HSM #9: Colour Challenge Brown – The Safety Pocket for Traveling is Done!

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This was a nice project, gave me something that I’ll be able to use for a long time and went relatively quickly. It would have been a breeze if I hadn’t done so much hand work. If you could use a place to stash your modern goodies while in costume, I recommend giving one of these a try. I made a couple of changes and I’ll share those later. The Challenge Information is at the end of the post.



The most significant impediment to getting this project done was having to stitch with a compromised fingertip. When I found the travel iron, the zipper on the case had split and jammed. I got it open, but at a cost. The cut was one thing, but the bruise went deep and wide. Of course, I use the side of my index finger for all sorts of sewing activities and it hurt like crazy until late yesterday. It’s not so bad today, but is still pretty darned tender. Needless to say, that means I bash and bang it into everything all day long. Silly me.

But I digress. Here’s what went into finishing up the Safety Pocket.

With the back and front pieces finished, I sandwiched them together. And yes, I did decide to put the light-colored fabric to the inside to make it easier to see inside. I cut a strip of fabric for the front and back pieces to case the elastic that forms the lower safety pouch and ran flat-braid elastic from side to side. I made it one-hale inch wider than the pattern instructed to make access easier. Sure, that defeats the anti-theft aspect but I’m not really expecting a thief to stick his arm down my skirt. (I do lead a rather dull life, you know.)

Next I applied a straight-cut binding around the outer edge. One would think that having already wounded myself I’d have been more conservative with the  pins. But one would be wrong. I hate having things slip around while I’m sewing, so I gingerly hand stitched around my Pocket of Many Sharp Pointy Things. No additional blood was spilled and the only untoward…um…incident came when I leaned forward to pet Sophie. Another sewing injury goes on the books: far from the first and certainly not the last. (Note: the binding really is cut on the straight of grain – the print is at a 45-degree angle so it looks like it’s on the bias.)

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After I’d finished sewing on the binding, I realized that I’d forgotten to make the pleats at the top of the back pocket piece. They were easy to add, so no problems – except that the directions were less than specific, as the period directions with Ageless Patterns are at times (since they are the original period directions which assume you already know what you’re doing…ha!) so I looked at the image and made it look like that. Adding the back pleats gave it nice depth.

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I struggled with getting the elastic edge of the top pocket front to look right. In the original, only the center portion is gathered. I had trouble getting it where I wanted it, let alone where it was supposed to be. So, in the end, I just gathered the entire upper edge with braided elastic cord. I used cord instead of a flat weave to ensure a rounded edge, which would make it easier to get my hand in and out without much bother.

At this point, I deviated from the original again. The pocket is supposed to be suspended from a belt that encircles the waist. However, I find that by the time I’m fully dressed I have plenty of things encircling my waist as it is and I don’t want any additional bulk. So I shortened the belt into two extended tabs to give me more flexibility on how I can wear it: stitched onto a petticoat, buttoned on, maybe giant snaps for quick changes…I haven’t decided yet. But at least now I have options.

Here is how it’s supposed to hang from the waist (straight and flat) versus how I think I want to wear it (hanging a bit below the belt line). It’s still a bit wrinkly because I haven’t ironed it yet and there’s nothing in it to help stretch it down. Sorry about the fuzzy photos. I couldn’t get sharp pictures to save me.

Here’s how the finished pocket looks from the front and back:

It is surprisingly large. The bottom “security” portion will easily accommodate my cell phone – even when it’s in the double-thick, bright pink, I-dare-you-to-drop-this case.

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And it is deeeeep. Whatever I put in this thing is likely to stay there, short of a body search at airport security.

So that’ two thumbs (and one bloodied fingertip) up for Ageless Patterns #1572. If you’re in the market for a quick project that is useful and pretty darned straightforward, I suggest giving this one a try. The original description notes that it can successfully be substituted for a standard dress pocket and that’s a good idea for dresses which you’ll wear at events where you’ll be milling through large crowds and/or want your mod cons accessible yet hidden securely away.

The Challenge: Colour Challenge Brown: it’s not the most exciting colour by modern standards, but brown has been one of the most common, and popular, colours throughout history. Make something brown.

