Making Abigail Adam’s silk fichu: An adventure Embroidering on Silk Mesh

I think the absolute dream I have is to one day embroider on silk mesh in such a way that I can make my own 18th century lace. Honestly, with my first two machines, such a thing was not possible. The silk netting was too weak and the tension was too high that I got a ton of tears and heart break.

Luckily, my next machine was much better. The tension could be lowered to a significant degree and I was able to embroider on even very delicate silk netting. I now use a a Baby Lock Venture, and I’m finding that with significant play, making lace is feasible.


  1. When making lace, use 2-3 layers of dissolvable interfacing. I use Baby Lock dissolvable, which is fairly thicker than most that I get on amazon, so I’m able to get away with only two layers. If I am using another brand, I tend to use 3 layers to make up for the thinness.
  2. Lower the top thread tension as much as humanly possible.
  3. Increase your bobbin pressure. Not a ton, but just enough to make sure none of it will show on the out side.
  4. Most importantly: LOWER your speed! I find that when I’m making lace it’s best to go at the lowest possible speed. I usually use 400 stitches/min which is the lowest on my Venture.


I use silk netting – but completely honestly, finding real silk netting for less than 120/yard is very difficult. I used to have a source but last I checked, they were completely out of real silk netting. I would recommend polyester netting if you can’t find silk; it still generally embroiders well. DO avoid nylon netting at all costs – it’s weak and can’t handle all the buse you’ll be doing to it.

Thread: I use fairly lightweight Kimono Silk thread at 100wt. Works beautifully, comes in many colors, 10/10. Will totally recommend.

Now, let’s talk about Abigail Adam’s Fichu. I worked closely with Sara of Founding Mother on Instagram, who is a LEGIT actress who portrays Abigail Adams and a brilliant costumer to boot, to work on this. I had been thinking of digitizing this for a while, based on the painting by Gilbert Stuart.

Here is a closeup of it; I’m just so impressed by how translucent it really is.

So from the painting, Sarah was able to deduce that the fichu is likely two layers, due to it being a square that is folded in half, diagonally. I’m inclined to agree wtih her, since from the painting, you can see the shadow of the second layer underneath it.

Now, one reason I was PARTICULARLY keen to digitize this is becaues a little portion of the ACTUAL FICHU EXISTS!!! A collector actually has a TIIINY piece of the fichu that survives, which, if actually the real one (and it looks accurate to me), shows it to have been silk embroidery on silk netting. I don’t feel comfortable sharing someone else’s licensed images, so I’ll just link his page here.

So… after Sarah and I decided to go with silk netting, I started digitizing the design.

I initially started with the scallop border on my software, Palette 11 by Baby Lock. I used a stem stitch for the swags and a satin stitch for the actual scallops. I ended up switching to a fill stitch for the scallops (120 stitches/inch) and keeping with the stem stitch (0.04″ wide) for the swags.

I then used the closeup of the portrait to zoom in and put the swirls close together. I ended up making 3 distinctly different swirls, and rotating them out in the actual final fichu. Having more then one that you switch out occasionally does a good job of making the embroidery look more handmade.

Sarah was able to tell me that she wanted the scallops to be about 7/8″ wide, so I used this as a guide to keep everything else in proportion.

And I was able to come up wih a repeating design that we were both happy with. Again, you’ll notice that each swirl and each swag is not exactly the same; this is intentional and actually much harder than justy copy/pasting a lot. But I feel this is so important when doing 18th century reproductions – so that it has a chance of looking hand made.

Now, I turned this into a square design.

We decided to make the final fichu 34″x34″.

Of note, square designs like this are a PAIN IN THE BUTT to embroider. The problem is that when you’re trying to embroider, especially something as malleable as silk net, it will shrink and pull. The problem with a square design is that when you have to end up EXACTLY where you started, things can get messy. I let Sarah know that there would be some “wonkiness” at the starting point, and I got started.

First, I broke up the design into 11 pieces so it would fit my machine.

You’ll notice that this looks just like the last design but I put lines where I planned to break up the design, and you’ll notice a 1, 2, and a 3, to show how I’m going counter clockwise (I’m chaotic good). With the design and plan ok’d by my client, Sarah, I got everything ready.

Then I started to embroider.

So of course, I started with the first panel. You’ll notice there are lines that help place the next part.

So I just started going at it! I initially planned on doing this 1 part every two days, do it over three weeks, since this particularly embroidery netting requires me to SIT next to the machine (in case it gets stuck so I can emergency stop it, since it tears SO easily). However, I got myself hooked and I did it in a week.

This is me lining up the last piece. As expected ad warned, there was a little bit of “wonkiness” right at the end to make it all line up properly.

But…. Let’s be real. Can you even see the wonkiness?

I then cut away the excess dissolvable interfacing and removed the marking stitches (do this BEFORE you was for the first time is my suggestion).

I then wahed it in warm water to get rid of the dissolvable interfacing.

And then I let it dry.

Then with a tiny pair of embroidery scissors and infinite patience, I sloooowwwwly cut away the outside netting and it left me with this.

Now, I’m pointing out the wonkiness here for Sarah’s sake… but can YOU see it?

How about now?

How about now?

So I’m pointing all this out to let all of you perfectionists know… It’s ok for things not to be perfect. I have studied actual 18th century garments and you can find mistakes everywhere. It’s ok! It’s human! It proves it’s man made. You’ll notice I intentionally put in “imperfections” to make it look more 18th century and hand made rather than machine embroidered.

In any case, Sarah loved it, and she is now working on the actual gown so she can really dress up as the Gilbert portrait! Also, I loved it too so I plan on making myself one too!

So… that’s all I’ve got folks! Happy embroidering!

PS: If you do want to embroider this for yourself, have a 14″x8″ hoop, and don’t want to digitize it yourself, I’m selling the files in my shop here: Sewstine shop

The Victorian Red Dress

I feel like any movie made in the 1990’s and early 2000’s set in the Victorian/Edwardian era had to have the female lead character in a red dress.

This defined her as our central female, and she stood out so beautifully in the film. You can see this in Mina Murray’s dress in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Satine in Moulin Rouge (my personal favorite), and Countess Olenska in The Age of Innocence.

It was my dream to wear a Victorian red dress for prom. Sadly, my mother refused to sew me one and I didn’t have the skills back then. I ended up with a cute but not nearly dramatic number from BCBG.

So when I found out about the Prior Attire Ball in Bath in May 2020, I absolutely decided this was THE time to make this gown. (FYI: The ball was canceled due to COVID-19. Hope is to go next year)

The best part was – I already had the perfect fabric in mind. For months now, I had been collecting samples of red silk satins from different shops – NYDesigner Fabrics, Mood, Silk Baron… but Mood won out. They had THE PERFECT red – called “Roja Red”, and it was a gorgeous Silk Duchesse.

I bought 11 yards of this.



The goal was an 1880’s bustle dress, based on this particular fashion plate from 1887:


I loved it! The black birds, (or are they crows?), the pleated underskirt, the draping…

So for the bodice, there was no perfect pattern so I used theTruly Victorian 1886 bodice.


For the underskirt, I used my go to: the Truly VictorianFour Gore underskirt.


For the overskirt, I thought this oneby Ageless Patterns looked quite similar so I went with that one.

Ageless Pattern 1273 – 1888 Red Satin & Brocade Toilette


For the most part, the construction of the dress was very similar to my Black and White striped gown, but there were also differences. I highly recommend also reading thatblog postif you’re interested in this era.So I’ll disc

uss each one here.


I used the lining pieces of the Truly Victorian pattern to make a basic muslin. I then sewed it up using cotton twill for the final. Please note that the back pieces, I flat lined with the silk duchesse. So at this point, it looked like a V neck with a lining only front (I used black lining) and red silk duchesse back.

Then I cut out a large piece of red silk fabric, and just pleated it onto the lining, putting the pleats similarly to the original fashion plate. Then I hand sewed it down using tiny stitches. I do wish I pulled at the fabric more as I did this step as the bodice is still rather wrinkled.

Once I did this, I put this on and drew out the shape of the cutout I wanted on the left (please note the original drawing above is assymetic with a spagetti strap on the left).

After doing this, I cleaned up the edge using a tiny piping I made from silk bias tape. After the piping was done along the edge, I turned in the edge underneath, and sewed it onto the lining.

Once all this was done, I sewed in pieces of boning onto each seam  inside. This took forever – I think there were 11 pieces of boning that went into this. Then I tried it on.

The gown has a back closure with eyelets, so I had sewed the eyelets onto the back at some point in all of this.


After this, I had to wait for some silk georgette to come in- finding a matching silk georgette was difficult but I did find some. I cut some wide silk georgette about 24 inches wide on the bias, sewed it as a 12″ wide sash, and sewed it by hand onto the gown neckline, draping it in a way that I thought was pretty.

At this point, I put in hooks and bars at the waist so the back bow could hang at the waist properly.

Now for the black birds, procuring appropriate blackbirds was difficult. I had some foam ones in mind but the shop closed temporarily due to COVID-19, and I after waiting a month, I ended up purchasing them from another place.

The new birds were perfect, but they were a little too wide. I ended up dremeling the bird in half, drilling in some holes into the bird, and then sewing them in place by hand.

FINALLY, the top was done. Please note I don’t have any photos of this process. 😦



To do the pleated underskirt, I made the base of the skirt out of cotton twill and finished it to the best of my ability according to the instructions.


To do the pleats, I got the silk fabric, and cut a piece that was the correct height, but wide to about 150″. I hand hemmed the bottom using tiny stitches, then pleated and starched the pleats on my ironing board.


After everything was pleated, I then sewed in a piece of linen tape to the back of the pleats, giving about an inch and a half of leeway with the tape for each pleat (to allow movement for the pleat), sewing down each pleat with a few stitches and a few knots. This took quite some time but three hours in a zoom meeting with friends made this go much faster!

After this, I sewed this in place at the waist, gathering up the pleats as needed to fit the waist to the waistband, and making sure that the length was correct.




The pattern I used came with three pieces for the overskirt – two for the front, and one for the back. The back was simple – I just pleated it and added it to the waist. However, the front two pieces took actually quite a bit of playing – nothing seemed to be correct!

I actually ended up doing this about four five times, and eventually, I managed to find a draping I loved.


