Sunday, 7 June 2015


Last month’s (i.e. May’s, because I'm running super-late) Historical Sew Monthly challenge was Practicality, defined as:
"Fancy party frocks are all very well, but everyone, even princesses, sometimes needs a practical garment that you can DO things in. Create the jeans-and-T-Shirt-get-the-house-clean-and-garden-sorted outfit of your chosen period."

I did struggle with inspiration for this challenge. Few practical clothes appear in museum displays or on the pages of costume books. Often this is because they simply haven’t survived; while a wedding dress might be carefully preserved, the outfit you wear while doing the housework is unlikely to merit the same treatment.

Then, while looking for something else in my local museum, I came across this in a temporary exhibition on the role of ‘motherhood’ between 1910 and 1960.

What could be more practical than a wrap-over pinny?

I loved the fact that such a utilitarian garment had the decorative touches of blind piping and extra pieces around the armholes and front.

Decorative details

For the pattern I started from my basic bodice block, greatly increased the ease, lowered the armscyes, and added the front overlap. The shoulder and side seams were meant to be seam-and-a fell, but I forgot to start with the pieces wrong side together, so they ended up as self-bound seams instead.

I’d never tried blind piping before, so I did it by cutting 1½“ bias strips, folding them in half, and machine basting them onto the main section with the raw edges matching. This meant that when I sewed on the extra section with a standard ⅝” seam, I should end up with ⅛” of the piping showing. Because I was using a firm cotton this worked well, but I think that it would be tricky with a less well-behaved fabric.

Piping completed (top) and in progress

The hardest thing was attaching the extra pieces to the main section. This was entirely due to my own stupidity; I kept thinking that I was attaching ordinary facings, and put them on the wrong way round. There was a lot of unpicking, and a lot of muttering! It didn't help that I then had to attach identical pieces to form the actual facings, so I got even more confused. 

The straps are the same colour as all the other parts, but for some reason have come out differently in the photos.

Front view. I need to move the pocket!

I couldn’t work out exactly how the straps fastened at the back, so I just used a press stud (snap) and added a purely decorative button.

Back view

The small print:
The Challenge: Practicality
Fabric: Green and cream cotton
Pattern: My own
Year: 1930s
Notions: Press stud for fasten, button
How historically accurate is it? Very. It is based on an actual garment, the fabric is right, and the original is machine stitched, so I’m giving myself 95% for this one.
Hours to complete: Forgot to count, but unpicking made up a large part of them!
First worn: Not yet
Total cost: All from stash, even the button. Yay!


  1. Oh my heavens, I love this!! The color, style and construction are so fabulous! What fun!