Wool Damask

For most historical costumers, finding the perfect fabric is one of the most difficult parts of getting the look right. One of the main difficulties is that many fabrics used in the past just aren’t made anymore in the same quality, or they are too expensive for a hobby seamstress. Just finding really fine linen is nearly impossible.

One of my favourite historical fabrics is wool damask. And it’s another of those fabrics which has sort of died out. It just isn’t made anymore, which is a shame, because it’s stunning.

Wollen damast, Norwich | Modemuze

 

Yes, that’s wool. Wool damask is two-toned, and pretty much always in the same color palette. So you get a lighter/darker combination, so light green with dark green, dark blue with black, or beige and brown.

Wool damask is also usually glazed. It’s treated in such a way that it gets a shiny finish, making it almost look a bit like silk damask. It would’ve been a cheaper than true silk damask, but gives the same impression. The patterns of the damask were definitely inspired by their silk counterparts.

For comparison, an 18th century silk damask:

 

And a wool damask one:

Rok van wol, lichtgroen met grote witte bloem en zoom en splitten afgezet met koord | Modemuze

 

Wool damask was used for skirts in the 18th century, and continued in traditional clothing throughout the 19th century. They were probably often also worn as petticoat under the upper skirt, as they’re a little less fancy than the silk ones.

Some of them are pretty stunning though, so I definitely think they were worn as upper skirt as well. Look how shiny!

Rok | Modemuze

 

The wool damask was used mostly in skirts, but also in men’s waistcoats and in stays. In some regional wear parts of the stays were visible at times, calling for fancy fabrics.

Korset of rijglijf van wollen damast, blauw met groene bloemen, met rijgsluiting middenvoor en een schootje van losse pandjes | Modemuze

 

The richer farmers would’ve worn wool waistcoats as well.

 

Despite the popularity in this country, the wool damask worn in the Netherlands was mostly not actually made here. Instead, this fabric was imported from England, Norwich to be exact. Interestingly enough, I’ve never really seen it in English collections though, suggesting that it was primarily an export product. Wool damask was woven on narrow looms (giving much narrower fabrics than common today), and so that the back of the fabric ‘mirrors’ the colors on the right side, as with all damask. Some more information on this fabric written by Meg Andrews is here. It became a staple of some Dutch dress, and I suspect the skirts in these well-known prints might be from wool damask:

1770s - 18th century - woman's outfit with mixed print fabrics (jacket in floral, skirt in a different floral, apron in plaid/checks, and cap in floral) - From "An album containing 90 fine water color paintings of costumes." Turin : [s.n.] , [ca.1775]. In the collection of the Bunka Fashion College in Japan. Underneath the illustration is handwritten in pencil "North Holland." - Netherlands - Dutch.

A lady from Zaandam

1770s - 18th century - woman's outfit with mixed print fabrics (jacket in floral, skirt in a different floral, apron in solid, and neckerchief either in stripes or simply showing pleats/folds) - From "An album containing 90 fine water color paintings of costumes." Turin : [s.n.] , [ca.1775]. In the collection of the Bunka Fashion College in Japan. Underneath the illustration is handwritten in pencil "Hamburgh" (I think that's what it says!) Hamburg, Germany.

A lady from Friesland

 

Some more, beautiful 18th century skirts, all from the Dutch Openluchtmuseum:

Petticoat, The Netherlands, fabric: Norwich, England, 18th century. Green silk damask woven with large flower and leaf motifs.

Rok van wollen damast, Zaanstreek, 1700-1800 | Modemuze

Rok van blauw-bruine wollen damast, West-Friesland | Modemuze

Rok van achttiende-eeuwse wollen damast, Noord-Holland | Modemuze

 

One of my more prized possessions is a black wool damask skirt, probably from the late 19th or early 20th century. This one is from the Veluwe, where these skirts were still worn as petticoats (underneath a plain black skirt) with the traditional costume. It’s constructed pretty much the same as an 18th century petticoat would be. It’s gathered at the top, with a flat front, and two side slits. It’s got one tuck in the skirt, and a velvet band a little above the hem. The bottom has got a bit of fluffy trim to protect it, and it’s got another ribbon as well as a hem facing on the inside to protect the fabric.

