Wednesday, 31 May 2017

18th Century Whitework Embroidered Muslin Piece

In a job-lot of lace that I bought a few weeks ago, I came across another fragment of 18th century whitework:-

18th Century Chain-Stitch Embroidery Fragment

It very much looks to me like part of an apron, from the last quarter of the 18th century. The overall effect is simple and very demure, so fine and delicate. The fine thread is worked in a chain stitch.

The motifs we have here are bows, simple flower heads and leaves, but also more interesting and when you look closely, very changeable shapes representing, fruits: strawberries, pomegranates and maybe peaches. These have been placed where the lines intersect one another. These motifs have the wonderfully fine drawn-thread work, such incredibly minute stitches. The design and motifs style point to c.1770-1800.

When we look at the close-up images, we can see the tiny chain stitches (not using a tambour hook), and pulled thread work. I do like the tiny holes which have been incorporated into the simple flowers and groups of leaves.

C.1770-1800. Details of Chain-Stitch Embroidery with Drawn Thread Work

The slightly scalloped edge is a little difficult to make out, but pulling it out a little way, and using my trusty magnifier, the very outside edge looks like a fine, narrow bobbin lace edging (which would have been sewn on), then there is a wider section of less tidy straight stitch, possibly padded, then one row of chain stitch. 

I have just purchased a c.1780s whitework muslin apron as it happens, and am bursting to see it! :)

Naomi xx

Monday, 1 May 2017

1829 Wedding Dress of Hannah Bursnall

Happy May Day!!

This late 1820s extant dress is a very special dress. The provenance is fascinating. I bought this dress about 4 years ago from the lovely Ann at Poppies Cottage.

1829 Printed Dress

1829 Dress with Front Closing Bodice and Drop Front Skirt

The lady that you see below is Hannah Bursnall; the owner of this near 200 year old dress, in the early 1900s. {Apologies for the poor quality of the photograph.}

Mrs Bursnall nee Pepper with Great Grandson, early 1900s

Apart from my love of provincial costume, the historian in me was delighted to see a dress from the late 1820s (more about the dating later), with a photograph of the original owner, and her name. Now it is mostly due to Hannah’s long life, that we are able to see so far back into the past, and thanks to 21st technology, I was able to find out quite a bit about her and her rural life in England.

Hannah Bursnall (also ‘Burshell’ or ‘Bursnell’ as her surname is also recorded) was born in Wymondham, Leicestershire, around 1805. She was to pass away at the age of around 105 in Skillington, Lincolnshire in 1909. Both of these villages are small and very close to one another; rural communities where everyone knew everyone else. Her maiden name was Pepper, and she had quite a few siblings. Her father was an agricultural Labourer as was her husband. By the time of the 1841 census, she had had 6 children, and had been married for 12 years, marrying at about the age of 24 in 1829.

Now I think that this dress was her wedding dress. She came from a background of hard, physical labour, often a hand to mouth existence, when a harvest could make or break families and villages. I cannot imagine for one minute that she kept many of her clothes down through the years. The fabric would have been used, the dresses she had may well have been passed to her daughters and altered numerous times. So why keep this one dress? The fabric is right for 1829, and although the style is possibly not the latest construction or fashion, with the apron drop front skirt, the sleeve treatment, with the pleating and decoration at the wrists is spot on for this time. The small collar (her parents certainly would not have had the cash for a pelerine white worked collar) again is perfect for the late 1820s.

Front opening bodice and drop front skirt.

When Hannah passed away in 1909, she was living with her daughter of 72 years of age. I found a wonderful article online about her in a newspaper from Australia, describing her 105th birthday. This article first appeared in the British ‘Daily Mail’. When asked what her recipe for old age was she is said to have replied “Get up early, work hard, and read the Bible.” According to this report her direct descendants added up to 102, she herself having had 14 children.

(As an aside, the village of Skillington had visits from a young boy in the 1640s, who was to grow up to be Sir Isaac Newton (info from Trevor Palmer’s booklet ‘A History of Skillington’. 2003).  He had some early schooling at a Dame School in the village, and 3 of his aunts lived at Skillington, so no doubt he visited them regularly too. Skillington is also mentioned in The Domesday Book of 1086.)

Details:- collar, ruched front, purple glazed cotton lining, pleated narrow sleeve with piping and buttons.

