Monday, September 08, 2014

Scouring and Teasing Shetland Fleece



The shetland fleece, outer side up.
It's an incandescent day, ueber-sunny, cool and pleasant, and the cicadas are singing. With Noah home from school with a fever, it's a good opportunity to scour more of Rosemary's shetland fleece. Edit: This post was written before we knew that both boys were going to be really sick for days: high fever, headache, stomach issues, congestion, the works. Little curled-up balls of woe, they were. Christopher is still mending.

Let's take a picture walk, and see how I prepare it for spinning.

The Raw Fleece
The first job was to skirt the fleece. That means taking the extra-dirty, hay and burr and dung-touched outer edges of the fleece. Since the edges are made up of the belly side of the sheep fleece, it's no wonder it's so dirty, because little Mr. has been running around a meadow all year.  In the first picture we see the fleece, outer side up. Notice how long the wool is. Shetlands grow beautifully long locks. Notice that the fleece almost looks like a sheepskin rug in need of a wash. That's how thick the sheared fleece is!

Here is Mr. Shetland himself, in a picture taken by Laura Lough of Square Peg Farm. The sheep may be part Soay, another rare and "unimproved", as they call it, breed. Unimproved my eye. How anyone can improve on an impressive set of colors and softness fit for baby clothes, I can't imagine.

Rosemary's Shetland, who might be a Shetland-Soay mix. He was shorn recently and its his fleece I'm working with.
He's a sweetie and appears to be looking up for a potential treat. Photo courtesy Square Peg Farm.

Shetland fleece, skin side up. Notice the gray undercoat on the back? The back is in the center of the fleece and is the cleanest, highest-quality part.
Here is the outside, close up. Shetlands have waves in their wool. Here I am pointing to the gray undercoat.


Picking the Locks
Here I have pulled off a lock of the wool near the section that was close to my sheepy boy's head. It has lots of "VM", vegetable matter in it.

In this big set of locks, I have spotted two fat burrs. They'll come out right away.



A lock of Shetland wool typically is triangular-shaped. That's because Shetlands are a very, very old breed. Like other early sheep, they have a long outer coat with guard hairs, and then a fine, very soft undercoat. The outer coat is thinner, the inner coat thicker, and so produce the characteristic triangle shape.


Here's another view.


There are lots of ways to get the VM out. One of the most common is to comb it with very sharp combs. I am using one here. Or I can use a smaller, blunt-tined comb.


Once the locks have the worst of the VM out, they are ready to be washed, called scouring. In the case of this morning's scouring, the locks were so clean that I am scouring them without doing anything other than removing burrs and big stuff.

Scouring the Locks
Wool is scoured to remove the lanolin and sheepy sweat, called suint, plus other assorted potential contaminants. Dawn dish soap is a popular and inexpensive scouring agent. Sure, I could purchase special stuff, and perhaps even save some money that way, but Dawn is available at the grocery and we use it daily, so it's sensible for us.

Water is heated to too-hot-to touch, in goes a big blorp of soap, and then the locks are laid in gently so as not to agitate them and accidentally start the wool fibers felting together. They sit and marinate for about 15 minutes. Then the now yellowy-brown water is emptied out, and then there's another hot bath, and then another if needed.

In go the locks! Noah is home with a fever and heavy congestion. He cools off in the morning air.


A final bath for a few minutes in hot water with a blorp of distilled vinegar to neutralize the alkaline action of the soap, and then the locks are set to dry for a few days, either in front of a dehumidifier or in the sun, or both.

Teasing the Locks
Once the locks are dry, then it's time to get the rest of the hay and bits of dust out, preparatory to combing the wool to prepare it for spinning worsted-style. Worsted yarn requires a particular combing of the yarn and a style of spinning that makes it lustrous, dense, and smooth. But back to teasing.

Here is a lock of washed but very dirty Shetland. Now, many spinners would throw this lock away as too much a of a pain to bother with. Not me. This fleece is valuable, and what I have most of is time, not money. It's worth it to me to rescue such locks, to comb and pick out all of the VM.

If you look closely, you see the long guard hairs, a creamy color, at the top, then the short full undercoat, with the gray in it, at the bottom. When I comb, I hold it from the bottom, quite tightly, and comb it with a blunt comb. Then if needed, I flick -- lightly hit and pull -- the lock with a flicker comb, which in my case is a sensitive-skin cat comb.


Here is a much cleaner lock, creamy white, with the barest deeper cream at the tops. So lush! It won't need much teasing, but just enough to remove any bits that are left. The higher on the back of the fleece you go, the cleaner the fleece and its locks are.


Here is a little video showing how I prepare locks. It shows combing, not flicking.



This is what a lock looks like when its done. Like a slice of heaven, no? Soooo soft, so gentle, so lustrous.


In a blog post or two, we'll look at the final combing -- managed much the same way since the Middle Ages -- that turns the locks into "top", the soft and aligned length of fibers ready for the spinning wheel or spindle.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Journal Journey into the Year 1811: La Belle Assemblée, June


This month's June La Belle Assemblée issue reports, as usual, a month ahead. Let's see what the month brings! Yes, I am very late in publishing. We've been on vacation twice and to family reunion and all sorts of summer events, and with the boys out of school for summer, when I am not at work, both hands are full with all kinds of summertime activities, like learning to ride bicycles, making pie, collecting "gems"...


Please don't forget to read the London report from Ackerman's, and those from Weimar and Paris.

  • Sabine in Weimar: Journal des Luxus und der Moden
  • Alessandra in Paris: Journal des Dames et des Modes
  • Maggie, in London: Ackermann's

The June issue contains (p. 321-324), besides the usual fashion plate descriptions and the general observations section, a special article about a formal party, a Fete hosted by the Prince of Wales, complete with descriptions of the event, Carlton House where it was hosted, and the dress of prominent ladies attending.

