Little Project Show & Tell

There have been a lot of little projects going on lately. They are too small to write a blog post about each. So I thought to give it a go and sum them all up in a single post. If it works out well, I might do this more often to fill the gaps between bigger project updates. So here come my three current mini projects.

First I have been working on two small, tuckable fichus with bobbin lace trim. They are much like the one I wore to the market last year, simple triangles that are about 20″ high and 40″ wide at the bottom. The first one is all finished and I am about to start on the second one.

Making cotton voile fichus. One down, one to go.

What I just finished is a length of gold trim for my prospective 1630s gown. It is a simple square knot macramé pattern, worked in cotton and lurex cord. It was a lucky find in the Christmas section at the one-euro store. Out of 6 yards of cord, I got 30″ of trim. Since I am working in increments, to have manageable bits of cord, working through it all will take some time. Hopefully I will have enough trim in time for the finished gown. ;)

Macramé gold trim in the making.

The other project I have just started is a small crewel embroidery piece. When it is done, it will be a sweetbag. I found the pattern on Amie Sparrow’s blog. She has copied some gorgeous 16th-century patterns and made them available for personal use.

Ready for the embroidery on the sweetbag.

Right now, I cannot share too much about this project, because it will be a surprise for a friend. So shh… ;)

And these are the projects keeping me busy at the moment. What are your current projects? I would love to hear about them! :)

Nessa

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Stumbling into a Georgian Room

Last week, I went to visit a local museum, the Behnhaus-Drägerhaus in Lübeck. It is an amazing place that has been there all my life. Set up in two Georgian townhouses, it combines displays of 18th, 19th and 20th-century art with period rooms that are filled with Georgian and Regency furniture. The experience was very immersive as I went there on a quiet weekday. It left me puzzled why I had not come here before.

At the museum two surprises awaited me. One, this painting with a very interesting suggestion for accessorizing my new crossover gown. Just look at that frilly, ruffly chemisette…

Portrait of Henriette von Heintze with her children by Friedrich C. Gröger, c. 1803.

The second surprise was almost a bit out of this world. I found it on the top floor of the museum. Compared to the other two floors, it was almost empty. There was some minor construction work going on but it was open to the public. So I snuck up there. At least it felt like that way… up the historical staircase that got steeper the higher it went. If ever I had experienced the stairs servants had climbed to get to their part of the house, it was here. Once upstairs, I walked into an empty room…

… a Georgian room! It was labeled as the guests’ parlour and breakfast room. Like many others in the museum, it still had the original panelling, stucco and wall paintings that have been restored very well. The creaky wooden boards added to the experience. All that was newer, was the electrical lamp that should date to the early 20th century.

Just being in there left me breathless. I stood there for a good minute, gawping and wondering. Then I sort of started decorating it with period furnishings from plates in Ackermann’s Repository before my mind’s eye. This experience was as strange as it was amazing.

I should visit this special place more often. Maybe, next time, I can come back in costume.

Nessa

My Own Georgian Pockets

After delving into the wonderful world of extant Georgian pockets in my last post, I have finally finished my own pair. Yay! They got done just in time for the Historical Sew Monthly’s “Inspiration” challenge next month. My inspiration were these cute patchwork pockets made by The Young Sewphisticate. For the pattern, I went with an extant pocket from Costume Close Up. I shortened it to 12″, so the pockets would not bump into my knees. Short girl problems. ;)

The finished pockets.

The left pocket is patchworked with fabric bits from my stash and quilted in a simple diamond pattern. For the binding, I used some leftover double-fold bias tape. Instead of pins, I used wonder clips. They worked like a charm!

Binding the quilted pocket.

For the pocket on the right I bought a fat quarter of block-printed cotton. Up close, the off-white base looks almost like nankeen, so it worked wonderfully. I would have loved to get more for a dress; only the store no longer sold it by the yard… bummer.

The second pocket, looking cute.

The binding on this one is made out of scraps left over from my shortgown. On the bias, the brown and white checks get a whole new look. For the top edge, I went back to the green tape, to turn my pockets into a proper pair.

The halfway bound pocket.

The trickiest part about making the pockets was to neatly bind the slits. It is a popular topic for questions on the costume groups, too. So I will talk about it a little more in a separate post. For now, I will go and put the finishing touches on my stays. They have to get done in time for this month’s HSM. So much for setting priorities… LOL!

Cheers, Nessa

Georgian Pockets Galore!

As autumn is finally here and we are about to spend more time indoors, enjoying our needlework, period movies or a good book over a nice cup of tea, I thought it was time for a picture post. In line with my current project for the HSM “Inspiration” challenge I have put together a little collection of extant Georgian pockets to marvel at.

Now you might say: “Wait, wasn’t she working on a 17th-century costume and what about her usual Regency stuff? Why is she getting side-tracked by pockets?” Well, here is the thing: I am one of those people whose handbag is always full of little bits and bobs in modern life. At events this has proven tricky in the past. No Regency reticule can hold all my stuff. Alternatively I brought along a lidded wicker basket or a nondescript cloth carrier bag.  It worked but was not the most period accurate solution.