The Title: Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Fabric: Assorted reproduction fabrics from stash, 100% cotton, ranging from 1830s to 1890s.

Pattern: Ageless Patterns #1572: 1868 Safety Pocket for Traveling.

Year: 1868

Notions: Thread, flat braid elastic, woven cord elastic.

How historically accurate is it? Very: taken from an original pattern and only slightly modified. All of the binding was cut on the straight grain, since bias-cut binding was not used at this time.

Hours to complete: Didn’t keep track very well, but approximately 18 (lots of extra hand work for English paper piecing the front panel).

First worn: Not yet worn.

Total cost: Pattern and fabric are from stash. Less than $3 spent on elastic.


HSM #9: Colour Challenge Brown

Because I finished my project for the HSM August challenge so early, on account of an urgent deadline, I’ve been able to start on HSM #9. And because I have so much time until the end of the month, I’ve upped the ante for myself by throwing in a lot of handwork that doesn’t have to happen. But I want it the way I want it, so what can I say?

The Challenge for September is to use the color brown, an unsung hero of the neutral palette. Luck for me, I happen to like brown so I won’t be adding frown lines as I sew.

For this Challenge I’m making a Traveler’s Safety Pocket using Ageless Patterns #1572 – 1868 Safety Pocket for Traveling.

1868 Safety Pocket for Traveling (image by Ageless Patterns)

1868 Safety Pocket for Traveling (image by Ageless Patterns)

The best description of how it is intended to work comes from the pattern itself: “This pocket will be found very convenient by ladies for the safe-keeping of money or jewels in traveling. The under part of the pocket is confined by an elastic band, thus forming a receptacle for valuables into which it would be impossible for a pickpocket to pass his hand without attracting the attention of the wearer.”

The author of this period text had obviously never tangled with hoards of gypsy children in Rome, let alone rush hour on the Paris Metro, however the concept is sound. The pocket is suspended from a belt so it can be worn with any number of period skirts or dresses. In addition, the elastic forms a good-sized pouch at the bottom so it’s ideal for keeping such period-incorrect items as cell phones and car keys secure. And, since it’s hidden when worn, I don’t have to mess about with making one in different fabrics to match different eras. This is going to be a “one-pocket-fits-all” kind of project.

However, even though the pattern is ridiculously simple and extremely straightforward, I don’t want a plain pocket. Neither, though, do I want to spend time with embroidery as is found on 18th century pockets. Beautiful as they are, I’m saving my embroidery time for something that’s going to be seen.

My compromise is to fancy up the pocket front with some English paper piecing. Normally used in quilting, it has also been used to make clothing and other household things. The basic hexagonal pattern for paper piecing was published in women’s magazines as early as the 1840’s, so historically it’s spot on.

Hand Stitched Quilt from 1840 (eBay seller tgkgardner)

Hand Stitched Quilt from 1840 (eBay seller tgkgardner)

A lot of people are familiar with historic quilts made in this method, particularly Mosaic Star pattern quilts and Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilts.

Mosaic Star quilt, detail from quiltindex.org

Antique Mosaic Star quilt, detail from quiltindex.org

Vintage quilt from eBay using hexagon shaped piecing

Vintage quilt from eBay using hexagon shaped piecing

For those unfamiliar with this most Zen of piecing methods, here’s how it works. You start with a template. Traditionally, women these templates by hand from any paper available, often pages from newspapers or magazines. In my case, I’m using 1-inch hexagons cut from heavy paper and I’m using commercially made templates because 1) I want them to all be the same size, and 2) I’m lazy.

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Then you cut a piece of fabric, fold the edges down around the edges of the template and sew around the edges, stitching the fabric through the template.

english paper piecing (from thezenofmaking.com)

english paper piecing (from thezenofmaking.com)

And when you have a kazillion, or so, fabric-covered templates you stitch them together one by one along the edge – invisibly – either randomly or, more commonly, in patterns.

Newspaper clipping from The Kansas City Star with The French Bouquet pattern.

Newspaper clipping from The Kansas City Star with The French Bouquet pattern.

