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.


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.


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. :)


The finished bonnet.


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


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 simple linen cap

Following the old saying “out with the old in with the new” I will start the new year with a long overdue catch-up post. It will be one in a series, since there are still some pretty things from last year I would love to share with you. And with the new Historical Sew Monthly challenges and a heap of fresh sewing ideas, there are new projects awaiting as well.

Today I am going to provide you with some long overdue picture “spam” of the late 18th/early 19th century linen cap I made to go with my short gown. It is really simple but I love it to bits and wear it the most of all my Regency-era caps. For it I used view 3 (bottom left) from the Mill Farm late 18th-century caps pattern, with a few changes to the original make-up.

Mill Farm 18th-century caps pattern.

Mill Farm 18th-century caps pattern.

The changes I made were really few, based on personal taste. For once, I cut out two brim pieces and sandwiched the crown and trim between them. Here the pattern called for a single, hemmed brim to which the hemmed crown and ruffle are attached with whipped gathers. This is the more historically accurate approach for the late 18th century. Since I was not so happy with my whipped gathering skills and was using an itty bitty bobbin lace trim, I opted for the “sandwich” method instead.

Another thing I changed was to add a 1/4″ double-fold casing at the bottom of the crown. It holds a drawstring that holds my rebellious hair in check. I did not add anything for it, since this edge was originally reserved for a 1/4″ rolled hem. In the picture you can see the small hand-bound eyelets for the ties. They work very well on those naughty hairs. ;)

The crown with the finished drawstring casing.

The crown with the finished drawstring casing.

Once the casing was done, the cap went together quickly, even by hand. It helped that the linen was super soft and worked like a charm. The trickiest part was the fiddly eyelet lace for the trim. Though, once the ends were finished and it was attached, it looked so lovely. :) Here are a few images of the finished item, on both Jane (my hat form) and myself:

The finished linen cap, side view.

The finished linen cap, side view.

The finished cap, top view.

The finished cap, top view.

The finished cap, front view.

The finished cap, front view.

The cap on myself. :)

The cap on myself.

And a bit more of the back. :)

And a bit more of the back. :)

And that was it already. I cannot say often enough how happy this simple little project made me, since I completed it mid-thesis when I needed something pretty to distract myself from the work. Now the thesis is finally, finally handed in and I am looking forward to creating new, lovely items for my historical wardrobe.

Once I have fudged out what to make for this year’s HSM challenges, I will share my plans with you. If all works out, I am going to spend some time sewing outside my Regency comfort zone, trying out some new fashion eras. Some of you have already spotted my 1920s robe de style on the Facebook page. It has been my first venture into a different century. I will keep you posted on the other projects to come.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and joyful 2017. I am excited to see your new, gorgeous sewing creations this year. :)

Until very soon, Nessa

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 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


Covering Baby’s Head – Georgian Style

Recently, there have been two new additions to my extended family: Two new baby cousins were born in March and April. They are both girls and look absolutely adorable. To welcome them into their lives, I decided to sew a little gift for each of them. Fitting with the HSM “Protection” challenge, I decided to make a pair of historically inspired baby bonnets. Since I have never sewn any clothing for babies before, it was a sewing adventure I was itching to embark on.

True to my favourite era, I decided to go for a Georgian / early Regency style bonnet. Since time was a bit short to get everything done for the baby girls’ arrival, I opted for a simple style, like the one in this 1801 plate from Costume Parisien:

Mother and child fashion plate; Costume Parisien, c. 1801.

This style corresponds fairly well to this extant American infant’s cap from the late 18th century.

Infant’s cap, second half of the 18th century, American; MFA Boston.

This is the simplest style of period baby caps to be found. It usually consists of two pieces: a narrowly hemmed head-piece and a ruffle or lace edging. Ties were optional and seem to be missing from many surviving bonnets. Beyond this very basic style, quite a lot of bonnets had extra decorations. Lace insets at the back of the head were a very frequent decorative addition, as you can see in this other cap from the MFA.

Infant’s cap with inset lace, 18th century, American; MFA, Boston.

Beyond that, some extant caps show off some very fine, drool-worthy embroidery in white, or sometimes even colored, thread. The early 19th-century example below is one of my favorites. Reaching this skill-level at white embroidery is definitely one of my long-term goals. ;)

Embroider baby cap, early 19th century, British; Textile Museum of Canada.

For my cap, I used Sharon Ann Burnston’s basic 18th-century baby cap pattern and tutorial. The original pattern is sized to fit a very small infant. So, after talking to some other seamstresses who have made it up before and also to the pattern creator herself, I decided to scale it up to about 125% of the size. This way my little cousins can grow into their bonnets over the next few months. :) Here are some detail pictures of how I made up the caps. Since they were so small and my sewing machine needed some maintenance, I sewed everything by hand. It was the quickest, easiest way.

