Sunday, 11 August 2013


The current Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge is Separates.

I wasn’t going to take part in this challenge, I really, really wasn’t. I’m partway through Vogue 2787, and want to test out my pattern alterations. I have an ever-growing backlog of other sewing to do, some of it with seriously alarming deadlines (this Friday, a dress, for which I haven’t even drafted the pattern yet – aargh!). Plus, as I am so new to historical costuming, I don’t have any ‘orphan’ items which need another garment to make them into a complete costume.

Then, when I was looking for something in my overflow workbox (you mean you don’t have one?) I found this, carefully folded in a cotton handkerchief.

Mystery items

I made this a long time ago, more than a decade ago in fact. It is Torchon lace, and it was made to size to trim a Folkwear Armistice Blouse. However I never got round to making the blouse, and in time forgot about the lace altogether.

The blouse pattern

Of course, having found it I didn’t have the heart to just wrap it back up and put it away again. And the Separates challenge was coming up. . . . .

Although the lace looks white, it is actually very slightly off-white. This meant that placed over the various very white cottons in my stash, it just looked a bit grubby. A deeper delve into Stash-land unearthed a fine lawn which was both the right colour and perfect for the period.

I have made the blouse before, but so long ago that I don’t remember how well or otherwise it came together. Fortunately I did remember that The Dreamstress had made the same blouse last year, so I re-read her posts. I can confirm that a) the sleeves are indeed far too long, even for my long arms, and b) the instructions leave a lot to be desired. In the end I just ignored them and relied on my own methods, with help from my trusty copy of Vogue Sewing for the sleeve plackets.

I’m not quite sure what dimensions I thought I was working to when I made the lace. The piece for the collar fits perfectly, the pieces for the front panel less so.

The collar edging - a perfect fit

The front panel, not so perfect

Even allowing for the fact that with bobbin lace you can’t just start and finish where you like, these are far too long.

This has been a very rushed project, and in some places it shows. I forgot to make the necessary alterations for my short torso when I cut the pieces out; so even with the lace at the top, the centre panel was alarmingly low. I had to move it up, which is why it is shorter than the rest of the blouse. I also had to reposition the gathered section and the tie at the back of the blouse. I followed The Dreamstress’s advice and used ribbon rather than make the tie from fabric. I also ditched the extra, fold-back element of the ciffs

The completed blouse

The combination of very fine fabric and a dark dress form means that all the seams and facings really show up; these would be less obvious over period underwear. All the seams are French seams, which worked well. The buttonholes on the cuffs are hand-sewn, which worked considerably less well. Clearly I need a lot more practice.

Buttonholes - could do better

Even before I discovered how bad my buttonhole technique is, I had decided that I didn’t want buttons down the front. I’d planned to use hooks and eyes instead, but the blouse is loose enough that it can be pulled on over the head. I just basted it together quickly for the photographs, which is why it’s a bit out of kilter.

To me the neckline seems very baggy; I might investigate some discrete gathering at the back under the collar to pull it in a bit. For all the faults however, at least the lace is now on a blouse as intended rather than folded up in a workbox.

A home for the lace at last

The Small Print:

The Challenge: Separates

Fabric: Off-white cotton lawn from stash

Pattern: Folkwear Armistice Blouse

Year: 1918-ish (see below)

Notions: Hand-made Torchon lace, ribbon for tie, six buttons for cuffs

How historically accurate is it? To quote The Dreamstress's review of the pattern; “1980s does 1910s”

Hours to complete: About eight, of which about two were spent on the buttonholes (so much effort, to so little effect)

First worn: Not yet

Total cost: 90 pence for the buttons, 66 pence for ribbon, so £1.56 in total


  1. The lace is lovely, and the blouse sets it off nicely! And your hand-sewn buttonholes look better than mine, if that's any consolation. :p