Thursday 6 October 2016

HSM '15 #11 & #12: Moravian Wallachian pieces

Oops! This post never made it from the concept stage! It's been sitting there for about ten months... well, better late than never!

The Heritage challenge last year got me thinking about Moravian Wallachian folk costume (again, to make a full disclosure). I did not manage to make anything for the challenge itself, but over the months I found many pictures online, Pinning away on Pinterest. The last two challenges of 2015 eventually lent themselves to parts of the costume that I knew could be useful in other ways as well. Because I don’t live in the region, so wearing it as a folk costume is a bit out (although now, months later, me & my sister are reconsidering that part, too). But Moravian Wallachia is one part of my regional heritage that I feel a strong affinity to.

I thought the apron would be one thing I would not be making any time soon, because modrotisk (“blue print”), the traditional resist-printed, indigo-dyed fabric is only available from a few places (two?), and at cca 200 CZK per metre of only 0,8 wide fabric... it may not be the most expensive fabric out there, but certainly expensive for something that is just an experiment in historical clothing intended for practical wear. So of course, just to prove the old Czech adage that “people intend and God changes” – towards the end of November, mom found an old modrotisk skirt in her stores that turned out to have several holes in it, so I took the seam ripper to it, cut it up and turned it into an apron. Which I just so-so managed with some careful patching and by resigning myself to a less full specimen. Some folk costume aprons from further south in Moravia that I’d seen an online listing for have in them almost twice the amount of fabric as what my apron ended up with! Wallachia is a poorer region, so I feel okay with what I've got, but it does mean it doesn't go as far around my sides as I would prefer and the cartridge pleats have to be a bit looser.

There’s another way, much more conspicuous to me (and experts, no doubt) in which my apron is incorrect: The aprons of Moravian Wallachia all appear to have a scattered small scale print, though often with a decorative border, rather than stripes of pattern like this. (One extant example here - it's just on Pinterest, because Centrální evidence sbírek is an unwieldy site that can't easily be linked back to. The fabric itself looks a bit different from most modrotisk fabrics I know, too - I guess it was further treated somehow.)

What the item is: A Moravian Wallachian modrotisk apron
The Challenge: #11 Silver Screen
What's your onscreen inspiration?: The Czech TV fairy tale „Pohádka svatojánské noci“ ("The Fairy Tale of Midsummer Night“) – set in Moravian Wallachia and featuring variously accurate versions of the local folk costume
Fabric: resist-printed cotton “modrotisk” – I salvaged about 1,3 m out of the skirt; rough thick linen for reinforcing the waistband
Pattern: none – it’s all rectangles
Year: The film is probably set in the mist of time before 1848, but the way I made it (with machine sewing), it’s got to be later – around 1900 or after, maybe? These folk costumes were among those worn way into mid-20th century.
Notions: three colours of cotton thread
How historically accurate is it? As indicated above, the machine sewing makes it less historical than the approximate setting of the film. And unfortunately, the print of the fabric doesn’t appear to be accurate for the region, although as far as I can tell, it is the correct type of fabric.
Hours to complete: I always lose count. Around 6? There is the hand-sewing involved in the cartridge pleats; otherwise it would be much quicker to whip up.
First worn: I think I’ve found the perfect use for it now: to keep balls and skeins of yarn in my lap while I’m knitting! :D It's not as tempting as a cooking apron when I have one that covers me more.
Total cost: Pretty much zero for me – the materials were all given to me. If it were to be made from the traditional fabric and a bit wider as I intended, it would go up to around 400 CZK, though.

The reinforcing strip of linen in the waistband:

I was bitten by the knitting bug again towards the end of last year, when I first knitted myself a new winter hat from a lovely merino yarn, then some wristwarmers as gifts (which I completely forgot to take photos of before I gave them to the recipients). And then I knitted a pair of socks inspired by anextant Moravian Wallachian pair in the National Museum. I keep seeing all these lovely Latvian and Estonian mittens and stuff, on Pinterest and Ravelry, and as much as I love them, and as much as I love the fact these countries are being discovered by knitters around the world, my patriotic self went all "and what about Czech knitting?" inside me. So when I came across a so-called Latvian braid on an extant pair of Moravian Wallachian socks, I was sold and had to try to recreate the style.

