Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pilgrim'f Progreff

After reading the requirements for the Dreamstress's Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #1, I had no doubt that I would do something from 1813. My impecible reasoning: I really want to build at least a rudimentary Regency wardrobe, I have a few appropriate linens, cottons and wools in the stash and the era offers the opportunity to practice a lot of the hand-sewing techniques that I enjoy AND sorely need to practice. 

So for all these reasons and more, I somehow ended up making a circa 1613 wool jacket. Let's begin, shall we?

Met, c. 1616

As previously discussed, I draped the jacket directly onto Headless June. I used two extant jackets for inspiration, particularly the one above at the Met. (Zoom feature! Yesssss!) The zoom feature was awesome for identifying seam lines and contours, but ultimately I had to guess at some features. (The Met jacket appears to have been altered extensively after creation, or was made from a much larger original garment. The embroidery simply disappears into several seams and some of the insects are not oriented in the same direction as others.) Some of you may recognize the embroidered motifs from another jacket. While this example bears a strong resemblance to the Margaret Layton jacket at the V&A, the overall shape is more squat and short-waisted and the embroidery is "chunkier" in comparison.

There are many pictures of the jacket and material available on the Met's site, but none of the images offer a clear view of the sides, and there are no interior shots.

Museum of London, 1610-1620

Similarly, the Museum of London offers a nice view of the front and back of their 17th century embroidered jacket, but no interior or sides shots. (And no zoom either. Get it together, Brits!) However, between the two images, I was able to cobble together a general plan.

I wanted to make a jacket that would not have been out of place on an American woman in the early half of the 17th century. Based on Plimoth Plantation colonial wills and behests and court records from my lovely set of Proprietary Records of South Carolina: 1675-1695, I decided to go with something simple, sturdy and woolen. 

I got lucky in the stash after a few days of wailing and grousing. (I have some nice green wool, but it's a little light and I wanted to use it for an 18th century gown; then there's the awesome fawn-colored wool melton that I am saving that for something amazing that doesn't even exist yet in theory or practice... etc. etc.) I had a large-ish piece of something wool-like and gray that was given to me several years ago. It has endured numerous conflicting burn tests and hasn't been used yet for the very reason that I had no clue what was in it. (It doesn't melt, leaves soft ash, but it smells hideous.)

But I'm like, the most ignorant burn-test operator EVER. I almost always set my own hair on fire and generally end up wasting several inches of fabric by cutting and re-cutting samples to "see what it looks like burning outside!" or something.

And then! A stroke of luck! I noticed that the moths got into it! With wild abandon. Epic savagery. But that pretty much sealed the deal on content. Whatever it is, it's edible. So on we go!

After a few modifications (lengthened the sleeves, added what my resident critic calls "the little shoulder porches" after liking them on the Museum of London jacket, cut about 6 inches of length off), I cut into the gray wool and linen lining and sewed it up in a bizarre hybrid of 19th and 18th century techniques. I sewed the lining (except sleeves) and outer layers together separately, then joined them at the armscye. The sleeves are cut in two parts with a curve at the elbow and prepared long for a turn-back cuff.

Shoulder Porch installation.

The sleeves are lined in osnaburg (I had some left over from an early, failed child chemise from the Jehossee project) which would be appropriate for the 17th century, but in linen rather than cotton. This was an excellent stash-busting project overall. I used up most of the piece of gray wool, all of the last of my 7oz linen as well as the osnaburg. I added a facing of the wool to the inside of the cuff after turning it. I have no idea if that's appropriate, but it seemed similar to the way the embroidered cuffs were attached to both the Met and Margaret Layton jackets.

The lining is simply folded into the wool and attached with the lovely point a rabbattre sous le main stitch. Sturdy and invisible on both sides.

The Met jacket has TOP CENTERED SHOULDER SEAMS. I know, right?! Like a woman's blazer that you could buy from the mall today. (Yet another reason I think it was modified at some point.) Most of the other surviving 17th century women's clothing that I found pictures of showed at least a suggestion of the angled back-shoulder seam we know and love from 18th-19th century bodice construction. So I split the difference. The shoulder seams are angled down from the top of the shoulder to the back of the armscye. It's not nearly as extreme as 18th century angles, but it hints at that method of construction.

yaaay! 3:00 a.m. glamour shots!

