A Shortgown At Last

Finally, I got to compile the long-overdue post on my beloved shortgown I finished a few months ago. To start off, here is the finished product: I took these pictures after wearing it to one of my very first costume events (a historical market) so it is not perfectly pressed. ;)

The finished shortgown.

The finished shortgown.

The back, with pleats and a little bow.

The back, with pleats and a little bow.

The fabric I used was a gift from a dear friend who is a Regency/Federal-era costumer herself. She was very, very kind to send it across the Pond after I had spent weeks not finding a suitable fabric for the gown I liked. I am so glad she could help me out. But before I got to work with this beautiful fabric, which is a light, printed quilting cotton, I delved into research to get inspired about possible patterns.

Some Research
To begin with, shortgowns were present in women’s wardrobes in the 18th and early 19th centuries. In the 18th century the were also often known as bedgowns or manteaux de lit. And, while the general style of the gown stayed the same over time, some little details in the cut and shaping changed: Earlier versions of shortgowns were often cut from one piece and more or less symmetrical, with a front opening and a flared skirt section, shaped using pleating and / or tucking. Marquise wrote up some very good instructions for an 18th-century bedgown, based on Garsault’s book, here. Another example for this style, but with a more flared skirt, is the Kallfors gown from Sweden. The reproduction in the link also comes with a pattern. :)

And, while one-piece versions seemed to have been the rule, it is not uncommon to find gowns where the skirt section has been pieced on. This was done in the Kallfors shortgown, too. But it is not easy to spot from further away. Here is another Swedish example from Digitalt Museum where the piecing is more obvious in the lovely, bold stripe pattern.

A mid 18th-century Swedish bedgown from Digitalt Museum.

A mid 18th-century Swedish bedgown from Digitalt Museum.

As time went on towards the Regency era, narrower shoulders and slightly deeper necklines made an appearance as working-class women began to adapt the look that was fashionable at the time. Isabella of the Two Nerdy History Girls wrote a very nice post that sums up these developments. With the changes in shaping, neckline and waist drawstring began to be used in shortgowns. Here is a Dutch example from the very early 19th century that seems to have a neckline drawstring and sports a leaner silhouette than the more flared earlier gowns.

Early 19th-century shortgown from Friesland (Source: Memory of the Netherlands database).

Early 19th-century shortgown from Friesland (Source: Memory of the Netherlands database).

Another Dutch gown, where the drawstrings are a bit more prominent is this brown one. It has a visible join and drawstring at the waits, though the join might also be a casing sewn as a tuck. To me, this one looks super cute and very “Regency” and so it became the main inspiration for my project. Below, I will tell you how I went about making it.

Another Dutch shortgown, probably 19th century, from Amsterdam Museum.

Another Dutch shortgown, probably 19th century, from Amsterdam Museum.

The Making
To make mine, I played around with the Sense & Sensibility ELC pattern I used for my stripe dress last winter. I went with the long-sleeve version of the bodice pattern. The only difference was that I included a front opening. For this, I added an overlap of 3/4″ at the center front and cut two halves of the front piece, instead of a whole one. Here is a photo of my cutting layout and the lovely brown fabric:

The bodice pattern and layout. :)

The bodice pattern and layout. :)

To finish the front overlap, I pressed over 1/8″ and sewed a tiny hand-rolled hem on either side. I think this is how I finally fell in love with making them. They did not take long and came out looking really cute, almost like iced on. After finishing them, I sewed the rest of the bodice according to package… erm pattern instructions. ;)

The 1/8

The 1/8″ rolled hem on the bodice front.

And the finished bodice, with drawstring neckline.

And the finished bodice, with drawstring neckline.

The neckline drawstring casing I made of self-fabric bias binding, also based on the pattern. For the top closure, I sewed two small eyelets into the inside of the casing. They are set off by about 1/2″ so that they tie safely on the inside.

One of the two CF eyelets. :)

One of the two center-front eyelets. Below you also see the casing for the waist drawstring. :)

Like in some of the earlier extant gowns, I also made a separate skirt piece. I had two rectangles for the front that were 8″ long, plus 1 1/4″ for the top and bottom seams. They attach to the back piece at the bodice’s side seam. For the back piece, I played around with the pattern’s skirt piece, which has a curved top seam line. I trimmed it down to 28″ width, to accommodate one box pleat at center back and four small knife pleats on either side. At CB, the piece was about 11″ high and it went down to 8″ on either edge, to fit the front pieces. After sewing the three pieces together, I added two more tiny 1/8″ hems at center front.

The skirt piece, sewn together and hemmed.

The skirt piece, sewn together and hemmed at center front.

After attaching the skirt to the gown, I finished the skirt seam with bias binding. I then sewed it up into the bodice from CF to the side back seam line to form two drawstring casings. The strings tie up to pieces of cord near the back. To finish off, I finally added a little decorative bow to the back. It helps to cinch up the waistline and nicely brings out the pleats. :)

Another “gimmick” my shortgown has is a bodice “lining” piece that keeps everything in place. It was a feature of the S&S pattern and I decided to keep it, since it helps a lot with keeping the gown straight over the stays.

