Friday, February 24, 2012

Lady Mary's Underthings

Bodice from the right side - one row
of lace left to be finished.
I will admit it. I have an unhealthy obsession with Downton Abbey. I don't worry about it too much, because I think it's a very common problem right now. Hopefully it will fade with time, only to come back with a vengeance in time for season 3. (Shirley MacLaine! In hats! Trading barbs with the Dowager Countess!)

It's not going to clear up as quickly as I would like because the series coincided with the Vintage Pattern Lending Library's 1912 Project, so I'm basically sewing things right now that would have been in the Crawley girls' wardrobes at the beginning of the series. Right now, I'm working on a princess-lined slip that would have gone over their corsets. All this work and prettiness only to be hidden by more work and prettiness on the exterior.

I've never done insertion lace before, and that was why I took on the challenge project. Turns out it's not that bad - especially if you're using a machine. I can't imagine the horrors of pre-industrial insertion lace, where every seam has to be sewn basically 5 times (seams, lace sewn on either side, then the central seam slashed and rolled back and sewn under the edge of the lace). No wonder they needed dressmakers and ladies' maids.

Cutting behind the lace is a little nerve-wracking.
That being said, I got my ivory cotton batiste from Gorgeous Fabrics yesterday (this project also coincided with Ann's 5th anniversary 25% off sale, which made her cotton batiste less expensive than's, and we all know the quality will be 10 times better). I soaked it in hot water, then threw it in a hot dryer for a half hour, and am hoping I got maximum shrinkage because I wanted to get started.

Once the cut is made, the
seam allowances are
pressed back.

Since I'd already muslined the bodice of the slip, I used the muslin pieces to cut, adding 1.5" to lengthen the waist and then drafting outward over the lines of the skirt to match the width I added above. I sewed the front pieces together, then pinned and stitched the first 3 lines of lace, down the center front (nicely marked by folding and ironing) and then down each of the princess seams. The lace only starts below the bust. After the lace was stitched and pressed, I took scissors and sliced up the center of the fabric - a little nerve-wracking considering that if I slipped I'd have to find a way to repair the lace. And I'm no lady's maid, doing invisible mending in the servants' hall.

Once the seams were opened, they were pressed back against the garment and trimmed so that they would fold back neatly, to be pinned down and stitched almost on top of the original stitching line. The historically accurate instructions say to roll the seam allowance and whipstitch it, but that means I'd still be on the first seam, so it's me and my Singer, all the way.

Stitching the seam
 I have to admit that so far, I'm enjoying the process far more than I expected. It's nitpicky, but not really difficult once you get the idea down. I actually cut my seams and pressed them last night in the workroom and came out to the desk and caught up on some online reading while I folded and pinned the seam allowances back. Talk about a juxtaposition of time and place, Edwardian underwear sitting in front of the computer!

I don't know when I'm ever going to get to use this technique again. I think it's lovely, but it's a little frou-frou for my taste (unless it's a historical costume) but I'd love to find some way to work it into something, just because. I hate learning a technique, knowing I'm likely never to use it again.

Closeup of the neckline.
 This evening the postal elves delivered the last bit of trim I was waiting for, a length of threading eyelet I found on Etsy. I didn't know the difference between eyelet and threading eyelet (can't even say I've heard of it before), but apparently threading eyelet is what you can THREAD a ribbon through. Gotcha. The eyelet gets applied to the unfinished edge of fabric around the neckline, has ribbon threaded through it, and then there's gathered lace sewn around the neckline and armholes. 

I've pinned the eyelet onto the neckline here to get the effect, but it will be done more neatly and the corners will be mitered.  And I need to find ribbon to thread through it.  That I'm sure I have in the trim stash.

Slip front with trim pinned
at neckline, all lace inserted.
 My weekend sewing: hopefully finishing this up and working on a little something for myself. 

I haven't even starting constructing the back yet, or added the ruffle at the bottom. The back is pretty straightforward, princess seamed again, with a button placket because of course a lady couldn't dress herself. It might have been a prettier time, but damn, it was inconvenient.


Lisette M said...

It is so pretty! I didn't know how lace insertion worked! I can see using that technique in a a summer tunic...

SEWN said...

It's gorgeous!!!

Catherine said...

it's lovely. I agree I don't have much use for these techniques when making my own clothes but the stitching was fun. I also find it interesting that the slips are all turning out slightly differently

The Slapdash Sewist said...

Beautiful! Lace insertion is a nice detail in a bodice, but then you have to wear a cami or a slip.

Clio said...

BEAUTIFUL! Wow, you make me want to try this!

Marjie said...

My grandmother had one like this which her mother had made around 1900. I'm pretty sure that my mother sold it when her mother died, instead of offering it to me (so much was lost that way). In any event, your Singer-aided version is really pretty.

kbenco said...

It is looking lovely.
I signed up for the 1912 project too,and received confirmation, but cannot work out from the website how to get the challenge project. Maybe it wasn't offerred to everyone?

Valerie said...

Lovely work! The Sew Beautiful website/magazine is dedicated to heirloom sewing, and you can find a lot of tips and techniques there. Not to mention exceptionally beautiful inspirations.

gwensews said...

That is just-charming. I love heirloom sewing. What fun! And you will feel so special when you put it on.