Aug 19, 2014

1850 Australian Mourning Gown

Mourning dress probably worn by Amelia Hackney, part of the Australian Dress Register
I've been asked to make an 1850s mourning gown for a permanent public display. My pattern of choice to start with looks like Laughing Moon's 1850 Round Gown.

I've had a close inspection of an 1850s mourning gown worn by its maker, Amelia Hackney, in Sydney in the 1850s. I really must thank Lindie Ward, Curator at the Powerhouse Museum, for locating it for me. It is made of silk satin and is still in almost pristine condition, although is not on public display.

How do we know if a sewing machine was used?
The earliest sewing machines produced a chain stitch, and garments with this type of stitching are likely to date from the 1850s and 1860s. The lock stitch machine (where both sides of the stitching look similar) was also in use by the 1860s. Machines were also developed in this decade which could sew on braid, do chain stitch embroidery, and produce pleated trimmings, which are much in evidence on garments from the 1870s. If there is evidence of machine stitching in a garment which definitely dates from before the mid 1850s, it suggests a later alteration.

I've seen antique silk gowns from 1890 and early 1900 shattered and falling apart. Why is the silk used for this 1850s gown looking almost brand new?
Silk is naturally tough and hardwearing, so 18th century silks survived for decades, and can be found re-made into garments up to the 1890s. The chemical finishes applied to silks, especially lining silks, from the 1890s onwards, however, were very destructive, and caused the splitting and shattering of silk dresses and petticoats from 1890 – 1920 that presents such problems to museum staff today. Patterned silks, which dated quickly, have survived in museums in much greater quantity than plain silks, which could be recycled into children’s dresses, linings etc.

Jul 28, 2014

1809 Redingote update

Last January I started to make an 1809 Redingote, but the heat of summer and other pressing commitments prevented me from making much progress. I wonder if I need to have another go at getting it finished while it is so cold outside in our Australian winter?

I've had invaluable assistance from Sabine Schierhoff, Judy Lukas, Charo Palacios and Bronwyn Parry translating the description at the bottom of this fashion plate and finding fabric online.

We've worked out that it is telling us that the Redingote is decorated with an Astracan imitation made from silk plush(velvet) and that the turban is made of Muslin. The L'evantine fabric of the Redingote- [F. levantine, or It. levantina.] is a stout twilled silk fabric, formerly made in the Levant. 

I found a vintage Astrakhan coat and some nice wool fabric in January, but with this more expanded translation and time for much thinking about where and when I'd like to wear the coat, I have decided that I will make the coat from this dusty lavender silk twill, and ornament it with silk plush.

Jul 26, 2014

Slippers, or the start of something new...

Today I attended a leather workshop in Goulburn, NSW and started learning to make shoes.
Table of tools used by our instructors. 
I have been reading all week about making historic turn shoes and hope to use a similar technique to make dance slippers, unless further research turns me in another direction.
I have learnt that different leathers are used for the uppers and soles, and that the leather I most prefer for uppers is called milled double shoulder. I found mine at Tandy leather and it feels so beautiful under the hand.
My goal is to learn to make a simple yet elegant handsewn dance slipper. I will document my progress here over the next few weeks.
The milling process, which produces the supple feel,
also produces a prominent grain that gives items a look of elegance. 
Materials in my box:
Sewing awl with straight and curved needles
Waxed thread
Milled double shoulder leather
Sharp blade for cutting leather
Overstitch wheel
Safety Beveler
Stitching Horse


Mar 25, 2014

My hat arrived!

I have been very lucky to have made contact with and was able to commission a hat to wear with my Astrakhan 1809 pelisse (when I eventually find time to make it!). The hat arrived today and looks gorgeous - especially as she was able to use a piece of antique black silk lace that I found on ebay. I love how the curly feathers echo the astrakhan fur.

Mar 14, 2014

18th Century Engageantes

Engageantes are false sleeves worn with women's clothing in the 18th century. They took the form of ruffles or flounces of linen, cotton, or lace, and were often tacked inside the elbow-length sleeves so they could be removed for cleaning.

