Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Outlander Ensemble: Stomacher Design


Today I began work on what I image will be the most time consuming part of my planned Outlander inspired 18th century ensemble, the hand embroidered stomacher. I have never made a costume from the earlier half of the 18th century, but I have made a few embroidered stomachers before. I have a half finished evening bodice knocking about with a zone front I embroidered in silver beads and sequins that one day I will finally add eyelets down the back of so I can wear it! This will be my first more traditional style embroidered stomacher, and I am already thoroughly enjoying the embroidering process!

The first step was to settle on a design for the embroidery, and as Outlander's costumes are a mix of historical and more modern/fantasy elements, I decided I didn't need to be too exact in replicating a historical stomacher. Still, I looked at some extant pieces for reference as luckily many embroidered stomachers from the 18th century have survived. I want to use similar stitches and style for my own embroidery even if the motif will be a bit more modern.

England, 1730-1750, V&A
England, 1730-1750, V&A
British, 1720, MET
British, first quarter of the 18th century, MET
A close up of the last stomacher
 In this close up view you can see how the leaves are filled in with lines of very small chain stitch embroidery. I plan on using this same stitch style for most of my design and the same gradation of colors from a dark green outline to a more yellow-green center.

Of course when it came to the actual motif of my stomacher, there really only was one option, thistles of course! I mean this is a Scottish inspired ensemble after all, and what could be more Scottish than thistles? Though I would rather be using wool thread for this embroidery, I already have plenty of cotton thread and my budget for this costume is rather thin, so cotton it is!


Above is my design, a swirling thistle branch or two with large leaves.


After I sketched out the design, I traced it onto some thick linen-look cotton fabric and got to work! I worked for a few hours and only finished one of the large leaves, and only half way! It's slow work, but work I really enjoy. I have missed embroidery as I haven't done a project in a long while. One of the best parts about a historical embroidery project like this one is just how connected you feel to the craftswomen of the past. No machine, just your hands, and a needle and thread, just like they did it in the 18th century. It was a very peaceful way to spend the afternoon! I may have had the 1st episode of the show on re-watch in the background too...


8 comments:

  1. Ooo, love that light blue stomacher shown above! And your design looks splendid too :) Thistles are beautiful, despite beeing considered a pesky weed here where I live. Are you using DMC cotton yarn/thread? Do you know if it can function as flossing for corsets? I really wanted to get some silk floss for my victorian corset, but no such luck I'm afraid.... Any pointers/tips/tricks?
    Happy stitching ;)

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    1. Thanks Siri! I think my local thistles are considered pests too. I am just using regular old DMC since I already had it on hand. I have only ever flossed one corset before and I used silky looking polyester sewing thread as I couldn't get real silk thread either. I definitely think you can use whatever thread you like, it really is a mostly decorative thing in the end. I recommended these two articles from the excellent Foundations Revealed for some flossing tips http://foundationsrevealed.com/index-of-articles/corsetry/decoration/67-the-basics-of-flossing http://foundationsrevealed.com/articles/gallery/flossing-design-library Good luck!

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  2. Thank you Bianca! Very nice articles. I just briefly skimmed the first one, and it stated embroidery yarn is just too loosely spun and not hardwearing enough. I can easily imagine that when bones move, they sever the cotton. I think I'll try sewing thread. I can always re-floss if needed :)

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    1. Ah I guess that makes sense if the corset would get a lot of wear. Well I'm glad the articles had clear advice, I still haven't flossed my Victorian corset and I made it last spring! Good luck!

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  3. Gorgeous design! I am always drawn to classic Scottish thistle imagery. I don't know why or when that started, but I am, and I just know I'm going to go positively weak in the knees when you reveal your stunning finished stomacher.

    Happy stitching!

    ♥ Jessica

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    1. Thanks Jessica! It has been another lesson in patience as the tiny chain stitch is slow going compared to my usual projects!

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  4. I really enjoyed seeing your inspiration for this project and finding out how you go about your design process. The gradation of colours in the leaves is so effective. Looking forward to seeing the thistles too.

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    1. Thanks Kate, I am excited to get to the thistles as I think they will be the most fun to embroider!

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