Sunday, 9 February 2020

Historical Sew Monthly - Basic

This month I've completed the May challenge for the Historical Sew Monthly; Basic. This is defined as "Make a garment that can be used for many occasions (like a shift . . .)". For this challenge I made the chemise of my 1874 costume, because what is more basic than a chemise/shift?

I used the same pattern that I used for my drawers, Laughing Moon pattern #100, Ladies' Victorian Underwear. I adapted the pattern to remove the opening on the front yoke, click here for the full details.

The completed chemise

I decided to sew the front and back together and then do the pintucks all the way round, whereas the instructions suggest doing the pintucks first on the separate pieces. Because the chemise will be worn under a corset, I also ignored the suggestion in the instructions to use ordinary or French seams, and instead used flat felled seams at the sides. I started with the chemise pieces wrong sides together, to keep the inside as smooth as possible. Happily, it appears that my pintucking skills have greatly improved since I made the drawers.

Once the chemise part was completed, I pinned it to the yoke, right sides together, and sewed most of the way round. The only part which I omitted was the straight section at the centre front -  it was just too difficult to manipulate the fabric. Instead I turned the yoke part under once I had pressed and graded the rest of the seam, and hand-sewed it down. Then I turned under the seam allowance of the yoke, and slip-stitched it in place.

The hand-sewn portion of attaching the yoke

The photograph above also shows the embroidery I did on the chemise yoke. Although embroidery appears on earlier chemises, from the examples I found online it appeared that by the 1870s it had largely been replaced by insertions, but I didn't have any suitable trim to do this. Then I found this illustration of late 1870s combinations in Nancy Bradfield's Costume in Detail (page 250 of my 1997 paperback edition), which appeared to show an embroidered yoke.

Embroidery inspiration . . .

. . . and my sketch based on this

Despite the embroidery, the completed chemise looked a little austere. I wanted to add some lace trim, but everything I could find, either for sale or in my stash, was too wide and/or too synthetic. Then in a separate box in deep, deep stash I found some narrow cotton lace! It is a little darker than I would have liked, and now I wish I had done the embroidery in off-white to go with it, but no matter. It's not as if it will be on show!

Another two metres out of the fabric stash!

The small print:
The Challenge: May, Basic
What the item is: A chemise
How it fits the challenge: A shift or chemise is probably the most basic part of any ensemble
Fabric: Cotton, possibly voile
Pattern: Laughing Moon #100, Ladies' Victorian Underwear
Year: 1870s-1880s
Notions: lace for trimming, embroidery floss
How historically accurate is it? The straight seams are sewn by machine, which would have been possible at this time, and the rest is handsewn, so I would say 80%
Hours to complete:This project has really demonstrated just how slowly I sew. The embroidery and lace trimming took me a fair while, and the total was around 24 hours
First worn: Not yet
Total cost: The fabric and lace are from stash; I'm estimating £14 for the fabric and £3 for the lace. The embroidery floss was £1, so £18 in total

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