The overwhelmingly grand party for 2,000, supposedly held to celebrate King George III's birthday, lasted from nine in the evening until after sunup the next day, and advertised the new Regent's power and, as you'll read, revealed his taste for grandeur, show, and novelty. The Belle Assemblee article conveniently neglects to mention the politics behind the celebration. While exiled Bourbon royalty were welcomed and feted, Queen Charlotte flatly refused to attend, King George was far too sick to go, and none of the Princesses were allowed to go. The Prince Regent didn't invite his estranged wife, and favored his new paramour Lady Hertford over his old one, Mrs. Fitzherbert, who also didn't attend. The party was well-known in its day and didn't do much for the popularity of the Regent.

It's interesting reading and makes most of today's parties look bland by comparison, but when you know of the emotional currents underlying the occasion, you would mostly likely have preferred to be one of the guests who supped in the gardens, had you been invited, and sniffed the fresher night air, compared to the probably over-scented and certainly overheated atmosphere within.

Please pay attention to the fact that all the ladies were wearing ostrich feathers. At times the Court was requested to wear a specific type of dress, and this may have been one of those occasions: white and silver were the primary dress colors of the evening, and clear-colored gems...diamonds...ubiquitous in jewelry and studding the dresses. Embroidery was almost universal, spangles, and especially concave ones, too. Concave spangles were called out in the text. Visual themes? If they lady was Irish, her dress might include shamrock designs. Leaves, chains, tassels, and the Prince's three ostrich feathers, a reference to the traditional heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales.

Heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales. Wikipedia.

If what you read intrigues you, learn a lot more about fete -- including the marble-banked river and why the party was delayed several times in "A Regency Bicentennial: The Grand Carlton House Banquet", on The Regency Redingote blog, and "The Prince Regent's Fete", by Rachel Knowles, published in the Regency History blog. Also, The Lothians blog has a multiple-post tour of the house.


Here are the articles, transcribed below, with a few comments and thoughts in a Notes section beneath the transcription.

FASHIONS FOR July, 1811.
EXPLANATION OF THE PRINTS OF FASHION.

No. 1. -- OPERA DRESS.

A blue satin robe, worn over a slip of white satin, let in at the bosom and sleeves (which are short) with silver Moravian net work. A tunic of Egyptian brown sarsnet or crape, confined on the shoulders with diamond studs, and trimmed round the bottom with silver net, separated in small divisions by spangled open work balls. A chaplet wreath of green foil, placed twice round the hair, which is disposed in long irregular ringlets. Earrings of silver open work, studded with brilliants, resembling in form the bell of a child's coral. Shoes of brown satin, bound and sandalled with silver braiding. Long gloves of kid.




No. 2 -- WALKING DRESS.

A round robe of white jacconot muslin, with a boddice of violet sarsnet, trimmed with rich silk Brandenburgs of Austrian green, a half pelissed of fine transparent muslin, with Bishop's sleeves, fancifully tied with green ribband. A Hymen hat of purple brocaded ribband and lace, ornamented with a green military plume; a Chinese parasol of purple sarsnet, shot with green; gloves and shoes of York tan.



GENERAL OBSERVATIONS
ON
FASHION AND DRESS.

Our observations for the present month will be necessarily much curtailed to leave room for the insertion of the splendid and elegant dresses worn at the Fete given by the Prince Regent, at Carlton-House, to which every thing else must appear very subordinate.

Muslin pelisses, lined with pink, blue, or yellow sarsnet, are still very prevailing, as are spensers of like colours; lace scarfs alone seem to have the preference, either in black or white lace: mantlets are by no means considered as inelegant. Satin tippets, trimmed with lace, are very becoming to a light figure. White satin spensers, mantles, and pelisses are in a high degree of estimation Small caps fromed of brocaded ribband, finished with a long rosette in front, edged with lace pearl, or in the long Mango shape, intersected with white gymp, with a cord and tassels suspended from one side; and caps in every fanciful intermixture of satin or ribband, ornamented with ostrich feathers; they are made flat on the head, raised from the forehead, and in the long Grecian shape.

Flowers were not at all worn at the Prince's Fete, cords and tassels terminated the draperis, and gave an air of graceful negligence to the figure: feathers were universal, much of the Spanish costume prevalined; the sleeves were worn very short, the bosoms very low, the backs rather high, trains of a moderate length. The tunic in crape or lace, embroidered in silver was displayed upon almost every female of rank and taste; this form of dress will of course descend to the morning habit, and will doubtless relieve the stomacher of much of that formal appearance which at present distinguishes it, and the effect will be extremely graceful. All lace worn on this magnficent occasion was of the manufacture of this country, a noble example, which we hope will be universally followed in all ranks of life, Honiton lace, as most resembling Brussel's point, held the preference. 

The ornaments in jewellery were either of diamonfs, pearls, rubies, sapphires, or emeralds.
The prevailing colors, pink, blue, yellow and buff.

THE PRINCE REGENT'S FETE.


Carlton House from Pall Mall. What you mainly see here is a sort of columned screen in the front of the house.


This Palace of Enchantment was opened on Wednesday night, June 19, to the numerous personages of distinction who had been honoured with cards of invitation. Soon after nine o'clock the company began to arrive, and although the utmost order and regularity were observed, with was between twelve and one o'clock before the whole assemblage was formed, 


George IV as Prince Regent. A print after an original work of Hoppner.
From the National Portrait Gallery.


