Monday, 25 August 2014

The Manuscript Challenge

My friend Maria has started a project called the Manuscript Challenge on Facebook. In short it’s about choosing a medieval picture, statue, effigy or similar in colour, and try to recreate an outfit as closely as possible.

As I don’t have too much of neither time nor money, I decided to do something simple, and something that needed doing. I chose this stained glass window of Adam and Eve working. It was made in the late 14th century, and was originally from Marienkirche, Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany, but after WWII it was taken by the Soviet Union and is now in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

This picture is great (though not very pretty) for four reasons: 1) it is from my period and 2) also from my geographic area (Sweden had lots of influences from Germany through both trade and politics), 3) it portrays things I want to make for both myself and Tobias, and 4) I only have to do a little sewing to have all the clothes in the picture. I have planned to replace the short sleeves in my red dress with long ones for quite some time, and that wouldn’t be too much work. Of course I have veils already, and Tobias has green hose and shoes. The only thing I need to make from scratch is the greyish-blue tunic, and I have wanted to make him a longer, fuller, more old fashioned tunic for a while, so this is perfect.

Not that I have time to start sewing on it just yet; I have more pressing projects first.

Friday, 22 August 2014

1840's(ish) Crocheted Collar

For the 1840’s dress I just began working on I’ll need a collar. I want to make one in whitework, but as I’ll have to learn how to do it first it will take too much time at present. I do however have basic skills in crochet, and after finding mention of crocheted collars, seeing reproductions, and original doll’s collars, I decided to give it a go.

 The collar lying on the back of the bodice of my 1840's-dress-in-progress.

As I’m not very good with crochet terminology in English, I won’t try to write about the collar in detail. Pictures will have to suffice. I used DMC Cordonnet 50 that I once got in a charity shop for hardly any money at all. It is mercerised cotton, which, though not common for another 50 years, did first make an entry in 1844, so it’s acceptable but not preferable for what I have in mind.

I didn’t find any period crochet descriptions for collars, though I've heard there are quite a few. But even if I had, I have enough trouble reading the modern ones – the period ones would probably give me a fit. Instead I looked at period examples and the reproductions people more talented at crochet than I have made from said period descriptions. I had to go with trial and error, so this one is actually the second collar. It’s still not perfect, but it is wearable. 

The inspiration for the lace edging was taken from the doll's collar below.

These are the originals I used for inspiration (and this reproduction): 

 Doll's collar, Sweden, 1840's. Nordiska Museet, nr. NM.0114827
Swedish, a bit to late - 1860-80 - but with the same kind 
of open, net like base. Nordiska Museet, nr. NM.0028970

Though this collar (Swedish, 1840-60) is made from bobbin lace I took 
the inspiration for making mine striped from it. Malmö Museer, nr. MMT 000406

Is it possible that these young ladies (ca. 1845) 
have crocheted collars? Possible, but hard to tell...

I think mine is rather cute, and not too far from the originals. I’m not quite sure how to attach it though: by basting it to the dress or by sewing a bias strip to it, and baste that to the inside of the dress? Opinions? Also - would matching cuffs be a good or bad idea?

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

A Simple 1840's Shift

Edit: I discovered I could use this as an HSF entry, so the challenge info was added 22 August 2014.)

Recently I made a mid 19th century shift, that I mainly intend for 1840’s. It is very simple, as the evidence I was able to find of Swedish shifts from that time indicates that they were still constructed in a very basic way, while many shifts in other countries had become more advanced. 

This evidence is mostly doll’s shifts from the 1850's and -60's, as there are hardly any extant ones for real people. As the rest of the wardrobes from which these doll’s shifts come are very true to the fashion of the time, I suppose that the shifts must have been as well. 

The rest of the wardrobe here

Upplandsmuseet, nr. UM 15700
The rest of the wardrobe here.

I would have preferred a linen shift, as that would have been most common, but I didn’t want to use any I had in my stash, as I have other projects in mind for some, and others are not in appropriate weights. Instead I used an old cotton sheet I once got in a charity shop.

