Sunday, February 2, 2020

A Bas Bleu - Foundations Revealed Contest 2020

“Reading refreshes as well as renews the mind.”
― Lailah Gifty Akita


“Renewal requires opening yourself up to new ways of thinking and feeling”
― Deborah Day, BE HAPPY NOW!

If we live to be at least 75 years old, we will have spent perhaps 25 of those years sleeping.  The physical body needs those years to renew as each cell in our body is completely renewed every 7 years.  Still, even when we are asleep, our mind is active.  Dreaming, solving problems, and performing the functions to keep us breathing and our heart beating.

Our physical bodies need nutrients to perform well.  But what do we feed our mind?  That part of us that continues hour after hour?  To renew our mind we have to read.  We have to imagine!  We have to dream even when we are awake!

Perhaps as far back as the 1400s an elite of group of Venetians wore elaborately embroidered leg coverings.  As this fashion spread to Paris by the late 1500s the term bas bleu (bas, stocking:  bleu, blue) emerged to describe women with literary aspirations.  In the 1700s wearing dark blue worsted stockings was a casual dress much like today's blue jeans.

The English term "bluestocking", meaning a literary woman, became official when around 1750 Mrs. Elizabeth Montague (1720 - 1800) and her friends founded the bluestocking society.  They dressed in their more practical country clothing including their blue worsted stockings.  When they met they discussed books, literature, art and architecture, and places and events of interest.

Imagine Mrs. Montague readying herself for the day in her appropriate undergarments.  A linen shift and stays..  She might still be wearing her night cap as she peruses her library in search of that certain book she wants to share with her friends.  And, of course, her blue stockings.


Now just where oh where is that book hiding?


Even as she continues to dress in her pocket and pocket hoops, she has found the book and searches for the passage that has captured her attention.


Now that we have left Mrs. Montague to her thoughts in the library, let me tell you about the creation of her underthings.

Historical costuming is a fascinating journey of discovery, learning, creating, and sharing.  It is almost impossible to study the fashion of history without learning of the times themselves.  While I've had wonderful experiences in both Victorian and Edwardian fashion, I had never made anything representing the 18th century.    2019 was to be that year.  Starting into a new era can be overwhelming with so much incredible information available.


It was also wonderful for me as a novice in 18th century to find that Simplicity had released two patterns:  8579 for 18th century underthings, and 8578 for a gown.  American Duchess, the designer of the patterns, had also released their books 18th Century Dressmaking and 18th Century Beauty.  Everything a novice would need to begin.


In my fabric stash I have a beautiful cream-colored linen which was destashed by another costumer.  She had yards and yards and I bought it all years ago.  It has created other eras of underthings and will be perfect for this project.  I started with a simple pocket to learn the basic handstitches and some simple ribbon embroidery.



Next was a basic shift from the Simplicity pattern.  Some long seams are sewn by machine to save time, but all hems and the underarm gussets are finished by hand.


The pocket hoops are also created using the Simplicity pattern and are made with the same linen fabric, cotton twill tape, and reed.



The stays use the same pattern set with layers of linen and an outer layer of heavier linen.  The toile fabric was a gift to me from a gentleman who used to run an upholstery shop.  Toile, "twall",  is a French term meaning "linen cloth" or "canvas".  It is an abbreviation of toile de Jouy which translates to "cloth of Jouy".  The Oberkampf factory was founded in Jouy-en-Josas, France in 1760.  It brought copperplate printing, popular in England and Ireland, to France.  Pastoral scenes are done in a single color on white or off-white background.  Originally toile was popular for furniture and interior design.  Very fitting for my gifted yardage and very timely as the furniture industry that left my part of the country over a decade ago is renewing today with more furniture being made and purchased locally.


The construction was so new and intricate to me even though I have created four more modern corsets.  The pattern gave instructions for using nylon heavy duty cable ties and they are both lightweight and very inexpensive.


The channels and main seams are machine sewn, and the binding is hand sewn on both sides.  There are metal grommets set on each side of the back which are covered with embroidery thread.  The only deviation I made from the pattern is to keep the center front in one piece to preserve the beautiful scene.




The finally, truly, completely, stressful, but oh-so-pretty, finished stays!




And they are comfortable!



The blue stockings were purchased from Burnley and Trowbridge and needed some garters to hold them in place.  I added a welcome borrowed from Walt Disney.


Lastly, from the same linen fabric, a 1770s French Night Cap from a pattern and instructions in the American Duchess 18th Century Beauty book.



And Mrs. Montague is ready to be outfitted in her 18th century underpinnings.  This is a video I made for the Foundations Revealed Contest 2020:


Mrs. Montague bids you good day and good reading and all the mind renewal you desire!



Be a Bluestocking!




Thursday, January 9, 2020

Historical Sew Monthly 2019 - December - On a Shoestring


On a Shoestring:  It's an expensive time of year, so make an item on a tight budget
(say under $15, or less than you'd spend on a reasonable price takeaway meal for one person in your
country - and no 'stash' doesn't count as free:  you still have to count what you would have originally paid for those items :)  )
The Dreamstress


Throughout 2019 I've been studying and learning about 18th century fashion.  There is some incredible material available for an historical costumer and, thankfully, some of this is affordable and readily available to a novice to this era.  American Duchess has published a book entitled 18th Century Dressmaking and the companion book 18th Century Beauty has information and recipes for beauty products, hairstyles, and headwear.


