Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Colour of Her Dress

This week's thread colour is Orange Lily.  There were a few contestants for this colour

Courtesy Tauranga Historical Society
 This pant suit from 1956, which was one of the free patterns in the Australian Home Journal magazine for October.

Courtesy Tauranga Historical Society
 I love the button over-skirt shown with the green pant suit, and the accessories, the orange headscarf and blue sunglasses.

 The culottes from 1969 are my favourite, aren't they to die for.

 This 1960,s shift dress caught my eye, just cos I love the shape and cut.  I would not wear it in this colour though, as cute as it is.

So choices my fashionista darlings, which one do you love, wanna wear, or think our lady would have sewn with her orange lily thread?

Friday, July 29, 2011

First Embroidery Project

Well my precious creative darlings I have good news for those of you who have chosen to undertake the embroidery classes, a little pack of goodies is on the way.  Now it's up to you, if you apply yourselves, you will gain the development of new skills, so that you will become more than just consumers, you will become craftspeople who can make things for themselves, and if you persevere and are persistent in your pursuit of perfection.  You will become a skilled craftsman, an artisan.
I know that was a really long sentence.

 I have posted out your first challenge, in the pack you will find a card with a selection of different coloured embroidery threads, a piece of hessian fabric, and a couple of needles.

The needles are crewel needles.  To thread the needle, you need to wet the end of the thread and then flatten it by pulling it between your finger and thumb.

I am going to do this project too, cos the funny thing is, I have not done much embroidery myself so I am working alongside you learning as much as you are.  I am directing you rather than teaching, so it is going to be fun to see what we all do.  In the picture above you can see what I have done so far.  In this first project, which we could make into a pot holder if you like, (once we have finished our embroidery we can sew them up, and for those who can't get to my place, or don't have a sewing machine I can sew them up for you).

You might want to start by doing a buttonhole stitch around the edge of the fabric, and at this point I am worried I have not sent you enough thread, but if you run out, let me know and I can send you some more, I still have all the colours left.  If you don't want to do this you could just pull the threads to give a frayed edge that will look like a fringe.

Here is a link for an excellent video to show you how to do blanket stitch, or buttonhole stitch if the stitches are done really close together.

Then you could decide on a design, keep it simple, and draw it on the fabric if you want with a soft pencil.  Then you could sew around the design with this simple running stitch, (this would be a good one for Isabelle).  For the older students I would like to to use at least three of the outline stitches listed below as well.

You will find in your kits a piece of cord or sparkly thread which I have put in for you to use to practice this stitch, use the embroidery thread to couch the cord on.

Same as above just another way of looking at it.

So there you are, something to start with, and once you get on the tutorial website you will find all sorts of stuff that you might like to use, but this week keep to outline stitches.  Next week we will tackle some filling stitches.

 This is really exciting for me, and I can't wait to see what you all do, so have fun and here is a little warning from an avid sewer, it is really hard to find time to do sewing, there always seems to be something you have to do first, so set aside a time at the start of the day and stick to it.

xx zho zho

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hannah Hughes and Buckinghamshire Lace

These lace bobbins have been passed down in our family for generations and they inspired me to find out a little more about who it was in our family who used them and what type of lace they made.  Fortunately an Aunt interested in Genealogy had done some research and we were able to identify Hannah Hughes, my Great Great Grandmother on my Father's side, as the lace maker.

Hannah Hughes
  Hannah Hughes was born Hannah Lovell, in 1848 at Aylesbury, Buckingham, England, and had a rural upbringing living in a whitewash stone cottage with stone floors.  She worked as a lace maker in her youth, and while she never learnt to read or write, she was nevertheless, evidently very astute.  
The Countess Kintore
She came out to New Zealand in 1873, on the Countess Kintore, with her husband James and their 4 year old daughter.  The Countess Kintore was an Aberdeen clipper that carried hundreds of passengers to New Zealand, between 1868 and 1874. 

So it is likely these lace bobbins came out on the ship with Hannah.  All three are turned bone, and the wire on the ends of the bobbins would have had coloured glass beads known as "jingles", attached to them to weight them down.  Two of the bobbins have messages carved around their shafts.
One reads: 
MYRLA : GOODGAME : DIED : MARCH : 7 : 1869 : AGED 27, : 
and the other:  

The dates on these lace bobbins suggest that Hannah was still making lace in 1869, but what sort of lace?  In rural England in the 19th century, people were quite isolated and did not leave the area they lived in.  This meant that different regions developed their own unique styles of lace.  In Buckinghamshire where Hannah lived, a bobbin lace known as Buck's lace, (short for Buckinghamshire lace), was made.  Buck's  lace is similar to French Lille, and it is believed it was brought to England by Huguenot refugees from Mechlin near Brussels and Lille, who settled in the East Midlands in the latter half of the 16th century.  

Its funny how things fall into place sometimes isn't it?  Last week I bought this wonderful Weldon's Encyclopaedia of Needlework, and inside it had a section on laces. 