The bodice

The bodice “lining” from scrap fabric.

When I wore it to the event, the lining and outer gown were held together by a total of 30 (!) short pins. And, after spending six hours plus in costume, the whole construction had not budged an inch. I also wore the fichu on the occasion, using even more pins on it and it behaved very well, too. This taught me again that pins really are a great period closure method. And that, no, they do not prick and poke you at all. :D

So, all in all, I am very happy with my first shortgown and actually having worn it “in public” for an event. Here is hoping that I can repeat this again soon.  Until then, it is back to the thesis and more sewing (yay!). Wishing you all a relaxed remainder of the weekend.

Love, Nessa





Catching Up: Just a little Fichu

The past week has been a bit busier than expected. So, today’s catch up post will deal with a small, yet nifty, little clothing item: a fichu to go with my working-class ensemble. The one I chose to make is simple, tuckable triangle.

To make it, I had a look at this post from the Oregon Regency Society. It covers fichus in many shapes and sizes. Looking at it tempts me to make at least one of each. One can never have too many fichus … ;) The measurements given in the post may vary based on the wearer’s shoulder width and the back length at the underbust line.

The fichu, 40

The finished fichu, 40″ wide and 18″ high.

I made my triangle 40″ wide at the base and 18″ high, as suggested in the post. It worked fine. The next time, though, I would add another 4″ or so to the long edge. I cut the triangle from an 18″ x 40″ rectangle, with the long edge folded in half. The fabric I used was a sheer cotton voile “lining” a local store carries as a basic.

The two short edges are finished with 1/8″ rolled hems, using my favourite method. On the long side, I got a bit lazy and just hid the raw edge under the lace trim. For that, I ironed under 1/8″ of the fabric, stuck the bobbin lace on top of it and hand-sewed it down with a small running stitch, close to the fabric edge. Since the finished lace edge was about 1/4″ wide, it covered the raw bit no problem. Here is a close-up of the finished trim:

The edge finish.

The edge finish.

I chose to have the lace edge on the back of the fichu, but it would also look nifty on the “good” side. Now the narrow bobbin loops peeking out from under the fold look pretty cute when I wear it. It goes together well with the sheer fabric and does not look too massive. Here is a look at the fichu tucked under the shortgown I still need to blog about.

The front view.

The front view.

The back view.

The back view.

Since it was my first, tucking the  fichu took a little practice. After a playing around for a while, I found that the simplest way to keep it in place was to pin it directly to the stays. When using a simple petticoat, the straps can help to hold it in place. Normal straight pins work well; but for the last event I cheated and used three medium-size safety pins, just to be sure. ;)

I hope you had a good week and found this quick post enjoyable. As the thesis goes into its final throes, a few shorter posts may follow. But I am hoping that I will get to tell you about the shortgown from the pictures very soon. So please stay tuned! :)

Much love, Nessa


Catching up: A linen and silk spencer

Can you believe it has been half a year already? When I decided to leave the blogging part of my life to graduate, I thought I would be back with you after a much shorter while. Now, six months later, I am still working on the master’s thesis, hoping to finish it this month at last. But I have missed you and the blog so badly that I have decided to slowly return now. Plus, I have been sewing a great deal, since it helped me to stay focused and gave me little moments of contentment when the thesis did not really co-operate in that respect. ;)

By now, the queue of projects and little things I am aching to share has become quite long. So it is about time to pick up the threads and start catching up! In this post, I will tell you about the first thing I began to make a little while after my last entry: a linen and silk spencer jacket.

I made it up based on this gorgeous extant roller print spencer from the Genesee Country Village Museum’s collection. The original is made up from a cotton print fabric, in very lovely shades of red. For mine, I used some medium blue linen. I had found just over a yard of it on the leftovers table at my favourite fabric store.

While the original is lined with unbleached muslin, mine got a lining of unbleached silk noil. Noil is a fabric made from the waste fibres combed out in the silk production. While it is usually coarse and not really nice to look at, it handles almost exactly like other silks but is much more affordable. So it worked very well as a nice, warming lining.

The pattern of the extant spencer at the GCVM.

The pattern of the extant spencer at GCVM.

Here is the pattern taken from the museum piece. It has only been the second time I worked with an extant pattern and so I was a little anxious. Though, as far as alterations go, I had to change only very little. Basically, I graded up the bottom halves of the bodice pieces to my underbust measurement, using the waistband (at the top) as a guide. Another thing I did was to extend the shoulder seams to my measurements. The rest I left as is. Especially with the sleeves, it was a little gamble. But since the original sleeve cap had lots of gathers, I got away with it. ;)

Still, it took me a good three weeks to get from the first mock-up to the finished pattern. Though the pattern mostly needed some taking in and lengthening, I was very determined to stick to the “measure twice, cut once” rule because there was not much of the lovely blue linen to waste. In the end, the only part I left unchanged was the armscye and the sleeve. They matched up very well and fit like a charm! Even on modern patterns, this hardly ever happens for me so I did a little happy dance after setting the sleeve into the final mock-up on first go. Yay!