The Dress

This dress did have a few issues when it came to me. It had a long split in the skirt which I have mended. There were a few buttons on the sleeves missing (there should be 3 to each sleeve), so I carefully cut a piece of fabric from the inside seam allowance (these were left inches long at the top of the skirt so that it could be ‘turned’ if needed at some later date), and made 4 buttons with metal rings and wool as the others had been used. Now sadly the handsewn bars over on the other side of the sleeve for the buttons to close the sleeve at the wrists, have all disappeared. And although I tried to resew them, the fabric was simply too delicate and a little torn for me to do this to my satisfaction, so these are missing. The dress had some blu-tac on the sleeves, which was slowly and gently removed with water). The outside brown ties had torn, on one side, so I added a short length of tape to this; (colour matched as close as possible).

As mentioned it has a small collar, and a ruched bodice. It fastens at the front. Now fastening this dress is a bit of a challenge, and I do wonder if originally it had a belt. It needs pins to close the bodice front, then there is an inside waist tape to tie firmly around the waist, and then the skirt ties loop around and fasten at the back. But the waistband is not secure, so I do feel that something is missing (either something physical or my own knowledge). 

This dress is for sale. Please visit the 'Shop Antique Clothing' section of my website here.

Naomi x

Friday, 28 April 2017

Late 18th or Early 19th Century Women's Linen Cap ...with Dorset Button!

This linen Georgian cap is delightful. It is all the more delightful for having a Dorset button!! Wo ho!

Georgian Linen Cap

Extant Linen Cap with Dorset Buttons

Caps changed little in shape during the 18th and early 19th centuries for those down the lower end of the social scale. Here we can see the wide brim, ruffles around the face, and there are 2 strings at the top of the cap, and one to the neck at the back, so that it can be secured to the head for a better fit. 

Measurements:- From top of Cap to Hem of Ruffles ~ 9″ or 23cm.

The back is shaped, and it may have been brought in for a smaller head maybe. Also to the back are exquisitely sewn tiny initials in a dark blue thread. It has a strap which attaches to a Dorset button on the other side, as was often used in children’s caps.

Initials to the Back

A wonderful example of ‘plain sewing’. So let's see the button!:-

18th Cap with Dorset Button

Close up of Dorset Button

I have a beautiful Regency silk reticule to share with you next time. Have a great weekend!
Naomi x

Monday, 17 April 2017

Antique Regency 1800-1810s Muslin Fichu

A recent acquisition; a lovely early 19th century muslin fichu. Regency fichus are fairly rare, and this one more so as it is designed to tie together in the front.

It is in super condition, apart from a few areas which can be seen in the second mosaic below, bottom two photos. On one of the ties or ends, is a small hole (left hand side photo below), and to the back, there are maybe 4 or 5 small holes which can be seen on the right hand side photo. The whitework is beautifully sewn, with simple trailing flowers and leaves, and the ubiquitous button holed edging.

Measurements:- Centre Back Width – 12 1/2″ (32cm). Curved Side – 35 1/2″ (90cm).

I am very excited for this week. I have my first extant Regency Men's shirt on its way to me. I might just be able to contain myself until it arrives!

Naomi x

Thursday, 6 April 2017

18th Century Whitework Border c.1760-80

I very nearly jumped for joy when I saw this border of embroidered muslin in a bundle of mixed lace:-

18th Century Whitework 

My first piece of 18th century embroidered muslin/whitework.

c.1760-80 Embroidered Muslin

It is not a long piece, just 33" by 3 3/8" wide.

Details of Muslin Embroidery c.1760-80

As would be expected, the work is exquisite. Along the top is a microscopic rolled hem, with the tiniest of stitches. The fabric is an extremely fine muslin. The motif isn't as elaborate or as fancy as many others from this era, but I love the shape of the heart!

The 2 go-to books for me when looking as this piece were:-

Thank goodness for these two or I would be lost.

So here we have the tiny chain stitches (rather than tambour work, although I'm not 100% certain) which make up the bulk of the work above the the ladder-stitch. Using such sheer fabric made me see an applied braid at first, but of course this isn't so. Within the heart shape is drawn-thread work, very geometric with a square, grid like structure. Below the main muslin fabric is a ladder stitch, with chain stitch above and below it. The hem is constructed of fine button-hole stitches along a scalloped edge. And then the drawn-thread work just above the scallops is extremely fine; very dense and minute stitchery. The chain stitch is used once as a filling, in the leaves below the heart.

So my next question was "what was its use?". The piece has evident signs of use, with small holes and antique darns. It may have been cut away from something, then hemmed across the top and been put away for use at a later time? There are no pin or needle marks across the top. Ideas could be that it was taken from or was an edging for a fichu or apron? I can't see it having much impact as part of a gown. It doesn't look like part of a sleeve ruffle to me, but straight and narrow ones were worn around the 1770s, so it is plausible. All these thoughts and questions remind me (as if I needed reminding) of yet another aspect of why historical dress is so interesting. What is it? When was it made? When was it worn? Questions to answer and mysteries to be solved, and more learnt.

