Thursday, February 27, 2014

Making Edwardian Drawers out of a Curtain

My mother found this white kitchen curtain when she was cleaning up a closet. Her taste has certainly evolved since the frilly curtain days, and so the curtain was gifted to my fabric stash--as all the abandoned linens in our house are!

I've been craving an Edwardian wardrobe for some years now, since I started a pintucked shirtwaist about 3 years ago. With my crazy school/work schedule, I figured that Edwardian drawers would be a simple and portable project.

The cotton curtain is decorated with a pleated cotton eyelet lace that seems marginally better than most store-bought qualities. I could easily envision the curtain as a pair of Edwardian drawers.

I began by slicing the trim off the bottom edge of the curtain, as well as removing the rod pocket from the top. I then cut the curtain in half, to form two rectangles decorated with the trim along the bottom.

I wanted to accentuate the eyelet with pintucks. I did two rows of narrow tucks which I am rather impressed with!

I knew that I didn't have a lot of material to work with. These drawers will not be wholly accurate--they will serve as a good practice pair so that I can learn the patterning and techniques for my future Edwardian wardrobe. The pattern is clobbered together from The Laced Angel's antique pair and her reproduction, Tanit-Isis Sew's version, Ella Rodman Church's The Home Needle from 1882 (pages 28-32)  and personal guesses. By the way--The Home Needle encourages drawers as "more troublesome to cut than any other undergarment"...dun dun dun!

I tried to sew the leg seam with a flat felled seam, just as the The Home Needle suggests. However, I was sewing after a long day of classes and homework, and the next morning I realized I had actually made a sort of french seam...don't sew when exhausted. Just don't do it. I also could've made the inner leg seam much shorter, in order to give more floof to the seat...oh well.

Each leg piece is faced with a one inch strip of bias tape. The waistband has already been cut out; it will have a rounded "dip" in the front, on which I will embroider my initial surrounded by a wreath of flowers.

The right leg...notice how the back is cut with more material.
The leg opening facing...pretty well done I think!
The crazy not-really-French seam!

I'm hoping to complete these drawers for the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge # 4 Under It All. I meant to make it for #3 Pink (because of the pink embroidery), but I just ran out of time! Stay tuned!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Portuguese Folkloric Costume: Adornments

Antique postcard via
Ahh, finally, the bling post!

The gold filigree pendants and chain necklaces are one of the most iconic elements of the folkloric costume of northern Portugal. Portuguese gold is 18 karat and has a lovely, soft luster; it was usually imported from Brazil.

The gold jewelry is traditionally fastened just below the shoulder seam of the bodice; however, in antique photographs and postcards, the necklaces are fastened around the neck. Pinning it to the bodice forms a rich curtain of gold and removes the strain of the weight of the jewelry against the neck.

The triangular arrangement of the gold on the chest actually has prehistoric origins. From the 5th to 8th centuries AD, the Suevi Visigoths inhabited the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula--what is now northern Portugal and northwestern Spain. Strabo, a roman author, describes around 20 AD in his Description of Iberia that the area had a matriarchy. He observed "barbarian women" who "work the land," and whose husbands are were obliged to provide for them and whose daughters, who inherited the land, had to marry their brothers--he describes this as a gynaecocracy, but not as a political system. The Romans were the first to face the power of the Minho women, who killed their own children so that they wouldn't belong to the Romans. The Romans eventually won and revoked the women's power, which was further repressed by the introduction of Christianity (which marked the end of goddess worship and fertility rites). With oppression from both Christianity and Islam (the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula was Moorish), women again turned to the worship of women but in a different form--Madonnas and saints. The ancient moon goddess became Our Lady of Agony, and today her celebrations are the happiest and grandest in the Minho region. In an attempt to regain their power, women took to donning gold as fertility talismans, which slipped under the nose of the males who saw it as just jewelry. Artifacts reveal that jewelry in that area was decorated with breasts and inverted triangles, both of which are associated with female fertility. The triangular draping of the gold on the chest mimics the inverted triangle shape.

Vintage postcard from Pinterest
The gold that women adorned themselves with represented their social status. Gold was seen as stable in times of economic and political fluctuations, and was an investment that was passed down from generation to generation.

The gold jewelry was also practical: if something unfortunate happened to a woman's father, husband, or boyfriend while he was away (such as in war), the woman would be able to financially support herself by using her gold as currency. These practices can be documented as far back as the 18th century. Sometimes, coins would be worked into pendants and earrings, too.

