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! :)

Catching Up: Just a little Fichu

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

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

The fichu, 40

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

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

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

The edge finish.

The edge finish.

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

The front view.

The front view.

The back view.

The back view.

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

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

Much love, Nessa


HSM #1: Pantalets!

At long last, the pair of pantalets is finished.  And, even though they are a relatively small item to kick off the sewing year, making them has been a little adventure. It started with getting a very sheer cotton batiste at a tiny, crammed fabric store I had not visited before. It was a somewhat special experience and gave me an idea what fabric shopping might have looked like 200 years ago…

Working with the batiste was the next challenge, since there is no sheer fabric without a good bit of fraying to it. But, except for some huffing and puffing while flat-felling the seams, we got along pretty well. The sheerness was also one of the reasons why I hand-sewed everything. Not to mention that I have really, really missed doing that and it was great fun to get back to it.

For this project, I also worked with a commercial “big four” pattern for the first time. From this I learned that Simplicity likes to add loads of ease to their pieces. After being a bit shocked about this, and their respective sizing, I cut the pieces two sizes smaller than the chart suggested. Some people seem to do this as a general rule when using Simplicity patterns. And, after having gone there myself, I understand them very well now. ;)

But, even the biggest adventure comes to an end some time. And here are the result of this one. (Since the “coverage” of split drawers is not all that great, I put them on a hanger for the photos, just to be sure.)

Regency pantalets, front view.

Regency pantalets. back view.

Regency pantalets, lace view. ;)

And, last but not least, here are the challenge facts:

The Challenge: HSM #1 – “Foundations”.

Fabric: 2 meters of cotton batiste.

Pattern: Simplicity 7094, with extended waistband.

Year: Late Regency period (1815-20).

Notions: 1.1 m of punched lace; 1.1 m of cotton bobbin lace; 1.5m satin cord for beading; woven cotton tape for the closure.

How historically accurate is it? As closely as possible. Everything was hand-sewn and I only used cotton materials.

Total cost: €16 for the fabric; € 4 for notions.

Hours to complete: 22 hours.

First worn: Around the house. For a second, I was about to write “for the photos”,  just out of habit.  =)


And that was the round-up of HSM challenge #1 already. Now my fingers are itching to start work on the second one. But I will be out and about this weekend. So the plan is to use the time spent traveling to continue the embroidery project for my friend. I will keep you posted.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone.


Best, Nessa

Regency Pantalets: The Final Touch-Up

Beading lace with a bodkin for the first time.

To finally complete the pair of pantalets, I decided to bead the bobbin lace trim at the leg. This is the first time I ever tried beading lace; so I wanted to share this progress pic with you.

Since the lace is very narrow and delicate, I used 3 mm satin cord and threaded it through the holes with my trusty bodkin… Well, in fact, it is a blunt no. 1 carpet needle I picked up for 30 cents at a craft store. But I still love it to bits. :)

More pictures will follow, once the pantalets are properly ironed.

Love, Nessa


Regency Pantalets : Taking The Risque

With the first HSM deadline approaching, now is a good time to give you some background input about my “Foundations” project.

Since the term finals are currently knocking at my door, I decided to start the year with something small and manageable. So I am hand-sewing my first-ever pair of Regency-era pantalets. While the pattern and construction are rather straightforward, the history of this particular garment is not. I first realized that much when I asked around the Jane Austen Regency Facebook group for some fabric advice on the project.

Among other wonderful ladies, Nora replied to my question. Those of you who are more experienced in Regency costume and reenactment will probably know her as a senior leader within the Oregon Regency Society. She offered me very valuable advice, pointing out that ladies’ pantalets, or drawers, only started to surface in the later Regency. This would mean a more widespread appearance of them between the mid-1810s and the 1820s.
Nora, if you are reading this, thank you again for the information *waves into the general direction of Oregon*.  :)

Generally,  the sources are not very accurate about dating their first appearance. But most agree on a later date.  But it is also claimed that Princess Charlotte was one of the first notable women to happily wear (and sometimes even accidentally flounce) a pair pantalets, well before 1820. The source of that rumor is the 1811 painting below. However, the lace trim peeking out under her skirt could be anything, from a petticoat, to a pantalet leg, or maybe even a chemise. Just have a look. I will leave the rest to your imagination. ;)

A painting of Princess Charlotte, supposedly wearing a pair of drawers (c.1811; Source: http://www.pemberley.com)

You might wonder why wearing a pant-shaped garment underneath your other underpinnings was considered shocking before the later Regency years. After all, they keep your legs warm and might even add a little coverage for modesty’s sake. But, in fact, the opposite was true for women of the day. Drawers were considered a most immodest, or “risque”, thing to wear for ladies, simply because men wore something similar underneath their trousers. So, for a long while yet, pantalets had a somewhat masculine whiff to them.

