Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Regency shawl hacks

1803 fashion plate via Scene in the Past
1801 fashion plate via Scene in the Past
I LOVE Regency shawls - especially the decadently long ones that nearly drag on the floor.  Shawls of this type found in museums such as the Met are typically a little over 100" in length, but others from this period could go up to 140" or more.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to find modern shawls that are longer than 70 or 80 inches, and it is also hard to find modern shawls that are simple enough to replicate the look of their Regency counterparts, which usually had a plain ground and designs along the borders only.

So for the Historical Sew Fortnightly "outerwear" challenge, I decided to alter a few inexpensive shawls from ebay to make them more appropriate for Regency costuming.  I found 4 different shawls that have paisley border designs and plain grounds, and they were cheap enough that I could easily buy two and piece them together in the middle to make them longer.

I started by cutting off one of the bordered ends on each of the two shawls (so you don't get a border in the middle of the shawl).  Then I sewed the two cut edges together to make one super-long shawl with a seam in the middle and borders on both ends. I used a flat-felled seam to make it look nice on both sides, and each shawl took me under 30 minutes to complete.  I sewed some of the shawl seams on my sewing machine, while others were hand-stitched.  Out of the four shawls, the one that I think turned out the best was hand-sewn on both sides with a wide 1" overlap in the felled seam.  When I tried to make the seams very small, they were more difficult to work with since the weave is relatively loose and threads have a tendency to pull out when there isn't much selvage remaining to help hold it together.  With the exception of the green shawl, which was shorter than the others to start with, I made all of these between 108" and 115" when pieced together.  

There is, however, one feature of a real Regency shawl that is noticeably different from my "hack" shawls: the ground on historical shawls would be the same color on both sides, and all of my modern shawls have a different color on each side.  But I think that's a pretty nit-picky thing to worry about - especially considering how cheap and easy these are to make.  But if it really bothers you, you could also cut the border designs off of a modern shawl and sew them onto a solid piece of wool fabric.  I found examples of Regency shawls that were pieced together during this period using a similar technique.  

 
Shawl #1: Acrylic/Viscose from the-bestdealmarket
This was the cheapest option that I found at $8.50 per shawl.  It also has the loosest weave and the design had the least amount of detail, but it is very silky and soft, and there is a good range of color choices available.  Not bad for a $17 accessory!

Shawl #2: Cashmere/Silk from thelakegalleria
These shawls are probably the highest quality since they are made of natural materials, and they only cost $9.95 apiece.  The pattern in less bold and they aren't as long as the others, but wow, they feel great.

Shawl #3: Wool (maybe) from aashigifts
I ordered these shawls from India, and they have a nice tight weave and a very detailed border design. The seller claims that they are wool, but there wasn't a fiber content tag on them, and I haven't done a burn test to see if they really are what they claim to be.  These were the most expensive shawls that I bought at $17 apiece, but it's such a pretty garment that I definitely think it is worth the $34 total cost.


Shawl #4: Rayon from jokotkat
This last shawl is another beauty that is sold in multiple colorways.  They cost $12.99 each and are very silky and soft.  I also have the same shawl in a burgundy color, and I am trying to restrain myself from buying a pair of the blue ones too.  The border pattern works so perfectly for Regency.  

Hopefully, this will give you a place to start if you are also in the market for Regency shawls.  If you don't like these options, all of these sellers have other shawls that might work for this period as well.  I was very pleased with my shopping experience with all four sellers, and the shipping was fast and free, which is exactly how I like it!  You can also do your own ebay search using some combination of the words "paisley", Kashmir", "pashmina", "wool", "shawl", or "wrap", which is how I found the shawls that I bought. 

Do you know of any other wonderful Regency-esque shawls that could be modified into a longer garment? If so, let us know in the comments and we can all share our shopping tips!






20 comments:

bellamissella said...

So I don't think you've ever made it clear... are you cutting off one end of each shawl and then sewing them together? Maybe this is glaringly obvious to everyone else, and from the pictures I'm guessing that's what you did. I'm assuming the shawls come with a design on each end and therefore you'd need to cut them so that there's nothing in the middle of your new shawl. Sorry, just a little confused...

Jen Thompson said...

Thanks for the comment, bellamissella - I guess I should have made that more clear! Yes, I just cut off one end of each shawl and then sewed them together.

Glennis Siegfried said...

Such a wonderful idea! I may have to try this myself, but may look at modifying it to look like the large shawls of the 1860s.

hsifeng said...

Totally pinning this for later use! :)

melissamary said...

Bowing to your genius, my friend. Great job!
thedeviantdressmaker.blogspot.com

Aubry said...

This is such a brilliant idea! Thanks for sharing how you did it. :)

The Laced Angel said...

I've been considering trying this, so I'm glad to know it worked!

Amanda said...

It's funny - at the same time you were posting about working on these shawls, I'd bought the same shawls as #1, in black, and was putting them together for a birthday present for Robin! And I had to seriously resist buying a bunch for myself, because it's such a cheap and easy accessory, yet so pretty!

And thanks for sharing your sources!

Chelsea said...

This is such a great idea! I'm curious, now - what are you planning to do with the cut-off border ends you have left over?

Caroline said...

I love the red one! I love them all! I've been thrown into the regency recently and have been gobbling up all the info and eye candy I can. These are great. I was just browsing paisley shawls myself. Thanks for the idea!

Gina said...

Oh Wow! I really like the red one Jen! This is a wonderful idea that you have done! Thank you for showing us how!!

Cassidy said...

No. 3 looks amazing! I mean, they all do, but 3 is definitely the one I'd go for because of the red and that border. Such a great project, I'm so glad you did some experimentation.

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Lady D said...

I have several of these shawls...never thought of sewing 2 together. I saw a gorgeous black one with a purple paisley border in local pop up shop but thought it was too short....maybe I will buy 2 and sew them together.

Kathkira said...

Lovely work! I really like Nos. 3 and 4, and I bet the burgandy and blue like No. 4 would look lovely as well.

Angela said...

Fantastic. I shared it with some like minded folks. Thanks for the tip and resources.
!

Kathleen said...

Luscious topic and gorgeous shawls! Thanks for this inspiring post!

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