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My New Lady

I had the most amazing luck the other day! I heard of someone who was getting rid of some old dressmakers forms and I thought that having another form – particularly a cheap, old one – would be fantastic to use for period dressmaking. I could perhaps alter it or pad it for using for a particular era.

I arrived to inspect my new acquisition, only to discover that it was an old one! A lovely old one! And one that I couldn’t possibly alter.

The front

The front

The side

The side

It has a label on it saying, “Your Double Co.” with a Sydney postoffice box address. I have yet to figure out what era it is from though.

The best part about it was that it was only $20! I am not sure how I will use it yet, but it is beautiful to just gaze upon in my living room.

I probably won’t get to post again before Christmas, so I will take this opportunity of wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!

Related Posts

My Christmas Present!

An 1880's petticoat, worn over a bustle.

An 1880’s petticoat, worn over a bustle. From The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Another one of the numerous undergarments worn by the Victorians were petticoats, and – depending on the particular decade of the 19th century – there could be many layers of them.

I needed to make a petticoat that was worn with a bustle, generally made with layers of frills to soften the line of the cage-like structure underneath. As my bustle was most similar to those worn in the 1880’s, it was no surprise that the petticoats that really suited my purpose were ones from the 1880’s.

The one I really liked is pictured to the left, with small flounces to add body and pretty lace that could peep out the bottom of the dress. It was really unfortunate that I had so little time to incorporate any of this into my own petticoat, but I had only two days to make mine!

My fabric choice was a white cotton broadcloth, 4 metres in length.

Pattern

I made my own pattern from the picture above, using the measurements of myself and my bustle as a guide for size.

Measurements to take (with bustle and corset on):

  • Waist circumference
  • Waistline to floor at centre front
  • Waistline to floor at centre back
  • Waist to floor at side

Using these measurements, measure out the pattern pieces on the fabric. The waist-to-floor measurements should correspond to the length of the pieces (minus the depth of your intended bottommost frill). The front area of the petticoat at the waist is not gathered so the front and side pieces (on the top edge) together should measure the same as the front part of your waist (or a bit further around). The back area is gathered, so the top edge of the back panel should be double this part of your waist. Add seam allowances too!

Pattern pieces:

  • Front panel (cut centre front on fold)
  • Side panel (cut 2)
  • Back panel (cut centre back on fold)
  • Waistband (cut 1: 2″ x 28″ or waist measurement, plus seam allowances)
  • Frills for back panel (10″ deep, plus seam allowances) Each frill should be roughly double the length of the line (across the back panel) that it will be sewn on. I tried to cut these frills against the selvedge.
  • Bottom frill (10″ deep x double the length of the bottom edge of petticoat, plus seam allowances)
These are my panels; from left to right, front, side and back.

These are my panels; (from left to right) front, side and back.

Construction

Step One: Sew the front panel to the side panels, neatening seam edges.

Step Two: Hem one long edge of each section of frill (those frills that are for the back panel) and gather the other edge (I gathered the selvedge edge to avoid neatening it). Attach the frills to the back panel, one at a time, by sewing it on top of the back panel, through all layers.

The first frill is attached along the upper edge of the back panel.

The first frill is attached along the upper edge of the back panel. Each frill is roughly twice as long as the section it is sewn to.

The bottom frill is attached along the bottom of the back panel.

The bottom frill is attached along the bottom of the back panel. The bottom edge of the frill reaches slightly below the bottom edge of the petticoat.

Start with attaching the first frill along the top edge of the back petticoat panel and then do the bottom frill. Then you can space the other frills in between. There should be an inch or two overlap where the upper frill falls over the one under it. I had a total of four frills on the back panel.

Step Three: Pinning the edges of the frill to the edge of the back panel, sew the back panel to the side panel (making sure you catch the frill edges in the seam).

Step Four: Make sure the bottom edges of the petticoat are even. Trim off any excess if needed. You will notice that a little part of the last frill (in the side seam) is raw, and this was hemmed by turning under and sewing.

