Monday, May 09, 2016

Vernet: Embroidery Done and Bodice Mocked Up and Cut Out

Completed Vernet embroidery. Upside down, I've noticed. Pray it doesn't end up that way on the dress.
It could, you know. I'm the sort to do that, thinking all the while I have it right.

Well, well. Done. Is it as smooth as the work of experienced hands? Why no. Will it look better when washed and pressed? Yes.

A Few Embroidery Tips

A few tips for cleaner embroidering:

  • Don't knot the floss threads when starting a new thread. It's knotty and messy. Instead, run end through previous work to anchor it.
  • Cut floss that you will embroider with no longer than about 15 inches. This reduces the chance that the floss twists and knots on you while you embroider.
  • Make the floss lie flatter and cover more fabric at each stitch:
    • Floss typically comes in threads of six strands lightly twisted together, and has done so for many years. After cutting it, divide the floss into two pieces of three strands each. 
    • Then pinch the floss between your thumbnail and first finger and run your nail the length of the thread, watching the end of the floss as it flies about. It's losing the twist among the three strands. You will have to do this several times until you have almost untwisted floss. 
    • After every few stitches, repeat the process, because with each stitch the action of your hands as well as of the floss running through the fabric generally introduces twist back into the floss. Remember: floss is like any thread: it's created by twisting fibers together. When you get down to individual strands, there is a little energy stored in the fiber as twist, and it wants to be active and to untwist. When the floss strands are twisted together, the energy among the strands is distributed and balanced. When they are pulled apart, there's a little energy there...not much, because cotton floss is pretty loosely spun, but it does exist. 
    • When embroidered into place, this flattened floss will lie with the three strands next to one another, making them appear to be been sewn separately, and filling space very neatly and smoothly.
Mocking Up the Bodice

Where does the embroidery go? Not at the hem, where it was so common to embroider. On the bodice. More than half hidden by boufy drapery. Peeking through the gauze will soften the edges.

Jenni of Living with Jane and I mocked up the bodice. I took a dress from the book Die Kostümsammlung der Familie Bassermann-Jordan, an excellent book of 18th and 19th century extant clothing and patterns from an upper-class German family. (Sabine, it has been invaluable).  The dress design dates to 1804-07, but bodice designs changed slowly, and the smooth front and overlong sleeves were just what I was looking for. Thanks too to Diary of a Mantua Maker, who showed how a cotton Regency dress can be made mostly out of oblongs.

Then we did what is now natural to us, as it has been to women for centuries. I pulled out an old draw-string dress that fits well, put pattern paper atop, marked the bodice lines, and cut out a base pattern.

From there it was looking at the Basserman-Jordan dress and its pattern pieces and making cuts to the pattern. I cut the back in half and ignored the old seam lines, making the common center-back opening with gathers.

In front I substituted a straight front, flanked by straight straps that go up over the shoulders and meet at the back, as so many 18th century gowns and Regency dresses do (this observation from Diary of a Mantua Maker). Separate side pieces went away after Jenni reminded me that I had excess.

All that was left of the old pattern was the sizing and a few helpful curves at key seam spots.

I basted it up, and Jenni fitted it: the dress is more snug than a regular scoop-front drawstring dress, so there was a good bit to remove.

The fabric is now cut and awaits sewing up.

Next time I'll introduce you to the details of the Bassermann-Jordan dress and its writeup in the Sammlung. We'll do a quick comparison to the dresses worn by the French greeting contingent as they met their returning King Louis...there is much in common in the silhouette.

Then it's on to cutting the skirt and sleeves. The skirt is austere, an attractive, crisp A-line I am familiar with from the 1960s. The sleeves are bohemian! Sleeves and overskirt are in silk gauze. We'll save the war on the gauze with starch and needle for another time.

Today I leave you with peace. May it pervade your day, even if, as for me, it started out rocky. May we learn to breathe and rest like cats do.

