Wednesday, 6 January 2016

A brilliant start to a new year

My New Year got off to an excellent start when I logged into my blog a couple of days ago and discovered, much to my excitement, that I had been nominated for the Liebster Award by Hannah S at Fact and Fiction.

This was such a nice surprise and it is so rewarding to know that people are actually seeing and appreciating my costumes, especially as it was reading blogs like The Fashionable Past that really inspired me to begin sewing historical clothing and sharing my efforts online. So a huge thankyou to Hannah and everyone else who reads my blog as well as to all the bloggers that I follow for sharing your inspirational work and making me so envious that I just had to join in!

To borrow from Hannah's page, the award rules are as follows:

1. Acknowledge the blog that nominated you.
2. Answer the questions the nominating blogger asked.
3. List 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers that deserve some recognition.
4. Write 11 questions for them to answer.
5. Notify them that they have been nominated.

However, I will save this for a future post as I would like to sit down and answer the questions properly and I will also need a little time to make my own eleven nominations...

To return to the subject of the New Year then, I am very pleased to announce that I have been sticking to my New Year's resolution to sew more, to sew more often, to sew faster etc. etc. and to complete all of the Historical Sew Monthly challenges with my first creation of the year: an 1840s bonnet.

The theme for January is procrastination, something which, as it happens, I have a particular talent for. I therefore had no shortage of options when it came to selecting a project for this category. In fact, I have decided that, in the spirit of New Year's resolutions and the light of my decided failure to complete last year's challenges, I will make the most of this opportunity to complete as many of my unfinished (and in some cases unstarted) projects this month. And seeing as it's only the 6th of the month and the first one is finished I don't think I'm doing too badly!

An 1840s moiré silk bonnet 

The item I chose to start with was a bonnet that I have been promising to make for my Mum for ages. We must have had the pattern for at least three years but somehow I never got round to starting the project. Having made some bonnets at the end of last year, however, I decided that the time had come to finally make this one.

The Challenge: Procrastination - this project qualifies by a mile for this challenge - not only has this project been put off for several years, I also originally intended to have it completed as a Christmas present but ran out of time

Material: The foundation of the bonnet is made from buckram and millinery wire. I covered this with a layer of cotton sheeting (from an old sheet) to pad the form and the outer material is moiré effect curtain fabric in a deep oyster cream colour. I am not sure of the fibre content as this was an old fabric remnant given to me by a friend but we think it contains some silk and it looks pretty close to the real thing. The inside of the bonnet is lined with a fine, cream silk satin.

Pattern: The pattern is Timely Tresses "Lavinia Ruth" and I used the 1840s version of the pattern. I have really enjoyed using Timely Tresses patterns to learn about the techniques for constructing bonnets and am looking forward to using the knowledge that I have gained, along with the experience I gained examining extant bonnets first hand for my Masters dissertation, to begin developing my own patterns for bonnets of different shapes and sizes.

Year: late 1840s - although the shape of this bonnet is very typical of the 1840s, it's smaller size which reveals the profile of the face is already hinting at the later styles of the 1850s.

Notions: To decorate the bonnet I used a long strip of curtaining fabric (left over from a traditional 1950s style men's dressing gown that my Mum made for my brother) to make the ties. I wanted to use the striped pattern and the woven design to create the ribbons as the pattern reminded me of some of the extant ribbons that I saw during my research and it is really difficult to source ribbons that are anything like the ones available in the 19th century. Furthermore, on the extant bonnets that I had the good fortune to be able to study up close, a fair number had ribbons that were made from hemmed silk so I was happy with this being an authentic period approach. I also used some artificial flowers from my stash (unfortunately plastic - I have secret plans to begin making flowers myself that are more this space!) and a small amount of narrow satin ribbon for the secondary utility ties and gathering the lining into the back of the tip. Oh, and thread of course!

How historically accurate is it? With the exception of flowers and the uncertain fibre content of the fabric, almost 100%. I sewed the bonnet entirely by hand and all of the construction techniques were based on the well-researched instructions provided with the pattern and my own observations of original bonnets. The decoration was also inspired by my research which involved looking at original bonnet and ribbons and their representation in fashion plates. I tried to get as authentic a look as I could and was only held back by the modernity of some of my materials. I am quite confident that an 1840s lady would know exactly what she was looking at though so I am happy to settle at 85%. (If only the flowers did not have plastic stems - grrrrr!)

Hours to complete: Approximately 16 - this seems to be my average time for a bonnet, until I set a new record.

First worn: I tried the bonnet on several times throughout the making process to make sure that everything was level, in the right place, the right size etc. but this bonnet is for my Mum so it's first outing will probably be in the summer as the colours were chosen to coordinate with a summer dress.

Total cost: We originally paid about $35 for the kit to make this bonnet. This included the pattern though and over three kits I have been able to save a fair amount of buckram and wire that I have used in other projects. The cost of the foundation materials was therefore probably around $20 but it was paid so long ago that they probably qualify as stash materials. Everything else I used was also from my stash. So either £0 or $20 if you consider the fact that the buckram etc. wasn't left over but used for the purpose it was bought for.

And now it's onwards to the next project but first I have to decide whether that's going to be an 1880s corset to replace my 1850s-does-everything-1850-1950-straight-seamed-now-too-large-corset or the girl's 1860s ensemble (including underwear) that I have been planning for my shop. It all depends on whether my parcel of corset fabric and other goodies arrives in the post tomorrow...

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