Monday, 29 December 2014

New Home...New Workroom!

So we finally moved home from the south coast to the west country in late November.

The first room that needed attention was of course, my workroom.

I do love a good re-organization, and I have always enjoyed painting and a small amount of DIY. I chose a fresh and energizing pale yellow for the walls.


The space is a little larger than I had before in the last house, which is great. One of the many housing issues that we have here in the UK is that none of the rooms are ever large, unless you are very lucky. I see some workrooms of people in the US say, and find myself turning unattractive shade of green.

There were bookcases to buy and put together, pictures to frame, and much sorting through and re-jigging.

My workroom is on the ground floor of our house, and looks out across to a row of trees (I always feel happy when there are trees around), and a stream runs along by the side of the house. (I can see the ducks from my bedroom window.) We are only 5 minutes away from 'true countryside', it is all farms and tractors where we live now, which I am very happy about.

And so all is ready for 2015. I have many plans for the coming year, with much work to be completed. I look forward to the New Year every year; it is a fresh start, with (hopefully) many positive changes and challenges ahead.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year!
Naomi x

Monday, 10 November 2014

Extant Early 1800s Regency/Early Victorian Gloves

I lucked out again, and somehow managed to find a pair of early nineteenth century gloves on ebay:-

Early 19th century leather gloves

What caught my eye was the pinking/stamping designs at the hems and the embroidered pattern over the back of the hands:-

Punched and pinked hems 

The embroidery thread here seems to be a type of metallic thread- very narrow and  it almost feels like very fine wire.
The gloves are stitched together on the outside, in minute stitches.
Antique mending along the side of the thumb
Condition :- I think these are in remarkably good condition for their age. One glove had quite extensive repair work (see above image). The hems do have some damage; one of the tips has been torn away, and there are other small tears in the stamp work. Some of the leather has worn away in very small areas, and there are marks here and there, and of course they are a bit grubby!

Length (from tip of pinked triangle to tip of longest finger~ 13 6/8'' (35cms). These finish half way up my forearm.

I have been looking at The Worshipful Company of the Glovers' of London, which is a wonderful source for the history of gloves. Part of their collection is at The Fashion Museum in Bath, which I saw 4 or 5 years ago now. Those on show dated from the 17th century, astounding work.

Despite gloves being a major fashion accessory, I have found very little books devoted to the subject. It seems that this form of decoration, with the pinking and stamping, became popular during the late eighteenth century, and continued until about the 1830s/40s.

One book that I do have solely about gloves is Valerie Cumming's 'Gloves' in The Costume Accessories Series (editor Aileen Ribeiro).  There are 2 images in the book which immediately caught my attention:-

93.Women's gloves, 1825-40 (embroidered with gold or silver thread or polychrome silks)
67. Women's gloves, 1795-1805
The middle glove of the top image has embroidery very strikingly similar to that on my pair, and the lower image shows early examples of the stamped edging along the hems/cuffs.

I was interested to see the printed gloves above. Valerie Cumming writes:-
  "These printed gloves...were produced in Barcelona around the turn of the century, and provided a virtuoso finale to the vogue for printed gloves which appeared in the last decade of the eighteenth century.''

From studying this book it seems that my gloves must be embroidered with the silver thread. It is now a very dark grey in colour.

Taking into account the style, decoration and length of these gloves, I am pretty sure that they are from around the 1830s. Valerie Cumming again:-
  "Day gloves, and mittens, equally popular in the 1830s and the 1840s, were wrist length or slightly longer. The decoration on both day and evening gloves, and the fashionable materials were similar: light-coloured leather...Silk or metal thread embroidery of flowers either formed a concentrated design on the back of the hand or were scattered in springs over the whole back of the glove...Evening gloves often had scalloped edges if made of leather..."

I think that my pair then are a little more interesting, with the embroidery and the pinked and stamped cuffs. A fascinating find!

Naomi x

Thursday, 25 September 2014

World War One - Remembrances of My Family - Part Two

Last month, on the Commemoration of the beginning of WWI, I wrote this post about my Great Granddad and his time during that conflict. I now have some stories from my father's side of the family.

