I love Folkwear, especially traditional embroidered blouses. These are garments that women have been making at home for centuries. A real classic that is beyond fashion, and always beautiful. Like a signature dish that has been reiterated so many times, it becomes perfect in its own way. Although the item is never fashionable in its original form, it is appropriated each decade as designers bring some of the shapes, colours and styles into their collections.
During the 1940s, in the middle of the Second World War, these designs were really in vogue. Some of the influences were undoubtedly European – Austrian, Swiss or Bohemian. Some inspiration, especially in the American market, was Mexican and Latin American. The basic idea of making a blouse at home from some ordinary white fabric, personalising it while still sticking to the ancient design, has meant the embroidered folk blouse has been a fashion available to all. Also it has always had importance as a way of expressing one’s national identity, when this may have been threatened.
In any event, I have been keen to create an embroidered blouse for a long time.
I had a go at a smocked blouse. Smocking is a type of embroidery associated, in England, with agricultural workers. It also had a moment in the Aesthetic dress movement. But now I wanted to go European and create some of the nice big flowers that feature in Hungarian and other European styles.
I bought a reproduction pattern, very similar to the images at the top; McCalls 1358 from around 1947. I loved the open floral embroidery design which was relatively simple, but also nicely composed. As the pattern was not an original, there were no iron on transfers included. However a line drawing of the design – reversed so that there was a left and right sleeve pattern, and a left and right yoke pattern – were included. I took some Instagram advice and traced the outline onto my cotton fabric using dressmakers’ carbon paper. This worked well. I also ironed-on lightweight interfacing to give the embroidery something to cling to.
I considered making the blouse in green or navy (all of the above examples are embroidered on black, which really make the colour sing out). In the end I went for white as a white background has a similar effect on colour as black, although slightly less dramatic.
I thought for a long time about my colour scheme, in the end plumping for strongly pink roses, surrounded by little blue flowers, all with yellow centres and green leaves. I decided to do the wonderful French knots in brown to give a little definition to the flowers.
Here are the yokes.
I am looking forward to finishing the embroidery and making up the blouse. Why?
- it has gussets!
- it has lace!
- it is very pretty and will go with everything!