Fortunately, the pocket is large enough to be useful but not so large that paper piecing the front is a pain. In fact, I’m really enjoying it. I decided to raid my stash of reproduction fabric fat quarters and half yards for a little variety. In that stash are some patterns which, while historically correct, I absolutely despise. This is a great way to use them without having to look at them, at least not very often.

This is the fabric I’m using as backing for the pocket front. I hate dislike despise absolutely loathe it. I thought it would be a nice pink on a rich brown background. Instead it’s kinda salmon-y-ish on a khaki-green-brown background. The photograph does not do it justice – it is hideous (in my eyes, at least). Good thing I only ordered a fat quarter.

Yukcy, but hidden so OK.

Yucky, but hidden so OK to use for this.

Here it is as the backing to the full size pocket front.

A whole lotta yucky.

A whole lotta yucky.

I began by basting a strip of fabric down the center of the pocket front. From there I’ll add stripes of paper-pieced hexagons running the length of the pocket from top to bottom. I finished the right hand side last night. I haven’t stitched around the edge yet and it hasn’t been pressed, so please forgive the pins and the wrinkly bits.

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Twenty years ago I would have thought this kind of piece work insane and boring-with-a-capital-B. I thought it was nuts to take the time to hand sew down all the pieces to the template, then hand sew the templates together, then go back and pick out the original stitches that held the fabric to the templates, and then hand quilt the thing. I guess I’m softening up a bit because now I find it relaxing, almost meditative. Very Zen indeed.

Tonight I’m starting the left hand side of the front. When that’s done so is the fussy handwork. But it will be fun to have something that looks nice hidden underneath the everyday clothing. I can understand the appeal of lavishly embroidered garters and pockets…special little somethings for the wearer to enjoy all to herself.

Better: slow but sure.

je suis malade

Getting over this whatever-it-was is slow going. You’ve probably noticed the dearth of posts. That’s because my hand-eye coordination is still re-tuning itself. Knitting helps and I’ve been doing a lot of it. But my hand sewing is a bit too shaky for the look I’m after, although it’s improving steadily, and my machine sewing tends to drift from a straight line unless I focus every bit of energy and concentrate. Then I’m exhausted after 20 minutes and frustrated.

In general, I start my day feeling like this:

A couple enjoys an old fashioned zipline on a weekend afternoon. (1923)

A couple on an old-fashioned zipline. (1923)

It doesn’t take long before I’m feeling like this:



And by late afternoon:

Sick person going to Lourdes to take the water.

Going to Lourdes to take the water.

I try to be patient with this *tap foot, tap foot, tap foot* while my body heals. Today has been a really good day and the worst has definitely passed.

The knitting is going pretty well now. My stitches are even again. I can do math for the patterns in my head.

I’ve been hoarding collecting 1930’s prints to make a simple quilt for my bed, and I feel good enough to re-start my machine swing on that. This one will be pretty simple and I don’t need to completely finish the top to polish up my skills. Not to mention this will finally get me going on something I’ve been putting off for a long time (hard to choose a pattern, decided to go easy on myself).

In addition, I started English paper-piecing a reproduction of an 1840’s quilt. It’s going to take a while, but there is no rush – I’m just doing it because I’ve always wanted to try and now I have the patience for it. I’ve already cut the fabric hexagons for the next panel, so I think I’ll work on that for an evening or two to get my fine hand-eye motor coordination back up to snuff.

And then it’s back to business.

The top portion of my Edwardian petticoat for HSM #6 is mostly done. Happily, the worst of the fiddly bits are finished. Before all this happened I’d purchased some lovely pink jacquard-weave ribbon for the beading lace. After lace meets ribbon, I’ll start hand-finishing the armholes. Then it’s make a tube, sew on a ruffle, gather the top edge and sew the whole thing onto the bodice portion. After that it’s just a matter of using hooks-and-eyes up the front for an easy closure.

Hmmmm. Probably shouldn’t have said “easy”….

HSM #5 – Practicality: “Stuck on You” – is Finished!

"Stuck on You" - pinner apron for HSM #5

“Stuck on You” – pinner apron for HSM #5

HSM #5 – The Challenge: Practicality. 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.