The full skirt, front & back:

 

A close up of the fabric, left from the outside, right the inside.

 

The top is tightly cartridge pleated to a waistband.

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Despite the age, the fabric is still very pretty. The velvet trim and hem facings clearly show wear, but the main skirt is still in very good condition. This was another reason these skirts were so popular, the wool fabric wears very well. If only they still made fabric like this today!

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Pattern weights

Last September I visited Scotland, in particular the islands of Mull and Skye. Of course, Scotland is renowned for it’s wool, so when I saw a sign ‘Wool mill’ along the road on Mull, I followed it. Around the corner, along the road, down another turn, way down the road again, but eventually I did indeed find the Ardalanish wool mill.

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Pretty Mull

 

There were two main buildings to visit, one where the weaving happened and one with the shop. I first spend quite some time with the lady working on fabrics. She was checking one of the wool pieces for snapped threads, which were than woven back in by hand. They had tree old weaving looms in the space, and she told me a lot about their process, which was very interesting. This mill is on an estate, using the wool from their own sheep, as well as other wool from the island. They do most of the process in-house (all except spinning I believe), including any dyeing, which is done with home-grown natural dyes.

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I didn’t take any pictures of the mill, so some more pictures of sheep instead. As many Scottish islands, Mull has a lot of sheep.

 

Of course, after that I also had a good browse through their little shop. Aside from the fabrics, they also sold wool yarn and loads of little and bigger things made from their products. Scarfs, blankets, mitts, etc. In the end though, I bought a little package of fabric scraps. These were left-over from the things that ended up in the shop, and this allowed me to buy a range of little fabric scraps from different tweeds.

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I kept them in my closet for a while, but last week I stumbled along a tutorial for pattern weights, and thought this would be a perfect use for them! Something you actually use, for which you need only a very small amount of fabric.

There are loads of tutorials for pattern weights, I followed this one.

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I had to piece some scraps to get them in the right shapes, but that worked out fine. I also kept some of the selvedge markings, as I thought that added a nice touch about the origin of the fabric (and some scraps would’ve been to small without). Two weights are also a little smaller than the others due to fabric size, which works out okay for smaller pattern pieces.

After that, the process was quite simple. I filled mine with rice, and then sewed shut the final opening by hand.

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And then they were done! I’m really happy with my new pattern weights, the fabrics are so beautiful, and they work very well together as a set.

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Winter bustles (and new shoes!)

I know, it’s the middle of July, and where I am it’s the middle of summer. Despite that, I’m doing a post with pictures of winter bustle dresses. The main reason is that I got new shoes! American Duchess was having a sale, and I couldn’t resist, and I got the Victoria carriage boots. They’re black winter boots with bows in the front, and I really love them. It’s quite difficult to find proper warm winter boots that look good underneath a skirt, so I splurged, and suspect I’ll wear them quite a bit out of costume as well!

They’re so pretty!

 

Of course, having Victorian winter boots got me dreaming about wool and fur bustle dresses. So now I want to make one. I have a lot of fabric for other planned projects though, so who knows if and when that’ll happen, but until then, inspiration pictures!

Let’s start with some early bustle beauties.

La Saison 1874

Les Modes Parisiennes 1872

Les Modes Parisiennes 1874

Le Moniteur de la Mode 1874

La Gazette Rose 1873

The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine

 

There are also some beautiful examples from the 1880’s.

La Mode Francaise 1887

Le Salon de la Mode 1886

Der Bazar 1883

dessin original : ANONYME VERS 1870 N°9

1880s winter ensembles

 

Aside from these colored plates, I also found some black-white examples. I particularly love all the braiding on the first one.

early 1880s winter ensemble

1883 Winter

Written on border: "Jan. 1883" Printed on border: "No. 8." "Cloth and fur, either brown or grey. The under-skirt is edged with plaiting, and the over one is turetted. The readingote has a shoulder cap[e] and cuffs trimmed with fur. The waistband is fastened with a smoke[d] pearl buckle. Pattern of redingote, 3s. 1d."

MODE ILLUSTREE PATTERN Jan 7,1883- TOILETTE DE VILLE

1870’s Mantelet

When my 1870’s ballgown was nearly done, I also started looking into making a quick cape or coat to go with it. I’ll be walking to the ball after all (no fancy carriage, alas), so a little something warm will be welcome. I also had a 1,5m by 1,5m wool coupon in my stash with no specific plans for it yet. It would be perfect for this plan!

