Friday, July 17, 2015

1940's Style Crocheted Turban

When I was lindy hopping regularly, and doing a lot of historical re-enactment events, I often wished that I had a crocheted head scarf to wrap up my hair and look so effortlessly chic.  I've never managed to get the hang of 1940's victory rolls and up dos, probably because my hair is very fine and slippy so even my hair dresser had trouble with it putting up for my wedding.  In fact, I resorted to buying a swatch of extra hair so that I had enough on the day to actually get some volume!  The other main issue is that I am far too inpatient to do a proper hair set which is pretty vital to getting an authentic vintage look that will last more than five minutes.  Women working in munitions factories or other manual work during WWII usually wore their hair up and covered with a scarf to prevent it getting caught in things and getting very dirty. Rosie the Riveter is probably the most famous head scarf wearing image of the day and I have a couple of spotted kerchiefs that I wear around the house- especially when steaming hats.  I've always fancied the somewhat fancier looking crocheted ones, patterns for which were often advertised in contemporary magazines.

I found the page on the left on Pinterest, but sadly the link to the original source no longer works,. I've cut and pasted it here, and if you zoom in you can just about read the pattern, which sadly turns out to be for a knitted jumper which must be on the next page of the magazine.  It does have little diagrams illustrating how to tie it, which come in useful later, and shows just how elegant these headscarves can be.

I found this next pattern on Ravelry, another online community to which I am sadly addicted! (If you happen to be a member, my username is Rosaerona, if you'd like to see my other crocheting projects) It was created by The Spool Company, published in 1942, and makes a very fetching striped turban . It is made from a very simple mesh pattern created from treble crochet and chains (uk terms) in alternating colour rows - they suggest red, green, white and yellow, which is not a colour combination that I would go for! I used this pattern as the basis for my headscarf, but I made a slight change to the edge so that short edges are square not slightly tapering.  Not that once you've tied it you can tell because the ends are all tucked in.  I made my two coloured scarf in Ella Rae Cozy Bamboo, in pale blue and teal. It's a lovely, soft and squashy dk yarn made from 80%bamboo and 20% wool.  Fortunately for me the bamboo content it large enough that the wool doesn't set of my usual itching to it... I used two balls of each colour to make a headscarf 127x22cm (50x8.5inches)

To make a two coloured stripe scarf, using DK weight yarn and 4mm crochet hook -

  • Chain 220 in colour A, or however many even number of chains it takes you to make 127cm/50inches of chain
  • Row 1  Chain 4 (counts as 1tr and 1 chain), tr in 6 chain from hook, chain 1, *skip one chain 1tr in next chain,  reeat from * until you have used all the base chain. Fasten off
  • Row 2. Join colour B in first treble of row 1, chain 3 (equals first tr) then tr in first chain space of previous row, then chain 1.  Or you could usee a standing treble to begin the row (brilliant tutorial here on this technique, called standing double in USA terms), then tr in first chain space of previous row then chain 1.
  • *Tr in next chain space of previous row, chain 1, repeat from * all the way along working tr in chain spaces,  work an extra final treble in the last treble of the previous row
  • Repeat rows 1-2 until the piece is 22cm/8.5 inches wide.  This means all odd rows start and end with one treble and all even rows have two tr stitches at the beginning and end of the row,  
The easiest way to explain this pattern for me is this diagram of a sample of the mesh pattern which I made. I couldn't find a symbol for a standing treble crochet so I've used the usual chain 3 at the start of each row instead. Sorry its a little scrappy but I think you should get the idea-

You could make all sorts of variations on this headscarf, you could omit the colour changes and just turn at the end of each row in a single colour, or you could use more colours, or its easy to make it bigger or smaller, just adjust the length of your base chain and make as many rows as you need.  I'm going to try a plain one next.  I tend to tie mine in the way pictured on the first pattern, with the knot at the front and the ends tucked in. To do this you centre the scarf at the back of your head, so the middle of the long side of the scarf is at the base of your head.  Then bring the two ends forward and tie it at the centre of your forehead in a square knot (right over left, then left over right).  You then tuck the ends left into the part that is wrapped around your head and voila- effortless chic and a great way to cover up less than perfect hair, as can be seem from this rather awful photo of me taken wearing my scarf during my last hospital admission!
Little bit drugged up, but at least my hair is under control!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Historical Sew Monthly- June. Out of your comfort zone

Yes I know I'm late but I've been in and out of Papworth both as an inpatient and an out patient and deadlines have rather gone out of the window. I'm actually finishing this post from Papworth as my stupid lungs have landed me back here again... Oh well, I did just about manage to cobble together something for the June challenge, and I did not want to miss it completely. My May challenge will get finished when I can get home and get back to my sewing machine... Currently it's only pinned together....

