Categories: "Sewing Tips"


  10:55:00 am, by Heather   , 1382 words  
Categories: Working with patterns, This and That

First, let me say that this pattern is one of the best corset pattern available today. I love this pattern and can fit any size and shape with relative ease. However, is does have a few quirks and can require a few tweeks to get the most benefit out of it.
The following suggestions are little tricks and quips about my experiences with this pattern. I am listing them here to give beginners a guiding hand.

A. Which to choose, the Dore style or the Silverado?

These two styles are both used from 1860 until 1898, so you want to pick the style that is most appropriate to your body type. Basically, the Dore style with the straight seam construction will tend to de-accentuate a full bustline. The Silverado will tend to emphasize the bustline. In my experience, smaller busted figures will greatly improve their figure with the Silverado style. Larger busted figures will generally have a more pleasing appearance with the Dore style. My general rule of thumb: A-cup, B-cup, and C-cup figures should wear the Silverado, while D-cup and larger figures should wear the Dore. The D-cup figure in the Silverado will have the bustline lifted and presented in an unglamorous position below the chin, which is not the proper look for the Victorian Era.

Another consideration for which corset to style to choose would be your level of sewing skills. The Dore style is much easier to put together, while the Silverado requires a little more effort. A person making a corset for the first time, who does not have access to assistance, may wish to try the Dore first in order to get a feel for what corset making entails. Corset are not difficult to make, but they are intimidating, and require precision sewing.


B. How do I choose which size I need?

This is the hardest part about making a corset, finding the proper size. Once again, for this corset, I have a few basic rules:


1. You need to pick a cup size.

For this pattern, the cup sizes run somewhat large. The choice of cup size may be altered by the next step, but this will give you a place to start.

If you are a very small A-cup, you should choose the A cup pattern.
If you are a moderate A-cup, B-cup, or small C-cup size, you should cut the B cup pattern.
If you are a larger C-cup or D-cup, you should choose the C cup pattern
If you are a DD-cup or DDD-cup, you should choose the D-cup pattern.
I have not yet found a person who needed a larger than D-cup pattern. And I have fit many large figures. You will have to possess an extreme figure to require the DD and DDD cup patterns.


2. Looking at the size chart.

The size chart as given on the envelope is basically for the B cup size patterns only. If in step A above, you chose a different cup size, you will need to make adjustments to the measurements on the charts. The reason for this is that the A cup pattern will remove 2" of fabric from the standard B cup size. The C cup pattern will add 2" of fabric to the standard size. The D cup pattern will add 4" to the standard size. These changes are not reflected on the single size chart provided in this pattern.

Below, I have created the separate size charts needed for each cup size.



A-cup Size Adjusted Chart

Size 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26
Bust 28 1/2 29 1/2 30 1/2 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 46
Waist 23 24 25 26 1/2 28 30 32 34 36 38 40
Hip 32 1/2 33 1/2 34 1/2 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50


B-cup Size Adujusted Chart

Size 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26
Bust 30 1/2 31 1/2 32 1/2 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48
Waist 23 24 25 26 1/2 28 30 32 34 36 38 40
Hip 32 1/2 33 1/2 34 1/2 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50


C-cup Size Adujusted Chart

Size 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26
Bust 32 1/2 33 1/2 34 1/2 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50
Waist 23 24 25 26 1/2 28 30 32 34 36 38 40
Hip 32 1/2 33 1/2 34 1/2 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50


D-cup Size Adujusted Chart

Size 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26
Bust 34 1/2 35 1/2 36 1/2 38 40 42 44 46 48 50 52
Waist 23 24 25 26 1/2 28 30 32 34 36 38 40
Hip 32 1/2 33 1/2 34 1/2 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50