The illustrious Family of the House of Bourbon entered through the gardens about ten, when they were ushered into the Council Chamber, where the Prince Regent was, sitting under a crimson canopy of state, surrounded by the Officers of his Household, who, on their approach, immediately rose to receive them. The French Sovereign was introduced by the Earl of Moira as Comte de Lille, and her Royal Highness the Duchess d'Angouleme by the Duchess of York, and the French Princes by Lord Dundas. They were received not only with the utmost respect, but with every mark of affectionate regard. The amiable daughter of Louis the XVIth naturally attracted his chief attention, the exhilarating effect of which was clearly discernable on her woe-worn, but interesting countenance. From this grand ceremonial the illustrious strangers retired into the sky-blue satin room that adjoined; the expensive suite of curtains of which were the same colour, lined with white silk, massily embroidered with gold fringe, leaves, and tassels, and beautifully decorate with fleur-de-lis -- a marked and delicate compliment to the illustrious visitors. 

The Prince Regent now passed through into the Grand Saloon, which was most brilliantly illuminated, and is confessedly, in every respect, the finest room in Europe. Here his Royal Highness now paid his respects to the Noblesse, &c. crowded and assembled in the most graceful and truly fascinating manner. -- The company were for some time naturally lost in amazement at the coup d'oeil, which the views through two distinct suits of apartments so magically presented. It would be a difficult task to describe, in terms adequate, the effect produced by the profusion of magnificent objects, which, at every glance, conveyed an exalted idea of princely state, national grandeur, and the fine arts, cherished in a state of perfection. The partments were decorated with splendour perfectly new. The Palace was a scene of enchantment, and every elegant female, clad in the attire of her native country, appeared the Armida. 


Conservatory exterior: it's attached to the left side of Carlton House.
Interior of the Conservatory. Imagine it all illuminated and the sides banked with citrus trees and banks of flowers.

The Conservatory was one of the most distinguished objects in the splendid arrangement. The building, of Gothic order, appeared to be the most perfect and beautiful specimen of that style, executed in modern time. It presented, at one glance, the fine effect of a lofty aisle in an ancient cathedral. Between the pillars, candelabras were suspended twelve feet above the ground, each presented four brilliant patent burners, which spread a breadth of light not easy to describe. The interior struck the beholder with astonishment. The grand table extended the whole length of the Conservatory, and across Carlton House, to the length of two hundred feet-- Two feet of space was allotted for each guest in the original calculation. 


Gillray's take on the Prince Regent's fete decor: admiring the table-top canal. The public were invited to view the party decorations after it all was over.

Along the centre of the table, about six inches above the surface, a canal of pure water continued flowing from a silver fountain, beautifully constructed at the head of the table. Its faintly waving, artificial banks, were covered with a green moss and aquatic flowers; gold and silver-coloured fish, were, by a mechanical invention, made to swim and sport through the bubbling current, which produced a pleasing murmur, where it fell, and forming a cascade at the outlet. 

At the head of the table, above the fountain, sat his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, on a throne of crimson velvet, trimmed with gold. The throne commanded a view of the company. The most particular friends of the Prince were arranged on each side. They were atended by sixty serviteurs; seven waited on the Prince, besides six of the King's, and six of the Queen's footmen, in their state liveries, with one man in a complete suit of ancient armour. At the back of the throne appear Aureola tables, covered with crimson drapery, constructed to exhibit, with the greatest effect, a profusion of the most exquisitely wrought silver gilt plate, consisting of fountains, tripods, epergnes, dishes, and other ornaments. Above the whole of this superb display appeared a royal crown and his Majesty's cypher, G.R. splendidly illumined. 

It is almost unnecessary to add, that his Royal HIghness gave all the grandeur and honour of this brilliant Fete to his Royal Parent. The lesser wax lights in silver, placed on the table, were corespondent with the whole mass of elegance. The sides of the COnservatory were hung with vareigated lamps, The arches were also splendidly illuminated with lamps springing from the pillars. Down the centre from the roof were suspended several beautiful chandeliers and lustres, and the whole raised in the minds of the spectators the most exalted ideas of the Prince's taste and liberality.

At three o'clock supper was announced by the striking up of three bands of grand martial music stationed in the gardens. The supper was the most superb in spectacle arrangement that perhaps ever was exhibited in this country. The state table of the Prince Regent was ranged along the Conservatory, the west end of which (being the head) was hung semi-circularly with a crimson silk ground, covered with transparent muslin, drawn into a variety of apertures, for the splendid display of numerous gold vases, urns, massy salvers, &c. embossed by admirable workmanship, and the whole surmounted by the most superb ancient urn, captured in the reign of Elizabeth from the Spanish Admiral, who commanded what was so presumptuously styled with "Invincable Armada"; the service of this table was in gold. 

Adjjoining to this were tables running through the Library and whole lower suite of rooms, the candelabras in which were so arranged, that the Regent could distinctly see, and be seen, from one end to the other. Along those tables the Royal Family of England, and that of the Bourbons, and the Noblesse were seated comfortable to their respective ranks. On the right hand of the Prince Regent was placed the Duchess of York. A limpid stream of water ran through the centre of the Regent's table during supper. From the Library, and room beyond, branched out two great lines of tables under canvas far into the gardens, each in the shape of a cross, all richly served with silver plate, and covered with every delicacy which the season could possibly afford. 

The Library and Council-room displayed the greatest state. The latter was appropriated to dancing, and the floors chalked in a beautiful style. In the centre appeared G. R. III. with the crown, supporters, and blazonry. The external decorations were equally grand and pleasing. The aisle opposite the grand Conservatory was furnished with large mirrors, girandoles, and candelabras. It formed a superb promenade, rendered delightful by garlands and festoons of roses, pinks carnations, and the finest flowers of every species. Orange-trees, fruits, and flowers bloomed along the banks, growing in a state of nature. 

