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 pictures of 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.