Thursday, April 17, 2014

1855 Summer Bonnet and Pattern Review: Juliana Rose

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

White crape bonnet with lilacs, lace, and vintage ribbon.

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:

Back view of "Juliana Rose" 1850s bonnet from Timely Tresses.
Bonnet made from the "Juliana Rose" pattern by Timely Tresses.
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:
Two fashionable bonnets from Peterson's Magazine, July 1855.

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.
Back "mailbox-shaped" piece of sunbonnet.
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.

Mock-up of sunbonnet.
Bonnet Mock-up, modeled by the iron
White, grey and purple paid shirting-weight cotton.
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).

First row of cording sewn into sunbonnet brim with running stitch.
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. [Edited to add: apparently, it's actually a capeline: a dressier version of a sunbonnet, or a more practical fashion bonnet.] 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.