Saturday, August 9, 2014

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #14 - Paisley and Plaid and 1910s Suit-A-Long - The Skirt


I could hardly believe my good fortune at being able to attend Costume College 2014!  I'm now home as I'm writing this and have to say that it is the most wonderful convention for all levels and tastes of costumers.  It is positive, energetic, sharing, and fun!  There were 158 first-time attendees this year.  I was one of them and felt so at home.  Of course, knowing many of these folks online and through Historical Sew Fortnightly was half the fun.

It's evident that of those who do costume during Costume College (not everyone does), many hours are spent preparing for the events.  I'll write a separate post about my costumes later but I've tried to meet some of the HSF Challenges with costumes I wanted for Costume College.  In the case of this Challenge #14 - Paisley and Plaid I went even further by making the skirt from a beautiful blue/green/ivory plaid for my 1910s Suit-A-Long with Wearing History.  How's that for planning?  Hahaha!  No, I'm not that organized!  Just luck, however, as it happened to be in the stash and went well with the $2.00/yard linen I had purchased.  These are my fabrics chosen in April for the suit, and the lace and trims for a hat.  (Click on any photo in the blog and you can see the full photo line of large photos.)

The skirt fabric is a royal blue and sage green with a raised thread of twisted ivory.  The plaid is small; just 1/4" between ivory stripes and it is a mid-weight almost upholstery feel material.  It laundered beautifully and ironed on the cotton/linen setting while still holding the structure I wanted to reproduce a style similar to this plate.
The pattern we're using in the 1910s Suit-A-Long is the newly introduced pattern from Wearing History R109 based on an April 1916 original pattern from McCalls.  The pattern has been redesigned for modern body types and comes in a wide range of sizes.  It is also available as a paper or e-pattern.  There is so much room for creativity and personal expression in this pattern with the different collars and lengths of both jacket and skirt and the addition of jacket pockets and cuffs.
I had already finished the hat, corset, underthings, and blouse for this project but as I'm only cutting fabric on July 18 and Costume College starts on July 31, I'm in a bit of a panic as to whether I can complete what seems to be a complicated costume.  My back-up plan (I always have one to put stress at bay) is to wear everything but the jacket in case that is all I finish.  So I measure what skirt length I desire and cut my fabric.  Yes, you read that right.  No mock-up!  Something I would never recommend but since I've sewn other Wearing History patterns with excellent results I'm confident on the sizing based on my experience.  And since the fabrics were free and cheap, I'm calling this my mock-up.

After I cut my skirt fabric I pin it on the dressform to see how the plaid lays for the skirt pieces and the outer belt.  The body of the skirt is two front halves with the skirt opening at the top center front, and a single back piece.
The front edges are finished with bias tape and folded inward...

...and the center fronts marked with chalk.  Then the front is sewn down the chalk mark leaving an opening at the top.

Because of the length of the skirt and the small plaid I used every pin I own to pin before sewing.  I would pin at every ivory line to make sure the pattern lined exactly and would not remove the pin until just before that section would be sewn.  While this took a while the alignment was worth the extra work.
The skirt extends above the waist and is held in place with an inner belt which has darts to hug your body curves when worn.  I had a burlap ribbon and doubled it for my inner belt.  Here is the inner belt completed.  The top edge of the skirt is pressed down 1/2".  There are 2 rows of gathering threads along the marked portion of the skirt back.

Then the inner belt is pinned to the skirt, the threads gathered to fit, and the inner belt and skirt sewn together along the upper edge.

Finishing the hem is a matter of choice as there are many examples of machine finished hems including the vintage example on Wearing History's blog regarding sewing this suit.  Since I'm doing a blind stitch and my fabric is heavy, I simply pleat in the excess fabric and hand sew.

Also because of the heavy fabric I decide to use hook and bar closures under each of the top decorative buttons rather than buttonholes and buttons.

The outer belt is simple.  It is simply 2 pieces sewn together, turned right sides out, and tacked to the skirt with French loops and the linen-covered buttons.  It is more decorative than functional as the inner belt is what hugs the waist to keep the skirt in place.

Here is my finished skirt!  It hangs and flows so beautifully!  I used 7/8" buttons covered with the linen that is the lining for the Wearing History blouse pattern and the same fabric I will use for the jacket.
Because of the gathering in the skirt back there is a lot of fullness in the back of the skirt while the front is a much smoother line.
Historical Sew Fortnightly
What It Is?  1910s Skirt
The Challenge:  #14 Paisley and Plaid
Fabric:  Mid-Weight Tightly Woven Cotton Plaid
Pattern:  Wearing History R109
Year:  1910s
Notions:  Inner belt material of burlap ribbon, bias tape, button kits, thread, hooks and bars
How historically accurate is it?  Based on a 1916 McCalls pattern and sewn from on-hand fabric which would have been completely patriotic during the war.
Hours to complete?  3 hours
First Worn:  Costume College 2014
Total Cost:  Fabric in stash but probably $12 if purchased, button kits $18, miscellaneous $4 = $34

In case you are wondering, yes!, I finished the suit!  Here is a preview but we'll save the details for the next post about the jacket.

Kay wearing her gorgeous plum checked suit from the same pattern.  We had photos taken at the Costume College Portrait Studio and will share those when they are available.  Sadly, we didn't take good photos of each other before the Ascot Tea!
Love always,


  1. Wonderful ..... and beautifully made. You looked smashing in the ensemble, Jeanette!

    1. Thank you, Diane! I'm so glad I finished it and took it to Costume College. It really is a lovely pattern and so comfortable to wear.

  2. Yep, exact pattern matching is always a pain to do, but the results are always worth it! You've matched that tiny plaid beautifully. The skirt looks lovely, and I'm looking forward to reading about the jacket.

    1. Thank you, Black Tulip! I think it was worth the extra effort and I love the pattern!

  3. That was a beautiful suit, and I'm so glad you enjoyed your first year at CoCo.

    1. Thank you, Val! I loved CoCo and hopefully can attend and visit with you again!