Monday, February 12, 2018

Chasseurs Brittaniques, Revisited: A Reading List

Dear Readers, 
Today we have a follow up guest post from Le Chevalier de Valois, on his Chasseurs Brittaniques project. 

Mt. Angel Public Library had a Summer Reading program. I figured this was a good time to do some reading in support of my Chasseurs Brittaniques project.

This is not my entire summer reading list, just the ones that pertain in someway to the Chasseurs specifically or British light infantry in general.

Bianchi, Didier French Military Small Arms
Chartrand, Rene Spanish Guerillas in the Peninsular War 1808-14
Field, Andrew W. Talavera: Wellington's First Victory in Spain
Field, Andrew W. Prelude to Waterloo: Quatre Bras: The French Perspective
Field, Andrew W. Waterloo: The French Perspective
Fosten, Bryan Wellington's Infantry (2)
Griffith, Paddy French Napoleonic Infantry Tactics 1792-1815
Haythornwaite, Philip British Napoleonic Infantry Tactics 1792-1815
Haythornwaite, Philip British Light Infantry & Rifle Tactics of the Napoleonic Wars
Nichols, Alistair Wellington's Mongrel Regiment
Rosworth, Charles The Arte of Defence on Foot, with the Broadsword and Sabre
Wilkinson, Frederick Antique Firearms
Wilkinson-Latham, Robert and Christopher A Blandford Encyclopedia in Colour: Infantry Uniforms

For Chasseurs Brittaniques research Wellington's Mongrel Regiment is a must read. The British Light Infantry & Rifle Tactics was very well written with excellent pictures and diagrams.

~Le Chevalier.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Chasseurs Brittaniques, Revisted.

Dear Readers,
Today we have a guest post from Le Chevalier de Valois.   You may read Part one of the Chasseurs Brittaniques series here.

Several years ago I became interested in the Chasseurs Brittaniques after researching the Armée de Condé for a 1790's impression. The Armée de Condé was one of several royalist counter revolutionary forces opposing the French Revoulution. By 1800 the Armée de Condé was under Russian pay and in 1801 switched to British pay and was renamed the Chasseurs Brittaniques.

The Chasseurs were intended to be light infantry, but when they were issued redcoats in 1803 they were equipped as a line regiment.
The differences in line vs. light equipment include some uniform differences and differences in how the companies are laid out.

As part of my blackpowder shooting pursuits I want to have a proper uniform to go with each of my military guns. I have a replica British Baker rifle and wanted to do a uniform, but not the 60th or 95th Rifles. I came across a variety of pictures that showed Chasseurs equipped with Bakers and with black straps/belts. That seemed odd given that they were equipped as a line regiment. However, in 1812 two companies were added to the Chasseurs, both of these were equipped as light infantry (somewhant oddly with black straps/belts) and some of them were equipped with Baker Rifles.

So I had started pursuing a Chasseurs uniform several years ago. I already had the Baker Rifle kit and am still improving it. I purchased a shako and fitted it for light infantry. Then I lost momentum and the project was shelved.

Fast forward to May of this year. A new Chasseurs Brittaniques reenactment group appeared on Facebook. They are based out of France and were doing straight Napoleonic British reenactment and decided that since they were French they ought to do Chasseurs. There are five of them. We started talking and I got motivated again. I want to do the Light Infantry uniform with my Baker, so I will be 11th Company. Now I have purchased hand made replica buttons from a craftsman in Italy and am awaiting my uniform from another craftsman in Australia. The French Chasseurs have already nicknamed me Private AmNord ("AmNord" is a French contraction for "Amérique du Nord" aka North America).

~Le Chevalier. 

Chasseurs Brittaniques Facebook:

Chasseurs Brittaniques Wiki:

Armée de Condé Wiki:

Sunday, February 4, 2018

When Your Bustle Is Like a Tea Tray

Happy February,
I missed posting last week, as we were out of town.  But I am back with another Past Project Post!

Back in 2015, I had the grand idea that I would finally make myself a Late Victorian Gown. Or, rather I succumbed to the idea, in an effort to have more costumed events to attend here in the Pacific Northwest.  I readily admit, I do not care for Victorian women's fashion.  It appears utterly uncomfortable, with tight corseting, cumbersome skirts, layers of undergarments, and regimented rules of form and etiquette that defined what a woman wore, and how she wore it, according to class and station.  Not to mention the burning question: How does one sit, with a bum like a tea tray??

