Last year in April I spent two weeks in Lyons for a professional training. I told you briefly about it in my post about a little treasure I found there. To do a little crafting as well, I searched my historical magazines for a small project that I could take with me and realise without too much of equipment.
I decided on a crocheted lace I found in the fashion magazine “Der Bazar” from January 1872, according to the title it is meant to be used on “underskirts and the like”. What I liked about it, was the combination of two colours, while only one is used to crochet, the second one just lies inside the stitches. The tutorial asked for two shades of brown castor wool (that means beaver’s wool) but as I didn’t want to buy anything new I went with cotton yarn in blue and red.
To crochet this lace wasn’t really fun at all. The loose lengths of yarn tended to tangle and the effect wasn’t nearly as neat as in the illustration. So it took me until a few weeks ago to finish what it less than 2y of lace and I’m still not too happy with the result and keep thinking about how to use it. Maybe a wool less slippery would improve the result, castor wool is said to be very fine and of high quality. I only know it felted into hats, so I have no idea how spun castor wool would look or feel like. Still, it was fun to recreate such an old tutorial and to see how it actually looks like when realised.
Letztes Jahr verbrachte ich zwei Wochen des Aprils auf einer Fortbildung in Lyon, kurz hatte ich letzten Juni davon erzählt, als ich über einen kleinen Bücherfund schrieb. Um abends die Hände etwas beschäftigen zu können, suchte ich vor meiner Abreise nach einem kleinen, reisefähigen Projekt, das ohne viel Ausrüstung realisierbar wäre.
Die Wahl fiel auf eine Häkelspitze aus dem “Bazar” vom 29. Januar 1872, laut Titel eine “Bordüre zur Garnitur von Unterröcken und dergl.” Vor allem die Idee, zwei verschiedene Farben zu kombinieren, aber nur mit einer davon wirklich zu häkeln und die zweite eher wie ein Durchzugband zu gebrauchen, gefiel mir. Die Anleitung forderte Castorwolle in zwei Brauntönen, da ich jedoch mit dem arbeiten wollte, was da war, wurde es Baumwollhäkelgarn in rot und blau. Castorwolle wird aus Biberfell gemacht, welches mir bisher nur als Material für Hüte bekannt war. Ich habe überhaupt keine Idee, wie dieses Haar versponnen aussehen würde.
Nun, so toll war das Projekt am Ende nicht. Die mitlaufenden Fäden sind immer im Weg und verheddern sich nach Lust und Laune und das Ergebnis sah lange nicht so sauber und eindrücklich aus wie in der Abbildung (der klassische “Serviervorschlag”-Effekt). Daher tat ich mich schwer damit, es abzuschliessen und brauchte tatsächlich bis letzten Monat für weniger als 2m, zufrieden bin ich immer noch nicht. Bügeln half etwas, trotzdem weiss ich noch nicht, wo ich die Spitze verwenden will. Vielleicht hätte eine weniger glatte Wolle das Ergebnis verbessert, Biberwolle soll sehr fein sein und verhält sich sicher anders als merzerisierte Baumwolle. Trotzdem war es ein nettes kleines Projekt, ich mag es ja gern, so alten Anleitungen wieder Leben einzuhauchen.
Already a while ago I was asked if I would like to share some of the old fashion plates I have.
Of course I would! Unfortunately most are too large for my small scanner and I don’t want to damage them, but I do what I can. Additionally you can already find so many scans on the interweb, so if you are searching for good scans you might want to check if someone else already uploaded what you are searching for.
Here are the colour plates in my “Journal des Demoiselles” from 1878. Unfortunately some are missing, you can find all plates (and the text as well) here.
I know this post is a little late, but I had to find some of the older pictures of this project to get it done. So I only posted a little image on facebook to officially complete the challenge in time, but of course it will get its own post.
The 21st HSF-Challenge was “Re-Do”. This means, you could do just anything, as long as it matched one of the previous challenges (and I strongly believe with 20 challenges to chose from, you could really do next to everything). I think my project would best fit into the UFO&PHD-challenge (Un-Finished-Objects and Projects Half Done), but could also be related to the Tops&Toes-challenge.
Everything started with a little discussion on Anne Elisabeth’s blog “Munich Rococo”. I was unable to find this discussion, but it has to have been in late 2012 or early 2013. I think the context was that many things, pictures and artefacts from bygone eras can only be fully understood when used. One of the examples was a footstool, these tiny little stools you can see in what feels like every second interior scene from the 18th century onwards.