A few weeks back my mum chatted to my lovely Great Aunt Ruth, who lives across in Wales. She was able to give my mum some information about her parents during the war. Her father was my Dad's Grandfather, and they were very close. As a six year old child I remember seeing my dad cry for the first time when his grandfather passed away, many years ago now.

Her father was at the Battle of the Somme, as was my Great Uncle (on the other side of the family), who was sadly killed there (details in that previous post). He was a despatch rider, and was gassed and sent home to recuperate. The story goes that he lost his memory due to the explosion of a bomb that went off near him, and only knew who he was when thankfully another soldier recognised him at the hospital. I also remember my Dad telling us that he had written home at the time, and mentioned in the letter that he said that his trousers were ''too loose''. This was taken to mean in the family that he was in a hospital in Toulouse, but whether that is actually the truth, I cannot verify.

My Great Grandpa (Frederick Reginald Barnes) in Army Uniform

During the last couple of years, mum has been collating all the family photographs, and has been putting them into date order and into albums. This lady here is my aunt Ruth's mother, my Dad's Grandmother:-

Henrietta Barnes, my Great Grandma
Sadly she passed away in 1953 at the age of 55, so I never met her. But this photo shows her in a WWI era nursing uniform. According to Ruth she was a trainee nurse, who nursed my Great Grandfather when he was shipped home. And apparently my Great Grandfather saw this rather attractive nurse (and if she was anything like my Auntie Ruth, she would also have been very kind and gentle), and said to some other soldiers at the hospital where he was ''I am going to marry that nurse!''. They did go on to marry in 1919 (please excuse the mouse nibbles- what a shame!):-

My Great Grandparents at their Wedding 1919 - what a wonderful dress!
It has been great hearing and learning about these stories from my family's past, but it seems such a shame that it was not until the remembrances of WWI that I knew about them. I do remember my Great Grandfather. He was a kind man, but died when I was very little. He married again the year after his first wife died, and as my step Great Grandma (although we called her 'Aunty Kay') was much younger than him, I remember her well. We used to visit her as a family just before Christmas every year, and she did wonderful treasure hunts for us children, with clues all around her house. A sweet, very loving woman. I do miss her.

Naomi x

Thursday, 28 August 2014

What is a 'Mother Hubbard' Dress?

I have been reading 'Daughter of Earth' by Agnes Smedley over the last couple of days. It is a beautifully written book, but not an easy read. The dire poverty of the turn of the 20th century in Missouri, US, is quite shocking.  As ever when I read a book, I am always looking for those references to dress. At one point in Part One, it talks of

'' My grandmother...went barefoot, smoked a corn-cob pipe and wore loose flowing Mother Hubbards.''

And the term 'loose flowing calico dress (or wrapper)' is used three times in chapter one alone to describe what the author's mother wore, which may or may not be a similar article of dress.

I have heard the term 'Mother Hubbard' before, but only in regards to this very old nursery rhyme : -

''Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
To give the poor dog a bone...''

{Apparently the nursery rhyme was first printed in 1805, but the character's origins may be hundreds of years earlier.}

In the late nineteenth century a woman thief and criminal (Margaret Brown) was known as 'Old Mother Hubbard'. She was born in Ireland but ended up in the US. It would make sense to me if this woman wore large, loose flowing gowns to hide all her stolen goods in, and that is how the term came to be linked with this sort of loose gown, but who knows??

According to Wikipedia, a Mother Hubbard dress is
''...a long, wide, loose-fitting gown with long sleeves and a high neck. Intended to cover as much skin as possible, it was introduced by missionaries in [[Polynesia]] to "civilise" those whom they considered half-naked savages of the South Seas islands.'' 

The article has this fascinating image alongside it: -

Tahitian girls in their unadorned 'grandmother's dresses' between 1880-1889.

Deb at The Mantua Maker has a pattern for a Mother Hubbard wrapper: -

Over at Past Patterns, there is a pattern for a nightgown from the 1890s which states '': -
''This might be called a Mother Hubbard nightgown.''
This makes me think that the style of nightgown is very similar to the Mother Hubbard Dresses- which indeed do look like nightgowns to me.