3. Finding your size on the size chart.

Now it is time to compare your personal body measurments, non-corseted, to the charts to select a size. Looking at the size chart for your cup size, follow the general rules below:
  • You want to select an individual size for each part of your body to acheive a good fit. The corset should conform to your body, not conform your body to a corset. You may be a size 18 bust, a size 16 waist and a size 20 hip. That is fine. You should trace your pattern out on a new peice of paper, fading in and out to the various size lines as needed.
    If you need to enlarge the hip area to a bigger size, change only the seams at the side and back of the corset. Do Not enlarge the front seams below the waist, as this will cause the tummy part of the corset to swell outwards.
  • This pattern generally runs large. This is caused by streatch of the fabric, and compaction of the body by the corset. As result, if you need a size 14 or larger, reduce the pattern by one size automatically. For example, If you you match the size 18 on the chart, cut out a size 16 instead. Very large sizes may need to reduce the pattern by 2 sizes.
  • If at any time, your chosen waist size is larger than your chosen bust size, reduce the cup size to the next smaller size and start the selection proccess over. A D-cup figure combined with a large waist will require a smaller pattern cup size.
  • If you want to be able to tight lace and reduce your waistline, be sure that the hip area is large enough to allow for the change. When tight lacing, the waist is compacted, which will relocate the body both up into the chest area, and down into the hip area. If the top and bottom of your corset do not allow for this expansion, you will not be able to pull in the waist.
  • The top of the corset should come up to mid-nipple level. If you corset is too short, lengthen the pattern by cutting and spreading the pattern where marked to the needed length. If the corset come up too high, I like to shorten the pattern by simply cutting the top to the desired height. The reason is I find that the point at which the corset begins to expand for the bust is somewhat low. If you cut and shorten the pattern in the middle, this will drop the bust area to near the waist.
  • The bottom of the corset should end high enough so that it does not dig into your legs or pelvis when you sit down. Shorten the corset by cutting it off at the hem as needed for a good fit.

C. Other general fitting notes.

  • The corset should have a 2"-3" gap at the center back when laced. If you have too small of a gap, you should make the corset one size smaller next time. If you have over 4" gap, you should make the corset bigger next time.


  • When laced, the center back edges of the corset should be fairly straight, top to bottom. If you have wide differences in the gap, the corset will tend to pinch and be very uncomfortable. For example, If you have a 3" gap at the top, 1" gap at the waist, and 5" gap at the bottom, you will be miserable. In this case the waist needs to be made a smaller size and the hips a larger size, to accheive an even 3" gap top to bottom.


  • The more bones that are in your corset, the more confortable the coset will be to wear. The bones should be placed at every seam, and between the seams as needed to make the distance between the bones to less than 3". Larger figures may require more bones than smaller figures.


  • Spiral steel boning should be used in the front of the Silverado corset, to curve around the cup gores. You can use the spiral boning everywhere else as well, EXCEPT at the center back on either side of the grommets, which must be spring steel.


  • Use only 1/4" wide steel boning. Anything less will not hold properly. Using wider boning will not add support but will be unconfortable. The largest figures will have full support with the 1/4" wide bones.


  • I personally like to use the 00 size of gormmets. These are smaller than the normal size, which allows the fabric to be stretched, rather than cut, to make a hole. This will give a stronger grip on the grommet.


  05:49:00 pm, by Heather   , 606 words  
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



  11:53:00 am, by Heather   , 516 words  
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!


  03:17:11 pm, by Heather   , 836 words  
Categories: Sewing Tips

I have a friend who recently purchased a serger.  She wasn't really sure what to do with it.  So Tonya, this one is for you!

Flat lining with a serger, the comprehensive photo guide, step by step.

1.  Of course the very first step is to cut out your pattern, in both the fabric and the lining fabric.  I like the cut the lining first, and then the dress fabric second.  The reason for this is that when you cut the pattern the first time, cutting through the paper along the lines, you get the cleanest cut.  Subsequent cuts will usually be less precise as the paper separates itself from the fabric and the exact edge is harder to follow.    This means that my lining is the best version of the pattern, and the fabric layer can just be close.  This will become important later on.

This also means, I never trim my paper pattern  to the cutting lines, before cutting the fabric.   It just works better if you don't.  If my scissors get dull faster cutting the paper, so be it.  I can always buy a new pair or get them sharpened.  The garment will come out better, and that to me is more important.

2.  On the ironing board, press the lining out as flat as possible.  In my photos, I am using tea-dyed muslin, which seems to have some permanent fold lines I can't press out.  No worries;  do the best you can, though.  When pressing, try to move the iron only with the grain, or the cross grain.  Pressing diagonally may cause the piece to stretch on the bias.

3.  Lay out the fabric over the lining, with the correct side facing up.

4.  Match up all the edges as best you can.  It will most likely not be a perfect copy of the lining, and will usually extend out in places, or may come up short in others.  If you have a slinky fabric, like the one I am using  here, shift the bias around as needed to get the fabric back into the original shape matching the lining.  Press the fabric smooth.

5.  Pin through the pieces to the ironing board, about 1 1/2" in from the edge, with the pin heads towards the inside.  I like to place my pins every few inches or so, and be sure to get every corner  and high spot.

6. Gently, one pin at a time, lift the fabric and pin the pieces together without removing the pin, or disturbing the other pins.  This will keep the fabric layers from shifting and keep everything as smooth as it was when you pressed it flat.  The tips of the pins should be at least 1/2" away from the edge of the fabric, or it will jam the serger cutter bar.

Your piece should look like this on the front side:

And will most likely look like this on the back side.  You can see the uneven edges not matching.  This is why I cut the lining first.

