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Smocking: Regency Elasticity

Elizabeth took up some needlework, and was sufficiently amused in attending to what passed between Darcy and his companion. The perpetual commendations of the lady either on his hand-writing, or on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his letter, with the perfect unconcern with which her praises were received, formed a curious dialogue, and was exactly in unison with her opinion of each.
-Pride and Prejudice

This 1812 fashion plate from Costume Parisien features smocking at the neck of the gown.

During the Regency the stitching style known as smocking became increasingly popular. Used for generations to add “stretch” and “elasticity” to garments, it provided yet another outlet for the creative seamstress to express herself.

The following images, provided by Kass McGann of Reconstructing History, offer a visual tutorial for creating a Regency style smocked chemisette, like the one seen in the above fashion plate.

The cloth is marked for pleats.
Crease the pleats into place.

  Continue reading Smocking: Regency Elasticity

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Knit a Pineapple Purse

The Pineapple Purse: This  Pineapple shaped reticule resides in the Kyoto Museum’s 1800-1810 collection. In describing this bag, the museum comments, This small bag (called “reticule” at that time) was elaborately and three-dimensionally knitted into the shape of a pineapple. Motifs of pineapples and other exotic articles associated with the tropics became popular because of the influence of Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife Joséphine, the then fashion leader, who was from the Island of Martinique. It is absolutely charming and amazingly, the instructions for a similar looking reticule appeared in  The Lady’s Assistant for Executing Useful and Fancy Designs in Knitting Netting, and Crochet Work by Mrs. Jane Gaugain in 1841. Those instructions have been reproduced below, though recently, a new, updated pattern for this purse has been created from the original pattern. The updated pattern and photos of the completed project can be found here: KNIT A PINEAPPLE PURSE: This pinapple purse is knit to imitate the natural colour of the fruit as much as possible, still keeping the bag as bright in hues as consistency will permit. The top part is worked in four shades of green, of seven rows each, commencing with lightest, and working in succession to dark. This represents the leaves. The centre, or fruit part, is worked in shades of yellow, down to a rich brown, four in number, beginning with the lightest, and working 36 rounds of each; again with green finish as described in the working receipt. The cast-on row looks handsome with (more…)
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Emma: A Summer Sweater Knitting Pattern

summer sweaterEmma: A Summer Sweater Knitting Pattern Martha’s… is just finished, and looks well… My mother desires me to say that she will knit one for you as soon as you return to choose the colours and pattern. Jane Austen to Cassandra February 9, 1807 This lightweight summer sweater was inspired by those wonderful regency muslin dresses that you see in films such as Pride and Prejudice. Working with empire lines and puffed sleeves can be a bit of a challenge, especially as everyone’s bust line is a little bit different. So it seemed by far the simplest thing to work from the top down using the method pioneered by Wendy Burnard in her Custom Knits book. This means that you can try it on as you go to check that the end of the bodice section finishes in the correct place for your shape. If like me you are a little busty it is also possible to add a few short rows to the front of the bodice to stop it riding up. Knitted from the top down with set in, afterthought sleeves, the main body of the cardigan is worked in a true lace pattern with patterning on every row. Yarn provided by The Unique Sheep. Sizes:Finished Bust Size 33 (36, 40, 44, 48)” to fit bust 32-34 (36-38, 40-42, 44-46, 48-50)”. Because the garment is knitted in laceweight yarn on larger needles it has a good amount of stretch. Shown in size 44” Yarn:The Unique Sheep Eos Laceweight (more…)
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Trim your Regency Bonnet

Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers’, but I have never seen any of them in hats… Elizabeth has given me a hat, and it is not only a pretty hat, but a pretty style of hat too. It is something like Eliza’s, only, instead of being all straw, half of it is narrow purple ribbon. I flatter myself, however, that you can understand very little of it from this description. Heaven forbid that I should ever offer such encouragement to explanations as to give a clear one on any occasion myself! But I must write no more of this. . . Jane Austen to Cassandra Queen’s Square, Bath June 2, 1799 If you had to choose only one fashion accessory with which to represent the entire Regency period, no doubt it would be the Bonnet. Large and small, close and wide, they came in an array of sizes and styles, each season bringing newideas and new requirements of what it was to be “Fashionable”. Fashion magazines of the day seemed never to tire of describing this brim and that cockade, and the colors! Where Puce was once reigned supreme, Jonquil now led the way. Or so they would tell you. While wealthy socialites might spend their afternoons seriously pondering the style and purchase of a new (more…)
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Sew a Simple Waist Apron