So I started looking at capes and coats, and quickly found loads of original online patterns for different Victorian eras. It’s really nice to see the progress in shapes! Generally speaking, the 1860’s see large almost ‘sack’ like capes falling over crinolines. In the early 1870’s a type of mantelet with two long extensions in the front and a fitted back become popular. In the 1880’s, coats become more popular, being even more fitted and having sleeves more often. In the 1890’s you see the rise of short (waist-length) circle shaped capes.

The patterns I found for the 1870’s were these:

Der Bazar 1874: Springtime mantelet from black elastine fabric with black guipure-lace, grosgrain ribbons and atlas lining (also suitable for confirmands); 38a. front part, 38b. back part:

Der Bazar 1873: Springtime mantelet from black cashmere with black lace and silk-reps adornments; 23a. front part, 23b. back part:

Der Bazar 1874: Springtime mantelet from black cashmere with black lace and…:

Der Bazar 1873: Springtime mantelet from black elastine with black guipure-lace and grosgrain ribbon adornments; 24a. front part, 24b. back part:

All very similar in shape. I settled on the last one, because I liked the square bottom front and fitted back. (Also, even though it has nothing to do with the pattern, the bow at the back might have influenced me slightly 😉 ).

I slightly adapted the pattern to fit me, mostly the back was way too narrow and the front slightly too wide for me. I didn’t have a narrow neckline anymore after I was done with the adaptions, and decided to leave it as it was. So mine is slightly wider then the originals probably were.

These patterns have no instructions, so I just made it up in the way I thought easiest. First I assembled the wool fabric pieces. I then trimmed the edges using velvet and polyester ribbon. The polyester ribbon (obviously not historical, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen actual silk ribbon for sale) was pleated every 1,5cm. All 10m of it.. Suffice to say that took a while, it was a relaxing task though, and perfect for the start of the holidays. (Very obvious in this image, I tend to group pins by color…)

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After trimming, I lined the wool with cotton by sewing it together right sides together, leaving a little part to turn it inside out. That part was hand-sewn shut afterwards. To keep the back close to the body right before the ‘flare’, I sewed a cotton strip of fabric at that point which closes in the front. I don’t know if this is period, just something I thought convenient.

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It closes with a fancy closure at the top and little hooks and eyes to keep the front together.

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I also placed a velvet bow at the center back, inspired by the pattern picture.

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To finish, a couple of images of me wearing the mantelet over the ball gown.

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Autumn skirt – with a temper to match

The story of this shirt started over a year ago when I first saw the fabric in my local fabric store. I immediately loved it, it’s wool, it has a lovely drape, and the colors are gorgeous. It was also rather too expensive to justify buying it without a plan, so I left it. A short while later though, I saw it again, but this time on sale. So I immediately bought all that was left. Just 1,10 meters, but I figured it would work for a skirt.

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So the planning started! I wanted to make a skirt with a pleated top, matching the tartan. But I also wanted it to be quite long, a little below knee length, and to have a narrower line than the ‘poofy’ skirts I often make.

So I started pleating along the 1,5 (width) edge. It was a large challenge to both match up all the stripes and end up with my desired waist measurement. I’d normally take 3 times the waist measurement, but this time I had a little over 2 times, so it just wasn’t working.

After re-pleating it about 3 times, I decided I could add a little width by taking off the length. I had 1,1 in length which was too long anyway. So I cut down the bottom 30 cm and re-sewed it to the sides, matching up the pattern. Doing a french seam, it again took me about 3 times to get right, but it worked.

This is an image of the finished skirt, which still has the french seams. Almost invisible, yay!

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So I started pleating again! Again, it took a while to get right, but at least I had a little more width. When the pleats were done, I stitched them together for about 10 cm deep. I then put in the zipper, and the waistband, made from the tiny bit of scraps I had left.

