1750 Underpinnings

Gabriela in chemise, stays and petticoat
1750 Underpinnings modelled by Gabriela 1 (America Girl)
Note: I didn’t see the scratches on her face until I was working on the photos. I have some fine sandpaper so I’ll buff them out.
Also, my apologies for being a day late — I was catlapped by Verya and by the time she left me I was too tired to complete all the editing.

T&A 1750 Underpinnings
For this outfit I used 18th Century Underpinnings by Thimbles and Acorns. The chemise in Swiss batiste cotton was described in the previous post. For the stays I adjusted the boning channels (see below). The petticoat was quilted and made with one tie at the back rather than two at the sides. For the panniers I lengthened the top of the hooped section in an attempt to make them a little more vertical at the hip.

Fabric & notions:
Stays: a very old quilting print backed with cream cotton drill for the stays — the print is anachronistic but this was my first try at stays so I didn’t want to use “good” fabric. For the boning I cut up a clamshell pack that originally housed a crochet hook (waste not want not!), which allowed me to cut 1/8″ bones. I used purchased cotton bias binding for the edging on the stays, and crimson ribbon for the shoulder ties and the lacing.

Petticoat: the same cotton print, white flannelette filling, white cotton muslin for the backing and six white metal eyes for lacing.

Panniers: white polyester cotton with polyester bias binding for the hoop channels. I used ¼” strips of clamshell plastic for the hoops.
Gabriela in chemise
Gabriela is wearing the batiste chemise that I described in the last post. The white ticket around her leg is my new way of labelling the dolls (since the pinned cards were always getting lost).


Petticoat front
I used the same cotton print for the skirt as I used for the stays — still a little anachronistic but it looks fine from a distance. I cut the fabric 25″ long for a 2:1 reduction at the waist.

The “batting” is a single layer of white cotton flannelette and the lining is cotton muslin. The flannelette stopped at 1½” inches from the waist seam line and then the lining was folded over the top and felled down with an invisible stitch — I needn’t have bothered with that bit, actually, as the fabric is held down by the quilting. At the bottom edge, the flannelette stopped at the seam line and I trimmed the muslin to the same point. The hem was a double turned quarter inch that was basted into place to protect the raw edges while quilting.
Petticoat quilting
The design at the hem (four parallel rows and a single chain) was done by hand in backstitch over four nights and then the diamond pattern was stitched by machine because I didn’t want to spend a whole month on it. Unfortunately I was marking the lines quite late one evening while watching a DVD so I made a couple of mistakes, which you can see quite clearly on the reverse (blue arrows). This meant that I didn’t have one long uninterrupted line of stitching but several shorter lines, so more ends to knot and bury. I also made one mistake while stitching and went down to the second parallel line instead of turning at the first (red arrow). Luckily the print is busy enough that the errors aren’t visible from the outside.

I worked two rows of gathering stitches along the top, just above and below the stitching line. Unfortunately I used white polyester thread which meant that I wasn’t able to see the stitches to make them parallel, so the gathers aren’t particularly neat. On the other hand, I was able to leave both rows of stitching in place rather than removing them and they don’t show.

I cut the waistband 2½” wide so that it could be worn under the stays without revealing the chemise underneath and also so that it could be placed lower on the hips if it’s being used as an underskirt. Before pinning the gathers to the waistband I double-turned the seam allowance at the centre-back opening (which I had cut at 1/2″ precisely for this reason) and felled it down.
Stitching the petticoat waistband
Rather than stitching a standard seam (which would require stitching twice to catch all the folds, as I have had to do in the past) I used a Victorian technique as shown by various costume YouTubers — I pressed both the outside and inside seam allowances down on the waistband and applied them over the gathers, making sure to catch every fold.
Verya helping me make the petticoat
Just for a change, this is a photo of Verya “helping” me attach the waistband (it’s usually Vanima but she’s down by my ankles — you can catch a glimpse of her at top right).

Once the first (outside) seam was done I added a 3/4″ strip of cotton batting so that there wouldn’t be a sudden difference in thickness above the seam allowances, stitched the ends closed and then secured the inside of the waistband to the inside gathers. I found that even though there was a 1½” distance between the waistband and the batting, the stiffness of the quilted portion made it very difficult to pin, baste and stitch at the waist. There are four rows of stitches along the waistband (done by machine) to hold the batting in place.
Petticoat back
I didn’t enclose a tape but attached metal eyes along the edges for lacing (again, a little anachronistic but I didn’t think that I could stitch neat eyelets through batting).

Since I had already finished the edges I wasn’t able to sew the back seam in the usual way. Instead I whip-stitched the seam closed and opened it out gently once finished. You can barely see the stitches from the right side even with magnification and I didn’t bother to take a photo. Once that was done I undid the basting around the hem and fell-stitched it in place.

Stays front
Stays flat
Stays inside view
The first step (stitching the bottom hem) was done by hand but then I switched to machine for the rest of it as the cotton drill was a little stiff and my hands were hurting.
Stays revised boning channels
One thing that struck me as I was tracing the stays pattern was that the channels on the back piece of the pattern don’t make sense — there isn’t enough room for the 1/4″ bone to pass under the armscye, even allowing for the fact that there is no top seam. Also, on checking the photos in the pattern, the boning in the garment does not match the boning in the pattern. Having already made up my mind to use 1/8″ bones instead of 1/4″, I re-drew the channels, using an HB pencil. The centre front remained the same (3/8″ channel for a 1/4″ strip) but all the other channels were redrafted to 1/4″ for a 1/8″ strip. These channels ended up being a little large but trying to mark and/or cut 3/16″ was way too much hassle.
Stays front inside
Stays front strap inside
To reduce bulk along the top edge I used a Hong Kong finish (also anachronistic) — the bias was pressed open, turned over the edge, stitched down from the front and then trimmed. I’m sorry about the photo quality – I was trying to use the macro function and it never turns out well, but at least you can see the stitching.
Stays front strap
Stitching around the rounded ends of the shoulder straps was extremely difficult but I was pleased to see that it doesn’t look too bad from the outside. And yes, that is a very pretty eyelet, if I do say so myself.

Finishing the stays was delayed for a couple of weeks while I tried to find my eyelet punch, but eventually I gave in and stitched them by hand using a tailor’s awl to make the holes (I ended up buying a new punch once the lockdown was over and then found the original behind a chair).
Stays lacing
I started off by using 3 mm crimson satin ribbon for the lacing. All the ends were wrapped with polyester thread and then sealed with fabric glue to prevent fraying. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough length and when I went to get more I couldn’t find where I’d put it, so the stays are laced in white for now. I also made a small mistake in the lacing which I didn’t pick up until I was cropping the photo, but I’m not re-doing it.

For my first attempt I used homespun (because it was cheap and I had plenty of it) and commercial quarter-inch boning but it was a disaster — the homespun was too loose and the boning too stiff.
Gabriela panniers
For the second attempt I used polycotton (65% polyester. 35% cotton) from Lincraft. I stay-stitched along all the seam lines by machine and finished the seam allowances before stitching the channels and seams. I also used 1/4″ strips of clamshell plastic instead of commercial boning and I stitched the seams between the channels on the second side before inserting the bones.
Panniers 1
Panniers 2
The bones hold the shape when not under any pressure, but I’m not sure that they will hold up a skirt. The waist channel proved to be too small for 6 mm cotton tape so I used 3 mm white satin ribbon instead — it’s the same as the ribbon at the neck of the chemise so it doesn’t look out of place.