The narrow-hemmed main piece.

After cutting out the pattern from a leftover piece of printed Swiss-dot cotton, I narrowly hemmed the bonnet’s main piece, using the rolled-hem stitch I talked about in this post from last December.

The laddered back edges, sewn 2/3 of the way.

Afterwards, I folded the bonnet in half, butting up the back edges. They were then sewn together about 2/3 of the way from the bottom edge. For this I used a ladder stitch. It is a more or less invisible stitch that can best be described as a straight version of the slip stitch, going from side to side in parallel, horizontal lines.

The radial pleats, outside view.

The radial pleats, inside view.

The open portion at the top of the back edge was gathered into radial pleats, using a circle of evenly spaced gathering stitches, about 1/2″ away from the center. I used a sturdier fillet crochet cotton yarn for this step. Pulling the gathers taut on both sides, created the little rosette you can see in the bottom picture. To secure everything, I tied the thread ends into a firm double knot. Then I back-stitched and buried each thread in the seam.

The lace attached to the bonnet.

Last I stitched some cotton lace to the hemmed edge, all around the cap. After that all I had to do was to add the ties at the “x” marks. For this, I used two 7″ long pieces of 1/2″ wide cotton hem tape. And here is what the finished baby bonnet looks like:

The finished baby bonnet, with ties.

Making one bonnet took about ten hours, or three evenings while taking a break from study and paper writing. ;) I am very happy with the outcome. And, hearing back from the new babies’ mothers, they were very pleased to receive them as a surprise gift in the mail. Now I cannot wait to see the bonnets on my little cousins’, once they have grown into them. :)

I should really try and sew for friends and family more often. But this year, time is extra short *sigh*. Although I am hoping to see you all again very soon.

All the best, Nessa

HSM #7 : The Finished Regency Bonnet

Now that the first batch of exams is over, I finally put the finished bonnet on my head and took a few photos for you.

Until last week, I worked on the trimmings. I decided to keep them simple. When you look at the 1803 fashion plate I showed you in the making-of post, you can see how this choice was not an uncommon thing at the time, either. So I attached about one yard of plain satin ribbon to hide the join between crown and brim, but also to double as a tie to go around the back of the head.

The other thing I added, was a flower made from the fashion fabric. Since my crafting skills and ribbon roses do not get along very well, I used this lovely tutorial as inspiration. The petals are made of six 3″circles, cut out with zig-zag my shears. Instead of gluing them to a felt disc, as shown in the original tutorial, I simply sewed them together in the center and at the outer edges. To cover up the center join, I added a scrap of ruffled white satin ribbon and a small shank button on top. The result looked like this:

The almost finished fabric flower.

After attaching the ribbon and flower, the completed bonnet looked like this on me:

The finished Regency bonnet.

A better peek at the flower and trim.

To sum it all up, here are the challenge facts :) :

The Challenge: HSM #7 – “Accessorize”

Fabric: Tactel-nylon for the outer layer; cotton net for the lining. The good thing about the Tactel is that it does not have the icky plastic-y feel of most synthetic “silks” and that it is breathable. Without this particular quality, the bonnet would have become a rather sweaty affair.  ;)

Pattern: My own, inspired by this 1803 fashion plate.

Year: 1800-1805.

Notions:An old straw hat brim for the base; satin bias tape; satin ribbon; one shank button; different strengths of cotton yarn.

How historically accurate is it? Rather historically inspired due to the construction method and fabrics used. It is, however, entirely hand-sewn. ;)

Total cost: About € 5, since a lot of things used were scraps or bought off the clearance table.

Hours to complete: About ten.

First worn: For the photos.

And that was it already. I am pretty happy with how my first “proper” Regency bonnet has turned out. Now that it is finished and the exams are off my mind, I will disappear for a long birthday weekend in my dad’s Southern hometown. I will be back with you next week, hopefully with another short corset update. :)

Much love, Nessa

The Clandestine Regency Bonnet: A Quick Making-Of

Without me noticing, the next exam season has crept up on me. So, the blogging and corset-making have fallen a bit short of late. But I am still here and was very happy to receive all the positive feedback on the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. You guys are all amazing sewers and bloggers so it was really, really hard for me to stick to just ten nominations. :)

In other news, looming exams seem to make me creative in quite strange ways. So, the other Saturday I was looking at this 1803 engraving of London headdresses from the Repository:

London headdresses (Ackermann’s Repository, c. 1803).

That moment I remembered that I had no entry for the HSM’s “Accesorize” challenge yet. And I also remembered this really cheap, Frankensteined sombrero hat still lurking in my stash:

A cut-up sombrero from the one-Euro store.

