Practicality: The Finished Edwardian Pinafore

After some procrastination about taking the pictures, it is now time to present the finished Edwardian pinafore to you. I finished the last seam on the night I posted the apron how-to. And now, I am very proud to share the, simple but very pretty, end result with you. So, without much ado, here it is. I hope you can excuse the slightly messy sewing room…

The finished pinafore – front view, with closed belt.

The side with the nearly waist-deep armhole.

The back view.

.The pinafore apton belt you can see in the pictures is about 1 1/2 inches wide and loops loosely around the waist, as to cinch the mess of fabric a bit, without limiting freedom of movement. As you can see here, it closes on the left-hand side, with a single, sturdy hook-and-eye fastener.

The belt closure on the left front side.

Here is also a picture of the yoke’s lining, which was meant to be made of striped fabric in the original instructions, while the shell fabric was supposed to be plain. Initially, I have tried out this variation, but the stripes kept on shining through. So I went for the, more practical, all-striped version instead…

The finished yoke, with canvas lining and pleated shoulder trims.

And here are the concise challenge details, to finish off:

The Challenge: HSM #5 – “Practicality”.

Fabric: 2 1/2 yards of woven-stripe cotton shirting, plus  a 15-inch square of white cotton canvas for the yoke lining.

Pattern: An extant pattern from “Buch der Wäsche” by Brigitta Hochfelden (c. 1900).

Years: 1900s.

Notions: Cotton bastiste for the hand-pleated shoulder trim; cotton bias tape to bind teh armholes; cotton thread; one large hook and eye for the belt closure.

How historically accurate is it? I followed the original pattern instructions very closely and put some effort into finding a smooth, sturdy shirting to match the, originally recommended, madapolam cotton. I machine-sewed most of the larger seams, but limited myself to straight-stitch, as would have been availlable to home sewers with a period threadle machine. So, all in all, it should pass as accurate.

Total cost: € 15 for the shirting and about € 3 for the canvas and the notions. In the spirit of the challenge, I tried to be especially practical and used self-fabric where the pattern asked for contrasting fabric and forewent the recommended, ribbon-trimmed shoulder ruffles for a simple, hand-pleated trim from scrap fabric.

Hours to complete: About 30 hours.

First worn: Around the house for needlework and smaller cleaning tasks. They are just so much more fun while wearing the pinafore. :)

And that was it for tonight. I will try to be back shortly with some updates and inputs on my upcoming project. To keep matters exciting, I will only say that it will be somewhat bigger, and probably the largest project of my sewing year. Oh, and to match the next HSM challenge’s “Out Of Your Comfort Zone” theme, it will include some awe-inspiring techniques I have not used before.

I will see you very soon. Until then, I am wishing you a wonderful holiday weekend.

Love, Nessa

An Edwardian Apron How-To

With the pinafore apron as good as finished, I am now taking a moment to tell you some more about its make-up. Since there do not seem to be that many Edwardian pinafore patterns around, this post will provide a brief mini-tutorial. Perhaps it will inspire some of you to create your own, very pretty, pinafore apron. :)

Well, let us start off with the original diagrams and pattern instructions from “Buch der Wäsche” by Brigitta Hochfelden (c.1900). For the sleeveless pinafore, there are three different pattern pieces altogether, which are each to be cut on fold: The apron body, to be cut twice from the fashion fabric; a yoke front and a yoke back piece, which are each cut once from the fashion fabric, and once from the lining. Furthermore, you need to make an 1 1/3″ (4 cm) wide apron belt that reaches about one and a half times around your waist.

The three pattern diagrams and original sewing instructions from “Buch der Wäsche” (Number XXIII, starting on the bottom left).

[Note: Originally, the pinafore had four pattern pieces. But since our modern fabrics are often wider than the original period fabrics, the side gore piece, labeled “C”, can be included into the apron’s body pattern piece.]

The book suggests to use blue, striped Madapolam cotton for the pinafore. This is a very dense, yet light, cotton with an equal count of warp and weft threads. In some respects it is similar to batiste fabrics, only with the advantage of being sturdier and somewhat stain-proof.
(So,why did we invent plastic-coated apron fabrics again?)

