An 1898 Striped Wrapper

I currently have a fascination with 1890s work wear. Last summer, while working at Stuhr, I learned firsthand the benefit of loose cool clothing in the heat, and while blousey shirtwaists and neat skirts are not unpleasant, I have been wanting some wrappers for informal days spent in and around the house at Stuhr.

Enter this fabric:


Wrapper Fabric


I got a Joann Fabrics email in February, mentioning free shipping and new prints, half price. Now, usually their fabrics aren’t that exciting for historical purposes — I mostly get flannel with knitting sheep and things like that from them. But I looked to see what they had, and this jumped at me. It tackled me and screamed WRAPPER!!! So of course I had to order it.

I’d been wanting to find some trim such as was used on the readymade wrappers of Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, and managed to find some antique trim on Etsy for pretty cheap. That was an awesome find!

The next step was to decide what the wrapper, on the whole, should look like. I knew I wanted to copy another wrapper of Marna’s, from The Domestic Lady’s Dressmaker , but which one? She has several readymade wrappers in her collection from the 1890s, but I finally settled on one in particular, a black striped number from approximately 1898 with an interesting yoke. We are in 1898 this year at Stuhr, so it was perfect!

The first thing I always do when making a historical garment off an original is to sketch it out. This helps me to get a feel for the seam lines, proportions, and other design features of the original. As I sketch, I write notes to the side of my sketch about details I see in the construction and finish, which help me think through how, exactly, I’ll execute the pattern and sewing of this garment. You’ll see I later changed a few of my opinions on the shape of the yoke.


Sketch First

The next step was to draft the pattern. There are no photos of this process. I used my slopers, as usual. Then cut the fabric, and sew!

There is one hard and fast rule about historical sewing: no matter what you are making, there will be a small piece you have to fiddle with and make before you can start with the big sweeping seams and get stuff done. This dress, that piece was the little back belt thing. Luckily, it was made with speed sewing techniques. Was it hemmed before applying trim? No! No such nonsense here! The raw edges were pressed 1/4″ to the right side, and the trim was then machine stitched down to cover the raw edges. Slick.


The subsequent seams were also sewn together in a beautiful time-saving way: you make a sandwich of the linings right sides together and the fabric right sides together and sew them all as one, then fold out and press. Raw edges are all enclosed! This should only, however, be done on loose fitting garments that won’t need size adjustments.


After I got the whole back together, I sewed the front fabric yoke. Since this wrapper is lined with a fitted lining down to the high hip, I sewed the Mother Hubbard front separately from the lining, then sewed it to the lining at the shoulder. I then sewed the shoulders together (with a flat felled seam felled on the outside!) and sewed the side seams. Pocket went into the right side seam, belt went in the sides, and wing ruffles went on the shoulders.


What’s wrong with my ruffle?!

This was when I realized that my little standing ruffle was not level. So I fixed it. That was annoying.


Next was to sew the buttonholes, then sew down the trim outlining the yoke, and to make and apply the collar and binding. It really started to come together at this point! The trim stitching holds the bottom of the yoke to the fitted lining, the Mother Hubbard front is loose below that.


Back Yoke Detail

Last was the sleeves, with their loose non opening cuffs and trim, and the skirt flounce with its little standing ruffle. The skirt itself is actually quite narrow above the flounce, about 84″ including seam allowances. The flounce is three widths of 44″ fabric, seamed together with a 2″ hem. The sleeves are not very puffy, coming as they do at the very end of the 1890s. However, the shoulder ruffles really make up for the lack of actual sleeve puff!


1898 Dress Front


1898 Dress Back

Before the flounce, I also applied a patch pocket like on the original, edged with trim at the top. It should come in handy.


Pockets for All!

Another thing I’d like to mention is that this wrapper buttons left over right. This is actually super common in the late Victorian era. Overlaps were not yet standardized for women’s clothing, and were often left over right instead of right over left. I decided to make mine left over right, since the original did so.

I haven’t worn this dress at all yet, I’m of course waiting for the summer season at Stuhr to start, but I’ll likely first get to wear it sometime in May. Pictures then, I promise!

Oh, and because this was my project for the March Historical Sew Monthly challenge, here are the details for that:

Make something to wear around the (historical) house.

What the item is: 1898 Readymade Wrapper
Material: Reproduction Cotton Print
Pattern: Self – drafted from an original.
Year: 1898
Notions: 6 China buttons, thread.
How historically accurate is it? 90%. I actually got to historically use machine buttonholes! But I used poly blend thread throughout the dress.
Hours to complete: 12?
First worn: Not yet, this summer at Stuhr.
Total cost: $45.

Published in: on April 13, 2018 at 9:51 pm  Comments (1)  

An 1893 Hunting Suit, from Harper’s Bazaar


Many years ago, I bought a book of plates from Harper’s Bazaar.  If you’re a costumer, you probably know the one, put out by Dover, big thick thing with a slightly weird shade of brown cover, full of designs from 1869 through 1899.  One in particular that caught my eye was this plate, from fall 1893:  FB_IMG_1510952779432

“Lady’s Hunting Costume”  I am a country girl, and grew up shooting and hunting, and this plate just enchanted me.  Here was a very proper lady all dressed in the proper costume for hunting,and she’s got her own shotgun, AND a shotgun shell belt!  She’s not some flighty lady who only sits inside and drinks tea, she goes out and has fun in the great outdoors!

So I dreamed about this ensemble for years.  In 2012 I posted this picture on Facebook, saying I hoped to make it soon.  I finally bought the wool in spring of 2016, but stalled.  It had to be perfect, and I didn’t feel my tailoring was up to snuff yet.  Finally, this year, my husband told me to just make it for the State Make it with Wool contest.  So now I had a deadline, two months out.


Leor Helped Warm up my Wool

I dug out my wool, pulled down my slopers, and started drafting.

For the skirt, I simply cut off my favorite skirt pattern at a length that would just hit the top of my calves when finished, and took just a little bit of fullness out of the center back.


I omitted my standard haircloth interlining, and simply lined the skirt with sateen (so as not to bind on the wool knickers), and faced the hem with a deep twill cotton facing.  I decided to machine stitch the hem, as this needs to be a durable skirt rather than fancy, and machine stitched hems were surprisingly common in the 1890’s.

This is where I discovered the need for a walking foot.  I did not own a walking foot.  Had my fabric been a herringbone tweed rather than a plaid, it probably would have been fine, but there was a definite jog in the hem right at the three rows of topstitching.  So I ordered in a walking foot, and tore out the hem and redid it.  So much better!


Walking Foot in Use, Topstitching

The moral of this story is that walking feet are the most awesome thing, and you all need one too.  I used it for almost the whole rest of this ensemble.

The bodice was pretty easy and straight forward to draft, and not too terribly difficult to put together.  I used my skirt pattern again for the peplum, and lined up the front left bodice overlay with the edge of the front panel.  It worked amazingly well that way.  The left bodice and right lining button together at center front, and take most of the strain of the  closure, while the overlay on the left side is an extension of the right bodice and just hooks over at the waist and shoulder.

I used a sleeve lining from a shirtwaist to make the actual sleeves (just the right shape), and fussed around with my standup collar pattern to make the opening at the right place.



I moved the pocket from the right breast to the right hip, because a pocket on your chest right where you will shoulder your gun is an exceedingly bad idea, but pockets are always awesome.  (I also have a hidden large pocket in the skirt, right between right side and right back.  Pockets!)

I bound all the edges of the bodice, peplum, and the inside of the collar with bias made from the plaid.  Because I am insane, I pattern matched it.  It was also mostly cut from scraps, because why cut bias out of good large pieces you could use for something else when you have scraps?

So then, pants. Knickers. Jodpurs.

My wonderful friend Marna of The Domestic Lady’s Dressmaker helped me with the pants, sending me instructions for drafting my own to size from Edwardian Ladies’ Tailoring: The Twentieth Century System of Ladies’ Garment Cutting (1910), by J C Hopkins.  (I know it is from the 1910’s, but it was that or basically a drawers pattern with the crotch sewn shut, which would not be that fantastic for actually doing daring things in, and I have also seen riding pants patterns for women similar from the 90’s.)

So that all turned my brain inside out.  All the points in the draft seemed to be pretty arbitrarily named, A, B, 1, 4, etc., BUT.  The first and only mockup fit really well!



Tada! Mockup Accomplished.

So the pants went together well, with a regular placket and waistband like a skirt. I made them of the same wool as the rest of the ensemble.

The last step was the leggings, or spats, or gaiters, however you want to call them.  My husband had promised to help me with this project, so…. heeheehee.


Duct Tape Fixes Everything!

See, the gaiters have to fit over the pants at the top, but they have to fit snugly to the legs, so the best way to accomplish making a pattern is to put on your shoes, stockings, and pants, slip on a trash bag, and tape up your leg!  This is easier if your husband is willing to tape you up.  I drew a line for the center front seam, and very very very carefully cut myself out.  I was then able to cut apart the taped pieces into my pattern pieces, and trace and add seam allowances.

Then it was an entire evening of buttonholes, and another entire evening of buttons to finish!  The next morning was Nebraska Make it With Wool!


This is my friend Alyssa.  During the same time as I was making this hunting suit, she was working on this lovely ensemble, which is a different color copy of a suit in the Platte County Museum in Columbus.  She learned how to draft her own patterns and use a lot of Victorian sewing techniques in making this dress, and I am very proud of her.  She won the senior division of the Make it With Wool Contest.

I styled my hunting suit as a hiking suit for the competition, because my cartridge belt wasn’t done yet (I had an awesome guy in a local leather shop make one for me.), and carried a walking stick.  My hat came to me as a ratty old thing, but I cleaned it, steamed it into shape again, and put new feathers on as the old ones were completely falling apart.  I used two pheasant feathers given me by my friend Lisa. Really, this would make an awesome Victorian hiking costume as well.  I earned first in the adult division at Make it With Wool!

Of course no historical ensemble is complete without a quality photoshoot.  (Also I need proper photos to send to nationals.)  So, yesterday, my husband and I went out to do just that.  My friend Ross lent me his absolutely amazing 1877 English Pape 16 gauge side by side shotgun.  It is fully engraved, with Damascus barrels.  I really don’t know if I’ve ever held a more beautiful gun.  He also lent me a pheasant rooster he shot on Thanksgiving day with that very gun, (and promptly froze), to use as a prop.  My dad tagged along for the photoshoot as well, to help carry things.



I never felt restrained by this ensemble as well.  I was able to move just as comfortably as in a t-shirt and jeans.  Actually, I have greater range of motion in these pants than in my favorite pair of jeans, and a well-fitted sleeve is a joy to wear.



“I would like to see every woman know how to handle guns as naturally as they know how to handle babies.” –Annie Oakley





We took some hiking photos as well, for some variety.



I will close by saying that this is probably my favorite ensemble to date (of course, I say that almost every time I finish something), and this ensemble has really shown me how no seamstress stands alone.  From Marna, who helped me with resources for the knicker pants pattern and taught me how to draft my own patterns; my mom who encouraged me and went with me on several Hobby Lobby trips for thread, fabric, and buttons, and also last year told me about the garage sale where I found the hat (and the 1840’s dress!); my husband who put up with my sewing mess, taped up my gaiters pattern, made my walking stick and also came with me to Make it With Wool even though I know he would be bored and gave him a free pass to skip out; to the Leather Shack in Central City for the awesome belt; Lisa who gave me pheasant feathers; Ross who lent me a beautiful historical gun for the photoshoot; my dad who tagged along and lugged things out into the back pasture for photos, and all my friends who encourage me whenever I embark on crazy sewing adventures.  For all your love and support, I am eternally thankful.  None of my endeavors would be possible without all of you.


“God intended women to be outside as well as men, and they do not know what they are missing when they stay cooped up in the house.” –Annie Oakley



Published in: on November 27, 2017 at 5:10 pm  Comments (2)  
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Costume College 2017!

What a week!  I am mostly recovered now, and my thoughts on the week are more or less settled.  It was a lovely time, with lovely people in lovely clothes at a lovely location.  Short version, the end.

Long version:

This was my first year teaching.  How crazy and insane is that?  This was also the first year with all-day Thursday workshops, and I ended up being one of the first teachers for the first Thursday workshops.  Yikes!

I taught “Understructures of the Victorian Skirt” as a workshop on Thursday to four students.  We got a good start on our skirts, with everyone at least getting their panels all flatlined and interlined.

Laying out Fabric

Laying out Fabric

So that was all day Thursday.  In the evening, there was the pool party.  It was Disney themed, but I didn’t feel like making anything new, so I wore my Birka Viking clothes, because Vikings–> Lords of the Sea–> Water–> Pool Party!

I'm a pretty Viking Princess!

I’m a pretty Viking Princess!

At the pool party, I met this really fantastic group of ladies, who also did not follow the Disney theme.

Vintage Star Trek!

Vintage Star Trek!

These girls are all my heroes forever.

Friday, it was hit the ground running for classes and classes!

First up, was my lecture on Victorian Knitting.  I think it was overall well received.  I really like knitwear, so this was a good time for me to share my love of wool!

Victorian Knitting

Victorian Knitting

There is a disturbing lack of knitwear in this photo, but trust me, I brought such as I have so far and would fit in my suitcase.  (Photo taken by my friend Kristina, who I finally met in person at CoCo!)

After the Knitwear class, I had a quick lunch, and ran off to my Nålbinding class.  As usual, all my students were brilliant and were able to pick it up.  I’m always very pleased with my nålbinding students.

With no time for a proper supper, it was time for the Friday night social!  (I ate something, I just can’t remember what.)

The theme was “Our Favorite Spies”.  It was so much fun to see all the spies from pop culture and history in the great hall, as well as the other characters, historical, non-historical, and more.

I wore my soutache walking suit, which still doesn’t have a blog post of its own.  I’ve mostly been gleaning photos that other people took of it from Costume College also, because I didn’t take a lot of photos, and the lighting wasn’t awesome in the public photo space.



I will never not love the back of this bodice.

I will never not love the back of this bodice.

I really kindof wish now I had made it into Shotwell booth to get a professional photo taken, not that that would help me for the blog here and now…  Oh well.

Saturday, I didn’t dress up!  For real.  I decided that for my whirlwind schedule, it would be better to be comfy and easily able to maneuver through groups of other people.

First up, I had a wonderful Victorian purse class with Lynn McMasters.  I made an acceptable purse in the end. However, as all good projects will do, it taught me more about what not to do and what to do differently than I got right the first go.



After my purse class I had approximately 15 minutes to run to teach my lecture on the Understructures of Victorian Skirts.  It was really well received.  I am so happy that I was able to demystify aspects of the Victorian skirt making process and the supports built in for so many people.  I may do a blog post sometime in the future.

I then went to my velvet millinery leaf class with Lynn McMasters (again!).  She is such a delightful and knowledgeable lady.  I made three serviceable leaves, and got to take home a silicone stamp for making more.  Now I’ll have to watch for the remnant sale on Silk Baron to get more velvet for more leaves!

Velvet Leaves!

Velvet Leaves!

Then it was time to get ready for the Gala!

This dress will get its own blog post soon enough, I hope.  It’s my favorite thing I’ve made to date.  Raspberry silk taffeta, lined with black cotton sateen, trimmed with black silk net, antique silk lace, and antique jet beaded motifs.  I felt incredibly regal wearing it.

1893 Raspberry Silk Evening Gown

1893 Raspberry Silk Evening Gown

1893 Raspberry Silk Evening Gown Back

1893 Raspberry Silk Evening Gown Back

There were so many other awesome dresses at the Gala.  Here are just a few of my favorites:



(Taylor and I both had pink dresses inspired by Worth gowns.  PINK!)

Rebecca's Gorgeous Blue Gown

Rebecca’s Gorgeous Blue Gown

Stripey Goodness

Stripey Goodness

I was seriously impressed with the stripe placement and fit of this gown, made by Jessica.

Lovely 1830's

Lovely 1830’s

I wish I knew who this delightful young lady is.  She really knew her stuff, and did a wonderful job on her 1830’s gown.  Her buckle is antique!

The Fluffy Skirt Gang

The Fluffy Skirt Gang



I always really like seeing well done clothing from the lower classes of history.  It wasn’t all glitz and jewels, it was actually mostly sturdy wools and linens, in case we’ve forgotten.  But that didn’t mean people were sloppy or ill-dressed either.

Gorgeous 60's Gown

Gorgeous 60’s Gown

So I’ve never liked the fashion of the 60’s.  Never, until Costume College this year.  There was so much of it so well done, that I was warming to it.  When I saw this dress though, worn so well by the other Kelsey, it completely won me over.  It’s kinda like you see random abandoned bits of 60’s furniture in your grandparents’ basements, and think “ugh, how could anyone like this?”  Then you see a room done well all in 60’s and suddenly, you understand why it was a thing.  Kelsey showed me exactly how and why 60’s fashion was a thing.



Sunday was a lazy day for me.  I went to only two classes, one on Byzantine Clothing, and one on kilts.  I did dress up, but in stuff I wear all the time at Stuhr.  As such, it’s comfortable for me to wear, and actually only took 10 minutes to dress in.

1890's Waist and Skirt

1890’s Waist and Skirt

1890's Waist and Skirt

1890’s Waist and Skirt

Monday, before I went to the airport, was fabric district day!

Home Fabrics, Land of Silk

Home Fabrics, Land of Silk

First stop was Home Fabrics.  It’s a wonderland.  I restrained myself pretty well, considering most of the silk on the second floor was only $6 a yard.  I got enough blue plaid for another silk shirtwaist, and some pink stripe and green stripe for a couple of Gibson Girl style vests for myself and a friend.  (She gets the pink!)

The second stop was a trim store.  I was looking for some specific trim for a 90’s wrapper, but they didn’t really have it.  They had some that looked similar, but it was pretty plasticy.  Maybe I’ll just have to be insane and weave some.

Trims Galore!

Trims Galore!

The final stop was B. Black and Sons.  They have been one of my favorite places to order from online for years– I used to order whole bolts of wool flannel when I was doing Viking orders.  It was a magical kingdom of wool, wool, and more wool.  I really love wool.  I didn’t buy any wool though, because I might have a glut of it at home.  Just maybe.

B. Black and Sons

B. Black and Sons

Fun fact: B. Black and Sons was founded the same year my house was built.  Also, all those movie posters are movies and shows they have provided wool for.  (I told them they need to find a poster for The Originals.)

Then it was time to go to the airport and fly home.  Travel went well, everything arrived mostly undamaged at the airport in Omaha, and I flopped into bed incredibly late.  (I’m always very afraid of my luggage not arriving.)

Costume College Haul

Costume College Haul

I got a nice little variety of items to bring home.  The fashion plates were a steal, actually– I got them two for one at the very end of the day in the Costume College Marketplace.

I hope you enjoyed all my pictures and tales of my shenanigans!  Until the next time I’m actually able to put down the sewing and write!

Published in: on August 9, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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An 1890’s Housedress, Workdress, Frontier Town Dress… Thing

You can’t just wear a prairie dress in town on the 1890’s frontier!  So I made a dress to wear in town, or at least in one of the houses in town.

I originally had the idea that I would make a work dress.  A plain, no-frills work dress that someone might wear to do housework, cook, and clean.  I  bought a piece of appropriately historic calico at, of all places, Walmart– and it was a vermiculated pink floral!  So I had to work with it, and make whatever dress design I came up with from that!

Patterns and Fabric

Patterns and Fabric

I’ve put off finishing this post for a very long time.  Mainly, because I don’t love the finished dress.  I finished it in early June for 2015, and could never quite write this post.  Partially, I was really busy that summer, painting our house.  Partially, I wasn’t very pleased with the finished dress.  Oh, it fits, and it looks nice, and I enjoy wearing it, but I have never had a dress fight me the way this one did before.  Every step of construction, I had to fix things, change things, or I made really stupid mistakes.

First off, I put off learning how to draft my own historical slopers (pattern bases made to your measurements) in favor of the Past Patterns Day Dress Pattern shown above.  While I usually love Past Patterns, I must say I do not recommend this pattern.  I do not.  There is a lot wrong with it, in terms of seams, and I had to change a lot.

Then, I looked and looked and couldn’t find a single original one-piece day dress with a point in the center front waist.  So that had to be whacked off straight.  Then the darts were not in the right place.  Also, the armscyes were weird (never fixed that, because I didn’t realize just how weird they were until the sleeves were on), and the neckline was too high in front and too low in back.  (So now after finishing the dress, I had to recut the neckline in front and make a new collar, and isn’t that just a fantastic thing to have to do?)  Then, the skirt should not be a gathered skirt in the 1890’s (or really in the 1880’s either), so I had to draft my own gored skirt to use instead.  It really looks lovely on the envelope, but it’s a bad choice.

That was basically the cutting out bit.  When I was sewing it together, pieces didn’t match quite right, and then I put my back skirt panels in wrong, and wondered why I had so much extra fabric… and cut the excess off.  Oooops.  I didn’t have enough to cut two more back panels out, so I had to piece things in at the top of the back panels, hoping most of the piecing would be hidden by the pleats.  Le sigh.  I did put in a dog-leg closure for the skirt, and it lays very nicely, and the hem has a facing of the same fabric as the dress.  I didn’t have any cotton in an acceptable print for a contrast facing, as was most common.


But, I persevered and got it done, and I’ve worn it at Stuhr Museum quite a few times!  (And it has two huge pockets right under the back skirt panels, so at least that is a win!)

In the Milisen House at Stuhr Museum

In the Milisen House at Stuhr Museum

Better Photo, at Costume College

Better Photo, at Costume College

Back of 1890's Dress

Back of 1890’s Dress

I should note that I actually hand-sewed all of the buttonholes on the bodice.  In one evening.  I feel so accomplished still.

So there’s my 1890’s Day Dress.  Very simple looking, very horrible to put together, but very fun to wear, at least now I’ve fixed the collar.

As usual, questions are welcome!

Published in: on October 1, 2016 at 7:21 pm  Comments (6)  
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Ageless Patterns 1889 Cooking Apron

Ageless Patterns 1767

1899 Cooking Apron from Ageless Patterns

Last Christmas time, Kay at Stuhr Museum lent me this apron pattern.  I had just made a white apron from the National Garment cutter, and she thought I should make another apron for wear at Stuhr.

Who doesn’t need another apron?  Really.  Aprons are pretty necessary when you’re in the past.

So I held onto it for a while, waiting for the right fabric to show up, because cambric, much less figured cambric, isn’t really available anymore.  Around January, I bought some Civil War print calico from my friend Christine, and she included a two yard piece of some fantastic dark blue and white print that would be appropriate for the 1890’s.  I didn’t even think of putting the two together until late March.  Silly me.  As you can see, the description of the original apron says “Figured Cambric with a Navy Blue Ground is the material of which this apron is made.  The edges are piped with Red…”

Once I finally decided the fabric should become the apron, I had a bit of a problem.  The pattern calls for 3 1/2 yards of 32″ wide fabric, and I had two yards of 45″.  I decided the only way to make it work was to cut it on the cross grain, which is not recommended.  (That makes the garment less likely to wear well.)  But I did it.  And, it ended up about 6″ shorter than I would have liked.  I had to cut the flounce for the bottom mostly in extremely short sections, but I got it all!

Leftover Fabric Pieces

This is all the fabric that was left.

So, the front of the bib has a little section that is piped, which also makes the front a bit stiffer.  I learned that one should wait until you attach the shoulder straps to pipe the top edge.

1889 Cooking Apron

Piped Front Section

The pattern calls for this bit to be embroidered as well, but I decided this was really enough.

The rest of the apron went together fairly smoothly, but I’ll mention a few key bits:

Like most patterns from Ageless Patterns, there isn’t a lot of instructions. There’s just one size, not specified, which seems to be about mine. (34″ bust, 26″ waist. ) I made my apron shorter than I would have liked, due to fabric restrictions.

The amount of piping required is not specified either. I think I used about 8-9 yards, which is a lot. I had to make more several times because I kept underestimating how much I really needed.

The pattern pieces go together well, but judging by how they do, I think you could take off the 5/8″ seam allowance and sew the pieces together with a 1/2″ seam allowance and be fine. Coincidentally, this makes the pieces fit within the original specification for fabric width. (32″).

The front panel of the apron is gathered.  This is achieved by sewing a casing on the inside with two channels, and running tapes through and tying them at each end.  This makes the front very adjustable, so this apron might be a good bet for maternity or for wear by different people IF you also add extra buttonholes to the belt.  My belt is maxed out.  I gave it a buttonhole, but mostly because I was supposed to.

1889 Cooking Apron

Gathers on Inside

1889 Cooking Apron

Front of Belt. I really like little china buttons.

I used little china buttons with pie crust edges for my apron, because I like them, and a while back I got a pile of them for cheap on Etsy.  I need to look for some a little large though, for aprons and such.

The side seam, which you should align with the side middle of the belt, is the seam where the back panels of the skirt attach to the rest of the apron.  NOT the vertical darts which appear to be side seams on the main front piece.  If you sew the apron with the dart aligned as side seam, the whole thing pulls funny around the hips.  I had to take it apart and redo.

1889 Cooking Apron

The whole apron from the front, before buttons. Fun little gathered pocket!

1889 Cooking Apron Back

This was figuring out the straps before doing buttonholes and buttons.

1889 Cooking Apron Back Closure

Lots of china buttons.

Overall, this is a good apron pattern, even if all the piping is a bit fussy.  8/10, would make again.  (But would probably make the yet-unreviewed Garment Cutter apron first– it gets a 9.)

Thanks for reading, and as always, let me know if you have any questions!

Published in: on April 23, 2016 at 12:58 pm  Comments (2)  
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A Sontag, or a Historical Shawl

For the second challenge of the Historical Sew Monthly, “Blue”, I decided to knit a blue Sontag, or shawl.

Actually, I decided to knit a blue sontag, then realized it fit perfectly into the February challenge!  That’s the way it went.  Really, I had no idea what to make otherwise, other than a fuzzy idea about a blue work shirt for my husband.  I’m still working on the shirt.  (Yep, making a shirt too.  He is going to need one for blacksmithing at Stuhr Museum this summer.)



There is not really a definition of “Sontag” anywhere to be found, but they are generally known as a long slim shawl that overlaps in front and ties in back.  This prevents the struggle of dealing with the ends of a shawl, and keeps it in place while one is working.  Sontags are somewhat related to bosom friends but a bit more aesthetically pleasing, at least to my eye.

I of course knit mine, and chose a pattern that was no-frills and no-fuss, but still feminine and pretty.  I did not use a historical pattern, but one the same shape.  I knit my sontag from the Marianne Dashwood Shawl from Jane Austen Knits Magazine, with three skeins of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool.  (Not the most accurate choice, but it was that or buy new yarn.  I own a yarn shop.  I shouldn’t have to buy new yarn.  At least it has the right hand and look.)

Sontag Back

Sontag Back

So without further ado, here are the challenge details!

Historical Sew Monthly Challenge Blue

What the item is: A Blue Sontag

The Challenge: Blue!

Fabric: Knit from three skeins of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in Woad. (45% wool, 35% silk, 20% nylon)

Pattern: Marianne Dashwood Shawl from Jane Austen Knits

Year: 19th Century in general.

Notions: None.

How historically accurate is it? A Sontag is a historically correct type of shawl for much of the 19th century, but this is not a specific pattern from any historical time frame, rather just a pattern designed in the style of. The yarn is not right by content, but the look is just right. It looks like a homespun yarn and has the right body when knit up, and I didn’t have to order something special in. I’d say maybe 50% accuracy, giving myself points for the right shape. I hope to wear this on chilly days when I’m working at Stuhr Museum this spring and summer, and also with my brown 1830’s dress.

Hours to complete: Yikes. 30? All I know is that I spent an entire event working on it trying to finish it and couldn’t.

First worn: As a modern piece in my yarn shop. It works well with a fitted modern shirt too!



Please comment below if you have any questions!

Published in: on February 16, 2015 at 7:00 pm  Comments (6)  
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Late 1880’s- Early 1890’s Corset from the Kingfisher Chisholm Trail Museum

This year, I am participating in The Historical Sew Monthly, formerly The Historical Sew Fortnightly.  I am going to do my best to finish each project on time and also actually blog about said projects.  So far, here is the post about the January Challenge, Foundations, still in January, the month the first challenge is due!  Huzzah!

The first challenge for the Historical Sew Monthly this year is Foundations.  I was at a bit of a loss as to what I wanted to do at first.  I mean, there are a lot of options, it’s hard to narrow one down.  Well, in the last week of December, the wonderful Marna Davis posted in the Historical Sew Fortnightly Facebook group that she had found a corded work corset at the Kingfisher Chisholm Trail Museum ( where she volunteers and had drafted a pattern from it.  She believed the corset to come from the time of the famous land rush, and was willing to make the pattern available to us for a corset sew-along.  As I am hoping to work at Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer this summer in the Railroad Towne, along with my husband, I jumped on it.  I thought a corded work corset would be just the thing!

Original 1890's Corded Corset

Original 1890’s Corded Corset

The original corset is made of a fine tan cotton twill and had measurements of 30″-24″-29″, without the two inch lacing gap, or spring, in the back.  Thus it would fit someone with measurements of about 32″-26″-31″.  This was not a corset designed for tight lacing and making a super fashionable silhouette.  This was a corset designed for comfort and ease of wearing while doing one’s daily work.  Also, amazingly, I only had to slightly enlarge the bust and slightly take in the waist for the pattern to fit me.  Otherwise, I made everything to the same dimensions.  The original corset only has two steel bones, one on either side of the back by the lacing, and a steel busk.  Otherwise, all stiffening in the corset is done with rows of sewn-in cording.  When I made my corset, I used the same number of rows of cording in each section as the original, since I was almost the same size.

The first step was finding the fabric.  I managed to find a fine tan herringbone twill that fit the bill almost perfectly.  It was sturdy and had almost no stretch.  I also ordered in a separating busk and corset lacing.  (I was out of both items.)  I had some cotton yarn that was relegated for the cording, and I ordered in some safety buckles for the shoulder straps.

Then I cut it out and got to work!

Inserting the Busk

Inserting the Busk

The first step is always inserting the busk.  Awesome little antique bone awl given to me by my friend Cyndi.

Then it was on to the first set of cording.  I stitched it in with a zipper foot, one row at a time.

First Set of Cording

First Set of Cording

You can see I had a little bit of shrinkage and some fabric from the inner layer to cut off.  You can also see the waist tape I put in to avoid stretching out the waist.

Side Panel and Its Cording

Side Panel and Its Cording

I sewed the side panels on, each layer individually so the seam would be enclosed and neatly finished.  I then sewed in the eight rows of cording in the side front panel, not forgetting the stay tape.

Front Half

Front Half

Front Half is Done!

Then I started on the back.

Back Panels with Lacing Eyes

Back Panels with Lacing Eyes

First I sewed the boning channels, then inserted the grommets and the bones, and sewed in the four rows of cording on each back piece.  There was not a lot of cording shrinkage with only four rows of cording– at least not nearly as much as with eight rows.

Back Half

Back Half

I then sewed the side backs to the backs the same as with the front half.  Time for cording!

Back Half, with Cording

Back Half, with Cording

It was at this point that I realize I had forgotten the waist tape in the back half.  Phooey.  There was no way I was ripping things out at this point, so I just decided to soldier on!

Halves Together

Halves Together

I then made a flat-felled seam to sew the halves (quarters?) together, felling to the front to allow these tabs to lie flat towards the back.  “But wait!” you ask, “What are those tabs for?”  Well, the original corset has them, and they are a bit of a mystery.  I am going to use them to buckle on a skirt-supporting bum roll or very small bustle.  Even working ladies like to be somewhat fashionable!

Strap Placement Binding and Strap

Strap Placement Binding and Strap

The next step was to bind the edge of the corset where the strap attached and attach the strap.  The next step was positively evil.  I had to bind the corset with twill tape.  Now you might think you could just sew the tape on all in one fell swoop by machine, but you would think wrong.  I couldn’t manage to catch both layers of the twill tape while also catching the corset layer.  It was always just two of three.  Not always the same two of three.  If I ever do this again, I am going to stitch the twill tape onto just one side of the corset edge, and then handtack it down on the other side.



But in the end, it all looked pretty good!

Completed Corset Sans Buckles

Completed Corset Sans Buckles

In the meantime, I had received a notification that the company I had ordered the buckles from did not have those buckles anymore.  So I ordered new ones in.  It took a little longer to get them in, but I was finally able to attach them last night and put the last final touch, a narrow lace edging, on.  Yay!

But the proof is in the pudding, and no matter how good a corset looks on a sewing table, you don’t know how good it is until you have tried it on.  So this evening, we had a mini photo shoot to show how it fits and looks on a body!

Finished 1890's Work Corset

Finished 1890’s Work Corset

Front View 1890's Work Corset

Front View 1890’s Work Corset

(Um yeah, that photo is a bit dorky.)

Strap Detail

Strap Detail

Fun fact: I made that chemise in high school.  Really.  And it fits just as badly now as it did then.  The arm holes are cut way too high. I need to make a new one.

So here are my pertinent Historical Sew Monthly details!

1890’s Corded Work Corset:  A Study in Tan and Cream

The Challenge: Challenge Number 1, Foundations

Fabric: 100% cotton twill.

Pattern: Pattern drafted from original corded work corset, supplied by Marna Davis.

Year: Late 1880’s to Early 1890’s.

Notions: Steel Bones, separating busk, cotton yarn, cotton twill tape, cotton corset lacing, #00 grommets, thread, lace.

How historically accurate is it?  I’d say 98%.  I used historical sewing techniques, a pattern taken from an original, and historical fabrics.  The only majorly wrong thing is that the lace is polyester.  I could have sworn it was cotton, and it feels like cotton, but there on the spool it says “100% polyester”.

Hours to complete:  It would have been 8 if I had gotten the binding right on the first try.  As it was, 12-14.

First worn:  For photos.

Total cost:  $30, counting the value of the bones and twill tape I had in stash.


Questions?  Comments?  I’d love to answer them!  Just drop me a note below!  Happy sewing!

Published in: on January 29, 2015 at 9:48 pm  Comments (6)  
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