The frill at the bottom of the back panel is lifted up, and you can see me trimming the bottom edge of the petticoat.

The frill at the bottom of the back panel is lifted up, and you can see where I am trimming the bottom edge of the petticoat. This is because I made the back panel much longer than the front panels so it would go over the bustle.

Step Five: Hem one long edge of the bottom frill and gather the other long edge (in small manageable sections). This gathered edge will be caught in a seam so I used a raw edge (rather than a selvedge edge as I did in the back panel frills).

Step Six: Attach the frill to the bottom edge of the petticoat. You will notice that a small part of the side seams will need to be unpicked (where the back frills are sewn into the side seam) at this stage so that the bottom frill can go around neatly. You may need to resew (or hand sew) these parts afterwards so they sit properly again.

Step Seven: Gather the top edge of the back and side panels. Attach the waistband in the normal manner, adjusting the gathers to fit.

Note: Because I had sewn all the seams closed, I needed to make a placket in the left side front seam. I just sewed (top-stitched) the seam allowance open, reinforcing it at the bottom of the placket, and then unpicked the seam.

I used a pair of hooks and eyes for a closure, but a button or waistband hook and eye would work too.

The side view, with the bustle underneath.

The side view, with the bustle underneath.

The front view

The front view

All finished! And I really like it! One very handy thing is that, if it happens to be too long, you can take a few horizontal tucks around the bottom frill to raise the bottom edge, as it was done in the extant garment pictured above. Mine is slightly longer at the back, but not enough to trip on when I am dancing.

My next item in my Victorian wardrobe is an early 1870’s gown. – coming soon!

Related Posts

A Victorian Bustle

Making a Victorian Corset

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

An overview of Victorian undergarments

Attaching a waistband – by Sewaholic

The Victorian era has always been one of my favourite periods (coming a close second behind the 18th century), particularly for fashion. It is a very diverse period for fashion, and the more I have studied it, the more I have been intrigued by the great variety of fashions that existed for women throughout Queen Victoria’s reign.

A mid-late 19th century chemise.

A mid-late 19th century chemise. From: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

I have particularly wanted a Victorian wardrobe for a while, and the corset and chemise were my first items to embark on.

The Victorian chemises are a different creature to those that came before it. They seem to be lacey, frilly, pin-tucked, embroidered and – generally speaking – a whole lot more feminine! The only era to outdo the Victorians in this way were the  next-generation Edwardians.

I found this lovely chemise, complete with pin-tucks, a delicate vine embroidery, and dainty lace, and it took my fancy!

Pattern

I began with a free pattern by Serinde, and then made a few alterations to make it a bit more like the picture above.

The pieces of my Victorian chemise.

The pieces of my Victorian chemise: body, sleeves, yoke bands.

The extant chemise pictured above does have its own triangular-shaped shoulder straps that are cut separately to the sleeves and body of the garment, but I didn’t do that.

Construction Steps

Step One: Sew the sleeves onto the body of the garment, following Serinde’s instructions. I then flat felled the seams.

The two sleeves attached to the body.

The two sleeves attached to the body. The seams are not flat-felled yet.

Step Two: Sew the side seams, from the under arm down to the bottom of the garment. I flat felled the seams here too.

The side seams are sewn. Sleeve seams are pinned down for felling.

The side seams are sewn. Sleeve seams are pinned down for felling.

Step Three: Marking the centre front, create a series of pin tucks across the front, making sure that both sides look even. Press them to either side.

IMG_4827

The 1/8″ pin-tucks, placed 1/4″ apart.

This is the point that my chemise-making went awry. I did not take into account the pintucks and allow enough material across the width of the chest, so my resulting chemise was very tight.

Step Four: I embroidered the bands that I was using on the sleeves, neckline and centre front button placket with a scrolling leaf pattern. I used two strands of white embroidery cotton, and used a very short backstitch for the stem and a fishbone stitch for the leaves.

The scrolling embroidery, with the lace attached at Step Nine.

