Sunday, 30 August 2015

Heirlooms and Heritage

This month’s Historical Sew Monthly challenge is Heirlooms & Heritage, and you can see what the other challengers have made here. This challenge is all about honouring history and the future by celebrating our own personal heritage, or creating something that will be a heirloom for the next generation of sewers and makers.

The requirement is to:
“re-create a garment one of your ancestors wore or would have worn, or use an heirloom sewing supply to create a new heirloom to pass down to the next generations”,
but I’ve bent the rules slightly, and instead undertaken a task which I know my maternal grandmother did; trim a hat.

You can read my original post about the sewing gene in my family here but here's a brief recap of my grandmother’s story. Her mother died then she was 16, and four years later her father remarried. Her new stepmother owned a hat shop, and this photograph from 1915 shows the lady who would become her stepmother standing in the doorway of the shop. The ornate sign was painted by my great-grandfather who was a signwriter as well as a painter and decorator, and later a photographer.

My grandmother and her sister had to serve in the shop. On top of that, in the evenings they had to trim hats for customers – all for no wages! This photograph shows them standing outside the shop, now renamed, so it must be from 1921 or later.

My grandmother (on right) and great-aunt

So trimming a hat was a way to honour my grandmother’s hard, and unpaid, work.

I had decided a while ago that I wanted to make a hat to go with my Wiener Werkstätte dress. The online archive of the Museum of Applied Arts has plenty of examples: some more, shall we say, 'unusual' than others. I settled on this one.

Hat: straw, feathers, silk and silver, 1908-09, © MAK

Stripes, feather trims and metal ornaments all seemed to be common features on Wiener Werkstätte hats.

A selection of Wiener Werkstätte hats, © MAK

The hat itself came from British Home Stores. I forgot to photograph it in its original state, but here are two images from the BHS website.

The crown was far too high for what I wanted, but I took the hat along to a course at Hat Works (more on that soon) and Sue and Marie very kindly helped me to reblock it to a more suitable shape.

The reblocked hat

The hat’s stripes are not made from two different colours of straw, but from alternate bands of wide straw plait and black ribbon.

Close-up of the striped brim

The way it was stitched together looked fine on top, but on the underside both sets of stitching were visible; which meant that they would show when the brim was turned up at the side.

The underside of the brim in its original state . . .

The only solution was to unpick the stitching a bit at a time and redo it on my sewing machine with a cream thread on top and black thread in the bobbin. This took a long time, but was worth it.

. . . and after its makeover

Some of the feathers were bought, others I picked up in my garden. We have a lot of gulls in the area, and I think that the large brown feather on the left might be from a juvenile herring gull. The two black feathers on the right are probably from magpies, as they are slightly iridescent.

Feathers from my garden

The feathers were made into pads on felt backing. Originally I was just going to sew them into place, but found that it was much easier to (whisper it) glue them, and then sew over the top for extra security. Trying to do the whole thing on one pad proved far too awkward, so I made it in several sections and sewed them together.

Feather pads in various stages of completion

I couldn’t work out what was at the base of the feathers in the original hat photograph; it is too blurred. However several of the examples in the archive seem to have frilled trim on them, so I gathered up some lengths of folded tulle, and sewed then onto a further felt section.

The metal trim was recreated from materials not normally found in Historical Sew Monthly challenges.

Parts of a tomato purée tube and a fruit juice bottle

The interior of metal tubes of tomato purée is discoloured by the tomatoes over time; the longer it takes to use the purée, the darker the metal becomes. Because it is a soft metal, it is easy to emboss. I drew out my design, and then copied it onto tracing paper.

The design, and the inside of the tube

This was then turned over, and fastened to the wrong side of the metal with sticky tape.

Ready to start embossing

Then I went over the design with a biro, and filled out some sections with a ball-ended tool. Finally the piece was cut to size, and folded over a curved template made from part of the plastic fruit juice bottle.

The embossed strip

The completed trim

The rose was made using a technique I learned on the Hat Works course. In order to tie it in with both the dress and the metal trim on the side, I covered the centre section with some of the leftover organza.

Fabric rose

Once all the various parts were made, putting it together was easy. I attached the feathered section to the underside of the brim, then sewed the brim to the crown. Sewing the brim up at both sides, as in the original, looked ridiculous. Fortunately there were several hats in the archive with just one side swept up, so I left it at that. The rose was sewn onto the hatband, and the hat was complete.

Trying to recreate the original photograph

Front view

The small print:
The Challenge: Heirlooms & Heritage
Fabric: Tulle, organza and silk – all synthetic, felt
Pattern: From the Wiener Werkstätte photographic archive at MAK
Year: 1908-09
Notions: Purchased hat, feathers, fruit juice bottle, tomato purée tube
How historically accurate is it? Given the list of fabrics and notions, I’d say 40% would be generous
Hours to complete: I lost the will to count partway though restitching the hat brim
First worn: Not yet
Total cost: Hat £12.50, feathers £2.60, fabric for rose £5.51 (with a lot left) everything else from stash, kitchen, or garden, so £20.61

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Peacocks and pussycats

New Look 6643 is finished. It took a while, because I’d somehow completely messed up the centre back seam adjustment for my sway back. Fortunately there was too much fabric in the dress rather than too little, but it did mean that once I’d corrected it, my careful pattern matching at the bottom of the seam was completely lost. Ah well.