7.  Take your piece to the serger.  Treat it gently on the way, so as to no separate the layers.  Start at a corner, any corner.  You will be using the LINING layer edge against the cutting bar as your sewing guide.  Begin by lifting the front tip only of the foot and sliding the fabric under the front of the foot, just short of the cutter.   There is never a reason to lift the presser foot up completely, just lift the tip and go, then run the fabric out from underneath at the end.

Trim off any excess fabric with the cutter.  You can usually see the lining edge through the fabric to know where to run the cutter.  If you have trouble seeing this edge, then flip your fabric over, and sew it with the lining side up.

Do not trim any parts where the fabric is shorter than the lining.  The lining is always your guide.

When you come to a corner, run the fabric straight through and make a 3" thread tail.  You usually have to pull the threads a bit to get the tail to form.  Pull the threads only, not the whole piece to keep from stretching the fabric.   Turn the fabric to start the next run.  This will make loops of thread at each corner.

8.  Once you have completed going around your entire piece, take it back to the ironing board.  It will most likely look rumpled and sad, like this.

But it will look great again once you repress it flat.  Sometimes your layers may have shifted a bit, so carefully press it all back out to the perfect match you had before.  If you can't get it back to perfect, press the excess to the serge stitching, and it will be hidden later in the seam allowances.

9.  Be sure to make a left and a right hand side.

And there you have it, perfectly shaped and flat lined, ready for construction!


  11:18:41 pm, by Heather   , 679 words  
Categories: Sewing Tips

Lately, I have gotten a lot of interest in this particular bodice.   So I have decided to start off my Sewing Tips series with details and images of how achieve this fairly easy effect from any basic vest pattern.  This bodice specifically was made from the 1884 French Vest Bodice - TV463.   The layered effect is all built onto the vest portion itself, before the vest is sewn to the rest of the bodice.  Of course, since this bodice is already completed, the pics will show all the pieces attached to the bodice, instead of separate as you construct it.



First, a quick rundown of how this is put together.  There is a fitted lining made from the vest pattern piece under what you see on the outside, and closed with hook/eyes down the center front.  The gathered "blouse" portion is added to this lining.  And lastly, a vest with working buttons/holes is laid over the lining.  So now you know where we're going, let's get to it!

(view from the inside)

First thing is to figure out the shape of the vest you want to make.  After fitting your mockup, mark on the vest exactly where you want the vest to end and the "blouse" to begin.   Transfer that line to the vest pattern, and add 1/2" above that line for the cutting line of your over vest.  Add 1 to 1 1/2" below that line for the cutting edge of the blouse portion.



Next step is to create the vest lining.  For my bodice, I was using tea-dyed muslin as my flatlining.   I  cut 4 of the entire vest pattern piece out of the muslin.  I also cut the point off of the bottom about 1" short at the side and straight across.  This would help separate the hems, keep the lining from showing, and make it easier to do the finish facings on the main bodice.   After they are cut out, sew the vests pieces right-sides-together, along the center front and bottom edge.  To make the center front edge just meet (instead of over lap for buttons) sew the center edge with a 1" seam allowance.  Clip, turn right side out, and press.  Baste the neck and side edges together just to keep it all organized.  Sew the hooks and eyes to center front edges.  I spaced the hooks farther apart under the outer vest, knowing that the outer vest would hold that part of the bodice.

(the bottom point, from the inside.  Under my finger is a bone casing sewn to the vest seam.)

And now on to the "blouse" portion.  Take your vest pattern and extend it wider to about 3x the width of the pattern piece.  If you can, cut the center front on the selvedge, and cut 2.   Fold the front edge under 1" and press.  Gather the top edge  and the bottom edge to fit the lining.   Baste along the gathers.    I like to zigzag over the bottom edges to hold the down smooth.  Be careful sewing over the hooks and eyes.

(blouse portion sewn to lining and the over vest folded back.)



Lastly, the outer vest.  Cut 4 of the shortened vest pattern.  Sew them right-sides together along the top and center front edges, 1/2" seam allowances.  I left the bottom edge open to be finished later.  Turn the right side out, and sew the buttons and button holes along the center front, 1/2" from the edge.  Lay the over vest pieces onto the vest lining pieces matching the side edge.  Check to make sure that the vest properly covers the blouse gathers.  Baste the layers together along the side edges only.



Now you just have to sew the completed vest to the rest of the bodice.  Add the collars as per the instructions.  Add boning and everything else, as normal.   I did not do a full lining, and instead ran bias facings around the hem and inside the neckline.  The back had wide facings the depth of the pleats.



And there you have it, a fabulous layered look! See, easy!!


Sewing is an art form, not a science!

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