Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Journal Journey into the Year 1811: La Belle Assemblée Fashions for November (October issue), Part 1

As you know well my now, my having repeated it like a parrot each month, La Belle Assemblée reported on fashions one month ahead of the date of publication.

As 2014 moves towards its finis, and given that I am behind and really should be reporting on December fashions -- it being December and all -- I've decided to focus on the fashion month being reported, not the publication month. So this month we'll read about November fashions (October issue), and in a week or two, if I have time, I'll wind up with December fashions (November issue), Poor dears, you'll miss January 1812. Confused yet? So am I. Writing this was squirrely for some 15 minutes while my logy brain attempted to sort out 2015 time, 1811 publication time, and 1811 fashion time. What with how long it's taking me to complete these entries, this month is split into two posts, of which this is rather obviously the first.

This month we have just one fashion plate, a rather wild study in velvet and romanticism. You can spot a Romantic outfit a mile off, because it often involves velvet, rich colors, gold, braiding and lacing and a floppy hat with a feather, and what do you know, this one includes all of those items except the gold. No wait, there's a gold watch. Check. Not surprised that a rather lengthy and overblown poem by Sir Walter Scott is featured in the same issue.

Now, please don't forget to read the London report from Ackerman's, and those from Weimar and Paris. At this point we're all at different points in the calendar, but no matter, it should even up.

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

So here we go. Here is page 212, with notes afterward, per usual. Happy reading!



Promenade, Or Carriage Morning Costume.

Morning walking dress, La Belle Assemblee, November 1811. Source: Collection Maciet,
Mode. [XIXe siècle]. 1801 à 1811.
NB: The colors in the plate appear to have faded; if you look carefully the velvet trim on the pelisse and bonnet is purple, not black.

A fawn colour or amber velvet three quarters pelisse; faced and ornamented round the bottom and sleeves with Regency purple velvet, and laced down the waist, shoulders, and half way down the sides of the skirt, with rich cordons of purple; terminating with a tassel: a purple velvet collar stands up, is rounded behind, and comes down to a point below the throat: the cuffs are of purple velvet, trimmed with fine white lace. Over the sleeve is a demi-sleeve divided; between which division small purple ornaments, in the form of aiguilletes, but without the tags, are sometimes introduced when this dress is made of twilled sarsnet instead of velvet. The pelisse is trimmed all round, and up that part of the sides which are not laced with the cordon, with white French lace; and worn over an high dress of fine jaconot muslin, with a demi-train: this dress is made something in the chemisette form, with a single lace ruff. A Queen Mary's bonnet of the same colour and materials as the pelisse, trimmed round the edge with quilled ribband of purple satin, or rich fancy trimming of silk; and surmounted by a long flat ostrich feather of purple, turned from the face, half drooping towards the crown, which is puckered, and of a conic form. A gold watch is worn on the outside of the pelisse, with small gold chain, and very little ornament. Ridicule of faun colour or amber, with purple strings aid tassels; purple kid gloves, and demi-broquins, or quarter boots of the same.


Aiguillettes: properly, the little ends to braided cords that one finds on uniforms. Here, probably referring to braided cords connecting the divided sleeves, and very much complementing the rest of the outfit.

Cordons: braid trim.

Demi-broquins: "quarter-boots". "Broquin" is a term that might come from brogues"  "Broquin" as a word doesn't appear at all in standard dictionaries of the early 19th century, so it's surely purely a fashion term. Because it so closely sounds like "brogue" I suspect the term is borrowed. Brogue is Gaelic for a low-heeled shoe. Surely Imagine: from Gaelic to English to French referring back to Gaelic. Wow.

What is curious is that it appears the boot fronts are cut through in triangles in the front, or feature appliques of a contrasting color. It's too bad more detail was not provided.

Demi-train: short train that barely drags the floor, as shown in the plate. Now that we are sure of that one, we can move on!

