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Posts Tagged ‘Jane Austen Festival Australia 2012’

At the Jane Austen Festival Australia (JAFA) in April 2012, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop run by Aylwen Gardiner-Garden, making a Regency lettercase to hold love-letters. Aylwen, with the help of Kleidung 1800, instructed us in the basic pattern and embroidery of some original examples of lettercases from this era.

I have since discovered that there are instructions for how to make a Regency lettercase in Jane Austen’s Sewing Box, by Jennifer Forrest, though from the pictures I have seen it is a different design.

My lettercase is made from cream silk, backed with cotton to stabilise the material during embroidery. It is embroidered with a purple and green thread, mostly in a small chain stitch and french knots, with a little bit of back stitch and satin stitch as well. It is lined with a layer of white cotton voile.

After much deliberation, I eventually came up with my own embroidery design by searching through the diagrams of embroidery designs that were published in Ackermann’s Repository from 1816 to 1825. I also decided that, as well as embroidering a French saying on it, I would add an English translation.

My three embroidered pieces

To give the lettercase a bit more rigidity, I inserted two thin pieces of card inbetween the lining layers of the two sections that would face the outside (i.e. the front and back, the ones embroidered with a bouquet of tulips).

In order to stop the silk fraying, I folded over all the raw edges and hand stitched each piece to its lining with a small running stitch before I assembled the pieces together.

The front and back are the same design

I then layered and folded the pieces together to form the lettercase and bordered the side edges with a thin piece of white crocheted lace interwoven with dark purple ribbon. I hand-sewed along these side edges, through all thicknesses, to form the inside pockets.

The inside, with the flaps sitting up

The finished lettercase opens in half to reveal two pockets on each side – one in front of each flap and one behind.

The inside, with the flaps sitting down-ish

I cannot honestly say how useful these items would have been in the eighteenth century or Regency times, as people received a prodigious amount of mail whenever they were separated from others by even a small distance. My understanding is that letters would generally be packaged up, maybe tied in bundles, and then stored in boxes either for future reference or to be passed on to future generations. In Madame Bovary (1856), Emma Bovary stores her letters from her lovers in a box in the attic.

In terms of storage, this type of lettercase would not hold very many letters, maybe 10 at the most, so it could have been more of a way to carry letters or documents to show others. Sarah Hurst (in 1759) often took the letters she received from her beloved to show to her friends.

Mine might hold the love-letters written to me by my husband, although these are admittedly not very numerous. I do regret not making my lettercase large enough to put a modern Valentine’s Day or anniversary card in it! I might have to get my husband to write me a little poem instead!

Embroidery is my cup of tea!

Relevant Posts

My Regency Journey: The Destination – JAFA 2012.

Sources and Relevant Links

An extant Regency lettercase, lavender with cream embroidery, around 1800.

An extant early Regency Silk Purse, pink with beige embroidery, 1780-1800.

A late Eighteenth Century pocketbook, white with coloured embroidery, 1780-1800. (scroll half way down)

A late Eighteenth Century lettercase, red with white embroidery – hopefully you can see it, as I did, on page 76 of this book, Fashion: The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute, A History from the 18th to the 20th Century, as it is available through a preview on Google books.

A Lady’s Pocket Book or Letter Case, cream with coloured embroidery, 1780-1800.

Man or Woman’s Pocket Book, green with coloured and gold embroidery, 1700-1750.

Pocket Book with a lock of hair, cream with coloured and gold embroidery, 1760-1780.

Regency embroidery designs – from Ackermann’s Repository (1811-1815)

Regency embroidery designs – from Ackermann’s Repository (1816-1820)

Regency embroidery designs – from Ackermann’s Repository (1821-1825)

Jane Austen Festival Australia – website

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On Thursday April 12th, 2012, I travelled to Canberra for the Jane Austen Festival Australia!

Day One

The event opened that night with a viewing of Pride and Prejudice (1940) at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. It was the first ever film adaptation of Jane Austen’s novels and it was really interesting to see!

This movie is black and white, and stars Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet and Laurence Oliver as Mr Darcy. It was released a year after the famous Gone With the Wind (1939), which was set in the 1860’s, and I found it reminded me a lot of that movie. Somehow the 1940-era must have crept into both, or maybe the type of acting was just very similar.

The Bennet sisters: (from left) Lizze, Jane, Kitty, Mary and Lydia. You can see the mutton-chop sleeves from the 1830’s. Unfortunately the side view of the bonnet isn’t seen, as it is a hideously squashed stove-pipe shape!

Our gowns all ready to go!

The film is known for it’s very early Victorian (rather than Regency) fashions, with its costumes being based on fashions from the 1830’s. The screen writers also altered the plot significantly, which was a little disconcerting, but even so it was fun to watch!

Day Two

The second day began with an early morning to dress and get ready. I wore my morning dress, which was the first dress I had made, with a matching bonnet and reticule.

My outfit for Day Two

The day was full of dance workshops, sewing workshops and talks given on topics relevant to the Regency era. There was even archery on the lawns!

