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Antiques & The Arts
Reconstructing an Antique Edwardian Mantle

Reconstructing an Antique Edwardian Mantle


Dear viewer, I’ve recently been introduced
to the idea of patterning existing garments for reconstruction, and since I’m conveniently
in possession of this antique mantle, what better opportunity to put this theory into
practice? After consulting photographs and fashion plates,
I’ve determined that the mantle probably dates to between 1895 and 1905. The fabric is very brittle and has rotted
in places, but this is actually to the pattern-taker’s benefit, since it allows you to peek inside
and examine the guts of construction. Carefully measuring each piece, I transferred
the points to a large sheet of grid paper, connecting the points to form the shape of
the pattern pieces. I’m also noting which direction the pieces
were cut along the grain, the amount of seam allowance, construction techniques, types
of thread and fabric used, and how all of the ribbons and bows were assembled. Basically taking note of every smallest detail
I can set my eyes on. The hem, it turns out, is surprisingly wonky. Especially round the area that falls on the
bias. It took all my willpower not to correct it,
and if you’re patterning with the intent of recreating the garment for daily wear, you
might wish to. But since I’m doing this project in an experiment
in reconstruction, I’m going to keep it as it is. It isn’t noticeably distracting on the original
mantle, so hopefully my reconstruction will also turn out okay. I’ve traced the pattern onto some newsprint
to use for cutting out the pieces. The original mantle is made from a lightweight
black silk with a satin woven geometric pattern. And needless to say, I didn’t find anything
remotely close to this in the garment district. I ended up going with this black Chinese brocade,
which I’m still having a slight internal debate over. I don’t think the pattern is quite right,
and it’s got much more of a sheen than I would have hoped, especially inappropriate if the
original mantle was intended as a mourning garment. But it’s a silk that was in my budget, and
the weight is very similar to the original fabric, so at least it should make up nicely. For the lining I picked up a fine black wool,
which is what I believe the original lining is. Mine doesn’t have the interesting geometric
pattern woven into it, but it does have a fancy herringbone stripe, so to each her own,
I suppose. When examining the original garment, I noticed
lots of tiny scraps of thread wedged into the seams. I assumed this meant that the pattern pieces
were thread marked onto the fabric, but as I began to realise what an extraordinarily
long time this was taking, I wondered if that was the most logical method to use. I went back and consulted several contemporary
sewing manuals, and sure enough all of them advise to mark out with tailor’s chalk before
cutting. One of them, ‘Practical Dressmaking’, advises
to ‘tack’ over chalk lines, so perhaps this is what was done on my example. Or, the seams were tacked together before
stitching by machine. It’s possible that, since I only consulted
a handful of the probable hundreds of sewing instruction texts of the period, there are
in fact methods that advise thread marking, and I just haven’t found it in my research. Being that the mantle is made of black silk,
it might not have been desirable to mark with chalk. In any case, the pieces did look rather pleasing
when stitched onto the fabric. And now everything is cut out. I should note that I’ve kept the selvedges
on where I could see them in the original pieces, though my selvedges are a very ugly
modern white. I’m still debating whether or not I should
part from strict original practice for a moment to dye them black, but I shall get back to
you on that. Before going any further, I’m first laying
things out to make sure all the shapes match up and my pattern is relatively functional. Remember my earlier debate on whether or not
to correct the bias on the outer hem? Unless I’ve wildly mis-measured, this is something
that must have happened sometime during the past century after it was made, since the
fabric and the lining pieces don’t match up at the hems at all. After pinning one on top of the other in their
proper positions, I re-marked the hem of the outer fabric where it should fall compared
with the lining, and when I trimmed it away, all the wonky bias shape was completely resolved. Hopefully this was the right thing to do,
but we shall see how everything hangs when the garment is finished. Now that I know things will at least vaguely
fit together, it’s time to get into some sewing. By looking at the original garment, I could
gather a rough sense of the construction sequence based on which pieces overlap others. I’m starting with the basics and am just going
to go ahead and get the center back seams stitched together: that is, the center back
of the mantle, the yoke pieces, and the lining of the pleated panel, which is in two halves. I’m also taking this moment to pin together
the two layers of the collar piece, which will be stitched together at the top and sides. These seams were all assembled by machine,
and since historically authentic technique is my jam, I thought I’d explore some late-19th
century machinery. A quick trawl through the wonders of eBay
turned up this beauty, a hand-turned Singer manufactured in 1891, for something ridiculous
like $40. They’re surprisingly common and can be quite
cheap if you’re willing to do some repairs. She isn’t nearly in perfect condition, but
