Sunday, March 30, 2014

2014 Conference Fabric - The Gentlemen's Fabric

One of the annual highlights of the Ladies & Gentlemen of the 1860's conference is the Saturday morning reveal of the "conference fabric" - each faculty member receives a piece, a dress length for the ladies and a different fabric for the men, typically enough to make a vest. It's always amazing to see how different the same fabric can look made up, depending on the choice of trims, placement, etc.

This year, the men received the above fabric - I don't remember the exact textile makeup, wool and silk? Wool and linen? 

Regardless, it had a lovely hand and was enjoyable to work with. But the big question was how to use it? Robin has several vests now, in a variety of fabrics and a vest just doesn't have as many options as does a dress.

This pattern has been floating around in my brain for several years now:

It's from Peterson's, circa 1857. No instructions are given, just the diagram. Looking at the design, it seemed to be intended for braidwork - the pattern is continuous for the most part, with few stops or starts. But I have not yet encountered an original trimmed in such a manner - so time to do some research!

First I reviewed all my photos of originals: embroidery but no braidwork. Then I started on the reference books and in Nineteenth-Century Costume Treasures published by Shippensburg University, I found my first clue - the same pattern as above, with the note that it had been previously published in the Ladies' Cabinet of Fashion (an English publication) in 1852.  

A bit of online searching, and success!

This time instructions were included:


Materials :—Black Cloth sufficient for a Waistcoat; black Velvet, Albert Braid, and Gold Thread.

The design given is equally adapted for braiding and application. The latter term is applied (as most ladies are aware) to any sort of work in which the pattern is formed in one fabric, and laid on another, which is the ground. The edges are finished in various ways. When muslin and net are used, the edges are sewed or button-holed over; for velvet, cloth, and satin a braid of some sort is usually laid over the edge, and sewed over. The Albert braid, recently made in this country, is especially adapted for such a purpose; it looks much richer than the flat silk braidings; and when edged on each side with gold thread, it has a very rich effect.

To prepare the work, draw the pattern the full size, on bank-post paper, and mark all the outlines by pricking them, at equal distances, with a coarse needle. Place the pattern over the velvet, keeping it in its place by means of weights, and apply fine pounce all over the surface with a large flat stump. When the paper is removed, the design will be seen clearly marked on the velvet. By laying the paper on the other side, the other half of the waistcoat can be marked. As these outlines are, however, easily effaced, it will be necessary to mark them over again with a solution of flake-white and gum-water, applied with a fine sable brush.

As in all else, there is a great improvement in the mode of marking patterns of late years. These prepared patterns, with a powder which u very adhesive, and a large stump, made for the purpose, can be readily obtained. The composition of the powder is a secret; but where 'he work is to be either cut out (as in applique) or braided immediately afterwards, this powder is sufficiently adhesive to enable the worker to dispense with the second marking.

The velvet should be cut out very accurately, and with sharp fine scissors. Then fine size, made of the best glue, being slightly applied to the hack, the velvet is laid on the cloth, in its proper place. When dry, the edges are to be finished first with Albert braid, then with a gold thread laid on at each side of it.

The scrolls are worked with the braid and thread only, and the veining of the leaves are done in the same way. The ends are to be drawn through the cloth, and fastened in the back.

If the waistcoat is to be braided only, without the application, a colour different from that of the material itself may be chosen for the braid. Narrow flat silk braid, commonly known as Russian or French braid, may also be substituted for the Albert; and the gold thread may be dispensed with. The design I have given is the newest style; and the shape of the enlarges pattern very good.

As I happened to have a large spool of pale blue soutache or "Russian" braid, my decision for this particular vest was made!

I typically use the Martha McCain Simplicity vest pattern - it fits Robin well and is accurate. But a couple problems quickly became obvious - the braiding pattern did not leave space for the pockets and did not fit on the lapels.

So back to the photos of originals, and as I suspected, original embellished vests always left room for the pocket welts. So I chose to split and separate the motifs. I considered designing some type of "bridge" embroidery to connect them again, but after completing the two separate motifs, I decided it would be too busy.

As for the lapels, turning the motif upside down fixed that problem. Changing fashion, over the decade between 1852 and the mid-1860's  probably accounts for the change in lapel shape.

I put in the darts and the pockets (I loath doing welt pockets!) before starting the embroidery and stitched through the paper pattern, pulling it away later. I found a beading needle worked very well, as it's important to stay in the center ditch of the soutache braid.

I had a set of buttons in my stash that I had intended to use, but didn't like them once the embroidery was finished. So I made a set of perfectly matched to the fabric grindle buttons, tutorial available here.

And here's the final result:

The above two photos were taken during the "grand reveal". Unfortunately, we failed to take any "posed" shots - must remember to do so this summer.

I'm quite pleased with the results, although I so see all the flaws, and Robin has been sternly cautioned to avoid any spillage - those results would not be pleasant!

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