Christmas at Holkham


Yes, it was this time again. just like previous 3 years ( post here  and here), we were working at the stunning Holkham Hall. 2 weekends full of lovely singing from the Upper Octave, bell ringing,chatting with visitors and marvelling at the house. The house was decorated lavishly – as always. This year it was birds that were the inspiration behind the decor:-)

but have a look for yourselves… 🙂


the table in the kitchens…




everything polished to a high lustre….



staff resting after a hard day’s work – from Black Knight Historical



downstairs was decorated too…







all a cake…



the Marble Hall hosted a full flock of swans… glorious!






Peacocks reigned in the main reception room…



with small peacocks in the biggest christmas tree ever!

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the tree in all its splendour…


more swans and other animals in the Winter Wonderland section


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my favourite part of the house:_)







south dining room was all bedecked in warm colours, feathers and sweets…


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more birds!



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and a certain satyr….


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my favourite tree – the Partridge and Pear tree. very simple, so elegant!


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another favoutire, an antler tree


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the Swan Princess


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the Brussels sprouts room – loving the livid greens and the turkey!

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and the character – the Holy King and the snow queen 🙂

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Lady Augusta

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amazing Upper Octave

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random rabbit





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and, once again, the Hall in its glory


The outside was just as festive, with entertainment, food, carriage rides and gift shop full of excited visitors – but snce we were working inside, we did not manage to capture any of that! we did catcha fe pictures one morning bfore the work – featuring the new stock dolmans from our shop


dolman snow1 dolman snow2 dolman1



And after greeting and chatting to  about 800-900 people a day, on finishing the work I was fit for just one thing… a snooze in a warm bed!


Happy holidays to those who celebrate them!





Victorian Christmas in Stoke Rochford


 Last weekend of November and the first day of December last yer saw us, rather unexpectedly in Stoke Rochford  Hall, attending a Victorian themed Christmas market.  A bit unplanned event, but Black Knight Historical lured us there with one single word – ice rink…

 So the rooms in the hotel were booked  and we were  looking forward to doing some trading and meeting friends – but also, skating!and taking lots of photos of course:-)


the hall

 The hotel was lavish – fantastic surroundings to work with. And work I did – since the skating issue triggered a sudden need for a skating gown – a rendition of the 1876 February frock from the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, and i jut had enough time to do as much as i could on the machine and finish the dress by hand on Saturday at the event, ready for the skating on Sunday.

 Alas, the ice rink proved to be a bit disappointing – a small affair with plastic ice. I brought my own skates, and they did slide a tiny bit, but the ones available to hire were hopeless – not able to glide at all! Maybe safer for children, but disappointing for others, still, we had a go – and Lizzie (  or, if you prefer her professional name, Miss Lillian Love) came along to join the fun n one of our Victorian inspired frocks. a few pictures below….


pretending to be gliding… standing still in fact!




don’t worry, I am also pretending to to have fallen…

After fun on the ‘ice’ we had some fun strolling in the gardens:




  Then it was time to go back to the stall and do some work – Lucas in the meantime  took some nice photos of Eleanor, sporting her new silk velvet dolman jacket



The stall was busy, but I managed to find intervals to work on the new outfit…


finishing touches….

Eleanor was also busy – shopping for Christmas prezzies!


while Lucas manned the stall….


  The evening saw us sneaking out to Grantham for a nice quiet dinner – and we found a lovely Italian restaurant with excellent food!


the starters looking good, and tasting even better — was trying not to think about wearing a corset the next day….

Sunday started with fittings for Eleanor’s Christmas gown, then back to the stall  to work on the frock. by the midday the frock was done and Lucas went snapping….


the wool and fur were nice and warm!




 The dress diary, and indeed the instructions on how to make the dress,  step by step, are published in an article on Your Wardrobe Unlock’d – enjoy!

 Other people occasionally got in from of the camera too – here’s one of Ian, who apparently does not approve of  advertising one of my handmade Christmas wreaths on his hat…


he is not amused…. 🙂 or is he?


