Tuesday, January 31, 2012

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V31: Book Review: "18th Century Embroidery Techniques" by Gail Marsh

18th Century Embroidery Techniques
Gail Marsh
(c) 2006 by Gail Marsh
ISBN 978-1-86108-476-7

There comes a time in every 18th century costumer's career when embroidery seems like a good idea.  So many 18th century garments feature embroidery, and so many different types of needlework at that.  If you are a novice like me, trying to make a start with Georgian embroidery can be incredibly daunting, but luckily there is 18th Century Embroidery Techniques to get noobs like us started.

The Pros:
I was delighted by this colorful, hardbound book, when it arrived, because it was so dang affordable, for one, but also because it's in full color.  The illustrations are clear and easy to read, and the accompanying photos allow us to see how the finished techniques look in real life.

The book covers various methods, with an emphasis on metal thread embroidery, which is perhaps the most lost to us today.  Silk embroidery, whitework, and quilting are also covered, as well as tambour, crewel, and novelty embroideries such as ribbon work.  The author starts us off with a thorough description of the tools needed, as well as a historical note, and finishes with a very useful glossary of terms.

18th Century Embroidery Techniques provides a nice variety of clothing examples, from men's waistcoats, to women's stays, neckerchiefs, aprons, and petticoats.  We also get a look at pockets, mitts, and caps, all of which give the reader a good idea of how extensive was embroidery in the 18th century.

Perhaps most importantly, this book removes some of the intimidating mystery surrounding these complex-looking motifs.  Miss Marsh breaks down the designs and points out each type of stitch or method used for each part.  The beginning embroiderer can pick and choose from the designs, and try her hand at many styles, in many materials, finding which works best for her and her project.

typical 18th c. design w/ drawn work, Provencal fichu
The Cons:
While 18th Century Embroidery Techniques is very informative, the author assumes the reader will know a little bit about embroidery already.  I was confused by some of the terminology, especially in the metal thread section - for instance, "purl" is mentioned regularly, but I had to flip to the back of the book to look up what "purl" meant, before continuing.

Some sections of the book are more in-depth and instructive than others.  The metal thread, silk embroidery, and quilting sections showed some "how to" for the stitches or technique, but the whitework section, particularly in regards to Dresden Work, was very scant in directions, and I was not able to understand how this technique is done.
Via Trouvais
I would highly recommend 18th Century Embroidery Techniques for anyone with a serious interest in learning how to embroidery in the 18th century style.  It is an excellent book to use in conjunction with other resources and tutorials, and gives specific examples that can be adapted or copied for your own projects.  As with any craft, embroidery is highly skilled, but also easy to get into (and addictive), and you will soon find yourself stitching spangles and bullion knots onto your robes and petticoats.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

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V30: An Embroidered Apron - My First Williamsburg Piece

I was pleased to receive my vintage embroidered panel in the mail the other day, but it needed some tweaks.

Firstly, it was dirty and smelled of vintage.  (You know that smell...that thrift store smell)  So I washed it by hand in Woolite, pleased to see the water murk up, but the piece was still quite ecru in color, and I needed it to be closer to white, so I let it soak in a mostly-water-with-a-little-tiny-bit-o'-bleach in it, which brightened it remarkably.  Another rinse in water with a little vinegar, then another wash in Woolite, and it was looking pretty good.

The construction of the apron was easy - just gathered the top edge of the panel onto a tape, and I wanted to try out "the dip" that Hallie was talking about on her blog, but I didn't like the result.

"The dip" makes the sides of the apron longer than the middle, and I think now, after doing it, it is meant for very broad aprons, so that they will appear to hang straight when tied onto the full skirt.  In my case, my apron is quite narrow, and the dip was causing the sides to hang inward instead of straight, whereas I would prefer it to splay out nicely over the skirt.  So unpick it (carefully) I did, and re-cut the top to be straight, then stitched it to a new waist tape.  It hangs much more nicely now - a note for future aprons!

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

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V29: Fabrics for Colonial Williamsburg...Again.

Oh, the best laid plans of seamstresses....

I went shopping for fabrics today and came across the perfect stripe silk for my future Colonial Williamsburg polonaise.  It looked at me and just screamed "MAKE ME INTO A POLONAISE!"  This is it:

So, of course, the CW "Mix-n-Match" plan has again changed, again:
Two patterned linen/cotton jackets, one striped polonaised gown, two solid colored silk petticoats.
After reading Demode's and Dreamstress' articles about printed cottons (thank you Kristin and WandaBVictorian), the printed jackets really need to have light/white grounds, but I have a choice of colors to use for the prints.  I've acquired linen/cotton to work with, and I think the floral stamp in a red will be lovely, and the leaf stripe in a blue will give a different look.  I'd also like to try my hand at hand-painting a more open, organic vine and flower design, but one thing at a time.