There are some wonderful examples of extant sleeve 'ruffles' or 'flounces' at and there is a Mill Farm Pattern.

We see them in portraits from the mid-18th Century, and whilst mostly worn by the upper classes, there are images of them worn around the home. In the portrait below we see the shift showing under the outer sleeve ruffles of a laundress, though this one looks a little too genteel to my eyes.

“Laundress” by Henry Robert Morland
I found this image showing an elaborate sleeve ruffle - three outer ruffles joined by two inner silk organza ruffles.

 Joseph Blackburn, 1762
Today I pinned my sleeve flounces into the sleeve to get an idea what they looked like. I have made mine from an extremely sheer light cream silk cotton fabric that goes well with both my colouring and with the cream silk of the gown. I'm hoping that when I add the outer silk flounces that they will support these inner flounces a bit more. Next time I'd like to try using a stiffer silk organza.

If you want a pair of engageants just like this I am happy to take orders in my Etsy store. I have plenty of this silk cotton fabric in either white or ivory (pictured).

Mar 13, 2014

18th Century Court Gown, a work in progress

I've had to put aside my regency gown while I work on my 18th Century Court Gown to wear at the Jane Austen Festival for a dance display. Do join my progress at
Whilst I love sewing by hand, my carpal tunnel and deadline for finishing this gown mean that I must learn how to use some of the embroidery stitches on my sewing machine. I'm slowly improving.

Dress inspiration - this gown was photographed at the Leeds City Museum, UK.


My fabric, an embroidered silk from in India

My hoop (Simplicity 3635) and stays (Nehelenia)
Stomacher design

Boning the back of the stomacher

Sewing the design lines onto the front

Playing around with trimming ideas
Getting my punches to work

Two punched silk sleeve flounces
Embroidered design onto silk flounces using tear away stabiliser

After ironing remove the tear away stabiliser

Carefully cutting away the edges

Two large and one small flounce done, one more to go.
I'm getting a little better doing machine embroidery.

Mar 11, 2014

See you at the Jane Austen Festival this April!

JAFA Poster 2014
Ever wondered why some of my sewing projects are unfinished? Its because every year for the last seven years I have been organising Jane Austen Festival Australia. It is a lot of work organising four days and nights of activities, and often needs me to put my sewing aside. Do consider joining us one day, and here below is the program for 2014.

Jane Austen Festival Australia will be held from 10-13 April 2014 at University House within the Australian National University and will celebrate 200 years of Jane Austen, her life & times and the publication of Mansfield Park. Plans are underway to bring you a program that – like the novel – is engaging, thought-provoking and diverting. Please join our email list or join our facebook group to receive notifications about the festival. In the meantime, below is a program listing (subject to last minute changes). "Friends of Jane Austen Festival Australia" are invited to register from the 1 March. All remaining ticket holders will be invited to register for their sessions from 7 March 2014 - it will be first in first served.

Thursday 8.00-4.00: Private Costumed Bus tour 
Depart University House at 8.00 am for a day private bus tour of Historic Yass, the National Trust's Cooma Cottage and the National Museum of Australia Repository in Mitchell seeing the Springfield collection and storage facilities. Lunch at the George Harcourt Inn at Gold Creek is included in your ticket. Return to University House at 4.00pm. Only 20 seats available. 
NB. You are requested to wear Regency Costume on this outing. 