While this bothered me slightly I now got the chance to use it for the terminology challenge in the HSF. Calico, in the UK, New Zeeland and Australia meaning a plain tabby woven, white or cream cotton fabric, is what I’ve used for this. In Swedish during the 19th century this kind of fabric would have been called lärft (originally – at least as far back as medieval times - lärft was used for plain, densely woven linen fabrics, but were later used for the same quality cottons as well). A printed cotton fabric were in the 18th century and into the 19th called kattun in Swedish.

The shift is constructed from rectangles, squares and triangles, the same way shifts and shirts had been made since before the Middle Ages. There is no shoulder seam, and one of the side gores are pieced from two halves. 

I used back stitches for joining the pieces, slip stitches for felling seams and hemming the neckline and sleeves. The bottom hem is sewn with running stitches and a back stitch every now and then.

For closing the slit in front I made a thread button. It has a base of waxed, thick cotton (linen could also be used) thread, as many originals do. It should hold up well in the wash. Wavy braid is used as trim. You see it used in many Swedish mid century petticoats, and I’ve seen it on doll’s shifts from both Sweden and other countries, and at least one extant woman’s chemise from the States. I think it’s more than plausible here as well. It should survive laundry better than most kinds of lace, while still adding a bit of elegance.

The shift reaches to just below my knees – I’d have liked it a bit longer, but this is what the fabric allowed me to do without adding shoulder seams. And can I say again how much I like that button? :)

The Challenge: #16 Terminology (calico)

Fabric: Cotton.

Pattern: My own.

Year: 1840’s. 

Notions: Cotton thread, cotton wavy braid.

How historically accurate is it? As good as it gets without studying originals in person. Material, construction and stitches are all period.  

Hours to complete: Not sure…

First worn: For the picture.

Total cost: 30SEK ($4,35; £2,61; €3,27) for the wavy braid; everything else was in my stash. It would probably have cost about 80SEK ($11,59; £6,97; €8,72) if I bought all the materials now.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Elvish Maiden

Eleven years ago I made a dress to wear to the premiere of the final part of the LoTR saga, The Return of the King. I took my inspiration from the Elvish styles in the movies, but both the dress and the embroidery was my own design.

The dress is made from a semi stiff and rather heavy fabric with a woven in pattern. The sleeves are lined with linen. The neckline and sleeves of the mock under dress are made from raw silk.

It is a lovely dress, but sadly I never got any pictures of myself wearing it, and now I can’t fit into it anymore, as I have a rather more Hobbity shape than I had when I was twenty. I’ve been thinking for some time that my sister E might be able to wear it, being of a similar height to me, though a bit more slender than I was when I wore the dress. As she was staying with us for little over a week, and the dress fit her well enough, we took the opportunity to have a photo shoot.

She was wearing a piece of hair jewellery I made myself for the premiere of The Two Towers, twelve years ago, obviously based on Arwen’s beautiful one from Fellowship of the Ring. It was more striking against my darker hair (which back then reached passed my tail bone), but looked pretty against E’s fair hair as well. 

Her hair looked a bit like that of Legolas, so we thought that if he’d had a little sister, this might be what she’d had looked like. Or it could just be any young Elvish maiden.

While taking the pictures we discussed elves and wondered how quickly they grow up. How fast do they mature, intellectually and physically? When are they considered being of age?  I like to know such things - even when it is a make believe people in a story….

Sunday, 6 July 2014

1840's Cap II

Almost four years ago I made an attempt to make an 1840’s cap. I was tolerably pleased with the result, but now I wanted to have another go at it. When I found some nice scraps (which from the burn test I think are cotton) amongst the fabrics I was given a while back, I knew at once that they would become different kinds of 19th century caps.

Quickly and not very neatly trimmed with silk ribbons - it can be made much prettier.

I have looked at many more pictures of 1840’s caps since 2010, so I had a somewhat clearer idea of what I should try to achieve. There are several examples on this Pinterest board. I used the same basic pattern as I used last time, and added lots of frills.

 Left untrimmed you see the basic shape better.

