciting, surprise that reached me in the mail earlier this year. But I will leave it for next time, since it really deserves a post of its own.
So… stay tuned!

Until soon, Nessa

PS: The image issues should be resolved now, but should you have any trouble viewing or accessing the images on the site, please let me know. Thank you! :)

Head Coverings c. 1800: A Bergére-style Bonnet

After another week full of jumble, I want to add a little prettiness to this last day of the week. So I am sharing with you (at last) the early-Regency hat I made for this month’s “Heroes” challenge at the Historical Sew Monthly. The task was to create an item inspired by one of our historical fashion or costuming heroes. Some of the entries I have seen so far are some absolutely stunning costumes offering homage to a wide scale of historical and fictional costume heroes. For example, this very gorgeous open robe Crystal made, inspired by Janet Arnold and some of our fellow historical costumers.

My own entry is a much smaller thing, due to the thesis having seen its hottest phase in July / August (perhaps you can spot some of the paper chaos going on in some of my photos ;) ). It is my third jab at making the bergére hat I have wanted to make for song long now. It is inspired by and based on this tutorial by the Dreamstress whose blog has been a big inspiration for me to get into historical costuming. This makes her my “hero” for the challenge.

But wait… is a bergére not more of an 18th-century item? You are right. Those flat-topped, wide-brimmed straw (and sometimes also felt) hats were an accessory that fit in with the “pastoral” themes of fashion throughout the 18th-century. Here is just one of the many portraits: Eleanor Frances Dixie wearing one of hers with a beautifully patterned sacque gown.

Eleanor Frances Dixie by Henry Pickering (c. 1753).

Eleanor Frances Dixie by Henry Pickering (c. 1753).

At the end of the 18th century, however, the bergére did not disappear completely. Instead it lingered around into the early Regency years (if not longer in the lower classes). Although an interesting new style of wearing these hats emerged around 1800. For this time, there is some proof of the hats being worn tied down with a scarf or ribbon. For once, I found this 1797 portrait by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun of a young lady who seems to have secured hers against a storm.

portrait-of-a-young-woman[1]

Portrait of a Young Woman by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (c.1797; MFA Boston).

And this portrait of Henrietta Marchant from 1800 shows the style I was going for more clearly:

Henrietta Marchant (Mrs. Robert Liston) by Gilbert Stuart (c.1800; National Gallery of Art).

Henrietta Marchant (Mrs. Robert Liston) by Gilbert Stuart (c.1800; National Gallery).

This style, which has informally also been called a “gypsy bonnet” because of its somewhat “adventurous” look was my solution to fit the bergére into my main costuming period. To help me along with shaping it, I used these tips from Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion website (scroll down to the “Bonnets” section). Here is how mine came out, in a few photos, from start to finish:

The hat I started with: A real straw boater from Claire's.

The hat I started with: A real straw boater from Claire’s.

I started with this straw hat my parents and I found on my birthday in July. Following the tutorial, I began by separating the crown from the brim, leaving the bottom three rows of it on the brim to be ironed down. I took out about two rows of straw braid in the middle and left the top bit of the crow as is. Since it already had quite sharp angles, I did not have to iron it. They brim I flattened into shape by putting it under a wet towel and ironing over it on medium-high. After sewing the two parts back together, the basic bergére was done.

The finished basic bergére.

The finished basic bergére.

While the hat was still flat, I trimmed it with a red bias strip, about 3/4″ wide after hemming. Bias is really fun to work with when trimming unevenly shaped hat or bonnets. As my hat was oval, it saved me some easing and swearing. ;)

Trimmed with the bias band.

Trimmed with the bias band.

Now came the fun part of molding the hat. This is not strictly necessary, but it makes tying the finished bonnet a lot easier since the brim does not need to be tackled into shape every time. For this I pinned the seam tape I used as a tie into the spot where I wanted it to sit and tied it down firmly on my hat stand. Then I sprayed it with water and let it sit there for about a week. After about three days, I repeated the spraying, just to be sure.

The bonnet molding on the stand.