During my search, I stumbled across another pattern which is titled 'Prairie Dress or Victorian Nightgown Pattern'. (I don't know the pattern company, or anymore information about it.)

Whilst having a look at some Amazon items, I came across a wonderful print from Period Paper, which illustrates a pattern for a 'Ladies improved Mother Hubbard Wrapper' from the 1890s : -

And there is this book, which can be read for free at Google Books:-

'Calico Chronicle' - Betty J. Mills 1985

This looks very interesting. One of my particular areas of interest is rural and provincial clothing, so it has immediately gone onto my wishlist. (I'm not a fan of reading much on a pc, or this kindle business. My eyes just can't bear to look at a screen for very long). There is a lovely section about ''At Home Wear-The Wrapper', which talks about the Mother Hubbard wrapper, although the author cannot say where the term 'Mother Hubbard' originated. There are many photographs of Frontier Dress in this book- wonderful.

Oh, this the real deal :-
''Searching for Mother Hubbard: Function and Fashion in Nineteenth Century Dress''

Sally Helvenston Gray has written the above paper, which can be purchase for $4 here at Chicago Journals:-
Sadly I can't read it as I do not belong any university, but if you are, and you're interested, the little that I can read online looks superb!

Naomi x

Saturday, 9 August 2014

1860s Wool Paletot

I am continuing to work through my 1860s mini-wardrobe for a customer, and have just completed her wool paletot.

The pattern she asked me to use is KayFig's 1860-67 Lady's Paletot Pattern:-

KayFig's Paletot Pattern 1860-67

This pattern comes in S, M, L and XL, so there is a fair amount of work to do to the pattern and toile before it will fit anywhere near well. Having said that, I really liked the style of the paletot, the pattern was very, very good, and was well constructed. It looks much better in a heavier wool fabric- I don't think the images that come with the pattern do it many favours, which is a shame.

My customer chose a gorgeous dusty pink medium weight wool, and a pretty pink lining. The buttons are made from the same wool, and the button holes are hand stitched. Originally she wanted a dark brown trim, but decided against it once I had sent her photographs of the finished coat.

Apologies for the quality of these images. In the summer I don't have much light in my workroom; it is blocked out by lots of lovely trees and our hedge, full of yummy green growth.

I must also apologise that it looks rather poor on my model. I don't even have a hoop which would have assisted in giving that lovely round, 1860s shape.

So here is a fashion plate of the time, to remind us of how it will look when actually on a person:-

Godey's Lady's Book 1866
I am beginning to love the shaping of the 1860s! :)

Naomi x

Monday, 4 August 2014

World War I - Remembrances of My Family

I am aware of only one person's story of WWI in my family, and that was my maternal Great Granddad.

My mum adored her Granddad. She was devastated when he died in her late teens after complications for a heart surgery which he desperately needed. During the last year or two, since it has just been mum and I, I have learnt much not only about the beloved Granddad, but also the wonderful man he so obviously was.

He worked throughout his life as a policeman, at The Port of London Authority. Fortunately we have a bag full of documents about him- his work, medals for service and letters from colleagues on his retirement, professing the pleasure it had been for them to know and work alongside him.

This man was John Henry Douglas. He was born in 1891 in Whitechapel, London, and passed away in 1962 in Winchmore Hill. He was one of seven siblings; 4 boys and 3 girls. One of his brothers, Alfred William Douglas died in The Great War; of his wounds at 21 years of age in 1916 on the Somme. We have a photograph of his resting place:-

''In loving memory of 2nd Lt. A.W. Douglas
14th Royal Warwick Regiment
who died Sept.3rd 1916 of his wounds.
Aged 21 years.''

This cross is somewhere in France.  No doubt now it has been replaced with a proper headstone, as they all were over the years.

Thankfully my mum's Granddad survived WWI, as did his other 2 brothers. But he did not come out unscathed. My mum tells me that she remembers sitting on his lap, and looking at his face. On both of his cheeks there were scars, and she used to put her little finger up to him and touch those strange looking places on his face. She asked him why he had those marks there, and he replied that a bullet had entered through one side of his face, and had gone straight out the other. She doesn't remember anything else of that conversation, but as I sit thinking about it now, surely his teeth must have been damaged? It doesn't bear thinking about. John Douglas went on to have a good life- he married a woman he adored, had 3 of the most gentlemanly men you could ever wish to meet (one was my Granddad whom I adored, just as my mum did hers), and in his retirement was able to live with one of his son's, wife and daughter (my mum), when his dear wife died from cancer.

