A Quick Regency Apron How-to

To wrap up 2015 and start afresh into a new sewing adventure in 2016, here is a look at the last project of the year and how it was done. It is a simple Regency waist apron I spontaneously made over Christmas, using a scrap of rose-colored cotton I found in my old “sewing drawer” at my parents’ house. I pieced the fabric and sewed up everything by hand. Here is the end result of about 16 hours, with me looking a bit tired but happy. ;)


A Regency waist apron.

I have been wanting to make a simple apron for Regency wear for some time now, but never came around to it. While browsing Pinterest, I have run into quite a few fashion plates featuring waist aprons and I found them all just adorable. Other than white or black, some of the aprons were made up of colored fabrics. A color range that shows up on plates rather often are light shades of lilac and rose. Since I really like these tones, they became the apron color of my dreams. Here are two examples I really liked and that helped inspire mine:



Costume of a fashion worker; Costume Parisien.

Finding the scrap of rosy cotton in the drawer and a little extra time over the holidays were what convinced me to make the apron at last. All I needed to do now was to settle on period-appropriate dimensions for it. Luckily, I found this untrimmed black silk apron in the MFA’s online catalogue. It is 67 cm (26 7/16 inches) wide at the top and 96 cm (37 13/16 inches) long.


Untrimmed silk apron, first half of the 19th century; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Based on these measurements, I decided to make my apron 66 cm (26″) wide at the waist and 95 cm (37 1/2″) long, excluding seam allowances, which came to about 1/2″ at the top and sides; and 1″ at the bottom. There was one small problem though: My scrap measured only 75 by 150 cm. So I had to do some serious piecing. But this was also a period thing to do, as you can see when you take a closer look at the extant apron. :)

To work out the math of it all, my dad, who used to be an engineer, suggested I make a drawing so that I would not lose track of all the pieces. So I scrawled all the pieces and dimensions on some note paper. It is not much to look at, but worked very well as a “pattern”. ;)
The waistband / strings are not on it. They were made from three leftover strips and came to a band that was 5 feet long and 2 inches wide when finished.


The drawing. ;)

After putting the drawing into action, the apron looked like this: The side strips are made out of two pieces each, the smaller of which I attached at the top. It was later covered by the pockets. To join the strips to the apron’s main body, I used French seams.


Laying out the pieces.

After sewing every thing up, I had a 39″ x 40″ rectangle, which I gathered into the waistband. The finished band and strings were pretty narrow, about 1/2″, since they had been folded under twice, to hide all the raw edges. When the pockets were attached, the finished product looked like this:


The finished apron.

To make the pockets, I used the last two scraps of leftover fabric, they measured 5 1/2″ x 6″ each. Inspiration for the pockets came from both Katherine’s Regency apron pocket tutorial and the fashion plate below.


An Empire apron; Costume Parisien.

While Katherine used an eyelet to feed her string through the pockets, I decided to experiment a bit with a double drawstring casing. While the pockets were still unsewn, I threaded some cotton tape through one channel, took a turn at the end, careful not to twist the tape, and went back through the second channel. I then attached the pockets using Katherine’s method and closed up the side with the “turn”.


Pocket, with a double drawstring casing at the top.

It worked pretty well and I was happy with the outcome. It worked a lot better than expected and gave the apron two cute, ruffly pockets. ;)


The pocket end result :).

When the apron was finished, the whole fabric scrap had been used up completely. This was why I decided to make the apron my last “Re-Do” project for the Historical Sew Monthly 2015, re-doing the “Stashbusting” and “Practicality” challenges. For piecing was a practical period way to deal with the narrower fabric widths at the time. Sarah’s amazing working class Empire dress is another, much more stunning, example of applied piecing.

Making a Regency apron at long last was great fun and helped tide me over long evenings of ski broadcasts on the family TV set. I hope that this little walkthrough of how I made it will be helpful for you, if you are planning to make your own.

Since uni will be a tough cookie for the first half of January, the blog might become a bit more quiet again now. But I will do my best to be back with you shortly. :)

Much love, Nessa


HSM Re-Do: The Finished Regency Ensemble

Finally, the dress is complete. I wore it quite extensively over the holidays and, just now, my dad volunteered to take some pictures for you. :) Now I can show it all to you, at long last. Yay! =)

The last thing I had to do to make it wearable for the cold season, was to baste in the undersleeves. I made them from an extant sleeve pattern I found in my stash and shortened them about 4 inches to fit in with the short sleeve’s bottom band. The undersleeves also have a waistband to match. But, long story short, here they are:


The basted-in undersleeves.

