HSM #6: Mid-19th Century Underclothes

I finally made a garment this year that qualifies for the Historical Sew Monthly! June’s Challenge is: Favourite Technique: make an item using your favourite sewing or embellishment technique. My garment for this challenge is a pair of split drawers from the mid-19th century.

My technique of choice are French seams. These are durable, tidy, and easy to sew with a sewing machine.

A quick explantation of how to sew a French seam is to sew with wrong sides together first, press the seam allowances open (they should be on the outside of the garment at this point), then sew the seam again so that the raw edges are fully encased on the inside of the garment. A French seam starts the opposite of how you would normally sew a seam (which is with right sides together). To this with your regular seam allowance the first line of stitches is narrower than your full seam allowance (for example: my seam allowance was ½”, so I first stitched with a slightly wide ⅛” seam then stitched again with a slightly wide ¼” seam). This ensures that the seam is tidy on the right side of the garment, with no loose threads showing. To keep French seams narrow on the inside of the garment it is essential that the first line of stitching is close to the edge of the fabric–sometimes that means stitching a wider seam and then trimming it to be narrow. If this is the case then it’s worth thinking ahead when cutting to decide if the seam allowances need to be wider than normal.

Below is a closeup on one of the inseams of the drawers, showing the French seam.

On to The Facts!

Fabric:  1 ¾ yards of cotton lawn from Dharma Trading.

Pattern: My own. I think these were based on a pattern in a book over ten years ago, but I can’t remember what book and I know I’ve made changes since creating the original pattern.

Year: c. 1850.

Notions: One button and thread.

How historically accurate is it?: 98%. That missing 2% is for the machine sewing of the waistband to the inside of the drawers, as I think it was more likely that this step would have been completed by hand.

Hours to complete: 2 ¼ hours.

First worn: Not yet!

Total cost: $8.75.

These drawers are entirely machine sewn, with French seams, narrow hems, and the ‘stitch in the ditch’ method of finishing the waistband. The ‘stitch in the ditch’ replaces more time consuming hand sewing of the waistband on the inside. It leaves barely visible machine stitches just under the bottom of the waistband on the outside and nicely turned under edges on the inside of the waistband, as you can see at the point on the center front in the photo above. The buttonhole is also sewn by machine. The only hand sewing is securing the button.

These drawers are part of a set that I made for a friend. In addition to the drawers, she will also be receiving two mid-19th century chemises (also sewn with French seams!).

As these are worn without other garments underneath, it was important that the fabric is opaque. Dharma Trading’s cotton lawn is tightly woven and definitely opaque enough for this use. Plus, it’s 60″ wide and a great price! I will say that due to the tight weave of the fabric I had a much easier time sewing it with a fresh sewing needle. The old, probably blunt, needle on my sewing machine was a little struggle-y at first, but I had no problems once I changed the needle.

In total, all three garments took 5 yards of fabric, 7 hours of time, and cost $25 in supplies (the button for the drawers as well as lace and ribbon for the chemises was from the stash).

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1896 Black Gaiters For A Sporting Look

Five years ago (yikes, where did the time go?!?), I made ivory gaiters. They were made to wear over heeled shoes, giving the look of two tone boots. Unfortunately, the ivory gaiters I already have don’t work for the the 1896 cycling ensemble on my sewing table! Ivory gaiters would show dirt and be rather impractical for the sporting look, so I decided to make utilitarian black ones for this outfit.

I used the same pattern as for the ivory gaiters with only a few modifications: the top edge curves in a bit more over my calf and the back heel is longer so it stays on top of my shoe (in my blog post about the ivory gaiters I share about how they were riding up over my shoe–I solved this with a little piece I added in after the photos were taken, but for the new pair the pattern was cut longer instead). It was lovely to have a pattern ready to go!

I’m pleased that I squeezed this small project into 2018. I can count it for the HSM Challenge #12: Neglected! This challenge is sort of a catch-all for making something that fits into a previous challenge either from this year or a previous year. I chose the September 2018 challenge, Hands and Feet, for this December challenge.

Just the facts:

Fabric: About ¼ yard slightly stretchy black cotton.

Pattern: Created by me.

Year: 1896.

Notions: Thread, ¼” and ½” cotton twill tape in various widths, and plastic buttons.

How historically accurate?: 90%. The look is right but the materials are a mix and match of right and modern.

Hours to complete: Approximately 5.

First worn: Not yet!

Total cost: $5 for the buttons. The fabric and twill tapes were in my stash!

These are constructed in the same way as my previous pair. The seams are covered with ½” twill tape, the edges are bound with ¼” twill tape, there is a strap (in this case made of the exterior fabric), and then buttons and buttonholes finish it off.