Four handsome marquees were pitched on the lawn of Carlton-House, with a chevaux de frize to guide the company in their promenades. Bands were stationed in the tents. In the course of the night, a brilliant discharge of fire-works took place, which gratified an immense body of spectators. 

-- Dancing commenced about twelve o'clock, in the Grand Council Chamber, in two sets, which were divided by a crimson cordon. The first couple were Earl Percy and Lady Jane Montague, daughter of the Duchess of Manchester; they led off with the dance called "Miss Johnstone,: next followed:--
Lord Maitland.........Duchess of Bedford
Earl of Tryconel.......Lady Catherine Herries
Earl of Digby..........Countess of Jersey
Marq. of Worcester..Lady Charles Somerset
Lord Palmerston......Lady Frances Pratt
Lord E. Somerset.....Lady Charles Fitroy
Lord C. Somerset.....Miss Metcalfe
Earl of Kinnoul........Hon. Miss Onslow
Lord Mark Kerr.......Lady ELizabeth Clive
Earl Gower............Miss Glynne
Lord Milsington.......Miss Fawkener
Earl of Rother........Miss Thomson
Mr. Lloyd.............Lady C. Cholmondeley

The Prince Regent, and the Royal Dukes of York, Clarence, Kent, Cumberland, Cambridge, and Sussex, were present at this period and appeared highly gratified to see so enlivening a scene. "Strike, up, musicians, my old and favourite Scottish tune," exclaimed the Prince. Mr. Gow took the hint, and "A'll gang nae mair to yon Town," was admirably played, and equally well danced by the above. --The Prince Regent and his illustriuous guests rose from table at half pst four, and returned to the gold saloon in the same order that they descended. All the rooms were soon refilled: when dancing was renewed,and th sun being well up, the blended lights of day and night gave the whole scene new features. 

The Royal Dukes assisted the Prince Regent in doing the honours of the table. It was really the most interesting sight imaginable, to see at least 500 persons, the greater proportion ladies, in one continued line, the latter dressed in white satin, silks, or muslin, embroidered or spangled with silver, having each a plume of ostrich feathers, waving on their heads, and reflected in the serpentine brook before them; it was really a silver flood, and these were its tributary streams. 

The alle-vert was rendered particularly grateful by the freshness of the air, and the odour of the grund; it was a happy retreat to all who in the course of the night could gain access thereto: here were many supper tables, and the chairs appeared from one view to be arched over with a garland of roses; and indeed the whole area appeared in profile, like an avenue of rose-trees. The Ball-room, after supper, was surrounded by a gradation of conversation stools, for the accommodation of those who chose to be calm spectators of the scene. His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, during the night, passed from one room to the other without any attendants or ceremony, conversing in the most affable manner with his numerous guests. Upon no previous occasion, and at no court in Europe, was ever the experiment made to set down 2000 of the principal Nobility and Gentry of a kingdom to a regular supper, as was the case at this Fete.

DRESS.--

All that art, taste and expense could command, for personal decoration, had been in requisition for this night. The Prince Regent wore a Field Marshal's uniform, (as did the Duke of York), with his hair in a queue, the cordon blue, and a superb brilliant star, a diamond loop and button in his hat and feather. The Duke of Clarence wore his professional uniform; the Dukes of Cumberland, Sussex, Kent, Cambridge, and Gloucester, that of their respective regiments. All wore the several insignia of the Order of the Garter. The Comte de Lille wore a plain carmelite brown coat, with white buttons without any order; the Duke d'Angouleme a pearl oloured; and the Duke de Berry a chocolate, with the ribbon of the order of St. Esprit. 

The dresses of the Ladies were of the most superb description, as will be seen by the following specimen:--
DUCHESS OF YORK. -- A patent net dress richly embroidered in silver, highly covered with a shower of spangles; the body, sleeves, and belt, covered with diamonds; head-dress diamonds and a plume of ostrich feathers; a beautiful necklace.


Frederica, Duchess of York and Albany (1767–1820), by Hutchinson. 1802.
DUCHESS OF ANGOULEME. -- A patent net dress richly embroidered in silver lama, over a white satin train; body and sleeves trimmed with real pearl, the largest we ever noticed in this country; head-dress a plume of ostrich feathers, and bandeau of large pearls; bracelet and necklace of pearl.


Marie Thérèse Charlotte of France while Duchess of Angoulême

DOWAGER DUCHESS OF RUTLAND. -- A white satin dress, with superb Roman scroll border, formed with concave and Algerine spangles; body richly embroidered in waves of real silver spangles; Spanish sleeves, with diamond armlets, fastened with silver tags, studded with diamonds; a most beautiful and splendid drapery of crape, embroidered in waves of silver spangles, with a border of singular beauty, composed of foil stones and silver bullion, forming vine leaves, grapes, and silver shells, each corner ornamented with the Prince's featers, beautifully embroidered. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.


MARCHIONESS OF SLIGO. -- A dress of white satin, with a superb border of brilliant embroidery round the train; a robe richly embroidered in silver shamrock, round which was an elegant and brilliant border to correspond with the dress; biamond stomacher, bracelets, necklace, and brooches. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.


Louisa Catherine, Marchioness of Sligo, British Museum


COUNTESS OF CAVAN. -- A dress of white silver tissue, with superb border of prominent silver jonquil, body and sleeves splendidly ornamented with diamonds. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.

VISCOUNTESS DUDLEY AND WARD. -- A dress of emerald green, with a superb border richly embroidered in silver, a tunic of lace, with the ground-work of silver spangles, and an elegant and brilliant border, with raised roses of floss silk, foil stones, and concave spangles, with had a most beautiful effect; body and sleeves trimmed with Honiton point, continued with silver tags, and ornamented with diamonds. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.