Once I had a design I liked, I cut out the pieces. I flatlined all the silk pieces in thick muslin. FOr the back of the skirt, I faced any visible portions with black silk taffeta so the white of the muslin would not be visible. Instead, you’d see beautiful black silk!

For the front portion of the skirt, I faced it with black silk duchesse so that the texture of the fabric would not be visible.

Finally, I finished this all off with hook and eye bars at the waist, buttons to close up the sides of the overskirt, loops so I could bustle up the overskirt… and… if this sounds unclear to you, please wait for my next post where I describe how to put this on. 🙂


Please note the version above shows white silk organza instead of the red silk georgette. This was during the peak of the first wave when shipping was wretchedly slow and I couldn’t get my hands on the crows as well as the silk georgette.

It’s crazy how big a difference the crows make:


And voila! All done! I will be doing a photoshoot in mid July with the incomparable Lindsey Hinderer so I’m holding off on final photos til then… but… I’ll keep you posted!

The Night Circus Gown AKA The Black and White Striped 1887 Dress of Dreams

I’m not sure if any of you read the Night Circus by Erin Morganstern, but it was quite popular for a time when it first came out in 2010. I have opinions on the ending, but overall, the imagery is gorgeous and made me think at great length about Victorian circus fashion.

In it, the author describes in great detail the black and white outfits that all the characters wear. It has the wonderful, vivid imagery, and even though I’ve loved black and white outfits before it (thank you Tim Burton), there is nothing like a book confirming that your passions are beautiful.

So… with that said, let’s talk about this dress!

A few months back, I found out that the Met Museum has an online portfolio of fashion plates that are free to the public to browse and use. If you want four hours of your life to vanish in a flash, please go take a look and MARVEL at it. 🙂

In particular, I found myself drawn to this one:


The red and white stripes, the bustling, the ruffles on the collar… I loved ALL of it. And I had to make it. It’s honestly kind of wonderful when you find something and you fall in love all at once – it really does take a lot of pain out of the decision making. It looks wonderfully summery and I wanted to make it out of cotton so that I could wear it in the warmer months – currently all my Victorian wear is wool (tartan gown?) so I was looking forward to making something a little lighter.

The best part was, I knew I had the perfect fabric in mind already. I did look a little bit for a red/white stripe, but in particular, I had one I already loved – and I KNEW this gown would be perfect in a black and white stripe as well.


If you look closely at the image, you’ll see that the white has a diamond weave pattern – which I just LOVED. You’ll notice that Victorian fabrics tend not to have straight stripes but stripes with some sort of interest to it, be it a moire weave, some embroidery, or stripes within stripes. If you look at the red stripes on the fashion plate, you’ll notice it has some sort of polka dot WITHIN it. So cool. So I loved the diamond on this, and immediately purchased 12 yards from Mood. PS: They also have this in Navy/White if any of you want to use that too. I don’t have any ideas for it at present, but part of me wonders if it would make the most wonderful seaside gown in Navy!

So after all this, I got the fabric, and I loved it!


The only thing… honestly, perhaps the white was a little too white for my Tim Burton meets Night Circus meets Fashion plate gown? Normally then I might dye it, but with every store for miles being closed, where could I possibly get an ivory dye?

An idea hit me as I was drinking my morning coffee (two double shots of espresso with some milk. In the winter I foam it but now I’m too tired to do even that). I would use tea! I had tons and tons of black tea in the house.

So I ended up making about 5 gallons of tea, putting some water in to dilute it just a bit, putting it in my kid’s bath tub, and letting my fabric soak for about 5 minutes – or until the color looked about right. Honestly, I have NO Idea what the tea/water ratio was. I cut my 12 yards of fabric into 4 yard chunks, and dyed 4 yards at a time, all in the same tea water. Maybe the first batch may have come out darker – but for the life of me, when it was dry, I couldn’t tell – which is what matters anyway.

After it came out of the water, I did rinse it well in cold water, and then tossed it into my dryer to dry. Afterwards, I had some lovely fabric of an ivory and black stripe, with a hint of earl grey scent, which really just made me feel even MORE Victorian. Once this was fully dry, I ironed the fabric, and I realized this had the added benefit that I had now accidentally preshrunk my fabric. Awesome time saver!

Meanwhile, I had to figure out the pattern of my outfit. This was considerably more time consuming. I figured the dress would consist of four parts:

  1. A jacket
  2. An underskirt
  3. An overskirt
  4. A dickey

I knew I wanted a shawl front suit like jacket. For the jacket, I picked this pattern by Ageless Patterns.

1887 Brown Plain & Plaid Wool Costume

In particular, I chose this one because it had the combination of the correct front (I figured changing this collar to the shawl collar that connected to the back was an easy fix). There was a side basque portion on the bottom part I’d have to remove to make it the shape I wanted, but… overall, easy fixes.

For the Underskirt, I chose to go with the Truly Victorian pattern I ALWAYS use – the1885 Four-Gore Underskirt– since it has a wonderful shape, and I’d used it so many times before. It goes together so easily, has the right shape, and I really do recommend it for anyone who has a

For the Overskirt, I went with this one, also from Ageless Patterns.

1887 Dark Blue Ladies' Cloth Dress
1887 Dark Blue Ladies’ Cloth Dress by Ageless Patterns

So, LOVE this overskirt. If you want JUST the overskirt (I wanted the whole pattern), I highly recommend buying that pattern by itself, which is available also on Ageless Patterns for about half the price.

In any case, let’s talk about drafting the bodice first.

The original bodice for the jacket is for a 38″ bust and 26″ waist. My waist is 25.5″ (on a good day), but my bust is definitely 31-32″. So taking out 6 inches in the bodice was going to be a THING.

So to do this, I started by making the jacket pattern as is from the pattern. If I know I have to extend inches, I usually add a certain amount, but this time, knowing I’d only have to take in, I did not.

Then after cutting the pieces out in muslin, I sewed it together in bright contrast thread. DO NOT IRON YOUR SEAMS.

Then I put on my undergarments, and put it on with the seams facing out (inside out).

I then stood in front of the mirror, and put it on, and pinched in all the areas I would have to take in. Please note that it’s not just horizontally taking it in – I had to take in about 4″ from each shoulder as well.  I filmed myself doing this so if you’re interested, please follow my youtube channel… I should be putting up that video in the next few weeks.

Then I changed what I felt needed to be changed, altered the front shawl collar so it would meet the shoulder seam, and then made a version 2.

So you can see this and how it fits there.

In moving the shoulder up, I had to move the armhole downwards, so that was altered a bit.

Afterwards, I had to figure out the back collar.

The original clearly has either a yoke or a sailor collar with pleats. After playing with both, I chose to make it a sailor collar. The yellow version that I’m showing here is the yoke version.

I ended up picking a sailor collar because I decided it would be easier to make the ruffles work with that than the yoke.

So now that I had the jacket pattern decided and finalized (after 3 mockups, I started on the jacket proper out of the fabric.

Usually when I match up so obvious a stripe, I start by cutting out two pieces at a time, sewing them together, and then cutting the next two based on where I want the stripe placement, and then just going two pieces at a time. This is slow going but I tend to like my stripe placement best that way.

I also flat lined all my pieces with cotton poplin. This is from mood but you can probably use cotton poplin from anywhere.

So, if you look at original Worth gowns and Victorian gowns – they didn’t care about a clean and perfect lining. Why should they? The garments wouldn’t touch their skin – and they have corsets and shifts underneath so they didn’t care about the itchiness. I decided I wouldn’t care either so I just flat lined everything and didn’t put a separate lining in.

To make flat lining fast, I usedEncanted Rose Costuming’s idea and serged verything with my Babylock Victory.

Oh man guys… now that I’ve tried industrial serging, I don’t think I’ll ever go back. It’s so FAST. And it threads itself using jet air technology. LOVE!

So after these were all flat lined and serged together, I started sewing it up on my Babylock Soprano.

See what I mean? I just go one pair at a time. First the back seam, and then the two side seams.


Then the two side seams…

Then I started on the front. The front was a little different since I wanted to pad stitch the collar after I sewed it on. So that’s what I did. I sewed everything on, and then I took some time to pad stitch the collars so that they would fall back beautifully. SO much padstitching, but I do love how beautifully it works to make a collar flat and beautiful.


If you’re thinking that looks like a lot of fun to try on, I had to try it on at this point… you know… for science. 😉



For the life of me, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to pleat or ruffle the collar, so I did a sample of both and put in on my instagram. The original image looked pleated but I really did think ruffling looked better. Pleating lost, ruffling won, so I went with ruffles.

Please note that I hand hemmed the edges of the fabric so that there would be no visible stripe running throug the ruffled bits of fabric.

So that was hemmed, ruffled, and then sewn on to the collar.

It was really coming together! I LOVED it.

Once that was in, I machine sewed, hemmed and put the sleeves on.

I had to try it on again of course. To make sure that the sleeves fit. Also because I loved it. I also pad stitched the collar and sewed that on as well.

Now that that was coming together, I started on the underskirt.

For the underskirt, I used the Truly Victorian pattern, unaltered except for the height. For the front three pieces (front center and the two sides), I chose to flat line it in regular tarlatan. This was a recommendation from Costuming Drama and Bernadette Banner and I’m so glad they recommended it! It’s wonderfully light, airy, and cool, as well as cheap! So it gave it that wonderful stiff body for the front, while keeping it nice and stiff. Did I mention it’s 2 dollars a yard!? (as of 5/26/2020).

The back of the skirt, the portion that is ruffled and pelated up, I flat lined in cotton poplin again.

Honestly, if you use a serger for nothing else, please use it to flat line your skirts. My victory must have flat lined all my pieces within ten minutes. It was so wonderful to get that tedious task done so quickly, and serging the tarlatan fixed the “sharp pointy bits” problem that Tarlatan tends to have.

For the darts in the skirt, I just cut out the darts, and hand felled the tarlatan to the dart that was already sewn in the fabric.

Then I added a waistband and the underskirt was done.


You can really see what wonderful body the underskirt has on the dress form already!

Ok. Now time for the difficult part… the overskirt on this was TRICKY.

Step 1. Cut the fabric for the back portion, out per the pattern diagrams. Please note that the fold is along the BOTTOM of the hem – so it’s fold is parallel to the floor.

Step 2. Put the right sides TOGETHER.


