1885 Mantle (HSM #5) & Accessories

Last post was a detailed look at the 1884 Plaid Wool Bustle Dress that I completed last year. This post is going to look at the details of the accessories I made and wore to stay warm while taking photos of the 1884 dress: a mantle, a new muff cover, and a quick mention of the hat.

First, the mantle, which qualifies for the Historical Sew Monthly 2021 Challenge #5:

Purple: Make an item in any shade of purple.

Easier to see the color in the next photo! Purple!

Just the facts:

Fabric/Materials: 1 ½ yards purple wool, 2 ¾ yards drab polyester lining, and about 1 yard of faux fur.

Pattern: Adapted from a pattern on page 33 of The National Garment Cutter Book Of Diagrams.

Year: 1888.

Notions: 4 ¼ yards brown braid trim and 4 coat size hook and loops.

How historically accurate is it?: 85%. The pattern and silhouette are good, but the polyester lining and faux fur are not accurate. I’ve also never examined an extant 1880s mantle up close, so the construction methods are guesses that made sense to me.

Hours to complete: 18.5 hours.

First worn: In January, for a ramble and photos!

Total cost: Approximately $40.

Mantle: Beginnings

This accessory adventure started with a passionate desire to make a specifically 1880s shaped mantle to go with my new dress. I don’t remember the details exactly, but it’s possible that I fell in love with the red mantle on the right in the fashion plate below even before I fell in love with the shape of the bustle dress that I’m wearing underneath my mantle.

The shape! The fur! The matching muff! So cute! It seemed like it would go very well with my dress.

Mantle: Patterning

I started the mantle soon after finishing the 1884 dress last year, beginning with the pattern. The pattern is from The National Garment Cutter Book Of Diagrams published in 1888 (the entire book is digitized and available here).

The pattern I started with is on page 33: Ladies’ Wrap. It has the same general shape as my inspiration plate, including the very specific-to-the-1880s outerwear sleeve set into the side back seam. Figuring those out was an eagerly anticipated part of the challenge.

The brief instructions are to use the scale corresponding to the bust measure to enlarge the pattern. I didn’t feel like finding the right scale in the book, so instead I guessed at a scale that generated proportions that made sense for my size. I think it was somewhere in the realm of ⅛” to 1″.

After the pattern was enlarged, life became busy and I put this project on hold. Fast forward to the first days of 2021 and I decided to knock this project off the to-do list so it would be ready at the first sign of snow for photos!

I made a mockup from my pattern, adjusted a few things including the length of the front piece (it was much longer than my inspiration!), then altered the mockup to check the changes. At that point, I was satisfied and ready to move on to real fabric!

Mantle: Sleeve Puzzling

Along the way in this process I had to figure out the sleeves. Below is what the sleeve pattern piece looks like when cut out. It’s not your usual sleeve shape. The top looks mostly reasonable, but what’s with a dart on the bottom edge? And the point at the bottom? Odd! Folding this in half (as you would normally do for a sleeve) would produce a strange sleeve, indeed.

I pondered this… looked up extant garments (there are a number of mantles with sleeves like this on my general 1880s outerwear Pinterest board) and did some searching for other people who had made this type of garment before.

The thing that suddenly made the sleeve click for me was a series of posts from Caroline (who blogs at The Modern Mantua Maker) showing the construction of an 1880s dolman that she made. This post, in particular, contains a photo showing the sleeve before it was set into the body of the garment. Ah ha! I realized that the bottom of my sleeve folds up and the dart goes against the body. That creates the right shape!

This post from Caroline shows her finished dolman. It was also very helpful as I tried to wrap my brain around these unusual sleeves. And, Caroline has another dolman she made as well, which I also looked at as I was figuring out my pattern.

Mantle: Materials

I had the fashion plate to reference for the overall design of the mantle, but I needed a bit more detail to confirm my material choices. Many 1880s mantles are made from fancier fabrics: silks, velvets, brocades… I only had a heavy purple wool in my stash in a quantity I thought would be just the right amount for the mantle and I didn’t want to buy something new (especially something likely to be expensive, as many of those fancier fabrics would be).

After some searching, I found this c. 1880 opera cloak at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that seems to be made of a plain wool. I decided to use some of the details from it, like the braid trim, to upgrade my mantle from plain to more interesting.

I had the braid trim in my stash already, purchased a few years ago from Deb’s Lace and Trims because I liked the look of it and thought it would be useful someday (I love Deb’s Lace and Trims–you absolutely can’t beat the prices and the products are lovely–I’ve been using them for historical projects for the last ten years!). It was great to find a use for this braid.  With just five yards on hand I had to reduce the amount used relative to the Met inspiration mantle, but I think the end result is in keeping with the simple style of the dress. The braid highlights the shape of the mantle but doesn’t distract or seem too gaudy for the plain wool base.

After creating my first mockup I did have a very justified fear that my purple wool would not be enough for the mantle. Thankfully, after altering the pattern to suit my taste and size I was just able to eke out all of the pieces. Whew!

I love the quilted lining of the Met opera cloak and I considered quilting silk myself to do it. My stash didn’t have any appropriately colored silk, though, so that idea was out if I was to stay on the stash busting course. I thought of buying pre-quilted silk (completely abandoning my stash busting idea), but the colors I could find were bland and the dark brown I eventually decided on after months of indecision was sold out.

In the end, I decided I just wanted the project to be finished, so I would go the low-cost route of purchasing a polyester lining from the $3 per yard store. It helped me use other stash materials, so it seemed a reasonable trade off.

Mantle: Construction

Here’s that polyester lining. It’s unintentionally the same greyish-brown drab color as the cotton lining of the 1884 bustle dress. The mantle is fully lined, as you can see.

In order to make the lining of my mantle tidy, the sleeves were fully lined before being set into the side back seams. Here is one sleeve assembled and ready to be set in.

The assembled/lined sleeves were set into the exterior wool side back seams while the lining side back seams were sewn plain. After attaching the sleeves around the armsceyes in the exterior wool, the lining was turned under and whip stitched to finish the edges.

