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Smock For A White Witch
Outline the story …
The White Witch, by Elizabeth Goudge, is set in the 1640’s during the English Civil War. The main character, Froniga Haslewood, is a half Romani, half noble Englishwoman. She is a skilled healer, and herbalist who navigates between the worlds of her English family, and the Romani. At times, she thwarts convention by wearing a Romani green gown. Froniga’s mix of herbalism, Romani magic, and faith makes her a complex character. I relate to her as I am a gardener and herbalist.
Clothing is mentioned in the book in the most vague ways possible. I researched what was worn in the time period, and found the dearth of information available rather frustrating. Pinterest provided much needed inspiration.
I’ve made a smock based on smock #78 in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 4. It is close to the appropriate timeline in the book. I believe that Froniga would not have worn the latest fashions, but would still have nice clothing due to the Haslewood family connections. Therefore, having a smock of an earlier style would have been fine. I simplified the embroidery too.
Outline the construction…
The fabric is 4 oz linen, which I felt would echo that made by Froniga. It is mentioned in the book that she spins and weaves her own fabric. It is sewn with linen thread. The wrist and neckline ties are two loop finger braids. I used green pearl cottons for the embroidery to echo her love of the green gown mentioned in the book. The lace was gifted to me.
The entire garment is hand sewn. While I have sewn for many years, I have only been making historical garments for the last 10 years. I have ventured into the realm of totally hand sewn garments over the past 5 years. I love the way handsewn clothing drapes, and moves.
This garment is the second I have drafted from a Patterns of Fashion book. As I normally do historical garments of the 900’s, this smock was a challenge. The neck gussets were an interesting method for making a neckline that I had not encountered before. The first few attempts were ugly. Sizing up the pattern was also a cause for frustration ,and skill improvement. As for the underarm gussets, I found the split top gore a challenge to set and line up correctly. Melding the three seams together was cause for much reworking. I was glad when they finally fit correctly. All seams are sewn with a running backstitch, and felled. The hem is whip stitched. The cuffs and neckline opening are done with a rolled hem.