Tag Archives: Linen

15 Hours = eh ….

It’s taken me a while to get a picture of myself in my 15-hour gown, but here it is, at the Bedford PA Historical Society’s new 18th/19th century artisan’s show & conference, America’s Past Preserved.


Cranberry linen overload!

While a 15-hour, $5 dress is pretty great, there are so many obvious problems …

1) I went for a late 18th century round gown / apron front setup. I kept the waistline low because I’ve seen other American dresses with this sort of configuration. On me, I think it’s very unflattering and doesn’t lend itself to much flexibility. I couldn’t get the apron front to stay in place, either – you can see my stays showing at the waistline where the apron front has sagged. No matter how tightly I tied it, it kept sagging. I’m just going to give up on it now …

2) The front of the bodice overlaps more on the bottom than on the top. When I pin it together, it doesn’t line up straight. That, and the front seems to come down too low, so it creases where the apron front sits and looks icky.

3) The sleeves turned out huge! They’re puffy in the back and too wide everywhere else. I added way too much selvage when I cut them, and I cut them over my awful 1740s chemise which has huge bulky sleeves – a bad move, but it’s the only chemise I have right now, save my 1790-1820 chemise. Soooo … a new chemise needs to be in the works for the next event …

4) When I made this gown, I also made a 1780s/90s cap to wear with it, but as soon as I put it on, it screamed Amish. I have absolutely nothing against the Amish, how they live or or what they wear, but whenever I dress in 18th century clothing, I get called Amish. In all honesty I’m tired of having to explain myself to 50% of the people I come in contact with, so avoiding all triggers sounded like a good idea. Oh well. I’m saving the cap to wear with something more obviously Empire/Regency, so maybe I won’t get so many “oooh look at the Amish girl!” stage-whispered comments.

This brings me to a thought I’ve been having for a while. When I make 18th century clothing, I have to find a middle ground – I have to come up with something as accurate as my skills and research can produce, but also something that the general public interprets as 18th century. The general public is always a mixed bag. There will be knowledgeable people out there who understand my issues with my red dress, and know that it’s probably not super accurate in its current state. Then, there will be people who think I’m Amish, or from the Renaissance, or a Civil War reenactor, or some just weirdo (the latter is probably the most truthful statement). Often I’m the only woman in 18th century clothing at these events, so I can’t fall back on other reenactors bolstering the 18th century theme. I have to come up with something super evocative of “ye olde coloniale period”, while staying as period correct as I can. It limits my wardrobe, but it helps the public – you don’t want confused guests. People get embarrassed enough when I explain that I’m wearing stays.

Okay, sidetrack’s over.


Skirt: remove the apron front and make it an open-front gown. Wider time period, more wardrobe options¬† … and this alteration is very easy. Also, since my shoes are Burnley & Trowbridge’s women’s red walking shoes, making the gown an open front will result in less than 98% red, which was kind of overkill. I mean, red’s awesome, but really.

Bodice: re-sew the front and take it in a little. Another simple fix.

Sleeves: I am going to take them off completely, trim them down, and put them back on. A little more complicated, but it’s going to be worth it. Then I’ll see about making a late 18th century chemise.


I got to wear my new Goose Bay Workshops chatelaine to this event. I wore it with a large ivory notebook and a bodkin, also from Goose Bay Workshops, and a pair of scissors without a case … yeah, another upcoming project. They’re razor sharp and pointy so it was really kind of stupid to wear them without a case, but they’re so useful to have I just went with it. It was better carrying them on the chatelaine than throwing them in my pocket, which I have done before, and which was very stupid.

I also wore my new brass sleeve buttons with my chemise. I got those from Goose Bay Workshops as well. I have a pair in oval and octagonal, and though I love the octagonal ones, the ovals fit in the chemise buttonholes so that’s what I went with. They were really nice, much nicer than the old tape ties I had worn before. I want to see if I can get a pattern scratched or engraved into them, I just have to think of a design.

And yeah, I do work for Goose Bay Workshops. I’m the webmaster/helper extraordinaire. That would explain why I have so many of GBW’s items, and why the GBW table is behind me in the first picture. That being said, this blog isn’t the place for me to sell or advertise GBW items, and I won’t. I will be pointing out if I’m wearing a GBW piece, though, just as I’ll point out my Burnley & Trowbridge items, or the awesome, beautiful chatelaine I wore the second day of the Bedford show, made by the super talented David Hughes. Pictures to come. Eventually. You know me.

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.

http://sharonburnston.com/shifts.html   <~ 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.