But I started my research, and decided I would accept the challenge.  It would eventually take me an entire year to complete the project.
I was originally attracted to the Natural Form (1877-82);  I loved the look of the Age of Innocence, specifically Winona Ryder's archery dress.   It seemed less artificial or contrived compared to later styles. I had heard good things about the Truly Victorian patterns.  Unfortunately, when it came time to place my order for the patterns, the cost made me pause. The average price per pattern is $16.50, and each pattern piece is sold separately: Cuirass, underskirt, overskirt, various undergarments.  This makes them interchangeable, but not budget-friendly.  I reluctantly put the project on hold.
Hearing of my dilemma, a friend suggested the Burda #7880 "History 1888" pattern.

It is more costume-y, but at $5.99 on sale, I reasoned that I would most likely be wearing it for neo-victorian or steampunk events, rather than any serious historical re-enactment.  And, I thought I might be able to alter it to suit my taste.  As a bonus, it came with a bustle pad.  This was a good alternative for me, as I did not think I could manage to make (or wear) a cage bustle. I wanted a nice walking dress, suitable for park promenades or teas.

I am most familiar with English Regency and French Empire fashions. In comparison, fashion of the later half of the nineteenth century is somewhat mysterious and daunting.  Looking at the inside of extant garments, they seem to be marvels of engineering.  I have already noted my prejudice towards Victorian women's fashions, so I did a lot of preliminary research to gauge the differences in fit and tailoring methods.  I went to my usual tomes "Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century", "The Cut of Women's Clothes", "Costume in Detail 1730-1930", and "20,000 Years of Fashion" to get some late Victorian visual basics.  Then, I moved onto online museum collections.  10 years ago, there were not the many museum collections available online. These have proved invaluable to my learning curve in the last 5 years or so.   I am also very grateful to those more talented costumers on various personal blogs, for sharing their fearless forays (and sometimes failures) into such fascinating artistic territory (of all eras).

For visual guidance of period garments, I came to rely most heavily on "Nineteenth-Century Fashion in Detail", by Lucy Johnston, and Alison Gersnsheim's "Victorian and Edwardian Fashion, A Photographic Survey". 
I had my heart set on a striped ensemble like this, but with a burgundy underskirt instead of silver grey.

I also found this alleged extant gown online.  Regrettably, the website is no longer available, so I cannot confirm it is truly from the Mid-1880s.  I believe this may be in a private collection, and the original post noted it was reworked from a more capacious 1860s gown. 
Dress ca.1885-87. Striped silk taffeta from ca. 1866, when dress started as cage crinoline gown.. Photos courtesy of corsets and crinolines

Alas, the project came to a screeching halt, when I realised I had inadvertently purchased two different dye lots of the burgundy/beige pinstripe fabric.  This meant three, of the seven, yards were unusable.  I was not willing to give up the stripes, so.....
Finished skirts.  Someday, I will have to adjust the waistbands. Again. 

I had to redesign the entire ensemble to compensate. This is when the challenge officially moved into "franken-project" status.  This is when a art project becomes so convoluted and entirely off-track (i.e. Alice Falls Down The Rabbit Hole),  as to take on a life of its own.  In retrospect, in actual time I believe I spent nine months researching and designing, but only three months sewing.

To my dismay the solid burgundy, meant to be the top skirt draperies, was no longer available. I settled with just the back bustle portion being solid coloured, in favour of the jacket.  I went through my stash to find a suitable lining for the drapery lining as I did not want to use stark white.  I ended up using a bronze cotton. Then, I found a fashion plate that had a reversed colour scheme on which to base the redesigned jacket.

 Although I decided to make up the two skirts as outlined in the Burda pattern, I made the brilliant decision to entirely revise the "bodice" into a jacket with faux waistcoat.  I based it on the extant gown below.  I was tempted by the asymmetrical skirts, but again was denied by the lack of available yardage.  I decided to leave well enough alone.

