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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Making over a 60s broad-brimmed hat into a cloche Part 2

I'm afraid I haven't made as much progress with this cloche hat as I'd have liked but then eyesight comes first.  And of course, life has a way of throwing in distractions by the handful.
Anyhow here is my progress to date.  Photo 1 is the front view.
I've reblocked the crown and reattached the brim.  Then I cut it down to the shape I wanted and wired the edge. I'm now more than half way around the edge with the grosgrain. This is a very time consuming part as you have to go in and out of each picot. PHEW! 
Here's the back view with the very narrow brim. I've always liked this aspect of 20s cloches as many ordinary hat brims hit the back of my neck which pushes them cockeyed if I tilt my head back.  

I wish the brim had been a little broader to start with so I could have a more graduated curve to the side of the brim but I still really like the overall look.
Photo 3 is the side view where you can see the angle I've had to negotiate around with the grosgrain. 
And lastly a detail of how I've slightly gather up the grosgrain around that angle. 

I'm still tossing up how I'll trim it but I am leaning towards softly draping fabric to cover the join rather than a straight hat band. Suggestions are welcome.

Friday, April 26, 2013

This is Cloche to my heart

While there is a lot of interesting information on the web about what types of hats suit which types of face, personally I just try them on to see if I think they suit me.
If it's a vintage hat it needs to be big enough for you to try on and a good number of hats may be too small. But hats can be resized as well as retrimmed and generally refurbished. Which is why I am now refurbishing a late 20s/early 30s black horsehair cloche that has the most adorable old lace brim. 
As it's been stored for years it has fold lines and the crown is all pointy.
It also has a very floppy brim, in fact, it's far floppier than it looks in this picture because it's supported by a hatblock with a brim. It was probably intended to be that way but since I don't look good in a floppy brim,  I've decided to give it some body. 
First I removed the 'sweatband' from inside and applied some gentle steam through a thick towel to the crown and left it  for a few days and it's vastly improved.  I might do it again just to ensure it's set.

But for now I'm working on that very floppy lace brim. (Sorry the photos aren't great but I took them with the phone.)
Initially I tried using clear line (like fishing line) but it doesn't mould so it really needed to be wire. Which meant more challenges to overcome. Good thing I like a challenge. 
Cotton covered millinery wire comes in either white or black. Both of which would show up like a sore thumb through the lace. 
So I watered down some brown dye and did some tests - after three very pale coats I have millinery wire that pretty much disappears under the lace! Yay!
I may also have to wire around the side wings of the black horsehair to get the right slant on the brim! Fussyboots aren't I!  
But I figure a hat that is almost 100 years old deserves all the respect and care I can give it.
Now I have the wire pinned in place under the lace. 

Fingers crossed it will work.  
I found an identical hat on a google search - it was listed with the term Mam'selle - whether this was a label in it or not I don't know.  Mine didn't have a label.
I'll post some photos once it's finished. I'll also try to get some photos of the construction of the hat which is pretty fascinating in itself.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fabulous thrift shop finds or Flighty mails of the parlours*

Nothing seemed to go right one morning recently so I thought oh well, just go with the flow. 
I went to my favourite thrift shop and had a look at the picture frames because you never quite know what you might find.
And there was a lovely mounted but unframed print of Victorian fashions with a description in French. 
While I am not particularly into the Victorian era, it was pretty and looked a worthy addition to my rogues gallery so I splurged the 20 cent asking price and brought it home.
It depicts modes of the day from 1834 from a fashion magazine called Le Follet Courriers des Salons* which was effectively the Vogue magazine of that era. 
There are a number of this magazine's fashion plates for sale online on eBay and antiquarian book sites.
I've had time to examine it more closely now and I've realised it has been properly mounted and there is an inventory number on the mounting.
I suspect it may be an original hand coloured print from the magazine - the leaf itself is quite good paper and has been fixed to another backing. Of course it could be a recent print made to look old but why then the backing and an inventory number?
I've done some research online and it is the correct dimensions for an original. Do you own any antique prints? Can you give me any pointers? 
Either way it's rather lovely and I smile to think of some fashion conscious french woman (the only kind) almost 180 years ago devouring her latest magazine analysing the styles the way we have done ever since. 
*If you can provide a translation of the title I'd be grateful because online translators hilariously provided the following:
  • the goblin mail fairs
  • the flighty mails of the parlors. (Hence the title of this post.)

