Thursday, June 30, 2011

The 1795 Morning Dress Hat Conquered, Almost

The hat in progress.
Oh, did I fight with it. For perhaps three hours on and off, so far. The reports from the front say that after last evening's defeat and bitter-tasting retreat, the forces have persisted and the war is almost won.

Let's end the overlong analogy. I had a girls' evening out with my sweet friend Polly, and helped her get her costume ready, and started the hat that's to be worn with my 1795 morning ensemble, along with the muslin cloak and the wrap-front dress, planning to finish by evening's end. Hah.

The Hat Design

June 1794, Gallery of Fashion, detail.
From Bunka Gakuen Library.
My design, as we know from a previous post, was for a hat style popular in 1794 and 1795. The gypsy hat has a flat top and wide-ish brim which is turned down on the sides to frame the face.

The design I am using is from the Gallery of Fashion, June 1794, "A Peep into Kensington Gardens: Morning Dresses". My design takes elements of figures 10 and 12, viz.: the hat itself from figure 10 and the trim from figure 12.
The hat I'd planned to use was too small brimmed, said Polly. Oh dear. That hat went back into storage, and I took off last year's hat trims from the same old hat I've owned since 1981, the first one ever bought with my own money. Am so much the model of Jane Austen herself, frugally retrimming what she already has :}.

I even removed the original trim that had been long hidden, to find that time had faded the tobacco brown hat and band to latte. Hmmm, there's an essay on entropy and mortality there, but later. This is a light-weight post.

The design calls for a fancy, quadruple bow with quadruple tails, a puffy wonder of a bow.
Production Failure

My silk ribbon being new and me being money conscious, I feared to cut it, and so played for a hour making floppy bows that lacked body. So Polly and I tried millinery helps, sinamay ribbon (fabulous stuff), horsehair cord (whoa!) and I even built a petersham backing bow behind and starched both, and, so scary, cut the fancy ribbon.

The resulting hat trims were just BAD. Royal blue is easy to make chintzy, and I certainly succeeded there. It looked both overthought and underworked at once. Quite an achievement, but alas, the camera refused the shot, for it was so horrid;)

Went home with a failure, didn't I?

Production Rebirth

Yet, I'd had such a good time with Polly overall that I woke happy to a hummy soft sunny day, and like a bee, made something sweet from the most basic materials.

Our first lesson is, use fabric and ribbon you don't fear to cut and you'll relax and create something nice.

Our second lesson is, puffy constructed bows don't work with floppy single faced silk satin, even starched.

Here's what I did to make the hat design work:
  • Used scraps of the same bolt of white duppioni silk I've used for the last five years for other projects, including the living room curtains.
(Lesson number three; save every last weency scrap of good fabric.)

  • Pinked long fat pieces of it.
  • Cut those into shorter pieces and made four tailless pseudo bows: two loops crimped in the middle with thread tacking.
  • Starched them.
  • Made sets of pseudo bow tails.
  • Mounted all atop each other at angles, tacking them together with thread. Required strength and I bled on a tail. Proof of effort, I suppose.
  • Faked a bow center with a loop of fabric on top.
  • Made a tuck on the underside of each bow loop to puff out the loop.
  • Used a long piece of pinked fabric for the hat band and back bow and its tails.
That's where the hat stands now.

What's Left to Be Done

At this point need to make a mount for two plumes from two long pins fixed to the hat crown, and tack all to the hat itself, and make a tiny ruche from gauze around the underbrim edge.

Getting there!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tutorial: Whipped Gathering a Frill or Ruffle; Plus a Bit on Hemming the 1790s Cloak

Here's more information on the hand whip-gathered frill or ruffle that edges the 1790s cloak that I'm currently making, plus a little on the hemming made by my antique Willcox and Gibbs machine. This cloak contains both hand and machine work. 

