Thursday, February 11, 2021

Making a Black Silk Edwardian Shirtwaist w/ Lace Yoke


My recent motivation for finishing up long-abandoned sewing projects manifested itself in this stunning (I'm so proud of it!) black silk Edwardian shirtwaist. I've discovered that my sewing projects age like fine cheese, and turn out best when left to be forgotten in a dark box for several years. My finished shirtwaist captures fashionable details from the years 1905-1908.

Pintucked Yokes & Plans Gone Awry

My initial plan for the black silk Edwardian shirtwaist I made was to copy the below shirtwaist that I found on eBay a few years ago. I was absolutely enchanted by the pintucked yoke and trailing lace appliques. 

Silk crepe shirtwaist with pintucked yoke, sold on eBay

This style of shirtwaist is easy to approximate with the Folkwear 205 Gibson Girl Blouse pattern, a favorite pattern of mine that I recommend for its great bones and opportunities for customization. 

I ordered black silk crepe when I finally found it online, as true silk crepe seems hard to find. However, the delicate, slinky nature of the fabric made it nearly impossible to stitch all those little pintucks, and my sewing machine expressed its disdain for this textile at every step. At that point, the half-assembled, half-pintucked silk crepe shirtwaist was stuffed into a box to be forgotten about for three years.

Salvation from the Stash

I knew that I couldn't put myself through Crepe Pintuck Hell any longer, but I really wanted to finish this shirtwaist - after all, I only had to finish the yoke, collar, sleeves, and finishings at this point. Easy, right?

I turned to my stash to see what I could do for the yoke of the shirtwaist. Extant garments show evidence of black lace overlays on beige silk yokes and collars. I catalogued the examples I found here.

Thankfully, I found a yard of black lace in a design that looked passable for the turn of the century. I also had several yards of beige silk, which I got at an extreme discount because it was dotted with stains. The stains will be covered by the lace, so I didn't mind using the stained silk. Both the lace and beige silk came from Fabric Mart Fabrics, which regularly has sales on luxury textiles.

Getting the Details Right

To show off this lovely lace, I increased the height of the collar by about 3/4 of an inch. 

I was determined to make use of the pintucks I had already made, and figured that I had just enough of the pintucked fabric to make cuffs. Folkwear 205 includes pieces for very narrow cuffs, so I drafted my own to be as long as the 6 inches or so of pintucked fabric.

I found The American System of Dressmaking, published in 1907, to be extraordinarily helpful in getting the details of my shirtwaist as close to period-accurate as possible. 

Regarding cuffs: 

"Plain shirt waists have plain sleeves finished with a cuff, while more elaborate waists have the sleeves... finished with a deep cuff of fancy design." pg. 68

"The cuff is usually made with an interlining of white linen or muslin and sewed to the sleeve after it has been gathered.” pg. 70

I basted cotton muslin to my pintucked cuff pieces to interline them. I also finished off my cuffs with a scrap of silk twill piping. I carefully trimmed the seam allowances to reduce bulk and then whip stitched the seam allowances to the muslin interlining. Then, hooks and eyes were sewn onto the cuff openings. A black silk crepe facing was whip stitched to the cuff, concealing the messy stitching of the hooks and eyes. 

The sleeves and body panels of the shirtwaist are assembled with French seams. The seams where the yoke is attached to the gathered body of the shirtwaist are normal seams, with the seam allowances trimmed and whip stitched to the beige silk of the yoke.

The shirtwaist is fastened with a combination of hooks and eyes and snaps (on the lace parts) along the back placket. A black ribbon is tied around the waist to create the popular "pigeon breasted" effect.

Regarding waist ties: 

"Gather the fullness of the waistline in the back, two rows being sufficient…some shirtwaists are not gathered at the waist line in the fronts at all, but allowed to fall free from the neck and shoulders…the tape is stitched on the outside at the back, over the gathers, and tied in front each time the waist is worn, and the fullness adjusted to suit the wearer." pg. 69

These passages from an original Edwardian era dressmaking book confirm that the methods Folkwear 205 recommends for sewing up the garment are historically correct. Bravo, Folkwear!

