Category Archives: 1790s

1780-1800 Letter Case Project

My “Brown” challenge for HSM 2015 isn’t really a wearable item, and that makes me feel a little weird. It’s an accessory for an accessory, to be precise.

It started when I found a silk dress at Goodwill for $3.00. It wasn’t old or anything, just super ugly and 100% silk. So I got it. I have a hard time finding nice silk yardage around here (it’s usually raw, slubby, dupioni stuff = eww). There wasn’t a whole lot of silk there for any sort of real project, so I had to think of a small thing to make.

I have a little collection of silk floss, so I decided a little embroidery, silk on silk, would be fun to try. I designed a small letter case because I didn’t have an embroidery frame big enough for a larger one, and I wanted to be able to see the whole design at once … I kind of designed it as I went. Planning is overrated.

I used designs from a red silk letter case embroidered with gold from the Kyoto Costume Institute. I had to adapt the design for a smaller size (and less competent embroidery ability), so some elements got cut or changed. The blue flowers (which look like pinks, but “blue pinks” sounds weird) were taken from dress suit buttons, also from a KCI item. Both items are late 18th century, I think the date ranges are both 1790-1810.

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The interior is lined with the same silk (I wanted white silk, but again, I have a hard time finding silk here) and thin card stock for shape. I used cotton canvas for a backing, too.

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With my 1790s reticule.

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It’s been a long, long time …

“Haven’t blogged on here, my dear, since can’t remember when …”

Well, I can remember. April something. Pretty long ago. I could say I’ve been busy but that’s only part of the problem – I’ve been absent and distracted – not all a bad thing! – but it leads to a lack of blog posts.

I have, however, still been sewing. On the list of more awesome things I’ve sewn is my late 18th century waistcoat. It’s made of cotton (cheap thin muslin for the lining and back, and slubby thicker stuff for the front), too-heavy pewter buttons which will be replaced by nice light brass ones eventually, and a bit of cotton cording for the back.

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Since I made this waistcoat for my upcoming sailor/Royal Navy look, I had to make concessions in the original fit. That’s why I added the lacing up the back. I didn’t want to add darts … those would have been too blatantly obvious. It’s 100% hand sewn with linen thread – and I drafted the pattern myself after looking at some originals.

I HATE buttonholes – but I wanted a double-breasted front so badly. I started this waistcoat with a lot of apprehension, because I was procrastinating the buttonholes until the last minute and that means if they turned out badly, I’d be messing up a pretty much finished waistcoat. Then a coworker asked me if I’d be using a buttonhole stitch. “What’s that?” I asked.

Um, yeah. The reason I’d never been able to make a nice buttonhole is because I never knew how. Don’t know how that happened, with all the research I’ve done. So I used a buttonhole stitch for the first time and they came out nice!

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The second project I’m taking on right now is a workman’s cap. Well, that’s what it began life as, about 15 years ago. Dad wore it, it was forgotten, and I cut the seams apart a few weeks ago in order to take a pattern from it and remake it.

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Its former glory.

Then I thought, I have the time. I have a brand-new pack of Sharpies and a spool of linen thread. Why not go crazy on it? So it’s becoming this: The banyan cap of epic awesomeness.

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Bam! And I haven’t finished adding to it.

Honestly …. it’s not super accurate. The linen thread is, yes, colored by Sharpies (my fingers are a nice shade of neon yellow). Just the fact that it’s embroidered with colored linen is a little off too – it’d be way more accurate with wool embroidery. The pattern is probably a little off too, even though I’m basing it on mid-18th century embroidery and block print motifs.

But hey, it’s garish!! It’s letting me practice my satin stitch, and I even taught myself a chain stitch on it. It’s like a sampler. And it’s building my confidence in embroidery, so much that I’m considering an entire garment sometime.

But that will have to wait. Next on the list is the quintessential sailor’s jacket of the late 18th century – the mariner’s cuff, brass buttons, double-breasted, navy blue woolen goodness that I can’t wait to begin.


