Friday, June 19, 2015

HSM #5 Practicality: Patchwork Drawstring Bag

The next element of my Portuguese turn of the century peasant outfit was a drawstring bag made out of scraps of fabric. Traditionally, these bags were used to carry small meals, like sandwiches. My father, who lived in Portugal until his 20's, remembers using a patchwork bag like this! Called a saco de trapos in Portuguese, this project was a nice way to use up scraps and create a useful accessory that could take some wear and tear. 

Many Portuguese folkloric and/or ethnographic groups use sacos de trapos as part of their outfits.

A member of the group O Cancioneiro do Alto Minho, holding a patchwork drawstring bag. Photo courtesy of O Cancioneiro do Alto Minho.
More examples of patchwork drawstring bags used by O Cancioneiro do Alto Minho. Photo courtesy of O Cancioneiro do Alto Minho.
From the Museu do Traje de Viana do Castelo. Photo courtesy of A Ervilha Cor de Rosa.
Antique patchwork drawstring bags. Photo courtesy of Arco da Velha.

I used scraps of cotton or poly cotton fabrics for my bag. I tried to have an equal mix of printed and solid fabrics. The bag is approximately 9 inches wide and 11 inches tall; it's still a bit small, however, and I could have made it larger. It is lined in the same lovely, stiff cotton my petticoat is made from. I even made a pocket inside to keep my cell phone separate from my keys and other things that could scratch it! It is decorated with two tassels made out of pink, green, white, and cream yarn, and fastens with a .5 inch wide twill tape through a drawstring casing.

One side of the patchwork bag.
Detail of decorative embroidery on the patchwork bag.
The other side of the patchwork bag.
Chain stitch embroidery on the other side of the bag.
The cell phone pocket, which fastens with a wooden button and fabric loop.

The Challenge: #5 Practicality
Fabric: Cotton and polyester/cotton scraps
Pattern: Self-drafted
Year: mid 19th century to mid 20th century
Notions: Wood button, twill tape, yarn
How historically accurate is it?: 95% -- I lose points for the polyester blends and polyester thread
Hours to complete: About 5
First worn: Sunday, June 14, for the Portugal Day Parade
Total cost: $0 -- Everything came from the stash!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tucked Petticoat with Crochet Lace

The past month has passed in a flurry of sewing as I've created, from the skin out, an outfit for a Portuguese country woman in the late 19th and early 20th century! You can read more about the petticoats (known as saiotes in Portuguese) used with the Portuguese folkloric costume here.

The first item I made was a white cotton petticoat, trimmed with three .5 inch pintucks and wide white crochet lace. The white cotton fabric and lace were purchased in Portugal and are of exceptional quality. The fabric already was lightly starched, perfect for a nice, full petticoat.

My petticoat only has a 3 yard circumference because I only had 3 yards of lace. I consulted a few websites that sell extant petticoats or reproductions of petticoats for use by folk dancing groups, and this seems to be an average hem circumference. The lace is hand sewn to the hem of the petticoat, and the waistband is also hand sewn.

Very convincing machine-made crochet lace!
The side seams were pressed open, then folded and stitched down. This appears not to be a very secure type of seam, but at least it isn't bulky; I don't anticipate that the petticoat will take too much strain anyway.
It is gathered to a 1" wide waistband, which fastens with a tab and bright blue button. This fastening is supported by evidence in petticoats of the period. The waistband rests lower on my hips so as to reduce the pressure of waistbands (from the petticoats, skirt, apron, and pocket) digging into my waist.

A diagram of period appropriate closures for petticoats (saiotes and saiotes travados) via Trajes de Portugal
The petticoat fastens on the left side of my body.
My only regret with this project was placing the buttonhole too close to the tab edge! This was my first time using the buttonhole function on my new sewing machine.

This was a fun and quick project! I see where I could improve on the next petticoat, but I still love this one very much. It was just the thing to motivate and prepare me for a long month of furiously sewing the rest of my turn of the century folk outfit. And it's nice to have a little petticoat to dance around in!

What is your favorite seam technique and closure for petticoats?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Portuguese Folk Costume Petticoats

Do you ever feel like you just need an easy and straightforward sewing project to prepare you for a more complicated one? That was exactly how I felt as I delved into making a white cotton petticoat to wear with my Portuguese folkloric costume. A gathered rectangle, some pintucks, no insane embroidery or fiddly pattern creation. This petticoat also fits into the Historical Sew Monthly May Challenge, Practicality!

I began with some research, looking at extant petticoats and modern recreations of these petticoats.

There are two main types of petticoats worn with the Portuguese folkloric costume: the saiote and the saiote travado. The saiote is the main petticoat, usually made of white cotton or linen or red flannel for colder weather. It can be a large rectangle gathered to a waistband or a larger rectangle gathered to a smaller one. The saiote is generally decorated with pintucks, lace insertion, lace trim, or broderie anglaise trim. It can range from 2 metres to 5 metres in width, depending on social class and status. The saiote is usually ankle-length, but some dance groups shorten it to knee-lenght.

