Sewing Academy Patterns
I count eight.
All four cloth dolls were made using our Great Auntie Maude’s Favorite Cloth Doll Pattern, available in the Marketplace. It’s so much fun to see the individuality each girl’s doll has!
A simple cloth doll can be a great Christmas gift, and definitely works well in the toy basket for living history events. These girls are all set to do some high quality historic interpretation, just by sitting under a tree and playing together. They can also undertake their own doll sewing and gain useful historic stitching skills (to the delight of mothers everywhere!)
Thanks, girls, for sharing your dolls with us!
From the Sewing Academy @ Home Forum, here’s an excellent topic:
Help! My oldest, almost 12, needs new everything. We haven’t made her stays of any kind yet but I am sure it is time. She is starting to develop, has a small bust-to-waist difference, but is still very short-waisted.
a) Use the Girls pattern (#200) and make it stop at her waist, resulting in something very similar to a sports bra in look. b) Use the Girls pattern (#200) and ignore her anatomical waist and make her waist about 15″ where her pants end. c) Use a corset pattern and ignore the busk (button the front closed) and using cording instead of stays with lacing in the back. d) Make her a real corset (Please say no, I’m not sure I’m up to the expense or have enough time to order stuff before I need it.) e) Some other option I am completely overlooking
This is a very common position for families with girls in the 9 to 13 age group!
Most girls, at the very beginning of their development, go through a stage where their bodies store some reserves to use during the major growth of puberty. Since she’s likely to hit a lot of development in the next two years (visible and invisible), I’d go with making her comfortable corded stays now, rather than a fully boned women’s corset. Go for something for support and *minimal* torso control, just enough to help her feel modest and secure.
You could absolutely go with a child-shaped stay, or if she would prefer, and a more generous figure shape warrants it, try the curvier lines of an adult’s shape (control down over the top of the hip), and consider adding straps for now. Does she have a preference at this point? If so, I’d try to follow her preference as to shape, and make this as inexpensive as possible: buttoning closure in the back, or possibly front, cording rather than boning, very minimally compressive… something to give a stable platform for her clothing.
Anticipate that even if she doesn’t get a lot taller in the next few years, she will most likely change shape a good deal, so use inexpensive cotton sateen for the stays (or another inexpensive, lightweight, fairly firm fabric), and cording, etc, to keep the stay updates both very affordable and very period-correct.
Many girls in living history are making their way into their teens lacking appropriate support. As they get taller, and move toward ever-lengthening skirts and petticoats, the weight of their clothing can become oppressive. Adding supportive stays and light corsets to their historic wardrobe is the best way to get a finished look consistent with images of The Original Cast, and it will also help support the increasing weight of their clothing, allowing them greater freedom of movement and far more comfortable historic living.
Between the ages of 12 and 20, a girl may go through two, three, four, or even more corseting changes, as her figure develops: all the more reason to undertake these supportive endeavors at home!
In the Marketplace, you’ll find some resources to help you keep your teens and pre-teens correctly supported. Our Girl’s Linens pattern has simple corded stays that are very easy to fit for support. Practical Prinkery and The Dressmaker’s Guide both include chapters on corsetry, and how to make both a customized pattern, and finished corded or boned corsets.
Beyond comfortable corded stays, here’s one last tip on keeping this age group well-turned-out: Growth Tucks! They’re vital for drawers, skirts, and petticoats!
This story is somewhat diminished without pictures (which, thankfully, I do not have), and I confess myself a bit hampered when limited only to the written word, and deprived of the ability to gesticulate and pantomime the adventure. Nevertheless, I share my horrific tale in the hopes that someone may be edified, and spared a similar fate.
When I started out in Living History, I presumed myself to be a fairly Smart Girl. When I heard that to be historically accurate, a woman should wear drawers that lack a sewn-closed crutch seam, the Smart Girl in me cringed. How immodest! thought she. How inconvenient! Surely, this is beyond the pale.
And so, Smart Girl that I presumed myself to be, I held fast to a decision to wear that ultimate in modest apparel, cotton-lycra bike shorts, beneath my skirts.
Sure, it meant I had to carefully plan my beverages, and necessitated some fairly convoluted acrobatics just to use a porta-loo, but it was worth it, right? To avoid those dreadful split drawers, I’d do just about anything. Besides, the one pair I’d worn for five or six minutes (borrowed from a shorter friend) would have given me a permanent double wedgie, and that couldn’t be good, right?
I continued with my acrobatic endeavors for a few events. If you’ve not done it yourself, the process of trying to use a porta-loo, whilst wearing a hooped skirt, and a corset, and cotton-lycra bike shorts tucked up under that corset… well, let’s say that quantum entanglement theory is relatively simple, comparatively, and leave it at that. One key feature of the process is needing to hike the the dress skirt, several petticoats, and hoop skirt well above one’s shoulders, catch the hoops together with one hand and pull them toward the front of the body, and proceed with business with oneself as the rather sweaty, huffy cheese in the middle of a hoopskirt taco.
This tends to limit one’s peripheral vision.
About one year into my living history exploits, I took a well-planned trip to confessional at Our Lady of Blue Waters. I re-enacted the hoopskirt taco arrangement, and backed into a standard-sized porta-loo to perform my endeavors. It wasn’t until I was seated, and commencing my endeavors, that I noticed the entire interior of the porta-loo at been “decorated” by a veritable Poo Picasso. Everything I was wearing was now covered with human waste that I had not been able to see, because I was too busy wrangling my modern layers the Smart Girl Me had insisted on using, against the advice of very clever living history friends.
I survived. I burned all my clothes, but I survived. I also borrowed some books from those dear friends, applied some drafting and geometry, and worked out a good math plan to create historically correct split drawers for myself, that fit in the length (to avoid the Mother of All Wedgies), fit in the width (with a nice bit of overlap for customized privacy and convenience), and could be worn comfortably in all weather.
