Hedgewitch has only just been released and yet is already one of my favourite books of all time. With its blend of cosy low fantasy, the folklore of these islands and a halcyon of heritage and nostalgia in its our-world-adjacent 1950s setting featuring Blytonesque feasts (without any of the problematic bits) and witchcraft themed girl guides it’s a sheer delight to spend time in Skye’s imagination and storycraft. See this post for my full review.
Amongst the many things that wrapped around my imagination was the clothing in Hedgewitch and persuaded me to create a small Bookbounding collection in honour of our love of the book. Although Skye deters from elaborate description of the clothes we get a sense of the importance of clothing as a token of value, belonging and expresses change through out the narrative.
As this is cut up into chunks, I thought I’d add some hyperlinks to help!
- The Subtle Language of Clothing in Hedgewitch
- Bookbounding- Creating Tabitha Blight
- Bookbounding- Creating Cassie Morgan
- Bookbouding-Creating the Coven Cloak
All external links are just links to the pattern for the curious, I am not an affiliate.
Cassie starts the book with only her school uniform, a symbol of status and belonging but ironically only highlights her lack of status and belonging as the school’s social restrictions and lack of personal items caused by her mother’s absence keep her from making meaningful friendships.
When she finds her true identity and place in Hedgely, she literally sheds her school uniform ‘skin’ (by command of the housekeeper!!) and is offered her mother’s childhood wardrobe- Skye takes the concept of ‘big boots to fill’ and Cassie’s feelings of loss and inadequacy and projects this through the fact that her mother’s clothes feel special to wear but are a little big for Cassie.
Over the course of the novel Cassie begins to add her own personality through accessories and pieces and so wears her mother’s memory and legacy with her own twist – such as purple laced boots!
We also see how clothes in other characters are a subtle marker of character and status from The Hedgewitch’s pristine black ensembles to Rue’s more laid back style and the sleeveless hooded cloaks of the Coven with the coveted bronze Triskele of membership.
But there are more subtle messaging of undulating feelings and misconceptions through the impeccably styled Mrs Blight’s (Tabitha’s mother) physical discomfort on the train travelling in 3rd class simply because they were too late to make it to First- this is impressed not just through her behaviour but how Tabitha has been dressed- in an Alice Blue dress and white gloves totally out of place in the working class carriage and yet it’s wearer feels at home – this is explored further in how Rue sees Tabitha as a snob from her family heritage and is gently expressed through the sneers at Tabitha’s grandmother’s posh handbag and noting the quality and cut of Tabitha’s Coven cloak.
So inspired by the quiet meaning of clothes in Hedgewitch, I was inspired to create two characters who have clear clothing descriptions in the novel – Cassie and Tabitha.
Creating Tabitha & Cassie
Hedgewitch is set in a reality-adjacent 1950s meaning the fashions, culture and society will be largely familiar to our own, with a dash more folklore and magic meaning we can extrapolate what the dresses may look like by looking at ‘our world’ fashions.
Looking at my source material I had two outfits in mind to recreate, Tabitha Blight’s travelling outfit and ‘Cassie in Hedgely’, the latter of which will take the form of her mother’s childhood dress with a cardigan and then the Coven cloak which can be wearable by both girls.
Tabitha’s dress would be a strong statement of her parents wealth and status, it was meant to show how they belonged in First Class but equally it’s a dress to travel in, its not a party dress with layers of tulle and silk taffeta. The Blight’s are an old, respected witchcraft family though leaning more Malfoy than Weasley in wealth and reputation.
the girl was terribly pretty…she wore a blue dress with white glovesWe meet Tabitha on the train
I deeply dove down the rabbits hole of childrenswear in Britain during the 1950s through internet research and looking through family pictures as my mother’s elder sisters were children in the 1950s and were lucky enough to live next door to a dressmaker who had no children and brought home dresses cleverly cut from the surplus fabric after cutting for children of more privileged standing.
This research was to establish fabrics, hemlines, waistlines and sleeves on both everyday and ‘party’ clothes. I then went to the source herself and asked Skye what she meant by ‘blue dress’ and luckily affirmed that it is British not American fashion and an Alice blue solid textile ie not print.