Step 3: Sew the pattern together from the marked point 1 to marked point 2.


Step 4. Then pleat the four free sides of the fabric as marked along the pattern.

Step 5. Cut the slit along the bottom of the fold along the left as directed to on the pattern. Then for the back portion, gather the fabric til you get to the slit, and then sew that gather flat, and turn it back, so that the fabric shows, and you pit in to the center of the waist, as shown below. (RIGHT?! Isn’t this nuts?!)

Step 6: Then pull the right side inside out and drape upwards.

Step 7: Play with things til it’s pretty. I suggest looking at the original diagram a lot.

Do I love it? Yes. Is it nutty and took several hours of my life just to figure out the directions? Yes.

So… please note that I didn’t line the back of the overskirt with anything, but I did choose to line the front of the overskirt with cotton poplin.

Then I sewed these together.

Meanwhile, my jacket needed to be completed.

I ended up boning the back, side back, the side, and the front dart with synthetic whalebone that I machine sewed to the bodice. I hand hemmed all edges, sewing the turned over edges of the bottom to the flat lining only. And then I closed up the closures with bar clips from Joanns.

I added a vintage rayon bow to the front as well as sashes to the sides.

Meanwhile, I made a dickey from the pattern included with the bodice pattern.

So to do the dickey, I iron on some interfacing to some cotton, then cut it out. I covered it in some fabric that I hand pleated to make it attractive to me, and then hand felled the edges. Then I did the same for the neck piece and added some button holes. I’m afraid at this point, I meant to take photos and totally forgot.

Please note that for ALL hems – underskirt, overskirts front/back, etc, I chose to hand hem everything so that there would be no machine stitching over the different colored stripes.

But really, at this point, it was done!

So I did do a video of me getting dressed in this outfit, since there is are finnicky portions to getting dressed in Victorian. There are also some shots of me walking and dancing about with this if you want to see how the dress moves.

if you’re at all interested, you can watch it here.


Meanwhile, here are some more photos of it in action:



In any case, thank you all so much for joining me on my striped dress of dreams journey! This was a fun one!



The 1780s embroidered apron

I think for the longest time, being able to get embroidery to work on a nigh flimsy fabric, like a thin muslin was the goal.

I tried to do this for my Regency dress in 2018, but for the most part, I ended up having to compromise on my vision heavily.

To make machine embroidery on flimsy fabric work, I came to realize I needed several ingredients:

  1. A machine that could handle the tension
  2. A flimsy transparent fabric that was still strong enough to handle the embroidery
  3. Interfacing that was heavy enough, but then would dissolve away to nothing.

In particular, I was very inspired by this fichu that was sold at Augusta auctions for a mere 430 dollars.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 100

As beautiful as this is… the real inventiveness lay in the exquisite tiny embroidery.

There are some detail shots, but for the most part, I couldn’t get a good closeup of the complete embroidery, which is what I usually need in order to digitize. Part of the charm of this embroidery is the brilliant use of silver metallic embroidery, especially on the leaves.

I was utterly in love, and it honestly took me about 3 months to digitize this. So the way that I price my digital files is as such:

  • 1-15 dollars: If it took me about 1-5 hours to digitize, test stitch, fix, test stitch again
  • 15-50 dollars: If it took me 10-25 hours to digitize, test stitch, fix, test stitch again
  • 60-120 dollars: If it took me 30-50 hours to digitize, test stitch, fix, test stitch again x 5 (ie: court suits take a LOT of time)

This was done on the Palette 11, and a lot of the time was spent trying to puzzle the design out, and find a way to make it repeatable. I actually ended up making parts of it up – but I can’t tell, and hopefully you can’t tell either.

So a couple of digitizing rules for this one:

  1. Satin stitch is my go to stitch for the flowers and leaves. This is the stitch that looks most like historical stitching.
  2. For the stems, I use the stem stitch rather than the zig zag stitch.
  3. For the ribbon that extends all the way around, I used a zig zag stitch.
  4. I usually use 100-141 stitches/inch stitch density. This does increase or decrease depending on the thinness of the thread, the delicate constitution of the fabric, and the overall effect I’m going for. To put it simply – for thinner fabrics, I tend to use 115-120 stitches/inch. For thicker embroidery on silk duchesse (like court suits), I use 140 stitches/inch.

If you don’t want to digitize this yourself and would rather buy my files, I do sell these files.

There also is no good scalloped edge instant border, so I ended up having to free hand that. I was extremely pleased with how it turned out, considering it was free handed.

For the fabric, I must have experimented with about 12 different voiles and batistes from multiple sources. I tried muslin, batiste, voiles, and organdies from many sellers. Generally, organdy and voiles were too thin. Batistes, poplins and muslins worked, but generally, they didn’t have that translucent filmy quality I was going for. Finally, I found a cotton mull from Burnley and Trowbridge that was perfect.

It really had the right weight, the correct feel, and the filminess I was looking for. I bought about 15 yards. (each fichu or apron takes about 2 yards).

Afterwards, I started embroidering.

These are the tools I used:

Machine: Baby Lock Valiant. There are somewhere between 15-17 colors in this (two shades of green, brown, black, metallic, two shades of pink, 2 shades of purple, three shades of blue, three shades of red…) – which in my opinion is integral to the charisma of this piece. There are 35-43 color changes per repeat – which may sound difficult on a one needle (though I have had customers who did this), but was fairly doable on my ten needle. I highly recommend turning the tension way down, and embroidering at a slightly lower speed (I did 700spm) for this project.

Thread: As usual, I used Tire Silk 50wt threads. They don’t sponsor me, but I wish they would. They’re really the only brand of silk thread I found strong enough, colorful enough, and silky enough to suit my silk thread needs – so you’ll find that (except for lace making), they’re my go to for silk thread. (Cotton threads and poly threads are a different matter, and I’ll discuss those at some other time).

Stabilizer: For my stabilizer, I chose to use Baby Lock brand dissolvable interfacing. It is quite thick and strong, so I was able to get away with only 2 layers. Another brand I like (if this one is hard to come by) is H2O brand, which is available on amazon. I am able to use this one, but for thinner projects like these, I usually have to use 3 layers of that one.

So for each hoop, I used one layer of my fabric, two layers of the Baby Lock Stabilizer, and then started embroidering.

You’ll notice that on the left, you see a straight vertical line. This is my positioning line – the next file will go right there. The apron is about 9 files to go around all three sides, and then afterwards, I put in the center motif as well as well.

The center motif is one I’m particularly fond of – all the different colors do so much to bring it to life:

After all the panels are embroidered, I suggest cutting off excess interfacing.

You can see how the interfacing has been cut, particularly around the center motif there.


You can also see the different placement lines.

This is the time to remove them – BEFORE you wash the fabric. I highly recommend going in with a pair of tweezers and a tiny pair of embroidery scissors and cutting them off. Once you wash it, these tend to stick all together, so removing it BEFORE washing is key I find.

Once that’s been done, it’s time to wash away the interfacing!


Of note, I do want to say that washing it once with water and soap never seems to be enough. I usually wash it a good 2-3 times depending on how soft I want it to get. For somthing like a soft apron or fichu, I usually wash it three times by hand, and then let it air dry.

After this, I use a nice steamy iron to iron it flat, pulling at the embroidery as I do to remove all the wrinkles. The steam also does wonders to soften up the cotton fabric.


After this, I sit on my couch with a tiny pair of embroidery scissors by Gingher, and cut away the excess fabric at the green line, being very careful not to cut the green silk zig zag stiched edge. The interfacing acts as a glue so even if you do, it tends not to unravel.


Once it’s all cut, I gather the top of the apron, and sew it to a piece of linen tape (a la the instructions from the American Duchess 18th century sewing book) and voila! Apron!


It’s really wonderful how due to the many colors in the apron, this tends to just go with everything. img_1756img_1753img_1763


I would say that this is one of my faster projects. The digitization for this embroidery probably took about 25-30 hours. (I ended up redoing a lot of it, and there was a bunch of experimenting with different fabrics).  However, once the whole thing was digitized, embroidering this takes about 30 hours for an apron, 23 hours for a fichu.

Washing, drying, times three, cutting out, and sewing was tedious but probably took about two hours total.

Overall, a fun project for a dedicated embroiderer who wants to make something really colorful and fun.

I hope this was helpful guys! 🙂


My 1890’s Puffed Sleeve Dress

I remember reading Anne of Green Gables, and how she went on and on about puffed sleeves. I had little puffled sleeves on my pink dress as a little girl and they made me happy to no end, so I could very much understand why she wanted them as well.

In Chapter 11, this is Anne’s response when Marilla makes her up a sensible dress without puffed sleeves:

“Oh, I AM grateful,” protested Anne.  “But I’d be ever so much gratefuller if–if you’d made just one of them with puffed sleeves.  Puffed sleeves are so fashionable now. It would give me such a thrill, Marilla, just to wear a dress with puffed sleeves.”


My heart just went to Anne so much. Marilla gave an explanation about how puffed sleeves are wasteful, and at the time, that made no sense to me.

And check out this amazing comic by Hark a Vagrant! I reference this constantly.



In fact, I’ll just be sitting at the table and randomly say “Sleeeeeeves,” and my husband will reprimand me and tell me to have more respectable reveries. I married the right man.

So while I was hammering out all our outfits for Venice, I kept coming back to imagining myself running around in 1890s, in a dress with over the top puffed sleeves.

Here is an example that I just love:

Worth evening dress ca. 1890 From the Preservation Society of Newport County


So I started shopping around for patterns. I love that this era has actual patterns printed in that time period that are reproduced, and there are companies online that make these available to you. I was entranced with this particular pattern from Ageless patterns:

1953 #1953: 1894 Chevoit Costume w/Vest & Waiter Jacket

I kept staring at it, and wanting to make it in a lovely brown checked wool. Perhaps more dour and serious than Anne would like it, but around this period, fine tailoring started making an apperance in women’s clothing… and a brown suit seemed perfect my fancy.

So, I ended up ordering the pattern. Please note that their ordering process is a little dated – but it works quite well and the proprieter of the site is very trustworthy and I’ve never had a problem with it.

Then was the fabric issue: I had been eyeing this brown wool from Mood fabrics forever – and with that larger check, it was so close to the original fashion plate!