Ladybug napping and ignoring my artistic draping to see how the embroidery looks in black and white.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

What, That Eternal Vernet? Mais Oui, On Ne Peut Pas L'Oublier

Vernet is alive and well in this household, thank you. I may be more than a year behind, but it's a wonderful dress that should see the light, and so little by little it moves ahead.

First, Different Embroidery Thread: Choice Number One Was Poor

Let's have a look at some embroidery stitches, shall we? In I Spy Eyelets, we discovered that my first choice of embroidery thread, a high-twist, dense thread, produced some pretty coarse work. It really was not very nice. Each stitch produced one thread, since this was not floss, and even working as carefully as I could the stitches looked messy.

First round of embroidery with the high-twist thread.

Up close: ugh: oh dear. Really just poor embroidery.
Methought, this is not efficient, and thus that extant research and the realization that all three of my original eyelet pieces used soft, low-twist thread. As importantly, the embroiderers used more than one thread at a time to gain more coverage per stitch and to help more stitches be nicely lined up together. 

Thus it was that I switched mid-project to a vintage German floss. Thank you, Sabine. It's ducky stuff.

The embroidery continued. Late winter, in a sunny spot, sitting in my favorite chair, whose maker lived before eyelet embroidery was popular, an interesting thought.

As winter turned to spring, more embroidery upstairs to an equally sunny corner in the guest room. Always sunny, because my eyes hurt so every time I embroidered, and the migraines that have made for so many unhappy, unproductive days and nights in our household were trying to return.

I took a break and turned to sheep, and the headaches mostly left me alone. Poor dress, she appeared doomed to wither.

Then I couldn't get her out of my head. Isn't that the way it happens so often? That what isn't good for us is the very thing we desire to do the most?

Embroidery, hardly a vice, until it interferes with health and thus the smooth running of family and work life. Anything good intself, cannot be a good if it harms anyone.

Dumb dress, silly dress, sillier fashion plate. I couldn't get her out of my head. The dress is, after all, a classic, eminently wearable design, timeless, and worn in just the right conditions, almost contemporary.

Thought to change the way I worked. I needed not just sunshine, but very short sessions, 15 minutes or less. Just one or two little eyelets at a time.

This has worked, and so the dress comes back. With improved embroidery.

Three threads of floss per stitch.

As of today, just a few little eyelets left. Just a few.

Jenni of Living With Jane just left a little while ago, after fitting a bodice mockup to me. I took an old dress designed in the so-common round-gown-with-drawstring mode, and cut out a copy bodice. Then we looked at a more "modern", 1814-ish dress (in Die Kostuemsammlung der Familie von Bassermann-Jordan), and I adjusted the cut. I basted the pieces together and then Jenni fit the mockup to the more streamlined cut. Now it awaits cutting out in percale and sewing up. 

Jenni is helping our friend Emily design and make her own Regency dress, in much the same way. It's the way we know to build dresses now, and apt to the Regency period. Though Curte's mother recalls that her mother could look at a dress on someone, go home, take an old dress and with it, old newspapers as pattern paper, and a fitting, make just about any dress. Some dressmaking skills just carry on, generation to generation.

That, however, is for another day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Meet Nina, Lana's First Lamb

Nina. Eight pounds. Fuzzy, warm, adorable. The first for Lana. The first for us. The boys' own lamb.
Here she is not long after birth, barely dry and already up and

This morning as I write a wood thrush is singing outside the open window, the song one of the most beautiful of any American bird. The thrushes are migrating to the northern woods. May his or her trip be safe and successful, and may they nest and bring beautiful babies, like this baby, to add happiness to the world.

Lana is a good mother, protective and loud when she protests us holding her baby. Nina is almost as loud, but up a few octaves. in calling for her mama. Here she is:

Mama sheep tend to check on their lambs when they nurse, and nudge them around with their noses so that the lambs remain near their sides. Sheep wag their tails madly when happy and Sara Dunham of Punkin's Patch up in Cynthiana says that a lamb who is nursing successfully nursing will wag its tail while drinking. No tail wag? He or she may be having trouble latching on.


