1630s Underthings – A simple bum roll

For the Historical Sew Monthly October challenge I am just finishing my ensemble of 1630s underthings. At the moment I am still playing around with the stays and petticoat. But the third piece, the bum roll, is already finished.

Bum rolls have been around in different forms as rump padding since the Elizabethan age. At first they were worn together with the farthingale but around 1620 they began to be worn on their own. This fashion more or less lasted until the Georgian era. When you look at Regency gowns up until the 1810s, there is often a small, sewn-in pad, reminiscent of a roll.

Here a small visual history of bum padding since the early 17th century :

Isabella di Savoia d’Este, Frans Pourbus the Younger, c. 1606. She is till wearing a late version of the Spanish farthingale.

Gertrude Sadler, Lady Aston, British School, c. 1620-23, Tate Gallery. The fullness of the skirt shows more towards the back, hinting at a bum roll being worn on its own.

Madame Molé-Reymond by Élisabeth Vigeé-Lebrun, c. 1786. The nice bump in the back is also created by a bum roll.

Bum pad sewn into the back of a Regency gown, c.1810-13, National Museum of Australia.

My bum roll was inspired by Quinn’s simple 18th-century bum roll. For it, I folded a rectangle of fabric in half and tapered the top edges to form the “horns”. Like so:

The bum roll “pattern” after cutting.

For the ties, I attached two 1 yard long pieces of twill tape into the points before sewing the roll together. Then I filled it with a mix of carbage (fabric scraps) and cotton fiber. Since it will go under some pretty heavy skirts, I made sure to stuff it extra firmly.

The carbage before it went into the roll.

The finished roll is 4″ wide at the widest point in the back. The length is 26″. It equals my high hip circumference, from hip bone to hip bone. Anything else would be too long to fit under the stays at the front.

The finished roll.

Although it does not look very round in flat, it is very pliable and lies nicely against the body. Leaving it tied to the form for a few days helped to shape it. When it was done, I was eager to stick it under a skirt, so I test-fitted the petticoat over it.

Testing the roll under the petticoat.

I must say, I really like that bump! Now it is time to finish the rest of the underthings in time for the challenge. Please stay tuned!

Yours, Nessa

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1630s Stays In The Making (CoBloWriMo Day 2)

Since it is August already (wow!) CoBloWriMo has officially started. So here I am accepting the challenge to blog more this month. Since last fall, life has been pretty crazy here with finishing uni, moving house and traveling up and down country in search of the right job. So there is quite a queue of posts now, waiting to be written.

Today I got back from a long birthday weekend and am using the moment to answer the prompt of the day. It is to blog about my current project. And that is *drumroll* a pair of c. 1630s stays. After the smock I finished this spring, they have been the next item on the list. 

It took some time for me to get started, but two weeks ago, I finally felt brave enough to draft the pattern. Being new to 17th-century costume, it was quite intimidating at first, but eventually, after two mock-ups and lots of fittings, things relaxed for me. Now all the layers are cut out and we are almost ready for boning.  Here are some facts about the project so far:

Pattern: Based on the Dorothea von Neuburg stays in “Patterns of Fashion 3″ and ” & Crinolines”. To draft the waistline, I referred to Drea Leed’s Elizabethan corset pattern and instructions for boned tabs. For reference, I also looked at Caroline’s post on making 17th-century stays and Sarah Bendall’s reconstruction of the Dame Filmer bodies, on display at the Gallery of Costume in Manchester. Both have been immensely helpful.

The Dame Filmer bodies (c. 1630-50) at Gallery of Costume, City Galleries Manchester.

Another thing that has helped me out was a 1620s painting of a French lady at her toilette. It shows some interesting details of the tabs and also the straps which you can see underneath the lacey cape.

A French lady at her toilette (c.1620s).

Materials: 

  • Boning: German plastic whalebone, 5mm wide
  • Busk: Hardwood, 30 cm long, 3 cm wide and 9 mm thick.
  • Outer fabric: Orange handkerchief linen
  • Interlining: Heavy linen-viscose blend. It is not entirely HA but super sturdy. Since it is a pretty shade of violet, I might use it for binding, too.

Lining: White upholstery silk. This is a shot silk and absolutely not period. But it was readily available from a local shop and does its job nicely.

The make-up so far: After cutting out the three layers, I sewed together the front and back pattern pieces of each one. At this point I should have stay stitched them to prevent fraying. But I only did that in the next step, after pressing the seams and stacking the layers on top of each other. I do not recommend forgetting this step at all… ;)

Cutting out the top layer.

The lining sewn together.