Page 26-27 Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail. Paris 1885

Apparently, sizing issues with commercial patterns are well known. But I had yet to experience it on such an irritating scale. --Please allow me to digress a moment to praise both "La Mode Bagetelle" and "Sense & Sensibilities: Elegant Ladies Closet" patterns.  I highly recommend them for Regency impressions, and they do not make one yell in despair-- This apparent common knowledge did not stop me from being entirely vexed, the smallest bodice size in the Burda pattern was still 2 sizes too big for me.  As well, the waist bands of the skirts are still too large, even after taking them in several inches.  I finally gave up, and just moved over the hook and eyes.  And, while having two separate skirts is not uncommon, I find it fiddle-y to wear.  The over skirt drapery is looped up and attached with ties to the underskirt. FYI another costumer friend suggested lining the top draperies with tulle to keep it fluffy even after sitting. I wish I had  know this tidbit before.
I substantially altered the bodice pattern, creating a muslin toile that I later used as the jacket lining.  I did trace the revised pattern pieces should I lose my mind, and decide to use this pattern again.  Not bloody likely.

The pattern does not indicate boning is to be used.  However, extant garments used boning, even though women were also wearing corsets underneath.  I used heavy duty zip ties, and laid them along the curved seams, making bone cases such as those seen on page 169 of "Nineteeth-Century Fashion in Detail".
Here is the finished jacket.  It closes with hook and eyes.  I used antique lace on the collar and cuffs. The brooch is actually a dress clip. It did not want to stay "clipped" when I actually wore the ensemble, so I will have to come up with other accessory embellishments.

 I dearly wished for a silly chapeau to go with this equally ridiculous and vexing garment.  I used the Truly Victorian pattern, and it was the most fun I had with this project.  It went together easily, and is my favourite part of the whole franken-project. 
The finished tall crowned hat. It is perfectly obnoxious!
Mini Tea-Tray Bum
At the Deepwood Estate, with my friend Lynelle.  She was clever and used the Truly Victorian pattern. Be like Lynelle.

 The moral of the story is: all the careful research, planning, and design are wasted when one stubbornly uses an inferior pattern. I spent more precious creative time, cursing and tearing my hair, than I saved in the initial "frugal" investment of $5.99. 
For undergarments, I have the Folkwear pattern camisole and drawers. A proper uptight victorian would wear a petticoat for additional modesty.  I opted out, as I lined the base skirt in muslin. I reckon the two skirts must weigh at least 10 pounds.  I made up the Burda bustle pad as directed and added lots of ruffles,  which essentially turns my skirts into a giant pincushion.  I am wearing a lightly boned modern "fashion" corset.  This is a less accurate alternative, but more comfortable.  It provides a smooth foundation, in addition to the jacket boning, but otherwise there is no waist reduction.
It is interesting to note the difference between my modern impression verses historical fit in the photographs below.  As a stylish 1880s woman, my current 26 inch waist would probably be cinched down to 22, and my jacket tailored much more tightly through the bosom and arms.

I wore the ensemble twice in 2016, and will make a third presentation  later this month. I was kindly asked to model at a fashion show & tea, hosted by the West Linn Historical Society.  I will write a future post on my accessories, as I plan to break out some treasures from my antique collection.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Hat Tutorial

Happy Sunday,
I am quite enamoured with the soft puffed crown hats favoured between 1800-1805.  In reviewing the evolution of the style over a number of years, it is appears to be a smaller version of the wide brimmed Lunardi or "Balloon" hat that was all the rage, following the inaugural balloon ascent of Vincenzo Lunardi, in 1783.   After searching the internet for a pattern, to no avail, I determined to make my own version.  I used a brown velvet remnant purchased  from Daisy Kingdom umpteen years ago.  The lining is period reproduction fabric from a quilt shop The Pine Needle.  I used this same fabric to make a spencer back in 2012.  Completed in 2013, this particular chapeau was meant to go with my Kyoto redingote.  I based my version on the fashion plate below (Courtesy of Ebay). 

Make hat band to fit. Lining, Fashion fabric, and interlining if desired.
Step 2, Optional: add piping
Step 3, Prepare Brim. Two parts fashion fabric, interlining (crinoline or buckram).  Wire Interlining.  If adding piped Trim, only to fashion fabric.
Step 4, Test sizing.  Bast to stabilize.
Step 5, Prepare Crown. Fashion Fabric and interlining (crinoline).
Step 6. Add hat band to crown lining.
Step 7a, add brim to Band.  Test for fit.
Step 7b, add crown to hat brim.  Test for Fit.

