Tuesday, 30 May 2017

A green knit purse (HSM #5)

For several years now, I've been casually reading through the Workwoman's Guide. This is a wonderful book published in 1838 by an anonymous author (only known as "A Lady" on the title page), and it contains instructions for all sorts of things, from making up clothing and fabric house furnishings, and straw plaiting to household receipts. If you've ever wanted to learn "how to destroy flies" this book has got your back. There is also a section on knitting. I've always been intrigued in particular by the latter- where there are illustrations for most of the various objects in the sewing section, there are relatively few for the knitting section, and, furthermore, many of the knitting patterns have extremely vague titles (to demonstrate the full extent of this: one of the stitches it lists is actually called "The Nondescript")! And let's just say, after you get to the third or fourth pattern simply called "A Purse" you begin wondering what's actually going on in these knitting instructions. This was what brought me to try out on of the patterns- and in fact, I did start with one of the multiple purse entries! The pattern is below:

Source: A Lady. The Workwoman's Guide. London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co. 1838. Click to enlarge.
As with many early knitting pattern, basically no needle size, knitting gauge etc. specified. At least, I figured, this is a purse, so the finished size doesn't matter as much as it would for some item of clothing that actually has to fit a human being. I cast on using the instructions for the coarser gauge, using a set of 1.25 mm knitting needles, and some leftover green crochet thread from my Pineapple Purse. The resulting width actually seemed to not be all that different from the widths in dimension descriptions I had found for these purses on various museum sites, so this must be a decent gauge to work in. The Raised French stitch described here is essentially a pattern of a round of alternating decreases and open/increase stitches, followed by three rounds of plain knitting (arrgh, now I'm beginning to talk like this book!! I mean stocking stitch).

By the time I had finished knitting, I ended up with this tube with a hole in the middle. Unfortunately it's not actually as long as it should be, as I had mislaid the instructions while working on the opening and ended up knitting only half the slit length that the pattern called for.

The long green tube.

I figured this could be a form of Miser's Purse (or if it were longer maybe you could tie it up??) so I added some soldered jumprings from the jewelry store to slide the purse closed.

Now it looks like a candy!!

I got a chance to try it out this weekend at a big multiple house yardsale that happened on my street (hopefully I'll have more on that later!). It worked very well- provided that you only use coins and sort your change really well before you put it in... maybe not that useful on an everyday basis, but in a yardsale context it's decent. I also got a lot of compliments from neighbours on this funny little purse.

An action photo- my purse with money in it.

So now for the Historical Sew Monthly stats. The challenge: Literature.

What the item is: A knit miser's purse.

Challenge: I remembered as I was knitting this about a particular chapter in Thackeray's Vanity Fair. When I went back to the book, I realised that there is an entire chapter called "The Green Silk Purse", where Becky Sharpe and Joseph Sedley flirt while Becky knits a green silk purse during her stay at the Sedleys' family home. There's even an illustration!
W.M. Thackeray, "Mr. Joseph Entangled", 1861. 
Source: Scanned by Gerald Ajam
In this specific scene, Becky gets Joseph to help her wind her skein of purse thread onto a card.

'this arrangement left Mr. Joseph Sedley tête-à-tête with Rebecca. at the drawing-room table, where the latter was occupied in knitting a green silk he talked on, he grew quite bold, and actually had the audacity to ask Miss Rebecca for whom she was knitting the green silk purse? He was quite surprised and delighted at his own graceful familiar manner.

'“For any one who wants a purse,” replied Miss Rebecca, looking at him in the most gentle winning way. Sedley was going to make one of the most eloquent speeches possible, and had begun—“O Miss Sharp, how——” when some song which was performed in the other room came to an end, and caused him to hear his own voice so distinctly that he stopped, blushed, and blew his nose in great agitation.'

Materials: My purse is made from cotton crochet thread, rather than the silk in the book, but it was what I already had in my stash, so I figured I might as well use it.
Pattern: "For A Purse" from the Workwoman's Guide, in the section on knitting (the very top pattern on page 267).

Year: 1838. This works rather perfectly, because not only were these kind of purses used throughout the 19th century, but this is actually also a reasonable in-between date to bridge the 1810's, when this scene is set, and the 1840's, when the novel was written.

How historically accurate is it? I followed the pattern fairly precisely, and the dimensions of the purse correspond decently well to examples dated to the early 19th century on museum websites, although mine is a bit too short because I accidentally ommitted several repeats of the pattern. I also used mercerized cotton, which would not have been available yet at the time that this pattern was published.

