Regency Accessories

Whew, it’s been busy around here! This Saturday I’ll be attending the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, KY, and a week and a half after that I’ll leave for Costume College in LA. I’ve been buried in preparations.

If you follow me on Facebook (and if you don’t, you’re missing out!), you probably saw this:

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This post is not about that. Sorry! But there will be an in-depth write up of the gown and all the accessories shortly after Costume College. It will be worth the wait, I promise.

Instead, I wanted to tell you a little bit about the accessories I’m making for the Jane Austen Festival this weekend! The first order of business was head coverings. I originally wanted a tall crowned bonnet in this style, but Mrs. Stitch and I decide that it would look better on her and it would be easier for me to cover my hair with a turban rather than a bonnet. I also decided that I was not up for the hassle of making a hat from scratch, so that meant I need to look for some kind of base to start with.

IMG_9416Bingo! Thanks, Amazon!

The crown of this hat is basically perfect for the shape I was going for, but it was a little too tall and the brim needed some shaping. I measured how tall I wanted the crown to be and then separated it from the brim at that point. They get put back together later. Then I choose a spot on the brim where I wanted it to start narrowing toward the back, marked those spots with pins, and then started unpicking the stitching. I stopped when I reached my pin marks because I didn’t need to change the shape of the front of the brim.

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Once I’d separated the braid in the back, I cut them right up the center back. to make it easier to shape. I left the first few rows near the crown alone.

From there I pinned and shaped the back half of the brim and stitched the braids back together. You, in theory, could do this by machine, but that sounded like a hassle to me, so I hand stitched it with button hole twist thread. I used the existing outside edge of the brim to finish everything off neatly. Luckily for me, the brim already had wire in it, so I didn’t have to add any.

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When that was done, I put the crown inside the the brim. Since I shorted the crown, the base of the brim was now bigger than the crown, so it slipped inside so that one row of braid over lapped on each side. Then I hand stitched it back together.

Now that the boring part was done, Mrs. Stitch and I started playing with decorations. I had already ordered some sage green silk ribbon and then I went shopping for some flowers to add. I also had some trim laying around that matched pretty well.

And there it is, a bonnet! Mrs. Stitch is actually sewing the decorations on herself, so I can’t claim credit for it when it’s done! It’s going to look so sweet with her pink dress.

Next up, Mrs. Stitch needed some kind of chemisette to fill in her neckline, since we are going during the day. I already had a a chemisette, so I already knew the process. Mrs. Stitch really liked the lace I used on the robe a la francaise I just finished it, so I used that to trim the neckline. The fabric was something I had in the stash (it was once a curtain from Target). I used the dress form to rough out three squares to do the fronts and back and then tapered the bottoms to reduce bulk. I machined stitched the sides and casing for the ties in the bottom. I did hand sew the hem at the neckline. This garment really adds something to a relatively simple dress.

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Okay, it’s a little sad on the form. But I promise it’s cute on her!

I also decided we needed some reticules to carry our phones and wallets and whatever else (just like they did in the old-timey times!). I had some yellow linen in the stash, so I roughed out some shapes based on period sources, and cut the linen plus some white cotton for a lining. Since the fabric is plain, I decided we needed some tassels! It’s actually pretty easy to make tassels (I used this tutorial), so I bought some pearl cotton embroidery thread and made the tassels plus some twisted cord.

Finally, since my dress is pretty short and shows my feet, I really wanted to gussy up my shoes. I already had some pointy toe, lace-up flats in a boring beige color, similar to this extant pair, so I decided to paint them yellow and make some new laces. Painting them was…interesting. I first tried to use a multi-surface craft paint mixed with textile medium and brush on the color. After three coats, it still looked terrible. And I wasn’t surprised! We paint shoes for theatre all the time and that technique just doesn’t look good up close, at least not when I do it. Maybe I’m not patient enough. Streaky paint is fine on a big stage, but it’s not great for up-close things. So I used something that I discovered in grad school; floral spray paint. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find it locally, but the nearest Micael’s actually carried it in all the colors. I bought it in yellow and ivory and did thin layers, alternating colors.

The paint job is not perfect, especially because there are layers of craft paint I couldn’t get off underneath. But it’s way better and I’m very happy with the final color! To make the laces, I used the same twisted cord and tassel technique from the reticules. Gratuitous recommendation:  lace the shoes BEFORE you put the tassels on!

And that’s it! Well, I also hemmed from fabric for a turban but it’s a long white rectangle, so it’s not very interesting to look at. Next week you’ll get to see all of these accessories put together with our dresses in action at the Jane Austen Festival! I can’t wait to show you!

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