Stays look pretty good. They aren’t meant to compress as tightly as the 19th century corset, but I was able to pull Gabriela’s torso in a little — about half an inch. I’m not sure how the eyelets will stand up to that sort of tension, though.

Petticoat. The petticoat fits well but is very stiff (and could almost double for a French farthingale). The quilting is hard to see (I had to use a strong sidelight) but at least there is no visible stitch line around the top of the batting.

Panniers. The panniers sit a little bit higher on the hips than I expected, especially since I had added a little length to the upright portion, but a lot of that is the underskirt. I’m not sure how well they will stand up to any sort of load as the clamshell plastic is very soft, but I think I can get around that if I stuff them with Polyfil.

Lessons Learned:
1. Cotton drill is too thick to stitch by hand.
2. Commercial cotton bias binding is too coarse for a visible edging (the polycotton bias is much better but also much harder to stitch through).
3. Boning is extremely stiff and difficult to manage at this scale, while clamshell plastic is good at this scale for non-force-bearing curves but not if any force has to be exerted.
4. Quilted petticoats should be cut a maximum of 1.5 x waist circumference.
5. Flannelette is a bit stiff for quilting an underskirt, but I think it will be very good for stiffening or quilting around a hem.

Notes for future versions:
1. Try a thin wool batting for a quilted petticoat – although technically thicker, it compresses well and will drape more easily.
2. Use a densely woven bias strip for the trim of the stays. I may even sacrifice some poplin and make my own, since I use a lot of white bias binding.
3. Use boning/zip ties for stays and clamshell plastic (perhaps doubled) for panniers.
4. Cut the panniers with a half-inch seam to allow a double-turned edge finish in the upper part.
5. Stay-stitch all the seams before putting anything together. It might also be useful to darn the areas at the ends of the boning channels to reduce the chance of the boning poking through.
6. Reinforce the seams at the bottom of the upright portion as this will be under a lot of tension once the boning is in.

Three Chemises

Three chemises
Chemises modelled by Australian Girl Matilda, American Girl Samantha and Our Generation Sage.

This was originally going to be part of the 1750 underpinnings post but when I ended up making three versions I decided they needed their own post. The stays, petticoat and panniers will be posted tomorrow.

T&A 1750 Underpinnings
For this outfit I used 18th Century Underpinnings by Thimbles and Acorns. The chemises were made without significant alterations to the pattern but I did make some changes to the way the garments were constructed.

Fabric & notions:
Version 1: cotton voile
Version 2: Swiss cotton batiste, rayon lace
Version 3: cotton muslin, rayon lace.

All stitching was by hand, using 100 wt silk thread for the seams and some of the seam finishes. Single strand white embroidery floss and 50 wt coton à broder were also used for some seam finishes.
Voile, muslin and batiste, showing transparency
As you can see, there is some difference in fabric transparency: from the top they are the voile, the muslin and the batiste (1, 3 and 2 below).

Version 1: voile
Voile chemise, modelled by Matilda (Australian Girl)
Voile chemise, inside view
Construction was fairly simple as the body was one piece with a shaped neck facing. All the sewing was by hand, which went fairly quickly, but I definitely need more practice sewing buttonholes. I made pleats rather than gathers to reduce the sleeve fullness at the wrists but forgot to add pleats to the shoulder edges so the sleeve opening is much larger than it ought to be. This was a lucky mistake as Matilda’s hands are a bit larger than Samantha’s and Sage’s and she only just fit through the cuffs. Edges were overcast with cotton floss. I used 6 mm cotton tape for the drawstring at the neck.

Version 2: batiste
Batiste chemise modelled by Samantha (American Girl)
Square gussets
Batiste chemise, inside view
Because I only had 50 cm of the batiste I split the pattern into a front and a back and added shoulder seams. I also cut 1½” square gussets instead of the larger half-square triangles (the squares looked more authentic but were a lot harder to sew). Instead of overcasting I decided to trim one seam allowance to 1/8″ and fold the other over it, but the fabric frayed and some parts around the gussets and top of the sleeves were very difficult.
Lace buttonhole

For the neckline and cuffs I used some soft rayon lace and sewed it over the single-turned 1/4″ edge which both protected the raw edge and formed a casing. This worked very well and I’ll used this technique again for future chemises. And yes, you can sew a buttonhole in lace — I put some PVA glue outside the buttonhole outline, went three rounds with a running stitch, cut the opening and then went three times around with blanket stitch. I threaded 3 mm ribbon through the neckline and two lengths of hat elastic at the cuffs (not authentic but I didn’t want ties at the wrists).

I didn’t enjoy hand sewing with this nearly as much as I expected to. The fibres are very fine but the weave is relatively loose (which I guess I should have anticipated from the transparency). It was quite slippery, requiring careful pinning, and it frayed very quickly. I also found that the 1/4″ seam allowance was too small to allow trimming and turning a fell seam comfortably — in some places only two or three threads remained intact.

Version 3: muslin
Muslin chemise modelled by Sage (Our Generation)
Musline chemise seam finishes
Muslin chemise, inside view
I wanted to see if was possible to finish all the edges before sewing the seams but I didn’t have enough batiste so I used muslin for the third version. I traced new versions of the patterns and trimmed them to the sewing line, then added 3/8″ seam allowances when cutting, except for the neck opening and facing, the bottom ends of the sleeves and the cuffs, all of which had the usual 1/4″ (you can see some of the marking around the neck facing as I made a mistake and had to draw the seamlines twice – it will wash out). The hem was pinned up first and then the shoulder seams were turned and stitched. After that, all remaining seams apart from the neckline, sleeve bottoms and cuffs were double turned and secured with a running stitch in white coton à broder.
Muslin gussets detail
I whip-stitched the seams which went a lot faster than I had anticipated, but the gussets proved difficult — I had cut them as triangles, as the pattern dictated, but the small size and acute angles made it very difficult to achieve a consistent finished size while covering the corners — you can see how blocky and awkward they look in the detail picture. The lower ends of the sleeves were pleated and then the cuffs were attached with a fell stitch on both sides, which I have found is more accurate than a normal seam. For the hem I turned up 1/4″ to the outside and covered it with rayon lace — the lace is more open than I usually use for this technique and I should have double-turned the hem first, but so far there aren’t any loose threads protruding. For the drawstring I used 6 mm cotton tape again but whipstitched it so that it became a long narrow tube. I think it looks a little more in scale than leaving it at 6 mm.

After some consideration I decided that the best fabric for this pattern was the muslin. The batiste is the lightest and most transparent, but was very slippery and difficult to handle. The voile was the “heaviest” and most opaque but was acceptable for 18th century and will be ideal for more robust 14th-17th century shifts. The muslin is only slightly less translucent than the batiste and was much easier to handle — and since it’s also less than a quarter the cost of the batiste I think this will be my fabric of choice for any future 18th-19th century chemise. I definitely liked the little bit of extra definition at the neck when I used lace for the casing (in the batiste chemise), so that will be something I continue to use.