All of the braid trim is machine sewn on using a zipper foot. I was able to sew it in place on the wool before setting in the lining, so none of the attaching sew lines are visible.

The lining was machine sewn around the edges with the neck left open to turn right sides out. After that was completed, I machine sewed the collar lining (interfaced with cotton) to the neck edge by machine. Then I sewed the exterior fur collar on the neck edge by hand (shown in the next photo).

After that I flipped the lining up, turned all of the seam allowances in, and whip stitched the lining to the fur edge. It seemed easier to do it this way rather than machine sewing the fur.

The faux fur trim around the bottom edge is pieced where there are seams in the wool. This allows the fur to have the exact same shape as the wool underneath. These edges have no seam allowance. The edges are just butted together and then (roughly) whip stitched, as in the photo below. From the right side of the fur the seams are completely invisible.

The top and bottom edges of the fur trim have seam allowances that are turned in and hand sewn along both edges. The outer (bottom) edges are sewn right sides together with the bottom of the purple wool. Then, the inner (top) edges are turned under and stitched. Here is that process in progress.

The mantle closes with 4 coat weight hook and loops spaced down the front edges. They kept popping open while being worn, so when I got home I pinched them with a pair of pliers to make the hooks grab onto the loops better. I haven’t been out wearing this again since then, but I’m confident this solves the problem, as I’ve used this trick in the past.

New Muff (Cover)

Next, I want to share a bit about the muff I have in these photos.

Despite having a number of muffs, none of them are the right size and material to match my new mantle. I have a dark muff that matches the hat I wound up wearing and I have a muff made from the same fur I used to trim the mantle, but the dark muff didn’t match my mantle and the one that does match is an intentionally oversized early 19th century muff. Neither would do!

But I didn’t want to make an entirely new muff. Instead, I decided to make a new cover for a muff I’ve had since 2012 (you can see it in this post from 2019, when I used it with an early 19th century outfit). The muff is from a workshop I took with LadyDetalle. (She has an Etsy shop that often stocks muffs like this as well as many other beautiful and historically inclined goodies.)

The base is essentially a pillow (stuffed with real down–quite luxurious!) that can be rolled into a tube and have a cover put on. The idea is that the muff cover can be changed out so that you can have all sorts of beautiful muffs and only need to store the one base. The muff is sized for the 18th century, but I thought it just might work for my 1880s look, too.

Accordingly, I measured my existing muff cover and cut a rectangle of faux fur that size. I butted my edge to make a tube and whip stitched it, in the same way as I whip stitched the mantle trim. Next, I machine sewed twill tape on the tube ends. (I had no worries about the fur getting caught in the machine sewing because that whole edge turns into the muff in the end anyway, so none of that will show.)

Once whip stitched in place the twill tape covers the raw edge of the fur and also provides a casing for the ribbons at each end. I used tobacco brown polyester ribbon that was gifted to me. By way of justification for the polyester ribbon, I’d already used polyester for the mantle lining and this seemed like a good use for this particular ribbon.

Below is the muff cover after those steps were completed.

And here is a closeup of the twill tape with machine stitching on one side and whip stitching on the other. The ends of the twill tape are just turned under and butted together, leaving an opening for the ribbon ends to come through.

And ta da! A muff that is the right size and perfectly matched to the mantle! The additional muff cover takes up hardly any storage space and now I have more versatility in my wardrobe.

Hat Baubles

While making my mantle and debating how to stay warm, I figured I would need something to keep my head warm. I’d already made the dress and the mantle and I didn’t feel like creating something all new for my head, as well. And I loved this image from the McCord Museum of 1880s ladies curling in the cold with their hats.

I thought I could repurpose my 1917 faux fur hat to suit the purpose, as it has a generally similar tall, straight shape. That hat is nice and warm, being lined in flannel and interlined with layers of batting to insulate the head.

The look of it was a little bland with this outfit, though, and not really coordinated with everything else.  I liked the idea of bringing in some of the mantle fur to make the hat look like it belonged. After fussing with various ideas I decided on fur poms, or baubles.

The baubles are sort of like large-scale cloth stuffed buttons. They are a circle that is gathered, the edges turned into provide stuffing, and the backs sewn together to close up the opening. (This tutorial shows how to make these types of buttons, though I started with a circle of fabric rather than a square.)

I like that the finished baubles pull in the look of the tan fur, that they are silly and amusing, and that they are easily removable. In fact, they are attached with safety pins on the inside of the hat! You can’t get much more easily removable than that!

I’m very pleased with my stash-busting-and-using-things-I-have-on-hand winter bustle ensemble. It’s warm. It was a great patterning challenge. It’s really fun to wear (it feels super elegant!). And it (mostly) reduced my fabric stash.

Thanks for sticking with me through this second detailed (and rather long) post! Next post will be further photos of the bustle dress in action on a woodland adventure.

1884 Plaid Wool Dress Details

I’m very excited to share the details of my (somewhat) new 1884 Plaid Wool Dress! It’s ‘somewhat new’ because I actually finished it 8 months ago, but at that point it was July and the temperature was absolutely not acceptable for wearing a wool dress for photos! Instead of putting the dress away, I kept it out, waiting for colder weather and the opportunity for a photo shoot. I was hoping for snow… and this winter, I got it!

This dress is entirely inspired by the dress on the right in the fashion plate below from La Mode Illustree. I love the relative simplicity of the overall design and the waterfall of folded fabric on the skirt. Unfortunately, I don’t have an official source of the fashion plate or the year it is from, though my best guess is 1884.

I thought the design would be a great use of the tan and plaid wools that have been in my stash since 2012 (wow… that’s longer than I remembered!).  In addition to those, a small piece of plain purple wool had made its way into my stash over the last eight or nine years and when I started this dress in November 2017 I decided it would be a nice addition to the tan and plaid wools in the form of trim. While not an exact match to the purple in the plaid, I think it helps to perk up the plaid and bring out the non-tan tones (the green and purple).