Now they share a maternity pen with both outdoor and indoor spaces with their relatives, and the lambs, just days old, are bouncing around. Now I understand what gamboling means: springy hops with front legs, back legs, all legs! Sidesteps, mincing, prancing and fidgety dancing. It's adorable and hypnotic. 

You can read all about Laura and Chris' new flock babies at Square Peg Farm. You'll see Kelly's just-born lamb and its first steps, and meet all the mamas and their little ones.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Early Spring Means Sheep Shearing...Or, How Lana and the Flock Took To Their Heels

Holding Lana before she's sheared. Some of that dual coat is six inches long, and it's almost as dense as felt,
without being felted. Lana's fleece is a crofter's dream: there's wool in there for every purpose, from soft sweater to rug.
Yesterday was shearing day number one at Laura's Square Peg Farm and so the boys and I headed out to help. Leeloo was still on the shearing stand, and the boys packed her shorn wool into bags,and wandered happily around the farm after being asked to please exercise Izzie the Adorable. More on her later.

Lana, my Shetland, was waiting in a fenced-off portion of a pen in the barn, where she and Lily stood gazing at us, as sheep will. Lily appeared patient, as she is a sweet and patient sort. Lana was guardedly quiet. You could tell she felt that Something was going to Happen. Then she figured out that she was to be haltered and that was it. She did Not want to be caught; she's not socialized, so she might be considered almost feral.

As soon as Laura's father entered the pen, she morphed between high-flying ping-pong furball with skinny brown legs to a cocoa streak of lanolin greased lightning in the confined space until Mr. Bullins wrangled her with main strength into her halter. At which point she sat down, wouldn't budge, and had to be carried to the shearing stand. In the mayhem a temporary fence fell, the other pen of waiting sheep saw their chance and within five seconds were out of the barn and skipping around in the back yard. Huzzah, freedom!

Noah and Christopher were playing with Izzie, when all six pounds of her Chihuahua mix spied sheep, loose. Fun! Time to be a big dog. The flock was now grazing in the back yard, so Noah, who had Izzie on a leash, allowed her to approach, but not too close, and she wiggled and barked and jumped and looked big as she could, and the sheep, disgusted, trotted back to the safety and quiet of the barn. They're not afraid of her, but they don't like being yelled at :}

She was one happy dog, and Noah, the shepherd, was one proud boy. Sheep at his bidding, you know.

Shearing took a while. If Laura hadn't had the unenviable bum area, and her mother one side while I had the other, it would have taken hours. As it was, I left a good deal of fleece on Lana in trying not to get near her skin, so she looks perhaps a little lopsided. Laura says in a few weeks you won't be able to tell. Good.

After shearing, I felt Lana's side, just to see. Her tummy gurgled...those multiple stomachs were doing their thing, thankfully...but then suddenly there was a tiny, sharp movement inside. A kick!  I am a mama and I know a baby kick when I feel one. Laura's mother tested and the baby kicked for her, too. Alas, no kick for Laura, but she's expecting and that's old hat for right now:)

After giving Lana her oral medicine and shot, not appreciated by the sheep at all, and trimming her hooves, which she might have been happy about later, and at which I was a tiny bit better, we let her race away to her mama, crafty Etta, and buddy outside and went to wash up and hang out on the screen porch with a glass of very enjoyable, timely wine and some manchego and boucheron...on saltines. Actually, excellent cheese on saltines is quite good. It was warm out, the air caressing and teasing, and sprinkling under damp clouds, and the view was marvelous, daffodils and trees and meadow and sheep and barn, and the boys relaxed with us, and life was about as lovely as it gets.

We came home so happy, and singing

Brown sheep, brown sheep, have you any wool,
Yes sir, yes sir, one bag full.
Part for my master and part for my dame,
Part for the little twins who live down the lane,
Brown sheep, brown sheep, have you any wool,
Yes, sir, yes sir, one bag full.

I have a pillowcase stuffed with Lana's gorgeous chocolate fleece with blond tips.

Noah says he wishes every day could be like that day. Christopher just grins.

Curte says the boys need a dog.

