Friday, July 20, 2018

Tucked Linen Dress

I made this dress for Reptar to wear to the 18th Century "picnic" on June 1, and it was so much fun to make!  20-year-old me would have been quite surprised to learn that one day she would enjoy sewing dozens of tiny tucks by hand, but I have come to really appreciate hand sewing.  And I find that it's often faster and easier than machine sewing, when working on such a small scale! 

My inspiration for this dress came from a book that my friend Carlie gave me as a baby shower gift: 

She knows me well!
 This was the earliest extant gown in the book: 

Since I was dressing in 1780s, I thought this style of baby gown would be close enough. 

So that gave me a good jumping-off point.  The fabric was a linen remnant I had picked up at JoAnn's a while back and set aside to become a Regency dress for Reptar.  I loved the color and the simple stripe.  Originally, I was just going to do another draw-string number with tucks in the skirt to let out as she grew taller, but now that I needed a Georgian dress instead, I changed plans. 

I started by determining how wide I needed the sleeve to be.  I think I just measured Reptar's armscye, and decided on 8", though looking back I wish I'd gone a bit wider.  I cut off an 8 1/2" strip from one selvedge edge: 

I set this aside until later.  Next I focused on the bodice.  I mimicked the original by grouping my tucks in sets of five, starting from the center where I left three blue stripes flat. 

The stripes turned out to be a perfect guide for making the tucks!  I finger-pressed each one along the outer white stripe (working from the center front) and brought that crease to the next set of white stripes, lining it up with the inner one.  Then I finger-pressed the resulting fold on the inside of the bodice, and used that crease as my guide for stitching. 

I used a spaced backstitch, and ended each tuck at 5" down from the top. 

This whole process actually went fairly quickly!  It helped that this was the only garment I was making for the picnic, as I was going to be re-wearing an outfit I already had. 

Look how nicely the tucks bring in the fullness of the skirt!  This  is over half-way tucked, as you can see I did two sets of 5 on either side of center front before focusing on just one side of the bodice: 

I had measured Reptar's waist as 17", so I was planning on making the bodice 18".  Here is the first half of the bodice done, measuring from the center front: 

And now both are done!  (Only a day and a half passed between the above and below photos).

However, when I tried this on little Reptar, it didn't fit!  I hadn't accounted for wearing ease, and she is quite mobile!  I needed more room in the bodice for movement, I discovered. 

Well, the solution was simple enough - remove some tucks! 

I started by taking out just one tuck on either side, from the middle group of five: 

I tried it on her again: 

It fit, but just barely.  I took out two more tucks. 

This gave me plenty of room, so finally the bodice was done!  Now for the skirt: 

I wanted to preserve the length of the fabric, to give myself as much future wear potential as possible.  I made five 1" tucks, taking up ten total inches of length: 

I sewed the tucks on the machine, because I was running low on time. 

Now it was time for sleeves!  I cut the lower armscyes from my bodice, based on where Reptar's arms hit when I tried it on her.

I made my sleeves from 6" lengths of the 8" strip I had cut off at the beginning, sewing them into tubes.  I stopped my stitching approximately an inch from the top edge: 

Then lined the seam up with the armscye I had cut from the bodice: 

And trimmed off the same amount from the sleeve: 

You can see I also flat-felled the seams and hemmed the sleeves by hand before attaching them. 

From the remaining fabric, I cut three horizontal strips: 

Which I used to bind to top edges of the bodice front and back: 

You can see I also closed up the back skirt (that was before I sewed the tucks in the skirt) and hemmed the center back edges. 

I attached the sleeves at the undearm seam: 

I added shoulder straps last - I have no idea if this is the proper way to attach them or not, but I made it up as I went along. 

First I measured how far I wanted the shoulder straps to extend into the neckline: 

1 1/4" looked right to me.  Then I measured a 3" strip to give myself a 1/4" seam allowance on both sides: 

I attached the shoulder strap across the top of the sleeve head: 

Then I realized I had done that backwards.  Fortunately it was only one!  I took it off and put it back on, this time sewing it to the INSIDE of the sleeve head: 

Then folded it to the outside and pinned the other edge over the first seam, enclosing the raw edges: 

I also pinned the front and back edges over the neckline, enclosing the binding at an angle: 

Then I stitched through all thicknesses with a prickstitch.  Finally I added ties to the center back edges at the neckline and waist, and it was done! 

Here is the dress with all of the remaining fabric: 

Depending on how she grows, I may need to add more width to the sleeves at a later date.  I figure I can open up the sleeve seam, add a panel insert, and let out a tuck or two from the underarm of the bodice to compensate. 

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