But, the closer you get towards the Victorian era, the more accepted did drawers become. While making my pair, I browsed through the Met Museum’s collection for some inspiration. These two sets of pantalets are the earliest exhibits I could find:

A pair of Regency pantalets (c.1810-20).


Pantalets (c.1830).

The first pair was dated to the Regency era and the second one is leaning more towards the Romantic age. But, except for the button closure and the slightly shorter legs in the later pair, the style does not differ all too much.

To be honest, I felt a bit bad about my Civil War-era drawers pattern having a waistband to hold the legs together. While the first Regency pantalets were apparently only two leg pieces, held together by a simple, narrow band of fabric, the first pair above already features a proper waistband.

Another issue I had with the pattern, was the finished leg length. As it recreates drawers from a time well past the 1820s, they were shorter than what you can see above, coming down to about mid-calf. But, as it turns out, my legs are short enough for them to still have the appropriate length. Sometimes being only 5’2″ really pays off…

Oh, and speaking of short drawers, I also ran into this cute pair of Victorian under-drawers while searching through the collections. I am still cooing over their frilly cuteness and just had to share them with you.

Cute Victorian drawers from the Metropolitan Museum’s collection.

To learn more about Regency drawers, I recommend this post from Jane Austen’s World. It gives a more detailed overview on the history and use of pantalets in the Regency era, including some very interesting pictures. As far as my own pair is concerned: It is just receiving the finishing touches. I am hoping to have the photos up for you by next week, just in time for the challenge finale.

Until soon, Nessa

Project Boudoir: The Complete Ensemble

As promised in the Making-of, here is a quick picture post of the completed Regency boudoir ensemble. I finally finished the bed-jacket yesterday and got to enter it into the HSF’s “Re-Do” challenge. All in all, I am very happy with it. It goes along nicely with the bed shift.

At first, I was a bit worried about its poofiness, especially around the sleeves. But the poof is exactly what makes the jacket warm and cozy, allowing for some extra warm air to circulate. When I was taking the photos yesterday I got really, really sleepy and did not want to take it all off again afterwards…

Here are the photos of the ensemble and a few more detail shots of the jacket. So you can see it all together with the boudoir cap I made a little exception, sharing a frontal shot of sleepy me. You will also find the HSF challenge details for the entire project below. Enjoy. :)


The Finished Boudoir Ensemble

The finished bed-shift, bad-jacket and boudoir cap.

Back view.


Some Jacket Details

Back view of the folded collar and ruffle.

Upturned collar and front tie.

Sleeve and underarm gusset.

The cuff and ruffle. I tacked the cuff’s slit together with a small strand of crochet cotton for a better fit.

My very first shoulder gusset. Above it, you see the shoulder seam and below it, the edge of the collar.


The Challenge Facts

The Challenge: #21 – “Re-Do”

Challenges redone: “Under it All”; “Black & White”

For the bed-shift: 2.5 yards of 60/40 linen-cotton blend.
For the bed-jacket: 3 yards of woven Swiss-dot cotton.

Shift: Sense & Sensibility “Regency Underthings” chemise with modifications, based on this extant shift.
Jacket: My own, inspired by Kelly’s shirt tutorial.

Year: 1800-1810

Notions: approx. 2 yds of woven cotton tape; cotton thread, thread wax

How historically accurate is it? I gave my best. Some of the seams were machine sewn for speed, but most are hand-sewn. I would say 75% accurate.

Hours to complete: About 30 hours for the bed-shift and another 50-60 hours for the bed-jacket.

First worn: For the photos.

Total cost: € 15 each, € 30 altogether.

With this post, “Project Boudoir” come to a close. I hope you enjoyed this venture into the world of the Regency lady’s bedroom. To be sure, I did. And, on top of that, it has given me the most comfortable bedtime outfit ever. ;) Wearing it does not feel like being in costume at all, but like donning an everyday garment.