I look at my pillowcase and dream of washing it, carding it, and spinning it, to accumulate until Lana has given enough wool to weave into two moorit Lana blankets, one for each boy.

Thank you Laura, for another memorable day. Thank you, Lana, for being your wild sun-washed brunette self.


Where is Vernet, you ask? I have a post waiting, but have had to stop embroidering for a bit. Since I stopped, I've had not a single headache, not one migraine. Could eye strain along with work stress be the causes of so much unbelievable pain these last 4-5 years? We may have a hiatus on sewing, then, to test the theory.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Not Shaun the Sheep, but Lana the Sheep!

Once upon a time there was a Shetland sheep, almost a year old. Her name was Lana, and she had long, tawny wool, almost like hair, and she was beautiful, and I fell in love with her.

Lana was born and lived at Square Peg Farm* nearby, and with the blessing of Laura, a sweet friend and her shepherd, soon she was mine. Our town allowing horses to live inside city limits, but not sheep, and ovines, that is, sheep, being creatures who do not thrive away from their flock, she continued to live at Square Peg, where she is still today.

(*Laura's blog is lots of fun, and you'll meet everyone and learn all about Laura and her husband Chris' adventures in farming. There's only one picture of nature in action that might be inappropriate for young readers.)

She is not alone. She belongs to a delightful flock, of whom Elizabeth is the leader.

As a lamb, she was loved by children and attended 4-H events and so she is as social as they come. She'll actually leave her flock to visit with people and to follow them around.  Her happy wagging tail and sweet face melt hearts, and a melted heart usually means a nice big treat handout, so everyone is contented. She is even famous, since Laura and her mother wrote a children's book about her and an incident with some laundry. You'll have to read The Story of the Unique Sheep.

Then there are Lily, a tiny, delicate dark chocolate wonder of a friendly girl, and Toffee, the visiting ram who looks a little lopsided because he lost part of a horn, but who doesn't care a whit and likes to hang out with people, too, looking for handouts and nibbling nearby grass in a friendly way. These three are perfectly willing to become a mini-flock with my boys. The latter couldn't be more delighted. Peek carefully at the below: one boy is dreaming and the other has a joyful grin ear to ear.

Elizabeth, Lily, and Toffee in the background.
Getting close to Lana is not easy. She's as keen for treats as Toffee -- in the lead here -- and Elizabeth -- who seems to run so fast her ears are flattened to her head -- and is that Etta behind her, and Elizabeth's sweet and friendly son Larry afterwards, with Lana off to the side? She's a fey, shy girl though, so I've only touched her once.

That was during shearing last year. Shetlands are small, about knee high, 50-75 pounds. It'll be less sore on your back if you harness your sheep to a stand to shear them, give them their shots, check and trim their hooves, and do an all-over check. Once they know they'll not be ending their life on that stand, they'll, well, stand it, pretty okay. Young Lana thought her life was over, and trembled almost continuously, the day Laura and I sheared her. It probably didn't help that I was petrified of hurting her -- my nerves surely magnified her fear.

Laura shears one side of Lana. I was shearing the other.
It was treat time afterward. Lana, now much smaller -- she's the tiny skinny girl in the far back, circling unsuccessfully while the older, higher-status sheep (like her mother Etta at front left) and the goats and Grace the guard llama get the goods, hung back. She'd been butted some after her shearing. The rest of her flock was not ready to recognize her yet in her new 'do. Getting used to ovine behavior takes a bit of doing. Sweet they are, but they're a little like kids on a playground, and so they have a pecking order.

Ooh, what does Laura-Shepherd have here?
Lana's lamb fleece was so soft, so lovely, and I brought a bit home. Her moorit wool is bleached blond at the tips. Muffin and Ladybug were taken by its tantalizing scent. Not long after that Muffin had a luxurious roll in it.