My Great Granddad with his wife and 3 sons- my Granddad is bottom right. 

What I always seem to end up thinking about, when I remember of  all those who lost their lives in any war, is how did those left behind carry on? A mother loses all four of her boys, all of her children gone. Or the soldier who continues to put one foot in front of the other, after seeing and experiencing so much horror, and losing many friends and relatives. I simply don't know. I also often wonder how people of my generation would cope with just a tiny part of what people coped with during a conflict; at home or in battle. I fear that we would not have the courage or tenacity to get through. I hope that I'm wrong. I also hope that I never have the opportunity to find out.

Naomi x

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Four Late Victorian Corset Covers

This week and last week I have been working on a very much enjoyed commission- four Victorian corset covers in varying styles:-

Corset Cover with tucks, antique large pearl buttons and ribbon lace
Higher Neckline, small antique pearl buttons, narrow lace at neckline and ribbon beading at the shoulders
Detail of ribbon beading and lace at neckline
Square neckline, lace at neckline, false hem to cover buttons and hidden drawstring
Detail of Lace at neckline
Antique linen buttons and ribbon beading at neckline

I am now off to complete for a toile for an 1860s blouse...happy days! :)
Naomi x

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Lapis Printed Regency Day Dress 1808-12, Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery - Devon, UK

Last week my lovely older sister was at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, on a day out for my brother-in-law's birthday. She sent me these images of historical dress that she whizzed past. The bonnet is c.1840, but it is the dress which is of special interest. According to the museum it is:-

  ''cotton printed with indigo and madder using a resist dyeing technique, know as lapis after the blue coloured gemstone lapis lazuli. The technique was developed simultaneously in Lancashire and north-east France between 1804-1808. This dress is the only known surviving example in England made from a lapis printed cotton.''

Gown 1808-12, Bonnet c.1840 -Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery Exeter, Devon, UK.

The print looks so unusual close-up, rather like a football.

RAMM is a diverse museum, but has quite a large costume collection, although only a very small amount is on view. It has a fabulous lace collection, appropriate for a museum in Devon. I was very pleased to read on their website that ''the bulk of the costume collection is women's dresses and underwear from the 19th century.'' If mum and I ever manage to move down to the west country (I can't believe that we sold our house over a year ago, and still haven't moved!!), then this is certainly a museum to add to my 'visit' list.

I did a quick search for the lapis technique, and came across a wonderful document by the V&A in collaboration with DATS - Dress and Textile Specialists titled Identifying Printed Textiles in Dress 1740-1890. They have other super booklets such as 'Identifying Handmade and Machine Lace', which I will certainly be downloading and poring over as soon as possible.

On page 22 of this document the lapis technique is explained a bit more fully, and along with it there is an image of a textile taken from a dress 1824-26 in the Manchester City Gallery collection; so maybe there is more than one extant dress in the UK made from this technique?

I'm off to stick my head in our freezer- it's too hot for me at the moment!
~Naomi x

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

1860s Corset Cover Project

I have just completed the first item for a customer for whom I am making an 1860s mini-wardrobe (8 blouses, 4 girdles/waists, 1 paletot and 1 corset cover). It is an 1860s corset cover, with piping and eyelet lace:-

1860s Corset Cover Project
My customer asked me to use the Heidi Marsh pattern, which was based on a corset cover (or petticoat body as it is described in the original) from 1862, below:-

Heidi's pattern was only loosely based on this pattern.You can see that the seam lines and darts are placed quite differently.

As patterns go it was fairly straight forward, with only a little tweaking needed on the toile I sent to her. She wanted the sleeves included, which I think look lovely. It does fall off the shoulders a fair bit, which is why I couldn't photograph it on my model.

The front has a false hem with original antique mother of pearl buttons, and hand-sewn button holes.