Whipped-Gathering a Frill or Ruffle: A Tutorial
Anywhoo, here are the steps to make a narrow whipped gather for a frill or ruffle on a cap or a cloak, a dress or similar 18th century or early 19th century article. When I first tried them, the results were not good. It took a good bit of experimentation with ways of holding my hands, of treating the fabric, of stretching the fabric, and so on, to make it work. The pictures you see below actually date to the wrap-front dress work and are not as narrow as I have achieved since...and by the way, my results vary; if you're in practice you can really move and achieve a very, very fine result with your whipped gathers.

If your results aren't as narrow as you like, keep reminding yourself that it could take several garments before you achieve a pencil-point-fine effect. If you happen to see minute, super-fine work on an original garment, do remember that today's easily available fabrics are made with thicker threads and the threads we tend to use to sew with are thicker, too. Even today's lace-making thread is thicker than what used to be made.

Start with the length of fabric you plan to create a frill or ruffle out of. Usually it will be quite narrow, only an inch or two wide. Have your sewing thread, a sharp needle, and your thread snips ready.

Step 1

Measure out an arm's length of thread and snip it. Knot the thread securely in the fabric at one one end on the raw edge, taking a backstitch in it too, so it cannot come out. If you don't and the thread comes out, there goes your work...

Attach the piece of fabric some foot or two away from you to a sewing bird or other holder. In these pictures I have pinned the fabric to the top of my sewing box. To work accurately and speedily, you need tension on the fabric; it can't be all loose and floppy. You could pin the work to your knee, running the pin through your skirt/dress/slacks/jeans, but then you have to move it frequently enough to be a bother. I tend to set the length of fabric so that it runs vertically, rather than to the left or the right. For some reason this is faster for more; your mileage may vary :)

Step 2

Using your thumb and forefinger or middle finger, rub the raw edge of the fabric such that the raw edge rolls up tightly inside the fabric. You want this little roll as tight as possible, for the tighter, the finer the result, the more it will be like what was done back in the day.

Maintain tension on the fabric as you do this, or the roll will not be even.

If you gently move your entire hand upwards as you roll, you can keep rolling along until you have a foot or more ready to gather.

Tip: your thumb remains steady; it's your index finger or middle finger that does the rubbing motion.

If the fabric seems not to want to roll, try wetting your finger a little. Lightly starching the raw edge before you begin work can help, too.

I have looked at a video or two online of the process and those show more of a folding action than a rolling one, resulting in a much wider hem.

Slowly rubbing the fabric, which I have starched,
into a narrow roll.

Step 3

Whip-stitch the rolled fabric: but with a trick: insert the needle on an angle into the fabric each time you make a stitch, so that the thread whips up the little roll of fabric in a spiral.  This will help the gathering process.

The more stitches per inch, the finer the result.

Maintain tension on the fabric so that you can work speedily and not have to reposition the fabric, and maintain the same needle angle all the way.

Every so often, extend the thread to its length, and run the needle up it, letting the end of the thread fly, to take out extra twist in it. Otherwise, the thread is apt to tangle and it will drive you nuts. This is a tip from Frances Grimble's The Lady's Strategem.

This photo shows me maintaining tension on the
strip of fabric with my right hand while I insert
the needle on an upwards angle to start a
whip stitch. See the little bumps on the outer
edge of the whipped edge beneath my thumb?
Each of those lies between a stitch, so that 
you see the stitches are set closely.

Step 4

After a couple of inches of whipping, hold the the little whipped edge with one hand, and gently pull on the thread with the other. It's easier to pull the thread away from you than toward you: you want the thread to slide easily. The rolled and whip-stitched edge will pull into gathers and your frill/ruffle will take shape before your eyes.

To keep the gathers from flattening out again, immediately press the last stitch made between thumb and forefinger, and sew a half knot or two to hold that section. That locks the frilled section. Then you can arrange the gathers at will in the space left. Note that when you attach your ruffle or frill to whatever garment it is you're making, you'll make several stitches per inch, which will lock the frill in general into place.

You do not have to put that half knot in there, but know that your gathers will move all over the place in the meantime.

You should practice this portion of the process several times, to see how full or scant you want your frill. Just as in regular gathering, the tighter you pull the thread, the fuller the gather, and the looser you leave it, the scanter.