The Project: Pinner Apron

The Title: “Stuck on You”

Fabric: 100% cotton homespun (machine-made)

Pattern: Adapted from World Turn’d Upside Down – Civil War Era Apron Pattern

Year: I intend to this for 1850’s and 1860’s events. The style is appropriate for a wide range – pinner aprons were worn in the 18th century and well into the 19th century.

Notions: cotton thread, heavy Pellon

How historically accurate is it? Very, but not 100% – mostly hand sewn (about 95% – I did the waistband by machine) and based on research of images and notes from the era.  I have historically accurate fibula pins for the bib. However…I did use a heavy, sew-in Pellon for the waistband, instead of historically accurate buckram or stiff muslin, because it’s what I had on hand.

Hours to complete: About ten

First worn: Not yet worn

Total cost: $12.48 USD for the fabric, all notions came from the stash

Notes and photos:

I have absolutely loved working with this homespun. It is compliant, doesn’t fuss or fight, needles easily and presses like a dream. I see more of it in my future. The indigo homespun has woven-in flaws that add to the look (probably the only time I’ve been delighted to have bought flawed fabric) so I didn’t cut around them or try to hide them. This first photo shows the true color of the fabric.

Weaving error - the third stripe at the bottom is missing.

Weaving error – the third stripe at the bottom is missing.

A blob in the spun thread disrupts the woven plaid.

A blob in the spun thread disrupts the woven plaid.

It is a simple and straightforward project so it came together easily. I had planned on using the selvage for the edges of the apron, but it was distractingly colorful so off it went.

I had planned on using the selvage for the edges of the apron, but it was distractingly colorful so off it went.

The finished bib is self-lined and gathered into a band at the top.

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Then the bib is gathered at the bottom and the waistband is applied and turned.

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The apron is hemmed on three sides…

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then gathered, set into the waistband and the inside waistband finished.

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Et voilà! Here it is, shown over a chemise, corset and two petticoats. It fits perfectly and I love it.


But wait, you ask…what about HSM #4 – The Case of the Contraband Crinoline? Last Monday I went to Seattle, tripped on some massively uneven sidewalk and fell. Nothing serious – however, amongst other bruises and scrapes, I had to dig a chunk of sidewalk out of the palm of my hand. It left a bit of a divot and when I apply much pressure to it, such as that which results from squeezing wire cutters into hoop wire, it hurts. Not as much as it did last week, but it hurts. The good news is it’s itching like crazy, which means it’s healing up just fine. So I went ahead and did this month’s challenge while my hand finishes putting itself back together. Never a dull moment!

Wool: preparing, washing and pressing

Flannel_wool_fabricHave you ever wondered how to sew with wool to get the best results and care for the garment once it’s done? Cathrin recently shared this on her fabulous blog Katafalk. It’s everything you ever wanted to know about working with wool and getting professional-looking results.

This post was originally written in Swedish for the amazing blog Som När Det Begav Sig. You should really go and check it out!

Wool really is an amazing material. One of its many properties is its abilities to clean itself in moist weather so that there is no need for constant washing.
If you care for your wool garment correctly there is almost no need for washing it in water at all. But if you happen to be sensitive for chemicals it might be a good idea to wash it in the machine before sewing.

Washing is best done on the wool cycle, 30 degrees Celsius with mild centrifuge. Warmth + mechanical action makes the wool full itself. That is something that you can use if you have a loosely woven fabric that you want to make a bit less loose.
but if you are satisfied with…

View original post 1,622 more words

Not Sure if the Industrial Revolution was Worth It? Let’s do the Math.

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid we had “school” clothes, “play” clothes  and “Sunday” clothes. How my mother managed all that laundry and got everything else done I’ll never know. (Cue the washing machine.)

The size of the average wardrobe has expanded and contracted through the millenia, reflecting the political, economic, religious, and social ideals of the time. In this time of First World wealth and prosperity, I sometimes forget just how good I’ve got it.

Not too long ago, I was researching 17th century clothing. I wanted to forgo the upper classes because 1) the materials are expensive, 2) there are a lot of pieces that require a lot of work, and 3) I’m just too lazy to commit to 1300 hours of hand embroidering with metallic thread just to make a bodice sparkle (and some aristocrat drool).

