Monday, July 23, 2018

Burnley & Trowbridge Workshop Apron Front Dress and New Chemisette

This post is about my new apron front dress, with a few lessons learned along the way. I have come to really appreciate and enjoy apron front dresses. They seem like such a strange style at first, but I can get into this one entirely on my own, and I quite like the look of it on! 

The dress is 100% hand sewn, using historically accurate construction techniques. 

At the Oldham County Historical Society.

I made this dress at a Burnley & Trowbridge Workshop in Williamsburg I went to with my friend Hannah in May. This workshop was originally scheduled for October but was moved to May, which worked out great since school was out for me, and Hannah could come!

If you have never been to a B & T workshop, they are great. You work in pairs, and learn to drape patterns on each other. These are especially good if you are someone who is confident sewing with patterns, and ready to move to the next level and start making custom garments on the body.

Fitting on Hannah. Photo courtesy of Angela Burnley.

This turned out to be my second crossover, apron front dress in 6 months. (You can see my post on the Fig Leaf Patterns Surplice Dress here).  I really wanted to be sure the two dresses looked different, so I looked around for a trim option on the front that would really stand out. I found this example in Fashion in Detail from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Fashion in Detail, page 57

This was pretty easy to achieve. Cut out three long strips of fabric, and fold the ends in so no rough edges show. I didn't stitch the edges in place or anything, which seems to have worked out fine. I clipped the ends into my sewing bird from Amazon Drygoods to provide some tension while I braided them.

 As you pin it in place to stitch in place, try to fan out the braid and keep it nice and full. Then stitch the ends down on each side,and use a wide whip stitch to attach it inside the neckline of the garment.

I added tapes on the inside back so I could tie in a pad to hold out the pleats.

I have found with these dresses it is best to make the laces on the apron front long enough so that you can bring them around and tie them in front under your bust. I added a couple of loops on the back to keep them in place (you see this on a lot of originals).  Both the ties and the loops are made of 1/4 inch tape from Burnley & Trowbridge

This not only makes you more self-sufficient, it also provides a nice amount of tension to keep the skirt in place. I also add a couple of straight pins to be sure, and so far I haven't had any issues with it slipping out of place.

Once I have tied the tape snuggly under my bust, I'm actually able to tuck it under the skirt so it doesn't even show. I usually secure the top with a couple of pins, though this is more preventive, I really haven't had trouble with it falling down at all. 

I also wanted a new chemisette to go with the outfit. I draped the pattern out on the mannequin my friend Jocelyn gave me.

If you are someone who wants to take that jump into draping, this would be a great place to start. The first thing I ever draped was a chemisette on my friend Erica back in 2013 when she came for the Jane Austen Festival. You know what a chemisette is supposed to look like, you are really just making sure the shoulder slope, neckline, and length are correct. Take the plunge and try it!

The ruffles are actually antique trim which I restored with Restoration. If you have not used it, this stuff is amazing! It will seriously take the yellow out of older white fabric.

Before and after - I think these were originally meant for the bottom of a sleeve, so I just opened them up and trimmed them down a little. 

I found that I had to iron the antique cotton on a very low setting without any steam. When the iron was too hot it yellowed it again, though the Restoration was able to remove it (AMAZING).

Gathered onto 1/4 inch tape- See Patterns of Fashion Volume 1 page 50 for examples. 

I gathered the trim onto separate pieces of tape which I attached to the collar of the chemisette. There are examples of this from the period, including two in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion. This also means I can easily remove the trim and put it on another chemisette in the future if I want to.

These go really well with my blue cotton spencer and straw bonnet. Put it together and this is definitely my favorite Regency/Federal outfit at the moment.

What we're looking at....well, that's another story...

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Duelists - Mr. Wyatt and Mr. Newkirk

Mister Walter Wyatt is the oft forgotten younger brother of the heroic Captain Wyatt of the King’s cavalry. Walter currently resides in Sheffield, clerking for a minor law firm while recovering his finances after a series of debts and poor investments. Mr. Wyatt enjoys a good round of cards and fancies himself an ameteur politician in the affairs of France and America.