All together, a  splendid little weekend with friends, spent in exciting environment – good times!


photography- Pitcheresque Imagery,

dresses –Prior Attire  


Quirky outfit for Christmas


Christmas 2013 was supposed to be a bit different.  Well, at least stress free.  So a decision has been made,  we are not doing it.  No tree, presents, food etc, no last minute decisions who is doing what and where and when, no last minute family travelling plans. instead, we made plans to go to London. Not far, we can get a nice hotel for our airmiles, just pure relaxation.

 Until I realized I have nothing to wear….

 Yep, alas, as far as modern clothing is concerned, my wardrobe is rather limited. I buy sports clothing and  occasionally casual clothing, but  apart from a few old dresses ( I don’t think I bought a dress, top or trousers in the last 2 years…), there was nothing suitable to parade about in the posh London hotel.  True, I can take a few Victorian/Steampunk bits, they would work, but since it was Christmas, I wanted to have something special.

 So a project was born – and after a short rummage in the garage I emerged with a few lengths of nice corduroy fabric and a vague idea of what can be made out of it.

 The most important bits to have in mind were – Original, quirky – but wearable, comfortable and suitable for sightseeing in winter.

 Then a ripple jacket pattern caught my eye – and that was really it.  A smart 1895 bodice, can be paired with a skirt – and would look smart, quirky but not too weird.

 December temperatures in London were a bit of a problem – but seeing i have enough fabric, i decided to make the jacket reversible. it worked, sort of, though a major pain, as the jacket still has seams boned, so making it was a bit tricky.

 Skirt was easy – 4 panels, and a waistband, plus a contrasting binding.

 And since i still had some fabric left, and had a few hours left before we were due to leave,  I decided  to make a pair of breeches – just in case it would be either too cold or we wanted to do something more energetic.

 Monday 23, we were packed, with half finished gear –  buttons to sew on etc. I also managed to cram an old hat into the suitcase, plus some fabric straps – may just be able to make a matching headgear!


How long are we staying in London? Are you sure it is only 3 nights?

 The hotel was indeed a tad posh (Crowne Plaza near St.James’ park  ), but our weird clothes met with applause – the first day, after a nice sauna we set off to a Mexican restaurant, braving the gale force winds and rain – wrapped rather nicely in long Victorian skirt and coat, Lucas sporting his  Regency Great coat 🙂


Suave…. 🙂


getting ready 🙂

Next day saw us walking around and looking for quirky bits at Camden town. In the evening, after  a lovely Christmas Eve dinner at Zizzi and a stroll over to the Westminster, it was time to finish my outfit.


Big Ben! 🙂

Buttons were sewn on and it was time to work on the hat.The base was this: a modern I wore for a friend’s wedding:


 a few hours work with leftover fabric, feathers etc, I ended up with this:


I was ready.

  On Christmas day we had a brief photo session with the new attire – the hotel’s lounge and courtyard was ideal!


the jacket and skirt….


the jacket on ‘the dark side’

Imageand with the breeches


perfect for taming elephants,,,,

  and after the session off we went –  on our bikes! the Barclay bike scheme means you can get public bikes for pennies and cycle around London – so we spent Christmas days enjoying a leisurely ride through the Royal Parks – Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, then after a short walk ( just for a change) back on bikes again, heading towards Chinatown for our Christmas meal –  crispy duck and noodles:-)



the Serpentine

  Funny thing, it was not the jacket or the  trews that attracted the most attention – it was the hat! very amusing.

 A very nice break – though badly marred by the Boxing day ‘adventure’ – we got to the train station to discover that when we were sold return tickets nobody bothered to tell us the trains actually don’t run on that day….  so getting back to Bedford was a bit complicated – and costly. well, you cannot have everything!