Naomi x

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Antique Dorset Buttons

Over the last couple of months, as my business has been having a rejig, and I turn my attention to a new sphere of work, I have been busy sorting out my workroom, and finding all sorts of goodies.
In my antique button drawers I found some buttons which are now for sale over at my website.

Here are the best ones (Dorset buttons of course!):-

Selection of Dorset Wheels

Dorset Mites

Bird's Eyes

Cloth and Stitch Buttons (similar to Dorsets)

There are more on the website, along with other antique buttons which aren't Dorset buttons. And no doubt I will be adding more in the weeks to come...

Naomi x

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Dated 1841 Linen Shift

I have always been fascinated with antique underwear. Now I'm not entirely sure why, but I think examples like this early Victorian shift explain much. The minute stitches, the lightweight, handkerchief linen and the name and date of the wearer/maker... for a history lover, what's not to admire!?

Early 1840s Shift

The ‘plain sewing’ of this shift is awe inspiring. Tiny, tiny stitches, beautiful gathering/gauging of the fine fabric at the shoulders, the narrowest of seams. The shift is identical pattern wise, front and back. A drawstring casing runs right along the top of the horizontal neckline. Running through this is a very narrow linen tape. There are no side gores, but they are as you would expect, under arm gores. A narrow hem of 7/8″ or 2.1cm.

Details of 1841 Linen Chemise

There is a name and date to the front, ‘Maria E. Brewster’, and under that, ‘April 20 – 1841″.

Measurements – Length from Shoulder to Hem – 44″ or 111cm. Circumference at Hem – 69′ or 175cm.

Name/Date, Underarm Gores, Drawstring and Hem

I somehow managed to purchase my first item of 18th century lace this week, a wonderful 1745-60 lappet. I am so pleased with this twice over as I have been wanting to learn about lace, but oh my what a difficult subject. So to have pieces like that in my hands to study is a real bonus.

Naomi x

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Antique Regency Tamboured Shawl

So before I take a look at the Carrickmacross collar, I thought that this item was just too special to wait to share it, but firstly, a brief aside:-

As I have mentioned before I have M.E. (or chronic fatigue syndrome). Mine is of a level where I can get along quite well some days, but other days are a real struggle, and I am still battling with many symptoms (and accepting that I have to live with them). Using the internet is a big no-no for me; I know this, but have to work. And because I do what I love, it can be soooo difficult for me to muster the self-control that is needed to help myself feel as well as I can (and get off the internet as soon as I have done was is absolutely necessary). And many, many times I fail to do so, and end up feeling quite unwell, both mentally and physically, as my poor addled brain just can't compute it all as quickly as it needs to, and the concentration it takes exhausts me.

I hope that this helps to explain why my posts on here aren't lengthy ones. I would love to search the net for other images of more unusual Regency shawls and write a piece about their place in Regency fashion etc, but sadly I can't afford to. As well as making me feel unwell, as my concentration is so poor at the moment, what is in my head rarely transports to the page in any intelligent way, and it can take me a day to write a longish post, with all the time it takes to re-read and amend the text.

So, onwards up upwards. Here is a wonderful black net Regency shawl with silk tamboured embroidery. Enjoy! :-

Late 1790s to 1810s Regency Shawl

This early nineteenth century shawl is a real beauty. It has a pretty scalloped edging and 7 motifs at each end (which can be seen in the bottom left photo above). Colours are mainly pinks and greens, although there is some blue in one of the flower groups at either end.

Measurements:- Width – 49 cms or 19″.
Length – 300 cms or 118″.

Detail and Areas of Damage

It is in quite incredible condition. The 2 areas of real damage can be seen in the 2 bottom photos above. Yes there are other small groups of holes, which can just be seen in the top right hand photo above, but that is no surprise in an item so old and so delicate.

This is for sale, and is £290. Please contact me for a postal price if you are interested. My postal rates are very reasonable, about £9 for Europe, and £12 for the US, for example (tracked all the way). Any questions at all, feel free to contact me ( SOLD

Naomi x

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Early Nineteenth Century Lace Collar/Fichu

I am fascinated by lace. And the more that I look into the subject, and try to learn which lace is called what, and the differences between handmade and machined lace, the more I feel I will never conquer the subject! But I am learning a little about it. I can recognise the basic styles of lace, i.e. Filet, Carrickmacross, Honiton, Maltese, etc, and I can recognise the early laces of the nineteenth century, which is very helpful with dating, but of course, you have to keep in mind that lace was an expensive and prized item, so often it was taken off one item of clothing, and used on another as the fashions changed.