The easiest construction method was to follow the pattern directions and finish the seams after sewing (duh!); however this led to much fraying in both voile and batiste versions. Finishing the seams immediately after cutting and before sewing seams reduced the fraying and was generally successful except at the gussets, where it was difficult to achieve the correct shape and dimensions. I have three possible solutions for this issue:
1. Revert back to square gussets;
2. Retain the triangle gussets but don’t worry about protruding corners on the long sides until after the side seams have been stitched; or
3. Delete the gussets entirely, since the sleeve opening is large enough without them and dolls are rarely posed with their arms above their heads.
Whichever method I use, I will have to reduce the “gathering” on the sleeve as the armscye beyond the gussets is a little tight on the batiste and muslin versions.

As for fit, the chemise pattern is designed to be very loose, and although I’ve had problems with fitting American Girl patterns to Australian Girl dolls in the past, Chemise V1 fitted Matilda quite well (the sleeves are a little shorter but not so much that it looks awkward).

Incidentally, I like the combination of finished seams + whip stitch so much that I have since used it on two human garments (which will be posted in due course).

1820 Regency gown

1820 Regency Dress modelled by Samantha
1820 Regency Dress modelled by Samantha (2014 Be Forever)

Simplicity 8714 by Keepers Dolly Duds
For this outfit I used Simplicity pattern 8714 — it’s a Keepers Dolly Duds design but unfortunately it has none of the identifying information that KDD carries in their PDF patterns, nor does it have the additional historical information that most PDF patterns include. No reference year is given on this pattern but judging from the waist height and skirt length I’m opting for 1820.

I chose to make view B (the green dress) but I left out the sleeve detail and made it as a standard puff sleeve. I also added a lining to the skirt.

Most of this gown was made before my hand issue, so all I had to do was add the snap fasteners, which didn’t hurt too much.

I chose a tiny blue on white print I’ve had for ages — I only had 15″ but luckily it was enough. The lining was white voile. I used navy ribbon in two widths (3 and 9 mm) for the trim instead of pleated lace. The pattern indicated that neckline lace should be added between the bodice and lining but that’s very tricky with an inside corner so I left it out.

I know from making previous commercial doll patterns that they tend to be on the large side, so I sewed up the bodice lining first and tried it on Samantha. It fitted the shoulder well but was a little wide around the waist so I took the side seams in … and then realised that I’d forgotten the dart on the back bodice. Oh well, it still fits.

I added the narrow navy ribbon to the bodice front, arranged in a V pattern that met at the seamline. Unfortunately that neat little detail was covered up by the later waist ribbon — I’ll have to plan better next time.
1820 regency gown inside bodice
Bearing in mind my previous issues with bodice linings not matching the bodice under the sleeve, I checked that the bodice and lining matched exactly all around the armscye (they did) and then took the precaution of tacking the lining to the bodice at the side seam just under the armscye so that I couldn’t pull it down when sewing the lining over the skirt seam. This worked quite well but I’d forgotten to stay stitch the lining and I wasn’t confident of clipping the curves so I ended up overcasting anyway.
1820 regency gown inside skirt
The skirt was reasonably easy. I made quarter-inch pleats instead of gathers which matched the bodice waist almost exactly and required only the smallest of adjustments (but see below for draping issues). I had a small panic attack when I realised that after stitching the skirt and lining to the waistband I couldn’t stitch the placket closed. I ended up unstitching half an inch at each end of the waist seam, turning the lining and skirt fabric under, then whip-stitching them closed. (Yes, I know I could have left them loose but it would have meant trying to do a double-turned 1/8″ seam finish and I just wasn’t up to it.)

I used clear plastic snaps for the closure. They aren’t very strong but they work.

1820 regency gown front
1820 regency gown side
1820 regency gown back
The bodice fits well and the sleeves puff out very nicely. The ribbon makes you think that the waistline is close to breast-high, whereas in fact it’s barely above the natural waist. As you can see, there is a draping issue at the side front — the pattern said to match the side seams, but when I was doing the pleats the side seam ended up about half an inch to the rear. If I make this again I’ll space the back pleats out more and make sure that the side seams match (I’ll also remember that the back bodice is supposed to have darts in it).

I wasn’t very happy with the centre back closure because it’s a centre back skirt seam with a quarter-inch bodice overlap, so the open part of the skirt has to take on a V-shaped overlap which, in my experience, is never very successful. If I were to make this again I’d use half-inch seams and add 1/4″ to the proper right bodice so that the overlap would be smoother.

I’m also not a fan of the way it dips at the back (yes, she was wearing a bustle pad). I think that if the dress is supposed to be ankle high then it should be the same height all around; on the other hand, if the skirt has a train it should be close to floor length.

A decent pattern, but it highlights the limitations of commercial patterns in comparison with those available in PDF form. I wouldn’t like to be trying to make this without prior experience in doll dressmaking.

Lessons Learned:
1. Check the pattern for darts before making adjustments
2. If you’re eliminating a dart, make a note of how it affects nearby seams.
3. As a general rule, side seams of skirt and bodice should match
4. Tacking the bodice lining to bodice under the sleeve prevents it slipping down (yay!).
5. Adding a lining to a skirt can affect construction order
6. Trains do not suit ankle-length gowns.

Notes for future versions:
1. Alter the pattern at centre back — add 1/4″ to the proper right bodice and both centre back skirt seams.
2. Shorten the bodice by 1/4″.
3. Pin the side seams of skirt and bodice together before making pleats.
4. Either make the hem even or lengthen the skirt.

1940s panel dress

1940s panel dress modelled by Gabriela 2
1940s panel dress modelled by Gabriela 2

1940s Panel Dress pattern
For this outfit I used 1940s Panel Dress by Fashioned By Rebecca. I wasn’t particularly keen on the lace trims so I drafted a collar piece instead.

The dress is made in a purple spotted quilting cotton from Moda (I think it came from a quilt kit I cannibalised). The lining is an Australian Aboriginal design in purple from M&S textiles — the base fabric is much lighter and smoother than quilting cotton, almost a lawn. The collar and sleeve bands are an off-white cotton voile. I used ribbon for the waist ties instead of the dress fabric (because I loathe trying to turn long tubes). I added one decorative button to the centre front instead of two small buttons. For the fastening I intended to do buttons but I’ve had hand issues recently so I used a Velcro strip instead. The petticoat is in cotton homespun with a broderie anglaise flounce.

As this is a 20th century outfit, most of it was sewn on machine. The pattern was easy to follow — I was particularly grateful that each seam was labelled so that it was easy to match the right pieces together. On the other hand, the designer used a generous quarter-inch seam allowance which was difficult for me to achieve because my quarter-inch foot is designed for a quilter’s scant seam allowance. The back panels were 1/8″ over the width of the yoke pieces (which I managed to fudge) and the front panels were more than 3/8″ over which was unfudgeable.
Bodice rescue
As it happened, I had cut the pieces out rather late one night and wasn’t concentrating enough, so I accidentally cut two front yoke pieces rather than one on the fold. I decided to make a small pleated insert to make up the deficit. I cut it quite wide and long so that I could trim it to the exact dimensions required, which was lucky as the gap between the two pieces turned out to be close to 1″ — I guess I should be grateful that the two errors more or less compensated for each other.

