First 18th Century Shift: Finished, for the moment.

I’ve been busy, but there really hasn’t been anything important to post here at the moment.  I ended up pretty sick for a while with bad allergies like most of the people in the area I live (and summer is here, blech!).  I’ve had trouble focusing lately.  I have a lot on my mind, wondering how things will go with some of our plans coming up in the next month or so.  I’ve had a lot of distractions popping up randomly that throw me off and then I have trouble getting back on track with the things I need to do, like sewing.

I had actually tried getting to my next project fairly quickly after finishing the last project.  I decided to work on an 18th century shift, using two different website’s instructions.  At the same time, I started figuring out a cap pattern which isn’t finished yet.   I might start another cap for a better fit as my next project.  For the most part, I worked along at a decent pace, but that’s when I got hit with being sick and distractions.  At one point I felt so bad, I couldn’t remember how to do a simple step that I’ve done many times.  You’d think I was trying to solve a very hard puzzle, piecing the sections together to pin and sew.  My husband, Christopher, even tried to get me to stop and relax until I felt better, but I slowly pushed myself to figure it out and move on.  I finally got to the point where all I had to do was hem the bottom and sew eyelets in the sleeve cuffs, and then I stopped for a while.

It sat on my dressform taunting me for what was probably too long, while I got a little better and took care of some other things.  I’m sure I could have squeezed in time for working on it here and there, but I’ll be honest:  I hate hems.  For some reason, I have never been taught or learned how to deal with hems properly.  Oh sure, I can do hems on things that are straight across — cuffs on sleeves and trouser legs, even the bottom of my husband’s new 18th century shirt.  However, this shift has gores in the sides and has a lot of rounded shape there that throw me off.  Curved-hemming is what drives me nuts.

I did the best I could, trimming the side hems so they wouldn’t be too long, pointed, or weird.  I just dreaded the thought of attempting it.  I’ve read in my sewing book about gather stitches to ease the bulk smooth when you turn the edge for a hem, but I didn’t want to do that.  Thank goodness for hand sewing, though!  I put the shift inside-out on the dress form and folded and pinned the hem carefully.  I used a lot of pins, and then hand sewed the mostly invisible seam stitch to tack down the hem.  This enabled me to have more control, and there was no pressure foot from a sewing machine causing any weird buckling or warping.    It’s not perfect — there are some sections that have a little more width in the hem than others, but it was smooth, with no puckering, so I’m very happy.  Although I had to sit on the floor for a while to work at the base of the dress form, going slower than a sewing machine would have sewn (ow, my back), it was definitely worth it!  Even if this isn’t a perfect way to do this, it will work for me.  I only hope that laundering the garments I’m making will be gentle on my stitches and I won’t have any issues.  Next time, I will add some gathering at the top of the sleeve.  The gussets are hanging a little low on my sides.

I sewed the eyelets on the cuffs (I’ll use a bit of ribbon to tie it closed) and then I stopped.  Unfortunately, I can’t do the neckline until the stays are done at least, if not the top of the gown I’m making.  I want to make sure I cut it wide enough where it won’t show under the gown, but will still fit right on my shoulders.  I’m not sure when I’ll get around to finishing the shift completely.  I think I’d like to work on the cap first, and maybe some hanging pockets.  I wish I had more time to try some embroidery on the pockets, but I’m getting a little nervous about having both of our outfits finished in time (although the event isn’t until November, I’d like to have these handy for any possible Halloween parties).    I’m both nervous and looking forward to trying to make my stays.  I have made a Victorian corset before, but I used a pattern.  The stays will be a little different, especially with the fitting and shaping.   I’m not sure when I’ll start the stays.  I want to make sure my weight doesn’t fluctuate too much.  I was in the process of losing some weight before I got sick.  With everything going on, work outs and eating right were also affected.

Last night, when I was finishing the shift and sewing the eyelets, Christopher said “I can’t believe how much hand sewing you’ve done!”  Although I’ve still used the sewing machine here and there, I have been using more hand sewing than I expected.  I’ve really come to enjoy it.  Even though it takes me longer, I like not having to set up my machine and sewing area, having more control with weird sections, and being able to take it anywhere have made it very appealing.  I do have a feeling my stays might have more machine sewing on them, however.  At least for this time.

My first shift -- it still needs the neckline finishes, but I'll wait until I have a few outer garments finished to help with the shaping.

About Cynthia Griffith

I have way too many interests and hobbies, and continually cycle through them -- paying attention to some, while others wait for when I can get around to them again. My main interests are sewing and costuming (I enjoy historical clothing, such as 18th and 19th century, as well as fantasy costumes like elves and hopefully someday even dwarves), as well as getting back to art by drawing fan art of Thorin Oakenshield and Company. My husband Christopher and I spend a lot of time together, enjoying the outdoors and shared hobbies such as juggling. This blog and website is my way to share what I'm up to with friends and family.
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9 Responses to First 18th Century Shift: Finished, for the moment.

  1. Diane says:

    This is beautiful, Cynthia! You are so talented!

  2. Thanks so much, Diane! I wish I had the talent you do for knitting and fiber arts like that! You’re amazing with that sort of thing (as well as many other incredibly amazing talents like dance, etc).

    Best wishes, and thanks so much for the reply! 🙂

  3. Kaycee says:

    So awesome!!! Great progress!

  4. Thanks Kaycee! It seems a bit plain compared to Christopher’s shirt, but for the most part it was easy and fun. I only wish I hadn’t had any issues while I was making it — it definitely would have been finished much sooner. I hope the neckline doesn’t give me any troubles. I’m not sure how long before I can get to the rest of my things. I’m probably going to have to start slowing down since I’ll have to buy 2 patterns and nicer fabrics after a few of my simple accessories.

    Best wishes on your projects, too! 🙂

  5. McMurdo says:


    Glad you posted this on your facebook, it looks wonderful good for you.

  6. McMurdo: Thanks so much! I appreciate you checking out the entry and photos. Best wishes, and I’ll definitely keep everyone updated as I finish more pieces 🙂

  7. Mary says:

    It looks great! Great work, and I’m so impressed with all the hand-stitching. Skill!

  8. Diane says:

    Aww thanks, Cynthia. 🙂 Maybe someday we can do a historical clothing item swap. I’d gladly do a shetland lace shawl (or whatever, really) in exchange for your work.

  9. Mary: Thanks so much! 🙂

    Diane: I’ll definitely have to consider that some time, thanks! I have a pretty full to-do list for us for a while, but it’ll also give me a chance to hopefully test out my work and make sure it’ll hold up (not to mention get better and learn more). I’m a little nervous that some of my seam finishes and hem stitches could have used more stitches than I used, but we’ll see. I’m not sure I could do anything fitted (I even need to get better dressforms for myself since my current one doesn’t match up to me at all… too stocky and not squishable for corsets etc), but you never know! I wasn’t sure I could even do some of the stuff I have done, especially after this long break. Who knows what I’ll learn, especially when I get the chance to chat and learn with other great seamstresses (looking forward to learning more!). Best wishes! 😀

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