Pages

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Hair Reciever

What are hair receivers?
They are exactly what they sound like, they are things that receive hair.
You don't see them much nowadays (actually I have no idea if anybody else in this century is using one), but they were widely used in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Hair receivers are the pottery vessels into which ladies would deposit the clumps of hair from their brushes. These clumps would then be rolled into rats, which were used to puff up hairdos.
When I heard about hair receivers I thought they sounded very useful. I had been collecting my hair in a jar for quite some time and it didn't hold very much. My father was taking a pottery course for his sabbatical, so I got him to throw a hair receiver, which I then decorated. He is quite good at pottery and says he will start a website sometime, but he hasn't yet, so I can't leave a link to any such thing.

The top of the receiver, after decorating but before glazing.
I drew all over it with a thing called an "under-glaze pencil", which is a pencil that won't burn off in the kiln. My design is not remotely historical. There are 3 rat skulls on the lid, and 3 rats around the sides of the receiver. They look sort of like mice, but since it's a hair receiver they are rats. Rats and mice don't look all that different anyways.
Rat 1.

Rat 2.

Rat 3.
I made the third one a Borg. It's based on the drawing that I cropped my profile picture from.

A close up of one of the rat skulls.
The other stuff around the receiver is rose vines.

It took hours and hours of drawing, and a lot of pencil sharpening, but I finished it. Then Papa had to glaze it. There were several clear glazes to choose from, so several test tiles were fired with the different glazes to see how the pencil reacted to them. I drew Homunculi on the tiles.

Envy, Pride, and the second Greed.
The results were rather dissappointing.
Nooo! My favorite Homunculus has melted into a smudge.
He ended up using a different glaze, which still caused a bit of blurring.
The finished hair receiver.

The Rat Borg came out very light.

The other two rats were darker though.

The rat skulls were also lightened.
While the pencil lines aren't as dark as I had hoped, I am happy with how the receiver turned out.

The hole in the lid is for stuffing the hair through. It is the best way to collect hair, the receiver does a very good job of containing the clumps, which are terribly difficult to stuff into jars.
Since I have been saving hair clumps for a long time, I had more than a receiver full when the receiver was finished. I'm keeping it in a bag now, but I will make rats out of it soon, and then I'll write a post on rat making.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Cravat of one Hans Pfaall

The cravat is finished. I finished it on Tuesday, so it's a day late.

Here is the inspiration quote:

"Having, as I thought, sufficiently collected my ideas, I now, with great caution and deliberation, put my hands behind my back, and unfastened the large iron buckle which belonged to the waistband of my pantaloons.  This buckle had three teeth, which, being somewhat rusty, turned with great difficulty on their axis.  I brought them, however, after some trouble, at right angles to the body of the buckle, and was glad to find them remain firm in that position.  Holding within my teeth the instrument thus obtained, I now proceeded to untie the knot of my cravat.  I had to rest several times before I could accomplish this manœuvre; but it was at length accomplished.  To one end of the cravat I then made fast the buckle, and the other end I tied, for greater security, tightly around my wrist.  Drawing now my body upwards, with a prodigious exertion of muscular force, I succeeded, at the very first trial, in throwing the buckle over the car, and entangling it, as I had anticipated, in the circular rim of the wicker-work."


From The Unparalleled Adventure of one Hans Pfaall, 1835 by Edgar Allan Poe.

My fabric was a fine silk twill, which was very shifty and slippery. It came in the same bag of inherited silk as the flowers on the silly hat. I'm not sure if Hans' cravat was made of silk since he was a poor bellows mender. But he had acquired a great deal of money for his balloon project(He borrowed it from many different people with no intentions of paying them back), and he was smoking a cigar while preparing the balloon for lift off, so I think silk is quite plausible.
Terribly uncooperative, but pretty, fabric.
I cut a 92 cm square, which was the entire width of the fabric. I pulled one thread out to cut it because that was the only way to get the ends straight.
I sewed it with thread pulled from the end of a slightly stiffer piece of very fine silk. This was the most evil thread I have ever sewn with, it was just a bunch of silk filaments with no twist at all. The thread was so light that it floated around and got snagged on many things. I went slower than usual to avoid snarls.

Look at all the evil little filaments.