she functions well enough, so I’m looking forward to having a bit of proper bonding
time. Since the original garment was made with 2-ply
S-twist silk thread, I’m also using silk. However the thread that I was able to purchase
in the garment district is a modern 3-ply Z-twist, so I’ve made a note to order online
in advance for my future historical silk thread needs. Once all my center back seams have been put
together, I’m going to get started on the pleated panel in the back. The fabric and lining pieces on the original
fold together perfectly, which makes me think that they were perhaps pleated together as
one piece. So this is what I’m going to attempt. The pleats are in place, so now it’s time
to attach the panel to the body of the mantle. This is done with both right sides facing
each other, but only the fabric side of the panel is stitched down by machine; the lining
layer is left loose, to be slip stitched over the seam allowance later, to hide the raw
edges. I’m now finishing the raw edges by turning
the lining edge and slip stitching it over the seam allowance of the mantle edge. It’s stitched just before the line of machine
stitching, which is how I was able to tell that the bobbin was threaded in brown. As you may guess, the stitch line on the other
side is black on top. And here is the pleated panel. I’m not quite content with the little gaps
either side of the box pleat; they aren’t there on the original, but no amount of shifting,
pulling, or re-arranging would fix it without warping the upper back of the mantle. I suspect this is a patterning issue to do
with the angle at the back of the mantle pieces. Though it isn’t how the original garment looks,
it doesn’t cause any major structural issues, so I’m just to go ahead and…not re-cut the
whole thing. So I’ve gone ahead and pressed under the seam
allowance for the yoke pieces. After I’ve basted it down into place, the
bottom edges will get topstitched. Both bobbin and thread for this are black. Curiously, this step did definitely come after
the pleating seams were stitched, since the topstitching runs through that panel. Then the collar stitching is later changed
back to the black and brown; so either the original maker was working on multiple projects
at once and changing out the bobbins between stages, but not re-threading, or possibly
more than one machine was used. The raw edge at the top of the pleating panel
was finished off with a 5/8″ strip of the lining material. It’s running stitched down the bottom edge,
then turned and felled on the sides and top. Strangely, the left hand side was felled in
black silk thread, but the right switches to brown. So in the spirit of reconstruction, that’s
what I’ve done too. Finally, the pleats are quickly tacked into
place 4″ from the hem with some brown thread. I’ve gone ahead and stitched the facing pieces
to the mantle, then pressed them back to conceal the center front raw edges. This piece now gets felled down to the lining. As you might notice, I’ve decided to tint
the selvedges black with a bit of ink. There is probably nothing historical about
this, but the bright white selvedges were just assaulting to the eye, and I have the
feeling that, if this were the case in 1905, the maker would have just cut them off. Next I’m attaching the collar, which is put
on right sides together, turned, and then top stitched to finish the edge. Also, our brown bobbin friend is back. Now that the edges and collar are finished
off, I’m taking a moment to attach the hooks and eyes at center front. One pair is placed at the base of the collar,
and another smaller pair lives 4″ down. I’m now putting in the hem all round the bottom
edge of the mantle. It’s done with a quick felling stitch–or
I suppose I should say ‘hemming’, since that’s what my contemporary sources have been calling
the felling stitch. So I suppose I’m now…’hemming’ the hem. So now that the base of the mantle is complete,
it’s time to do some ribbon work; because no 19th- or early 20th-century garment is
complete without a bit of frill. This mantle gets some pleating at the neck,
a band round the collar, and some half-bows at center front, all of which are constructed,
not actually knotted or tied. I included the construction of these bows
in my pattern when examining the original garment, and have used my measurements to
pin out the lengths and folds of each ribbon piece. Then they’re given a quick press to keep the
folds in place. The ruffles and bows are made from black silk
satin ribbon, so that’s what I’m using on my reconstruction. It’s imperative to use natural silk, as synthetic
satin is much stiffer and won’t pleat in the same way as the softer silk. The width of my ribbon is slightly smaller
than that on the original, but it was the matter of $4 a yard at M&J or $45 a yard at
the other fancy trimming stores that sell silk ribbon, only for the difference of 5mm,
so the choice was very simple. The knots on the center ribbon loops are stitched
on, and the tails are decoratively frayed at the edge, so they’re ready now to be attached. But first, the pleated frill is attached by
topstitching it to the collar, oddly with the brown bobbin thread showing on the outside. After quickly tacking on the fun bits, the
reconstruction is complete. I think I might have fooled myself earlier
because the Chinese brocade is in fact slightly heavier than the original silk used. Nevertheless, it’s made up quite nicely and
was pleasant to work with, so I’m not complaining. Plus, it’s got a really nice weight and I
imagine it would be quite warm. I’m rather tempted to wear it out on a nice
autumn day. What say you, dear reader? Until next time, Bernadette

