HSM #3: A Regency Smock Apron

As I take a break from sewing the sleeve wings on my 1630s bodice, I am using the time to finally share a bit about my new smock apron with you. It came together in the last “bodice break”. So far, I did not have the chance to wear it with my costume. But that is definitely still on the to-do list, now spring is finally here. And it definitely took its sweet time to come out this year. Another thing still on my blogging sheet is a drafting tutorial for the apron bodice. More about that below.

First off, let us talk about the construction process a bit. I started by self-drafting the bodice and skirt based on this apron in the Colonial Williamsburg collection. Their site does not have permalinks. For a look at the details, just type the accession number into the search box. :)

Regency smock apron, c. 1800-20, Colonial Williamsburg collection. Acc. Number 1995-33

Since I only had the one image to work off, I loaded it into Inkscape and scaled it up, based on the given length of 46″. This did not really provide accurate measurements, but gave a good estimate of the dimensions. Based on that, I drafted and mocked up the bodice pieces. Eventually I came out with this piece, which I hand-finished with 1/4″ hems around the edges. The insides are finished with a bias strip that holds a drawstring case.

The apron bodice.

Hemming the edges…

The bodice front is basically a trapezoid that gets its Regency-esque shape from the gathers at CF. The two skirt panels are joined on the bias in front and contribute to this look, too. It is pretty straightforward but since a few people asked about how exactly it is done, I will try to put up a drafting tutorial once I can track down my draft sheet and notes.

When cutting the skirt, I forgot that my fabric was printed, not yarn-dyed. Duh. So I ended up piecing one of the miscut panels. But it was only half bad. I accidentally matched the pattern and, besides, piecing adds some period appeal, right?

Joining the bodice to the skirt. The armholes are open at the bottom and only joined through the skirt seam.

The apron closes at the neck and waistline. At the top, the neckline drawstring provides the ties. For the waist, I made two narrow 12″ ties from fabric scraps.

Yay, waist ties, turned inside out with a shishkebab stick.

And that was that. The apron is done and currently sitting on the dressform.

The finished smock apron.

As a little bonus, I made a fabric bunny out of the scraps, just in time for Easter. He looks a bit like a Lindt bunny, but will last longer, due to lacking chocolate content.

Mr. Apron Scrap Bunny. :D

And here are the HSM challenge facts:

The Challenge: #3 – Comfort At Home

Material: 1 1/2 yards checked cotton broadcloth.

Pattern: My own, based on an extant apron at Colonial Williamsburg (Acc. No. 1995-33).

Year: 1800-20.

Notions: 1 1/2 yards 3/8″ twill tape; cotton thread; linen twine for the drawstring eyelets at the front.

How historically accurate is it? I did not manage to source a yarn-dyed, woven check on short notice, so I went with a printed fabric (I found a much better one, just when the apron was finished…). So I have to mark myself down. Same for working off one image without a closer look at the construction details. But it is all hand-sewn. :) Overall, I would give it 80% accuracy.

Hours to complete: About 24 hours.

First worn: Around the house. :D

Total cost: € 13.

Nessa

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Binding That Hairpin Turn

The holidays are coming with giant steps. In between the preparations (boo!) and the gift sewing (yay!), I want to share a mini-tutorial on how to bind narrow hairpin turns. Perhaps some of you are planning to make 18th-century pockets or stays with tabs over the holidays. :)

When it comes down to binding them, the narrow curves are definitely not the most fun part to sew. And in the sewing groups, requests for binding advice are very popular. So I hope these tips will come in useful. They are based off Cathy Hay’s wonderful binding article. It also covers other binding issues, such as corners, and is definitively worth a read.

Now I will show you how it is done on the center opening of my Georgian pockets. Once you know how it is done, it goes pretty quickly.

The first thing to do is to mark three points with chalk or a fabric pen, one at the beginning and end of your hairpin curve and a third one at the center of the curve. They should be as far away from the edge as the portion of your binding that will be folded over. For example, I used 1″ bias tape, so I placed the marks 1/4″ from the edge. If you like, you can connect your marks with a curvy line. It can help you to shape the curve later on.