I intentionally say “the style”, because I did not try to recreate the pair completely. For one thing, I did not have such thick homespun wool and had to make do with my stash – ending up with a pair made of fuzzy mystery yarn and quadrupled-up thin, probably polyester yarns. Not the most accurate of my HSM entries. But I love the style, so first thing I do when I get my hands on some suitable wool is try it again and maybe even better. :-)

What the item is: Moravian Wallachian socks “kopyce/kopytce/kopitce/kapce”
The Challenge: # 12 Re-Do
What Challenge/s are you re-doing?: 1 Foundations – I did not intend to count it, but then Leimomi quoted her mother as saying that a good pair of socks was the foundation of a good outfit, so in it goes :-)
3 Stashbusting – all from stash yarn
5 Practicality – socks are practical, and these more so – they were worn into the everyday rawhide shoes, so for work and travel, and to protect the feet from chafing
6 Out of Your Comfort Zone – my first time trying to recreate a historical knitted garment (from sight), and doing the heel this way, and starting with a Latvian braid (and my second time doing a Latvian braid ever), and doing stranded colourwork knitting in the round (easy-peasy, no wonder it’s traditional); and, well, technically my first time doing 1880s, but I don’t think that counts :D
7 Accessorise – I don’t know if socks count as accessories in fashion parlance, but I do count them
8 Heirlooms & Heritage – the primary challenge for these, one side of my family hails from Moravian Wallachia
9 Brown – there’s dark brown patterning
10 Sewing Secrets – I started the first sock too wide and left it that way, which I managed to hide a bit by steaming but not quite, and less secretly, the second sock’s toes are made with different yarn, and I didn’t have dark brown so I mocked it up with very thin brown + black
11 Silver Screen – just like with my regular entry for that challenge, I’m drawing on the Czech TV fairy-tale “Pohádka svatojánské noci” that features Moravian Wallachian folk costumes
Fabric: yarn – a large skein of thrifted fuzzy off-white mystery yarn, doubled; off-white wool remnant; very thin mystery yarns, probably polyester – one white and one beige to supplement the slightly thinner wool, two black and two different shades of brown for the dark brown
Pattern: none – based on an extant example (men’s, it says, but all my other sources point towards knitted socks being worn by women) in the collections of Národní muzeum, and a tutorial in a Burda knitting booklet; patterning made up as I went
Year: 1880s
Notions: tools - size 2,5 needles, tiny safety pins used as knitting markers
How historically accurate is it? I’ll give myself about 50%, although that’s probably still generous for how it ended up looking... Original ones would be made of homespun wool, which mine definitely isn’t (working from stash). The fuzziness is very wrong indeed. And the patterning I used isn’t documented, although plausible. Colours and knitting style/shape as good as I could make it (it could probably still be better, and probably would be better with more accurate yarn); shaping and including the strip on the foot is definitely better than I’ve seen in currently sold examples. Conclusion: If I can get accurate materials, I can make it quite accurately.
Hours to complete: about 30
First worn: Around the house to keep my feet warm in winter, a lot :-) And I think I've worn them out a couple of times, too.
Total cost: Cca 50 CZK – the fuzzy off-white was about 30, IIRC (in a thrift shop); the wool (of which I only used a little) was about 45; the thin ones were a gift and I only used a little.

What I learned: A new and apparently historical way of knitting a sock heel (I’ve been mocking up store-bought ones so far). Tentative theory: the patterned strip on the foot that I see in extant examples and don’t in modern ones was done there to strengthen the sock in the area.

There's also this pair from the decade earlier, which is, interestingly, knitted very differently (the decreases at the toe are different - not symmetrical, and further into the centre of the sock; the wool's also different, I think). What fascinates me is that these older ones also have what looks like a variation on the "Latvian braid" at the top. As if that really had been a standard feature of these socks in the past (to strengthen the top edge?). Compared to both these extant examples, the modern examples I've seen sold online are a very pale attempt (that, in my opinion, shows they're no longer being made with functionality/endurance in mind)!
And this pair, which doesn't look like a Moravian Wallachian example, but it says on eSbirky that it was also worn into krpce (the rawhide? shoes), and it's also from the 1880s, so I used it as further reference for the knitting techniques of the time.