The initial-mock up: a little short, but very roomy.

Yippee, the sleeve going in on the first try!

Yippee, the sleeve going in on the first try!

Cutting out: Not and inch of fabric to waste.

Cutting out: Not and inch of fabric to waste.

The bodice coming together.

The bodice coming together.

The basic spencer with sleeves and the lining basted to.

The spencer, with sleeves and the lining basted to.

Assembling the outer fabric and lining pieces was pretty straightforward altogether. Once the bodice had come together, I more or less flat-lined the bodice, sleeves and collar by basting and then sewing everything together. All the outer edges were left raw as I finished them up with a row of piping and self-fabric bias strips, as it was done on the original. Below you can see the lining process for the sleeves where I basted and then slip-stitched the lining’s bottom hem before sewing up the side seams.

The slip-stitched lining at the sleeve's bottom.

Slip-stitched the lining to the sleeve’s bottom…

... then sewing up the side seams of both layers in one go.

… then sewing up the side seams of both layers in one go.

The raw edge on the linen I finished by applying cotton piping to the right side, un-corded edge to the raw edge. This was then enclosed in a 1 1/2″ wide bias cuff from self fabric. The same method I used on the collar. It is a simple round collar with single under-layer of cotton canvas, sewn to the neck edge individually. The bias strip I used for binding here was 2″ wide with about two thirds of it folded into the underside. Amazingly, this trim was enough to make it all lie flat. But then this has also worked on the original. ;)

Sewing the collar around the neck edge (sorry for the blurry photo).

Sewing the collar around the neck edge (sorry for the blurry photo).

The finished collar trim, top and bottom.

The finished collar trim, top and bottom.

Matching trims!

Matching trims!

Finally, the bottom edge was finished with the waistband. It is reinforced with a strip of canvas and has a short overlapping placket hooked shut at the center front. And this was the making process already. The last thing that was missing, was the closure. It is one of the things I like best about the spencer, since it is simple and genius at the same time. Basically it is a cleverly hidden hook-and-eye closure with the eyes sitting over the inside edge at CF and the hooks sewn to a tape underneath the overlapping side. Once you close it, it is completely hidden from view. The hooks are spaced unevenly, with smaller distances at the top and bigger ones towards the bottom. This was also done on the extant spencer and ensures a nice, secure fit.

The hidden closure.

The hidden closure.

And here is the finished piece. I wore it over my blue cotton petticoat, since it was the closest thing to hand and I was a bit excited about finally taking some pictures and entering the finished product into the Historical Sew Monthly’s “Travel” challenge. Now I am glad that I finally got to share the whole documentation with you. I hope you can forgive some of the atrocious photos. My new camera is not very well-behaved in artificial lighting but, at the time, it was the only light available… a by-product of writing by day and sewing by night. ;)

The finished linen and silk spencer... after about five weeks.

The finished linen and silk spencer… after about five weeks.

The back view, by daylight. I was so excited to be done, I completely forgot to iron the waistband. ;)

The back view, by daylight. I was so excited to be done, I completely forgot to iron it. ;)

This concludes my very first post in what has felt like ages. I have missed you all so much! Funnily, the number of the blog’s followers on Facebook has exploded during the idle months. We are not at over 300. Wow! This still leaves me baffled and in awe. I am very happy people stay so supportive and interested, even during longer times of hiatus. Still I am overjoyed to be back. Please give me a little while to catch up on all you have been up to in the past months. It feels like I have missed a great deal of wonderful things!

Much Love, Nessa


Covering Baby’s Head – Georgian Style

Recently, there have been two new additions to my extended family: Two new baby cousins were born in March and April. They are both girls and look absolutely adorable. To welcome them into their lives, I decided to sew a little gift for each of them. Fitting with the HSM “Protection” challenge, I decided to make a pair of historically inspired baby bonnets. Since I have never sewn any clothing for babies before, it was a sewing adventure I was itching to embark on.

True to my favourite era, I decided to go for a Georgian / early Regency style bonnet. Since time was a bit short to get everything done for the baby girls’ arrival, I opted for a simple style, like the one in this 1801 plate from Costume Parisien:

Mother and child fashion plate; Costume Parisien, c. 1801.

This style corresponds fairly well to this extant American infant’s cap from the late 18th century.

Infant’s cap, second half of the 18th century, American; MFA Boston.

This is the simplest style of period baby caps to be found. It usually consists of two pieces: a narrowly hemmed head-piece and a ruffle or lace edging. Ties were optional and seem to be missing from many surviving bonnets. Beyond this very basic style, quite a lot of bonnets had extra decorations. Lace insets at the back of the head were a very frequent decorative addition, as you can see in this other cap from the MFA.