Time to experiment! 
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Saturday, January 28, 2012

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V28: Preparing for Presentations on Historical Accessories

I'm quite excited to tell you that I have been asked to give a talk on historical hats at the Churchill County Museum in Fallon, NV, in March.  Time to study up on my hat history, 1850-1960!  A good place to start will be with Vintage Hats & Bonnets 1770-1970, by Susan Langley, a very useful book I picked up last year, and, well, any other resources I can get my hands on.  I do love researching :-D

I have also been asked if I would like to do a presentation on historical footwear, for a Ladies' Tea in the Sacramento Area, in May.  YES!  I hope I am selected for this one, too, as I can talk about shoes all day...if you haven't noticed :-)

I don't have much experience speaking in front of large groups, but I am passionate about the subject matter, and excited to talk about it.  Have you done any presentation on aspects of historical dress?  How did you overcome to jitters?
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

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V26: 18th Century Panniers - examples and ideas

I've been thinking about panniers lately.  Pocket hoops.  Hip padding.

For an upper class impression, it looks like a little side hoop action was still en vogue for the 1770s, so I plan to experiment with travel-able (read: small, pack down easily) options.

In the meantime, here are some examples I found:

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

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V25: More Fabric Stamp News, and Astoria Pre-Sale Update

Hi Ladies and Laddies,
  After posting about the fabric stamps yesterday, they arrived in the mail, and I immediately played with them to see how they looked.  I'm so very thrilled!  Here is my test sheet of paper, my "sampler" if you will:

The two stamps intended to be applied in lines will take some practice to be seamless.  Measuring out and marking the lines on the fabric will help.  The two emblems are easier and look great - they'll be fun to play around with trying different patterns, lines, grids, various spacings, etc.

I got these stamps from RubberStamps.net , and found it extremely easy to upload my custom artwork.  Each stamp was very inexpensive, and the store offers free shipping (limited time, but still going as of this post).  The tutorials I have found online recommend Tsukineko VersaCraft Fabric Inkpad, but one can also use fabric paint applied lightly with a roller.  I will try both and report back. :-)

In other news, the Astoria Edwardian shoes have sold 130 pairs, with black being the more popular color.  The pre-order continues until February 3rd, so if you've had your eye on these and want the special price and delivery in April, you have a little over a week left. :-)  Check Astoria out on my website: www.american-duchess.com
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

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V24: Block Printing 18th Century Fabric - Preparations

After much deliberation and many very helpful comments, I revised my Colonial Williamsburg mix n' match plans:

Now the two jackets will be in prints, and the two skirts and gown will be solid colors.  I'm still bent on blue and yellow, so I've collected some iDye packets to that end, ready for the linen/cotton blend and silk I'm almost decided to go with. :-)

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Monday, January 23, 2012

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V23: 18th Century Accessories - Embroidered Aprons

Lewis Walpole Library
Despite working on a 1912 Titanic gown currently, and having several other projects lined up before I need to start on the Colonial Williamsburg stuff, I just can't stay away from the 18th century.

I've been thinking about accessories, primarily the pretty, sheer, white, embroidered type - caps, apron, and neckerchiefs.  I want to make a variety of these to take to Williamsburg, to give a different look to my ensembles each day.

For all the ambitions I have to suddenly pull perfect hand-embroidered Dresden work out of my ____ , I know that my patience and skill for embroidery actually sucks.  Really.  So I've been shopping for sheer items that have already been masterfully embroidered that I might use to trim an apron, a cap, or a neckerchief.

Click "Read More" for my findings and research images...

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

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V22: More 19teens and Early 1920s Hairstyles {Videos!}

I've been talking a lot about hair lately.  It seems to be the thing we have the most trouble with.  In the first post,  "Introduction to Hairstyles in 1912," I showed contemporary photos of ladies' coiffures, and a few "how to" images from the time as well, but the problem with these is that we ladies today still have little or no idea how to achieve them.

Luckily, there are some original newsreels at "British Pathe" to help us.  I've embedded these super-helpful tutorials" here.  While from 1920/21, these techniques can be used for the earlier styles as well.  Enjoy!





There are more useful newsreels to be seen on the British Pathe site.