Since the hat is of woven straw and the top was way too high to work for a bonnet crown, I cut it down into the strange shape below. Eventually I then ended up opening the crown at the back and only keeping the brim and a narrow edge of straw above it. And, in fact, it made a surprisingly effective (and cheap) substitute for a buckram base. ;)

The partially cut-down hat-base.

Now, it was time to decide on the style of bonnet I wanted to make. And that was a tough one. Because, every single bonnet and hat in that plate is just really, really beautiful. So, eventually, I settled for making something basic that resembles the general period look and takes up a few elements from varied bonnets in the fashion plate.

As I had to cut off the hat’s crown, I patterned a fabric crown. It is really nothing more than a 60 cm wide circle. I cut it out twice, once from my outer fabric, for the shell, and once from some leftover cotton net, for the lining.

Cutting out the bonnet’s crown.

I then hemmed the circles by folding the edges over once and gathered them on the outside edge. As the two crowns were later sewn together, I matched them up to the desired size as I gathered.

Gathering up the crown fabric.

With my biggest embroidery needle and some matched baby-blue purl yarn, I then attached the outer crown to the brim, by hand-sewing through the straw. If you are brave enough to try this at home, please make sure to wear a thimble of your choosing, since the whole affair can get a bit “poky” otherwise… ;) But, after some tugging and stabbing, the crown and brim actually came together quite nicely.

The brim base and the crown after sewing them together.

At some point, before or after this step (but better before, really…), you should trace around your brim, to get a pattern for its fabric cover which you then cut out twice, with some added seam allowance all around. If your brim is nicer than mine, the bonnet would also look pretty “au nature”, with bias-bound side edges. :)

Before I started covering the bonnet, I sewed the crown lining to the shell, but only around the fabric edge at the back. Then the covering fun started. I began by clipping the inner edges of my cover pieces. Next, I pinned one cover piece to the underside of the brim, basted it in place around the outer edge and attached the unsewn bit of the crown lining to the inner one. The result looked like this:

The inside cover, before basting to the outer edge.

When the inside was all covered, I threw the other cover over the outside and matched it with the inside piece. By the way it looks in the photo, I just had to call this act “throwing” it onto the bonnet. ;)

Draping over the fabric to cover the outside.

At the top edge, I then wriggled the unfinished edge of the cover under the crown’s gathered hem and sewed the two together by hand.

Attaching the top cover underneath the crown.

Finally, I finished the raw side and outer edges with some leftover satin bias tape. Thus is the progress of my secret little bonnet project so far. It all looks a bit big and wriggly on Jane, calling for a nice ribbon tie and some trimmings.

The finished front side, after binding.

The 1800s bonnet so far.

Now, I only have to see how to get them done by the end of this month with two more exams waving at me. But I am sure I can work something out… Hoping to see you all again soon. You are not forgotten!

Love, Nessa

P.S.: The corset is also well underway: The test corset is fitted and all the supplies are here now. This means I can soon start cutting it out. Yay!

War & Peace: Summing up the Toque

At last, after another day’s delay, here comes the final challenge post to sum up Josephine’s toque. Looking back at this year’s HSM entries so far, I must say that it has been my favorite project so far. It made me realize just how much I enjoy delving into period embroidery and how I should really be doing more of it again in the future. :)

Yesterday, the time had finally come to put the toque on the hat stand to take a few pictures. I noticed then that it looks a bit big on my ladies’ XL-sized form. This is most likely owed to the fact of me having grown quite the mob of hair over the past year. Although I now have enough hair to work with in a proper Regeny way, the toque might get an “extension”, in the shape of a curly hairpiece, over one of the upcoming challenges. Here is an image of the matched piece Joséphine used to wear with her stunning cap, to give you an idea of what it would look like:

Curly hairpiece worn by Empress Joséphine (French National Museum, Grand Palais).

But now, here are some more facts and photos detailing my toque:

The Challenge: HSM #4 – “War & Peace”.

How does the item fit into the challenge? I recreated this toque (in a slightly more modest fashion) to iliustrate how Napoleon’s success on Europe’s battlefields enabled his family to dress lavishly and become fashion icons of the period.

Fabric: Approximately 1/2 yd. of cotton net and some plain white cotton shirting to line the band.

Pattern: My own, modeled after Empress Joséphine’s extant example.

Years: Before 1815.

Notions: Textured gold embroidery thread, seed beads, cotton thread.

How historically accurate is it? The toque is embroidered and sewn entirely by hand, but some of the materials used might not conform with period equivalents.

Total cost: The cotton net came from a thrifted old curtain (which is now a rather lavish, somewhat wearable curtain ;) ). The beads and gold thread cost about € 7. So it should be € 8 altogether.