Infant’s cap with inset lace, 18th century, American; MFA, Boston.

Beyond that, some extant caps show off some very fine, drool-worthy embroidery in white, or sometimes even colored, thread. The early 19th-century example below is one of my favorites. Reaching this skill-level at white embroidery is definitely one of my long-term goals. ;)

Embroider baby cap, early 19th century, British; Textile Museum of Canada.

For my cap, I used Sharon Ann Burnston’s basic 18th-century baby cap pattern and tutorial. The original pattern is sized to fit a very small infant. So, after talking to some other seamstresses who have made it up before and also to the pattern creator herself, I decided to scale it up to about 125% of the size. This way my little cousins can grow into their bonnets over the next few months. :) Here are some detail pictures of how I made up the caps. Since they were so small and my sewing machine needed some maintenance, I sewed everything by hand. It was the quickest, easiest way.

The narrow-hemmed main piece.

After cutting out the pattern from a leftover piece of printed Swiss-dot cotton, I narrowly hemmed the bonnet’s main piece, using the rolled-hem stitch I talked about in this post from last December.

The laddered back edges, sewn 2/3 of the way.

Afterwards, I folded the bonnet in half, butting up the back edges. They were then sewn together about 2/3 of the way from the bottom edge. For this I used a ladder stitch. It is a more or less invisible stitch that can best be described as a straight version of the slip stitch, going from side to side in parallel, horizontal lines.

The radial pleats, outside view.

The radial pleats, inside view.

The open portion at the top of the back edge was gathered into radial pleats, using a circle of evenly spaced gathering stitches, about 1/2″ away from the center. I used a sturdier fillet crochet cotton yarn for this step. Pulling the gathers taut on both sides, created the little rosette you can see in the bottom picture. To secure everything, I tied the thread ends into a firm double knot. Then I back-stitched and buried each thread in the seam.

The lace attached to the bonnet.

Last I stitched some cotton lace to the hemmed edge, all around the cap. After that all I had to do was to add the ties at the “x” marks. For this, I used two 7″ long pieces of 1/2″ wide cotton hem tape. And here is what the finished baby bonnet looks like:

The finished baby bonnet, with ties.

Making one bonnet took about ten hours, or three evenings while taking a break from study and paper writing. ;) I am very happy with the outcome. And, hearing back from the new babies’ mothers, they were very pleased to receive them as a surprise gift in the mail. Now I cannot wait to see the bonnets on my little cousins’, once they have grown into them. :)

I should really try and sew for friends and family more often. But this year, time is extra short *sigh*. Although I am hoping to see you all again very soon.

All the best, Nessa


HSM #3: Ladylike Hand Protection

For me, embroidery is one of the best pastimes during exam season. It gives you something to pick up and work on when the paper writing muse is silent or when you simply need to take a little break. That is why I decided to do a small, handy  embroidery project for this month’s “Protection” challenge: A pair of early Regency mitts.

The main inspiration came from these two extant pairs from the Met and MFA collections. The mitts from the Met are an earlier pair from the latter half of the 18th century. At this time, a triangular flap, often with a contrasting piece of fabric sewn to its underside, was a common feature of mitts. Towards the Regency period, this flap slowly disappeared in favour of a straight top, as you can see in the early-19th-century pair from the MFA below.

18th-century mitts, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Mitts, late 18th – early 19th century, MFA Boston.

Since this has been my first glove-making adventure and I was feeling a little unsure about how to design a pattern, I went to search for resources and found a wonderful tutorial for making Colonial mitts. It uses a pattern based on an extant pair from the Colonial Williamsburg collection. I used it as a base for my own pattern, enlarging it to about 120% and taking off the flap to get a straight top edge.

Next I picked a floral embroidery pattern from Ackermann’s Repository to decorate the top. It is a bud and leaf design I outlined in stem stitch. To fill out the buds, I also used stem. The leaves are filled with alternating satin or fishbone stitch.
Since the fabric I used was a light cotton sateen, I added the embroidery before cutting out the mitts, to prevent fraying in the wrong places. ;) Here is how it all looked in progress:

The embroidery in progress.

Once the embroidery was finished, I cut out the gloves and found that embroidering had been the easy part of this project. So I will give you a brief walkthrough of how I made up my pair, for future reference, in case you are planning to make your own. :)

Gathering the materials.

The first thing I did was to get together my materials. I used sateen for the outer layer and a light cotton shirting from the stash for the lining. All pieces are cut on the bias, to allow for a snug but comfortable fit. In this picture, the thumb holes are already cut out. Before I did that, though, I took an extra step:

Tracing the shape for the thumb hole.