Looking at the wool, in the basket and on its creator, you might wonder why she's got what looks like long, waving hair while her flock-mates are covered with long, crimpy, wool? That's because Shetlands are a "primitive" breed. On their native islands, their keepers have valued their variety of colors and coats, and the variety wasn't bred out of them. Lana is the very primitive "dual coat" variety, her long outer hair shedding rain easily and the warm super-soft down underneath helping her to laugh at cold and wind and damp. Elizabeth is a large version of the "kindly" Shetland variety, with pretty much one type of nice soft wool, rather long, all over. Lily may represent a third type. She's actually more normal-sized for Shetlands, and she has shortist, super-soft crimpy wool. If you look up Shetland sheep on Google you can find out lots about them.

What next in this story? Does Lana look a little less lean under all that wool, compared to last fall?

Why are we so concerned? We're hoping she'll have a lamb in April!

Happy anticipation...

Friday, January 15, 2016

Vernet: I Spy Eyelets! Different Qualities of Handmade Eyelet Embroidery

Reverse side of piece of finely produced eyelet embroidery
with new threads laid on top for comparison.
Discussion below. 
The embroidery I've been doing for the Vernet dress has struck me as fairly coarse. I am an occasional embroideress, so no surprise there. Am almost done with the satin stitch portion of the embroidery, and ended up using my most powerful 3x glasses, plus a round-the-neck magnifying glass, and it still required excellent light to get a decent stitch at all. Good embroiderers needed good eyes!

(Remember, you can keep up with all of the projects on the Vernet's 1814 Merveilleuses and Incroyables Facebook page.)

Now, if the satin stitch is coarse, how are the eyelets likely to look after I finish them? I have several examples of handmade eyelet embroidery. Here are two of them: they happen to illustrate well that eyelet work appeared in both coarse and fine qualities. I do not know the age of either of the examples, and one of them may well be quite late or be a re-use of older fabric. Neither is from the early 1800s.

A Piece of Unused Fine Work

Let's start with the fine work. This is a piece beautifully worked across a piece of crisp, very, very tightly woven fabric. It is almost, but not quite opaque. The hand is hard, not soft: there are no tiny fuzzes to soften it, and the few loose threads are so, so fine, and also "hard". It has not been starched: it's naturally crisp. I haven't the heart to do a burn test, but feel that this may be a finely woven linen cambric, or perhaps a percale?

Thérèse de Dillmont's  An Encyclopedia of Needlework, 1886, she recommends readers to embroider with a  "loose, soft make of cotton, the looser the better, and very little twisted, is the best material for embroidery". The work being published by the DMC company, she recommends a coton à broder. They still sell it.

As for the material the embroidery is to be worked upon? She doesn't define it. 

Look carefully at the pictures. Notice that each eyelet is slightly differently shaped and sized. Note that the scallops vary, too. The real giveaway that this is handwork is on the back side, though. Let's look at the reverse of one end of the piece.

What do you know? When you have a chance to look at the messy side, the thread is thicker than it appears on the front side, isn't it? You can also tell that the embroidery thread doesn't have that much twist. We'll talk about that a bit later.

In the image above, I've laid both a regular Guterman sewing thread on top of the work, to the left. To the right, I've laid the type of thread I am using to create the Vernet dress embroidery. As you can see, the original thread thickness is in between the Gutermann thread and "my" thread. "My" thread has more twist, too.

"My" thread is the one on the left, marked 

If I were to try to work at this level of fineness, I'd use a fine coton a broder #25, still made by DMC.

A Less Refined Stitch on a Petticoat

Now that you've seen the fine example, what about the coarse work? Can it be there is coarser eyelet and satin stitch work than mine? Oh yes and glory be.

Here is the petticoat, a museum de-accession I picked up locally. It is closed with a drawstring, and the embroidery may be earlier than the rest of the piece. Anyone care to hazard a guess as to the age? It doesn't feel Edwardian since this sort of work was out of style by then, and in Kentucky patterns were easy to be had except perhaps in truly remote areas of the Appalachian hills.

Examine the pictures closely. To see them really close up, click on the picture, and copy the file source, and open it in a fresh tab or window. I have uploaded large files so you can do so.