I originally came across the link to British Pathe on a blog called "Beauty is a Thing of the Past," a site loaded with hair how-to's an magazine articles all about beauty and hair.
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

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V21: Vintage Bead Binge

A belt, but also a headband, perhaps.
I was thinking just the other night about where to find heavily beaded bandeau materials for my 1912 (and also 1920s) hair styles, and lo and behold, on yesterday's thrifty shopping trip, I found two 1980s/90s belts that fit the bill perfectly.

They are SO obnoxious, I had to get them both.  They're quite thick and heavy, but perfect for some monstrous hairstyle that needs some equally killer bling.

I would never wear this belt with this dress, but I might wear it on my head, for a future flapper costume.
I also picked up a 90s slip dress that weighs about ten pounds, because the whole upper half of the dress, back and front, is beaded in a brilliantly antique-looking way.  It will probably get the chop some day in the future, to be appliqued onto a historical dress.

This will decorate the bust of a future Edwardian or 1920s gown nicely, and there's A LOT of it.
Beading, especially of this volume, is just not something I do.  I have the best intentions, but I know I'll never actually make anything like this by hand, so when I see it, I buy it.  Anybody who has flipped through Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Fashion in Detail and Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail will know that the details - beads, buttons, trims, inserts, embroidery, etc. - can take your historical costume from great to KAPOW!

I'm going to have to try out these big bandeaus on a hairstyle, to see how they work/look/can be altered...that is for a future post :-)
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Friday, January 20, 2012

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V20: A 1912 Hairstyle Tutorial - Gibson Tuck a la Hair Piece

Hi!  Last week I posted about 1912 hairstyles, showing a handful of reference images to inspire some hair adventures.

Then it was time to experiment.  I have pretty short hair - not even chin length, and all choppy and layered all over - so this tutorial is geared towards ladies with short hair, but these techniques can also be used for ladies of long locks, or on wigs.

What You Will Need:

  • A long ponytail-type hair extension (Scunci makes Blonde and Brunette)
  • Bristle Brush
  • Lots of bobby pins
  • A hair rat/pad
  • A flat clip, or extra large bobby pin
  • A bandeau or silk scarf
  • A hair band
Optional Things You Might Want to Use:

Okay, let's start...
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

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V18: Take the Victorian Button Boot Survey

It's time for a little "focus group" research, to see what you ladies think about Victorian Button Boots.

I've had a lot of requests for these, so I'm looking in to the possibility.  If you would like to participate in the development of our future button boots, please take the survey and let me know how you feel about color, shape, details, prices, and so on :

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

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V17: What Real Women Wore in 1912

I get so starry-eyed when I look at evening gowns and haute couture of the 19teens.  It's easy to forget that most women didn't wear anything even remotely like this.

There is a great series of books called "Everyday Fashions" of the {insert date range here}.  They are compilations of a decade's worth of selected Sear's Catalog pages, and are an invaluable resource when researching clothing.  They show fashions for men, women, and children, including hats, shoes, accessories, underwear, etc.  I have Everyday Fashions, 1909-1920, Everyday Fashions of the Twenties, and Everyday Fashions of the Thirties , and highly recommend all of them.

So what were real women wearing in 1912?

Their underclothes:

 Their daily dresses:

On their heads:
Some of these hats are of 18th century proportions!  The top center could be right out of that century.
Click on each image for a closer look, and here is the book to buy on Amazon:

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Monday, January 16, 2012

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V15: "Astoria" Shoe Pre-Order Now Open

Okay, everything is ready.  You can now go and order your Astoria Edwardian Shoes:

Most of you know the deal - we need a certain number of pre-orders to run this style.  We're doing two colors - ebony and ivory - so the minimum for us this time is 120 pre-orders.

Please use all the pictures you need and help support Astoria.  Blog, tweet, facebook, tumble, pin, and tell your friends!  Lots of photos can be found here.  More information about Astoria is here.

Ordering & Shipping

  • Pre-Order is January 16 through February 3
  • Pre-orders receive 20% off the regular price
  • US orders will receive their shoes in early April (possibly before).
  • International orders, please use Priority Shipping or Express Shipping to ensure your shoes get to you as quickly as they can.  First Class mail can take two to four weeks to reach you, and is not trackable.

Why Are We Ordering So Early?
It may seem like April is a long way off, but the Astoria order is happening now due to Chinese New Year.  In China, where our shoes are manufactured, nearly all businesses take a one month long break.  This is known as "Spring Festival."  Our shoes normally take about 6 weeks to manufacture, so add this to the 4 week holiday, and that puts our delivery time in mid-March, with delivery to you at the end of March, early April.

Okay, Ladies, go for it!  Thank you again for supporting the Historical Shoe line!
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