Thursday, 10 August 2017

#CoBloWriMo 10: Visual source

Are you familiar with the Web Gallery of Art?

It's my favourite source for art sources; it may not be the most comprehensive anymore, or the best in terms of quality of pictures, but it's good for searching. You can choose type of art ("Portrait"!), era, and school (i.e. geography), and that makes it great for discovering relevant things.

I may search for the art and artists elsewhere after that sometimes, but I would not have discovered a lot without it.

This 1802 portrait of Heinrike Dannecker by Christian Gottlieb Schick is probably my absolute favourite, and I've been trying my hand at recreating her clothes. This study suggests it may be partial artistic licence, but I did manage. :D (I haven't completely figured out her chemise / shirt yet, though, and my hair does not do that.)

This portrait of Wilhelmine Cotta is also from 1802, and absolutely fascinating - she has no waistline! The closest to a chemise I've seen a chemise dress get. I'm thinking it could be similar to this one, but without the tie... (I really like that one, and am thinking of turning the pattern into the old red dress idea I mentioned in my Origin Story post, with sleeves closer to this painting's length.)

Also, I love her shoes. Blue and white stripes are a thing I have a thing for.

Her hairstyle looks more friendly to my type of hair. Although I don't have Regency bangs...

This 1810 portrait by Donát János is Central European (he was Hungarian) AND is the quintessential Little White Regency(-ish) dress. If I ever make a LWRD, I'll take my cues from this one; it's so quintessentially LWRD I think it can cover a good stretch of time just by a change of accessories, hairstyles etc.

Not this hairstyle, though. That's not me.

#CoBloWriMo 9: BIG project

The idea was to write about the Wallachian costume, a sort of "what it involves" post, but... today was taken up by other things, and the big project ended up being this:

Hauling things from my old home. Things like a bale of lining fabric. All my skirt slips. A set of IKEA bedlinen with an 18th century print - turned fabric. That sort of things. One full backpack and three full bags if things, not counting my regular "handbag" bag here (also full).

Hard time deciding what would go and what would stay behind. Concrete ideas won over vague ones, and I took the fabrics on the right in this photo.

The IKEA print will become a dress. So will the green sari (finally, I hope). The nude-coloured used to also be a sari - the idea was also for a dress. It's polyester, though, and for that and other reasons, there has been a change of plans. But plans there are.
The little bit of black you can see on the very right is remnants of fabric from my Little Black Dress. After several years of very occasional wearings, alas, the sleeves started unraveling, so I was thinking of repairing / replacing them.

The exhausting expedition (ugh, I've never hauled so many things at once, and I never want to do it again) was crowned and rewarded with a concert of Druhá Tráva, whom I've wanted to see live for a while now and kept not managing to; so in a way, it was also a big project.
I have no photos of that, although I could have taken some, easily - I sat in the first row! It just felt... disrespectful, somehow. I was there for the music, not to take photos.
They're the sort of musicians who just sort of hang about on the stage, and produce incredible sounds while doing that. Who make it look easy, except clearly it's not...

... and reflecting on them again, I forgot the time, and now it's no longer "today". So off with this post! More tomorrow - I mean today...

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

#CoBloWriMo 8: Vocabulary - Moravian-Wallachian clothing items

It's time for some explanation of terms for things to come.

And things not to come, at least not any time soon. This post is also a bit of a stand-in for the Historical Sew Monthly August theme of "Ridiculous." I have the ridiculous thing - I'm just not going to make it now.

This was the first historical image of Moravian-Wallachian folk costumes I ever came across, in Langhammerová, Jiřina: Dějiny odívání - Lidové kroje z České Republiky, Lidové noviny, Prague 2001. Annotations are mine.

Some things are fairly obvious; šátek is šátek (kerchief) everywhere, one learned about the shirt called rukávce, the bodice / vest called kordulka, the apron aka fěrtoch, one even knows of the traditional leather shoes - krpce (though I only learned the socks worn into them are called kopytce later).

