This is super exciting! A significant part of my nine month sewing plan is to increase my Regency wardrobe pieces so I have more options for varying weather conditions and activities, including accessories. I’ll list my plan in another post sometime soon-ish, but let me jump forward to say that it includes a chemisette.
Well, there aren’t many extant chemisettes that I know of and it doesn’t seem like many other people are able to reference a wide variety either. Janet Arnold has patterns for some of them in Patterns of Fashion I… and I didn’t originally want to go with one of those (because, you know, it seems like everyone does and I like to be different), but after researching and realizing that Janet Arnold has the monopoly on extant chemisettes I decided to just go with it. I also do really like the chemisettes she has… I particularly like the ones with the mushroom pleated collars. And that style will work well for my wardrobe planning, because I want to make high necked walking dresses, spencers, and pelisses, and I like the idea of the mushroom pleating filling in the high necklines. Plus, the Regency was full of 16th century style references and ruff-like things.
All of that to explain that I looked into ways to make mushroom pleats. I discovered that the best way is to use a fluting iron: a special type of iron that produces small pleats. I got super excited and bought one on ebay for about $20.
I also did research about different types and brands of fluting irons. This website was super informative about different types and their values. This one also has good pictures and information about fluting irons and their use. Essentially there are three types. I bought the rocking sort, which is an iron and a base; there is also the rolling sort, which has a rolling device (like a paint roller) and a base; and then there is the cranking sort, which has two rolls that wring the fabric through to create the pleats.
I chose to buy the rocking sort of fluting iron because of the price. There are enough of particular brand I bought (Geneva) in circulation today that they are relatively inexpensive. The type bought was patented in 1866, as you will see.
I also did research about how to use a fluting iron and how to get your pleats to stay in your fabric. It sounds like the best thing to do is use a homemade mixture of cornstarch and water to starch your fabric before pleating it. Once I try it I’ll report on how that works! One thing that did stump me for a day or two was how I plan to heat this thing and which part to heat. A lady in the 19th century could have heated either part on her cast iron stove, but I was thinking”I don’t have a cast iron stove… how am I going to heat this??? Do I heat the iron, or the base?” Well, one of those questions was easily solved by using my eyeballs…
Isn’t it fabulous that the manufacturer included some sort of direction? I was thinking of putting either the base or the iron in the oven… And then it occurred to me that I do have a stove, even if it is not a cast iron stove… So my current plan is to heat the base on the stove, and then somehow figure out a way to take it off the stove, so I can use it without fear of burning my fabric by having it touch a hot burner. I’ll have to report back on that part of the adventure, too!
You can see that the iron and base are a little grimy, so I also need to consider cleaning them before I try using them. I have not yet researched methods of cleaning cast iron. I imagine you can use similar methods as to what you might use to clean a cast iron pot? If you have ideas about the cleaning, please do share!
The two pieces are smaller than they appear, but because the iron and the base are cast iron, they are actually rather heavy. Until I use them (and probably after I do) they will be a door stop… they work really well for that purpose! And they add a bit of history to the room. Mr. Q has dubbed the fluting iron the “Cast Iron Crinkle Cutter” because he thinks it looks like something you might make crinkle cut fries out of… which makes me laugh. So here’s a picture of the Cast Iron Crinkle Cutter being a door stop, which also helps to show scale!