Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Pumpkin-colored Bedgown

Sweet Daughter was ready for a new warm-weather garment for reenacting. So I went down to the sewing room and dug out the two Rubbermaid tubs labeled “Wool, 18th century” and started going through them, looking for something  she’d actually wear. I found a piece of pumpkin-colored wool that wasn’t long enough for a petticoat, and that she actually liked. I then dug out my copy of “Women's Dress during the American Revolution; An Interpretive Guide” and looked at the bedgown pattern. There were written directions for making your own custom fit garment … but they were scaled for an adult female, not a six-year-old. So, I made a few educated guesses regarding proportions, then I made a fitting muslin, and then I laid out the wool.

Did you know that you can get a perfectly straight line by tearing most woven fabrics? Snip, rip and you’re good to go.

With my fitting muslin tweaked, I folded my rectangle of wool over at the shoulders, and again down the center line and drew chalk lines where I needed to rip. Since this garment is all 90 degree angles, ripping instead of cutting made sure that my lines were straight and the finished garment would hang evenly.
The center of the garment is on the right, the sleeve is sticking out on the top left, and the part that sticks on on the bottom left will become a pleat over the hip. The small squares are the underarm gussets, the rectangle is the collar, and the reproduction print is to line the cuffs.
After cutting out the basic shape, I opened it back up and cut up the center line to the shoulder, and across the top fold, making a neck opening.
I inserted the underarm gussets, and sewed the sleeve and side seams. I sewed the pleat down the back, and tacked it down. I sewed the box pleats over each hip, and tacked down the top edges.
Gusset from the inside -- those are water marks from when I pressed it, not mold.
And from the outside. Not perfect, but I'm not obsessing about this one.
I attached the collar by sewing the rectangle across the back cut edge, and the attaching the shorter cut edges to the sides of the rectangle. When you’re done, you fold the rectangle in half, and the front edges of the bedgown fold in as well, making a facing.
Collar sewn to the back neck edge.
Collar with on side sewn.
Since SD does NOT like the feel of wool on her skin, I decided to line the cuffs and neck. I went down and dug through my scraps, and found just enough of a reproduction cotton print for the job. And the best part was that it had just a bit of that pumpkin color in it. I cheated, and attached the cuff lining with the sewing machine.
I went ahead and prick-stitched the edge of the cuffs, and blind-hemmed the lining. I hemmed the bottom and I added a lining to the collar and top part of the front edges.
The pleat to the left is the center back, the pleat on the right is on the side, over one hip.


  1. And, hey, nothing to it, right? You have SO much talent.

  2. Oh how cool!

    Thank you for posting this - my petticoat's almost done, so a bedgown is next on my list of things to tackle.

    Do you happen to know how often they were fully lined, if at all?

    Also - any tips for how those gussets are handled when hand-sewing? I'm assuming the sides/underarms are back- or running- stitched and felled, yes?

  3. Breda - thanks for the compliment. Most of that talent is just a result of sewing clothing since before you were born. And I'm very proud of myself for not obsessing about the puckers on the gussets. They bother me a little, but I'm letting it go. Really. *grin*

  4. Jenny,

    If you don't have a pattern yet, I highly recommend the Kannick's Korner pattern. It's thoroughly researched, and they share their resources so you don't have to take their word that it's "based" on something. They also have very clear directions, both for hand and machine sewing (if memory serves).

    To answer your other questions, the answer it "It depends". I've never had a reason to line a bedgown. I have a wool one I use as an extra layer in cold weather, and a fine muslin one I wear in beastly hot weather. If it's made out of a wool that holds an edge fairly well, there is no need to fell the seams (and it would be too bulky). For linen? Yes, I would. I swear unfinished edges on linen unweave themselvs just sitting on a shelf. For cotton, you may be able to get by with just overcasting the edges with a whip stitch. I saw edges of a linen frock coat made by Neal Hurst that were just whipped. It looked awful to my 21st century mindset, but that's what they did on the originals. And it's holding up just fine.

  5. Very nicely done, and I'm sure you'll be getting comments on it at the re-enactments!