Vernet Project: Silly Shoes

One of the five pieces of my Vernet Project was creating the silly up-turned-toe elf shoes in the fashion plate. Clearly, these are not shoes that could be purchased, as they are so specific in style, so I set out to make my own!

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In the beginning, I was thankful to have another Vernet project maker’s experience making her boots before mine to work from. Jenni posted a two part tutorial showing how she made her boots as well as sharing information behind-the-scenes with project participants earlier in the process (Part 1 and Part 2). She closely referenced Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker, published in 1855 (a little late relative to the date of the project, but still useful for construction advice), for construction methods and carefully documented her process. In fact, she did a much better job at documenting the actual sewing than I did… I also read Anna’s information about making mid-19th century shoes multiple times to help get my mind acquainted with the project (again, a little later than the period of the project, but still helpful). She also has lots of great construction pictures.

I started by creating a pattern for my shoe using patterns in Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker. Given that my shoe has the unusual turned-up-toe, I necessarily needed to make adjustments to the general slipper pattern. Here is my shoe at the mockup stage. The upper pieces fit pretty well! I adjusted the width of the sole as well as the shape of the turned-up section before moving on to cut out the final pieces.


Here are all of the final pieces cut out and ready to assemble. The soles have three layers: heavier tan leather for the outer sole, cardboard for the inner sole structure, and white linen to cover the cardboard insole. The uppers have two layers: lightweight raspberry leather for the exterior and white linen for the interior. Later in the process I also added a faux fur cuff.

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To help the shoes keep their turned-up-toe shape I soaked the leather soles in water, taped them to a lysol wipe container, and let them dry. You can see the results below. Not perfectly curved up, but still helpful. I also tried boiling leather soles to thicken them before shaping, but found that the leather shrank unevenly which created soles that wouldn’t work for this project. I did save them, though, and hopefully will get to use them for a future shoe making endeavor. I repeated the soaking and shaping for the cardboard insoles before gluing the linen to them. There’s a picture of the insoles at this stage in this past post.

Soles in progress.001

After shaping the soles it was time to construct the uppers. I did the interior and exterior separately, then basted them together around the top opening and around the bottoms. Then I sewed the bottom edges of the uppers to the soles, using the slanting stitch through the side of the sole that Jenni shows in Part 2 of her tutorial. She used all sorts of nifty leather tools as well as a wooden last during construction. I purchased the nifty leather tools but found that they didn’t work for me and a simple non-leather needle worked just fine. (I think my leather was too thin and soft for these to be needed). As for the last, I looked online for a wooden one, never found one in my size foot, and eventually decided to give it a go without one, especially since I had to do the turned-up toe. In the end, I don’t think it was a problem not to have a last.

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Once the soles were attached, I bound the front slit with matching silk ribbon. Then I cut a piece of faux fur for each shoe that went around just the top of the foot opening and could double over on itself. There are non-functional silk ribbon loops that are sewn to the front of the fur that encases the top edge of the shoe. The shoes actually close with a twill tape threaded through hand sewn eyelets on each side of the opening.


They’re actually quite comfortable for walking around in. I have very flat feet, so don’t really need arch support to be comfortable. The only thing is that my feet did get cold during our photoshoot due to the freezing ground only separated from my feet by a few thin layers of fabric. So, for the second wearing, while caroling at Christmastime, I added a faux fur insole. Problem solved! They were toasty and even more comfortable!

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Interestingly, witzchouras are mentioned as being popular in Paris during the year 1827 by La Belle Assembleé, after a mention of other popular pelisses and mantles (well worth checking out!), and are are described as being worn with boots laced in front and with fur around the leg.


Doesn’t that description sound oddly familiar? It reminds me so very much of the Vernet fashion plate and my silly shoes!