Mood Fabrics: Demitasse Windowpane Check Wool Twill

I wasn’t sure how much I’d need so I ended up buyign 10 yards… just in case. 🙂

So when I got back from my trip to Venice, the first thing I did was dig into this. Honestly, working on a completely different time period after doing project after project in one – felt like a breath of fresh air.

First thing to do was adjust the pattern. Like all ageless patterns, this is drafted from Victorian fashion magazines from the period – so the pattern is one size fits none… I’m kidding – I’m sure someone out there has a perfect 36″ bust and a 23″ bust – but that certainly wasn’t me. So when I got the pattern, I realized I wanted to add about 3″ to the waist, and subtract 3″ from the bust. To do the subtraction at the bust, I chose not to do that right away, since I could do that during fitting. For the waist, I knew I would have to add some to the waist. Luckily the pattern comes with a nifty calculation sheet to figure out how much I’d have to add to each pattern piece – and I did so. I think it came to 3/8″ on each pattern piece on each side. Not much- but certainly enough.

Once I did that, I cut out my muslin and sewed up the jacket pieces.

Now to fit a Victorian muslin on you – you HAVE to put on your corset and undergarments first. It’s quite a pain in the butt to do this – you get undressed, put on the corset, put on the bum pad (I got mine here: ), put on your petticoat, then put on the muslin and fit it. So the proper undergarments are ideally: chemise, corset, bum pad, petticoat, corset cover, shirt… THEN the muslin, but… as you can see, I am not doing so. Also, you’ll notice my liberal use of a Wearing History Bust Improver. 😉


VERY important: when you’re fitting a muslin, put it on inside out WITHOUT ironing the seams flat! This way, you can easily pin the seams how you would like it to be.

One thing that was immediately clear when I put it on was that the back was loose. (Also, the front collra is AMAZING). So using pins, I pinned the line that I wanted to change the seam to.


Upon putting it back on, it became clear that this worked much better. I penciled the line in, and cut out my pattern. I then copied this new pencil lined pattern onto a new piece, and added my seam allowance. I figured this was good enough for me to start on my final.


Meanwhile, I also did the same with my waistcoat pieces. A waistcoat has to be more fitted so it was actually considerably more work. I had to pull the front of the waistcoat up at the top shoulder seams about an inch and a half (to account for the fact that I am not nearly as busty as the original pattern), so I wish I had more photos of the process. Sadly, I do not. To get the waistcoat to fit correctly, I actually went through THREE different muslins til it fit perfectly. So… please don’t kick yourself if your first muslin is not perfect. It took me THREE tries.

After all this, I started sewing my waistcoat together. I used horsehair interfacing and pad stitched the collar on my waistcoat, and stitched the whole thing together. It was surprisingly fast and I managed to do the pattern drafting, and waistcoat creation in two days.

The jacket padstichcing, which was on a much larger area (I mean, look at that enormous collar!) took considerably more time. The collar was also sewn and pad stitched. It was so cool to see how the padstitching actually worked to let the collar stand on it’s own, even sitting on my table.

Once the pieces were on my coat, I covered the pad stitching by stitching the wool collar top on – right side to right side, and then flipping it inside out.



No, I cannot have respectable day dreams Marilla.

THIS is the sleeve pattern.

I don’t even know if this video even does it justice. It’s HUGE.

I’m telling you, each sleeve takes 40″ of wool. Yes. This means that it takes about 2.5 YARDS of wool to make the two sleeves. I want to do some math – at 2.5 yards at 25 dollars a yard – puffed sleeves cost $62.50. EGADS. That’s todays money, moreover back in the 18th century when fabric was even more precious! Marilla wasn’t kidding about it being a frivolous expense!

So I initially cut it out of cotton muslin – AND I LOVED it. (no photo)

The wool I have here isn’t quite stiff enough on its own to handle the marvelous whimsy of puffed sleeves – it tends to slink a little. So I chose to flat line it with the cotton muslin I had cut out. After all, I didn’t have to alter the pattern at all. I sewed the sleeve up… and I gathered that HUGE voluminous sleeve. It was quite the thing to gather and sew it onto my bodice. Honestly – it couldn’t even get through my machine and I had to hand sew it on. Not a huge deal, and totally worth it… TO GET PUFFED SLEEVES.


Afterwards came the long and less fun process of lining everything.

I used bright silk habotai though – which is wonderfully slinky and bright. I’m absolutely in love with Mood’s “beetroot” color– which is such a vibrant shade of pink. I love that you get glimpses of it as you walk around.

Beetroot China Silk/Habotai

To line this, I first ironed the seam allowance down around the edges and sewed that flat using tiny stitches around the jacket. I suppose I could have just bag lined the jacket – but I find that results in lining that can pull and I wanted the jacket to hang just right.

Afterwards, I sewed the lining pieces together, ironed them flat, and then pinned the lining into the jacket, wrong side to wrong side. I did tiny hand stitches around the jacket to sew the lining to the jacket.


One thing that happened was that I realized the waistcoat shrunk in production. I had not realized this but I relied on the natural and wonderful stretch of the wool to have the waistcoat fit me so snugly. Once that stretch was eradicated by sewing it to the soft but not-stretchy silk habotai, it no longer could close in front. Granted I was close (maybe 1/2″), but honestly, this is as thin as I ever get and I didn’t want to rely on not eating a burger to fit into my waistcoat.

I have NO idea if this is historically accurate, but I know this is an old tailor’s trick from the 18th century, so I used it… I cut the back seam of the waistcoat up to 1″ from the top, sewed the two edges shut, and then put hand sewn eyelets up the back. This way, I would lace myself into the jacket. And completely honestly – I never plan on wearing the waistcoat without the jacket… so no one will know! Except for me. And you. And the whole internet.

And here is the completed waistcoat.

So… while I was doing the whole jacket process, I was also working on the skirt. The skirt is an interesting thing altogether, having a split on the left side, some wonderful draping in front, and an underskirt. The underskirt pattern was literally just a rectangle that I was expected to gather and wear. I suppose I could have… but it didn’t have the fun-ness I was looking for.

So I chose to take this opportunity to whip out the Truly Victorian walking skirt pattern – YES THAT ONE. The one that Bernadette Banner turned into a super cute History Bounding skirt (which I’m totally doing next).

I decided to use Mood’s Burnt Orange silk duchessefor it. Yes. It’s 60 dollars a yard. Yes it’s super fabulous and worth it. Yes, I have a silk problem. THIS is why I’ll never do drugs. My fabric habit is just too overwhelmingly expensive. Just a heads up – for a size D- if your fabric doesn’t have a nap, you only need like 3 yards (I know this from experience). So I got the three yards of this fabulous orange fabric, and I cut out the pieces.


If you’ve ever made a 1890s walking skirt – you know you have to flat line the crap out of it. That ethereal swinging motion of the skirt – the way that it magically floats outwards from your body… that’s all flat lining baby. Originally they had tarlatan. I chose to use cotton twill because I have bolts and bolts of it in the house already and because I blew my budget on silk. WORTH IT!

Afterwards, you need to line the bottom 10-18″ with interfacing. It’s a lot of owrk, but it is essential if you want that floating outwards feeling. The way that the ladies in the past would line it is that they would gentally prick stitch the interfacing onto the flat lined portion, carefully not sewing it to the exterior fabric…

I thought that was a lot of work, so I used iron on horsehair interfacing by pellon. … Yes. You can do that. So I just ironed it on, and I had that magical effect anyway. I’m convinced that if Victorian ladies had iron on interfacing and hem tape, they’d use it as much as I do.

You’ll notice if you look carefully that at points, I stitched it together, forgot that I forgot the iron on interfacing, and then sloppily ironed it on top… Or maybe you didn’t notice? Hopefully? 😉

Then I started sewing the skirt together.

The beauty of these skirts is how quickly these do come together – once you’ve spent the hours flat lining and interfacing the bottom. Note that the waistband of the skirt is neither flat lined or interfaced.

Even with just the waistcoat and the underskirt… I love it! I’d totally wear this with a lovely shirtwaist!

So… I forgot to mention, during the making of the waistcoat, I also started stitching together the overskirt.

The overskirt has some really wonderful draping on it. I did a mockup in cotton muslin, and then used the very same muslin as the interfacing for the wool. I wish I had some pictures of this, but I really don’t… But here are some of me wearing the skirt..

So after the skirt was flat lined to the muslin version, I hand hemmed all the edges of the skirt. This was finished long before I finished the underskirt, so you’ll notice that you can see my sweat pants under the skirt.

Once I added a wool waistband to the outfit, the skirt was done!

Now is the big question: How to keep your puffed sleeves puffed?

There isn’t one real answer to this – I’ve heard of people using stuffing, people using fabric bits and folds of tulle… The only thing that is consistent is that people definitely had sewn in sleeve supports. Unlike the 1830s, the sleeve supports were not moved around from garment to garment.

For mine, I chose to buy some lovely sleeve supports from The Boudoir Key on Etsy. On their own, they look like a little set of hoops for your sleeves, which they are! So you sew on the twill tape to the top of the shoulder, and the other (on the bottom) to the armpit. And once you do… that’s it!

Here is an image of the outfit with one sleeve support sewn in. Can you guess which side?

And then… I was done!

Boater hats were all the rage then, and though I don’t have an actual boater meant for this era, I do have a lovely little one from Miss Patina, so I posed with that.

I did order a blouse to wear underneathe – but it hasn’t come in yet… Once I have that, I’ll be putting up more photos. But for now, enjoy!

Thank you so much for reading!

An 1810 Spencer with Faux-Rouleaux

I confess, I don’t love regency. I’m 5’1″, and what they call a “stick” body shape. I found myself drawn to eras that have an exaggerated waist to hip ratio – I’m talking 1760s giant panniers, 1880’s giant bustles, 1890’s bump pads and tiny waists… and regency was just… also a stick. In fact, the first time I asked my husband what he thought of my regency dress, he said, “Is it supposed to just go… straight down?” I damn near threw something at him.

In any case, these outfits aren’t FOR him. They’re for us who want it! Regency does have something going that a lot of other eras do not. The accessories are PHENOMENAL. I love a wonderful regency bonnet, and due to the lack of giant side hoops, women gave up pockets and started carrying little hand bags called reticules. They wear little neck ruffles under their gowns for modesty called chemisettes. Gloves are a must. Chains, jewelry, decorate them everywhere. Tiny little lace up boots cover their adorable feet. They wear little jackets called spencers that are covered with the most wonderful details.