First used: May 27th, in the local laneway yard sale.

Cost: Part of a leftover from my stash, but originally the entire ball of yarn cost $7.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

A Directoire Gown (or, The most non-committal gown of all time) (HSM #4)

 This year I helped out at the local Jane Austen festival, and I decided for the ball that it would be nice to have some kind of ballgown. I went to my stash and found a pretty turquoise gauze that I had gotten a couple of years ago from one of my neighbours in a yardsale. As I was thinking over what design to use, it occurred to me that I'm generally extremely uncomfortable with wearing clothing with the Empire silhouette, even though I've been attending events with the local Regency group for years (I always end up skirting around the period*puns*-, which is why I've made a bunch of 1780's/90's garments and an 1820's/30's style gown but nothing in between). I decided then, with this dress, to commit to as little cutting as possible- I loved the fabric and didn't want to see it go to waste if I ended up disliking it (although as it turned out, this was not a concern at all!).

This got me thinking of what specific part of the 1800-1820 time period would be easiest to create with minimal cutting. I decided on a neoclassical/very early 19th century- inspired design. I figured a neoclassical look would be the best to minimize cutting given that the focus was more on drapery than a tailored look. In fact, the ancient garments from which the early 19th century drew inspiration were often made up of more or less complete lengths of fabric woven to size, and, when cut, were made with little to no waste fabric.*

*I think there may be an interesting discussion of this in Dorothy Burnham's Cut my Cote, which explores the history of clothing cut to loom widths in various cultures (and has DIAGRAMS!). I can't remember if there was any mention of Classical Antiquity in it, but a very good book either way.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A riding habit petticoat (HSM #3)

Now that I am posting late HSM's, here is another one I finally got photos for just this week.

What the item is: 18th century riding habit petticoat

The Challenge, and how this item fulfills it: riding habits (as I'm going to call them, because I don't know a better name) were often worn in this period for outdoor leisure pursuits.

Fabric/Materials: 2 metres of unbleached cotton fabric fabric- that amazingly cheap IKEA drapery backing that they sell by the metre, 2 metres of twill tape

Pattern: my own

Year: 1785-1795

Notions: white cotton thread & wax

How historically accurate is it? The construction itself is decent, but I've had a difficult time figuring out whether or not the material I used is more like a (valuable) nankeen or a (cheap) onasbruck- I've never gotten a chance to see either of these types of fabric in real life, so that remains a mystery to me.

Hours to complete: not many

First worn: for pictures (with last year's HSM 11 waistcoat).

Total cost: $6 cad.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Spring is here... and a pineapple to celebrate!

It finally looks like spring is here to stay (here's hoping... you never know). Assuming spring has come for good, here's a fun warm weather-y project I've been working on lately:

The pattern for this tiny little purse is a combination of the instructions from Franklin Habit's and Isabel Gancedo's patterns,* both of which are based off an 1840's pattern from Gaugain's The Lady's Assistant (1840). It was surprisingly simple to make, and I just love the strange texture of the whole purse.

ALL the pineapple spikes!!

The thread was a size 16 crochet cotton with 1.5mm (I think) needles- I should maybe have made the gauge a little tighter in the body though. I added glass seed beads in coordinating colours where the pattern called for beading. I'm not sure whether or not I'll line it, but I'm making up the drawstring now, and I think I'll leave any considerations of lining until after that's finished.

And look at the inside as well! I find this pattern so neat!

*If you are a fan of Ravelry, both patterns can be found there as well.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

A modified Regency brisé fan (HSM #2)

I actually hope to put up documentation and a tutorial for this soon enough (and I know the post is pretty late already). Anyway, here it is.

Challenge/What the item is: A Regency/ Empire brisé fan. It was a simple sandalwood fan that I re-shaped (filed down/sanded and sawed- hence the scalloped edges) and re-strung (replaced the plastic thread with silk) to give it a more early 19th century look.

Material: sandalwood, metal rivet pin (already part of fan), silk thread (my addition)

Year: 1800- 1815

Notions: Silk thread, wax for thread, Sandpaper (both coarse and fine)

How historically accurate is it? I tried to give the edges a scalloped shape similar to photos I've seen of extant fans, and cut off part of the bottom to make the bottom of the fan end closer to the pin. Most of the examples I saw while researching this made of ivory or horn, rather than wood, and had ribbon to hold them together rather then thread (the slats are so thin though that I didn't want to risk ruining them by carving larger holes in them. Although the angle of opening of the fan is ok for this time (as far as I know...) if I were handier with rivets I'd also take out some slats and make the fan opening angle more acute.

