My antique Edwardian parasol

Making a Strap to Fasten My Antique Parasol

One of my most-prized possessions is this antique parasol.

I purchased it in 2014 from La Roux Vintage, and it makes me happy every time I look at it.

I've carried it with care to the Dressing Downton exhibit at Biltmore Estate and to a summer picnic hosted by alternate-history group AnachroCon (Sarah and I went Edwardian).

At Bilmore Estate for the Dressing Downton exhibit, 2014.With Sarah (left) at AnachroCon picnic, 2015.

It's in great condition, although it probably started out a much lighter off-white shade than its current ecru. The only problem was that I couldn't fasten it shut. Not a big deal when it's upright. 

But long, sturdy, Edwardian parasols like this one are meant to serve as walking sticks as well as sun shades. Think Rose in Titanic or Violet Crawley in Downton Abbey.

Rose uses her parasol as a walking stick in Titanic.

None of the parasols belonging to these real Edwardian ladies flops partially open as much as mine did:

Edwardian ladies leaning on their parasols.

To prevent tearing the lace or having the tips of the ribs snag my dress, I used a wide ribbon, wrapped and tied in a bow, to hold it closed. All this wrapping and unwrapping was tedious. It required two hands and I couldn't do it with my gloves on. My fan or reticule would wind up tangled, or on the ground.

Perhaps my parasol had once had a gadget around the shaft or some other means of closure. But I could find no telltale bits of anything lingering anywhere.

My plan was to rig something similar to what you see on any modern umbrella. It would need to be attractive but inconspicuous, made of period-correct materials, and not hamper the mechanism or damage the lace. 

I bought luxurious silk ribbon that matched perfectly. Alas, it was too wide and didn't look right. Back to the fancy fabric store I went, but they had no narrower silk.

In the end I left with several narrower lengths of high-quality synthetic in promising shades. At home I did what you do with face makeup -- draped them all across the parasol and picked the one that blended in best. 

Today, with time and a plan, I picked a vintage button from my stash and stitched it to one end of the ribbon, which I'd folded over twice so there'd be no raw edges. I stitched that to the parasol, taking care not to interfere with the ribs.

Parasol open with new closure ribbon.

I turned under the opposite end of the ribbon, and attached a length of narrow and too-white vintage cotton twill which I tea-dyed while I fixed all six of our dining room chairs -- entirely unrelated, but just so you know I stayed productive ; ).

Closure loop close-up.

I really must work on my horizontal stitches. Very sloppy. 

Still, I'm pleased with the result, which accomplished the goal: 

Parasol closed with new ribbon closure.

Have you made any tweaks or changes that let you better-enjoy your vintage or antique items? If so, what, and why? We'd love to hear about it! 


Liza Dolensky

What amazing and gorgeous work! Your parasol was beautiful before, but now you’ve given it a whole new lease on life – I hope it brings you many more years of enjoyment!

Liza Dolensky

Wow – love the re enactment outfits – looks like so much fun. Love, love the umbrellas and parasols.

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