HSF #1: The Make Do Shift

The first challenge of the Historical Sew Fortnightly (HSF) 2014 is Make Do And Mend. At the start of January, none of my in-progress projects qualified, unfortunately, and while I wanted to get started on the right foot for the HSF 2014 and not miss the challenge, I also didn’t want to make something just to make something. I don’t need more stuff with no purpose and it’s hard to stay motivated on a project if you’re doing it “just because.” So I racked my brain trying to think of what would work for the challenge and be useful, without taking too much time. I settled on the idea of turning a gifted partially finished linen man’s shirt into an 18th century shift suitable for the mid-to-late 18th century. That just happens to be the period my 18th century court gown will be from at some point this year. Useful! I made an 18th century shift a few years ago, but it’s actually late 18th century/Regency, with short sleeves, which really isn’t appropriate for the rest of the century. This new shift will sort of work for the entire century, though the sleeves aren’t really full enough to be entirely accurate for the first half.

1750-1790 shift

All of the seams are flat felled. The neck is narrow hemmed. It’s pretty accurate, though I did have to add center front and center back seams, which is not usual for these garments. Those seams are due to the fact that the shift was super wide after I cut it out because I had to deal with the neck opening of the partially sewn shirt, and that was gathered into the neck, so was super full. There was just way more fabric than was needed, so I seamed it and kept the extra with the other scraps I had. I’m sure they’ll get used someday! It’s very nice, light linen.

The facts:

Fabric: Linen reused from a partially completed man’s 18th century shirt.

Pattern: I used Mara Riley’s 18th century shift draft to cut my pieces, though I had to make some adjustments given that I didn’t start with fabric yardage.

Year: Loosely 1750-1790.

Notions: Thread.

How historically accurate?: It’s 100% hand sewn using 18th century stitches and cut in the manner of an 18th century shift, so lots of points for that. I probably should loose a few points for using polyester thread. The only other odd thing is that I have seams up center front and center back, but they did piece a lot in the 18th century, so it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility, given that this challenge is Make Do and Mend. I give it 90%.

Hours to complete: 10-15 maybe? I didn’t really keep track.

First worn: By the hanger. I probably won’t wear this until I have more things to wear with it!

Total cost: Free!

HSF #26: Curtain Along Jacket, Finally!

The theme of the final HSF challenge of 2013 is “Celebrate”:

Make something that is celebration worthy, make something that celebrates the new skills you have learned this year, or just make something simple that celebrates the fact that you survived HSF ’13!

This challenge gave me the inspiration to finally finish my Mineral Felicite jacket!

Here’s the story… I bought the fabric over a year ago, but didn’t really start thinking about the project until this summer. I made a mock-up of my chosen 1760s pattern and thought I’d sorted out the fitting issues, but after I’d cut and sewn the real fabric I had many more unexpected problems! I was discouraged, but recieved some really wonderful opinions about what I should do to proceed from you lovely readers. I decided to go with a stomacher front jacket with self fabric pleated trim around the neckline/front opening and around the cuffs on the sleeves, like this jacket at the Met. Then, back in September, the HSF inspired me to make a stomacher to match my jacket for challenge #19. After that, my jacket languished, because I really wasn’t very excited about finishing the sewing for the other decisions I’d made and the alterations that needed to be done to make the jacket the way I wanted it. But I really wanted to finish the jacket in this calendar year. And that brings us to the present, with the jacket finally completed. Yay! I am SO ready to celebrate that this jacket is finally done!!!

Front. The pleated trim easily hides the pins used to attach the stomacher!
Back. It’s wrinkly and without a waist on the hanger. You’ll just have to believe that it looks better on a body!

The facts:

Fabric: Almost 2 yds Waverly Mineral Felicite printed cotton and 1yd (I think) peach linen

Pattern: Heavily altered, but I started with the 1760-1790 jacket pattern in Janet Arnold.

Year: Well… 1760s is what I was aiming for in the beginning.

Notions: Thread and cane boning.

