Monday, 5 August 2013

Ride a Cock Horse

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
And she shall have music wherever she goes. 

Nicholas James and Florence
as 'Ride a Cock Horse' at the 2012 Sasha Festival
I have realised that although I blogged about the 2012 Sasha Doll Festival in the UK at the time and showed some photos of my 'dress a Sasha' entry in those posts, I have not blogged about the conception and creation of the outfits.  

In fact, the idea came in 2011 before I even had Florence, I had baby Mabel (my first Sasha) but I was in the process of buying Florence. The Nursery Rhyme theme was the most appealing because of a rhyme which comes from near where I live, but how to do this became something I thought about on my way to work in the mornings. I spent some time researching the origins of the rhyme 'Ride a Cock Horse', the most likely period and therefore also what the lady's costume should be like. I even requested an old book via the local library to find out more about riding habits of the period as well as undergarments because I wanted the whole ensemble to be as historically accurate as possible.  I purchased the white horse from the USA via eBay - an incredibly lucky find and I gave it to my younger girl for Christmas 2011.

This is what I compiled and displayed with the entry:

The identity of the ‘fine lady’ is said to be either Queen Elizabeth 1, Lady Godiva or Lady Celia Fiennes (7 June 1662 – 10 April 1741). There is no real evidence to support any of these cases; however this display is based on Lady Celia Fiennes, on the grounds that the line should be 'To see a Fiennes lady'. 

Lady Celia, whose brother was William Fiennes, 3rd Viscount Saye and Sele (c. 1641-1698) of Broughton Castle, Banbury, was the first woman to ride on horseback to every county in England, between 1684 and about 1712 , accompanied by a couple of servants.  She wrote about all her journeys in her diary, describing the places she visited, and she came to Stony Stratford in Buckinghamshire, and on two other journeys rode to Banbury, one of these coming close to Stony Stratford.

Thence to Stony Stratford, so Cross ye river Aven again 12 mile, and Enter Buckinghamshire. At Stony Stratford wch is a little place built of stone they make a great deale of bonelace and so they do all here about, its the manuffactory of this part of ye Country, they sit and worke all along ye streete as thick as Can be. 
Banbury is a pretty little town, the streets broad and well pitched, the whole Country is very pleasant and the land rich – a red earth. They make some of their fences with stones – dry walls without Morter. It seemes much on a flatt and you have a large prospect, from thence to London we go by Alesbury 20 mile, thence to London 30 mile. 

Local Stony Stratford legend has it that the ‘cock-horse’ is from the famous ‘Cock Hotel’, a 15th century coaching Inn which served many passengers in the great days of coach travel.  The Cock Hotel is next door to The Bull Hotel, and travellers visiting each Inn vied with each other to tell outrageous tales of the road, known as ‘cock and bull’ stories. 

‘Lady Celia’ wears:
  • A full length sleeveless linen chemise, trimmed with old lace 
  • A full length gathered ‘petticoat’ skirt fastened with a button, hand embroidered with feather stitch 
  • A matching riding jacket, hand embroidered with feather and satin stitch, and trimmed with bead buttons 
  • A doublet of patterned brocade, trimmed with bead buttons and hand-made loop button holes 
  • Gathered lace wristlets 
  • A cravat made of old lace 
  • A black felt hat trimmed with feathers, old lace and hand embroidery 
  • White knitted long socks (hidden in the boots) 
  • Knee high Black leather boots (made by Lisa Hartley), trimmed with gold bells 
  • Rings on her fingers made with embroidery thread and beads 
The ostler/servant wears: 
  • Linen shirt with gathered wrists 
  • Brown knee length breeches 
  • Long knitted socks 
  • Black shoes (Sasha Marina shoes) 
The side saddle is made from salt dough, acrylic paint and leather; it is fastened over the forward facing saddle which came with the horse (Battat Morgan).

Making the Ride a Cock Horse outfits

The Riding Hat from above
Front view of the Riding Hat
I made the hat myself – it involved stitching the pieces together and soaking it in PVA glue and water then drying it to shape.  This was quite a challenge which required some experimental work.  I then stitched the gold thread around the brim and feathers and lace in place.  

The hand embroidered Riding Jacket
Close up of the jacket embroidery
Close up of the jacket embroidered right cuff
Close up of the jacket embroidered left cuff
The jacket I designed and made from scratch, in fact my earlier attempt I rejected as the style was wrong.  I loved doing the embroidery and stitching on the bead buttons and making the loop buttonholes (fine blanket stitch).  I did matching embroidery on the skirt.  
The riding skirt
Button and fastening on the skirt
Hand embroidered hem of the riding skirt
The riding jacket and skirt, doublet and chemise
The lace trimmed chemise
detail of the chemise hem
The doublet
close up of the doublet buttons and fastenings
The hardest challenge was the saddle.  The horse had its own plastic saddle, perfectly acceptable for forward facing riding, but Lady Feinnes rode side saddle and however much I tried I could not get Florence to sit on the existing saddle sideways without toppling off.  This would clearly be too precarious for an exhibition, so I made the saddle by protecting the existing saddle with cling film and moulded the salt dough over it.  The dough took a week to dry because it was quite thick, and it did crack a bit so had to be glued. I glued leather straps to the underside of the side saddle and tied them to the existing straps.  Florence had a black elastic strap tied around her waist under her clothes and this was tied under the saddle and horse, all hidden by her skirts.  This ensured that she didn’t fall off the horse.
The riding hat, wristlets, lace cravat and rings on her fingers
close up of the rings on her fingers
The lace wristlets
Sasha’s don’t have separated fingers so the rings on her fingers were beads which I stitched onto skin colour thread bangles which fitted around her fingers – she had these on both hands.  The lace wristlets were gently pushed up her cuffs once the jacket was on, they were not sewn to the jacket.  I made the socks for both the Lady and the ostler.  In the event the Lady wore the boots without the socks (though they did fit within the boots), this is partly because I was running out of time setting her up and Lisa Hartley kindly stepped in to help get the boots on her feet.
The ostler's simple shirt and breeches
Ostler's shirt with gathered cuffs
Ostler's breeches with drawstring waistband
We realised that the ostler might also fall over during the exhibition, so I showed my husband what I needed by way of a doll stand and he made a simple rod mounted in a square wooden base.  I covered the base in green felt to match the 18 inch square of ‘grass’ felt they were displayed on, and the rod went up the ostler’s breeches and was held close to him by the drawstring waistband.

