Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Christmas (Carol) Pattern: Victorian Shroud, 1838

Not technically a Christmas pattern, unless you've decided to dress up like Jacob Marley this weekend and wander round the neighborhood frightening children. More useful if you and your beloved are thinking of adding "The Lonely Undertaker and the Lady's Corpse" to your role playing repertoire.

Victorian Shroud Pattern, inspired by one found in The Workwoman's Guide, by A Lady, 1838. This book is being reprinted by Opus Publications. Use the Google and get yourself a copy.

The pattern gives no measurements whatsoever and only shows a partial sketch so my version is mostly guesswork. The fit of a shroud isn't important--all you're trying to accomplish is to cover up all the nasty parts of the dearly departed with an unflattering white garment until you can get the lid nailed on the box.

The shroud mentioned in the book was made of a white fabric called "shrouding flannel." I'm guessing English corpses caught chills easily and needed the flannel to keep warm. Shrouds were traditionally made of linen or cotton but were more than likely made up of whatever white fabric you had in the house when Uncle Tobias took the big dirt nap. Making his shroud out of the sheets off the bed the old bastard died in are a great way of recycling.

No measurements are given but you were supposed to use "a breadth and a half" of the flannel for the width (front and back together). Try 28 inches across the front for a start. The back has a slit from the feet to the collar, like a hospital gown, to make it easier to haul the thing on beastly dead Auntie Agnes. If you're going to do much romping around in it I suggest some ties or a button or two. The total length should be from the shoulder to the floor, covering the feet.

The pattern says to make plain long sleeves that have no gussets so go for a rectangular shape maybe 16"-18" wide. The sleeves can cover the hands or not--you can adjust the length after they've been sewed on. A pleated ruffle of the flannel, maybe 1 1/2-2 inches long, finishes the sleeve ends, and another pleated ruffle goes around the bottom of the shroud.

You'll notice I forgot the sleeve ruffles in the sketch. You'll also notice that I slept through my six years of art school.

The front of a woman's shroud has gathers down the front in a narrow section but the book doesn't say how narrow a section so maybe a couple of inches wide. Make one at the waist and then two more at 7 inch intervals. A men's shroud leaves out the gathers. There are no drafting instructions for the neck hole. A men's t-shirt collar is a good place to start, just so long as it doesn't scoop down too low. It should fit fairly closely around the neck. The neck is finished with a pleated ruffle of the flannel, perhaps 1 1/2-2 inches deep. Short strips of ruffles are also sewed to the gathered sections of the woman's shroud.

To complete the ensemble there is a cap, "cut exactly like an infants foundling cap," meaning it looks like a baby's bonnet with a deep ruffle around the face. I'm completely baffled as to the purpose of dressing up Grandpa to look like Baby Huey. Personally, I'm quite partial to the strip of fabric tied under the jaw and knotted on top of the head to keep the deceased's mouth shut during the funeral.

Don't forget the rouge.


Inky said...

always wonderful to see you and thanks for the shroud, tis just what I need to keep the coastal chill off me bones!

Gina said...

Hi Severina,
I just tagged you for the You Make My Day Blog Award. You can see the rules for carrying on with it at my blog if you want to tag someone else.
:-) Gina

BlackCrow said...

'I'm quite partial to the strip of fabric tied under the jaw and knotted on top of the head to keep the deceased's mouth shut during the funeral'.
So am I...I can see this as being a fashion accesory here in Tasmania, particulary with the government sector.
If I was'nt so full of GnT's celebrating Australia day I would make a shroud right now!

debbie said...

hey sev- sorry for the interruption - i'm trying to contact ya but i don't think you're getting my emails - email me, pretty please. deb.

debbie said...

lost you again! you wrote me finally and i wrote back, but i don't think it got through. if you get this, email me your phone # too. thanks!

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