Skirt Construction

I started the process of this dress with the skirt. I wanted the fabric to hang just like the fashion plate, so I decided to drape a custom pattern as opposed to starting with anything that already existed. The only exception to that (in the skirt) is a base of drab greyish-brown cotton. The base pieces were adapted from a Janet Arnold pattern.

I used the skirt base for the front and side areas, in order to have something for the wool layers to be attached to. In the back of the skirt there is nothing but the tan wool.

Here is a look at the inside of the finished skirt. You can see the tan waistband along the top and the drab cotton base with tacking stitches all over it. The tacking stitches are holding the plaid fabric in place–you can just see the plaid selvedge poking out on the right side.

The pleats in the plaid aren’t part of the original fashion plate, which instead has a draped apron-type front. I tried that, putting my plaid with a vertical grain and a tan apron over top, but I really hated how it looked in wool–too heavy and rather unattractive. I played with the fabrics until I settled on the bias plaid. I hinted at the draping in the fashion plate by adding tucks to the plaid to help it drape just slightly rather than just being flat. You can see the resulting folds pretty clearly in the next photo.

The various overlapping pleats of the plaid front, waterfall side, and back were complicated. I was trying to achieve a back that looked like this dress held by the Met, in addition to the various lovely folds shown in the fashion plate.

It’s easy to draw things, but sometimes they don’t really work in actual fabric… I found that with the waterfall, especially. There’s actually an added loop of fabric tucked between the folds that isn’t part of the side piece at all! It’s just a little fake bit to help create the look of the fashion plate. I couldn’t figure out any other way to do it!

Given these various challenges and lots of other things to keep me busy in life, this poor skirt sat in a half finished state on the dress form in my sewing room for at least a year. I couldn’t remove it without marking everything… and I couldn’t make up my mind about what I wanted! (I say poor skirt, but it was sort of poor me, as I definitely reached a point of wanting the dress to get put away!)

Eventually, I did make up my mind and remove the skirt, but the partially finished skirt still sat around for ages before I finished it. Part of marking the skirt also meant figuring out the facings of the waterfall bits, because the fully finished edges had to be set into the waistband. Mr. Q actually asked at one point after the skirt was off the dress form whether I had intended it as decoration in my sewing room because it was there for so long… Nope!

All the various pleats on the skirt wound up making for a rather thick layer of things to sew through for the waistband. Here’s what the side with the waterfall trim looks like on the inside. I count at least 9 layers of wool in one spot! Given that, I decided to cut the inner side of my waistband on the selvedge of the fabric and leave it hanging down into the skirt instead of turning the seam allowances up as you would normally do for a waistband.

Setting the hems on the skirt was another challenge, though this was due to the fact that I did it by myself. It involved dressing in my corset, bustle, petticoat, and skirt, twisting and contorting while putting pins in the hem to mark the floor, then standing to look in the mirror to see if they were even, then adjusting… many times!

I eventually had everything marked to my satisfaction and could move on with the sewing. All sections of the hem are finished with wide bias strips of the drab cotton, the goal being to make the hems durable and less likely to catch on twigs, etc. than if they had more textured wool exposed (and I can say, after romping about the woods in this dress, that the hems did an admirable job!).

After using the drab cotton for both my 1896 Bicycling Ensemble and to line my 1863 Apricot Evening Gown I was starting to run low for this project. I cut the skirt base pieces, cut the bodice lining pieces, and then used pieced scraps to make the wide bias to hem the skirt. As you can see in the above photo, some of my bias pieces were only 6″ or so in length. And in the photo below, you can see the only bit of wide bias that was leftover when I was finished!

The final skirt detail to share is a hidden patch pocket! The skirt opens on the side front, along one side of the plaid, and underneath that opening is a pocket, perfectly sized to fit a cell phone and keys. The pocket is oddly low, near the knees, but that is because I wanted to make sure that any bulk from items in the pocket would press in towards my legs and not make an unsightly bulge on the exterior of the dress.

The photo below shows the pocket, as well as some of the hooks and thread loops that allow the tan fabric to attach to the plaid wool.

Bodice Construction

In addition to this rather complicated skirt, there was also a bodice to be made! The bodice is actually pretty straightforward. The pattern is adapted from the one I used for my 1885 Frills and Furbelows summer dress which in turn was adapted from a Janet Arnold pattern.

The bodice is completely flat lined in the drab cotton. There is a ribbon waist tape to help keep the back of the bodice tight against the body and to keep the bodice from riding up while being worn.

The bottom and front/neck edges are finished with bias strips of the drab cotton. The seam allowances are unfinished. The bodice closes in front with hooks and loops.

There are two other details I want to discuss, as well. First, there are the bust pads! I came across these in this c. 1885 extant dress and decided I wanted to give them a try to see if I could get that really exaggerated bust to waist ratio in my inspiration fashion plate (here’s the link to it again).

Turns out… no. I did not achieve that bust to waist ratio… but I think that’s more a factor of my waist size than anything. (It’s not as small as it was 10 years ago…) To keep the proportions of the fashion plate I would drastically need to increase the bust size. Perhaps in another dress.

In the meantime, this dress tried out the bust pads. They are made from cotton scraps with shaped batting layers inside. Below you can see the steps to creating the pads. Once sewn, these were tacked inside the bodice to keep them in place.

The second detail still to discuss is the neck ruffle. I finished this dress shortly after completing my 1875 Reception Dress last summer and I had my antique fluting iron on the brain. After pondering the fashion plate neck and sleeve ruffles for awhile I decided to use my fluting iron to ruffle some cotton to use for my dress’s neckline and cuffs.

I was well practiced by this point, having fluted lots of silk for the 1875 dress, so away I went! The cotton strips are cut on the grain and folded along the long edge–no hemming required!

Attached to the neckline the trim looks like this. The waves are a little crushed where they are tacked down, but the folded edge maintains a nice wavy shape. I found that my cotton frayed more than I wanted it to, so I went back and whip stitched over the raw edge to keep it tidy.

I used the same cotton for small ruffles on each cuff, as well. Like the neck ruffle, these are hand sewn inside the finished sleeve openings.