To my eye, gathers on things like caps were often quite scant.

More rolling of the fabric.

So there you go. I find this work relaxing, rapid for hand-sewing, and after a while can get a very fine edge. If you look at the picture above, you see that the rolled fabric at the top of my hands is larger than beneath. You will need to check yourself every so often to make sure you have consistent results.

What are the results like? Here are some examples from my costumes. First, the 1790s cloak.

Next, the hem of my wrap-front dress.

Hemming the Cloak
Second, the main body of the cloak is hemmed with a 1/8" hem, and the edges of the frill are hemmed the same way. The simplest way to do this is with a hemming attachment. I have a Willcox and Gibbs 1911 chain stitch treadle sewing machine that makes a magnificent hem, as well as the same model, an electric version, on long-term loan from my friend Miss Johnny. Here is a shot of Johnny's machine working on miles of flouncing several years ago:

Here is the little hemmer that makes it possible:

Here is the machine at work on a straight seam, several years ago:


I have no pictures yet of the process of whipping the resulting frill to the main has its own little issues, naturally. Sewing always does.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"C" is for Cloak and "F" Is for Frill and Both Are...

"Still Life with Sewing Box", this vignette might be called, that is,
if it didn't include the snaky, too realistic view
of the electrical cord behind the table.
..."D", for Delightful.

The swirling frill spilling out of my sewing box will belong before too long to what was known in the mid-1790s as a cloak and perhaps also as a mantle. (I swannee I saw that name recently and now cannot locate the original occurrence.)

This is not your standard red Regency-era cloak, worn as a practical garment, whether lavishly trimmed or plain red wool.

No, this handsome accessory or outergarment set off women's morning dress for a few years, until it was eclipsed by the more practical, exotic, and more expensive (at least if imported from the Middle East) shawl.

December 1794 Gallery of Fashion

Cloaks were worn winter and summer, and were often layered with other items. In the December, 1794 GOF plate shown here, the lady on the left is wearing a "[d]ouble handkerchief crossed and tied behind. White muslin cloak, trimmed with the same. Blue fox fur tippet." I believe the handkerchief is within the dress, then the cloak with the frill -- muslin can't have been warm -- and the tippet, hardly big enough to warm one's neck, much less neck and chest. That red tail she's holding? That's a tail from her exceptionally wide sash. The lady on the right is similarly layered: "[l]arge white double handkerchief, and a yellow silk handkerchief over it. Black silk cloak, trimmed with lace."

Cloaks were often white, though Gallery of Fashion shows them sometimes in black, as above, and of muslin or silk or satin, in which fabric a frill is often sewn. Sometimes the frill was replaced by lace or even fur. Frills along all edges appear to be very popular in the magazine, and are usually narrow, although you can occasionally spot deep lace-hemmed ones, and sometimes lace, being expensive because entirely handmade at this period, trims just the ends and the long edges are bare, or just a portion plus the ends are trimmed. I have not seen any illustrations of cloaks edged with ribbon or ruching, although that doesn't mean that didn't happen. Cloaks could also be of other construction. The image above from September shows a lady walking in "[b]lack silk netted cloak, trimmed with a full plaiting of lace".

Cloaks appear normally as accompaniments to Undress. They appear at breakfast and on walks. I do not see them paired with more formal wear. This makes sense, for cloaks were frilly, and would not have matched in tone the flowing robes or fringed petticoats and long swansdown tippets of that style of dress.

September 1794 Gallery of Fashion: netted silk cloak.
Oh, for a walk like that one! I miss water.

They were usually worn as described in the September issue: "drawn and tied in the front, the two ends hanging down very low". They could also be tied together with a bit of ribbon, flutter upon flutter.

Cruikshank draws the ladies: is that a cloak on the right?
See the Lewis Walpole Library collection, Call Number:800.03.18.01
So far, I have only found one extant item that even remotely can be described as a cloak. It's from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is dated as late as 1790, and is written down as a muslin "fichu". The dimensions, however, are more of a longish mantle: 75"x10", and it is frilled at the edge. Perhaps it's the precursor to the mid-1790s mantles, for I can see it wrapped round the shoulders, crossed in front, and tied behind. It's just an imaginative hop until you have the same thing, longer like the extra-long sashes of the mid-1790s, now wrapped around the shoulders, but tied in front and left to hang.