The bonnet being molded on the stand.

Once the bonnet was in shape, all I had to do was to tack down the tie in several places.

A top view, with the tie stitched in place.

A top view, with the tie stitched in place.

And here is the finished project. Since I still struggle a little with hat-making, the result is perhaps not the most refined head covering; but it is absolutely wearable. And I find it pretty cute, too. :)

The finished hat / bonnet.

The finished bergére-style hat / bonnet.

And now it is back to the last few days of the thesis for me. I hope this post added a little “pretty” to your pre-Halloween Sunday, as it did to mine. Very soon (hopefully) I will try to show you the other early period head covering I made this summer. And please, have a lovely week and a Happy Halloween tomorrow!

Until very soon, Nessa

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Catching Up: Just a little Fichu

The past week has been a bit busier than expected. So, today’s catch up post will deal with a small, yet nifty, little clothing item: a fichu to go with my working-class ensemble. The one I chose to make is simple, tuckable triangle.

To make it, I had a look at this post from the Oregon Regency Society. It covers fichus in many shapes and sizes. Looking at it tempts me to make at least one of each. One can never have too many fichus … ;) The measurements given in the post may vary based on the wearer’s shoulder width and the back length at the underbust line.

The fichu, 40

The finished fichu, 40″ wide and 18″ high.

I made my triangle 40″ wide at the base and 18″ high, as suggested in the post. It worked fine. The next time, though, I would add another 4″ or so to the long edge. I cut the triangle from an 18″ x 40″ rectangle, with the long edge folded in half. The fabric I used was a sheer cotton voile “lining” a local store carries as a basic.

The two short edges are finished with 1/8″ rolled hems, using my favourite method. On the long side, I got a bit lazy and just hid the raw edge under the lace trim. For that, I ironed under 1/8″ of the fabric, stuck the bobbin lace on top of it and hand-sewed it down with a small running stitch, close to the fabric edge. Since the finished lace edge was about 1/4″ wide, it covered the raw bit no problem. Here is a close-up of the finished trim:

The edge finish.

The edge finish.

I chose to have the lace edge on the back of the fichu, but it would also look nifty on the “good” side. Now the narrow bobbin loops peeking out from under the fold look pretty cute when I wear it. It goes together well with the sheer fabric and does not look too massive. Here is a look at the fichu tucked under the shortgown I still need to blog about.

The front view.

The front view.

The back view.

The back view.

Since it was my first, tucking the  fichu took a little practice. After a playing around for a while, I found that the simplest way to keep it in place was to pin it directly to the stays. When using a simple petticoat, the straps can help to hold it in place. Normal straight pins work well; but for the last event I cheated and used three medium-size safety pins, just to be sure. ;)

I hope you had a good week and found this quick post enjoyable. As the thesis goes into its final throes, a few shorter posts may follow. But I am hoping that I will get to tell you about the shortgown from the pictures very soon. So please stay tuned! :)

Much love, Nessa

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HSM #3: Ladylike Hand Protection

For me, embroidery is one of the best pastimes during exam season. It gives you something to pick up and work on when the paper writing muse is silent or when you simply need to take a little break. That is why I decided to do a small, handy  embroidery project for this month’s “Protection” challenge: A pair of early Regency mitts.

The main inspiration came from these two extant pairs from the Met and MFA collections. The mitts from the Met are an earlier pair from the latter half of the 18th century. At this time, a triangular flap, often with a contrasting piece of fabric sewn to its underside, was a common feature of mitts. Towards the Regency period, this flap slowly disappeared in favour of a straight top, as you can see in the early-19th-century pair from the MFA below.

18th-century mitts, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Mitts, late 18th – early 19th century, MFA Boston.

Since this has been my first glove-making adventure and I was feeling a little unsure about how to design a pattern, I went to search for resources and found a wonderful tutorial for making Colonial mitts. It uses a pattern based on an extant pair from the Colonial Williamsburg collection. I used it as a base for my own pattern, enlarging it to about 120% and taking off the flap to get a straight top edge.

