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.

Museum of Victoria and Albert Coat – Part 2 – Sewing

So where I left off on my last post about my V and A coat adventures was that I had just finished ONE part of the coat. For those of you who follow me on my IG ( @sewstine ), you’ve been bored to death I’m sure with sneak peaks of everything in action. In any case, here is the reveal!

It took me about 2 months to finish the other side, the waistcoats, the buttons, the breeches straps, the backs, the collars, the pockets, the waistcoat pockets, the cuffs, etc. Once I had all the parts collected, I started the fun process of sewing it together.

I had him try it on with just the shell.

I actually do something slightly different from other people. I sewed the entire exterior together, and then got each lining piece and just sewed it on by hand to the coat, from the interfacing. Not a usual way to do it, but with the heaviness of the interfacing, it made the most sense.

For the VERY heavily embroidered areas in the front, I used linen buckram, reinforced with gum arabic and blind stitched it to the front. I the covered it with the linen to it wouldn’t be seen. But this prevented some unfortunate buckling in the embroidery- an issue I had with ALL my frock coats to date. 🙂 It seemed to work but I’ll let you judge for yourself at the end of this article.

Once all that was settled, I added pockets to this coat! This is my first frock coat I added pockets to, mostly because I didn’t trust Matt in the past to not stretch it out by putting too much in it and distorting the shape of the garment. And let’s face it – heavily filled pockets usually end up ruining the exterior shape of ANY garment (unless it’s covered by a pocket hoop! Whee!).

I even added the SECRET pocket on the right side of the coat. I first noticed it after it was pointed out by Pinsent Tailor on 18th century sewing group, and wanted it for Matt. I used some heavy handed button hole stitches to make it for Matt as well. His will hold a secret little locket, made for me by Queen and Cavendish, filled with a picture of me (drawn by @belindal.illustrates ). I really do wonder what marvelous little secrets that original pocket held. Love letters? Historic goat intestine condoms? Snuff? I really do hope it wasn’t snuff and something a little more fun in nature.


At this point, I started making buttons. In the past, I used modern button kits but finding that those buttons break apart so easily, and Matt tends to manhandle his buttons, I decided to go ahead and make them the old fashioned way. I got some button “moulds” from Burnley and Trowbridge, and went at them. After a few attempts, this seemed to work best.


  1. Cut a GENEROUS margin around  your embroidered button.
  2. Give a margin of around 35% of the button diameter and sew a circle around the button shape.
  3. Trim off excess fabric but don’t cut too close to your stitches. And don’t cut your string (did that like 5 times…)
  4. Pull it closed.
  5. Insert your bone or wood button mould.
  6. Sew it shut, and make sure it’s tight

I sewed a LOT of buttons this way.


I added these, and voila! Coat was done.

Meanwhile, I made up the waistcoat (also using the JP Ryan pattern). However, Matt’s weight fluctuates about 30 pounds in any given 3 months, so I went ahead and made his lace up in the back with some hand-sewn eyelets.

I also made up his pants using the JP Ryan pattern – which I think is a FABULOUS breeches pattern and I don’t think there is a better one out there. Please correct me in the comments if I’m wrong – I’d LOVE to learn. I actually did play with the pattern a LOT on these. While her sizing is good, Matt’s thighs are HUGE. I went ahead and added another 2″ to each thigh, and took out about 10″ on the buttocks. While I understand that the “diaper butt” look to breeches is totally HA, I for one like admiring my husband’s fine rear end. So I went ahead and made it a little more tight. It’s still a little baggy to account for movement as well as his weight fluctuations.


As for the breeches straps, I made it as close to the original as possible. That being said, I noticed the design didn’t print well much smaller than it was, so I made the straps 1.25″ instead of the pattern’s recommended 1″. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but once I was done, I realized my error. Almost all breeches buckles on the market are designed for 1″ straps, and due to the embroidery, the straps didn’t fold very well. I ended up buying two neck stock buckles to compensate, though I may get actual breeches straps now that I found some. 🙂

As for his shirt, I made him a hand sewn shirt complete with THE STITCH (per the pattern by Larkin and Smith) about a year ago so we decided to rewear that. Please note my beloved gathers at his wrist. 🙂

Ok, no more talking. Here are the photos of the finished piece.


Some closeups:


Seriously, Matt is a fun model to photograph…


The Waistcoat:



And for funzies, a closeup of the stroke gathers:


Blue, Yellow and Red Dresses – the final(ish) reveals

Omg this blog isn’t dead! No, it was just hibernating in the frigid cold and wretched rain.

But on to the content! I’m finally done with 2 out of 3 dresses!

The blue dress is finally out and I’m madly in love! It can be seen on Page 30 of St Louis Magazine or the article here. I then got to collaborate with Lindsey Hinderer of Lindsey Hinderer Photography, and Savannah from Summer Savannah Makeup for a decadent photoshoot! Here are the two main images of the blue dress from that photoshoot.

The idea was to capture an 18th century portrait (all Lindsey’s idea! The joy of working with a brilliant photographer), and she even found the perfect backdrop to give it the naturalistic air of a Gainsborough painting.

She even took some wonderfully decadent close ups!

Chatelaine and necklace by Queen and Cavendish

Hat by me

Earrings by Dames a la Mode


It’s been wonderful to finally see my blue dress complete! About 150 hours of embroidery time went into the jacket; it really wasn’t supposed to take that long but the pattern I designed did not embroider all that well and took quite a few tries.

The skirt was a “rush job” – only about 80 hours of embroidery frantically done in a week to get it done by the St Louis Magazine photoshoot. But overall, I’m happy with how it came out.
Next, Lindsey all took some gorgeous photos of me wearing the yellow dress.

And some detail shots:

I can’t tell you how long I spent pinking that fabric with a magazine on outdated issues of the Journal of Anesthesiology but man… it was worth it!

At this point, we decided to have some fun. We put some white 18th century accurate make up on by lbcc, and even put on some dresses that weren’t even done and went at it.

It’s amazing how much more HA you can get with a little bit of hair and face powder! I LOVE how these came out and I think my next shoot with Lindsey will be entirely with this make up!

And I came to realize that my red dress is my favorite after all – finished or not! And it certainly is most unfinished in this picture. I’ve been working on it nonstop since this photo-shoot and it’s still shockingly not done.

Which is crazy because I haven’t NOT worked on this gown at least four hours a week since November. The problem is the trim. Each meter takes 8 hours of solid work, between knotting, cutting, using a toothbrush to fluff each trim piece, then weaving it on a loom. It used to take me 12 so 8 is much more doable now. But fly trim is beautiful, but insanely time consuming. Since this picture, I’ve finished the stomacher and added a third sleeve ruffle (and pleating to the top of the sleeve!), but still… so much to do!

With all luck, I’ll have it finished by the Versailles ball!

And for funsies, we did a photoshoot in my undies as well. How scandalous!


Corset by Redthreaded.

All I can say after this is that EVERY thing I make has to be professionally photographed now. I love working with different artists and it’s incredible how much insight you get into even things you make yourself when you work with people with vision. Every photographer tells a different story, and I love the different types of stories they each tell.