After that final step was done, it was nearly Christmas Eve and I got to don the whole ensemble to our little family dinner. It wears very well and is more comfortable than I had thought. Right now, I am wearing it again, because I did not want to get out of it again after taking the pictures. ;)

As for that, here are the two photos I liked best and the challenge details for the Historical Sew Monthly:


The finished early Regency gown.


A look at the back (and out the window).

Here are two more photos I shot without the undersleeves in place. Please excuse the bad quality and messy, unladylike hair-do. ;)


The short-sleeved gown.


And the back view.

Making this gown took quite a long while, so here are the challenge facts to hopefully make it easier to keep track of everything:

The Challenge: #12: Re-Do

What Challange/s are you re-doing? “#2 – Blue” and also “#10 – Sewing Secrets” in a way, since the sheer fabric has needed a few invisible mends already. ;)

Fabric: Three yards of open-weave cotton with blue yarn-dyed stripes.

Pattern: Adapted from Sense & Sensibility’s Regency Drawstring Dress and an extant under-sleeve pattern.

Year: 1800-1805

Notions: Waxed cotton thread; about 1 yd of cotton bias tape and 1.5 yards of woven cotton tape. The rest was made from self-fabric.

How historically accurate is it? It is all hand-sewn and, except for two invisible inner skirt seams. Plus it has no closure and is slipped over the head. So I will give it about 97%.

Total cost: The fabric was a coupon end-piece and most notions came from the stash, so about € 10 in total.

Hours to complete: I made it over several months, spending many evenings sewing and re-sewing things. I’d add it all up to roughly 100 hours.

First worn: For the family Christmas dinner.

Whew, this should sum it all up. Now it is time to look ahead into 2016.
I wish you all a very happy and healthy new year. May all your wishes and sewing plans come true! :)

All the best and a Happy 2016,

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:


The chemise and gown – front view.


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. ;)


The chemisette front.


The chemisette back.


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:


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. ;)


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

The Twice-Sewn Regency Gown

Traditionally, November is a very industrious time around my home, with a new semester of uni starting and many pre-Christmas preparations getting underway. This year, it has also been rather busy in the sewing department. So, busy that I did not manage to write a single blog post detailing the progress on my early Regency gown for you.

I am horribly sorry for the lack of updates and progress pics, but I now have a first round of pictures of the finished dress to share with you. :) First though, I will tell you a little about the making process and about why I have dubbed this costume the “twice-done gown”.

In fact, I started working on the toile for this dress way back in October. I used the Drawstring Dress from the Sense & Sensibility “Elegant Lady’s Closet”pattern with a few modifications. For those, I went back to this post about Regency gown dimensions from a very long time ago. Based on it,  I shortened the bodice by 1/4″ at the bottom seam and increased the neckline by about 1″ at shoulder level.

Once I was happy with the alterations, I went to cut out the pieces, as economically as possible, from my striped muslin fabric. As I might have said before, it was an end-of-roll piece of just under three yards, by 5 feet wide. Cutting everything from it was quite a challenge, but I managed, using up almost every scrap. Usually I am not always happy about being only 5’3″ tall, but this time, my shortness has really paid off well. ;)

After this task was accomplished, things got … interesting. Since the fabric was so extremely sheer, sewing it up was a challenge of its own. To protect the material from puckering and tearing, I decided to hand-sew everything.

This is where the “twice-done” aspect comes in: I had not fully hand-sewn a gown in over a year, so I went back and forth, sewing, ripping and re-doing about every seam in the bodice twice, until I was happy. This took up the first half of November and I was really skeptical about the outcome.

Then, when I finally attached the skirt last week, I got really excited. Once it was on, my miserable little bodice started to look like a very gorgeous Regency gown, just as I had pictured it. While I was still somewhat horrified at some badly mismatched stripes earlier in the process, they are absolutely no problem anymore. But, long story short, I will just share my joy over the finished dress with you now. Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure: ;)


The finished gown – front view.


The finished gown – back view with train.


The finished gown – side view.

To be honest, I love how the dress has turned out so far. The things I enjoy most about it are the sheer, stripey goodness of the fabric, even though it was a bugger to work with and the playful little train. In the early Regency era, short trains like these were not uncommon on day dresses, but since this is my first trained gown, I am absolutely smitten by this particular detail. ;)

Here is another close-up of the bodice back, with the self-fabric drawstring and the poofy gathers around the center back:


A closer look at the bodice back.

Another thing I am fairly chuffed with are the sleeve bands. Initially, I had planned to make them much wider, but with the help of some lovely ladies with more Regency sewing experience, I decided to make them as narrow as possible. The bands are now 1/2″ wide, made from vertical 2″ strips, folded over twice. This makes them extra sturdy, so that they can later hold the undersleeves without much damage to the fabric.