It’s an odd fabric. When looked at closely, it becomes obvious that the pattern repeats are not as frequent as I initially thought. At first glance, certain feathers appear to be repeated.

The same motifs appear both sides of the centre back seam

However at second glance, the surrounding areas are very different, and the motif placement is not quite the same.

But other parts are not remotely the same

So it’s quite possible that the pattern would not have matched after all.

Once I’d fixed the centre back seam, all that was required was the teal band at the bottom of the skirt. Because the skirt is straight at that point, the teal section could be cut out as a single piece, rather than a front and two backs. Then, because the teal fabric is much thinner than the craft cotton main fabric, I decided to make the band a double thickness, folded at the bottom edge. This also meant that there was no hem stitching to try to hide, so it was win-win.

I’m really pleased with the end result. The front neckline gaped a little bit, but a running stitch along the facing, plus careful pressing, fixed that. The wide neckline and the cap sleeve effect of the bodice give the dress a nicely balanced look. And the contrast band and neckline trim work well.

The finished dress

It was a bit tricky taking photos as the weather this weekend has been, at best, mixed. One benefit of all the (warm) rain was that it made the honeysuckle in my garden smell wonderful, so as everyone must be sick of seeing the same wall in my yard by now, I thought I’d take some pictures in a different spot. You’ll just have to imagine the honeysuckle scent!

No side seams in the bottom section

Plus, here’s a bonus, taken-very-quickly-before-it-absolutely-pelts-down, shot of view D of the same pattern, which I made a couple of years ago. Also from a craft cotton remnant. By this stage it was so dark that the flash went off, which gives the photograph a slightly weird effect.

View D of the same pattern

Finally, something which I’ve meant to post about for ages. After a very difficult time, my cat-mad friend F moved into a lovely new home a couple of months ago. I knew exactly what I wanted to make for a house-warming present, and when I went to the quilt show in Malvern I was on the lookout for some suitably feline fabric to make up into cushions.

Kitty-cat cushions

Not only did I find fabric, I found buttons as well.

With kitty-cat buttons

I must confess that I couldn’t face sewing ten buttonholes, so the buttons and contrast strip are just for show. Instead I made envelope openings on the back, using the contrast and piping fabrics.

And flowery/marbled backs

F loved them. Teddy (her own, black and white, cat) declined to comment.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Name that pattern!

So, there I was this afternoon, in my local fabric shop, buying some bits for a future project (which hopefully you will see in a couple of months' time). "Ooh", said the lady serving me, "I recognize that pattern".

I was wearing The Feedsack Dress, aka Vogue 2787, and it made me quite unreasonably happy that someone could identify it!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

The peacock dress

No, not this one, something far less exotic (and quicker to make, I hope!)

I have been very good recently, and resisted the lure of the Craft Cottons remnant bin in my local fabric shop. However I weakened when I spotted this.

Peacock feather cotton from JoAnn

Now I cannot lie, I do like a bold print. However even I had to admit that an entire dress made from this might be A Bit Much. Plus the length of the remnant meant that it would be a shorter dress than I'm comfortable with. So I reasoned that a plain section at the bottom, with some matching plain trim at the top to balance it out, would solve both problems. Over to the Plain Cottons remnant bin, where I found a teal piece which was ideal.

Slightly toned down with a plain contrast

I'm using New Look 6643. I've made view D (bottom right) a couple of years ago, and have worn it a lot, so decided to make view A (main picture) this time.

For the trim I made 18mm / ¾" wide bias strip, which I put round the neckline 25mm / 1" in from the finished edge.

The completed neckline

Normally when I make a dress with an invisible zip, the first thing I do is attach the zip to the back pieces and sew the centre back seam, so that I have a single back piece to work with. Fortunately this time I realised that I had to sew the shoulder seams and attach the trim before the zip went in, and was then quite unreasonable chuffed with myself for thinking of this. (Yes, I am easily pleased, why do you ask?!) I then used this top tip for aligning the sides, and they match perfectly.

Trim matching happiness

The neck is finished with a facing, but the arms are not. Instead bias binding is pressed flat, then folded in half lengthways and sewn round the armscye on the right side, raw edges matching, with a narrow hem. The binding is then turned to the inside and slip-stitched in place. This seems to give quite a stiff finish to me; the dress may need a couple of washes before it is fully comfortable to wear.

Neck facing and bound armhole

Now I just have the bottom piece to add and hem.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Accessorize, at last!