How historically accurate?: 60%. This definitely falls in the historic costume category of my wardrobe. The Waverly fabric is in the spirit of the 18th century, but not accurate, though the linen is accurate as are the methods of construction. The trim is based on extant garments but not specifically reproduced. The jacket is 100% hand sewn.

Hours to complete: So many! With all the problems and alterations and re-sewing I completely lost count.

First worn: Has not been worn yet.

Total cost: $30 maybe? I don’t remember exactly what I paid for the fabrics.

Hopefully, I’ll get some more pieces of an 18th century ensemble done at some point and get pictures of the jacket on me. Don’t hold your breath, though, it could be awhile!

May Fabric Stash Additions

I’ve been trying to be good about not buying more fabric… but sometimes things are just too good to pass up, or an event comes along that requires new clothes! I think I last bought fabric in January, so that’s a pretty good few months of no-new-fabric.

I wasn’t even looking for this fabric! But I happened upon this great red/pink/brown cotton chintz and couldn’t get it out of my mind. In the end, I decided I would regret it if I didn’t buy it. And there you are. I’m thinking of perhaps an 1790s/1800ish open robe eventually. The other two fabrics wouldn’t have been bought on their own, but with the chintz already being purchased… I tacked them on to the order. There is a small bit of the cherry red linen, to make a 1740s jacket some day, and a bit of that blueish cotton/linen blend. I was hoping it would be more teal colored, but it’s not. So it might get relegated to lining something else.


Later in the month, I was on a grand search to find fabric for an 1860s cotton dress and came across this fabulous light teal stripey fabric for $1/yd. I’m calling it the elusive blue green fabric in my head, because that color is sort of hard to find and I’ve been inspired lately to find it. At $1/yd I couldn’t pass it up!


The pictures don’t really do it justice. I’m thinking of making a new Regency evening gown using it and perhaps a 1906ish evening gown some day as well. I bought that similarly colored lining to go with the stripy for the 1906ish evening gown, because at $1/yd in the right color it’s just meant to be, even if it is polyester. I’m not sure what the fabric content of the stripy fabric is, but I’m guessing it’s probably man-made…


Lastly, I’ll be performing in another 1920s dance event next weekend during the day and I needed a 20s day dress. I wanted it to be washable and I didn’t have any appropriate fabrics in my stash. There weren’t a lot of options that I liked, but in the end I went with this royal blue cotton lawn swiss dot. The dress will have white accents on it (and is looking rather sailor-like, despite that not being my intent). I have to just claim the sailor look so I don’t feel foolish in it.


HSF #3: Silk Pockets

I’ve been sewing up a storm this weekend! (And yes, pun intended, since I was stuck inside all weekend because of the blizzard ‘Nemo’… and as a side note, do you think they saw the irony in naming this storm Nemo? All I think of is a cute cartoon fish, which seems at odds with the 2 1/2 feet of snow that is still being cleaned up outside as I create this post.)

Anyway… events were cancelled, including the Regency Ball I created my 1813 dress (HSF #1) for, which is rather sad. Not being able to go anywhere means I’ve had lots of time to work on other things, though. Mostly, I’ve spent the time working on my replacement of the berry ballroom dancing dress. I was hoping to move along on my new 1864 ball gown as well, but that didn’t happen because I was so inspired to keep working on the ballroom dress (and I made lots of progress, so that’s good!). I did take some time out of my furious sewing to finish up my new silk pockets, just in time for the deadline of the Historical Sew Fortnightly’s Challenge #3: Under It All.

Yay! Pockets!

For the facts:

Fabric: Silk brocade scraps left over from my 1780s stays and linen scraps left over from my 1812 regency chemise.

Pattern: From Costume Close-Up.

Year: The year in Costume Close-Up is 1740-1770, but I think these can be used for years spanning almost the entirety of the 18th century.

Notions: About 2 yds of 1/4″ persimmon colored silk ribbon and about 1 yd of 1/4″ white cotton twill tape for ties.