COUNTESS OF FAUCONBERG. -- A dress of white satin, with an elegant border of embroidered silver; a tunic of white crape, with a superb Roman scroll border, entwined with silver plumes, the ground-work waves of silver spangles, body and sleeves profusely ornamented with diamonds. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.

COUNTESS OF CLARE. -- A white satin dress, with a border richly embroidered; a superb body, ornamented round the bottom with diamond stars, and sleeves fastened up with diamond brooches and armlets; the drapery richly spangled in silver shamrock, with a beautiful and simple border to corespond; at each corner was embroidered the Prince's feathers. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.

COUNTESS SELKIRK. -- A white satin round dress, with beautiful silver embroidery at the bottom, waist, and sleeves; and evening promrose and silver tissue robe and drapery, trimmed with rich scolloped fringe, rope, and tassels. Head-dress a very full flume of white feathers, and superb coronet of diamonds; diamond earrings and necklace, &c.

COUNTESS OF MORNINGTON. -- A white and silver tissue robe, lined with green, made in the Court style, with ruffles.

LADY GLYNNE. -- A dress of silver satin, richly embroidered round the train with concave spangles and silver fringe, a superb tunic of lace splendidly embroidered in clouds of spangles; the border whichwas new and elegant, was beautifully embroidered in silver and concave spangles, with links of brilliant chains which had the appearance of diamonds; body spangled, and ornamented with amethysts; Spanish sleeves fastened with silver tags studded with diamonds; and armlets and necklace of amethysts and diamonds. Head-dress diamonds and feathers.

LADY FRANCES OSBORNE. -- A dress of white satin, richly embroidered with a border of silver; a tunic of white crape with superb noubelle border, embroidered in silver, and richly covered with leaves of embroidered silver, confined by splendid chains and tassels. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.

LADY WINNINGTON. -- A rich dress of white satin, superbly embroidered in silver, with a lace tunic splendidly embroidered with silver spangles, and encircled by a border of elegant white floss silk roses and silver-embossed leaves, confined by brilliant silver chains. Head-dress a superb plume of ostrich feathers and diamonds.

LADY DALRYMPLE. -- A dress of white satin, with handsome embroidered border in silver; a tunic of fine lace, richly embroidered and interspersed with stars of silver, with a superb border embroidered in bright and dead silver, and rosette of white floss silk. The tunic confined with brilliant silver chains.

LADE CATHERINE FORRESTER. -- A dress of white satin, with a beautiful border of silver spangles, a superb drapery of white crape, embroidered with silver leaves, with a magnificent border of silver leaves and grapes, the corners ornamented with clusters of grapes, from whence were suspended brilliant tassels. Head-dress diamonds and feathers.

LADY AMELIA SPENCER. -- An elegant dress of white satin, with a brilliant embroidered border of silver tulips, of singular beauty, and over which was worn a splendid but simple drapery of fine transparent lace, superbly embroidered with a border of white silk roses, with leaves of silver laurel, and fastened in front with brilliant silver chains and tassels; the body and sleeves studded and profusely ornamented with diamonds. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.

LADY MARIA WALPOLE. -- A white satin dress, with a Grecian silver border and stomacher; a short crape tunic, superbly embroidered with real silver.

Journal Journey into the Year 1811: La Belle Assemblée, Part 2 of August


The second half of the La Belle Assemblée August issue is finally ready for you, on September first. Oh well, better late than never.

Please don't forget to read the London report from Ackerman's, and those from Weimar and Paris.

  • Sabine in Weimar: Journal des Luxus und der Moden
  • Alessandra in Paris: Journal des Dames et des Modes
  • Maggie, in London: Ackermann's

As you may recall from the last post, the August issue contains just two pages of fashion news (p. 101-102), and only one plate, despite the title reading "prints" in the plural. Today we focus on fashion news.

Real advice, really useful advice, this month, for once. Some months the author goes into diatribes about the usual issues: too much novelty, vanity, blah, blah. I wonder if women then yawned or giggled reading them as much as we do? Or did they feel chastened, or a little of both?

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS on FASHION AND DRESS.

Portrait of a Lady. Charles Pierre Coir, ca. 1810. Found on Pinterest;
pinner found on ricardo.ch, but original source page is gone.
This is not the season for fashion or novelty in dress; splendour and gaiety are under an eclipse, and we have only to enumerate the several modes and articles of dress most in request among our fashionable fair. For the promenade satin spencers are becoming very numerous, and on account of unusual chilliness of the atmosphere during the last month, pale colours have given way to dyes of a more glowing and luxuriant hue and texture; they are made in the wrap form, with collars, and rather short in the waist; as the season advances it is imagined that rich silk Brandenburg trimmings will receive an added portion of fashionable approbation; what appeared heavy and superfluous in summer, will confessedly add much to the comfort and elegance of the winter costume.

Pelisses, mantles, tippets in satin, or sarsnet trimmed with lace, and French cloaks, are all in equal estimation; the light transparent shawl and scarf will soon be most appropriately displayed, over a spenser or tippet of white or coloured satin; it is essential to that idea of delicacy, always so interesting when connected with the female person, that the autumnal winds should not be suffered to sport too lightly with it.

Morning dresses have undergone no variation, except that in addition to buttoning down the front, they are frilled entirely round with narrow cambric; some we have observed unconfined before, and to these we give the preference, as more graceful, and setting off the figure to more advantage. The Roman sandal is a very proper appendage to this style of dress.