I stumbled across a beautiful Regency early 1800s (1800-20s) lace net collar a few weeks ago:-

Regency Lace Collar

The first thing I tend to do when I try to date early collars is to pop it onto my mannequin, and see how it looks. Much of dating lace pieces such as this one is to look at the shape, and to place the shape with the fashions of the time, along with my knowledge I also have from handling so many antique clothing items over the years.

Early 1800s to early 1820s Mixed Lace Collar

Now while looking at the 2 top photos in this group above we can see what immediately jumped out at me; no matter how I tried to arrange the plain net section, it insisted on sitting very high up on the neck. It would not lay flat, and that was because it fitted in with the fashion for high necks of the 1800s to early 1820s period. That is not to say that there weren't low necklines in this period, of course there were, but go past the mid to late 1820s and this fashion for high necks was no longer in vogue. Now here it is worth a mention that of course I am generalising. There only ever can be generalisations in fashion history to a degree; real life means some women who preferred the old style of dress (whatever that may mean in a particular time in history) would continue to wear it; much older ladies who had not quite got used to the 'new fashions'.

So the next thing to do is to look at the lace used, and how it has been sewn together. This collar comprises of 3 separate pieces; the narrow lace frill, the net section in the middle, and the outer edge with very wide lace.

In these close ups above, we can see the two types of lace used. From what I can make out the narrow gathered lace frill is a Lille lace. The much wider piece is a Midlands (Bucks) lace. The Lille has small woven in squares, which are known as 'Point D'esprit'. Now these two types of lace (Bucks and Lille) are very similar in style and production, and even the experts often struggle, so if I don't have it quite right, please forgive me. But both are one or the other I am sure! I am wondering if the wide lace here is also a Lille lace.

I have a few items of mainly 1800-1830s accessories on my website here, and my next post I will be looking at an early (1820s) Carrcikmacross collar, with mock Dresden lace motifs, very interesting.

Naomi x

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

1830s Embroidered Kid Gloves with Tassels

Now this is a special pair gloves. In the 5 years or so that I have been trading in antique clothing and accessories, I have found only one other pair of pre-1840s gloves:-

Early 1800s Stamped and Embroidered Gloves

So when I saw these I grabbed them!:-

c.1830s Embroidered Gloves with Tassels

These rare gloves are so decorative. The embroidered motif in the middle of the glove is beautifully sewn; amazing work. But look at those tassels! Between them is a small strip of elastic. These strips are backed with the same leather as the gloves, so are original. Then we have beautiful red silk tassels, so pretty.  They are exquisitely hand stitched.

Embroidered Motif detail

Red Silk Tassels

I have been researching gloves, and looking high and low for a pair with tassels, to no end!

I have been very much enjoying 'Dress & Textiles' of the 'Discover Dorset' series, by Rachel Worth. She has a super section about glove making, with much about Yeovil's glove making trade, here in Somerset.:-

 "Employers were exacting and women worked very long hours. There were penalties for 'poor' or 'dirty' work. Before the advent of the sewing machine...most gloving cottages would have had a device known as the 'donkey frame', which had been patented by James Winter of Stoke-Sub-Hamdon (Somerset) in 1807. This was a small, vice like arrangement with fine teeth, mounted on a stand. The worker opened or closed the teeth by means of a treadle, fixing the glove so that the edges were held firmly together. She then passed her needle in and out of the teeth and a perfectly regular stitch resulted. The 'frame' or 'engine' as it was sometimes called enabled workers to produce work of a consistent standard. The number of stitches per inch was usually 18-20, although it could sometimes be as many as 32." 

So that is how they were so perfectly hand stitched!

Naomi x

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Extant Regency Chemisette or Tucker

Today I thought that I would share some photos of a wonderful recent 'antique find'. It is a Regency cotton tucker, with a short body, and a lovely falling high collar. I have never come across such an early Regency chemisette. 

Extant Regency Chemisette with Falling Collar

Details of Regency Chemisette

Originally it would have fastened with a pin, or either a Dorset or Mother of Pearl button and a hand sewn loop on the opposite edge.