You can see the finished effect of the ruffles in the next photo! Subtle, but adding a nice edge finish.

While the ruffles are sewn to the inside of the finished bodice, the purple bodice trim and plaid cuffs are sewn similarly but on the outside of the finished bodice. I didn’t want them to add bulk by turning all the way under into the bias edging, so they have the raw edges turned under and then they are hand sewn to the outside of the bodice.

I decided the purple trim around the neck wasn’t quite interesting enough and so I added a narrow fold of bias cut plaid to help transition between the two solid colors. This also helps the bodice to feel that it belongs with the skirt, so that the only plaid isn’t just on the skirt front and cuffs.

Final details

Both skirt and bodice are mostly assembled by machine with hand finishing, including trimming, hemming/facing, closures, etc.

I used about 8 yds of the different wools and drab cotton for the ensemble. These materials, plus notions etc., cost just under $30. This was definitely helped by the fact that most of the fabrics were purchased for just $3 per yard at the local discount fabric store!

The skirt is a bit heavy, being made of about six yards of wool and cotton, but it’s not unreasonable. And, it’s quite warm! I was perfectly warm in the approximately 20 degree Fahrenheit cold for all of these photos except for my nose, chest, and hands. Never fear, though, I was wearing the additional layers of my newly completed mantle and muff except for during these photos! (And there will be posts coming up about them as well, with lots more photos!) With all my layers the only part of me that was cold was my nose!

In the end, I’m more pleased with the overall dress than I expected to be! I was always excited about the skirt and the purple swoop of the upper bodice trim, but once I started making the dress in wool I was worried the bodice might be too plain and maybe even boring… but I like the fit and shaping very much (especially in the back!) and I think that helps balance out the relatively simple style. It makes sense for a wool dress to be well tailored but more simple in decoration and style than its silk counterparts.

Also, I’m very pleased that my idea from 2012, to use these fabrics for a bustle dress, has finally been achieved! I think there’s still a yard or so of tan wool in my stash, but I’ve sewn my way through a good 8 yards of it. That’s great stash busting!

A Magical Walk Through The Woods

My last two posts were aimed at sharing photos of my black wool 3/4 circle skirt and 1950s boysenberry raglan cardigan. Those posts both included a bunch of photos, all of which were taken during a magical walk through the woods, but there were many wonderful photos in addition to those that I didn’t feel needed to be added to the garment documentation posts.

Accordingly, I’ve decided to share more in this post!

Hopefully this is a nice ‘armchair’ outing into the snowy, magical woods! Welcome to the adventure!

This snow was very early–occurring on October 30. Due to that early date, there was a beautiful mix of iconic golden bronze New England leaves still on the trees as well as on the ground, mixed with the snow.

The snow was rather sticky, as you can see in the photos, so not only was it clinging to the trunks and branches, but it also clung to the leaves. The combination of slanting sunlight filtering through the trees created an incredible glow.

The snow, only a few inches deep, created a quiet hush over the woods. It provided enticing opportunities to step off the paths, something that is less likely during other seasons, when branches are full of leaves and poison ivy might be lurking in the undergrowth.

In between photos, I donned my coat and orange vest. Safety is important when it’s hunting season in the woods!

I found it quite tempting to pause and listen to stillness, admiring the majestic height of the pine trees and the beauty of the forest.

It was fascinating to see how the wooded areas bathed in shadows retained much of the snow throughout the walk, while areas that were in more direct sunlight were quite clear of snow. Look at the contrast!

The colors were so vibrant! The mix of bronze leaves on the trees and ground, green algae on the river, boysenberry sweater, and blue sky are such a contrast to the snowy scenes that we found only a mile or so back on the wooded path.

The colors look even more vibrant in this photo. I think the green branch really brings out the green in the river and pops against the purple of the sweater.

By this point in the walk my down coat was rather too warm, combined with all my other layers. The snow felt the same way, I think, as most of it had melted, leaving bare leaves and trees.

The pine trees in this part of the forest were a different variety. I’m not an expert on tree types, but these remind me more of drooping Douglas Fir trees than the very tall pine trees.

Scattered around were also many baby pine trees, pushing their way up through the snow and leaves to get their share of sunshine!

There are always many photos that don’t make the cut, but I found some of the ones from this outing to be particularly amusing, so I thought I’d share a few outtakes, too!

This is probably the most logical one. As the day warmed up the sticky snow was falling off the trees in clumps and landing everywhere… including on my head! Easy to dust off, but amusing!

Next, I have this photo, in which I believe I’m trying to keep a branch from poking me in the head. I actually love the background… this little gully is lovely, with the floating leaves and curved shape leading out to the river. But… my arms remind me of a family joke about ‘keeping the elephants’ away, which is amusing.

Lastly, my favorite outtake. The ‘what??? confusion’ face! This one just makes me laugh.

I hope you enjoyed this beautiful, snowy armchair outing!

1950s Lady’s Raglan Cardigan In Boysenberry

I finished knitting another sweater!

This is actually my fourth sweater. The first was my 1917 Knitted Sweater of Angorina, the second hasn’t been posted to the blog, and the third was my 1920 Sweater of Determination. Each sweater has been a learning experience in some way, and this one was no different!

One thing I learned with this sweater was about multiple different ways to increase and decrease symmetrically on each side of a piece (a sleeve for example). This was a rabbit hole I went down that I think was sparked by my wondering why the stitch instructions were different for the left and right side raglan armholes.

The method of increasing or decreasing is an important one made by the pattern designer because every stitch has a different look and different types of stitches may or may not look symmetrical when knit up. Also, the increase and decrease stitches have a slant to them, so it’s important that the slants are going in the correct direction. This resource clearly outlines different increase and decrease methods.

You can see the decorative symmetry of the shaping on the armsceyes in this pattern in the photo below. I love how it looks!

I also learned how to K2Tog TBL (Knit 2 Together Through The Back Loop). I’d K2Tog before, but not through the back loop. I found this explanation of K2Tog TBL to be the most helpful.

