HSM8 – Pattern: Hand-sewn day dress

This is somewhat late for the Historical Sew Monthly August challenge, but I did have good intentions of getting it done in time! Challenge details are below.

I didn’t exactly start out to hand-sew an entire dress. This was supposed to be finished in time for the quill workshop I taught in August. Alas, it wasn’t.

I’ve done a bit of travelling in the past two months, so each time I took the bodice pieces and stitched on them here and there. When I’ve been home, I’ve been concentrating on writing, and I like to have something simple to do with my hands while I’m staring at the screen trying to think of words. So I hand-stitched the sleeves, and set them into the bodice, and after dithering about how to finish the armhole seams, I decided to trim them and overcast them, because that was simple to do while I was staring at the screen. So were the skirt seams. I was going to sew the bodice to the skirt by machine, because all the layers of pleats at centre back are very thick . . . but the sewing machine table has stuff piled on it so I did that seam by hand, too. Although that was something of a challenge:

Needle sewing thick pleats

Once I’d done that, the dress was so close to being entirely sewn by hand that I added the waistband casing and other finishing touches by hand, too. I still have the hem to go, but I always sew hems by hand, and I needed to try the dress on, and it was a lovely day for photos, so here it is:

Dress front

I’m wearing it with a fichu – although my kind photographer  is not a stylist and didn’t tell me it was bunched up wrong at the back.

Side view of blockprint dress Back view of block-print dress

And here’s a detail of the block print pattern:

Fabric print detail

The Challenge: Challenge 8: Pattern

Material: Block print cotton voile, purchased from Trade Star Exports on Ebay

Pattern: Adapted from the S&S drawstring dress, adding additional fullness to the front bodice and skirt, an additional width of fabric to the back skirt, and increasing the size of the sleeves at the top by about 1″. (I did the same changes as detailed for my previous block-print dress, for HSM challenge 2)

Year: c. 1795

Notions: Aurifil white cotton thread

How historically accurate is it? Maybe 90%? The fabric and pattern is fairly close, the style I think is reasonably accurate, and it is entirely hand-sewn, although not necessarily with correct period techniques.

Hours to complete: I didn’t count. Quite a few, over 2 months.

First worn: Today, for photographs. I’m not sure when it will have it’s first outing – maybe for a Regency picnic in December, otherwise for the Australian Jane Austen Festival in April next year.

Total cost: About $50AUD for 10yards of the fabric, of which I used about 6.5. The fabric for the cotton lining and bias strips came from stash, as did the thread, and the cord for the drawstring at the neckline.


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