Hand-made clothing (and I’m talking 100% made by hand from the ground up – literally) takes a long time to make. A very long time. Making clothing by hand had, and always has had, an enormous impact on women’s lives, and not because they ended up with tons of pretty dress to wear.

The following is an article, written by Eve Fisher and used with her permission, that appeared on sleuthsayers.org. It is the single best discussion about the value of labor I’ve ever run across. I’ve included her updated mathematical calculations, otherwise it is the original article as written. Yes, it’s history + math + economics, but you’ll manage just fine. Enjoy (and appreciate)!


The $3500 Shirt – A History Lesson in Economics

by Eve Fisher

One of the great advantages of being a historian is that you don’t get your knickers in as much of a twist over how bad things are today. If you think this year is bad, try 1347, when the Black Death covered most of Europe, one-third of the world had died, and (to add insult to injury) there was also (in Europe) the little matter of the Hundred Years’ War and the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (where the pope had moved to Avignon, France, and basically the Church was being transformed into a subsidiary of the French regime). Things are looking up already, aren’t they?Another thing is economics. Everyone complains about taxes, prices, and how expensive it is to live any more. I’m not going to go into taxes – that way lies madness. But I can tell you that living has never been cheaper. We live in a country awash in stuff – food, clothing, appliances, machines, cheap crap from China – but it’s never enough. $4 t-shirts? Please. We want five for $10, and even then, can we get them on sale? And yet, compared to a world where everything is made by hand – we’re talking barely 200 years ago – everything is cheap and plentiful, and we are appallingly ungrateful.

Let’s talk clothing. When the Industrial Revolution began, it started with factories making cloth. Why? Because clothing used to be frighteningly expensive. Back in my teaching days I gave a standard lecture, which is about to follow, on the $3,500 shirt, or why peasants owned so little clothing. Here’s the way it worked:See this guy below, front left dancing? He’s wearing a standard medieval shirt. It has a yoke, a bit of smocking and gathering around the neck, armholes, and the wrists would be banded, so he could tie or button them close.

File:Pieter Bruegel de Oude - De bruiloft dans (Firenze).jpg

Oh, and in the middle ages, it would be expected that all of the inside sleeves would be finished. This was all done by hand. A practiced seamstress could probably sew it in 7 hours. But that’s not all that would go into the making. There’s the cloth. A shirt like this would take about 4 yards of cloth, and it would be a fine weave: the Knoxville Museum of Art estimates two inches an hour. So 4(yards) x 36(inches)/2 = 72 hours. (I’m a weaver – or at least I used to be – so this sounds accurate to me.) Okay, so hand weaving and hand sewing would take 79 hours. Now the estimate for spinning has always been complex, so stick with me for a minute: Yardage of thread for 4 yards of cloth, one yard wide (although old looms often only wove about 24″ wide cloth), and requires 12 threads per inch, so:

12 threads x 36″ wide x (4 yards + 2 yards for tie-up = 6 yards, or 72″) x 72 = 31,004 inches, or 864 yards of thread for the warp. And you’d need about the same for a weft, or a total of about 1600 yards of thread for one shirt.

1600 yards would take a while to spin. At a Dark Ages recreation site, they figured out a good spinner could do 4 yards in an hour, so that would be 400 hours to make the thread for the weaving.

So, 7 hours for sewing, 72 for weaving, 400 for spinning, or 479 hours total to make one shirt. At minimum wage – $7.25 an hour – that shirt would cost $3,472.75 [added note: that’s in today’s dollars].
And that’s just a standard shirt.
And that’s not counting the work that goes into raising sheep or growing cotton and then making the fiber fit for weaving. Or making the thread for the sewing.
And you’d still need pants (tights or breeches) or a skirt, a bodice or vest, a jacket or cloak, stockings, and, if at all possible, but a rare luxury, shoes.