The saiote is worn over the saiote travado, a narrow petticoat. The saiote travado is a vestige of the knee-length chemise, or undershirt, worn by women centuries ago. Over time, dance groups shortened the chemise to hip-length and added the saiote travado to the outfit. The saiote travado is characteristically narrow, and significantly shorter than the saiote, usually ending above the knee.

19th or early 20th century white cotton saiote from the Museum of Popular Art
The Traje Vianesa (also known as the Traje Lavradeira) and its appropriate undergarments: a saiote, camisole, bloomers, and crochet socks
An antique saiote with broderie anglaise trim
A saiote decorated with crochet lace
Saiotes decorated with many rows of pintucks and very elaborate crochet in heart, floral, and vandyke motifs
A saiote with narrow pintucks and wide lace insertion
The saiote and saiote travado
The saiote and saiote travado worn with the blue Traje Lavradeira by a dancer of the Rancho Camponeses do Minho from Newark, NJ
A linen saiote travado with handmade crochet trim, pulled threadwork embroidery, and pintucks
A bride (noiva) or mordoma costume, with a saiote travado decorated with crochet lace trim and insertion

Would you ever decorate a petticoat with wide, crochet trim or insertion?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

HSM # 4 War & Peace -- Regency/Federalist/Empire Cravat

Forgive my silence! I'm just wrapping up all my final exams, projects, and essays. Jacques Louis David's The Death of Marat (1793) pretty much sums up how I feel:

Originally, I planned to make a regency/federalist/empire chemise (1795-1820) chemise. I bought 100% cotton lawn. I even bought Sense & Sensibility's Underthings pattern. But I was just too busy with school to even print out the e-pattern! I'm looking forward to hand-sewing the chemise as a relaxing after-semester project.

I was not going to complete the challenge at all until an opportunity arose to make an 18th/early 19th century cravat as a surprise gift for a dear friend.

Cravats were an essential male accessory in the 18th and 19th centuries, and were precursors to modern neckties. has a great article on the history of cravats and other male neckwear of the era. In 1818, J. J. Stockdale published "Necklothitania or Tietania, being an essay on Starchers, by One of the Cloth," an image tutorial for men showing a variety of ways to tie a cravat.

Portrait of Rubens Peale, 1807, Rembrandt Peale
Beau Brummell, who popularized the wearing of cravats in the early 19th century
The cravat I made was inspired by the images in Necklothitania and of Beau Brummell, placing it at the end of the 18th century and early 19th century. This time period correlates with the Regency/Federalist/Empire eras, which were characterized by wars including the War of 1812, the First Barbary War, and the Napoleonic Wars.

My cravat is a rectangle 9 inches tall and 74 inches wide (originally 10 x 75, but I lost some inches from the seam allowances). It is made from cotton muslin, and the hem is sewn by hand with a slip stitch. It is embroidered with the wearer's initials (I'm not sure if this is a period practice!) in cross stitch in his favorite color.

Overall, this was a fun, easy, quick, relaxing, and rewarding project!

This was my first time doing cross stitch, and I'm very proud of it!

The Challenge: #4 War & Peace
Fabric: 100% cotton muslin
Pattern: none
Year: 1795-1820
Notions: needle, thread, embroidery floss
How historically accurate is it?: I'd say 95% percent. A finer cotton would be more appropriate, and though initials were usually embroidered onto shirts and chemises, I'm not sure they were on cravats.
Hours to complete: about 5
First worn: not yet
Total cost: $0 (all stash materials!)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Satin 1920s Tap Pants - HSM #3 Stashbusting

The third challenge of the Historical Sew Monthly is Stashbusting! This challenge requires you to make something out of fabric already in your stash.

I went with my original plan of making 1920s tap pants. This is my first challenge of the year since I never finished making the 1920s brassiere for Challenge #1 Foundations.

Many extant examples of 1920s lingerie are made from light, pastel colored silks and trimmed with lace and appliques. You can see more examples of 1920s lingerie in my Pinterest board and a discussion of tap pants in this post.

My tap pants are made with Folkwear's 219 Intimacies pattern. They are made from the same polyester pink satin as my 1920s dress. All of the seams are french seams. The narrow hem is handsewn with a slip stitch, and the bias binding was also sewn down with a slip stitch.

To reduce bulk in the crotch seam, I pressed one french seam to the front and the other to the back. This technique, which wasn't in the pattern instructions, worked very well and the crotch seam is flat and neat.

 They fasten at the left side with 4 snaps in a continuous lap placket. The instructions in the Folkwear pattern are for a placket designed to reduce bulk. I must've been running on just 3 brain cells when I was working on the placket because I could not understand the instructions! I couldn't figure out how to conceal all the raw edges of the placket. After 2 days of staring at the instructions, various tutorials, and vintage sewing manuals, I decided to use the placket and instructions from Vera Venus' Free Tap Pants Tutorial.