Dinner or home dresses are mostly made in cambric, muslin, Opera nets, figured gauze, and Merino crapes; low in the neck, fitting the shape with great exactness, either entirely plain, or with a simple gymp trimming, with short sleeves and short French train.

Evening dresses of white satin, velvet, fine muslin, sarsnet, crape, or gauze, with white satin boddices, and short lace sleeves and small trains, trimmed with lace or beads, worn over white or coloured satin slips; the glove is worn very short of white kid, as is also the slipper. Small aprons in lace, crape, or muslin, ornamented with ribband, are much worn. Lace and sarsnet tippets are still a necessary appendage to dress. Feathers are very generally worn, beads are a little on the decline, silver flowers and ornaments prevail. The dresses continue to be worn much off the shoulders, the sleeves not extravagantly short; the bottom of the dresses are frequently trimmed with lace; above which, when in muslin, is a rich worked border. Bouquets of natural flowers in the centre of the bosom, and short Grecian waists must not be omitted mentioning.

Some difference prevails in the mode of wearing the hair; it is no longer closely braided and twisted up behind, but carelessly festened up by a comb; the ends curled and left to fall negligently in the neck; and curled before in thick round curls.

In respect to jewellery, gold chains are in great estimation, as is a plain string of large pearls, long enough to encircle the throat with ease, confined by a brilliant clasp. A profusion of rings are worn, and brooches in every device. Emeralds are a favorite species of ornament, and garnets are extremely becoming to the complexion; watches are very numerous, rather smaller than last summer.

Roman sandals and Kemble slippers of coloured jean, with satin and kid for dress, are all the varieties worth remark in this order of dress. The prevailing colours for the season are jonquille, pink, blue, violet, and amber.

Notes

Colors. Jonquille, pink, blue, violet, and amber. Amber is new this month. Pink, blue, and violet never go out of fashion, nor jonquille, either.

Frills. Frills and texture are back, and they will remain an important feature through most of the rest of the Regency period. The early Regency liked flat, two-dimensional bands of applied "work", embroidery, what have you, and we see this a great deal in evening dresses in 1811. Draping of the dress fabric supplied the texture. As dresses narrow, draping moves to added fabrics, whether in added drapery, as in the April issue, for instance, or in frills.

Hair. Note the thick round curls in front. We will see these over and over and over as the years pass, big, thick sets of ringlets to each side of the face. The portrait above shows the effect clearly.

Kemble slippers. No, not Fanny Kemble slippers. That Fanny was born in 1809. Could the John Philip Kemble, sister to Sarah Siddons, a well-known actor of the period, been the inspiration for this name?

Layering. It was not enough to wear a spencer alone. One layered it with a shawl or scarf or tippet on top. The month's fashion plate demonstrates the principle. The model is wearing a dress, then an open-fronted coat, and has layered a light, delicate shawl on top. In this case the coat has a special ribbon or tie that loops up the scarf. A little contrived, but it shows that the layered look was a deliberate draping effect. We've had lots of draping all year long, and this is just another way to drape.



Roman sandals. High fashion items, sandals, always a bit outre. Here Roman-style sandals are the thing. "Roman" has usually meant that the straps continued up the legs, as worn by Roman soldiers.

Here's an example from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which makes me smile. Pink straps? The perfect way to feminize a very masculine cut. This pair is in silk and leather.

For more about sandals, try the Dreamstress' account.

 Sandals, circa 1806-15, E. Pattison (British, 1800–1850)
Metropolitan Museum of art, No. 2001.576ab.
Sandals, circa 1806-15, E. Pattison (British, 1800–1850)
Metropolitan Museum of art, No. 2001.576ab.
Spensers. A hot item once again as the weather cooled in England. Wrap-front spensers go in and out of fashion during the Regency period. The image, "Portrait of a Lady", above, may be barely wrapped or not wrapped at all, but gives a nice idea of the rich coloring and the lace plus opaque fabric effects that were so popular. This example is "rather short in the waist", as described in the magazine, so you can see how attenuated it looks.

Trains. Still here, in home, dinner, and full-dress occasions. I had long read that trains went away after 1805, but not so. However, trains will disappear shortly, and dresses start to stand out stiffly.

I leave you today with a small boy at his father's desk, watching U. of Kentucky sports clips on the computer.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Journal Journey into the Year 1811: La Belle Assemblée, August


The August issue of La Belle Assemblée is here! This month please pretend that you've missed the July issue and are reading the new August number, flip to the fashion plate, and, excited with what you've seen, run to show the issue to your sisters. You three pass it around, examining and critiquing details, but then someone mentions another topic, and the magazine is forgotten until later. Today we'll look at the plate, and next time I'll present the rest of the text. Later we'll back up to July.

Now, as I always write, please don't forget to read the London report from Ackerman's, and those from Weimar and Paris.

  • Sabine in Weimar: Journal des Luxus und der Moden
  • Alessandra in Paris: Journal des Dames et des Modes
  • Maggie, in London: Ackermann's

The August issue contains just two pages of fashion news (p. 101-102), and only one plate, despite the title reading "prints" in the plural.

FASHIONS FOR September, 1811.
EXPLANATION OF THE PRINTS OF FASHION.

WALKING DRESS.

A large French bonnet, composed of fine India muslin ; the crown in the cone form, finished on the top with a bow of lace, trimmed round the face with a deep full frill of Mechlin lace, and lined throughout with a bright sea-green sarsnet. A short round dress of India jacconot muslin, cut round at the bosom, and ornamented round the bottom with a worked border, edged with small tucks. A short round French coat in green sarsnet, falling back from the shoulder, trimmed round the arm-holes with lace, confined at the waist with Margate braces. A beautiful long lace scarf cloak thrown over the shoulders, and caught up behind in a long loop of ribband, carefully suspended upon the right shoulder. Gloves of York tan. Shoes of white Morocco. Parasol of brown and green shot silk.