Instead of the Madapolam, I made my pinafore from blue-and-white striped cotton shirting. For everything, I needed a little bit less than 2 1/2 yards of 55″ (145 cm) wide fabric. For the yoke lining, I used an 11″ (approx. 28 cm) piece of white cotton canvas.

When drafting and cutting out the pattern pieces, I felt very brave and drew the apron body straight onto my ironed and folded fashion fabric. Luckily for me, this went very well (whew!). I have already shown you a photo of this little stunt’s outcome earlier this month. But here it is again:

The pinafore’s body piece after cutting out.

For the belt and trimmings, the original instructions call for “0.25 m [80 cm wide] of colored applique fabric” and a 1 cm wide ornamental band to finish the hems on the shoulder trims. Another thing that is different here, is that the fashion fabric is used to line the yoke and a different, plain piece of cotton is used for the outside. But, since I wanted to be especially practical for the “Practicality” challenge, I made both the yoke and the belt from self fabric. The scrap piece used for the belt was 6 1/3″ (16 cm) wide, before I quartered it and sewed it up along one of the long edges.

I made the shoulder trims from two scraps of doubled cotton voile. According to the book, each of these trims is to be 60 cm long and 10 cm wide. To fit into the top of the pinafore’s armholes, the trim is then gathered down to about 30 cm lengths. Since I opted for a knife-pleated trim instead, I started out with two 90 cm long pieces.

The knife-pleated, 30 cm long shoulder trim.

To make up the apron, I first sewed together the apron’s two body pieces at the sides. Since the body is unlined, I used French seams for this step. Technically, you could also flat-fell them for a sturdier finish. Next, I gathered up the body’s two top edges.

In another step, I put together the yoke shell and the yoke linings at the shoulders. They were then attached to each other, wrong sides together, with a seam running around the yoke’s neckline. After trimming away the excess fabric and snipping the corners, I turned the yoke right side out. All around the outer yoke, I folded under the raw edges by about 2/3″ (1.5 cm).

I then attached the pleated trims to the lining, right sides facing. To the bottom edges of the yoke lining, I attached the gathered apron body, this time with the insides facing each other. All the raw edges were ironed into the yoke and covered with the outer yoke’s folded edges.After finishing that step, all that was left to do, was to finish the bottom half of the pinafore’s armholes with bias tape.This is what the apron looked like at this stage:

The pinafore after assembly.

With all the edges finished, I attached the belt at waist level, near the right side seam. When it is wrapped around the front and back from there, the closure rests near the apron’s left front edge, just like in the sketch I shared in my previous post. Here is a picture with the belt, just before hemming the pinafore’s bottom edge. In the photo, you can see the belt’s placement. I will add a pictures with the closed belt once the apron is completely done. For the closure, I used a single sturdy steel hook-and-eye. :)

The belt attached near the right side seam.

And, in under 1000 words of blogging, the Edwardian pinafore is already put together. If you like, you can add a pocket near the right thigh. As of yet, I am not quite sure if I want to add a pocket to mine. But we will see, once I put up the challenge post… ;)

Hopefully, my little how-to post will help you to make your very own 1900s pinafore apron. If you have any further questions, about the make-up or the diagrams, please ask away. I will see you again soon. Until then, I wish you a wonderful weekend.

Much love, Nessa


Aprons Galore

In good time for the Historical Sew Monthly’s May challenge, I am back to give you some background information on my monthly project. The challenge’s theme is “Practicality”, and in my case this entails making an Edwardian apron. Yet it will not be a simple one that ties at the back. I have already finished one of these about two years ago:

A simple Edwardian maid’s apron I finished in 2014, based on Tudor Link’s free pattern.

Instead, I will be sewing a full pinafore apron, which is the apron of my dreams. Ever since starting historical sewing, I have wanted one to wear over my school clothes while doing needlework. It will be very practical to keep threads and lint in check while also helping me not to lose any pins or needles. But, at the same time, my inner little girl wants to dress up in the pinafore to add an extra pinch of historical flair to the sewing experience. ;)

The pattern for my pinafore is from “Buch der Wäsche” by Brigitta Hochfelden, a German publication that dates back to the year 1900. It is rather wide and dress-like, with a bottom circumference of over two yards, and can be made with or without sleeves. Below you can see the illustration of the finished garment. I have chosen to make the sleeveless version, since it has such a nice shoulder ruffle.