Beyond scanning for these items in GOF and Luxus und der Moden, and a brief look into the fantastic Lewis Walpole Library's digital collection, I haven't done much research on these looking into texts, for instance, or really trying hard to try to track extants down. After all it's summertime and the brain is easily overheated. It's the season for greenery and romance, not Mrs. Ernestine and her books.

Yes, that's the right word, romance: I find these silly cloaks nearly the ultimate in romance, and quite contemporary, really, in this year of ruches and frills and flirts. Their chief purpose seems to add another element of flow and flutter and length to an ensemble. They emphasize the vertical, and thus impart, one hopes, a willowy, sylph-like effect to the wearer.


The LACMA example's frill appears to be rolled to a selvage edge. If the mantle is 10"wide, it could easily have been woven on a narrow loom, like a very wide sash or ribbon might be. Thus, finishing would be far easier.

I haven't access to such a narrow-woven item, although a lucky duck might conceivably find a 75" scarf to add a frill too, especially of Indian cotton. Although 75" doesn't win you that delicious length. One indeed might check Dharma Trading and looking at their long scarves. Hmmm, should have thought of that. A really lucky person might have access to a white stole from India
However, this one is my own work It's of two 50"-ish lengths of 10" wide silk-cotton voile from the stash (and originally bought from Thai Silks, over a year ago), sewn together, for I didn't have 100" handy in one length. The frill is self fabric. Each evening before bedtime I roll-hem some of the frill and whip it to my base mantle. Just a bit of quiet busywork to slow the pulse before sleep.

As you can tell, then, this version is a hybrid of machine work and handwork. The Willcox and Gibbs narrow hemmer was used to hem the mantle itself, as well as the frill. However, a machine-gathered frill simply won't work, for there is always a header produced, unless someone has invented a roll-gathering attachment. A header will mean an extra layer must be sewn to the mantle hem, stiffening it and interfering with the flutter effect. If one folds the header down to hide it, the hem area becomes even stiffer.

What to do? The only way I can see thus far to make this garment do what it is designed to do is to roll-gather the frill and whip it to the hem, just as was done for caps and other fine muslin or lace garments. That means the entire garment is but one layer of fabric deep, and the result can flutter and flap delicately at will.

I am not being overnice in either the roll-gathering or the whipping, and so the handwork is not be as good as either the LACMA piece or my recently finished dress with the whipped frill. These scarf-like items get such rough use: tossed over the shoulders, they end up draped on chair backs, they fall off, they are stepped upon, are handled over and over, are even forgotten and left. I'd rather a bit of roughness for this item and no worries, than a perfect accessory that I fear to take out and use in modern living.

For once it's done, I hope to wear it for a long time to come, not only as a period item, but as a fun accessory for summer evenings.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Renovating My Sheer 1795 Morning Dress: Completed

Gasp. Whether that means "Good heavens!" or "[the last] gasp" is up to you. Still, it's done. Here it is, tried on, with some of the ideas I am noodling over for accessorizing it. Thank you, Jenni, for the picture-taking!

As always, please click on the images to see a larger version. 

I am wearing the wrap-front dress with the handkerchief tucked within the dress, as directed to repeatedly in Gallery of Fashion. As in the reference portrait miniature (towards the bottom of this post), the ribbon at the waist is simply a bit of blue silk ribbon from William Booth, Draper, tying the wrap dress closed. It is not meant to go all the way around the waist. Instead, one end starts at the side back seam, the other at the front edge of the wrapped front. Since the interior side of the wrap front is securely pinned to the stays, this closure receives little stress and should not pull out of shape. It's the only item not done...a matter of a few stitches. I pinned the ribbon on for the picture.