High-necked (under) dress: there were a lot of these during this period. Really a much more suitable style for much of Europe than much of what was worn. In the case of this month's plate, the top is described as being in the chemisette style, which we can clearly picture...and it's even described as having a single ruff, a ruff being a common chemisette fashion. Wonder if a number of the high-necked extant dresses that we see were meant to be worn under a pelisse or at least a spencer? Something to think on.

Ostrich feather: described as long and flat. This means that the tips have not been curled, as they so often were, and it gives a rather clean, fresh effect.

Pelisse: the front-closing upper garment, here used also as the outdoor garment, with a light muslin dress underneath, which peeks out at both the bottom and through the divided sleeves. Gracious, the ensemble doesn't seem that warm to me. There is no discussion of there being any sort of lining.

Queen Mary's bonnet: in this plate, we have a fanciful rendition of the Tudor-era coif worn by Queen Mary  in the early 1600s. Here's a painting of the Queen, by Rowland Lockey, painted between 1610-20.

Mary, Queen of Scots, by Rowland Lockey. Source: BBC - Your Paintings.
Painting dated 1585 at top right.
The general shape is there, even the heart-shaped dip that was to be so popular on and off through the 19th century and even into the 20th. However, the look is a bit heavier and the crown is quite a bit longer than the original coif would have been, since this is a different era and an outdoor affair. Really, it's rather another take on the scoop bonnet, but with a few changes, so wearing it would not have been so very out of the way.

Now, add a feather:
Mary, Queen of Scots, painted by the British (English) School. Source: BBC - Your Paintings.
More information from the National Trust.
In this painting Mary is wearing a flat cap above her coif, so feathers fancifully fit the look of the 1811 version.

Quilling: a pleated trim. "Quill: v. a. to plait; to form in plaits." (From Joseph Emerson Worcester.
A Comprehensive Pronouncing and Explanatory Dictionary of the English Language: With Pronouncing Vocabularies of Classical and Scripture Proper Names. Collins and Hannay, 1830.)
When modern costumers talk of pleated trims on Regency-era items, the term to use is "quilling". The term survived deep into the 19th century: it appears over and over in descriptions of dresses with pleating, and even appears in 1888describing the pleats of lace on a lampshade.  (Peterson Magazine, 1888., p. 180.)

Ridicule: a contemporary term for reticule. Well, more evidence that the ridicule-ish term was used in all seriousity.

Watch: sadly, there is no indication of where the watch is fixed to the dress. Is it on a chain, pinned, or on a necklace? The model holds it in her hand so this is unclear.

Next time, Part II and the fashion observations for November.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Weaving Handspun Yarn: Increasing Fascination, Research Extension

Measuring out 50 yards on the homemade skein winder.
Christopher and I spin together. Now we are weaving together. Months ago we made yarn from Tuesday the alpaca's so-soft-you-bury-your-face-in-it hair. Since his brother has a woolen scarf I knit for him, Christopher has been agitating for one too, and we've agreed to learn to weave it together.

Will it be finished by Christmas? Since we must learn to size the yarn with starch or a milk solution, measure out the warp threads on warping pegs, and then dress a harness loom with them -- a process with 20 pages worth of steps in my big Swedish weaving book -- weave the scarf, and then finish and full the resulting fabric, probably not. Maybe by Easter and lambing time? Who knows? Doesn't matter. It's experimenting with this most ancient and respected craft that is the point right now. Later Christopher can enjoy wearing the piece of heaven that is partly the work of his own 7-year-old self.

From Tuesday's back to Christopher's neck, our hands, using tools so ancient some of their sources are lost in time, will have touched each step. To this day I have never felt such happiness and satisfaction with anything I have ever sewn or produced. This is getting to the source of things.

Christopher unskeins the commercial wool/alpaca yarn from the homemade skein unwinder, while I continue
measuring out a total of 110 yards for the scarf warp (lengthwise) threads.

