Mid Century Drawers

No, not drawers, drawers!

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They fit – whew!

Undergarments in the past, the sort of thing that covers your backside, were called drawers. While I can’t find a definitive source, most people are speculating that long underwear type garments were called drawers because they were drawn up the body (as in drawing the curtains closed, drawing up your chonies). At least since the later 1500s, drawers referred to what we now call interchangeably pantaloons, bloomers*, underwear, pantalettes, underpinnings, unmentionables, linens, etc. During the mid 19th century, they were called drawers, and so that is what I will be calling them here. The item was designed to keep a person’s legs covered, both for modesty as well as cleanliness. Typical drawers for girls reached to the mid calf.

For my Mid Century Sewing Project, previously I made the child’s chemise, and almost immediately went onto the drawers. The pattern consists of one piece cut twice on a fold, and then a small portion is cut away from only half of it, creating a distinct left and right leg. Since I had surprised myself in enjoying the hand sewing so much making the chemise, I decided to make the drawers in a combination of hand and machine sewing. Around the crotch area, I hand sewed the seams and felled them so they would not ravel. I chose to make closed crotch drawers for Melody’s modesty. The legs came together so easily, I hardly need to explain anything. My only caveat is that if your child has hips wider than the waist, you will want to cut the pattern to the hip measurement, not the waist measurement. You can see in the picture above that although these drawers fit Melody, a bit more ease in the hips might serve her nicely.

Next I added the growth tucks. I put in three tucks, and it should be noted, I lengthened the pattern by 3 inches in order to have the tucks! This girl is tall. :-) I did not add any embellishment to the hem of the drawers. The pattern suggests white embroidery in between the tucks, but my embroidery is laughable at best! Auntie might be playing with this at the next event we do together haha.

Once the side seams and plackets were prepared, I attached the waist bands. The drawers have two bands – a front and a back – which button together at the sides. For the front treatment, I pleated the drawer body onto the waistband for a more flat front. On the back I gathered the fabric and also decided on a semi-adjustable waistband. The semi-adjustable waistband is made with a short drawstring inside so the band lays relatively flat, but can allow for a bit of ease. Although the pattern called for cotton tape as the drawstring, I didn’t have any so I used cotton cord. Also, I learned how to make hand stitched eyelets! These were easy and look so nice.

Hand stitched eyelets

Hand stitched eyelets

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Untied drawstrings

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Bound ends of the cords

Here I chose to bind the ends of the cords with thread. Since it is cotton cord, it can’t be warmed to create an aglet. But also since it is cotton cord, I didn’t want it to unravel.

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Finished semi-adjustable waistband

Once this was finished I went on to learn how to sew a buttonhole. Mine are not quite attractive yet, but they are functional, heh.

Button button

Button button

I found in my stash two nice 1/2″ shell buttons. Perfect! Modern mother of pearl is so thin, but these will be sturdy for use by a busy little girl. Around about this point, I was asked to give Melody her first sewing lesson. I am delighted that she is interested, and she did a great job for her first attempt!

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Finally, the drawers are finished. Here they are paired with the chemise and a child’s cage that I picked up second hand from another reenactor. The cage is from the Originals by Kay line and are known to be historically accurate. I have to make a minor alteration to it. The previous owner added a button & buttonhole, but it’s a bit snug for Melody’s waist. So, I’m adding a short extension to cover and strengthen the previous buttonhole and give us another inch on the waistband.

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Altogether now

Next up will be the stays. Melody asked for them specifically, and I figure if I’m going to do this, I better do it right and how she wants it!

* Bloomers in the 19th century were a type of pants, not drawers or undergarments, that were worn underneath skirts, and touted as a progressive manner of dressing. They were originally introduced in the 1850s by Elizabeth Smith Miller, and based on the harem pants and other types of loose trousers worn in Asian countries. Mrs Amelia Bloomer popularized the garment through her own wearing of them as well as advertising and writing about them in her newspaper. She was also known as a “radical” because she believed women should have the right to vote in national elections and that alcohol should be outlawed. And she was radical for her time! She owned a newspaper specifically for women; she served on the Iowa Suffrage Committee; she was friends with other reformers, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Mrs Bloomer helped women take on the rights we all enjoy today.

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Mid Century Child’s Chemise

I have finished the first installation of practice on the Mid Century Sewing Project as I referenced a couple posts back! The first item I decided to try was the child’s chemise from the Elizabeth Stewart Clark’s Historic Moments Girls Linens 1840-1865 pattern. While the pattern comes with a 30 page booklet, do not let this intimidate you, as it did me at first. It is packed full of helpful tips on making your garment as period correct as you want or can, plus complete instructions for three garments with a variety of options.

I am glad I made this as a practice run because I made a few mistakes and some decisions on construction about half way through the project. First off, I learned how to make the run and fell seam, an historic technique that encases raw edges inside a seam and adds greater strength to seams. In the armscye area, I hand stitched the seam on one side and machine stitched it on the other. I must admit that I prefer the hand stitched side. There is a little more forgiveness in hand sewing that you don’t get on a machine. I also found it easier to maneuver in the small area by hand.

Hand stitched run and fell seam

Hand stitched run and fell seam

Machine stitched run and full seam

Machine stitched run and full seam

I stitched the side seams on the machine and they are very neat and tidy. I like that.

Sleeve finishing

Sleeve finishing

On the sleeve, I chose to add a whitework border. Pictured is the “cheap” eyelet from a local chain store. Even though I measured the opening carefully, I still found my eyelet border to be a tad smaller than the opening of the sleeve. I ended up taking some ease stitches over the top of the sleeve. I don’t like how that puckers there, and on the “official” garment I will measure even more carefully.

Sleeve placement

Sleeve seam placement

Once the sleeves are attached and the side seams stitched, the neckline is ready to be bound. I chose the fixed band option, which is a simple process of basically gathering everything and then binding it. There are no notches or dots on these patterns – something I really hate on Big Three patterns but which I could have seen the benefit of here. Once the band was placed at the correct location on the center of the sleeve, I wasn’t sure where the seams of the sleeve should fall. I took a reasonable guess placed the seam about 2 1/2″ to either side of the center point.

Center back

Center back

Here is where my hand stitching really kicked in. Once the binding has been stitched to the outside, it is turned and then stitched inside. I took as small of stitches as I could and every fifth stitch I took another stitch right on top to prevent the work from slipping. I added the 3 x marks because the chemise is identical front and back except for a small line on the neck band.

Hem inside

Hem inside

Hem outside

Hem outside

Here is the hand stitched hem.  I took a very deep hem because Melody tends to grow up but not out. I expect she will wear this for several years. By the time I started sewing this hem, I had received my order of sewing wax. I used a single thread, waxed it, and again took an extra stitch every fifth stitch. While I can’t say that my running stitch is of very high quality yet, it is even and straight. :-)

Finished neckline with whitework

Finished neckline with whitework

Finished chemise

Finished chemise

This will be Melody’s “every day” chemise, which she will use as early as the Vista Reenactment coming up in March! As you can see, this is a generous garment that should fit nearly any child comfortably. I am looking forward to making the drawers next. In fact, I want to go cut them out right now!