Another concept of practicality in Vianese jewelry is the lack of rings or bracelets. Having the hands free of adornments allowed them to be used at home or in the fields.

My set, which developed over many years, contains 2 brooches, 2 necklaces, 2 pendants, and a pair of earrings. These pieces are available in abundance in Viana do Castelo, Portugal; they would make great souvenirs.

This necklace, one of my most recent acquisitions, is made of small, filigree balls. It has a matching brooch with slightly larger filigree balls. The other brooch is solid, and a simple oval design.

My first gold was this long length of chain. It's looped up several times to create the effect of several necklaces.

The filigree pendants take on the stylized heart shape that we also see in the Algibeira (pocket). My pendant is rather small; the heart pendant can be almost 6-7 inches tall.

The other pendant is made of filigree curlicues and flat balls which surround a faux Portuguese coin.

By the 19th century, the daily wearing of earrings for woman was the norm. If women ventured outside without earrings, they would have been frowned upon. Even the poorest and humblest women donned their dangly gold on a daily basis. The only tolerance for lack of earrings came if a woman had offered her earrings to God in desperation to fulfill a promise.

The brincos à rainha or "earrings in the style of the queen" was introduced at the end of the 19th century. Legend has it that the women of Viana created this style of earrings to receive the visit of Queen Maria II. Though there are other styles of earrings, these are the most popular. The inverted triangle shape of the tip of these earrings echoes the inverted triangles of the fertility talismans. The loose, swinging piece in the center of the earrings could represent a child in a womb or an older child who is independent but slightly stuck to the mother. These motifs could have unconsciously evolved from the fertility talismans.

As a child I actually never wore these earrings; they were fairly big and heavy. With time, the ring that connects the upper and lower pieces of the earring has tarnished, showing that it wasn't the gold it looked to be when I bought them. My love for them has recently flourished, and I think their drama would be great for an evening look.
Brincos à rainha
The whole set together--rather sparse!


Brincos à Rainha <>

Maria II of Portugal <>

O Oura das Vianesas e os Ritos de Fertilidade <>

O Ouro no Traje da Mulher – Entre Douro e Minho <>

Visigothic Kingdom <>

Monday, February 17, 2014

An Embroidered Valentine

I was inspired by the embroidered handkerchiefs traditionally made by young Portuguese women which are offered as presents to their boyfriends or potential boyfriends. The Lover's Handkerchief or Lenço dos Namorados which likely originated in the 17th and 18th centuries, when young women tried to imitate the fashionable use of handkerchiefs by the upper class. If the man accepted the handsewn gift, then the couple was considered a perfect match, and the man would show off his gift by wearing it tucked in his coat or tied on his walking stick. The handkerchiefs were also worn by the girls, tucked into their skirts, and at dances, the boys would "steal" the hankies and pretend to be matched to the girls (easier than a mark of lipstick on the cheek, eh?).

These hankies are traditionally white with lush, bright embroidery in floral motifs and words and poems. The words in the hankies are often misspelled, which adds to their provincial charm.

A lovely example from Julie Dawn Fox's blog.

I started by cutting out a 10.5 inch square from the fabric of my Pseudo-Medieval Fra Filippo Lippi tunic. It has a nice, half inch hem, just like the example above, except it was hand-sewn with a slipstitch. This was my first attempt at mitered corners, and I used this very helpful tutorial.

Pretty sharp job!

The embroidery design was of my own creation and is by no means perfect, but I meant it that way, as neither I nor my boo are perfect. The design was lightly sketched in chalk.

The heart is done in a satin stitch, and the inner outline is a split stitch; there is also a blue split stitched heart within. The branches to the side of the heart are done in a fern stitch. The stalks of wheat, done in a wheatear stitch, are a historical symbol of prosperity (remember Worth's gown with the embroidered wheat?). The two branches above, done in a smaller fern stitch are decorated with small multicolored buds made of french knots.

My initial done in a small split stitch at the bottom corner!
The back--I still haven't mastered neat embroidery from BOTH sides...

I did run into a HUGE snafu when I was making this. I had the hem all finished, and went to grab my embroidery hoop, except, I couldn't find it! This is uncharacteristic of me as all of my sewing things are meticulously organized (not that I have very many to deal with...). I sulked around in despair for a few hours, until I felt like Ophelia in Hamlet--sitting, wide eyed, fingering my lonely embroidery threads.

At this point I was so distraught that I started thinking of alternatives. I rummaged around the house to find a picture frame or other sort of empty rectangular apparatus, without any luck, until I happened upon...a plate display rack.