Some detail of the sleeve and 1/2″ sleeveband.

The sleeves themselves are fitted short sleeves I made by cutting off the pattern’s elbow-length sleeves. They fit a little oddly at my very weird elbows; so I went with an easy solution that also existed in the early Regency period.

Another thing I wanted to do initially was to trim the dress. Though, after looking at all the extant striped dresses from the research post again, I decided against it. I had already bought this lovely 1/2″ bobbin lace for it. Now I will just keep it for another project. Having ten yards of lace sitting in the stash is not really a bad thing, is it? ;)


The lovely lace trim I wanted to use at first.

And now that the biggest part of the dress is done, I will speed things up a bit, to get the whole dress ensemble finished in time for the HSM “Re-Do” challenge later this month. Next on the list is a chemisette to fill in the neckline; the undersleeves will follow. Afterwards, I will probably sit down again and replace the hem-facing. It simply feels too bulky for such a sheer gown. In other news: the tale of the twice-sewn seams is not quite over yet…

But, as the story of the gown continues, I will do my best to keep you in the loop with progress pics and updates as best as I can. So I am hoping to be back with you for another post soon.

Warmly, 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

The Art Of Getting Side-Tracked

This September is being a really busy month around here. Since my last blog post, I have slithered from the holiday in France, straight into the new student job at uni and onward into studying for the second block of exams. And, during this whole time, I have really missed the blog and reading about all the wonderful things you have been up to.

In this post, I will play catch-up and give you a quick update on all the new things that have happened in and around my sewing room since the last blog update. Even though it has been a very full month already, there has been some room for sewing. In fact, there was enough time for me to start two new projects and to get side-tracked more than once. But let us start at the beginning:

The month began in France. It was my first time going there and I absolutely fell in love with French fabric stores and the small merceries where you can buy the loveliest lace, ribbons, buttons and all sorts of other notions. Here is my haul:

Fabrics and notions from France.

At “Toto”, a small chain store, I bought 2 yards of both cream and white voile, as well as a coupon of salmon muslin with nearly transparent woven stripes. All of these will most likely go into making Regency attire. I also found 2 1/2 yards of a very delicate cotton lace and an embossed button at a local mercerie. The button is made of pewter and just begs to be turned into a brooch or necklace. Finding all these wonderful things makes me wonder whether I might have time-travelled back into the Napoleonic era upon stumbling into these shops…

Back home, I set about starting a gown to go over the finished Regency undergarments. I got as far as assembling the e-pattern (I am using Sense & Sensibility’s Elegant Ladies’ Closet with some alteration) and cutting out a first mock-up:

The first stages of the new Regency day dress.

Then I became indecisive about the fabric choice. I wanted to use a sheer white muslin and embroider it with some florals to match the HSM’s upcoming “Brown” challenge. Then this chance find side-tracked me:

Another unexpected fabric find.

It is a sheer, white pima cotton with blue woven stripes and an light check pattern in the base fabric. And it settled my indecision about the dress the moment I picked up the bale. Since it is a leftover, there will not be quite enough to accommodate the sleeves. But I already have some ideas what to do about that.

But first, I had to find a new, quick project for the “Brown” challenge. And I finally got an idea while browsing Pinterest the other night: garters to hold up my stockings. There I ran into two ways of doing them. One was Liz’s tutorial for tied 18th-century garters and another was this post by Isobel Carr, detailing early 19th-century spring steel garters. So I went about patterning my own pair and putting together an embroidery design to match the challenge.

Here is a glimpse of the, thoroughly brown, notions and the embroidery patterns. Since it was customary to add a motto to garters in the period, I came up with one as well: Coeur ouvert – Âme honnête. It means “open heart – honest soul”. That is not quite as cheeky as some of the period inscriptions. Yet, as a good friend has put it: A gentleman “should bloody well have those qualities if he gets as far as your garters.”

The notions for the “Brown” project.

The embroidery patterns; adapted from Ackermann’s Repository, c.1811.

It already feels as though this project is going to be a lot of fun. The plan is to finish it in time, despite all the studying, and to, hopefully, have a tutorial up for you by next month. So it is about time I go on working on it. ;)

Conveniently, this concludes the stream of exciting updates so that I can continue doing just that and wish you all a good start into this week. It feels good to be back with you and I am hoping to write up another post on the garters very soon. I have missed you all a lot!

Much Love, Nessa

The Finished Regency Stays

The day is here: My Regency stays are all done! After completing them, I took some time to give them a spot cleaning and wash out all the pattern marker, but now they are on the dress form at last and I get to post a few photos for you.