The question was, what for was such a footstool. To rest you feet on, that’s for sure. But why? Because the feet shouldn’t touch the ground? To protect silk slippers and stockings from hard wood planks? Those who had some re-encactment experience knew the answer quite well and with it came a second answer: why did they vanish?
The answer is really so simple: To keep you warm. In rooms without central heating the floor is really cold so resting your feet on the floor would leave you with a pair of chilled bones and flesh in a very short time, leading to colds, flus and bladder infections. By resting you feet onto a little footstool, the feet were kept away from the cold surface and didn’t cool so easily. And when living, building, heating and isolating changed during the 20th century, these little helpers became dispensable.
Well, I am one of the girls that is always cold. I manage to have cold hands and feet the whole year, but in winter I am simply freezing, especially when I sit down and read a book or write something.
As you can imagine, I was destined to get such a footstool for myself.
I don’t know when exactly it was, but one afternoon a friend and I made a charity-second-hand-shopping tour in Berne. And amongst all the stuff I bought that day was this:
Cute little footstool to restore, because it was really damaged.
The straps that where meant to support the whole thing and your feet on top of it were completely torn.
When I removed the upper fabric, I found another layer below:
Both fabrics completely removed and I was left with this:
You see a thin layer of wadding inside the outer fabric, the black fabric underneath and on the far right the footstool. The edges are covered with jute. Now let’s remove this molleton thingy in the middle:
From left to right: the black fabric you already know, the removed molleton, the whatsoever plant-like filling and the disembowelled footstool. You see the straps hanging down. The jute edge was intact and because I have no experience in upholstery I left it like that.
I removed the jute straps and stapled new ones to the wooden frame:
Do you recognize what it is? These are ribbons to be cross stitch embroidered, these terrible, old-fashioned ribbons to hang on your door to repel welcome your visitors. I had these because a mother of a former friend of mine had embroidered very much back in the 80ies and gave me all the stuff she still had. They are very strong and wide enough to serve this purpose. The jute you see behind the straps comes from the same context. I didn’t want to drop the filling all over the place when using the footstool, so I added this layer to the bottom.
Like this it stayed since march 2013. I was scared to cut the new fabric and to fail. Somewhere in between I repainted it. I had planned to remove all the paint and just add some clear coat to protect it. Unfortunately the wood had changed its colour. Some parts were very bright, others remained as dark as the paint on them had been. Maybe this was low quality wood and it had always been like that, not meant to be shown ever again. Well, anyway. I had to decide for a darker colour to paint it, but I wanted the structure to shine through, so I searched for wood stain or glaze. Considering the colours of the fabric I wanted to use, I imagined a reddish, honey-like brown. Yes, I found it but only in so large tins I wasn’t willing to buy them for such a tiny project. So I went with a very dark, blackish brown. I am not completely happy with the paint but for my very first project it is ok. And then it took me until two weeks ago to move on:
Instead of wadding the outer fabric, I wadded the inner one. A red cotton leftover, wadded with pure wool, the one I had already used in my cape.
I nailed it to the frame on one side before adding the filling. Usually you use coconut fibres to fill upholstery, but this wasn’t available in a standard hardware store. In the pet division I found an alternative: hay!
When I had finished, it looked like this:
To attach the outer fabric I bought gold-coloured bullen-nails. You can already see the fabric lying in the background in the photo above. There is a little story to this fabric, too:
When I was in Lyons in autumn 2012 for a hands-on training, I was given the task to do some research on Philippe de Lasalle, a lyonese silk entrepreneur and designer of the 18th century. Every year in november, the Marché des Soies takes place in the Palais du Commerce in Lyons. When I went there in 2012 I loved to see all the different dealers, look at all the silks and I spent hours watching a group of silkworms eat their way through a bunch of mulberry leaves. Beside the silkworm breeder, one stall was of particular interest to me: Tassinari et Chatel. This enterprise is one of the oldest silk fabric producers still existant in Lyons, founded as early as 1680. In the 1760ies, Etienne Pernon, the director of this enterprise which was called the “Maison Pernon” back then, started a very successful cooperation with Philippe de Lasalle, the very Lasalle whose life I was researching. In 1779 the managment was passed over to his son Camille Pernon and the cooperation persisted until 1789, when the french revolution forched de Lasalle to flee and leave all his equipment behind. Whereas Camille Pernon was able to withstand the changes and resumed to business as soon as possible, Lasalle seems to have been unable to find a place in this now new world. No trace of any business activity can be found afterwards, the machines that weren’t destroyed during the revolution he gave to the city of Lyons to train weavers and silk designers on them. He died in 1804.*
But back to the market stall of Tassinari et Chatel. I knew they still weave some of the old designs and they offered piles of different silk leftovers (I mean, they make interior silks for walls and upholstery, so their leftover panels could be as long as 4 metres). I was unable to find a Lasalle weaving amongst them but was very tempted to buy some other designs I had come across during my research, though they were terribly pricy. Fortunately in the end I found a basket with small leftovers, approximately 50cmx50cm-large pieces of silk. Five different pieces in a bag for 25€. One of these was to become the cover of my footstool. To me it seems like a design from the first quarter of the 19th century, unfortunately I found nothing in any museum database that comes remotely close to this design, so I can’t show you anything to compare it with.
