Saturday, April 13, 2013

DIY ~ Steampunk Holster for Tiliting Folding Parasol by Gail Carriger

Some time ago I wandered into the Alameda Vintage Fair and fell in love.

 Closed and folded; open in the normal position

This beautiful little folding and tilting black parasol met my eye. A gem of a creature from before 1900 she was a little worse of wear with rips here and there. Still, I dropped over $100 to take her home with me and I have never regretted it.

In the tilt position

 1811 tilt parasol in action

I went over all her rips in the silk with clear nail polish, so they wouldn't rip further, and then shifted and gently sewed over the ribbon bracing to cover the damage. She came out pretty good, although don't look too closely. I knew she'd travel with me to conventions so I figured if she ripped further I could always patch her in a steampunk fashion. Perhaps add pockets Alexia style?

She is not all that rare, the folding parasol has been around for a while. Mine is probably turn of the century, perhaps a few decades earlier. 

1880 's Folding Parasol ebay (no longer for sale)

There were a few ingenious ways to hold a parasol on one's person, when not in use, in Victorian times. The parasol pocket, for example.

via Pinterest; and also Pinterest

 Via Pinterst, and (you guessed it) Pinterest

Dresses with parasol pocket seem mainly to be Walking Dresses from the 1870s.  Not unsurprising, as in the 1880s the parasol shaft extended to be quite long and skinny with a steal tip, so it could be used as a walking stick when closed. I love the idea of a pocket but I wanted to be able to wear/carry my parasol with any steampunk outfit. Which meant coming up with some kind of belt attachment for it.

Godeys Oct 1872: "Russia leather belt with gilt hook, attached to fasten an umbrella to."

I decided to combine the pocket idea with that of the chatelaine and make a detachable parasol holster. So I took some of the skills I'd learned from my steampunk pocket belt making (four of them now) and the decorative left overs and elements from the spoon corset and this was the result...

DIY Parasol Holster

You will need:

  • Pair of cargo shorts/pants
  • Steampunk buttons of various sizes and appearence
  • Larger elements for added effect (broken broaches, earrings, clock parts, spoons, etc...)
  • Sewing scissors, pinking sheers preferred
  • Strong 100% nylon thread in color to match material
  • Needle
  • Straight pins
  • Tray
  • The parasol in question
  • Two Brass Double End Spring Snap Hooks ($8 each)

 A pair of black cargo shorts, Salvation Army $2. 

Choose a pair of good weighty fabric, long enough for the parasol (cargo pants can be used for full length 'sols) with lots of pockets in good working order with button or strong snap closures. The more pockets the better.

Pin off the area you think might work. Check all around to make certain pockets are complete, lining inside is good, belt area is in working order before you cut. Make certain to maximize the number of pockets possible, as well as getting at least 2 belt hooks. Also, don't forget to leave seam allowance. Cut the shorts in roughly the shape desired. Keep remaining pockets to sew onto other things. (I used one on the inside of a favorite jacket that, annoyingly, had no pockets of its own.) Also you can add more pockets to your holster if you'd like.

Check the holster for size by sliding the parasol in and out.

Un-pin, turn the holster inside out and re-pin. Sew a double seam on the machine, or hand sew with strong 100% nylon or button thread. Turn right side out again. Put parasol inside and check the belt hooks to see how it hangs. Remove parasol.

Check placement of larger buttons, or more unique decorative elements, to make sure of spacing and visual appeal and so as not to sew closed any pockets. Sew these on with 100% nylon strong thread.

Lay out buttons in by size and style, arrange on each side of the holster to visual taste. Move arrangements to tray in the manner you have selected. For the sake of memory I find it helps to take a quick photo of the buttons set out on the parasol, to reference back.

Sew those puppies down! I do this in front of BBC costume dramas for several nights running. I just keep the project open to do in my spare time, like some do with knitting. These took me about a month to sew on.

I attach the parasol holster to my belt with two Brass Double End Spring Snap Hooks. I have three of these babies and they are the most useful things ever. I use them for everything steampunk and detachable.

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.


  1. Genius! I have seen a lot of extant gowns, but had never heard of a parasol pocket until today! This is just fabulous.

  2. This is fabulous! I have never heard of a parasol pocket before. I'm all about pockets! I love the idea of a parasol holster too. Your outfit looks amazing!

    Hellcat Vintage

  3. That is utterly brilliant. To the sewing box!

  4. This is really clever idea. Naturally the Victorians would think of it! And your tutorial is really versatile to incorporate a lot of the different aesthetics that might use a parasol.

  5. Very nice! I would add that the pocket on the exterior could be used to carry a fan....


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