For the remainder of November and the holiday season, I will turn to a few new sewing projects, including a historically inspired Christmas outfit for HSF # 23 “Modern History”. And, for the first time ever, I will be sewing some, historical and non-historical presents for friends this year. To keep them a surprise, though, I shall post about them here after Christmas. ;)

See you soon, Nessa


Project Boudoir: Making the Bed-Jacket

Hello again. :)

After a row of evenings spent sewing up the Regency bed-jacket, I have finally made some time to tell you about the making-of. It all started out with wondering about how to pattern a  bed-jacket at all. It is not really a staple Regency item, sewn by costumers and hence, there are not really many pre-made patterns around. But then… I had an idea:

More or less by accident, I started looking at Regency-era men’s shirts. Just as the bed-jacket I showed you before, they are made from light linen or cotton fabrics. They are also no less frilly than the jacket in question. Here it is again.

The extant bed-jacket.

Now if you compare it to an extant gentleman’s shirt… it looks quite similar, right?

An extant men’s shirt from the Met’s collection (c. 1816).

Luckily, there are a good few shirt-making tutorials available online. The two I liked best were Kelly’s tutorial and this one from Marquise. After some measuring and drafting around, I decided to make the bed-jacket, based on Kelly’s instructions, with a few minor alterations. These are the following:


Pattern Pieces & Measurements
As I am no, tall, dashing Mr. Sharpe or Mr. Darcy, but a rather petite lady, the main thing I did was to scale down the pattern pieces to my measurements. But I also added a front closure to the shirt’s body and omitted some pieces, such as the side-seam gusset at the bottom or the neck ruffle. Instead of that ruffle, though, I cut two extra ruffles for the cuffs and another for the collar. Here is an overview of the pieces for my bed-jacket, including seam allowances of 7/8″ on each side:

  • Two front pieces, each 28″ x 18″
    (The finished fronts will overlap a bit, if you would like a button placket, add another 2 inches.)
  • One back piece, 28″ x 34″
  • Sleeves, each 19″ x 36″
    (This is a very generous measurement, creating a very poofy sleeve. For something more fitted, take a measurement of your upper arm, add seam allowances and double it.)
  • Two collar pieces, each 4″ x 19″
  • Four cuff pieces, each 10 1/2″ x 3 1/2″
  • Two shoulder gussets, 2″ x 2
  • Two underarm gussets, 5″ x 5″
  • One collar ruffle, 52″ x 3 1/2″
  • Two cuff ruffles, 18″ x 4″


Making Up

All in all, I followed Kelly’s wonderful instructions. But, here again, a few changes were needed to adjust for shape and sizing:

Around the top of the jacket, I only sewed up a 4-inch shoulder seam on either side. to this, the shoulder gusset added another 2 inches and made for a comfy shoulder fit. Usually, I am not big on gussets, but shoulder gussets are just awesome.

The next thing was that I used two front pieces. So I did not have to cut a slit and simply hemmed the front ends before gathering it all into the collar. I later fastened the jacket with a length of soft cotton tape at the top, right below the collar hem.

As you might have noticed, I used four cuff pieces, instead of two. The reason for this is that I gathered and then sandwiched the ruffles between two cuffs before attaching everything to the gathered sleeve. When assembling the collar, I did the same again.

At the bottom of the sleeves, I left a shorter slit of 3″, to fit my slender wrists. If that is too wide, you can also tack or button the slit shut below the cuffs. But, if you choose to tack, make sure that your wrists still fit through comfortably.


And that was it already…

As for everything else, no more big changes were necessary. And I think this is the place to give Kelly another big thank you. Without her blogging about the shirt, there would have been no bed jacket.
But now there is. (Yay!) Even though it is a little too late for the HSF “Re-Do” challenge, I will try to get a few photos to put into a challenge post over the next few days.

Maybe, in the meanwhile, some of you will start making their own Regency bed-jacket and/or matching shirt. Just like the jackets, it was not uncommon for gentlemen to slip a night-shirt over their shift to stay warm. With the holiday season at the door, it would certainly make for a very special present.

Cheers, Nessa



Project Boudoir: Bed-Shift Photos

After finally charging up the camera and setting up everything for the first round of photos in the new living-room, I have captured a few pictures of the finished bed-shift for you. It is made from a light, but cozy, linen-cotton blend and turned out very nicely. I could wear it around the house, day in and day out. The only problem with that endeavor is the rising autumn chill outside….

But, luckily, the pieces of the bed jacket have already been cut out. I patterned it using late-18th and early-19th men’s shirts as a guide. In a little while, I will tell you some more about it all. But, for tonight, here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure:

The front view.


