Tuesday, January 13, 2015

An Etrenne for Alice Liddell

A New Years (Etrenne) Gift
When I began this blog on the creative process, I was primarily making what I referred to as modern day Etrennes.  Etrennes were New Year's gifts offered in France during the mid to late 1800's.  The craftsmanship of dolls in presentation boxes, games, gowns for French Fashion dolls, and their accessories, were some of the exquisite items offered in the market stalls along the streets of Paris.  And, for this new year, Alice Liddell receives her own Etrenne in the form of her little Morning Glory Parasol.

When I began sewing for her last year, I acquired an antique parasol to re-cover for her trousseau.  Its is just now, in between sewing projects, that I decided to give it a go.  I have re-covered parasols before, but never an antique.  This one's cover was in such a state of disgrace, that I wasn't tempted to keep it "antique".

The illustration.
I pulled out some lovely lilac silk taffeta, and a oordinating "morning glory" silk for the ruched ruffles.  As I carefully observed the original cover, I noticed that the underside was sewn with French seams.  Since I normally don't make them, but knew this would be the best approach for neatness-sake, I decided to photograph the steps I took along the way - just in case you might like to try this the way I did it.

At the beginning of the story The Other Alice, she and Dodgson take a row boat out for a picnic with her sisters Edith and Ina.  "It was perfectly quiet that hot summer day on the river.  There wasn't even the sound of an oar, or the chirp of a bird, or the buzz of a fly.  The boat moved slowly forward."  After much ado about telling a story, Dodgson began, "It was just as warm and sunny as today.  Alice sat on the riverbank with her sister."
A long story to be told.  Alice in the middle with her parasol.
And, while Dodgson tells his story, I'll share how I made her parasol.

Paper towel pattern and mock up.
As with any sewn creation, I began with a pattern.  I measured the triangular sections, of which there were six, one for each rib, and added a 1/4" or so to make the French seams.  Then I made a mock up, just for length and size.  When stitching up to the top where the points meet, there is always a hole that you have to do something with.  With hats, I stitch across in several places, but with the parasol, it would be left open to thread the stem through.

If you've never made a French seam, its not too difficult, but takes a little thought.  You begin by making the seam on the right side of the fabric.  Then you turn the piece over and encase the edges in a folded seam.  The results are tidy and perfect for a parasol whose underside can be seen when open.

I then cut a length of silk on the bias and stitched this to the edge, to fold up over the top.  This encased and neatened the edge.  Since I added two rows of ruched "ribbon", the bias strip would be concealed.

The original cover and new.
Then I cut three long lengths of the "morning glory" silk and ironed them into a non-bias tape.  I folded over the edges to meet in the mid section.  After this, I made gather stitches along the two edges, and began the very tedious process of "ruching" them.  The fraying was extensive, but all these silk strands were trimmed at intervals.  A mess?  You bet.  But worth the effort.  The idea was to keep the trim as light and flexible as possible since the parasol would be closed at times.  In other words, one folded edge instead of two.  With two, it would not have frayed, but would have been too heavy and thick for the delicacy required (especially if you stitched the double fold down). 

The bias edge pinned to the underside.
After stitching all the rows on, I threaded the stem through the center and sewed the rib nips to the end points of the cover.  I love the tiny metal ribs on the antiques.  Once you've successfully re-covered an antique, you'll never give another thought to the chunky, clunky bamboo ones with the Battenburg lace.  When shopping for an antique to re-cover the only important thing to research is the condition of the ribs and mechanism.  If the metal is terribly scratched, I'm sure you could spray paint it over , but I'd be reluctant to since the holes could get gummed up.  A black alcohol marker would take care of the scratches nicely.  A brown alcohol marker was used to tidy up the tip of the wood stem. (Thanks, Jean!)

The bias edge when folded up over the top.
At this stage I had to pay very close attention to how this stem was made.  The original cap was there, but how was I going to affix it to the silk cover and stem?  Then I noticed a small hole that ran through the stem about an inch and a half down from the tip.  There would be a pin or wood splinter peg in this to keep the metal crown secure.  There is another "peg", an original on the underside which keeps the parasol cover and ribs from slipping down.  IF you were going to make a new stem, you would drill these holes as done on the original stem.  Not all parasols are made this way, but as this one was, I'm making note of it.  Study how your parasol was made, very carefully, and then it will become clear, the steps to take in refurbishing it. 

I decided to leave the stem as it was.  There's a bent nail wire that functions as the piece that collapses into the stem when closed, holding the mechanism up when open.  You'll notice that the wood was split to accommodate this wire.  Again, not all parasols were made this way, but I wanted to retain the antique feel of this one for Alice.

Now, since the top peg was missing, I used a technique for making one that I've used in the past for other projects.  I took a metal head straight pin and cut it short with wire cutters.  The pin head act as a stop on one end.  For the other end, to secure the pin, I used a seed bead and a touch of Super Glue to secure it.  That pin isn't going anywhere until I say so.  Should I ever wish to recover the parasol frame again, I would snip the pin off and begin again.  No glue will ever touch the silk cover.

How it looks on the underside with French seams.
If you've ever tried to re-cover those bamboo Battenburg lace ones, you'll understand why I'm detailing this for you.  The bamboo decorative tip is gunked with glue, then affixed to the lace cover.  This a mess and very difficult to disassemble without ruining the tip.  Often times you just have to crunch the tip away with pliers, then make another decorative tip.

Should I not have been attempting to make this parasol as close to the illustration as possible, and retaining the integrity of the antique stem, I would have hand carved a new stem...but, that's another story.  For this one though, I might have drilled a little hole about an inch and a half up from the bottom and added a tassel. 

This is fussy, fiddly work.  Its one of the things I love best to do because I have to think, and ponder long, on how to create it.  I hope the photos help if you've a mind to try it yourself.  This is but one way to re-cover an antique parasol.  Good thing the days are sunny here.  Alice Liddell is bound to get a lot of use out of her new Etrenne.

Miss E. Mouse

The nasty job of ruching.

Two edge rows.

The third and final row.

A very tidy underside.


Alice Liddell's Morning Glory Parasol

1 comment:

  1. Oh, how lovely! Little Alice is very lucky to have your great skill to rely on for her special outfits and accessories!
    The morning glorycolours are exquisite.