  • Updated math, as of 1/30/15:
  • To make a shirt entirely by hand – and we’re going to go with 25 gauge for a decent, but coarse shirt – we start with the spinning. 25 ÷ threads per inch × 36 inches wide × 8 yards (shirts were longer then) = 7200 warp yards, plus about the same for weft = 14,400 yards of thread; divided by 30 yards per hour = 480 hours. The weaving requires about 20 hours including 10 hours minimum for set up – stretching the warp, setting up and threading the loom – and then another 8-10 for weaving. And the sewing, which I still say would take 7 hours, including finishing all the seams. So the new figures are:
  • Spinning – 480 hours
  • Weaving – 20 hours
  • Sewing – 8 hours
  • Total: 508 hours of labor to make a shirt.
  • This still doesn’t include things like buttons, or the needle and thread to sew the shirt, nor the labor that went into raising/processing the linen, cotton, or wool.

Imagine spending 480 hours to make enough thread to weave a shirt. No wonder Ellen Rollins said “The moaning of the big [spinning] wheel was the saddest sound of my childhood. It was like a low wail from out of the lengthened monotony of the spinner’s life.” (Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, p. 26) And that would be 480 hours “fitted in”, because almost no woman could spend an entire working week (72 hours in pre-Industrial times) doing nothing but weaving. She had chores to do, like cooking, cleaning, dairying, weeding, minding children, etc. No matter what price she got for that yarn, she would undoubtedly have felt it was a pretty small sum for that much work.

NOTE: Back in the pre-industrial days, the making of thread, cloth, and clothing ate up all the time that a woman wasn’t spending cooking and cleaning and raising the children. That’s why single women were called “spinsters” – spinning thread was their primary job. “I somehow or somewhere got the idea,” wrote Lucy Larcom in the 18th century, “when I was a small child, that the chief end of woman was to make clothing for mankind.” Ellen Rollins: “The moaning of the big [spinning] wheel was the saddest sound of my childhood. It was like a low wail from out of the lengthened monotony of the spinner’s life.” (Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, p. 26)

Anyway, with clothing that expensive and hard to make, every item was something you wore until it literally disintegrated. Even in 1800, a farm woman would be lucky to own three dresses – one for best and the other two for daily living. Heck, my mother, in 1930, went to college with that exact number of dresses to her name… This is why old clothing is rare: even the wealthy passed their old clothes on to the next generation or the poorer classes. The poor wore theirs until it could be worn no more, and then it was cut down for their children, and then used for rags of all kinds, and then, finally, sold to the rag and bone man who would transport it off to be made into (among other things) paper.


Vieille Landaise filant au Rouet 1952 (This was taken in rural France the year before I was born. Gasp!)
Taken in rural France the year before I was born. Gasp!

I would be a spinster, with calloused fingers and a muscle-bound leg. I get dizzy just thinking about it.

One Squirrely Lake O’ Linen

Pattern transferred to grid

Pattern transferred to grid

I can only stay away from sewing for so long, then I get itchy/twitchy/antsy. So, yesterday I played around with the linen a bit. As I mentioned before, linen is a new experience for me. I started out with the smaller pieces to keep the learning easier: sleeve, cuff and sleeve gusset. It’s going fairly smoothly and I hope to have some real progress to share soon…maybe even a complete sleeve by the end of the month. Not bad, considering all the preparations for the move.

Yesterday I was going to cut out the large pieces: the rectangle that makes up the body of the chemise and the triangular piece that is cut from the main block, flipped upside down and added to the lower half of the sides to widen the hem. I know…it sounds confusing if you’ve never done it before, but it makes complete sense when you see it, and I will show the process.

I can’t get to my cutting table, or much of anything else at the moment, so I used the kitchen island counter top for cutting. The way this pattern works, you take the length of fabric for the body of the chemise and fold it in half lengthwise (selvage-to-selvage), then fold it in half widthwise (end-to-end). Now you have a four-layer rectangle from which you cut the body of the chemise.

Why do this? Because now, in just one cutting, when you unfold it you have one large piece of fabric which gives you a chemise that is seamless at the shoulders, the front and the back. Think of it as fabric origami and you’re making a really weird-looking rectangular snowflake (without the diagonal fold).

square snowflake, instructables.com

square snowflake, instructables.com

The problem I’m having is getting and keeping this big chunk of lightweight linen folded on the grain. It flows and creeps and slides. I have trouble keeping the grain lines straight. I don’t know the density of the weave, but it’s tight enough that I haven’t been able to fold it straight by eye alone.