Video Diary

You can watch my entire process for making my shirtwaist on my YouTube channel:

I achieved a nearly invisible back placket on this slippery fabric!

Dear readers, what is your favorite detail on this shirtwaist? I'm most fond of the touch of texture from the piping at the cuffs!

Edwardian Shirtwaists with Black Lace Yokes

I have a particular fascination with Edwardian era (1901-1914) bodices and shirtwaists due to the seemingly limitless possibilities for design and ornamentation. How can one not marvel at meticulous lace insertion, sharply pressed pleats, and layers of frothy ruffles?

My interest in early 19th century shirtwaists (and to an extent, bodices, which differ from shirtwaists due to their structured, boned lining) has recently extended to casually cataloguing examples of these garments with yokes and/or collars of beige silk layered with contrasting black lace.

As usual, auction sites like eBay and Etsy are my first step in searching for original examples. For the most part, sellers post lots of photos of garment details, and there consistently seems to be a wide variety of these garments for sale on the internet at any given time. You can see more examples of Edwardian shirtwaists and bodices on my extensive Pinterest board, here.

Example 1:

In addition to the superbly textured bodice fabric covered in swirls of black silk appliques, this bodice has a prominent yoke and collar that illustrate the effect of black lace on beige silk. And the hot-pink velvet binding on the collar is certainly noteworthy as well!

Edwardian black bodice, sold on Ebay

Example 2:

Another bodice (with a structured, boned lining) featuring a bold black lace with an interestingly large motif. The sleeves and pigeon breasted front likely date this piece to 1901-1903. The front of the bodice and yoke fasten over the right shoulder!

Black wool gabardine bodice with boned foundation and pintucks, sold on Etsy

Example 3:

I'm not exactly sure on the date of this waist, but the lavender (?) and silver (?) lace yoke and collar overlay are lovely. This waist is lined, but not boned.

This interesting piece has notably elaborate sleeve cuffs that match the collar and yoke. Both are additionally trimmed with black seed beads and net frills. The elaborate sleeves and short garment length make me wonder if this piece was meant to be worn under a dress...

Photographic Examples from Portuguese Photography

I'm also interested in how popular garments styles from the 19th and early 20th centuries influenced Portuguese fashions!

Shirtwaists with black lace yoke overlays appear in examples of early 20th century Portuguese studio photography (I found these photos in this amazing online archive). This means that my finished shirtwaist is also appropriate for portraying a Portuguese middle class woman of the early 20th century!

Retrato de familia Meadela/Minho

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Edwardian Sewing Hack for Combination Undergarments

I found a fascinating original sewing "hack" while perusing The American System of Dressmaking, published in 1909. The author's tip is to finish the waistbands of corset covers, drawers, and petticoats with beading lace, so that you can "attach" these garments together by threading ribbon through the lace! 

"One clever way of combining garments is to mount the petticoat and the corset cover separately on belts of ribbon beading, and to thread the two together with one ribbon. Then it is easy to separate the garments for laundrying [sic]. Otherwise, the corset cover and petticoat may be sewn to the same belt, or finished separately. Other combinations are corset cover and knickerbockers, or drawers, and corset cover, petticoat, and knickerbockers."

Have you learned any interesting sewing tips from period magazines, manuals, letters, etc? If so, please share them in the comments below!

Friday, January 8, 2021

DIY Reusable Cloth Coffee Filter

This year, I’ve gotten into pourover coffee and have since extended my sewing hobby into my coffee routine by making reusable fabric coffee filters!

Broadly speaking, there are three types of coffee filters: paper, cloth, and metal. While paper filters are common and convenient, they produce a lot of paper waste over time. Using a cloth coffee filter is cheap, easy, and sustainable!

