Monday, February 09, 2009

Making an early Chemise.....

Its really not as difficult as you might think. Now this will work for both dollye, and human, as the construction is of the period. I will not include any measurements for a couple of reasons...first, I never use or take measurements, and second, prefer to stitch for the doll or human by fitting to their own form.........

So as you can see by my shaky sketch, the chemise is cut from a rectangle of cloth, folded in half over the shoulders. Textiles were so valuable in the 18th century, it was common practice to make up clothing from simple rectangles, so as not to waste any fabric. A chemise made up how I will show you here, will work for 18th c thru 1830s

Getting back to my hasty sketch....the body will be cut from the folded rectangle, in this case, for dolly I am using an olde ratty add fullness at the hem, and more fit to the upper bodice, a long triangle is cut from the upper edges~ this in turn gets flipped over, and sewn to the sides making a gore...have I lost you yet??? You'll see next will also need 2 rectangles of cloth for the sleeves, and 2 squares for the gussets under the sleeves.

So how to fit? Well I lay my fabric, folded, on the dolly while she is laying down, and add about an inch or little more to each side......for the sleeves~ the rectangle should be long enough to easily fit around the girth of the arm, and the width will end up being how far down on the arm the sleeve will go. For true reproduction, this should end just above the elbow, with NO cuff. (yes, I made Grete's a bit different)

So here are my pieces~ I cut them from cheap Christmas wrap...REALLY cheap if you buy it after Christmas! The body is folded in half, and then you can see from left to right, the sleeve rectangle(also folded in half), square for the underarm gusset(folded in half triangularly), and the long triangular side gusset

Cutting. For period reproduction, you would cut the side gusset like I explained above, and stitch it separate, but my fabric was wide enough to save a step and alot of stitching, and cut in a single piece(remember it is folded in half over the shoulders)

have cut the body now~ note that I cut away for the neckline at the top. Don't cut away too much here~ you can make this as high or low fitting as it pleases you. I have my 2 sleeves and sleeve gussets cut as well

First step~ stitching the side seams from the hem, up to the under arm figure out WHERE this will be, just lay out your pieces as they would be sewn up~ starting at the top of the shoulder, the sleeve, then gusset under that, folded triangularly.

WRONG SIDES TOGETHER. A flat feld seam is stitched from the RIGHT side of the fabric!!!!

Now you can stitch this as you prefer, but for a period impression, it should be done by hand, all seams flat feld. If you are not familiar with this, get ready to learn it! It is very easy, so much early clothing uses this seam technique~ its very strong, and there are NO raw edges when you are finished. So first stitch your seam with a running back stitch( excuse my grubby fingers~ they are actually clean~ too much stain and painting ground into them!)

Once you have your entire side seam done~ up to the point where the underarm gusset will start, go back and trim off one side of the seam allowance~ see here I have trimmed half of it away

Next, you will fold this under, as you stitch, keeping an even distance from your first row of stitching...and stitch another running back stitch thru all thickness.

Some prefer to iron the raw edge under, but I find this a great waste of time, and it never will come out even~ I just do it as I go, tucking the seam allowance under my thumb with my needle a little at a time
Here is what it looks like finished~ just try and rip out one of these seams~ they are very durable. So now you can do the other side same way.

After the side seams are finished, I turn, iron and hem the bottom. . hmm hem length~ this should come below the knees~ the earlier you go in history, the longer the chemise is~ 18th century it is ankle length, as time comes on, it gets shorter to eventually being knee length

The next thing I did was finish the neck edge. I just bound it over with a scrap of fabric I cut the chemise from. You could add a mull ruffle for 18thc, or a fine lace for later...I prefer it plain....looks wonderful with simple initials embroidered in red beneath it

So you now have your sides up to the arms finished, neck edge done, and chemise is hemmed. Last we will stitch the sleeves. Very simple. On point, place your underarm gusset square, and stitch one side to the front body piece, the other to the back body piece~ this is done INSIDE OUT. The above pic is turned back right side out, with both sides stitched on

Next, pin your sleeve rectangles on~ you will need to ease them in with gathers or pleats, which ever you prefer~ and depending on how full you want your sleeves to be....bring them all the way down just touching the gusset. Here above is shown them already stitched to the body.

Lastly, you will stitch the underarm seam~ first to the remaining side of the gusset, and then to each other

For a period reproduction, just hem the sleeve and let it hang loose. I am planning a tight fitting late 1830 dress for Grete, so I made her sleeves not very full, with 2 rows of drawstrings to make a bit of a cuff that I can draw in close if needed. You should really have fun stitching this up~

As for the back, Grete's head is small enough I did not need to make a back opening~ for a person tho, or dolly with large head, just add a slit down the CB a few inches long~ enough to easily put it on, and bind this same way as the neck edge, with a single button closure at the top, or you could even add a drawstring to the neck edge and close it that way

If you find this post on how to make a chemise informative and use it to make one of your own, I would love to see the fruit of your efforts. As well, if you have any questions, just email me and I will be delighted to help you. Please feel free to make a donation to the Museum~ any amount of your choosing and generosity helps so much and is greatly appreciated...just click on the 'donation' tab on the sidebar.


Lone Pierette said...

Thank you so much Rachael - it is so wonderful with these little lessons .
hugs, Lone

lovetheprimlook said...

Loved it !!! Thank you so much !!!


Christine LeFever said...

I call that a lovely Valentine's Day gift, and I thank you with all my heart.

Happiest of Valentine's Day to you wonderful Rachael!
XO and dolly hugs,


Robin's Egg Bleu said...