100 comments on “Reconstructing an Antique Edwardian Mantle

  1. the re-make looks lovely! i would have used black thread all the way, to save the time and trouble, especially because i wouldnt have known what happened originally during the sewing process.

  2. Probably a one day I show you, I travel to New York from nj every weekend to take a class of fashion design, I’m a beginner but I love a antique clothing, greetings sweetheart

  3. If the silk you used is heavier than the original silk you have on hand, it's possible you're using the same weight that was originally sewn.
    Absolutely wear it!

  4. I have discovered your channel just recently and I love it ! I am currently studying costume in school and we use thread to mark the pattern pieces all the time when making a costume. Thank you for sharing everything you do !

  5. What a beautiful reconstruction! I hope to become a better seamstress and pattern drafter so I can do this in the future.

  6. Hi Bernadette, this is a great video. In regards to the thread stuck in some of the seams, from what I’ve been learning about bespoke tailoring, I’ve learned that it used to be standard practice to draft patterns for bespoke work with no seam allowances, and just add them while cutting. And then thread marking the stitch lines before construction.

  7. Can you point me to Male Elizabethan clothing reconstruction? Apparently this thing called a busk is proving very Elusive to find for males!

  8. Oh wow, this is amazing. I love how you have made it true, even to the point of the brown thread LOL. That sewing machine is a complete steal. I am just amazed that you were able to find one, never mind get such a great deal for it. However, while you were talking, I did wonder how much that original owner would have bought the sewing machine for. I just love all of your resources that you have, it is truly fascinating.

  9. Bernadette, thank you for sharing this video. It's a beautiful mantle – both the old and the new. And please, do wear it about. Simply because something that wonderful and lovely should not be relegated to a closet, or the corner. Oh, but what outfit to wear it with? Please, that's another video we'd all love to see!

  10. Have you considered that the wonky hem was cut after to shorten the much longer mantle into a shorter cape? It would account for the bad cuttting job if it were a home done alteration.

  11. Bernadette you are such a talent ! What a delight your videos are, thank you so much for sharing your inspiration. I just love the Victorian/Edwardian period fashion, such a delight. x

  12. I learnt to sew on a hand cranked singer sewing machine, and my mum had another which was built into a table with a treadle foot crank mechanism – I still prefer a mechanical sewing machine over a computerised one as they are so easy to maintain and fix yourself – although I have one with an electric motor now. I am learning so much about functional hand stitching from your videos. I have only really done embroidery and cross stitch, along with needlepoint lace-working by hand before – aside from sewing down bias-binding or closing a seam manually after machining the majority. Xx

  13. Approximately how many yards of fabric did you need to do this?
    Also, you are basically an emerging Janet Arnold and such an inspiration! Keep up the good work!