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Deciphering Historical Clothes: Czech wristwarmers from the 1880s

The HSM theme for March is Protection. Looking through my pins of Czech historical garments, I was left uninspired in that regard. (I try to focus on Czech collections in this series now, because it's a good way for me to study and showcase my own country's history!) Until I remembered an item I'd already wracked my head about, an item that protects from cold, so it fits the theme beautifully. Even more so because we've got snow now! Makes my plans of finishing a straw hat or covering an umbrella / parasol kind of less attractive than taking up my needles...

Yep, I'm doing a different thing this time around: I'm looking at a knit garment. Well, an accessory of a super-simple not-shaped kind; but made interesting with lots of colours.

Apologies to my non-knitting readers, and a warm welcome to those who knit. :-) I'm still something of a beginner intermediate in the world of knitting, but things like this inspire me to get better!

There isn't much knitting to be found in Czech online collections so far, sadly; it seems knitting, on the whole, wasn't such a big part of Czech folk culture as it tends to be in colder climates. Or at least not big enough for museum collectors to focus on it. :P But I've still found a few very interesting things (notably, Moravian Wallachian socks!). And one very, very striking thing was this pair of patterned wristwarmers that not only uses seven colours, but one of those colours is even metallic silver!

Not a sort of thing you'd see in Moravian Wallachia, I think. The description on Esbirky unfortunately does not specify where exactly these do come from; but it does give another very helpful detail for deciphering and possible recreating: the dimensions. Cca 20 cm around and 12 cm long. I'd slate them for a woman's wristwarmers based on that, although that's obviously just a guess.

Looking at the opening in the big photo and counting very carefully, I've arrived at the tentative stitch count of 88 stitches: it seems to be somewhere in the area between 80 and 90, and it has to be divisible by four (because of the patterning). It doesn't strike you immediately from looking at the photo, but it also has to be a small gauge (and given the density of the knit, likely a combination of tiny needles and slightly thicker yarn, my favourite way to knit :D): 88 stitches in 20 cm gives me the approximate gauge of 11 stitches per inch. (<= 44 stitches per 10 cm / 4 inches)
The silver threads are somewhat thinner than the wools, and distort the knitting.

It's knitted flat: notice the seaming inside.  UPDATE MANY YEARS LATER: I'm actually not sure what I was looking at - it's just the "step" you get from joining to knit in the round and not bothering to correct for that...

Notice also that the museum photographed one of the wristwarmers upside down. The trick to deciphering a knit garment is first and foremost looking closely and deciding where upside/downside is. Much like the grainlines in woven fabrics. In the above photo, it's the piece on the right that's upside up.

"Fair Isle" knitting is fun and easy to decipher, especially on a "flat" object like this, because you can see the individual stitches clearly and really all you have to do is chart it out... It's the purled beginnings and ends of the knitting that gave me some trouble here, and I had to resort to trying it out.

My first two-coloured attempts weren't very promising:

It actually is super simple - it's just garter stitch - but I still struggle with visualising how multi-coloured purls work... When I switched to my final mock-up in the actual colours, I still had to unravel it a few times, and as you can see, I still made a mistake in the upper section of it (it should end up looking like orange-yellow, not yellow-orange). But it's a mistake small and obvious enough for me to know how it should really go.
(My yellow is much thinner than my green and therefore distorted in that section, but it's correct.)

I knitted this test piece with 12 stitches, in yarns calling for cca 3 mm needles according to the maker (most of them are remnants of unknown description, though), on 2,5 mm needles, and it came out 5 cm wide, so for the original size, you'll want to go about half that...

* * *

So, here goes the pattern as deciphered. If there are any experienced knitters among you, used to English charting conventions etc., I would appreciate knowing if this makes sense to you or if you'd write/do some things differently.

If you want to knit this in the round, just knit every "wrong side" row of the garter stitch sections instead of purling them. In my experience, stranded colourwork is easier in the round; but to be historically accurate to the original, flat knitting it is. (AHEM)

Beginning in garter stitch
cast a number of stitches divisible by 4, in red (88 with a gauge of 11 st / inch for the original size)
1. (right side) purl red
2. (wrong side) purl orange
3. (r) purl orange
4. (w) purl 2 stitches in yellow, purl 2 in green, repeat
5. (r) purl 2 stitches in green, purl 2 in yellow, repeat
6. (w) purl red
7. (r) purl red

Stranded colourwork in stockinette
66 rows, starting on the wrong side
(The museum description says the rows of motifs repeat thrice, but they don't really, which was the original reason I tried to decipher it. :D)
Chart starts at the bottom. Grey stands for silver, obviously. The blue dots at the side indicate fifth rows, red dots indicate tenth rows, for greater ease of keeping track and count.