I may move the lower sleeve ribbon lower, to just below the elbow. We shall see.
The short silk ribbons tying the sleeves are in very small bows with tiny tails. Thank you, Leimomi Oakes, the Dreamstress, for sleuthing out that such could be simply tied on, allowing one to change ribbons, and thus the look of the dress, at will. They stay in place without slipping because the voile clings a bit, so Mrs. C., I don't think I need the little sleeve thread loops!

My hair is not styled, simply stuffed  up in a sort of chignon and my blue antique silk taffeta dress sash (made of very wide ribbon) wrapped negligently around it. For the festival, I will add some locks, to take the look more to 1795.

The earrings, a little smaller than those usually pictured in fashion plates, are really rather similar to those worn in the period. Of a sort of Classicizing filigree work, they consist of a cone and inverted cone separated by a small cylindrical bead. I could just as easily have worn hoops or sizeable pearl drops. The mid to late 1790s were not the years for small-scale jewelry. Bold was In, and More was Better.

The large beads, perhaps a little larger than normally worn, but not by much, are faux pearls, which, as we know from Two Nerdy History Girls' fascinating post on the subject, were quite common; they tie closed with blue silk ties. I will probably wear large green stone beads instead, but wanted to try these.

The bracelet is antique brass wire and brass beads, woven in a classical design, with tiny dangly ends. It's age, unknown, but it is not twentieth century. You see cuff bracelets in fashion plates and the Napoleon: The Empire of Fashion exhibition makes good use of them.

Back view: still need to perfect handkerchief placement. If you look carefully, you might see about an inch and a half of the embroidery on the stays showing through...even buttoned high, the petticoat doesn't cover all of it. Hmmm. Another reason to keep stays white for clothing in this era. I may baste a covering over these stays, much as I do not want to, for they are very pretty.

The chair working as a prop? It's a rather worn Empire-era "fancy chair", most likely made in Baltimore, where the industry was well established, but a few years later than the dress date. Still, I've been wanting to try a dress with it nearby, for the color and lines suit a little white dress :} By the way, when talking of architecture and the decorative arts, such as furniture, in America Regency era is usually referred to as the Empire era round about the early 1800s, while the earlier years of the Regency may be referred to as the Federal or late Georgian era. It's all rather confusing, as naming conventions mostly seem to be.

Here is the reference portrait miniature from the V&A, painted in 1795, of an unknown woman (

I decided, for this go-round, not to tack lace to the dress, for I prefer the coverage of the handkerchief, and the whitework on it is decorative enough.

My ribbon is far wider than her ribbon at waistline, and narrower than her sleeve ribbon, but I like my choice of ribbon. However, I will play with the sleeve poofing more, and tighten it and arrange the gathers on each sleeve a little when I put on the dress.

I am very happy with the outcome of all the months of research and renovation and reworking, and all the confabulations with you all. The dress feels attractive to me, has good lines, does not seem either overdone or underdone, suits my age and personal style, and I learned a ton about construction details and the minutae of styles for the years 1794-1797. My projects do not always turn out that way, so I turn in this evening a content woman.

I leave you this evening with a common early summer sight, day lilies, here luminescent in our garden in the evening.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Their Fourth Birthday

This story was written by Noah and Christopher and Mama.

Here we go, said Noah, when it was time to make the birthday cake for Noah and Christopher. You see, it was our fourth birthday.

Mix it up, that's what we did, says Christopher. Then, when the cake was finished, we took it out of the oven, we frosted it, says Christopher. Then we docorated it, says Noah.  Pretend roses and bananas on there, says Noah, (that's what was on the cake). Curious George had a cake like this.

We had dinner with Mamaw and Papaw and Grandmother and Mama and Daddy. Then we had the cake; we had candles. We put them on in secret, because people don't want to see you put them on, explains Christopher, because it's a surprise.

We sang "Happy Birthday to you, Christopher and Noah".

Then we ate the cake with ice cream -- it was chocolate -- was it chocolate only? Oh, it was strawberry, chocolate, and vernilla, explains Christopher. Daddy says it's called Neapolitan ice cream.

Was it a good birthday, asks Mama? Uh, yes, they say.