  14. Please wear it. Lovingly created. Should been worn and enjoyed. Wish I had your gift. Enjoy your videos so much!!

  15. Love your antique Singer. I have three, none as old as yours, but one is a treadle which converts to the crank if desired. With practice I much prefer treadle. When I was growing up in the 1950s every home had a sewing machine. This had been true for the 20th century and before so there are many, many machines available. My sewing room has become known as the Geriatric home for sewing machines as I have 7 with the newest being a 1981 Pfaff Hobymatic dual voltage purchased in Germany. My favorite is the Singer in its original cabinet which, according to the original sales slip in the manual, was sold the day my mother was born, May 13, 1912.

  16. I think it's a piece from a theater which is bad altered. I'm a seamstress and in theaters with not much money and knowledge the costumes are very bad altered and in very bad condition. From far the audience can't see how well things are made. From now and then theaters sell clothes they don't need anymore. I think this one is one of them.

  17. I think the pattern is quite lovely. And the brown thread was just enough contrast to be decorative but not screaming out ,

  18. Perhaps the seamstress only had a small amount of black thread & used the brown thread as a substitute for the black? You have an incredible talent for sewing.

  19. I have a few black pieces from the late 19th century to the 20s that have brown thread. I definitely think the dye's faded over time

  20. …And some people like to downplay women in history… to think of women learning to make these things by themselves without the internet! Because you know not everyone could afford to buy them.

  21. I'd say wear it 🙂 I have been known to wear some pretty quirky pieces here in the UK, and I start some interesting conversations with people – especially if I have made said quirky piece 🙂

  22. Just wanted to let you know that you inspired me to make my own Victorian style short cape. All my materials were repurposed from thrift and gifted items. Thank you!
    If you would like to see it please visit my Facebook Helga's Haberdashery.

  23. I think this would look lovely with your adaptation of a black Edwardian walking skirt. Just a thought

  24. A beautiful piece one can wear at any time. You are inspiring me to try something a bit periody ( is that even a word lol) I have made mascots and costumes for shows, but nothing historically accurate and I find it very attractive and tempting. Will see what patterns I can find

  25. One of the challenges in working with such old garments is knowing what was part of the original construction of the garment and what was altered in the years since. Thread color aside (and it would not surprise me if the brown thread was originally black but lost some pigment over time), we may only know for certain what smaller repairs were done after the fact and what techniques were used at those times. Major repairs or alterations, particularly those which resulted in a smaller garment or on which the same techniques were easily duplicated, can often escape scrutiny. Edwardian looks made a bit of a comeback in the late 1970s so a garment like this would likely have received a refurbishment then (and would not have been treated necessarily as an artifact of the early 20th century.) The darning suggests that the garment had been neglected beforehand.

  26. To join in on the brown thread debate…given the time period could it be as simple as the maker may have only had brown on hand? I am in LOVE with your channel and could only wish to see with your level of skill.

  27. wow! I admire your willingness to use such old fashioned machinery where it would have been easier to use a modern sewing machine. truly inspiring!

  28. My mum owns a sewing machien similer to that but its 'powered' by a foot peddle type thing and also has a crank i belive? Its been in storage such a long time i cant remember.

  29. The wonky hem is likely due to the fabric being cut on a bias. When you cut fabrics on a bias with curved edges like that (for example a circle skirt) it should be hung overnight to warp and then be retrimmed.

  30. In the old garments I have, silk thread seems to age black to brown and rot. On an old overcoat, I didn't have to unpick the sleeve lining; I just opened a small section and gently tugged it free, breaking thread as I went.

  31. Is it possible that the brown thread was originally in fact black, but that it was a different dye lot or composition that has faded over time?

    This is beautiful and I'd absolutely make it if you offered the pattern for download!

  32. I would like to see you try on the new one. Just to get an idea of what it might look like on an actual living being.