Folkwear 219's placket instructions. Note the shape of the placket.
My placket fail. I made a total of 4 test plackets before I decided to try a rectangular, continuous lapped placket.
The finished placket. The placket edges have been sewn down with a slip stitch.
The placket from the inside of the drawers. This was my first time putting a placket in a french seam.
Unfortunately, the pattern instructions, which cover french seams, neglect to describe how to put a placket in a french seam. The trick is to make a french seam up the point where the placket will be inserted; make a horizontal snip at the top of the french seam to free the unseamed fabric; trim 1/4 from the edge of the unseamed fabric; and attache the placket. This process is described in the Vera Venus tap pants tutorial.

I'm most proud of my handsewing on these tap pants! Look at the neat, clean lines of the bias binding waistband, and the sharp edges! I also slipstitched the binding along the fold where it was tucked in, for extra security (if that is unclear, feel free to let me know and I'll upload more photos).

The Challenge: #3 Stashbusting
Fabric: pink polyester satin 
Stashed for how long? I originally bought this fabric 4 years ago with the intention of making my prom dress out of it! 
Pattern: Folkwear 219 Intimacies
Year: 1920s-30s
Notions: snaps
How historically accurate is it? 90% ... I lose points for using polyester fabric, but snaps are a documentable closure on tap pants from this time period.
Hours to complete: 4 days, including 2 days of staring at the placket instructions while my brain cells fizzed into oblivion
First worn: not yet!
Total cost: about $2 for the snaps

I originally wanted to add lace trim to these tap pants, but now I'm not so sure. I love the clean, sleek look of the satin. My plan was to add narrow lace trim around the leg openings and lace bows to the sides, like in Vera Venus' example of tap pants. However, my lace is narrow, stiff, and very synthetic, and I worry it might ruin the elegant look of my tap pants.

Do you think I should add the lace to my tap pants like in this blue example from Vera Venus?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Not Your Granny's Panties: Tap Pants and French Knickers

My entry for the Historical Sew Monthly Challenge #3 Stashbusting is a pair of pink satin tap pants. But what are tap pants?

Tap pants, also known as French knickers, are a style of loosely-fitted underwear that was popular from the 1920s to the 1950s. They are so named because they were originally worn by tap dancers in the 1920s. They are characterized by a fitted waistband and flared leg. They were usually made of silk satin or silk charmeuse in soft, pale, feminine colors like pink, beige, and a range of pastels, and were frequently trimmed with lace or decorated with lace appliques.

Here are some examples of tap pants/French knickers from the 20th century:

McCall's 6021, a pattern for tap pants and brassieres, via A Stitching Odyssey

Silk tap pants with ecru lace trim, via Ebay
Silk and cotton lace tap  pants, c. 1926, via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tap pants & Brassiere by Boué Soeurs, French, 1920's via Vintage Textiles

Joyce Compton, 1931, no source

Lingerie and Sleepwear page from 1934 Sears Catalog, via

Black silk chiffon and beige lace knickers (tap pants) with scalloped hem and pointed yoke, attributed to Herminie Cadolle, French, c. 1930 via de Young Museum

Pink satin tap pants, via Voyeur Vintage on Etsy
Advance pattern 3082, via SoVintagePatterns
Powder blue pleated tap pants, via LindyShopper
White Nylon tap pants via Etsy
So what's the big deal with tap pants?
Besides adding the extra touch to your vintage outfit, tap pants are great to wear with modern clothes. Because most tap pants are cut on the bias, they cling to the curves of your body and can be very flattering. Tap pants are perfect to wear underneath dresses, skirts, and certain trousers because they won't give you Visible Panty Line (VPL). You can wear a garter belt underneath tap pants to make using the bathroom easier. Tap pants are comfortable, practical and sexy!

Tap pants sewing patterns
Because of the rarity and fragility of vintage items, I think the best option is to make your own tap pants. They take very little material to make and require basic-intermediate level sewing skills, like french seams, bias bindings, elastic casings, and plackets. There is quite a variety of reproduction tap pants patterns available on the market today.

Reconstructing History 1315 $$$
This pattern from RH features a pair of 1930s tap pants that are cut on the bias. These tap pants include a crotch gusset.

Folkwear 219 Intimacies $$
This Folkwear pattern is printed on thick, strong paper, and the pattern comes with a separate booklet for authentic detailing techniques like crochet, lace, bias binding, and embroidery. The style of tap pants in this pattern is appropriate for the 1920s and 1930s.

Mrs. Depew Vintage $
The Mrs. Depew Etsy store is stocked with a wide range of reproduction vintage lingerie patterns. She carries tap pants patterns from the 1920s to 1950s. Most of her patterns are available as e-patterns.

Vera Venus Tap Pants Tutorial FREE
Vera Venus has a free tutorial for drafting and sewing your own tap pants! This tutorial is easy to follow and a great way to "wet your feet" to period construction and embellishment techniques. Vera Venus also has a tutorial for circular 1930s tap pants.

Have you made or worn tap pants before? Share your experience with tap pants in the comments!