So anyway, June in the HSM is Out of your comfort zone, a perfect excuse for me to finally try blocking straw.  Despite having made loads of hats I've never blocked a straw hat from sctatch.  One reason is that we didn't cover straw blocking at RADA and straw hoods are actually pretty expensive so I have always balked a bit at spending on something I might totally screw up! Also, due to my rubbish health I cant get to take all the millinery classes I'd like, so I've always wimped out of trying straw. However, with a lot of reading up (see bibliography at the bottom) and researching on the net it seemed that blocking straw is not any more complicated than blocking felt so I bit the bullet ordered myself a very nice pink parasisal cone and jumped in.  My inspiration for my hat is a charming cloche hat from the V&A made by Kilin Ltd c.1925-
I''ve admired this hat for ages, it's such a classic 1920's shape, and the decoration is so pretty. Fortunately, I had a combination of hat blocks that could make a very similar shape, I use the multiblock system by the fantastic blockmaker Guy Morse Brown, this lets you swap the brims and crowns about to get more shapes without having to buy new blocks for each hat.
To block straw you only need to dampen the straw for it to become malleable. I sprayed the inside of the cone liberally with water and left it for a couple of minutes to soften then pulled it over the block.  The straw cone will either have a cross or a button at the centre top- where the weaving process starts.  Mine had a cross, which you want to centre on the top of the block with the X running at 45degrees to the centre line. This will give the maximum flexibility to the most curved areas of the block.
Cross running at 45 degrees
Once you've centred the cone you then gently but firmly, pull the cone fully over the block and secure it with pins under the brim. You start by securing it at the CF and CB, then the two sides. Then pin half way between these four pins spreading the fullness even around the circumference.
Many, many pins
It's a little weird seeing the way the straw moves and stretches as you pull it, because the straw has an clear weave its much more obvious how the fibres are adjusting-unlike felt where you really can't see the stretching at all.  To ensure a snug fit around the join from crown to brim I used a wide elastic band to hold it in place.
Once the straw was dry I gave it a good iron to set the shape and try and get some creases out. Unfortunately the way it was posted left it very crumpled but I got the worse creases out. I then painted it with two coats of water based stiffiner- one inside and one outside. The finishing was then very similar to a felt or sinnamay hat- blanket stitch millinery wire round the brim edge and then cover that with petersham ribbon. To make the petersham conform closely to the curve of the brim I first pressed it in half along its length and then pressed it into a curve- this is often referred to as 'swirling' which I think sounds a lot more fun then it actually is! The decorative panel was created from more petersham and the flowers were made from felt off cuts. Sadly, I've not had time to fully secure the panel in place but I managed to get a few mock up shots done before I was dragged in to Papworth. They are not good pictures being taken with my iPhone in fairly rubbish light, but I really wanted to have something to share for once...

I think I made the panel too big if I'm honest and may change it in the future to something I'm more likely to wear as I'm really pleased with the basic straw cloche part, although I need to get some more creases out next time. No longer shall I be afraid of straw and next time I'll buy an even nicer one! 

The Challenge: June- Out of your comfort zone
Fabric- Parasisal straw cone, petersham, felt
Pattern- Hatblocks from Guy Morse Brown
Year- 1919
Notions- Thread
How Historically accurate it it? Some of the felt is not 100%wool so not period accurate-90%
Hours to complete: Approx 10 hours exclusive of drying time
First worn: Not worn yet as I'm stuck in hospital....sigh...
Total cost: Straw Cone £23.26, Petersham £4.50, rest from stash = £27.76

Classic Hats EBook from
Hats! Making classic hats and headpieces in fabric, felt and straw.  By Sarah Cant
Fashion Hats. By Karen Henrikssen
From the Neck Up.  By Denise Dreher