Notes

So, what do you think? I've been peering and squinting at the plate, and while I can make out that the scarf-cloak is lace, and that the dress is ornamented with embroidery, and the hat stands out only too well, the Margate braces just don't show up. The Eastern influence is apparent again in the pointy effects: the cone hat and the assertive diamond shapes on the dress border, a departure from the undulating floral embroideries so long in fashion. This would have been an expensive day dress. The lace is one key: real Flemish Mechlin lace was costly because it used fine threads and took longer to make than many other laces and dealers today put high prices on antique Mechlin as well. Wikipedia has a nice article about Mechlin.

Cone hats. Oh dear, must I? Really?

Embroidery. Occasionally La Belle Assemblee made embroidery designs available. At the beginning of the 19th century they retain the attenuated lightness dominant through the last years of the previous century. Swags and airy vines and sprigs are common, and narrow borders. The exception is French imperial style, especially in goldwork, which feels positively encrusted, and heavy on the gold. As the years pass, the designs become fuller and rounder and more tightly composed.

Mix of spiky elements, flowers, and sprigs. La Belle Assemblee, 1811.
Maggie Waterman Roberts, Pinterest board "Regency Embroidery".
Regency pattern from Ackermann's, November 1811.
My Fanciful Muse.
Our own Maggie maintains a very good collection on Pinterest containing patterns from the first and second decades of the 19th century. Another Pinterest board titled "Regency Embroidery and Crafts" by Jeri Whitehorn Rtwr is useful too. A keen observer will see the differences between the offerings of different magazines. For instance, La Belle Assemblee was freuqently more conservative, while Ackermann's went for the really new stuff. The regency page on My Fanciful Muse, by EK Duncan, has a good collection too.

Margate braces. Apparently these were a trim you used to tie outerwear closed with, named for Margate, a seaside resort. Robert Louis Stevenson describes the an outfit in detail I think is meant to titillate, in his Weir of Hermiston, the chapter "Christina's Psalm-Book" although he could have lifted the description from a fashion magazine. In the plate all I can see is that the trim is rather thick and ties, since two ends hang down.

Mechlin lace. See above.

Okay, that's it for now.



I dare anyone to make that hat. In fact, I double-dog, no, triple-dog dare them. If you do, I promise to nibble, and swallow, a little bit of cotton gauze!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Picking, Combing, Carding, Spinning...Weaving: That's What's Happening


Working with wool and alpaca fiber recently.
The subtitle of this blog reads "and, of Course, the Occasional Side Trip". What I've been doing these past months qualifies as more than a little excursion, at this point.

I am hand-spinning wool and alpaca and getting ready to re-learn the art of harness weaving -- you know, a loom that goes "whish swish, whump thump" as you throw the shuttle and pull back on the beater to secure the just-made fabric.

The spinning was necessary; last fall I signed on once again at church to teach children to card and spin a little at this summer's Vacation Bible School. The summer before we'd had fun together but the spinning was execrable. So over months this spring I learned to handle a drop spindle decently and fell in love with what Amos Alden calls an "ancient and honorable craft". So ancient, in fact, it's wound up with pre-civilization.

One of the crop of pinky-red, yellow and fuzzy (!) toadstools
sprouting in our lawn after all the rain and fog.
Here we are, towards summer's end, and there are alpaca and sheep fleeces in the basement, bags of it in the garage -- fodder for another volunteer project -- fleece awaiting picking in a bowl, spindles and spinning wheel in the hallway, and a loom in the family room. They multiplied like the toadstools in our lawn after this summer's weeks of rain and dimness.

Not an excursion, then. Costuming? I've got a pretty beaded reticule on the way and a chintz 1770s anglaise on hold. No then, costuming's not going away. It just has to share space in the calendar and in the brain with work and family, volunteering and with wool picking, scouring, carding, combing, dizzing -- that doesn't mean spinning around until you fall over -- spinning and weaving scarves and warm alpaca blankets, and maybe, a linsey-woolsey petticoat? Let's see what happens.

Meanwhile, the last months unroll below in pictures. One fleece is worth ten thousand threads.

First there was the spinning wheel, a present for my grumumppieth birthday. Built in 1887 somewhere in Scandinavia, it traveled to North Carolina with immigrants and was held on to by their descendants until they unaccountably decided to part with it. A sort of faded reddish color, it's decorated with banding and painted designs in black. Rather chic, I think.

Circa 1887 Scandinavian spinning wheel.

Chic it might be, but it sat. Then I cleaned it and got everything smoothly turning, but it still sat. It's still sitting. I haven't learned to keep up with it!

Then there was the drop spindle that turned up at an antique show. It's from Eastern Europe, and I didn't know until recently that you're supposed to rest it on a surface to support it as it turns. Taking a class from a local professional, it was on this spindle I learned to spin in preparation for Vacation Bible School.

The Eastern European spindle. It has no notch on the pointed
top: you half hitch your yarn to hold it on.

Obligatory cute kitty shot.
Spinning!
Alpaca fleece arrived, part of the VBS project. Had to have lots of fleece ready for children to spin, plus more cleaned and ready to for them to try to card into cute little tubes, called "rolags", a Scotch term. So I learned to clean alpaca: to flick locks to remove bits of dust and hay, to roll rolags...

Second cute kitty shot. Muffin's sitting on the completed
rolags in the box. Can't blame her, they're soft.
Wanting to have wool for the VBS children to handle and card and spin too, because it's easier to work than slippery alpaca hair is, I bought a pretty Shetland sheep fleece from a lovely girl in Ohio. Lothlorien's whole fleece arrived in a box, smelling pleasantly and not too strongly of sheepy lanolin, and imbued with her personality. Here she is.

