My last update was a sort of cliffhanger, I sort of just left my first corset making post in a million different pieces pinned, sewn and duplicated.
I currently have seven pieces in both the green silk material and the black stiffening fabric; one bigger front piece (A) and 6 panels (B, C and D all duplicated).
Unlike the side panels, the silk and the black of the front piece are not sewn together yet.
Ignoring the silk piece for the minute, the black piece needs marking where the boning will sit.
I referred back to the paper pattern roughly to note where the positions of the boning lies. I then pinned, either in a straight or curved line as the pattern shows. This allows room for the boning to slide in before securing and sewing it.
Before I took the nylon boning, I pieced the front silk piece to the opposite side of the black and pinned separately around the sides and bottom. The top will be left unsewn as the boning will need to be put in and clipped at the correct length before being sewn in on either side.
Taking the front piece of nylon I threaded the nylon boning through the sections, cutting the nylon at the top and
readjusting the pins on either side. I then took the plunge and started sewing down the pinned lines, securing the boning into the front.
Next I sewed both pieces together, about ½ cm in – preferably in a thread a similar shade to the green to make the stitches unnoticeable. (It doesn’t matter about bright green on the black – no one sees it!) Meanwhile, I needed to paper pattern again to make lining pieces of every single piece. The lining material I have is a similar shade to the silk which will sit on the other side of the black stiffener, sandwiching it between the front and lining.
After working out the jigsaw of what piece fits where I matched the lining by sewing together the newly formed green and black piece.
I’ve finally ticked off another ‘museum’ off my list!
However, I would not really class the Bronte Parsonage as a ‘museum’. Rather, I would consider it as simply a house, stepping back in time and into the life of a Bronte sister, their brother and their father. Renowned for their literary works, the Parsonage gives a detailed insight into their other past times including art, fashion and how they ran their household.
Located in the once sleepy hamlet of Haworth, not inhabited by hundreds of tourists a week, it is almost effortless to imagine Victorian figures walking through the cobbled street – it comes naturally, as if no time had changed.
I got the same feeling when I visited Anne Frank’s house in Prinsengracht, Amsterdam, – a feeling of wonder, amazement but sheer sadness.
The Bronte family experienced many devastating events and quite simply they were unlucky. Patrick Bronte, the local priest of Haworth, became a widower in 1821 a year after his wife Maria gave birth to her sixth child – daughter Anne. He witnessed all six of his children become gravely ill; his 5 daughters (Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Emily & Anne) contracting tuberculosis and son Branwell possibly contracting the disease but enhanced by his addiction to alcohol and drugs.
Perhaps the curse of the Bronte Family was not necessarily a curse specifically put upon the family, but rather a curse of Haworth itself. According to records from the census and local records, the mortality rate of Haworth was 25% in the Victorian period – differing with nearby Bradford and Keighley which were around 17%.
I definitely sensed eeriness around the exterior of the house, the church and the graveyard – which all interconnected. The sheer size of the graveyard is a reflection of the mortality rate, clearly being a factor of the inspiration for the Gothic novels written by Charlotte and Emily. In contrast, the street of Haworth unexpectedly had a community feel despite fatality, and inside the Parsonage there is a mix of a welcoming tone with a somewhat mysterious feel.
The Parsonage felt a little isolated also, not negatively, but as if it was meant to be a beauty spot. Central and carrying grand importance. There are no neighbouring houses – but it is guarded at one side by the church and school (where Charlotte once taught and also acted as the venue of her wedding reception) and on the other the purple and brown haze of the Moors.
After purchasing the tickets from the reception leading off from the original house at the back, the entrance to the house was the original front entrance – adding to the welcoming feel. I was initially surprised at how deceptive the size of the house was from the outside as inside the rooms were very small. It was then pointed out that there were two factors for this – some rooms acted as private exhibition and store rooms, the other reason was the thick stone walls which allowed to house to look big
ger from outside.
Through the front door I was introduced to a room on each side. To the right was Patrick Bronte’s study set up with his writing desk, piano, spectacles and at the back was his top hat!
To the left was a small living room, again holding a writing desk and range of books. I presume the three younger sisters and their brother used this room for t
heir own studies as they spent a majority of their days in each other’s company. This room in particular was very unnerving in a way as it contains a sofa on the far right. It is believed that the sofa was where Emily took her final breath.
Entering the kitchen I found out that Charlotte and Anne did a majority of the housework within the parsonage alongside their servant, while Emily acted as housekeeper. The three surviving sisters were taken out of school after 1825 as it is believed that the two eldest Bronte sisters contracted tuberculosis due to the poor conditions of the school. (Acting as inspiration for Lowood School and the characters in Jane Eyre)
Going up the stairs I was faced with the original grandfather clock of the house, opposite was a copy of the most famous Bronte painting – the portrait of the siblings painted by Branwell who then painted himself out, leaving a ghostly figure between two of the three sisters.
Patrick Bronte’s bedroom was the first room off the stairs, also acting as Branwell’s room when he became extremely ill.
Charlotte’s room was dedicated to items of her clothing and pasttimes, including small figures from a dollhouse. A weird coincidence then occurred, as there is workshop and exhibiton run by historians and writers, including a writer named Jessie Burton – who’s book the Miniaturist I am reading now!
The Parsonage is celebrating a bicentenary and over the next few years each year will be dedicated to a specific Bronte – so I suspect this room will be adapted and reflect her siblings and father over time.
One of her last surviving dresses was on show in a tall glass cabinet along with her incredibly tiny shoes, long longs, parasol and one of the most beautiful fans I have ever seen! The dress is an uncanny resemblance to a dress I stand near to at the Castle Museum, known as the TB dress. Being pale and ill was considered beautiful, and the sha
pe and tone of this dress also adds to that nature. The dress extenuates the tiny waist – Charlotte standing at under 5’ with a 19inch waist.
