Thursday, April 17, 2014

1855 Summer Bonnet and Pattern Review: Juliana Rose

Finally trimmed and finished the white crape bonnet I started last summer:

The pattern is the Timely Tresses Juliana Rose, which I've made twice before.  This time I followed the mid-'50s cutting line for the brim (instead of the early '60s version, which rises higher over the head).  The base fabric is an ivory-colored silk chiffon--meant here to look like period crape; vintage lace makes the 'cap' inside the bonnet, and also overlays the outer brim and edges the bavolet; vintage silk ribbon and lilacs from Nancy's complete the trim.  The functional ties are a narrow silk ribbon (not pictured).  Modeled by the iron, and some scrap fabric:

It feels weird to write a review of a pattern I've had for years and used previously; the exercise is also largely academic as the pattern itself has apparently been retired.  Nonetheless, a few remarks:
This is a good pattern.  I wouldn't have made it up three times and acquired two more patterns from the same company if it weren't.  All the previously noted high points of a Timely Tresses pattern--including illustrated step-by-step instructions, references to original bonnets, trimming suggestions, and sewing advice--are present. 

That being said, this pattern doesn't have the same level of 'polish' as the Julia pattern did.  Perhaps that's why it's not currently available.  The illustrations are mostly drawn rather than photographed, for instance; only one period picture is included where the Julia pattern had four; there were fewer color illustrations showing different trimming options, etc. The essentials, however, are all present.

The Juliana Rose is a two-piece bonnet (crown plus a one-piece brim) for the mid '50s into the early '60s. It has three cutting lines: a low one just over the head for the mid 1850s (shown above), and two progressively higher brims for the late '50s and early '60s which anticipate the high spoon bonnet.  I should mention that the bavolet in my new bonnet is longer than that given in the pattern; I cut it out intending to overlay it with lace, only to realize in the middle of construction that putting the lace along the bottom gives a more '55 look.  At some point, I should probably shorten the curtain to compensate.  I also used net instead of blocked buckram for the crown, making a flatter back than the bonnet really should have.  My black and pink bonnets both have blocked crowns (one purchased, one molded at home over a cereal bowl), which give a more rounded and less abrupt look to the back of the bonnet.  

Beginning seamstresses take note: this pattern requires a fair amount of hand-sewing.  I sewed the whole thing by hand save the bavolet edge; that and wiring the brim were the only steps that could really really employ a machine.  Stitching the wired crown and brim pieces together is always an adventure, but gets easier.

Pattern Score: 4-4.5 Stars
Difficulty: Intermediate+
Accuracy: High
Strongest Impressions: Can be frustrating to assemble the wired buckram pieces, but comes together well and makes a cute bonnet.

Original bonnets to admire:
Tone-one-tone decorations and lace effects. An apparent one-piece brim.  I originally meant to trim the bonnet after this original, but changed my mind after finding the lilacs.
Sketch from Peterson's Magazine (July 1855), showing the lace-edge bavolet:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Plaid Sunbonnet II: Making a Pattern

Picking up from part I, which just got too long.  Here's my actual process:

I decided to cut the sunbonnet in 3 pieces: a brim, crown and curtain.  The inspiration bonnet seems to be a 3-piecer.  To make the brim, I cut a rectangle of scrap fabric: the shorter dimension of the rectangle is about 3 inches longer than the depth of my head (from bun to forehead--always leave room for a period hairstyle), the longer side started around 24".  This piece is draped over the head, with the longer edge framing the face: I measured it to the chin on each side, and then trimmed off excess fabric (leaving 1/2" on each side for seam allowances).

With the brim pattern draped over the head, I made the crown measurements.  Facing a mirror*, imagine a line between the front corners of the brim (under the chin) and measure it's length.  Next, from a point in the middle of the imaginary line, measure upward to the center front of the brim above the forehead.  I cut out a rectangle with these measurements, and then rounded off the top two corners extremely, making one of the short ends of the rectangle almost a semi-circle.  It doesn't have to be perfect, but the sides should be symmetric.
The Not-Quite-A-Rectangle Piece
I marked the middle of the brim piece along one of the long edges, and the center of the arc on the crown piece. Then I matched these center marks and basted the two pieces together.  I then trimmed the excess fabric from the bottom of the crown, and tried it on.  The bonnet mock-up fit close to the head, with several inches of fabric projecting over the face (and, at this stage, drooping forward over my eyes).  The bottom of the brim falls just past the chin, as intended, and the crown should fit smoothly to the brim.

