Sunday, August 31, 2014

Museum Mystery Boxes: 19th Century Drawers


Found among the treasures of the Kearny Museum's mystery boxes, these 19th century drawers were a pleasant surprise. There is a nightgown on display that matches the drawers, so they were likely once a set and perhaps the grape motif that decorates the embroidered trim signifies fertility, marriage, and union--making the nightgown and drawers part of a bride's wedding trousseau.

It was difficult to date the drawers; their long, straight, full legs lead me to believe that they are pre-Edwardian but as early as 1860. All seams have been made on a sewing machine and the lace is also machine-made. These are split-crotch drawers. They are gathered to a narrow waistband which fastens with an interesting purple button--it appears that the top layer of paint or lacquer or whatever has crumbled away.

These cotton drawers are decorate with 6 rows of 1/4 inch wide tucks and trimmed with 2 inch wide cotton scalloped lace that is machine-embroidered with a grape motif. I describe my process of patching a torn area of this lace here. These drawers are also decorated with an interesting vertical arrangement of 1 x 2 inch wide sections of floral-embroidered cotton and gathered lengths of cotton.


In terms of cleaniness, these drawers were in pretty bad shape. There were mysterious stains of nearly every shade of beige/brown splattered all over the drawers, and the entire garment had a dingy beige hue. Remember that this is the time before tampons...and I don't WANT to know what caused those stains (shiver!).


First, I soaked the drawers in cold water. After just a few minutes soaking, the water turned a very murky brown. Yuck! In total I gave the drawers 2 2-hour soaks and 1 4-hour soak; I wanted to let the water do as much of the work as possible before bringing in a light detergent.



Of course, just water isn't strong enough to dissolve all of those stains, but there is a noticeable improvement. Overall, the drawers are a lighter shade of beige, but still not white, like their matching nightgown. The darkest blotches have considerably lightened, too. On the left is the before, and to the right, after!


Have you ever encountered a nasty or mysterious stain on an antique garment?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Patching a Pair of 19th Century Drawers

These 19th century drawers were one of my Museum Mystery Box finds at the Kearny Museum. They are long and very full but straight-legged, which leads me to believe that they could be as early as the 1860's. There is a matching nightgown already on display, and these drawers will be added to that vignette.

First things first: the lace edging along the bottom of the legs, in a lovely grape motif, had an odd, squarish slice. It wasn't the kind of rip that occurs if the sturdy lace had caught on something; rather, it appeared that someone was trying to cut around a grape motif and didn't finish the job (thank goodness!). The cut lace was flopping down and had frayed badly over the years.


To remedy this, I decided to patch the cut using unbleached cotton muslin. Not only is unbleached cotton muslin an archival quality material, its texture and color is very similar to the beige cotton of the drawers. I made a little patch, securing the raw edges with blanket stitches. I pinned the patch to the lace and, using much care and very small stitches, sewed the lace down to the patch. By placing stitches very close to the floral, vine, and grape designs of the lace, I was able to camouflage the stitches in the design of the lace.


I'm very proud of the finished result. As you can see in the finished photos, including the first and last photo of this post (the leg of the drawers on the right side), the patch and tear are nearly invisible. On several occasions, I have attempted to show others the patch but am unable to find it after the first try!


My next post will discuss these drawers in greater detail, including their cleaning process.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summer Sewing Plans...Interrupted

Before my college education really sped up, I would spend summers sewing--filling baskets and boxes and hangers with UFOs and self drafted patterns and toiles and whatnot. My grand plans for Summer Sewing 2014 included a Female Hobbit Costume, a Daenerys Astapor Dress, a ruffed skirt for my mother and completing the Raspberry Smocked Dress and Edwardian Pintucked Shirtwaist...yeah right! 

(My camera cord has decided to hibernate in some undisclosed location so unfortunately pictures for this post will be lacking).

I was starting to feel burnt out from the Edwardian Shirtwaist, which I worked on in May; since I had no event or deadline, I set it aside and worked on my Raspberry Smocked Dress, which ended up being its own can of worms.

McCall's 6503 had a gross amount of excess ease. When I started the dress over a year ago, I took in the back darts and side seams, and replaced the front gathers with honeycomb smocking. I let the back darts out a bit in June and redid the smocking, and everything was going fine until it was time to attach the waistband and the skirt. The waistband front was too small and the back too large -- of course -- and the side seams were not matching up. One new waistband later and then I agonized for days because it appeared that my perfectly edgestitched waistband was on UPSIDE DOWN. After several nervous fits and many opinions from neighbors and family, I realized that it wasn't upside down but that somehow the front waistband was cut a smidge longer than the back....sigh. Simple snips with the scissor fixed that, but then the skirt...THE SKIRT! Like the waistband, the skirt was not matching up with the side seams. After fiddling for another week with the side seams (which, for the first time, I had finished with handmade bias tape from a remnant of vintage cotton...you can see where the agony is coming from) and the pleats, the skirt was hopeless. I cut another skirt out of whatever fabric was left -- to accommodate the short amount I reduced the length of the skirt by 4 inches. 