How historically accurate?: I give them a 95% rating. Accurate fabrics, accurate piecing, accurate pattern, no machine sewing… Thread choice is not accurate, and I’m not convinced that the stitches I used to attach my edging ribbon are accurate either. (And I probably should have tea dyed my waist tie so it wouldn’t be so bright white… but I am the only person who is likely to see it, and frankly, I just wanted to attach it and be done.)

Hours to complete: Entirely hand sewn, so about 13 hours.

First worn: They haven’t been worn yet, and probably won’t be worn for awhile… but at least now they’re done, and ready to go for next time I need them!

Total cost: $7? If I count the cost of all the bits and pieces. Since they use scraps from other projects it’s hard to tell.

Back view. You can see the linen backing. The silk on the front has a second layer of linen under it.
Close-up of the tiny stitches holding the ribbon down along the edges.

A future project: 18th Century Pockets

For the last month, I have been pondering the idea of making 18th century pockets. It was my idea to wear them to an 18th century ball and use them  as a place to store my modern items (cell phone, credit card, cash, car keys, etc.). I was thinking of making simple linen ones, without embroidery, but once I started researching them I realized that I really wanted to go the full distance. In this case, the full distance meant hand sewn silk embroidery… The realization hit me just a few days before the ball that this plan was flawed. There was no way I was going to complete hand embroidered pockets in the time I had left. My choices: to fudge it and be stressed out while trying to complete hand embroidery with cotton thread or to wait, source my products and make a plan, and enjoy my time hand embroidering. What to do? Well, I decided to do the latter and I am glad to say that I am thankful to have used common sense and avoided stress! For now, the plan to make pockets has been added to my list of things to make in my leisure sewing time (when other, more time sensitive projects are lacking… Does that ever happen???). These charming pink, green, and blue ones are my goal.

Early 1700s pockets, linen embroidered with silk, trimmed with silk ribbon and with silk ties (V and A)

Pockets in the 18th century were often made of linen and elaborately embroidered in colorful silk or wool thread, as with the example above and the following examples. Aren’t these yellow trimmed ones adorable? It looks like the pocket slits are smiling!

Mid-1700s pockets, linen embroidered with silk, trimmed with silk and with silk and linen ties (Manchester City Galleries)

This next pair of pockets has beautiful (and intense) embroidery.

Mid-1700s pockets, linen embroidered with wool, with linen ties (Worthing Museum and Art Gallery)

This next pocket has a lovely embroidered pattern that looks much simpler to replicate than the previous examples. This is my back up plan if the other, more complicated embroidery proves to be too much.

1718-1720 pocket, linen embroidered with silk, with linen ties (V and A)

The pockets with unfinished red embroidery are an excellent example of pocket construction. You can see the manner in which the design is marked as well as the embroidery being completed prior to the pocket being cut out and assembled.

1718-1720 pockets, linen with silk embroidery, the pattern drawn in ink (V and A)

There are also some pockets constructed of silk, such as these, below. These pockets were acquired with a quilted silk petticoat and the Victoria and ALbert Museum assumes that they were intended to be worn together. They look puffy and super cute, but because they are assumed to have such a specific purpose I don’t think they are the right idea for me. Also, I wouldn’t get to embroider!

Mid-1700s pockets, silk with silk ribbon (V and A)

Pockets continued to be used in the 19th century, but they were often constructed of cotton rather than linen and were not as elaborately embroidered as in the pervious century. Some 19th century pockets were constructed of cottons with woven patterns, such as stripes or diamonds as well as the occasional pocket of satin weave cotton fabric. In the middle of the century embroidery was again used as decoration, though the motifs were changed from the 18th century. These next few pockets are just a few 19th century ones I like, either because they use interesting fabrics, or because they are smiling at you!