Spencers. That’s what finally talked me into regency.

These are a few of my favorite spencers from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

You’ll notice they have decorations that look a lot like soutache. It’s actually called rouleaux, where you make tiny tubes out of bias tape of the same fabric, and then sew them on the fabric, into wonderful designs.

I seriously considered doing that myself to make my own spencer, but after seriously considering it, I realized I don’t have the patience. I do think it’s gorgeous and would direct anyone who wants to do it to this website:

Rambling Rouleaux

My friend Hannah, FabricnFiction does such a wonderful job explaining everything step by step. She even goes into tricks on how to make it look neater and prettier.

For me, instead of rouleaux, I decided to do a mock soutache out of machine embroidery. To be fair, I see soutache (using a non fabric trim to do the same thing as rouleaux) everywhere in the regency period, such as this lovely pink spencer that was sold by


So to get started with machine embroidering a spencer, I had to make the mockup first out of cotton muslin. I used the pattern by black snails, which you can get off heretsy shop. I love that I can print it myself on my printer and just tape it up. I confess, I find it so satisfying when I see the pieces go together so well.

After I made my cotton muslin, I took it off, and used a pencil to draw the design in. After looking at different rouleaux and soutache designs from the period, I picked a design from Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine, a periodcal that ran from 1830-1896. Clearly, it’s 20 years too late for the time period I am aiming for (1810), but on the other hand, it’s period “looking” enough, and… I never claimed to be historically accurate anyway, so I ran with it.



After I drew the image onto the mockup in pencil, I made sure I liked the design. I then cut it up again, penciled in a ruler onto each piece so I knew the scale of the image, and scanned it into my computer.


Then came the digitizing portion. I opened it up in Palette 11, put in the image, and made sure the scale was correct. I used a large running stitch (0.15″ stitches) to pencil in the outline of the seam edge, and then a zig zag stitch using the open curve tool. My stitches were done at a density of 114 stitches/inch, with a zig zag stitch that was 0.12″ wide.


I did a quick practice at this point with some pink remnant silks I had in the house. I stitched it out and realized I loved it. 🙂 Please note it’s important to test it at this point since I was wondering if the 0.12″ for the stitch width would be too wide, or perhaps even too narrow, and moreover, how the design would look in real life. Things always change from the screen to printing, so I thought this was a good time to check. Luckily I loved it so I didn’t have to alter anything.


Now, the front isn’t the only portion of this spencer that will be embroidered – there will be embroidery all over the back, collar and sleeves too… I drew out and digitized all those at this point.

Now that I knew I would love it, I started with the final draft. I had this beautiful mauve silk satin that I got from renaissance fabrics a few months back, so I laid out the fabric and drew out the outline of all the pattern peices.

Now when I draw this out, I prefer to use frixion pen or marker, since the lines mostly vanish when you iron it. Please note “mostly vanish” – you can usually see a thin transparent trace of it, so do be careful. It vanishes mostly enough, but this may not be enough for you personally. Please test before you try it on your favorite fabric. You may have some trouble seeing my line – I ran out of black so I ended up using orange on mauve – enough for me to see it, but it didn’t photograph very well.

After drawing in the outline of the pattern pieces, I wanted to put in the line where I would actually be lining up the design to – since the pattern pieces include seam allowance and I want the design to be at the edge of the piece minus the seam allowances (since if the design went right to the edge, it would be destroyed by the seam allowance, if that makes sense). I drwe that secondary line in dotted line.


Now for silk historic embroidery on garments, to avoid puckering, I personally use tear away interfacing. Here I’m using Baby Lock brand tear away interfacing. I really recommend it since it is strong enough to handle the embroidery but still tears away without too much strain – (it really is a weird Goldilocks issue. Too weak and it doesn’t actually stabilize your stitches. Too strong and it distorts when you tear it away. Ick!)

So giant tip for ME when I’m embroidering these large scale designs – MAKE SURE YOUR HOOP IS TIGHT. Like taut like a drum. I use a cool nifty screwdriver tool to really tighten my hoop. I recommend this little tool as well. (Please note, I don’t get a commission from sharing these links – I don’t even have an amazon affiliate account because I’m too lazy (for now) – so… please know I don’t have a share in sharing these links or products and would honestly not recommend them if I thought they were bad.)


After tightening the hoop as much as possible, I then actually pull the edges of the fabric around the edge of the hoop and pin them with little extra fine glass head pins to hold the design in place and minimize shrinkage. This may be overkill but I find it helps a lot with my designs.


I then put the hoop into my embroidery machine (I use a Baby Lock Valiant) and use the scan tool so I can place my design in visually.

For the thread, I use a silk thread by Tire Silk Threads, a Japanese company. I’m afraid there are no silk thread companies in the US. Japan still has it because they actually use silk threads for their kimonos, but the US really doesn’t. :/ It’s a pity but it’s understandable. In any case, their threads are gorgeous, and I try to find a thread that is as close as possible to the fabric color so it mimicks the soutache and rouleaux effect of using similar colors or the exact same fabric.


I stitch out the front.

Then I do the same for the back portions.

This design really doesn’t take too long to stitch out – I would say the front panels are about 40 minutes, and the back panels are about 10 minutes a pop. With the collar pieces, the side pieces and the sleeve pieces, we’re looking at approximately 3 hours total, including prep time for the embroidery – which is NOT bad at all.

After all is embroidered, I sit on the couch and tear away the interfacing- generally, the rule is take out as much as you can. I don’t fuss with every little bit but I do try to tear off as much I can comfortably.

After all that, it’s time to start putting it together. I cut the fabric out using the lines I had drawn out (the copied pattern pieces that included the seam allowances). Since the fabric is fairly flimsy and has a tendency to roll (like all silk satins), I flat lined them to some nice strong cotton twill. Note that I used black because that’s what I had in the house.


You’ll notice for the front panel, I only flat lined the front to where I would want the buttons to go. If I flat lined it all the way to the front edge, it would be four layers of fabric where the button holes would go and would just be too thick and annoying for me to sew through.

After flat lining, I used the instructions in the pattern to stitch together the bodice. It was so satisfying to see the design come together in the back!


I then sewed the bottom edge of the design to the bottom.

It was time to start the sleeves.
So… I wanted to add little puffed sleeves to mine. It’s hard to describe so I’ll show a spoiler of how it looked at the end here:

So to start, I made about 12 yards of bias tape 1.5″ wide. Then I used some 2mm gimp I had in the house (but any 2mm cord should do in all honesty), and just made a ton of cording. 12 yards of cording to be exact.

Meanwhile, I got the pattern piece from my book, Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1 – and scanned it into my computer. I enlarged it digitally on my computer, and printed it out. I don’t feel comfortable sharing this pattern piece since it’s copyrighted to Janet Arnold but I’ll leave the book link up here. Seriously, if you love this time period and you only own one book, I recommend this one.

After printing out my pattern piece for the sleeve, taping it together (since it was on 3 sheets), and cutting it out, I cut it out of my fashion fabric. Please note that in mine, I forgot to add a seam allowance. To salvage this situation, I used a scant 1/4″ seam allowance on all sides. Don’t be me. Add a seam allowance.


I copied the looped areas, and then used my cording that I had already made to cord the areas as seen there. Then I cut the center, ironed it, and used hem tape (3/8″ by Heat and Bond) on the wrong side to sew that down. I’m sure this is historically inaccurate, but it was fast and it gave a nice appearance. Morever, this will NEVER be washed in a machine, so hem tape would be strong enough.

For the loops, I sewed together 4 pieces of cording together, cut the excess fabric off, and hem taped the edge clean. I made 10 pieces of cording – 4x 4″, 4x 5″, and 2x 6″ for the 10 different loops. Since there are 5 loops in each sleeve, the longest (6″) was for the middle, the 5″ for the two flanking the middle, and the shortest (4″) for the two at the ends. I looped everything at this point and machine sewed them together.

Afterwards, I pinched the two ends together and zig zag stitched them on my machine (I get asked this a lot so I’ll just let you know what I use now: Baby Lock Soprano).

Afterwards, I sewed the two ends of the sleeve together. You’ll notice that the two don’t fit together perfectly since the back is longer. This is normal. You’re supposed to put a pleat in somewhere to make the two about the same. For the band along the bottom, I used two cordings sewn together for a double cording. I gathered up the sleeve to fit the band, and then I sewed it with the two right sides together, then flipped it, ironed it, and used self bias tape to clean up the edges.



I then gathered the top, sewed it to the longer sleeve (already sewn together, seams ironed flat, turned inside out, lined, and ready to go), BEFORE i sewed it onto the bodice.

I know I’m showing the same images again but after reading (or scrolling through) all that, I hope you have more respect for how much time and effort this took. 😀

Then I sewed the lining together out of some linen remnants I had lying around the house, ironed it flat, and then pinned it to the inside. For the sleeves, the sleeves are already lined before I add them to the bodice, and I clip the sleeve edging, iron it flat to the bodice, then use the bodice lining to clean the edges.

Using tiny whip stitches, I sew everything together.

Then I used totally not historically accurate clips to the bodice so I could close it up properly.


And then I was done! It’s actually really hard to appreciate this outfit without the whole of the outfit, so here I am wearing it, complete with bonnet and parasol.



Thank you so much for getting all the way down here! As a thank you, The Spencer Embroidery Files are here if you want to make your very own! They’re designed for machines with larger hoops, so it may or may not work on yours. It’s in PES so you may have to convert them. My digital files were made for a pattern size 10, but I’m fairly sure it’ll fit with other sizes – though you may have to adjust the bck to fit the back curve for other sizes.

Please purchase the jacket pattern here from Black Snail Patterns if you want to use the same spencer pattern I used.



Leaving you with a picture of my dog photobombing my shoot. 🙂


FYI: For those of you interested in my accessories:

My reticule was made by my pattern. The fly fringe was made using instructions from Romantic Recollections.

The Corset I’m wearing is the Redthreaded corset.

I’m wearing American Duchess shoes(not shown).

The fabric for the spencer is from Renaissance fabrics.

The fabric for the gown is from

The hair piece (bangs) is from Jenny La Fleur.