Here's the loom. It's a Swedish loom, a Glimåkra Pysslingen table loom on legs from the 1970s. Like most Swedish and Finnish looms, it's ingenious and to my eyes, handsome. You'll be seeing it on and off as time passes.

Glimåkra Pysslingen loom, up close, along with skeins of the fluffy, chunky handspun
alpaca Christopher and I have produced.
Little note: you might recall the trim loom. It's in use. It's got cotton warped on it now, and I am about a third of the way through making a petticoat tape. A nifty, handsome machine and good way to begin to understand weaving movements. Plus make trim. But when? Again, who knows. Whenever the path winds there.

You Know Why I Spin, But Why Weave, Not Knit?

First, my knitting is poor. Garter stitch is fine, purling okay, but any combination beyond knit and purl and it's all too easy to get confused. This brain has a hard time with numbers anyway. Dates, sums, prices, equations, they get turned around in my mind so easily, mixed up together in jumbles. Long experience has taught me that all number sequences and calculations must be written down, then checked to make sure they weren't garbled even during their writing. Knitting sequences? Germs of frustration.

Then, weaving has appealed since a high-school-era class in a sunny old room introduced me to the big harness looms and the amazing things they can accomplish. Now is the time to return to that magic, even though it involves hordes of potential calculations and our loom is by no means large. At least those can be written down in logical order. I can avoid patterns made by complicated harness sequences and keep to the simplest weave structures while turning to manual warp-by-warp inlay techniques for figures and patterns beyond stripes and checks.

At the last, like many costumers, trying to find modern equivalents to or substitutes for historical fabrics has led naturally to curiosity about them.
  • What were the fibers like when the original garments were made? 
  • Were the silk worms the same species as raised today? Who raised them? 
  • Who herded the sheep for the wool and what did the sheep look like, smell like, act like? 
  • Where did the fine Indian muslins sold in Europe and the Americas come from? What plants, animals, and minerals were developed into paints and dyes?
  • What tools and machines made the yarns and threads and fabric and who developed them and used them?
  • What is calendaring, and is it true that the "scroop" of late 19th century silk depended on treating the silk yarns to a bath in caustic soda? How is brocade made?
  • What linen thread counts are good for shifts? What weaves look nice in a wool petticoat?
  • How was reeled silk produced in the 18th century? What about the 19th? How about now?
  • If England made American colonists buy so much of their wool, how come spinning wheels from the era are common? Who used them and what for?
  • When was ninon silk invented and why was it apparently named after Ninon l'Enclos?
  • What happened to fabric after it was reduced to rags, and what's the difference between mungo and shoddy?
Questions like these have bedeviled me for years. The answers have a great deal to do with what fabrics and designs were popular and where, and how people constructed and wore clothing, and they impacted fashion designs more than we costumers tend to think about.

So, as I've learned to spin Americas-style with a handspindle and now to weave, bedtime reading matter has been mostly historical accounts of the dawn of sheepherding, of spinning, of weaving among the Egyptians, of the English wool industry, and of revent ideas about how Medieval spinning in Europe may have been accomplished. I've eaten up books about spinning on wheels and spindles, and have read and reread Learning to Weave, a bible among American weavers, and The Big Book of Weaving, another bible recently translated from Swedish and my favorite reference so far, probably because the Swedish and Finnish looms are such clever, elegant structures almost entirely constructed of wood and cord, and capable of producing amazingly fine fabrics.

Booky, bloggy, wiki knowledge hasn't been the only benefit of all the reading and experimentation. When I read letters like those from Anna Briggs' accounts of spinning, weavers, and fabric conservation in American Grit: A Woman's Letters from the Ohio Frontier, her descriptions and concerns have made much, much more visceral sense than they once did. Same for My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams. Books like Rural Pennsylvania Clothing: Being a Study of the Wearing Apparel of the German and English Inhabitants, take on a different feel when I can begin to visualize some of the decisions the makers made when constructing clothing. Concepts become tangible and are tested, the sense of time shifts, resources are appreciated more, and the skills within bone and muscle and empathy in the mind and soul develop, even if just a little bit.

