Sunday, 26 January 2020

Historical Sew Monthly - No-Buy

My first completed challenge for the 2020 Historical Sew Monthly isn't very exciting, but it's a start. As I mentioned here, this year the challenges can be done in any order. So I started with July; No-Buy. This is defined simply as "Make something without buying anything." I made a pair of drawers for my planned 1874 outfit, using stashed fabric and a pattern I already own.

As I said, unexciting

Some time ago I read a piece (which of course I can't now find, but I think it was by Jennifer Rosburgh of the excellent Historical Sewing) which mentioned that a common mistake for historical costuming newbies is to use fabric which is too stiff and heavy. This was certainly the case with the cotton I used for my Edwardian chemise and drawers. The fabric seemed light enough when I was cutting out, but the end result is definitely crisper than I would like for underwear. The 1909 slip which I made a year later from a cotton/linen blend has a lovely soft hand, and this really highlighted the issues with my first choice.

The Historical Sew Monthly is all about learning and improving, and this was definitely a lesson learned. Unfortunately most of the cotton on sale locally is craft/quilting weight, so on the rare occasions when I find anything lightweight, I snap up a few metres and stash them. I'm not sure where this fabric came from, but it is beautifully soft, and there's enough left for a matching chemise.

The pattern is Laughing Moon Mercantile number 100 - Ladies' Victorian Underwear. I bought it years ago, when I was trying to work out how to finish the Satin Corset From Hell.

The pattern

Although the pattern claims to be suitable for 1837-1899, the chemise and drawers patterns are actually from the 1880s. However after checking various of my costume books I decided that any differences from 1874 were not great enough to justify buying a new pattern.

Due to time constraints, I sewed the drawers by machine. I'm not sure how historically accurate this is for 1874, although something I read for my course* suggested that in Britain at least, sewing machines were widely used by outworkers by that date, so I don't think it's entirely improbable.

What would be improbable however is that my pintucks would ever have passed muster if I were an outworker. They didn't look too bad when I was sewing them, but once pressed, it became obvious that they are all over the place. I may tidy them up as part of one of the other challenges. Although the pattern suggests ordinary or French seams, I flat-felled the leg seams to give a smoother finish.

Very wonky pintucks

My friend F came round when I was working on these, and she was amazed by the open crotch design: basically the drawers consist of two separate legs sewn onto a waistband. I explained that this was a necessary design feature of undies worn with a corset laced over the top, and once she saw the illustration on the pattern envelope, it all became clear.

Showing the separate legs

Of course, the 'no-buy' element is reflected on the Stashometer.

Further in credit

The small print:
The Challenge: July, No-Buy
What the item is: A pair of drawers
How it fits the challenge: The fabric and notions are from my stash, and I already had the pattern
Fabric: Cotton, possibly voile
Pattern: Laughing Moon #100, Ladies' Victorian Underwear
Notions: Cord for waist tie
How historically accurate is it? Given my uncertainty about the date of the pattern and machine sewing, and the unacceptably poor pintucks, I would say 75%
Hours to complete: 8
First worn: Not yet
Total cost: All from stash, but I'm estimating £7/metre for the fabric and 50p for the cord, so £14.50

* - Godley, A. (1999). Homeworking and the sewing machine in the British clothing industry 1850-1905. In Burman, B. (Ed.), The culture of sewing: Gender, consumption and home dressmaking

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