Next I picked a floral embroidery pattern from Ackermann’s Repository to decorate the top. It is a bud and leaf design I outlined in stem stitch. To fill out the buds, I also used stem. The leaves are filled with alternating satin or fishbone stitch.
Since the fabric I used was a light cotton sateen, I added the embroidery before cutting out the mitts, to prevent fraying in the wrong places. ;) Here is how it all looked in progress:

The embroidery in progress.

Once the embroidery was finished, I cut out the gloves and found that embroidering had been the easy part of this project. So I will give you a brief walkthrough of how I made up my pair, for future reference, in case you are planning to make your own. :)

Gathering the materials.

The first thing I did was to get together my materials. I used sateen for the outer layer and a light cotton shirting from the stash for the lining. All pieces are cut on the bias, to allow for a snug but comfortable fit. In this picture, the thumb holes are already cut out. Before I did that, though, I took an extra step:

Tracing the shape for the thumb hole.

After backstitching and overcasting the thumb pieces’ 1/4″ side seam, I placed the underside of the piece on the right side of the mitt body and traced the shape. I then subtracted 1/4″ on the inside of the trace line for the seam allowance and cut the hole based on that. There was a thumb hole given on the original pattern, but after sewing a test piece, I found that it needed some improvement. And taking the time to re-trace it really did a lot for the fit. :)

The shell and lining, with the side seams sewn and pressed open.

Next I attached the bottom edge of the thumb to the holes, right sides facing and backstitched it in place. Afterwards I just sewed up both the outer and lining pieces at the side seams, taking a 3/8″ allowance. Once all the seams had been pressed open, I slipped the lining over the outer, so that the “clean” sides faced each other and the thumb peeked out of the hole in the lining like so:

The shell and lining matched up at the side seams.

To line the mitts, I sewed the pieces together at the top edge with a backstitch, taking up a 1/4″ seam. After I folding the lining into the mitts, I finger-pressed under about 1/4″ of fabric around the thumb hole and stitched it down, encasing the raw edges on the inside. As a final step, I folded and slip-stitched the bottom hems of the mitts. To keep the lining invisible, I created a slightly deeper fold, so that it came out about 1/8″ shorter than the outer layer.

Once everything was in place, I used a single strand of embroidery floss to create a herringbone borser along the thumb hole. It came out very pretty, but also served to reinforce the fabric against wear and tear.

The finished mitts. :)

Here is what the finished pair of mitts looked like after this final step. I am quite happy with how they came out. Finishing them was a very sweet treat at the end of the exam season. :)

Now the new (and final !) term is here for me. At the moment I am still very busy juicing all the lemons uni throws at me. Although, finally, things are starting to roll again in the sewing room. There are a few new projects coming up and I am much looking forward to sharing them with you.

Thank you all for your patience in bearing with me until now. I will do my best to stop being such a stranger and bring the blog back up to speed again soon.

Much love, Nessa

HSM #12: The Chemisette

Before completing the whole dress ensemble, here is a look at the chemisette that came together earlier this week. I am entering it into the Historical Sew Monthly “Re-Do” challenge separately, to make up for a few challenges I skipped this fall. Here is what it looks like, worn with the gown:

chem_finished

The chemise and gown – front view.

chem_back20dress

The chemise and gown – back view.

Just like the Regency dress, the chemise is hand-sewn, except for one invisible inner seam. The pattern I used as a base is from Sense & Sensibility’s Regency Underthings pattern. Originally, this version of the pattern offers a flat or standing ruffle as collar options. I decided to make it with the flat ruffle, but found it a bit too boring. ;)

So I cut a second, narrower, ruffle to go on top of it. In the previous post, I already showed you a sneak peek of how I hemmed them using the “magic” rolled hem stitch. To help the top ruffle to lay more nicely, a little bit of starch went into the bottom one.

Here is a look at the finished chemisette without the gown. As you can see, the buttoned section is slightly longer, to accommodate for dresses with lower necklines as well. Perhaps, one day, I will get it into my head to wear it underneath one of those risque-y French gowns. ;)

chem_front

The chemisette front.

chem_back

The chemisette back.

chem_side

A look at the side, with the French seam across the shoulder.