I re-traced the pattern pieces, taking off 1/16″ from every seam edge so that the next version of the dress would be better. Then, in a fit of absent mindedness, I tore up the original pieces … and promptly realised that I hadn’t cut out the lining yet. I used the new pieces but I had to add that 1/16″ all around by eye. I also drafted a new front yoke piece to match the dimensions of the dress for this version only.
Panel dress skirt flare
Panel dress inside view
Panel dress seam finishes
The pieces all fitted together pretty well but because of the seam issue and, in particular because the lining and the dress were not cut from the same pattern pieces, I decided it was too much of a risk to stitch the lining to the dress around the hem in the way the pattern stated. You can just see in the flared photo that the skirt fabric has a larger circumference than the lining so it was a good call. Instead I finished all the seams by overcasting and did double-turned hems instead — 1/4″ for the dress and 3/8″ for the lining. The dress is consequently 1/4″ shorter than intended. Similarly I overcast the sleeve seams separately rather than trying to turn the lining over the allowance (or binding them as the pattern suggested).
Bodice close-up
The collar piece I had drafted and cut out is technically too small around the neck but it allows more of the pleated insert to be seen. I chose to use white voile (because it was still on the cutting table), and some very stiff interfacing I had used in another project recently. Unfortunately both choices were poor. The voile was too sheer and I would have been better off with a lawn or a poplin, even if it had to be polyester cotton rather than 100% cotton. At the same time the interfacing was too stiff and the collar doesn’t sit right. It was too small to understitch by machine and I didn’t fancy trying to hand-stitch through the very stiff interfacing, so the collar edge isn’t quite as neat as it could be, but it’s not bad. If I really wanted the rolled edge look I think I’d have to turn the outer curve seam allowances independently and stitch the pieces together by hand, or alternatively, stitch and understitch the main curve only before stitching the ends. I might try one or the other on the next version.

The back closure is a 6″ strip of 3/8″ low-profile Velcro which is a bit anachronistic, I know, but I just bought 15 yards via etsy and wanted to try it out. The loop side was easy to baste with glue but the hook side is more plastic-feeling and the glue didn’t set at all. I may have to pin or tack in place in future. I may also add purely decorative buttons at some stage.

Half-circle petticoat on Gabriela
Half-circle petticoat back view
About halfway through construction I decided that the skirt needed a petticoat in order to make the panels flare out. I drafted a pattern for a half-circle skirt where the circumference was slightly less than the skirt hem, the waist was large enough to fit Samantha 2 (PC late 1990s version) and the length was 5″, which is roughly the distance from waist to knee. I sewed a half-inch seam and turned the allowances in for a clean finish. I overcast the raw bottom edge by machine and then added a flounce of pre-gathered broderie anglaise edging — I had exactly (and I mean exactly) the same length as the skirt edge. There wasn’t enough for a seam, so I overcast the raw ends of the broderie and joined it with my very poor attempt at a faggotting stitch. The bound edge of the broderie gives the skirt a little stiffness so it flares well. The waist band was cut to Samantha’s size, with a one-inch overlap, and the curved waistline of the skirt was clipped and eased to fit. I added low-profile Velcro strips (note: it was easy to trim the width down from 3/8″ to 1/4″ and it was easy to sew through by machine). Naturally I then decided to use Gabriela 2 as my model instead of Samantha and the waistband is a little too large for her, so it’s pinned in place at the back.

The petticoat is a little long, which I should have expected when I added the flounce, and it’s also a bit larger in circumference than the dress for the same reason. I really like the half-circle look, though, and I think I’ll make it again in a better fabric. I might use cording or millinery wire at the hem instead of broderie for a smoother look.

1940s Panel dress front
1940s Panel dress side
1940s Panel dress back

Although the yoke is a little large on Gabriela I really love the look of this dress — it’s a very flattering design and the waist ties make it adjustable for different body sizes. I’ll definitely be making more doll dresses from this pattern now that I’ve worked out most of the kinks. The pattern is well written and has plenty of illustrations to help with construction (and, as I mentioned earlier, the skirt panel seams are all labelled to minimise confusion).
Panel dress seam finishes
I tried it on Samantha and as you can see the bodice is slightly less loose at the sides. The skirt flares a little without the petticoat but I definitely prefer the fuller look with the petticoat support.

Lessons Learned:
1. Small differences in seam allowance can add up to a significant shortage or overhang.
2. Don’t cut fabric when you’re tired.
3. Voile is too light and too loose for collars and cuffs — use a lawn or poplin if you can find it.
4. Doll collars need a lightweight interfacing, not the ultra-stiff kind used for machine appliqué.

Notes for future versions:
1. Re-trace the pattern, reducing each seam allowance on the panels by roughly 1/16″ (already done).
2. Layer the fabric and lining so that all panels are cut from the same pieces at the same time.
3. Either use the suggested lace trim or re-draft the collar.

1800 Regency Style bib-front gown

1800 Bib-Front gown modelled by #23 (American Girl)

Note 1: of the four projects I’ve started since my last post, I find it somewhat amusing that the first one finished is the last one I started and also the one that is (almost) entirely hand-sewn.

Note 2: I apologise for the terrible photos — my camera battery was dying but I wanted to get this out tonight. I may re-do the photos in daylight but probably not (see below).

Regency Style pattern cover

For this outfit I used “Regency Style” by Karen Lorraine Designs. She doesn’t give a year for this design but I’ve used 1800 for indexing purposes. The bib-front was certainly known as early as the1790s but was most popular in the years 1810-15; however, the hem was ankle length by then and this is floor length. Thimbles & Acorns gave 1810 for her bib-front gown so I used the earlier date to distinguish between the two.

The pattern includes seven pages of historical information, including photos of gowns in various museum collections. I suspect that this pattern was adapted from an extant garment, because no one would have designed a doll dress like this from scratch and there are some issues I found that can’t be explained by sloppy sewing (of which I am sometimes guilty).

I opted to use the “medium” height for the bib, and made several small changes to the pattern:
• I changed the sleeves from long to short (I know that the very long sleeves are contemporary, but I don’t like them)
• I altered the front bodice fastening section by adding a second layer (to make it neater) and extending it a little so that there was more overlap
• I added a lining and light interfacing to the bib
• I added a lining to the skirt
• I replaced the fabric tie with a ribbon

I used a cream floral quilting cotton whose origins are unknown — I had it from a friend who was given a mass of fabric from a deceased quilter and luckily our tastes in printed fabric have very little overlap — she loves the geometrics and I love the florals.

For the lining I would have like to have used a cream but I don’t have any cream voile or muslin and I figured cream quilting cotton would be a bit thick so I used an off-white voile I found at Lincraft.

I used cream ribbon for the ties.

Most sewing was by hand using 100-weight silk thread for the seams and single-strand cotton embroidery floss for overcasting.

1800 Bib-front gown internal construction
The construction went fairly well once I’d read the pattern a few times. I had a little trouble working out the correction orientation of the bodice pieces and had to check against the pattern before every seam (luckily there were plenty of photos to help). I found that the “registration” marks weren’t actually registration marks (notches), just indicators to make sure that any particular seam had the two pieces in correct orientation, but it was certainly better than nothing.

I had some difficulty with the seam joining the bodice front to the bodice side — there was a difference of around 3 mm (1/8″) in length. It was probably a cutting error as the seams in the pattern do match. I matched the seams at the underarm point and adjusted the turn-up for the bodice front afterwards. I ended up whip-stitching the bodice and lining together along the bottom edge as the seam allowance was a bit short.

Inserting the sleeves went quite well, although I’m not a fan of so much puff being pushed to the back — I prefer it spread a little more evenly. There wasn’t much puff at the bottom edge, which was my fault as I should have made the lower arch a little deeper when I redrafted the sleeve. As I commonly find, the sleeve edge of the side bodice lining was too short to turn it, so I overcast the sleeve seams instead.