“People tend to confuse me for my brother William despite our significant gap in years. Not that it affects me in the slightest of course, I’m still lively as ever in body and spirit. Mother always doted on him, father preferred him in financial matters. I like to think of myself as an independent gentleman of sorts.”

“I admit I had a bit of an affair with cards for a few years, bad business. Regret my social standing isn’t as it was, but I manage now, had to pay my own way. I still enjoy a good game every now and then, a friendly bet, nothing more. If you’re looking for a real rascal try that blasted Newkirk. The man so drunk last time I saw him that couldn’t spell his own name."

Mr. Lee Newkirk comes from a minor branch of the Shropshire Lees. Mr. Wyatt and Mr. Newkirk have been seen in the same circles, and have even been sporting companions on occasion. 

Unfortunately, of late they have had a falling out over a game of cards. Mr. Wyatt believes he was cheated by Newkirk, however Nekirk refuses to even take the young man's complaint seriously.  His disrespect has lead young Wyatt to challenge him to a duel! 

Mr. Newkirk laughs at Wyatt's challenge.

Of course, such proceedings are highly illegal. However if you wish to observe, and make sure that the proceedings take place in accordance with the Code Duello, come to the Village Green at 1pm on Saturday. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Denizens of Spring Grove Cottage- Part II

The year is 1814, and the town of Meryton is overjoyed to see sailors and soldiers returning from the wars.  Napoleon has been defeated, and sent off to the Island of Elba in the Mediterranean. In September, representatives of the Great Powers will meet at the Congress of Vienna to redraw the map of Europe. The Island of Britain stands tall and victorious. To the Empire! 

Below you will meet the denizens of Spring Grove Cottage, who are receiving guests into their parlour in Meryton for games of whist, good conversation, and general hospitality. 

Colonel David Phipps

"Retired half pay Colonel at about 400 pounds per year with active service in American Revolution as an Ensign in 1780 and captured at Yorktown in 1781. Retired in 1812 missing the finish of the Napoleonic War. Most of my career has been on staff in Horse Guards, and feeling bitter about not being in service for the end because my regimental seniority was so low.
Inherited my estate in 1812 when my brother died without heirs. Land and little money came with the estate. Never married but now wishing I had married someone with money. Looking for investors to build a canal through my property to make money on the transport of coal and farm goods to market."

The Ladies of Spring Grove, of course, defer to Col. Phipps on all military matters. 

"May I introduce to you to my sister. Her husband is in Canada with the navy and she is visiting me for an extended stay. She is actually staying at Spring Grove Cottage with Miss Tattman and Mrs. Thornberry because of my financial situation has not let me put the house in order since my brother let it go into decline. We always enjoy company for they are a good source of current events."

Photo Courtesy of Historic Locust Grove 

Mrs. Conklin

"My first husband was a scoundrel that fortunately died. I later married Captain Conklin who is a second son. He was a Lt in the war of 1812. In 1814 after the battle of Lake Erie he captured an american ship named Somers and was given it's command. Since the war he has been off and on guarding the Canadian border but will be returning to England in the autumn due to the treaty. He plans to retire at that time. Although a second son, he does stand to inherit a small piece of property through his mother's side. 
I am generally with my husbands family who treats me lovely despite my not having children. However, I feel it necessary from time to time to remove myself from them and visit my own dear family. I am happy to be able to spend time with my brother Col. Phipps and although I cannot stay with him in his lodgings I look forward to when his newly inherited estate is ready. I will be certain to give him my views on how he should improve this estate.  
I love to talk of books and art, enjoy music and plays and of course balls and assemblies. Most of all I look forward to renewing friendships and being in the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation."


These characters are fictitious, constructs of our own active imaginations. We have endeavored to be inspired by history and literature, while creating a story which fit what we wanted to do for the event.  The ships and battles listed above were real.

Overall, this is our tribute to Jane Austen, with a hint of Cranford thrown in. We hope you will come play with us!