My shoulder is getting better, but is still not right, so I've had to abandon my planned entry for the Historical Sew Monthly July challenge; Accessorize. It fits into a later challenge though, so is not abandoned altogether. Instead I've gone for something nice and simple and easy to sew, some shoe clips.

The inspiration came from this pair of Fortuny shoes. Unfortunately I've not been able to find out anything about them.

Brocade Fortuny shoes with metal buckles

To make my clips, I started with some jewellery findings, snipped off the loops, and filed down the raw edges.

Jewellery findings, before and after

I have some fabric which I am planning to use for a later Historical Sew Monthly challenge, which has a blue warp and a metallic silver weft. I cut narrow strips of this, and frayed one long edge so that the blue threads would show. The strip was then gathered to make a rosette. I had planned to use grey satin under the finding, but I decided that it was too much of a contrast with the outer frill, so used a scrap of the blue/silver fabric instead.

With the grey satin backing (left) and without

For the backs I cut circles the same size as the finding out of thin card, and covered them with the grey satin. Then I sewed on the shoe clip. Finally I sewed the finding, frill and back together.

The finished clips, front and back

I may trim the edges of the shoes at some point, to make them more like the Fortuny pair, but for now here they are with the clips on.

The clips in use

The small print:
The Challenge: Accessorize
Fabric: Satin, and unknown fabric with metal thread – all synthetic
Pattern: My own
Year: Early twentieth century?
Notions: Jewellery findings, shoe clips
How historically accurate is it? Not at all. This is just trying to get the look, and not at all accurate.
Hours to complete: Two
First worn: Not yet
Total cost: Findings £1.50 everything else from stash or already bought for another project.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

The V&A, not just a costume gallery

This week’s post should have been about my belated contribution to the July Historical Sew Monthly challenge - Accessorize. Unfortunately I hurt my shoulder moving furniture (long story, don’t ask), and haven’t been able to much sewing all week. So instead, here’s a picture-heavy post that I’ve been meaning to write up since my last London trip, six months ago!

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is famous for its costume collection, but did you know that there are lots of costumes to be found elsewhere in its many galleries?

The Indian galleries include a number of garments made from Indian textiles. There’s this lovely chintz caraco and petticoat.

Caraco and petticoat 1770-80

Caraco close-up

And this slightly later gown, with its chintz pattern overprinted with gold spots.

Chintz gown, c. 1780

Meanwhile, although it looks printed, the fabric of this dress is decorated with very fine tambour embroidery.

Gown, fabric c. 1740-60, made up c. 1780

Close-up of the bodice embroidery

Also embroidered is this slightly later muslin gown.

Muslin gown c. 1795

The Middle Eastern galleries also contain some historical costumes.

Zoroastrian woman's costume, Iran, about 1840-70

Qajar court costume, about 1800-40

I was intrigued by the back view of this jacket, as its shape is similar to my much earlier Ottoman costume.

Back view showing hip shaping of jacket

There are contemporary pieces to be found as well, such as this amazing laser-cut organza dress in the Korean gallery.

Organza origami dress by Lie Sang-Bong, 2009

The main alternative source for historical costumes however is the British Galleries, which cover British art and design from 1500 to 1900.

Margaret Layton's jacket, which was one of the earliest pieces in the costume collection, is not currently on display. But a similar jacket is one of the first items on display in the British Galleries.

Embroidered jacket, about 1600, altered about 1620

Nearby is this lovely knitted jacket.

Knitted jacket, 1600-25

This doublet and hose looked to me at first glance as though they had been made from a quilted bedspread. Then I read the accompanying notes, and discovered that they had been made from recycled quilted satin, probably a bedspread! Sometimes first impressions can be right.

Doublet and breeches, 1630-40

The bulk of the British Galleries’ clothing is from the eighteen century, such as this amazing Court mantua.

Embroidered mantua 1740-45, © Victorian and Albert Museum, London

Bodice close-up, apologies for the strange colour

Slightly less ornate is this woven waistcoat of Spitalfields silk.

Waistcoat, about 1734

There is a lot of information about silk weaving in Spitalfields, including the chance to design your own silk.

Hands-on opportunity

And here’s my attempt.

Probably best if I don't give up the day job!

Someone who was a far more successful designer was Anna Maria Garthwaite. There is a display of her silks, and a dress made from one of them in the 1740s and altered in the 1780s.

Some of Anna Maria's silks

Dress made from silk designed in 1744

Bodice back close-up of 1780s alterations

As with the embroidered India textile above, it’s hard to believe that this dress is neither printed nor woven. It was made in Britain, but from silk hand-painted in China.

Painted silk robe 1760-70, © Victorian and Albert Museum, London

The robe on display

From there the galleries move on to the block printed cottons of the late eighteenth century.

Gown of block-printed cotton, 1780-85

Selection of block-printed cottons

The British Galleries carry on to the second floor, but there are fewer examples of clothing in the later years. However if you are visiting the V&A and have time to spare after touring the costume galleries, they are well worth a look.

Gown, about 1805