To make the curtain, I measured along the lower "neck" edge of the brim/crown assembly.  Next, I measured from my chin to my desired curtain length, a few inches past my shoulder (curtains usually seem to fall between should and elbow length, protecting the neck and the top fo the dress from the sun).  I then cut out the rectangular curtain piece (adding a few inches to the long side for maneuverability; 1-2" should also be added to the short side to allow for hemming).  I then basted the curtain to the bottom of the mock-up, pleating the curtain to fit.

Bonnet Mock-up, modeled by the iron
The Fabric
The full mock-up is ready to try on.  Now's the time to make any final fitting changes, and decide on any final adjustments: changing curtain length, making a fuller cap, adjusting brim size, etc.  If I were fitting the bonnet with back ties, I'd tack on some ribbon or scrap fabric, and see that it works as intended.

Satisfied with my mock-up, I decided to cut it out.

First up was the brim.  Following the inspiration bonnet, I opted to cut on the bias.  I folded back a corner of the fabric on the 45 degree diagonal until I had space for the pattern piece, then cut it out, with one long edge along the fold.  The brim needs to be in two layers for 'sandwiching' the cords (or slats, etc.), so either two brim pieces need to be cut and sewn together along the front edge, or the piece is needs be cut on a fold. After my adventures cording my first bonnet, I opted to add about a half inch to the sides of the brim (not the face edge); this gives me some leeway for squaring off the sides if the fabric should 'skew' while the cording is sewn.

I next cut the curtain out, using the full 1-yard length of the fabric piece along a selvage edge (thereby avoiding a need to hem).  If the fabric doesn't have a usable selvage, a hem allowance will be needed. Finally, I cut out the crown, adding about 3/4" to each side for a slightly fuller look.  It will be gathered along all the edges down to the pattern size, so that the extra fabric goes into a full crown, rather than making the bonnet too large.

From the scraps, I cut out two small rectangles for ties.  These will be narrow-hemmed by hand.

I'm sewing the whole bonnet by hand this time, so I'll end this entry here and make a third part with the sewing pictures (which could take a while).

Teaser: The first row of cording on the brim

*Obviously the bonnet crown goes at the back of the head; it's hard to measure behind oneself, so I start by measuring the front to get an approximate size or the crown.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Plaid Sunbonnet I: Research and Links

I decided I needed a more utilitarian headcovering for days when I'm baking or 'doing the wash' at the Fort. I've been using my white sheer sunbonnet (from the 1857 Godey's pattern), but want to try a print/figured fabric that won't show dirt as well and/or doesn't make the visitors compare it to a christening gown*.

The fabric I selected is a light shirting-weight cotton plaid, in white, grey and purple.

Fabric in hand, I went looking for original patterns/instructions circa 1845-1855; I figure this garment would primarily be for Fort use (1855), and wanted to make my mid-century wardrobe less 60's-centered.  I tried all the usual places--Google books and internet archives, looking for Godey's, Peterson's, and other magazines**; I also checked "The Workwoman's Guide" (1838), and "The Ladies' Self-Instructor..."(1853). Apparently, sunbonnet patterns weren't in high demand.

And I can sort of see the point.

If you're not trying to imitate a specific historical period and it's aesthetic foibles, and are acquainted with the general shape, you don't really need a pattern.  The sunbonnet isn't exactly a complicated garment: there's a bit that goes over the head, a bit that goes behind the head, and a bit that hangs down.  All three are/can be basically rectangles (with varying degrees of rounded corners), and can be draped to fit; the same shape could be gotten in two pieces by either cutting the crown and brim as one piece (as in the 1859 hood pattern), or extending the crown and brim to form the curtain/bavolet (I haven't seen this actually done). Mrs. Clark's pattern (see "Make a Slat Sunbonnet"), manages a pretty bonnet out of only one piece.