 On the first side I hemmed I ironed and then pinned the whole thing at once before sewing it up. It came out wonky.
Wonky hem. Also, I finally have a cover for my big ironing board and have returned the smaller, stained one to the laundry room, which is why the background is a geometric print instead of splotchy muslin.
For the next side I tried folding the hem as I sewed, holding it in position with my thumbnail, with one pin and no ironing. It worked much better.
There was a bit of puckering after ironing, but overall it was a great improvement.
I hemmed the selvages too. They didn't need it, but I wanted all four sides to be the same, and the square to maintain it's squareness.
I folded it in half diagonally and rolled it up from the corner so that two of the corners were at the ends and the other two were hidden in the middle, along with most of the hems.
I tied it in the same way Edgar Allan Poe's cravat is tied.
Poe in 1848. (source)
I got my little brother to model it for no good reason. (please forgive the shirt, I know it's horrible. The cuffs are the wrong way around, the collar is too small, and it isn't even hemmed. I threw it together about a year and a half ago using some cotton scraps and a pillow case, it's embarrassing and will to be taken apart soon but it was the closest thing I had to an 1830's shirt.)
My younger brother Simon. Doesn't he have nice hair?


I was quite surprised at how so much fabric could roll up into so little space, it gives it a shape just like the one Poe is wearing. Another great surprise was that when I unfolded it, it had fold marks just like the linen one from The Met!

The story had no description of the cravat itself, so I am obliged to show a picture of this cravat, tied in the same way the one in the story was.
One end of the cravat made fast to a buckle, and the other end tied, for greater security, tightly around his wrist.
It's long enough to use as a rope, therefore it is just like the one in the story. It wasn't my intention to choose a project so open for interpretation, but it did work out well.

The Facts

The Challenge: #10, Literature

Fabric: one 92 cm square of white silk twill.

Pattern: None

Year: 1835, but it would work quite well for the preceding 3 decades.

Notions: 8 lengths of thread pulled from the end of another piece of white silk.

How historically accurate is it? Probably the most accurate thing I have ever made. It's 100% silk, totally hand sewn and the square shape is my very best guess based on both portraits and extant cravats(see previous post).  The silk is pretty good quality too.

Hours to complete: Nine and a half.

First worn: I haven't worn it yet, but I will once I have a decent shirt and waistcoat to go with it.

Total cost: $0, the silk was inherited from a friend of my mother's, which is why it is such a nice quality. I certainly couldn't afford fabric like this.

Even though silk is evil, I want to sew lots more with it. It seems like the sort of evil that can be defeated if you make small enough stitches.
Hopefully I shall make a larger garment for the next challenge. I feel like I've been using the "you can never have too many accessories" trick for too long.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Cravat Research

The next Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge is "Literature". You have to sew something from a book, play, or poem, or make something that you imagine your favorite literary character would wear. Choosing a project for this one was extremely difficult since the options are pretty much endless. I settled on a cravat mentioned in an Edgar Allan Poe story.

The story, "The Unparalleled Adventure Of One Hans Pfaall", is about a man who goes to the moon in a balloon. It begins with an odd little being, supposedly a man from the moon, delivering a letter to a large crowd in Rotterdam. The letter is from a man named Hans Pfaall and contains a ridiculous narrative explaining how he killed three men, who had been harassing him for quite some time, and traveled to the moon. He finishes the letter by saying that he has been living on the moon for the past 5 years and asks to be pardoned for his crimes. The story itself ends with several notes saying that Hans does not deserve a pardon and that the whole story is obviously a hoax. It was published in 1835.

There is a fantastic costume description near the beginning of the story, it's not the one I'm using for this challenge, but I'm including it all the same because the "very singular somebody" also wears a cravat.