Late 1800s pockets, twill weave cotton (Oxfordshire Museum Service)
I like this one especially, because it really does look like a smiley face pocket! Early 1800s pockets, ribbed cotton, with cotton tape (Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum)
Early-mid-1800s pockets, satin weave cotton (Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Art Gallery)
early 1800s pockets, figured silk satin, trimmed with silk (Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum)

Do you have a favorite pocket amongst these? Does any pair stand out to you?

All of these pockets were recently available at here, at VADS: the online resource for visual arts; however, VADS appears to no longer be operable (perhaps because of recent US government action to curtail internet copyright infringement?).   Alternatively, the Victoria and Albert Museum has a pretty good selection of pockets, including some of the ones featured on VADS.

Project Journal: 1780s Ensemble Part V: Completed Stays

Wohoo! My 1780s stays are complete! I think they turned out quite well. They certainly resembles my inspiration image. You can see that image and read more about the construction of these stays by reading this previous post.

Finished front
I used 1/4" linen tape for the lacing
The lacing holes are hand sewn eyelets
Side view
Side front view

I made the chemise as well. It is just a simple linen tee shape without set in sleeves. It is mid calf length and has a low neckline in front and back.

Soon I’ll post pictures of the finished 1780s exterior garments as well!

Project Journal: 1780s Ensemble Part I: Initial Research

I’ve decided to attend 2 events in September which require clothing from the last quarter of the 18th century (1775-1799). This decision is rather at the last minute when it comes to building new historic clothes: I now have exactly three weeks to make a decision about what to wear, pick out fabrics, make patterns, and complete the construction of the garments. Yikes!

So I’ve been busy researching this period because it is not within the realm of my previous historic clothing projects, which have generally focused on the 19th century. Unlike women’s clothing in the 19th century, for which I can recall silhouette, construction details, pattern shapes, and fabric choices and colors with far less research for each garment (because I’ve already done all that research and it’s all in my head…), I really need the research to be able to consider reproducing historic clothing from the 18th century. Here are some inspirational images I thought I would share!

Here’s how this conversation went in my head: “Where do I start?” I asked myself. “Silhouette?” I replied. “Ah, yes. That sounds good. But… what is the silhouette during this period? Hopefully not panniers!” because panniers, you see, require a lot more effort to produce and a lot more fabric to cover. “Well, let’s start by looking for some images,” I suggested. And here we go!

c. 1770 Silk Robe a l'Francaise at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Now, you can see by looking at the above image that these gowns require panniers to achieve the exaggerated hip shape. You can also see that these gowns are Robes a l’Francaise, meaning robes in the French style. This style of gown has the characteristic pleating at center back that falls from the back neck line to the floor in one piece. This style, with the panniers and the Robe a l’Francaise, is not what I have the time to make in three weeks. So we move on!

1770-1775 Silk Robe a l'Anglaise at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

In contrast to the Robe a l’Francaise, I am actually interested in the style of dress on the left: the Robe a l’Anglaise, or English style robes. This style evolved from the Robe a l’Francaise: over time the side back seams of the Robe al’Francaise were cut close enough together that the characteristic pleats were no longer used.

Below, you can see another two examples of gowns in the style of a Robe a l’Anglaise. These two are from the 1780s and you can see that the width of the hips has diminished from the 1770s. Note that all of these gowns have open fronts that show the petticoat underneath.

c. 1780 Cotton Robe a l'Anglaise at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
c. 1780 Cotton Robe a l'Anglaise from the Metropolitan Museum of Art
1780-1785 Cotton Robe a l'Anglaise at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
1780-1785 Cotton Robe a l'Anglaise at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
There are other options for this period as well: there is the style Robe a la Polonaise, which has a characteristic  bunching of fabric across the back side as well as the skirt and jacket combination. I’m not interested in making a Robe a la Polonaise at this point, but a skirt and jacket combination is a possibility. You can see these styles below. There is another style as well: the Chemise Dress, but you’ll have to wait for my next post to see and read about it!
c. 1780 Linen Robe a la Polonaise at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
c. 1785 Silk Jacket at the Metropolitan Museum of Art