The only thing that is still left to do is to bind the countless metal eyelets in thread, but I will postpone that step until it is time for my first even next year. Out of all the eyelets, I only managed to work the two on the straps by hand, because I was concerned that metal might be a bit too poky in that particular place. And, besides, using the vario pliers is so fast, and a lot of fun. ;)

Anyways, enough of the rambling, here are the pictures:

The front, with the ribbon tightened inside the top casing.

Here is the front, with the self-made wooden busk. Since I have made the busk pocket a nit narrow to hold it better, it stands out a little. Inside the top binding, there is a ribbon which can be drawn up to avoid gapping at the bust. For my smallish cup size, this feature works miracles. Since it is not so visible in this shot, here is another pic of the cording and embroidery. Instead of the wavy line suggested in the original pattern, I made a garland in stem-stitch and added some small satin-stitched dots. :)

Close-up on the cording and embroidery.

Next, here is a view of the laced back. Since the dress form is less “squishy” than I am, the lacing gap down the middle is a little larger than it is on me. At the moment I am also considering to change the crossover lacing into either ladder or fan lacing. The second option is a bit tricky to figure out. But Sidney Eileen made a nice tutorial for it.

A look at the back.

Last but not least, here is a shot of the stays’ side. It shows the slanted spiral bone along the side back seam, the two hip gussets and a length of straight cording:

The side view of the stays.

The pattern suggested to floss the hip and bust gussets with embroidery thread. The was a period way to prevent the narrow seams at gusset tops from fraying. A satin stitch was recommended, but I went with the flossing technique used to secure bones in corsets from the later 19th-century onward. For this step, I consulted another great tutorial, also by Sidney Eileen. Here is a close-up of the outcome:

Detail of the flossing at the hip gussets.

And those were the pictures already. Looking at them, I must say that I am fairly chuffed with my very first proper pair of Regency stays. I have spent a lot of nights on them over the past six weeks. But I think they were well worth the extra time and effort. The stays are rather late for the Historical Sew Monthly’s “Out Of Your Comfort Zone” challenge, which ended in June *cough*. Although, now that they are done, I might managed to sew my first Regency dress with a proper period fit for the upcoming “Brown” challenge. Wish me luck!

Cheers, Nessa

P.S.: As an afterthought, I would like to thank you all for your support throughout this project. It has been one of my biggest sewing challenges so far. Without the advice and encouragement from other historical seamstresses and costume enthusiasts, it would have been a lot harder to do.

On the other hand, making the stays has also been a steep learning curve. Now I am much more confident about tackling the next sewing endeavors to come. And, perhaps, I will make yet another corset. But shh, I did not just say that… ;)

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

Corset Update: Opening Up Shop

And, one day before the next exam, I am back with the long overdue corset update: Tonight I finally got around to ironing my fabric (yay!) and the altered and finished master pattern is waiting to go onto it for cutting.

I will be using a yard of sateen for the lining, and another yard of light trouser-weight cotton twill for the outer layer. For a corset, this may feel a tad too light at first; but then many extant Regency stays and corsets are somewhat on the light side as well. A very prominent example of this aspect are Juliette Récamier’s infamous wrap stays:

Empire-era wrap stays, worn by Juliette Récamier (Musée Galliera, c. 1800).

That being said, I could have also gone with two layers of sateen, according to the pattern’s fabric suggestions. But my sateen is a bit flimsy. On the bright side though, this quality will come in handy when tracing the cording pattern to the fabric. ;)

In the meantime, the rest of the corsetry tools and ingredients has arrived as well. They complete the small collection of items I have shown you in June. Now, we are all set to go…

The rest of the corsetry tools: two pre-cut flat steel bones, 2 meters of spiral boning, a pair of needle-nose pliers, fine steel wire cutters and a tapered awl.

And, for the first time ever, I have involved my dad in a historical costuming project. He was a great help when it came to selecting the right tools to work with hardened steel. He suggested I get a decent bolt cutter for the spiral boning and has promised me to be on the lookout for one at the hardware stores. Until then, I will be using a pair of fine steel snips from the jewelry-making department. :) Another thing we agreed upon was getting some of this amazing stuff: heat-shrink tubing.

Heat-shrink tubing, 6-8 mm wide.

I will use it for tipping the spiral steel bones, after finding this amazing tutorial by Kim of “Steam Ingenious”. This unusual method also got dad’s seal of approval when I showed it to him over coffee. He pointed out that it would stop the cut tips from rusting which is not something one would want in a corset. Sometimes  I really think he would make an awesome historical costumer. :)

I am also excited about finding out what he will say, once the corset is boned and ready to go. I am hoping to get to this point by the end of August. And, of course, I will keep you posted about the progress. Wishing you all a wonderful week.

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!