In the next step, pin on your unfolded binding tape and sew up to the points where your curve starts, as you normally would. I used a regular running stitch for this bit.

Sew the straight edges, then fold up the binding, attach and sew around the curve.

Now, fold up your tape. Find the center of the piece that is still hanging free. Place this center point against your center mark as shown in the photo above. The fold should be against it. Pin down. Then mold the rest of the binding around the curve in the same way, until it lies pucker-free and even. Pin everything down.

The “ladder stitch”.

To sew down the binding, we will be using the “ladder stitch”. For this technique, take the needle through small bits of the tape and the fabric, alternating between the two. Your new stitch should always go in parallel to where your previous stitch came out. Hopefully this makes sense. Also see the photo for a visual! :)

When you have attached one side of the binding, bring it around to the other side. Repeat the previous steps. Only this time, you will sew on the folded edges. This is done with a slip stitch. Around the curve, you can stick with the slip stitch or opt for the ladder stitch again. I choose this method when the hairpin turn is very narrow. Otherwise, slip stitching works fine.

Slip-stich the folded edges to the opposite side, and done.

And that is all there is to binding hairpin turns. For a look at the finished pair of pockets, go here.

I learned that most binding jobs look somewhat scary at first, but the more often you do it, the better it goes. I sewed the pockets after tackling the gazillion curves and whatnots on my stays. After that, the pockets felt easy. And the binding came together almost without swearing. Almost…

Hopefully these tips have encouraged you to go forth and work on some binding. If you have any more questions, please let me know! I will do my best to answer them. :)

Nessa

A Cartridge-Pleated 1630s Petticoat

After all the talk about the stays, it is time for a post about the petticoat. Compared to the stays, it went together really fast. The “pattern” are two 150 cm wide and 95 cm long squares of fabric sewn together. I used the 17th-century petticoat instructions on Marquise.de as a guide. 

Trying on the petticoat for the first time.

My fabric was 100% combed wool. It was a bit on the heavy side so I did a sort of double closure with two 15 cm side seam plackets to balance everything. After some research, I found that such side closures are just as plausible as center-back ones. Also have a look at this great video about getting dressed in the mid-1600s by Prior Attire. It features a gorgeous side-laced bodiced petticoat which is just as plausible for the period.

One half of the waistband. I interfaced it with a strip of silk noil and added two eyelets to attach the finished petticoat to the stays.

I also wanted to talk about my petticoat because it is cartridge-pleated. At the time, cartridge, or accordion, pleats existed alongside knife pleats which were slowly coming into fashion. Knife pleating gives a narrower fit at the waist and a slightly different hang. When cartridge pleating for the first time, the process can be a bit befuddling. So here is a little walkthrough. I used Drea’s tutorial to get me started. Before pleating anything, do not forget to sew your hems…

“Hem before pleats” is definitely the second most important rule after “shoes before corset” ;).

After sewing three rows of gathering stitches with linen twine, I pulled the threads to match the waistband. Using the folded-over selvedge really helped because it saved me the hassle of finishing the top edges.

Pulling up the gathering stitches.

When the skirt bottom and waistband matched, I knotted up the threads to secure everything. Since they stay in the skirt, I then buried all the tails. Next I neatened the pleats by pinning them together in even clusters.

Pinning the pleats into clusters.

Next came the sewing. It is somewhat counter-intuitive because you put the skirt and waistband right sides together with the bottom of the band meeting the top of the skirt. But this is the most important thing to do, really. You will see why in a moment. To join the two, you use a whip stitch, putting two stitches into every pleat that meets the band, like so:

Whip-stitching with two stitches per pleat.

Now when the waistband is folded up, it pushes out the finished pleats to create the characteristic cartridge pleat look. It comes out really well in this photo, with the bum roll underneath. Please ignore the makeshift closure. The finished item closes with two sets of hooks and eyes.