Mama reports, yes, it was a good birthday. Very peaceful and happy, a good fourth birthday, indeed.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

A Second Chemise (AKA My New Nightgown), and Tips Thereon

Oh, excitement, a chemise. Still, it means
a new nightgown to me :}
Yes, that's one of those cool balsa wood
rubber-band airplanes up there. They've
been in the air a lot lately.
Whoof, another one down! I've long needed another chemise, and another nightgown, for I've worn mine to the bald tire stage, so to speak. So I cut two out, one a sweet 21st century nightgown, and a second in the form of a Regency chemise. Then I made up the latter, finishing it this evening. I will wear it tonight, too. Hooray for something new and fresh!

As always, please click on images to see larger versions.

Anyhow, I have some sewing tips for you on it.

Pattern Helps

Per Dawn Luckham, bless her, I learned that the Sense and Sensibility chemise pattern is too full in the back to replicate a normal chemise of the era, and she suggested using the front piece as the back. Check. I even left the neckline as low in the back as in the front, for some of my dresses are lower backed than others. I've used the S&S pattern before, and it is so straightforward, and my pattern pieces already cut out, and my fabric so wide (54" Kauffmann Kona cotton) that it wasn't worth it to me to cut straight from the 1790 chemise pattern in Costume Close Up.

Otherwise, the pattern generally can be left as is, although using bias tape for the drawstring channel is at first blush, rather a cheat. It worked fine on my first chemise, and has worn like iron, but the original in Costume Close Up used a linen tape. More on that issue below.

One musing to start with: Handsewing is so portable, needing but needle and thread and thimble and scissors, and you can pick it up and do it in a few minute increments. Sure, the results take days and weeks, but you get a different sense of time, and a pleasant enjoyment of focusing on something quiet, on breathing slowly, and letting your mind drift. If you're always in a hurry and using a machine, some of the joy of what we do is lost. For me, anyhow, handsewing is meditation and therapy, and moment of peace in a very busy world, and yet I have something durable to show for the time spent. If you haven't handsewn to date, please do consider it.
Construction Tips

I took most of the seam work from the 1790 chemise in Costume Close Up. Most, but not all.

Being in a hurry (how ironic, given the above!), I sewed the main seams using my handcrank sewing machine, and managed to get the pieces all together in perhaps two would have been one hour except that I put in a gusset backwards...twice. Tip: don't construct gussets when you're tired. :}

All seams are flat-felled. The seams in the original CCU garment are tiny...somewhere around 1/16" wide, I think? Yikes, I cannot do that, but I can go to less than a quarter of an inch. Here are some tips.

  • Make your seams on the outside of the garment. That way the interior is flatter and less likely to chafe.
  • Many of you know that for a flat-felled seam, after sewing the seam, you make one seam allowance very narrow, then fold the other allowance under and hem it down over raw edge, hiding it and finishing the seam nicely.
  • If you're brave, offset your initial seam 1/4". That's right, don't lay the raw edges evenly together. You can do this with an unfitted garment and not come to much grief fit-wise, if the seams are narrow. It saves you the DRATTED trouble of trimming one of the finished allowances afterwards down to 1/8" with a pair of dressmaker's shears. So hard to do that evenly!
  • After your seam is ready to fell down, practically roll and twist the top allowance down on top, bit by bit, flatten it hard with your fingers, and pin it. The rolling action allows you to turn under a wee, narrow width. Only pin a few inches at a time. You notice that there is no pressing with an iron involved here. They didn't back then, and I don't see why we need to today. It would be nuts with such a narrow seam anyhow. Use the power of your fingers to form a fold, and press down on the fold's edge with your fingernails if that helps.
  • Then hem, with as small stitches as you can muster. You want this garment to last a long time, wash after wash. For this garment, I went somewhere between an eighth and a sixteenth, depending on my hurry. :}
  • What to do in places where two seams cross? Think ahead and plan which parts go on top and which will go on bottom, so the top one can fold down neatly, and its little short end be folded too and hemmed down. See the image in the hemming section below, and look where the seams cross.
Here are some pictures. The hems are between 1/8"-1/4" wide.

