Tuesday, February 21, 2017

19th Century Motif: Dragonfly Part II

So sometimes I get a little obsessed with making things. Like the time I took Kay Cogswell's bracelet class at the Genteel Arts conference last year and BAM...twenty something bracelets later, I finally slowed down. And perforated paper items-I'm still burning the midnight oil due to my obsession with these. My craft room is a mix of fabric, beads, and tiny bits of paper. Both the fiance and dog are not amused by the general clutter.

Back to the dragonflies! In Part II of the great dragonfly saga (see the tutorial here), I will examine the documentation behind these little guys, as well as the context in which we would wear them. Though honestly at this point, my army of dragonflies look so cool, I might just start attaching them to random things around the house.

*Reminder! The original beaded dragonfly was completed by Kelly Dorman, who we remember here for her awesome contributions to the crafting and reenacting communities. Read her blog to get to know her and her amazing style. Also, I will donate a portion of any sales made from the beaded items to Crooked Tree Arts Center, and organization Kelly supported in her lifetime.

So yeah...totally skipping my Photographic Documentation. It's like finding a...dragonfly...in a haystack?

Another tidbit of information that is important: there was a movement in the 19th century for items in bonnets and headpieces to quiver or move, to appear lifelike. This was called "en tremblant," or French for "to tremble." Pieces would have a spiral of wire underneath to create the effect of movement. The Antique Jewelry University has a short explanation with images.

Textual Documentation

Peterson's Magazine, January 1864

La Mode Illustree, March 1864
(Feel free to translate, but it mentions insects in fashion)

Godey's Lady's Book, March 1864
Among the very latest novelties are snails, large caterpillars, such as we see on grape-vines, and as long and thick as a lady's little finger, butterflies made of the most transparent materials, others of mother-of-pearl, beautifully colored, dragonflies and snakes. Yes, dear readers, actually snakes, fully a quarter of a yard long. All these reptiles so closely imitate nature that you really feel reluctant to take them up and examine them. We think this mania rather carried to excess. But what is to be done. The ladies are never satisfied, novelties must be had. Like Oliver Twist; they still ask for more.

Godey's Lady's Book, April 1865
The "Empress" is made with a full front spray of white Persian lilacs, surrounded by blue forget-me-nots. On this spray is a blue enamelled dragon -fly , and the long branch of white lilacs drooping over the shoulder, is dotted over with blue enamelled insects.

La Mode Illustree, April 1865
No 1 White hat covered with smooth white gauze bubbling on the white and black egret small green feathers on the hat very narrow white hat half veiled by black lace even narrower inside two cords small green leaves dragonfly on the left side white edged D narrow lace

Peterson's May 1865

While most evidence points this fashion to be later in the war, I did find previous mentions of "insects" or "nature" that was added to the coiffure in some way. Also, these seem to appear most in hairstyles, bonnets, and headdresses. The materials vary, from expensive jewels to (later) beaded adornment. Did you also notice how they become most popular in the spring?

Surviving Originals

I've included examples of jewelry "en tremblant" to illustrate the popularity of the mechanism. I have yet to see a beaded example of a dragonfly (I do have the butterfly one here). With a pin these pieces could be attached to the hair in some fashion, or even as a brooch! Let me add that these seemed pretty difficult to date, as the style for bug pins returned in the mid-20th century, and are styled very similarly.

I definitely feel like there are gaps in my research for this project. I have many questions that I would ask Kelly if I could. Did she have a piece of the puzzle that indicates dragonflies were beaded as well? I've seen a few beaded butterflies flit through my research, and I wonder if she found that tidbit in one of the foreign magazines (or you know, someplace obvious that I've missed). Research is certainly a process, so I'll add that to this post as it becomes available.

Based on the research, these "tremblers" were often fashioned to resemble butterflies, dragonflies, bees, and other insects, with a sort of spring beneath. These could be made of expensive jewels, or glass beads. They would be worn as adornment on a bonnet, headdress, or a part of an elaborate hairstyle. In any case, we know dragonflies were a popular motif, and I imagine a lady would find them delightfully charming as they hover in a hairpiece. They would stand out for sure!

Back to my reproductions-they're finished! I have a million beads in my house. On the floor. In the couch. Stuck in the treads of my shoes. Ah, the price of beauty. Here are my reproductions of Kelly's crafted item. They are $25 each, with $2 added for shipping. 

Until next time, when I bead some butterflies...