Pattern for a Reticule based on one at the Rijk Museum


Rijk Museum extant on left, my version on the right.

The pdf download file is here:


To print, please open in Adobe Acrobat, go to Print –> Poster (under paper size and handling)

Make sure that the file size is set to 100%

Please note that there is a 1/2″ seam allowance on the file. The lining should be sewn with a 5/8″ seam allowance.

The file does not come with the embroidery instructions or files. Embroidery file can be purchased through my Etsy shop.

For further instructions, please see my video on youtube.

The Sleepy Met Dress (AKA “Sleepy Hollow” dress meets Met Anglaise Dress)

cropped-millar0919024.jpgBelieve it or not, this is actually my fourth attempt to make this dress.

The very first 18th century dress I ever attempted to sew was in college, when I tried to make myself the Sleepy Hollow Dress. What I’m showing you now is truly embarrassing.


AHHHHH! I did absolutely no reading about 18th century clothing before I sewed this dress and it shows. No corset. The front is actually held together by Velcro. I used super heavy upholstery cloth. I didn’t even make a muslin and the waist was about an inch and a half too high.

I got so frustrated with the top that I ended up turning the gown portion into a bolero and an overskirt that I would wear to steampunk fairs. I confess, I did like how it looked for that use.

THAT was my very sad and pathetic first attempt.
But we all have to start somewhere right?


The second attempt was four years ago. I used a really cool polyester fabric that had white satin stripes with black velvet ones. Cool fabric that I attempted to make movie accurate. It actually turned out pretty cute and was used in some awesome photoshoots by Carol Lara, who is an amazing photographer with a very modern goth, fantasy point of view. If you want super modern shots, she’s your gal and she made this gown shine to perfection.


The interesting thing is that while I was in love with the Sleepy Hollow black and white striped dress, I was also absolutely mad about the 1780’s gown in the Met, labeled as an “robe a la anglaise”. For the life of me, I have no idea how much I agree with that description because it’s so much more than that. The anglaise portion is a remnant of it’s previous life as a francaise, then remade in a time when Italian gowns (separate tops and skirts sewn together) were so much more popular. And that shows in the construction as well. (Again, not a historian. Let me know if I’m totally wrong here.)


However, I hated zone fronts so I remade the dress as an Italian gown. This was done in my second year in residency, and I called it my “Bo Peep” dress. You can see me wearing it here.


This year, I decided to combine both of these loves into one dress – the Met/Sleepy Hollow dress or my “HA” Sleepy Hollow dress. (Again, not truly HA since I use machines for linings and longer seams, and I’m at the point in my life where I will admit I will NEVER not do that. I work 80 hours a week and I refuse to spend time doing something by hand JUST so I can say I did it by hand. Especially when a machine will do it just as invisibly and better. That’s not to say I don’t respect all of you who do – I just don’t enjoy it so I don’t want to spend my time doing it.)

I think ALL of us are perpetually looking for that perfect black and white striped fabric. I had these goals in my head:

  1. JET black. Not a dark grey. Not a charcoal. Can’t look light or white in the light.
  2. Ivory, not white.
  3. ½” to 1” stripes
  4. 100% silk.
  5. Under $50/yard
  6. Must have 10 yards

The one that I found was a beautiful beige/gold silk taffeta, 44” wide, with ½” black stripes printed onto it. The stripes weren’t woven, but the print was pretty firmly on, so I didn’t mind too much. The price was quite reasonable (less than half of what I had expected to spend). They only had about 9 yards but I decided this was good enough and I got all I could.

Being 4 months pregnant at the time, I decided to postpone this dress til after the pregnancy so I could get it to fit a more normal Stine-figure.

The original goal was to just remake the Sleepy Hollow dress as in the show, complete with non HA trim and lots of shirred chiffon fabric trim. However, then the Met did their “Visitor to Versailles” exhibit while I was 5 months pregnant. I was in NYC for a wedding so I didn’t get to go- not really – but I did manage to pop in for ten minutes… and there it was! THE anglaise that I had so wanted to reproduce in my youth! I took a picture with it, but then had to run out.


I didn’t have a chance to take the notes and closeups I wanted and reached out in the wide vastness of the web. I had some amazing people send me photos and notes! I want to give a GIANT shout out and thank you to Lauren of American Duchess who figured out that each stripe was 3/8″ of an inch and sat around COUNTING the stripes so that she could figure out how full the skirt was. I wish I could share her notes and photos but feel uncomfortable publishing someone else’s work. All I can say is… it was amazing. Meanwhile Paul Malcolm, a facebook friend sent me some amazing high resolution photos of the dress from an all angles. This ALSO helped immensely.

And so… the idea for the Sleepy Hollow meets Met Anglaise gown was born. Why NOT make the gown in black and white stripe? Why NOT make it utterly ridiculously Tim Burton? If I hated it, I could always remake it in pink and white stripe later. (Aaaand I love pink so I may still do this.)

I did have to wait a while after pregnancy. It took me about 6 months to go back down to my full pre-pregnancy weight, and on top of that… I had a lot of other stuff I wanted to get to first. What finally made me just sit down and start drafting the pattern was a post on my instagram, where I talked about the first 18th century dress I made.

Seeing that sad creature on my IG made me want to redo it. I spent the next 19 days frantically sewing, in hopes of getting it ready for my photoshoot.

I originally made my pattern via the draping method.


Now, I had no idea this project was a dream project for many. So if you guys want to sew along with me, and use my project as a guide for your own, please do! It would be an honor! To help all of you out, I’m sharing my PDF of my pattern free of charge. You can click below to download it.

Click here to Downloda Pattern Pieces as PDF

FYI: Please note to measure yourself ON TOP of your corset. I used my red threaded 1780’s front lacing synthetic whalebone corset, which has been custom adjusted to my body (somewhere between an XS to a S). With this corset, I have a 31″ bust and a 26″ waist. This pattern is sized to those measurements. I will not be releasing this pattern with any other sizes, and would highly recommend using the drafting method and my lines to make your own if you are different.

Also FYI: This is a PDF. To print, open in whatever pdf viewer, and then go to Print. Click “Poster”, and print at 100% (do not resize), and it should print on your home printer as multiple pages for you to scotch tape together.

Please note that this is a rough guide to sewing this dress. I cite my sources and tell you where to go for the instructions on how to sew this dress – anything further is all up to you.

Sources for instructions:

  • So the back of the original Met gown and the Sleepy Hollow gown is sewn “En fourreau”. I used my knowledge of en fourreau gowns from Larkin and Smith English gown pattern.
  • The rest of the gown is kind of sewn up like an Italian gown. I used the American Duchess instructions “English gown” for that.
  • The pattern does not include sleeve patterns. I used my favorite 18th century sleeve pattern (The JP Ryan Anglaise gown) pattern for the sleeves, but feel free to use your favorite.

In any case, this is how I made mine:

  1. I made a lining out of cotton coutil. I find twill works just as well for this. While the original was almost certainly lined in linen, I find that linen tends to stretch and distort, so I stopped using linen as a lining. I feel vindicated in this, when I found out that Academy Award winner Gwen Russell also uses cotton duck for lining since it olds up better for wearing and rewearing.
  2. Once the lining was on, I started cutting out the back pieces. I used the English Gown pattern instructions to sew the back “En fourreau” style.
  3. I used two different needles with two different threads at the same time to make sure I had the right color thread on the right colored stripe. This was not actually done on the original but I enjoyed doing it this way. 🙂
  4. Now, this may sound weird – but the gown foes from classic anglaise style in the back, to an more of an Italian style gown. (Look at the AD book for the definitions). While pleating up the skirt, I ran into an issue with this. To get around this, I cut a vertical slit, around 4″ long from the top, and folded the gown under the edge of the bodice, and then pleated the rest of the skirt a la the “Italian Gown” instructions in the American Duchess book. If this sounds confusing, don’t worry about it- pleat it however it looks pretty and makes you happy. I have no idea if what I did was HA.
  5. I did line the “flippy flappies” in the front of the gown in linen so that it would act a little more free and less thiff than it would have in the coutil.
  6. The front of the gown is sewn to the sides of the “zone front”.
  7. I used a pinking iron to make the pinks. I finaly found a use for my Monitor magazines! The original pinks were about 3/4″, mine was 1″. I then sewed it on.
  8. To close the gown in front, I just pin it closed using dress pins.


Okies, now that that’s all done, time for fun photos of me wearing the dress!



Photos by Lindsey Hinderer
Makeup by Savannah Summer

Some detail shots, also by Lindsey:




The Green Redingote from Rijks Museum

Apologies for the super long post – but there was a lot of different things that went into making this dress.

We decided last year while I was four months pregnant, that we would go to the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra to hear Mozart in costume. We all agreed to make 1780’s outfits, even though I really didn’t like 1780’s (I mean, zone fronts just never spoke to me!). But, there WAS one that I did love – the color, the embroidery, the happy way it just all melded together…

This is the dress in question:

Redingote or Great-Coat Rijks Museum Item number – BK-1978-250 1786-1789

Rijks Museum
Item number – BK-1978-250

I emailed the Rijks Museum and they were kind enough to give me some back and side shots as well. I will not be sharing these here in full form since I’m not sure if they would be ok with it. I will show snippets of them here and there below, where I’m describing some of the seams. Suffice to say that these pictures are incredibly helpful and beautiful, and if you have any interest, you should go ahead and ask for them. The Rijks Museum is incredibly helpful and I can’t emphasize how grateful I am that they’re that generous.

During the research phase of this project (all of October and November 2018), IG’s @the_corsettedbeauty kindly led me to a the book called Costume and Fashion by the Rijks Museum, (available for purchase on Amazon here, if you’re interested). This book explained how this gorgeous gown had been heavily altered for a costume party in the 1880’s, including a picture of someone WEARING this gown during the Victorian era as a living tableau. (An aside: This book is absolutely fabulous – high quality pictures and fantastic information with long descriptions of each item.)

I’m really starting to realize how the Victorians were the plague of locusts upon art and history, changing everything to suit their needs, whether it was cannibalizing gorgeous laces and gowns, or destroying Roman art that didn’t fit their prudish sensibilities. In any case, this gown had been heavily modified.

