Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sewing – Dainty Collars from 1914

The average middle-class woman of the last century’s teens and twenties had a wardrobe that would seem pitifully small by today’s standards. Even the wife of a professional man – a doctor or a lawyer –often had to plan her clothes allowance around one new dress per year. Last year’s best was made over for second best or every-day wear, perhaps with several different collars to add some variety. Every respectable household had a rag-bag where all the scraps of silk, ribbons and lace from dressmaking projects and alterations were saved (how many of us grew up with mothers who never threw away a shirt without cutting off the perfectly good buttons?), and articles like this one, with instructions for detachable collars that could be made without a purchased pattern, found a wide audience.

“Novelties in Neckwear,” by Gertrude May. From Needlecraft, September 1914.

BEFORE the lady from Chicago had time to remove her wraps after a city shopping-tour, a bright face showed in the doorway. It was Molly’s face, and Molly had a box under her arm.

“Oh, auntie!” said she.

“Oh Molly!” echoed the lady from Chicago, smiling as she noted the box. “What’s wanted now, dear?”

“Things for the neck,” breathed Molly, eagerly. “First I’ll put away your wraps, and then we’ll talk about them, won’t we?”

“The wraps?” laughed the lady from Chicago, but Molly didn’t mind.

“You’re a perfect fairy-godmother to me, auntie,” said she. “Don’t you know how the girls loved the bows I gave them at Christmas? Now I want to make more for summer—the very newest, auntie. Do you suppose we can?”

“I suppose we can try, Molly,” answered the lady from Chicago, at which a gleeful laugh rippled over Molly’s lips.

“That means ‘yes,’” said she. “Look auntie,” and off came the cover of the box. “I’ve got a lot of that fine Brussels-net I had for a veil when I was ‘Spirit of the Spring’ in the musical fantasy last June. Could we do anything with that?”

The lady from Chicago consulted a note-book and some little pencil-sketches therein. It was quite evident she had prepared herself for Molly’s requisition by picturing the pretty new things in neckwear she wasn’t sure of being able to remember.

“The net is exactly what we can do a great deal with, Molly,” said she; “it was never more used than in the new neckwear. We might, of course, substitute lace for the net, or fine lawn, lace-trimmed, but so long as we have the net that is the thing for us to utilize.”

From her own basket of embroidery-materials the lady from Chicago selected a length of embroidery-floss and threaded a long needle with it; then she measured three and one-half inches from the edge of the net, and set the needle there.

“Just run or darn in and out the meshes in a straight line, Molly,” said she, “not drawing your thread tight enough to pucker the net. We shall want a yard and a half of that width, and two yards, a half-inch narrower, for the jabot to match. We might make it more elaborate by having two or three runs, in the width of a row of meshes apart, or by darning in some simple little pattern, or we might turn a narrow hem and catch it with a row of French knots, or a row of picot-chains in crochet, or—“

Molly dropped her work to clap her hands gleefully.

“Oh, let’s do ‘em all!” said she.

“One at a time, please, “ said the lady from Chicago, “and that shall be a copy of the smartest of models from an exclusive shop where simplicity rules.”

Then, as Molly diligently plied her needle, she proceeded to cut a pattern of a collar, narrow and nearly straight across the back and broadening at the ends, fitting it carefully to Molly’s neck. “Observe that the best way to get a well fitting collar is to first model it of cloth, shaping it until there is never a wrinkle or drawing up,” said she. Then you can cut your material by this, and be sure it will fit well. Remember that, if I shouldn’t happen to be here, sometime, won’t you?”

But Molly shook her head.

“You’re always going to be here, said she. “I couldn’t do a single thing without you, and the girls all envy me because I have such an auntie. See! I’ve got it done. Well done too, dear,” said the lady from Chicago: “now make another run two yards long, missing a row of meshes between.”

This Molly did; and then the net was cut carefully between the runs, and the longer strip measured three inches wide and cut.

“Now we’ll see if Mary can flute both pieces for us—in the finest of plaits,” said the lady from Chicago. “Or, wait, Molly; where is that little plaiting-machine you had last winter? If we cannot manage the plaits the ruffles can be gathered with fine stitches, but our model was plaited.”