For the skirt, I sewed the fabric and lining together at the slashes, which made a neater opening than turning the two separately. I had to be a little careful in the order of stitching afterwards (I was very worried I wouldn’t be able to turn the whole garment right side out) but it worked out quite well. I would have preferred to have used the side seam as the opening, but I had already cut the curves at the top of the back skirt piece.

I did appreciate that the back skirt was pleated rather than gathered — it made my life a lot easier, especially with the lining adding some thickness. Given that attaching the skirt to the bodice meant stitching through seven thicknesses of fabric, I opted to use the machine for that bit. I also basted the pleats on the side portion by machine before attaching the ribbon tie. All other stitching was by hand.

I haven’t done the bodice fastenings yet as I wanted to check the fit first and, well …

1800 Bib-front gown front view
1800 Bib-front gown side view
1800 Bib-front gown side view
1800 Bib-front KLD bodice detail
First things first: as the pattern states openly, this is a gown that will only fit recent American Girl dolls. I wanted to use Nellie, but she dates from 2004-2009 and is too large around the shoulders. The gown fitted my 2014 Be Forever Samantha but she’s going to be modelling one of the other projects I’m doing so I tried it on my #23 from 2017 — the shoulders were fine and the bodice front flaps overlapped precisely.

Having said that, I’m really not happy with the rest of the gown.

1800 Bib-front KLD sleeve and side detail
Firstly, the sleeves do not sit right in any arm position. If the arms are by the sides, there is too much bunching in the back; if the arms are extended to the front then the back is fine but there are lots of wrinkles at the front. Given that I followed the instructions exactly when setting the sleeve I have to say that this is a pattern issue, not a sloppy construction issue.

Secondly, the front apron has a distinct corner where it meets that portion of the skirt back that is forward of the slash and there is a large gap beneath the bodice sides. I followed the directions by stitching the side seams together up to the top edge of the skirt back (the pattern did state that there would be a discrepancy in the height of the pieces). In the original pattern the top edge (including the corner) is finished with a bias-cut fabric tie rather than by a seam, but this would only change the height of the tie by 1/4″ and as you can see the deficit is much larger – more like 3/4″. I can’t pull the apron up much farther — it’s almost at the armpit as it is — but if I do, the bib is up around the throat and the skirt front is a lot higher than the back. I couldn’t have attached the ties to the top of the apron either because then the part below the corner would be flapping in the wind.

Although the pattern itself is well written and profusely illustrated, I’m disappointed with the gown and glad that I didn’t use expensive fabric. I’m not going to bother to add the fastenings.

Lessons Learned:
• Tiny bodice pieces can be difficult to orient correctly.
• For small pieces it’s probably better to cut a pattern piece on the seam line and add the seam allowance by eye. This has the advantage of marking the seam line directly from the pattern rather than 1/4″ in from the cut edge.
• The ties coming off the apron in a bib-front dress must be at the raised waistline height.

Notes for future versions: (Very unlikely)
To be honest, I don’t think I’ll make this gown again. It would require so much revision in sleeves, apron and skirt that it would amount to drafting a new pattern, and given that the Thimbles & Acorns version is so much better I’d be better off using that instead.

If I ever revisit this pattern I would make the following changes:
• Re-trace and cut bodice pattern pieces on the seam line and allow 3/8″ seam allowance or more when cutting fabric.
• Mark all bodice pieces with seam letters to avoid confusion; also mark them left and right.
• Cut the bib to be somewhere between the medium and shallow heights.
• Re-draw the short sleeve with a deeper bottom curve and adjust the top curve to be a little more symmetrical.
• If using the side seam as the apron opening, don’t cut the curve at the top of the skirt back pieces.
• Consider not rounding the front apron piece (will depend on how the front and back pieces compare in height).

Viking Dress and Overgown

Viking dress and overdress modelled by Julie
Viking dress and overdress modelled by Julie (American Girl)

Viking Dress can Cover
After the intense frustration and hassle of the gauze gown, I decided to do something completely different. For this outfit I used Viking dress and cover by Read Creations. The pattern doesn’t specify a date but clothing styles changed extremely slowly at that time and something of this sort could have been worn anytime from roughly 500-1100 AD. I’m calling it 1000 for indexing purposes.

It’s actually been finished for a week, but I decided I needed beads to complete the outfit so the post was on hold until I picked them up yesterday.

Brown solid quilting cotton for the dress (not sure of brand but a bit too thin for imitating wool) and a light mushroomy / lavendar warm grey solid for the overdress (also too thin). I had less than a half-metre of each so there wasn’t much room for error, as I found to my cost.

Seams were stitched in 100-wt silk thread and overcast in blanket stitch with single strand embroidery floss as usual.

If you haven’t been to your local Lincraft store in a while it might be worth while checking it out — there are lots of jewellery findings there now that are ideal for doll accessories. For this outfit I bought jump rings, thin leather cord (which I didn’t use in the end because it wasn’t supple enough at this scale) and knitting cotton (originally bought for hem decoration but I ended up using it for the lacings).

I was able to find some small-scale beads on etsy that were ideal for the bead string on the overdress. I was going to use oval beads to simulate turtle brooches, but from what I’ve read they were restricted to married women so I’ve left them off this outfit. The string of beads is a little long for the width but it looks pretty good and it’s sewn onto the shoulder straps so I’m not changing it now.

I cut the gores first and found that instead of four identical isosceles triangles I had three (almost) identical ones and one that was significantly smaller. I still don’t know how that happened. Given that they were supposed to be applied in pairs at the side that was a big problem. I didn’t have enough fabric to cut another triangle so I decided to use the three identical ones at front and sides, and add the two end triangles (which were almost the same size as each other, though smaller than the other gores) to the back. This was not a wise decision — I should have cut down the three bigger triangles to the size of the fourth — as it led to a further issue (see below). Since I was going to add a front gore I decided to split the front into two halves because I hate inserting triangles into a point — there is always a wrinkle, no matter how much you try to hide it. Because I was adding gores to the back I had to reduce the length of the opening at centre back, so the ability to add a larger slash at centre front was a bonus.

Actual construction went fairly well. I found my white chalk pencil a couple of days earlier so I was able to draw seam lines on pieces as I needed them. It turned out that two of the triangles weren’t symmetrical (which I should have predicted with one of the four being wonky) but luckily (or possibly subconsciously) I had attached the shorter sides first so I was able to trim the long sides. I was pleased that the front gore had no wrinkles at the top — it was worth sewing the extra seam at centre front. Once all the seams were done I smoothed out the hemline curve and did a 3/8″ double turned hem (the pattern said 1/4″ for the first turn and 1/2″ for the second but I prefer to have both turns the same size). The hem is a little wobbly on the inside because of the difference in circumference — I should have adjusted the seam line or added a gathering line to help pull in the fullness. It doesn’t look too bad on the outside.
Hem of the undergown
I used my hera tool to make eyelets — nine on each side at the back of the underdress, spaced at half-inch intervals. They were secured with quilting thread in blanket stitch. (Sorry, I didn’t get a photo of the eyelets.)

