Thursday, January 16, 2014

Girdle Pocket #1

The Girdle Pocket by Mrs. Jane Weaver (Peterson's Magazine, February 1861)

I like little bits of fancy work out of the old magazines.  They're cute, they don't require 6 yards of specially-ordered material, you can work on them anywhere, and you don't have to alter them when your dress size changes.  

Really, they're just wonderful.

The girdle here referenced is a decorative belt (possibly the shaped outer garment known as a "Swiss waist" or "Medici belt"), not to be confused with the 20th-century undergarment.  The only other picture I've seen of one was a suspended pocket on a cute little waist with brettels. Similar "waist pouches" will appear in the September issue; they are "suspended the waistband by a chain and hook, and sometimes by a cord", and elaborately decorated in "gold, silver, and jet" or coordinated to the dress's trimming.

The description indicates that the pocket should hold a portmonnaie (which I will be making just as soon as I can find an accurate 2.5" frame) and handkerchief.  In the meantime, it should nicely contain my Berlin-work card holder.  I picked this pattern over the waist pouch one, both because it has more complete instructions, and because I realized that most of the materials were already in my stash--mostly because the three colors of velveteen I had lying about were the three colors of velvet called for, and it's fun to see how the original color schemes match up.

Girdle pocket pattern, fabric for project.

1/4 yard sky-blue silk (more like a 7" by 16" piece)
Small bits of red, green, and black velvet (I used cotton velveteen: non-synthetic velvet is hard to find)
Gold cord and thread (I don't know why I have this)
Black glass seed bead (96 small 1/16", 14 larger 1/8")
Half yard of velvet ribbon (using scrap velveteen, see above)
Pasteboard (recycled a box lid)
Lining material (fiber not stated; using linen or silk from the stash)

The Process, Day 1:

First off, I traced out the individual applique shapes onto pattern paper.  Cutting out the small, fiddly bits proved the more difficult piece of the undertaking.*
Tracing the 1861 pattern.

I then traced the overall pocket shape onto the pasteboard; in addition to providing structure for the finished item, these served as templates for cutting the silk background.
Cutting the silk from a cardboard pattern.

Having no blue silk to hand, I decided to dye a white remnant from the stash.   As it was a small amount, I used locally-available RIT royal blue instead of ordering a silk-specific dye. (The wonderful Sewing Academy board, once again, offered a wealth of tips, particularly in this thread:  I used about a quarter of the bag of dye in 3/4 c. water and 3/4 c. vinegar, and let my test pieces "bake" in a warm oven for 40 a ridiculously deep blue.  After extensive rinsing, it was still almost black in color.  I'd heard that silk and RIT tended to be a bit lackluster, so I'd expected that hours would be needed for such a hue, if it was even possible. As I was aiming for more of a "sky blue", I diluted the dye bath by half again with water, and tried a ten-minute piece.  Perfect!  The trickiest bit was probably getting the wet silk to drip dry without clinging to itself and making permanent creases (note to self: another excellent reason to avoid ever getting silk wet).
Silk in the blue dye bath.Dying supplies and silk fabric.

While the silk was drying, I started on the center bit with the crossed gold threads over a green background. Each overlapping gold thread gets a small black bead on it, and the four symmetrically arranged 'stars' mean that it needs to make a fairly straight grid or it will look sloppy.  I've been having trouble with the tension, and think that on the next side I'll start securing the beads from the start, working from the middle, to keep the crossing threads aligned (instead of tacking down the crossed threads, and putting the beads on later).  The instruction aren't clear on the matter, but I interpreted the "border" on the center piece as a thread edge around the "crossed" section, with a small gap of unembellished green fabric, and then the wider gold cord/braid at the edge of the green section.  That seems consistent with the 'thin line = thread', 'voided line = braid' convention; the white space between the two could be either the blue silk background or the green velvet/een of the center piece (both are represented as unshaded white).  In all other instances, the gold cord abuts the edge of the appliques, so I am taking it thus, rather than ending the green at the narrower thread border.
Green velveteen applique with gold embroidery in progress.

Progress status: Silk is cut and dyed, patterns are traced and cut, and the green center piece is in progress.

Dyed blue silk pieces and applique center for girdle pocket.
At the next update, I hope to have the crossed background and small beads done, and possibly the four central "stars" as well (I think they look more like flowers, personally).  The next step will be attaching the green center to the silk (through the beads on the stars/flowers), and cording the edges (I intend to couch the cords, securing the edges of the green at the same time); I then get to repeat the cording with the other appliques.  The final step will be making up the pocket and adding the gold tassel decorations.  Victorians? Subtlety? What ever do you mean?

*This may have something to do with my scissors.  Having a good sense of proportion, my apartment contains four pairs of scissors and a rotary cutter devoted to specific fabric/thread purposes, a bolt-cutter for metal, and one pair scissors for everything else.  The latter may have come off the worse in a wire-related incident a few years back (hence the bolt-cutters).

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