Saturday, November 16, 2013

October Accessory - Regency Reticule

Deadlines.  They are not my friends.  You may have noticed that I fell off the Historical Sew Fortnightly wagon somewhere around oh, April.  I made another brave stab at it in August when I finally posted about my Challenge #1 project... which I had finished in June.  Then in September I stumbled across the Accessorizing Head-to-Toe Challenge and immediately decided to take part!  What could be better than more deadlines?!  :p  I completed the first challenge - Hats - by the skin of my teeth, and although I actually started the second challenge - Purses - at the same time, I only finished it this week.  So without further ado, here is my October Entry:  A Regency Reticule.

The Accessory:  Regency Reticule/Purse
Historical Period:  1810-1820ish
Outfit It Accessorizes:  Either my Apron-Front Gown or my Blue Day Dress
Materials Used:  Striped upholstery fabric, satin, muslin lining, cord
Techniques Used:  Hand and machine sewing

You may notice it's made from the same fabric as my Striped Bonnet.  I actually made up my pattern for it based on the shape of the scraps I was left with after making the bonnet.  I merely folded the oddly-shaped pieces in half and cut off the excess to make them symmetrical.  But since I was experimenting and had limited fabric to work with, I first traced the pieces I planned to use onto newsprint to create a pattern, then cut them again from muslin for a mock-up.  I'm glad I did, because I had to remake the mock-up twice.

The final mock-up
Now, I only had enough of the striped fabric to make the front, back, and bottom pieces of the reticule.  I still needed sides, so my solution was to cut them out from a coordinating cream satin and make them fold in on themselves at the top of the purse.  The satin has a much softer drape which was perfect for folding and expanding sides, so I flat-lined it with soft cotton muslin while flat-lining the striped fabric with a stiffer, full-bodied muslin.  I made the design decision to sew the purse together with the wrong sides together, and bind all the seams with bias strips of the cream satin.

The front, sides, and back sewn together
Binding down the side
And across the bottom
In retrospect, I could have used straight-of-grain strips of the satin for binding the seams.  This was suggested to me by one of my co-workers, Lauren, when I was working on it over breaks at work.  She said it's easier than using bias when you're binding by hand.  The thought had never occurred to me before, but I'll definitely have to try it next time.

Once all the binding was done, I punched the holes for the eyelets and treated them with Fray-Check.

Two on front and back
Four along the sides
Here again I referred to my mock-up for placement of the eyelets.  I folded the sides in accordion-style, and poked through all layers with an awl.  Then I threaded some twill tape through the holes, straight from the front through the folded-up side, around the back and out through the other side piece to the front.  This proved to be, well, wrong.

Closed, this worked.  Open, it was a mess.
It was Brian the Engineer's suggestion to thread the ties around the circle, in and out through the holes:

 Which, when drawn up from either side, worked perfectly!

So now I just needed to sew all the eyelets by hand:

Aren't they pretty?  
(Yes, I know the stripe is not perfectly centered, but I'm over it.)  
I had a scrap piece of cream cord that worked perfectly for the drawstring/purse handles.  I cut it in half and threaded each piece around the top from opposite directions, tying the ends of each one in a knot with about an inch of the raw ends loose.

I then combed these ends out to create a soft tassel.

And my reticule was done!  I took it out for a test drive today on a lovely autumnal photo-shoot in the park.  I wore my Blue Day Dress with newly-added long sleeves, my matching Striped Bonnet, a green ribbon sash I bought from Dames a la Mode, vintage gloves from my collection, and my American Duchess stockings and Pemberlies.  More pictures from the shoot can be seen on my Facebook page.

Action shots!

Opening the purse
Top fully expanded
Closing the drawstrings
Which then become the handles
I can pull up the drawstrings so that the tassels are at the top of the handles or so that they rest against the front and back of the purse.  I like the second way better, as I think it looks cleaner and more purposefully decorative.  I'll definitely use this pattern again, although next time I'll make it taller.  You can see that my fan doesn't fully fit inside, which is somewhat annoying.  But I really like the design overall.  :)


  1. I'm well ahead of you on HSF delinquency. I think I fell off in March or April, and it's been down hill ever since. The reticule turned out really well! The proportions are great as-is, but I can certainly understand the fan issue.

    1. I like how the next upcoming HSF challenge is "Re-do." I might get crazy and do ALL of the ones I've missed over the past few months... :p

  2. This turned out so cute! I love the texture given by the "tassel" and applaud you for making a rather neutral accessory, sure to go with many outfits!

    1. Thank you! I've always loved the prospect of mixing and matching, so I tend to keep that idea in mind when making new accessories. :)

  3. I LOVE this reticule! It's such a charming shape. And I'm utterly envious of your green gloves!

    1. Thanks! I wish I could remember where I got the gloves. I've had them for years with no real reason to wear them. When I realized they matched the sash ribbon perfectly, I was thrilled! :D