Then I remembered Georgian pockets. They were still around in the early Regency era which I love so much. And since my new crossover gown has a drop front with deep plackets, pockets wear easily undeneath. The next consideration was what to do for my 17th-century costume. This was what initially made me research pockets. Sources often say that ladies wore them between the mid-17th and 19th centuries. Since my gown dates earlier than this, I wondered what had gone before pockets as we know them.  And I found the saccoccia, a belt pocket worn in Renaissance Italy. It had roughly the same shape but was worn outside the skirt more often. For more details on the saccoccia, I recommend this in-depth post by Anéa Costume.

For now, Georgian pockets will be my fix-all solution for both periods. Knowing my 17th-century persona, she would be cheeky and inventive enough to stick the pockets under her skirt, even before 1650. But now, I will just stop rambling and show you all these pretty pictures!

When we think of pockets, we often picture those amazing little works of hand embroidery some ladies have put on theirs. Like these ones here:

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Pair of embroidered linen pockets, mid-1700s, Worthing Museum and Art Gallery.

Equally gorgeous is this quilted and embroidered pair, featuring a shepherdess:

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Embroidered and quilted linen pocket, with silk binding, early 18th century, MFA Boston.

To make suck pockets, the design was stitched onto an uncut piece of fabric which was later cut and lined to protect the back of the work. Here is a set of stunning, nearly finished pocket fronts held at the V&A:

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Pair of pocket front, embroidered by Hannah Haines, c. 1718-20, Victoria & Albert Museum.

But, even in the old days, not every lady was a super-skilled embroiderer. Pockets were a welcome canvas to practice not-yet-so-perfect needlework skills. This is why I am in love with this one from the early 1800s.

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Embroidered wool twill pocket, c. 1807-15, Winterthur Museum.

As seen above, another technique used to embellish ladies’ pockets was quilting. Sometimes it was done in white thread on simple white pockets. And, simple as it may sound, the results look absolutely stunning:

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Quilted linen pocket, c. 1760-75, Victoria & Albert Museum.

Also often associated with quilting, is patchwork, which was extremely popular with pockets, too. Examples come in many shapes and sizes. There is patchwork with bigger squares….

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Patchwork pocket from New England, c. 1800-10, Winterthur Museum.

… patchwork with tiny squares…

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Pocket, early or mid-19th century, Royal School of Needlework.

… beautifully designed patchwork…

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Patchwork pocket, New England, 18th century, MFA Boston.

… or patchwork with applique.

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Pieced and appliqued pocket, American, late 18th or early 19th century, auctioned by Crocker Farm.

So pockets were definitely a way to use up all your beautiful fabric leftovers. But sometimes they were also made of one single piece of beautiful fabric, often printed cotton calico:

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Pocket made from block-printed calico, English, c. 1720-30, Winterthur Museum.

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Cotton calico pocket, early 1800s, Manchester City Galleries.

And the print fabrics used were not all white, either. Look at this pink pocket with autumn leaves:

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Cotton pocket, late 18th or early 19th century, private collection.

There are a lot more stunning and intriguing examples out there. This is just a small selection to fire up your pocket imagination. Maybe now you are going to make your own on one of those long evenings to come. I am currently working on my second pocket and have become a tad addicted. :)

Yours,  Nessa

A Herringbone Fichu

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

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

Creating the open herringbone stitch.

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

The front view.

A closer look at the herringbone finish.

The back view.

A close-up of the open-work seam.

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

Yours, Nessa

A Percale Crossover Gown (CoBloWriMo #29)

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

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

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

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

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

Plate of a crossover round gown, c. 1798.

Robe de Percale, Costume Parisien, c. 1816.

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

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

The finished crossover gown.

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

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

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

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

Cheers, Nessa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gallica for French journals, mainly Journal des Dames.

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

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

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The finished bonnet.

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

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

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

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

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

Notions: Matching cotton threads.

Pattern: Based on an 1810 fashion plate.

Year: 1800-15

Time to complete: Roundabout 4 hours.

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

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

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

Love, Nessa

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 Book Recommendation (CoBloWriMo Day 6)

Having thought long and hard on this one, I have decided not to recommend a “classic” historical sewing or costume book for this prompt. Generally I love working with “Patterns of Fashion”. Having drafted the 1630s stays and two other garments from it, I am in love with Janet Arnold’s works and detailed writing. But we all know the series is great already, right? ;)

So today I have picked a little gem that seems to go overlooked a lot. It is an extant book I stumbled across in an online library. Archives like these, especially Gallica and the Library of Congress, are my guilty pleasure. Sometimes I spend whole evenings there, just going on treasure hunts. This is how I found the “Manuel des dames” by Mademoiselle Clenart.
As the title suggests, it is written in French and no, there are no drawings in it. For a not-so-advanced French speaker like myself this can make reading the book a bit tricky and even some native speakers get puzzled with some of the expressions used by the author.