Step 8, add lining.
Completed interior
Side, shape brim as desired
Front, shape brim as desired.
Trim. Four sided bows, with button and satin ties.
Edit: Brim is 2 inches, not counting seam allowance. I used a renaissance flat cap as a base. It can really be suited to your taste. The crown is adapted from a modern beret, approximately 15 inches across (without seam allowance). Depending on your head size, adjust as necessary. If you want an earlier impression, use the beret from La Mode Bagetelle and as deep a brim as desired. The crinoline interlining gives the crown some foundation, so the pouf does not collapse. You may wish to double layer the interlining. After 1805, the crown becomes more rigid, like a half ball shape.

Monday, January 15, 2018

In a Nutshell

Welcome back, dear Readers!
So much has happened in 3 years, so we will give a bit of a retrospective over the next few months on past projects and updates.

To kick off the New Year, and to introduce another hobby I haven't touch on before, I will begin with the most recent bit of excitement:  I was asked by the Mount Angel Library director to mount an exhibit of 1:12 scale miniatures, from my private collection.   It was a last minute request; A previous exhibitor had to close her exhibit early and the library was hoping to have something in place within 2 weeks.  It was an exciting, but daunting request.  The original exhibit request was for a three month duration, November 7th 2017 through January 7th 2018.  Per the library's request, I have since extended it an additional two weeks to January 20th.

My miniatures had mostly been in storage since we moved here to Mount Angel in 2014.  I had to actually start over and curate my own collection, as I did not remember what all I had~not to mention, my original packing had been for both safety and expediency but I had neglected to label anything.   As well, seven months ago I sold two of my dolls houses at a miniature show, and had split up rooms and accessories for storage, without much rhyme or reason.  ThereforeI spent most of the two weeks prep time, "decorating" the rooms. 

There are a total of 6 rooms, over 3 levels.  I created simple backdrops from wallpaper I had in my stash, using the most neutral backgrounds I could find.  I have a tendency to gravitate to stripes, and bold Arts and Crafts designs, so this was the hardest part!  I used foam core for the walls, with short partitions to give the illusion of separate rooms.  To save time (and money), I dispensed with doors or windows. 

 While putting together the exhibit, I reminisced over the various pieces I had collected over 20 plus years.  I have crafted or customized many pieces myself.  My inspiration came from both modern interior design magazines, and my collection of reference books for 18th and 19th century interior design and furniture. 

It was during the late Seventies that I discovered the publication Nutshell News, at my local library.  I poured over its pages; A tiny magical universe had opened up my imagination and started a lifelong passion~or obsession, depending on your perspective.   I purchased my first dolls house when I was seven years old.  I had saved for months, and it was my prized possession throughout my entire childhood. It even accompanied me when I married, and moved into my first home.  When my son was born, I built my first kit house.  It was redecorated a dozen times.  In later years, my son began reading the Brian Jacques books, and he insisted the dolls house inhabitants be animals, instead of the usual figures.  Thus started a smaller collection, within a collection: miniature jointed animals.   

I have never been part of a miniatures club, although I subscribed for many years to Nutshell News.  By the nineties, I had discovered  Miniature Collector, as well as the UK publication Dolls House World.  But Nutshell News was always my favourite of these publications; its diminutive size and variety of articles and projects inspired and influenced me as a both a child and adult.  And, though the publication is no longer in existence, I have kept many of the back issues.  While searching for the title of my exhibit,  I was reminded that Nutshell News had itself been named in honour of the quote from Shakespeare's play Hamlet Act II, scene ii:
"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space". 
This quote has always stayed with me.   And, to title my exhibit "In a Nutshell", seemed the most eloquent summation of my 40 year love affair with all things small.

Painted cottage bedroom set and children's nursery

The Explorer's Library and Dining Parlour

Country Kitchen.

1930s Kitchen, influenced by Mary Englebreit art work

Stoats enjoy an "after dinner party". I stitched the miniature petit point rug, from a pattern book "Making Miniature Oriental Rugs and Carpets".  The whole crab platter, was painstakingly preserved from a real crab by Dot's Doll House on the Oregon Coast. 

Miss Priss, the Persian, provides musical entertainment for the dinner guests.  The instrument is an upright harpsichord called a "Clavicytherium".

Close up of The Explorer's Library.  Many of the books are readable, and there are real fossils and geodes. I stitched both petit point carpets from a pattern book "Making Miniature Oriental Rugs and Carpets".

