Monday, February 1, 2016

Procrastination Switch -- HSMC 2016, January

The Historical Sew Monthly Challenge for January was Procrastination. I was planning to finish my major put-off, the 1830s stays I really need to go under the 1830s dress I have planned, but will have to keep them on hold a while longer. I have to travel about 50 miles to go to a fabric store and this has not been the month to do that.

So I turned to another project I've had languishing in a bag - a 1910s sweater jacket. I love to knit and do a lot of it during the winter months. I really like the big sweater look of the late 1910s and early 20s. In my climate, a large cardigan is such a practical garment, keeping off the chill indoors over the winter, and great for outdoors in spring and fall. My ex-hubby's grandmother was an Old Order Mennonite born in 1900 and told me about the debate over women wearing cardigan sweaters when she was a teenager. They were so practical, but obviously a modern fashion, so some people thought they should be avoided. Practicality won the day, and she was glad.

Here is the sweater I wanted to copy. It's from the Columbia Book of Yarns by Anna Schumacker, dated 1915, and the pattern is available here for free. I colored the photo to match the yarn I used. The body is a deep brown with tweed flecks of yellow, red, orange, and blue. The trimming is bright yellow wool, all knitted in garter stitch, and it really brings out the yellow flecks. 

Here is my new sweater! I can see I will be wearing this a lot.

January, 2016
The Challenge: Procrastination
Material: 100% Wool yarn, worsted weight. Brown tweed and solid yellow.
Pattern: Ladies’ Knitted Sweater from The Columbia Book of Yarns, Anna Schumacker, 1915.
Year: 1915
Notions: 6 vegetable ivory buttons
How historically accurate is it? 100%
Hours to complete: Too many to count!
First worn: Today
Total cost: Thrift store finds

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Swell Ties to Crochet

My brother is an avid stamp collector and recently acquired a stack of old envelopes. In one, he found a pamphlet of instructions to crochet neckties from the1920s, which was given to me.the envelope is addressed to Miss Katharine B. Collier, of Vassar College, who, according to my Google searches, must have been Katherine Brownell Collier, a 1908 graduate who went on to earn a PhD from Columbia University with her dissertation entitled Cosmogonies of Our Fathers: Some Theories of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Why she had this pattern delivered to Vassar is a mystery, but I found no other Katherine B. Collier among Vassar alumni.   

The ties are made up in Corticelli Spool Silk thread, which the instructions tell us is "the very latest thing in swell neckwear". The envelope has Corticelli's cute kitten logo, and I date the publication after 1922, when the Nonotuck Silk Company merged with the Brainerd and Armstrong Company to form the Corticelli Silk Company. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

New year, new plans

Probably the biggest excitement for me when starting the new year is the 2016 Challenge List for the Historical Sew Monthly Challenge. (I know, sad life!) I am more of a planner than a doer, I know. Getting that list of topics for sewing starts me on a binge of sorting through my fabric stash and searching for patterns. My computer is bulging with inspiration. Now let's see how many actual garments I produce...

January is "Procrastination", meaning I've got to do something I've put off and put off and put off. And that means corsets or stays. I really avoid doing them because of the fitting problems, but you can't wear the clothes without the proper shape underneath. Fortunately, I came across this great German costuming site (also in English) Kleidung um 1800 that has some excellent patterns for early 1800s short stays. I plan to make one wrap-style undergarment and one with back lacing. These stays have no or minimal boning. Sabine digs out all sorts of excellent documentation, clear patterns, and a step-by-step tutorial. 

I've got the pieces cut out, so that's a start. Keep it up, girl!

Sabine's wrap stays with no boning

Sabine's laced stays - so simple!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Find That Elf!

Back around 1980, I was visiting a friend whose family came from Denmark. On her wall was the most charming piece of needlework done in counted cross stitch. She said it was a gift from her aunt and illustrated a popular Danish children's rhyme, En Lille Nisse Rejste  (A Little Elf Went Traveling). 

A little elf went traveling
By express train, from land to land.
His aim to to meet 
The world's biggest man.

He came to the Great Mughal,
Where the giant cabbages grow,
But despite his effort, 
No one was so big.

So he went down to the sea
And looked at the clear water;
Then he smiled, for there before him
Was the biggest man in the world.

I often thought of that cross stitch pattern over the years and wished I could find it to do myself. Recently, I googled it again and, lo and behold! It was there, but crammed into a photo with a tea cup and other things. With way too much effort, I managed to transpose the whole thing on to graph paper digitally. Now to actually stitch it! Since that may never happen, I will post this around so others can enjoy it.

Because the pattern is so large, I've divided it up into sections. They do overlap, so take that into consideration.

Here's the tune, if you're interested.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Reinvention of Nadezhda Lamanova

I've been reading lately of a Russian fashion designer named Nadezhda (Hope) Lamanova (1861–1941) and wishing I could learn more of her life. She established a strong reputation as a couturier in the early 20th century, designing gorgeous gowns for Empress Alexandra and other members of the Imperial court. 