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But still, this book is great. The second edition found online dates to 1833, but it is a re-print of an edition published at least 10 to 15 years earlier. So it is sort of a “style guide” for the savvy late-Empire lady. It has everything from potion, powder and soap recipes to washing directions for period fabrics as well as advice on etiquette and fashionable dress. I especially love the corsetry chapter, which offers advice on different corsets, stays and belts for every occasion. This includes a section on maternity stays and directions to add fan-lacing to a pair of stays. I used the advice when making my morning belt last year.

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Advice on maternity stays. The “ruban à cheval” expression led to an interesting discussion in a costume group. What is a ribbon riding a horse?! ;)

Despite the “language barrier”, I recommend this book to everyone interested in early 19th-century costume or just curious about reading extant sources. You can download a PDF of this book here on Gallica. Enjoy!

Nessa

Why I sew and love Regency costume (CoBloWriMo Days 4 & 5)

Yesterday was spent boning the 1620s stays. And, yay, they are officially boned now! Photos will follow. So tonight is spent catching up on the CoBloWriMo fun I have missed. The prompts for the past two days have been to blog about our favorite era and to tell the story of how we got into costuming / costume blogging.

Those two points go together nicely, so here goes the story. Usually I try not to get too personal on the blog, but today I might make an exception, or two.  ;)

First of, I have been a part of the costuming world for about five years now, and it is one of the best journeys on which I have ever been. Before that, I was just very interested in costumes, both historical and ethnic. In my teens I sketched a lot of costumes to accompany fanfiction and other stories I wrote. Some time ago I ran across a folder with in a drawer with some of those sketches still inside. I had forgotten I had done most of them in ball pen… oh my goodness *chuckle*.

With the costume journey my sewing journey began as well. I had not sewn much, aside from the usual mending, before starting my first costume, an 1850ish wrapper. It took ages to finish and I learned the skills I needed off Youtube tutorials. Up to that point, my relationship with crafting and needleworks had been very complicated. On the one hand I come from a family of talented knitters, cross-stitchers and sewers. My grandmother, for one, was a tiny lady who had to make and alter most of her own clothes. She was already old when I was born and we only spent the first ten years of my life knowing each other. But I remember going out with her one fall, to collect chestnuts. It felt like going on a promenade with the perfect 1930s lady in a tailored wool coat, feathered fedora and fur stole. This was when I decided I want to be such a lady one day, too.

On the other hand, any crafting endeavor since nursery school had been connected with frustration and self-doubt. The main reason for this were teachers and educators who had no patience for the clumsier kids like me. As a result, I have been told “you can’t do it!” more often than I can count. And it stuck, until well into my teens. Eventually I stopped caring what people thought of me or my skills and just started trying out crafts at my own pace. I found a mentor in my high-school art teacher and majored in Art although everyone but the two of us thought I would fail graduation if I did. Although in the end it was my best subject and I learned to use my creativity as well as my hands.

After falling back in love with embroidery around the age of 16, it took another six years for sewing and costuming to come around. I had had a friend in the SCA before that but never believed there were more people like her who sewed actual, historically accurate clothes. Then I started googling, found The Dreamstress, Fashion Through History *waves at Åsa* and the Historical Sew Monthly. After that the list of fascinating historical costume blogs to read grew and grew. I was hooked and decided to give it a try.

Everything started in the same year as my study abroad term in Vienna. By the time I got there I had finished the wrapper and a sort-of Regency day dress. I was yet undecided if I should fully dive into the hobby or which period to sew. Then I found something interesting. By the time Wien Museum (a comprehensive museum of Vienna’s city history) still ran an open fashion library at Palais Hetzendorf. My first visit there was just amazing. It took care of any further questions. I came in, asked the librarian about extant journals and she inquired which time period she should get me. Totally clueless, I asked back which was the earliest they handed out to visitors. A moment later I had issues of Ackermann’s Repository from 1800 on my study table. Ever since, Regency has been my main and favorite era. This shawl dress from Wiener Moden Zeitung has been my dream gown ever since.

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Promenade dress from Wiener Moden-Zeitung (c. 1816).

The plate with the yellow Corinthean robe I use as my blog image comes from the same journal. It looks like a pretty close Regency resemblance of myself, glasses and all. ;)

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Corinthian dress from Wiener Moden-Zeitung (c.1810-20).

There is another funny story about my relation to the French Empire era. I only learned about it from my mother some two years ago. It is this: My middle name is Désirée. It is a bit peculiar seeing how my parents have never been to France, let alone speak a word of French. So I asked why. It turns out, I have been named after Désirée Clary Bernadotte through a series of crazy coincidences. The first is that my father loved novels on the age of Napoleon and had his mind set on naming a daughter after Désirée. She had given Napoleon a run for his money and he admired her for it. Secondly, there was once a Swedish ferry called “Princesse Désirée”, named after a direct ancestor of hers. My mother saw it as a little girl and chose to name her daughter Désirée, too. If that is not peculiar, I do not know what is. Thus, Désirée and her times will always play a special role in my (sewing) life.

Désirée Clary by Francois Gérard (1810).

And this has been my entry for the past two prompts. I hope it has not been too lengthy to read. Tomorrow I will try to be good again and return to the a post a day routine.

Love, Nessa