I hated it. It still turned out a bit too big. The very long pleats didn’t work, it just wasn’t flattering at all. So I took out about half of the length of the pleats, and I re-attached the waistband as facing. But honestly, it was still a bit too big, and not really what I’d had in mind. Because the fabric was so pretty, I didn’t want to settle for a shape which didn’t work. I’d also put in so much work in endlessly pleating and re-pleating, so I couldn’t quite bear to take it all apart yet. So I frustratedly threw it in the ‘todo’ basket and left it there for nearly a year. This is how it came out of the basket (including wrinklyness…)

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Speed up to a couple of weeks ago! I’d been looking at autumny skirts, and thinking back to the gorgeous fabric. I decided to completely re-do the skirt. Having only pleated, I still basically had a rectangle of fabric to work with. Pleats didn’t work, so it would be an A-line  model!

So I took out the waistband facing, the pleats, the hem and the zipper and ended up with a ‘loop’ of fabric. Carefully patterning on paper, I figured I’d be able to make an almost .45 circle with minimal waste.

This is what the patterning and cutting looked like. As you can see, minimal waste! The sides are on the fold, so those didn’t need an extra seam.

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This pattern worked a lot better. I also added a lining so it’d work better with leggings, and re-attached the waistband and zipper. I left the circle hanging to stretch for a week and finally did the hem.

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It took a lot of time, and loads of frustration, but I am finally really happy with how this turned out. The fabric is still stunning, and perfect for the changing weather!

Edwardian winter jacket

Last year I stumbled on an add on Marktplaats, a Dutch version of Ebay, advertising an old jacket. There were no exact dates, or provenance, just ‘antique 19th century’. But it looked really lovely, and for the asking price I figured I’d probably even want it if it wasn’t actually 19th century. So I bought it, and it’s absolutely gorgeous! Not entirely sure if the ’19th’ century is correct, but I’d date it between 1897 and 1910, so close enough. The inside is beautifully finished, and the trimming is obviously done by hand. It’s made of wool, and unlined. The only damage is that 4 of 6 buttons are missing, and the braid has turned slightly brown. This last thing is also what made me conclude on the dating, as there’s been some research to this type of discoloring. It probably happened in the early stages of viscose production and dyeing, because the proces wasn’t perfected yet, ageing turns the viscose brown. (There’s a full Dutch article on it here, based on research for a master’s thesis: https://www.modemuze.nl/blog/verkleuringen-bij-een-zwarte-damesjas).

I’m still planning to see if I can take a pattern from the jacket and the braid pattern, but haven’t gotten around to that quite yet. So for now, I just tried to take some proper pictures! There’s loads of them, so if you don’t like a lot of images maybe stop reading now. I personally always get frustrated when museums don’t post all views, so I tried to give plenty of perspectives!

The full jacket:

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Some detail shots of the finishing and the jacket on the dummy:

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The jacket closes with a double-layered flap which hides the buttons and buttonholes. Only 2 of the buttons are left, the others have fallen off.

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Some images of the construction and the jacket lying flat. The jacket is not lined, but all the inside raw edges are covered with tape including the arm holes, so it’s beautifully finished. The buttonholes are also obviously worked by hand, and the stitching of the braid shows on the inside. The collar has a facing for extra protection and two hooks and eyes to keep it closed. The tag is still included and says ‘Nouveaute’.

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Finally, I tried to take some images of the pattern of the braiding lying flat. Of course, it didn’t want to lie flat at all, so apologies if it’s still a bit wobbly. The braiding is gorgeous, and done by hand. I also appreciate how it’s not 100% symmetrical, there are some slight differences. That’s also the reason I tried to photograph both sides. When wearing the jacket, half of the braiding on the right side isn’t even visible, but the attention to detail is amazing. On the collar, both the inside and the outside are also decorated.

The left (viewer perspective) side of the front braiding.

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And the right side:

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The inside collar

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And the outside:

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Edwardian Skirt & Petticoat

It’s done! My high-waist Edwardian Skirt is done, and with it the petticoat to go underneath.

Both the petticoat and skirt were made with the 10-gore skirt pattern from Truly Victorian. I made the base of the petticoat first, to test the fit. After slightly correcting the fit at the top (it was a bit too wide, otherwise it fit very well), I cut off the top part to make the petticoat sit at the waist. I added a drawstring to close it, and moved this closure to the front.

