Shifting for Myself


*halfhearted clap* yay …

I’m so punny.

I’ve just finished my shift-on-a-budget, based on Sharon Ann Burnston’s awesome internet tutorial.   <~ this one.

I followed the patterns taken from her 1752 Connecticut shift. I had to alter it somewhat, because I was working with very thick, loosely woven linen. It was way, way too thick and loose for a shift – but this is my shift-on-a-budget, and I didn’t put out a single penny for it, so hey. The selvages had to be wider to accommodate the ravely fabric. Not like Bolero by Ravel-y; way less cool.

Because I was making it from four old aprons, I couldn’t use the incredibly frugal cutting methods used during the 18th century. I had to piece the body down the side, and I have three pieces making up the back. One sleeve is made of three pieces, and the other from two.

I narrowed some of the dimensions; such as the wide sleeves and body, because the fabric is thicker and I didn’t want it to be tremendously bulky.

I ran out of linen thread 80% of the way through, and had to flat-fell some seams with cotton-poly ickyness. I’m thinking of pulling those stitches out and re-sewing them in linen later.

I wanted to cross-stitch my initials in the front in black silk, but I only had a dark greyish-purple. I figured that was pretty close, so I began – but I can’t cross-stitch. I know, it’s like one of the easiest stitches in the world and somehow I can’t do it.

I’m going to blame it on the linen. The weave was so loose that my stitches never looked neat. There.

I wound up just doing the initials in an amateurish backstitch. I’ll take them out if enlightenment ever reaches me and I can cross-stitch them.


I did get to do something cool when I pieced the back: two of my pieces had selvages, and I butted them as Sharon Burnston suggests in her instructions. It came out feeling nice and smooth, even with the crappy fabric and my unfortunate-colored thread.


I can’t say that I’m perfectly pleased with it. The materials I had were crappy, and it shows in the finished product. The shift fits in with the theme of my budget outfit, though. It’s pieced from older clothes and handsewn, and it’s better than the shift I had before (that thing had too many drawstrings). I’m excited to wear it, especially with the button cuffs. To finish the shift, I want to see if I can reproduce a broken 18th century cuff button in my collection.

This one. Maybe without the ship etching. I love the octagonal shape.

This one. Maybe without the ship etching. I love the octagonal shape.

Now I’m stuck. I need another sewing project, and I only have half a yard of the same linen left, and a few yards of cotton-poly crap thread.

And the idea of making this is stuck in my mind … I don’t have anything to wear it with (yet), I just love it.


A quick sketch. The cups look like eyeballs and the straps look like ears … and now that you’ve seen it, that’s all you see …

But I wouldn’t try it until I had the materials to do it justice. Maybe I’ll just work on fitting and nail down a pattern.

About Amanda Goebel

I'm an Anthropology / Fashion History and Material Culture graduate from The University of Delaware, currently working on a Master's in Museum Studies. I'm a living historian interested in costume and culture from years before. I love researching the mundane and the everyday that has changed or disappeared since. I re-enact the 18th century, and I recreate clothing from that time. This blog is where I'll write about my research and projects. View all posts by Amanda Goebel

2 responses to “Shifting for Myself

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