Thursday 6.30-9.00: Registration, Welcome & Games Night 
Drawing Room: Collect your registration pack, and after listening to our guest speaker, Jane Austen's last living relative, Caroline Knight, from Chawton House in the UK; join at one of the period game or sewing tables. Refreshments provided. [free for season ticket holders, $25 for everyone else]

Friday 9.00-10.30: Dance Workshop - Country Dances and Ballroom Etiquette 
Common Room: The Austen era country dance and the ballroom etiquette implicit in novels of the time. I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principle duties of both … (Northanger Abbey, 1817) Teacher: John Gardiner-Garden 11/04/2014 $0.00 $0.00 

Friday 9.00-10.30: Talk "Josephine: Good time girl, just another aristocrat, or a product of her time? 
Tony Miller's talk examines the men, dogs, and business dealings that shaped an Empress; traces her birth on Martinique, through the Revolution, to her life after the fall of Paris. Hear the evidence and make your judgement. Held in the Stanner Room. 11/04/2014 $0.00 $0.00 

Friday 9.00-10.30: Sewing Workshop "Walking Bonnet" 
This year’s bonnet has a tall crown and a short brim, suitable for less formal entertainments, and is based on a style popular in 1814. As in previous years, this bonnet is made with buckram and wire (supplied) and you will need to supply 1m of outer fabric of your choice, 50cm cotton for lining, any decorations & ribbons, usual the sewing equipment. Presented by Lynne Cook. Held in the Fellows Room. 

Friday 9.00-10.30: Sewing Demonstration, "Make your Regency Silk Dance Slippers" 
Finding the right style of period shoes for your Regency impression can be fraught with problems. There are beautiful reproduction shoes available but they are often very expensive and the less expensive versions have incorrect details. Your foot may be difficult to fit into mainstream shoe sizes, or, like me, you just want to match your shoes to your gown and wear silk slippers, just like they did at the balls in 1814. These slippers are easily stitched by hand or on the sewing machine. Presented by Lorna McKenzie. Held in the Torrence Room. 

Friday 11.00-12.30: Regency Dance Workshop - French Square Dances 
Common Room: We're not at war with Paris - the new French square dances popular in Austen's England. Much obliged for the quadrilles, … though of course they are very inferior to the cotillions of my own day. (Jane Austen to Fanny Knight, 20 February, 1816) Teacher: John Gardiner-Garden 

Friday 11.00-12.30: Talk "Conservation and Storage" 
Presented by Carmela Mollica from the National Museum of Australia. Carmela will talk about the conservation of fabrics and how to store garments in private collections. Held in the Stanner Room. 

Friday 11.00-12.30: Sewing Workshop "Learn the Art of Tatting" 
Participants will learn the art of tatting, which is a form of lacemaking that uses a shuttle to form knots on a central thread. After learning the basic skills of tatting, participants will use these skills to make a tatted edging for a cotton handkerchief. A kit will be supplied and will include a cotton handkerchief, a tatting shuttle, and white cotton crochet thread. Please bring a needle and white cotton thread (for hand sewing). Presented by Kelly Lock. Held in the Fellows Room. 

Friday 11.00-12.00: Talk "Jane Austen Festival Book Club" 
A one hour ‘book club’ session led by author Alison Goodman in which participants discuss and celebrate Mansfield Park – the characters, the story, favourite scenes, the romance, the humour– in an informal setting over coffee, tea and cupcakes. The only prerequisite is that participants read Mansfield Park sometime before the session. Held in the Torrence Room. 

Friday 11.00-12.30 Visit an original Jane Austen letter in the National Library Australia 
The only Jane Austen letter in a public collection in Australia is held at the National Library of Australia in Canberra. JAFA delegates are invited to attend a special viewing. A NLA librarian curator will discuss the preservation of the letter and Austen scholar Janet Lee will present details of its provenance and contents. Travel cost to be confirmed (bus or taxi), private transport ideal. Organised by Janet Lee, University of the Sunshine Coast 

Friday 1.30-3.00: Regency Dance Workshop - The Evolution of Country Dances with Quadrilles 
Common Room: Mr Chivers Fancy and other fascinating offspring of the country dance and quadrille's marriage—the Ecossaise, Spanish Dance, Swedish Dance and Mescolanzes of the 1820s. Teacher: John Gardiner-Garden 

Friday 1.30-3.00: Talk "War of 1812" 
John Potter will talk about the little known (in Australia at least) War of 1812 which took place in North America between 1812 - 1814. The rebadged NSW Corps was there as the 102nd Regiment and included a small number of Australian-born soldiers in it's ranks. Held in the Stanner Room. 