The bum roll nicely pushing out the pleats.

Now that everything is officially finished, I have started planning the gown that will go on top. This makes me super excited! Also because I get to write the first proper research post in a long while … Eee! So please stay tuned for the next installment of 17th-century wackiness!

Cheers, Nessa

Knitting Faux Lucet Cords

Now that the final lacing holes are on my 1630s stays, I realized that I had run out of cord to tie everything together.

Making the final lacing holes, yippee!

Lucet cord would be perfect, and period correct, for this project. But I have not learned how to use a lucet, yet. So I decided to try something else: knitted i-cords! Those do not require a lucet or loom, only a pair of double-pointed needles and some basic knitting skills. And they almost look like lucet cords.

Knitting an i-cord on 2.5 mm needles.

If you would like to learn knitting an i-cord, here is a very nice video tutorial by Kristen of Studio Knit. Another method for the non-knitter is to crochet it. :)

These are the two cords I finished today, to tie on the straps. I also made four longer ones to lace together the stays and petticoat at the waist. The yarn I used was a small leftover ball of orange cotton from my stash.

Two of my six cords.

I hope you will find this tip useful when you next run out of cord and/or have misplaced your lucet. ;)

Much love, Nessa

Open Seams with Herringbone Stitch -A Tutorial

While making my herringboned fichu, I realized it was about time to post a new tutorial. So I thought I would show you how I made the open seam at the back.

Open back seam on my fichu.

Open work is something I had always wanted to learn, because it never fails to look delicate, wherever you put it. But, so far, I have not found a go-to tutorial for it. When making the 18th-century baby caps for my cousins, I tried my hand at fagotting. It is very similar to what I did on the fichu, only with a more complicated stitch. I could not really wrap my head around it and eventually opted for a basic whipstitch finish.

Then I remembered that herringbone stitch can also be used for open work. And here we have it, simple and pretty. If you have not seen herringbone stitch before, here is a very good video tutorial. We will be doing just the same to create the open seam. The only difference will be the gap between the two stitch lines.

Now that you have familiarized yourselves with the stitch… off we go!

You will need:

  • The two pieces you want to join.
  • A thread of your choice. You can match it or just go wild with colours. Sewing thread might be too thin. What works well are fillet crochet yarn (no. 80 or 100), silk buttonhole or one to two strands of embroidery floss.
  • A matching needle. For best results, it should be smallish and sharp.
  • A piece or strip of paper as long as your fabric edge. It need not be wider than 1″.
  • A cushion to anchor your work. A small sofa cushion or throw pillow will do.
  • Pins.
  • A ruler and pencil.

How it is done:

  1. Finish your fabric edges. Before you start, the two edges you are stitching over need to be hemmed. Hemming any other edges is advisable, though, especially if your fabric is on the sheer side. Narrow hand-rolled hems work well. You can use them to get some extra stability for your seam (see below).

    Make a paper template for the seam.

  2. Use your paper and pencil to make a template. Basically you draw two parallel lines, each one as long as your fabric edges. The space between the lines should be between 1/4″ to 1/8″. For the tutorial I started with 1/2″, but eventually went with 1/4″ for the fichu.

    Pin the template to the cushion.

  3. Secure the template on the cushion with pins. Make sure it lies flat.

    Pin the fabric pieces on top.

  4. Now pin your fabric pieces onto the cushion. Match the fabric edges you are working on with the lines on the template.

    Bring up the thread and start stitching.

  5. Thread your needle. If you have wax to hand, waxing the thread is a good idea. Now bring your needle underneath the hem on the back of your fabric and bury the knot between the layers. Then bring the needle to the front. It should come up at the top edge of one piece, a little ways away from the working edge.
    NB: If you have a rolled hem, come up right at the inner edge of it. Working the herringbone over the hems will help stabilize the stitch.

    And stitch away!

  6. Work the herringbone stitch between the edges until your seam is done. Try to keep an even tension to avoid puckering or loose stitches.Take the needle to the back to finish off.
  7. When you reach the end of the seam, take your needle to the back, coming up on the hem.