With well-adjusted split drawers, visiting Our Lady of the Blue Waters is as simple as stepping in, lifting skirts straight up, and taking a wide stance before sitting and commencing any needed endeavors. No more hoop tacos. No more Poo Picasso striking without warning.
And that, friends, is why I wear split drawers.
What’s the best way to stay comfortable and confident in period clothing?
Have an adequate supply of chemises (or shifts) and switch to a fresh one as needed during your living history activities!
Chemises are most often made in tight-woven cotton or linen for the 1840-1865 era. The generous fit makes them easy to wear, and plain white textiles keep them very easy to launder. When you get a pattern that fits you comfortably, you can use like-sewing or “railroading” techniques to sew a whole batch of chemises quickly. With like-sewing, you complete the same construction step on each garment, one right after the other. Making a batch of chemises from our free Make a Simple Chemise pattern (just scroll down!), you’d:
- Draft and test the upper portion of the pattern (waist length, just to make sure you don’t want to fiddle with things),
- Cut all the chemises,
- Sew all the shoulder/sleeve seams,
- Sew all the side seams,
- Put in all the hems (sleeve and lower edge),
- Put on all the neck bands,
- Have a cup of tea, and enjoy your accomplishment!
Like-sewing also lends itself well to sewing with tight schedules. If you will commit to sewing for 15 minutes a day (by machine) or 1 hour a day (by hand), you’ll make steady progress on your wardrobe! Work to complete each construction step on every garment of that type before moving on to the next step. You gain efficiency by repeating the same process multiple times.
It’s just one strategy to get you well-dressed for the 2011 event season!
Petticoats are indisputably important to mid-century fashion! Here are the top reasons you may want to consider adding one or more to your list this year:
10: If you like to walk easily, petticoats help. The layers of fullness baffle one another at the waist and hip, which helps them hang away from your body a little bit further down your legs. Two or three layers of skirt are less prone to wrapping entirely around your legs during movement or with wind, too.
9: They’re an ideal “practice” garment. You’ll practice seams, simple hemming, gathering, waistbands, and closures, and if your stitches are uneven, or you have some wonky seamlines, who cares? And imperfect petticoat is still historically accurate (not everyone sewed perfectly then!), and eminently functional.
8. They cross economic boundaries. Working class women need petticoats; so do leisure class women, and the basics of construction are the same for each. Petticoats are one wardrobe item that can easily span a wide range of economic levels for your impressions, so they’re very multi-use.
7. Climate Control. Petticoats shield you from heat, as well as from cold. In fact, if you do cool or cold-weather events, you might want a quilted petticoat or a wool petticoat, as well as your regular cotton petticoats. (Learn more about cold-weather petticoats at The Academy @ Home Forum, or do one of the projects in The Dressmaker’s Guide.)
6. Creating the silhouette. The mid-century look is essentially an inverted triangle (bodice) on top of a bell of skirts. You can’t get the bell without the petticoats for support! This is an era where even robust figures add a bit more upholstery to the hips through petticoats. Just remember: everything below your waist is skirts, and no one can prove otherwise! Relish the boof! Just about any impression could use another petticoat.
5. Creating a tidy waist. Notice, that said tidy, not tiny. Mid-century torsos are controlled and tidy, and look small by comparison with the skirts. If you don’t have petticoats, you can’t get the skirt boof, and without skirt boof (see #6), your waist won’t look as tidy as it could.
4. Protect your dresses with petticoat layers. Though petticoats are hemmed just a tad bit shorter than your dress skirts, they’re going to take a lot of abuse from shoes and ground when you move around. Petticoats, combined with starching, pressing, and nice facings on your dresses, all work together to protect your hems.
3. Individual expression. I know, it doesn’t seem that stacks of white petticoats are anything terribly interesting at first glance, but just consider the wide variety! Petticoats with plain hems, or whitework hems, or quilted hems. Horizontal tucks, vertical or diagonal tuck insertions, sets of tucks large and small. Whitework insertions, puffings, and braidwork on the “for show” petticoats. There’s a white petticoat to delight any personal inclination, and then you get to wear it, too.
2. They’re dirt cheap. Even splurging on great fabric (try Kona or Egyptian cotton for petticoats that will last decades), you’ll spend between $5 and $25 for a plain, gathered petticoat, and only slightly more to embellish it with some gorgeous tucks that add body around the hem. (The low cost makes petticoats a great addition to loaner gear, too. Even a merchant-row make-do dress will look more historically correct if it has nice petticoats for support.)
And the number one reason to make petticoats?
They Did. In trying to replicate the look of the Original Cast, we’ll do best when we use the systems and shapes they used. Petticoats are an integral part of the wardrobe for babies, toddlers, girls, and grown women. Without them, we just don’t look like They did!
If you need just one more reason to make yourself some great petticoats?
One item that should absolutely be in your young child’s wardrobe is a pinafore… or four.
However, we refuse to sell you the pattern.
(Wow–even the little fellow in the picture looks a bit dubious at that statement!)
It’s true! We won’t sell you one… but we’ll give you three for free, plus variations.
Pop over to the Compendium, scroll down, and you’ll find our free pinafore projects. You can use checks, plaids, prints, or even plain white cotton to make a pinafore (or four!) for your little one.
They work up quickly, require minimal sewing, and extend your child’s wardrobe tremendously. If you have a limited budget, or limited time, you’ll be better off making one dress and three pinafores than trying to finish three dresses, and your child will stay tidy through a multi-day event without a problem.
If you’re looking for our undergarment or dress patterns, we’ll be glad to sell you those… click here!