I’m doing two entries for the Historical Sew-Fortnightly ‘Separates’ challenge, and neither of them is the project I had originally planned, and started working on in week 1 of the the fortnight.
However, I’m pretty excited about my first entry, soft as it is, because it is inspired by an image that was shared on the HSF facebook page, and the ensuing discussion.
Sarah posted these knit sleeves from the collection of the Nordiska Museet:
Made of fine wool or silk, they were worn with evening dresses in the chill northern winters, to keep the wearer warm while still being elegant and fashionable, combating the problem of “Dressing in French and freezing in Danish” that Tidens Toj mentions.
I looked at these and thought how perfect they would be to go with my 1813 Kashmiri gown, which, being made of wool, is pretty warm, except for all that exposed arm and chest. There are other examples of similar sleeves or mitts (maybe) in the Nordiska collections, and at the MFA in Boston, indicating that wearing them was reasonably common, and not confined to Scandinavia.
The big problem with these sleeves, for me, is that I don’t knit. So I can’t make a perfect historical replica. The sleeves, were, however, knitted flat, and then had a back seam sewn in to them, and I can get lovely, lacey, merino knit fabrics in white.
Felicity approves of merino knit. It’s a good fabric. She’s not that interested in letting me make something out of it though.
So I made a pair of merino knit mitts loosely inspired by Regency examples. I originally intended for them to be sleeves, and they started out as sleeves, but they just didn’t want to sit right on my arms, so they got turned into mitts.
They are super simple: two tubes, shaped slightly to the arm, with triangles sewn in to form thumb holes. I didn’t even finish the top and bottom, because the knit pattern didn’t need it.
I cut them to go all the way up to the top of my arm, so they will slip under the bottom of the short sleeves of the 1813 Kashmiri gown, and keep me warm all over when I wear it.
My fabric includes a bit of elastane, so they actually stay up at the top of my arms. I wonder how the originals stayed up. Would they be basted to the sleeves of the dress? Tucked under and expected to stay? Or would the knit provide enough elasticity to stay on its own, which I rather doubt?
I debated for a tiny instant as to whether these really counted as a separate, rather than just an accessory, but decided that they do: I can wear them with the Kashmiri gown, or the Madame Recamier gown, or any other Regency gown I make in the future, and significantly change the look, and make the dress trans-seasonal.
Not only are they going to be perfect with my period wardrobe, but I can tell already that I’m going to make a whole set of them to wear on an everyday basis. Just look how well they work with the Queen Celeste jacket:
The Challenge: #16 ‘Separates’
Fabric: 1/2 metre of merino/nylon/elastane blend knit, $28pm at 50% off. I can get two pairs out of 1/2 a metre, so $7 a pair.
Pattern: My own, loosely inspired by period examples
Year: ca. 1810
How historically accurate is it? Not very. More inspired, but I’m not likely to get much more accurate unless I learn to knit. 20% at the best.
Hours to complete: 30 minutes. Best HSF time yet! And now that I have a pattern, I can whip them up in under 10.
First worn: Sat 10 August, while doing other sewing.
Total cost: I can get two pairs out of 1/2 a metre, so $7 a pair.
Hurrah! I’m in love!