Part I

Monday, July 2, 2018

Jane Austen Festival 2018- Meet the Denizens of Spring Grove Cottage (Part I)

The year is 1814, and the town of Meryton is overjoyed to see sailors and soldiers returning from the wars.  That dreadful Napoleon defeated at last, never to return!!! Huzzah for the Empire! 

Below you will meet the denizens of Spring Grove Cottage, who are receiving guests into their parlour in Meryton for games of whist, good conversation, and general hospitality. 

Miss Elizabeth Tattman was born in Canterbury, though her father took his young wife and daughter to Bristol shortly thereafter. Engaged in the shipping business, he was for a time quite successful. When Elizabeth was nearly 16, her father suffered several setbacks, and lost his business. She was forced to withdraw from school, and the family only maintained a basic gentility through the help of her mother’s generous relations. Her father however, determined that his young daughter should have every opportunity despite their reduced circumstances, schooled her at home.  Eventually Mr. Tattman was able to attain a position working for another shipping firm, and he and his family settled in a comfortable, if less impressive, sort of life. At 18, Miss Tattman became a teacher at a local academy for young ladies. 

Photo courtesy of Laurie Tavan

When Miss Tattman was nearly 20,  she was able to attract the attentions of a man in his early 30’s (Ah, the sweet follies of youth!). He proposed marriage soon after, but the event continued to be postponed and never came. Finally the engagement was broken off, with quite a healthy settlement made upon a young woman of reduced circumstances who was no longer quite so young, and might have no other prospects.

Miss Tattman fancies herself a bit of a bluestocking, and loves to hear the latest news about the London theatre, and any story about "Dear Doctor Johnson" (whom, of course, she never met). She now keeps house with her cousin, 

Mrs. Margaret Thornberry, widow of Lieutenant James Thornberry, who died in March 1801 when his ship, the HMS Invincible, was damaged in a storm off the coast of Norfolk and sank taking 400 lives with it. 

Photo courtesy of Fox & Rose Photography

"I'm not sure why the navy would tempt fate by naming a ship "Invincible," when we all know that nothing is invincible!  We had been married but a few years and had two small boys, John and Benjamin.  Since Mr. Thornberry died while in the service to the empire, I receive a small pension on which to live.  My boys joined the military like their father before them and are both fighting in that unpleasantness with the American Republic. I worry constantly for their safety and cannot wait for their return.  John is in the army somewhere down by New Orleans, and Benjamin is on a ship off the coast of Virginia.  I have some of their letters if you'd like the latest news from the war.

When Mr. Thornberry was alive, we'd host the most wonderful parties, and I missed those so much.  Music and cards and dancing!  Oh, it was so much fun!  My pension was enough to support my boys and me but not enough to allow for any of those wonderful diversions of the past.  Now that my dear cousin, Miss Elizabeth Tattman, and I keep house together,  we have the means to properly enjoy the company of our wonderful friends again and entertain them in the way in which I was once accustomed. "

Photo courtesy of Asha Ananda 

"Won't you please join us in a game of whist?  I confess, I am terrible at it, so you may not want to be my partner, but I can promise all of the latest news from town while we play!"

Setting up house together has allowed the ladies an agreeable degree of independence and gentility (which they might not otherwise enjoy). Living in this state, they are more comfortable and secure than say, dear Miss and Mrs. Bates, though still in awe of the grandeur displayed by Caroline, Lady Linnington. Their parlour is an hospitable and merry, if somewhat provincial place, full of good company and good conversation. 

You are hereby cordially invited to join us !

Miss Tattman entertains guests.
Photo courtesy of Janet Abell.


These characters are fictitious, constructs of our own active imaginations. We have endeavored to be inspired by history and literature, while creating a story which fit what we wanted to do for the event. Miss Tattman's story is heavily influenced by Hannah More, had she never run off to London to move in the same circles as Dr. Johnson and David Garrick.  The 'Invincible' did in fact sail, and sink, in the time and places listed above. Sharron and I have both taken our names from family history ('Liebert' was just a bit too french for this setting!).

Overall, this is our tribute to Jane Austen, with a hint of Cranford thrown in. We hope you will come play with us! 

Part II Here