    Knot the thread and bury the tail.

  8. Knot off the thread and bury the tail between the layers at the hem. And, tadah, your open seam is all done!

    Your finished open work seam. Yay!

And that is it already. Easy, right? The next level would be to use a double herringbone stitch instead. Here is a video tutorial for that one. Try not to get dizzy. I still do sometimes! ;) 

I hope you found this brief tutorial useful. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to let me know. I cannot wait to see your own, beautiful open work creations!

Nessa

Making a 1620s Busk (CoBloWriMo Day 15)

With several small projects happening at the moment, I am getting a head start on tomorrow’s “Small Project” prompt. The first project I am presenting you today is the wooden busk I made for my 1620s stays. I made it using these instructions from Drea Leed’s Elizabethan Costume page.

The finished busk.

For it, I used a 35 mm wide, 10 mm thick pine board. The finished length is 12″ (30 cm). Since the busk’s conical shape was a little trickier to work than the simple Regency-era busk I made using a paint stir stick, my dad kindly gave me a hand with the woodworking.

When it was all sanded and oiled with a tiny dash of canola oil, I felt like adding some design to the finished piece. So I scratched away with a small etching knife and created this little fleur-de-lis. Seeing how I had never etched anything before, it turned out pretty well.

My attempt at an etched fleur-de-lis.

This whole project was so small, it came together in one afternoon. And I am quite happy with it. Although it’s not a real hardwood busk as they were used in the period, it is very stable but also light to wear. The only choice of hardwood at the local store would have been beechwood. But it would have been very, very heavy. So sticking with the trusty old pine was a good idea. :)

Nessa

Top Tips for Handsewing Needles (CoBloWriMo Day 13)

Today’s CoBloWriMo prompt is “Top Tips”.

In their posts,Thedementedfairy,  Kitty Calash and Cassidy have pointed out how important handsewing and using the right materials is to achieve the best possible results. My tips are an addition to all the great handsewing advice they have already given.

Being a stickler for always using the suitable needles for each task, I have compiled some points on those pointy things for you. ;)

As someone who primarily hand-sews, I find that proper control over the needle is one of the most important things. To get it, I use the smallest, sharpest needles I can find, namely quilting “betweens”. 

Quilting betweens, sizes no. 7 & 9.

Betweens are shorter than modern standard needles. This brings them closer to historical handsewing needles which were often on the shortish side. Recently I found someone who was totally stumped at people using 1″ long needles for sewing. To be fair, it takes practice and threading them can be fiddly. 

Thus it is best to start with a slightly bigger size, like a no. 7, and to go down as you are feeling comfortable with it. I am now on a no. 9, which is the smallest size I can source locally. On the long run, downsizing is well worth it. I especially notice the difference when sewing invisible stitches, whipped gathers or tiny rolled hems. They turn out much nicer as the stitching becomes smaller and finer.

Another thing I find important is to toss your needles and take new ones regularly. On average, I do this after every second or third project. When sewing with silk or extra fine voile, I automatically take a fresh needle, just to be on the safe side.

If you are unsure if a needle is still good, pass the point over your trouser leg (or skirt ;) ) at an angle. If it scratches or snags, the needle is a goner. You can do the same with machine needles, to be sure you do not get holes in the fabric or a sewing machine on strike.

I hope these tips are no old news to you and will help you a little with your sewing. :)

Love, Nessa

The 1920s Step-Chemise (CoBloWriMo Day 8)

For today’s “Vocabulary” prompt, I will tell you about the 1920s step-in chemise I finished in January. Yes… January. So it is about time you finally get to see them. Colloquially, this type of chemise with leg holes or attached knickers was also know as “Teddy” or camiknickers. It emerged for the first time in the 1910s and was more practical than long knickers as dresses gradually became shorter. It was also especially popular in the 1920s as it avoided a visible “panty line” and thus supporter the fashionable boyish silhouette.

