Thursday, March 05, 2015

No-Pattern Wing-it Chemise Tutorial Part 1

Spring is fast approaching (though not fast enough!) and with it comes the start of my Renaissance Festival seasons! The first is at the end of April, the little faire my work puts on for the third year running. We have some great performers coming out this year, and I might even get a chance to train a cast! Right after that is the Virginia Renaissance Faire. I'm not actually working it this year because of Poppyseed. May-ish is the start of my third trimester, you see, and the potential for dehydration is just too great. That being said, I still plan to go once or twice. And then there is the Maryland Renaissance Festival in the fall. I'm also not working there this year, as it will be right after Poppyseed is born and I just can't promise the time. I was hoping to bring Poppyseed around, but Beloved and I discussed it and determined that it's way too dangerous for a couple-month old. That doesn't mean that I can't still visit for a bit if I get the chance.

All of this means I need some new garb! Nothing in my current faire wardrobe is going to fit in April and May and I'm probably not going to be back to my size in September or October yet either. I want an outfit that can grow with me, shrink down to a post-baby me, and maybe even open up for breast feeding. I don't have anything like that in my current closet, so I'm going to have to make it. I used what I had and what I've researched and what I've seen other people wear at historical faires to base this design: which will be a chemise and a front lace kirtle. I have a pattern that will need adapting for the kirtle, but nothing for the chemise. I'm calling this my Wing-it Chemise. Follow along with me!

Now, I have a lovely chemise in my closet that probably would fit a pregnant belly and can be pulled over the shoulders (or lower for breastfeeding), but the fabric is a little sheer and I'd definitely need a full-coverage overdress to protect my modesty. Not wanting to make a full-coverage overdress that does all the things I need maternity garb to do, I decided on just an opaque chemise, based on this sheer one I currently have. I picked this lovely teal linen blend. It may be hot in the spring, but I think I can open it up enough to get some air flow going, and I plan to make it very generous in size - probably more than I need - which will also help for the air flow.

Start with 4 yards of 51 inch linen

Measure the existing garment.

The first step is to measure the components of the chemise I have. It has an elastic neckline which makes this a little difficult, but not too bad. Yes, I plan to use elastic for the new chemise too. No, it's not period, but it will serve my purpose. The bottom hem is 96 inches total with two side seams, so 48 inches seam to seam with a front and a back piece. Shoulder to hem is also about 48 inches (near as I can tell from the elastic). So, I need two 48 x 48 square pieces of fabric for the front and back, not accounting for seam allowance, elastic neckline, or hem. The width of my linen is 51 inches, and I cut two pieces 50 inches long.

Cut two for body, for front and back.

Next, I measured the sleeves. This was also difficult as the top of the sleeve was part of the elastic neckline, and the cuff also had elastic. The sleeve was about 24.5 inches from neckline to cuff, so I cut my linen 30 inches long to have some extra to work with for adding elastic. I made a mistake at this next part, I measured the width of the sleeve, but I didn't stretch out the gauzy material. I cut my linen 18 inches wide, which falls short of the 22 inches in the original by quite a bit. I think it will still fit around my arms, but it won't be as loose as I want it. Not perfect, but it will work. With elastic at the cuffs, I'll still be able to push the sleeves up to my elbows for air if I need it.

Cut two for sleeves, left and right.

Once I realized that the sleeves aren't the width of my original, I thought it would be best to add a gusset under the arms for some more room. This style of gusset comes from a pattern I found for a smock made from an existing 16th century garment. Cut two squares, about 6 inches, and then cut them along the diagonal, so you are left with 4 triangles.

Cut two 6x6 squares for gussets...

...and then cut those on the diagonal to make 4 triangles.

The chemise has a bit of fitting around the shoulder seams and I think that's very important for the shape. I'm not following this fitting exactly, but I'll fudge it a little bit. I cut off a triangle from all four top corners of the front and back pieces, about 9x5x10 inches (where 10 is the length of the cut) for shape.

Four cuts here, one on each top corner of the front and back pieces, for shaping around the shoulders.

Since I also want to be able to open up for breastfeeding, I knew I needed a slit and probably some lacing in the middle of the front piece. There is a small slit in my existing chemise, but it is only about 6 inches from the neckline. I think a full 10 inches will serve me better. This part took some noodling. Assuming I'll need 3 inches for the elastic neckline (folding over an inch and a half to create a small ruffle and the channel for the elastic will eat up 3 inches from the edge), I cut a 13 inch slit down the front.

A slit down the front.

In order to hem this edge, I'll need to add a small facing piece. I cut a piece 3x12 inches and 10.5 inches down the middle. I'll get to how this piece works when we start sewing. [IMPORTANT NOTE! Later, I extend this front facing because it's too short. Cut your piece 3x15 to skip the extra step!]

One small piece for the front slit.

And that's all the cutting! DO NOT THROW AWAY YOUR SCRAPS! We might need some extra pieces as we work, so hold on to those bits! If you're following along, you should have nine pieces of fabric: two front and back pieces (identical except for the front slit), two identical sleeves, four identical sleeve gussets, and one small front facing. Next time, sewing it all together!

All the cut pieces!

No comments :