Here are two borders of pillow-made lace made in Buckinghamshire in the first half of the nineteenth century.  The upper border has a repeating pattern of berried stems, diagonal interlaced stems and (along the edge) floral stems, all on a ground of six pointed star mesh.  Ornamental star diaper (diaper is to weave or decorate in a diamond-shaped pattern), in the fillings are used. 
Bucks lace has a hexagonal net ground, and uses a gimp thread to outline the pattern. 

This lace border has a repeating row of rounded compartments filled with diapered openwork in variegated and "point net" grounds alternating with leaves on a small hexagonal mesh.

So now we know a little more about Hannah and the wonderful lace she made. The lace collar she is wearing in the photo above looks like it could be Bucks lace, and was probably made by her.  I wonder if she continued to make lace once settled in New Zealand.  I think life would have been very hard for her as her husband James died 3 months after arriving in New Zealand.  What family treasures these lace bobbins are, they carry memories of Hannah, and remind us of those who went before us.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Colour of Her Dress

 One of the wonderful things about working with heritage collections is that the word gets out that you love anything to do with heritage textiles.  Because of this I am sometimes offered treasures that others no longer want.  This box and its contents is one such case.

Inside the box is a collection of threads on wooden cotton reels.

 Mercerised cottons, machine twists, and polyester threads, with colour names like: Orange Lily, Light Kingfisher, Sage, and Geranium.
 The colours are fabulous, and as I looked at them and wondered about the woman who used these threads, I thought what a vibrant woman she must have been with such a dynamic selection of colours.  Then I began to wonder what each colour thread had been used to make.

So I thought my precious darlings that once a week I would pick a reel of thread and find, or design the dress that I imagine would have been sewn with the thread.

The first colour is seemingly not a colour at all, but a neutral, ivory.   For me these neutral shades have a subtle and classic beauty.

The dress I have chosen for ivory, is a 1955 Pierre Balmain dress that I believe is held in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Isn't it dreamy?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The contents of a fabric covered box in the Brain Watkins House

 There are a number of boxes in the Brain Watkins House holding textile related items, the Cadbury Box with its hundreds of buttons that we have had a quick look at already, mahogany boxes, (one that appears to have been made for his daughter by Mr. Brain himself), and among them this one, containing a wonderful collection of buckles, from the Victorian era through to the 1960's.

The box with its contents when first opened.

 Here the contents of the box are laid out, ready to be catalogued.

 What does this box and its contents have to tell us?  Let us look through some of the items in this wonderful little archive of fashion history in Tauranga and see what we have.

 A Victorian buckle.

E.P.N.S. Electro plated nickel silver, known as nickel silver, became widely used after 1840 as a cheap substitute for silver.

The colour of the metal and the design of this buckle suggest it is of a similar era.

This brooch has diamantes in brass coloured mounts, set onto metal filigree work.  Stylistically it appears to be from the late 1800's to early 1900's.   Filigree work uses twisted metal wires shaped in curving patterns, soldered together at certain points creating an effect of lace.

On the reverse are 3 metal hooks where the metal brooch was attached to the garment.  The metal used in this brooch could be pinchbeck, an alloy of zinc and copper, used as a cheap imitation of gold.

Through the last two centuries there has been a love of the fashions of the 1700's, and this buckle with its portrait of an elegant women of that era is a reflection of that.

The powdered wig, and large straw hat with its floral trim and ribbons, are reminiscent of the Rococo period so popular in France at the time of Marie Antoinette.  Straw hats were fashionable as part of morning dress and this created a certain frustration for the fashionable lady of the day, who had a beautiful new straw hat, but knew it was unfashionable to rise before 11am.  What to do?  A fellow blogger Lauren has a great post on this on her blog: Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide.

The reverse of the buckle.

This buckle is made from an early lightweight plastic, possibly celluloid, and unfortunately it has broken in half.  I love the style and wonder what the dress it was originally worn with was like.  Possibly a slim fitting navy crepe dress with gold buttons, and a kick pleat at the back of the narrow calf length skirt.

This bakelite buckle is typical of those worn in the 1930's, and below the 1930 Sear's Catalogue shows the style of dress the buckle may have been worn with.

 I love the shape and form of this buckle, it is so Flash Gordon with it's Art Deco styling.
The 1936 film serial, that told the story of Flash Gordon and his team on a mission to stop the planet Mongo from colliding with earth, and his encounters with the evil Emperor Ming.
 One of the space ships, wonderful stuff.  They sounded like lawn mowers as they moved across the screen with the occasional glimpse of the wire holding them aloft.  Favourite Sunday morning television. But I digress.

 The Deco styling of this metal buckle is suggestive of the 1930's.

The crepe fabric this buckle is covered with has heavy staining, but it has an elegant shape.

A new hard plastic, this buckle is post 1940's.

The metal frame of this buckle is covered with white vinyl.

Although this belt was not in the box with the buckles, I had to include it to finish this post.  It is part of the Brain Watkins House collection, a thin red plastic belt from the 1970's.  Isn't it fantastic?  In this post I hope to have illustrated how fashion is not only influenced by the culture and events of the times, but also by new materials and ways of using those materials.