After backstitching and overcasting the thumb pieces’ 1/4″ side seam, I placed the underside of the piece on the right side of the mitt body and traced the shape. I then subtracted 1/4″ on the inside of the trace line for the seam allowance and cut the hole based on that. There was a thumb hole given on the original pattern, but after sewing a test piece, I found that it needed some improvement. And taking the time to re-trace it really did a lot for the fit. :)

The shell and lining, with the side seams sewn and pressed open.

Next I attached the bottom edge of the thumb to the holes, right sides facing and backstitched it in place. Afterwards I just sewed up both the outer and lining pieces at the side seams, taking a 3/8″ allowance. Once all the seams had been pressed open, I slipped the lining over the outer, so that the “clean” sides faced each other and the thumb peeked out of the hole in the lining like so:

The shell and lining matched up at the side seams.

To line the mitts, I sewed the pieces together at the top edge with a backstitch, taking up a 1/4″ seam. After I folding the lining into the mitts, I finger-pressed under about 1/4″ of fabric around the thumb hole and stitched it down, encasing the raw edges on the inside. As a final step, I folded and slip-stitched the bottom hems of the mitts. To keep the lining invisible, I created a slightly deeper fold, so that it came out about 1/8″ shorter than the outer layer.

Once everything was in place, I used a single strand of embroidery floss to create a herringbone borser along the thumb hole. It came out very pretty, but also served to reinforce the fabric against wear and tear.

The finished mitts. :)

Here is what the finished pair of mitts looked like after this final step. I am quite happy with how they came out. Finishing them was a very sweet treat at the end of the exam season. :)

Now the new (and final !) term is here for me. At the moment I am still very busy juicing all the lemons uni throws at me. Although, finally, things are starting to roll again in the sewing room. There are a few new projects coming up and I am much looking forward to sharing them with you.

Thank you all for your patience in bearing with me until now. I will do my best to stop being such a stranger and bring the blog back up to speed again soon.


Much love, Nessa


HSM #2: A Market-Day Petticoat

Despite the finals still going strong, I surprised myself and finished the entry for the Historical Sew Monthly’s “Pleating & Tucks” challenge on time. It is a pleated petticoat to go with the shortgown I am planning to sew this year.

This marks the start of a whole working-class outfit which I am planning to wear at a historical market in October. It will be one of the very first costume events I am attending in Regency-era costume. And, boy, am I excited about it already! But first, here is a look at the petticoat:

The finished petticoat, front view.

The finished petticoat, rear view.

The petticoat is made of two yards of unbleached cotton broadcloth. I cut it to the finished skirt length, leaving one selvedge intact. After sewing the fabric into a tube with a single side seam, I pleated the raw edge into a  35″ wide waistband, using graduated pleats. At the center back, there are some 1/4″ pleats “stacked” on top of each other for some extra fullness. At the side seams, the pleats reach a maximum depth of 1″.

A close-up of the graduated pleats at the back.

The “tube” method I used to construct the skirt was inspired by the Hungarican Chick’s bib-front gown tutorial. It seems to work perfectly for that purpose, with an even front flap being cut into the skirt. Since there is no such flap in a petticoat, I had a little extra work getting it to hang  evenly. The little hack I used to balance it, is a 9″ long “dart” over the left hip, opposite the side seam. Here it is:

The dart balancing the skirt.

At the top of the side seam, there is a short in-seam placket, about 7″ long. It matches up with an overlapping hook-and-eye closure in the waistband. The overlap here is approximately 2 1/2″.

The inseam placket.

The overlapping waistband closure.

And there is another secret to the petticoat: The bottom edge is on the selvedge, so there is no need to hem it. At the moment, I like the look as it is, but I might fold it under when I decide to use it as an invisible petticoat under a dress or other skirt.

The bottom “hem”. I feel like such a cheater… ;)

When the skirt was all sewn up, I machine-dyed it with an artificial indigo dye. Afterwards, I sewed on the straps to keep it securely at the underbust line. They are made from 1″ wide white cotton tape which stays pretty invisible over the other underpinnings.

That is all there is to the construction process. It was easy and quite fast, in spite of mostly hand-sewing it. Now, here are the challenge details to fill you in on everything else. :)


The Challenge: #2 – Tucks & Pleating

Fabric / Materials: 2 yards of unbleached cotton broadcloth; blue dye

Pattern: None. Loosely based on Twila’s petticoat tutorial.

Year: c. 1800.

Notions: One yard of woven cotton tape; cotton thread.

How historically accurate is it? Most of it is hand-sewn, though I had no extant example to work by. Since the indigo dye was synthetic, I would say it is about 95% accurate.

Hours to complete: About 30 hours.

First worn: For the fitting, it will be worn more extensively at a historical market this autumn.

Total cost: € 6 for the fabric and notions, plus € 4 for the dye, so approximately € 10 altogether.


It was good to get the chance and post for you, but now it is back to the grindstone for another month. I am hoping to see you all again in April, with some updates on the two small projects I am trying to tackle for the “Protection” challenge. One of them is a set of two 18th-century baby caps. This is the first time I am making baby clothes and I am much looking forward to sharing this experience with you.

