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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.