Monday, May 16, 2016


Fabric remnants are wonderful things.  When I first started 18th century sewing, I thought that there wouldn't be many occasions where I could use small remnants since most garments require so much fabric.  I'm finding out that I was wrong!  One can always use more kerchiefs or aprons but I'm finding other uses for them as well.

I've used remnants for my last 3 projects.  The first was a pair of pockets.  I had been wearing some children's pockets I had bought to keep at school to show the kids.  I can't believe how much larger adult pockets are!  I can fit everything I need in them.  I really wanted some crewelwork ones and one of these days I'll get around to making some.  In the meantime, I found a half yard remnant of some crewel embroidered linen blend in the home dec section at Joann's.  That along with some leftover osnaburg linen and some linen tape that I keep on hand was just what I needed.  

I used the Kannik's Korner pattern which has a number of different styles.  The last two views are from the last quarter of the 18th century in the United States.  I chose the ones with the wide opening and made them according to the pattern directions.  The opening is faced on the inside with wide linen tape which you can see above. The one place where I cheated was that I machine sewed the seam attaching the front and back pieces.  Once that is turned right side out, it is top stitched by hand so I figured it didn't matter as the seam stitches were encased.  Time was of the essence so this was quicker.  All other stitching is by hand.  I was pleased with the result.

The next project was another jacket from the J.P. Ryan pattern.  The first one I made had an overlapping front that pinned closed. I decided to do one with a stomacher this time as I purchased two remnants from Renaissance Fabrics:  1.5 yards of striped linen and 1 yard of plan buttery yellow linen.  I ended up using the striped linen for the jacket and the yellow for the stomacher.  The jacket was lined with plain white shift weight linen and made entirely by hand. 

My 21st century self told me that I had to balance the uneven stripes which I did.

The stomacher is boned and the tabs are made from cotton tape.

The eyelets were stitched by hand with silk buttonhole twist.  I marked the eyelets as indicated on the pattern but I think I need an additional one at the top as the top edges didn't lay flat when I wore it so I'll be adding those before I wear it again.

I wore this with my blue petticoat and a fancy new kerchief at Mt. Vernon for the Call of Arms event.

With my new friends in the garden at the greenhouse!  What a lovely day for a stroll!

My last project was a new kerchief.  This one is pretty generously sized--about 38 inches square.  I had a little over a yard of the my woven checked handkerchief linen that I made the apron in the picture out of so I decided to use it.  I love checked fabrics because it's so easy to cut a nice even square.  All I needed to do was a rolled hem all the way around.  Voila!  Another project done!

I love having these small projects as the big ones take sooooo long and it's nice to complete something in a night or two!  

Next up will be a big project!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Lady's Apron

I took a sick day earlier this week and decided that while I was home, I'd tackle a small project that I have had planned for months.  We had been discussing checked aprons and stroked gathers in the 18th century sewing group on Facebook so that discussion along with a desire to experiment got my creative juices flowing.  I had purchased some handkerchief linen with a checked pattern woven in for the purpose of making an apron so along with my stash of linen tape, I had all that I needed.  The discussion of the stroked gathers intrigued me.  I had never heard of them though I had seen them before.  Upon doing some quick research, I found that the gathers are made by making 2 or 3 parallel rows of even running stitches--usually counting the threads to make sure they are even.  Enter the smocking pleater!  I bought this handy gadget shortly after Emily was born--probably sometime in 1984.  The needles are 1/2 inch apart so I decided to thread 3 of them for 3 rows of gathers.  

First I had to compute the size of the apron.  I decided to use the full width of fabric which was about 54 inches.  I cut it to a length about 3 inches shorter than most of my petticoats. Before running the fabric through the pleater, it must be rolled evenly on a dowel.  The checked design on the fabric made it easy to ensure that the fabric was rolled straight.

The fabric is then fed through the gears from back to front while turning the handle on the right.

This is what it looked like right off of the pleater.  I had to draw up the threads to the finished length that I wanted and evenly distribute the gathers.  I made the top of the apron 1/2 of my waist measurement (measured with stays) so that I could still find my pocket slits.

Then I trimmed the excess fabric from the top.

I pinned one edge of my 1 inch linen tape along the middle gathering thread then whip stitched it down. 

Then the linen tape was folded over and stitched on the backside.

The side edges were finished with tiny rolled hems and the bottom was rolled up twice using the lines in the fabric as guides.

Here you can see the edges from the right side.

The top finished.

The finished apron.  I don't have any modeled pics but I will update once I do.  The finished length is about 3 or 4 inches shorter than my petticoat.

