Monday, May 13, 2019

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Ikea Costuming 101 - Making Historical Gowns with Duvet Covers, Curtains, and Sheets

The Italian Gown from "The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking" was made with one LJUSÖGA Queen size duvet cover from Ikea.
Accurate printed cottons are very difficult to find. Usually the pattern is too dense and the colors are a bit off. There are endless bolts of quilter's cottons at Joanns, repleat with cabbage roses or rainbow-colored Jacobeanesque flowers, none of them quite right. So it is indeed surprising when you run across a shockingly accurate print on a duvet cover or a set of curtains while strolling the showrooms at Ikea.

Ikea has a curiously long history of reproducing 18th century Swedish textiles and even furniture. In 1995 they released an entire 18th century collection with a table, mirror, dishes, chandelier, even bed hangings and a sofa. Don't I wish they'd do the same again!

Now, not all Ikea fabrics are good for costuming, but every once in awhile there will be a great print or two. Here's what to look for:
  • Limited color palette in appropriate colors - red, pink, minimal green, blue, yellow, black, minimal purple.
  • Open white ground - you want a lot of white space on the fabric. The pattern shouldn't be too small and dense.
  • Primitive floral rendering - remember that these prints originally were block printed and any shading was painted in by hand. You want florals that look hand drawn and not too complex, dimensional, or realistic in the shading and rendering of the flowers.
  • Medium to small scale floral - You don't want *huge* motifs. The flowers should not overwhelm the body, as this is a good hint that the textile was originally for furniture and not clothing. The flowers can be small but remember that you want a lot of space between them. Too dense a pattern won't read quite right either.
  • Fabric Weight - you want as lightweight as possible. The duvet covers and sheets are a great weight. The curtains can border on the heavy side, so make sure they're not too thick or backed with anything heavy. If you're tempted by the sheers (many of which are lovely!) make sure they're natural fibers particularly if there is any embroidery or design on them.
A late 1790s open robe gown made from INGMARIE curtains from Ikea
When you see these, don't delay - buy up that duvet cover or those curtains because Ikea does retire things quite quickly. The next time you go, that bedspread may not be there (ask my how I know :-\ ).

If you'd like to see a list of all of the Ikea prints from over the years and 18th century gowns made from them, check out the Ikea Dresses page on 18th Century Notebook here.

My particular favorites:
HÅLLROT

HÅLLROT - A very pretty geometric floral in a scale and color scheme that works well for dressmaking. This one is not available from Ikea anymore but may be found online - try eBay.

HÄSSLEKLOCKA 
HÄSSLEKLOCKA - A nicely done red chintz with a little shading in the flowers. It's a small scale but has a lot of open ground, which is ideal. Atelier Nostalgia did a nice post on red and white chintz here. As of this posting, Hassleklocka is still available on the Ikea website.

INGMARIE
INGMARIE - This textile was available as curtains and was a larger-scale print on a little heavier cotton textile than the duvet cover. The design was screenprinted, also different from the duvet covers, and while this wasn't ideal, it made up into a very lovely 1790s gown. Ingmarie is not available on the Ikea website anymore.
LJUSÖGA
LJUSÖGA - One of my absolute favorites, the very popular Ljusoga duvet cover was an excellent textile for gowns. The design was small in scale with a lot of white space. The colors were crisp but not too bright. We used this very pretty print for the Italian gown in The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking. The gown now belongs to Maggie, whom we made it for in the book, and when I next visited Ikea to buy more for a gown for myself, they had discontinued this print. Then I cried. A lot. If you find Ljusoga online for a reasonable price, I highly recommend it!

STENÖR
STENÖRT - My current projest uses Stenort and I'm *in love* with this print. It's delicate and a perfect scale on a broad white ground. One thing to note is that the Stenort duvet cover comes with one side printed floral and one side printed stripe, so you only get half the yardage, but the pillow cases are the floral on both sides. It appears that Stenort also comes as sheets/pillowcases, too. Woo! As of this blogging, Stenort is currently available as sheets from Ikea online.

How Much Fabric Do You Get?

I see this question pop up a lot when talking about using curtains or bedspreads for fabric. Conveniently, Ikea always puts the dimensions of the item on the package, so you know just how much fabric you're getting.

Twin Fitted Sheet / Duvet Cover - 59" x 78.7" - you will lose some when you cut the elastic away and iron the fitted sheet. On duvet covers check for buttons, buttonholes, and facings.
Approx. 2.2 yards of 60" wide fabric (30" folded) for the fitted sheet
or
Approx. 4.4 yards of 60" wide fabric (30" folded) in two pieces for a double-sided duvet cover.

Queen Fitted Sheet / Duvet Cover - 78.7" x 78.7" - you will lose some when you cut the elastic away and iron the fitted sheet. On duvet covers check for buttons, buttonholes, and facings.
Approx. 2.2 yards of 78" wide fabric (39" folded) for the fitted sheet
or
Approx. 4.4 yards of 78" wide fabric (39" folded) in two pieces for a double-sided duvet cover

King Fitted Sheet / Duvet Cover - 94.4" x 78.7" - you will lose some when you cut the elastic away and iron the fitted sheet. On duvet covers check for buttons, buttonholes, and facings.
Approx 2.6 yards of 78" wide fabric (39" folded) for the fitted sheet
or
Approx. 5.2 yards of 78" wide fabric (39" folded) in two pieces for a double-sided duvet cover.