"This was in truth a very singular somebody.  He could not have been more than two feet in height; but this altitude, little as it was, would have been sufficient to destroy his equilibrium, and tilt him over the edge of his tiny car, but for the intervention of a circular rim reaching as high as the breast, and rigged on to the cords of the balloon.  The body of the little man was more than proportionally broad, giving to his entire figure a rotundity highly absurd.  His feet, of course, could not be seen at all.  His hands were enormously large.  His hair was gray, and collected into a queue behind.  His nose was prodigiously long, crooked and inflammatory; his eyes full, brilliant, and acute; his chin and cheeks, although wrinkled with age, were broad, puffy, and double; but of ears of any kind or character there was not a semblance to be discovered upon any portion of his head.  This odd little gentleman was dressed in a loose surtout of sky-blue satin, with tight breeches to match, fastened with silver buckles at the knees.  His vest was of some bright yellow material; a white taffety cap was set jauntily on one side of his head; and, to complete his equipment, a blood-red silk handkerchief enveloped his throat, and fell down, in a dainty manner, upon his bosom, in a fantastic bow-knot of super-eminent dimensions."

Someday I will make a blood-red silk handkerchief that is big enough to tie in a fantastic bow-knot of super-eminent dimensions, but; seeing as that will require dyeing silk, and the challenge is due in 3 days, and I have never made anything out of fine silk before, I will start with making the cravat of Hans Pfaall. Which isn't described, but rather, is put to use as a makeshift rope.

"Having, as I thought, sufficiently collected my ideas, I now, with great caution and deliberation, put my hands behind my back, and unfastened the large iron buckle which belonged to the waistband of my pantaloons.  This buckle had three teeth, which, being somewhat rusty, turned with great difficulty on their axis.  I brought them, however, after some trouble, at right angles to the body of the buckle, and was glad to find them remain firm in that position.  Holding within my teeth the instrument thus obtained, I now proceeded to untie the knot of my cravat.  I had to rest several times before I could accomplish this manœuvre; but it was at length accomplished.  To one end of the cravat I then made fast the buckle, and the other end I tied, for greater security, tightly around my wrist.  Drawing now my body upwards, with a prodigious exertion of muscular force, I succeeded, at the very first trial, in throwing the buckle over the car, and entangling it, as I had anticipated, in the circular rim of the wicker-work."

The cravat must be quite long if he's using it as a rope. Every picture of an 19th century man I have ever seen shows the cravat wrapped twice around the neck, which would also require a long piece of cloth.
Here's an 1830's cravat from the Kyoto Costume Institute. It's wrapped twice around the neck and, judging from the bulky part in the middle, appears to be either a rolled up square or a triangle.
Source (You can't drag pictures off their site so I had to take a screen shot, I hope I didn't break any laws.)
Edgar Allan Poe's cravat is from the 1840's but it still looks a lot like the 30's one, although it is knotted in a different way.
Edgar Allan Poe in 1848 (source)
The small, pointy corners of the cravat also support the idea that it is a rolled up square or triangle.
 So do these two cravats from The Met. The website says they're from the mid 19th century, which seems about right, although their dating is not to be trusted.
Source
 That looks like a folded up triangle.

Source
Aha! Fold marks! This one looks like a triangle too, if it were a square the other half would probably be visible through the weave. It could be a square that's only half unrolled, I just can't see what's going on. What the heck is it doing draped around a mannequin like that anyways? And why are both cravats pink, white, and tan?

While I don't have solid evidence for this conclusion, I think that some cravats are triangles rolled up from one corner, while others are squares folded in half diagonally and rolled up from one corner. The two linen ones from the Met appear to be triangular, while the bulk in the front of the silk one from the KCI suggests that it is a square.
This makes sense, seeing as fine silk is less bulky than fine linen. I am making mine out of silk, so it shall be a square.
Hans does not mention the colour of his cravat, but the vast majority of cravats of this era, as seen in portraits and fashion plates, are white.
Francois-Xavier Fabre, Portrait of a Man, 1809 (source)
Yes, this one is from 26 years before the story was published, but I have looked at a lot of fashion plates from the 1800's to the 1830's and the cravats hardly changed at all during that time. The only difference was that colours other than white began to pop up towards the 1840's, but, for the most part they were white and tied in little bows.
I just posted this particular picture because of the amazing fluting on his shirt. Look at how perfectly even and small it is! I think they must have used some sort of special fluting iron. Also, check out the M notch lapels. I would gladly wear his entire fabulous outfit.

Bye, I'm off to sew a cravat now, which hopefully shall be completed by Monday.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Victorian Photo Album #1, Part 1

Hello and welcome to the first post in a long installment of Stuff I Post When I'm Behind on Sewing!