Not finding an original pattern, I decided to just drape a pattern, using the 3-piece format, and looked to some original bonnets for inspiration.

This corded sunbonnet in a brown cotton plaid looks a lot like my '57 white sheer bonnet in shape and cord placement, even though it's dated c.1840.  The bias-cut brim is a cute touch, which I may duplicate.  The brown is more full than the '57 pattern, and I suspect it's a hold-over from the full, gathered crowns used on caps and bonnets earlier in the century.

I also considered doing a slat bonnet, like this beige linen example, dated 1850. It appears to be cut as a single piece (less ruffles and ties), much like Mrs. Clark's pattern.  I confess, I don't really care for the ruffle on the original.  

This drawn bonnet of teal silk confuses me a bit.  I tend to think of drawn bonnets as fashion bonnets, and long curtains as a practical trait of sunbonnets--even nice sunbonnets.  It's dated c. 1845, and could have something altogether different going on.  On the subject of (apparently) weird hybrids, there's this c. 1860 cotton gingham drawn bonnet which has almost no curtains, and is transgressing all of the other generalities.   

This white corded sunbonnet looks a lot like the one I made, with a fuller crown (1840's?) and short-ish curtain.  The horizontal cords along the neck-edge of the brim is an interesting variation, which also appears here.  I'm not sure I could pull that off neatly, but I'm tempted to try...

Sunbonnets in prints, in solid color cottons, and in white cambric cotton.

If I ever find a sheer green wool (or just a sheer wool, it'll dye), I'm making this one.  It's another of those drawn-bonnets with the deep curtains; the date is given "early 19th century".

The more I think about it, the more inclined I am to use the plaid bonnet as a guide.  It's a nice, classic shape that I'm more or less familiar with, and corded brims can be light and comfortable to wear.  I'll save the slat design for next time I'm in a hurry.  The main difference between this and the white are the shape of the side front brim (straight, not curved: should make the cording a little more straightforward), and no apparent back ties.  The crown may also be a bit fuller; it's hard to say.  Ten rows of cording at the front brim should also impart more stability; my white has 5 rows at the front, and it droops awfully if insufficiently starched.

*No idea why.  It's an unadorned, cotton, corded sunbonnet that happens to be white and semi-sheer.

**I did find a lot of references to sunbonnets in fiction; they are rarely described, but are sometimes differentiated "white" (most often), "pink", "blue", "gingham", "check", "print", "muslin", or "calico".  The dictionary of Americanisms (1860) defined: "Sun-bonnet: A homemade bonnet, with a large 'cape', so as to shade both the face and neck, much worn by women and girls in the country."  Elsewhere, there was also a language discussion, in which it was noted that "hat" had largely replaced "bonnet", except in the term "sun-bonnet".  The hyphenated term appeared most often, "sun bonnet" less, and "sunbonnet" not at all.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Knit Garters, 1862

I lost my elastic garters again last week; undoubtedly they'll reappear in some unlikely locale next autumn. Meanwhile, I made some simple replacements (cut elastic to fit comfortably around the calf; stitch ends together) and started thinking about upgrading to a more period option.

My usual on-line haunts (MFAMetHistoric New England) showed a number of lovely specimens from the 18th and early 19th centuries, ranging from ribbons to elaborate woven and embroidered bands.

I eventually settled on this design from Godey's (June, 1862).*  I selected it because the loop at one end makes it look easier to tie than the earlier designs, which are, after all, single flat pieces.  I picked my smallest practical needles, size 2**, and some fine 'baby weight'/zephyr/scotch fingering weight wool out of my stash. It's triple ply, and just a little larger (c.200 yd/oz) than the wool I use for Berlin work.