Friday 1.30-3.30: Sewing Workshop "Make a Reticule" 
Make a lined reticule for the ball! Bring 50cm of fabric and 1m ribbon to match your ballgown, as well as usual sewing equipment. Presented by Aylwen Gardiner-Garden. Held in the Fellows Room. 

Friday 1.30-3.30: Sewing Demonstration "How to Tie Your Cravat" 
If you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of time getting ready for the Jane Austen Festival each year. This consists of at least one new outfit, hair styling and accessories. But what about your partner? Do we really give him as much thought? This year, I thought we could devote one of our workshops entirely to our gentlemen, or more particularly his neck cloth, or cravat. This workshop will provide you with directions and practise for tying several different styles of knot, as well as some history, a pattern to make cravats and written instructions on more knots. Presented by Kelly Row. Held in the Torrence Room. 

Friday 3.30-5.00: Regency Dance Workshop - Couples Dances of the Late 18th Century 
Common Room: The couples dances of the late 18th century - the revered minuet and the knotty allemande. I can neither sing so well nor dance so gracefully as I once did—and I have entirely forgot the Minuet de la Cour (Love and Freindship, 1790) Teacher: John Gardiner-Garden 

Friday 3.30-5.00: Talk "Period Stitching and Construction Techniques" 
This lecture will be a discussion on methods of stitching and construction in the Regency period. Presented by Hilary Davidson, the previous fashion curator of the Museum of London. Held in the Stanner Room. 

Friday 3.30-5.00: Sewing Demonstration "Mushroom-pleated trims" 
In this class, Antonia will demonstrate how to make a mushroom-pleated trim using a smocking pleater, how to set the pleat and how to use the trim for collars and cuffs. Please bring the usual sewing equipment, but at least scissors, needles and white sewing thread. Presented by Antonia Lai. Held in the Fellows Room. 

Friday 3.30-5.00: Sewing Workshop "Tambour embroidery" 
Popular throughout the Regency period, Tambour work was used to embroider both fabric and net (to imitate lace). Using a hooked needle in a holder, the work is done on a free standing frame as you need both hands – one to hold the needle, the other to hold the thread. Previous experience in handwork is an advantage, not suitable for raw beginners. Tambour hook, holder, thread and ground fabric are included in the kit. A frame and clamp will also be supplied for your use. Presented by Lynne Cook. Held in the Torrence Room. 

Friday 6.30-10.30 Dinner and Variety Night 
Enjoy a formal dinner while being entertained as people were in Regency times. Acts will include singing, music, and dancing. Come in your Regency attire and admire the fashions around you. A cash bar will be available for you to purchase liquid refreshments. 

Saturday 9.00-10.30: Regency Dance Workshop - Capital Dancing 
Common Room: Essentials for "capital dancing" - country dances and etiquette for the evening ball. What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy!—There is nothing like dancing after all.—I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished societies (Pride & Prejudice, 1813) Teacher: John Gardiner-Garden 

Saturday 9.00-10.30: Talk "Jane Austen's Pelisse" 
Hilary Davidson will show her reproduction of Jane Austen's pelisse. The original pelisse was constructed exactly 200 years ago in 1814. Presented by Hilary Davidson, previous fashion curator of Museum of London. Held in the Stanner Room. 

Saturday 9.00-10.30: Talk "How do you solve a problem like Fanny? Putting Mansfield Park on Stage and Screen" 
Presented by Deborah Mulhall. Held in the Fellows Room. 

Saturday 9.00-10.30: Sewing Demonstration "All Those Regency Sleeve Designs!" 
Have you ever wanted to recreate a fabulous Regency sleeve style from an illustration you have fallen in love with? Or one that you have seen and just wished you could do? Or looked at some diagrams and not known which way is up? Bring your dream design, or just your desire to learn, and we will discover how sleeve variations are developed from a basic sleeve block, as well as doing some pattern making together from some of the well-known costume history books. Bring pencils and any pattern making rulers/shapes you may have. We will also do some mock-up sleeves (toiles) from calico to see how the cut of the fabric will affect the look of the sleeve. Presented by Adrienne Unger. Held in the Torrence Room. 