After hemming, it was time to add some trim and ruffle. I chose to add a broad strip of bobbin lace and one row of ruffles. There’s 2 meters of fabric in the ruffle alone, cut in 4 parts and sewn together, so 8 meters to gather and hem. I used a small rolled hem at the top and bottom, and gathered and sewed the ruffle to the underside of the lace.

The finished petticoat:

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The hem of the ruffle.

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The lace:

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The cord and closure

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In the mean time, I also started working on the skirt! Cutting the fabric was quite scary. I bought the wool in Edinburgh, so no possibility of getting more, and tartan wool isn’t the cheapest of fabrics. I used black cotton for the lining.

 

From cutting the wool I now know my living room is 5 meters long, it fit exactly… I spent quite some time laying out the pattern pieces, trying to get the plaid to match at the waistline.

 

I didn’t take a lot of progress pictures, so a quick walk through. The first step was to flat-line the lining to the wool. After that, I made the placket for the closure and sew on all the hooks and eyes.

Then it was time to sew all the panels together. Always the most fun, because it’s quickest and it now actually looked like a skirt!

Next up was making boning channels and inserting the bones and sewing the whole result to the seam allowances. Less fun, and loads of hand sewing. I used plastic boning, mainly because I’ll be wearing this over a corset anyway and it’s a lot cheaper than steel.

Next up, finishing! The top was finished with bias binding. Stitched to the right side by machine and turned over and hand-stitched down.

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The last step was the hem. After trying on the length with the petticoat, I sewed hem stiffener to the bottom. Then I cut a broad bias strip from black cotton and sewed it to the hem as facing. Finally, I hand-stitched the hem-facing down. And we’re done! Technically, I finished the last hand-sewing on the 2nd of January, but as I did all the other work last year, I’ll count it as a 2015 project.

So, some more pictures!

First a comparison of with and without petticoat. I hadn’t finished the hem yet on these pictures, but you can see the difference the petticoat makes!

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The closure:

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One of the bones and the facing at the top:

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And at the hem. The hem-stiffener is underneath.

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The whole thing! I quickly put my blouse on top for the effect. (I was lazy and didn’t do any underpinnings for the blouse, sorry!)

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My only regret on the skirt is that the center-back doesn’t line up. I matched up the pattern pieces, but made the mistake on doing it on one side of folded fabric. Turned out the fabric wasn’t lying completely straight. The other panels are fine, but one of the back panels was off. Ah well, better next time.

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It’s still very pretty though…

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Regency spencer jacket

Now my blue regency dress is done, I want to wear it and the next event is in a couple of weeks, so good news for me! The only problem, it’s outside, in the Netherlands, in December. So thin silk and cotton are not going to cut it. I therefore decided to make a spencer jacket. And a muff. And a bonnet. And if possible a chemisette. A bit optimistic, but who knows. In any case, the spencer has the priority here, and as I already had the pattern and fabric, this should be very doable. So two weeks ago I cut and printed and assembled the pattern. I made the mock-up and made adjustments. Last week, I cut the fabric, the lining, sewed them together and pinned the bodice together. Last weekend I assembled the pieces, made the collar and sleeves, put everything together and finished the raw edges. I even started on the button-holes. Because, of course, for a last-minute project it’s a good plan to make 5 hand-sewn button-holes. Well… at least it’ll be pretty when it’s done! At the time of writing, I’ve made 3 button-holes and attatched the buttons, so if I run out of time it will close with 3 instead of 5 buttons!

Finished pictures will come after the 7th of December, when the event has happened, but I have some construction pictures!

The spencer is made from light-weight blue wool, which is gorgeous, but should really be seen in daylight. My flash doesn’t do it justice. The lining is white cotton, and I used Sense & Sensibility’s spencer pattern, but adapted it to have a high closure and fit my figure a bit better.

The inside of the sleeves before attaching them to the bodice.

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Gathering the sleeve cap

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The bodice assembled, before finishing the edges and the sleeves.

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And from the outside, on my dummy

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And from the back.

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Pinning the sleeve into the arm-hole.

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And with the sleeves attatched and the edges finished. Pinned to close.

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Close-up of the sleeve cap. The color is a bit weird here, it’s prettier in person.

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From the back!

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And a little preview of it worn over my dress! I’m still in love with the fabric, this picture shows the color best.

 

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