Monday, June 17, 2013

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #12: Pretty Pretty Princess

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not the princess type.  I rather hate frills and foofiness (which IS a word), so I spent a lot of time deciding what to make for this challenge.  I decided on Regency Mitts, which are basically fingerless gloves.  These would not be worn in public (gloves with fingers were for that purpose), but a lady would put them on at home to embroider with or write letters in, whatever genteel young Regency ladies did at home.  So I figured that if I added some embroidery to fancy up my silk a bit, that they'd be fit for a princess.
The other reason I chose mitts was because I'm planning a rather large (for me at least) project for the next challenge and wanted extra time.  Alas, with all the embroidery, I still only just managed to get these done in time, so my next challenge is going to be rather late.

So, the fundamentals:

The Challenge: Pretty Pretty Princess

Fabric: Silk shantung

Pattern: Mantua Maker Fingerless Mittens pattern.

Year: Early-19th c.

Notions: Silk thread doubled up for the embroidery

How historically accurate is it? Pretty accurate, I based the embroidery on gloves from the MFA Boston, and even though Mantua Maker says gloves before 1830 had the flap on the back of the hand, I found some examples from the Met and MFA from earlier (I think) that don't have it.

Hours to complete: Probably 25-30.

First worn: Around the house quite a bit yesterday.

Total cost: $15-20.  I had to buy both the silk fabric and thread.

And now for the pictures:

My embroidery example from the MFA Boston.  I absolutely fell in love with these.  I would have gotten silk this color, but I couldn't find it, so I settled on a cornflower blue instead.

I first sketched out the designs on the mitts; knowing the size of the mitts and comparing it to the picture size I could determine how large to make my motifs.

I then punched holes in each design (after putting scotch tape over it to help reinforce the paper) to use it to trace the design onto my fabric.

The dots marked on my test fabric and the stem and leaves drawn in.

My first test flower.  I didn't like how thin the stem was using a back stitch.  I should also add that I used this tutorial for my actual flower.

So for my second flower I used chain stitch and I liked that a lot better.

I also tested the vine motif, and tried several types of knots for the dots in between the vines, which didn't turn out well.  I found the silk thread to be too slippery and it either popped back through or sat off the fabric in a really odd way.  For the dots, in the end, I went with a small-as-I-could-make-it little star, some of which turned out more rectangular shaped or larger than others.

Then it was finally time for a mock-up.  My first was really quite large through the wrist and forearm, and the thumb was ridiculously long.

It also pulled in a weird way across my palm.

My second mock-up, with narrowing the thumb hole and taking the excess out of the forearm.  A much better fit.

I decided I wanted to sew the thumb into the fabric before I cut it out, just in case anything went wrong and I needed to do it again.  Also, as it was silk and shed like crazy, I knew embroidering would be easier if I had the entire piece to work with.  So I ended up with a large blue piece of fabric with a funny little thumb knob sticking up.

From there I placed my flowers and the embroidering marathon began.

The flowers definitely took the longest, but the vines were more tricky.  These I wanted to make sure I centered on the back of my hand, so after all the flowers were done I cut the mitts out and sewed them together.  I then embroidered the vines, making for some awkward stitching.  But it turned out really well.

And the finished mitts! I decided not to add the bottom scalloped border, I think they look excellent as is, and I'm good with them being done.

This is probably the most accurate color shot.

I'm extremely pleased with them, and if I were a princess, I think I'd wear them.


  1. Beautiful embroidery, well worth all the effort - they look lovely.

  2. I'm in awe! That is some stunning embroidery work (and patience) and totally fit for a princess. I especially love the cream on blue.

  3. They are really pretty! Love the sticking out thumb - good idea behind it!
    And the colours. Aww.

    Interestig bit of info about the use of mitts. Where did that come from? Seeing as you see costumers wearing mitts outdoors, I'd like to know for sure what the correct way is...

  4. Honestly Hana, other blogs. I haven't found anything definitive in the research I've studied, and even the pattern I used said they were worn outdoors as well, so I deferred to others. But I thought the concept made sense, so it's what I'm going with until I discover otherwise. It probably won't stop me wearing them to a regency event though, they're just too pretty, and I'd never actually sew or compose letters/emails in them.

  5. They look great, Beth! I could totally see Mrs. Gardiner wearing them to dinner at Pemberley. Can't wait to see the next project!

  6. excellent post. Thanks for sharing so much info, and the final product looks amazing :)