Sketch of the finished pinafore apron from “Buch der Wäsche” (c.1900).

Today I have had a look around some museum catalogs and other online resources to find surviving period examples of similar aprons. Surprisingly, the search did not come up with many results. Most of the aprons I have found have a very full bib and skirt at the front while still tying at the back. Of these, Bethany’s gorgeous reconstruction has stricken me as especially lovely. :)

The closest to “my” pinafore I have found is this extant apron pattern sold on Etsy:

Extant Edwardian pinafore pattern, found on Etsy.

Another apron I found, is a beautifully patterned, early nineteenth-century Russian apron from the Met Museum’s collection. It features a high, almost Empire-style waistline and a full bodice with a laced back closure.

Russian apron from the Met Museum (early 1800s) – front view.

Russian apron from the Met Museum (early 1800s) – side back view.

The last extant apron I have encountered is a pinafore from 1860. It is very dainty and has some delicious lace details to drool over. Yet it looks rather short and was most likely made to be worn by a girl or slender young lady.

Short pinafore apron from the Met Museum (c.1860).

These are all the results today’s search has produced. Each of them is very pretty and special in its own way. But none looks quite like the pinafore I am making for the current challenge. Now I am even more excited to see how the finished apron will turn out. And perhaps, I have managed to pass on a little bit of pleasant anticipation to you, too. ;)

In my next post, I will write some more about the pinafore’s pattern diagrams, fabric and sewing instructions.

Until very soon, Nessa

Edwardian Practicality & Other Joys

The past two weeks have been pretty eventful, in a good way. Today I have finally found a moment to share some of these recent news and updates with you. They all have to do with sewing and that makes them even more joyful.

Firstly, the embroidery on Josephine’s Regency toque is making steady progress. The metallic thread, the cotton net and I needed some time to get acquainted. But now, we are finally getting on. Out of the three vines, two have been completed so far. Perhaps, if the third one gets finished this week, there might be enough time left to add a few of those delicious white seed pearls to the decor. Here is hoping…

A quick snapshot of the embroidery progress (please excuse the messy pattern marker stains).

I have also found that I make the most progress when taking the needlework out to coffee with me. It feels very relaxing to concentrate on stitching while the flurry of the coffee shop rushes on by around you. Unexpectedly, embroidering in public has also proven to be quite the conversation starter:

The other day, a little girl came over to my table and asked what I was doing. When I said that I was embroidering a cap with gold thread, she started beaming all over her face and told me she had never seen anything like it. This startled me somewhat, since I am not used to this kind of attention at all. But, on the upside, I seem to have passed on the needlework bug to someone else who had not heard of embroidery before. ;)

In between the bouts of embroidery, I also got May’s “Practicality” challenge underway. It will be an Edwardian pinafore apron from blue and white striped cotton. So far, I have cut out everything according to the diagrams, assembled the yoke pieces and attached the apron’s body. Here is a look at what the body halves looked like after cutting:

The folded apron body after cutting out.

Yesterday, the two pleated trims came together as well. They will be decorating the apron at the shoulders. For each of them, I folded a 90 cm long strip of doubled cotton batiste into 1 cm knife pleats. This has been my first-ever attempt at hand-pleating and for that, the trims have turned out rather well.

Pleating the shoulder trims – before and after.

Next up, they will be attached to the apron. For that, I now have a new helper in the sewing room: an adjustable dress form. Since I name most of my bigger sewing gadgets, I have dubbed her Rachel. She has been my reward for passing last term’s hardest exam and is proving to be a very useful aid.

“Rachel”, the new dress form, modelling the finished apron yoke.

