Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Pomander

Pomander: from the French, pomme d'ambre, or apple of amber (as in ambergris, not the fossil).

For centuries pomanders have been used for their scent. In renaissance times, pomanders were spheres, usually made of metal, filled with perfumes, which people carried to mask odors and protect from disease. Renaissance ladies often hung pomander balls from their girdles. Some pomanders had sections, like an orange, that would each hold a different scent. 

Portrait of a Woman, c. 1547. Bartholomäus Bruyn.

Design for a pomander by Wenzel Hollar, based on one by Albrecht Dürer.

A German silver pomander, c.1600's.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was popular to make pomanders from oranges, studded with cloves. These could also be rolled in spices to help preserve the fruit. The oranges would dry out, preserving the spicy scent. Vinaigrette's were similar to Renaissance pomanders, with a pierced metal case, filled with a vinegar soaked sponge, and also smelled to cover odors.

18th century silver vinaigrette.
Today, pomanders are a Christmastime tradition. One can use the dry pomanders as ornaments on the tree or garlands, or toss them in a bowl like a potpourri. When making mulled cider or wine, add a couple fresh pomanders, when the mix is simmering, for both flavor and looks (they will float on top - very pretty in a punch bowl!) Year round, dry pomanders can be hung in the closet to ward of moths or put in drawers as a sachet. Once dry, pomanders can last for years.

How to make a Pomander:

There are two ways to make pomanders. Both use the oranges and cloves. The first way is how I have always made them. Just oranges and cloves. It's very basic, very easy, and it has always worked perfect for me. The second way is more involved, and it uses the spices, which are supposed to help preserve the fruit. Again, I have never had an issue with no spices, but for those that want to try it out, see the second way.

Method No.1

6 small oranges
1 jar or dried cloves
and a toothpick

I prefer clementines or other very small oranges. They're cute. They take less time to cover and less cloves, too. If you use regular size oranges, you will probably need more than one jar of cloves. This of course depends on how thoroughly you will cover the orange. Most 18th century oranges were completely covered by cloves, with very little of the orange showing through. I like to make patterns with the cloves instead, but thats up to you.

I live in a dry climate, so I just leave the finished pomanders out to dry (turning them daily so they dry evenly), but if you live somewhere damp, you can put them in an open paper bag to aide the drying. If you want them dried in time for Christmas, start them soon so they have time to dry out. It takes about three weeks or more.

Your ingredients. I prefer smaller oranges for cuteness.

Prick holes before pushing the cloves through.

Take care when inserting the cloves, as the bulbs
on the cloves are fragile and can easily be crushed.
You can wear a thimble if your fingers are sensitive.
The tops of the cloves are often spiny.

Make any kind of pattern you like, or cover completely
with cloves. Set out to dry, turning them often so they
dry evenly. If you live in a damp climate, you can put
them in an open paper bag to help them dry. 

Method No. 2

This method uses spices to help preserve the oranges and add to the scent. This works best with heavily cloved oranges.

Make the oranges with the cloves like above, then mix the spices together and place in a paper bag with the oranges. After three to four weeks remove from the bag and shake off the excess spices.

1/2 cup ground cinnamon
1/4 cup ground cloves
1 Tbs ground allspice
1 Tbs ground nutmeg
1 Tbs ground coriander
2 Tbs ground orris root (or about 8 drops of sandalwood oil)

Recipe courtesy YoursTruli

Friday, November 25, 2011

American Duchess has done it again!

American Duchess has now created some beautiful regency style shoes. They are on pre-sale now so go snap up a pair or two! Click here for more info.

From American Duchess:

The "Pemberley" Regency shoes are closely based on extant footwear from the 1790s through 1810.  The smooth, dyable, hand-sewn leather upper is designed to be lovely enough formal occasions, and durable enough for walking in the countryside.  Particular attention was paid to the point of the toe, as well as the other hallmarks of Regency historical footwear, with the main goals being both historical accuracy and all-day comfort.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Because one can never have enough china...

One of my favorite things to do when we have parties is to set the table. I absolutely love it. Forget for parties - I even do it for breakfast! (Yes, this morning we had eggs on our Wedgwood.) When I go to museums or historic houses, I looooove the dining rooms. I also looooooooooooooove the pantries! All that space to store flatwear and silverwear and silver and serving items and crystal and everything. Oh I drool! I have a big thing for collecting china and silver and for using them. A lot.

But right now I have our kitchen absolutely packed. Packed to the brim. The cupboards are bursting. 

This is unfortunate, since I realllly, realllllllly, realllllllllly want a set of this...

How fabulous is this?! For Titanic's 100th anniversary, Royal Crown Derby has reissued the original pattern used in one of the ship's restaurants. The china is being made the exact same way (hand painted), and even in the same place, as the originals were.