The back of the body of the chemisette is made up of 2 pattern pieces, and there is one piece to each of the sides at the front (I am presuming that it was worn with a high necked gown.) Originally it would have been starched. There may have been one or two small mother of pearl or Dorset thread buttons on one side, and a hand sewn loop on the other side to fasten at the neck, or it could have been pinned. The hand stitching is of course, exquisite.

Inside Neck - 33cm or 13"
Centre Back from top of collar to hem - 21.5cm or 8 2/8"

Naomi x

Friday, 6 January 2017

Why I love Dorset Buttons

Firstly, my apologies for my absence for most of the last year (at least blog wise). Unfortunately 2016 turned into my 'annus horribilis'. It was a difficult and very stressful year, and subsequently my M.E. symptoms were getting a bit too much. Anyhow, I think that I have finally turned a corner.  My work life has had to change to accommodate my health, so I have had many things to re-assess work-wise. Sadly I have had to close 'Antique Historika' (my Etsy shop). It has been such a difficult decision for me to reach. 

I will be trading in some antique clothing & accessories still, as I was unable to give it up completely. The knowledge I have accrued over the last 5 years doing this was irreplaceable. So I will still be offering a small selection on my website here:-

New things are afoot though. In my opinion a new year is a fresh start, and I have a lot to look forward to this year, so watch this space. 

I was asked recently to write a piece about why I love Dorset buttons. Once I had started writing I found that I had quite a bit to say about the subject, so thought that I would write a blog post as well.

I think the very first time I came across Dorset buttons was in the book “The Art of Dress - Clothes and Society 1500 to 1914” by Jane Ashelford. On page 182 there is a vibrant pink silk dress, with yellow Dorset buttons at the back opening. I remember thinking ‘oh, wow, what are those!?’. To come across those pieces of needlework, beautiful in their own right, was a revelation. At the time I had just begun sewing custom Regency clothing, so I made it my business to find out more, and then I started to add them to my spencers, dresses, underthings and chemisettes (and I was one of the earliest seamstresses to offer these buttons on clothing).  And of course, once I had mastered the basic Crosswheel button, I then wanted to go further, to create the other crosswheel designs, and then move over to the more complicated, less easy ones. I then became obsessed with finding extant clothing with Dorset crosswheel buttons on, or the older, and much more easily found Dorset cartwheel buttons (or ‘Old’ Dorsets as they are also known). So these images here show a section of clothing items that have passed through my hands:-

Early 1800s Nightgown

1820s-30s Undress/Wrapper

1820s-30s Men's Underpants

1820s-30s Lace Cuffs

1800-1830s Undress Jacket

There is a huge disparity between ‘costume’ clothing and ‘historical dress’ clothing. Apart from the obvious points such as cut, fabric, and quality of construction, it often is the little details that give the clothing a truly authentic feel, which is especially important for museums and history re-enactors. As in all things to do with my work, it is the historical context that I’m really interested in. So as well as making the buttons, I want to know what items of clothing they would have been added to.  Every time I look at or handle an extant/antique item of clothing, I can’t help but feel a thrill of excitement. I always imagine the person that wore it, made it or sold it; where, to whom, what were their lives like? 

Although I no longer make the historical dress items, I do continue to make Dorset buttons (Blandford Cartwheels, the basic Crosswheel, Bird’s Eyes and Singletons), for individuals and tv productions, and my interest in them certainly hasn’t waned. I am always finding new buttons to make, new techniques to battle with. Dorset High Tops have always fascinated me. So tiny and yet so well crafted. I was, as you can imagine, delighted to find that Henry’s Buttons are now selling a wooden mould to make them with. As of yet I haven’t quite got round to trying it out, but cannot wait to do so. Recently I also come across a book by Olivia Pass; “Dorset Feather Stitchery”, which shows the Dorset buttons being used on aprons, dresses and needlework items back in the 1950s. It was in the 1950s that more interest was garnered in the world of Dorset buttons via a WI (Women’s Institute) ‘How to’ card. And so yes, the Dorset button industry on a commercial level collapsed around the mid 1800s, yet it clearly was never truly lost. Individuals most likely in Dorset were still making this piece of their local history, even just to use on smocks and other forms of clothing or needlework items.

And lastly, I need to mention the other joy linked to Dorset button making. After many attempts, tears of frustration (and I truly mean that!), and “how the heck did anyone make these?!”, at some point along the way, something clicks, and the technique eventually slots into place in my hands or brain (or both), and that wonderful moment of “Yippee! I can do it too! How beautiful is that!” fills me with much pride and happiness, and, in turn, I feel that little bit more connected to all those people long ago who were involved with the industry that was ‘Dorset Buttony’.

Naomi x

Henry's Buttons on Etsy