By the way, I am far from alone in this. There are historically minded spinners and weavers all over, in the United States associated with institutions like Colonial Williamsburg, tiny firms and larger companies like Thistle Hill Weavers or Devere Yarns or Pallia Mittelalter Hautnah in the U.K. Reenactor and SCA folks too, many of them in Europe and a number of them sharing their experiences on sites and blogs: Arachne's Blog and In deme jare Christi in Sweden, 15thcenturyspinning in Australia, Medieval Silkwork, in the Netherlands, and Hibernaatiopesäke in Finland, or Odette's Obsessions here in the States.

As Christopher and I make his scarf, and I consider a fun and modern rya-knot-woven pillow for the den, and perhaps a linsey-woolsey petticoat someday, it's good not only to enjoy the process, but to begin to feel and experience physical, mental and emotional movements made generation after generation after generation since people became people, and to begin to glimpse how the arts we are practicing are so closely meshed with with not just fashion, but with so much of the rest of life.

It is such fun getting down into the roots of it all.

Monday, November 24, 2014

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

This month's La Belle Assemblée issue reports, as usual, a month ahead. I, on the other hand, am very late in posting. This fall's workload has been unusually heavy, and we all have come down with assorted bugs to the point that it's a wonder the washer is still working, so many extra loads of laundry have been degermified.

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

This month there are no special fashion articles, just the normal plates with their explanations, plus some commentary on trends. They appear on pp. 156-157 of the July-December collection. Here they are below, followed by notes. Personally speaking, I find this month's plates especially pretty, rather than some of the over-the-top ensembles we've seen at other times this year. This month, too, is thematic: it's all about twists and pearls and beads: both plates make use of them and the general observations section mentions that beads are popular, as they have been at other times in 1811.



No. 1. EVENING DRESS. A sea-green crape dress, vandykcd round the petticoat, and ornamented with large beads; a full drapery over the shoulders, and confined in to the back with a pearl band, ornamented round the neck and down the back with beads. A full turban fillet tapered, worn on the head. Pearl necklace, white kid gloves and shoes.

No. 2. BALL DRESS. A fancy dress of undressed white crape, worn over a satin slip; the waist of the dress in the boddice form, scolloped and bound with pink satin ribband; the bottom of the dress scolloped in a similar manner, and caught up with small bunches of artificial flowers, the centre bunch of an increased size. The hem of the petticoat trimmed twisted satin and beads. Short Spanish sleeves composed of satin and lace; the back and shoulders of the dress trimmed with vandyke lace; a bouquet of artificial flowers worn much on one side. The hair ornamented with a fillet of twisted satin and pearls, placed twice round the head, and left to fall in a tassel, finished with beads. Pearl necklaces and earrings. White kid gloves and shoes, with small pink and silver roses.


During the last month, we have observed several little elegant trifles, but nothing strikingly new, or decidedly prevailing. Whoever can display most taste in transforming a handkerchief into a mantle, or a shawl or veil into a becoming head-dress, is entitled to the palm of taste and elegance. Less seems to depend on the skill of the milliner than on the fancy of the individual; every lady is in some measure her own artist; thus her cap it not only adapted to her figure and features, but even to the air and humour she puts on for the day; she has nothing to do but to look well, and no matter in what. For the promenade, an elegant mantlet is formed with a square of yellow crape, bound with satin ribband of the same colour; it is turned over from the neck, so as to form a sort of cape, the corners ornamented with small elegant silk tassels. White satin spensers, with a white silk scarf thrown over them, are well adapted to the season, and have a fascinating appearance. Satin tippets lined, and edged with swansdown, or spensers, will be well suited to the latter end of the present month. The pelisse of lace or crape, if still retained, will shortly require the addition of a scarf in conformity to the season. Short pelisses of rich twilled sarsnet are much worn over a dress trimmed with a full cambric edging. Satin and lace Grecian or cottage caps, are the prevailing mode of head-dress. Feathers seem less worn for the promenade, and have consequently appeared in greater numbers in the drawing-room.

