Sunday, May 19, 2013

Historical Sew Fortnightly: Literature

One of the best things about having siblings is that they get you. Having presumably grown up with the same parenting, environment, and influential books, there's a great comfort in knowing that they understand where you're coming from. For Emily and I, one of those things we share is a borderline obsessive knowledge of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. I started Emily on these books pretty early, making her practice her reading skills in kindergarten by reading aloud to me while I washed dishes (it's like the poor man's audiobook). In the years since then, we've read those books so many times, the covers of our paperback editions (which I've had since a particularly gratifying fourth grade book fair day) are ready to fall off, and the pages have fruit juice stains from the many times that we've enjoyed apples/plums/grapes while reading (is there anything so glorious as a good book and a juicy piece of fruit?). Whenever we get together, we take delight in being able to work quotes from the books into everyday conversation at appropriate times. Somehow, Farmer Boy is the book that gets quoted the most. So when I saw that one of the HSF challenges was to recreate a something from a book, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. It's not as grand as some of the other garments I was considering (Mary Ingalls' going-to-college dress, Sara Crewe's rose-colored dancing gown, anything from Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Gone With the Wind, or all of Austen's works), but this was simple to make and actually fits multiple pieces of literature!




Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never specifically describes Sherlock Holmes as wearing a deerstalker hat, but he mentions at times that the detective wore a "close-fitting cloth cap" and a "ear-flapped travelling cap." Because of this description, Sidney Paget, the original illustrator, drew a deerstalker, as it was the only style of hat of the time that fit both descriptions.
Some of Sidney Paget's illustrations of Sherlock on the go. [source]

Like SH's hat, a deerstalker is never specifically mentioned in Farmer Boy, but Wilder twice describes a style of cap that might be a deerstalker. Almanzo's cousin Frank has one that he boasts is from New York and costs fifty cents, and he shows how the ear flaps can be buttoned around the chin, or flipped up to button on top. Almanzo and his brother are both jealous. Later in the book, Almanzo gets a similar hat for Christmas: "The plaid cloth was machine-woven. So was the lining. Even the sewing was machine-sewing. And the ear-muffs were buttoned over the top. Almanzo yelled. He had not even hoped for such a cap."

My ear flaps flipped up, and posing with my magnifying equipment. 
This toy microscope was actually a freebie from a science teacher fair. 
Side view of the hat...looks pretty real! 
The button on the top is my favorite little bit!
It's like I'm some kind of weird headless mannequin. 

I still had a bit of this brownish-gray plaid leftover from my Mad Men dress and Clovers, and it's definitely machine-woven, so it was perfect for this HSF literature-inspired project. The lining is just some IKEA cotton fabric, and the while my flaps don't button, they can be tied under the chin or over the top. And best of all, Almanzo's cap is specifically described as machine-sewn, so I don't even have to apologize for not stitching this by hand! However, given that my machine threw a fit about sewing through so many layers of fabric and interfacing, I might have done better to sew it by hand (or with pliers!).

This gray leaf print seemed like an appropriate fabric for an outdoorsy hat.
I may decide to cut the aglets off of the shoelace tips so that it's less obviously anachronistic, but for now it's nice not to worry about fraying. 

Summary:
Pattern: I used Tanit-Isis' sunhat pattern to do the crown (with 1/3" seam allowances), then traced off a baseball cap for the brims (download pattern here). The ear flaps are just a shortened, rounded version of the crown pieces. While I just winged the construction, I later found these instructions for Simplicity 2517 online if you need more guidance on making your own deerstalker.
Fabric: less than 1/3 yard of plaid, even less of the cotton lining.
Notions: a shoelace, a 7/8" covered button, craft-weight interfacing for the brims (which could probably still stand to be heavier.
Hours: 4, sadly. I managed to botch the lining seam allowances so badly that I ended up cutting a seventh piece to make up the difference in circumference. Then I managed to very meticulously sew the lining the wrong side up, so I had to go back and unpick and repin everything. I also stitched in the ditch by hand to attach the lining to the hat at the seams so that it would stay put.
Will you make it again? Does one need more than one death frisbee? Yeah, I didn't think so.
How historically accurate is it? Polyester and shoelaces and craft-weight interfacing are definitely not historically accurate materials, but the general look is right, I think...deerstalkers haven't changed much since Victorian times, and mine wouldn't look terribly out of place in the late nineteenth century until someone saw the shoelace aglets.  Since I'm not working for a museum and this is just an excuse to make fun things, I'm not bothered. I'm at theatrical costumer level at best.
Total cost: I'm going to count this as more or less free, since I used all stash materials.
Final thoughts: I suppose by making this hat at home, I sort of defeated the purpose of recreating Almanzo's Christmas cap, which is specifically store-bought. Still, this ridiculous hat makes me as happy as he was on that long ago Christmas morning. Will I ever wear it for anything other than a costume event? Probably not. But I can sleep knowing that should I ever want to have a coordinated 1960s secretary/detective outfit, I could do it!

And just because I love Benedict's Sherlock:
"What kind of hat is it anyway? Is it a cap? Why has it got two fronts?"
"How do you stalk a deer with a hat? What are you going to do, throw it?"
"Some sort of death frisbee?"
"It's got flaps. Ear flaps! It's an ear hat, John!"



55 comments:

  1. YES benedict!!! Love the hat also :)

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    1. The hat is pretty unimportant when compared to Benedict :)

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  2. Um, is it silly to admit that I have that Simplicity pattern? I bought it to make a hat to match the pink houndstooth cape that I made! :)

    http://vintagezest.blogspot.com/2013/03/a-study-in-fuschia-sherlock-holmes-pink.html

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    1. No, it's not silly at all! I think a matching hat would set off your fuchsia cape very nicely.