The scrolling embroidery, with the lace attached at Step Seven.

It is helpful if this is done before attaching it to the garment, as then the self-facing can cover the back of the embroidery. Make sure you mark the seam allowance and the fold line of the strip so that your embroidery is centred on the part that will be seen on the outside.

Step Five: Make the centre front placket. Firstly, slit the centre front down the middle, ending with an inverted V-shape at the bottom. (A helpful tutorial with plenty of pictures is here on sewing a partial placket, by Make It and Love It.)

Taking two small strips of the yoke bands, sew one on each side of the slit (right sides together). (Note: It could be a good idea to think about the lace placement on the sides of the top placket here, rather than at Step Seven, as I did! I appliqued mine on top rather than putting it in the seam.) Fold the excess over to create a self facing and, tucking the raw edges under, hand sew.

At the bottom of the placket (where the two sides of the placket meet), I created a V-shape on the outer strip of the placket and hand stitched the top layer to the bottom layer.

The V-shape at the bottom of the placket, before it is handsewn down.

The placket has been attached and the facing has been folded to the inside ready to handsew. The V-shaped placket can be seen at the bottom of the picture, before it is handsewn down. You can also see the mitred seams of the placket at the top of the picture (read below). I handsewed these mitred seams and tucked the excess under, as it was a bit easier to be precise.

Step Six: For the rest of the neckline, sew longer yoke band strips around it. Making mitred corners at the centre front where they meet the placket (as pictured above). For the centre back, gather the back panel to fit. I also adjusted the back of the yoke band with some angled tucks so that it would fit better over the shoulders. I moved some of the centre back fullness to the sides with two pleats on either side, as it was too small for me and this helped the fit.

The back neckband

The back neckband, embroidered and attached.

As before, fold the excess over to form a facing and turn the raw edges under to hand sew. Much fitting was done at the this stage to see if the neckline would fit properly under my dress.

Step Seven: Sew on sleeve bands in the same way that the neck band was sewn.

Step Seven: Trim the neckline, placket and sleeve bands with lace. Hem the bottom edge of the chemise.

Step Eight: For the centre front closure, I have seen chemises as late as 1850 with a dorset button. I decided I should utilise some skills I had developed at a previous Jane Austen Festival and so added a dorset button.

The dorset button, 5/8" wide. The ones I have seen on extant items are teensy, but this was the smallest ring I could find.

The dorset button, 5/8″ wide. The ones I have seen on extant items are teensy (about 1/4″ wide), but this was the smallest ring I could find.

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

Usually the plain chemises of the 18th century and Regency do not take me very long to sew, but the profusion of Victorian pin tucks, embroidery and lace meant that this project was much more time consuming than I had imagined. Victorian chemises also seem to be more fitted, particularly across the shoulders, than in previous eras, which then consumed more time in fitting and unpicking and re-fitting!

In addition, it does not fit very well! I had to add a few “extensions” under the arms so that it would fit across my chest better. It is kind of disappointing when I spent so much time on the embroidery, but I may re-make the body of it at another stage.

Look out for the next post in my Victorian wardrobe – making an 1880’s petticoat.

Related Posts

Making a Victorian corset

My Regency Journey: Making a Chemise

Making an 18th Century Chemise

Sources and Relevant Links

An overview of Victorian underwear

Free chemise pattern – by Serinde

Extant chemise – Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Flat-felling seams – by Coletterie

Sewing Pin Tucks – by Burdastyle

Sewing a Partial Button Placket – by Make It & Love It

Fishbone stitch – by Rocksea & Sarah

Making Dorset Buttons – by Craftstylish

It has been awhile since my last post, largely because I have spent the last two months working on a new Victorian wardrobe for myself. I have had plans to make an early 1870’s gown and undergarments for a long time and I have finally begun!

info (Source below).

1880’s corset in herringbone woven cotton, trimmed with dark red cotton embroidery and machine embroidered edging. (Source below.)