sew a waist apronSew a Simple Waist Apron Aprons were a necessity for the Regency Country wife. No other item could be as practical both for keeping precious gowns clean, but also for drying the hands (or tears) of the young ones, and even for gathering produce! Mrs. Austen is said to have dug her own potatoes in the Chawton Gardens wearing a “laborer’s smock” over her gown to protect it from the dirt. This simple waist apron is adapted from and will provide you with a charming apron like that worn by Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) in Becoming Jane. 1 1/3 Yards of 45 inch wide cotton fabric Optional for tie: 2 yards of 2.5 inch grosgrain ribbon Apron Body: Cut one piece of fabric 36 inches wide x 45 inches long. Ties: |Cut 4 pieces of your fabric- 3 inches wide x 45 inches long. disregard in you purchased ribbon for your tie. Waist Apron Body: Turn top down 1/4 of a inch to the inside,press, turn again and sew down close to the pressed edge. Do the same for the hem, then to both sides of the apron body.You now have your apron body completed. Tie: Do this if you are using the fabric for your tie. Take 2 of the cut out tie pieces and with right sides together sew the 3 inch width, use a 3/8 inch seam. Do this to both. You will now have 2- 90 inch long ties.(approx) Ties continued: On each tie press (more…)
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Baby’s First Shoe

In the 1800’s women’s “How To” books were quite popular. Some claimed instructions for cooking, others, like this The Workwoman’s Guide, Containing Instructions to the Inexperienced in Cutting out and Completing Those Articles of Wearing Apparel Which Are Usually Made at Home, detailed needlework and embroidery. Many were, like this one, written merely “by a Lady”–but all were valuable treasure troves of information to the young women who pored over them.

The instructions found here, for tiny Regency baby shoes, come from the second edition of the book, printed in London in 1840. The preface of which, begins thus, “The Author of the following pages has been encouraged to hope, that, in placing them, after much deliberation, in the hands of a printer, she is tendering an important and acceptable, however humble, service to persons of her own sex, who, in any condition of life, are engaged, by duty or inclination, in cutting out wearing apparel in a family, or for their poorer neighbours. She trusts, in particular, that Clergymen’s Wives, Young Married Women, School-mistresses, and Ladies’ Maids may find, in the ” Workwoman’s Guide,” a fast and serviceable friend. Continue reading Baby’s First Shoe

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Crocheted Gloves

Crochet is a process of creating fabric from yarn or thread using a crochet hook. The word is derived from the French word “crochet”, meaning hook. Crocheting, similar to knitting, consists of pulling loops of yarn through other loops. Crochet differs from knitting in that only one loop is active at one time, and that a crochet hook is used instead of knitting needles. The following Crochet Pattern will create one pair of Crocheted Lace Gloves to fit the average hand. These gloves will stretch to fit most women’s hands; washing will restore them to their original size. Materials: 1-1/2 oz of a fine mercerized crochet cotton (No. 20); Size 7 steel crochet hook; Tubular elastic to fit around wrists. Gauge:6 Solomon’s knots to 2″ worked on size 7 steel hook. To save time, take time to check gauge. Right-hand glove: Join length of elastic to fit around wrist. Work 100 sc over elastic and join with a sl st to first sc. 1st round * Extend loop on hook to a height of approximately 1/4″, yo and draw a loop through extended loop on hook, insert hook from front to back in the back strand of the loop just made, yo and draw a loop through, there are now 2 loops on hook, yo and draw through 2 loops on hook- called 1 Solomon’s knot or 1 SK -, skip next 4 sc, 1 sc in next sc, rep from * 19 more times. Do not turn at end (more…)
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Sew a Regency Gown

The caption on this lovely regency gown reads, “Dress of sheer white India muslin. The dress has a short train and is embroidered with gold threads of various weights in a running vine-like pattern with occasional single flowers. The workmanship is exquisite. The fabric is so fine–almost a gauze– it seems impossible that it can hold the metal thread.” As we noted last month, the following pattern should be attempted only by experienced sewers. The illustration shows an embroidered gown of Indian Muslin. It is possible to make this with the included pattern– but only after enlarging it (click on the pattern to see it full size, and ready to print) to the size indicated. So go ahead– what are you waiting for? Create a dress the way Jane Austen’s would have been made!       Patterns are available at our online shop! Click here to browse our costume section. Reprinted from Masterpieces of Women’s Costume of the 18th and 19th Centuries; Bernstein, Aline; Crown Publishers Inc, New York, 1959. (more…)