Note how thick that embroidery thread is! How slapdash the stitches! Notice the thread is not twisted much, either...once again it may be like a coton à broder that Thérèse de Dillmont's talks about in her book. Embroidery thread can come in different thicknesses, and you can split the strands as well.

Top row of embroidery, at top of flounce.

Second row from top of flounce.

Third row from top of flounce.
Scalloped bottom.
Back side of top row: examine the stitchwork.

Well, My Embroidery Thread Isn't Like Either Example...

Oh well. I should have done homework before choosing thread, shouldn't I? Lesson learned. Still, my thread is far easier to use than the floss I've used in the past, so really, I am not overly dejected :}

Why Not Call Eyelet Work Broderie Anglaise?

In short, I don't know, as yet.

By the time the British work The Dictionary of Needlework, by Sophia Frances Anne Caulfield and Blanche Saward, and published in 1882, eyelet embroidery was often being called Broderie Anglaise. They write that the "work is adapted for trimming washing dresses or underlinen" (p. 49). By this point, it wasn't for best wear, was it? The type of embroidery thread is to be used is not mentioned, and the entire species of embroidery gets only a short entry: it was out of fashion.

In this book, the work was to be done on "white linen or cambric" (p. 48). In another entry, cambric (Kammerack - German; Toile de Cambrai or Batiste - French), is defined as a beautiful and delicate linen textile, of which there are several kinds. Its introduction into this country dates from the reign of Queen Elizabeth." (p. 59). They also mention cotton imitations.

Thérèse de Dillmont's book, first published in France and circa 1886, lumps eyelet work under White Embroidery. She calls the holes "eyelets", and spends a bit of time, including nice clear pictures, on how to produce it. See the chapter five section on eyelets.

However, I have yet to find out what this work was called before then. We learned last post that the Journal des Dames was referring to the embroidery in April 30, 1814, as more a découpure, a cutting, than an embroidery. That leads me to suspect that this was rather a new type of work, but I don't have full evidence yet...more reading to do!

In Other News

This week I've been plagued by fatigue and a busy schedule. Life is about to get even more interesting, because to help diagnose one son's digestive issues, we're about to start a 4-6 week trial of life without any dairy products or soy products. We don't eat much meat (I hardly at all), and we do eat a lot of yogurt and cheese, so this will create a great deal of extra cooking and a deal of experimentation, and nibble away yet more of any moments that used to be somewhat leisurely. Best to roll with the punches: what else can you do?

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Vernet: Ninon declares, "Vive le Roi!"

Arrival of Louis XVIII at Calais, 1814; Edward Bird.
Courtesy BBC Your Pictures. More info.
Are those angels on the stairs? No, sailors on the shrouds.

It was lilies, lilies, everywhere, "Vive le Roi" in fashionese:

Ce 4 mai 1814.
Le costume de cent quarante dames choisies dans les douze arrondissemens, pour offrir leur hommages à S. A. R. Madame la Duchesse d'Angoulême, au moment de son entrée au Palais des Tuileries, étoit une robe blanche, en soie, crêpe ou mousseline, une coeffure en lis et un bouquet de lis.

"This May 4th, 1814: The costume of 140 ladies chosen from the 12 arrondissements to offer their homage to the the Duchess d'Angouleme, at the moment of her entrance entrance into the Tuileries Palace, was a white robe of silk, crape or muslin, the coiffure with lilies and with a bouquet of lilies."

This, the first paragraph in the May 5 Journal des Dames et Des Modes. Not a peep about N. Bonaparte, and no sign of bees anywhere. It's lilies and rose color:

Une guirlande de lis, ou un bouquet de lis, orne le devant de beaucoup de coëffures en cheveux; et l'on voit les fleur de lis brodées non-soulement sur les écharpes blanches, mais sur des écharpes  couleur de rose...