Now, I fear I have already talked to much, so I will finally show you the pictures:
And to show the size, it is really small.
What the item is: A footstool. Bought the footstool itself for little money in a charity shop. gave it a new glaze, a new filling and a new fabric cover.
The Challenge: #21 Re-Do (UFOs and PHDs, Tops & Toes, Make, Do & Mend)
Fabric: red cotton, pure silk from Tassinari & Chatel in Lyons, France
Pattern: Just traced the old fabric to get the right size for the cotton layer and the right amount of filling. The silk I pinned to the cotton and cut around it.
Year: Early 19th century, though the footstool itself looks a little older with this swung legs. But it could have been reupholstered (the footstool itself might date from the first quarter of the 20th century)
Notions: Jute and strong woven ribbon, hay, wool batting, nails, bullen-nails, dark brown glaze
How historically accurate is it? Well, I can’t say anything about the carpentry. The jute and the ribbons I attached with staples rather than nails. Hay could be accurate, as could be the wool batting. The cotton cover is not acurate, the silk certainly is, though it was woven on a modern loom and not on a historical drawstring loom.
Hours to complete: 2-3, complete with painting and everything.
First worn: Stands in front of the sofa as is used when sitting on it with the laptop on my knees since last week.
Total cost: Five silk scraps in a bag cost me 25€, this was a little more than half of one, so let’s say 3€. Because I bought a lot in the charity shop the day I bought the footstool the seller asked 40CHF for everything, thinking of what I bought I would say I paid around 5€ for the footstool. Bullen-Nails, glaze and nails did cost quite a bit, so let’s say 25€?
See you soon,
* Sources for the above paragraph:
Belle M. Borland: Philippe de Lasalle. His contrbution to the textile industry of Lyons, Chicago 1936
Marie-Jo de Chaignon: Philippe de Lasalle. Dessinateur de soierie à Lyon au XVIIIe siècle. In: Soie en Touraine, Tours 2003, p. 14-21
Liliane Hilaire-Pérez: Inventing in a world of guilds. The case of silk fabrics in Lyon in the XVIIIth century. In: K. Scott [publ.]: Interiors, Decoration and Design. Essays in the history snd Aesthetics of material culture in 18th century France (no year and place given)
Third challenge in a row, I am optimistic to really meet my goal of doing half of this year’s challenges 😀
The theme for this fortnight’s challenge was “HSF Inspiration”. So basically you could do anything, as long as it had been inspired by some project previously made for the HSF. I started from the back and began looking at the old HSF-photos of 2013, so at the projects I hadn’t seen before, because I didn’t participate last year (I am not sure if you have to be a member of the group, but here is the link to the fb-albums).
After having checked what I had in stock concerning lace and ribbons I decided to try this design:
I was able to use a leftover from a long forgotton project, a wide, mat bias binding in a pale lavender. I paired this with a matching rose satin ribbon and black bobbin lace. The tutorial had asked for black lace and velvet ribbon and green grosgrain ribbon, but neither did I have these colours nor did I want it to be that dark.
Because my satin ribbon was so narrow I doubled it, a third bow would have crossed the line to a gift-wrapping-effect 🙂
I roughly followed the instructions of the tutorial, but my main focus was the picture: The whole thing is based on a circle (the tutorial says half circle, I completely overlooked this), the original of buckram, mine is grey felt. A part of the rim gets covered with pleated ribbon (I cut the bias binding in half) and a layer of lace on top. Now the long piece of lace is attached, as you see it is doubled and sewn together at the straight edges. I had to iron and wrinkle the lace to make it lie flat at the end, I am sure with a tulle lace as shown in the original drawing this was much less bulky. To completely cover the felt I added a rest of the lace to the whole thing. On top of it all I placed the bow I had formed out of the two different ribbons. The lace and the ribbon might be a tiny bit shorter as the tutorial asks for, but first this is all I had left of the bias binding and second I didn’t want to make it too extravagant, so I can maybe wear it without full 1870ies attire.
