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Permalink 05:49:00 pm, by Heather McNaughton Email , 606 words   English (US) latin1
Categories: This and That

Hello, I’m Sandra Maxwell, and I will be contributing to Heather’s blog on a regular basis.  As the title implies, I will be sharing “this and that” on sewing, history, helpful insights and whatever may seem relevant at the time.  I have been an historic  re-enactor nearly 40 years in several time periods, so I have much to share whether you are a beginner or a veteran.  I hope you will find it helpful as well as entertaining.

July, 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the War to End all Wars.  Most Americans don’t know much about World War One.  We were only there for a short time at the end.  But this war was the beginning and the cause of all the wars after it.  World War I officially ended the way wars had been fought for centuries.  It’s called the first ‘modern’ war.   It saw the end of most of the European monarchies.  It changed the known world forever.

Walt Disney drove ambulances, poet Joyce Kilmer was killed, JRR Tolkien suffered in the English trenches and Adolf Hitler began to nurture his hatred in the German trenches. 

Above - German soldiers sitting in the trenches

At right - French soldier visiting with a lady in a vintage teens dress

My WWI impression is a Doughnut Dolly.  The Salvation Army joined many other services bringing some comfort to the boys at the front.  I choose the Salvation Army because it was the only service allowed near the frontlines.    The Salvation Army Dollies or Lassies made pies and coffee in the beginning, but when supplies ran low and with little hope of getting more, decided they had enough to make doughnuts (in a crueler style).  When a soldier asked if they could make them more convenient to carry, the doughnut with a hole was born.  Soldiers wrote home about this wonderful treat and they became popular in America.   You can go to the Salvation Army website and download the original recipe,



That’s me and our famous doughnuts.  The helmet is antique, so are our gas masks.  Even the doughnut cutter on the table is antique.  To make holes in the doughnuts, they fashioned these cutters from tin cans.


There are three of us.  We wear the typical smock worn by many ladies of the time who found themselves working instead of staying home.


Doughnut Dollies were issued helmets and gas masks by the unit assigned to protect them.  They were shelled, shot at and bugged out, often suffering as much as the men, but through thick and thin, they made sure a doughnut, a cup of coffee, and some comfort were there for the soldiers.  They helped so many endure the horrors of some of the most inhumane conditions soldiers have ever had to suffer.


Typical day wear of 1915.  The blouse is vintage but the skirt was made by this lovely lady.


My greatest delight is seeing the face of a war veteran as he enters our WWI display area.  They nod at the various soldiers and their displays and ask about the weapons, but when they see The Salvation Army Doughnut Dollies, their faces light up.  They hurry over and suddenly we become the ‘real deal’ to them.  They treat us as though we are actually part of the Salvation Army.  We have been told some of the most heart-warming/rending stories of how the Salvation Army changed their lives.  Sometimes there are tears in their eyes.  They thank us for being there and we thank them for their service.  It’s why I remain an historic re-enactor.




 Doing my job, feeding doughboys their doughnuts

Until next time…
Sandra Maxwell



Permalink 01:25:00 pm, by Heather McNaughton Email , 439 words   English (US) latin1
Categories: New Patterns, What is the Edwardian Sihouette?


Truy Victorian has just released a new Edwardian skirt pattern,  the 1906 Ten Gore Princess Skirt - TVE23. With a raised waistline, our skirt fits smooth through the hips and hangs in a graceful flare to the hem. The top has a raised point in the center back, and tapers lower to the center front. It has the smooth fitted back closed with hooks and eyes, known as the "habit" back. The hem line is round at floor length. This skirt is perfectly suited to dresses of 1906 -1908, with it's wide hemline. Pair it with a blouse, and perhaps a long jacket or a copped Eton jacket. 

And here is a little back ground on the Empire skirts of the Edwardian Era:

At left - 1906

Skirt shapes of the Edwardian era change quite rapidly, with almost every year seeing something new. 1901 starts out the era with the Trumpet Skirt; a shaped skirt that is fitting over the hips and thighs, then flares out below the knee for a wide hem. Very quickly, the slim skirts begin to get fuller at the hem, with the addition of vertical pleats and tucks around the skirt, though the skirt remains lean and controlled through the thigh. By 1904, the skirts are getting wider though the knees and thighs as well.

