Remember this petticoat?
Petticoat, 1855–65, American, cotton, Metropolitan Museum of Art
I’ve posted it as inspiration for pretty much every HSF challenge it would qualify for: Under it All, White, Eastern Influence, Embellishment…
Clearly I’m madly in love with it, and I’ve always wanted to recreate it, but the dream seemed impossible. I simply don’t have the time to do the amazing handiwork, and what were the chances of finding a similar fabric?
And then this arrived at The Fabric Store (yes, that’s actually it’s name):
Naturally, I had to have it. But it wasn’t exactly cheap…
I restrained myself for two days, and then had to go back to TFS for a necessity, and I saw that half the bolt was already gone. So I bit the bullet and forked out (brace yourself when you see the price below) and bought four metres of it – which may have been slightly overkill.
I didn’t regret it, because I was in the shop again a week later and it was all gone.
I’ve been desperate to make it up ever since I found it a year ago, but there were other commitments for every challenge, and it just never happened.
Then, after I’d already finished my Smooth Sewing trousers for Innovations, I came across the fabric again, and got ambitious and attempted to make the petticoat up as a second Innovations entry (my innovation would have been bleach, and decorated underthings). I quickly realised it was going to be much more complicated than I had planned.
The first problem was sorting the rows of paisley embroidery. My inspiration petticoat only has the one border, and 6 rows of tucks. My fabric had a wider border, and then three further rows of paisley embroidery.
To best match the aesthetic of ca. 1860 originals, I cut out the two middle rows of paisley embroidery (I’ll use them to trim a matching set of chemise and drawers, or to create a faux paisley muslin shawl) and then hid the join seam in a tuck. I’m pleased with the paisley border, double tuck, row of paisley embroidery, double tuck pattern that is my end result.
My other big problem with the weight of the fabric. My fabric is a very light cotton voile – much finer than the fabric my inspiration petticoat would have been made out of. So in order to get it to sit right around the waistband and to hang correctly over a hoopskit I had to add another layer of fabric with a similar hand to an 1860s original. I ended up using a vintage cotton sheet, as none of the other white fabrics I had on hand were the right weight. And, of course, working with two layers of fabric instead of one makes everything infinitely more difficult.
So instead of being a one-day project, it turned out to be a one-hour-a-day-for-four-weeks project! This is what happens when you quarter-inch cartridge pleat three metres of fabric…
Annoying, yes, but the teeny cartridge pleats do look beautiful on the finished skirt:
Not getting it done for Innovations turned out to be a blessing in disguise when The Project arose – I had only a couple of hours of work to do the last of the pleating and hand-work the buttonhole to have it finished for Under it All. Not quite the corset I’d planned, but so wonderful to have fulfilled my dream of a paisley petticoat!
Seeing it on the hoopskirt reminds me that it really is time for me to make a new, proper, and slightly smaller, set of bell hoops.
The Challenge: #4 – Under it All
Fabric: 3m of paisley border-print cotton voile ($25 per metre, but I’m counting it as $15pm, because the rows of paisley embroidery I cut out would easily by $5pm as trim – that’s fair, right?), plus a vintage sheet ($4 at an op-shop)
Pattern: None, just based on squinting at period examples. I think 3 metres may have been slight overkill in width though.
Year: ca. 1860, just like the original it is based on. I wanted it to fit in with the most extreme hoopskirt silhouette, and to come from a time when a mix of hand and machine sewing would have been plausible.
Notions: Thread, a fabric lingerie button ($2 for 50 at an op-shop, so 4¢ a piece – score!)
How historically accurate is it? The aesthetic is spot on, but the fabric is far too lightweight to be period accurate, and I know of no examples of double-layer petticoats from this period, so 60%. Getting your fabric right in hand, as well as fibre content, is so important…
Hours to complete: 21. I’m a very slow cartridge pleater!
First worn: Not yet, but I’m enjoying admiring it on Isabelle!
Total cost: $49.04
The week before last I showed you quite a challenging garment: a Schiaparelli dress. Last week’s offering of a 15th century Florentine ensemble in pink was perhaps not challenging enough: everyone loved it, but not enough to start any really interesting discussions around it. I think it was just pretty, with not much to say, or as Daniel noted “pleasant, with no punch.” Still, it came out in a rash of 9s & 10s, with only two 8s, for a total of 9.5 out of 10, which is pretty much a perfect score these days.