What left me puzzled was the woman's leg- and footwear. I thought the author was applying some artistic license there. It looked ridiculous.

Years later, I found out he did not use artistic license; when I came across the book Lidová oděvní kultura by Alena Jeřábková (Masarykova univerzita, Brno 2014). In there, I finally learned more about Wallachian folk costumes in history. And that the black things on her legs were a special kind of stockings, called ubírané punčochy.

They were made of dark wool (not just black), originally cloth, later knitted, and they were very, very long. And then gathered / scrunched up, and felted, like so.

It's part of the reason I'm not going to make them: I have nothing to gather and felt them on. (The other reason is: ridiculous. And not worn with the folk costume anymore nowadays, so it would be just a historical experiment I don't have time for right now.)

The shoes are also correct, if slightly distorted. They are called střívjata, which I believe is just a dialectism for the general Czech střevíce. They are made of wool broadcloth, with latchets that don't overlap and tie with ribbon (which is what those blue bits are in the picture) or cord, and an often long tongue that folds over the top of the shoe.

Like so:

These are from Valašské Klobouky; photo was snapped by me at an exhibition of Moravian folk costumes in the chateau in Strážnice.

These are from Luhačovické Zálesí - a region that lies between Wallachia and Slovácko, both geographically and style-wise - the folk costumes are very similar to some Wallachian regions, so I guess it's a bit difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. The picture is from a visual guide to that exhibition in Strážnice.

Monday, 7 August 2017

#CoBloWriMo 7: Made for someone else - Making my sister's Wallachian shirt

The most recent "for someone else" project is my sister's Moravian-Wallachian shirt, which has already gotten some wear but actually awaits a re-do of the neckline gathers because they were done in a hurry before an event... Possibly also a re-do of the sleeves, because they are very long now. (It's a game of tug between what I think is correct and what she thinks will look good on her.)

So I'll just share some making-of now. That's okay; it's perfectly in keeping with my current wish to post more of the making-of.

It's mostly the collar; the rest was done in the evening without good photography light at a point in time when both my pairs of camera batteries were de-charged and I was taking photos with my phone... which isn't that good with lower light levels.

The embroidery is my sister's doing, though.

I'm very much indebted for the ideas of how to go about making one of these shirts to this Czech webpage. It actually covers the shirt - rukávce - of a very different folk costume, one from Uherský Ostroh and surroundings. In that area, folk costumes are much richer than they are in Wallachia. But the basic "skeleton" of the item is very similar, so I was very glad to have that starting point on how it goes together (since it's rather different yet from all the various historical items I've come across over the years).

Rather than have one big pattern piece for the body and tear into it and sew the sleeves into the tears like that tutorial does, though, I used separate front pieces and a back piece, because that seemed easier to make (though I now have my doubts), and to stack onto the fabric for cutting, Tetris-style, with all the smaller pieces and all the pieces for my own rukávce. It turned out it was a good thing we saved a lot of fabric this way, because it turned out I had calculated some of the pieces too small... my sister's shoulder pieces ended up being much bigger than originally drafted, in order to get the dropped-shoulder style she wanted.

Our fabric is lightweight cotton, crisp but with some drape; it's plainweave, but I think the warp and weft are slightly different thicknesses, so it has a slightly different structure than your regular plain weave does. It's really nice to work with, though, and has, I think, exactly the sort of hand this project needs; although originals would have more likely been linen, in the 19th century. (We bought the fabric in Kars on Cejl/Tkalcovská in Brno, back in March - I don't suppose they still have it...)

Despite the regional difference and the differences I introduced myself (I wasn't able to find out how exactly Wallachian ones would have been cut); it's still that basic style of the shirt from the tutorial: rectangular body; two squares or rectangles (I went with squares) for the shoulders - or four, if you want to strengthen that area, which I'm realising is another thing I forgot to do; two smaller squares for underarm gussets; two rectangles for sleeves; one small, long, narrow rectangle for the standing collar.