If you would like to make your own, I tried to translate the istructions for you:
To make this bow arrange a 76cm length of 6,5cm wide green grosgrain ribbon on one end into narrow box pleats of 1cm width each until you end up with 11cm of pleated ribbon. Sew this folded part of the ribbon onto a half circle cut out of buckram (3,5cm diametre), 1cm away from the outer rim.This is covered as the image shows with 5cm of pleated black lace. Now add a length of two laces that you connected at the straight edges, ruffles the last part of it so it forms a half circle. The final length of the lace should be 20cm. Additionally ad a 40cm piece of the green grosgrain ribbon, a 10 and 6cm loop of the same ribbon as well as a small loop and a folded knot of black velvet ribbon. The latter covers all ends and seams of the other loops.
The rest of the satin ribbon I used as a loop on the bottom side to attach it to the head with bobby pins.
The Challenge: #19 HSF Inspiration
Fabric: a small circle of grey polyester felt
Pattern: tutorial without a pattern found in “Der Bazar. Illustrirte Damen=Zeitung, Nr. 21, June 3rd 1872
Notions: black and lavender thread, rose satin ribbon, lavender bias binding (both synthetic fibres), black bobbin lace (maybe cotton or linen).
How historically accurate is it? Not too much. I roughly followed the instructions, I made everything by hand and the result looks remotely like the image in the tutorial. But I used modern, artificial fibres instead of silk ribbons.
Hours to complete: 1-1,5
First worn: not worn yet.
Total cost: Felt and bias binding were leftovers from other projects, the ribbon had been in my stock for years, I assume it cost around 0.50-0.80 €/m. The lace was bought either at a flea market or a charity shop, can’t remember when or how I bought it, I assume I found it in a sewing basket or bag of laces I bought. All in total not more than 1-2€.
Well, this month’s challenge was art. Now you may think, me as an art historian, I might love this challenge and burst from ideas.
mh…not at all. Though I love art and have many works of art in mind I am sure would be a great project to recreate, I had two major problems:
1st: I only very occasionally work from the finished project backwards. I do not tend to recreate garments. I chose a pattern and a fabric and test were they will lead me. Most of the time the result does not meet the expectations I had beforehand, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the worse.
To use a garment or a piece of art as the first step and trying to recreate this, makes me feel very uneasy. I desperately try to match what I see or want to reproduce with a pattern I have in mind, so I don’t have to create one on my own. I am really cowardish when it comes to experimenting with patterns.
To spoiler you only a little, this was something that pushed me while working on this challenge and I discovered very new ways of creating garments. So this aspect really did pay.
2nd: My fabric-cupboard bursts with fabrics as does the built-in closet next to it. Additionally we will have to move again soon, so buing new fabric was strictly forbidden.
Now let’s come to the cheating in the title: Knowing I would panic when having to recreate a costume without a pattern, first thing I did was flip through my patterns and pattern books. I so hoped that Janet Arnold may have written “comparable to the dress depicted in xyz” next to a pattern she traced or that I may recognize a famous painting or an engraving in one of the dresses in Nora Waugh’s “The cut of women’s clothes”.
Well, neither was the case. So I put these books aside and had a look at all the coffee table and art books I found on my bookshelf. Because it had been months since I read the description of the challenge, I first searched only for some loose inspiration, finally deciding to catch the structure of the fassade of Santa Maria Novella in Florence in a skirt.
Fortunately I re-read Leimomi’s post before I started and realized that she aimed for a much closer connection between the work of art and the project. So my search started anew.
Soon I had to realize that my prohibition of fabric buying was a much larger hurdle than my pattern-paranoia and very quickly I used the fabric question as my main criteria to chose an artwork.
So when I finally found a painting that suited some paticular fabrics of my stash….wonder oh wonder…. the question wasn’t anymore “oh help, I don’t have a pattern” but rather “what can I do to recreate this”.
Now you might say: what, are you kidding? No, not at all. For years I had some light pink cotton velvet in my stash I once found in a charity shop, as well as two Ikea-mosquito-nets, one in white I had bought for my room when I was 16 and a 2nd one in pink I bought from a fellow member of the online sewing board I am registered at, still wrapped.