I’ve shown a few weeks of fairly restrained, muted garments, so I wanted to show you something with lots of colour this week. Hence this dress in rich, vibrant peacock blue, paired with a russet, orange and gold brocade on more peacock blue:
This dress is classic mid-late 1880s: saturated colour, bold patterning, asymmetry, a mix of draping and pleating, and a nod to the aesthetic movement with the ruching/smocking across the bodice and on the skirt panel. Oh, and a MASSIVE bustle, which I did not expect from the front view.
And it comes with it’s own matching paletot out of the brocade fabric:
Asymmetry is often unpopular on Rate the Dress, as are extremely striking, off the wall colour combinations. This dress is definitely punchy. How will it fare?
Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.
My sister the Chef is named after our great-great-grandmother. It’s a very unusual name: so unusual, in fact, that every single google result for it is about GGGrandmother, one of her ancestors, or one of the five women named after her, including my sister.
So I won’t be telling you GGGrandmother’s name, because my sister deserves a little privacy on the internets. Instead, I’ll call her Anna, a name she sometimes used, perhaps because it was easier for the general public to pronounce and wrap their head around.
Growing up, I wondered why my sister was named after our GGGrandmother. I’m named after my paternal grandmother, and my youngest sister after our maternal grandmother, but three generations back is a long way to go for a name. And why all those other women (and men, carrying the slightly more common masculine version of her name)?
The answer, at least in part, is the story of her life. As a child I was told a very simple version of it: a child friendly, bowlderised version (not my parent’s whitewash, simple them repeating the version they had heard), but as an adult I’ve come across other versions, and read accounts from the time, and put together the dates and known facts. In doing so, it’s become apparent that Anna’s tale is infinitely more tragic than the one I grew up with.
This is Anna’s story as I understand it. There are slightly differing accounts across the different branches of the family, and disagreement on some of the details, so I have simply chosen the ones that best match the facts, or make a cohesive story without affecting the truth of the tale.
NOTE: The following story is very, very sad. It doesn’t involve any human cruelty (the hardest kind of sad), but it is nonetheless absolutely heartbreaking, so if you are feeling down you might want to skip it and click on the ‘Felicity’ tag instead and cheer yourself up with cute kitty posts.
Anna was born in Michigan in the 1860s, the daughter of Dutch-ish immigrants (the Netherlands being a slightly different thing at the time). Her parents struggled with the stony Michigan ground and woods, and so they moved the family to the plains of the newly opened Dakota territories, where she met and married Jacob, another Dutch-ish immigrant.
Jacob was a carpenter and well-digger. The new couple settled on a homestead, with a house and a barn. A year after their marriage Anna became pregnant, but sadly, the child died at birth. A year and a bit later there was another pregnancy, and Anna gave birth to a healthy baby girl (we’ll call her Gertie).
Gertie was barely two years old when Anna went into labour with a third pregnancy. The labour did not go well, so Jacob rushed the mile or two into town for a doctor, taking Gertie with him, so as not to leave the responsibility of her with Anna.
It was the end of winter, and as Jacob neared town, a terrible blizzard swept in. He and Gertie made it to the town, but they were trapped at the doctor’s house as the blizzard raged around them, frantic with worry for Anna, alone, and in labour, in a cold little house in the vast prairie. Attempts to get back to Anna were futile.
It was almost three days before the blizzard cleared enough for Jacob, the doctor, and some friends to rush back to the homestead. As they neared it, the worst possible sight met their eyes. The house was a smoking ruin: destroyed by fire.
They raced to the house, calling Anna’s name frantically, hoping against hope that she had survived her labour, the fire, and the blizzard.
They finally found her collapsed at the door of the barn, dead from exposure, her body curled protectively around her tiny baby. Amazingly, the baby, just three days old, had survived.
Anna had managed to give birth on her own, cut the cord and deal with the afterbirth and dress and wrap her baby. Sometime in the wait for her husband the stove had caught on fire, and Anna, weakened from labour and with an infant, was unable to fight it. She’d attempted to make her way to the barn in the raging blizzard, and while she couldn’t save her own life, she’d given it to enable her infant to live. She wasn’t even 25.
The tiny infant was my great-grandfather. Named after his mother, he was called Bert. He was sent to be raised by relatives until he was 12.
I posted a photo of his older sister, Gertie, on Facebook yesterday. She was married by the time she was 20 (this photo, taken in 1907 or 1908, was probably done just before or at the time of her marriage). She had four children of her own, but also sadly died young: just a decade older than her mother. I wonder if she remembered Anna at all, in faint memories of lullabies or being held.
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