After researching indie pattern designers I finally settled on the Kristina dress from Vintage Little Lady because it has
- a ‘simple’ sashed waist bodice front
- Pin-tucked sash
- dramatic and lined puff sleeves
- a feature back with matching ribbons.
- Exquisite finishing of the sleeves and internal bodice.
The combination of which says I’m comfortable to travel- but I’m doing it in style and fits with the fittings and embellishments I had seen on primary source dresses.
The fabric at first was a struggle, I couldn’t quite find what I wanted until I looked in my own fabric stash and found a piece of thick plumptious cotton-mix sateen in the perfect Alice blue I had bought about 7 years ago. It’s a soft sheen cotton weave but thicker and bouncy and a luxurious looking material but won’t fray or tear like more luxe fabrics do and is more hard-wearing than it looks!
This was perfect to be lined in baby blue satin and coupled with a contrast sash from the Lewis & Irene quilting cottons range in a soft blue with white daisies and bunnies to represent Hedgely and Wynn- Tabitha’s white rabbit familiar.
Accessorised with a pair of patent Mary Janes with a gentle 1/2” heel coupled with lace grilled ankle socks and satin gloves, I intended to make some hair bows in the sash fabric but Littlefae found the perfect bow Alice band in our stash.
Cassie presented more of a challenge and yet creative freedom because we are simply given the context that she picks from her mother’s childhood dresses and later she receives a pair of boots with purple laces and Mrs Briggs will make her some things more fitting and up to date in time. It would have been paired with a cardigan as it is pretty standard to expect a cardie on a British 1950s school-aged girl.
To extrapolate what this would look like we have to consider that if Cassie is 12 almost 13 and we are sometime in the 1950s so her mother would have been a comparable age in the thirties.
We then have to look at the context of Miranda, Rose and Elliot, they were the grandchildren of the last Hedgewitch who has status and value in the village and clearly is of a considerable social class considering the estate and came to live with her as younger children after their parents died. We can extract what kind of childhood they had by the way Miranda dresses and tells Cassie that a certain level of decorum and standards are expected of the family and she is a representative of the name not simply herself.
I expect you to be independent, responsible and to behave in a way befitting a Morgan. we have a reputation in this village…we must be irreproachable in our conduct.’Miranda to Cassie on her first morning.
To this end I can predict that the clothing would have been chosen and ordered by their grandmother, maybe with a little nudge or stylistic addition from Mrs Briggs- they are unlikely to be ready-to-wear instead made to order with care and love by Mrs Briggs herself in good quality fabrics but not showy, in simple but flattering styles that gently express their expense and status in subtle ways such as finishing, textiles and cut.
To this end I threw myself down another research hole of 1930s childrenswear and found a lot of British girlswear was heavily inspired by the Royal Princesses and the Royal attitudes were similar to what I predicted from the grandmother, well-made garments that will last many children to wear but not showy unless fitting for a ceremony.
and dressed in a frock and cardigan from the wardrobe. the dress was a bit big but Cassie was so pleased to be out of her school uniform that she spun around sending her skirt flying.
When Mrs Briggs takes away the school uniform she states the dresses are ‘a bit old fashioned’ and that was a point to consider. In this period privileged adolescent girls would have been allowed to adopt the adult drop-waist styles with the bodice finishing around the ‘seat’ (widest part of your hips and bottom)- the height of fashion at the time and a marker of ‘coming of age’ whilst slightly younger girls would have had dresses finish at the natural waist- much like 1950s fashion.
However, Skye’s description of Cassie twirling tells me this dress has the natural waist because a drop waist can’t spin like that. Furthermore, I think a 12-14 year old Rose would have been somewhat infantilised by her Victorian era grandmother.
I knew a ‘timeless’ simple functional gathered dress would fit the brief but needed to have details that would whisper this was more expensive than the working class child’s version and design features that would suggest 1930s more than 1950s childrenswear but would last 20 years in a cedar lined wardrobe and still be wearable if a tad dated.