The overdress was even more simple — five panels (back was split) and four gores (all of which were actually identical this time). The top hem was a double-turned quarter inch and the hem was a single-turned quarter inch with the raw edge overcast. The back opening was also supposed to be a single turn but I really didn’t want that so I made it a double-turned eighth of an inch. The shoulder straps were way too long — I didn’t want to waste effort sewing two when one would do so after checking the fit I cut one in half and used a half on each side. I’m sure I’ll find some use for the other one. I did think about doubling them up and making loops, as some of the original dresses had, but that requires functional pins and/or brooches and would be bulky, so I stitched both ends instead. The overdress is just large enough to pull on over the feet and hips but not over the head and shoulders and the shoulder straps are long enough to go over the hands.
Inside the overgown
For the closure I sewed jump rings to the back. I don’t have any jeweller’s pliers at the moment (my old set went to my cousins a few years ago and the new ones I’ve bought are still in transit) so I ended up using scissor-action eyebrow tweezers to get the jump rings closed properly. I was very close to giving up and sewing eyelets instead but I persevered. The rings are at one-inch intervals instead of half, though. I may add the rest of the rings later on when I have the proper tools.

Both the gown and overgown are tied with knitting cotton rather than leather cord — the cord just didn’t work at this scale.

Viking dress undergown Julie with arms up
Below the waist is fine, but the undergown is very baggy above the waist and the sleeves are too long. I know that underarm gores are a real part of these gowns, but the in extant garments the armscye is usually a lot smaller so it’s needed. Doll sleeves and armscyes have to be fairly wide to allow the hands to go through, and reaching overhead isn’t essential, so the gores don’t add much to the fit. The slope of the shoulders was good though.

I’m not sure why the front opening is slightly longer on one side — I’m sure I lined it up properly when I did the seam. Oh well, I’m sure there were similar errors in the viking era, and a brooch would hide it. I also note that it was quite difficult to get the undergown on and off the dolls. I had allowed 6 times the length of the opening for the lace, but it was still too short and the ends got a bit messy having to re-thread the tapestry needle I was using. I need to re-do the laces to be a little longer and also seal the ends with glue. (Leather cord wouldn’t have frayed but, as I said earlier, it was too stiff and didn’t close the dress properly.)

Because the sleeves are a bit long on Julie I decided to try the outfit on Pearl (Our Generation) and Matilda (Australian Girl), who both have longer arms.
Undergown front
Undergown side
Undergown back
Overgown front
Overgown side
Overgown back
Pearl has the hair button at the back so the fit around the middle isn’t great. Her shoulders are flatter than AG so the top of the gown doesn’t sit very well. The sleeve length is a little better though.

In spite of being 2″ taller Matilda has much the same chest and arm measurements so I figured the dress would fit her too. I was very wrong. Her shoulders are actually quite narrow — the straps of the overgown barely cover the joint — while the point of the upper arm (where the acromial process/origin of the deltoid would be in a human) is quite wide, so the gown looks remarkably odd on her. I’m glad I found this out, though, because I’m planning on making a 16th century dress for her and now I know I’ll have to do a mock-up of the bodice first.

Lessons Learned:
1. “Measure twice, cut once” applies to sewing as well as carpentry.
2. Quilting cotton really doesn’t pass for wool very well. Stock up on plain flannelette when you find it, as you can be sure there will be none available in stores when you need it. Cotton drill or canvas would also be good options.

Notes for future versions:
1. Make the dress and overdress gores a little narrower.
2. Make the back seam of both dress and overdress half an inch wide or add a placket.
3. Reduce the size of the underarm gores to 1″ or leave them out.
4. Shorten the sleeves by ¼” for American Girl dolls.
5. Deepen the facing at the front if you want a keyhole neck opening.
6. Only cut one length for the shoulder straps.
7. For the undergown, cut lacing 8 x the length of the opening and trim afterwards.

1790 Round Gown in Gauze

… or, “How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.”

1790 round gown modelled by Caroline
1790 round gown modelled by Caroline

Before I go any further, I have a piece of advice for anyone who is contemplating making a similar doll dress out of gauze: DON’T DO IT. It was never-ending hassle and frustration and absolutely not worth it. I have come to hate this project and am only posting it because I need closure.

Although this resembles a chemise à la reine from the front it’s not. The chemise is basically a tent dress open at the front, with three drawstrings (neck, under bust and waist) and usually has long sleeves and one or two deep ruffles over the neck and at the hem. This dress has short sleeves and a fitted bodice back with gathers on the back of the skirt.

The pattern I used as a base was the 1790 Open Pelisse and Regency Dress by Thimbles and Acorns, purchased through Pixie Faire. I know I had issues with this pattern when I made it in March but they don’t apply here because I made several modifications for this dress. All the new issues are due to the modifications I made and the fabric I chose.
1790 round gown pattern modifications
I wanted to avoid a closure for the bodice because the fabric is so sheer that any snaps or Velcro would stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. Given that the neck and waist were going to be gathered, I re-drew the pattern, adding about 5″ to the centre front of the gauze overlay pattern piece and cutting one bodice back on the fold. This yielded a neckline of 17″ circumference and a waistline of 26″ which allows the dress to be lowered over the head and arms of a doll (it actually helps if the strings are a little loose so that the arms can be more vertical). The front skirt was a rectangle that matched the bodice width, while the skirt back was both widened and lengthened with a train. Both front and back skirt pieces were allocated a half-inch seam allowance at the waistline to enable a casing to be made (more on that later).

1790 round gown trial bodice back
The fabric I used was a gauze-like “muslin” from Lincraft — much looser in weave than the muslin from Spotlight that I have used previously. After a trial run of stitching the back and side pieces to check the pattern (wise decision, as I did need to make an adjustment to the bodice back) I found that it moved around constantly and I knew that I would never be able to cut or sew it without some from of stiffening. I didn’t want to treat the whole 2 metres so I tore off a strip.
1790 round gown - torn gauze
Pro-tip: don’t do this with gauze. The weave is too loose and many threads will pull. I managed to straighten out most of the pulls but it was one more hassle I didn’t need.
 1790 round gown - stiffened gauze
I knew that my fabric stiffener was pretty strong so I diluted it by half in tap water (1:1) but the gauze ended up much too stiff all the same — I would have been better off diluting it 1:3 or weaker (but see below for more issues). However, it made marking and cutting the gauze a breeze. I used an old rotary cutter blade and paper scissors as I wasn’t sure if it would dull the blades. I rinsed some of the stiffener out before stitching down the gathers on the sleeves and skirt back. Even so, the stiffness affected my wrists so I was only able to stitch for about 1-1½ hours a day (as opposed to 2-3 hours on a normal day — I have issues with my scapho-metacarpal joints in both wrists).

For the sash I used 80 cm of red organza ribbon.

As usual, all stitching was by hand. All seams and seam allowances were stitched with Superior Threads Kimono 100-wt silk thread (no cotton floss in this dress).

1790 round gown bodice
I first stitched the bodice back and side seams together. Given the transparency of the fabric I elected to trim the side back seam allowance to 1/8″ and fold the bodice back seam allowance over it. The raw edge was secured by herringbone stitch. For the shoulder seams (and the side seams at the waist) I did the same trimming of one side but stitched the folded seam allowance down to the dress so that there would be no loose pocket to catch the gathering cord when it was inserted. It looked a little messier because of the pull on the threads, but it had to be done. There are no photos of the seam treatments because white silk thread on white gauze is almost invisible (even with a 5x magnifying lamp I had difficulty seeing the stitches at times).