The chemisette closes with both ties and a set of three mother-of-pearl buttons.The pattern actually suggest to close the front with either ties or buttons, yet I felt safer using both. In the Regency era, “gap-itis” on drawstring closure was quite common. So I am perfectly fine with it, in all places but one: the front of chemisettes. ;)

Another thing I changed is the way the buttons fasten. Since the cotton voile I used is extra sheer and I wanted to learn a new technique, I made button loops instead of using regular button holes. All in all, the chemisette’s closure now looks like this:

chem_undone

The closure: A top and bottom drawstring and three buttons with silk thread loops.

Here is another close-up of the loops and buttons. Even though they are made from real mother of pearl, they were not all that expensive. I found them at a local “hippie” store that also sells a plethora of beads for jewelry-making. For the loops I used some off-white silk buttonhole thread. As you can also see here, the thread loops improved as I moved down the line. ;)

loops

My first set of button loops. Yay! :)

If you would like to learn more about sewing thread loops as well, I recommend Professor Pincushion’s video tutorial. It is a bit longer but walks you through the steps very nicely. :)

And that was all about the chemise already. I hope you enjoyed looking at the pictures. :) If you have questions about the tweaks I used in my interpretation of the pattern, please feel free to let me know. Now I will try my best to finish the dress as well, so that I can show you everything before I go home for the holidays.

Until very soon, Nessa

Early Regency Elastic Garters : A Tutorial

It has delighted me to see how many of you are also enamored of all those gorgeous period garters. It feels wonderful to be in such good company. But, admiring is only one side of it all. As costumers, we all love to also re-create the fashions we adore. To get you started on your own pair of drool-worthy garters, here is the promised tutorial on how to make “elastic” early 19th-century garters.

Before we start, it has to be said that the finished garters will not be made in a completely historically accurate way. This is because we will be using elastic cord instead of wire springs to elasticize the garters. Modern elastic varies greatly in its elastic properties, as opposed to the material available in the period. But the end result of this tutorial will be very close to the period look. So, here we go:


You will need:

  • 12″-15″ of elastic cord, approx. 1/8″ wide.
  • 2 pairs of “double” hooks and bars, normally used for in-seam skirt closures.
  • A short length of matching double-fold bias tape, about 6″ long.
  • Needle and thread (matching for the seams and optionally another color to accentuate the cording channels).
  • Four 4″ wide pieces of sturdy cotton fabric, according to your measurements (see below).

Placement and Measurements:

You can place the garters just below, or just above, the knee. To find out how long your fabric pieces need to be, measure snugly around the place of your choosing. For the two front pieces, you will divide this measurement by 2. Then you add 1 1/4″ to it, to get a 5/8″ seam allowance on either side. For a sample calculation: I decided to wear my garters below the knee and measured a leg diameter of 16″. So I ended up with a front piece length of 8″ + 1 1/4″ = 9 1/4″ by 4″ wide.

Obtaining the length of your elasticized back piece is a bit trickier and depends on the bit on how rigid or stretchy your elastic cord turns out to be. First, you need to stretch your elastic cord to see, how much of it is required to go across half your leg diameter. Typically, the amount will vary somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of your measurement. With my cord, I needed 6″ to stretch over the 8″ of the finished back piece. Now you can decide if you want a (nearly) flat back piece when wearing your garter, or rather a more ruffled look. Both seem to have existed for period garters and it is up to you, what you like best.

For the “flat” look, you simply take your halved diameter and add a 5/8″ seam at one end. If you would like to shir and ruffle your back piece a little more, you are now going to double the measurement of your elastic cord and add the 5/8″ allowance to that. This is how i did it and I came out with 6″ x 2 + 5/8″ = 12 5/8″ by 4″ wide. Now that you have your measurements, you can go ahead and cut 2 pieces of each.

Making up the garters:

First, fold all your pieces so that the two long edges are touching and press.