I got a great deal of pleasure from designing and creating this Dress a Sasha entry. 

References:

Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/text/contents_page.jsp?t_id=Fiennes, freely available electronic version available at ‘A Vision of Britain through Time’, with maps and hyperlinks to the places mentioned. 
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/fiennes/saddle/saddle.html  
http://www.mkheritage.co.uk/mkm/stonystratford/docs/history.html 
http://arts-and-heritage-stony-stratford.co.uk/2012/05/the-cock-bull-window-competition-can-you-find-the-item-used-by-celia-when-riding-her-cock-horse-to-banbury/
http://www.swereview.co.uk/_local_places_of_interes.htm

11 comments:

Serenata said...

It is amazing that you have just blogged about the conception and making of this as after reading something on one of the groups today I was going to do the same with Henry's entry last year, probably tomorrow. Mind you, your post is going to be a hard one to match! Very thorough and interesting. Will re-read tomorrow morning when I am less tired.

DollMum said...

Oh good, your description of Henry V will be very interesting I'm sure. I had lots of the information in this post to hand already because I had it with the display, but I hadn't written about the actual making of the outfits until tonight.

Sharon said...

Please tell me you WON!!!!!
This is fantastic, what a wonderful display and so perfectly put together. I am amazed at all the detail!!!
Thanks so much for sharing the 'behind the scenes' with us!
I can see where your daughters get their imagination from!

Pearly Queen said...

I am stunned by your artistry and attention to detail. And here am I, procrastinating about sewing together a plain nightshirt!

Penny
x

Marta said...

Hello from Spain: awesome creations. Your work is fabulous. We keep in touch.

DollMum said...

Sharon, I did not win. There were lots of excellent entries in that particular category, more than expected, and unfortunately they weren't all displayed together which caused some confusion. And the voting was truncated as well, so I don't think everyone who wanted to got to vote. look at my festival blog posts for the details and photos of other entries, also check out Fran's photos of the 2012 festival, I think she captured every single entry in all the categories.
Pearly Queen - attention to detail - obsession maybe! Plain nightshirts are necessary but not so exciting to make, I find creating something challenging motivates me.

Dee said...

It's wonderful to see your entry to the dress a Sasha comp of 2012 again.
all the information and the lovely detailed photo's are great to see and be able to study.
It's a shame that the entries were not placed in their groups and therefore made it very hard for people to know where one group started or another ended!
The standard of entries was also extremely high and with the amount of people about taking photo's and also chatting it was hard to see every entry clearly.I for one did not realise the amount of detail that had gone into your entry.
But you should be very proud of your it and the quality of detail you added.
I think there were many that should have won prizes but did not but that's the way it goes sometimes.
Thank you for showing us all the background work that went into ride a cock horse.
would have posted this yesterday when I first saw your post but had trouble getting on to do this.

DollMum said...

thanks Dee. I was upset at the time, as were others, about the lack of categorisation but it doesn't upset me now. I know how I would organise it if I had volunteered to help with that part of the festival (as a newbie I didn't know I could offer to help). I got plenty of friendly comments from people at the time, some of whom did notice how much work had gone into each of the entries. Publishing this on my blog helps too and the passage of time allows more objective reflection.

Sharon said...

Well I'd just like to add that had I have been there, I'd have definitely voted for this....it's incredibly well done and obviously a lot of work has gone into it!
Now I'm off to see your festival photos from last year.
Hugs Sharon xx

SusanLK said...

Thank you so much for posting all this information about your "Ride a Cock Horse" entry. I'm glad you enjoyed the process of making it and hope that you saw the many other superb entries. I've seen D-A-S contests in the past with entries so fantastic it was almost impossible to choose a winner, and I hope most entrants realize the joy is in the making and showing, not competing!

DollMum said...

Thanks Sharon. Susan, you're quite right, I did enjoy making it and the standard was incredible at the festival I attended, so many brilliant entries. I didn't expect to win anything, though it would have felt better at the time if each theme was grouped together to give everyone a fair chance. This was no reflection on Dawn's organisation, she told me afterwards that several entries she didn't know about turned up on the day which is partly what caused the congestion. All water under the bridge now and my younger girl told me today she really liked the outfit and asked when we would display it again.