I use a Hario V60 coffee dripper cone for my pourover coffee, and the paper filter shape for this setup is a simple cone shape folded flat. There is a “fold” of the paper on one side and a stamped “seam” edge on the other.

You can use the process I show in my video, below, to make any size or type of cone-shaped coffee filter. The cloth coffee filters need to be rinsed off after use and stored in a jar of water in the refrigerator until the next use.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Making a 1950s Pin-Up Top | Simplicity 1426

 The perfect ingredients for a quick, satisfying sewing project:

  • 1 scrap of fabric
  • 2 matching vintage buttons
  • Remnant of thread long enough to sew on those buttons
  • a Big 4 pattern without ridiculous amounts of ease (Simplicity 1426!)
I'm currently working on an 1850's corset, but I needed a quick, palette cleanser project to keep my sewing motivation high. I found Simplicity 1426 in my stash, a reproduction 1950s pattern for 5 different bra tops that I've been wanting to try for years. I had a remnant of vintage printed cotton (given to me by my grandma, who likely bought in between the 1960s-80s) that was just enough to cut out View B, with some piecing on the back.

Changes I made to the pattern:
  • I changed the arrangement of the buttons so that the two buttons were placed horizontally rather than vertically; this was more aesthetically pleasing and allowed me to tighten up the band of the "bra" for more support
  • I added bias strips of white cotton sateen to the straps for some subtle contrast (you can watch my video below to learn how I did that!)

Overall, I really enjoyed working with this pattern. I cut a Size 8, which had barely any ease and fit almost perfectly, with the exception of the straps that are a bit too long -- but I'm petite anyway, and should've checked the strap length before sewing. Not only is the pattern true to size, it's a quick, easy make that can be achieved in a few hours. You can adapt most of the views of the pattern into tops by extending the bottom bands to cover the midriff. 

I also had just enough fabric left over to make a matching face mask! Safe and stylish 😍

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Examining an Original 1860s Chemise & Nightgown


I recently had the extraordinary luck of finding an antique chemise and nightgown set on Facebook Marketplace for $10! I believe the set dates to the 1860s. Both garments are decorated with tatted lace and drawn thread work, and the nightgown is additionally ornamented with pintucks.

Remarkably, both the chemise and nightgown appear to be made of linen, and the side seams - like in 18th century shifts - take advantage of the linen selvedges by having the selvedges whip stitched together.

If you're interested in seeing more of the technical and decorative details of these garments, please watch my video, below!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Examining 1840s Bodice Styles

The 1840s is my favorite decade of Victorian fashion. Coming right after the absurdly voluminous silhouette of the 1830s, women’s fashion of the 1840s was characterized by details that emphasized a slim silhouette: straight, fitted sleeves; long, full skirts, and perhaps the most emblematic of the era: the “fan front,” so called because of the gathering at the center front of the bodice fans over the bust. But there is a stunning variety of bodice styles from the 1840s in addition to the "fan front"! 

Please watch my video below (part of this weekend's Cocovid programming) to see how I examined daguerreotypes, portraits, and extant garments from the 1840s to identify common and unusual design elements of that period to better understand the beautiful variety of bodice styles that existed.

Sources (from the Metropolitan Museum of Art):

Thumbnail/Header image: The Clark Sisters, 1840s colorized by Klimbim

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Victorian/Edwardian Kitchen Apron Tutorial & Pattern

I designed this apron by looking at examples of similar aprons in drawings, books, and magazines from the 1890s-1900s. Often referred to as a nurse's apron or kitchen apron, the bib and full skirt help protect your garment from dirt and grime. We might refer to a garment like this as a "pinafore apron" today!

This style of apron is perfect for a Downton Abbey cosplay or Alice in Wonderland cosplay. It's a neat and functional apron for use in modern kitchens, too!