Peterson, 1862

The cotton we used was quilter's cotton. Here in the UK I find it very difficult to source good quality cotton, and have come to the conclusion that the only way I know that it is decent it to purchase it through online quilter's fabric shops such as Cotton Patch.  The neckline and the sleeve seams are piped, which was always satisfying to do. The lace she chose, and is very pretty.

I kept the seams as flat as possible, so that they would be more comfortable against bare skin (she is not going to be corseted).

For reference, here is an 1860s antique corset cover of mine:-


I am really enjoying learning about the 1860s. I have to admit that it was a decade that I didn't know much about. Now I am starting to fall in love with it a little bit, and can't wait to make the blouses and waists to complete the look. 

Next though I have a paletot to make for her out of a gorgeous dusky pink wool with silk lining; that is on my list for next week.

I am off to catch up on the tennis!!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Late 1820s Early 1830s Wrapper

Sometimes you just get really, really lucky. When I saw this on ebay, and read that the seller thought that is was late Victorian, I looked at the sleeves and shape of the wrapper and thought ''I think that's more like the 1830s..''. When I received it I did a yelp for joy as I saw the Dorset Blandford buttons and the shape of it close up. To photograph it I have popped it on over a corded petticoat to give it some shape.

Late 1820s Early 1830s Wrapper
It is in incredible condition. It can't have been worn very much at all as there is not a single antique repair. There are a couple of holes and one or two tiny marks, but that's it. The buttons are also in superb condition. Quite remarkable. Over the last couple of months I have been going through my stash of antique items. Many I have put up on my Etsy Shop but there are a handful which I will not part with. This is one of them. I also have one Regency era bed jacket and a Regency nightgown which I treasure. But this is hands down my most exciting find.

Yesterday I was looking in my books for some reference to a similar item. I was just about to give up when I came across this one tucked away:-

'The Rise and Fall of the Sleeve 1825-1840' Naomi Tarrant - Royal Scottish Museum Studies. 1983
This short book is super. It is mainly a catalogue of the items from this period in the collections of the Charles Stewart and Royal Scottish Museum.  This costume collection was once to be found here at the National Museum of Scotland. But I notice the announcement at the top of the web page which states that this is no longer open to the public. I do hope that the collection has been moved to a new home.

Towards the back of the book, where nightclothes are discussed, I was delighted to find a description and photograph of a wrapper, which is very similar to mine here.
''Fine white cotton open down centre front. Large collar. Large gigot sleeves trimmed with white narrow cotton braid and embroidered white cotton frills in satin, eyelet and button hole stitches.''
CB length 142 cm
About 1830-5

There is also a short paragraph about wrappers a couple of pages back which reads:-
 ''Dressing gowns or wrappers were made of cotton, linen or flannel...Surviving examples tend to be suitable for wearing inside bedrooms or boudoirs over underwear but before putting on a dress and they could be worn as negligees for comfort when the corset was not worn.''
It would make sense to me to also put one on over your dress and whilst you are doing your hair, so a very useful thing to have to hand.

Now to take a closer look at my wrapper.
It is made from a light to medium weight twilled cotton, with a finer cotton used for all those fabulous frills everywhere. There is also a ruching effect in between the body of the wrapper and the frills. This photo shows the fabric texture:-

There is a Blandford Dorset button at each wrist. There are two wide pelerine style collars, a pair of ties at the neckline, and there is a drawstring casing which pulls in the gathers at the high waist area at the rear and ties at in the front.

Rear of  Early 19th Century Wrapper
Blandford Dorset Button on Sleeve of 1820/30s Wrapper
CB to hem 54'' / 137 cm 
Hem Circumference 115'' / 292 cm
Length of Sleeve from shoulder gathers to hem of ruffle 32'' / 81 cm

I have come across this very similar example, and using the close-up tool, it appears to be made with a very similar fabric-

The Met Museum - Peignoir 1821-3 British
This is a much slimmer version of mine, owing to the style of fashions of the earlier date.

I am wondering what this fabric was named. I will try to find out a bit more. Time to very carefully pack this gorgeous thing away. Sigh. I could sit and look at it all day.
with love,