End in garter stitch
1. (w) purl red
2. (r) purl red
3. (w) purl yellow
4. (r) purl orange
5. (w) purl red
6. (r) purl bind off in red

* * *

In case you are wondering, I made the chart in MS Paint by magnifying, utilising the grid and the pencil tool to colour individual pixels in the magnified grid, and then hitting PrintScreen and working with that as my picture afterwards. It's a quick and "cheap" method, and it made charting very easy with opening the MS Paint window on top of the photo of the original. If I do this more often, though, I'd probably prepare myself a grid to colorise (using the Can of Paint tool in that case), skipping the magnifying and PrintScreening, because it comes out a bit small this way (so I can't insert any notes and stuff into the chart itself if they are necessary).

One day, I'll make these wristwarmers and post this pattern to Ravelry so that there will be a traditional Czech pattern out there. *rubs her hands with a supervillain snigger*

Monday 1 February 2016

Deciphering Historical Clothes: 1830s silk wrap day dress

I've decided to try and do a Deciphering post for each month this year, to go with the Historical Sew Monthly challenges. Now, these are not going to be the same thing, not even remotely, as Leimomi's inspiration posts. For one thing, with each garment of the month, I doubt the beginning of the month is enough time for anyone interested to gather all materials and make the garment in time - and that's assuming I manage to post it in the beginning of the month every time or that my deciphering is enough to get you started. The challenges simply provide me with a good starting point in looking for decipherable garments.

I'll also try to focus on garments in Czech collections, although we'll see how that goes...

The Czech Regency stays from Příbram seem like a very good "entry" for January's theme of Procrastination - it took me about four years to make mine!

For February's "Pleats & Tucks" challenge, I turn to a garment I've posted about on this blog before - the wrap day dress that I saw in an exhibition in Dačice, which I posted about here

Photography was allowed at that exhibition (not usually a given in the Czech Republic!) and thanks to the setup, I even managed to snatch a back view of the bodice (not always a given, either!). The description said that it came from the collections of Prácheňské muzeum in Písek, but since then, I've come across a photo in Centrální evidence sbírek that shows a dress so suspiciously similar I'm 99,99 % sure it's the same one, and places it in Třebíč, so... probably a misattribution at the Dačice exhibition? (There were other garments from Třebíč there, too.) I'll come back to that photo from CES, because it shows more of the construction! It also says it's made from silk taffetta, which is a fairly safe guess anyway with this period and this look, but it's good to know.

It was one of my favourite garments in that exhibition - a rather boring yellowish brown shade, but exquisite construction with an eye for detail, so I was inspired to take detailed photos even at the time. For which I am grateful now, because there is so much going on with the construction that I can draw inspiration from, even if I never make this particular dress!

Going by the shape of the sleeves, with the puff lower in the sleeve, I would guess it's from later in the decade; you can even come across such puffs in fashion plates from early 1840s. In this particular exhibition, or the photo on CES, the puffs are not very pronounced, but I've come across a photo from another exhibition in Znojmo where there's yet again a garment so suspiciously similar to this one I think it might be the same one... where they'd gone for an arrangement of the sleeves that makes them puffier. I guess it depends on how long the arms of the wearer actually were (and therefore suspect it is supposed to be puffier).
Other than the basic shape, the above overall photo (especially if blown up to full size) shows rather well that there are two darts in the bodice on each side, sitting more to the sides than they would on later garments.

So how would this amazingly detailed thing go together? That's where the opportunity to take more detailed photos (or look at more detailed photos on a museum site, if available) comes in handy.