Saturday 11.00-12.30: Regency Dance Workshop - Mixers, Reels and Show Off Dances 
Great Hall: Wild dances for late in the evening - mixers, reels and show off dances. Do you not feel a great inclination, Miss Bennet, to seize such an opportunity of dancing a reel? (Pride and Prejudice, 1813) Teacher: John Gardiner-Garden 

Saturday 11.00-12.30: Talk "Food Glorious (?) food - on board" 
Exploring the food, and the politics of food, on board Regency naval ships is the focus of "Food, glorious (?) food - on board". You hear about and taste some of the "delights" (not!) of provisions and supping in the navy and other ships of Jane Austen's era. Think Waterloo and Captain Cook (not often expressed in the same sentence) and what it is that binds them. Presented by Megan Gardiner. 

Saturday 11.00-12.30: Sewing Workshop "Regency Trims" 
Learn how to sew some late-Regency trims - Van Dyke/Saw Tooth trims, Buffonees and Ruched Trims using hand stitches of the period including whip stitch gathering. Presented by Aylwen Gardiner-Garden. Held in the Fellows Room. 

Saturday 11.00-12.30: Workshop: Make your own "Silhouette" 
Presented by Sandra Levy. Held in the Torrence Room. 

Saturday 11.00-12.00: Tour the National Film & Sound Archives
McCoy Circuit, Acton 

Saturday 1.30-3.00: Regency Dance Workshop - Set Dances 
Great Hall: More set dances and etiquette for the ball. he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry… the ball closed so early, and talked of giving one himself…Such amiable qualities must speak for themselves (Pride & Prejudice, 1813) Teacher: John Gardiner-Garden 

Saturday 1.30-3.00: Talk "The 95th Rifles: First on the field, the last to leave" 
Presented by Alex Barnes. The 95th Rifles was a pivotal change from the classic redcoat. He worked as a pair, he was a marksman and he held an edge on the battlefield that Napoleon's Army couldn't replicate. The 95th Rifles could be considered the first Special Forces unit of the British Army and has led the way to the current British soldier. Held in the Stanner Room. 

Saturday 1.30-3.00: Sewing Workshop "Make a Pair of Mitts" 
Mitts were a popular hand-covering in the Georgian and Regency periods and they’re a great option for the modern costumer – achieve a beautiful period look while co-ordinating fabrics choices with your outfit and retaining the use of your fingers! In the class we’ll look at different types of mitts, fit and make up a pair of silk-style mitts and discuss decoration techniques. Materials: you will need a 40cm piece of silk taffeta or satin and contrasting embroidery thread in the colours of your choice. Polyester taffeta will be available for making a prototype, for a gold coin donation towards the cost of materials. Presented by Melanie Green. Held in the Fellows Room. 

Saturday 1.30-3.00 Fashion of 1814 Overview 
Using the plates from Ackermans from 1814, this will be a discussion of the styles and how to reproduce them with Lynne Cook, President of the Australian Costumers Guild. 

Saturday 3.30-5.00: Regency Dance Workshop - Couples Waltz and Polonaise
Great Hall: The couples' dances of the early 19th century - the waltz and the Polonaise. Mrs. Weston…was seated, and beginning an irresistible waltz; and Frank Churchill, coming up with most becoming gallantry to Emma, had secured her hand, and led her up to the top (Emma, 1816) Teacher: John Gardiner-Garden 

Saturday 3.30-5.00: Talk "Pugilism and Single-stick" 
Presented by Stephen Gapps. Marital Arts in the Regency period. Held in the Stanner Room. 