All the pieces were hemmed with narrow hems, and then whip stitched together. The frills were gathered by pulling the thread of the rolled hems tight, if that made sense. They were then sewn to the cap with one stitch in every tiny gather.

The frill stitched to the cap - inside.
And outside.
The frill over the top of the head at first looked too, well, frilly. It resembled the earlier styles of the 1820’s and 1830’s more than the more elegant ones of the 1840’s. I didn’t want to undo all the work I had done, so I was considering ways to solve the problem by working with what I had. I then recalled a cap in Nancy Bradfield’s Costume in Detail, where the lace edging a cap had been folded back and stitched down over the top of the head. I tried that, and it worked brilliantly. The small frill left was just enough to add visual interest without being too dominant. For the 1840’s the frills one should really notice are the ones by the jaw bones, even if there might be others.

The ruffle over the forehead folded back and stitched down. 

In the hem at the nape of the neck, a drawstring made from thin cotton cords help with the fit.

I was inspired by this painting when making my cap – it’s a lovely picture and a pretty cap, though you can’t see the sides. I’d also like to make that dress sometime.

"A Peaceful Interlude" by Josephus Laurentius Dyckmans, 1849.

Fashion plates like this one, as well as extant caps helped as well.

World of Fashion, February 1843.

For the pictures I used ribbons I had in my stash, but as they are only pinned on, they can easily be changed to match the dress. For anything more active than just taking pictures I'd probably tack on the ribbons though, not pin them. Quite a few extant caps still have the ribbons attached – I wonder if they were always meant to be permanent, or if they could sometimes be exchangable the way mine will be? 

I like how this kind of cap looks on me – I have slightly long face, and adding width to the sides like this makes that less obvious. The cap is very light, I can hardly feel it – I could wear it all the time without being bothered by it.

The Challenge: #13 Under $10

Fabric: Cotton

Pattern: My own.

Year: 1840’s. 

Notions: Cotton thread, and cotton yarn for the cords. Silk ribbon.

How historically accurate is it? Reasonably - I haven’t had the opportunity to study real caps in person, but the overall look is similar to the ones you see in period art, photos and extant caps. The materials are period enough (I'm a bit unsure about the dots in the fabric), and the sewing is done by hand with period stitches.  

Hours to complete: Lots and lots. As the fabric was so fine and unravelled easily I had to be very careful while hemming. As I could only sew a little here and there, counting hours was difficult.

First worn: For the pictures.

Total cost: None at this time as everything was in my stash.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

1840’s Skirt Improver

Also known as a bustle, bum pad, faux rump and a number of other things. As I’m (rather slowly) working towards making an 1840’s outfit, and felt a tad low about not having completed a HSF challenge for ages, I decided, two days before the # 12 Shape & Support challenge was due, to make said skirt improver. I believe watching ‘The Young Victoria’ that evening inspired me. As I thought it would be a quick and easy project it was perfect. I had a few examples of period bum pads on a Pinterest board, so I had a look to decide which style I wanted to do, considering the little time I had. 

A corded petticoat and two ordinary ones provide all the fulness on the left.
On the right the bum pad gives a nice little back thrust to the petticoats.

As with everything else I’ve made this year, I only used things already in my stash; off white cotton sheeting, cotton/polyester blend batting (70 and 30 percent respectively) left over from making the babynest, and cotton tape. The night before the challenge was due, I quickly measured how big I wanted the pad, and cut out the desired shape in cotton and batting while baby was sleeping. I then stitched it by hand during the intervals of sleep between the frequent evening feedings. The day after I put the batting in, whip stitched the padded crescent shut, and added ties. Done in time! 

The shape of my bum pad.

The evening after I finished it I managed to get some pictures. As I took the pictures of myself in our badly lit bedroom, and with self timer, they turned out so-so, but they give you an idea. 

Sitting a little too high, but it sank a little with the weight of the petticoats.
I have big enough hips that they don’t really need any emphasis (more 
pronounced once I get my waist back), so the bum pad only reaches to the sides.