The first part is nice and straightforward: Cast on 6 in the first color (I used pale pink), and knit plain, ie garter stitch, for 45 rows:

Next, the end is picked up, forming the loop and putting a total of 12 stitches on the needle.  The second color (white) is added, and one row of twelve stitches is knit.  The next row is all purled; continue knitting one row and purling the next (stockinette) until 6 rows are complete. During this, I wove in the loose ends (from changing the color) because I didn't want to deal with them flapping about:

To get the "ribbed" effect, the next six rows are reversed (purl the first, knit the second, etc.); this continues for 33 such sets of 6 rows each.  Finally, the first color is reintroduced.  Knit plain (garter stitch) one row of 12 stitches; then decrease at the end of each row: 11, 10, 10 (this row not decreased), 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.


When there was only 1 stitch left, I set the knitting aside to make the tassels.  Using a plastic card as the base, I wrapped the pink yarn around the it short-wise twelve times, and then brought a separate piece of yarn under the hank at one end, and tied it with a square knot.  Next, I took one of the long, trailing ends and wrapped it several times around the knot, fastening it with two small half-hitches and letting the tail fall into the tassel:

Then, the card was removed, and the other trailing end knotted around the yarn-cluster, slightly below the first knot.  This strand was subsequently wrapped around the knot, making a the tassel 'head', and finished as was the first wrapped strand.  The bottom loops were then cut and made even:

To attach the tassel, I threaded the top 'cord' through the loop of the final knit stitch, knotted the loose ends of the cord and knitting yarn together, trimmed the edges.  Here's the final garter, modeled by a convenient potted plant:

I was surprised at how stretchy the finished garter is.  I suppose I shouldn't have been.  In addition to the 'stretch' of the knitting itself, the ribs created by the alternating patches of stockinette allow for a lot of expansion, making it a fairly 'one size fits just about everyone' article.  By knitting a sample piece to test the stretch-gauge, it would be very easy to adapt the pattern to very large or very small legs.

*Apparently, every progressive re-enactor of the early 1860s has tried this pattern at some point in time.
**After commencing, I read on the Sewing Academy that size 1 or 0 needles may be more appropriate.  I'll try these next time on a size 1.  I think they work fine on the 2's, but could look slightly daintier on 1's.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Starching Petticoats in a Studio Apartment

Well, not just petticoats.  Sheer sunbonnets, collars, cuffs, white aprons, and undersleeves can all benefit from a judicious application of starch.  Petticoats benefit from the extra 'loft', sunbonnets don't collapse over the face, and white dress trimming look more crisp and neat.  Starched items also repel the dirt.

For collars and cuffs, or sizing silk, I will occasionally break out the spray starch (aerosol bottle found the laundry aisle of your favorite store), but--as it's meant for tidying up modern men's shirts, etc.--the instant stuff just doesn't keep a petticoat in shape.  For these, I use a heftier cornstarch mixture, adapted from the recipes found here.

Unfortunately, living in a small apartment means no private laundry room and no spacious yard with a clotheslines from which to drip-dry petticoats.  What I do have: a stove, bathtub, and clothes hangers.  A clean bucket/basin (I use a plastic garbage can otherwise designed for clean recyclables) also helps with the petticoats.  In a pinch, a clean sink could be used.  If you have roommates, butter them up, or wait until they're gone for a weekend.

First up, dissolve about a quarter of cup of corn starch in 2 cups of water, adding water to a total of 4 cups (this will get 2 plain petticoats and whatever accessories; doubled, using the largest saucepan I have, it'll take care of the my corded petticoat as well).  Place on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it boils.  When the entire thing has the appearance and consistency of pale snot, after about 1 min of boiling, it's ready to use.

Next fill the bucket/basin/garbage can with  4-ish cups of cold water, dump in the starch mixture, and submerge the first petticoat.  Mind the boiling starch mixture is HOT, and take care with your hands; let it cool a bit before using if necessary.  When the first petticoat is thoroughly soaked, wring it out over the basin, and hang over the tub using a clothes hanger.

Continue with the rest of the petticoats, wringing them out above the basin--else, you'll run out of starch very quickly.  I usually run my sunbonnet full-strength (if there's enough starch left), then dilute it with more water before dipping aprons, collars, etc.

If you don't have a towel bar above the bath, or need space for more petticoats, hang the garments from the shower curtain pole (place towels or dirty clothing along the floor side of the tub to catch drips, or you'll be cleaning starch off the floor).

