Thursday, September 11, 2014

Faking 18th Century Pinking

In creating the Pink Caraco, I knew one thing for sure--I wanted pinked trim (yep, that's right--a Pinked Pink Caraco).  18th Century "pinking," like pinking today, means cutting a decorative edge into fabric.  Unlike modern seamstresses using pinking shears, however, 18th century seamstresses achieved the designs using a punch.

This makes for a look that's very different from a straight pinking-shear cut.

Detail of Robe a la Francaise from Met Museum, c 1760

Most punches are semi-circular in shape and have zig-zag shaped V's or scallops cut into the circle itself--so that the design produced by the punch is a scallop made out of mini scallops or zig-zags.

Using the punch involved a stable base and a mallet--one set the punch over the fabric and tapped the mallet on it to acheive the look.  Though I've heard that the fabric was folded to make one punch go through more than one layer of fabric, that doesn't appear to be the case for this woman, as illustrated by Diderot:

Quite the time-consuming process!

Of course, my first stop in trying to create pinked trim for myself was to try to find an antique punch.  These aren't that uncommon, and I quickly snagged one off ebay for about $12.  

Unfortunately, the piece is dull.  The edge actually appears to have been (unevenly) filed down, perhaps for leatherworking or another crafting process.  I'm still working on getting an edge put back on it, as our favorite sharpening service has been MIA at the farmer's market this month.

What to do in the meantime?

Unfortunately again, just waiting isn't an option.  The front of the caraco really does need that trim to "hide" the closure.  So I devised a stand-in that looks far closer to the original than a simple pinked edge.

You need:

Pinking Shears (SHARP ones that will cut through a few layers of fabric--paper craft scissors won't, ahem, cut it.)

Basically, use pinking shears to mimic the look of the punch by cutting even scallops.  To assist in making the scallops even, borrow a mindset from origami and fold the fabric before wielding your shears.  

I folded the fabric accordion-style to the width I wanted the scallop to be.  I only folded maybe 3-4 times so that the fabric wouldn't be too thick to cut easily, and pinned the layers into place.

I then folded the layers of folded fabric in half, and cut a gentle semi-circle using the pinking shears.


Is it perfect?  Nope, far from it.  Once my poor pinking punch is put back into tip-top shape, I plan to redo the trim on my caraco (and then go about punching All The Things, as well).  After looking at dozens and dozens of trimmed caracos and gowns, however, I concluded that anything but pinked edges on trim was highly unusual, NOT trimming a caraco would highly unusual, and modern straight pinking is a poor substitute for the scallops.  (Note: I found exactly one straight zig-zag edges, as pinking shears would produce, on 8th century clothing while looking into this, and the design was shallower than modern shears and added holes and other elements.)  So--if you're looking for a suitable stand-in until a "real" pinking punch presents itself, or you're in a costuming milieu that does not demand complete authenticity, give Faux-Pinking a try!


Cassidy said...

Actually, in my local research visits I found quite a few gowns with straight pinking! But it seems to have only been used for narrow box-pleated strips (used around sleeve openings, etc.).

Rowenna said...

Brilliant, thanks Cassidy! I found a few more that might have been straight pinking (again, for edging strips where the trim edge was less obvious, like box-pleating, and it was hard to tell). I hadn't found any where the trim edge was really on display that had straight pinking, though--like ruched neckline trims and the like. Still on the prowl--but I like the scallops better, anyway :)