And, I learned about picking up stitches along an already finished edge, which is something I hadn’t encountered in any of the things I’ve made so far. This technique is used for the cuffs on the new sweater. I found this information and this information super helpful in terms of figuring it out and making it look nice.

The pattern for this sweater is a PDF download from Subversive Femme on Etsy. It is the 1950s Fitted Raglan Cardigan pictured below. The pattern was easy to download and the quality was clear and easy to read.

My cardigan (the end result) generally follows the pattern image, so that’s great! There are a few differences:

1- My understanding of the instructions created a vertical pattern that doesn’t quite match the one pictured on the orange sweater. I’m not sure if I was doing something wrong or not, but I don’t mind how mine turned out.

2- The pattern image clearly shows full length sleeves, but the instructions definitely produced ¾ sleeve sleeves with weird proportions in terms of circumferences around the arms. After making one, I puzzled for a bit, then decided to take it apart and knit a new sleeve with alterations to make it longer.

Below, you can see the comparison of the sleeves: the original sleeve that follows the directions is on the left and my altered version is on the right.

3- I made up the sweater in a bust size 38″ (the largest size included in the pattern). As much as I love my sweater, it is a bit small. I’d prefer it to be an inch or two longer in length, a bit bigger in terms of torso circumference (the buttons don’t really stay closed), and definitely bigger in the size of the armsceyes (it’s a bit tight under my arms). This makes sense, since my bust measures 40″. Someday I might make another version of this sweater and adjust the pattern to have more space in the areas where I need it.

The pattern seems to have been published by a yarn company and states quite clearly that “Correct results can only be obtained by using Lee Target in ‘Motoravia’ Double Knitting Wool.” Well, I didn’t use that… I used Red Heart With Love acrylic yarn in boysenberry, because I had a bunch of it in my stash (enough, I thought or at least hoped). It was leftover from my Deauville sweater, I liked the color, and it also seemed to be a similar weight to the Lee Target wool, which Ravelry has great information on and photos of.

I figured that if the sweater was a complete disaster I wouldn’t have spent tons of money on yarn for it. In the end, I didn’t have quite enough yarn and had to order another 6oz, but luckily I found the right yarn, in the right color, on Etsy and the skeins don’t have dye lots, so I had enough to finish the project!

Being acrylic, this cardigan is quite warm. It’s great for being outside in the cold, but I’ve found that wearing it inside can sometimes make me too warm. That’s true of most acrylic sweaters I own. I can’t count on them being part of an outfit all day, because I often take them off at some point.

This sweater took about 46 hours of knitting to make, plus another 4 ½ hours of unknitting (either to take apart the sleeve that was too short or because I’d mixed up a stitch somewhere along the way and had to go back and fix it). It was made over the course of about 10 months.

For materials, I used about 18 oz/925 yds of yarn and 7 plastic buttons that I found in a coordinating shade of deep pinky/purple, after a lengthy hunt on Etsy. The total cost of the materials was about $20, plus some shipping for the buttons and extra skein of yarn.

I had a wonderful time tromping through the woods after an early snow last October to document the new sweater and the black wool ¾ circle skirt I’m wearing with it. Despite the fit being a bit small, I’m very pleased with the cardigan and have added it into my regular wardrobe rotation even outside of a photo shoot walk.

While it’s fun to make historical things that only get worn on special outings, there’s also an added bonus when things can be worn more often for everyday life!

Presenting A Coat From 1925

A few years ago, I decided I wanted a 1920s coat. The goal was to make it for an event, but I ran into some construction problems along the way that caused me to give up work for awhile. In January, after letting it sit for about two years, I was tired of looking at the half finished project and worked up the determination to actually finish it.

Though I’ve only worn it once so far, I’m very pleased that I finally finished this coat! It is quite decadent and elegant to wear (and it’s nice to have completed the project so I can put it away)!

My inspiration started with the pattern below. I was intrigued by the flared side pieces and overlapped closure. I enlarged this pattern and did a little adjusting for my proportions.

With the pattern ready to go, I purchased the exterior fabric of the coat and got to work. The exterior is made out of fleece backed velvet upholstery fabric from Fabric.com. Thankfully it isn’t super stiff, like some upholstery fabrics are. The fleece backing is actually quite soft and the exterior has a low pile and lovely sheen. It shows every little brush against the nap though, so I was super careful while making it, transporting it, and wearing it to keep the pile brushed the right way.

The inside body of the coat is lined in tan silk shantung. This was a remnant I purchased years ago from a local discount fabric store. I’ve never found a good use for it until now, when I managed to just squeeze out the pieces I needed for the coat.

Unfortunately, that’s also where the problems started. I cut the sleeve linings on the cross grain of the silk (because I was running low on fabric). I know that grain and cross grain can behave differently, but these were drastically different! The sleeves were so constricting!

Also, I hadn’t widened the sleeves enough to actually move in even without the silk lining! I could get my arms in the sleeves but there was no way I was going to bend them or use them for any useful purpose. Oops!

What to do???

Well, with the event I had intended this for fast approaching… I gave up. I put the project on the back of a chair (so it wouldn’t get marks in the pile!) and moved on.

Two years later, I decided it was time to finish the coat. In the spirit of forging ahead and in order to make things work, I changed a few things from my original vision.

For the sleeves, I scrapped the silk linings, opting to just leave the arms of the coat unlined. This worked because of the softness of the fleece backing. In addition, I was able to cut cuff facings and binding for the armhole seam allowances out of my failed sleeve linings.

I thought I could let out the under sleeve seam and it would be enough extra fabric to make the sleeves comfortable. The needle holes had left scars on the fabric, but I figured no one would see it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough!

So, I ripped out the let out seam, dug out my fabric scraps, and pieced a section down the entire length of the arm. The piece is about 1″ wide at the wrist and 2″ at the armsceye. What was I thinking with my original pattern??? Thankfully the added piece is not obvious, since it’s on the underside of the arm. And I suppose that if you didn’t know where sleeve seams should be it wouldn’t look out of place!

As well as actually fitting my arm (and allowing for movement!), the bigger armsceye on the sleeve allowed me to move the sleeve up on the shoulder a bit, too, which helped the coat not look oversized.

