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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Pins Pins Pins

Pins are a real sewing staple. We use them very, very often and still hardly talk about them. This why I want to write about them today.
Lately I have been working on a few different sewing projects. And I realized that I have been using many different pins for them. So I thought I would give you a little “tour” of my pin collection and tell you a bit about which ones I use for which sewing tasks. Perhaps you are using you can find a new pinning idea for your sewing in this post. :)

My pin collection (left to right): Standard steel pin, veil pin, glass head pin, fiberglass pin.

Steel pins are my tiny workhorses. I use them to hold together most standard fabrics, such as (poly-)cotton or wool. When in costume, I also use them as dress pins, to secure the layers on top of my stays. Although some people worry that they might prick themselves, I have never had that problem. My trick is to pass them in out of the fabric a few times, as if I was sewing with them. Then I make sure the pointy end comes out on top and everything is fine. The two things that annoy me about steel pins are that they bend easily and that they seem to get dull more quickly than other pins. Of all the pins I use, I have to replace these most often.Glass head pins are my new love. I only bought my first pack last month. Since then, I have mostly used them in stay-making and to fit mock-ups. They stay in place more reliably than average steel pins. I also find that they iron better and I iron over my pins a lot. The only downside I see at the moment is that they do not pick up so easily. Sometimes when I try to pinch the head between my fingers, the pin literally jumps to the other side of the room. Besides, good-quality glass head pins are not really cheap. Which is why I only got mine now… but it was a good investment!

Fiberglass pins are what I use to pin silk or other fine fabrics, such as sateen or voile. They slide in and out easily; sometimes even too easily. Also, they never get dull. But you do not usually find these pins in many places. I got mine at a store selling all kinds of novelty items. You might have to search around quite a bit to find a seller that carries them. I really wished more places would sell these cool little things.

Veil pins are basically 3″ long mini hatpins. And that is how I use them. When working on millinery projects, they are great for holding the hat/bonnet base on the styrofoam head. Of course you can also use them as decorative pins on mantles, cloaks or veils, as the name suggests. ;)

Another, amazing, thing I discovered recently are wonder clips. Once upon a time, they were mostly known to quilters. Now more and more sewers are discovering them. It took some time for them to come to Europe, now we can even buy more affordable no-name clips. They work just as well as the Clover ones. Recently I have used them when binding my stays. It was much easier than sticking in a pin every half inch or so.

Binding the 17th-century stays with wonder clips … and pins ;).

And this concludes the brief tour around the pin collection. Now I am curious about your sewing and costuming experiences with different pins. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Love, Nessa

CoBloWriMo 2017 in Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love, Nessa

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bound 1620s stays.

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

Nessa

Loving My Awl (CoBloWriMo #18)

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

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

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

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

My precious… awl.

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

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

Yours, Nessa

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.

Wiener_Moden_zeitung_1

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. ;)

corinthian dress

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

Regency Gown News

Last time I mentioned that I had some exciting news on the white drop-front Regency gown I am making. Here is the story: The gown was all planned, fabric set aside, measurements taken and pattern drawn. And then I went fabric shopping…

As fellow fabric addicts collectors, you will know what it is like when you have just decided which fabric to use for a project and then something  more delicious comes along, cancelling your previous plans. In my case, I had decided to go with the white cotton muslin I used for my 1920s teddies. Shamefully I have not yet posted about them. So here is a “teaser” pic that shows off the lovely, airy white cotton very well.

My !920s teddies, made from white cotton muslin.

But where there is lovely, there is always lovelier. ;) So, when I wandered into the fabric store, they had some woven pattern cottons on sale. One of them was a gorgeous white-on-white check muslin. Of course, I fell in love and had to buy it at once. It is even softer than my other choice of muslin and has just the right amount of translucency for a Regency gown. It looks a bit dense and bluish in the photo, but it is not.

The new muslin for the gown.

What do you think? Is it not yummy? When I found it, I was so glad I had decided to finish my smock first. Now, though, I have really thrown myself into the work for the gown, since I cannot wait to finally cut it out and see what it looks like. Today, I fitted the toile over my underpinnings. Here it is on my dress form. Next up is altering the pattern pieces to fit and … cutting out. Yippee!

The altered bodice toile on the dress form.

It feels so good to have more sewing time again. I also love to finally share project updates with you as they happen. Hopefully I will soon have news from the 17th-century sewing front as well. While the new Regency gown is coming together, I am also fervently planning away on my 1630s stays. At the moment I am feeling like a historical sewing newbie once more, slightly confused and ogling all the pretty period costumes with big puppy eyes. But that is a good sign, right?

Love, Nessa

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Costume Plans For 2017

It seems the promise to bring you up to speed with this year’s costume plans “soon” now translates into “come April”.  Oops! This is what happens when you get caught between job hunting and moving house… The latter has just been accomplished successfully. So now the update on my historical sewing plans for 2017 can finally go ahead.