Saturday 3.30-5.00: Sewing Workshop "Regency Day Cap" 
Married women and spinsters in the Regency era wore caps indoors, and all women wore some sort of headgear when outdoors. Caps were often made of fine linen or muslin, always white. Make a cotton cap like Jane Austen may have worn, reproduced from historical examples. Please bring white sewing cotton and a basic sewing kit. Presented by Jodie Ruth. Held in the Fellows Room. 

Saturday 3.30-5.00: Antique Costume Study Tables 
Come and view a selection of male and female antique regency garments up close. Cameras are not allowed so that everyone has a chance to see the garments without disruption. 

Saturday 6.30-11.00 Jane Austen Festival Ball 
The Grand Ball of the Jane Austen Festival. It may be possible to do without dancing entirely. Instances have been known of young people passing many, many months successively without being at any ball of any description, and no material injury accrue either to body or mind;—but when a beginning is made—when the felicities of rapid motion have once been, though slightly, felt—it must be a very heavy set that does not ask for more. (Emma, 1816) Come in your best evening costume and enjoy Regency dancing like Jane Austen did. Supper is provided and a cash bar is available for you to purchase liquid refreshments. 

Sunday 9.00-12.30 Mansfield Park Symposium 
Tables will be set up at the back of the room for people to work on any outstanding sewing projects while they listen to the Symposium. Morning tea is provided. 
Topics include: 
1. ‘Addicted to letter writing’: How does Jane Austen use letters in Mansfield Park, and what do her own letters and notes reveal about Mansfield Park? 
Presenter: Janet Lee, University of the Sunshine Coast 
2. Mansfield Park and education 
Presenter: Dr Heather Neilson, University of New South Wales, Canberra 
3. ‘No moral effect on the mind’: Music and education in Mansfield Park 
Presenter: Dr Gillian Dooley, Flinders University, South Australia 
4. ‘The Genius of the Place': Mansfield Park and the improvement of the estate 
Presenter: Professor Christine Alexander, University of New South Wales 
5. ‘In danger of slipping into the ha-ha’: Miss Price’s Kierkegaardian reflex in our ‘Craw-dashian’ age: examine the two double-edged swords which are Classicism and Romanticism. 
Presenter: Marcus Adamson, psychotherapist and business consultant with an interest in the history of ideas and ethics 
6. Mansfield Park and the Navigable World: Global allusions and reflections in Mansfield Park. Presenter: Professor William Christie, University of Sydney 
Venue: Common Room MC: Dr Gillian Dooley 

Sunday 9.00-10.30: Workshop "Decorate &/or Cover a Regency Bonnet" 
Cover a bonnet to wear at the Promenade. Bonnet base provided. Please bring 50cm x 50cm fabric, sewing kit, ribbons and flowers. 

Sunday 11.00-12.30 Regency Dance Manuals 
Have a close look at some of John Gardiner-Garden's antique dance manuals of the Regency period. Please make sure you wash your hands carefully before this session. 

Sunday 12.30-2.00 Picnic and Promenade at Botanic Gardens 
Come in costume to enjoy a picnic lunch and a promenade around the National Botanic Gardens. Please bring your own lunch or purchase from the cafe. (In the event of rain we will visit the National Museum of Australia where we cannot take a picnic but can purchase from their cafe). 

Sunday 2.00-6.30 Jane Austen Cotillion Ball—a glorious buffet of Regency era dance crazes, with country dances led in the Regency manner (i.e. by participants!), lively cotillions taught and called for all, dances that match tunes in Jane Austen’s music books, and lots of other fun dances of the time which you’ve not seen in the movies but might be one day!: 
Shall you be at the Cotillion ball tomorrow? (Northanger Abbey, 1797, publ. 1818).

Become a Friend of Jane Austen Festival Australia here and support our festival.

Mrs Aylwen Gardiner-Garden
Director, Jane Austen Festival Australia 

If you have an exciting presentation you wish to share with us in April 2015, please contact Aylwen as we focus on Jane Austen's "Men" and celebrate the Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

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