Monday, April 15, 2013

Historical Sew Fortnightly #7: Accessorize: 1860s Embroidered & Edged Collar

I had big plans for this challenge. I've done 1860s reenacting for quite some a very long time, but my wardrobe is a bit scattered in completeness and accuracy. Take personal linens. I have a couple of chemisettes (one of which had a supporting role in The Paisley Pixie), one set of very plain undersleeves, a couple of plain collars, and one nicer collar that is in dire need of Oxy-Clean.

HSF #7, Accessorize, sounded like a great opportunity to fill in some gaps.  I decided I needed fancy undersleeves. 1860s undersleeves can be works of art, all fluffy, frilly, lacey, ribbon-y goodness. The problem was deciding exactly what design to make up or copy.

The HSF challenge has been very good for me in several ways. One way is how it forces me to make a decision and get moving.  When I don't have a close deadline, I will take a long time on deciding exactly what to make, and take lots of breaks during construction to research certain elements. (Like the issue I had with the pleat pattern on the back of the red wool dress.)  But when a countdown clock is ticking, whether for an event or a challenge, I'm forced to research quickly and efficiently.  In this case, however, costuming the early 1860s is where I have my personal* highest standards.  So not only are there literally thousands of inspiration images to choose from, I was more hyper than usual about choice of materials.

* Personal: Meaning these are my own standards for what I do, not for how I judge anyone else's work.

All that to say: I didn't start researching this until the first few days of the challenge. Once I found an image, I studied it a lot, asked for advice, studied more, played with my stash, and eventually had the world's ugliest mock-up and a decent pattern. By day 8.  Out of the remaining 6 days, 3 would be away from home and 1 was otherwise fully occupied.  I worked hard even on my trip, but I knew they wouldn't get done without an all-nighter. And that was not the point of the challenge.

So I didn't finish my undersleeves! But day 14, I came up with an alternativee plan that was way easier, fits both the challenge and another wardrobe gap, and goes with the undersleeves perfectly. A collar from the same fabric:


The Challenge:  HSF #7, Accessorize

Fabric:  Machine-embroidered sheer cotton, vintage curtains, from the Benbrook Antique Mall

Pattern:  Laughing Moon #111

Year:  c. 1860-1864

Notions:  Narrow cotton machine-made valenciennes lace; probably from an antique mall somewhere in Texas. 1/4" cotton "galon" twill tape from India; extra lightweight/thin, from ebay, the last the seller had.

How historically accurate is it?  As close to 100% as I can get without documenting lace or machine-made embroidery patterns. Bias tape was more common than twill tape in these collars, but it was used. Oh, and I used poly thread, because it's the only fine thread I have. Say 95%.

Hours to complete:  No more than 3.

First worn:  Not yet. Probably at Gettysburg in late June.

Total cost:  None, or pennies at most. The collar fabric was scraps from the undersleeves, and the lace and tape were bought for the stash.

With very few exceptions, no mid-19th-century dress was complete without a collar. In most cases they were finished with a bias or twill tape that was basted to the inside of the dress neckline, thus protecting the edge of the dress from oil and dirt.  Sometimes they were plain, but often they were of very fine fabrics, which could be embroidered and/or edged with lace, or completely of lace.  By the early 1860s they were also fairly narrow, 1 - 1.5" wide.  The width of a collar is an easy way to date an image, by the way; 15-20 years earlier, collars could be 3 - 4" wide.

With a basic bodice pattern, no separate collar pattern is usually needed. Except that I've had wretched luck with collars in the past, always ending up with them too short, or too long, or with the ends wonky, and always crooked when I baste them on.  My one success has come with the Laughing Moon pattern, which was recommended by a lady who had a business making beautiful and accurate 1860s clothing.  So I had no hesitation in pulling out this pattern and going for it.

Laying out the pattern was one of the trickiest parts. Like most sheers, the cotton was wiggly. And the embroidery was not done consistently with the grain. (Look at the first picture. See four dots on the left, and three on the right? I didn't even see that until I was nearly finished.)  Once I found a fairly pleasing position for the motifs, I pinned the pattern down. But instead of cutting, I traced around it.


It's easy to distort sheer fabrics when stitching on them. So I took a cue from 18th century embroidery techniques, and applied my embellishment before cutting out.


With fine thread, I sewed the lace down flat, just covering the cutting line.


I did the same with the galloon tape, sewing one edge to the collar about 1/4" (the seam allowance) away from the cutting edge.


I hope you can see how thin the tape is.


The tape stands up because it's a straight strip, being forced to fit a curve. This should allow it to fold under the neckline of the dress.


Then I carefully cut the collar out, roughly 1/8" from the stitching line of the tape...


... and underneath the lace.


Finished collar!


There are raw edges, but this type of collar is not intended to be washed roughly.  Before taking the pictures I hit it with spray starch and an iron.

More to come on the Saga of the Undersleeves! They may make an appearance as a later challenge.

1 comment:

  1. Well, it just looks fabulous! I'm all about accessories right now, but I seem to be unable to keep up with HSF. :)