And this is where we ended up. (Moth holes add texture and visual interest! Symmetry is for weirdos! Cat hair is historically accurate!) Pardon the anachronistic petticoats; the only cartridge-pleated skirt I own is in a decidedly non-historical "dancing rabbit" print. Now that it's "finished," the jacket needs... everything. Pinning is an acceptable method of closure, but I may add ties. I don't want to do anything as elaborate as the embroidery on the originals (Ha! Like it's a personal choice!) but I really want to be-dazzle it a little. It's painfully, excruciatingly bare. In retrospect, I wish I'd gone for the kicky quasi-box pleats like the Museum of London jacket boasts, rather than the cut-in-one angled skirt seams in the style of the Met jacket. It would have added some pizzazz without being "fancy."

But you know what? I kind of like it.

Facts! Gimme them Facts!
The Challenge: #1: Bi/Tri/Quadri/Quin/Sex/Septi/Octo/Nona/Centennial (A.K.A. "Something Thirteen This Way Comes.")
Fabric: Mock-up from craptastic printed "linen" stash fabric; final from gray wool with linen and osnaburg lining. (Also stash.)
Pattern: Draped directly onto Headless June as a mock-up. Revised after two fittings and cut.
Year: 1613 (ish)
Notions: Again, none unless you count the  thread.
How historically accurate is it? Umm... well, yeah. Not very. I have never examined any 17th century garment, so I am clueless with regard to specific seam finishes. Sewn with cotton thread (not typical of 17th century American clothing) and sleeves lined with cotton osnaburg. I had to fit it over a highly ghetto-rigged pair of 18th century stays and some assorted ballast to imitate the non-present skirts, so the silhouette is unproven over appropriate undergarments and petticoats.
Hours to complete: 17
First worn: Not yet!
Total cost: Free!


  1. I love love love this style of jacket. I've made 3 version and would make 3 more. I think you did a great job, and maybe it only needs, like, a nice tight line of self-covered ball buttons to trim. Covering the seams in a little something-something always looks nice too :-)

    1. Thank you! I was remembering at least one of your jackets with envy as I constructed this! Self-fabric buttons may work, but I'm not sure if I left enough overlap to pull it off. The Museum of London jacket has the blanket-stitched seams and that is calling to me more than anything at the moment. When time permits, I'm hittin' the 1600s again. It is really, really addictive!

  2. I was so jazzed by your struggle to answer the shoulder seam question, that I went on a happy search of the internet for any museum images that might help last night. I remembered a costumer putting me in a 1616-ish doublet that I vaguely remember had a sloping seamline, and little porches, in its makeup. Where did she get the image? hmmm. Of course I wound up finding a list of museums I'd never heard of, and totally wrong period, of course, ran across this one I thought you might like, if and when you are doing a flapper dress...
    Nancy N

    1. I've never seen this site! Thank you, Nancy! And if the other jacket ever materializes, I would love to see it.

    2. Oh, no, we are talking 1976. That jacket was made out of silver and white crap-brocade and has probably long since frayed away to dirty threads...

    3. Take a look at English lady's embroidered jacket. Looks to me like there is a very, very slight slant on the shoulder seam, accented by some braid. Could be?

  3. I quite like this...I'm not much for any kind of costuming besides Italian Renaissance, 1720-1775ish OR the 1940s/50s, but your jacket is making me have second thoughts about the 1600s! Still, I was hoping you'd do it in that incredible mock-up fabric because that is, well, unspeakably WTF.

    1. I probably should've, but I was thinking of saving what's left for a nice 18th century mob cap. Then I would wear it to Williamsburg and loudly insist that it was historically accurate.

  4. Thif if fantaftic!

    (every time the elongated f/s shows up, I can't help but imagine a Puritan with a lisp...)

    The little flare at the back totally makes this piece. I can't wait to see how you trim it!