The first thing you want to do is check the length. My chemise is about 45 inches from neckline to the bottom, and the bottom is hitting me right at the ankles. I'm just going to hem from there without any cutting. Depending on your height, you may need to cut some of the fabric from the bottom to get the hem right for you, just don't forget to include some seam allowance! This is a good time to have a friend help you, if you can. Don't be perturbed if it's excessively short on your either. The last thing you want to do is trip all over your garb, so I always hem my Faire clothes a little high.
I don't want to eat away too much of the bottom, though, because mine did end up shorter than I thought it would, so I'm going to make a fairly narrow hem. With your measuring tape and tailor's chalk, mark 1 inch up (or, whatever your measurement is for however wide you want your bottom hem) from the bottom all around the base. Don't forget to trim to even this edge out where needed, but I'm of the mind that the bottom hem of a full dress or skirt doesn't have to be perfect, because no one is going to notice among all that fabric especially when you're walking. Be as perfect or not as you are comfortable with here.
|Marking the hem.|
Fold and press up to the mark. Instead of folding the raw edge under like we've been doing for the seams, I'm folding the whole thing up at the raw edge so my hem will be about half an inch. Press again.
|Fold to the mark and press.|
|Fold at the mark (where the raw edge is now) and press again.|
Next, go to your machine and use your hemming stitch of choice. Some people like a straight stitch, some people use a hem stitch that only catches a small bit of the outer fabric for an invisible hem. I like to just go across with a zig zag. Sew that hem however you want! I do suggest starting at one of the side seams. It just feels like a cleaner stitch line that way.
|Stitching the hem!|
Now, the fun part: grommets! Also called eyelets, I'm installing the metal ones for durability even though the kind that is sewn around the hole is more historically accurate. Most Faires will give metal grommets a pass. If you have a love-hate relationship with grommets like I do, you can sew hooks and eyes to your front slit instead - and those are historically accurate too. I don't need large, heavy laces for this chemise, so I'm using 5/32 inch grommets which also work well for the three layers of linen. Grommet pliers make this part really easy. It's okay to test the following steps a few times on some of your scraps if you need to get comfortable with your technique.
|These small grommets are only one piece. You don't need a washer for these!|
First, you want to decide how many grommets you need. The opening is about 10 inches long and I decided to place one grommet every inch. Start half an inch from the top (I'm considering the top to start under the ruffle and elastic section) on the inside and mark every inch with tailor's chalk.
|Marking every inch.|
Next, measure one centimeter in and mark along your one inch lines.
|One centimeter in. Where the lines touch is where the grommets go.|
Now, the point of no return! Make sure the post of your grommet pliers is where those two marks meet and squeeze hard, poking a hole through all three layers of your fabric.
|Punch a hole in your fabric! Hold your breath and go!|
Poke your grommet through the hole, front to back, set it on your pliers and squeeze hard! If you squeeze too slowly or lightly, your grommet may not set right and it's nearly impossible to do over.
|Poke the grommet through the hole, front to back and...|
|...squeeze hard! Remove the pliers and check your work,|
maybe even squeeze again. You want them on there good!
|Check your work as you go. Hopefully, no edges are sticking out!|
|A nice line of grommets! Don't freak out if they're not perfectly in line.|
Call that a mark of handmade!
Once all ten grommets are set on one side, it's time to do the other. I found that measuring the same way as the first left my marks off a bit, so I ended up lining up the front slit and marked where the first grommets were instead and then measured one centimeter in as before. (Note: if you want to do spiral lacing, which is more historically accurate, you don't want your grommets to line up. I didn't bother with spiral lacing, but here's a good site about the placement of your grommets if you want to give it a try.) Look at those pretty rows of grommets! Find some cord, lace it up, see how it looks. We're done!!
|Lining the new marks with the grommets I already did was easier.|
|Look at all those awesome grommets, ready for lacing!|
Well, we're done with the No-Pattern Wing-it Chemise anyway. I still need to make my over-kirtle and it recently occurred to me that I'll need some new bloomers too (bloomers are essential if you're going to a Faire in any kind of heat. Trust me!). I might be able to fudge bloomers, but the over-kirtle needs to be made. I'll be using a pattern for this one; it's one I've made before but I have to alter it and that part is completely new. That will be the next project! I have a just about a month to complete it. Think I can do it? Want to sew with me on this one too? Let me know! And if you make a chemise using these instructions, I want to see your work! I think I might see about making a post-delivery nightgown with some lighter fabric and maybe less of a front opening this way too.
|All laced up and ready to go!|
Now, I said I'd contemplate how to bring the whole thing in for when I'm no longer at a maternity size. The simple thing to do would be to sew the sides closer together. What I might do is add a line of loops down those side seams; I've seen faux leather cord used for something like this before. Then the excess fabric can be folded inward and the whole thing laced at the back. If you try it, let me know!