As they dry, the clothes will go from wet/limp to crunchy and somewhat sticky.  Every couple of hours I'll 'rotate' the hanging petticoat: pulling apart the fabric that's stuck together and hanging it again from a different place on the garment.  The topmost point dries first, so I usually start by hanging it up from the waist band twice (once with the buttons to the side, once with them folded to the center); when the top half is dry, I'll switch to hanging it by the hem, switching the connection points two or three times.

The sunbonnet gets draped over the inverted garbage can, so that it doesn't end up with a crease along the top.  Fans, dehumidifiers, and opening the window may also help dry things quicker, depending on your exact situation.  I try to starch petticoats the day before I'll be ironing them; my bonnet and cuffs/collars need only a few hours to dry, while a corded petticoat in winter may take a couple of days.

When the item is dry, it will be crunchy and stiff.  Petticoats can be worn in such condition, but for neat accessories (and nicer pettis), ironing is required.  Some people sprinkle garments before ironing; I usually just mist with a spray bottle and iron as usual.  Do not try ironing while the item is still damp from starch; it won't set right.  You're better off letting the starch FULLY DRY, and then re-wetting the garment to iron.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Gallery: Berlin Work and Cross Stitch

With several long-term projects either on-hold or progressing slowly, I decided to post some older, mercifully complete, novelties.

Pair of slippers, modeled by scrap fabric, and the front of the card case.

Close-up on the card case.

Slipper sole and back of card case.

Heel of slipper, showing the back seam.

I started the slippers in summer 2013.  They were inspired by an 1864 Godey's pattern (IIRC), for a 1-piece slipper in Berlin work.  The original motif was small musicians in black on a green background.  I opted for a repeated Greek key design (which, in retrospect, should have been spaced much farther apart so as to not get lost in the repeats)--it's hard to tell that one slipper is green on purple, the other purple on green.  I used leather for the soles (I traced the bottoms of my Robert Land walking shoes, so I'd have something that fits comfortably); the lining is cotton (with ugly visible stitching inside), and the binding purple silk.  For true Berlin-work, they should have been done in wool thread on canvas, but as it was my first attempt I used materials available to hand (cotton floss on Aida fabric).  In my opinion, the worst part was getting the leather needle out and stitching the upper to the sole.  I really wish I could have just "sent them out to made up"...   

The card-case (from Peterson's 1861), is done in it's original color scheme.  I used 10-count Aida and cotton floss (again, it called for canvas, and wool--except for the yellow, which was to be silk).  The case is decorated in white and clear glass beads, lined with scrap silk, and closes with a shell button and thread loop.  At first I made a mistake with the beads; the directions just said to alternate them, so the first square I stitched had alternating white and clear beads--the motif wasn't discernible, and it just looked sort of sloppy. Alternating the color blocks proved much more satisfying.

It was the success of the card-case that made me brave enough to attempt the in-progress workbasket, and more particularly to order the proper supplies for it (Penelope cloth, which I understand to be the closest modern equivalent to period cotton canvas, two shades of wool thread, and yellow silk thread for the accents).  I'm nearly half-way through the workbasket embroidery: I've finished about 16" of the 35" length, which leaves an estimated 114 square inches to go, or about 11,400 cross and 570 back stitches.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Regency/Empire Stays #0 (Research Link Drop)

Expanding into a new era, which means it's time for even more underwear.  That makes two downsides to the "accuracy bug": a lingering sense of guilt at the idea of making a fun new dress without first getting the right support garments, and an inability to watch most American-made costume dramas (or pre-1995 British ones).

While the Regency/Empire/Directoire vaguely neo-classical look is one of the few periods pre-1920s in which you can get away without stays, I've decided against it.  First, there's a very narrow window right around/before 1800 when the "no stays" thing was most popular; making an era-appropriate corset will allow me to stretch the utility of a given high-waist dress over a longer period, instead of relegating it to a couple years just before 1800.  Second, I need the support and like the smoother line of a foundation garment--short stays may do the former, but aren't really up to the latter.  Modern bras are a 100+ year anachronism for this period, and yes, that changes the fit of the gown.  (See why I can't watch 1980s costume dramas?)  