And they did manage the tiny knife-plaits nicely. Then the ruffle was sewed to the edge of the collar, and the seam covered with narrow pink velvet ribbon. A half-inch turnover band of the net was sewed around the neck of the collar and across the ends of the ruffle, and three bits of the velvet, two and a half inches long, from the neck out across the collar at both ends of front and fastened down with large cut-crystal beads.

For the jabot a strip of lawn folded to one and one-half inches wide and seven inches long was used. Commencing at the bottom, the narrow ruffle was sewed across, returned about one and a fourth inches higher up, and so crossed and recrossed until the foundation was covered and the net hemmed neatly over the upper end. At the top of the jabot was fastened a dainty looped bow of the narrow velvet, caught in the center with two of the glass beads.

“O-o-h!” breathed Molly; isn’t that just too fluffy and sweet for anything? I’m too piggy-wiggy to give it away, auntie. Can’t we make another and I keep this?

The lady from Chicago laughed merrily.

“We’ll try a different style,” said she, “and maybe you will like it better.”

From some scraps of blue satin she cut two pieces, each about eleven inches long, three inches wide at one end, one side very nearly straight, the other rounding to a point at the other end; these pieces she lined with heavy lawn, with a casing at the wide end of each for a bit of whalebone or other support, then she caught the points together to a depth of three inches with the crystal beads, the rounded sides toward each other. Meanwhile Molly had been running a two-yard strip, two inches wide, one half of which the lady from Chicago proceeded to plait into a frill for each side of the satin collar, drawing it to a point at the front. Then she took two pieces of net, ten inches square, slanted one side of each to a depth of five inches, edged the short side and the diagonal with a bit of filmy lace, which was in several pieces but could be mitered at the corners, plaited the two pieces in half-inch folds turning outward from the straight edge, and sewed them beneath the collar points. Then she held it up to Molly, who fairly gasped with delighted surprise.

“It’s prettier than the first, truly!” she cried. “Let’s try again, auntie.”

So the lady from Chicago fished out a bit of fine madras, cream-color and with a small, allover pattern, and cut a collar with rounded back and nearly square fronts, first fitting her pattern; this collar she lined with net, the while Molly was turning a very narrow hem on a strip of net, and running it with two rows of stitches. This strip was an inch and three-fourths wide, and served to form the double frill at the back of collar. From beneath this, on the left side, a plaited piece of net, wider at the lower than the upper end,
extended to the point of collar, and this was crossed, surplice-fashion, by a strip fifteen inches wide and two inches longer, plaited at the upper end like that on the left side and fastened in the same way beneath the frill and collar on the right side, the end cut slantwise and finished with a narrow, fine lace, and with a double run, matching the edge of the frill (in cream-color) two and a half inches from the lower edge. A double bow of folded satin was placed at the points of collar, holding the “cross-over” in place.

“I just knew I saved that piece of curtain-stuff for something!” cried Molly; “but I never imagined how lovely it would be in a collar! Any more new things, auntie? I’ve got a lot of net left yet, you see.”

“It will keep,” laughed the lady from Chicago. “I do not know whether we have time to make a Raleigh ruff tonight, dear—that is the newest thing in neckwear. There are two strips of the net, run exactly as I have shown you, and sewed to a band so that one frill turns down, the other up; between the frills is a length of velvet ribbon, or two or three lengths of narrower velvet, as you prefer, caught in place by rows of French knots or beads, the ribbons crossing in front. Or the band may be a strip of pretty insertion, and the velvet omitted.”


Leti said...

I didn't read the whole thing, but what I read I like it very much..I have to come back . Today I am having a terrible headache. May be I need more caffeine!.

Shay said...

Or a nap ;-)

Normally I scan these in and re-direct to my Flickr account -- so it's a bit longer post than usual.

I hope your head starts feeling better.

Anonymous said...

I read the whole thing and enjoyed every bit of it..brough back many memories of things my mom use to make.

Amy said...

That was cool reading that :-)
Wish I could make such lovely things.

Shay said...

You can, Amy; all you need is an aunt from Chicago!

Vinnie said...

Very interesting reading!
You have such a nice blog!
I'm going to be here more often.
Thanks for your comment on my bookmark

Rochelle R. said...

That was interesting the way they put the instructions in story form. The neckware sure looks uncomfortable though.