Step 2: Add your embellishments to the inside of the folded front pieces, steering clear of the fold and seam allowances.

Next you can decide whether you would like to add embroidery to your front pieces or if you want to ornament them with pieces of patterned ribbon instead. You will be placing your embellishments on one half of the folded front pieces. Since you will later turn them inside out, remember to put the adornments on the inside of the folded piece, making sure not to work over the fold line and seam allowances.

Step 3: Add cording channels to the sewn-up back pieces.

Now you will work on the folded back pieces: Sew along the long, raw edge on either piece, taking up a 3/8 seam. Leave the short ends open, trim the seam and turn inside out. Add two cording channels that are wide enough to hold your elastic cord, starting your first seam about 1/2″ from the top and bottom edges. If you are using 1/8″ cord I recommend you place the cording lines 3/8″ apart (as you can see, mine came out a little too narrow for easy cording).
Optional: Add a fifth seam in between the channels for decoration.

Step 4: Feed the elastic through the channels and secure.

After finishing the channels, cut four equal lengths of elastic cord, according to the calculations above. Feed them through the channels, using a bodkin and, if necessary, a pair of needle-nose pliers. Make sure that a little bit of the cord peeks out at either end and secure it, using straight or, even better, safety pins.
Stay stitch on both sides, close to the edges. This step is crucial, since elastic cord develops a life of its own otherwise. I forgot this when first making up my pair and ended up taking apart and re-cording them because the elastic came loose.

Step 5: Embellish your fronts, fold them back over and mark.

Once you have finished decorating the fronts, fold them back over, right sides facing. Measure 2-3″ from the left edge and mark the point. Now, sew along the right edge of each piece, as well as the long edge, up to the mark you just made. Turn inside out. Your sewn-up fronts will then look like this:

The front piece after sewing and turning.

Step 6: Attach the back pieces to the top side.

Now, place your back pieces on top of the fronts and pin in place. Carefully sew them to the top layer of the front pieces only, while taking up a 5/8″ seam. Make sure to move the back layer out of the way completely. Trim the seam a little, fold the back piece into the front and press.

Step 7: Hand-finish the back of the join.

To finish the front-back join, flip over the pieces. Fold the raw short edges on the back in by about 5/8″ and press, making sure to cover the entire raw edge of the back piece. Finish the side seam and the remainder of the long seam by hand, using a slip-stritch.

Step 8: Bind the raw back edges.

At this point, your garters are nearly down. All you need to do now is cut your length of bias tape in half and use it to bind the remaining raw edge on your back piece. Do it as you would bind a corset, stitching “in the ditch” on the top side and securing the folded-over side on the back with slip stitches.

Step 9: Attach the hook-and-bar closure.

At last, you sew the hooks and bars to close your garters. The double skirt hooks are the closest thing to the, often ornate, hook closures used on period garters. But they do well enough. It works best to attach the hook on the back end, and the bar on the front. If you look at extant pairs, you will find that the bar usually goes on the “pretty” side, right next to the embroidery. Since the modern hooks are not so pretty, I opted to put them on the undersides instead. ;)

The finished product. =)

And your garters are done! Here is a look at my finished product. But I have a feeling that yours will be all the prettier. If you get to try out the tutorial and make your own pair of garters, I would love to see how they turned out.

I will be back with you very soon, once the exams are all over. By then, I am hoping to have some news on my new Regency day dress as well. Now, back to fixing the garter I forgot to stay stitch… See you all very soon!

Cheers, Nessa

HSM “Brown”: The Finished Garters

One day before the end of study, the garters are finally complete. Yay! In this post, I will just give you a quick walk through the finished pair, since I am meaning to follow up with a longer tutorial on them in a little while. Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure. By the way: did I ever mention that my left leg is skinnier than my right one? ;) You can see that quite nicely in the first photo, too…

The finished pair of embroidered early-Regency “elastic” garters.

A closer look at the embroidery.

The whole garter. The bar matching the double hook is hidden under the embroidered end.