Pattern book from the Royal Crown Derby archives. 1911.

Original plate from the ship.

Reissue plate with cup and saucer below.

Spode also has a Titanic reproduction china, based on the original pattern used aboard the ship. They currently call this pattern "Lancaster." You can find it on Replacements Ltd.

Original Spode cobalt china from the Titanic.

Spode "Lancaster"

The Titanic Store also has reproduction china from various restaurants on the Titanic. Also check out this link, which shows most of the patterns used on board. Pretty cool, but I just love the Royal Crown Derby pattern. Gorgeous!

First Class Dining Saloon

Menu from April 14th, 1912

Cafe Parisian

Verandah Cafe and Palm Court

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Beginnings of Empress Josephine's Slippers

The inspiration:

I absolutely love these pairs of slippers, worn by the Empress Josephine. The beaded pair are her coronation slippers. Following description from Bourhis, Katell le et al. The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire, 1789-1815. NY: Abrams, 1989. 46.

"Empress Josephine's white taffeta coronation slippers, embroidered with gold--strips, threads, sequins, and cannetillés--in a bee-and-star motif."

Coronation slippers. 1804. Musee des Arts de la Mode. 

Empress Josephine's white silk slippers.
Châteaux de Malmaison et Bois-Préau, Malmaison France.
Photo by Gerard Blot. 

Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and
Coronation of the Empress Josephine.
Jacque-Louis David.

I have never made a pair of shoes before, but from what I know about shoe making I pulled together some materials I had and gave it a go. So far only one slipper is finished (minus any decoration of course). The second slipper is all sewn up except for the sole. Below are some pictures of the construction and how I made them.


Top fabric: white twill weave silk
Lining: canvas and white linen. I didn't want my toes showing through so I added the canvas for interfacing. I don't think this is really necessary to use again if I made another pair. Too bulky.
Sole: Chamois leather. Pre-washed. It's all I had on hand. Not bad for the sole.
Sole lining: 2 layers of buckram, one canvas and then another layer of leather on top. I chose not to make a shank, since I was modeling this kind of after a ballet slipper. 
Thread: White 50/3 linen and #100 white silk thread. Both waxed.

How to make a shoe pattern (from shoes you have):  I modeled the pattern after a pair of ballet slippers and a pair of Chanel flats that have a similar shape to them as Josephine's. I layered pattern paper over the shoes and traced with a pen. I cut out the pieces, pinned them together and tried on the sample. It was a bit big in the back so I adjusted the pieces and recut. Then retraced onto new paper so I had a nice clean pattern.

Too big. Needs adjusting.



The shoe pattern.

I didn't take any pictures of putting the shoe together. But it was very straight forward, if lengthy. Basically I started with the top. I layered the linen and canvas (linen will be against your foot - canvas as interfacing), folded under the selvages, butted together and stitched with waxed linen thread. I also stitched along the center front piece, down the middle, to keep the linen lining from falling into the shoe. 

The silk layer I sewed with silk thread. For the silk layer I backstitched the seam, then felled the selvage on the inside. See the pictures below. To join the aforementioned layers, I stacked the silk over the linen/canvas - insides out - and did a simple running stitch with the linen thread along the top edge, then flipped and pressed with the iron. Snip the curves to help flip the shoe neatly.

For the sole, I turned the top layers inside out again and pinned them to the sole layers (chamois and linen). It takes a bit of easing. I used an awl to poke holes in the chamois and backstitched the top and bottom of the shoe together. Flip it again! Push pull and ease the shoe into it's proper shape. I made the toe pointy, so I used the awl, with its plastic cover on, to push the shoe right side out.

For the small layers, that finish off the inside of the shoe, I layered the canvas and buckram and stitched through them to hold them together. Then I glued the layers together, I glued the chamois on top and I glued the whole piece to the inside of the shoe.

Next time, I think I will leave out the canvas interfacing on the uppers, and I will add a heavier leather for a shank. Other than that, I think they went well.

My fingers are between the canvas and linen. 

View of the linen seam - right side.

View of the canvas seam - right side.  

The silk is on the left. You can see the felled seam.
Snip the curve at the front (top of the toe) to
facilitate flipping the pieces right side out.

The flipped shoe, pinned open, before being pressed.

On the right is the pressed, finished top. On the left,
the larger pieces are chamois for the sole and linen. The smaller
pieces are chamois, canvas and two layers of buckram.

You can see the chamois/canvas/buckram layer.

Side view.