I faced the neckline with a bias strip to make a casing for a drawstring. Once it was stitched on I made two eyelet holes with a hera at centre front and secured them with white coton à broder (50 wt) from DMC. The facing was narrow enough that I couldn’t make the eyelets big enough for my bodkin but I managed to get around that (see below). I discovered when basting down the turn that I had applied the facing to the wrong side of the bodice, not the right side. Oh well, it doesn’t look too bad and it’s all going to be obscured by the gathers. It was also at this point that I realised I would have to rinse the remaining pieces to remove some stiffening as there was no way I was going to be able to stitch down gathers with the fabric literally as stiff as a board.

I inserted the gathering stitches on the sleeves (both top and bottom) and then rinsed them in cold water. This enabled the gathers to be stitched down more securely. It proved impossible to turn the gathered seam allowances so they were trimmed to 1/8″ and overcast with blanket stitch using coton à broder. The binding was stitched on and then, after the side seams were sewn, turned and basted in place and left until after the hem.

1790 round gown skirt
I stitched the side seams first and finished the seam allowances with herringbone stitch as for the bodice. For the top inch I stitched the seam allowance down so that it wouldn’t catch the bodkin later on (a wasted effort, as it turned out). Next I started on the hem. I had drafted a half-inch hem allowance (a quarter-inch turned twice). Because of the curve around the train I inserted a gathering stitch at a quarter-inch from the edge. When the hem was turned twice this thread allowed me to ease in the excess without much puckering. A steam iron greatly helped with the turning as it softened the fabric temporarily. I basted the hem in place then left it while I attended to the waistline. The gathering stitch along the top of the skirt back was inserted and then the skirt was gently rinsed. Once I had attached the skirt to the bodice I realised that my original plan of turning it down to make a casing wasn’t going to work for the back as it was all gathered. I didn’t want to make a separate casing so I decided that because the back bodice wasn’t gathered I could get away with only having the drawstrings run from the side seams to centre front. The front skirt seam allowance was turned over the bodice; two eyelets were inserted at centre and then it was stitched down to make a casing (I didn’t want the eyelets to show on the bodice so the waistline has to be tied from the inside, but the skirt has plenty of fullness so it isn’t too fiddly).

I tried to find some very fine cording but was unsuccessful. Instead I made my own from white cotton floss. (Oops — I lied. There is cotton floss in this dress!). The finished waist cords had to be about 20 cm / 8″ long and I wanted them to be four-ply so I cut two lengths of 1.2 metres which gave me a comfortable margin in case twisting took up too much length or the swing point wasn’t exactly in the centre. I folded the cords in half and marked the centre of the doubled length. Then I hooked the floss through a door handle and started twisting. There was a lot of twisting — about ten minutes for each one — and my wrists definitely did not like it. The cords ended up around 9″ so there wasn’t that much excess.

Of course, three days later I found a YouTube video on making rope using a marlinspike — that definitely would have made things a lot easier. Unfortunately that particular design (with the crossbar) isn’t common at all but I’ll keep looking. I’ll probably end up with a normal marlinspike and an improvised crossbar … or basically anything vaguely cylindrical with a neck and a freely moving crossbar.

In order to get the cord through the casings I had to resort to an intermediate line because the cord wouldn’t fit through a needle and the eyelets were too small for a bodkin or safety pin. Instead I threaded a tapestry needle with some leftover basting thread and looped it through the end of the cording. I had to massage the cording through the eyelet but after that it was fairly easy. Once the leading edge of the cord reached the side seams I stitched it down — luckily the twisted end made it easy as I could poke the needle through the loop. Once that was done I trimmed the back bodice and skirt seam allowances to 1/8″ and overcast them as one.

I started to make a drawstring for the neck using the same method, but my starting length was 4 metres and I figured it was going to take forever. I made the very stupid decision to double it before twisting and use a single twist. Those of you who have ever attempted this will know what happened next: as soon as I cut it free it started unrolling so the whole thing was useless. Instead I opted for 3 mm white ribbon — given the previous mistake with the neckline casing it was probably a better choice anyway, as the ribbon is visible at centre front of the bodice.

Even though I had rinsed pieces of the gown while working on them, there was still a lot of stiffening in the fabric and I wasn’t able to get it to fit well enough to be confident of placing the petticoat neckline correctly. Since I had some white flannelette to wash I put the finished gown in a lingerie bag and threw it into the hot wash with the fabric. It came out as a tiny ball which took me a while to straighten out but most of the stiffness was gone and I thought it would be fine when it dried. Unfortunately, it wasn’t — it was still very much stiffer than the original gauze. A second wash produced no further improvement. I’m not sure if the stiffener reacted with the fibre itself or was fixed into the fabric when I pressed it, but either way it’s now there to stay.
1790 round gown - pressing
When it came to pressing, I was able to use my Clover mini iron on the bodice, and I improvised a tiny ham for the sleeves by using an old cotton sock. I also have a miniature sleeve board that I made from a 6″ wooden ruler so I used that for the sleeve bindings. For the skirt I used my normal iron on the standard sleeve board.

1790 round gown front
1790 round gown side
1790 round gown back
Although the dress looks a lot better than it deserves, there are still issues that are clear to see. The neckline casing is too thick and bulky and doesn’t sit right. The waist seam is a lot bulkier than I like, too. The skirt back doesn’t flare out as I intended because the front panel is too narrow at the base — I should have made it a trapezoid instead of a rectangle. The back and sleeves are good but they are the pieces I didn’t change (well, I took a quarter inch out of the centre back but that’s all). The petticoat doesn’t sit just inside the bodice as I hoped it would and the margins are clearly visible under the gauze.

All in all the dress is pretty much a failure … but I have learned some important lessons so it wasn’t a waste of time.

Lessons Learned:
1. Never use gauze for this scale of work. Just don’t.
2. Never tear gauze. Cut it instead.
3. Synthetic starch doesn’t wash out completely. If you need to stiffen fabric for clothing (human, animal or doll) use actual starch, preferably starch you make yourself from rice or cornflour.
4. Skirt backs with a train need a trapezoidal skirt front to avoid that dip above the ankles.
5. Casings at neck and waist need to be planned more carefully to ensure that the thickness is kept to a minimum.
6. A cord made from hand-wound floss is feasible for short lengths but if a long cord is needed I need some sort of two-axis spinning device to speed it up.

Notes for future versions:
Yeah, no.

Petticoat for 1790 gauze round gown

Petticoat for 1790 round gown modelled by Caroline
Petticoat for 1790 round gown modelled by Caroline
This petticoat was made specifically for the 1790 round gown in gauze, which I’ll post tomorrow, but should be compatible with other Regency/Empire style dresses.

1790 petticoat pattern pieces
For the petticoat I started with the bodice lining pattern pieces from 1790 Open Pelisse and Regency Dress by Thimbles and Acorns. I’ve noted previously that the bodice was very loose on Mattel AG dolls, but that was actually an advantage here. I trimmed 1/8″ from the neckline and armscyes so that the fabric would not be seen over the gauze, as well as taking 2 mm off the neck side of the front shoulder seam so that it would lie flat. The pattern pieces actually show further trimming of neckline which I’ll have to correct it I ever make this again.