Neither of which seems at all helpful.  
Individual translation of the words came up with "will o' the wisp or passing", "mail or post" and "salon or parlour", leading me my own dubious translation as 'Passing fashions of the salon by mail'.  Perhaps Flighty mails of the Parlours isn't far off.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mother of pearl gaming counter addiction

Hmm I got a little carried away on eBay again. 
These adorable little, exquisitely carved, authentic 18th century mother of pearl gaming counters get to me. 
Many collectors favour the armorial type featuring a coat of arms but I like the ones with monograms.  
A coat of arms is a family identifier but a monogram is personal - an individual's possession.
Some like this one (at left) have both a coat of arms and a monogram.
Someone in the 18th century, a man or a woman, owned, carried and played with  them.  They were designed, planned for and waited on. 
You sent your order off with a ship's captain to China to one of the small villages where carving them was the main industry and waited for a year before your lacquer box of gaming chips arrived. I can imagine the delight they brought when they arrived because I know how excited I was when my little box of goodies arrived! 
When I hold them, I travel in time. 
They are wonderfully smooth and divinely iridescent. 
How marvellous that two hundred years later I can hold them in my hand and marvel over their beauty.
I will never know the name of the craftsman who made them, the captain of the ship, or who they were made for. 
I will never know where they lived, or whether they gambled for fun or were addicted.  
But I know who might be addicted now.
Oh and you might want to check out who has masses of information about the history and designs of these counters. 
See also my earlier post on my growing collection of counters. Oh that I could afford an entire set! 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

In praise of Olive Matthews (1887-1979)

I've been reading "Understanding Fashion History" by Valerie Cumming which is not about the many and varied styles of clothing throughout history but how collections are formed and used and how that history is taught in our colleges and universities.
Collecting, preserving and storing historical items is an expensive and complex business and vies for budget allocations against not only historical artworks and furniture but also more modern collections. It must be a nightmare jugging what museums and galleries should keep and what they cannot reasonably maintain.  And how do these collections begin anyway?  Quite often it begins with a significant donation of objects.
So who was Olive Matthews and how does this relate to her?
Well Olive was an only child brought up by a strict father in London (her mother died when she was two years old).  
Her early interest in costume seems to have been sparked by some family items including a printed handkerchief c1774 featuring playwrights and actors that belonged to her ancestress Susanna Pearce and embroidered with Susanna's name. 
Fascinated by the 18th century (how could I not love her) Olive wanted to collect 18th century furniture but realising her father would not approve determined instead to collect clothing and items which could "easily be hidden in cupboards and boxes". 
Over a 40 year period Olive would collect more than 4000 items mostly from the period c1740 to c1840, finding things at markets and occasionally through dealers. The collection includes clothing and textiles, accessories, needlework tools (yum), toys and some furniture. 
Not wanting to see her collection split up and realising that large museums like the V&A would not accept it in its entirety, Olive with the help of a friend, set up a trust which administers the collection which is displayed at the Chertsey Museum in Surrey, UK to this day.
I have so much admiration for Olive.  She could easily have been thwarted in her ambition to collect items from the 18th century but she wasn't.  She could have just enjoyed those items throughout her life and left their ultimate disposal to someone after her death but she didn't.  She safeguarded it for the future.  For people like you and me. So we could enjoy it, study it, appreciate the construction and learn from it.
Bless you Olive. One day I will get to Chertsey Museum and see your wonderful collection.
You can check out the Chertsey Museum website at

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Monogrammed mother of pearl gaming counters c1785

These exquisite gaming counters make me want to run off and play roulette until the wee hours of the morning.
Not only are they a delight to the eye, they are full of history.
I feel privileged to own these little beauties and while I don't know who their original ower was, the history of gaming counters is quite fascinating.
Carved Mother-of-Pearl gaming counters seem to date back around 250 years for the european market. They were hand-engraved in China in sets of three or more shapes denoting different denominations and used as gaming chips. The most common shapes are a shuttle (leaf) shape, round, oval and both longer and shorter oblongs (rectangles). I've also seen some used as thread winders which have Dogs of Fo cut into each end. And there are other less common shapes such as delightful cartouches.
Counters were commissioned by the well-to-do including nobility and royalty as well as wealthy tradespeople.
Many were produced during the Ch'ing Dynasty, the last dynasty of Imperial China.
A variety of games were played with the counters including Quadrille, Ombre, Loo, Faro (Pharoah) and Whist.
Usually engraved on one side with family crests if you had one or monograms, the other side might depict some aspect of Chinese life, be patterened all over with a 'diaper' pattern or even a numerical amount. Some were more intricately carved than others, and some with thicker shell.
Popular designs also included chinese pagodas, people, flowers, doves, fish and other animals. Carp fish represent the common people, while animals indicate character traits. The peony, a spring flower, represents blossoming youth.
Those in the photograph were made c1785 (the Charlotte border is dated to that time) and fall into the reign of philosopher/ruler Ch'ien Lung.
See my older post below on popular pastimes.