Then came the Russian Revolution. Her position with the court could have very well earned her prison time or cost her her life, but somehow Lamanova reinvented herself as the Dressmaker to the People. There is no starker contrast than that of her lavish court designs and the almost crude patterns she created for the new Russian proletariat. 

One reason for the drastic shift was to distance the new regime from the opulence of the Romanovs, but the other was far more practical. The vast majority of Russian women were struggling to feed and clothe their families. There was little reason to design clothing no one would have opportunity to wear; work clothes and one presentable dress was what women needed. Scarcity of fabric was a challenge. Lamanova remembered that in designs that utilized goods women might have on hand: embroidered towels and colorful headscarves. In1925, Lamanova collaborated with sculptor Vera Mukhina to produce a booklet, Art In Daily Life, with extremely simple patterns for sewing garments. 

Other women entered the clothing design field, notably Varvara Stepanova, Alexandra Ekster (Exter), and Liubov Popova. One open arena for them was in theater costuming. Theater was a tool for communist propaganda, so lest we imagine costumes for Chekhov or Turgenev, characters were based on stereotypes of groups of strong, identically-dressed workers confronting decadent, flashy, foreign capitalists.

Stepanova, in particular, designed bold, geometric outfits in the Constructivist style

Stepanova sport suits
Varvara Stepanova overalls

Liubov Popova coat sketch

Alexandra Ekster design

Early in the revolutionary period, women's fashion and home-making magazines were launched, but soon folded, as one source so aptly put it, "for lack of ideas". A Soviet attempt at the Paris fashion show of 1924 was met with much amusement. Because of the lack of luxury fabrics, clothing had been made with anything available, including the rough cotton sacking used to wrap bales.

Despite this, designers like Lamanova were able to inject a small share of fashion into the lives of Soviet women during those very difficult years. Give us bread, and give us roses.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Showing off my undies!

Thank heavens, the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge has now become a Monthly Challenge, giving us much-needed time to actually complete projects! As the January challenge was for undergarments, I kinda went overboard on my 1830s theme and made almost a whole set. 

I bought some lurvely lightweight linen from the wonderful Their fabric is very reasonably priced and washes up so soft. I wish I had bought more! 

I am drawing on the patterns in The Workwoman's Guide, a late 1830's publication. The simple patterns are easy to figure out and work so much better for me and my workaday wardrobe, as opposed to the fancy formal clothes in other books I have. First I made a shift. I'd like to make a lighter one later on, or a petticoat with an attached sleeveless bodice.

A page from the Workwoman's Guide

Next came the petticoat. I corded a few rows around the bottom for a bit of shape and added a crocheted edging. The waistband has a tape through it and ties in the back.

I made a nice pair of drawers from the WG, which I don't have a photo of, as split drawers are not easy to display, and I'm sure not going to model them for you! They look something like these, without the edging.

I had enough linen scraps to make a pair of sleeve puffs to fill out the absurdly puffy sleeves of the 1830s. I must give credit to my four goosies who gave up their lives and their feathers. I did miss them when they were gone, but they have been delicious so far. I salvaged a large trash bag of down and small feathers. A very messy job, sorting down! I used this pattern.

Here are the geese, spying on me, as they loved to do.
Ever feel like you're being watched?
I did begin a corset, but haven't finished it. And probably won't. I need more help with fitting and the fabric I used was too thick for hand-sewing. I did have to laugh. I tried it on, wearing a pair of loose pajama bottoms. I tighted the spiral back laces, and whoops!, my pants fell to the floor. Those things really do alter one's figure!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Adventures in Felting

For the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge on menswear, I planned to knit a Machault tuque, the type worn by the French voyageurs as they paddled along the rivers of Canada. My son James is an enthusiastic maker of unusual coats, and some years ago, made a wool voyageur capote, a long, hooded coat. His supportive wife crocheted a long, colorful sash to go with it, and he cut quite a figure on the snowy streets of Winnipeg. Passersby complimented him, one saying that more Canadian men ought to dress like that. 
Of course, he was missing the crowning piece, the red wool Machaut cap. I found an excellent pattern from Wicked Woolens. Sally Pointer sells this authentic pattern with interesting background information. The cap is knitted in the round like a huge football and felted. It turns in on itself so it is very thick and warm. 

I used Lamb's Pride worsted weight yard in a bright red (Red Baron) and size 8 needles. It knitted up beautifully , and my finished product was huge! Then came the felting. First round, it thickened up but was about two inches too large in circumference. So I put it through the wash again. Oh, dear. It came out like a coconut husk, about an inch thick and just the right size for a person with a coconut-sized head. Back to the beginning.
Fortunately, I had bought more yarn than I needed, so I started from scratch. There wasn't quite enough to make the entire closed football, so I made a nice, overly-long cap. This time, I hand-felted it by soaking it in very hot water on the stove, wringing it roughly while wearing very heavy rubber gloves, and "shocking" it in a bowl of ice water, going through this process several times. Success! It turned out beautifully and will soon be winging its way to Winnipeg. Here is my dad modelling the finished cap. Dad looks pretty hardy for 90 years old, I think.