About The Dreamstress
The Dreamstress has written 1364 articles so far, you can find them below.
Polly Oliver is so close to done. I just need to set the sleeves and collar.
Everything has been a bit of a battle so far – very Borogravian: always fighting (thanks to Jenni on facebook for making this link!).
Still, I’m quite pleased with how it is looking, even if I have put at least 14 lines of stitching into every single seam (that isn’t an exaggeration btw. I counted).
First, five years ago, I sewed the jacket together without any flat lining (stitching lines 1), thinking I would line it, but it was too soft and also not historically accurate, so I unpicked it, flat lined in in dark blue twill (stitching lines 2 & 3), and basted it back together with red piping between the seams (SL 4 & 5, because every time you sew a seam with piping you have to sew on the piping, and then re-sew the seam. Then I fitted it, unpicked the piping, moved the piping, and resewed the seams to the new fit lines (SL 6 & 7). Then I re-stitched slightly snugger seamlines close to the piping, to be very precise (SL 8). Then it sat in a box for 5 years.
When I pulled it out a few weeks ago, I didn’t like the red piping – it was too bulky, and didn’t give enough definition. So I took apart the jacket, and sewed it back together without piping (SL 9), but it wasn’t doing it for me. I thought about highlighting the seam lines with gold braid, but haven’t been able to find a gold braid that sews nicely in curves. Then – inspiration: a corset student of mine had bought gilded gold silk for her corset, but it didn’t look right. I offered to buy it off her, because it matched my red nicely.
Then, working on the sleeves, I noticed that I’d sewn the wrong side of the fabric facing out (d’oh, though it was very, very subtle). So I pulled the entire jacket apart again to turn the fabric around, and while I was at it took out the blue flat lining (because blue is an abomination unto Nuggan, and also it attracted cat hair like nobody’s business), re-flat lined in the same white as the vest (SL10), and sewed it back together right side out with gold piping (SL 11 & 12). Unfortunately, due to my little forget-to-add-buttoning-allowance to the vest snaffu, the jacket was now too snug, so I pulled it apart yet again, moved the piping to the edge of the seam allowance, and sewed it with smaller seam allowances (seams 13 & 14). Then I did a ton of re-fitting of the side-seams (at least 4 lines of stitching each) as I got the front bolero look to fit properly.
And that is what’s been taking me so long!
In addition to using the gilded gold silk for piping at each seam, I made piping with extremely wide flanges and used it to finish the bottom hem of the jacket, so that you see bits of gold at the turns of the pleats.
It’s all hand-sewn down on my new white flat lining with neat red stitching.
The buttons are the one thing that haven’t given me any hassle. I am so pleased with how effective my antiquing technique has been.
See? Lovely dull gold, perfect match to the round buttons, not too shiny.
I’m not sure about the button layout though.
Do you think I ought to spread the big buttons out a little more? Or move the top set down to the bottom end?
I could add more buttons, but I’ve only got 10 left, and I wanted to save four to go on the top of the back pleats, and another 6 for the skirt.
The four buttons will go at the top of the back and side back pleats where the piping ends.
It’s going to be quite spiffy, but goodness am I ready for it to be done!
Polly / Oliver is almost finished, I’m just stuck on it because I need to try it on to check the fit, and my cold has gone to my lungs and I can’t breath with a corset on…so….
While you wait to see the finished jacket, here is a clever tutorial with a technique that I developed to solve the problem of matching the super shiny cheap-gold looking jacket buttons to the beautiful dull gold buttons on my waistcoat.
In this tutorial we’ll take super bright, shiny, cheap gold buttons (or jewellery bits, or anything else that is all metal and cheap gold-colour) like the one in the upper-centre, and turn them into the copper ‘penny’ colour of the one to the left of it, and turn those into the lovely antique gold colour of the rest of the buttons.
I can’t take full credit for the tutorial – I owe the first half of it to Mrs C, who learned it from the amazing Nini of Things Unseen. Their technique got me most of the way to what I wanted, but not all the way, so I tested and experimented until I got exactly what I wanted.
Right, so what do you need to do your own jewellery or button antiquing?
- Cheap gold metal jewellery or buttons (this has worked with all the bits of gold coloured metal I have tried it on, but I can’t guarantee it will work on all gold coloured metal).
- A flame – the hotter the better. I’m using the burner on my gas stove, but a candle will also work.
- A heat resistant surface to put your metal bits on. I’m using a stainless steel countertop, but a plate would work just fine.
- A bowl of water – just in case!
- Tongs or a fork
- Elmers ‘Painters’ Metallic Opaque Paint Marker – gold
- Paper towels/newspaper/general stuff to make a mess on without making a mess
Gold buttons, matches, a stainless steel worktop, bowl of water, tongs
Copper and gold buttons, Elmers ‘Painters’ Metallic Opaque Paint Marker
Ok, here is the big note/disclaimer: This tutorial involves and element of fire and heat, and is DANGEROUS. Please BE FIRE SAFE, take care of yourself, and kids, don’t do this without adult supervision!
Basically you heat your metal, and then let it cool, and then paint it roughly with the paint markers.
First, we’re going to turn our buttons/jewellery from gold to copper / penny colour.
Using your flame source and tongs or a fork, heat your buttons over the flame.