And because things like this are always better explained with pictures - something along these lines:

This is the most basic shape likely used in the Vsetín area, with variations being just in sleeve shapes. Width and length will differ, some gussets are rather longish triangles creating a more tapered sleeve, and some sleeves, rather than just being gathered towards the bottom, have a separate ruffle at the bottom. (They generally do have a ruffle, but it is often created - like my sister's will be - just by a drawstring running through the sleeve. I'm going to be different and, following my conclusions about a 1937 depiction, I'll only have the sleeve gathered into a narrow cuff, no ruffle.)

Some other areas (like Rožnov pod Radhoštěm) have a flat-lying gathered collar with a lacy / whitework edge, rather than this simple standing collar, like the one here.

I started out by constructing the collar. It's folded lengthwise, as I indicated above; one side is embroidered. Handling the fabric, I realised it needed strengthening, so I cut out another strip of fabric, this time in some old thin downproof ticking (it's softer and thinner than downproof ticking usually is, which made it a perfect lighweight, pliable interfacing for my lightweight fabric). The idea of using downproof ticking as interfacing is indebted to a member of the Historical Sew Fortnightly Facebook group; I've forgotten whom. (I'm going to run with the idea and also use it - the normal kind - to non-accurately interface my sister's bodice, because we really want it to sit smoothly.)

I also folded the ticking in half, and sewed it inside the collar with a longer basting stitch along the folded edge, on the inside side.

Then I sewed the sides of the collar pattern piece, wrong sides out, and turned it and pressed it.

And then I measured it out in quarters and marked them with pins, in preparation for the gathered neckline.

On to the body. I sewed a shoulder piece between the back piece and a front piece, like this:

I only pressed the seam allowances towards the shoulder piece, not finishing them, because the idea was that another shoulder piece would be sewed on the inside towards the end... well, that didn't happen then in the hurry. :P

The shoulder piece is again embroidered, at the bottom edge.

Me & my sister spent a lot of time poring over scavenged images trying to figure out what the embroidery would be like near Vsetín, and then we ended up designing our own going just for the feel of it (and our own tastes); because historical sources I found were low on shirt embroidery patterns, and modern ones are often machine-made...

... but at least I figured out that the cross-stitch embroidery that's sometimes seen was a relatively new and "lazy" development; which was lucky because my sister (who's the cross-stitch embroiderer in the family) found out cross stitch on this fabric was too much of a bother.

And now we're at the end of what I can show you now: with the underarm gusset. Following the above-linked tutorial, I sewed the underarm gusset about 5 cm (not counting seam allowances) bellow the shoulder piece, between the front and back pieces, and flat-felling the seams and sewing up the side seam at the same time.

Rukávce are typically open in the front, closing with hooks and eyes or buttons at the collar and then crossed over and held just by the bodice worn outside. For my sister, though, I sewed up the front, too, leaving just a slit; inversely, she wanted to leave the neckline open. I took pictures of that front seam and slit, too, but they were too blurry. :P After that, I was in too much of a hurry to take photos. So, to be continued with my own shirt and the alterations I shall make for my sister, later...

Saturday, 5 August 2017

#CoBloWriMo 5: Origin story

I wish I could give you my full origin story with pictures; I can't at the moment, because all the relevant things are at my father's house and I won't go there until later! Pictures to be added at a later date.

It's a long story, because I'm trying to bring together many different strands. And I'm sure I'm still leaving a lot out.

* * *

The start is clear. It all started with a little book. It was small but thick and it was an overview of the history of (then) Czechoslovakia. And somewhere around the middle of that book, there was a visual overview of the history of clothes. I purposefully say clothes, because it included prehistoric people, the "proletariat" (a must for a book published before 1989), and folk costumes.

All these people were pictured standing next to one another as if in a crowd, or more likely in a line long waiting and hanging out, or something. Underneath on each page (the book was landscape-situated), there ran on a description that went something like "from left, pilgrim and a girl from the 14h century, a burger's daughter from the 15th century, etc." There were often such grups of people fromo around the same time lumped together.

