18 February 2015

1770's Cream Shoes - Construction Part Two

 After finishing the heel and front of each shoe, I bound the edges of the tongue. I had originally left a small piece of elastic at the base of the tongue, but I trimmed it down as far as I could. I wasn't quite sure how far to go with the binding, but I reasoned that most of it would get covered with the buckle flaps.

I glued the binding on with Shoe Goo, but I could have probably used a hot glue gun or other craft glue. I glued it one side at a time in small sections, holding them in place with pin curl clips. The binding wasn' bias binding, so it was tricky to get around corners. Not impossible though.

After the binding was finished on both shoes, I made a pattern for the straps. I made the pattern in two sections, then stitched them together to get a back seam. It could probably have been made as one piece, but I liked the look of the heel seam. Cutting them as two pieces does allows you to control the bias on either side of the shoe though, and save fabric.

I tried the pieces over the shoe, pinning them on at the sides and centre back. I marked the lower seam that would go over the heel and towards the front of the shoe, then folded it over and stitched it down, I did a bit of a messy job, but the white thread blended in quite nicely.

Then I started gluing the straps down, starting from the centre back and going along the seam line. I let the glue set a little in between sections, as I really wanted to get the heavy seam stuck down well. 

Even though it was cut on the bias, the fabric was tricky to stretch around the back of the shoe. I focused on getting the seam straight, as I could cover the edge of the shoe with binding or trim any excess if it didn't fit.

Here is a good picture showing one side of the seam glued down securely, and another that is loose. I used a broken sewing machine needle to poke glue into the gap, then held it down.

I glued the entire back of he shoe on, right up to the start of the tongue. I tea dyed some leftover cotton duck from my stays to a nice cream colour, then cut them to fit the inside of the straps. I covered the entirety of the straps with the lining, to make it easier to cut down later.

 I used Shoe Goo to glue the fabric to the straps, which made it a little thick and stiff. Fabric glue would have been a better choice, but I didn't have any. I deliberately left the base of the straps unglued to make it easier to attach the binding.

I did the binding in one continuous piece, starting from the base of the straps, going around the ends of the straps, over the back of the shoe and then covering the other strap. Like the tongue binding, I glued it on a small section at a time and held it in place with clips.

I did buy some trim for these shoes, and now would have been the time to glue it on over the binding. However, when I compared the trim next to my buckles it was a very cool silver, where my buckles were a warm silver. I could have tried to dye it slightly to match, but I quite liked how the shoe looked without trim. There are lots of extant examples of shoes with contrasting binding and no trim.

After finishing the binding on my first shoe and gluing the base of the straps down, I tried it on. It was only then that I realized my straps were far too wide for my buckles. I could only fit them through the chape by folding them in half!

I let my shoes sit unfinished while I thought of what to do. I still had the straps on the second shoe to finish, which I could cut down to the right size.

I glued and bound the straps of the second shoe, and it fit almost perfectly with my buckles.

When I went to re-cut the straps on my first shoe, my camera ran out of battery, but it was a simple process. I peeled back the base of the straps, just far enough for the binding to come loose. I then cut the binding off up to the tip of the strap, and rebound the skinnier strap.

All I had left to do was glue down a bit of black ribbon on the back of the shoe to hide where the heel fabric had been folded over. Using leather or some sort of vinyl would have been better, but I had ribbon on hand. I glued the sole back on a small amount at a time, removing any Goo that seeped out of the edges.

Then I was done! I'll be posting photos of the finished shoes soon, along with my finished stockings.

11 February 2015

Blue 18th Century Stockings - Construction

I had originally planned to buy some white knee high socks and wear them under my dress, but after deciding that I was going to have a good stab at make a late 18th century wardrobe I added stockings to my list.

Prior to this I had never sewn with stretch fabric, and I wasn't looking forward to it. The fabric sensed my fear, and this project turned out to be one of those that fights you every step of the way.

I started researching last year, looking up extant examples and reproductions. I loved the colours and embroidery on the clocks, much more interesting than a modern white sock.

MFA. Pair of clocked stockings. European. c.1650-1750.
MFA. Pair of Clocked Stockings. French. c.1790-1800.
MFA. Pair of Clocked Stockings. European. c.1750-1800.
I bought some fabric off Trademe (New Zealand's version of Ebay) that was described simply as a 'soft cotton knit fabric'. It was only NZ$5 for three metres so I took a chance and bought it. The picture on the auction showed a nice white fabric, but when I got it, it was pale blue!

It was certainly knit, and certainly nice and soft, but not white. I decided to make a pair of blue stockings as practice, then bleach the remaining fabric to make one or two white pairs.

I searched around for a pattern to use. I loved Before the Automobile's Late 18th Century Stockings, which were self drafted. La Couturière Parisienne's article on 18th Century Stockings had instructions to self draft a pattern, but the most thorough explanation of self drafting I found were Rebecca Manthey's instructions.

Although aimed at serious New England re-enactors, there is a wealth of detail and research in her instructions, and they're easy to follow.

I made up a pattern for the long gore stocking. This was before I had a real grasp on what part of the 18th century I wanted to focus on, and these stockings aren't really suited to my 1780's wardrobe, being popular up to the 1740's.

I cut out the fabric and started to make a mockup of a single stocking, to check the fit. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of this process, but you can be assured it was a painful one. I whipstitched the edges together by hand, a slow process that I wasn't very good at. I worried needlessly about the stitches preventing the stockings from stretching, and if I was using the right techniques for stretch fabric.

When I finally finished my mockup, there were problems. A few measurements had gone wrong somewhere, and there wasn't enough fabric to even cover my toes! I'm not sure if this is an issue with the instructions, or my bad maths skills. You can see on the pattern above where i've drawn arrows to indicate another inch or so needs to be added to the toe area. My whipstitching was also far too loose, and didn't look nice at all when it was stretched.