In addition to the sleeve changes, I also changed the front edges of the coat from that nice jag with buttons to straight from collar to hem. I realized there was no way to do buttonholes I would be happy with in my very thick velour and that the angle I had very carefully sewn just would not lie flat. A slight tug line at the inside corner really bothered me.

I looked at these two pages from a 1925 Sears catalog to help with the design choices at this point.

These helped me decide on the button closure. There is one button and corresponding thread loop on the hip and another below the collar.

The Sears images also helped me decide on the location of the fur trim. The bands and collar are made faux fur leftover from my 1814 Wizchoura Ensemble, also from Fabric.com. The collar is especially warm and comfy when buttoned shut, though it’s also a lot around the face… so I think wearing it open is more likely! This combination of red pile exterior and tan fur shows up multiple times on my 1920s Outwear Pinterest board and it was nice to use fur I already owned instead of buying more.

I decided against fur trim on the cuffs and instead kept the French cuff look, set off with two buttons. This was a feature from the original pattern that was supposed to mirror the jag on the front edges that I eliminated.

I didn’t change the flared side pieces of the pattern and I’m very pleased with the end result. They give a 1920s flip to the otherwise very straight shape of this coat.

The six buttons on the coat are from Farmhouse Fabrics. They’re big, about 1 ¼” across, and they have a wavy pattern on them that helps make them interesting looking without being distracting. They match the velour so well!

All together, the materials used on this coat are: 2 ½ yards of the fleece backed velvet, approximately 2 yards of silk shantung for the lining, scraps of faux fur used on my 1814 Wiztchoura, 6 large buttons, and thread. The total cost of these materials is about $70, including shipping.

I didn’t keep track of the number of hours spent making, altering, and finishing this coat, but I would guess that it is around 30-40. There was some serious frustration in there (or despair, as Anne of Green Gables might say!).

As you can see in all the photos, when I finally wore this coat in January 2020 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, the Christmas decorations were still up. I loved (and still do!) how festive the coat looks with the decorations, but by the time this post was written it seemed a bit late for the holiday look here on the blog, so I decided to save this post for this 2020 holiday season. Now, after many months of missing fabulous indoor spaces and events, I’m particularly pleased that I have these photos to share!

An 1830s Apple Picking Adventure

I’ve been promising photos of this adventure for months at this point, I think! It’s been awhile coming because I wanted to finish posting about my new dress and its accessories before moving on to these photos. In case you missed them, there are two posts about my 1834 Yellow Dress, a detailed construction post and a post sharing sewing secrets about the dress, as well as a post about my 1831 bonnet construction. There’s also a post about the corded petticoat I made for this ensemble.

But enough about sewing for now! Let’s share a beautiful day full of dazzling sunlight and gorgeous fall leaves. And apples!

This outing started with the idea that I wanted to go apple picking for my birthday. It was determined by my friends at some point over the summer that apple picking should be done in 1830s dresses. The result was lots of sewing… and new dresses all around! (And as you’ve seen, we also took tons of photos to document the new dresses!)

But back to the point: apples!

The orchard we went to had a variety of apples available to choose from, some of which were historical heirloom varieties! They varied in size, quite small (2″ or so across) to large (4″ or so), and color, from very dark red, to yellow, to nice medium red.

It was fun to hunt in the trees for apples that were special enough to make it into our collection bags.

We often went father away from the paths than most people, which helped us find areas without other people for photos and good looking apples!

We couldn’t have had better weather! It was a perfectly comfortable temperature and the sun was beautiful.

It was also a bit breezy, which was lovely and fresh feeling.

The leaves were starting to change, adding pops of orange, red, and yellow to the sea of green foliage.

One can work up an appetite apple picking! We had a picnic lunch on a local town common to refresh ourselves before another round of photo taking.

I imagine we made a spectacle at the apple orchard. Mostly because of our clothes, of course, but also because of the photo chains! It’s hard to see, but there are actually three of us taking photos in this photo, which is being taken by a fourth person!

Isn’t this apple tree magical looking? It reminds me of some sort of gateway into another (pandemic free…) land.

In this year of curtailed historical adventures, it was especially wonderful to have a sunny outing full of fun and laughter! Plus, we had yummy apples to eat at the end of the day and to take home with us!

More Of The 1834 Yellow Dress (HSM #9)

Today’s post is going to share more details about and photos of my new 1834 yellow dress. If you missed my last post about this dress, it was a lengthy one sharing oodles of construction details and photos. You can read that past post here.

Here is a reminder image of the fully accessorized dress!

The biggest accessory is my newly completed 1831 bonnet. There is a recent (lengthy) post about the construction of that here, if you want to learn more about it.

I also added smaller accessories, in the form of a petersham belt and brand new reproduction buckle. The wide petersham is a length of ribbon I purchased from The Sewing Place–I highly recommend their many colors and widths! The buckle is a fabulous reproduction buckle from Ensembles of the Past. It’s a bit hard to see the wonderful detail in this photo, but there’s a photo later in the post that shows the detail much better! The Ensembles of the Past blog also has a post sharing how to easily use ribbon to make an endlessly (and easily) adjustable belt out of ribbon! I highly recommend both the buckles and a read through the blog post!

Back to the dress itself. Let’s start off with the Historical Sew Monthly details. Challenge #9 is Sewing Secrets:

Hide something in your sewing, whether it is an almost invisible mend, a make-do or unexpected material, a secret pocket, a false fastening or front, or a concealed message (such as a political or moral allegiance).

In this dress, I have two secrets, both of which I mentioned in the dress construction details post. One is pockets in the skirt and the other is that the bodice of this dress is detachable.

First, the pockets. Yay! My pockets are made from the dress fabric. They are French seamed and set into the side front seams of the skirt. On the inside, they look like this.

On the outside, they look like this. They’re a secret because they camouflage so well that you really can’t see them at all unless I pull them open or my hand is disappearing inside!