Without consciously planning it, my 2017 motto will be “A hundred years forward, two hundred years back” with respect to my usual Regency-era comfort zone. This means I want to work on some costume items from both the 1920s and the French cavalier era, around 1625-30. Both periods are well outside my comfort zone, so I am also planning some Regency items, to steady my nerves in between learning about new-to-me eras. ;)

The 1920s endeavor has already been underway since December. So far, I have finished four pieces for a basic 1920s evening wardrobe. With the evening mantle I made for the Historical Sew Monthly’s March challenge, all that is still missing for now is a matching bra. The plan is to get cracking on it at some point later this year. The pattern for it will come from a 1925 French fashion magazine. And, of course, I will show you the other finished items in a series of catch-up posts!

Brassiere pattern from “La Mode du jour” (1925). Click image for a PDF pattern!

The next big, slightly crazy, project I am just about to start is a journey to the late 1620s. Some time ago, I rediscovered my childhood love of “The Three Musketeers”. This also threw me into a little research frenzy on Cavalier Era costume. This way I learned that it is among the somewhat less popular and more scarcely researched costume eras. Though with the new Renaissance Costume books by Jenny Tiramani, Susan North and colleagues coming out, there has been more general interest lately. And, of course, I jumped right at the challenge…

For now I am hoping to put together one ensemble, to get a feel for the period. I am trying to keep it simple with a smock, bodice/stays, a bum roll (which I already have, yay!), petticoat, overdress and stomacher. Right now I am about to pattern a smock from “Patterns of Fashion 4”. The one in the picture is in the book, too. But I might be leaning more towards a low-neck version at the moment. We shall see how this quest will end! ;)

Woman’s linen smock, Museum of London (c. 1600-18).

The plan to make an overdress came together the moment I saw this gorgeous violet gown at Rüstkammer Dresden. Is it not absolutely lovely?

Violet silk overdress, German, Rüstkammer Dresden (c. 1630-35).

A flat lace collar is also in planning, but perhaps not for this year. I quite like the one in this painting from the 1630s:

Young lady with a plumed headdress, Artist unknown, Manchester City Galleries (c. 1633).

Now that we have arrived at plumes and portraits, I want to share one of my favorite Baroque paintings with you. Naturally my first go at the era will look nothing like this lady’s stunning velvet costume. But, there is nothing wrong with some motivation for the future. :)

Portrait of Saskia van Uylenburg by Rembrandt (c. 1633-34), Gemäldegalerie Kassel.

Aside from these two huge detours in time, some Regency sewing will also be happening. My first Regency project this spring will be a simple white dress to combine with more colorful accessories. I am going for something basic that is not super sheer and matches well with a range of styles. Something like this neat gown in the Met Museum collection:

Sprigged cotton dress, American, Metropolitan Museum (c. 1800-05).

For it I am using the Laughing Moon #130 wrapping front gown pattern. As a sleeve option I am favoring elbow-length sleeves. They are simply the best sleeve option if you ask me. Who agrees?

Laughing Moon Mercantile pattern #130.

Last but not least, this brings me to the aforementioned “colorful accessories”. For this year, I am aiming to make a sleeveless bodice/spencer to go with the white dress. Shape-wise I am looking at something like this one from the Met:

Cotton bodice, American, Metropolitan Museum (early 19th century).

But I want mine to add a splotch of color to the outfit, like the orange example in the fashion plate below. Also have a look at the lady’s wacky “bonnet” hairdo. I have a scrap of leftover IKEA reproduction cotton set aside for my bodice. The floral pattern should be really fun to work with. I am so excited to see how it will turn out!

Fashion plate from Costume Parisien (c.1800).

To be honest, as excited as I am for the Regency projects I have laid out for 2017 so far (maybe some more will follow), I am more than a bit nervous about my self-imposed 17th-century mammoth project. No matter how well it will go, the chances of finishing everything this year are slim. On the upside, you might get to see even more Regency items when things are stalling. ;) I know I can count on your moral support with this challenge and promise not to mope too much when things take up the next five years or so…

For now it is back to the sewing table with me. At the moment, the smock and Regency gown are pulling straws to see which one will be made up first. ;) I will keep you posted on the outcome. Thank you for your ongoing patience with me and the blog!

Much love, Nessa

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A Shortgown At Last

Finally, I got to compile the long-overdue post on my beloved shortgown I finished a few months ago. To start off, here is the finished product: I took these pictures after wearing it to one of my very first costume events (a historical market) so it is not perfectly pressed. ;)

The finished shortgown.

The finished shortgown.

The back, with pleats and a little bow.

The back, with pleats and a little bow.

The fabric I used was a gift from a dear friend who is a Regency/Federal-era costumer herself. She was very, very kind to send it across the Pond after I had spent weeks not finding a suitable fabric for the gown I liked. I am so glad she could help me out. But before I got to work with this beautiful fabric, which is a light, printed quilting cotton, I delved into research to get inspired about possible patterns.