In another cabinet was Charlotte’s wedding bonnet, laced with blue and yellow flowers which have kept their tone really well. An interesting fact I wasnot aware of was that Charlotte signed a document that in her death all of her possessions would return to her father and not her new husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls!
Upon entering the exhibition room I passed through Branwell’s own study – dedicated to his paintings. He was an incredibly talented artists, so lifelike!
The exhibition room contained a wide range of Bronte artefacts, from first edition publications, their artwork, family heirlooms and even the collars from the family pets! Charlotte’s writing desk and her trunk are situated in this room.
The last part of the room was dedicated to the deaths of the family. It was a Victorian tradition to incorporate the hair of the head into items – including a bracelet made up of Emily’s hair and rings with intertwined different member’s hair. This was continued downstairs in another exhibition room opposite the reception: Charlotte Great and Small. This particular exhibition is curated by the wonderful novelist and historian, Tracy Chevalier.
In one of the glass cabinets of this exhibition there was a family template from 1824 with a lock of each members hair.
Other cabinets included small pieces of Charlotte’s work; a small piece of one of her dresses, a tiny embroidery which when you look at very carefully is encrusted with the tiniest needles ever. If you ever have a chance to view this exhibition – GO!!!!
From the final exhibition room you return to the reception and the gift shop (where I picked up a few Bronte postcards for my next wall art). I spoke to a lovely member of staff who gave me some more information on the private exhibition the Parsonage holds. I am really interested in seeing some more clothes and items of the sisters, including Charlotte’s corset and dresses by Emily and Anne – to lay each dress next to each other to imagine all three sisters together. Hopefully one day I will get a chance to go on the private tour!
Outside the Parsonage, Haworth is dedicated to all things Bronte with retro style cafes and shops incorporating the names and artwork of the family. Traditional shops still stand, including an old fashioned sweet shop, and the most amazing – the apothecary used by Branwell.
The schoolroom was unfortunately closed for restoration, however the church was open. For a really small hamlet this church is absolutely stunning and incredibly large, with the most beautiful stained glass windows on every side. I don’t particularly like taking photos of stained glass inside churches or the alters but I did take a quick photo of the Bronte plaques, one explaining their vault and the other showing the spot where Emily and Charlotte lay.
I would highly recommend visiting Haworth and the Parsonage – it really is a spectacular place.
It’s finally happened everyone: I’ve turned my attention to making a corset.
From researching the history of corsets for my museum work, stumbling upon (and buying, obviously) a beautiful gold satin one from a vintage ‘barn’ and receiving access to a free pattern online – it was inevitable.
The free pattern is courtesy of corsettraining.net, which gives you a detailed digital booklet and online pattern of the most basic corset – perfect for beginners! The pattern stretches across two sheets of paper, with the different sizes colour coded within the shapes.
I’ve opted to make a size 14 as it’s very difficult to gage what kind of sizing is measured. However, because corsets are made in what seems like a hundred different pieces it’s relatively easy to add or take panels away if the sizing is a little wrong.
Obviously before starting I needed to get the materials, meaning I would be in the fabric shop for at least an hour just gawping and contemplating every single colour and style.
Eventually I went with my all-time favourite colour, a jade-green silk finish. What I didn’t exactly realise was the amount of layers on this particular corset, not only needing this beautiful outer fabric but a stiffening middle layer and a lining for the inside – oh and bias binding to make all the edges look pretty and neat. (Note, bias binding was made at home using a metre of polycotton, cut on the bias!) For all the fabric I got ½ metre each!
For this corset I wanted all the fabric (minus the stiffening layer) to be the same colour so I chose the same jade shade for all. Unfortunately the name of the black stiffening fabric has fallen straight out of my head, so when it reappears in my head I will update you all!**
And for the boning? Not whale bone or steel boning unfortunately…but nylon boning – a very excellent and comfy alternative. I got a couple of metres of this, rolled up and secured with a lot of sellotape (it doesn’t unravel – it pings, everywhere.)
After doing the material shopping it was time to focus on the pattern! After printing the pattern it was time to go back to school (sort of) and do some cutting and ‘sticking’ (pinning).
The pattern is great, clearly labelling each pattern piece A B C and D. Starting with the black stiffening layer, part of the edge was folded and piece A was pinned on the fold. The other pieces were pinned elsewhere and not on the fold.
Before cutting it is recommended to leave a seam allowance of around 1cm so I had room to manoeuvre or rectify a probable future mistake, haha. Instead of cutting directly on the lining I roughly cut 1cm away all the way round the piece.
All the pieces, minus A which was cut on the fold on fabric were cut out twice. Piece A is the front of the corset, when unfolded it becomes the centre.
After I felt comfortable with my millions of pieces, it was time for the next stage: Unpinning the paper templates and pinning the black shapes onto the silk finish. You do not need a seam allowance this time, as it is included in the black shape already! (You can happily reuse the paper templates if you want, just remember to use the seam allowance again!) This stage is exactly the same, however the two fabrics are completely different to work with. The stiffening layer was a little bit of a challenge to cut due to its sturdy nature. In contrast the silk is extremely slippy, something that I will have to take into account if I make any future garment!
The final stage for part one is my favourite part. It’s time to thread up the sewing machine! Each black shape is sewn together with it’s green counterpart, and hallelujah the first two layers are beginning to form! I sewed around 1/2 cm in, trying my hardest to be equal!
That was enough for one day. I need to recharge myself!!