This is sewing barbarianism at its finest. The wooden plate rack had a sturdy rectangular bottom. I flipped it over and basted my hankie to the base of the rack, and though it was definitely awkward and slower than a hoop, and the tension wasn't much better than were I to hold the fabric in my hands, it sufficed.

Skills practiced in this project:

-Mitered corners
-Fern stitch
-Split stitch
-French knots
-Wheater stitch

What has been your craziest sewing "make do" moment?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Portuguese Folkloric Costume: Bodice

Called the corpete or colete (corpete meaning bodice and colete meaning vest), this piece has many traces of 18th century styling in its seaming and embroidery. The traje de lavradeira is the most embroidered of the traditional costumes in Viana do Castelo; the mordoma (handmaiden) and noiva (bride) are decorated not with embroidery but with with seed and bugle beads.

The corpete is constructed in 10 pieces: left and right shoulder straps in the 18th century style, upper back right and left, lower back right and left, upper front right and left, lower front right and left. There is a seam running down the center back. There is also a seam where the black wool meets the red wool; the black wool piece is embroidered first, then topstitched to the upper part of the corpete. Traditionally, the embroidery on the black wool is polychromatic, while the embroidery on red wool or top of the corpete is only in white.

The seaming of the corpete--particularly the shoulder strap piece--is indicative of 18th century techniques. I am fascinated by how these vestiges of historical tailoring are immortalized in folk costume; equally fascinating is how not everyone was always at the forefront of fashion, especially in poor or isolated neighborhoods. The poor or isolated would not have had the resources--and perhaps not the inclination--to dress in the most current fashions.

The corpete fastens in center front with 6 hand bound eyelets in a contrasting yellow thread. My corpete is lined in a blue printed cotton; the lining has a knife pleat for fullness at the center back. Unlike the outside of the corpete, the lining is cut with a back, shoulder yoke (or could it just be pieced fabric?) and two side fronts. The corpete is bound around the edges with matching cotton tape.

In our group, we fastened the corpete with our choice of ribbon or braid. Some just used white shoelace, but I had rolls of thin green or red ribbon, and I would lace with whatever color matched my mood. Sorry that this looks so comically small on my mannequin!

Detail of the front shoulder strap seam.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Portuguese Folkloric Costume: Pocket

Called the algibeira, this pocket is an interesting blend of form and function. It is in the shape of a stylized heart, traditionally associated with Viana do Castelo and Portugal. This stylized heart shape is also present in the traditional jewelry and folk art of this area.

via Flickr
via Feeling Stitchy
My Algibeira
A few summers ago, when I brought my 18th century pockets with me to Portugal to embroider them in my downtime, I remember my grandma calling my pockets algibeiras. She then proceeded to tell me I was doing them wrong, even though I was trying to explain to her that they were from a different time period and geograpichal location...

However, this is interesting in that this traditional pocket is very similar to 18th century pockets as well as Italian Renaissance saccoccias. Like the saccoccia, it is worn on the outside of the body; like the pockets, it is decorated with embroidery.

My algibeira is made of red and black wool. The upper and outer edges of the algibeira are bound with coordinating cotton tape. The inner edge or pocket cavity is edged with contrasting green tape, though usually this would be the same color as the rest of the pocket. Since my pocket was purchased in Aveiro rather than Viana do Castelo, it's likely that it was made more for the tourist market than for traditional dancing. This may also explain why it's lacking the word "Amor" (love) embroidered on it (meaning either love of Viana do Castelo or love of a boyfriend/husband). My algibeira does have a little skewed pink heart embroidered on it, however. For more images, check out Folk Costume & Embroidery's post.

These are usually decorated with a combination of seed beads and sequins. Some of my sequins have fallen out, sadly. The embroidery on this piece is very simple compared to that of the saia and corpete, another indicator that it was intended for the tourist market. It is backed with cream-colored cotton.

The algibeira serves to hold hair pins, keys, coins, etc, but it's traditional purpose is to hold a handkerchief. During the last dance of our performance, the girls remove the handkerchiefs from their algibeiras and "wave goodbye" to the audience. The algibeira is worn on the left side of the body, and during dancing, the handkerchief is removed with the right hand. However, it seems that the correct way to wear it is on the right side, underneath the apron--an interesting way of keeping a garment that belongs underneath outside and somewhat hidden.

The linen handkerchief is vintage, from our own collection. It seems that no one has any recollection where we got it. We seem to have tons of embroidered hankies lying around in drawers...