I practiced whipstitching with the knit on a few scraps, making sure to have tight, close stitches. Then I cut out the pieces for my proper pair of stockings.

I took extra care with the slippery, stretchy fabric, and managed to get some neat pattern pieces for the blue fabric, and left enough fabric to bleach. As you can see, the long gore stockings are not good for fabric conservation and don't make for easy cutting.

My original idea was to do some nice embroidery along the gores. Nothing on the same scale as the extant examples, but something small to decorate the gores with. I whipstitched the gores into place, leaving the rest of the stocking open for easier embroidering.

I (somehow) got the stocking onto my embroidery hoop and started embroidering. I'm almost too embarrassed by the mess I made to show it here, but I will. We all make horrible misinformed mistakes...

After documenting and unpicking my failure I left the unfinished stockings in my stash for a few weeks. I came back to them with a much simpler idea. Looking closely at Before the Automobile's stockings, I saw that she had stem stitched the edges of the gores with white embroidery to hide the seam. I decided to do that in a contrasting colour, and then add a small monogram. 

The stem stitches were great at adding some extra stability to the gores; you can see here how they stop the seams from rolling.

The monogram was also done in stem stitch, with some simple swirls on either side. I loved the rose and yellow coloured extant example from the MFA, so I chose a pale yellow to contrast with the blue. The pink of the swirls completes the pastel look. 18th century stockings could be extremely gaudy, so mine are very tame in comparison.

A stem stitched gore and a small monogram worked out much better than my original attempt, and I was starting to feel more confident working with the knit. After finishing all the embroidery, I whipstitched the back seam.

I had deliberately made the toes two or three inches longer than I needed, to avoid them turning out too short. After the back seam was done I tried the stocking on, and measured where my toes came up to. I cut off the excess fabric on a diagonal, to better fit the shape of my feet. I then whipstitched them closed.

I wasn't quite sure what to do with the top of the stockings. Costume in Detail by Nancy Bradford has one example with the top edge left raw, and another with a hem. In the end I decided to fold the top edge over twice, then secure it with a running stitch.

These stockings were a nightmare to make. From research to completion they took me about eight months! For most of that time they sat in my cupboard after some disaster happened when I tried to work on them. I so happy they're finished now, and all the mistakes just means the next pair will be easier. I hope.

4 February 2015

1780's Hair and Makeup Tests

If there's one thing the late 1700's is known for, it's giant hair. For a general overview of the makeup and hair of the 1700's, Kendra of Demode has an excellent and well researched post that covers the main points of each decade. I used it to base my hair and makeup experiments here.

I wanted to try a late 1770's or very early 1780's pouf. Called a "transitional pouf" by Kenda, it doesn't have the height of the earlier poufs. The 1780's hedgehog hairstyle looked much more complicated, so I decided to start small.

A few months earlier I had made a hair rat out of cotton and polyfill stuffing. I got the idea from Two Nerdy History Girls post on achieving 1770's hair.

I did this on hair that was a day old, and I had it in a 1960's beehive the day before so it was thick from backcombing and hairspray already. I pinned the rat to the centre top of my head, making sure I had lots of hair in front of it. I backcombed most of the hair on the front and side of my head, then used the very front pieces to smooth over the backcombing.

I tried to give some width to the pouf by including the sides in the back combing. Alternatively I could have done rolls or curls at the side. The front pieces of hair that were smoothed over were pinned behind the hair rat, then covered with a roll at the back and a bow.

There were a lot of gaps, particularly on the sides, which had trouble staying in place. The overall silhouette looked very close to a low 1770's pouf though, and I was happy that it was working.

The back was tricky, since I couldn't really see what I was doing and my arms were starting to ache! I tried to replicate the long sausage rolls that are often stacked at the back of poufs, but they ended up a bit short and messy. If I had more patience and backcombed more they might have turned out better, but the long rolls are still a mystery to me.

In some pictures you can see how the front of the hair had started to split at the hair rat, turning into three distinct sections. The barrel shape of the rat was too tall at the sides, so i'm going to make another one with sloped edges.

I didn't use pomade in my hair, or any powder this time around. Since I do vintage hairstyles most days i'm used to backcombing and hairspray, so that's what I used here. With some feathers and bows, or a nice hat, this would be a passable 1770's hairstyle I think.

My makeup was simple. I didn't use any foundation as I had none pale enough, I only used some pale powder to get rid of shine. I darkened my eyebrows slightly and made them rounded, but still kept them looking natural.

I darkened my eyelids a tiny bit with some dark red eyeshadow. It's debatable if 18th century ladies did use red on their eyes, or if it's just the contrast of the white foundation. Since my eyelashes are blonde I used a little bit of mascara.

I used lots of pink blush on my cheeks, since I didn't have red. That wasn't quite cutting it though, so I used red lipstick on top of the blush. On camera only the lipstick shows up, the blush covered more of my cheeks and looked more blended in real life.

I also used the red lipstick for my lips. Looking back at some portraits, I should have filled in all of my lips instead of doing a more natural looking stain. Some clear lipgloss might have also helped get that plump, cherubic ideal.

I definitely need more practice, but i'm so happy with how this experiment turned out. A new hair rat shape and more patience will go a long way. You can see the hair sections splitting clearly in the above picture, and the hair rat showing through!

Taking it all apart was easy, even though it seemed pretty stable.

I decided to see what I could do with my own hair before I thought about wigs. The front of my hair is a weird mix of brown, blonde and red-ish anyway, so blending it into a wig would have been tricky.

For reference my hair is just touching my shoulders and not layered, with a naturally wavy texture. I felt like I had more than enough hair for this small pouf, so this is probably possible with shorter hair.