It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when you rely on a simple solution, you will find at the last moment it won’t work. Last weekend, I hosted a Pride and Prejudice marathon for a few friends – the BBC miniseries with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, naturally – and I thought I’d dress up a bit.
Not being the kind of wonder-woman who can whip up a full historical outfit in a day or two (while writing a best-selling self-help book and raising a tankful of orphaned cuttlefish), I decided to wear the Empire-est clothes in my regular wardrobe, and Regencify the accessories.
Being in possession of a bonnet, my thoughts naturally turned first to that – but no sensible Regency woman would wear a bonnet indoors, in her own home. What she would wear, especially if she was a respectable married woman such as myself, is a cap. White, lacy, frilly – you get the idea.
Actually, even unmarried ladies of A Certain Age would wear caps – going bareheaded was a sign of being in the market for a husband. And from the Regency point of view, I am a lady of A Certain Age already, having passed the grand old age of twenty-seven. Jane Austen herself took up wearing them at about that age, “and they save me a world of torment as to hairdressing,” she wrote in a letter.
The classic cap-cheat is, of course, to simply plop a large round doily on one’s head. Nothing could be easier! Until one reaches the charity shop and finds there are no large round doilies to be seen. Clearly, there has been a lot of dressing up going on in these parts lately.
Desperation drove me to purchase a large rectangular doily, rejecting the genre/gender-bending little-old-lady yarmulke look suggested by the small round doilies on offer. Like Lydia Bennet, I would have to tear it apart when I got home and see if I could make it up any better.
After one or two false starts, I found a simple, suitable solution. The moral of the story: do not be abashed by staring at your reflection with a doily over your head. You look a fool; it will pass.
I pinned the two short ends together and sewed it up into a tube which would fit over my head. Then I realized my mistake and unpicked nearly half the seam.
I then turned it right-way out and ran a ribbon (all right, a shoelace, but I’ve replaced it with a ribbon) through the doily at the end-of-seam line, pulled it tight and tied a bow.
Now I had a sort of lace beanie with an enormous frill hanging off the top – a frill nearly as large as the cap itself.
This I arranged over the cap, and voila! a lacy cap with two rows of scalloped edging, and a bit of ribbon dripping down the back.
It’s so soft and comfortable I find I keep putting it on – as Jane Austen noted in her letter, it’s just the thing for a bad hair day.
What are your secrets for wardrobe short-cuts? Please share!
And remember: dressing up is not just for fancy dress parties, Hallowe’en, or cosplaying at ComicCon. Dressing up is for eccentrics.
The seed of the idea was planted in my head by this post and its comments. Several weeks and sleepless hours later, the thought takes form – and photographs (click to enlarge).
But do I need a stuffed Jabberwocky head in my life? I hear you ask. A beheaded (or rather dis-embodied) Jabberwocky is a symbol of triumph over oppression, whether in your past or your future. You should have one by you at all times.
Furthermore, when completed, this piece of ‘wocksidermy has stress-relieving properties. Read on for details…
Don’t worry if your sewing skills are not of the finest – that is no impediment to successful Jabberwock creation. They are known to be ugly beasts, and having your head chopped off does nothing for the looks.
a sock (as ugly as possible)
fabric (I used wine-red and olive)
ribbons (I used white, green & grey and grey-green bias binding)
a tennis ball (optional, but much more satisfying)
stuffing (I used old quilt batting)
thread (I used brown, green and orange)
needle & pins
First, cut the heel out of your sock, and put it aside. Your sock should now be tubish, but with a slit in it.
Cut a piece of fabric (I used red) big enough to fill in the slit and apply it to the wrong side of the sock. A bit fiddly, but best done when the sock is right-side out, in my opinion.
This forms the first hack neck-wound; have it as wide or as narrow as you like. Use blanket-stitch to attach the raw edges of the sock to the under-fabric. Ragged and messy is perfectly acceptable. A vorpal blade is not a delicate weapon.