19th century newspapers

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We had a beautiful snowfall today! Before I went outside to enjoy it, I spent a few hours inside, looking through some old newspapers.

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J. Russell’s Gazette, Commercial and Political, for Monday, July 22, 1799. Most of the ads here are from the MD/VA/PA area, Philadelphia and Washington.

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It has the usual scattering of textile, rice, coffee and tea ads.

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Not sure if that’s the Hancock of Declaration fame or not (top center of image).

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The Daily National Intelligencer, Tuesday, December 28, 1813 …

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… has this awesome advert for millinery and clothing  …

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… and nearby, someplace to wear your new frippery. I can hear Jane Austen characters squealing as I read this.

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Clothe your Lilliputians at the Lilliputian Bazaar! From the New York Daily Tribune, November 9, 1887.

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A first-class dressmaker who comes to your home and has her own machine! Cool, right?

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And from another issue of The New York Tribune, 1887, this highly amusing story. I wonder if he tried it a second time!


My Late Reticule

I’ve recently joined The Historic Sew Fortnightly, which means I not only have deadlines for school and work, but also my hobby.

And I missed one!

I meant to submit this piece for the challenge that ended last night, but I missed it by half an hour. I would have been really lucky to get it done by then, considering that I hadn’t been a member of the group for long. Like, five days or something.

This project began when I decided to remake my little white reticule because it was a little too little. So I tried the big, pocket-shaped embroidered style popular in the late 1790s and early 1800s.

So here’s my adaptation; 100% hand sewn with linen thread and made with linen and cotton fabric, and a cotton cord for the drawstring. And probably about 2 cups of starch. Again, I used my huge embroidery vocabulary of two different stitches here. Completed, it’s about 14″ deep by 10″ wide, certainly big enough to hide an iProduct in.

For reference, here are some originals from Two Nerdy History Girls here. And some variations on the theme, from the Met, here and here.

I rushed through mine and finished it to the point of being juuust useable … but now, hey, since I missed the deadline, why not keep working on it? I’m thinking I’ll embroider the front pieces more. It could use more fancy.

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I cut two U-shaped pieces of linen, and two of cotton for the lining, and starched the bejeezus out of them because I didn’t have an embroidery hoop. I also tacked the edges together. The embroidery designs are adapted from the originals linked to above.

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I gathered a strip of linen to the edges to make the sides, and used a scrap of cotton for the drawstring casing and ruffle at the top.

 

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Close-up of the embroidery, which I like, but is super basic. And that weird circle thing in the middle of the design could have been executed wayyy better. And what the heck am I going to put inside the circle? A peacock? Maybe a basket of flowers or a cornucopia? Phhh. 

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All gathered up.

 

 


Springy Underthingies

I have been sewing a lot, which means I have other things that I’m procrastinating on.

Like midterms. The surprise one that’s due in four days. And the two papers due five days after that. And registering for Spring classes in five days.

Aaaanyway.

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From my limited research, it appears that steel springs were used in clothing beginning sometime around 1760-1780. They don’t seem to have caught on for much other than garters, which they were used for through the 19th century. The Kyoto Costume Institute has a pair of 1790s transitional stays with springs in them, but they’re the only pair I’ve ever seen.

So late 18th century springy garters are cool. I’ve wanted to make a pair for a long time, and just last weekend was given two lengths of spring suitable for them. Of course they had to happen.

IMG_2136With wire cutters, I cut 6 pieces of 3″ long springs, and made little loops on the ends with pliers.

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I sewed two pieces of cream silk taffeta in little channels, leaving about 1/4″ edges for ruffles.

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I sewed the springs to pieces of cotton tape.

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Put the silk over them,

IMG_2144and sewed smaller pieces of tape to the other ends of the springs.

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Then I cut larger pieces of the same silk and pinned them to the tape at one end, sewing the other end together.

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I flipped these over and embroidered the silk in place on the tape. I used my extensive embroidery repertoire of a backstitch and a satin stitch.