Second, the bodice detaches. This is very unusual (and possibly unheard of) for the 1830s, though it becomes common practice by the 1850s and 1860s. This system allows me to attach the current bodice, which I’ve dated 1834, or a second bodice that I have in the works which is dated 1838. That opens a whole world of possibilities in terms of showing changing bodice and sleeve styles without needing to create an entire second dress!

A bit closer up, you can just barely make out a loop on the skirt waistband that connects to a hook at center front. There are hooks and loops all around the skirt and bodice waistbands to connect them together.

Now that we’ve seen the relevant dress features, let’s look at the other HSM facts:

Fabric/Materials: 7 ¼ yds of reproduction print cotton, 1 yd muslin, a scrap of canvas for the waistband of the bodice, and a scrap of flannel for the cartridge pleats.

Pattern: Adapted from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1, with adjustments for fit and style, as well as The Workwoman’s Guide.

Year: 1834.

Notions: 2 ½ yds narrow cotton yarn for cording, 2 ½ yds of narrow white lace, and about 23 hooks and loops.

How historically accurate is it?: 95%. The pattern, silhouette, construction methods, and fabric are all quite good, but there is machine sewing on the interior seams.

Hours to complete: 25.75 hours.

First worn: In early October, for an apple picking outing, picnic, and photos!

Total cost: Approximately $60.

In addition to the HSM details, I want to share some more photos as well. These photos were taken during an all day outing in October. There’s still a post coming that will share apple picking photos from the outing, but there were many good ones from our later in the day photo shoot as well.

These next photos were taken in a neat conservation area that has beautiful, varied scenery that includes a pond area, open fields, wooded paths, huge rhododendrons, a meandering river, and this lovely row of pine trees.

I enjoy the line of trees and the interesting perspective they provide. So here you go, a front and back view of this ensemble.

Farther along our walk through this beautiful area we stopped to take some artistic detail shots of the sleeves of this dress. First up, the mancheron on the shoulder of the dress. There’s some pretty good pattern matching to admire and it’s fun to see the gathers up close, too.

Here’s another view of the mancheron and sleeve puff, with the zig zag cuff trim in the background.

I can’t decide if I like that photo or this next one best! The next one is similar, but the focus of the photo is on the zig zag cuff trim instead of the mancheron.

The last detail photo shows the cuff trim in even greater detail, as well as my new belt buckle from Ensembles of the Past!

I purchased the ‘antique gold’ color. I love it! It’s substantial in weight, has precise and delicate details, and will probably outlast me in terms of durability. (This is just my opinion–I’m not paid to say these nice things!)

The last photos I have to show you are a bit of a teaser for the apple picking photos that are still to come. We had the most gorgeous autumn New England day!

The sky was a brilliant blue. The temperature was wonderfully comfortable–neither hot nor cold. The leaves were changing and were starting to crown the trees in vibrant red, yellow, and orange.

And a fresh breeze lifted our spirits and our bonnet ribbons! I’ve so missed events and outings. This was much needed (socially distanced) relief for weary souls. I hope that you have also found relief and joy in these trying times!

1904 Anne Ensemble Photo Shoot

Last fall, I had the opportunity to take part in a presentation focused on the clothing of middle and upper class African Americans in Providence, RI around the turn of the 20th century (you can see photos of and information about this event here). In order to generate some promotional materials that incorporated both of the presenters (as opposed to having separate photos of each of us), my co-presenter, Lady Estelle Barada, suggested that we schedule a photo shoot together and so we spent a beautiful, sunny summer morning traipsing around a state park, accompanied by photographer David Cruz.

The outfit I chose to wear, my 1904 Anne of Green Gables Ensemble, has been a difficult outfit to photograph in the past, especially the blouse with its white-on-white lace trim and the subtle changes in the direction of the stripes. Given that challenge, I was extra excited when I saw the results of David’s work. He clearly captured the small details of our clothing, including the blouse details!

There are many wonderful photos from our shoot and I enjoy the captivating liveliness that each photo shares–you can just image that movement will continue as soon as you blink or look away.

On the outfit front, I love how comfortable my ‘Anne Ensemble’ is. I had no difficulty tromping through tall grass, climbing over rock walls, sitting on a picnic blanket, and more!

I was also pleased with how my hair turned out. I was able to achieve Edwardian volume around the face while maintaining a side part that gave me two separate poufs on the top/side of my face.

I’m very grateful that David graciously gave permission for me to share these photos with you. As always, please do not share these photos without appropriate photographer credit and a link back to this source.

Photography: David Cruz

1875 Hair & Finished Hat (HSM #7)

Last post, I shared details about the style I decided on for the hat to accompany my 1875 reception dress, as well as how I made the hat.

Today, we get to see the finished hat being worn and take a look at the hairstyle I created to support the it!

This hat qualifies for the Historical Sew Monthly challenge #7: No-Buy! I was pleased that I had everything I needed for this hat on hand and it was a bonus that I was even able to use scraps in a lot of places!

Make something without buying anything.  Whether it’s finishing off a UFO, using up scraps of fabric from earlier challenges in the year, sewing entirely from stash, or finding the perfect project for those small balls of yarn, this is your opportunity to get creative without acquiring more stuff.

Just the facts:

Fabric/Materials:  Scraps of buckram, scraps of cotton flannel, scraps of pink, green, and ivory silk, 2 green-ish/brown ostrich feathers, 9 vintage silk millinery flowers, and a bit of cotton velvet.

Pattern: My own.

Year: c. 1875.

Notions: Millinery wire and thread.

How historically accurate is it?: Let’s say 85%. It’s pretty good on shape, materials, and methods, I believe, and it would be recognizable in its time.

Hours to complete: 10 ¾ hours.

First worn: In May, for photos with my 1875 ensemble!

Total cost: This was a stash project, so I count it as free; however, not counting fabric scraps I think I spent about $12 on the other materials at some point in the past.

Hairstyle Possibilities

When I was deciding on the style of hat I would be making, I also had to consider what my hairstyle might be, as the two support and complement each other. The post showing how I made this hat also shows a variety of hat styles popular at this time.