Next I marked the busk pocket and boning channels with chalk. After some trial and error, I settled on 6mm wide channels. Right now, I am in the middle of sewing them, by hand, using white silk thread. This is how they are looking so far. I think this may take a while to complete. ;)

Boning channel WIP.

This has been the state of the stays so far. I will do my best to keep you posted. Right now, I am just very excited about being a part of CoBloWriMo for the first time. Let us see what surprises this month will bring.

See you soon, Nessa

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

An Everyday Regency Morning Belt

Over the past few months, a discussion about wearing historical costume for everyday occasions has made the rounds in some online costuming groups. This reminded me of how much I love wearing Regency underpinnings with modern outfits. Half a year ago, I finally got around to making the Regency-era morning belt I have wanted to make for so long now. Since then, I have worn it under historical costume, but it has also had more than a few cameos as a bra replacement. Worn over a fitted camisole or t-shirt, it is super comfortable, much more than most modern bras. And, since a morning belt involves next to no lacing, it comes on and off more quickly than a pair of stays. :)

In today’s post, I will share the research and drafting / making process with you, so you can go on and make your own morning belt. The research has proven a little tricky, since extant examples of Regency-era morning belts are scarce, or at least somewhat hard to identify. But more on that in a moment!

Some Morning Belt Research

The one thing that has kept me from making the morning belt for so long (years, actually!) is that fact that this style is one of the least documented known Regency undergarments. The closest surviving examples to be found today are various sets of boned half stays. Examples of this are the Utrecht half stays Sabine has taken a pattern from and this corselet held at the Musée Galliera:

Corselet (Palais Galliera, c. 1820)

Corselet (Palais Galliera, c. 1820)

Corselet (Palais Galliera, c. 1820)

Since only very little information on the wearers and the occasion of wear exists, we can only assume that they have been used for morning / undress or maternity wear. And it seems very likely.  Still, I have always missed a clear link between these examples and the ominous “morning belt” from period texts. So I did a little digging.

On a whim, I started searching in French. This way I stumbled into a period book I had not know before the “Manuel des dames” by Madame Clenart, whose real name was Élisabeth-Félicie Bayle-Mouillart. You can access the full text here at Gallica. This is a second edition from 1833, but the content seems to date back to at least the early 1820, so it is a great resource for the mid to late Regency era. And it really is pure gold, it does no only hold advice on corsetry, fashion and manners but recipes for cosmetics, perfumes and some laundry directions for dress fabrics, among other things.

The corsetry chapter lists many types of stays, featuring suggestions on stays for maternity wear and instructions on turning a regular pair of stays into a corset à la prasseuse (the period equivalent of fan-lacing). This chapter also describes mornings belts and gives some instructions of how to make them up:

Extract from “Manuel des Dames” (2nd edition, c.1833).

In short, this extract gives the following hints for the construction of a morning belt (from what I could gather with my very basic French):

Half-stays for the morning are about 8 to 10 inches high (I understood this to be the back length), corded or lightly boned. The top part is shaped like it would be in a regular pair of stays, but the back ends in two long tabs that tie at the front with thread ribbon. They are very convenient for dressing in the morning, plan on going on a bath later or when you are in a hurry to get dressed. I do not know about you, but this sounds perfect to me on an average morning!
Fabric suggestion include white cotton or coutil for summer and nankeen or grey cotton canvas for winter wear. A lining in a matching colour is also suggested to make the morning belt more durable.

From this I gathered that morning belts also featured the crossover back tabs seen in the half stays above. Although they do not quite resemble those in the Galliera example, but come very close to those of the Utrecht stays.

Half-boned stays (Centraal Museum, c.1820).

Half-boned stays (Centraal Museum, c.1820).

On a side note, you can also find this kind of crossover wrapping for shape in a more unusual Regency-era garment. This bust (under-) bodice at the Victoria & Albert Museum:

Bust bodice ( V&A, c. 1820-29).

Bust bodice ( V&A, c. 1820-29).

After gathering this information, I finally felt confident to delve right into drafting my morning belt.

The Pattern

Since this has been my first venture into drafting a piece of corsetry, I decided to use these  drafting instructions for short stays by Mistress of Disguise. They also work wonderfully for actually making short stays. ;)

I started by following the instructions given for the front and back / side back pieces. The only thing I did differently was to use a slightly longer back length (9″ instead of the given 8″). For the bust gussets I cheated and used my size gusset from the Laughing Moon #115 pattern. I left out the straps and included them in the back piece later on.

