Thursday, November 14, 2013

The B&T Workshop Marathon Concludes with a Weekend of Riding Habits!

Last weekend was the second and final workshop in the Burnley and Trowbridge fall workshop series.  Both Ashley and I have been very eagerly anticipating the chance to do a riding habit workshop for years now, so when the opportunity finally came up, of course we couldn't resist!

The decision to go was also motivated by the fact that we both already had pre-purchased fabric, so technically (ahem...) there wouldn't be the added expense of needing to purchase materials.  Back in 2010 at Brandywine, I found some green worsted wool at B&T and bought it specifically for the purpose of making a habit - the habit below, to be precise!  It's been maturing in The Stash ever since, awaiting the day when it could be brought to life, and I'm tickled to death at how close it's going to look once it's finished!

My riding habit inspiration image: Jane Maxwell Gordon, Duchess of Gordon,
painted by Daniel Gardner circa 1775.
Image linked from wikipedia.

Ashley also already had some wool gracefully aging in The Stash, set aside for this express purpose.  A couple of years ago, she found a rich chestnut brown worsted at B&T and snapped it up with a habit project in mind.  Not too long after, though, she stumbled across a small piece of a gorgeous red silk velvet and decided it would be perfect as cuff and collar accents on a black habit, so she got some black worsted as well.  Finally forced to make a choice as to which color would become her first riding habit, she ended up selecting the chestnut at the last minute, and I think she was most pleased with that choice in the end.

Some of the goodies created by the CW tailors, laid out at the workshop for our inspiration.



Our weekend of fun with riding habits began last Friday afternoon with a fantastic lecture by CW tailor Mark Hutter.  Mark used a rich and comprehensive collection of period images to lead us on a fascinating journey of the evolution of female riding attire from the seventeenth through the early nineteenth centuries.  Talking through changes in cut, fit, style, trim, and regional differences, we learned how to "read" and date habits by deciphering the clues found in these details.  We also discussed common habit textiles and colors and even addressed fashions in head wear and footwear.  Before the first session concluded, our instructor demonstrated the process we'd undertake the next morning: the draping of the habit waistcoat.  I even had the pleasure of playing model for this first demonstration!  :-)

B&T riding habit workshop, November 2013
Behind the scenes at a B&T workshop!  Here's Angela in
the process of uploading one of her "live" Facebook updates.

B&T riding habit workshop, November 2013
Beginning to look like a waistcoat, eh?  No, this wasn't my
waistcoat fabric, but I really liked it and wanted to keep it!!

B&T riding habit workshop, November 2013
The back of the waistcoat.

When we arrived on Saturday morning, we thus went straight to work pinning and smoothing and tucking waistcoats on each other.  Ashley and I and our friend Lily were grouped together as draping buddies, and we all agreed that having that third set of eyes was infinitely more productive and helpful than just being paired off in twos; when one of us forgot a step or needed an extra hand to help wrangle fabric, the other was there ready to help.

Ashley and Lily helping out (and getting a bit more practice!)
by draping the back of another participant's waistcoat.

As we proceeded step by step with the process throughout the morning, Mark paused to review and re-demonstrate.  For those of us "raised" on the techniques of the mantua maker, forcing the brain and the hands to act instead like a tailor was a bit of a challenge, so the constant reminders as we went along were prodigiously helpful.

Mid-morning waistcoat front draping reminder...

...which was concluded around lunchtime with the re-demonstration of the final step.

It took us most of the day to perfect our waistcoats.  This was crucial because our waistcoats would also serve as the patterns for our habit coats, so achieving the perfect fit the first time around was essential before we could proceed.  Once Mark was satisfied that we were each meticulously fitted, our attention turned to the acquisition of yet another new skill as Mark instructed us in the art of transforming our three-dimensional draped waistcoats into flat patterns that would be used to cut our coats.  Homework that night was to cut and baste our waistcoats and coats for a further fitting the next morning.

Learning how to transform our three-dimensional draped waistcoats into flat patterns.

These flat patterns will be used to cut both our waistcoats and our coats.

With all the pieces (mostly!) together, Sunday morning was spent trying on and tweaking the fit of everyone's waistcoats and coats.  This got a little complicated because it involved remembering we needed to adjust seam allowances to be sure there was sufficient overlap for buttons - something we mantua-making ladies have never needed to consider before!

Checking and tweaking the fit of the basted coat.

Lily and Ashley checking the fit of Ashley's coat over her waistcoat.

Then we moved on to patterning our sleeves, which introduced yet another new set of skills to learn because, like good tailors, we were working off patterns and using measurements, rather than draping directly to the shape of the body.  We learned how to take a tailor's measure of our key arm measurements (snipping that strip of paper brought back fond memories of the stays workshop oh so long ago!) and how to apply those measurements to adjust a sleeve pattern in the flat patterning stage.

Learning the tailor's techniques for measuring for a sleeve.

Applying our measurements to a sleeve pattern.

Measuring Ashley for her sleeves.

After basting our sleeves together, our final bit of instruction was in how to fit the sleeve to the coat body.  We each got at least one sleeve attached by the end of the day and strategically posed for our traditional end-of-workshop picture being careful to reveal only that one be-sleeved arm!  ;-)

Ashley being prodigiously diligent working on her sleeve pattern.

Fitting the first sleeve onto the coat body!

If you couldn't tell from the pictures we posted on Facebook, we had a splendid time and thoroughly enjoyed every bit of the weekend!  The group dynamics between all of the participants was the best we've ever experienced, and we all indulged in lots (and lots) of laughter as we learned and sewed together.  To Mark goes an immense amount of thanks for tolerating all our giggles and general hilarity, and an even greater appreciation for showing such dedication in teaching us, even to the point of taking hours of extra "over-time" to be sure we left with all the information we needed to complete our projects.  And thanks go, too, as always, to the lovely folks at Burnley and Trowbridge for yet another most excellent workshop experience!  You guys are the best and we're already eagerly anticipating the spring series announcement!

Historical accuracy is a hallmark of all B&T workshops and is strictly
observed at all times.  Well, just about... ;-)

Additional photos from the workshop can be found on Burnley and Trowbridge's Facebook page and in our habit workshop set on flickr.  If you're interested in participating in a spring workshop, keep checking back on B&T's website for updates!


vintagevisions27 said...

Ah you lucky girls!! I have fabric in the stash for TWO riding habits both from B&T. One is a beautiful scarlet worsted - I long for that bright red Lady Worsley riding habit even if it is the most copied one out there! And I couldn't pass up this amazing gray herringbone that they had. Both times Cori and I have visited CW we have made a point of visiting B&T's "shop" and of course could not leave empty handed! I also have an ivory silk/cotton twill (it was on sale!) that I bought with the mind set of making into a waistcoat to wear with either habit, I think I even bought enough to make a waistcoat for Cori too. But alas, it all sits in the stash. I'm terrified of cutting into any of it for a project that I have no experience in! Waiting for the Hive ladies to offer a habit workshop as traveling to Virginia just isn't in the cards for me right now. A big reason for why my shoes remain unfinished too! Can't wait to see your finished riding habits!!

vintagevisions27 said...

I forgot to mention that on one of our trips to CW the milliners/tailors had just completed that red and green riding habit. Mark was kind enough to show me some of their research on that particular style. Very interesting indeed! Mark also allowed me to try on that lovely white and blue riding habit when no one was in the shop! :D

Unknown said...

I would love to take one of those workshops. I wish I was closer.