Archive for May, 2014

May 27, 2014

Bodies Under Construction.



The latest bulletin from our workshops. A few pictures of a pair of bodies, being made for a client. The request was for a pair that were late Tudor in style for a costumed interpreter in a common woman’s role at a National Trust property. The pattern is one of our corsetiere’s own devising based on the bodies belonging to Pfaltzgrafin Dorothea Sabine von Neuberg detailed in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion and the and the Elizabeth Effigy bodies in Westminster Abbey dated 1604-5.

They are being made using a smooth linen lining, coarse linen canvas interlining and hard wearing linen outer. The two photos below show the separate parts being readied for boning. The choice with boning is whether to use synthetic whalebone or reeds. Thin reed boning and flat oval reed boning are available both types of reed make a lovely creaking sound when worn, but need maintenance. The natural dried reeds break if they are allowed to get too dry if they haven’t been worn for a while.
















Here is a close up of the side seam to show the various layers under construction and examples of the hand-carved wooden busks that are inserted in the front of the bodies. These are made to size, can feature an optional carved personal message (discretion is our watchword) and are available in hard or soft wood. These bodies are rear lacing. Though front lacing styles are also available, this option is more supportive for the larger bust. The thought is that front laced bodies would have been more practical for women with small children who needed to breastfeed.


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While these are finished off, here’s a photo of a front laced pair that Helen made earlier, next to a back view of the bodies awaiting the eyelets.





May 21, 2014

An Embroidered Cap

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Linen caps were worn in the 1640s, some of them were decorated with embroidery. I’ve seen examples in museums and the picture above from ‘A Merry New Ballad, Both Pleasant and Sweet’ from 1635 shows a blacksmith sporting what seems to be a blackworked cap.

10013024_10202085850403365_8257175207365412271_nThe basic pattern of the caps remaining from the 17th century is four sections, sewn together with a turned up border. I tried the pattern, made up one and decorated it with some basic cross-stitched decoration. It was nice, but not really what I wanted to represent, just a bit too plain for my taste. I wanted something a bit more like the caps I’d seen in the V&A.






What we did then was to draw up a design based on embroidery we had seen in museums and pattern books that didn’t quite recreate, more echoed the swirls of chain stitch and odd critters that seemed to have been popular at the time and superimposed it on the basic four panel design. The panes were filled with design, but that is also authentic, some of the original caps seem to overflow with all kinds of shapes and ideas. The theme chosen was autumn and several types of small creature were included, as well as seed heads of clematis, rose hips and ivy leaves, intertwined with cobwebs and a spider dangling through the centre.


This was sent to Aaraish Designs in Mumbai with a square of linen cloth and a reel of silk embroidery thread. The guys in the workshop work in teams and embroider by hand, several workers to a single piece. The next pictures show  what they came up with, the first one showing the work stretched out on the frame. Note the border is worked upside down and on the reverse of the fabric.

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All that needed to be done was to cut out the work, sew up the edges and pop in a liner. The lining is based on a couple of examples I’ve seen, one in the Museum of London and the other in the V&A. It’s basically a cylinder gathered at the top and secured with buttonhole stitches. This is more the kind of cap I was thinking of! Well done to Aaraish designs and to Tracy who drew up the original pattern.

Needless to say, if you would like one for yourself, get in touch and we can discuss some designs.


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