For my pair, I used an interesting pattern from a 1921 issue of “La Mode de Femme de France”. The original thing about it is that it only consists of a single square of fabric. It as a neck hole in the center and is tied with a ribbon, either at the bust or waist line. The pattern looked so intriguing, I had to try it at once!

chemise femme de france

Step-in chemise pattern from Mode de Femme de France (Sept. 1921). Click for original.

I made my Teddy out of a square of cotton Muslin, using the original measurements. The fit was spot-on. Although, if you are taller than me (over 5 feet) you should alter the measurements to fit you. Measure yourself from where you want the chemise to begin, down to your crotch area. This will give you half the diagonal of the square you will need. To get from here to the side length you will cut, double this measure. Then divide it by  √2. This will give you the side length.

To get the width of the center opening, use about half your circumference in the spot where you want the chemise to sit. If you are not super busty, however, the dimensions in the original pattern will do nicely. Then, to form the leg holes, cut off a bit of the two tips at the bottom, finish these edges with a small hem and add buttons or snaps for the closure. Measure and make up the straps last, when you are happy with everything else. The ribbon tying the square into a chemise is laced through a series of buttonholes. They can either by placed at the underbust or hip level. I recommend trying out both versions with a piece of ribbon before you decide where to cut and sew the buttonholes.

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The finished Teddy, laid out flat to show the make-up.

I stuck with the “empire” waistline and it turned out lovely! To spruce up the neckline a bit, I did a shell hem. This was also a suggestion pictured in the original instructions. The other was to use matching ribbon for the neckline finish and straps. To make the shell edge, I used this lovely tutorial. For some extra traction when pulling the thread taut, I cut a finger off a spandex glove and stuck it on my thumb.

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Creating the shell hem.

The finished product turned out looking very lush. All that I need to make now is a period brassiere to go on top. :)

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The finished Teddy, front view.

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The finished Teddy, back view.

Just before starting the Teddy, I finished a slip and robe de style for the family Christmas party. Tomorrow’s “big project” prompt will be perfect to tell you about that poofy little monster. Stay tuned!

Nessa

A Cap for a Dear Friend

After fixing some image server issues, the blog is back and I can finally tell you about all the projects I have finished over the past few months. Since my last post, the white crossover gown has come together at last. But I will keep you in suspense a little longer, since a photo shoot opportunity (my first proper photo op, yay!) might arise at the end of this month.

So, today I want to tell you about a gift for my dear friend Ann. She was kind enough to go through her stash and send me fabric for my shortgown when I could not find anything suitable on this side of the pond. This is why I simply had to sew something for her in return. Because she had once told me that she does not have a simple linen cap for reenactment, I knew just what to make for her.

For the cap I used my favourite Mill Farm pattern, the same I have used for mine here, and leftover white linen fabric from the bed shift. When making it up, I tried my hand on two period sewing techniques. The first were itty bitty rolled hems around the brim, on the back crown, and the ties.

Rolled hems around the brim…

…. and on the tape ties.

Further, I got to learn a new technique I had been ogling for a while: rolled whipped gathers! And now that I know how they work, I never want to go back to regular gathers, ever again. They just give you much more control over the gathering process and a much neater edge finish besides. To learn rolling and whipping, I used two video tutorials for orientation: This one from Katherine and another from Conner Prairie, which has sadly gone offline. This second one described a rolling process of the fabric around the needle. But I found that you automatically start doing that, once your stitching gets quicker. Here are some photos of the gathering process around the crown, with a look at the finished item:

Finishing the row of whipped gathers on the crown.

The gathered crown (with a rolled hem at the bottom).

The attached whipped gathers, inside view.

The attached whipped gathers, outside view.

Once everything was hemmed and the gathers were in place, all that remained was to back-stitch the tape ties into the brim, wash and iron the finished item. Here are some photos I took before mailing the cap overseas. It reached its new owner quickly so that she could make plans to wear it for the Regency Ladies Weekend at Riversdale House Museum last month. This was only the third historical costume gift I got to sew for someone and I am super glad that she liked it. :)

The finished cap.