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  3. Ohhh that's so clever.. I love the Sherlock books and this is such a cool look

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    1. I have to admit, despite having read the books as a kid, I was never really into Sherlock Holmes until I saw him played by Benedict Cumberbatch!

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  4. Seriously awesome. Holmes and Almanzo together! ;)

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    1. I mean, they were somewhat contemporary, even if they were separated by an ocean!

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  5. You and your sister sound like so much fun! I would love to see Mary's college dress (the description in the books is just delectable) or Sara Crewe's! When crafting and literature meet, it's wonderful.

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    1. I think we're pretty fun too :)

      If I ever had a lot of extra time and money, I would love to make all the outfits described in LIW's books...she does such a brilliant job describing them!

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  6. Love the death frisbee. :D And a resounding YES to Benedict Cumberbatch!

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    1. I'm pretty sure that that line was divinely inspired.

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  7. These are exactly the kind of posts that make me love your blog :) I was also a big fan of the dinosaur dress!

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  8. Loved this. Thank you for smiles on a grumpy Monday morning.

    Also reminded me of all the books my siblings and I have in common, especially the exceedingly well read copies of the Famous Five all four of us devoured - and now my 7 year old is reading them too (and intermittently turning up asking me to glue them back together).

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    1. That is so sweet that your child is now reading the same books! I don't know that my copies of some of my favorite books will hold up that long...

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  9. What a great challenge and you executed it so well. I wish I had more of a desire to read books but I'm drawn to textbooks. Weird? Nerdy? Or both!

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    1. Hey, some people are just more into nonfiction, and that's okay!

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  10. Its nice to have lots of fun sometimes - and a sister!!!

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  11. Awesome hat! I like Benedict Cumberbatch's version of Sherlock, too. :)

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    1. I thought Robert Downey Jr. was pretty fantastic as Sherlock too, but BC is way better!

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  12. Hehe, thanks for reminding me of that quote!
    I love your detecting shots. It looks so perfect with the magnifying glass! :D

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  13. what a great hat! love the sherlock stories and i love cumberbatch's depiction--that's such a great scene!

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    1. It's one of my favorite scenes of theirs ever!

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  14. you and your hat are too cute...thanks for sharing a little whimsy this morning...wimsey?

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  15. haha, I love that scene! I was majorly skeptical about a modern Sherlock when I saw it advertised, but Bennedict Cumberbatch really pulled it off. :) Love the hat, and you're dress. I guarantee you, someday you will NEED a coordinated '60's outfit. :P

    ~Gillian
    youngyankeelady.blogspot.com

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    1. Me too! Then BC overcame all the skeptics because he is just brilliant like that. I suppose this makes for a good backup Halloween costume!

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  16. "Alice, look! Look, Royal! Lookee my jack-knife! Lookee my cap!"

    I know what to get you for Christmas now :D

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    1. "Father! Do you really mean it? I can have Starlight for my very own?"

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  17. Wahoo! And awesome that you used that hat piece as a base (I think this is the first time I'm aware of someone actually using it. ;) )

    :D

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    1. Oh, I am all about free patterns! Good thing you have so many!

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  18. LOL! That scene from the show and your photos just make me laugh! So much fun!

    I love making (and wearing!) hats - nice little projects that always seem so rewarding in a short period of time.

    I have a little capelet that was used in a detective show I worked on. It looks like a elbow length double-breasted cape with a collar and it's plaid - very Sherlockian, so I HAD to have it when we were finished with it. (It was just from Forever 21 years ago.) Everyone needs at least one thing in their closet that makes people think of the great detective! =)

    ~ Brooke

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    1. Bringing props and costumes homes must be one of the best perks of working in costume professionally!

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  19. Wow, your insides are so pretty! Where/how did you learn this? Can you recommend any sewing books?

    (thinking about starting a Blogger site, it's still empty now! my blog's still on moramora.weebly.com)

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    1. I think my favorite sewing book ever is the Reader's Digest sewing book...it's got great diagrams of all sorts of techniques, but really, nothing beats practice for cleaning up one's sewing!

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  20. What a fantastic hat! One of the first things I noticed when I discovered your blog was the set of Little House books on a bookshelf behind you. Thanks so much for sharing this!

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    1. Oh wow, someone actually looks at the books behind me! Every once in a while I wonder if people are secretly judging me on the quality of my books :)

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  21. You are so awesome in every way.

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  22. Pleeeease make the Vogue 8319 jacket (or another jacket) in Belstaff fabric with red buttonholes! This outfit is crying out for it (ps - I love Sherlock and Benedict too).

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    1. Unfortunately, I don't have any more of this plaid fabric for a matching cape! I'll have to be on the lookout for a complementary fabric so I can do the red buttonhole thing!

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  23. This is awesome! Love the hat, love that you have a dress to match it, love sherlock, love love love. I was Sherlock for Halloween last year, and my man uses the (sadly, not handmade) deerstalker as his thinking cap while in the throws of a really frustrating coding problem, hahaha.

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    1. That's a great use for a deerstalker!!

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  24. This is so cute! Always wanted to know what a female Sherlock would wear :)

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  25. Awesome hat, and I'm so glad you linked to the Sherlock scene - it's literally the first thing I thought of when I saw your first photo! The first time we watched that episode, my husband and I laughed so hard at the hat conversation that we ran it back and watched it twice more... "Why's it got two fronts?" Benedict, I've wondered that my whole life.

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    1. Apparently the back brim is for shedding rain so that it doesn't get the back if your neck all wet...it's a good thing that I put the selvage edge with the ikea label at the back so I know which way is which!

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  26. Cindy, this is perfect for the deerstalker hat I want to make my 5yo. Thanks for putting up all this info so I can make one for him. yay! :)

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