The back view.

The neckline and lacing.

The sleeve with lace trim and gusset.

My first-ever monogram. It says “N.S.”. I picked it out in satin stitch, using an 18th-century alphabet for linen embroidery.


Those are the impressions of the bed-shift so far. I will add more photos once the whole boudoir ensemble is finished and ready for the HSF’s “Re-do” challenge, due on November 15th. But I will blog some more before that as well. ;)


All the best, Nessa

P.S. This weekend, I realized that “Sewing Empire” now has a total of 55 followers, here and on Facebook. It has amazed me to see the blog being received this well. And I would love to thank you for your wonderful feedback and support. Please keep it coming. You are the best. =)


Project Boudoir: The Bed-Shift Pattern

Now that the holidays are over and real life has me back, it is time to get a little more “real” about the bedtime attire. I am glad that the bed-shift has made some really nice progress and is as good as finished. But, today, I would like to take you back to the start of it and tell you a little about making the pattern.

Basically, the shift pattern started out as the chemise from the Sense & Sensibility Regency Underthings Pattern, which I already used for my first Regency chemise.
Starting from this, I reshaped the yoke and neckline to look more like the one in the picture from last week’s post.

Last week’s Georgian chemise, as found on Hope Greenberg’s website.

As Regency shifts and chemises usually have necklines that are a bit on the wide side, it took me a while to puzzle out just how low and wide I wanted to make it to still be suitable for bedtime wear. With the help of the awesome historical sewing crowd on Facebook, I finally reached a decision. I have to thank everyone that replied yet again. You guys are the best help one can possibly wish for. :)

In this context, someone also directed my attention towards this extant chemise pattern from the Missouri Historical Society. It looks very much like what I had in mind:

Pattern of an extant chemise from the MHS.

In the end I used the overall width at the top and the strap length as a guide to shape a new yoke, which I then connected to the original pattern’s body. I distributed the strap length to be 6 inches at the front and 4 at the back, which, more or less, equals the proportions of the original pattern’s cleavage. But still, it turned out quite a bit higher than the original. I will probably only wear it for winter wear outside of bed, where it can hide under a chemisette or high-necked walking dress.

To make it all a tad longer than a day-wear shift, I simply went without shortening the pattern. Originally, it is probably meant to be knee-length for ladies about half a foot taller than me. When altering the pattern into a bed-shift, some of you might have to lengthen it at the designated marks…

And that was all about the bed-shift’s basic pattern. Another thing I changed was the neckline binding: Instead of making bias tape with the pattern’s binding guide, I used 3-inch wide strips of self-fabric, overlapping them at the corners of the neckline, to better preserve the square shape.

As in the original pattern, I fed a drawstring through the inside of the binding, to keep the shift from sailing off at night. (This happens to you once and never again… ;) )

Oh, and I decided to add a monogram and some lace to the shift. But I will tell you more about that in the next post. Until then, I wish you all a Happy Halloween.

Much love, Nessa


Introducing: Project Boudoir

Hello again everyone,

After the heads-up on my autumn sewing plans in the last post, it is due time I revealed a little more to you. As I have already mentioned last time, I am going to make a few cozy Regency items for the cold season awaiting ahead. Perhaps you have already guessed what I am about to make. For, when the days grow chillier and the nights get longer, what is homelier than a comfy set of period undress? Nothing, really.

Since there is more than one garment in the making, the whole project will have a working title: “Project Boudoir”.

Now, for a little explanation: What exactly is the boudoir and what does it have to do with nightwear?
In former times, the boudoir used to be a lady’s private bed and dressing room. Here, women went about their toilette, dressed themselves or simply spent some quality time, all on their own. Hence, translated back from French, “boudoir” literally means “sulking room”. And, if not for sulking, the boudoir was also the perfect place to skulk around in your jammies on a rainy Sunday. Only that our modern pyjamas cannot really hold a candle to their Regency-era equivalents… ;)

Mme. Juliette Récamier lounging in her undress.
Painting: “Madame Récamier” by François Gérard (1802).

As part of this project, there will be a research post on the garments worn around bed time in the early 19th century. Even though there is loads of info to be found on the other facets of Regency fashion, this certain aspect has received less attention. Luckily, at least a few fellow bloggers and sources have already ventured into the material.But, before I will put together some core facts for you, you will get to see the first finished item of my Regency undress (yay!).

So, please stay tuned for more boudoir stories (of the non-saucy kind)…

Love, Nessa