1906 brings an innovation to the skirts by raising the skirt above the waistline in a style known as the  Princess or  Corsage.   The addition of multiple gores to the skirt (9, 11, 15, and even 24 gore skirts) allows the top of the skirt to fit closely to the body like a corselet. Tall belts achieve the same accentuation of a slim waist with a full hip and bust.



At right - 1908

1907 sees the skirts getting fuller over the hip, and often gathers are added at the waistline.   The waist front "dip" becomes raised up also, so that the dip is now at the natural waistline, and the back is raised above the natural waist in the Empire Corsage style.  To structurally support this new waistline, the  lining of the skirt becomes detatched as a corselet, independent of the skirt. The outer skirt attaches near the top of the hidden corselet, and fabric "belt" is sewn over the top of the skirt attachement.  The skirt is then allowed to hang with ease over the waist and hips, obscuring the natural waistline.

Below - 1909

By 1909, the slim waist and hip return, with ever slimmer skirts in general. The hidden corselet becomes taller and the skirts less fitted to the natural waistline.   The desired effect is to create a higher-than-natural waistline, with a long smooth hip line, a trend that continues into the next decade.


Permalink 09:31:00 pm, by Heather McNaughton Email , 930 words   English (US) latin1
Categories: Dress Diary
I was looking through my copy of the 1863 La Mode Illustre, when I ran across this beautiful chemisette.  It is made with a lace and insertion section at the neckline which would fill in a half-high neckline.  I do not read French, so I am not sure if this makes a dinner dress suitable to afternoon wear, or if it is merely a pretty way to fancy up a dinner dress.  But I really like it, and want to make one up. I decided to go with black, rather than white, and to use an all over lace and some sheer ribbon.
This project took me about 6 hours total time to make up.  I used black cotton broadcloth for the chemisette body.   I will say now that I made a big error in the logistics of how to put this together.    I found out in the middle, that I missed a step I should have done at the very beginning.  That step was to finish the closure BEFORE doing anything else.  So the pics below show me not doing this until later.  
Step 1.  Cut out your fabric using a high-necked chemisette pattern.  I am currently working on a new pattern for the 1860s and this is sort of the pattern test for that pattern (minus lower neckline.)  You can also use the chemisette pattern TV104.  After I cut out the pattern, I drew in the top square necklines to show where I want the edge of the lace to be.  I then used the pattern TV440 as a guide as where to start the lace.  I came in 1" inside the TV440 lines, so the edge of the lace would be 1/2" under the edge of the bodice.
Step 2.  This is where I needed to have created the closure.  But I didn't.  So lesson learned.  Create the closure as directed in the pattern!!! 
Step 3.    Get some sticky water soluble embroidery backing.  This really helped make this project easy.  Note:  you can't get an iron anywhere near this backing or it turns into a sticky wrinkled mess.  Learned that the hard way.  Make sure that the backing covers all the area from below where the lace starts to the edges of the fabric.  Trim the extra backing away around the fabric edges. 
Step 4.   Cut the fabric only, along the upper line.   Then sew a line of stitching just past the edge of the fabric.  This is just a way of easily marking the top line onto the backing.  I used black thread, to it would be easily seen on the white backing.  
Step 5.  Sew through the fabric and backing along the lower line.  Trim the fabric away, with about 1/4" to 3/8" allowance.  (shown at left below)  Then fold the allowance over the fabric,  and top stitch the allowance down.  Clip into the corners to get it all to lay smoothly,  (shown at right below)
Step 6.   Sew a piece of ribbon, or twill tape, just inside the stitching line for the upper neckline edge.  This will provide you with a firm edge for the lace.  And, it will keep the edges of the lace away from your skin.  (I am fairly sensitive to scratchy fabrics around my neck)   You will also see in the photos that I had finally put in the closure by this time.  It was quite a logistical feat.   I chose to make the center front edges of the lace meet, rather than overlap, so inset the lace section 1/2" from the fabric center front.
Step 7.  Take a piece of your lace, and arrange it over the area.  Line up anything that needs to be lined up.  I noticed right after I snapped the pic, that the lace was angling downwards on the right side.  I fixed that before moving on.  The sticky backing really helps here, as it will hold the lace exactly where you want it.
 Step 8.  Sew the lace down along the openings, and trim away the extra.  I trimmed the upper neck edge to be a little shorter of the ribbon edge.   If you want to add any other ribbon or trims, like the diagonal stripes in the inspiration pic, add them now.  Sew them down through all the layers, and trim away anything extra. 
I chose to do a ribbon pattern which would parallel the neckline, which is best put on after sewing the shoulder seams.  So I sewed the fronts to the back at this point.  Then I layered on the ribbon in the long striped and sewed it down through the backing.  I also placed a lace over the upper edge of the lace, and layered another ribbon over that lace edge.
Step 9.  Once you have everything sewn down, and trimmed, and the shoulder seams sewn, sew a ribbon or lace over the lower edges of the insert.  And around the neckline, if you haven't done it yet.  Then bind the edges of the chemisette and finish the waist as per the instructions of your pattern.  I had a wider sheer ribbon that I used for the lower edge of the neckline, and for the waistband. 
Step 10.  Put your finished chemisette into a lingerie bag, and wash it.  The water soluble backing will magically dissolve and disappear. 
And here is the finished chemisette!  I will use a small broach to hold the top edge of the lace closed.  You can use this same method to make any shape neckline and trim pattern.    There are no limits to what you can do.   I saw several drawings of round necklines with lace above them in a round outline.  