Just kidding, I'm not doing this simply to keep up with the one post a week schedule, I'm posting this stuff because it's fantastic primary source material! I found this album in a box in my Grandparent's attic along with three other Victorian albums, two Edwardian ones, and a small assortment of individual framed photos from the 1910's and 20's. It was probably the most exciting thing that's ever happened to me, I stood there for several minutes just cackling and wheezing out the words "primary source material, primary source material" (I'm not making that up).
I am going to scan and post all these pictures here on this blog, a few at a time.

There was one very large 19th century album, one small one and 2 medium sized ones.
Today I'm posting from one of the medium sized albums. It is 10 cm wide, 13.5 cm tall and 6.25 cm thick. It has a brown leather cover with four white feet that I think are made of porcelain. There are 25 thick cardboard pages, each with a space on both sides. 36 of the spaces have photos and 14 are empty. The binding is totally dead and the pages are mostly detached from each other, which made scanning much easier.
This post contains the first 18 photographs. I have watermarked them, but I put the marks on the frames so that they wouldn't mess up the pictures. There are names written underneath the pictures, which are in a rather scrawly hand, but I'll try my best to read them.

Ugh, that was a long introduction. Now for the photographs! (I strongly recommend clicking on them for a larger view.)
Aunt Ann Lindsey
 What a pretty necklace she has. And a pretty moire neck tie thingy, what is that thing called?

As you can see, her picture was partly out of the frame. I was able to very carefully remove it and scan the back. Most of these pictures are on metal plates(the darker grey ones), but some of them (the sepia ones) are mounted on little pieces of cardboard. The metal photos don't have any other markings on them, but the cardboard ones have the name and location of the photography studio on the back.
Back of picture #1
So, she was photographed in Saint John, New Brunswick by ISAAC ERB. Saint John isn't too far away from where I live. Next time I go there I should go see what is at 13 Charlotte street now.
By Mc Coy?
 I'm not sure if "By" is short for something, it doesn't sound much like a first name to me.
William Dalling

 It's incredible how closely he resembles Dr. Joel Fleischman from Northern Exposure.

Uncle Sam Briggs' girls, Blanche & Lydia.
You can really see the resemblance between them, they have exactly the same ears.

May Briggs
I'm not sure how long the exposure was for these things, but it's pretty impressive that they were able to take such clear pictures of babies.
Uncle George's girl, Ella Briggs.
Another cute little girl, this one with a cute little cape.
Elsie Flemming
The picture is adorable, but that chair is a fringe monster!

Lydia Briggs McBride
Beautiful accessories, beautiful hair, beautiful picture! I am a bit puzzled by the neckline though. What is that white stuff? It looks like she is wearing some sort of flowery white net thing over a shirt and under her bodice, with a black lace scarf over that.

Who is this guy? I have no idea. Scrawly Person didn't write his name down.
 His coat looks very warm and cozy, and he has a spotty ascot!

Lorenzo Cheney
Lorenzo Cheney is such a cool name, it's a shame his photo is so scuffed up. I love the stripey bowtie, and the watch chain.

Clara Briggs Lockhart & John Briggs
 I love this photo! The two tiered walking length skirt, the crazy frizzy hair, and that fantastic unevenly striped neck tie thingy. I wish I knew how old these people were though, John looks like he's only 12 or 13.
Uncle Sam Briggs
 A Canadian named Uncle Sam? Weird. This must be the father of Blanche and Lydia from page 4.
Aunt Kate Briggs
 Look at the perfect little curls on her forehead! And the diagonal bodice trim, and the buttons!
Aunt Lydia McBride
 Another Lydia, that makes three, and they're all different people. Lydia must have been a very common name.

Uncle George & Aunt Adeline(?) Briggs
It looks like she's wearing matching bracelets.
Uncle Robert & Aunt Bell Briggs
 She is wearing a black ribbon tied around her neck in the exact same way that Clara Briggs Lockhart is. In fact, a lot of these women have thin black ribbons tied around their necks, I wonder why.
Aunt Ann & Uncle John Lindsey
 He's got the same kind of watch chain ornament as Lorenzo Cheney, they look like little keys. He's also sitting on the same fringe monster chair as Elsie Flemming, and John Briggs.
Uncle John Lindsey
This can't be the same John Lindsey as the one in the previous photo, their faces are completely different shapes. Not much going on in this picture, except for the binding on his lapels.
And that concludes the first half of Album #1.
You may use these pictures if you wish, but please send a link back to me!