The finished cap… back view.

Speaking of gifts: There has been another, very exciting, surprise that reached me in the mail earlier this year. But I will leave it for next time, since it really deserves a post of its own.
So… stay tuned!

Until soon, Nessa

PS: The image issues should be resolved now, but should you have any trouble viewing or accessing the images on the site, please let me know. Thank you! :)

A 1630s Smock – Pattern & Construction

A day after my last post I decided to stop being a chicken and got to work on my 1630s smock. My journey into this new-to-me period started with a good look through “Patterns of Fashion 4”. There I found the 1625-30 smock from the V&A collection (p. 117). As you can see in the picture, the extant original features some really delicious lace inserts, made from five different types of bobbin lace. I was in love with it even before I had seen pictures of the actual smock.

Smock, c. 1620-40, Victoria & Albert Museum.

This, and the dating of course, is why I decided to use this smock as the main pattern base for mine. My version will not include as much lace, though, and perhaps a bit of plain embroidery. Other sources I used to create my pattern were Drea Leed’s Elizabethan Smock Pattern Generator and the Italian chemise tutorial by Jen of Festive Attyre. While I was looking around the web for resources I also stumbled across the collection of 17th century costume links Elisa of Isis’ Wardrobe has put together. It is a great place to start if you are planning to make a 17th-century outfit.

When making my smock pattern I tried to take some bulk out of the pretty massive extant pattern and tweak it to my petite 5′ stature. Instead of the high neck, I chose to make a low neckline to create a versatile garment that can also go under the more low-cut bodices of the time. In the end, my pattern looked like this:

Pattern pieces and measurements.

The pattern pieces are the following:

  • 1 body piece, 90″x45″
  • 2 sleeves, 23″ long, 20″ wide at the top, 10″ wide at the bottom
  • 2 underarm gussets. 5″ square
  • 2 triangular skirt gores, 11″ wide and 33 1/2″ high

The pattern includes a 1/2″ seam allowance and a 1 1/2″ hem at the bottom. To save space, I cut the gores from rectangles and joined them up at the center. This technique can also be seen on some extant smocks in PoF 4.

After cutting out all the pieces, I folded the body lengthwise and cut out the neck opening, following the schematic below. It sits right at the center of the body and has a total length of 35″ across, leaving a shoulder length of 5″ at each side. The dotted line in the drawing represents the shoulder line.  :)

Schematic of the neckline.

When making up the smock, the neckline is gathered into a 1/2″ wide band, folded in half. To make the band I used a 1 1/2″ wide fabric strip, cut on the straight of grain. The smock at the V&A uses a folded 1/4″ band, but I was too much of a chicken to try that on mine. ;) The length of the strip I determined by gathering the front and back neckline until I liked the fit. Then I measured around the opening:

The gathered front neckline comes to just over the top of the bust and has a total length of 21″. To this I added 10″ for the gathered back neckline. The outer 2″ edges of the neckline are not gathered. This helps the smock to stay on the shoulders. For them I added an extra 4″ to the neckband. Plus a 1″ seam allowance, this added up to a 38″ x 1 1/2″ binding strip.

You can use a similar strip to bind the sleeve cuffs. For a gathered sleeve, however, you should widen the sleeves’ bottom edge by 5 to 10 inches. My version has simple 1/4″ rolled hems. The top 3″ of the sleeve seam are left open to create a slit at the wrist. The bit above that I am closing up with a drawstring in a lace casing. Once finished, it will look like a delicate sleeve ruffle. I will post some pictures of what exactly I did there when the smock is finished.

It will not be too long now. The sewn-up smock went into the wash today. I am hoping to iron and finish everything in time for the April “Circles, Squares & Rectangles” challenge of the Historical Sew Monthly. I will tell you a little more about the materials and construction, too, once the challenge photos are in. Until then, I wish you all a lovely, sunny Mayday weekend.

Love, Nessa