Hours to complete: Many evenings and two whole weekends. ;)

First worn: This Wednesday night, to try it out and make it dry more quickly, after rinsing out the last of the pattern markings,
And, here are the pictures of the completed goodness. I still do a little happy dance, every time I look at them. Perhaps, once I have completed a matching ball gown of sheer white muslin, I will post a picture of how it looks on my actual head. :) For now, I got Jane, the hat model, to show it off:

The toque’s front.

The toque’s side.

The toque’s back.

This brings a very productive April to its end. In May, I will finish a very practical Edwardian item for everyday use around the house. After that, it is due time for me to finally get cracking on my first “real” Regency corset. Of course. I will keep you up to date about these sewing adventures as well as I can. But, for now, I will enjoy the remainder of the holiday weekend. :)

Have a wonderful weekend, Nessa


Josephine’s Toque: The Complete Embroidery

Just in time for the challenge, the toque’s embroidery is finished. And, as promised to Lady Constance in the previous post, here is a glimpse at the results. Even though I have never worked with gold thread, net fabric or beads before, the outcome is rather neat. After washing off the blue pattern marker, I was really  stunned for a moment.

Especially the beading was much easier than expected. I finished the scallops on the band over the past two evenings, using this simple outline stitch. Although, I recommend using a hoop, to keep the fabric smooth and more manageable. ;)

The leaves on the toque’s crown, however, were a little less easy-going. They are stem-stitched, using two strands of textured gold floss. Since this kind of metallic thread has a mind of its own, it took me about a week to figure out the right amount of tightness and the best direction to pull through the stitches. But, after that initial phase, working the leaves was great fun.

Long story short, here are the pictures:

The Crown

The crown’s embroidery of golden leaves, worked in stem stitch.

A closer look at the leaves.

The Band

The toque’s band, embroidered with small white seed beads. :)

Even though my toque’s design is not as elaborate as Josephine’s original gold braid and bees, I am still proud of finishing it in time. Now, on to line the band and gather up the crown. I am hoping to share the completed toque with you soon.

Until then, please have a nice evening and a wonderful weekend. :)

Best, Nessa

War & Peace: Josephine’s Toque

With the exam season finally coming to a close, it is due time for me to fill you in on my April “War & Peace” endeavor. I have thought long and hard about this one but, at last, I have come up with a solution of which I am very happy. As a result, this month’s thing item will focus on Napoleon’s first wife, Josephine de Bonaparte. Here is a posthumous engraving of the two, walking in the gardens of their estate at Malmaison:

Posthumous engraving of Napoleon I and Josephine, c. 1824 (Found on The History Blog).

The Backstory

Now, how is this project linked to the “War & Peace” challenge theme? Well, I have thought about it in the following way: The piece I am making is meant to portray the wealth and splendor that can be achieved through a series of successful war campaigns. With Napoleon turning himself into the ruler of France and becoming the protector of an increasing number of territories, his success on the battlefields also reflects on his wife and family. During the first decade of the 19th century, Josephine enjoyed the status of a fashion icon, sporting an impressive collection of lavish outfits.

For this challenge I will be making my own lavish fashion item, based on one of hers. It is a gold-embroidered turban cap, or toque, modeled after this extant one:

Josephine’s extant, gold-embroidered toque.

Making Up The Toque

Based on the photos and this tutorial from the Oregon Regency Society, I patterned my own cap. Instead of a circle, my crown came out slightly more oval, with the vertical diameter being slightly longer than the horizontal one. To find the right drape and sizing, I made a muslin and adjusted it by the trial and error method. Here is a quick photo history of my tries:

My toque mock-ups, progressing from left to right.

With the final pattern down, I decided on how to embellish the finished product. As a student, splurging on lavish decorations is not always easy, but I have found my fill of nice things to use: Textured gold embroidery floss, some washable seed pearls and a reasonably priced length of gold braid. Seeing as the braid color does not match the thread all that well, i might leave this one for another project… ;)

The modest selection of embellishments ;).

As for the embroidery design, I decided to swap the Napoleonic bees, which were mainly reserved to be used by the members of his royal family, for a period leaf pattern which I outlined onto my net fabric with a pattern marker. At the moment I am in the process of embroidering it.

The outline embroidery pattern on the crown.

The plan is to also repeat the leaf design on the cap’s band, using the beads. Since I have never beaded anything before, it is something I would really love to try. But, until then, there is still a mountain of gold embroidery to tackle… Although, at the current rate, it is likely that I will finish my “Practicality” item for the May challenge before the toque. I will keep you posted on the progress on either front. (No pun intended ;) .)

Love, Nessa

P.S.: Today, Cassidy has posted a more general overview of the Napoleonic War’s impact on fashion across Europe and America on her blog. It sets a nice backdrop for the “War & Peace” challenge and is well worth checking out.