Some Research
To begin with, shortgowns were present in women’s wardrobes in the 18th and early 19th centuries. In the 18th century the were also often known as bedgowns or manteaux de lit. And, while the general style of the gown stayed the same over time, some little details in the cut and shaping changed: Earlier versions of shortgowns were often cut from one piece and more or less symmetrical, with a front opening and a flared skirt section, shaped using pleating and / or tucking. Marquise wrote up some very good instructions for an 18th-century bedgown, based on Garsault’s book, here. Another example for this style, but with a more flared skirt, is the Kallfors gown from Sweden. The reproduction in the link also comes with a pattern. :)

And, while one-piece versions seemed to have been the rule, it is not uncommon to find gowns where the skirt section has been pieced on. This was done in the Kallfors shortgown, too. But it is not easy to spot from further away. Here is another Swedish example from Digitalt Museum where the piecing is more obvious in the lovely, bold stripe pattern.

A mid 18th-century Swedish bedgown from Digitalt Museum.

A mid 18th-century Swedish bedgown from Digitalt Museum.

As time went on towards the Regency era, narrower shoulders and slightly deeper necklines made an appearance as working-class women began to adapt the look that was fashionable at the time. Isabella of the Two Nerdy History Girls wrote a very nice post that sums up these developments. With the changes in shaping, neckline and waist drawstring began to be used in shortgowns. Here is a Dutch example from the very early 19th century that seems to have a neckline drawstring and sports a leaner silhouette than the more flared earlier gowns.

Early 19th-century shortgown from Friesland (Source: Memory of the Netherlands database).

Early 19th-century shortgown from Friesland (Source: Memory of the Netherlands database).

Another Dutch gown, where the drawstrings are a bit more prominent is this brown one. It has a visible join and drawstring at the waits, though the join might also be a casing sewn as a tuck. To me, this one looks super cute and very “Regency” and so it became the main inspiration for my project. Below, I will tell you how I went about making it.

Another Dutch shortgown, probably 19th century, from Amsterdam Museum.

Another Dutch shortgown, probably 19th century, from Amsterdam Museum.

The Making
To make mine, I played around with the Sense & Sensibility ELC pattern I used for my stripe dress last winter. I went with the long-sleeve version of the bodice pattern. The only difference was that I included a front opening. For this, I added an overlap of 3/4″ at the center front and cut two halves of the front piece, instead of a whole one. Here is a photo of my cutting layout and the lovely brown fabric:

The bodice pattern and layout. :)

The bodice pattern and layout. :)

To finish the front overlap, I pressed over 1/8″ and sewed a tiny hand-rolled hem on either side. I think this is how I finally fell in love with making them. They did not take long and came out looking really cute, almost like iced on. After finishing them, I sewed the rest of the bodice according to package… erm pattern instructions. ;)

The 1/8

The 1/8″ rolled hem on the bodice front.

And the finished bodice, with drawstring neckline.

And the finished bodice, with drawstring neckline.

The neckline drawstring casing I made of self-fabric bias binding, also based on the pattern. For the top closure, I sewed two small eyelets into the inside of the casing. They are set off by about 1/2″ so that they tie safely on the inside.

One of the two CF eyelets. :)

One of the two center-front eyelets. Below you also see the casing for the waist drawstring. :)

Like in some of the earlier extant gowns, I also made a separate skirt piece. I had two rectangles for the front that were 8″ long, plus 1 1/4″ for the top and bottom seams. They attach to the back piece at the bodice’s side seam. For the back piece, I played around with the pattern’s skirt piece, which has a curved top seam line. I trimmed it down to 28″ width, to accommodate one box pleat at center back and four small knife pleats on either side. At CB, the piece was about 11″ high and it went down to 8″ on either edge, to fit the front pieces. After sewing the three pieces together, I added two more tiny 1/8″ hems at center front.

The skirt piece, sewn together and hemmed.

The skirt piece, sewn together and hemmed at center front.

After attaching the skirt to the gown, I finished the skirt seam with bias binding. I then sewed it up into the bodice from CF to the side back seam line to form two drawstring casings. The strings tie up to pieces of cord near the back. To finish off, I finally added a little decorative bow to the back. It helps to cinch up the waistline and nicely brings out the pleats. :)

Another “gimmick” my shortgown has is a bodice “lining” piece that keeps everything in place. It was a feature of the S&S pattern and I decided to keep it, since it helps a lot with keeping the gown straight over the stays.

The bodice

The bodice “lining” from scrap fabric.

When I wore it to the event, the lining and outer gown were held together by a total of 30 (!) short pins. And, after spending six hours plus in costume, the whole construction had not budged an inch. I also wore the fichu on the occasion, using even more pins on it and it behaved very well, too. This taught me again that pins really are a great period closure method. And that, no, they do not prick and poke you at all. :D

So, all in all, I am very happy with my first shortgown and actually having worn it “in public” for an event. Here is hoping that I can repeat this again soon.  Until then, it is back to the thesis and more sewing (yay!). Wishing you all a relaxed remainder of the weekend.

Love, Nessa

 

 

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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