Tag Archives: sewing

Planning a dress

I know that some people like to work spontaneously, but I am gifted with the love of planning. So this is how I’m strategizing the new dress and mantle for Our Lady of Aparecida.

Igreja do Santíssimo Sacramento de Sant'Ana Salvador Nossa Senhora de Aparecida 2018-1791
The image is customarily dressed something like this. The carved wooden image (or a replica in resin) is dressed in a dark blue velvet mantle decorated with gold trim and varied embroidered ornaments, usually with a pair of flags on the front and a decorative pin holding the mantle closed. The mantle is secured by the pin of the crown, which goes down through a hole in the hood of the mantle and into the appropriate hole in the top of the head.
The unvested image already has a draping robe, loose hair, folded hands, and a garland of flowers around the neckline of the robe. The hands are a key feature when designing clothing: I like to have them remain visible. The image is also very egg-shaped, so securing clothing needs to be done around the shoulders or around the hands, but would be harder to do around the waist.

My main goals are as follows:
1) to make a red dress for her to wear under the blue mantle; I’d like the dress to be quite complex and include a gold under-gown (see below)
2) to make a white wimple of some sort
3) to make a new blue mantle
4) to make a dramatic Spanish-style floor-length lace mantilla

The dress: One image that struck me as I was researching the dresses of Our Lady and the dresses of historic queens was this one of Queen Anne of Bretagne. The red silk overdress and gold brocade underdress are a stunning combination. The square neckline is not as interesting, nor are the bell-sleeves. But the skirt part is very interesting.
This dress (of Queen Henrietta Maria of England) has some interesting lace layering at the top and on the sleeve cuffs which is interesting. The puffy sleeves are not so interesting. The idea of making a gold skirt with white lace tunic-top, belted, and then a red satin overdress over that, is one possibility.
This skirt is interesting for the layering. I am thinking that the skirt could be built on a cotton support, with strips of satin alternating with overlapping layers of organza and/or lace to make this kind of effect. The red satin outer dress could be fairly smooth, held shut above and below the hands (with some small stitches)and trimmed with gold. This way it would hang open over the layered skirt, but be fairly closed at the top.

Another thing that is striking in this image is the ermine-lined cloak. I have some fake fur, quite light and fine, which could be used to trim the mantle. I’m thinking perhaps an inner trim (using inner and outer trims is interesting! The mantle will be initially lined with cotton (the weight used for bedsheets) to provide stability for the beading and embroidery. Once that decoration is done (which I will probably do on a hoop before even cutting the fabric), I will line the mantle with gold satin to cover the inner stitching. I couldn’t find blue velvet but got a lovely heavy textured ‘silk’ (polyester) which has some body.

Once the dress is done, I plan to make a wimple and veil like a religious sister might use, just of white satin, falling above the hands in front and almost to the waist in back. I plan to cover this with a layer of decorative lace so it isn’t too plain. That and the mantle (which normally has a hood, though I could do it just with a high collar in back, like a priest’s cope) will have a fixed hole for the crown pin, trimmed with stitching so it’s stronger and in a fixed place (as opposed to stabbing the pin in a different spot each time).

And finally, I am a huge fan of the Spanish style mantillas, and have a stash of Spanish lace, so I intend to make a lovely light cloud-like mantilla that will go from the head to the floor. Bridal, as it were.

This image of mine is only about 10 inches high, so we will be exercising our clumsy fingers and bad eyes to do this! But it should be very fun. I’ll post as I go… including surely many re-stitchings when I do it wrong the first time!

Lace

Poking around in craft and notions shops in Barcelona I discovered troves of lace. I bought a diverse stock of remnants. I was fascinated by the transparency, the delicacy, the cloud-like quality of the laces, especially those which involve embroidered edging on a sheer net support. I arranged some of them around my little travel-sized image of Our Lady of Aparecida, so that she appears surrounded by a cloud. I began to imagine how lace could be added to my own clothing, and was inspired to see lace cuffs and collars even on common sweaters and blouses around town. Perhaps one goes Elizabethan, making detachable lace collars so that they don’t get damaged by washing.

One evening I passed a craft shop I hadn’t seen before, and went in to poke around. Two ladies at a work table were making bobbin lace: twining thread in and around patterns of pins set into foam supports. The threads were wound around wooden bobbins which hung down the front of the work, keeping light tension on the threads. I watched, fascinated, that this skill has not been lost. In fact, Barcelona is chock full of sewing shops with work tables around which regular classes and work sessions are held. Embroidery, knitting, quilting, cross-stitch, lace-making, sewing, Japanese embroidery and other crafts seem very popular. Lots of small shops sell handmade clothes, too.

I was astonished later when my mother said she’d made all her own clothing from the age of 14 onward. I brought drawing supplies on this trip instead of sewing supplies (mostly because sewing stuff has to go in checked luggage, lest you put someone’s eye out with it). But I was fretful without my sewing and went and bought a small set of embroidery needles, thread, trim, fabric and so on, and began dismantling the mantle of Our Lady of Aparecida in order to remake it fancier.

Here’s a lovely short film about lace making in France.

Great Geeky Girls

Here are some of my favorite geeky girls who have fun YouTube channels:

Sam van Fleet: This girl picks out wild mustangs, trains them from zero, and shows and sells them. When I was that age I don’t think I was doing anything useful. I love watching her attentive, careful training and listening to her thoughtful analysis of what’s going on with her horses. I used to have horses and did some training, so it’s a rabbit hole I’m thrilled to re-experience vicariously. Also impressive: Camille’s Mustangs. Really lovely to watch these young women working.

Karolina Żebrowska: Karolina has quirky interests mostly involving the history of clothing. She’s a funny story teller and I love watching her walk through her careful research on oddball subjects like “What would Snow White really have worn?” Since I do some sewing and embroidery (at a very basic level!) it’s inspiring to watch Karolina work with sewing projects, too.

Bernadette Banner: Another expert in historical costume, and also a great story-teller. My favorite so far is when she bought a Chinese knock-off of one of her own dresses to compare to the original. Her projects are always exotic and entertaining.

Nicola White: Apparently people in England go hunting for lost treasures in the tidal mud of the river Thames. This is somewhat gross, but also adventurous and rewarding. They find dead people, lost jewelry, strange artifacts…after all, the area has been inhabited for centuries, and the inhabitants have spent those centuries chucking stuff in the river… In any case, Nicola has a particular knack for story telling and her videos are intriguing and fun.

Musical Notation is Beautiful: The lovely woman who does this video series (Elba, if I caught her name correctly in the video?) gives fascinating accounts of different kinds of musical notation. If you like early music, calligraphy, medieval arts, or any related subject, check this out!

Caitlin Doughty: Widely known for her video series about death. Caitlin is a mortician and has all kinds of interesting stories to tell about modern and historic deaths, the biology of death, weird and interesting facts about dying and funerals. She’s also a good story teller and her videos are very engaging.

Speaking of death, I must add a fun watch, Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, who has written a book of religious meditations on death and appeared on several television programs and podcasts to talk about it. Sister Aletheia doesn’t have her own channel, but you can see several of the interviews here.