05 July 2015

India Fabric Fabulousness

I'm always on the hunt for period-appropriate fabric--especially affordable fabric. I recently ordered these India cottons on Etsy that have a period look.

Blue floral hand block printed fabric from Block Print Fabric.

Red floral hand block printed fabric from the same shop.

The handmade irregularities remind me of details I've seen on extant fabrics in museums.

I think of the print's scale as the "Goldilocks"...it's not too big (like prints for upholstery fabric) and not too small (like quilting fabrics can be). It's just right.

 I also acquired an ikat cotton from Vedah Designs. This woven cotton, which reports to be handloomed, has a heavier weight when compared to the fine muslin feeling of the block printed fabric.

The pictures don't give justice to how nice this fabric is!

Compared to extant fabrics, there are some good similarities in the design and color scheme.

Detail of a 1790-1810 Southern Indian muslin neck handkerchief.

 19th century block printed cotton with gold flower motifs.

 18th century printed and dyed cotton featuring yellow roses.

 Early 18th century floral cotton featuring diapered springs in green and yellow.

 1770-1790 block printed cotton from a woman's gown (below).

18th century Ikat-style French cotton

c.1820 silk and cotton dinner dress with an ikat design

For the fabric purist, the cottons I have purchased aren't 100% period appropriate. The 18th and early 19th century Indian cottons have more details (stripes, multiple colors, more elaborate designs, etc.) than the modern Indian cottons offer, which is revealed through a quick Pinterest search. But when compared to modern fabric, when using the "Good", "Better", "Best" model, I'd classify these in the upper end of the "Better" category. They're a nice weight, the handmade nature is obvious when looking closely, and they're different from the floral cottons we typically see at events. Plus, if you can wait a few weeks for shipping, they're *really* affordable.

I couldn't buy all the fabric I loved, like this spotted cotton.

Block Print Fabric is currently offering five yards for $25, which could translate well into an 19th century gown much like the two examples below.

 c.1810 cotton gown

A detail of fabric from The Met's gown.

 1801-1810 cotton gown
 Detail of fabric from the RISD Museum's gown.

The fabrics that I've ordered have washed pretty well. While I normally wash my fabric in hot water, I opted for cold water to minimize fading from the natural dyes. I'll admit the muslin weight fabrics smelled a bit factory-like, but this was eliminated after putting them in the dryer.

Go search for "Block Print Fabric" on Etsy and check out the India fabric fabulousness!

31 May 2015

Baby Crazy

I have been *so* excited about the arrival of Baby B...and I'm not the only one. Sharon Burston kindly organized a group gift to sew a baby layette many months ago for our wonderful friends who recently welcomed their first child.

Image courtesy Sharon Burnston.
Ms. M made a baby shirt, I made two baby caps...

....an 18th century cap and a 19th century-style cap...

Image courtesy Kitty Calash
...Kitty Calash made a petticoat...
Image courtesy Sharon Burnston
...and Sharon made a gown.

Naturally we followed Sharon's directions about making a basic baby layette. For the 18th century baby cap...

...it's pretty much the same as the one I outlined on the Crazy Concord Chicks blog. I sized up the pattern so it would be more of a 6 month size rather than a newborn.
 I used insertion lace at the center back...

...and antique lace, which I had found in Vermont over the winter, along the front.

For the 19th century-style cap, I actually reworked an antique cap.

It's probably early 20th century, but has period correct features that made it easy to adapt...

 ...such as the delicate muslin fabric...
...and the century back. Its shape is similar to...

Infant's Cap made from sheer white linen embroidered with linen.  
MFA Accession Number 53.287
...this early 19th century infant's cap.

 I removed the decorative embroidery, which had frayed...

...along with the satin ribbon ties, which were obviously replacements. (Above you can see where it was sewn.) And I added some pretty antique white lace...
 ...that matched perfectly.

 The completed cap.

Sadly the postal service misplaced the package and it's no where to be found. Perhaps I should place an ad with Samuel Hall in The Newport Mercury to see if it can be recovered?

Lost, fupposed to be ftollen, about nine or ten weeks fince, a baby's gown, cap, petticoat and fhirt all fewn in the neatest manner. Whoever fhall return them to the printer fhall be handsomely rewarded and no Questions asked.

Page Four of "The Newport Mercury" from January 7, 1765

12 April 2015

Pretty Purple Gown

Following up on the leading strings post, here are notes and construction photos of the "Sofia the First" girl's gown made from the Larkin and Smith gown pattern last fall. 
The construction is pretty much the same as the leading strings gown. As you can see above, the inside bodice is lined with beige linen. 

The bodice and petticoat are attached and there are tape ties finishing the petticoat.

A peek at the center front, which shows the cotton tape at the top of the petticoat. 

Since I wanted this to be more of a 1780s gown, the back closes with tape ties, instead of lacing closed with eyelets, much like... 
...the gown in this c.1785 portrait of Anne Barbara Russell with her son Sit Henry Russell, by George Romney. And like little Henry's gown...

...it closes with three tape ties.
It's so cute!

I sewed this one on the road, and didn't use a machine, so I lapped the bodice and sleeve seams. 

The pattern calls for 2.5-3 yards of fashion fabric. When I made the leading strings gown, I used less than 2 yards. In this version, I made two skirt panels instead of four which results in a skirt circumference that's 40 inches instead of 80 inches. You can kind of tell here that this petticoat is less full...but it saved a bunch of sewing time and the entire gown only required just over one yard of fabric. 
When you look closely at the seam at the center front of the bodice, the stripes aren't exactly lined-up...

...but from a distance I don't think it's terribly noticeable. 

After using this pattern twice, here are some FYI points if you're considering making it. (As I had written previously, my comments are in no way intended as a criticism. I've included them here to help others who are making gowns for little ones.) 
  • The pattern includes three sizes per price, so if you' have two daughters of varying ages/sizes you'd having to purchase both versions or make your own pattern with sizing adjustments. 
  • I had anticipated that the directions would include color photos to guide you through each step. It actually has black and white photos, and less images than I'd like to see included.
  • The pattern includes all the of the bodice parts, but it doesn't include a paper pattern for the skirt panels making it a tad trickier for novice sewers.
  • When comparing the sizing to modern retailers the bodice runs a tad large (think Carters sizing, rather than the "inbetween" sizes that OshKosh and Gap Kids sell); the sleeve pattern is true to modern sizing. 
As a whole, I definitely recommend the Larkin and Smith girls gown pattern. Over the last year as my daughter has reached a point in her development where she better understands "history work" and what I do at work/when volunteering, it's been wonderful to include her. And as she grows I'm certain that the experiences she has had as a result of participating in "history work" will help nurture her cultural interests.