 So, what do you think? My commentary is pretty much useless and I'm sure there are people reading this that know way more about 19th century fashion than me. I'm guessing that these are from the 1870's or 80's, but these people did live in relatively small Canadian towns, so hard to know for sure.

Monday, 6 May 2013

The wasp hat is done!

For the first time ever, a sewing project took less time to finish than I expected.
I stripped all the cotton padding off the legs and covered them again with just the velvet.
The finished wasp. No more tarantula legs.
 I took a whole bunch of pictures of the wasp against a white background. Alas, though they looked fine on the little camera screen, they all turned out blurry. It didn't photograph outside very well either.
Here is the inspiration hat.
Velvet dinner toque, ca. 1912. The Met.
And here is the one I made.
Part of the Met's description says:

"Although the velvet appears to be draped in a casual and carefree way, it is in fact painstakingly manipulated over a complicated wired foundation to create a specific form."

I made the base for my hat out of the base from the grey fur hat that I used in my striped muff.
It's made of a fishing line like filament.
I pulled it into shape using wires and and cotton yarn.
Hat skeleton.
It didn't look quite crumpled enough after I covered it, so I pulled the folds in closer with more yarn.
It doesn't look as casually draped as the original, but it's close enough.
The fin-like projections on top have wires in them too. It was really hard to get them to stand upright.
They weren't very stable on the bottoms and kept flopping over when I was sewing them on. It would have been better if I had made the bases wider.
I lined it in a dark pink satin. I'm trying to use up my least favorite materials in places where they won't be seen. This is the same lining construction that I saw in both fur hats.
It is not quite this pink.
I like this hat. I like the way it looks, and I like the fact that it adds 7 inches to my height(I'm not short, I just like tall hats).

The wasp didn't look quite right sitting up there all alone, so I filled out the space with a tuft of almost black fur, which also counts as Fauna.
My only major complaint is that the mesh structure was a bit more fragile than I expected. Some of the little filaments broke and were poking through the fabric. Little prickles in velvet are not nice. I think I've trimmed them all off, but more of them could still break.

List Of Facts

The Challenge: #9, Flora and Fauna

Fabric: A large portion of the front of the bodice of an ugly synthetic velvet dress and a small piece of synthetic pink satin.

Pattern: No pattern. Just draping. Except the fins, which I drew with chalk.

Notions: Approximately 26" of nylon bias tape, a mesh form from a fur hat, an unknown length of  wire, some green cotton yarn, a few small scraps of cotton quilt batting, a small piece of extremely fluffy fur from another hat and about half a teaspoon of very tiny seed beads.

Year: The Met says 1912, but after looking at a lot of fashion illustrations I think it might be a bit later. The hats seem to be bigger and floofier at the beginning of the 1910's and get smaller and more simple towards the second half of the decade.

How historically accurate is it? Not too bad. The general silhouette of the hat is correct and the look of the fabrics is accurate, although most of the materials are synthetic, which is not so good. I don't have any documentation for wire wasps, but there were certainly bugs in Edwardian fashion. I have seen many antique clothing articles that included bits of wire wrapped around and around with thread(Hooks and eyes, for example) and a wasp like this one could have easily been made from the materials available in 1912.

Hours to complete: Unknown. I did most of the work on the wasp over a year ago and I didn't keep track of the hours. I just remember that the wings were horribly tedious because I formed them before I covered them, so I had to pull an enormous length of thread through the wing with every single wrap.

First worn:  Today.(Monday, may 6th, 2013)

Total cost: $0. Every single material was from my stash. A lot of it was left over, or recycled, from something else.

I apologize for not having any good pictures of the finished wasp. In every picture I took the beads turned into fuzzy spots of light, this thing just doesn't photograph well.
My eyes are squinting because there is too much sunshine. I must obtain a parasol.
Now I'll have to sew some more Edwardian stuff, yay!
I have got a black, beaded, tiered cape that I'm planning on reproducing someday. I think it's from around the same era. I shall have to do a post on it.