One of the most important aspects of this new wardrobe was designing and making a corset from this era, as it is needed to provide the correct shape for the outer clothes. I finally decided on a 1880 style of corset that I could use fairly safely for the 1870’s.

Pattern

I used the pattern drafting tutorial at Foundations Revealed to drafted my own pattern based on my measurements. This tutorial is perfectly suited to creating Victorian style corsets.

A late 1880's corset. From Norah Waugh's "Corsets and Crinolines".

A late 1880’s corset, from Norah Waugh’s “Corsets and Crinolines”.

Norah Waugh’s “Corsets and Crinolines” 1880’s corset pattern provided a guide to panel shapes and placement. There were 5 panel pieces on each side: Front, Side Front, Side, Side Back and Back.

I used two layers of white coutil, with the boning sandwiched between the layers. I added a floating lining of white cotton lawn. I used a combination of spiral steel boning and flat steel boning, with the flat steel being used on either side of the eyelets, behind the split busk pieces at the centre front, and directly next to the busk pieces. I used a straight busk, rather than the spoonbill busk in “Corsets and Crinolines”.

These are my pattern pieces, without seam allowances included,

These are my pattern pieces, without seam allowances included. The front was cut twice with a seam allowance on all edges, and then once with the centre front on the fold. All other pieces were cut 4 times with seam allowances added.

When cutting out the pieces, it is a very good idea to number each panel, mark the waistline, and mark the upper/top edge on each piece.

Construction

For the construction of this corset, I closely followed the instructions by Sidney Eileen on making a basic two-layer corset. For that reason I won’t detail all the specifics of what I did, but instead give you a general overview.

Step One: I began by sewing the busk in place. (How to insert a busk – by Sidney Eileen).

Step Two: Making sure I matched the waistline marks, I sewed all the panels together. The coutil lining layer was also attached at this stage. The end result is that you have two halves of a corset, that can be joined by the busk pieces.

The only seams not sewn are the side front seams.

The seams being sewn. The lining is attached to the outer layer on the centre back seams (far left and far right). The side front seams are the next ones to be sewn in this picture.

Step Three: I attached some 1 inch herringbone tape for the waist tape. (How to add waist tape to a corset – by Sidney Eileen.)

The waist tape is being attached to each seam allowance so that no stitching is seen on the outside.

The waist tape is being attached to each seam allowance so that no stitching is seen on the outside.

Step Four: The boning channels were sewn, and I also added some herringbone tape along the centre back edges (in between the layers), to act as a support for the grommets. The bones were also inserted here.

The boning channels have been sewn in.

The boning channels have been sewn in.

Step Five: I corded the front panels, as was often seen in this era. Having tried on the corset beforehand, I now realise that this cording was not just decorative, but provided extra support to the fabric as it holds the bust in place.

1880 corset cording

In order to cord the very tightly woven coutil, I used a large needle and an awl (and two grippy silicone thimbles) to pull the cotton cording through the channels. The cording channels were all handsewn.

Step Six: Next I set the grommets (Size 0) with a grommet setter, and laced the corset using the standard Victorian style of lacing. (How to lace a corset – by Sidney Eileen.)

Grommets and lacing completed

Grommets and lacing completed, the back view of the finished product.

Step Seven: I did some featherstitch embroidery on the boning channels at the sides, and did corset flossing to hold the bones in place. (How to Floss a Corset – by Sidney Eileen.)

The corset flossing detail

The corset flossing detail

Step Eight: The floating lining was pinned in place, with the raw edges at centre front and centre back turned under and handsewn down. The binding was sewn on the outside through all thicknesses and then turned to the inside to be handsewn down.

The lining is pinned down and the binding attached, ready to handsew down.

The lining is pinned down and the binding attached and turned to the inside, ready to handsew down.

The very last thing I did was to handsew some lace, threaded with ribbon, around the top edge of the corset. Very Victorian!

Here are the finished pictures! I can comfortably lace the corset down to 28 inches at the waist, and I have used this measurement for making the rest of my Victorian wardrobe.

The front view

The front view

1880 corset side

The side view

My next garment in my list to make will be my Victorian chemise.