They had all moved with me twice and I had no idea what to make from them.
And though it is very likely that the top of her dress is satin, it could as well be velvet in this reproduction.
This leads me to the picture itself: I found it in the 1904 (not dated, but dates in the texts suggest this) issue of “Moderne Kunst in Meister-Holzschnitten”, the translation already says everything: Modern art in Master-Woodcuts. While the majority of the pictures are black-and-white and indeed woodcuts, this is one of the few coloured plates inside. It can’t be a photographic reproduction in colour and it doesn’t seem to have been coloured afterwards, so I assume it is a copy after the original. While searching for the original I got quite confused. The artist, Pierre Carrier-Belleuse, painted a lot of ballet-dancers and the title given in my book, “Er liebt mich nicht”, that means He doesn’t love me, didn’t show any result at all.
But after some searching online I still hadn’t found the one original, in fact I had found four! All in different sizes, different styles and some undated (there wasn’t a date given in the book, 1898 is the years the dated originals were made).
Well, I won’t start arguing about attributions here, but especially the third painting is strikingly different from the other, don’t you think? The version I have printed in my book seems closest to the first and the last link, but I can’t tell for sure.
Now, enough talk about art, let’s come to my dress.
As I already meantioned, this project pushed me out of my comfort zone, giving me not only a period I had rarely worked in, but also the task to reproduce a dress without any pattern at all. I consulted the above mentioned Nora Waugh book and studied the dart placement and the cutting lines of late 19th century garments. After this I took a piece of cotton and started pinning on my sewing mannequin. And it worked! I am still a little baffles that I had to face neither any disappointments nor catastrophes, as I was so sure they would come.
After I had completed the cotton version, I pinned this to my velvet, using the cotton as my lining (you will laugh when you see a photo of it below. It is the rest of a baby quilt I made for my boyfriend’s cousin, whose wife had a baby in january. Therefore it is a light pink cotton printed with white bunnies and ducks).
I have seen many 19th century costumes in the past weeks and most of them had one thing in common: Today we tend to sew the lining and the outside fabric seperately and connect them only on the edges and maybe a few spots to avoid shifting. The 19th century costumes are usually sewn in one layer, so darts and seams are stitched through all layers, leaving you with the seam allowances inside and not hidden between the layers. Normally the seams are finished with hand stitching or bias binding to avoid fraying.
So this was my method to go: pin the lining, at the same time my just constructed pattern, onto the left side of the velvet, close all seams and darts, stitching through all layers at once. I had cut the lining at the edges where I wanted the bodice to end, so all I had to do was to flap the hem and neckline allowance of the velvet to the inside and sew it. I used boning in the front darts and the side seams or should I say “cable tie-ing”, because that’s what I used (I once bought a package to try it and this were the last six I had, not that I am a large fan of cable-tie-boning, it really isn’t stiff enough for my taste)?
The painting doesn’t show very good, how the bodice closes, but it looks like a wrap bodice to me, so I made the front edges a convex shape and closed it with hooks and thread loops, made from white crochet yarn.
I didn’t know how to make the shoulder-straps, because there was quite a lot of fabric and a sharp curve from the darts. While I could have made a real princess seam and seperating the front into a middle and a side part, I went for a little pleat in the strap.
I don’t have a seperate photo from the skirt. I just used a white cotton ribbon tied around the hips of my mannequin and pleated the mosquito nets onto it. I started at the top of the net and after having finished a round I cut it where I wanted my hem to be and starting anew, always using pink and white alternatingly. I also had real, stiff tulle, but that wasn’t pink and I could have only put it on top of this skirt to have to effect of a real ballerina’s tutu. But when I had finished my mosquito net slaughter I already didn’t know when to wear such a pink tulle skirt, so I assume I would have even less oportunities to wear an even larger tutu.
Because only for the record: I don’t dance at all, the ballet lessons I had in my life can be counted on one hand (I think it was four, I desperately wanted to learn it, but the teacher was just so bad, I didn’t even stayed during the cancellation period my mother had to adhere to).
But: I love ballet slippers and wear them at home all the time. And yes, it is always quite funny when buing them, “oh, you don’t dance…ok” 😀
Oh, I assume you finally want to see the result? Here it is:
I have to apologize, it was very bad light today and not even photoshop could help that.
Because I didn’t know how the back was meant to be, I went for a simple v-neckline as seen in some of the patterns I had looked at beforehand. When seing it now I have to admit it would have been better to include a centre back seam.
