Saturday, August 23, 2014

An Early 18th c Swaddling Cover

It is no secret I adore baby things...but this set, so simple, so humble...it takes my breath away.  In ancient times, babies were swaddled~ tightly wrapped in linen bands in layers, all of them pin'd together~ to keep baby quiet and content. For presentation, and special occasion, such as a Christening, a fancy cover was made to adorn the otherwise usually plain linen band the baby was wrapped in. I say, usually, because most were a simple unadorned band of linen~ there are several extant examples tho of the linen embellished with cutwork and needle lace such as reticilla, common in the late 17th and early 18th c.  To find a body cover is exceedingly rare, but it, together with both  matching mitts and head cloth is near miraculous!
 All four pieces are made from the same very fine linen with applied designs using the same linen stitched into little bands and then pleated into place. The square piece, roughly 19cm square, I believe to be a head cloth, which was placed underneath the baby's head during the Christening ceremony. It is It is obvious the set was meant for a Christening occasion from the nature of the embellished designs upon it~ there are two smaller crosses incorporated into an overall larger design
which in itself, forms yet another cross
 The body cover is cut from a single rectangle with a small cutout for the baby's neck to fit. A double frill of linen was then stitched round three sides, and at center front was originally hemmed to remain an open flounce, but then whoever used it, decided to tack the frill closed in two places. From shoulder to bottom it measures 41cm long, and 21cm wide
It has a quaint folky feel to the decoration~ one can tell the maker put much love into each and every stitch. A heart fills the bottom most motif
Trinity and two crosses form the center
Above, what looks like a butterfly or perhaps an angel~ with another heart at the center top
Behind the outer frill there is enough exposed surface of the piece for it to pin to the swaddling bands, and there are feint prick holes here from doing so
The presence of the mitts, along with the size of the body cover, tell us the child was not a newborn. It was half swaddled leaving the hands free, which, could not have been presented in society without them properly being covered. The flared cuffs are framed in the same linen as the other pieces
The separate thumbs carefully inserted, with no fold back on the finger opening over the hands
Livy's hands are sculpted closed so she could not model the mitts for you, but she was very happy to show you how the set would have looked on a baby
Looking from this angle, doesn't the bottom and top  most motifs look like angels to you? They do to me!

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