Most of these alterations stem from my figure -- though I'm not complaining, my very narrow back is significantly smaller than my tummy. For the new skirt, I cut a size 14 for the front (the largest in the pattern envelope) and a 6 for the back (the smallest size in the envelope). The straight size 10 I had cut the first time around wouldn't work no matter how much I finagled with it.

By this time I was very burnt out with my sewing, having spent nearly a month trying to complete the supposedly quick and easy Smocked Dress. I had planned to have the Hobbit and Daenerys costumes completed by July, but by that point the deadline for the ruffled skirt I had promised my mother was nearing.

Some days of frantic sewing the ruffled skirt for my mother -- I drafted the pattern from a previous ruffled cotton miniskirt of hers -- and I realized I could not finish it in time without sacrificing other work obligations. Sigh...the material came from Wal-Mart, a lovely blue cotton shot with silvery green, creating a subtle shimmery olive color, for about $1 a yard. Unfortunately it appeared that this Wal-Mart hadn't replenished their fabric stock in months and the bolt only had 1 yard and 20 inches, just enough for the ruffles and waistband. The lining fabric was originally destined to be grey polycotton, but when I realized I didn't have enough I sent my boyfriend out on an emergency fabric run--he came back with an even nicer (though much more expensive) dark grey polycotton (presumably). I'm really excited to finish this and at this point have only to hem the ruffles, attach it to the waistband, and add the zipper.

And the Daenerys and Hobbit costumes? Those will be a scramble to complete during September as they are destined for ComicCon in early October.  Though it will be overwhelming, I'm sure I can do it and am glad I chose a very easy Halloween costume for myself this year. I will be [hopefully] be wearing  an embroidered ionic chiton and dressed as the goddess Demeter -- if that falls through I do have the Bronzino Gown from last year, which I love wearing!

I hope your summer sewing plans are going much better than mine this year!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Museum Mystery Boxes: Child's Canvas and Leather Button Boots

These Edwardian children's shoes were built on left and right lasts, unlike the straight lasted leather button boots from my last post. I have found examples of similar shoes that date from around 1900.

The boot uppers are made from olive-green canvas. The boots fasten with 8 buttons along a scalloped opening; just like the straight lasted button-up boots, all of the presumably glass buttons are intact. The toes and heels are decorated with black leather. These boots have a slight heel.




Like the other button boots, the soles of these gems show very little signs of wear. However, the way they were stored has facilitated deterioration. These boots were stored with the canvas uppers folded, which wore out the canvas along the fold. The leather is also crumbling and wearing away.


These boots are lined with plain, beige (presumably) cotton. The lining is stamped with the number "589."


Since finding these at the bottom of a box alongside the the Silver 1920's Dancing Shoes and the Straight Lasted Button Boots, they have been stuffed and wrapped in acid free tissue paper.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Museum Mystery Boxes: Straight Last Child's Leather Boots

These straight-lasted leather button-up child's boots were found in the same box as the Silver 1920's Dancing Shoes. Though my area of research doesn't focus much on children's fashions, I believe these shoes are from the late19th century or the early 20th century. I've seen similar examples that date as early as 1860.

The shoes fasten with 5 buttons that feel plastic but are very likely glass as most period shoes had. The shoe is decorated with cut scallops along the buttoned edge. The upper back of the shoe has a slightly upward, elegant curve.



The shoes are in very poor condition. The leather has crumbled; a dark, powdery substance easily falls from the shoe. I would love to restore these but am uncertain if leather dyes and restoratives would work on leather that is this far gone. Additionally, the shoes were stored without internal support, such as a stuffed fabric "sausage" to maintain the shape of the shoe. The shoes are creased above the ankle.

The soles of the shoes show very little signs of wear.




The shoes are lined with a printed cotton. I tried not to touch them too much because of how easily the leather "dust" was flaking off.


These button up boots have now been wrapped in and stuffed with acid free tissue paper to prevent any further creasing and flaking of the delicate leather.

Stay tuned for more goodies from the Kearny History Museum!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Museum Mystery Boxes: 1920s Metallic Dancing Shoes

Picture this:

I walk into the Kearny Museum's attic (always very cautious because that place is so terrifying not even spiders want to live there), looking for somewhere to store a Scottish kilt that was recently donated. The shelving units have been newly labelled by the Museum Committee. Sports Memorabilia, Lighting, Local Artists, Faux Greenery, Victorian Dresses...Victorian Dresses??