This concludes the latest sewing updates. With the new term having started, I will try to be good now and post again more frequently. I have really missed you all and your wonderful, encouraging feedback. :)

Warmly, Nessa

HSM 2015 – A Look Ahead

Sadly, year reviews and summaries are absolutely not my thing. This is why, instead of all the retrospection, I will give you a little look ahead into the new year and the HSM challenges I would like to tackle. So far, my plans ahead reach as far as June and there are a few general ideas and sewing wishes on top of that. But, we will see. ;)

First of all, I would like to tell you, how glad I was about your reception of the corselet skirt tutorial. It always feels good to create a post that is helpful to others. And, in fact, after having gone off writing tutorials by the middle of last year, I might try to make a few more now. So, hopefully, there will be a few good opportunities to do so in this coming year…


As far as the first half of HSM challenges go, 2015 will begin with Foundations (yay!) and I have decided to start small, with a pair of split drawers from that certain Simplicity pattern, which has been hiding in the pattern box for some time now:

For the “Blue” challenge to follow, I am planning to use my night-blue wool blend to finally make my version on Kelly’s amazing Regency cloak. I got two 2 1/2 yard pieces of it in a clearance sale and now I am really glad they are blue and not green, like I had originally wanted.

Since I also still need a new Regency-era corset, as a base to continue making a few new dresses and petticoats, that will be my sewing endeavor in March. I will be using the Laughing Moon corset pattern, which is already in my stash, along with my surprisingly big hoard of sateen and twill.

The LMM Regency corset pattern.

The next challenge I already have a concrete idea about is “Practicality” in May. It will be a great excuse to sew and Edwardian dress-apron to wear for sewing. Usually, I end up covering my school clothes in thread and fabric lint while doing needlework. Now I can finally solve that problem in style. ;) There are several dress-apron patterns in my new early-1900s linen book. I envisioned one that looks a little like this, only with a full back:

Full Edwardian apron (Found on

In June, the first half of the HSM will already be over. For the “Out of Your Comfort Zone” challenge, I will give the 1932 summer dress a chance at last. It had been sitting there, untouched and also a bit intimidating, for over 15 months now. ;)

For the rest of the sewing year, I have not quite decided what to make yet. But, there are at least two more Regency dresses I would like to tackle, a plain white one, with a floral open-robe on top, and a certain red walking ensemble I simply fell in love with. Do you remember it?

1816 Promenade Dress from Wiener Moden-Zeitung.

Promenade Dress from Wiener Moden-Zeitung (c. 1816).

For both projects, the “Elegant Ladies’ Closet” pattern from Sense and Sensibility will be a good starting point. I will try out the pattern by making the white gown first; then I am planning to modify the apron-front version into a shawl-front. As that creates a “false” front of sorts. Perhaps I can enter it into “Sewing Secrets” in October. Hmm…

And then, there is also the issue of the Empress Josephine cap with attached faux curls. I have been drooling over it for quite a while now and the faux hair pieces are already lying in wait. Maybe that is something to make for “Accessorize” in July. We will see.

Empress Josephine’s net cap with faux curls (RNM, Paris).

The last thing stuck in my had, is a, somewhat nutty, idea for this year’s Christmas outfit. I want to make something that may look like an Empire fashion at first glance, but is much older and wilder than that. It will be a Chinese ruqun in the Tang dynasty style. The wish to make it is a relic of the time when I was a tad obsessed with ancient China. And, at first glance this really looks like an oriental Regency fashion plate, right?

Chinese drawing of ruqun from the Tang dynasty.

As far as this project is concerned… you might see it come to life for November’s “Silver Screen” challenge. Of course, I will keep you posted about it and all the other sewing adventures happening on the blog in 2015. I wish you all a relaxed and successful sewing year in 2015.

Love, Nessa


Making The Corselet Skirt: A Modern Take On Period Instructions

With Christmas over and done, it is time to get back to making the corselet skirt once more. In the challenge post I mentioned an interesting discussion we had on the HSF Facebook group. Mainly, it was about Edwardian skirts worn with belts. At some point I mentioned sewn-in corselet belts as an alternative style. This idea raised a few interested eyebrows, with some people hearing about this for the first time.

What surprised me when researching corselet skirts, was that they are mentioned here and there and have also been recreated by a few historical seamstresses, but do not really enjoy wide popularity. At first this puzzled me a bit. Then I realized that it was also not a mainstream fashion trend in the Edwardian era. It was considered a Reform fashion, mostly popular with younger women. This also explains why most period photographs show rather young wearers of the style, such as this young lady, in a photo from 1917:

Young woman in a corselet skirt (c.1917).