Hours to complete: Estimating 5, including time for figuring out how to do it.

First worn: Not yet.

Total cost: Fan= $1.25 CAD + a small amount of silk thread already in stash.

Friday, 16 December 2016

1790s habit waistcoat (HSM #11)

I was originally going to post this project for the Historical Sew Monthly "Pattern" challenge. It's been long enough though now that I figure I might as well post this under the Red challenge (it has some red in it). When I found the fabric I made this up with, it made me think of some of the roller-printed cottons from the turn of the 19th century. There is actually a small leaf scrolling pattern in between the stripes, which may or may not be very evident in the photos here.

Challenge: Red. I was originally going for the Pattern challenge, but that was a fairly long time ago now.

Material: 1/2 metre striped quilting cotton, about 1/2 metre beige drapery cotton, and some canvas for the fronts, lapels and collar.

Pattern: Adapted from plate XIX of The Cut of Men's Clothes, by Norah Waugh (and altered to fit over stays- I cut down the back, took in the waist, shortened the body a lot, and made the lapels slightly smaller). I used the descriptions of contemporary waistcoat construction in Costume Close Up (by Linda Baumgarten).

Period: 1790s.

Notions: Cotton thread, metal washers (bases for the buttons), wax, thin cotton tape.
I'm so happy with this stripe match!

How historically accurate is it?: Maybe 80%. I sewed it entirely by hand. It's completely made of cotton (although cotton thread still wasn't really a thing in this period, so points down for that). To be honest, I don't know that much about how accurate the weight of the striped fabric was for this (it's really thin).

I cut it down from a men's pattern, and the fit works for now, but next time I think I would cut a deeper curve on the front (Lesson learned: don't sew with striped fabric when trying a pattern for the first time!), I would also cut back the armscye some more (I had already cut it fairly substantially back from the original pattern.


I took inspiration for the cut of my waistcoat from these gorgeous examples at the V&A museum:
I love the collar and lapels on the red waistcoat (besides its striking colour), and I thought the embroidery pattern on the striped one was very pretty.

  Left: Wool, 1790-95; Right: Linen with silver-gilt embroidery, 1790s

I didn't end up making it double breasted though, because I was so fed-up with buttonholes after sewing the first line of them!
I also changed the back from a lacing back, like these two examples have, to a back closed with ties (see above). Ties appear to also have been a period way of closing the back, though I don't know how common they were on women's waistcoats (as opposed to men's).

Hours to complete:
It took far longer than I had intended. I fully started this in the middle of the summer. It was all good though, because I learned lots of important things while making this piece.

First worn: For pictures.

Total cost: 0.5 metres striped fabric- $3
0.5 metres beige cotton- $1.50
0.25 yard canvas- $1.5
4 washers-15¢
some silk thread which I used on the buttonholes before realising that not all silk thread is appropriate as buttonhole twist- $4
= $10.15
All my other notions I already had.

A sample of materials and tools I used to make this. Ok, I didn't end up using the hammer- that was just there by coincidence- but all the rest I used! My table was unusually organised when I took this photo. Sadly enough, the table has since descended into pandemonium...

Friday, 26 August 2016

A new summer dress

Well, summer is starting to wrap up, but I figured I might as well post a summer dress I finished earlier in the season.

A couple of years ago, I started working on the Butterick reprint pattern 6055. After making it up though, I abandoned it because the fit was pretty weird (I think it didn't help that I accidentally cut it a size too big). After some intensive re-cutting, I ended up removing more than an inch of material from the shoulder seam on either side, and it looks a lot better now. The fit still isn't perfect. Lopping all that off the top of the dress made most of the bodice fit better, but has caused some strange little wrinkles along the collar line... Thankfully the fabric print seems loud enough to distract from it!

Another thing with this dress which I didn't know at first is that it looks best with a belt (especially if the fabric is really busy like mine). There is a belt pattern included in the envelope, but I drafted this one on my own and it's a bit different from the pattern that came with it. It's made from some leftover black fabric from my other reprint dress, and a black plastic buckle from the local fabric store. The belt's base is made from several strips of canvas and burlap base that I used instead of belting.

Some black accents at the neck are a cute addition!