To avoid a gap between the very low hanging tutu and the bodice, I attached hooks and eyes to connect them (I only had black ones left in this size and didn’t want to buy new ones only for a fancy dress).
Now, after having finished it only this morning I have to say, the project was much larger than I wanted it to be, I made a dress I will presumably never wear but at a fancy dress party, I spent so much time making it (everything but the side seams and the skirt is hand sewn, because I didn’t want any seams to be visible outside). But I got rid of some large chunks of my fabric stash, I learned very much and it is so much fun jumping aroung in it 😀 This is for all the ballet lessons I never took.
Both of the mosquito nets had small metal rings to attach them to the ceiling. While the used one’s resembled more an egg than a ring, the brand new pink net had a still intact one. So when I started driving crazy pushing all this tulle under my sewing machine, I stopped and made some little crafting to calm down again. The search for a matching picture ended when I found an old promotional package of a famous role play game I had never played and will never play (but hey, you can’t throw away cards, maybe there will be an occation to use them, someday).
The tiny foggy and mysthic contrast to this pink ballerina overkill
The Challenge: #10 Art
Inspiration: Pierre Carrier-Belleuse – La Danseuse, 1898
Fabric: light pink cotton velvet, printed cotton, pink and white soft tulle, aka two Ikea mosquito nets
Pattern: None, I only looked briefly at period patterns to check dart placement and the like
Notions: pink and white poly-thread, pink silk thread, white cotton ribbon, white cotton crochet thread, hooks and eyes, press fasteners, cable ties
How historically accurate is it? I have no idea. I don’t know how dancing costumes were constructed around 1900, if they were boned, if they were worn with a corset etc. Some of the fabrics and materials are possible, some not, the lining is just silly. The sewing itself and the closures are accurate (though I used modern press fasteners, the early ones worked with a different technique).
Hours to complete? Maybe 15-20? I could as well say 2 episodes of “Sherlock”,3 of *The big bang theory” and the first season of “Hannibal” including bonus material (do I have to mention that I love Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal even more than Anthony Hopkins’?)
First worn: Today for the photos (though I wore the skirt for a few hours after I had finished it last weekend)
Total cost: Direct costs, nothing, I had everything in stock. The velvet was bought in a charity shop, can’t have been more than a few Euros. Same applies for the pink mosquito net, bought online. The white one was bought new, but already had had a live above my bed, so I would call this recycling. Notions I usually buy on flea markets, too. The book I found the illustration in cost me 2 CHF.
Talking about accuracy: The letter I am holding is old, but not old enough, dating from 1921.
First: Welcome to my new blog-adress, I hope you found it without any problems. I was contacted by my old host, telling me that I had exeeded my upload limit, so I had to react rather quickly not to lose my blog. The move made me erase a lot of the old posts, I’m sorry if some links to no more existant posts won’t work anymore.
But let’s talk about sewing:
The second challenge in the HSF 2014 was named “Innovation”.
First I though of sewing a 30ies dress with a zipper after the 1939 zipper promotion I found in november.
Innovation can have a very direct influence on fashion and sewing, namely zippers, artificial colours, artificial fibres and so on. But it can influence life (and thereby fashion) in a different, an indirect way.
Can you imagine Dustcoats developing without cars? Bicycles did so much for the acceptance of women in trousers. Putting steel hoops in crinolines allowed the skirts to grow as big as they did in the middle of the 19th century. And you wouldn’t be able to sew a cover for your smartphone or tablet if there hadn’t been someone who invented it.
Well, first I was very keen to make this miniature folding screen which is in fact a windbreak for a petroleum-operated coffee machine. But while I would have been willing to ignore the fact, that most participants sew garments (I am still not sure if it is part of the rules, if yes I am going to break it, at least this time 😉 ), I wondered if anybody would accept this as a sewing-project. At least I wouldn’t have, so I saved it for later (and please, don’t ask me when I am planning to use a miniature screen, I have no clue).
While searching for a pattern or at least an idea what to make instead of the zipper dress, I stumbled upon a little device, meant for an invention of the 19th century, surely one of the most profund ones when it comes to sewing. No doubt, sewing machines changed sewing more than anything did in the last hundreds of years. Even inventions of artificial fibres or dyes did not have such an impact on the actual process of sewing.