Similarly, when looking around for patterns online, I only found a few. Among others, I encountered this 1911 diagram from “The Ladies’ Tailor”. I want to share it with you, since it gives a good overview on how to draft the different gores of a corselet skirt to your size.

Corselet skirt pattern from “The Ladies’ Tailor” (March 1911). Click to see both pages. :)

But there is more to corselet skirts than the high-waisted cut. What is really interesting, is their inner life. The waist is reinforced with a sewn-in corselet belt. You can think of it as a cleverly hidden Swiss waist. If you do not know it is there, you will most likely overlook it at first glance. But actually, that is a pity. Which is why I will now show you, how I constructed mine, based on period instructions, but with a modern twist.

The Instructions

To assemble the corselet belt, I used the original instructions from Antonie Steimann’s “Ich Kann Schneidern” (“I Can Sew”; c.1909).  I first found a Dutch translation of them on Esther’s blog, although my Dutch is not really that good. ;) But, eventually, I got lucky. The fashion library in Vienna had several German-language copies of the same book. That made things a little easier. But, actually, the illustrations already explain themselves very well. Here they are:

The Materials

For the corselet belt, you will need two strips of the lining fabric, as wide as the corselet portion of your skirt pattern and long enough to reach all the way around the skirt. If the top of the skirt is curved, like in the picture, you can also sew together the corselet portions of the individual gores for shaped bands. Add a 1.5-2″ (3-4 cm) hem allowance to the top and bottom edges. For my version, I used one straight strip of fabric and a matching strip of medium-weight iron-on interfacing and only added a 4 cm hem allowance to at the bottom edge.

The boning originally called for whalebone. I used sew-through boning tape instead, about 1 cm (1/2″) shorter than the pattern’s corselet portion. Together with the interfacing, the tape provided enough stiffening for the purpose.

The Method

The original instructions state that a corselet skirt should be boned once the corselet portion, above the waist is wider than 3-4 cm (approx. 1.5″). Of that is the case, whalebone is to be inserted at the front, sides and back. After that, the raw edges of the corselet belt are folded under and sewn to the skirt lining.

As you can see in the images above, the whalebone is inserted into casings at the spots in question.The “Encyclopedia of Needlework” (c.1890) gives the following instructions for this boning method: “Before slipping the whale-bone into its case or fold of stuff, pierce holes in it, top and bottom, with a red hot stiletto. Through these holes, make your stitches, diverging like rays or crossing each other”, like so:

The period method of fixing whalebone from “Encyclopedia of Needlework”; c.1890).

What I did is a little different. My steps were the following:

Step One.

I sewed the corselet belt to the top edge of the skirt lining, with the interfaced side facing down. Then I folded it, as you can see in the picture.

Step Two.

I aligned the pieces of boning tape with the skirt seams.

Step Three.

I sewed down each piece of tape with a single row of small straight stitches, leaving the hem allowance un-boned.

Step Four.

I folded under and pressed the bottom hem allowance, making sure the edges of the boning tape did not poke into the fabric at the crease.

Step Five.

I sewed the bottom edge against the lining. Later, when joining the lining to the outer skirt, I covered the raw top edge with a portion of the shell fabric. This was also the way it was done in the original instructions. Alternatively, you can also sew both the top- and bottom hems directly against the corselet belt.

My finished belt looked like this: (Please excuse the awful image quality. A new camera is finally on the way… ;) )

The finished corselet belt from the inside.

And that was that. Hopefully, this quick semi-tutorial has helped solve the mystery of Edwardian corselet skirts for some of you. I am much looking forward to your feedback and your own corselet skirts, should you decide to make one.

Even though it might not look that way, a corselet skirt works for nearly any body shape. I have a rather short, stumpy torso myself, and it worked miracles on my waist shape and posture. Compared to that, you can so forget modern shape-wear. It is a much less elegant solution should you need to cover up some failed New Year’s resolutions, later this coming year. ;)

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and successful year 2015.