Depending on your button/metal piece, you can slip one of the tines of the fork through the shaft of the button, and use that to hold your button/metal piece over the flame:
Alternatively, use a pair of tongs to hold your button/metal piece just above the flame:
Depending on the size of your metal piece, and the heat of the flame, after about 20 seconds your metal will begin to darken and change colour ever so slightly:
In another 10 seconds or so it will begin to smoke, and will have changed colour from bright gold to copper/penny colour. The longer you leave it, the darker it will be:
Put your button/jewellery bit to cool down on your heat-safe surface. DO NOT TOUCH IT (just in case the smoke coming off it isn’t enough of a warning).
In this photo the hot, smoking button is on the lower right, the upper two are still to be done, and the button in the lower left has cooled:
When all your bits have been heated and cooled the difference between the original gold and the new antiqued copper colour will be quite distinct.
You could stop at this point, if copper is what you wanted, or you could keep going.
Copper wasn’t what I was going for, so here is my twist to the technique. Using your Metallic Painters pen, roughly paint the top surface of your button/jewellery piece.
Let the paint dry for 10 seconds, and the rub a paper towel across any raised surfaces on your piece, to lift a bit of paint and add dimensionality to your piece.
Then set your button aside and let it dry for another 5 minutes. After this the paint should be completely dry, and your piece can withstand quite a bit of wear (I scrubbed a button with a green scrubby for a minute and didn’t damage it, and rubbed and rubbed it on a piece of fabric without any loss of paint)- if the paint ever does rub off, you can just re-touch it up!
And there you go! Muted antique gold buttons or jewellery findings from bright cheap-gold originals!
And tomorrow I’ll show you what they look like on my jacket!
As a costume and textile historian with a little collection of antique textiles, there are pieces that I dream of adding to my collection someday, and then there are pieces that are so remote and fantastic and unlikely to come my way that I daren’t even dream of them.
Just before Easter, one of those textiles came my way.
Yes, I am now the proud, thrilled, and somewhat overwhelmed owner of a quilted petticoat.
More like who. The amazing Lynne bought it in an antique store in London some years ago, and I got to visit her in March, where she played doting honourary aunt/textile fairy godmother and gave it to me.
I know, how amazing, phenomenal and wonderful is that?
The petticoat is made of black silk taffeta, and is lined in a very soft, rather loosely woven, cream cotton, now rather soiled.
The quilting only extends about 2/3 of the way up the petticoat, and the ‘length has been regulated’, to use a delicious old sewing phrase, from the top of the petticoat, with the additional fabric folded up in to the interior of the skirt.
The hem is faced in a fascinating fabric – I think its a silk/wool blend, and the very bottom bound in a course wool.
The petticoat is entirely hand sewn with what appears to be silk thread, with approximately 12 stitches per inch (6 if you only count the ones showing on the top of the fabric). The stitching, while fine, is not exquisite, indicating a seamstress who was either less skilled, or simply wanted a functional garment, quickly.
Large basting stitches are used on other portions of the petticoat, where smaller stitches weren’t needed for strength or visual effect.
The petticoat has a later mend: a large patch to one side. The patch has been carefully placed to match the lines of quilting, making it as inconspicuous as possible. I wonder what happened to the quilt to require such a large patch. A scorch perhaps?
The stitching on the patch is considerably larger and less even than the original stitching on the petticoat, indicating it was done by a different seamstress.
The patch, like the rest of the petticoat, is also a black silk taffeta, but it definitely dates from a few decades later than the rest of the petticoat. It’s crisper, shinier, and is quite friable, indicating it was probably ‘weighted’ – a practice of adding metal to silk sold by weight, to make it heavier. Unfortunately weighting silk accelerates its disintegration.
The hem binding goes over the patch, so either it was carefully unpicked and replace, or, like the patch, it is a later addition to the skirt.
The waistband of the skirt is also probably a later replacement. It is heavily damaged: mended, patched, and disintegrating in parts:
It’s particularly damaged where the buttons are sewn on to the waistband, where the fabric would have pulled and strained the most. There are two different buttons, allowing it to be fastened at different waist sizes. The one on the left is wood, and I haven’t managed to identify the materials of the one on the right. The larger waist size is around 29″, and the smaller 27/5″.
The buttonholes are worked by hand with lovely even buttonhole stitches, in linen thread.
I’m quite madly in love with how beautiful the buttonhole is in fact. One day I shall make hand-sewn buttonholes as beautiful as this…
The rather wide waistband is backed in an unbleached cotton, and is joined to the skirt with strong, secure whipstitches in linen thread:
The waistcoat is gathered in with pleats rather than gathering, though the lack of quilting means the fabric is thin enough to have gathered successfully.
The pleating isn’t even around the skirt, particularly at the placket, where extra pleats have been added to hide the placket. This makes the skirt hang rather oddly.
The weight at the hem of the skirt, and the thinness of the upper fabric makes the skirt hang rather straight and limp, and I wonder if something (paniers? A corded petticoat?) was meant to have been worn under the quilted petticoat to give it shape.
Dating the petticoat is a bit of a conundrum. The simpler, more geometric based quilting pattern is far more common in later, 1840s quilted petticoats, and the mends are later yet: probably 1860s or later. The materials are also consistent with an 1840s dating, though they aren’t impossible for the 18th century. The attachment to the skirt, with pleats concentrated on either side, means that it could go over paniers – but the waistband (or at least the outer waistband fabric) is probably a later addition, so that makes no sense.
I think I’ll go with 1840s as a tentative dating, and keep studying and researching – and trying to see more quilted petticoats in person, to better date mine.
Dearest Lynne, thank you for an utterly gorgeous piece of fashion history, and hours and hours or research fun!
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