 I hand painted the "cottage" style furniture based on extant examples, popular in the 1870s.  The kit furniture is  the Real Life Victorian bedroom kit.  The kits are no longer manufactured, but you may still find them on Ebay.

Close up of the children's nursery.  The Girl's side features a bunny and faery collection, the artwork on the easel is my own, and I dressed the brass bed.  The Boy's side has Beatrix Potter bedding I made, and I hand painted the metal miniature Disney figures.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Le Chevalier discourses on Chasseurs Britanniques, Part One

Chasseurs Britanniques
Part One – the Shako

So here we go. Working on a Chasseurs Britanniques uniform. This will be an 'other ranks' uniform, but I will most likely add serjeant's insignia just because.

Sources disagree a bit on whether the Chasseurs were outfitted as a Line Regiment or a Light Regiment. I am leaning towards the Light Regiment and am going to do my kit in that style.

Starting at the top we have the Shako. Actually a pretty useless piece of head ware, however it is quite impressive and dwarfs many top hats in sheer height.

I went with the earlier stovepipe Shako and was able to pick one up from Corps Sutler. This came with the bugle style issued to emigre and contract troops. This is not the style of insignia I wanted, but the Shako is correct.

As far as insignia goes there is some degree of variation.

Plumes/tufts: Companies in Line Regiments wore one of three colours of plumes. White for grenadiers, white over red for line companies and green for light companies. In light infantry regiments all companies were outfitted as light companies. I went with a green wool tuft from Spencer's Mercantile.

Shako Cord: Similar to the plumes/tufts the colour of the cords designated the type of unit. In Line Regiments the grenadiers and line companies wore white cords while the light company wore green. Light Regiments all wore green. I purchased my cord from Spencer's Mercantile.

Plume/Tuft and Shako cord from Spencer's Mercantile

Shako Plates: All of the Shakos had brass shako plates. Some regiments had regiment specific ones while other used a standard one. To further complicate matters some light companies and light regiments adopted the light infantry bugle badge. I am going with the bugle, I have one, but am not confident it is quite right. I think the loops at the top are supposed to be kind of squashed into a rounded triangle rather than nice, round loops. I also think the cords are supposed to hang straight down rather than be draped over the cords. Then again, I have seen some information to suggest that all of these styles are accurate, so who knows?

So, other than the bugle badge (if I decide I do not like the one I have) I have all the parts for my Shako and just need to assemble it.

 Next step will be looking at the uniform tunic.

~ Le Chevalier


“Wellington's Mongrel Regiment”

Corps Sutler:

Spencer's Mercantile:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Le Chevalier discourses regarding his British Infantry Rifle

 Dear Readers,
Another post regarding "Manly" topics from the desk of Le Chevalier:

The Quest for a British Infantry Rifle, end of chapter one

So, I started my Quest for a British Infantry Rifle and the kit to go with over two and a half years ago.
Here are the links for the first two installments, originally published on the Gentlemanly Pursuits blog:

I did indeed receive my rifle soon after that last posting, so just over two years ago. There was a bit of a problem with the hardness of the frizzen and angle of the hammer, but local gunsmith Jerry Cook fixed these in short order.

I switched from the officers' style cartridge box to an other ranks box. I did this mostly for conveniance, but also for more usable storage space. I am not firing from paper cartridges, but I do carry enough ball, patch and powder to fire 60+ rounds before restocking.

I fire a .610” round ball with a 0.015” patch and a powder charge of 80 grains of 3F. Most of the people I shoot with shoot 40-50 caliber, so it is pretty noticeable when the Baker goes off. We were shooting to snuff candles a couple months back and the turbulence caused by the .610” ball sometimes put out two candles.

So, chapter one is done. I have the rifle and kit and am shooting regularly.
The next step I decided on was to pick a proper uniform to wear while shooting. The obvious choice would be 60th or 95th rifles, but as much fun as the greenjacket would be, that would be too easy.

The Chasseurs Britanniques was originally the French Royalist army led by the Prince of Conde in the early days of the French Revolution. By 1803 they were in British service as the Chasseurs Britanniques and issued the famous red coats. Evidence suggests that like some of the other emigre units in British service (King's German Legion for one) that the Chasseurs may have been issued Baker rifles, at least for the light company. Well, that is where I am going. Starting at the top I have my shako with proper insignia.

~ Chevalier