Overall, I'm pleased with the way this turned out.  It was a fun little project.  I think it will look lovely with the equipage that I purchased from K.Walters at the Sign of the Gray Horse!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

English Gown--upgrade!

I decided to upgrade the English gown in my previous post.  I have several "plain" 18th century garments so I decided to make this one a little fancier.  I needed something to wear to the SAR Patriot's Ball and we wanted to go in period attire.  I simply didn't have time to do my silk gown that I have planned.  This gown, while fancied up a bit, would still not be considered to be a ball gown.  Multicolored cotton chintz was expensive in the day but it was still very much for day wear.  This might have been more appropriate for a daytime country dance.

This gown is made from the J.P. Ryan Robe L'Anglaise (English Gown) pattern.  The petticoat is made using this tutorial which is my standard petticoat method.

I decided to add boning to the center back which was an optional thing in the pattern.  I think it helps the back to lie more smoothly.  I just ripped out a little of the stitching that secured the lining to the bodice, ran running stitches in the lining catching the seam allowance to make the boning channels and slipped in two 18 inch pieces of steel boning.  Then I stitched the neckline back up.

As far as the upgrades go--First I added ruched trim around the neckline.  I cut strips 1 3/4 inches wide with a rotary cutter then trimmed them with pinking shears.  I decided to do the gathering and attaching in one step.  Basically I did this by tacking down the end, taking 3 running stitches on the trim alone, pulling them tight then taking a back stitch through the trim and bodice to anchor it.  I did this around the neck.  I didn't know how much trim I would need so I just seamed it together as I went along.

 Next I added sleeve ruffles.  I used the Mill Farm pattern for embroidered sleeve flounces and I just cut them with pinking shears, stacked them, gathered and stitched them in the sleeves.  I covered the raw edges with cotton twill tape.  I added bows out of silk ribbon and temporarily basted in some removable lace flounces I had made from antique lace to dress it up a bit.

 I decided to wear the gown as a polonaise so I made fabric covered buttons in period using bone button forms.  I found a perfect motif in the fabric print to use as the focal point on the buttons, cut circles twice the diameter plus 5 mm and ran gathering stitches around the circle pulling it tight to cover.  You can see the front and back of the buttons below.  These were stitched to the side back seams.  Silk ribbon loops were stitched inside which are looped over the buttons to drape the skirt.  It can be worn up or left down.

Lastly, I made a matching petticoat.  Typically I use 60 inch wide fabric and cut two lengths for a petticoat.  This allows me to put the pocket slits in the side seams. This fabric was 42 inches wide however so I had to cut three lengths and cut the fabric for the pocket slits.  I rolled the hem on the pocket slits and made thread bars at the bottom of the slit to keep it from splitting.  I made a 4 inch box pleat in the center front with 1/2 inch pleats going around to a 4 inch inverted box pleat at center back.  The petticoat is bound with 1 inch linen tape whip stitched on the inside and the outside.

I decided to make a nice pearl bracelet to wear since I was going to be dressed up.

I made a little hair ornament with silk ribbon and small ostrich feathers which I pinned in my wig.  The gown was worn over the matching petticoat, a medium weight linen petticoat, traditional linen 18th century shift, J.P. Ryan strapless stays, silk clocked stockings and white Dunmore shoes by the American Duchess. I also pinned a silk ribbon bow to the neckline. The wig is The Duchess by The Historical Hairdresser and the jewelry, which includes the bracelet, a lover's eye pendant and pearl and crystal drop earrings were made by yours truly.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

English Gown, take 1

I finished my English Gown last week.  This is the J.P. Ryan pattern.  It's pretty straightforward as it is a solid front with no stomacher.  Altering this pattern was a little difficult however due to the fact that there are no side seams.  The bodice is one piece for the front, side and side back then there is a narrow center back piece.  After careful measuring with my stays, I ended up combining two sizes, which meant buying 2 patterns.  I used the 8 on the bust and the 10 for the waist and sleeves.  I chose not to follow the construction directions however as they instruct you to make up the bodice with the sleeves and to do the same with the lining, then bag the lining.  This is not a period correct construction and since I was making this garment completely by hand, I decided to go with accurate construction methods.

I followed this article for setting in the sleeves and constructing the bodice.  Basically, I constructed the bodice without the shoulder straps and sleeves and the lining the same way.  I stitched them together at the center front then I stitched the lining shoulder strap in.  The sleeves are lined and put in at this point with the bottom of the sleeve attached seam inside.  Then the seam is shifted to the outside and stitched on top of the shoulder strap.  Three pleats are put in the back of the sleeve cap to make the sleeve fit.  After the sleeve is attached, the fashion fabric shoulder strap is attached.