Until then, I wish you all the very best. See you next month!

Love, Nessa

HSM #1: A Procrastinated Chemise

Finally, I get to break the radio silence to share a new blog post with you. The final exam season at uni has picked up speed and it has been a bit of a toughie to fit in the usual amount of blogging and sewing with it. Nevertheless, the first HSM challenge of the year, “Procrastination”, has motivated me to make the new Regency chemise I have wanted for ages now.

Every time I did a fitting or took photos throughout the last year, I thought “Oh my, I could really use a new chemise!” This is what qualified this project for the challenge. And I actually did it! It is even mostly hand-sewn. For me, this is simply the best and prettiest way to work gussets and flat-felled seams, with an extra amount of control.

So here is a picture of the complete chemise. I took it when I should have been revising… ahem. The fabric I used is a basic light voile I bought in France. Even though it is cotton, it handles like a fine linen that was often used to make chemises for the upper classes in the Regency era.

A look at the finished chemise.

To finish the edges, I used two kinds of hems: 1/4″ hand-rolled hems for the sleeves and a 3/4″ double-turned hem at the bottom. This is how I usually do it, to add a little extra weight and make the chemise hang more nicely. Here is a quick close-up of both hems:

The 1/4″ rolled hem at the sleeves.

The bottom hem. You can see how the fabric almost looks like a fine linen. =)

These are all the photos I have taken so far. This leaves the challenge facts to round off the project:

The Challenge: #1 – “Procrastination”

Fabric: Two yards of light cotton voile.

Pattern: Laughing Moon #115 – Regency & Romantic Era Corset.

Year: 1800-1815.

Notions: Cotton thread; cotton bobbin drawstring.

How historically accurate is it? It is mostly hand-sewn and I did my best to stick to period techniques. So I would say it’s 90% accurate, give or take.

Hours to complete: About 30-40 hours.

First worn: Not yet, but I am much looking forward to it!

Total cost: Around € 8 (which was the cost of the fabric).


And that was all the sewing I got to finish this month. Most likely, the busy time will go on for this month and the next. After that I am hoping to get back into my usual sewing routine again and to spend more time with you on the blog. I miss you all very much!

Love, Nessa

A Quick Regency Apron How-to

To wrap up 2015 and start afresh into a new sewing adventure in 2016, here is a look at the last project of the year and how it was done. It is a simple Regency waist apron I spontaneously made over Christmas, using a scrap of rose-colored cotton I found in my old “sewing drawer” at my parents’ house. I pieced the fabric and sewed up everything by hand. Here is the end result of about 16 hours, with me looking a bit tired but happy. ;)


A Regency waist apron.

I have been wanting to make a simple apron for Regency wear for some time now, but never came around to it. While browsing Pinterest, I have run into quite a few fashion plates featuring waist aprons and I found them all just adorable. Other than white or black, some of the aprons were made up of colored fabrics. A color range that shows up on plates rather often are light shades of lilac and rose. Since I really like these tones, they became the apron color of my dreams. Here are two examples I really liked and that helped inspire mine:


Study of a young woman and a boy; watercolor drawing from the collection of the British Museum.


Costume of a fashion worker; Costume Parisien.

Finding the scrap of rosy cotton in the drawer and a little extra time over the holidays were what convinced me to make the apron at last. All I needed to do now was to settle on period-appropriate dimensions for it. Luckily, I found this untrimmed black silk apron in the MFA’s online catalogue. It is 67 cm (26 7/16 inches) wide at the top and 96 cm (37 13/16 inches) long.


Untrimmed silk apron, first half of the 19th century; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Based on these measurements, I decided to make my apron 66 cm (26″) wide at the waist and 95 cm (37 1/2″) long, excluding seam allowances, which came to about 1/2″ at the top and sides; and 1″ at the bottom. There was one small problem though: My scrap measured only 75 by 150 cm. So I had to do some serious piecing. But this was also a period thing to do, as you can see when you take a closer look at the extant apron. :)

To work out the math of it all, my dad, who used to be an engineer, suggested I make a drawing so that I would not lose track of all the pieces. So I scrawled all the pieces and dimensions on some note paper. It is not much to look at, but worked very well as a “pattern”. ;)
The waistband / strings are not on it. They were made from three leftover strips and came to a band that was 5 feet long and 2 inches wide when finished.


The drawing. ;)

After putting the drawing into action, the apron looked like this: The side strips are made out of two pieces each, the smaller of which I attached at the top. It was later covered by the pockets. To join the strips to the apron’s main body, I used French seams.


Laying out the pieces.

After sewing every thing up, I had a 39″ x 40″ rectangle, which I gathered into the waistband. The finished band and strings were pretty narrow, about 1/2″, since they had been folded under twice, to hide all the raw edges. When the pockets were attached, the finished product looked like this:


The finished apron.