 Rather pleased with the  result of the costuming experiment too; the jacket was warm and cozy ( though turned out a tad too big)- and am now tempted to make something proper from the 1890ties….  will see….. 🙂

 needless to say, clothing by Prior Attire,

 photography by Pitcheresque Imagery

Regency Christmas at Aston: dress project and event


 Not so long since we were at Aston Hall doing 17th century event, we were asked by Black Knight Historical to  join the forces yet again – this time for filming a short feature film for the NBC. Sounded great,  a nice job, interesting subject ( celebration of Christmas in circa 1820 as described by Washington Irving  – yes the same bloke who wrote Sleepy Hollow) – but no frock!  My only other Regency outfit was a riding habit ( as can be seen here), and that was not really suitable indoor. So, a new frock was  needed- and hardly much time left to make one, let alone spending ages deciding on fabrics etc – I had to make do with whatever I had available.

 A brief research and looking at the 1820 images ( lots of them now on my Pinterest board) decided on the style – an after a brief dither between a black velvet winter gown and a dusty rose satin, satin emerged a winner -mostly because it looked great with some lace I had available.

The next Stitch and Bitch session at Julia’s from Sew Curvy was the designated time for making a frock and a simple petticoat.


petticoat hem detail

Petticoat ready, I was working on the gown  mock up – and Julia was fine tuning her latest corset pattern…


girls just wanna have fun!

The day flew by, trying on different corset toiles, stitching the frock, chatting etc. at the end of the day the basic frock was ready – just sleeves, lace and the closure was needed!


  Julia made a lot of progress on her toiles too 🙂


 At that point it was time to go home, eat something, have a cuppa or a drink and sit on a sofa chatting and doing some hand stitching – attaching all that lace onto the frock!


Next day was just finishing our project – and getting a bit silly too- there was a tire swing in the yard, it would be a crime not to test the new dress on it…



   We just about had time for some more corset fun trying out the toiles – and I had a go at that too!


Fit perfected:-)

and then it was time for me to zoom off home – driving through some superb English countryside, in lovely November weather.


Stunning autumnal colours!

  At home,  I finished the interior seams of the frock,  borrowed some suitable jewels, and we were ready to rock – all sorted for the filming.

We arrived at Aston Hall in plenty of time to change from our casuals into  the finery –  there were 6 of us, 4 in Regency gear and our musicians in somewhat earlier attire.

 As the film crew was busy setting the lights, checking sound etc, we sneaked out for a little shoot outside – the results below…


with Ian from BKH


sneaking around…. hoping to catch Darcy emerging from the lake no doubt..


no such luck – he was fully dressed….


still, we did have some fun!


the team: Ian, Tee, me, Kindra and Gini


Ian trying to’do’ a Mr. Collins. Scary…

 Then it was time to do the job – we danced ( the Duke of Kent waltz will never be the same without a cameraman sitting on the floor trying to film upwards, between the couples…), we played games, we talked, we sang, we listened to the music – all the things that a Regency family would be doing during the festive season – and all of that was filmed.

 We had a short break for a slice of pizza ( alas the local pizzeria was pretty awful – it was difficult to eat more than 1 slice…), and after finalizing the filming, drove back home…


pizza delivery… Regency style.

 The result, nicely edited, can be viewed here:

  Altogether, a very pleasant experience, and I now have one more frock in my wardrobe – so a double win!:-)

Candlelight Nights in Aston Hall


 Aston Hall hosts  Candlelit tours for 6 nights in November – and this year  Prior Attire was there for a ride!  The working team was put together by the industrious Black Knight Historical, and each evening we were there, from 6 to 9 ( or later), performing our roles – people from the household,  circa 1640, preparing for Christmas. each of us had a station, props, agreed talks etc, and we entertained the visitors – chatting about the life during the English Civil War,  Christmas customs, food, clothes etc.


Lucas sporting his new kit made especially for the occasion

 I was sat with Gini, in the gallery, working diligently on my bobbin lace, whereas Gini was sewing away, trying to see something in the candlelight – fortunately  our loupes de dentellieres ( water lens)  were a great help – and they did attract a lot of attention too!


 A bit further on, Lucas was in his element, as a physician – a bit of naturalist, early scientist and some astronomy thrown together, the talk was all about horoscopes, symptoms, humours, cures, bloodletting and urine sampling – great fun:-)


what ails you, madam? let me know your date and time of birth and i shall soon come up with the best cure!