I added 11″ long generic skirt pieces, adding extra width at the side seams because the original plan was to have open sides tied together with twill tape, but I realised once I basted the shoulder pieces together that there wasn’t enough room for the head so it changed to a shoulder fastening, which required more pattern adjustment. With the shoulder straps pinned in place (allowing enough overlap to accommodate the button closure) I put the gauze dress on over the petticoat, tied the drawstrings and then marked the neckline with a pencil. Luckily the armscye was low enough that it didn’t need any adjustment. I over-trimmed the shoulder straps, though, and ended up having to sew 1/8″ seams.

I used white voile which I found at Lincraft a couple of weeks ago — it’s the first time I’ve seen plain white voile so I bought 5 metres. That should last me a while! I toyed with the idea of adding a lace trim but decided it wasn’t in keeping with the simple style of the dress. I might add some white embroidery around the hem, though.

I dithered for quite a while as I couldn’t decide between simply turning the raw edges or making a facing. In my previous not-very-successful effort a couple of years ago I had turned and overstitched the edges, but it didn’t look very good, and since voile is quite thin I decided I could cope with the double thickness — it would help with the shoulder strap fastenings too. The facing came down to about half an inch below the natural waistline on the doll.
1790 petticoat side sems and hem
Actual construction was very simple. I stitched the front and front facing pieces together along the top edge from side to side, then clipped the curves, turned and pressed. I repeated this for the back and back facing.  I stitched the side seams and overcast them with blanket stitch and also overcast the bottom edge of the facing. Then I top-stitched very close to the edge on the neckline and armscye. I added some twill tape just under the armscye of the petticoat –I should have inserted it in the side seams, of course, but I forgot. The hem was a double-turned quarter inch secured with running stitch.
1790 petticoat shoulder fastening
Finally I attached a small button to the back shoulder strap and made a small thread loop on the front strap.

1790 petticoat -- Caroline v Addy front
1790 petticoat -- Caroline v Addy side
1790 petticoat -- Caroline v Addy back
There is a 4.5 cm difference between Addy and Caroline around the chest, but the twill ties allow a smooth flat front with all fullness pushed to the sides (or to the back, if that is preferred).

Lessons Learned:
1. It’s impossible to make a non-stretch, non-gathered closed neckline that fits over a doll’s head.
2. Don’t over trim — shoulder straps should be about half an inch finished, so at least 1″ before stitching — yes this looks very wide, you have to trust that it will end up the right size.
3. I could make it a little slimmer around the chest and waist without risking it being too small for pre-Mattel dolls.

Notes for future versions:
1. This could probably be done by machine in a fraction of the time as there are no tight curves.

A Teaser

I have one project finished but I’m not really happy with the result so I’m trying to fix it before posting it, probably tomorrow or Monday. I have another project that is three-quarters done and I’ll post that once it’s finished, in about ten days or so. The project after that is going to be something completely new and I’m both excited and apprehensive about it.

If you recognise this —
My next project
— you will know exactly what I’m attempting. Wish me luck!

1810 Regency Dress

1810 Regency dress modelled by Felicity
1810 Regency dress modelled by Felicity

Carpatina D12 - 1810 Regency Dress and Spencer
For this outfit I used Carpatina PATD12 1810 Regency Dress which I bought through Pixie Faire. This was actually the very first dress I made for an American Girl doll. I started it back in 2019 and it was modelled by Julie in this post, along with a very poorly constructed slip. Recently I took it up again and decided to make a lining for the skirt instead of the abandoned slip and also to add closures and embellishments, so it’s finally getting its own post.

The main fabric is a tiny floral on a cream background that I’ve had for many years. For the bodice lining I used a yellowish cream cotton that wasn’t too thick, but I must have used scraps because I can’t find any more of it. Instead I used a lighter cream solid for the skirt lining.

All the seams in 2019 were sewn by machine, and although it turned out reasonably well I found it incredibly fiddly and very difficult to keep the seams at the correct quarter-inch distance from the edge, especially around the sleeves. Almost all subsequent dresses have been made by hand — yes it takes longer, but it’s something I can do in front of the television and it’s much more relaxing.

Construction was easy for the most part. I wanted all the skirt flare to be below the waistline so instead of turning the bodice lining up and covering the skirt seam I sewed the bodice and lining onto the skirt as one piece, leaving the edges raw. While this required more overcasting, I liked that it made the bodice sit flat and puffed the skirt out a little more.

For the skirt lining I cut a rectangle that is as wide as the skirt tops (not a great idea, as it turned out). Because the back of the skirt is heavily gathered, I ended up with about two inches on either side of the centre back that needed to be reduced to fit the bodice. A sensible person would have simply cut some fabric away at an angle but I decided to make pleats (at least I had the sense not to do gathers).

I first finished the top edge with blanket stitch which was one of the few good ideas I had. Then I sewed the centre back seam up to the bottom of the placket, and double-turned the seam allowances. The hem was a double-turned 1/8″ because the skirt was a little shorter than I had anticipated. I made quarter-inch knife pleats from the side seam to centre back and basted them in place. I pinned the lining to the bodice seam, starting at centre front, and only had to make a small adjustment on one side to make the pleated section fit the back bodice.
1810 Regency dress - inside view
The waist seam had already been sewn and finished but because the seam allowance was hanging down I was able to attach the skirt top to the inside bodice just below the seam line. I pressed it fairly heavily to get the pleats to lie flat but the waist seam is still pretty bulky. When I tried it on Julie (who is one of the chubbier AG dolls I have) I wasn’t able to get the back pieces to meet, let alone overlap. Felicity, however, has a slightly narrower chest and a significantly slimmer waist, and it fits her reasonably well considering it wasn’t actually fitted to her.

After failing to find an olive or yellow ribbon that worked, I sewed a 1 cm cream satin ribbon above the waist seam. I crafted a bow from the remaining ribbon (the bows and the wrap/tails were two separate pieces) and sewed it down at centre back. I found some small yellow ribbon flowers at Hobbysew and used one of them at centre front.

Bodice closures — my Julie is an older doll (2007-2009) and I think she’s a bit chubbier than the doll Carpatina used. I can’t quite remember at what point I realised that the bodice wasn’t going to close properly, but I ended up with a raw edge on the proper right that I secured with blanket stitch. I left the actual closures (clear snap fasteners) until last, which was advantageous as I ended up changing the doll I used.

1810 Regency Dress side view
1810 Regency Dress back view
I’m fairly happy with the fit (as I noted, it wasn’t fitted to her, and I think it would be a little better on a doll with the same chest measurement but a thicker waist). The skirt sticks out a lot at the sides, though, and I think it would look better with a slightly slimmer cut of the front panel.

Here is the front view with bonus Vanima:
Felicity in 1810 Regency Dress with bonus Vanima

Lessons Learned:
1. Sewing machines and doll sleeves don’t play well together.
2. A raw edge at the bottom of the bodice is not necessarily a bad thing.
3. Linings don’t have to be the same size or shape as the outer pieces.
4. Olive green is an exceedingly hard colour to match.

Notes for future versions:
1. Check the bodice fit and enlarge the pattern if required (preferably before cutting fabric)
2. Add a half-inch to the skirt if you want it a little longer (noting that shorter hems were increasingly the fashion from 1810 to about 1830).
3. Take off an inch at the sides of the skirt so it’s not quite as wide at the bottom.
4. If adding a lining to the skirt, integrate it with the skirt fabric or make it flat at the waist.