And there on the "Victorian Dresses" shelving unit were indeed boxes labeled all sorts of crazy things like "Fur Capelet," "Chef's Hat and Utensils," and "Black Tafata[sic] Gown."

Uh-oh. I had never seen any of these boxes or their supposed treasures. At once I felt both ecstatic and panicked. What would I find in these mystery boxes?

I pulled out one of the smallest boxes and carefully opened the lid, revealing a jumble of hot-pink tulle (which would be a recurring theme for the rest of the mystery boxes), yellowed napkins and dirty plastic bags. More digging and...ooooh, shiny!

Well what do you know, crammed inside a sandwhich bread bag (also a recurring theme for the mystery boxes, including bags of buns) was a pair of glittering, silver metallic 1920s evening shoes!


They are accompanied by a faded display card, and were at one point in time displayed with the beaded 1920s dress. The 1920s dress was also donated by Mrs. William Schreiber.


Indeed, the strap has an interesting mechanism wherein a metal hook is latched over the buckle. This fastening technique is still in use and I own a pair of modern heels that fasten this way.


Unfortunately, the shoes are in very poor condition. They must have been truly loved because the heel cap has been worn all the way through to the nail! The sole is peeling back at the front and heel, and the metallic leather is flaking and cracked. There are several slices in the leather, the largest being on the inner left side of the right shoe. The rhinestoned buckles are also missing one or two stones, and the insoles have begun to detach.




The shoes were stored and likely displayed without the necessary support. The lack of foot-shaped support to hold out the shoe possibly led to the irreparable splits in the leather. I will be making muslin-shaped "feet" stuffed with polyfill to support the shoe and its straps. The shoes will then be displayed alongside the beaded 1920s dress in its glass case.

Stay tuned for dozens of more Museum goodies, including an 1867 mourning dress, an enormous tatted lace collar, children's button-up boots, a fur capelet, a fur muff of exaggerated Edwardian proportions, 19th century drawers, a taxidermied bird, an unusual piece of embroidery, beaded gloves, and much more!

Also, the inexplicable and widespread use of bread bags and hot pink tulle for storing antique pieces will be explored.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pinterest Picks


This week's edition of Pinterest Picks begins with this American dress from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Though it looks very similar to the infamous Chemise a la Reine, this cotton beauty is actually from the 1890s!


Another stunner from the Met: this 1920s evening dress is a lovely example of Eastern and Middle Eastern influences on Western fashion. Note the vibrant, warm colors, the exotic print, and the unique batwing sleeves!


This velvet and chiffon beauty from 1914-1920 has been meticulously beaded with glass and shell beads. Imagine how heavy this dress must have felt when worn!


Notice a common theme yet? To celebrate America's birthday, I chose pieces that were not only American in origin but also American in design, and therefore, red, white, and blue! Additionally, each piece represents fashions or elements from other cultures and countries, indicative of America's immigrant heritage.

What is the most patriotic historical garment you have ever found?


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Edwardian Petticoat with Cluny Lace


This Edwardian petticoat, c. 1900-1909, was tucked away in a box in the Kearny History Museum's storage. It has since been wrapped in layers of acid-free tissue paper and stored in an archival quality box.


This petticoat is made of a fine yet sturdy cotton, which may have originally been a truer, brighter white. Its volume is achieved through shaped panels, or gores, and a large, gathered ruffle along the bottom of the skirt. The side seams of the petticoat are constructed with the flat-felled method for strength and durability.

The petticoat has one row of fine, [presumably] cluny lace insertion, and a matching, wide band of cluny lace trim. Both the insertion and the trim appear to have been applied to the petticoat by hand.


The ruffle has three lines of gathering stitches to create fullness. The entire petticoat, except for the decoration, appears to be machine-sewn.


There is an additional, shorter ruffle on the inside of the bottom ruffle which adds even more shape to the petticoat. This ruffle appears to have been gathered with two lines of machine stitching.


I apologize if any of the pictures make the details of this garment blurry. Photographing white on white can be rather challenging! If you would like me to re-photograph specific areas of this petticoat, please don't hesitate to let me know!

The petticoat has a large tear along the back, just under the placket. I wonder if the wearer tore this while walking, or if an inconsiderate perambulator stepped on her skirts!


The back panels of the petticoat are very tightly gathered with cartridge pleats to the waistband. The waistband is narrow, and remnants of a cord/drawstring closure exist.


Measurements:

Waist: approximately 26 "
Width of Hem: approximately 95.5 "

Note: All measurements are approximate; I didn't have a table or tape measure large enough to spread the whole petticoat flat and measure it. Please feel free to let me know if you would like more detailed measurements.