Bodice seams were sewn with a combination stitch comprised of running stitches with an occasional backstitch.  The sleeves were attached with backstitches for strength.  Long skirt seams were sewn with running stitches.  The skirt and shoulder straps were attached with lapped seams with whip stitches.   The skirt pleats were formed freehand--something I've gotten quite good at doing.  I'm pleased with the final result.  Due to time constraints I chose to use hook and eye tape which takes away from the authenticity of this gown.  Otherwise, it's dead on correct.  I also regret not putting boning at the center back.

The materials used were:  Williamsburg cotton print from Renaissance Fabrics, white linen for lining from Burnley and Trowbridge, silk thread, steel boning, hook & eye tape.   Petticoat materials:  cotton matelasses from Renaissance Fabrics,  linen tape from Burnley and Trowbridge.

Front shoulder strap

back shoulder strap showing sleeve pleats

front facing with hook & eye tape

lining sewn to skirt

back bodice showing skirt pleats

sleeve lining

I wore the gown over a matelasse petticoat which was worn for warmth.  It had enough body to not need a hip roll.  The matelasse was 60 inches wide so I used two lengths, sewed the side seams with a running stitch and tacked down the pocket openings.  I pleated the top using fewer but larger pleats than normal--a 4 inch box pleat in the center front and a 4 inch inverted box pleat at the center back.  Typically I would have about 26 pleats in the front but I had about 10.   The top was bound with 1 inch wide linen tape whip stitched to the outside and inside of the petticoat.

front pleats

back pleats

Here are the pics of the gown:

At the Carlyle House in Old Town Alexandria VA

With my soldier

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hey there Little Red Riding Hood!

Winter is fast approaching and this historical lady needs a warm outer garment.  While I have a wonderful early 19th century Pelisse, I need something for my 18th century outings.  The most common outerwear of that period was the cloak.  Cloaks were made of many different materials from common wool to fancy lace and embroidery.  Those worn for warmth were typically wool.  The wool used in these garments was very dense, almost felted, which didn't ravel when the edges were left raw.  Lower and working class women often wore simple cloaks that were unlined with raw edges or hemmed edges and tied with wool braid or simply held closed by hand.  Those of higher social standing may have had cloaks trimmed or faced with silk and a few were fully lined with silk.  Some cloaks had collars as well as hoods.  Some were long and others were half or 3/4 length.  Red seems to have been the most popular color as it is the most commonly found in the surviving examples.  Here are a couple of examples of 18th century cloaks:

From the Met Museum--Red wool bound with red silk. Late 18th century.

Detail of hood.  Radiating pleats were the most common construction of these hoods and this is a perfect example.

From the Boston Museum--shorter cloak in red wool bound with black silk. Late 18th century.

I liked the idea of binding the cloak in black silk so I decided that I would make a red cloak fully lined and bound with black silk.  I used red wool broadcloth from Burnley and Trowbridge which is very dense and heavy.  I first made the cloak with raw edges using the Mill Farm diagrams.  It is made from 4 large right angle triangles with the hood being a large rectangle.  The triangles were stitched together and the neck was pleated.  The hood was stitched in the back, pleated then the neck edge was pleated to fit the body.  The seam was very bulky so I stitched red wool braid over it on the inside to flatten it out.  Because this diagram uses triangles, the hem is not even and must be either tried on with an assistant to even out the hem or placed on a dress form.

Hood pleating detail:

I then cut the same pieces out of the black silk.  I pleated the neck of the body and stitched it into the wool outer garment.  I assembled the hood, turned under the neck edge and pleated it to fit, stitching it in place.  The lining and outer garment were then basted together around the edges.  

Bias strips 4 inches wide were cut out of the same black silk and stitched 1 inch from the edge, right side to the right side of the cloak.  The binding was then turned into the inside and stitched to the lining.

I cut a strip the width of the silk that was 3 1/2 inches wide, cut it in 2 pieces and angled one end of each piece.  I finished these strips with 1/16 inch rolled hems, whipped and gathered the straight edges and stitched them just below the neck seam at the binding seam.

I'm pleased with the finished product. It's extremely heavy but I've found that the combination of wool and silk is very warm.  The hood is huge and will fit over any kind of big hair I can muster!  Here are the final pics, though the cloak needs a good steaming!  My mannequin is wearing it over a 1940's crepe dress -- but then she was never very good at picking out her outfits!