Two things to note here:

Firstly, I learned to read at a very young age (I think I started reading when I was three) because I am the youngest of three and apparently as a child I always followed my sisters' lead. By the time I started school, I was already reading fluently. So I was looking at the pictures and reading the descriptions at a very impressionable young age, so of course I was imagining real people with personalities, not just depictions of historical fashions.

Secondly, I may have been able to read words fluently, but obviously other reading capabilities were still not quite caught up. I apparently did not yet understand the function of a colon. Also, "from left" is a single word in Czech that vaguely resembles some names, too. At the very beginning, I kept thinking that Odleva was a person in the line-up, and then the numbers never added up. Even after I caught up to its real meaning, I had to keep figuring out who was who in the line-up (and remember, from above, that these were people, not "diagrams") because of the odd way it was written.

All this added to my fascination with that overview. I must have spent hours and hours looking through it at that impressionable young age.

In retrospect, it was a bad, bad overview - not just because it was written so oddly, but because for example "burger's daughter from the 15th century" is clearly a rich Italian lady from the end of the century, which is very, very misleading in the context of the whole of the 15th century in the Czech lands.

And there are zero Directoire / Empire / Regency fashions. The closest I get is a woman in cca 1820s fashions (okay, that might technically be Regency), who's facing a group in cca 1840s fashions and even from the description rather appears to be part of it. Bad, bad overview.

I'm writing all this from memory. That should give you an idea of just how imprinted all that is.

It also serves to drive home the fact that even at the time, I was most interested in the clothes, because I can't remember anything else from that book.

* * *

My first meeting with Regency-ish fashions was around that same time through a thin booklet, somewhat newer of date (after 1989), that was apparently a promotional booklet of a bank, aimed at children, also depicting fashions from various eras. It was called Clothes Make the Man (which, in the Czech version of the saying, is actually "human"). These were done almost as caricatures of the said fashions. The "Empire" lady was wearing fashions that were definitely 1810s, all narrow but with poofy decoration (weird to a child's eye!), close-fitting bonnet and ridiculously tiny parasol. In white and purple. And she had a very snooty expression on her face.

Not a good introduction.

* * *

I loved costumes in fairy-tale films (of which the Czechs have many), but it did not entirely click that those had historical inspirations behind them. For a while, my love of historical clothes was mostly directed to ethnic clothes. Like a lot of Central European children, I was fascinated by Native Americans, thanks to the books of Karl May (I won't go there). Unlike a lot of them, me and my sisters had more to go on, thanks to the books of Alberto Vojtěch Frič (in terms of South America), the permanent exhibitions Náprstkovo muzeum in Prague (where I could go several times over the years because we lived near Prague and one grandma lives in Prague), and last but not least, a most excellent encyclopaedia by Mnislav Zelený, which was published by Albatros, the children's books publishing company, but written by an actual ethnographer with a lot of experience in the field and access to a lot of sources. It's heavily illustrated, so suitable for children, but it's also perfectly good as a source.

I mostly bring it up because it does feed into the way I got back to European historical fashions: through ancient and ethnic clothing. The second time (I think) we visited the museum, there was a temporary exhibition on Ancient Egypt.

* * *

My love of historical clothes was re-awakened and nurtured in art classes at the local art school (that's a phenomenon that might need explaining to international readers, but I won't go there here, either). I think I was about eleven or twelve. We were doing a project in which we were designing a poster for an imaginary exhibition of historical fashions. The teacher brought into class a number of books from the Czech series written by Ludmila Kybalová (which I've quoted on this blog before). And I was fascinated.

I chose to do a poster for an exhibition on Ancient Egypt in Náprstkovo muzeum. But it started there. I came home with stars in my eyes, talking about awesome books on historical fashions. At the nearest opportunity, I got myself the one on ancient cultures. Others followed. Before I got there, mom brought home an old-ish (1980s) book, which was a textbook for textile / designing high schools I believe and covered something of design but mostly did history of fashion. And that was the first time I saw Empire fashions depicted properly.

Considering my first new historical fashion love was ancient, I guess it's fitting my current beloved era draws a lot of inspiration from that.