The 1770s French Night Cap pattern and instructions in this book seemed like a perfect fit for an 18th century wig I will be wearing for a photo in February as part of the Foundations Revealed 2020 Competition.  The pattern in the book is illustrated on a grid and I am using Quad Ruled Dual Pad paper to scale up the pattern.  This paper is 4 squares to the inch.  I tape pages together, rule in 1 inch squares, and then just approximate the points of the pattern on each line and connect the dots.  Instant pattern!



Years ago I purchased yards and yards of a cream colored linen and have used it for Victorian underthings, Edwardian underthings, my 18th century underthings, and cabbage from those projects is perfect for this cap.


The pieces are called a caul (the large cap), the band, and the ruffles which are attached to the band.  I finished the lower edge of the caul, which is the very back, by handstitching.  While the directions called for cording or candlewicking, of which I had neither, I used dental floss for my gathering threads.  Not period but practical, functional, and available which is sometimes my definition of historically accurate.  :)  But I did handstitch the eyelet for the dental floss gathering threads.


To save time I finished all remaining edges of the caul and band, and the upper edge of the ruffles by machine.  While this saved time, I do wish I had been completely accurate and completed those by hand as well.  The cap is cute and I may want to wear it more than once.  Because the lower edge of the ruffle would show when worn, I did handstitch those edges.  Now all pieces are ready for final assembly.


The edge of the caul is gathered with a whipped gathering stitch until it fits the band.  Then the band and caul are sewn together with a whipstitch catching each gathered bump.



After the band is completely attached to the caul the ruffles are gathered and attached to the band in the same way.


The addition of a satin bow following instructions in the book is the perfect touch.


The cap is complete!





Although pretty as it is for a nightcap, the addition of more ribbon makes it versatile and wearable for day as well.






Historical Sew Monthly

What the item is:  French Night Cap
How it fits the challenge:  Under $15
Material:  Linen
Pattern:  American Duchess 18th Century Beauty Book
Year:  1770s
Notions:  Thread, ribbon, dental floss
How historically accurate is it?  The pattern is based on early 1770s prints and portraits.  The technique is period but the machine stitched edges take away from complete acccuracy.  70%  minus the dental floss.  :)
Hours to complete:  I'm a slllooooowwwww hand stitcher, so maybe 10 total hours.
First worn:  February 2020 for a Foundations Revealed Competition entry.
Total cost:  Approximately 1/2 yard linen originally $6 per yard equals $3, plus $2 ribbon.  $5 total.


Monday, December 9, 2019

Historical Sew Monthly 2019 - November - Above the Belt

NovemberAbove the BeltNo hitting low! Let’s keep things on the up and up as the year closes, and make something worn above the belt.
The Dreamstress


Lady Maria Hamilton
Lady Maria Hamilton, 1802, by Thomas Lawrence

There are two things that have made me stretch and learn in my historical costuming journey:  the first is the Historical Sew Monthly.  The research and creation in a once every two weeks and now every month brought me much further in my learning than if left to my own schedule.  The second is Costume College which I've attended five times and have taken some incredible classes and learned so much.

My creation for this challenge began at Costume College 2015 when I took Kathryn Wolters class Mrs. Bennet's Coral Necklace.  I had previously sewn my first Regency costume for an HSM Challenge entitled Out of Your Comfort Zone.  Regency era fashion was definitely that!  I was wearing that costume to teach a Sunday morning class at Costume College and didn't have appropriate jewelry.  I'm all about the accessories for any historical impression and this necklace would be perfect for the Breakfast with the Bennets Sunday morning event.

As often happens in Costume College classes we just didn't have enough time to finish our project and into my bag went the project.  Last month I was searching through my Costume College bags and lo! there was my unfinished necklace.

There is a rich history of coral and coral necklaces both as a talisman to protect the wearer and for the color and beauty.  Coral necklaces were given to children through the 19th century to ward off ailments.  Coral was powdered and used as a medicinal ingredient.  The internet rabbit hole for historical research is both magical and mysterious and worth your time.

While I'm not a jewelry maker I do have a 3-in-1 tool and with that and the cut gold wire, the silk beading thread, and my memories from the class, I set out to finish this unfinished project.



To protect the coral beads from rubbing against one another and to give a free but sturdy structure to the necklace, the silk beading thread is hand knotted between each bead.  This is the same technique used for pearls.



To do this I add one coral bead, tie a knot, hold the thread near the bead with my tool inside the knot, then pull the knot until I have to remove the tool to finish tightening the knot.






For the earrings I use the precut gold wire provided by my instructor and shape it with my tool.


Coral is susceptible to perfumes, body oils, and dirt and, like pearls, should be cleaned after each wearing.  It is also susceptible to heavy handed novice jewelry creators such as myself.



After some trial and error, and a few more errors, here are my finished necklace and earrings ready for my next Regency costume event.  I think they are lovely!


Historical Sew Monthly

What the item is:  Coral Necklace and Earrings
How it fits the challenge:  Definitely worn above the belt.
Material:  Coral beads, silk beading thread, gold wire, gold seed beads, knot findings.
Pattern:  Single strand necklace, double drop earrings.
Year:  Popular 17th through 19th century.
Notions:  3-in-1 beading tool.
How historically accurate is it?  Modern materials such as bamboo dyed faux coral and knot findings for sustainability and structure.
Hours to complete:  3 hours
First worn:  Today to clean house.  How perfectly decadent!
Total cost:  $22