Just this half-photo gives you more details: it shows the lie of the pleats on the sleeves (knife pleats towards the back in the upper section and, if I'm not mistaken, towards the front in the lower section) and in the skirt (flat / box pleat in the front and then knife pleats towards the back) - in fact, it shows you that the sleeves are pleated rather than some other form of gathering. And that the edges of the collar are piped. Twice, in fact. It also hints that the sleeves close on the inside seam in the bottom section - you can see the edge overlapping. It also shows the fabric loop on the belt that the belt end goes through.
I can see more in this photo itself, actually, but let's keep it simple for now, because I have more detailed photos coming...

Here's the lower sleeves with more details. It proves my theory that the lower sleeve pleats are facing towards the front. It also shows the bands that hold them down: they consist of two rows of piping / cording. Now, this is a conjecture, but I would suggest they were made in a manner similar to this tutorial by Kelly of Tea in a Teacup.
It also shows the closure: fabric covered buttons and fabric loops (most of the buttons seem to be lost, but you can see one closed button and one orphaned loop in the upper photo.)
There is also very fine piping along the cuff and the slit in the sleeve. It is seen more clearly in the second photo. This sort of treatment would definitely require a finely woven fabric and really good skills in handling it!
The fabric and my photos don't alow me to see the grainlines quite as clearly as I would wish to, but when I look at the upper part of the sleeve on the photos and at the behaviour of the pleats on the bottom, I am fairly sure the sleeve is cut in such a manner that the bottom at the very least lies on the bias - see how the pleats look a bit "twisted", or seem to have creases running diagonally across the way they are sitting? Pleats done on the straight of grain don't do that. :-)
Cutting sleeves on the bias was a common practice at the time, as demonstrated by the pattern diagrams in The Workwoman's Guide (p. 346). (In fact, I would suggest perusing that publication as an excellent primary source if you ever wanted to re-make this dress.)

Friday 1 January 2016

Deciphering historical clothes: Czech supportive (under)garments - Now edited with more info!

I've found it!

What did I find, you ask?

Why, Czech Regency/Romantic era soft/corded stays!

It's a big thing, really. Every single Czech book on historical clothing I've ever read just repeated that no corsets were worn in the Empire/Regency era, in a manner that suggests "no supportive undergarments were worn because all women suddenly went carefree and racy", which, after just a little careful examination of the portraits of the era, is obviously incorrect. But I'm not quite so surprised any more, because scouring yielded very little by way of corsets and stays as such, and even what I've seen of the Central Records of Collections so far shows little (Centrální evidence sbírek, - a wonderful source, but built so that it's difficult to search for pictures and pretty impossible to link back to individual pages).

But I've found a local example at last! And a very pretty, embroidered example at that, though the quality of the photo leaves a lot to be desired.

Tellingly, the museum calls it a "bodice" - they have no idea what it really is (EDIT: They did not when it was labelled - sorry about the wording, see comments). I wonder if there are more misattributed Regency stays floating around in Czech museums after all? It's like Czech collective memory forgot these were supportive undergarments somewhere along the way, and when historians finally started collecting old garments, they didn't really know what they had on their hands.

"bodice, white, embroidered, with straps, plain weave" in the collections of Hornické muzeum Příbram, ID: H/Et708

Things to note: It says the fabric is "plátno", i.e. plain weave. Quite wide straps, not adjustable, but apparently sewn in only after the top edge was bound (or maybe attached in the process of binding? How I wish I could see more of it.) They also seem to be somewhat slanted, suggesting a later date with a more sloping shoulder neckline? And no busk - instead, there are four narrow bones in the front, most of which seem to have broken out or have been removed at a later date. There's a stitching line next to the boning that might be cording, and I think there's cording in the wavy stalk in the bottom embroidery, but otherwise it seems a very soft construction. The hip gussets are sewn in in what seems a thorough, sturdy manner, with two lines of stitching - it might even be flat-felled seams. And the tips of the bust gussests are strengthened with stitching, probably a buttonhole stitch. There are rows of stitching next to the bust gussets, which I think might be bones (sharp ends, so most likely not cording)? And I think there is, or used to be, a drawstring in the top edge - there seems to be some gathering there.