Along those same lines, let’s look at possible hairstyles from the years around 1875. Hairstyles changed throughout the 1870s, sometimes in subtle ways… and sometimes in not subtle ways! Here is not subtle for you.

Guy Little Theatrical Photograph, V & A, S.145:535-2007

I love this look (though I can see why you might chose to have a differing opinion), with ginormous braids and twists that use much more hair than most people naturally have on their heads. However, this style (with all of the additional hair at the back of the head) does not coordinate with the type of hat I chose–one that would sit on the back of my head, creating a crown effect.

Looking at the years right around 1875 (the year of my reception dress), I found hairstyles with lots of curls and twists hanging down. 1875 is the part of the decade when the fashionable silhouette of dresses changes from the very round styles of 1870-1874 (like this, for example, from 1870) to the styles from 1875-1877 that have fabric starting to slide down the backs of skirts (like this, for example, from 1875).

As if in sympathy with the dresses, I notice that hairstyles start to slide down, too. It is these years when I see curls and twists hanging down the back, while the top parts of the hair are still sculptural, decorative, and large. Here is another example showing both the cascading fabric and the sympathetic hanging curls.

La Mode Artistique, 1875, via Yesterday’s Thimble

Interestingly, there are lots of advertisements for hair pieces to help achieve these styles–for ready-made curls, twists, braids… we know that women were not achieving this with only their own hair!

Ten illustrations of different types of wigs and hair pieces, May 1875, via Hats From History

Another hairstyle option is much more subdued and most popular starting in 1878. This is the Natural Form period, when skirts are quite narrow by comparison with earlier years (like this, for example, from 1880). In keeping with the streamlined silhouette, the hair is now generally swept up, but with much less ornamentation and volume than we see in the previous years. Here is an example. No hanging curls or twists and no masses of faux hair.

1880, Le Journal des Modes, via the LAPL

Hairstyle Decision

I settled on the mid-century hairstyle of decorative bits hanging down the back with sculptural hair on the top of my head, to complement the hat. This style provided a solid base that helped visually and physically balance and anchor the hat. Indeed, without all the extra volume on top of my head the hat just looks out of place.

As you can see in the front view photo (above), I used a giant braid for the top/front of my style. There’s a whole blog post about how I created the braid here. Behind that, there is a bun form to help create volume on top of my head. This worked wonderfully for anchoring my hat pin, which you can just see poking out on the right side of the photo below–it’s tipped in a green glass leaf.

I attempted to create loops and swirls of hair around and below the bun, but I’m afraid that part of the style wasn’t as successful as I was hoping for. It’s difficult to do on the back of your own head and it’s hard to make the loops distinct, especially with my hair texture. I suspect it would be easier with smoother hair and definitely easier to do on someone else instead of yourself. I’ll have to try this style again some day. For this first attempt the back of my head was completely covered by my hat, so it doesn’t really matter what it looks like!

Below the loopy/swoopy bit I left curls hanging down at a few different lengths, as I saw in many fashion plates. This part turned out well!

That’s it, really. Massive hair, some hanging curls, plop the trimmed hat on top, secure it with a hat pin, and suddenly my head is about double the size it normally is! Here is another photo showing the hat and a sneak peak at more of the dress. Lots of details are coming up about the dress in future posts!

Dreaming of Summer Adventures (Gatsby On The Isles 2019)

I don’t know about you, but I have most certainly been dreaming of historical and vintage summer adventures lately.

For this post, I don’t even need to dream! Instead, I can review my memories from the fun of Gatsby On The Isles last year. This is a lovely 1920s getaway on Star Island, off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The weekend’s events include the boat trips to and from the island, exploring, picnic-ing, games, an evening dance party, fabulous live music for the dance party and picnic, and more. If this post’s photos aren’t enough fun, check out these past posts about this event: 2018 and 2016.

Back to last year, here I am heading to the island in my 1925 Blue Coral Day Dress, 1917 Knitted Sweater of Angorina, and blue Ginger shoes from Royal Vintage (now American Duchess).

Normally, being August, it’s super hot and rather sweaty. Last year, though, we had unusual weather. It was very windy and rather chilly. It wasn’t necessarily cold, it was just slightly warm and windy, which felt chilly when I was prepared (and dressed) for quite hot temperatures.

The wind made rather large swells and rolling rides both to and from the island. Thankfully I didn’t feel motion sick, just in awe of the waves around us, but unfortunately others didn’t fare as well. For me, the wind made it harder than usual to get good photos, both on the boat and on the island. And it made me feel much less interested in lounging about outside–I generally stayed indoors so I didn’t feel cold.

Look at my skirt blowing around in the wind… This was Saturday after our arrival. I think I was headed to the hotel to get my sweater because I was cold standing up on the rocks without it!

I did go out on the porch to document my Sunday afternoon outfit: my 1930s beach pajamas with my Gingers! The windy weather meant that I spent the entire day in my sweater, again (and that it was hard to get a photo of my pants that wasn’t absurd looking!).

We also went out for a walk on Saturday evening before dinner. It’s fun to explore all of the different paths around the island (as long as I put on LOTS of bug spray–the mosquitos LOVE to bite me… ugh!).

The views are lovely as well! No matter which direction you look there is a gorgeous view!

Sunday morning is traditionally pajama croquet. I didn’t participate this year, but that didn’t stop me wearing my 1935 dressing gown to lounge about in!
The usual camera-toting-suspect had fun playing with her Petzval lens for the robe photo, as well as some others. They do a great job capturing the ambiance of the weekend. (Check out this post for a little bit of information about the Petzval lens and a link to a blog post with lots more information.)

I particularly enjoy the live and recorded music that our host provides for the weekend. Having a ‘soundtrack’ for an adventure only makes it that much more magical.

I also enjoyed these potted arrangements outside the hotel. The mixture of textures, colors, and shapes appeals to me, and I love how there are unusual colors mixed in, like the deep purple and very bright green.

What wonderful memories! Of sunshine, warmth, and fun with friends. It was very rainy and unseasonably cold in April, so these warm memories are especially appreciated!