If you want a narrower seam, I theorize that you trim the one allowance very fine indeed, though not so fine as to risk the seam pulling out, then roll the top allowance down per the hemming tips below, rolling, if you must, some of the underlying allowance along the way. However, I've not done that yet.

Folding down the fabric...helping it along on top. Then I moved by hand and used thumb and forefinger to fold-roll under another bit.
Hemming. Oog, that was too big a stitch in the underlying fabric, there, so I see. Should have been 1 to 3 threads wide. You can see I was in a hurry on this seam, too, for my stitch is quite far from the previous one. Yes, at points I got a bit hurried, wanting to finish, instead of enjoying the Zen of it all and going for the Right Thing.

Results. Not too bad.

Hemming Tips

Flat hems can be just about as narrow as a rolled hem.

How? Just as in preparing the flat-felled seam above, by rolling the raw edge under by rubbing it between your forefinger and thumb, or middle finger and thumb. If you rub gently, you can get about a 1/8th hem. If you roll hard, you get a narrower one, more like a 1/16" of an inch.

The trick, at least for me, is to press the first fold flat with your fingers, after you roll the raw edge over, then roll again to encase the folded-down part, press hard again, and have a result ready to hem down.

I found myself making the first roll for an inch or two, then pressing hard, then making the second round of rolling, rather than preparing the hem in a single operation.

Then I hemmed down those few inches, and repeated.

My hemming stitches were about 1/16"-1/8" apart.  

I only have a picture of the result, sadly, but I think you can get the idea. Look at the left edge there, of the sleeve. That's a flat hem. Once I've pressed the stitches gently, they should fade into the fabric and not stick out.

Machine Sewing

This is an unabashed plug for rescuing a treadle or handcrank machine and using it rather than an electric machine, if you want speedy sewing.

The attachments that came with such machines were typically very high quality, and there were hemmers that could produce hems easily of 1/8". I have several such machines and ditto such hemmers. They are worth their weight in gold. Now, they do have problems, like any machine, when crossing a seam, but it can be done if the bump isn't too thick.

Here is the hem at the bottom of the chemise. No prep work, no fuss with trying to set and pin and then stitch a hem, and wonder if a pin will break a macine needle or fly out at you. Instead, fit on the attachment and treadle or crank away, using no electricity (how green is that?), producing a wonderful result, and fascinating your children into the bargain!

In fact, this hem was prepared by Christopher power, and he loved it. He is so proud this evening.

Neckline Helps

I used no separate fabric or tape at all to make my neckline channel. I folded the neckline's raw edge under 1/8", folded it again around a half inch, and sewed a combination stitch just inside the first fold to attach what was now a channel to the chemise.

As with all the handwork above, I prepped and sewed by inches.

Turning self fabric under around curves, and making a channel with a machine, would be a nightmare, and you'd have to clip the edges and use a ton of pins.

Not with handsewing. With your fingers, you can ease the tendency of the fabric to pucker and wander on those curves, bit by bit. You do this by shaping and stretching and manipulating the fabric, just as with any curved seam. My result had a few pickers, but those iron out pretty well, and the ones left are lost in the gathers once the chemise is drawn up, anyway. I used just one pin, to hold down the fold an inch or so ahead of where I was stitching.

This method is in contrast to both Sense and Sensibility, which calls for using modern bias tape, which takes curves easily, and CCU, which uses a linen tape. It would have to be a very fine, thin tape indeed, for any tape I have come across is quite thick, and I cannot see it going easily around curves.

I could have made my own bias tape with self fabric, but I wanted to see if this would work, and it does nicely. Now I have no extra bulk to deal with in that essential neckline area, and less work overall. :}

By the way, you can get 1/8" inch wide cotton tape very reasonably from William Booth, Draper, and it's nice stuff. Use this to thread through the channel and tie the chemise. He and his staff must have been away at an event, though, for turnaround was over two weeks. Still worth it, but I got worried.

Next post, the boys' fourth birthday! Oh, we had fun...