  33. I wish I was in a relationship with her, as it would be so wonderful to be involved in this… and perhaps get some great clothes. 🙂

  34. 5:58
    "As you may guess"
    well thanks for being so charitable in your opinion of my knowledge and/or talent for estimation

  35. Hi I just discovered your channel and want to say it makes my little anthropology major heart sing.

  36. Probably a silly question, but what do you do to keep moths from taking up residence in your beautiful woolens and silks? I have noticed a few of these small beige moths and do not want to use those nasty, toxic moth balls. If you or your followers have tips, I would be most appreciative.😊Your garments are impeccable, and I absolutely love your videos! Much continued success.

  37. I feel like another you will come along in 100 years and be just as confused looking over this piece! Why brown? Why stitch marking? Lol poor future "you" 🙂

  38. I stumbled upon your channel and love the historical aspect of this! (And the pretty, feminine clothes of yesteryear!) I cant sew at all, so that part flies over my head, but I stay to watch because it’s fascinating to watch a pro do her thing so well!
    Thanks for such interesting videos!

  39. Lovely, I don't know about the history of standardization or quality control, but I assume it rife with inconsistency.

  40. Beautifully executed, you should wear it! I'm so in love with the original fabric, i wish they would still sell fabric like that..

  41. I'd actually really like to try to make something like this, now I'm learning to sew! I think I'd have to find a ready-made pattern though, since I'm nowhere near good enough to just figure it out. I feel like it would look so nice in maroon, maybe with cream ribbons…

  42. Love the antique design. I hope to make a simple acrylic fleece one for winters using such a template but with a turtleneck collar instead and maybe make it longer.

  43. Hello! I was wondering what kind of needles you are using on the sewing machine 🙂 Are they original? Are the needle in the same length as the modern ones?

    Why I am asking is because I want to find some in smaller length than the modern ones, as I have bougth a Saxonia Regia sewing machine. I am trying to restore and make it in a working condition, but it is missing needles. Do you know if it is possible to get my hands on some in shorter length? 🙂

    Thank you for your time 🙂

  44. I’ve always called it hemming stitch, because that’s what my mother calls it. When I first started watching your videos I didn’t know what you were talking about when you said felling stitch! But I eventually worked out you meant what I know as hemming stitch 😉 Previously I only knew about the word felling for flat-felling and French stitching style of seams. (And of course laying waste to both one’s mortal enemies and trees). I had no idea I was using historical terminology!

  45. Love that you are trying to be historical, but when I asked my grandmother (born 1905) such questions, she often had practical answers like the precious commenter "The dye faded, it was a bad batch." She said most things were "buyer beware" when she was growing up and tricking the buyer was so common. If it doesn't make sense (i.e. changing the bobbin to brown) it probably didn't happen and it was something else.

  46. Lovely! Do you think the brown thread could actually be faded black thread that wasn’t properly dyed instead of an real brown thread?

  47. I have no idea what you are talking about at times when you get very technical as I'm not a sewer but I can't stop watching your videos. I am however interested in all things historical and old-fashioned. Your work is so interesting and mesmerising. TFS.

  48. Your reconstruction of the antique Edwardian Mantle is wonderful, Bernadette! I am lucky to have an original garment that my great grandmother used to wear, which dates back to the 1910s or so. She and her family came to Canada in 1911, and eventually moved to the city of Vancouver, B.C. The garment is a short jacket made of black silk, and lined in a rather faded purple coloured unknown cloth. (it could be cotton or something) It has pleated ribbon on its collar, and cuffs, and is very nice. For its age, I should say it is in rather good condition! Seeing the antique mantle in your video reminded me of great grandmother's short jacket! ~Janet in Canada

  49. I wish modern clothing was designed and made with such a desire for beauty and wasn't incredibly expensive. In my mind, I'm a fabulous seamstress; in reality, I can't understand and execute a pattern well to save my life 🤦 I can handsew pretty well though 🤷

  50. I believe the capelet was part of a mourning outtfit. Garment cleaners in days past were also dyers ("teinturiers" in French), and when people had to wear black outfits to bury a loved one they had some clothes dyed black instead of buying new clothes just for that burial.
    What makes me think this garment was for mourning is that everything is black. Apart from mourning clothes, they could be black but with a bit of colour to enliven the piece.
    that's a very nice piece and you did a great repro except for using brown thread.

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