The great thing about my gaiter pattern is that they work for a few different decades. The ivory pair was made for a 1917 outfit, but I feel perfectly confidant that the pattern works for the 1890s and 1900s as well. I’m looking forward to trying these on with my cycling ensemble once that is far enough along to put all the pieces together!

1920s Beaded Bag (HSM #11)

The November Historical Sew Monthly Challenge was Purses and Bags (you’ve got your arms covered in July, your hands in September, now make something amazing to dangle from them). Late in the month I realized this was a great poke to finish an idea I’ve had for about six years. It was a bit of a challenge to complete my project before the end of the month, but I just slipped in, finishing it on November 30.

The idea came from my 1912 Tea Gown. I had intended it to have elaborate beading, but decided not to do that for a variety of reasons detailed in that past post. However, I had already beaded one panel that I decided not to use. I’ve been holding on to it waiting for the opportunity to put it to use in some other way. And so, I decided to turn it into a handbag.

Saving your scraps comes in handy on projects like this, because I had plenty of velvet to cut the additional pieces I needed for the bag. I looked through my stash to find a lining and came up with grey silk shantung as the best option. This was also a piece of fabric that I only had scraps of. It was originally used for the boning channels on an 1883 corset I made way back in 2011 (you can see it in this rather old post).

My inspiration is this page showing handbags from 1922 (source). It inspired me to go in a more structural direction rather than a gathered top bag, which was my initial thought.

I had the idea in mind, but I was restricted in the shape of the bag based on the beading that already existed on the main piece. So I cut out another rectangle the same shape as the beaded piece, a long strip for the outside edges of the bag, a strap piece, and a triangle piece to make a flap that would close the top.

Along the way I realized that interfacing wasn’t going to stiffen the bag enough for what I was envisioning. I cast about for ideas of what to use for stiffening and settled on cutting up a shoe box that was in my recycle bin. It was a great weight of cardboard–not too thick, not too thin, and not too bendy. There are cardboard pieces on each flat side, along the bottom, and a strip along the top edge to keep the flap nicely shaped. The pieces on the sides and bottom are (shhh…) masking taped together to create a flexible but stiff foundation for the bag. The piece in the top is stitched into a channel that is only sewn through the interlining so it doesn’t show on the velvet or the lining.

I assembled my pieces, thinking hard about which part to leave open to set in the lining, and struggling a bit with the shifty velvet. I wanted to sew most of the seams on the machine for speed, but sewing it by hand would probably have been more pleasant. I wrangled it mostly into submission, only needing to restitch a few sections as I went along. The only hand sewing came when I needed to close up the lining after putting all the pieces together. Things had become a bit wonky with seam allowances and shifting velvet, so I did my best, figuring that the seam would be on the inside and I really just wanted to finish the darn thing.

After that seam, the only thing left was a closure. I decided on a simple hook and bar. Not quite as classy as a real purse, but it gets the job done and I had it on hand. On the outside is a decorative button.

And that’s it, except the facts!

Fabric: Scraps of silk velvet, silk shantung, and cotton canvas.

Pattern: My own.

Year: c. 1925.

Notions: A shoe box, thread, beads, and a button.

How historically accurate is it?: 60%? The silhouette and fabrics are plausible, though the cardboard probably isn’t. The beads are certainly too big and the method of closure is unlikely unless the item was made at home.

Hours to complete: Not counting the beading, approximately 3 hours.

First worn: Not yet!

Total cost: Free! All of the materials and notions came from my stash.

1925 Blue Coral Day Dress (HSM #8)

The summer has been very busy and I don’t feel like I’ve completed very many sewing projects for myself. Really the only reason I’ve completed anything is because I’ve been live streaming my sewing, which forces me to make things from the list of the-things-I-want-to-make-that-I-never-make-time-for. Do you have a list like that? Mine is lengthy!

One of the first of these things-I-don’t-usually-make-time-for projects was a dress made out of one of the fabrics I bought earlier this year. I really wanted to have it for events this month as they are generally quite hot and the fabric I found is nice and lightweight while still being opaque. I found this fabric at a local discount store for the awesome price of $2.99/yard and then later saw it at a regular price store for somewhere closer to $10/yard, which really made me feel like I got a deal!

The pattern for this dress is a Quinnpen special (ie. made by me). I took my inspiration directly from this extant dress at All The Pretty Dresses. Due to that, it qualifies for the HSM Challenge #8 Extant Originals (copy an extant historical garment as closely as possible)!

To start, just the facts:

Fabric: 2.5 yards cotton lawn.

Pattern: My own.

Year: 1925.

Notions: Small bits of contrasting fabric for bias binding, thread.

How historically accurate is it?: I’d say this one is about as close as I can get to 100%!

Hours to complete: Approximately 8 hours.

First worn: August 5, 2018.