To create the crossover back tabs, I turned to the pattern for the Utrecht stays by Sabine as a rough guide. First, I created the overlapping section at the center back. For this I drew two lines. The first was a straight extension of they stays’ bottom (underbust) line. Its length was equal to about 1/8 of my underbust measurement. I redrew this line later. Then I connected the end point to the top end of the CB line with a diagonal.

From here I rotated the back pattern piece outwards until the diagonal line was perfectly vertical. I will show you what I mean by this on the finished pattern piece in the picture below. When cutting out, the straight grain will run along this line, too. (Sorry about the slightly rumpled look. For some reason I could not find my original pattern draft…)

The rotated back pattern piece.

The rotated back pattern piece.

Now I elongated the vertical line by the length of my side back piece (again 1/8 underbust) plus two or so extra inches that would got over to the front at the sides. At the bottom edge of the line, I drew a perpendicular that was 2 1/2″ long. This marks the later front width of the tabs. Now I went back to the original bottom edge of the CB line from the initial draft. and connected it to the end point of the short perpendicular line with a long curve.

For the strap, I did a similar thing. I extended the top of the long vertical line by the desired strap length (14″ in my case). Again, there is a perpendicular line at the top edge, 2 1/2″ long. From its end point, I drew another line, parallel to the vertical. To get the length of the line I calculated my strap length – shoulder to underbust length at CB. This way I made sure that only a narrow strap shows at the front.

To shape the top curve, I extended the curve on top of the side back piece, across the back piece, until it reached the end point of the parallel.  The finished back pattern looks like this: Originally the strap was a part of the back piece. But when doing the final mock-up, I decided to make it into a separate piece to reduce some of the strain on the fabric. The seam runs in a spot where the mock-up had a little pucker. There is now no pucker in the end result. ;)

The finished back and strap pieces.

The finished back and strap pieces.

Making Up The Morning Belt

When making morning belt, I used up the leftovers from my long stays. Thus I made them out of two layers, an outer layer of white cotton twill and a sateen lining. After putting in the gussets and sewing together the individual layers, I joined them together by stitching through the side and side back seams. This minimized the amount of basting at this stage and made for nice, extra durable seams on the finished corset.

Joining the layers by stitching through the side seams.

Joining the layers together by stitching through the side seams.

For the light boning, I used four rows of cording with 1/4″ kitchen twine over the side back seams and two rows of cording plus a small piece of heavy-duty cable tie at the side seams. For the busk, I made a teeny 4″ wooden busk from a paint stirrer, using my own busk tutorial. With some hindsight from the last time though, I did not oil it as profusely as the last one. ;)

A tiny 4

A tiny 4″ busk.

After adding four hand-bound eyelets to tie the straps to the front, I started binding the morning belt with cotton bias tape. I bound the short edges of the bottom tabs individually then sandwiched the twill ribbon that ties at the front in between. Then I went about the remaining binding as usual. The top binding at the front holds a small 1/2″ drawstring that keeps the ladies in check.

On the dress form, the finished morning belt looks like this. It fits much better on my ( somewhat more squishy) self and I really love how it came out.

The finished morning belt, front view. :)

The finished morning belt, front view. :)

The finished morning belt, crossover back view. ;)

The finished morning belt, crossover back view. ;)

Close-up of the strap lacing and side boning.

Close-up of the strap lacing and side boning.

Cording at the side back seam.

Cording at the side back seam.

Now I am so happy that I finally got to make this piece of Regency corsetry for modern ladies in a rush to get dressed! :D I hope you enjoyed this rather long post and it has shed some light on the making of a morning belt. If you have questions, please feel free to ask them here at any time. Wishing you all a lovely rest of the week!

Cheers, Nessa

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Head Coverings c. 1800: A simple linen cap

Following the old saying “out with the old in with the new” I will start the new year with a long overdue catch-up post. It will be one in a series, since there are still some pretty things from last year I would love to share with you. And with the new Historical Sew Monthly challenges and a heap of fresh sewing ideas, there are new projects awaiting as well.

Today I am going to provide you with some long overdue picture “spam” of the late 18th/early 19th century linen cap I made to go with my short gown. It is really simple but I love it to bits and wear it the most of all my Regency-era caps. For it I used view 3 (bottom left) from the Mill Farm late 18th-century caps pattern, with a few changes to the original make-up.

Mill Farm 18th-century caps pattern.

Mill Farm 18th-century caps pattern.

The changes I made were really few, based on personal taste. For once, I cut out two brim pieces and sandwiched the crown and trim between them. Here the pattern called for a single, hemmed brim to which the hemmed crown and ruffle are attached with whipped gathers. This is the more historically accurate approach for the late 18th century. Since I was not so happy with my whipped gathering skills and was using an itty bitty bobbin lace trim, I opted for the “sandwich” method instead.