I found the Dragana dress also by Vintage Little Lady (no intention just lucky!) the perfect fit as
- Has the essential vintage ‘look’
- Then adds a pretty but subtle scoop/Peter Pan collar for embellishment- collars in expensive fabrics or embroidery were popular in the 1930s show a little luxury. It also may have looked a little out of date or for a younger child by the 1950s.
- The elbow length gathered sleeves give an ‘oversized’ feel without being unwearable.
- Has box pleats which were super fashionable in the 1930s and would quietly communicate of the expense in extra material to create them. 1950s dresses were more likely to be gathered and volume would depend on social class.
- In addition the finishing inside is beautiful with lining and tucked seams on the bodice.
- it does have a zip back but this is not anachronistic to very well made clothes at the time, they were new and a bit of a novelty so I can see Mrs Briggs giving it a go to make the girls feel special- but would likely be out of place to Childrenswear of the 1950s.
The fabric was selected from a range of subtle earthy toned floral 100% cotton prints- I chose this Rose and Hubble print in a soft mushroom brown with faded coral and yellow flowers because it had the feel of a 1930s print gently faded and softened over time and use. I chose to create the collar in broderie anglais from my stash, an embroidered cotton which was a beloved textile especially for childrenswear when Cassie’s great grandmother would have been young and has resurged in fashion this year.
I paired this dress with a hand-sewn oatmeal coloured fine knit cardigan with oversized buttons where I simply cropped the Ellie and Mac So Lovely cardigan pattern which gave this ‘lived in’ feel to the garment like Rose wore it almost to death in her own childhood.
My girls do have beautiful hand knitted cardigans thanks to my great-aunt Pat but I chose a fine knit for this outfit as it would have been a more subtly luxurious and light textile due to the time and craftsmanship required and perhaps a little way Mrs Briggs could indulge Rose in fashionable textiles without it being inappropriate or ostentatious.
Finished with Tinyfae’s rainbow black patent boots and Berlioz the cat plushie subbing in for Montague, this is a dress that speaks of heritage and quality at the same time and I adore it.
Making the Cloak
One of the key features of the Hedgely Coven is the sleeveless hooded cloak that marks its members. Cassie feels such a rush of excitement and belonging when she receives a woollen cloak for her birthday from Mrs Briggs.
The pink ribboned parcel from Mrs Briggs contained a witches cloak, sewn by hand from the softest black wool. Now she would match the other girls in the coven.
I loved this concept when seeing the cloak in the illustrations, it’s totally different to the traditional cloak it’s more like an oversized sleeveless open front tunic dress so is practical but still speaks the visual language of witchcraft.
I drafted my own pattern using a top that fitted Tinyfae, lowering the arm hole by a few inches and extending the length to my desired length and angled the length outwards to give added swishyness and added pockets. Think A-line dress but with a lot more swing from the armpit.
The Hood I drafted using an existing hood and created the pointy look by extending lines from the crown and back of the neck to intersect at the desired length. This is similar to pixie type hoods which curl but I wanted a defined point and crisp lines so I created internal seams rather than external- though I did poke some long twisty overlocker ends through the seam point for a little whimsy.
The cloak in the book is black soft 100% wool but my budget sadly doesn’t extend that far!! I thought about fleece but it would be VERY warm- great for winter but not so good for warm spring days.
Then I remembered I had soft black upholstery hessian in my stash-it is sturdy enough to not need interfacing but because it isn’t scratchy it would make a fitting substitute with a cotton lining which I chose in a witchy purple from my stash.
I finished the cloak with a cloak clasp, bronze Triskele, a star pin (no spoilers) all bought from small businesses on Etsy and a home made feather pin (from a metal bookmark!).
It fits both of my girls which is a bonus!!!
I hope you have stayed with me on this adventure in bookbounding with Hedgewitch and you have enjoyed at least the outcomes!!!
The book is simply marvellous and I cannot wait for the follow up Woodwitch next year!! Make sure to check out the other stops on the tour featuring lots of bonus content!!
Hedgewitch by Skye McKenna is published by Welbeck Childrens books.
Thank you so much for my copies.💜 I personally purchased all patterns, fabrics, accessories and notions.