Modern Mantua Maker was incredibly kind with her time and used her oceanic knowledge base to figure out which seams were period to the 1780’s and which were most likely modified by the Victorians. For instance, the horizontal seam in the front of the gown was machine sewn, and so definitely done by the Victorians. There were more subtle things as well – for instance, the dart in the back was added by the Victorians later, which explained the bad ruching and wrinkling in the bodice. Those silly Victorian locusts!




The circled areas are just some of the modifications done by the Victorians. Base pictures from the Rijks Museum.

Just looking at these pictures, it became evident that there was a LOT of digitizing of embroidery to be done. This is the list I came up with.

  1. Front button hole (white/pink/green) as seen on the green portions of the dress
  2. Contrast color button hole (white/brown/green) as seen on the white portions of the dress
  3. Bouquet of lilies on the bodice front
  4. 2 Bouquets of lilies on the gown bottom held together with a garland
  5. Bouquet of lilies at the waist seam
  6. Mariner’s cuff loops and leaves
  7. Embroidery along the edge of the gown bodice front
  8. Front collar emboridery
  9. Back collar embroidery
  10. Petticoat embroidery along the border of the white and the green (which has delicate little swirls and leaves along it)
  11. Bouquet of lilies at the top of the petticoat
  12. Bouquet of lilies at the side of the petticoat
  13. A DIFFERENT bouquet of lilies at the side of the petticoat
  14. Lily cluster at the bottom of the petticoat 1
  15. A second cluster of lilies at the bottom of the petticoat
  16. A THIRD AND DIFFERENT cluster of lilies at the bottom of the petticoat

Yes, we are looking at no less than 6 DIFFERENT bouquets of lilies and 3 different clusters of them!




I circled a few of them for you here so you could see what I mean.

I came to realize this was my most ambitious project to date. There were a LOT of primary digitizations to be done. With all this figured out, I started, but decided to make some changes to the original gown for mine.

These were the changes I decided to do intentionally.

  1. The shape of the gown was altered. The original gown’s front has a very square appearance. I drew it as below, so you could see it. The shape isn’t easy to decipher, but after staring at it for a long time, I came to the conclusion that this was the actual shape of the front. (If anyone knows differently, please correct me.)greenredingotefrontline-hrm I didn’t LOVE that shape, and instead decided to change the shape to a more typical redingote shape (the sloped V in front). (Please don’t hate me!)
  2. By changing the shape of the front, it removed a few inches from the waist of the gown, which left me about 3″ less on each side for the embroidery of the waist bouquets. I chose to remove the bouquet portion of the embroidery at the waist, leaving just the ribbon loops and bows.
  3. The petticoat at the bottom is… curious. At some point during its original inception in the 1780s, the gown’s recipient changed from someone short to someone tall. Instead of fixing it, they just kind of coughed and looked the other way. Look at how abruptly the embroidery ends there. (circled portion on image below) Anyone else find this super awkward? Modern Mantua Maker assured me that the gown had never been sewn for up someone of that short height, and from looking at this, her guess was that the lilies were supposed to go down all the way to the bottom of the petticoat, as were the button holes. So I decided my gown would have this as well.Inkedredingotepetticoatfront_LI2
  4. All changes the Victorians made obviously (and badly) were omitted, including the machine seam at the front waist, the bad ruching in the back, and the mismatched pleating along the sides.
  5. And most significantly of all (to me at least) – the original gown was done in tambour embroidery. I have major respect for the embroiderer(s) of this gown, but I myself do not have the time, patience, or skill to do it, so I chose to do all embroidery on the machine. Moreover, I couldn’t find a satisfactory way to replicate tambour on my machine (I did try! Really, I did!) so I chose to turn all the tamboured areas into satin stitch or stem stitch.img_0283You can see here how the original has incredible tambour (on the right). embroidery The left is an early draft of my version in satin stitch. This particular one is an early draft in polyester thread on some cotton linen scraps lying around the house but you can see how the tambour and the satin stitch are different. At the same time, I also loved my version and chose to continue with the satin stitch.
  6. Some of the colors were changed – for instance, the embroidery on the top of the petticoat was just white and green. I chose to add pink because… I like pink. Also these lilies just looked really basic to me, and I liked the more complex lilies like the ones on the bodice. So I swapped them out and freehanded it.inkedredingotepetticoatfront_li2.jpg

So there we go! Some alterations, etc, were all done to try to make this gown and I started digitizing and embroidering – all about 7-8 months (34-37 weeks if you prefer weeks like me) pregnant.

So here are some early digitizations and experiments I did.




One thing that I don’t know if people understand, is HOW MUCH TIME it takes for you digitize, embroider, and fix it, to get it to look RIGHT. Just because it looks good on a screen doesn’t mean it’s all done. A lot of fixing and post correction has to be done before it looks good. So yes, it may take about 2-3 hours to digitize something small (or 6-8 hours for some of the larger bouquets). But then you have to go and print it which takes another 3-4 hours, and then I would spend another 2-3 hours (or another 8-10 hours for a larger bouquet) afterwards fixing the details I didn’t like! Or… maybe I’m just bad and slow at this because I’m self taught…

Needless to say, it took a while. Meanwhile, I got fabric samples for green silk from a bunch of places. The original gown is clearly done in silk satin, so I went ahead and ordered a bunch of silk duchesse samples. No one seemed to have the right green. I found one company who made just the right shade of apple/moss/green-yellow green… but then when I went to order 11 yards, they found that they only had 2. Finally, I found the perfect shade from NY Designer Fabrics… but only in double faced silk duchesse. At this point, I had emotionally given up on not spending a fortune to make this dress. I sighed, apologized to my credit card, and paid for the double faced satin…



Now, what you’re NOT seeing is the backside. Usually in order to handle embroidery this heavy (without pulling stray threads and utterly destroying the base fabric), I have to interface the ENTIRE gown or piece of fabric with horsehair interfacing. Yes, Matt’s frock coat is ENTIRELY lined with horsehair interfacing. It turns out that had I just paid for double faced silk satin, I wouldn’t have had to. So in some ways, the double face satin pays for itself (Ok. I’m exaggerating. Financially, it actually doesn’t add up to the same cost. Double faced silk is still more expensive. But it does drape better, and I like the look of it better, so I’ll pay for it.)

I ended up lining the entire double faced silk portion of the gown with only tear away interfacing, which normally would not be strong enough for this much heavy embroidery!

So what you’re seeing up there is my first draft in silk threads on silk embroidery, with tear away interfacing. This was December 2nd. I put this on the printer, admired it, and then went into work for my 24 hour call shift at the hospital.

At the end of that shift, I went into labor.

By December 4th, I had a new baby boy! Malcolm! He was born 2 and a half weeks early, but still healthy at 7 pounds and 8 ounces. And I’d be a terrible mother if I didn’t share pictures of how cute and wonderful he is.



Yes! So obviously, I’d stop sewing right?


It turns out that he hated sleep unless it was directly on human flesh. So at night, Matt and I would take turns being a human mattress and cuddling him while he slept. It was absolutely adorable and endearing. For the first 48 hours… After that, we were wondering what sleep felt like and fantasizing about getting more than 4 hours at a time. This was especially true since since we couldn’t fall asleep as we held him, lest we drop him when our arms gave out.

So at night, I started digitizing all 16 portions of the gown. Night after night, I would cuddle my beautiful son in one arm and with the other, I digitized bouquet after bouquet. I would occasionally run my embroidery machine to try out these patterns during the day, and then edit again at night. Normally I would keep track of how long I spend digitizing for my own amusement, but in this case, I failed to do so. I was so sleep deprived I couldn’t remember if I had eaten that day, moreover how much I had digitized.


In any case, this is how I finished the embroidery WAY faster than I thought I would. By the time he was four weeks old, I was done with most of the embroidery and had started on draping out the bodice.

PSA: After you have the baby, you still look pregnant. For up to about 6-8 weeks afterwards. This is because your uterus still has to go back to its normal size (a process called involution) which takes a while.

So during this period, I just made my dummy up to reflect a larger size than I had been and starting patterning…




I used the draping method on my dummy to get a pattern.

I tested this pattern on a dummy piece using some muslin.





I used just the draping method as well as the pattern of the LACMA’s redingote, as well as what I got from Norah Waugh’s book to draft this. Looks good, right?

NO. I made a 6 piece back, which was wrong. The original actually had a 4 piece back, which is a lot more standard to the 1780’s but the way the Victorian’s (damn Victorians!) had darted it, it looked like a 6 piece back in some shots. I edited this, made a second muslin (didn’t take a photo of it), confirmed that I liked it. Then I then traced the pattern pieces I would need to put embroidery onto white paper, then scanned those in.


(You’re welcome to use this pattern piece if you’re remotely interested btw, though I won’t be posting any of the back pieces… because that’s extra work. 😛 )

I then put this into my embroidery program (PE Design 10) and started placing all the pieces on it.




You can see the embroidery pieces all lined up on screen, then printed onto some random broadcloth I had lying around the house to test alignment.




Phew! A lot of work already right? Well, I had to make a sleeve pattern. Honestly, I suck at sleeves. ALL sleeves are sleevils to me. Luckily, Lady of the Wilderness came out like a beacon of light, and posted two videos – one on how to draft sleeves, and another on how to fit sleeves – ALL in one day. She saved my butt big time. I won’t go into the details of it because I don’t feel like reliving it… but at the end, I had a sleeve pattern.

So at this point, I felt like I liked my pattern enough to start printing on the real thing so I got started. I ordered ALL thread I could find in this country in my colors (Tire Silk #50 wt, colors: #20 for the brown, #36 for the pale pink, #156 for the creamy white, #37 for the bright pink, #96 for the light green, and a bunch of others for everything else). Honestly, the pattern could have used some perfecting, but you know what – I had a baby who only slept 2 hours at a time, I was breastfeeding, getting over a C-section, and my husband had just gone back to work (for his 2 weeks notice, but you know, those 2 weeks still sucked), and my mother in law had just gone back to the East coast… So… frog it (we’re dong animal based cursing in our house now that we have a small child), I had to get started on the real deal at some point – I decided to ignore the imperfections and just start sewing.




I was inspired by Lady of the Wilderness so I decided to sew all non long skirt and sleeve seams by hand… So I got started with the back seams…




I used the American Duchess book as my personal guide along with tidbits from Amber’s Dress in a Weekend adventure. I can’t recommend both sources enough. I ended up English stitching the back together and LOVED IT. Hand sewing was just the relaxing activity to do on my moments off that I needed.