So I though, why not go with it 🙂
The first experimental devices to produce a mechanical seam date back to the 18th century, but it wasn’t until the middle 19th century that a properly working and commercially successful machine had been developed. The American Elias Howe had his sewing machine patented in 1846, but he didn’t succeed in turning his invention into money. After having failed badly attempting to put it on the market in England, he came back to America a few years later, only to see that a certain Isaac Merritt Singer very successfully sold sewing machines, working with his technique. This was the start of a triumphant success in the whole world.
In Europe, the 1850ies and 60ies saw the birth of a large number of sewing machine manufactories, some of them survive until today. Most of them produced licensed machines after the Howe/Singer patent, often after the founder had been to the US to study the American Singer machines. The 1870ies saw a second wave of factory foundations.
It would be too much to enlist all the additional inventions, patents and improvements made in the 2nd half of the 19th century. The chain-stitch machine, working with only one thread, was followed by the shuttle-operated machine, which again was followed by the bobbin system with the rotating hook, as we still use today, though the different systems lived alongside each other until the older ones finally died out. Zig-zag- and decorative seams became possible, the first electrical sewing machine was already issued in 1899.
But still, having a sewing machine was luxury, at least in its early years. It took the sewing machine until around 1900 to become a indispensable part of every household. And the number of handsewn gowns from the second half of the 19th century I see everyday at work show better than any statistic that only because the sewing machine had been invented, it didn’t mean everybody had one.
I own the “Der Bazar”-issues from 1872, an illustrated magazine on fashion with tutorials and patterns (unfortunately, the pattern sheets of mine are lost), not unlike sewing magazines today. A february issue featured a nice little box, meant to contain sewing machine supplies and I decided very fast that this was to become my project for the challenge:
Sewing machine supplies in these days meant oil and a cloth in first place. 🙂
The tutorial asks for “Ledertuch” to use as main fabric, which I would translate as leather-cloth. I was very sure that this wasn’t meant to be real leather from the beginning. Though I wasn’t sure what this word exactly described, I went to work, using a very shiny fabric from my stash. The ones who have been following my blog for some time might remember it: I bought very much of it, because I planned to wear a hooped skirt as my prom dress. After having bought the fabric, but before I started cutting I saw that this was a little over-ambitious back then and went for a completely different style, using only very little of the fabric. A few years ago I made part of it into a half-circle skirt, using the wrong side as right side, because I didn’t like this shiny style of the fabric anymore. I still have plenty of it left and this time the shiny-ness of the fabric was just what I had been searching for.
I searched for the meaning of “Ledertuch” shortly afterwards. According to an encyclopedia from 1905, “Ledertuch” describes a linen or cotton fabric, covered with linseed oil and grime, technically comparable to oilcloth, a treatment with patterned barrels gives it the appearance and marking of real leather (source).
Well, I had assumed something like this. But, first, I do not know if it is still possible to buy real oilcloth, what is sold nowadays is plastic-covered fabric, at least in normal houseware shops, no tinted oil anymore. I have to admit, I keep a whole roll of patterned oilcloth from the 1950ies in my closet, but that wouldn’t have made a good match, I suppose.
Secondly, I don’t suppose oil cloth is very nice to work with.
I decided the shiny fabric is as close as I could get to the original one without extensive search and bleeding fingertips (and as I said, I had already begun).
The box consists of two ovals, a large strip and two rectangles, all cut from cardboard and covered with the fabric.
the lid and the rectangles to form the compartments, already covered
The outside of the box was to be covered in pleats on all sides but the back of the box. So I made a loop from the fabric for the inside and a panel of pleats. The latter one alone took me a couple of hours. I measured the pleats (0,5cm each), pinned them down, ironed them and basted them in four parallel lines (three of them where removed after assembling the box, one is hidden under the embroidery).
I closed the upper seam, connecting the pleated panel with the lining fabric, with the machine (there are in fact only very few machine sewn seams on the box, only this connective seam and the pleats’ hem). I had cut the fabric for the inside larger than needed, like this I was able to sew it in place stringing it, connecting the seam allowance with the fabric at the bottom of the box.
Here you can see the different basting seams hidden below the pleats: the seam I used to form the cardboard strip to a ring (there is no trace of glue on this box), the seam I made to tense the lining fabric and the basting I had to do to keep the pleated seam allowance in place, without it, it shore up and was visible beneath the pleats on the outside.
After this step I sewed the bottom oval in place, attached the embroidered band to the pleats (it is in fact an embroidered strip of the fabric sewn onto a green galloon, tutorial asked for a woollen ribbon, that was as close as I was able to get) and connected the pleats to the boxes’ bottom., the gap in the back of the box I filled with a piece of fabric.The pleats are 1,5cm longer than the box itself, so it really has to hang, or it would stand on them.