Total cost: $10.50 (including the fabrics I used for decorative sash options).

For the bodice of this new dress, I started with my 1927 Blush Sparkle dress (that dress started life as a tube before I added a head hole, armholes, and side seams/darts to about the hip level). For the skirt, I made a circular pattern that had the zig zag top edges that are featured in the extant dress. It was a bit of trial and error process to get the zig zags just right, but I made it in the end! You can see the topstitched zig zag detail on the extant inspiration if you look at the pictures carefully.

The zig zag top edge of the skirt is pressed under and topstitched onto the bodice. On both my dress and the extant dress that detail gets lost in the pattern, but it allows the skirt to have a lovely drape and fullness while the top can stay that straight 1920s shape that is so iconic. Here’s a closeup of my topstitching. Not bad on the pattern matching!

I finished my dress armholes and neck hole using bias, as I believe the original did based on looking at the photos. My only changes here were to use a contrasting color so I could actually see where the openings are (before I put on the orange binding the blue on blue pattern just made a big indistinguishable pile!) and to turn the bias binding to the inside of the openings (given that I was using a contrasting color). Aside from that the only other detail I omitted was a center back seam on the bodice since I had enough fabric not to need it when I was cutting out the pieces.

The photo above shows the dress with two different sash options that I made for it: pink and orange. I bought the orange when I bought the blue, but when I got home I thought it might be too bold and decided I might like the pink better. But I really couldn’t decide, so in the end, I made both!

When I wore the dress, I was still undecided… so I took pictures with all three options: no sash, pink sash, and orange sash. See each look below!

The idea behind a sash was this inspiration: Wilton Williams, The Bystander, August 12th 1925, though after wearing it my preference is no sash! I think that the bold, large scale patterns in the fabrics of the inspiration dresses lend themselves better to a sash than this blue dress.  The bonus part of not having a sash is that the dress is easy to wear, there’s no fussing with keeping a sash in place, and the dress really does have a nice 1920s shape to it even though the detail of the zig zag is lost from more than a foot or two away. What do you think? Does one style of sash (or no sash) speak most to you?

It’s fun to have a new dress to wear, discuss, and document! There are more dresses in the live stream queue, so if you want to stay in touch with what I’m making I would love to have you join me for one of my virtual sewing circles. You can join me on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9-10:30pm EST!

New 1830s Underpinnings: Sleeve Puffs & Skirt Puffer (HSM #11)

I made an 1832 dress last year for the annual Christmas ball. I was very happy with the dress itself, but a bit saddened by the silhouette due to the fact that I didn’t have time to make all the accessories to help give the dress just the right silhouette. This year I’m wearing the same dress again for the Christmas ball but I’ve taken the time to create two different underpinnings that will really help the shape.

There are two areas where I was disappointed with last year’s silhouette. The first was my sleeves. The dress I made has large beret sleeves but without anything inside to keep their shape they became deflated as the night wore on. The solution: a pair of 1830s sleeve puffs! The one below, from the V and A, is just one example (and what I used as direct inspiration for creating mine).

Conveniently, these fit this month’s HSM challenge perfectly!

HSF Inspiration: “One of the best things about the HSF is seeing what everyone else creates, and using it to spark your own creativity. Be inspired by something that has been made for the HSF over the years to make your own fabulous item.”

Sleeve puffs have been made by multiple people over the years of the Historical Sew Fortnightly/Monthly, though most recently a pair was submitted for Challenge #10: Out of Your Comfort Zone in 2017.

Here are my sleeve puffs!

So, just the facts:

Fabric: Soft cotton twill, polyester organza and stiff net for stuffing.

Pattern: My own, based on measurements and looking at extant puffs.

Year: 1830s.

Notions: Thread.

How historically accurate is it?: Let’s say 95%. It’s entirely recognizable in its own time. The exterior is plausible fabric, the stuffing is not.

Hours to complete: Perhaps 2?

First worn: Not yet! Will be worn in December.

Total cost: Free! All the fabrics are from the stash.

I took in progress pictures of the puffs as I made them, so eventually I’ll post a detailed tutorial for how exactly I made these. But for now, let’s talk about the second area that I was disappointed with my 1832 silhouette last year: the skirt fullness. I had hoped to create a nice round shape, but my silk petticoat alone wasn’t enough. I whipped up a puffer of stiff net gathered onto a waistband, but it didn’t add enough oomph either.

Of course, a corded or starched (or both) petticoat would be the ideal way to fix this problem. I didn’t devote the time to making either of these for this particular dress (and don’t already have them as part of my wardrobe.) Another idea one of my friends had was to use a fluffy many tiered organza petticoat from eBay to get a nice 1830s silhouette. I, however, was inspired by Lauren’s ‘ugly puffer’ (she made it for the 18th century, but the idea can be used to fill out skirts from many different eras) to try and get a better silhouette this year.