EDIT: The curator has more details:
"- outer fabric is twill (may be cotton) and lining plain weave (linen)
- straps are re-sewn in the front so it is hard to tell how they work originaly (whether they were adjustable) but in the back they were sewn to body and then bound
- all bones (reeds) are missing, except few fragments
- there is no cording, beside front bones or in the embroidery (it is interesting, the embroidery was done after lining was in place)
- bust gussets do have buttonhole stitch points
- in channels beside bust gussets are white baleens
- there is no drawstring nor channell on the top
About terminology: (sorry, but I was considering it for a while). I think there is nothing wrong about using label "bodice" or "živůtek". Databases should be easily searchable so we are encouraged not to use many labels. Živůtek according to Národopisná encyklopedie Čech a Moravy is "part of woman's dress worn over shift on upper half of body" so all items you listed fall into this category. English "bodice" has mostly the same meaning - period dictionaries describe stay as "kind of bodice" etc.

(Some of this refers to what I wrote below - I'm leaving that text as is for reference.)

Thank you very, very much!

Here's a colour-coded version of my original estimate (I'll replace it with an updated version later):

Boning seams
Cording seams
I can't make out the rest of the embroidery properly for outlining - a safer bet would be just to look at the photo and draw out something similar.

The overall style of it points towards a later date, I think - who knows, it might be as late as 1840s, although I'm inclined to think 1820s or thereabouts (no waist shaping yet).

The single, relatively narrow bust gussets suggest to me that this was worn by a lady with a smaller cup size - the shape puts me in mind of my mom, who's the only A- or B-cup in this family, although otherwise sporting a curvy womanly figure with wide hips. I rather like the thought that this was worn by a woman of a similar figure as a Czech woman I know nowadays. :-)

I've never worked with Laughing Moon's Regency Corset pattern myself, but from what I've seen of it online, it seems it could be a really good starting point for recreating this garment, if you were so inclined.

* * *

There is a number of other bodices and stays and corselets in the Příbram collections, and one thing that looks like a swiss waist. There's a lot of bodices that are very clearly folk costume bodices, i.e. meant to be worn on the outside (with embroidery and golden trim and stuff) -  they resemble 1790s stays, as Central Bohemian bodices do, but the fabrics and trim used set them apart. Another tell is the decorative, non-functional "lacing" in the back of many of them.

In the translated descriptions below, I use "corset bodice" for the Czech term "šněrovačka", which, loosely translated, means "laced bodice", but can be used for a whole range of garments from a full-blown waist-reducing corset, through stuff that would probably be called "girdle" in English, to a folk costume bodice. It's my preferred term for Regency stays in Czech, too, by virtue of being fairly all-encompassing and traditional. By virtue of being all-encompassing, the museum descriptions apply it to nearly everything. Except the above. Something tells me that whoever labelled the collection lived under the impression that a "šněrovačka" or corset had to lace in the front, and if it didn't, it had to be a bodice: see also my comment at the end of this post.

"corset bodice, red, silver embroidery, appliqéd trim, with straps, plain weave, leather, metal trim, boning (baleen?), velvet" in the collections of Hornické muzeum Příbram, ID: H/Et706

There are two other garments that throw my knowledge into confusion, and hopefully ultimately forward by that: two garments with the overall approximate shape of 1790s/early 1800s stays, with bust gussets, but they are black-coloured, and one has a silk outer and the other the non-functional lacing in the back. And - this is notable - what appears to be metal grommets (although it's a bit hard to tell with the quality of the photos). They both, however, have the eyelets spaced for spiral-lacing. Are they actual 1790s stays that were later re-used as folk costume bodices, and had their eyelets strengthened with the addition of grommets? Are they 1790s-style stays worn much later than 1790s? Were they folk-costume bodices right from the start, but employing a style not normally found in them (= bust gussets)?

"corset bodice, black, white lining, with straps, cotton, silk, boning" in the collections of Hornické muzeum Příbram, ID: H/Et662

"corset bodice, black, with straps, zig-zag (mock lacing?) in the back, cotton, boning" in the collections of Hornické muzeum Příbram, ID: H/Et709

(The whole collection is awesome. There's also a cap - an actual soft "fashionable" cap with frills and stuff, not a folk costume bonnet, also not something I see often in Czech collections. And what appears to be a "miser's purse" - another Czech first for me! And many other things. Annoyingly, none of it has any dates ascribed. And whoever labeled those things really had no clue about corsetry - there's a corset with a metal busk closure, and it says it goes in the back! It's photographed with the busk in front, as if whoever photographed it had a much better idea than whoever labelled it.)