I'm still deciding which shoe to make - either keep the shoes white and just add little bows, or bead and bedazzle like the coronation slippers... Ooo options!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Edwardian Fabulousness

So yes, I admit, I absolutely love the movie Titanic, and I definitely have a soft spot for the Edwardian. Today it got the better of me and I have spent the better part of the afternoon browsing edwardian evening gowns (because they are soooo much more drool worthy than day time attire!).

In light of Titanic's 100 year anniversary coming up, I thought it was an excuse to put an Edwardian gown on the to do list. My very favorite so far is this one, by Lucile, as in Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, who was both fashion designer and Titanic survivor. How perfect!

Evening Dress. V&A, T.31-1960.

And from a slightly different angle.

At present, I'm browsing for ivory silk satin, or perhaps charmeuse, ivory chiffon and black velvet. I've also been checking out patterns to go off of, since I have never made a dress from this era. I perused Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 2 (1860 - 1940). Inside there's a pattern and instructions for Lady Maude Warrender's evening gown (1909 - 1910), which I might be able to go off of for the inside structure. Has anyone used this as a pattern before?

An illustration of Lady Maude's dress.

A gorgeous reproduction of Lady Maude's dress, done
by Jordan Bentley. Click here for more pictures to drool over!
Including pictures of the original gown, which
is housed in the Museum of London.

I leave you with some other gowns that caught my attention. Perhaps in the future...

1912 - 1913 Click the date for a link to an
awesome gallery of Edwardian fashions.


1910, by Worth. V&A.

The below pictures are all dresses from the V&A exhibit, 

1912 - 1913, by Worth.

1910 - 1913. I especially love the one of the left!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A 1790 Redingote

I started on a new project a couple days ago and I'm very excited about it, because it's the first gown I will completely hand sew. I put away the machine and to tell the truth, I am loving it. It's a lot faster than I though it would be, it's prettier than by machine, and I can go anywhere with it, so I'm not relegated to the sewing room! Yay!

Let me start by showing my inspiration. Im basing this 1780-90's style redingote on the following examples. Especially the one from the LACMA.

Louis Carrogis Carmontelle, 1780's.

LACMA, 1790. I loooooove this one!!!

Mrs. William Mosely, by Ralph Earl. 1791.

So far, I've pieced together the bodice pieces and finished up one sleeve. It is pinned on below, not set in yet. The lapels were cut with the bodice front. The collar will be attached separately. I don't know how 100% correct this is, as I have never seen a real redingote up close, but looking at any suit jacket, you can see the lapels are cut as part of the front and the collar is sewn in after. I'm putting two and two together here...

As for the fabric, the color I have seen in garments from the period, however the dupioni silk I have never, ever, ever seen. I am using it, however, because I had it in the stash and I'm really trying not to buy more fabric before the new year. I am so running out of room! And this is kind of a test run anyway, authenticity wise. Other than the silk, I am using linen for the lining and I am stitching with silk thread, waxed.

For draping the pattern I used this awesome
pattern paper that feels more like fabric than
paper. No crinkling. I know it's modern, but I'm more
comfortable with it than draping with my lining.
One thing at a time. Added bonus: at the end
you have a pattern to keep for future use!

This is assembled as a quarter back and will be single breasted, with self-fabric covered buttons like the LACMA redingote. Im also planning on adding nice crisp cuffs and a big fab collar to go with those dramatic lapels. Yum. 

One of the stitches I have been using, that I absolutely love, I don't even know the name of. But if you want to check it out, go here for an excellent tutorial. This seaming technique is awesome for piecing the bodice together. It's quite fast and looks very clean on the outside. If anyone knows what it's called, please do share!

Outside view using this seam.
Inside view. Up close.
Inside. Not so close :)

I also used an over hand stitch along the center front. I don't know how accurate this is, but because the lapels fold over I chose to use a stitch that would look uniform on both sides, unlike a slip stitch. I suppose I could have used a running stitch too, but the over hand worked very nicely (as long as the stitches are kept fine).

When assembling the bodice pieces initially, I left the bottom seam open, since I wasn't 100% sure how the skirt gets attached. I will be closing it up though, since after pouring over my books for the thousandth time, I think I finally get how to execute and attach cartridge pleating. I've always found it very frustrating trying to figure out sewing techniques from print descriptions. When we were in Williamsburg last, I asked the ladies (and gentleman) in the millinery shop about a thousand questions. This really helped. Many, many thanks to them! Especially since I got explanations and was able to see the inside of their reproduction garments at the same time. Now when I read, the descriptions make a lot more sense. Yay! 

The Lady's Guide to Plain Sewing, volumes one and two, are especially helpful, as is Costume Close Up, by Linda Baumgarten.

Check out some pictures of a couple of reproduction pieces - riding habits - from the Millinery shop. The red and green is from later in the century, the blue from earlier.