I actually used the same net puffer I used last year, but added a gathered layer of pre-quilted cotton from the stash. I hemmed the edges to help add stiffness and used up the small scrap that I had (only about ¼-⅓ of a yard), which amounted to about a 2:1 ratio of gathering.

That, plus giving my silk petticoat a shake out to get the ruffle at the bottom more full and less squashed from storage, seems to help, at least when I tried it on at home. We’ll see how these two underpinnings help at the ball. I’ll have to do comparison pictures between this year and last year!

How do you get an 1830s silhouette? Do you have any creative ways to get the right look?

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Orange Boven Hat, 1814 (HSM#4)

I am pleased to report that I made a garment which qualifies for the HSM challenge #4: Circles, Squares, and Rectangles! I wasn’t sure I had anything on the sewing list that would do, but then I remembered years ago when I started this hat and it was only two pieces, a circle for the crown and a rectangle for the binding. Perfect! (I’m not counting the triangular trim. That’s just the trimming!)

As you might guess from the photo, this hat is part of a matching ensemble: a pelisse and hat from 1814. I’ve got lots of details planned regarding the inspiration for this ensemble as well as more pictures of the finished outfit, but for now this teaser will have to suffice. It gives context to the rather silly hat.

Just the facts:

Fabric: Pale peach cotton and cream (likely) poly/cotton blend.

Pattern: My own based on my head measurements.

Year: 1814.

Notions: Thread, two ostrich feathers, and about 1 yard of vintage lace.

How historically accurate is it?: I’m going to go with 95% on this one. It’s entirely recognizable in its own time and made in a way that is straightforward and consistent with historic garments. The materials are not 100% accurate.

Hours to complete: If I’m only counting the hat, about 3 or 4, since it is entirely hand sewn.

First worn: April 9 for a Regency tea.

Total cost: About $8 for the hat without the pelisse.

A Chemisette (HSM #3)

I’ve wanted a Regency chemisette to complete my daytime looks since 2012, even going so far as to purchase a specific tool with the intent on using it for a chemisette ruffle. (Unfortunately, my cast iron crinkle cutter has been a very useful doorstop for the last few years but hasn’t been used at all for its actual purpose! To be fair, it still hasn’t been used for its actual purpose, but at least I know now that I have a chemisette pattern that fits, which makes me more likely to try it out for a more finely pleated collar version in the future.)

I’m so happy with this chemisette! I had sized up a chemisette pattern from Janet Arnold years ago, but it didn’t fit me as is, so for this I used the pattern for a pelisse I’m working on as a starting point for fit and the Janet Arnold pattern as a reference for grain lines and overall shape.

The fabric is ‘silky cotton voile’ from Dharma Trading. I used it for Annabelle, one of my mid-19th century dresses and had the perfect long straight scraps left for cutting out a chemisette! The weight of the fabric is lovely and so comfortable to wear and it’s nice and sheer just like a chemisette should be. Plus, it behaved so well, finger pressing as I did the seams and the pleats on the two collar layers.

I decided to add this garment to the list of Regency things I’m trying to get together for an event in April rather at the last minute. I was going on vacation with a very long travel time ahead of me and decided that having a hand sewing project would suit me very well. I found the time to cut the pieces and then hand sewed most of it while I was away, using nail clippers as my scissors. (I didn’t want to get in an argument with TSA about how the length of the blade on my thread snipping scissors actually is within their regulations.)

The chemisette uses a combination of running, whip, and slip stitches for the seams and narrow hems. It ties below the bust using a 1/4″ cotton twill tape. I thought of putting a closure at the neck, but decided against it as there are images of chemisettes being worn open at the neck (like this) and I really like that look on me rather than the head-on-a-platter look of it closed (see a mix of styles including that here). If I had closures but decided to wear the chemisette open at the neck you would see them and I don’t love that idea.

March’s HSM challenge is The Great Outdoors and I’m calling this chemisette a fit for the challenge, as I intend to wear it with a pelisse for an outdoor promenade. Plus, chemisettes are useful for protecting the skin from the sun (which of course you are so much more likely to be exposed to while outdoors!).

So, here are just the facts.

Fabric: Leftover bits of silky cotton voile from another project.

Pattern: Based off of my own, but referencing those in Janet Arnold.

Year: c. 1810.

Notions: Thread and 1/4″ cotton twill tape.

How historically accurate is it?: I’m going to go with 100% on this one. The materials are good and so is the method.

Hours to complete: I didn’t pay attention because I was leisurely sewing this while on vacation. Maybe 8-10?

First worn: Will be worn in April.

Total cost: All from the stash! Free!