Much Love, Nessa

HSF #23: An Edwardian “Empire” Skirt

Oh dear, has it been a month already? With Christmas, uni and sewing keeping me busy, it has really flown by like nothing. Quite a lot of new things have happened in the meanwhile. For once, I have bought my first own vintage pattern books. Here they are:

The one on the right is an original pattern drafting manual from 1906 with instructions to pattern your own shirtwaists, skirts and house dresses for women and young children. The other is an 1983 reprint of an original linen pattern book from 1901. It is quite awesome and contains patterns for household linen, underthings, nightwear and swimwear for men, women and children, as well as the cutest baby clothes and a whole appendix of monogram embroidery patterns.

With those two books at hand, my love of turn-of-the-century fashions has, pretty much been set on fire. The plan to make an Edwardian skirt for modern evening wear has actually been around since the beginning of this year, but only in the books did I find the perfect pattern. The one I chose to make is a Reform corselet skirt with a small train. Once I opened the pattern book, I fell in love with it, since the heading on the page also described it as an “Empire skirt”. So it really fits in with the blog and adds a little touch of Regency flair to my first Edwardian fashion item. :)

Below you can see the original skirt pattern drawings, with model measures in centimeters. Even though I have used Inkscape to size up historical patterns before here, I have scaled it up the traditional way this time, using a big roll of pattern paper. It was a whole new experience for me, but turned out very well.

The pattern of the seven-gore “Empire” corselet skirt (c.1910).

While I was making it, we had an interesting discussion in the HSF’s Facebook group about actually combining a corselet and skirt in one piece, instead of adding a Swiss waist or cincher to a regular skirt. For some people, the notion of doing so was a novel idea, which actually fits in well with the challenge’s “Modern History” theme. A skirt like this was actually considered a part of Reform fashion at the time and was especially popular with younger women.

My first contact with corselet skirts happened while I was browsing Edwardian fashions on Pinterest. After that, I lucked into a copy of “I Can Sew”, a turn-of-the-century fashion compendium by Antonie Steimann, at the Vienna fashion library and got to reserach the extant construction of the sewn in corselet belt of these skirts. It is a separate piece of fabric, sewn into the high waistband of the skirt. It goes over the square portions at the top of the pattern.

The belt also holds the skirt’s boning. For my version, I placed a short strip of plastic boning against the seams of each gore and also reinforced the band with interfacing, for extra stability. You can find a very useful illustration of the extant construction method over here on Esther’s blog. My next post will also go a little more into depth about it and walk you through the construction steps. After talking about it in the group, some of you might find reading about them useful. :)

So much about the theory behind it all. Now it is time to present the finished skirt to you. Thanks to the moody taffeta fabric, finishing it took a while longer than expected. The worst part were the bottom hem and the closure at the back. After my first attempt of using snaps, like in the period instructions, all 18 of them fell right off again. After a day of sulking I replaced most of them with hook-and-bar and hook-and-eye closures, which took a few turns of sailing off as well before they decided to behave. Just now, when taking the photos, the very last snap at the bottom decided to jump into its death as well. I already see myself sewing it back on on Christmas Eve, like an hour before the skirt’s big moment.

For the record: Taffeta and snaps will be banned from the sewing room for a long, long while now… But, enough of the ranting. Time for some photos and a brief roundup:

Corselet skirt front (excuse the funky socks).

The train at the back.

The side view, with a peek at the Christmas-y cotton lining.

The Challenge: #23 – “Modern History”.

Fabric: 3 yds of brown poly taffeta for the shell and 3 yds of candy-cane striped cotton for the lining.

Pattern: “Miederrock oder Empirerock aus sieben Bahnen” from “Einfache Zuschneidemethode für Damen- und Kinderkleider”

Year: 1910.

Notions: 2 hook-and-bar closures; some sew-on snaps and smaller hook-and-eyes; 1/2″ of iron-on interfacing and 1/2 yd of sewable plastic boning.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty accurate, except for the poly fabric and plastic boning. Used the machine for it, but only on straight stitch.

Total cost: About € 25.

Hours to complete: About 40 hours.

First worn: Will be worn extensively over Christmas.

I am so glad I finally managed to get this post out for you. With all the work at the moment, I have really missed blogging for you. But, luckily, it will be Christmas break very soon. Until then, I should get cracking to finish making up the last of the Christmas presents. And then, you will have my full attention again. Soon, there will also be a new camera to take better pictures again as well. (Yay.)

Love, Nessa