"A garland of lilies, or a bouquet of lilies, ornaments the front of many coiffures en cheveux (without a cap); and one sees fleur de lis embroidered not only on white scarves, but on rose-colored scarves." (Ibid., May 5, p. 200)

It had been lilies for at least a week, at first rather quietly, as Paris became used to the idea that Napoleon was going, going, gone and that King Louis XVIII was returning. The April 30 issue's fashion plate pictured a young lady, her hat adorned with lilies, tending a lily plant.

Chapeau orné de Lis, Robe de Perkale.
Journal des Dames et des Modes, 30 April, 1815.
Image courtesy Sabine, Kleidung um 1800.
Please see her reproduction of this hat! 
In the weeks following, lilies proliferated along with the celebrations.

So, naturally, my Ninon must celebrate along with the rest of the Bon Ton. Her dress is white and she wears folds across her bosom, and she keeps fleur de lis in peekaboo embroidery close to her heart. Vive le Roi!

If he is King, I am Queen, purrs Miss Blueberry Muffin. Eyelet embroidery in progress.
Of course, this is imagining. Vernet didn't draw the neckline details clearly. It could be folds in the fabric. However, the underdress bodice is tightly cut across the front, making drawstring folds less likely, and given how the fabric stands out and is opaque, it feels like percale to me, percale being the popular fabric for spring 1814. Fleur de lis would be a natural embroidery. Now, eyelet embroidery across the lowish neckline, as we'll read below? Mmmm, maybe, but this is a latter-day Ninon de L'Enclos we're channeling, and no mere mortal.

Finally, Journal des Dames mentions a certain English fashion for tight bodices:

Il faut de même beaucoup de grâce et de belles formes pour adopter une nouvelle façon de robes introduite par les dames Anglaises. Le corsage très-juste et sans plis, dessine parfaitement le taille, sur-tout par devant. Comme ces robes montent moins que les robes à guimpe, on adapte un plisse de tullè à leur corsage, ou l'on croise un fichu de gaze sur la poitrine.
(Journal des Dames, 10 May 1814, p. 202)

Roughly: "One must have plenty of grace and a pretty form to adopt a new fashion of robe introduced by the English ladies. The well fitting bodice without folds, delineating the waist perfectly, all over the front. Because the robes rise less high that the "wimple" robes, one adapts a fold of tulle on the bodice, or one crosses a fichu of gauze over the chest."

For some reason that description rather recalls Ninon, does it not? Or am I out of my head? A tight-fitting bodice with folds of tulle across the chest. Vernet could have a great deal of fun with that idea, especially when he adds an English hat to underscore the idea. A Frenchwoman dressed almost entirely English fashion, but looking very, very French.

Where Do We Get the Eyelet Embroidery?

Across the channel, purple prose:

Here, at last, is the reviving charter of the happiness of the world, the golden fleece, which the champions in the holy cause...have, with the valor of their sword, extorted from the execrated tyrant in his very den. 
(Ackermann's, May 1814, p. 288)

After this breathless beginning, the unnamed author in the May, 1814 issue of Ackermann's Repository, a popular British magazine "of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics" -- a magazine of everything, really -- goes on to describe Napoleon's capitulation. His pen appears to stumble; he is that happy to be rid of a decade of truly heinous bloodletting and the insult of bearing with an emperor who had crowned himself:

We confess, however, that the task is beyond our powers, humble in themselves, but at this time scarcely sobered from the marvel, the stupor, the intoxicating delight, into which the intelligence so recently plunged our senses. (Ibid.) 

Feel on the scene yourself and read the article: pages 288-297. I promise you fireworks and an apparent engagement at the end.

London dressed in fleur de lis, too:

For evening dress white is of course the predominant colour, and evinces its prevalence not only in dresses, but in every article of dress; and is constantly attended with the fleur de lis whenever it can be introduced. The lilac and sea-green are, notwithstanding, occasionally visible, ornamented with the same emblematic flower, embroidered around the bottom of the dress without exception...Some ladies wear their dresses festooned...the Blücher and elegant scarf mantle are spoken of in terms of high approbation...(w)hite silk shawls and scarfs, richly embroidered at the corners and ends with fleur de lis, have an elegant and novel appearance, and are much in vogue.
(Ackermann's, May 1814, p. 303)

By the way, Blücher was one of the German Allies generals, and was already having clothing named for him. In Paris there was a Blücher hat, and so on.

