A look back to 2017

2017 was the year of very few, very time-consuming projects:

The quilted ensemble


A new Francaise after one of Boucher’s portraits of Madame de Pompadour


An embroidered waistcoat


To be fair, I only finished the embroidery in 2017. The waistcoat itself took a bit longer.


Also I made a few pieces that didn’t take that much time:

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Tutorial: how to make a lace bow

Lace bows were pretty popular in the 18th century. And as it happen my current projects requires one of these multi-layered bows that resemble a flower more than the resemble a traditional bow.

So how to make one:

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A Silk Lampas cap

I started looking at a lot of caps and my favorite was the combination of silk lampas and gold lace. I have found none of these in aristocratic portraits of adult women, so this cap is fabulously unsuited to go with, like, 95 percent of my 18th century wardrobe. But the heart wants what it wants, right?



This was a major inspiration. As were a few extent caps.

The pattern was an alteration of a Duran Textiles cap pattern that I further altered on the cap itself after the one corner looked way too harsh.



I traced this off my computer screen because my printer is out of commission.

I flatlined the three pieces individually with a firm cotton (I had ran out of linen):


Making sure some  of the brocaded flowers made it onto the cap.


And then I sewed everything together with small backstitches. For some reason this took me 3 hours. (Addmittedly, I watched tv while doing this which never helps.)




The was the moment I realized that the corner edge didn’t look so swell.

Then I applied the vintage gold lace by sewing both the inner and outer edge of the lace to the cap.


And that was it:



And to give you an idea of its dimensions; that’s what it looks like when it’s worn:

Making a plain silk 18th century cap

For some reason I really love 18th century regional caps. More than I actually love the white linen/cotton/silk caps. I blame childhood trauma caused by a truly ugly costume cap my sister owned but that’s a different story.

Those 18th regional caps are usually made of very nice material: silk lampas, silk damask, silk velvet, embroidered silk, silk with lace… you see where this goes. Apparently the laws on who was allowed to wear what material was really lax when it came to head coverings. And those caps didn’t really need a lot of fabric.

Since I have never done one of these, I didn’t wanted to start making one out of silk lampas, so I made one out of plain silk. This was obviously inspired by this particular painting:

Bildschirmfoto 2016-07-17 um 15.27.29

Liotard – The Chocolade Girl (detail)

My interpretation of that painting is that she is wearing a white cap under her silk cap instead of merely attaching the lace to silk cap. This would allow her to clean one and not the other.

I used the pattern from Duran Textiles. I lined the back of cap with heavy cotton. I interlined the cap brim with a heavy cotton and then lined it in linen. Then I attached the brim to the back:

I decided to distribute the pleats more even around the brim instead of pleating it solely at the back.


I did pleat some of it in the back though.

Then I carefully attached a piece of antique Valenciennes lace I had in my stash over the brim. The piece had exactly the length that was needed. I didn’t have to hide or stretch or cut anything. The thing about Valenciennes lace is that it’s only type of lace where 19th and 18th century styles are pretty hard to distinguish so it looks pretty accurate although my guess is that’s late 19th century Valenciennes.


Under that cap I put a white cotton/linen cap.

It was a fun project, so I already gathered the materials for my next cap project:


Embroidered garters



It’s hard to read because stitching at this size is not easy but they say: “Deux estions et n’avions qu’ung cuer.” Which is a verse by Francois Villon, a French poet and ne’er-do-well from the 15th Century, and translates roughly as “we were two but with one heart” which for a pair of garters has an entirely different meaning.

The embroidery is chain stitching for the outlines, satin stitches on the leaves and backstitching on the writing. The fabric is silk taffeta, the thread buttonhole silk and the ribbon is silk too. Only the backing (not pictured) to give the main part some additional stability is a ribbon out of cotton.

The background fabric is a my court gown petticoat which I am currently wrestling with. I am not sure it is that difficult because I am afraid of wasting/ruining my fabric or if it’s just the usual “I am nearly finished, so why actually finish” fatigue. (I mean I am one sleeve decoration away from finishing a cotton robe anglaise, so there is that.)

An articulated pannier

When  I wrote my to-do list, I noted as number one the “foldable pannier”. The reason for that is purely practical – I need something that could fit into my hand lugguage if necessary and still can unfold to a width that exceeds hand lugguage sizes.


But then  I knew something like this already existed:



The red one is from the Met and the left one is from Les Arts Decoratifs  plus  another one from Les Arts Decoratifs which is nearly identical in looks and construction. (In fact I used to think they were the same.)

Unfortunately that’s all she wrote because aside from one sketch and a wonderful article on a Canadian museum’s website how to store such thing, little is known.

What was apparent is that in order to fully recreate these, you need to a be metalworker. Obviously, I am not, so I went and improvised with 5/8 inch plastic boning, white bone casing, a round file and some Chicago screws and a lot of time.

The result is actually really foldable, lightweight, stable and super-practical:



It also doesn’t photograph well. It needs some actual hips to straighten the curve of the connecting bones and it’s final shape is created when the weight of the fabric of the petticoat pulls all its connecting ties tight.


Embroidered Engageantes

My excellent plan to avoid making my Francaise back in the day involved doing other things, like embroidered engageantes/sleeve ruffles for my pen en l’air.

I had two pairs of 18th century engageantes I could study in person. One pair was not matching and is simply embroidered using tambour embroidery / Point de Beauvais, the other one was a matching pair of Dresden whitework engageantes.


The hems are back stitches and buttonhole stitches.


Dresden whitework, comparable pieces are dated 1760 -1780

That close study reveaed that I don’t have the hands, eyes and patience to pull off either technique.

But thankfully these aren’t the only ruffles to study:


LACMA, Pair of Woman’s Engageantes Probably England, circa 1760, possibly doable.

But my research  also revealed that despite all the myth-making around 18th Century gossamer fabrics, you can find comparably fine cotton fabrics in the here and now. (Now linen… that one is a problem.) Granted the cotton fabric I found in my local store is a close match to the Tambour ruffles fabric, not the Dresden – and while its close enough, it’s not identical.

I didn’t want a one-yard-plus sized pair. This was only partially motivated by my laziness and more by more observation of the orginals. A yard long engageante is surprisingly full and struck me as little bit too “gala gown” for my pet en l’air. But research revealed plenty of original engageantes with a width of 25 to 30 inches.

Anyway, I took the fabric and traced out in pencil some patterns I borrowed from the internet and printed out on transparent paper. Then I embroidered.


This took a while.

Then I did some hemming….


Then I put it together, pulled a ribbon through the tunnel at the top, starched it and called it a day:





They could be wider but they work very well for the pet en l’air.

A flower hat for my chemise a la reine

I figured I needed a hat when I frolick in the sun for my chemise a la reine photoshoot. (Any weekend now…, really.)

But since the gown is so color-neutral and I didn’t want to stick white silk on a altered 5 dollar hat for an all cotton costume, I let myself be inspired by this particular hat:

Elisabeth of France, Vigee-Lebrun

Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun. Detail from Madame Elisabeth, 1782.

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