Morning Dresses are frequently made in the pelisse style, buttoned down the front with small raised buttons, and trimmed round the bottom, the collar, and down the front, with a full cambric frill, delicately plaited. This style of dress is very fashionably prevailing; it gives us that idea of neatness, delicacy, and innocence, always interesting in a female; neatness is most bewitching, not merely as a pleasing quality in itself, but as a certain indication of many others; a well regulated wardrobe is not unfrequcntly a mark of a well regulated mind; of a conduct marked with propriety, and "thoughts void of offence." It is a never failing sign of economy, and of all those qualities so requisite for the well arrangement of a family.

For dinner or borne dresses, Merino crapes, Opera nets, sarsnets, and cambrics are most in request. They have not varied at all in their make. The waists remain much shorter than at the commencement of the summer; they are made entirely plain, to fit the shape. Trains are considered fashionable, but it is a fashion which, except in full dress, is in a great measure superseded by convenience. Cloth dresses have already appeared, but these we cannot help considering as premature. Velvets are very numerous; in fact, there is scarcely any season at which velvet may not with propriety be worn, warm as it may appear, it has the sanction of custom, which no one ventures to arraign.

For full or evening dress, figured gauze, white satin, coloured crapes, short lace dresses, and gossamer nets are considered the most elegant. Fine India muslins, with satin bodies and short satin sleeves, with a loose lace sleeve, brooched with diamonds worn over, and satin slips, are likewise very elegant. Coloured satin bodies are not so much worn, but will probably be more approved at a more advanced season; they give an appearance of dress, and contribute to the variety of the drawing-room, very pleasing at a less genial season. It is imagined that soft India mull muslins, wrought in small sprigs, with coloured cruels, will be found in great request fur the end of autumn and winter; they may not be probably considered to belong to full dress. Silver turbans are a very prevailing head-dress; satin caps, blended with lace, and ornamented with the Highland plume, are also much approved. Pearl cords and tassels are extremely elegant; beads are more worn than during the last month. Crape dresses ornamented with coloured satin, fancifully displayed in sprigs and wreath patterns, or for full dress, in silver foil or spangles, are considered of the very first order of dress. The hair is worn curled in full round curls round the face; the hair behind turned loosely up without any twist, and left to fall in irregular ringlet curls in the neck; no ornament worn in the front of the hair; a full blown rose placed much on one side a-la-Phoebe, seems to have many admirers; as has a knot of white or coloured ribband, mixed negligently with the falling ringlets in the neck.

We have observed no very new devices in jewellery; pearl necklaces with a diamond clasp, without either locket or brooch are the most prevailing; necklaces in emeralds and amber, are considered very fashionable; the short sleeves have again introduced that elegant and becoming ornament the bracelet.

The prevailing colours for the season, are jonquille, violet, amber, celestial blue, autumnal yellow, and rose.

It is from good authority we announce the present assortment of superb India shawls, gold and silver muslins, the admired Angola and Arabian shawls, together with the choicest India muslins, and all the new articles for ladies' autumn dress, now on sale at the house of Millard, in the city, far exceeds even that of any former season; and, although we understand there is to be no sale this autumn at the India house for India muslins, yet the immense stock of that house will still afford a rich treat to the lovers of that truly valuable article, where they are regularly obtained by the piece, or demy, at the first price.


Bodice and petticoat combination. This month's ball dress is not made in one piece, but two. Harking back to earlier jacket-and-petticoat styles from the later 18th century and earlier Regency, this dress has a separate "boddice", back-closing. Sure wish we could see the back closing. Had we reached the point of a back lacing? The fit makes me think so. A separate slip and over-petticoat are worn with it. It's unclear if the slip includes a bodice, but I would assume that it does not since the bodice may not be taken off. The separate combinations are more common than one might think and under-represented in today's recreations.