This apron is an easy project that can be accomplished in a few hours. It can be customized with tucks, ruffles, lace insertion, or embroidery, and it's suitable for hand sewing, machine sewing, or a combination of the two.

Materials required:

  • 2 yards of 45” fabric
  • 2 buttons
  • Matching thread


Pattern pieces:

All pattern pieces include ¼” seam allowance

Bib: Cut one 9.5 inches x 7.5 inches

Straps: Cut two 3.5 inches x 33 inches

Waistband: Cut one 1.75 inches x 22.5 inches

Waistband facing: Cut one 1.75 inches x 22.5 inches

Ties: Cut two 2.5 inches x 30 inches

Skirt: Cut one 34.5 inches x 44 inches, and cut two 34.5 inches x 14.5 inches (this will vary if you’re using narrower or wider fabric; generally, avoid having a seam down the center front; the apron skirt should be at least 1.5 yards wide).

Cutting layout:


1.      Assemble the apron skirts:

a.       Pin and sew together the side seams of the skirt pieces. If you’re using 60” wide fabric, you won’t need side seams; you can just use one breadth of the fabric from selvedge to selvedge.

b.       Flat fell the side seams, felling towards the center back.

c.       Fold up and press ¼” at the bottom of the apron; then fold up and press 3” to make a 3” hem. Stitch.

d.       Fold, press, and stitch a ¼” hem on the side edges of the apron.

e.       Mark the center front of the apron. Sew two rows of gathering stitches across the top of the apron.

f.        Mark the center front of the waistband pieces. Take one waistband piece and press down ¼” on the short ends.

g.       Right sides to right sides, match up the center front of the apron with the center front of the waistband. Match up the side hems of the apron with the ¼” fold of the waistband. Adjust the gathers of the apron to fit the waistband, pin, and stitch.

h.       Press the seam towards the waistband. Trim seam allowance.

2.       Assemble the bib and straps:

a.       At the top edge of the bib, fold down and press ¼”. Fold down and press 1.25” to create the hem at the top of the bib. Stitch and press.

b.       Pin the straps to the wrong side of the bib, lining up the bottom of the straps with the bottom of the bib. Stitch and press the seam towards the straps.

c.       Press down ¼” on the long sides of the straps.

d.       Fold the straps in half and pin along the long edge, matching up the folded down ¼” seam allowance. Stitch and press.

e.       Topstitch along the folded edge of the straps.

f.        Mark the center front of the bib. Run two lines of gathering stitches along the bottom edge of the bib.

g.       Match up the center front of the waistband with the center front of the apron. Determine how wide you want your gathered bib to be. Gather the bib to fit the measurement you’ve chosen (my bib was gathered down to 6.5” wide) and pin it to the waistband. Stitch and press. Trim seam allowance.

3.       Assemble the apron:

a.       Fold, press, and stitch a narrow hem on the long edges of the apron ties. On one of the short edges of the apron ties, fold, press, and stitch a ¼” hem.

b.       Match up the right sides of the unhemmed, short edge of the apron ties with the right side, short edge of waistband. Make a pleat in the center of the ties. Pin, stitch, and press.

c.       Match up the long edge at the top of the waistband facing to the right side of the waistband. Pin and stitch. Trim seam allowance.

d.       Press waistband facing down, wrong side to wrong side, over the waistband. Fold under ¼” on the remaining edges of the waistband facing. Topstitch or hand stitch facing to waistband.

e.       Try on the apron, cross the straps and determine where the straps should button to the waistband. Sew buttons onto the straps and corresponding buttonholes on the waistband.


  • Sew hems and seams by hand
  • Sew hems with a hemstitch
  • Add tucks or lace insertion to the bib and/or skirt
  • Sew the straps to the waistband instead of using buttons and buttonholes
  • Lengthen the ties

Fitting Tips:

  • Adjust the apron to your proportions by lengthening/shortening the waistband, straps, and bib.