The embroidery is said to be executed in “point russe” stitch. There are very different definitions online what a point russe has to look like, but the image looked to me like a feather stitch, so I went with this.
To sew the rectangles into the box to form the compartments was hell! I used curved needles, straight needles, nothing helped, it was just awful. And as you see, they aren’t set in properly, no to say orthogonally, but I won’t undo this seams to give it a second try, never!
The decoration of the lid was only very briefly described in the tutorial, it only said to apply a ruffle from the same green ribbon as used below the embroidery around the edge. So I cut the rest of the galloon in half and turned it into a a loop. This loop was laid in pleats and attached to the lid, upside down, so that I would be able to fold it over the sewing allowance and give it a clean look on the upper side. Unfortunately the galloon frayed horribly and while I folded and basted it in place, the seam allowance became visible in several spots. I couldn’t think of an alternative to attach the galloon with a better result, so I sought for an emergency solution. Luckily a darning cotton I founnd in my stash matched the colour very well, so I turned the 20m I had of it into a braid and sewed it on top of the fraying sewing allowance.
You can see that colour of the darning cotton is close, but not the same. But this is really barely visible. In the middle of the lid I attached a small loop below the ruffle, made of a small rest of the braid (the tutorial suggested ribbon or fabric, but because I had no use for the rest of the braid, I chose this).
The colours, black fabric, green ribbon and white embroidery, where given in the tutorial. I stuck to them but for some exceptions: The rectangles inside the box as well as the lid were meant to be attached with white thread. I decided this to be a very stupid idea, at least for me, because that wouldn’t only mean that the compartment themselves look messy, but the seams holding them as well, So I went to work with black thread. And the bow on the handle was to be made from black silk ribbon, but because I still had some white satin ribbon in my stash, I used this.
The Challenge: #2 Innovation
Fabric: black shiny fabric, presumably polyester
Pattern: tutorial without a pattern found in “Der Bazar. Illustrirte Damen=Zeitung, Nr. 7, 12. Februar 1872”
Notions: cardboard, twine (to sew the cardboard), polyester thread (machine seams), cotton thread (hand sewn seams), pseudo-woollen galloon (normally used to edge wool-fabric), white thread (maybe mercerized cotton, used as embroidery thread), 20m darning cotton, satin ribbon.
How historically accurate is it? Very, but for the materials used. I followed the pattern very close and tried to use only techniques available back then. I am pretty sure the green galloon is not made from real wool and I certainly know the fabric and ribbon to be artificial fibres. So the shiny-ness of the material is not caused by linseed oil, as would have been historically accurate, but by the fabric itself, so I would argue the overall appearance is at least comparable to the original.
Hours to complete: very many. This is by far the most time-consuming thing I ever made, considering the time it took and its final size. 10-15 hours I suppose.
First worn: in use since 25th January 2014
Total cost: I can’t remember how much the fabric was, something between 6 and 7€/m, I used only very little of it, so maybe 2-3€ for the fabric, but it has been in my stock for years. Cardboard was left from some calender or wrapping, can’t remember, but it was definitely for free as material. Embroidery thread was old, found it in my stock, can’t remember from where I got it, same applies to the darning cotton. Only thing I had to buy for this project was the green galloon, I bought 1m and paid something like 2 CHF.
If you include the pattern, the project was pretty expensive. For the complete issues of the year 1872 (48 issues, 392 pages total) I paid 200€ a few years ago, which is actually too much, considering its condition and its age. It is available for less, but I didn’t know back then (it was a time before iphones where widely spread and I stood at this antique fair booth having to decide very quickly). But this is only one pattern from many I can make from this source 🙂
what bow? This bow! And here you can see that I made it into a home for my hexagon quilt supplies:
As a résumé I must say, this tutorial wasn’t logical at all. The loop suggests to be used to open the box, but the lid can’t be closed, because the pleats force you to hang it, using the handle on the lid, opening it. Additionally the lid should have been made slightly larger that the bottom oval. The pleats seem to enlarge the box visually, so the lid appears to be too small. Additionally, the cardboard bents a little to the outside and intensifies the effect.
But I am content with the result and working with an almost 140 year old tutorial has been real fun.
See you soon,
all information on the technical history and the expansion of sewing machines derives from: Peter Wilhelm: Alte Nähmaschinen. Namen. Daten. Fakten, Duderstadt 2002