As I have a less than flat behind, I only needed a little extra oomph, more a pad than a roll. It has only two layers of batting. The pad has the very desired bonus of preventing the petticoats dipping in the back, as they often do, especially the corded one who has an adjustable waistband, and gets the extra width pushed to the back. 

 Even in the back pictures you can see how the petticoats fall 
more nicely over the bum pad (right) than they do without (left). 

The Challenge: #12 Shape & Support
Fabric: Cotton.

Pattern: None, just measured and cut.

Year: It would roughly fit during the 1830’s through 1850’s, but at this time I was mainly aiming for the 1840’s. 

Notions: Cotton thread and cotton tapes, cotton/polyester batting.

How historically accurate is it? Tolerably – there are quite a few variations on skirt improvers from this era, this is just one of them. The materials are ok, except for the regrettable blend batting. The sewing is done by hand with period stitches.  

Hours to complete: About two.

First worn: For the pictures.

Total cost: None at this time as everything was in my stash.

Friday, 20 June 2014

A Hobbit Woman’s Outfit

At long last I got the hobbit costume I started last year finished! The bodice and skirts had been finished for months, but then we moved, and after that I had other things that needed doing before baby arrived. Now though I’ve had the time to work on it, when the children have been sleeping. The other day I finished a shift I’d been working on now and then for a couple of months, and put the finishing touches to a straw bonnet. Everything is hand stitched, partly because Hobbits “did not understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill or a hand-loom” and partly because I am much the same – I usually prefer hand sewing to using the machine.

The shift is made from a thin twill cotton fabric that was in one of twelve banana boxes of fabric I received from a friend a while back. (After going through the contents I kept three or four boxes worth of fabric, and gave away the rest. I’m sure you’ll hear more about that amazing gift, as I can see it being used a lot.) I had to piece it here and there to get a shift from it, and it’s still a bit shorter than I’d have liked. It won’t show under the bodice and skirts though. It uses classic geometric construction (with rectangles for the body, sleeves and cuffs, gussets for under the arms, and gores at the sides), and has a drawstring neck.

The bodice is made from several scraps of linen and cotton fabrics in my stash. It’s trimmed with finger loop braids, boned with zip ties and have sewn eyelets for lazing up the back, where a modesty panel covers the gap. 

The top skirt is made from what once were cotton curtains from the charity shop. It works the same way as 18th century petticoats, with the front waistband tying in the back, and the back one tying in front. The ties are made from cotton tapes I wove myself, just because I felt like weaving. The bottom skirt is one I made for modern use. It doesn't show in the pictures, but it's in olive green raw silk.

As hats and hat sizes are mentioned quite a few times by Hobbits in the books I decided I wanted one. If my hair turned out badly it would also hide the fact that my hair doesn’t like being curled. I could just arrange whatever hair did get curly to frame my face and hide the rest under the bonnet. (It worked very well.) The bonnet is made from an old straw hat, found at a charity shop. It had some severe rifts at one side, so after wetting and reshaping it, I folded and stitched down part of the brim to hide the rifts and make the hat a bit more bonnet shaped. I trimmed it with strips of cotton fabric – the heavy trimming in the back is obviously to hide the rather crude fold in the brim.

When everything was done I pinned my hair up in the hope of it turning out curly over night (sadly, it did not turn out too successfully, but the bonnet saved the day), so I could have a photo shoot of the finished outfit. As it threatened rain we stayed close to the house – in fact we only stepped out in our small garden. We grow potatoes there, which felt like as good a setting as any for a Hobbit.  

As you might tell by the surrounding buildings, I portray a Bree Hobbit, with Men for neighbours. Hobbits would never build such tall houses ;)

The outfit has a lot of greens and yellows in it, as those are supposed to be colours favoured by Hobbits. I’m more of a blue, brown and wine red person myself, so I guess I just have to make more Hobbit outfits… I would like one that is more muted, so it could be worn in my modern life without looking too odd. One with a front opening bodice would be good, to make breast feeding easier. A fitted bodice would be nice to wear in my modern life, as it gives some shape and structure to my present post pregnancy fluff.