To make the pockets, I used the last two scraps of leftover fabric, they measured 5 1/2″ x 6″ each. Inspiration for the pockets came from both Katherine’s Regency apron pocket tutorial and the fashion plate below.


An Empire apron; Costume Parisien.

While Katherine used an eyelet to feed her string through the pockets, I decided to experiment a bit with a double drawstring casing. While the pockets were still unsewn, I threaded some cotton tape through one channel, took a turn at the end, careful not to twist the tape, and went back through the second channel. I then attached the pockets using Katherine’s method and closed up the side with the “turn”.


Pocket, with a double drawstring casing at the top.

It worked pretty well and I was happy with the outcome. It worked a lot better than expected and gave the apron two cute, ruffly pockets. ;)


The pocket end result :).

When the apron was finished, the whole fabric scrap had been used up completely. This was why I decided to make the apron my last “Re-Do” project for the Historical Sew Monthly 2015, re-doing the “Stashbusting” and “Practicality” challenges. For piecing was a practical period way to deal with the narrower fabric widths at the time. Sarah’s amazing working class Empire dress is another, much more stunning, example of applied piecing.

Making a Regency apron at long last was great fun and helped tide me over long evenings of ski broadcasts on the family TV set. I hope that this little walkthrough of how I made it will be helpful for you, if you are planning to make your own.

Since uni will be a tough cookie for the first half of January, the blog might become a bit more quiet again now. But I will do my best to be back with you shortly. :)

Much love, Nessa


A Way To Start 2016 : Blog Awards !

Happy New Year once again! I hope everyone passed a pleasant New Year’s Eve. To begin the new year (and another year with the Historical Sew Monthly), a planning post would be in order. But, since my long-term planning usually combusts around Easter, I think I will go without it this year. ;)

Instead, I would like to spread some new year’s happiness. Last month, the wonderful Chelsea of A Sartorial Statement nominated the blog for a Liebster Award. Receiving another award nomination has left me overjoyed, since I am always happy when readers like what I post and I can share the joy with me. Now I would like to pass on the love to you and nominate some of the awesome blogs you write. :)


To start with, here are the award rules (usually I am no big fan of chain-mail kind of activities, but blog awards are the big exception):

1. Acknowledge the blog that nominated you.

2. Answer the questions the nominating blogger asked.

3. List 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers that deserve some recognition.

4. Write 11 questions for them to answer.

5. Notify them that they have been nominated.


Here are the questions Chelsea asked, and my answers.

1. Where is your favorite place in the world?
Oh, that is a tough one. But, offhand, I would say Vienna with its amazing old city palaces, coffee houses and fashion collection. Another beloved place where I go when I badly need to unwind and relax, is the huge garden of a nunnery near the Rhine where you can walk and get lost in beautiful nature for hours.

2. What has been your most challenging project, to date?
That would be my pair of Regency long stays. Despite the great instructions they came with, they really challenged my sewing skills. After finishing them though, it felt as though the project had hugely improved my sewing techniques. :)

3. What do you like most to do on a rainy Saturday when nothing else is planned?
Usually, I will go for a coffee and then write on a short story, get carried away on some embroidery or, sometimes, start a new sewing project on a whim. ;)

4. If you could travel to the past or the future, which would you choose?  How far in time would you go?
Hmm. I would say it would be the past for me and I would go back as far as the bronze age to learn more about the origins of human culture.

5. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
It is not really a “tradition” but, what I like most about the holidays is to get together and spend time with family or friends.

6. How do you motivate yourself when a particular project is difficult or tedious?
I put it aside for a while, but not long enough to become a proper UFO. Then I try to find some small rewards (like a nice dinner, some new fabric or a coffee)to get me going again. Although, the biggest reward is finishing the project and enjoying it. :)

7. Do you ever have a hard time explaining your hobby to strangers?  If so, how do you handle that?
Not really, no. Usually I just tell them why I like doing it so much and that does the job rather well. Another matter, though, is when the ladies at the fabric store ask what I am making… ;)

8. What is your most invaluable tool?
After the last hand-sewing adventures, I would say it is a good supply of beeswax to wax the threads/yarn.

9. What is your dream project?  Time and money are no object – what do you make?
An early 18th-century silk mantua. Should I ever marry my own Mr. Sharpe, making one as my wedding gown would be an absolute dream.

10. What is the last book you read?
“The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas.

11. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?  (Food, TV show, clothing item, etc.)
Other than fabric and embroidery yarn, it is BBC’s “The Musketeers” right now. It is the first TV show in a decade I absolutely went nuts about, and even wrote fan fiction on. The costumes may not always be at the height of accuracy, but I enjoy it a lot nonetheless. :)


Now it is time to nominate some of my favourite bloggers and their amazing work. Even though it is not my first round of nominations, I will never run out of really wonderful blogs, and people, to nominate. Here they are:

Laurie of Threads of My Life who blogs wonderfully about her beautiful creations and her adventures in costume.