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And here’s where I left them last night: Mostly embroidered up, except for whatever I want to put in the cartouches. Maybe my initials, I don’t know. I’m pretty proud of how the embroidery came out. It’s the best I’ve ever been able to do! I’m excited to get these finished, but midterms are calling.

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Jumps 2.0

I had nothing going on this past weekend, so I cranked out my new jumps.

I machine-sewed them, which went against my new habit of hand sewing everything … but I wanted to spend more time fitting and experimenting with a new pattern then putzing with hand sewing. I’m reacting against my last stays experience: I spent a looong time hand sewing those and they came out very well made, but don’t fit so well.

I saved the pattern for these, so I’ll make a second, hand-sewn pair later. I want to make the second pair in white cotton and embroider them, like the original. Mine are made from about 1.5 yards of bulky cotton/linen canvas in a drab tan/olive color. I used steel boning and some nice waxed cotton cord for the stay lace.

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The plan, based on a pair of 1780s-90s jumps at Colonial Williamsburg, probably worn by Ann Van Rensselaer in New York. These jumps aren’t on the CW website anymore (!?!?!) but they’re in What Clothes Reveal, by Linda Baumgarten, page 211. 

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“cut here”

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The front part boned, and the back part chalked out.

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Ironing the ends over to sew the back pieces in.

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Handmade eyelets in between ugly machine-sewn channels. 

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On my desk, almost finished!

So right now they’re pretty much finished. They went together very quickly, and the design is flattering and doesn’t use up a huge amount of materials. I’ll see if I can get some nicer pictures of them soon.

 


Tomorrow = 20 days

I didn’t expect to be so busy with school this month, so writing a blog post had to be delayed. But I’ve been sewing for short amounts of time every so often, and I’ve gotten a lot more done!

1) The bodiced/un-bodiced petticoat hasn’t been altered yet; I guess I got bored,

2) My printed blue cotton dress is now finished; I added hooks & eyes to the back (not my original plan, and not how the original closed, but now it’s wearable),

3) I made a nice white linen chemisette with cotton lace trim,

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I eyeballed this from the earliest, simplest, documented chemisette I could find. It’s probably most accurate for 1800-1815. The collar doesn’t really fall the way the original did. I really wanted a dorset button for the closure under the collar, but I couldn’t find my button stash at the time. If I find it I’ll upgrade from this mismatched hook & eye.

4) I’ve gotten about halfway done with that 1760s waistcoat I began a little while back,

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It’s wrinkly and saggy on my tiny hanger, but look at that wool. It’s black with a white diaper pattern woven in, and it’s gorgeous. The rest of the waistcoat is made from some of the nicest linen I’ve ever found. I’m really excited for how it’s turning out!

5) because I wanted a cool hat, I made a small, green linen calash,

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I dyed linen green, and I chucked a spool of linen thread in the dye too – but of course it didn’t take color so well, so I had to Sharpie the thread darker later. And I didn’t take enough photos of the process, but the body of the calash is basically a rectangle with a number of metal bones running through it, and the ends of that are gathered to a binding. The back is a teardrop shape, boned, and the calash body is gathered to that.

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Finished! It’s not perfect but it’s cool. It turned out a little too small; the ridges touch the top of my head. I also made it too long, so I had to add thread stops inside to keep it from extending fully. Right now it has icky polyester ribbons, but I want to get some nice silk ones for it soon.

6) and because I don’t know when to stop, I decided that I need a nice comfy pair of half-boned 1780s stays. They’d be better for the events I do, which involve setting up displays and then sitting for hours on end – something my fully boned 1740s/60s stays aren’t so nice for. I haven’t taken scissors to cloth yet, though, I’m still thinking about how to do those. Later.

 

And finally, a tiny life hack. I needed to shape and pad out this mannequin a lot to photograph my 1880s bodice, and my epiphany was to use old shoulder pads. I pinned them to the mannequin making sure the pin heads were flush. They really helped puff out the tails. I’m thinking of making some ‘for real’, with nice cotton and fiberfill.

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