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: How to Draft a Corset – Regency Corset

My Regency Journey: Corset Construction

A Victorian Bustle

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Augusta Auctions.

Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh – buy on Amazon

Draft Your Own Corset Pattern – by Foundations Revealed

Corset Making Tutorials – by Sidney Eileen

Cording Tutorial

Feather stitch embroidery – by Rocksea & Sarah

This is the final post in this series and deals with the bordering stitch for my sampler. The pulled work I have been practising is for use in an up-coming project of mine, an 18th century embroidered fichu. From my recent research into some extant items, most fichus were either edged with a rolled hem, or blanket stitched into a decorative scalloped edge. It was this type of blanket stitch that I really wanted to try.

Blanket stitch is a very common embroidery stitch, and is sometimes called buttonhole stitch. These stitches are exactly the same in terms of structure.

The buttonhole stitch

The buttonhole stitch

In my reading regarding embroidered extant items, I found that sometimes a blanket stitch was used over the top of a folded raw edge, which to me sounded like a very neat way of doing it. Unfortunately, this is very hard to do over a scalloped edge and I had to abandon my attempt because it was very slow going and rather messy. It could work better if the scalloped edges were folded and basted down first though – something to try for another day!

Initially I used two strands of embroidery cotton, but this made the edging too bulky and untidy so I changed to using one strand of cotton. I also altered my technique to using a blanket stitch over the raw edge, cutting away the excess as I went along. This is an easier way to do a scalloped edge and was a lot more successful in some ways, but I still feel that cutting away the excess does not leave the edge looking as finished or clean as it could. Using one strand of embroidery thread was a good move though, as the stitches look a lot finer and less bulky.

At the bottom right you can see the bulky stitches using 2 strands of thread. Then I moved to using just one thread. You can also see my markings and the running stitch along the finishing line.

At the bottom right you can see the bulky stitches using two strands of thread. Then I moved to using just one thread. You can also see my markings and the running stitch along the scalloped line.

Once I was halfway through I decided to change the direction that I worked the blanket stitch. I had been working it so that the “loops” (A & C in the diagram above) were on the inside of the work, but I switched so that they would be on the outside, that is, the side where I was cutting away the material. The loops are hard-wearing and designed to increase the stability and wear-and-tear of a buttonhole, so my reasoning was that it was probably better that they were on the outer edge of the piece. From some quick embroidery research it appears that this is the way that it is supposed to be done, and I had been doing it wrong!

Here is my finished embroidery sampler:

All complete!

All complete! On the left side is the buttonhole technique that I finished with.

The blanket stitching around the edge is a little wonky, and I have realised that the quality of embroidery is impacted largely by the drawing that is done on the fabric. This is all the more reason to have a well-executed design drawing before I begin on my embroidered fichu.

I am looking forward to using some of these skills now! I hope you have enjoyed following my progress.

Related Posts

Pulled Work Embroidery Sampler: Part One

Sources and Relevant Links

Image source: Buttonhole stitch

Blanket stitch scallops – by Rocksea & Sarah

Shaped blanket stitch scallops – by Rocksea & Sarah

Many more Pulled Work stitches – by Lynxlace. At the top of this page there is also examples of different outline stitches. At the very bottom of this page there are examples of other edging stitches, including stitching over a folded edge.

For the last square in my pulled work embroidery sampler, I had decided to do some stitches that created a raised appearance. This raised effect is produced by pulling the rows of stitches towards each other underneath the fabric, so that the top of the fabric has a small “bubble”.

The double backstitch uses the same concept as a backstitch, but uses it over two rows to pull these rows together. It is worked horizontally.

Double backstitch is worked horizontally. The needle comes to the front of the fabric at the black dot. The solid lines represent the thread on the face of the fabric, and the dotted line that on the underside of the fabric.

Double backstitch is worked horizontally. The needle comes to the front of the fabric at the black dot. The solid lines represent the thread on the face of the fabric, and the dotted line that on the underside of the fabric. The grid paper represents the thread count of the fabric.