Lothlorien, the creamy Shetland in back.
Spinning practice went apace. I turned back to alpaca not long after the first lesson, heaven knows why, probably because I had so much of it. Wool fibers have lots of scales, and they have waves and crimps that makes them stretchy, resilient, and fibers stick together and are easy to spin. Alpaca has fewer scales per fiber, often has little crimp or curl and isn't stretchy, and so is slippery-ish and a bit harder to spin. Whatever. It's what I really learned on and I love how deliciously sooooooft it is.

Here is a lock from Tuesday, the alpaca whose hair I've been spinning. See his cute stripe? He's ticked!


Christopher holds up two balls of spun alpaca. They're for a scarf for him at Christmas.


Here's one of the balls. See all the fluffs on the edges? That's before washing, too. It "blooms" after being washed and is even fluffier.


Here's the yarn, plied from two strands, or "singles". So much terminology. Just like sewing.


I washed the plied yarn. It bloomed, all right. Big, chunky, fluffy, soft like Muffin's kitten would be.



Well, our VBS coordinator gave me some wool that was even easier for children to handle, some curly, long-locked Blue-faced Leicester. Sheep breeds have funny names. Do you see any blue on the face of the sheep below? The skin under the white wool on his face does have a bluish tint.

Hexham Champion, 2008, from Middle Dukesfield, in England.

So I learned to comb out the 6"-10" wool, purchasing long wickedly sharp combs, true weapons capable of really injuring somebody, at the Bluegrass Sheep and Fiber Festival in May.

The boys wanted to learn, so they got spindles, too. They're still learning, a little, as the fit takes them.

Can you see the snowball, erm, fleeceball, rolling?

At Vacation Bible School the campers handled wool and alpaca, carded and combed and spun it and two children took big balls of wool home, with hopes to buy a drop spindle and continue learning. Everyone else got an alpaca puff to pet and scare their parents with, plus a length of what they had made. Here we are on the first day of camp, learning about wool and other animal fibers.


Next day we carded and used those wicked combs to actually comb some lovely locks into fluff ready for spinning on the morrow.


The children spin. First I'd demonstrate, then they'd try it and try it again.


Here's Jenni from Living with Jane. She helped children make jewelry, do glass mosaics, and felting.


The children actually span -- the obsolete past perfect tense of "spun"? -- quite a bit of yarn, not all of which was given away. We built a yarn winder from Tinkertoys to put it in a skein so it could be washed again to finish it.

The yarn winder. Spin the cross-shaped piece and it goes around.
Completed skein. The yarn thickness varies a lot. Children
just learning made it, and it has charm.
Well, we wanted to use it, and the boys and I were interested in how a loom works, so I read up in library books and online, and we built a rudimentary two-harness counterbalance loom, invented eons ago. Versions of this loom were used in India to make the incomparably fine muslins exported to Europe in the late 18th century, just in time for Classicism and the Regency. Versions called drawlooms made figured silks, and European weavers produced the luscious gold-and-silver thread enhanced, flower-bedecked brocades that we all sigh over.

Here's the Tinkertoy loom, with a red cotton warp on it, ready to be woven with the weft, made of the child-spun wool you saw above. That's a cardboard "stick" shuttle.

Yes, it works. Those two rectangular-shaped things decked with
strings (heddles) and hung from the top bar (castle) are called
harnesses.
At VBS the owner of Rosie's Ponies and Petting Zoo and I got to talking about the friendly llamas and sheep she had brought for the children to admire, pet, and feed, and she kindly offered the animal's fleeces when I asked if she might sell some, since she didn't use them. I got to thinking and in a spark of what I like to think is grace, it seemed that the fleeces could be turned into warm things for those in our area who need them. Thus was born the Big Fleece Project. It's still in infancy, but we hope to have felt and yarn from the fleeces to use.

One day recently the boys and I visited their farm, petted an affectionate (!) camel, a cozy-stand-next-to-you pony, admired llamas, petted rare Soay sheep, and packed up fleece after fleece that had been sheared. The back of the SUV was filled to the roof with fleeces stuffed into bags.


We brought them home, and that evening and the next morning, sorted them, skirted the sheep fleeces, a fancy term for taking off the edges, which are usually encrusted with matted, dungified, muddy, weedy bits. You see, a shearer cuts the fleece off sheep such that it's in once piece, ideally. He starts on the tummy one one hind leg and works round to the back and ends with the other hind leg. WikiHow explains.

Not all the fleeces were usable, but many were, and they were draped everywhere, drying out before being bagged.

Remember VBS? Here's the petting zoo day. Look at Mr. Llama and his buddy behind him, craning for affection and some treats. See if you can match his fleece in the piles below. I think I recognize some of the sheepy fleece, too.


Llama fleeces fall apart easily, so they're in bits: chocolate brown, cinnamon, latte, silver mist, cream, and agouti. They're my names. Must be hungry right now. Oh, so soft.

Llama, llama everywhere.
One Shetland fleece and lots of mystery short-staple (length of the wool) wool, a bit overpowering due to being damp. My mother was not terribly impressed on first contact with the project.

Sheep fleeces, entire, drying the only super-sunny, dry place I could think of,
the back of the truck.
"Black sheep, black sheep, have you any wool?" We ended with eleven bags full.

Soccer and fleece. They go together. Right?
In the last week or two I've almost completed spinning yarn for Christopher's scarf, and am starting to clean another Shetland fleece. In a post or two, how that's done. Oh, and the new loom, and not a Tinkertoy one.

Meantime, it'll be back to the Journal Journey!