I have wanted a Victorian Parasol to wear with my Victorian and Civil War costumes for a long time. Ready made lace parasols can be quite expensive. Cheaper “costume” quality parasols are OK, but often have very short handles, making them uncomfortable to hold up for any length of time. The Carriage parasol has a long handle and smaller width than traditional parasols. They are a perfect blend of size, length and fashion:
“Parasols for carriage rides were generally smaller than those for walking. Some models even came complete with a flask in the handle for the benefit of travelers. Towards the end of the 19th century, covers of chiffon and fancy silk on very long sticks became the fashion. Ladies carried their umbrellas closed more than open, and gentleman carried theirs tightly furled to resemble a walking stick. ” www.literary-liaisons.com
Since I couldn’t find a ready made carriage parasol to buy, I set out to make one.
Step 1: I started with a nylon “costume” parasol that was the correct length and size. Most parasols have short handles. One friend said she just replaced the handle with a wood dowel from the craft store. A genius idea! Fortunately, the one I bought had a long enough handle.
These are not very sturdy for vigorous use. Since I only plan on using it two or so times a year as an accessory, durability doesn’t matter. And since I was going to cover it with nice lace and trim, the Nylon cover wasn’t important either. What is nice about this Parasol is the wood handle. I would have drawn the line at plastic, but at least the wood handle is more authentic.
Step 2: I started with a black parasol and planned to cover it with black lace. However, since my Victorian dress is Maroon I opted for a Maroon lace with black lace trim and an ivory rope trim accent. I think the combination laid over the black nylon looked great. I found all the material and trim at my local Hancock Fabrics store. The cost was about $18.
You will need 1 yard of lace (or any material you like with a bit of stretch/drape to it) and 2 yards of trim to go around the entire edge of the parasol. Add 6 inches more if you want an accent on the top.
Step 3: Start with the lace trim that will go all around the edge of the parasol. Hand sew the lace with a whip stitch so that it hangs down nicely from the edge off the Nylon.
Step 4: The correct way to recover a parasol would be to cut triangles of fabric and sew them together just like how it’s made with the original Nylon. However that required more time than I had – remember, I have a baby in the house now 🙂 . The “cheating” method is to lay the yard of lace over the entire parasol, cut a small hole at the top to fit over the tip, and pin the fabric to the Nylon. The fabric will hang over the edges at various lengths. Simply cut the extra lace off all around parasol edge. If you have too much fabric on top to make a snug drape you can fold the extra under and along one of the wire frames then sew along top. I had to do this and it didn’t look bad. (Sorry I didn’t take pictures of the process.)
The lace I chose had a pretty finished edge to it so I cut that off and pinned it on over the lace overlay with a band of ivory trim to cover the cut edge of the lace trim. I pinned it all in place and then hand stitched it to the Nylon. The one thing that was odd about this is that I used ivory thread to stitch everything in place. On the underside of the Parasol, you can see my ivory thread against the black Nylon. Next time I think I’ll use black thread and keep my stitches hidden in the ivory trim.
Step 5: Take a bit of lace trim and run a gathering stitch along the edge. Pull the gathers in so it makes a circle and place around the Parasol tip. Stitch the trim in place.
Step 6: Enjoy! You now have a nicely decorated Carriage Parasol. The whole process took me just a few hours and turned out great. I would make this Parasol again in a heartbeat. My husband suggested I could make these and resell them. A great idea, but I think I’d rather just teach you how to design your own.
Ready Made Victorian Parasols
For the less crafty or for sources of cheap costume parasols, look here: