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Dressing the Colonial Family

Garment Construction
     
Courtney’s Skirt Emily’s Frock
Stephanie’s Dress Emily’s Shirt
Waistcoats Courtney’s and Stephanie’s Shifts
Mike’s and Isaac’s Breeches Shirts
Ben’s Breeches Ben’s Frockcoat
Courtney’s Bodice Caps for the Girls
Emily’s Coat and/or Frock Julie’s Projects

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Dressing the Colonial Family

Garment Construction

What follows here is more or less the order in which I constructed the garments and notes about the construction.

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Courtney’s Skirt –

Courtney’s waist to floor measurement is 35.75 inches. I want the finished length to be about 33 inches and there will be two – one inch deep tucks and a .5 inch double fold drawstring casing, so I tore three panels each of carnation pink cotton broadcloth (fashion fabric) and white cotton broadcloth (lining) to a length of 38.5 inches.

All three panels of the fashion fabric are connected with French seams. The same is true of the lining. This creates two cylinders of fabric. The fashion fabric and the lining are then connected at the hem with a French seam. The result was a skirt that could be reversible. However, I intended that the pink side would be the fashion fabric, so from here on out, the treatment of the fashion fabric and the lining was distinct.

Two – one inch deep tucks were sewn in the bottom of the skirt. The fold of the bottom tuck is six inches from the hem and the fold of the upper tuck is ten inches from the hem.

One vertical seam is chosen as the center back seam. An eight inch long vertical slash is made at the halfway point between the center back seam and the center front on each side. The fashion fabric and lining are sewn together along this slash to create a faced opening. (Right sides together, stitch, overcast, turn, and then understitch the lining side.)

The top edge proved to be too bulky to fold over twice for a drawstring casing. It would not gather down small enough to correspond to Courtney’s waist measurement. So, the top edge was overcast, folded down one inch and stitched .625 inches from the fold. A 36 inch long piece of .5 inch wide cotton twill tape was threaded through the front casing and another 36 inch long piece was threaded through the back casing. The skirt waistline was gathered up using these drawstrings and the twill tapes were tied in a bow on each side of the skirt. The slashes below the tied bows allow access to the pockets.

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Stephanie’s Dress –

I used the pattern for the chemise dress in Tidings From the 18th Century and graded the pattern up from a size 4 to a size 6x-7. I used Simplicity 9836 dress as a guide for drafting the armcye and neckline. I cut two front pieces, two back pieces and four sleeve pieces out of bleached muslin. One set of pieces as used as the fashion fabric and one set of pieces was used as the lining.

The very first step was to take the set of pieces to be used as the fashion fabric and mark and make eyelet holes where needed for drawstrings. This was at the center back neckline (.5 inch seam allowances were used, so the eyelet center was .75 inches from the raw edge), the center back waistline, the sleeve hem and four inches above the sleeve hem.

French seams were again used to join the front and back pieces and to join the fashion fabric and the lining at the hem. The underarm seam of the sleeves were sewn with a French seam but the fashion fabric and lining were simply placed right sides together and stitched around the hemline, trimmed, overcast, turned inside-out, and edgestitched close to the hemline edge. Another row of stitching was placed .375 inches from the first row of stitching to create the drawstring casing at the end of the sleeve. Two more rows of stitching were placed further up the sleeve to create the second sleeve casing.

Two – one inch deep tucks were sewn in the bottom of the skirt. The fold of the bottom tuck is six inches from the hem and the fold of the upper tuck is ten inches from the hem.

To finish the neckline, I stitched around the neckline .5 inches from the raw edge. I trimmed the edge to .25 inches from the stitching, overcast the edges, and clipped the curves. Then I folded the edges in towards each other along the stitched line, pressed the fold, and then edgestitched close to the folded edge. Another row of stitching was placed .375 inches from the first row of stitching, creating the drawstring casing. Using the double layer of muslin allowed me to just stitch around the garment in parallel rows .375 inches apart to create the drawstring casings.

I used .25 inch wide cotton twill tape as drawstring. I made the drawstrings long enough so that the dress could be laid out completely flat for ironing.

Simplicity 8953 was used as a pattern for the sash, which was made in carnation pink cotton broadcloth.

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Waistcoats –

For all waistcoats, Fusi-Knit was used to interface the front, back and outer pocket flap pieces. Pocket flaps were decorative only.

To make Isaac’s waistcoat, I used Simplicity 8442 vest pattern for the sizing (4T) and modified this pattern to resemble the shape of the boy’s waistcoat pattern in Tidings From the 18th Century. The modified pieces were almost an exact match to those in Tidings. The waistcoat was made of brown and cream wool tweed and lined with brown cotton broadcloth.

Mike’s waistcoat used Simplicity 5648 vest pattern for sizing (6) and modified to resemble the shape of the boy’s waistcoat pattern just as Isaac’s was. Black and white herringbone wool tweed was used for the fashion fabric and black cotton broadcloth was used for the lining.

Ben’s waistcoat was made as per Rocking Horse Farms pattern #107 in size 14. It was made of gray wool with a gray cotton broadcloth lining. The back pattern piece had a back vent but the directions did not mention how to treat this vent, nor did the diagrams show the vent, so I cut it off.

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Mike’s and Isaac’s Breeches –

For Mike and Isaac’s breeches, I used elastic waist pants patterns Simplicity 7036 and Simplicity 8442 respectively. I modified the back piece of these pants patterns as follows:

To the back pattern piece I made a point one inch away from the crotch point outside the pattern cutting lines. I made another point two inches above the corner of the center back seam cutting lines. Then, I connected these points with a straight line.

If that was not clear, here it is again. The side seam cutting line of the back pattern piece is unchanged. From the top corner of the side seam cutting line a straight line is drawn to the point two inches above the center back seam cutting line. From that point, a straight line is drawn to the new crotch point, which is one inch away from the old crotch point and outside the pattern cutting lines. From the new crotch point, a straight line is drawn to the hem. The hem is located about two inches below the kneecap.

I fully lined the breeches in cotton broadcloth and added in-the-side-seam pockets. To create the pocket pattern for Mike’s breeches, I added .625 inches all the way around the pattern for the pocket from Isaac’s breeches. To reduce pocket bulk, only the back pocket piece is fashion fabric. The front pocket piece is cut of lining fabric. There is a drawstring casing below the knee and an elastic casing at the waist. The elastic waistband is not period but it works for little boys and under the waistcoat, who will know?

Mike’ breeches were made of the same gray wool that Ben’s waistcoat was made of and lined in gray broadcloth. Isaac’s breeches were made from a brown wool blend fabric recycled from old pants that used to fit my husband and lined with brown broadcloth.

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Ben’s Breeches –

For Ben’s breeches, I used Rocking Horse Farms pattern #107. Since Ben is a size 14 slim, I cut a medium, but added a total of 1.625 inches to the length (.625 inches was added above the crotch point and one inch was added below the crotch point.) I also modified the top of the front piece of the pattern to create a broadfall dropfront rather than a button fly. For this modification, I used Rocking Horse Farms pattern #109. The breeches were made of navy blue wool and fully lined with navy cotton broadcloth.

I used “method one” in the directions for Rocking Horse Farms pattern #109 to create the front fall, with the full lining as the front fall lining. This went together just fine.

Then the problems began. Now, I created the first problem because I was fully lining the breeches. The pocket was too wide to fit between the side seam of the breeches and the side of the front fall. If I had not been lining the breeches, the pocket could have just lain behind the side of the front fall and the side of the front extension attached to the front fall. As it was, in order to make the pocket fit, I had to cut 1.25 inches off the side of the pocket front and the pocket back that was nearest the side of the front fall, so it would fit in the space and lay nice. I ended up with some pretty wimpy pockets.

To supplement the wimpy pockets, I made in-the-side-seam pockets. However, as I began to pin the side seams from the top of the knee extension (facing?) to the top of the side seam, I noticed a discrepancy in the length of the side seam. The front was at least one inch longer than the back. Nothing is mentioned about this in the directions. To compensate, I removed the front in-the-side-seam pocket piece and moved it lower to match the placement of the back in-the-side seam pocket piece. Then I stitched up the side seam as needed to make the in-the-side-seam pockets and totally ignored the extra fabric at the top of the front.

To take care of the extra fabric at the top of the front, I took my chalk marker and a straight edge and drew a line on what is actually the back of the wimpy pocket from where the fabric ended on the top of the back side seam to the point on the edge of what will eventually be attached to the waistband above where the wimpy pocket was connected to the body of the breeches. (I hope what I just wrote made sense. If not, contact me and I will try to explain it better.) I cut off this triangle of fabric on both sides of the front. One good thing about this was that it insured that the button to fasten the end of the wimpy pocket would end up on the waistband, which looked to be a better placement.

The waistband was interfaced with Fusi-Knit and lined with the navy cotton broadcloth.

The waistband pattern piece for Rocking Horse Farms #107 and #109 are nearly identical. However, in #107, I think they assume you will be using a .5 inch seam allowance. In #109, they tell you to use a .25 inch seam allowance. I used a .5 in seam allowance and stitched only the front edge and the top edge of the waistband. The waistband was attached with placement the same at that in Rocking Horse Farms #109. In other words, with the front edge of the waistband even with the edge of the front extension.

About this time, I got my hands on the men’s breeches pattern from J.P. Ryan. The patterns have much more detail included on them and the directions are much clearer. I used the directions from the J.P. Ryan patterns as much as possible to finish up these breeches.

To do the kneeband for Ben’s breeches, I did not use either pattern’s method. I made up my own non-period solution. I measured the distance of the knee edge of the breeches and added one inch to this measurement. I cut two kneebands to this length and three inches wide. I finished each of the short ends of the kneebands with a .25 inch double hem. Then I attached the kneebands to the bottom of the breeches. The short ends of the kneebands are completely open and form a casing. Into this casing, I inserted a piece of .75 inch wide elastic cut to the length of the measurement around Ben’s upper calf plus .5 inch. I sewed across the elastic to anchor it at about two inches from the end with the buttonholes and about one inch from the end with the buttons. This also happened to be right below where the facings ended on the inside of the vents of the breeches. Then I sewed the ends of the casing shut and put a buttonhole in each kneeband.

In conclusion, even though I have worked through all the problems with the Rocking Horse Farms breeches pattern, I will probably not use it again. Next time, I will use the men’s breeches pattern from J.P. Ryan and grade it down to the proper boys size. I also have theories on how to fix the wimpy pocket problem when fully lining the breeches but I will need test my theory with a bit of muslin.

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Courtney’s Bodice –

I used Rocking Horse Farms pattern #102 for Courtney’s bodice. Courtney is a size 10 slim, so I traced off a size eight and lengthened it to a size 10. I also drafted out the darts in the bodice.

I actually cut out and began sewing two versions of the bodice at the time I started the skirt. Both are back lacing and made of the carnation pink cotton broadcloth and lined with the white cotton broadcloth. They are both interlined with a layer of 7.5 ounce natural chambray. Bone casing is sewn to this interlining layer. There is one bone in the center front and one either side of the center front in a v formation. There is one bone on either side of the back lacing edge.

One version is the stomacher bodice. The stomacher consists of a layer of bleached muslin, shirred at two inch intervals, and mounted on a layer of white cotton broadcloth.

(I was inspired by the cover illustration on Rocking Horse Farms pattern #101.) It is sewn to the bodice front at the sides of the stomacher. I worked on this bodice up until the point I needed to add a gathered bleached muslin ruffle to the neck edge and some box pleated trim of the carnation pink to the join of the stomacher panel and rest of the bodice and around the neckline before abandoning this bodice for other projects.

The other bodice has the pointed front of the polonaise, but, as I mentioned above, it is back lacing like the frock. It is this bodice I completed at this time.

I thought the neckline was too high and v shaped, so I recut it one inch lower and made it more u shaped. I used the girl’s bodice from Tidings as a template for this alteration. The bodice went together easily and quickly, with no surprises. I thought the sleeves looked too short and too wide at the bottom edge, but I had no more carnation pink broadcloth around the house to cut another set of sleeves, so I made up the ones I had cut. The sleeves refused to ease gracefully into the bodice at the back of the armcye. Eventually, I added two small tucks to the upper back of the sleeve cap, just below the shoulder seam of the bodice, to take up the fullness.

My opinion of this pattern: I don’t think it is worth the money. It would have been much cheaper and easier to get a dress pattern from one of the big three that had no darts on the bodice and long straight sleeves and modify that to suit my purpose.

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Emily’s Coat and/or Frock –

This is meant to be a dual purpose garment. It can be worn by itself as a frock or over another frock as a coat.

Emily is currently a size 18 months. I drafted a pattern using the frock on page 123 in Tidings as a guide. Then I passed this pattern and a yard of hunter green wool along to my sister-in-law. She added about three inches to the length of the sleeves to make them full length and an extra half an inch in width to increase the girth by two inches.

She fully lined the garment with hunter green cotton broadcloth. To line the garment she used a technique I found in Power Sewing – Step by Step by Sandra Betzina. The technique can be found on page 213 of this book and is called “Visual Guide to Bagging a Lining.”

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Emily’s Frock-

To make this garment, I used the overbodice pieces 1 and 2 from Simplicity 5517 in a size 1. I lengthened theses pieces by two inches to make the seam fall more at the natural waist. The skirt consisted of three panels. The front panel dimensions were 36.5 inches wide by 21.00 inches long. The back panels were each 19.25 wide by 21.00 inches long.

For the sleeves, I drafted a pattern using piece 7 in a size large from Simplicity 5935 for the top of the sleeve and the frock sleeve in the 18 months size from Kannick’s Korner for the bottom of the sleeve. (The Kannick’s Korner infant pattern is meant to be hand sewn and the seam allowances are very small – less than .25 of an inch. The first thing I did is add .5 inch all around the pattern piece to make it more like the typical machine sewn seam allowances.)

The frock was made of a double layer bleached muslin, with a bit of carnation pink cotton broadcloth creating a sash effect. The skirt was made just like Courtney’s skirt except the opening is located in the center back. It includes the two - one inch deep tucks in the skirt. The sleeves were constructed according to the directions in the Kannick’s Korner pattern. The rest of the frock was made according to the directions in Simplicity 5517.

In a lame moment as I was marking the darts for the sleeves and the sleeve cuffs, I forgot that I was adding .5 inches to the Kannick’s Korner pattern. Consequently, the darts are .5 inches to short.

In spite of the stupid mistake mentioned above, the finished frock looks so much like the white frocks with colored sashes worn by girls and young boys in many 18th century paintings.

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Emily’s Shirt –

For this shirt, I used the shirt in Kannick’s Korner as a guide but made the seams at the sides – not the shoulders. I also made the shirt opening in the back instead of the front. The body is 16 inches wide by 40 inches long. The sleeves are 11.5 inches wide by 9.75 inches long. The underarm gussets are three inches by three inches.

The shirt is made of 3.5 ounce bleached linen. Gathered white cluny lace trims the neckline.

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Courtney’s and Stephanie’s Shifts –

There are several places you can go on the web to find instructions on how to do women’s shifts. The links listed below came from Mara Riley's Costume Page and The Northwest Territory Alliance.

http://www.marariley.net/shift/shift.htm

http://www.nwta.com/patterns/pdfs/511shift.pdf

Tidings from the 18th Century also contains instructions.

Commercial patterns are available from Kannik’s Korner and J.P. Ryan.

But I was making shifts for girls.

My first stop was the Elizabethan Smock Pattern Generator at The Elizabethan Costuming Page.

I entered the measurements and printed out instructions for both of my nieces. This gave me a guideline for sizing the shifts.

The dimensions of the pieces for the shift were as follows:

Courtney – size 10 slim

Body – 27 inches wide by 80 inches long

Sleeve – 15 inches wide by 13.5 inches long

Underarm gusset – 6 inches by 6 inches

Stephanie – size 6x slim

Body – 27 inches wide by 64 inches long

Sleeve – 15 inches wide by 13.5 inches long

Underarm gusset – 6 inches by 6 inches

I started with a piece of 3.5 ounce bleached linen that was 95 inches long. After removing the selvages and splitting the fabric down the middle, I had two pieces that measured 27 inches wide by 95 inches long. From the end of each of these pieces, I cut off a section that was 27 inches wide by 15 inches long. Then I split each of these sections down the middle. This gave me the sleeve pieces of 13.5 inches by 15 inches. The longer, remaining pieces were now 27 inches wide by 80 inches long. One of these became the body of Courtney’s shift. The other had a section cut off so that it ended up being 27 inches wide by 64 inches long. This was the body of Stephanie’s shift. The cut off section was cut into 6 inch by 6 inch squares for the underarm gussets.

The smock pattern generated from The Elizabethan Costuming Page provided me with a shoulder width measurement. The template for the neckline on Courtney’s shift utilized the same template I had used to cut the neckline of her bodice. For Stephanie’s shift I used the neckline from the nightgown in Simplicity 9292. The rest of the parts of the shifts were cut according to the guidelines for women’s shifts in Tidings.

I used French seams throughout and used bleached muslin bias as a facing/casing at the neckline. Drawstrings (.25 inch wide cotton twill tape) were inserted in the neckline casing and at the end of the sleeves.

I was concerned that the finished shifts might be too long, so I cut three inches off the bottoms before hemming.

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Shirts –

I am familiar with the techniques for making shirts for men or boys from making Elizabethan shirts and smocks. Everything I know on these techniques I owe to Margo Anderson’s Elizabethan Patterns. http://www.margospatterns.com/

The only differences between shirts from the two time periods is that the collar in the 18th century is higher so it folds over more like modern dress shirts and there are extra reinforcement pieces added to 18th century shirts. To save time, I was not going to bother with these extra reinforcement pieces.