To help Englishwomen celebrate, Ackermann's published what I think are two very pretty fleur de lis patterns in this issue. Can you imagine the sprigs as the olive branches of peace?

Not finding a fleur de lis embroidery pattern in French magazines, I appropriated the lower pattern for Ninon. It suits her well, I believe. It's elegant, restrained, symbolic, and half hidden under its gauzy bust festoons.

A Early Drop in a Coming Flood of Eyelet Embroidery?

I am only speculating, but this pattern just may be one of the early droplets in a flood of patterns in years to come featuring eyelets. If you examine patterns previous to spring of 1814, the patterns work better as satin and tambour and similar stitches, and in fact when Ackermann's includes commentary on the patterns, they're usually talking about embroidery without holes. This pattern, by contrast, is very clearly and obviously an example of what lots of people now lightly term "broderie anglaise", or English embroidery.

Strange, that, when in the April 30 Journal des Dames issue, the author remarks:

Quelques robes de perkale ont des remplis depuis le genou au coude-pied. Peut-être faudroit-il appeler trouées plutôt que brodées, les garnitures qui consistent en festons; car sur ces festons, les roues, les croissans, les losanges, qui forment autant de jours, donnent plutôt  l'idée d'une découpure que d'une broderie.  
(Journal des Dames, 30 April 1814, p. 192)

Roughly: "Some percale robes are filled from the knee to the instep. Perhaps one must call it "be-holed" rather than embroidered; the trimmings which consist of festoons; because these festoons, the wheels, the crescents, the diamonds, whatever form of the day (??), give rather the idea of a cutting than an embroidery."

It is around this year or so that the French fashion plates, and the English too, really start to feature heavily eyelet embroidery, which is so successfully done on a nice, tightly woven textile like a cotton percale. Again, this is my speculation, since it would need a careful examination of patterns, journals and extant garments spanning a series of years, but it really does seem as if this is what is happening.

The embroidery is progressing nicely. The outlining, in backstitch, is already around all the sprigs and flower forms, preparatory to cutting the eyelets and whipping round each one. The fleur de lis and the poix (peas) above them are satin-stitched, and the winding sprig stem is next. The eyelet work will be left to last because it weakens the fabric.

The Embroidery Materials

I've done the embroidery in a vintage German 3-ply (?), tightly spun, low-gloss, long-staple-cotton thread close to a button-hole thread. Someone I know just might recognize her gift, so prized! It's delightful stuff. It does not knot up, it lays evenly, and draws through the percale neatly. I have several extant 19th century embroideries, and have looked at others. The earliest in my collection uses a super-fine thread, though it's on a very fine muslin, and others seem to use pretty fine thread. At 52, even with strong glasses, my eyes can no longer handle such white on white work without strain, so I've opted for the thicker thread of one of my later embroideries, an embroidered petticoat from the latter half of the century. The results please me, even though they're clearly not remotely close to professional work.

The embroidery is on a 220 thread count pure Egyptian cotton, plain (tabby) weave, percale. Percale was and is by definition a closely woven cotton. It's hard to find yardage, so I bought a sheet. La.

You Can See Already That This Vernet Dress Takes Liberties

Eyelet right at the bustline rather than the hem, a joke about folds and festoons across the bosom, you can see already that my Vernet recreation has its tongue firmly in its cheek. Really, what can you do, when you have such a dress, looking like it does and labeled almost certainly after the demi-mondaine, wit, and letter-writer Ninon de L'Enclos?

As you know by now, having had a year of Vernet and his Merveilleuses and Incroyables, Vernet was a past master at both the subtle and the outre. So, why not have some fun with this recreation? I'm underpinning it -- pun intended -- as much as possible with research, and taking flight from there.

Oh, and did I promise to dissect the dress in this post? Ah, yes, that promise.

Go look that up among Ninon's more famous phrases :} Ciao!