Another thing I changed was to add a 1/4″ double-fold casing at the bottom of the crown. It holds a drawstring that holds my rebellious hair in check. I did not add anything for it, since this edge was originally reserved for a 1/4″ rolled hem. In the picture you can see the small hand-bound eyelets for the ties. They work very well on those naughty hairs. ;)

The crown with the finished drawstring casing.

The crown with the finished drawstring casing.

Once the casing was done, the cap went together quickly, even by hand. It helped that the linen was super soft and worked like a charm. The trickiest part was the fiddly eyelet lace for the trim. Though, once the ends were finished and it was attached, it looked so lovely. :) Here are a few images of the finished item, on both Jane (my hat form) and myself:

The finished linen cap, side view.

The finished linen cap, side view.

The finished cap, top view.

The finished cap, top view.

The finished cap, front view.

The finished cap, front view.

The cap on myself. :)

The cap on myself.

And a bit more of the back. :)

And a bit more of the back. :)

And that was it already. I cannot say often enough how happy this simple little project made me, since I completed it mid-thesis when I needed something pretty to distract myself from the work. Now the thesis is finally, finally handed in and I am looking forward to creating new, lovely items for my historical wardrobe.

Once I have fudged out what to make for this year’s HSM challenges, I will share my plans with you. If all works out, I am going to spend some time sewing outside my Regency comfort zone, trying out some new fashion eras. Some of you have already spotted my 1920s robe de style on the Facebook page. It has been my first venture into a different century. I will keep you posted on the other projects to come.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and joyful 2017. I am excited to see your new, gorgeous sewing creations this year. :)

Until very soon, Nessa

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

 

 

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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.

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

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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. ;)

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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”.

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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. ;)

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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

The Twice-Sewn Regency Gown

Traditionally, November is a very industrious time around my home, with a new semester of uni starting and many pre-Christmas preparations getting underway. This year, it has also been rather busy in the sewing department. So, busy that I did not manage to write a single blog post detailing the progress on my early Regency gown for you.

I am horribly sorry for the lack of updates and progress pics, but I now have a first round of pictures of the finished dress to share with you. :) First though, I will tell you a little about the making process and about why I have dubbed this costume the “twice-done gown”.

In fact, I started working on the toile for this dress way back in October. I used the Drawstring Dress from the Sense & Sensibility “Elegant Lady’s Closet”pattern with a few modifications. For those, I went back to this post about Regency gown dimensions from a very long time ago. Based on it,  I shortened the bodice by 1/4″ at the bottom seam and increased the neckline by about 1″ at shoulder level.

Once I was happy with the alterations, I went to cut out the pieces, as economically as possible, from my striped muslin fabric. As I might have said before, it was an end-of-roll piece of just under three yards, by 5 feet wide. Cutting everything from it was quite a challenge, but I managed, using up almost every scrap. Usually I am not always happy about being only 5’3″ tall, but this time, my shortness has really paid off well. ;)

After this task was accomplished, things got … interesting. Since the fabric was so extremely sheer, sewing it up was a challenge of its own. To protect the material from puckering and tearing, I decided to hand-sew everything.

This is where the “twice-done” aspect comes in: I had not fully hand-sewn a gown in over a year, so I went back and forth, sewing, ripping and re-doing about every seam in the bodice twice, until I was happy. This took up the first half of November and I was really skeptical about the outcome.

Then, when I finally attached the skirt last week, I got really excited. Once it was on, my miserable little bodice started to look like a very gorgeous Regency gown, just as I had pictured it. While I was still somewhat horrified at some badly mismatched stripes earlier in the process, they are absolutely no problem anymore. But, long story short, I will just share my joy over the finished dress with you now. Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure: ;)

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The finished gown – front view.

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The finished gown – back view with train.

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The finished gown – side view.

To be honest, I love how the dress has turned out so far. The things I enjoy most about it are the sheer, stripey goodness of the fabric, even though it was a bugger to work with and the playful little train. In the early Regency era, short trains like these were not uncommon on day dresses, but since this is my first trained gown, I am absolutely smitten by this particular detail. ;)

Here is another close-up of the bodice back, with the self-fabric drawstring and the poofy gathers around the center back:

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A closer look at the bodice back.

Another thing I am fairly chuffed with are the sleeve bands. Initially, I had planned to make them much wider, but with the help of some lovely ladies with more Regency sewing experience, I decided to make them as narrow as possible. The bands are now 1/2″ wide, made from vertical 2″ strips, folded over twice. This makes them extra sturdy, so that they can later hold the undersleeves without much damage to the fabric.