Lydia of The Antique Sewist whose historical costume creations are absolutely gorgeous, or even breathtaking at times. :)

Hannah of Fabric & Fiction who mostly sews Regency attire, like me. I simply love her blog and the detail that goes into her work.

Hana of Marmota’s Dress Diary who is a very skilled seamstress and great blogger. I love her detailed research of historical garments and fashion history.

Beth of Beth’s Bobbins who writes about her sewing and other textile arts, but also about recreating historical hairstyles. I really enjoy following whatever she does/makes.

Gina of Beauty from Ashes whose costumes always look so perfect and whose blog is a lovely read every time.

Marlena Jane of By the Hush who blogs about her sewing and reenactment life with a twinkle in her eye. Both her posts and here costumes are just great.

Meg of Nutmeg Sews who makes absolutely beautiful historical costumes and blogs about her projects in a good amount of detail. Her blog is much fun to read.

Cassidy of A Most Beguiling Accomplishment who really knows her stuff and makes stunning costumes which she blogs about sharing many details. I also got her book “Regency Women’s Dress” not long ago and love it.

Jeannine of J-Nine Costumes whose blog and projects are simply great to look at and read about.

Bránn of Matsukaze Workshops who is a gentleman seamster (yes, that is a word) making all the historical garb he needs and I just love what he writes and does. There should be more enterprising young men like him in the sewing community. :)


And, last but not least, here are my questions for the nominees:

  1. What is your favourite fabric color / pattern you enjoy working with the most?

  2. What is your most favorite place / space (be it a room, building, holiday destination etc.)?

  3. Do you have a favorite TV show or movie? If yes, which?

  4. Is there something you like to collect (fabric, ribbons, buttons, cups etc.)?

  5. If you could travel to one of your sewing era(s), which one would you like to visit most? Is there a specific date/place you would go?

  6. What is your favorite novel / author?

  7. Do you have a favorite museum you would like to visit or go to visit time and again?

  8. Which is the absolute dream fabric or notion you would really like to work with, cost notwithstanding?

  9. Is there a new sewing or crafting skill you would like to learn this year?

  10. Which sewing / dressmaking task do you enjoy / eschew the most?

  11. Where is your favorite place to sew or craft?

Those are my questions. I hope you will be okay with answering them and am much looking forward to reading your answers. :)


To conclude this post, I would like to wish all of you a good, happy and healthy year 2016. May all your wishes and expectations come true.

Warmly, Nessa


HSM Re-Do: The Finished Regency Ensemble

Finally, the dress is complete. I wore it quite extensively over the holidays and, just now, my dad volunteered to take some pictures for you. :) Now I can show it all to you, at long last. Yay! =)

The last thing I had to do to make it wearable for the cold season, was to baste in the undersleeves. I made them from an extant sleeve pattern I found in my stash and shortened them about 4 inches to fit in with the short sleeve’s bottom band. The undersleeves also have a waistband to match. But, long story short, here they are:


The basted-in undersleeves.

After that final step was done, it was nearly Christmas Eve and I got to don the whole ensemble to our little family dinner. It wears very well and is more comfortable than I had thought. Right now, I am wearing it again, because I did not want to get out of it again after taking the pictures. ;)

As for that, here are the two photos I liked best and the challenge details for the Historical Sew Monthly:


The finished early Regency gown.


A look at the back (and out the window).

Here are two more photos I shot without the undersleeves in place. Please excuse the bad quality and messy, unladylike hair-do. ;)


The short-sleeved gown.


And the back view.

Making this gown took quite a long while, so here are the challenge facts to hopefully make it easier to keep track of everything:

The Challenge: #12: Re-Do

What Challange/s are you re-doing? “#2 – Blue” and also “#10 – Sewing Secrets” in a way, since the sheer fabric has needed a few invisible mends already. ;)

Fabric: Three yards of open-weave cotton with blue yarn-dyed stripes.

Pattern: Adapted from Sense & Sensibility’s Regency Drawstring Dress and an extant under-sleeve pattern.

Year: 1800-1805

Notions: Waxed cotton thread; about 1 yd of cotton bias tape and 1.5 yards of woven cotton tape. The rest was made from self-fabric.

How historically accurate is it? It is all hand-sewn and, except for two invisible inner skirt seams. Plus it has no closure and is slipped over the head. So I will give it about 97%.

Total cost: The fabric was a coupon end-piece and most notions came from the stash, so about € 10 in total.

Hours to complete: I made it over several months, spending many evenings sewing and re-sewing things. I’d add it all up to roughly 100 hours.

First worn: For the family Christmas dinner.


Whew, this should sum it all up. Now it is time to look ahead into 2016.
I wish you all a very happy and healthy new year. May all your wishes and sewing plans come true! :)

All the best and a Happy 2016,