Pillow Case - 19.5" x 31.5" - watch for embroidery, button, and button holes. Check how many pillow cases come in the package.

Bolster Case - 15" x 43" - check how many bolster cases come in the package.

Curtains - 1 pair - 98.4" x 57" - watch for tabs or a pocket at the top for the curtain rod.
Approx. 5.4 yards of 57" wide fabric (28.5 folded) in two pieces.

How Much Fabric Do You Need?

This, of course, depends on the dress, but when I'm considering yardage I go by the general "20 inch rule." Many 18th century gowns are made of up of panels of about 20 inch wide fabric. This is because the loom widths for silk in the 18th century were limited to around this width. Even though cotton, wool, and linen were not limited in this way, and certainly aren't today, going by 20 inch widths can give you a good idea on the fly.

These measurements are based on original gowns and my size (approx. 34 bust - 30 waist, height 5'6"):

Petticoat - 6 panels of 20 inch wide x length (usually around 45 inches from waist to floor) - 120 inch hem circumference. You may need a little more length for leveling over pocket hoops.

Italian Gown - 4 - 6 panels of 20 inch wide for the skirt x length (usually around 45 inches from waist to floor, but if you want a train you'll need longer). Bodice takes about 2 - 3 short rectangular panels; sleeves take about 1 - 2 short rectangular panels.

Sacque Gown - 6 panels of 20 inch wide for the back, bodice, and front skirt. The back length is nape of neck to floor + train - for me that's about 60 - 65 inches. The front skirt is about 45 inches from waist to floor. 1 - 2 square-ish panels for the sleeves. You'll want to add a bit more wiggle room for stomacher, flounces, and trim.

English Gown - Pleated back takes about 2 panels x the length from nape of neck to floor - for me that's about 56 inches. Front + Side skirts - 4 panels x 45 inches in length; bodice with pleated robings is 2 panels (one each side). Sleeves 1 - 2 short rectangular-ish panels. Stomacher and cuffs I'd do just 1 rectangular panel.

If you start thinking of your gown constructions in terms of rectangular panels, it's easy to doodle how much fabric you'll need based on these panels. Here's some examples of what this looks like, using an Italian gown and petticoat (sacque and English gown will vary, of course):

A two-sided twin size duvet cover is enough to make an Italian gown if you piece two of the skirt panels.

A two-sided queen size duvet cover is more than enough to make an Italian gown, but not quite enough to make a matching petticoat for it! You may get a petticoat out of it if you cleverly piece, though - remember you have pillowcases too!

A two-sided king size duvet cover is enough to make an Italian gown, matching petticoat, and still have fabric left over for trim or other things.

You know the folded widths and lengths of the duvet covers and curtains, so you can block out the gown pieces to get a good idea if you'll need to buy a king size duvet or just a twin size.

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I hope you found this article useful, if not a little long. Next time you're at Ikea, check out the bed linens and the curtain area. Ikea is constantly introducing new prints that make up into gorgeous gowns.






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16 comments:

  1. Really useful article, thank you. You've also reminded me that I've got a set of Ingmarie curtains waiting to be made into something. By the way, will you be bringing any copies of your Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking to Edinburgh with you?

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  2. Hi, I saw your original post on INGMARIE, or I think it was the original. I haunted our local IKEA looking for those curtains and finally found them! I carefully undid all the hems then washed them on a cold cycle. I used one curtain to make a design from Louise Cutting's pattern line and am very happy with the look. I get alot of compliments on the shirt. Regards!

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  3. How about Sprängört duvet? IKEA even writes it is a 18th century pattern from Musee de l'impression sur Etoffe.

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  4. I remember your Waverly gowns. We don't have an Ikea here, but I am assuming these are much lighter fabrics.

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  5. I was just wishing amd googling for a post JUST LIKE THIS ONE. You are the best!!

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  6. What a fabulous article, thank you

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  7. So you would know : LJUSÖGA is still available in french Ikea !

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  8. Amazing! Absolutely lovely. And perhaps folks might find some pre-owned linens in thrift shops, etc. as well. Great idea for repurposing flat sheets as the fitted sheet are the first to go usually.

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  9. Very helpful overview! I noticed that Stenört is no longer on Ikea's Swedish website, so they may have started to retire it.

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  10. PLEASE do this project with second hand items. The thrift stores are overrun with these things and it is our job as makers to consume less and create more.

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  11. I've been hanging onto the black background floral curtains, and a Ljusoga duvet cover waiting to make something from them. Once my sewing room is unpacked, and CoCo projects done, I'd like to give them a shot.
    Val
    PS, looks like you're getting hit by the same daily spammer I have. My page is moderated so I've been hitting the spam button on them and blasting them out of the water.

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  12. Very helpful, thanks for creating the cutting diagrams! I have two sets of the Matilda sheer curtains tucked away that might become a Federal style gown someday.

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  13. I've been looking for specifics about the Ikea fabric for weeks, now! So, so happy to have seen this.

    Do you know if any of these are appropriate for early 18th century rather than late? Such a pain to find something that is valid for 1700-1720.

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  14. Yes we already do duvets, curtains, sheets etc for steam punk. Such fun.

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