Of note, the gown itself has a contrast lining in white with green/brown embroidery (circled on the left). I LOVE this aspect of the gown, though I’m not sure I will be leaving the gown opened on the sides like the original. I wasn’t sure how far up the contrast went, so in mine, I had it go ALL the way up. 🙂 It wasn’t too hard – just time consuming. I just embroidered both parts and hand sewed them together, making sure that each false button hole lined up to the opposite color on the other side.



So here you can see the dress coming together.


While this was going on, Malcolm was still not sleeping so I was making excellent headway digitizing the petticoat. Reminder, there is a LOT of embroidery on the petticoat…




But turns out when you give up sleep, you can get anything done pretty fast.

So I digitized the petticoat, and converted this incredibly large piece of embroidery into 15 easy to print pieces… Except for where it wasn’t easy.



I ended up making some errors in alignment, which I couldn’t fix and will have to live with. At least until the Superior Threads imports more Tire Silk Thread #50 wt, color #20.

I show this not to be bratty, but because I want to emphasize – we ALL make mistakes in our gowns. We all frog up pretty hard at some point. And we all scream “Frogging Shark!” (Except it wasn’t animal based cursing when I did it IRL) and “Son of a Beehive!” – but then we weep for a while and pout and move on and finish.

And the key part of that sentence, is the word “Finish”. Because I did finish this gown. I was angry, pissed but I chose to share this on IG, yell a lot at myself, and then move on.

At which point I promptly messed up another alignment.




And I may redo the petticoat some day. But that day will probably be when my son decides he likes sleep.

So after all that, I started sewing things together and the petticoat came together pretty fast. I chose to put a lace up panel inside of the gown, which is attached to the gown at both sides of the dress (through all layers of fabric using tiny stitches), so that there is less stress on the silk embroidery when I pin the gown closed using dress pins. I’m not sure if the original Rijk Museum has it, but it is present in some 1780s gowns, including the LACMA redingote.

The inside of the gown – aka how I hold it



So at this point… I went ahead and finished the gown. Here are some pictures of the gown on my mannequin.


And every outfit needs amazing accessories, and here are mine: img_0804

The hat is from Shocking Bad Hats, the shoes and pink clocked stockings are from American Duchess, the hair piece is by Jenny La Fleur, thin black silk ribbon from Renaissance fabrics, neckerchief from Burnley and Trowbridge, and shoes buckles from Sign of the Grey Horse.

Phew! So that’s the story of the Green Redingote!

I will be wearing this dress this coming Sunday for the Symphony at the St Louis Symphony Orchestra! Hold on for more pictures then!

The Bouquet Francaise

“Bouquet Francaise” is the name the @littlebitGerman gave to the Red Francaise after she saw it in person and I think it describes it beautifully. Throughout the bulk of it’s existence, it was just the “red francaise” which is what I’ve called it in previous posts and I’ll leave it as such for ease of finding it.

So during residency, I was working 80+ hours a week, and had very little time to sew/sleep/eat, or much else of anything really. So to reward myself, I told myself I would buy myself 10 yards of any fabric I wanted when I got out. So I did. I rewarded myself with 10 (which eventually became 12) yards of this beautiful Scalamandre Basilica. It is now discontinued which is how I was able to afford it, but remains findable on some incredible sites like

Initially, I was terrified of it. I literally stared at it for four months and could not get myself to cut it. I finally got myself to touch it, by making TWO mock ups before I touched it; one in muslin (no photo) and one in yellow silk taffeta as you can see here:


Photo by Lindsey Hinderer Modern Portraits
Make up by Summer Savannah Beauty

Finally, feeling like I finally could remotely trust myself to not shame myself by cutting the fabric, I started.


I chose to use the JP Ryan pattern as the base; and though I changed the shape of the bodice to accommodate by more modest bosum, otherwise, I kept very close to the original shape.

I started as we often do with any 18th century cutting (as per the Larkin and Smith patterns, which is where I learned to sew more period correct clothing, and reinforced by the American Duchess book) the lining. I actually have a hard time keeping linen from stretching so I elected to use cotton coutil for mine.


One thing that is totally not HA about JP Ryan patterns, but something I absolutely love about them, is the panel that laces up in front. This region is then covered by the stomacher. It does make for ease of dressing since I don’t have a lady’s maid. Not HA, but so is not having a lady’s maid so… I think it evens out. 🙂 It does promise a great fit and smooth sides once I put on the gown, even in a rush!

PS: You’ll notice my totally HA doggy (a little Rescue Eskie named Elspeth) in the picture. She loves photobombing everything I do. One thing I LOVE about American Eskimos is that they were totally the breed of choice for Gainsborough.

And before you start messaging me about whether or not these are pomeranians, compare them to the size of pomeranians and then look at standard American Eskimos. Either way, whatever breed these historically accurate fuzzballs were, I can safely say, my dogs can costume them to perfection!

Well, in any case, after my lining was complete, I went ahead and started work on the fabric itself. I started on my favorite portion – the Watteau pleats!

Luckily I have a very lovely and large cutting table so I was able to stretch the fabric out as much as I needed. After an initial center seam (by machine since I do all my non visible seams on a machine… this is where my impatience does present itself.), I started pinning down the pleats.

After these were CAREFULLY pinned on, I then started the process of sewing it down, attaching it carefully to the lining. Sewing down pleats is my FAVORITE part of dress making. This was fun! I sat watching Poldark for hours and pleating.

After sewing on the back portion, I then hand sewed the back to the front, using the method outlined in the Larkin and Smith pattern for English gowns.

At this point, the gown was starting to really look like a gown.

This was the most exciting part! You must understand, up to this point, due to hours of deliberating, staring at the pattern, matching the pattern, trying to get the perfect pleats in the back, I must have spent approximately 30 hours getting to this point. I tell everyone, I am NOT a fast seamstress. But even then, I understood that I was nowhere near the finish line.

But I can’t lie, I was super proud of my Watteau pleats matching up as they did. 😀24213606078_49f57e612c_h

On a slight side note, for the bottom hem of the train, I really didn’t want the lampas to fall apart. Historical gowns have a little bit of white silk or linen sewn to the bottom to keep the lampas from unraveling. I actually elected to use a bit of modern technology to fix my problem. I put about 18″ of iron on horsehair interfacing to the bottom of the hem and train, to protect that lampas as well as keep the train firm as I walked. I suppose I could have used something more HA, but I really didn’t want the seam to of where I sewed the lining on to show up on the outside, which would have been inevitable, no matter how careful the stitches.

(Again, my personal philosophy is embracing the use of modern technology in order to make historical clothing as beautiful as possible. Hence my love of laser cutters, 3D printers, embroidery machines… But I’m a technology junky at heart. This is why I either costume 18th century…. or 40,000 years in the future. Also I enjoy robotics in my spare time but I don’t plan on going into that on this blog.)

Then sleeves went on, and I was finally able to try wearing it for the first time.

Again, you’ll notice my HA doggies photobombing. 😀

I LOVE wearing this gown! I just love the way the train sweeps after me, and absolutely everything about a Francaise. I really do think that there is no gown-type on the planet more flattering on the average figure than a francaise. No matter your height, body type, etc., a francaise sewn to the right proportions, with the right undergarments is as majestic and flattering as you’ll ever look.

Anyways, this was about… 35-40 hours of my life so far? This was the exciting part.

So, after purchasing the fabric, I had spent about 4 months online shopping for trim. I wanted something in silk, with the warp weave look so common in the 18th century. I finally realized I loved the look of fly trim, but could find nothing that really had the same look as it in modern day. So I elected to weave it myself.

I started off slow; I would say the first two meters took about 24-30 hours.

The initial plan was to make all my trim and then get started putting it on a dress. I had read somewhere that the average francaise took 12 meters of trim. That person was clearly drunk when they wrote it. I made 12 meters and started putting it on my gown. I didn’t even make it to half!

THIS was my 12 meter point. I didn’t even make it around the “swirls” (technically called “furloughs”) around the front of the skirt! It was laughable how wrong they were. In any case, I just kept going, and at that point, I had sped up to the point where each meter took me approximately 8 hours instead of the initial 12 – (including the time knotting the fly trim, cutting them to the right length, fluffing them up with a tooth brush, collecting them, fighting my dogs for them when they decided that eating silk fluffs was fun, and then refluffing the flys, and then weaving it).

As for the stomacher, I was aiming to have it look like the one from at the Museum of Victoria and Albert.

So I placed my 1″ trim very similarly to the stomacher on the right (despite the fact that my stomacher was distinctly less triangular…) and did my best.


Before I even finished, I had a photo session scheduled with the INCREDIBLE Lindsey Hinderer (can’t recommend her enough), and I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos.

Random aside: I really can’t emphasize how important it is to work with a photographer who understands your vision and has the same aesthetic as you. Lindsey knew that I wanted to look like an 18th century portrait and she really delivered.

Photo by Lindsey Hinderer Modern Portraits
Make up by Summer Savannah Beauty


I was shocked at how much I loved the historical makeup I picked up from Little Bits on Etsy. I can say I honestly never would have thought of it, but it was a thoughtful present from my sister in law. Since then, I’ve picked up a bunch more HA makeup! Her pomade is a must have.

From here on in, I just continued towards the finish line. Please note that since October when I started this, this was one of two projects I was working on. Fly trim alone, I think I spent about 300 hours weaving.

I added a third sleeve ruffle (here is where the American Duchess book saved my life! It was INCREDIBLY helpful here! No one else has such nuanced and helpful instructions. And trust me, I looked everywhere!). I changed up my petticoat to have a smoother front panel. I added fly trim EVERYWHERE. At the end, I think I used about 36 meters of fly trim. Again, 12 meters my ass.

After all this, this is the gown I came up with, as photographed by the incomparable Lindsey Hinderer.


Photo by Lindsey Hinderer Modern Portraits
Make up by Haley Hansen Makeup


Lindsey was kind enough to take some detail shots for me.


I had some truly amazing accessories:

And with this outfit finished, we headed off to Paris for Fetes Galante at Versailles.


It was an absolutely fabulous time! I did have to leave an hour early due to my nausea, but overall, it was still incredible.
In any case, this is the story of my francaise and adventures with fly trim! Do post if you have any comments or questions about trim making.