* * *

And it must have been around that same time, maybe a little later, that I first saw Andrzej Wajda's Pan Tadeusz. My oldest sister convinced me and mum to go see it in the local cinema. (It was almost empty.) I was blown away. I borrowed the book from the library (on my mom's card, because it was in the adult section and the two were treated separately). I was a very avid reader. Normally it would take me about a week, max, to devour a book. It took me two months to chew my way through this 19th century novel-length poem. But I did. It was, I think, the first time I ever voluntarily read a book I could not read easily.

My love for Regency-ish fashions has nothing to do with Jane Austen. Well, at least not originally.

* * *

The realisation that I COULD DO THIS has nothing to do with all that. It came, originally, from Star Wars and Padawan's Guide. It was Padmé / Amidala's costumes, I think. They were fascinating and I wanted to know more. It was the moment where I found a fascination with the construction of clothes, the way things go together, preferably in fascinating unusual ways, as opposed to a wish to wear pretty pretty clothing. It's where I started - very early on - veering off the path of standard modern patterns.

I have never made a Star Wars costume. Through Padawan's Guide, I found Koshka-the Cat, and that was it. I had found the world of historical costuming. From there, I quickly found others.

It's a gross simplification, mind you. I was devuoring everything to do with sewing then, and it's about the same time I found Burda Style in its original Open Source conception, as well. (Although I'm fairly sure that was only after I had found Padawan's Guide. And after Craftster. Which is a part of my crafting history I've nearly forgotten about.)

Even then, I think it took me several more years to start sewing historical clothes. That's strangely different from my apparent default sewing approach which is to plunge headfirst into projects several rungs higher than my current experience (my favourite example to bring up is that I did not start with a pillowcase and the first pillowcase I ever made was a quilted patchwork one). It's less strange when I realise probably the first project I plunged headfirst into in my teens was a medieval(-ish-ish) dress for a party. I started seriously sewing in my late teens because I wanted historical costumes of my own.

* * *

My graduation ball (prom-ish) dress wasn't historical; but it was empire-line. I used an altered Burda magazine pattern, moving bust darts from the sides to the waistline. It was almost nude-coloured and had a light-coloured sheer overlay over a somewhat darker satin-y lining. My skills didn't live up to expectations, not too surprisingly, but I can still derive a sense of satisfaction from the fact I wasn't wearing a sleeveless tube corset-bodice monstrosity from a rental shop, and that the dress is still salvage-able if I ever get around to it.

And I derive a sense of retrospective validation of my tastes from the fact the original idea, discarded due to pattern and fabric constrictions, was for gathers all around the skirt. The original idea was also that the dress would be red. And it had a slight train. And would have been worn with a bigger shawl than the eventual dress was. It was, basically, a very late 1790s-early 1800s idea. Now I think of it, I think I should include the original idea, only slightly altered (with sleeves), among the things I want to make one day.

* * *

What bothers me now, in compiling my personal retrospective, is that I can't for the life of me remember how I found The Dreamstress. It was definitely before she moved to Wordpress (let alone before the site overhaul). The old comments are thus lost in the transfer, so I don't even know when I found her.

It's a bit like that story about the northern lights on November 17 1989: it can't be proven. Except it can be proven by my following her site to this day, so that's much better. ;-)

She's very important for my origin story because she was, I think, the first person I came across who exudes a love of learning about historical costumes for learning's sake; not that the others I had found before don't have it, but they don't write about it as much, what with structuring their sites around their projects...

It's less of the - even completely unintended - drive to create more and more costumes to wear to events one attends, of which I had almost none (events, I mean), and more of the drive to make costumes because it's FUN, and because one LEARNS from it.

(The Historical Sew Fortnightly gave me one of the final impulses to really do it.)

It suits me best, that approach.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

The reinforcing strip of linen in the waistband:

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Deciphering Historical Clothes: Czech wristwarmers from the 1880s

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's knitted flat: notice the seaming inside.

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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


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

* * *

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

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