Permalink 09:00:00 pm, by Heather McNaughton Email , 170 words   English (US) latin1
Categories: New Patterns

Truly Victorian has just released it's newest pattern;  an  overskirt to go with the new Imperial Skirt and Bustle.  The 1887 Cascade Overskirt - TV367

This overskirt is drafted based on an actual garment as seen in the October 26, 1887 edition of La Mode Illustre. The front apron is a long swag, pulled up high onto the hips in large pleats that fan beautifully. A slit in the center front hem forms 2 points. The back is in two pieces, and falls in graceful cascades down the center back forming two points. The cascade is achieved through creative pleating, highlighted by 2 burnous pleats. The closure is in the center back. The apron is cut on the cross grain.

This overskirt is ideal for lengthwise stripes, which would then go across on the front, and downward in the back. Any light to medium weight fabric will be suitable, however.

For more information on Burnous pleats, we have a blog post all about them.  

And of course, you can find this pattern at our shopping pages.


Permalink 11:53:00 am, by Heather McNaughton Email , 516 words   English (US) latin1
Categories: Question of the Week

I have been busy creating new patterns for the late 1880's, and the one thing that stands out as unique about this time period is the Burnous Pleat.  Just about every skirt from 1887 - 1888 has some kind of drape created by this form of pleat.   Something else I found out, is that no one seemed to know how to spell the word "burnous".   I  even found it spelled two different ways in the same sentence.  So if you see Bournous, Bournouse, Burnous,  Burnouse, or Burnoose, it all means the same thing.  And yes,  I seem to spell it all different ways as well, in my various instruction sheets.

So what exactly is a Burnous pleat?  Well, it is one of those simple things that is very hard to describe, because we don't use this type of pleat in modern sewing.  Nor really do you see it in any other time period.  So the concept is foreign, and almost unimaginable, until you see it.

The technical description:  A large fold of fabric, like a very wide pleat, where the top edge is unsupported and is left to hang down in a loop. 

Sounds simple, right?  And actually, it sounds like it would look sloppy and weird.  But the reality is they can do so many things, and usually look fantastic.  A burnous pleat is a great way to reduce bulk at the waist by taking away fabric from the waistband, and it can also get you around corners of a square of fabric.  And the more I study 1888, the more ways I find to incorporate the pleat.

Lets start simple, with this example on the right.  This is the back panel of an overskirt from 1879, and is the earliest version of a burnous pleat that I have seen. (I used this same idea for the back of my Hermione Overskirt - TV326.  Though in my version, I used the Burnous pleat to double as the placket opening.)   In this pic, the burnous pleat is in the center, with the middle of the top edge hanging down the middle of the skirt, and the bunching at the bow is made by the fabric sagging down from the top.   If you look carefully at how the back is attached to the waistband, you can also see a regular pleat at each side as well. 

This is what your fabric looks like before it is pleated.  (I have left out the extra regular pleat)

And this is what it looks like after the pleat is put in.   Pretty ingenious, right?  I just love this!

And this is just the beginning.  Want to make a court train out of velvet, but there is no way you can put 90" ov velvet into 6" of waistband?  Use two burnous pleats.  not only do you take away at least half of the bulk, it adds in pretty cascades.    Just like in our new TV263 -  1887 Imperial Skirt pattern. Or even three, as shown in this 1888 skirt from The Delineator.

And how does this pleat get you around corners?  Find out in our upcoming orverskirt pattern TV367 - 1887 Cascade Overskirt!

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