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Some detail of the sleeve and 1/2″ sleeveband.

The sleeves themselves are fitted short sleeves I made by cutting off the pattern’s elbow-length sleeves. They fit a little oddly at my very weird elbows; so I went with an easy solution that also existed in the early Regency period.

Another thing I wanted to do initially was to trim the dress. Though, after looking at all the extant striped dresses from the research post again, I decided against it. I had already bought this lovely 1/2″ bobbin lace for it. Now I will just keep it for another project. Having ten yards of lace sitting in the stash is not really a bad thing, is it? ;)

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The lovely lace trim I wanted to use at first.

And now that the biggest part of the dress is done, I will speed things up a bit, to get the whole dress ensemble finished in time for the HSM “Re-Do” challenge later this month. Next on the list is a chemisette to fill in the neckline; the undersleeves will follow. Afterwards, I will probably sit down again and replace the hem-facing. It simply feels too bulky for such a sheer gown. In other news: the tale of the twice-sewn seams is not quite over yet…

But, as the story of the gown continues, I will do my best to keep you in the loop with progress pics and updates as best as I can. So I am hoping to be back with you for another post soon.

Warmly, Nessa

An Economical Regency Petticoat

This past week has been a full one. But, just as with dessert, there is always room for some sewing. ;) So, on Tuesday, I set out to complete my Regency undergarments. With the stays done, all that was left now, was a petticoat. After a quick look at Jennifer’s petticoat fabric guide, I went into the sewing room, to hunt for the right material.

My choice was between a very sheer white poplin and the leftover sateen I had used to line the stays. But the poplin is so lovely that I decided to keep it for making an Edwardian shirtwaist. That left the sateen. At first I was hesitant to use it, since atlas-bound fabrics like these have a knack for being too heavy to make good petticoats. This particular sateen, however, is incredibly flimsy and nearly see-through. That is why it made the cut.

My visual inspiration mainly came from this earl 19th-century petticoat at the Met Museum, but also from the sheer, layered petticoat from the Oregon Regency Society’s blog.

Early 19th-century petticoat from the Metropolitan Museum.

Layered Regency petticoat (Source: Oregon Regency Society).

Since I was not entirely sure about the dimensions, I also looked around the web for suitable tutorials. I found two of those: One by Twila Tee and another by Beth. In Twila’s instructions, I found some information on the finished length and the best strap placement. And Beth’s gave me the great idea to use twill tape for the straps. It is just as narrow as the straps you find on extant petticoats and saves you the trouble of extra hemming. ;)

Yet I had to solve another fabric problem first: The leftover sateen was a 59″ x 59″ square. These are not ideal dimensions for a petticoat, but after doing some math, I found a period solution: Piecing. I cut the fabric at my desired length of 43 1/2 inches  and turned the cutoff into a panel of 12″x 43 1/2″. To give the petticoat an even look, I took a similar strip off the bigger panel as well. Then I put the two smaller rectangles to the left and right of the big one and sewed up everything into a 70 inch wide panel. This is about double my underbust measurement and just enough to make a nice, drapey petticoat.

To create enough fullness at the center back, I gathered the excess fabric into the back third of the waistband, so that I had about six inches of deep gathers to either side of the back placket. When everything was assembled, I added the twill straps. I attached one end 2 1/2″ away from the center back and the other 6 1/2″ further to the front, to get two loops that sit snugly at the edge of my shoulders.

Tweaking the back section with an adjustable tape closure.

For the closure I used a simple tape tie. To get some adjustable drape in the back section, I tweaked it a little by threading it through a channel in the waistband with a blunt bodkin. At the end of the gathered section, I poked the bodkin back through the fabric and secured the tape on the inside with a firm knot. I used the same technique with my late Regency pantalets. It works really well to create a more flexible fit.

The tucks at the bottom hem.

For embellishment and some extra weight around the bottom hem, I added five tucks to finish off the petticoat. The top and bottom one are each 1/2″ inch wide and the three smaller ones in the center are 1/4″ each. When I was done, the petticoat came down to my ankles.
And here is the result of it all, after about 15 hours of sewing: I think it came out pretty well.

The finished strapped petticoat – front view.

Strapped petticoat – back view.

Strapped petticoat – side view.

And so, my Regency underthings are complete at last. (Yay!) Now I can finally start making a first dress with a proper period fit.  Perhaps it will get finished in time for the HSM “Brown” challenge. Once it is done, I will also try to post some pictures for you, with all the different layers on my person. But first, it is time for a short break… ;)

Until very soon, Nessa