Other characters included kitchen staff, servants, soldiers, musicians,nobles, scribes etc – and  Lucas managed to run around and take a few shots before the public came in one day… enjoy!


young recruit…


musicians, in Elizabethan gear, cannot keep up with the fashions:-)


Gini and Andy, as house servants – Gini as a sempstress and Andy getting the greenery ready for decoration the house, here caught just before leaving for their posts


no one was idle…


looking pensive…


Julia and Molly – and Molly was a firm favourite with the public!


Ian keeping an eye on everything:-)



The 6 nights were  full of work, talk and enjoyment – for both us and the public:-) the Hall was superb and attracted huge crowds – there were a few good thousands people going through the building over the duration of the event!

Many thanks to Black Knight Historical for providing us with the opportunity to work there for 6 magical evenings!

Victorian Christmas at Holkham Hall 2013


Ooops, we did it again:-). And yes, indeed Prior Attire was again hired to provide costumed interpretation at this stunning venue.  It was our fourth time at Holkham Hall, and a third Christmas ( previous events are covered here), and each of the events was organised by Black Knight Historical, employing a range of Victorian characters and interpreters –  visitors were greeted  on the gate by  period characters,  in the kitchens maids, cook and housekeeper were busy preparing Christmas dishes, whereas upstairs  a variety of genteel folk would entertain the visitors with tales about the house, Victorian customs, etiquette and  current fashions.

  Outside, there was a lot of entertainments –  swings, carousels, carriage rides, Christmas market, stalls with food, mulled wine, and a lovely restaurant.


One Sunday we managed to snatch a ride and arrived at the house in style despite the strong wind.


in the compound at the end of the day

The house interiors were simply stunning. You will probably recognize the Hall from the film The Duchess, and I bet Georgiana would appreciate its festive decor.  Each year the decorations in every room are different, and theme changes every year too. This time it was the Fairy land – a very whimsical, Lewis Carol-like wonderland , with live Fairies, footmen dressed as animals etc.

We spent 2 weekends working in those sumptuous surroundings –  and although the interacting with about 1000 visitors a day is not for the fainthearted ( or those with laryngitis), it was great fun to meet so many interesting people and talk on so many fascinating topics. The most popular were: Victorian toys and their manufacture,  dress and clothing  ( especially children’s items)  Victorian Christmas traditions ( which carols were sung, Christmas cards, food,) pastimes and etiquette – as always the language of the fan was a popular theme; Victorian technology and inventions, railway,  electricity; social structure, manners and dancing –  so a very wide choice of topics! I realized that apart from good old English, I also talked in French, Spanish and even managed a bit of Mandarin! very exciting.

Alas, since we were working and in character all the time when visitors were around, we couldn’t take any photos  during working hours – but we did snap a lot before the Hall was open to the public – so enjoy the small virtual tour below!


very jolly!


the gigantic Christmas tree in the front room


trying to talk our way into the Santa’s grotto… failed miserably, the guard was to diligent…


stunning tree in the Faery bedroomImage


someone has had too many mince pies, it seems…


High Octave ( hope i remember the name well) gave several amazing performances


there was also something less conventional to unwrap on Christmas day…


the whole South Dining room was converted into a paradise for gingerbread men…


gingerbread folk having fun in a bubble bath


or skating….


there was a wooded Winter Wonderland with moving animals…


including a bowing unicorn



and those who wanted to snatch a mince pie suffered for it…LJP_9392

In the evenings we stayed in the cottage and relaxed, saving our vocal cords….



or worked on clothes – fabric arriving late meant Eleanor’s new frock was being finished on Saturday evening….

But all was done in time and the next morning lovely photos of Eleanor in her new finery were taken




and finally wearing her reversible dolman on the other side…


Lucas at work…


alas, i wasn’t allowed to unpack any of the prezzies….

  Well,  all those above were just a taste of the attractions – we are already wondering what new and different visual feast will  Lady Coke be preparing for the next year  – no doubt  something equally spectacular!  If you live nearby, make sure you visit – it truly is an unforgettable experience! The house is open to visitors not only during Christmas – so do check their events diary!

Many thanks to Black Knight Historical and the Holkham Hall Team for all their hard work!