This stitch creates rows of holes, with a raised row of fabric that puffs up in between. I found it very easy to do and it has a very pretty effect, which you can see in my sampler below.

As in previous posts, when you are beginning a new row be sure to take the thread from the top of one row to the bottom of the next (or the furtherest distance that the thread can possibly take), which helps the tension remain even throughout your work.

The cushion stitch is a variation of the double backstitch, and is structurally very similar to it. The main difference is that the rows move apart from each other in steps, instead of staying straight, to create rounder “puffs” in the work.

The cushion stitch is worked horizontally.

The cushion stitch is also worked horizontally.

As can be seen from this example, the double backstitch could be used to create a variety of different effects by varying the distance between the rows.

My finished square looks like this:

The top stitch is . The bottom stitch is.

The top is double-backed stitch and the bottom is cushion stitch. It is difficult to see the “puffs” created in this photo, but it is quite a textural effect. 

I really enjoyed these stitches. The effect is quite different to what I had seen with the previous sampler squares and I liked it.

This was my last square in my sampler, but there are so many more stitches to try. I feel like this has just given me a taste of some filler stitches to use for my up-and-coming project: an embroidered fichu.

The last post in this series is Part Nine, involving the border, and it will be coming soon!

Related Posts

Pulled Work Embroidery Sampler: Part One

Making a Pair of Lawn Ruffles – with whitework

A Regency Letter Case

Sources and Relevant Links

Many different Pulled stitches – by Lynxlace

For the seventh square in my pulled work embroidery sampler, I wanted to try some cross stitches. Normally cross stitch is associated with the embroidery of coloured threads to make a picture, but it can also be used to great effect in pulled embroidery.

Upright cross stitch is fairly similar to normal cross stitch, except that the lines of stitching are worked diagonally across the fabric and not horizontally or vertically. This means that the stitches are also offset from each other. One half of the stitch is worked along the row and then the second half of the stitch is completed when you work back along the row.

This stitch is worked diagonally...

Upright cross stitch is worked diagonally. The thread comes to the front of the fabric at the black dot. The solid lines represent the thread on the top of the fabric and the dotted lines represent the thread underneath the fabric. The grid paper represents the threadcount of the fabric.

The Greek cross stitch is made by first laying the thread for the first two “cross-arms” to form a reverse L-shape. The needle is then taken behind and up to the corner of the L and anchors it by forming the third “cross-arm”. The fourth “cross-arm” is made in a similar fashion and then the centre of the cross is anchored by a small stitch through the middle. I had never heard of this type of stitch before, and its effect (as well as the technique) seemed quite different to what I had seen before.

Greek cross stitch is a bit more complicated that the other stitches I have done, so I have shown the steps in this picture.

Greek cross stitch is a bit more complicated than the other stitches I have done, so I have shown the steps in this picture. The fourth “anchoring stitch” that is done in the middle of the cross is what seems to create the different textural quality of this stitch.

Greek cross stitch is worked diagonally.

Greek cross stitch is worked diagonally, with each cross offset to the one before.

When you are ready to begin a new row, try – as in previous tutorials – to take your embroidery thread in such a way which creates an even tension (or pull) on each of the stitches. I found that a bit more complicated to do with this stitch!

My finished square looks like this:

The top left is cross stitch, the bottom right is Greek cross stitch.

The top left is upright cross stitch, the bottom right is Greek cross stitch.

I don’t feel that I was particularly successful with the second Greek cross stitch, but it does have a bit of a different textural quality when compared to other pulled work stitches. This is because of the way the cross sits on the top of the material. For some reason my tension differed in the top areas of the cross compared to the bottom, but maybe after a bit more practise I will improve!

Part Eight will be coming soon!

Related Posts

Pulled Work Embroidery Sampler: Part One

Making a Pair of Lawn Ruffles – with whitework

A Regency Letter Case

Sources and Relevant Links

Many different Pulled stitches – by Lynxlace

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