Here are the sizes of the pieces for the boys’ shirts:

Ben – size 14 slim

Body – 28.25 inches wide by 60 inches long

Sleeves – 18 inches wide by 20 inches long

Collar – 10 inches by 16.25 inches

Cuffs – 5 inches by 10 inches

Underarm gussets – 6.25 inches by 6.25 inches

Neck gussets – 3.25 inches by 3.25 inches

Neckline horizontal slash –

Neckline vertical slash – 7.25 inches

Sleeve placket length – 3 inches

Mike – size 5 slim

Body – 21.25 inches wide by 48 inches long

Sleeves – 16 inches wide by 18 inches long

Collar – 7 inches by 15.5 inches

Cuffs – 5 inches by 9 inches

Underarm gussets – 4 inches by 4 inches

Neck gussets – 3.25 inches by 3.25 inches

Neckline horizontal slash –

Neckline vertical slash – 5 inches

Sleeve placket length – 2.5 inches

Isaac – size 3 toddler

I used the same size pieces as mentioned in Tidings, which is actually for a size 4 child. The length of the body piece is actually 40 inches – not 20 inches as mentioned in the text of Tidings.

The shirts were made of 3.5 ounce bleached linen and French seamed throughout. The neck gussets are tricky and need extra stitching to make sure they don’t pull out with almost nonexistent seam allowances. As I was doing these gussets, I wrote step-by-step instructions, which can be found here. Eventually, I intend to add pictures to accompany these instructions.

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Ben’s Frockcoat –

I used Butterick 3072 in size 32 for this. I shortened the body pieces by one inch above the waist and 2.25 inches below the waist (1.25 inches of this was the hem allowance.) The sleeves I shortened by .5 inches above the elbow and .5 inches below the elbow.

The coat was made of the same navy blue wool as the breeches and lined with the same navy cotton broadcloth. I sewed this up to the point of joining the completed lining to the completed fashion fabric shell and stitching the top of the vents before sending this down to my sister-in-law to finish.

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Caps for the Girls –

For Emily, I used Kannik’s Korner pattern for Infant’s Clothing (KK-9001.) I made the under cap and the cap of 3.5 ounce bleached linen. The cap was edged in cluny lace around the head piece section only – not the whole thing like the illustration shows. The lace was inserted between the head piece sections. To avoid finishing the ends of the cluny lace, I turned the raw edges of the lace 90 degrees and buried them in the seam between the head piece sections. Both caps were machine sewn wherever possible. I used .25 inch seam allowances.

For Courtney and Stephanie, I used Kannik’s Korner pattern for Women’s and Girl’s Caps (KK-6602.) I made the round eared cap (view A) in the smallest women’s size for Courtney and in the girl’s size for Stephanie. Both were of 3.5 ounce bleached linen and I made the head piece double, so I could bury the raw edges within it. Because I was going to machine sew these as much as possible, I added .5 inches all around the caul piece, the head piece, and the gathered side of the ruffle. This extra seam allowance let me do three rows of gathering stitches on the gathered parts for plenty of control of the gathers.

Please note: you should insert the drawstrings in the neckline of the caul piece before closing up the end of the casing. I did not do this with the first cap and had to open the stitched and overcast ends of the casing, insert the drawstrings and then re-sew and re-overcast the ends of the casing.

These patterns were a joy to work with and the results are pretty. I want to make some more. I am thinking of making a round eared cap for myself, just for the fun of it. I also want to try the Grand Coiffe…in cotton voile with a narrow cluny lace edging. Mmmmm…

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Julie’s Projects –

When I confessed to my sister-in-law that I wouldn’t be able to get the cloaks and jackets for the kids and the adult clothing done, she picked up the ball and ran with it. She says I have ruined her. She is now a total costuming addict.

She started with a mob cap for herself and a tricorn hat for my brother. Things escalated from there. She made herself a petticoat, a caraco jacket and fichu . For my brother she made a shirt, waistcoat, breeches and frockcoat. For the kids, she made cloaks. In between working on the above projects, she sewed Emily’s coat and/or frock, finished Ben’s frockcoat and taught Courtney how to sew on the sewing machine. (She also home schools the children and grinds her own flour to bake her own bread. Isn’t she amazing?!?!)

I gave her the J.P. Ryan pattern for stays. One of her future projects is to make the stays.

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