So this is a call out for help, please. Does anyone out there know how to “square up” this squirrely thing? Can I pull threads on such a large piece to find and follow the grain? All help and suggestions appreciated.


HSM #2 is Done – and it’s not what you’re expecting.


Historical Sew Monthly Challenge #2: The Blue Housewife.

A “housewife” is a portable sewing kit that folds or rolls into a small size, therefore making it easy to carry. The sizes and dimensions varied, but the basic design featured small pockets for thimble and thread, plus a fabric “flap” that held the needles and pins.

Using the term housewife to refer to a sewing kit appeared in print for the first time in 1749. But they were also known as huswife, hussive, or, most commonly, hussif, which appears to be the contraction of the word “housewife” in the dialect of Lancashire.

My housewife for this challenge represents the years of the American Civil War, hence the name “The Blue Housewife.” It has four cotton pockets and two flaps of boiled wool (for securing needles and pins). It folds into a rectangle of 4 1/4 inches x 3 1/4 inches and ties with a thin black ribbon.

Please note: the colors of the red wool flap and the pink fabric on the inside ends did not photograph well. They are not neon, but that’s how they came out. In reality, they are deeper and more subdued shades.

Outer Fabric

Outer Fabric

Blue Pinwheel lining fabric

Blue Pinwheel lining fabric

Inside, opened

Inside, opened…









HSM #2 – Colour Challenge Blue: Make an item that features blue, in any shade from azure to zaffre.

Title: The Blue Housewife

Fabric: 100% cotton, boiled wool

Pattern: My own creation

Year: 2015

Notions: Thread and a bit of ribbon for tying

How historically accurate is it? Very. For this “housewife” I used 100% cotton and boiled 100% wool. It is hand sewn. The cotton fabrics are reproductions of American Civil War era prints. The patterns in the wool would also have been available at that time.

Hours to complete: about 4

First worn: Not yet used.

Total cost: $1.00 for the spool of ribbon. Everything else was in my stash.


(I’ll be brief – I abandoned the reticule. I couldn’t get it to hang straight and it was driving me nuts. So I set it aside until sometime down the road when we’ve both had a chance to take a deep breath and settle down a bit.)

HSM #2 – Almost There…

The reticule is nearly finished.

The blue band around the top is on and tonight I’ll stitch the casings for the drawstrings. I chose this blue because both two-color roller prints and geometric designs were available in this era, plus the blues in the band were so close to the blues in the indienne they would have been accurate at the time: they seemed a good pairing. So here’s where I am at present:

The ruching will go around the base and around the bottom of the blue band. I forgot how much fabric it takes to get enough length, so I’m still at it. Then all it needs are the drawstrings, which will be acquired this Thursday. Then it’s done!

HSM #2 – Down a Whole Cup

vintage experiment (Austria 1950's)I’m here to confess that my creative venture with the styrofoam cup is no more. Essentially, the more I tried to hide it the more obvious it became that I wasn’t making a “normal” reticule. So, in the barren swamp that is Saturday night television, the cup and the reticule parted ways. But I don’t regret giving it a try – I learn a lot from experimentation.

Getting rid of the cup was clearly the right choice – things improved immediately. The shape softened up, no surprise there, and it was much easier to work with. The lining went into place without a fight. I added a padded bottom, then secured it to the inside base. Now I was making  progress. And not egregiously cheating on the historical aspect of these challenges (yeah, I was starting to feel like a bit of a cheat).

Before I finished last night I got the first side panel of the drawstring top fabric hemmed and pinned into place. You’ll see that in the next post.

As for other news, the 100-yd spool of natural cotton twill tape arrived yesterday. It may very well be enough to last me for the rest of my life, but the price was good and now I won’t have to waste time and gas driving to “the city” to get more. Here it is – the stapler’s there for scale.

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Best of all, the linen arrived! It’s beautiful and exactly what I want for the chemise. There’s enough to make a fichu and a cap, as well. I looked up instructions for the care and feeding of 100% linen, so it’s currently in the washer to shrink its little heart out.

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As some of you may recall, it took me three months to hand sew my first Regency chemise, but I spent at least half of that time figuring out the gussets. This chemise is for HSM #1, which is due January 31, st, so no lollygagging around this time.