In one of my sewing workshops, I got to handle some REAL 18th and 19th century period clothing, which was VERY exciting! It was fascinating to see the small stitches with which an entire garment was constructed by. It was even more interesting to see 18th century sweat marks and 18th century dirt on the clothes! How cool!

In the evening there was a Regency Variety Night, with some “players” (actors) enacting various scenes of Austen’s novels, as well as other funny enactments. There was musical entertainment, including piano playing and opera singing. The opera singer even sung the song Mary Bennet begins to sing in the BBC version of P&P (“My mother bids me bind my hair, with bands of rosy hue…”, called A Pastoral Song)! We had some delicious Regency desserts for supper and finished the night off with some dancing.

My dress for Day Three

The other exciting part of the evening was when I was announced the winner of the Regency Serial Competition! Alison Goodman had written 10 chapters of a Regency Serial, called Trust and Tribulation, and she ran a competition for attendees to write the final chapter. Trust and Tribulation can be read online, and so can my winning entry!

Day Three

I woke up feeling a little stiff from dancing until midnight the night before, but hastened to dress for the next day of my Regency Adventure! I wore my embroidered morning negligee, with a matching bonnet and reticule.

Dancing the Maypole

The third day was again full of dancing, workshops and talks, with the addition of a Olde English Country Fayre. I danced the Maypole, and watched a group of militia fire their rifles (very cool!). I even met Canberra’s official Town Crier, who walked around all day announcing events in the most appropriate and elegant Regency manner!

Canberra’s official Town Crier in ceremonial dress

My ball gown

The Grand Ball was the event of the evening, and we had to dress quickly and style our hair at the hotel in order to be back in time for it. I had forgotten how much I loved dancing, and managed to dance every dance (just like Kitty and Lydia!). I would have loved to get a photo of myself dancing, but I was too busy doing that to think of it!

We had a lovely supper, with a hot Regency cordial and a cool Regency lemonade, which were both very refreshing!

My dress alteration for Day Four

Day Four

We got to sleep in a little, but I could hardly walk when I got up! Too much dancing!!

I wore my embroidered negligee again, but this time with a pink ribbon around the waist and a chemisette.

The morning consisted of a Chess Dance in the park area around Lake Burley Griffin. This dance is danced very similarly to a chess game. There are 32 dancers (16 on each side) and each “chess-piece-dancer” moves about the board in a similar way to their corresponding chess piece. Since I danced the dance, I didn’t take a photo of it, but you can watch last year’s performance. In it you can see the way the “pawns” start by advancing and doing battle and going off the board, and the last “pieces” to finish the set are the king and queen, just like a real game. It was REALLY cool!

A Picture of Regency Leisure!

The Promenade around Lake Burley Griffin was really very pretty and it was a great time to stroll leisurely and enjoy being stared at! I only wished I had owned a parasol!

Thus concludes My Regency Journey, and I look forward to it’s continuation in 2013, especially as I won a free ticket to go next year as part of my Regency Serial prize! Yay!

I already am planning my next costume additions, so hopefully there will be more to post soon!

To read back on my Regency costume making, go to My Regency Journey.

The Jane Austen Festival was exactly my cup of tea!

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: In the beginning…

How to Make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

Relevant Links

Pride and Prejudice (1940) – watch an excerpt on YouTube

Trust and Tribulation, The Regency Serial – on the Jane Austen Festival Blog

The Chess Dance – video of the performance last year at the Jane Austen Festival (2011)

Jane Austen Festival Australia – website

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I love Jane Austen! She is one of my favourite authors. I am therefore very excited to announce that, in April 2012, I am travelling to Canberra, Australia, for the Jane Austen Festival!

From Pride and Prejudice (BBC)

The Jane Austen Festival is an annual festival held in Canberra, Australia, to celebrate the Regency era. The three day program includes a Country Fayre, a Festival Ball, and a promenade around Lake Burley Griffin. The weekend is filled with dance classes, sewing classes, an archery competition, and a number of talks on a variety of Regency topics.

The other wonderfully exciting thing about this festival is that Regency costumes are worn by the participants almost all the time!

Whilst I love sewing historical costumes, I have never actually made any from the Regency era, so I am about to embark on three months of mad drafting and sewing in order to finish some costumes for the festival. During this time, I will blog my progress, linking each post to the items below.

I will need to make:

A Regency-style chemise

A Regency-style corset

A chemisette – for daywear

A bodiced petticoat

A Morning dress for day wear

An embroidered dress for day wear

A Regency ball gown

Several matching reticules

As well as:

Regency Accessories

Regency Hairstyles

Or you can go to My Regency Journey page to view all the posts in order.

I look forward to posting more about my exciting Regency Journey soon. I hope you enjoy following my progress!

There are similar festivals to celebrate the Regency era and Jane Austen all over the world. Check out the one nearest you!

Dressing up! My cup of tea!

Relevant Posts

How to make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

My Regency Journey: The Destination! – see what I did at the Jane Austen Festival, Australia, in 2012.

Relevant Links

Jane Austen Festival in Canberra, Australia – website

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