Extra Sources
NY Times Article on Dragonflies
AJU Grand Period Jewelry

Friday, February 17, 2017

New year new beginnings

Hey y'all, it's been a while since I've written anything. I can't say that I've been more excited this year than ever before! The reason being is we celebrated New Year's eve in our own home.

We've been calling our new home Hidden Acres. Hidden acres is set on 6 acres on a private drive. The closest city is 3 miles away and I have to drive on a dirt road. We once lived in a busy city on the corner of a busy road and the freeway. It's a culture shock to now live on the outskirts of a small city with the population being just under 12,000. 


This home is our new beginning. Our plan is to eventually have a small garden, get goats (I'm still trying to convince the hubby for goats), raise chickens and move my in-laws in the basement. But first we had to do a few things such as gut the basement and fix the roof line.



January has been a funny little month. Some weeks were just freezing and the next, I was able to bring the kids out and play. 

Here to a New Year!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

19th Century Motif: Dragonfly Part I

I will begin by saying that I did not "discover" this dragonfly in a primary source and found a way to magically reproduce it. While creating a prototype is one of my favorite things, this time it was Casey O'Connor who brought up a picture on The Civilian Civil War Closet. It was beaded and buggy-count me in!

She couldn't quite remember the source of the mysterious insect. Eventually, with the help of Colleen Formby and others, we were able to determine the artist responsible for the beaded curiosity- the late, great, Kelly Dorman. I'm sad to say I didn't know her, though I'm guessing we've crossed paths as we both hail from Michigan. She was a fantastic researcher and beader, and I strongly urge you to visit her blog Mackin-Art to see the beautiful pieces she created.

I have to say that the problem-solving, engineer's daughter part of my soul needed a puzzle on a cold February night. A proper blog post will be coming in the near future, as I'm actually supposed to be working on stuff for the conference in March, not playing with shiny things. (Important info will be included, like the fact that these are pretty decorations for bonnets, hats, and hair pieces). Off to work then, troops!

Materials: Size 11 beads (Toho brand is best), .25mm non-tarnish silver artistic silver, two other larger beads (I used coral, 6mm), patience

Step 1: Put bead through about an 18 inch piece of wire. Make sure it is in the center.

Step 2: Now loop one of the wire ends back through the bead, while anchoring the bead in the center. You will use this technique for the entire piece, just changing how many beads you'll add. Tighten.
Step 3: Add on two more beads to make a second row. Again pull one of the wires through, and tighten. It will stack on the other one, building two rows. You will do the 2x beads on 13 rows.

Step 4: Congrats getting through those 13 rows of 2 beads. Your little guy should look like this (if he doesn't, make sure to go back and tighten where needed).

Step 5: Now you will do a row of 3, 4, 5, 4, and 3 beads, in that order.

Step 6: To add the eyes, string a larger bead (not too big!), and then one of the body beads. pull your wire around the body bead, catching it. Tighten. Then weave the wire into the top row. Do this to both sides, twisting the two wires together when finished. Don't trim it yet (that part is the bottom of the piece)

Step 7: For the wings, you will follow the same process as the body, but with different bead row amounts. This is where you can definitely add cool colors/designs and such. Your bead amounts in each row go in this order: 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 2. When you finish the wing, add a single twist of the wires to keep it in place. Do this four times.

Step 8: Connect the two sets of wings by twisting them together. You should have to two sets twisted together. One is your top set, the other your bottom. 

Step 9: Spread the 4 wires of the top set and place the bottom set between them. Wrap the top set around once, then the bottom. You should end up with one piece after they are both twisted together.

Step 10: Now at this point, I'm sort of lost. Since I don't have the original in my hands, I have to guess. Remember those two wires from the body? Wrap them around the center point where the wings all meet. Wrap them around a few times. If it will work, depending on your bead size, try to weave some of the wires from your wings through the body. I had a very hard time with this, so I tried that first method. With all of your leftover wire at the bottom of your piece, twist it into a circle. Kelly had her dragonfly with a spiral; the circle has the same effect, and feels very sturdy. Feel free to do the spiral and tell me if it goes well. Trim any extra wire. And finished.
You are done! Play around with colors to get a different design. You may possibly go blind and descend into madness.
A view from underneath
 The Tres Dragonflies in the Collection

 Add a comment below if you have a question or would like to add a link to your own butterfly! I'm signing off for now-back to the relentless effort that is planning a conference!


On My Bookshelf: December

December has been a really rough month. Between what happened in Oxford (not far from where I live...) and just the general pandemic issues,...