Sunday, March 10, 2013

Historical Sew Fortnightly #4: Embellishment: Fringe on Red Wool Regency Gown

My last two challenges (UFO and Under It All) were pretty simple projects, because my goal was to trim the Paisley Pixie gown to meet the Embellish challenge.  It was a work-intensive project; I started making muslins back in the middle of January.  By the time I got all the fringe on, the gown was 95% done.  It's not all done yet, because I had to move on to challenge #5, but the embellishment was finished two weeks ago. (Once again I leave posting my entry until the last few hours!)

My embellishment of choice was Fringe.  Self-fringe, made from the wool of the gown.  Fringe is very easy to make, if somewhat time-consuming and tedious.  I determined how much fringe I needed and ripped strips of wool that were the required widths, plus 1/2" seam allowance.

To make the fringe, all you do is unravel it, one long thread at a time. The first few long threads are easy; they come right off. After that, it's best to use a pin to pick out an end, then gently work the thread loose by pulling. I like to "gather" the strip on the thread, especially since wool is not a very strong fiber. Fringe making is only difficult if you use too much force and break the thread a lot.


The plan was to have two rows of fringe on the skirt, and then narrower fringe in several places on the sleeves.  I decided on 1 1/2" fringe for the skirt and 3/4" fringe for the sleeves, so my strips were 2" wide and 1 1/4" wide respectively.  Where possible I used selvedge edges on the skirt fringe. I wasn't sure how I wanted to apply the fringe, but I thought selvedges might come in useful.

I found it easiest to apply the fringe by pinning the skirt down to my cutting table, pinning the fringe to it, and sewing right there.


The hem edge fringe went on first. I was glad of the selvedges here; they cover the narrow skirt hem and there are no raw edges.


Next I did the second row.  I wanted it to appear invisibly, without a bulky outside header. I was also concerned that it would flip up if I tried to press under the seam allowance.  So instead I pressed a 5/8" tuck on the inside of the skirt.  The tuck was ironed upward.  I then encased the seam allowance of the fringe in the tuck and sewed it closed. It took two rows of stitching, but the result looks perfect.  It was hard to photograph, but the solid red between 22 and 25 is the underside/inside of the reverse tuck.


Looks pretty good!


Fringe on! I like it! It looks just like the inspiration.


And from the back. There's a lot of fabric there.


I didn't take details pictures of the sleeve fringe application. Each was totally different, because they were in totally different places.  The first, the simplest, was at the cuff edge of the detachable long sleeves. I folded up the seam allowance on the cuff and sandwiched the fringe between the sleeve and a straight binding. It ended up being a bit heavier than I wanted, but it works.


The second fringe application was on the wrist band. This is the type of Regency sleeve that's cut extra long, so it falls over the hand, and is snugged in at the wrist by a wrap-around band. It was easy to put a strip of fringe sandwiched in the band.


The third set of sleeve fringe was a lot trickier. The short sleeves I'd ended up with didn't have a real cuff, just an edge. There was no place to hide the seam allowance of the fringe. I accidentally discovered that the fringe was short and stiff enough to stand up instead of drooping, so instead of hanging down, it is mounted upward.

I finished the sleeves with a narrow double-fold binding that hides all the seam allowances.


I'll have more detail of the dress itself later, including the sleeves, but this is a very clear shot of fringe, binding, and one of the pleat patterns. This is two sets of knife pleats, pointing inward. I was afraid the fringe would cover it, but now I love this look.


The Challenge:  HSF #4, Embellishment

Fabric:  Dark red wool tricotine from FFC

Pattern:  Bodice based on the drop-front gown from Patterns of Fashion.  Upper sleeve initially based on the sleeve from the same, but modified out of recognition.  Lower sleeve and skirt from Hunnisett's Period Costume for Stage and Screen.

Year:  Circa 1813.

Notions:  There will be buttons (white china) to button in the long sleeves, and red wool covered buttons on the wrists, but that's not for the embellishment.

How historically accurate is it?  The fringe is totally accurate. For the rest, about 90%. Primary (invisible) construction stitching is by machine, but everything else is by hand.

Hours to complete:   Just making the fringe took probably 15-20 hours, counting the assistance of a couple of friends a few times (Thanks, Cima and Rebekah!). I was working on it off and on for a good month.  Fringe application was all by hand as well. Maybe 10 hours? Aside from that, the gown including pattern making was maybe another 40. These are ballpark figures, but it seriously took a long time. I know I've got another 2-5 hours left.

First worn:  Just for pictures so far; it will go "live" for the picnic on the 23rd, though.

Total cost:  I didn't buy anything for this dress per se, so technically nothing. But actually about $35, for the wool. I got the wool for another project, and way over-bought because I knew I would use it for something historical and awesome.


  1. I love that fringe! It's not a Regency trim I see used a lot.

    1. Once I get more comfortable in a period, I like mixing in some less typical details. I admit it, I don't want to just blend in!