If you compare my garter to an extant one from the early 1800s, you will see that the end which has been elasticized with steel springs is somewhat longer than the one I made using modern elastic cord. When worn, however, this difference is made up and the elastic end covers about half of the leg. This illustrates the difference between steel and rubber elastic rather well.

Extant early 19th-century garter, elasticized with steel wire coils (Source: mfa.org).

And here is a look at the challenge details, showing exactly which materials I have used to emulate the historical style. The base fabric itself is a study cotton, though, since this works best for embroidery. Other than that, it also holds on the the stockings very well. =)


The Challenge: #9 – “Brown”

Fabric: A 4″ wide scrap of white cotton canvas.

Pattern: My own, inspired by several extant garters at the MFA, Boston. The embroidery is based on an 1811 floral pattern from Ackermann’s Repository.

Year: ca. 1790s-1820s.

Notions: 2 ft. of brown 1/8″ elastic cord; 1 1/2 skeins of brown embroidery cotton; some orange embroidery cotton; 2 double hooks and bars.

How historically accurate is it? They are more historically inspired than accurate but emulate the period look very well when worn.

Total cost: €1.50 for the yarn; €1 for the elastic and €2 for the hooks = approx. €4.50. The fabric was “free” at this time.

Hours to complete: About 25-30 hours.

First worn: For the photos.

And that was it already. Once I have a little more time, I will write up a tutorial on how I made mine. They were a first try and may not be perfect. But I know what needs improving and will add these points, so you can profit from my little slip-ups and make your own, even better, pair. So please stay tuned. :)

All the best, Nessa

Garters Galore

Today, the embroidery on the first garter has already come together. On this joyous occasion, I will delve into the subject of early 19th-century garters a little more and provide you with some delicious eye candy. ;)

But, first things first. Here is a look at the status quo of my embroidered garter fronts. By now they are both outlined in back stitch. And the bottom one is already filled with satin and stem stitch. Since some period garters also made do with rather sparse embroidery designs, I did get a bit lazy and decided against filling in all the flowers, too.

The embroidery progress on the garters.

I am quite content with how they are turning out, especially since I am a little pressed for time at the moment. But now, to the really gorgeous extant examples….

Up to the late 18th century, and into the very early 1800s, garters were mainly made of silk ribbons that tied at the top of the stockings to keep them in place. Embroidery was a staple. It was either placed directly on the ribbon or sewn to it, frequently with additional padding added underneath. Often, amorous and/or saucy mottoes were added to the designs. Here is a beautiful example of this style, using some delicious pink silk ribbon:

18th-century silk garters from the MFA, Boston. They read “My motto is to love you; it is never to change”.

Also have a look at this 18th-century pair with narrower ties and a wider embroidery section:

Another gorgeous pair of 18th-centuy garters from the MFA.

Further into the early 19th century, but already as early as 1800, innovation paved the way for another style of garters. It is elasticized using narrow steel springs in one half of the band. If you did not know it was steel, you could be tricked into believing you were actually looking at modern shirring, using elastic bands. This type of garter was fastened with a steel hook. For some time, both the tied and the hooked styles existed side by side. The following picture from the MFA shows them in comparison:

Comparison of tied and elasticized garters (Source: mfa.org).

Before I started researching, I had no idea that elasticized garters had already come into use this early on. And now, this style really fascinates me. Here are two more extant examples of early “elastic” garters that have served as my inspiration for the current project. :)

Early 19th-century garters, elasticized with coiled wire (Source: lacma.org).

Early 19th-century garters, auctioned by the Cora Ginsburg Gallery (Found on Pinterest).

There are so many more stunning and gorgeous extant period garters still in existence; more than enough, to fill several blog post. Just have a look around! I especially recommend browsing the MFA’s collection. It holds lots and lots of extant examples from various periods.

I hope this post has helped to awaken your interest in garters. Because, small as they may be, they provide some great examples of period craftsmanship. Even though I am not quite sure how “crafty” my pair will turn out, I will try and keep you posted on their progress.

Much Love, Nessa