Regency Kites!

Well, it’s June now, and that means summer to me. I’ve been slow to post about my kite making adventures because I was busy posting about other things, but it seems fitting for this post to be the first one of June–summery, somehow.

After the official end of the Regency Dance Weekend I’ve been posting about recently, my friends and I stayed in the Salem area to relax a bit and have some further Regency adventures. We had been brainstorming about what sort of activity we might engage in that was outside of our usual occupations and had settled on the idea of flying kites!

I did some research into Regency kites and spent some of my evening time during the weekend sewing these four silk kites with some help from friends.

Plaid, green, striped, and pink.

I didn’t find much to go on with the kite making. The best source I found was Jen’s post about Georgian Toys on her blog Festive Attyre. The post includes a link to this kite making how-to as well as a link to this 18th century extant kite. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find more information on the extant kite than that which is on that one page. Jen’s post is great and includes fun information about other Georgian toys as well as kites. The how-to link is a good one as well, though I did sub out modern methods for more period ones. For example: there is no tape to be found, instead there are stitches.

Making the kites was fun. I went to Home Depot to buy the dowels for the kite frames. They were cheap and luckily you can saw the lengths to be what you need while you’re in the store (good for me since I don’t own a saw!). I also bought twine there. It’s a poly-cotton blend (boo), but it’s smooth on the hands, so that’s worth it! The kite tails are bits of the main fabric and a contrasting fabric just tied around the twine. Instead of notching the ends of the dowels after they were cut (I tried, and it failed, because the dowels just wanted to splinter) I just wrapped the twine around the ends enough times that it wouldn’t move. The method definitely worked and sometimes that’s all you need.

Despite the fact that it was super windy by the water, we had trouble getting the kites to stay in the air. I’ve surmised that my kite engineering skills are not super outstanding, because the kites did lots of circles near our head height and then dove into the ground… over and over and over again… It was a bit frustrating. These pictures capture the few times we got the kites up in the air. Trust me when I say they didn’t stay up very long!

Perhaps a running start?
Perplexed but still trying.
Clearly this kite did not want to go up.
Triumph! (If only for the moment!)
This kite had the best luck at staying in the air.
Another successful moment.

There were some adjustments and kite injuries along the way. One of the dowels in the pink kite broke, so I have to figure out how I’m going to fix that. The other kites had things like alternate bridles made and pennies sewn into the edges to try to add weight. Some of those things seemed to work. I guess I just need to do some research about what makes kites stay up. I’m not sure the tails worked very well, either. They tangled easily and were hard to sort out again. If you know anything about kite making and have tips, I’d love to hear them!

This is definitely something I plan to work on and try again. Perhaps at a summer picnic? We’ll see. It was a fun endeavor, despite the diving kites (and I had the opportunity to wear my new Tree Gown again!). Plus, there were pretty places nearby to take pictures!

Perfect photo opportunity.
It was pretty windy, so hat holding was totally necessary!

5 thoughts on “Regency Kites!

  1. Ohhhhh!!!! What a wonderful adventure – it made me smile from ear to ear to see somebody else flying period kites! And BTW, we had the exact same problem with my kite too. It likes to do circles and plunge dramatically into the ground! LOL! We did get it up really high one time and it was more stable like that, but we never could do it again. I think they do need more weight or drag from the tail, but I’m not sure how to do that without making the tail tangle more.

    But anyway, you got some great pictures, so that’s all that really matters! 🙂 You all look amazing, and it looks like such a fun day.

    1. Yay, thanks! I’m glad to know your kite had a similar problem. That’s exactly what these kites did. I’m going to keep thinking about it and perhaps one day come up with a solution. Having fun and getting good pictures is indeed what it is all about. 🙂

  2. How lovely! And what a wonderful idea…now that the weather is finally improving, this would be fun to try, especially as there are so many open fields and meadows close by (but alas no sea)!
    Thank you for sharing and I hope you’ll find another occasion to play with the kites.

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