I've identified two designs in Nora Wraugh's Corsets and Crinolines which look suited to my needs.  One is the "transitional stays" dated to 1810, the other the "Corset a la Ninon", of the same year.  What I liked about these two designs is the presence of bust and hip gores, giving support/lift and allowing movement, respectively, while still maintaining a fairly straight line, as suits the long lines of the gowns.  Unfortunately, both of these sketches show the garments as worn, and there's an almost 30 year gap in cutting layouts in Corsets and Crinolines between the 1790s and 1820s.

Following the excellent advice at The Sense and Sensibility Forums, I decided to consult Jean Hunnisett's Period Costumes for Stage and Screen, 1800-1909, before draping a toile.  It's supposed to have an excellent 1810s/1820s stay pattern (unfortunately, the local library which obliged with Ms. Hunnisett's very interesting 1500-1800 book had to order the 1800-1909 one, so I'm still waiting on it).

While waiting for the book to come in, I started messing around with some of the pattern pieces I could find.  Corsets and Crinolines gives a diagram for an 1820s corset of white sateen, which closely follows the lines of the 1810 transitional stays, only shorted a bit.  The 1838 stays instructions/diagram from The Workwoman's Guide (also reprinted in this book) also follow a similar format, and could be adapted.  My preferred design, the "Corset a la Ninon", however, has a different front treatment than either of those options.  Like them the garment primarily rectangular with the shape coming from inset gores, but the 'Ninon' has an angled 'dart' on the side-fronts and two back gores providing the ease/shaping over the abdomen and hips; the top seems to have a side gore at the side of the bust, going through a strange horizontal piece not carried over to the back (which is all in one piece along the top).

Stays from The Workwoman'sGuide (1838)
Very intriguingly, I found some originals at the Met, which follow a similar idea with bust gores on the front (of course) and hip gores set toward the back of the one-piece garment, like this slightly later corset, which has two bust gores on each side, and some lovely cording or quilting just below them.

Flipping through The Workwoman's Guide (available on-line; it's public domain) offered some insight on the horizontal seam-line on the "Ninon", which may in fact be a "modesty-piece": a half-nail (2 5/8") strip cut on the cross, with a draw string which snugs the top of the stay over the bust "so as to shade it delicately". Although the "Ninon" sketch, shows a single bust gore on either side, the originals I've looked at more often feature two smaller gores to each side (and I suspect this will better suit my figure).  Either way, a wooden busk will be used center front, and bones on either side of the back eyelets.  Additional boning or cording will be deployed, as needed, vertically at the sides and along the gores on a diagonal.

Additional ideas (original corsets from the Met collection):

Short Stays, at least all the ones I've seem, have no busk, but lace up the front.  Check out the beautiful herringbone stitches and diamond accents on the back.

Those pretty long stays I linked to before appear to have a one-piece front (with a long 16" busk); the bust shaping comes from 4 gores, while the hip- shaping comes from an apparently curved side seam and hip gores set into the back piece.

These long stays (and these) intrigue me greatly, because they mark the only time I've seen front-lacing long stays in the 1800s.  The front bust gores and back (brown) or side (white) hip gores are consistent with the other 1810s and 1820s long stays; narrow bones provide support at the center back, while the bones along the lacing holes work for a busk.  The shoulder straps suggest a date early in the 19th century (they are ubiquitous in the previous century stopped being used in women's garments in the 1840s, so far as I can tell), but the rounded bottom edge on the front of the brown corset doesn't fit with what I expect of the high-waist era.

There's a different take on lacing holes in this beautifully corded 1820s corset.  I'll probably stick with set-in grommets (not period) or hand-stitched eyelets (period, time-consuming), but they are very pretty.  I'm also intrigued by the apparent lack of gores, and the wide, low straps which look like cap sleeves.

Attempts to find hardwood in sufficiently thin increments (1/8" thick) have thus-far been thwarted; I may have to resort to buying a buck instead of carving one. :(