Then insert the tennis ball into the toe of the sock. This will be the head.
Cut two circles of fabric (I used olive green) each about 5cm (2in) across. Do a quick running stitch round each, about 5mm (1/4in) from the edge. Cut a piece of white fabric or ribbon (about 4cm or 1 1/2 in long) and place this in the centre of the wrong side of each circle, before pulling on the thread to gather the circle into a puff. These are the eyes.
Lips: cut the heel piece in half lengthwise, then fold each half lengthwise (right side out) and whip-stitch the raw edges together, folding in the scraggy ends.
Teeth: cut two lengths of white fabric or ribbon (beware, ribbon frays), each twice the length you want the teeth. I made the upper teeth longer than the lower. Fold each piece in half – raw ends together – and sew down the sides. Stuff gently, then quilt a groove down the middle of each to create two teeth (this is where I used the orange thread).
If you want it to look extra tidy, you could sew wrong sides together and turn before stuffing – I didn’t, and it isn’t too obvious. (I think.) Also sew along the bottom of the teeth so the stuffing doesn’t come out.
Cut a piece of fabric (again, I used red) the shape and size you want the mouth. If you aren’t sure, consider the size of the lips. Pin this fabric to the head (refer to pic for placement) and sew down the edges – doesn’t have to be tidy as the lips will cover it.
Sew the teeth on, lining their raw edge up with the edge of the mouth piece. Again, doesn’t have to be perfect – Jabberwockies are not noted for their good teeth. (It’s “the jaws that bite” not “the jaws with the perfect bite”.)
Then sew on the lips by their whipped edges. These should cover the edges of the mouth fabric and teeth.
Sew the eyes on smooth side out (refer to the pic for placement) using tiny whip stitches around the edge of each eye.
Now the fiddly bit: using a small pair of sharp scissors, cut a slit in each eye about 2/3 of the way down, being careful not to cut right to the edge, or through the white underneath. Neaten the raw edges with whip-stitch or blanket-stitch (eyelashes!).
Use any combination you like of the ribbons, bias binding etc to create chin spikes, horns, fleshy mustachy bits, or any other facial excrescences that take your fancy. (I used bias binding with cord inside it for the ‘horns’.)
Follow Tenniel’s depiction or your own fancy, whichever you prefer.
The Coup de Grâce (Finishing Off)
Trimming: If there are any unwanted bits at the top of your sock – decorative bands, tight ribs etc – now is the time to whack them off. Use a vorpal blade, or failing that, scissors.
Stuffing: Your Jabberwocky can be stuffed as loosely or as tightly as you like. Too much stuffing, and the head will be smaller than the neck; too little, and it will be a sock with a tennis ball in it.
Where the Vorpal Blade went Snicker-Snack: Figure out how wide a circle will be needed to fill the hole at the top of the sock. If uncertain (as I was) try the lids of jars etc until you find one that fits comfortably without stretching the sock. Draw around this on your fabric (I used the red), cut out, and attach with blanket-stitch. Again, this is a gaping wound, so don’t feel your stitches need to be even and regular.
O Frabjous Day! Your Jabberwocky is complete.
And now for the stress-relieving part. When your work is not going well – be it writing, rewriting, or anything else – simply pick the beastie up by the neck and bounce its ugly head on the desk, walls, floor or any other firm surface within reach. (Now you know why tennis ball.)
Possible variations include shank buttons covered in fabric for eyes; a loop for hanging the Jabberwocky up; or if you’re feeling very adventurous (and have a long sock), a Jabberwock-Ouroboros or even a Merlion.
As with everything I put on this blog, these instructions and photos are licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 New Zealand licence.
Which means that you are welcome to make any use of it that you please, including your own derivative works (even commercial if you like) as long as you a) say where you got it from, and b) share the same way.
Please leave a comment if you make something based on this – I’d love to see what you do with it!