Fancy dress. The ball dress this month is described as a "fancy dress". Normally the term fancy dress means masquerade dress. That may be the case here: our model may represent the goddess Flora or spring. It's not entirely clear.

Hairstyles. Both plates this month show hairstyles clearly. Both hairstyles make use of twisted fabric and pearls for headdresses -- see tuban fillet, below, for more on that. Both hairstyles are constructed similarly. The hair is brushed towards the back of the head with no apparent partings, and braided into a coiled bun. Additional braids -- and false hair would be common -- are arranged either atop the bun, in the case of the ball dress, or swagged from the face to the bun in the case of the evening dress.
The hairstyles end up looking quite different.

The ball dress model wears her bun rather low, and her hair is smooth, something we don't always see. She sports just two sets of curl wisps to the side of her face. This style would be good for a woman whose hair was naturally quite straight.

The evening dress model wears her bun quite high so that the coiled fillet is accentuated. Her front hair was probably parted from side to side and then curled in tiny hanging ringlets with papillotes or a curling iron, for a softened Roman matron effect.

The observations section of the fashion column talks about a related but simple evening hairstyle:
"The hair is worn curled in full round curls round the face; the hair behind turned loosely up without any twist, and left to fall in irregular ringlet curls in the neck; no ornament worn in the front of the hair; a full blown rose placed much on one side a-la-Phoebe, seems to have many admirers; as has a knot of white or coloured ribband, mixed negligently with the falling ringlets in the neck."
Imagine the front curls from the evening dress model. Now, take the rest of the hair, pull it to the back loosely, bunch it, and without twisting it, push it up against the back of the head and jab a wide comb into the bunch to hold it in place. Allow the ends to curl back down over the comb and to the neck.

India muslins. Featured heavily this month. Clearly imported, as they had been for many years; note the advertising for particular shops carrying them in the last paragraph. My favorite mention -- "soft India mull muslins, wrought in small sprigs, with coloured cruels". By "cruels" the writer means crewel embroidery done with wool floss. Here would be a nice variation on the little white dress for evening: the sprigs would be in full color rather than in whitework. The designs would be variations of the pretty stylized florals so popular for over a century, by this point.

An example from the Deutsches Historisches Museum, of a dress that I believe is of India muslin. See how attenuated the sprigs and winding vines are. Widely spaced, small motifs are common at this juncture; they would become bolder as time passed until they turn into the full-and-fluffy Victorian styles.

From "La Fleche", a member of the Napoleon 1er forum.

Here is an example using the boteh pattern, the paisley design which appeared about now and is still popular.

Cotton dress with wool embroidery, 1810. Met: 11.60.226.

Pearls. The pearls used in this month's plates were in all likelihood faux pearls, perhaps glass filled with wax, the so-called Roman pearls written about in the Two Nerdy History Girls blog. Real sea pearls were fabulously expensive. In the evening dress plate the pearls outline portions of the dress, and even add weight to the vandykes at the dress hem.

Pearl necklace. The pearl necklace in the evening dress plate is clasped with a metal clasp rather than tied with ribbon as common earlier.

Turban fillet. For a change, just what you might imagine: a "fillet" is normally a narrow ribbon or wire wound round or encircling the head, while a turban is a, well, a turban. In this month's evening dress hairstyle, we have a length of fabric well gathered to make a narrow, round, gathered tube, wound round the head. The turban is wound with pearls for extra measure. Handsome and I hope that someone will take up this style for a ball before long! The ball dress plate uses a similar design; it encircles the head more like the fillets we remember from Medieval fairy tales, but ironically, the effect is more turban-like to my eyes than the evening dress example, yet isn't called a turban. Fashion, fashion.
That's it for September's journey. I sure hope to be able to get to October before long! So behind...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Very Veird, Very Vun, Very Vernet

Odd shoes, strange proportions, fantastical topknots, attitude.
On the streets, along the avenues, it's just verveilleuse!

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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 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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.