Skein Passion

Luscious 'fioro' hand died merino-silk yarn skeins from The Yarn Bowl in the shades sepia rose, abalone and plum purple As Valentines day approaches sprinklings of pink hearts and cutesy romance sayings start popping up all over the place. Yarn sales are overflowing with red and pink colourways and patterns are dotted with love knots.  But I want to talk about Passion. That deep intense desire you experience when you touch that divine squishy yarn skein, you know the one I'm talking about, that skein that makes your heart sing. It's a magic colour, squishing it is like touching a cloud with the lustre of angels. The yarn of your dreams. Where were you when you had that experience the first time? In a specialty yarn store looking at the silk-alpaca blends? I'm willing to bet it wasn't, more likely it was at the discount store passing the bargain aisle and this little ball of fluff caught your eye and you sighed and squished it and wished you had the skill to turn

1888 Chemise

1888 Chemise

It's been two months since I teased you with promises of updates on how the Chemise pattern from the National Garment Cutter (NGC) made up.

The digital version of the NGC 1888 edition is missing the introduction and explanation of how to use the cutting system. The earlier 1884 edition does have the explanation.

Chemise Pattern

Yoke and sleeve pattern for chemise from the National Garment Cutter
'The scales correspond with, and the proper one to use is selected by the measure in inches for whom the garment is to be made.'

To make the chemise pattern I imported the pattern diagram from NGC into Make The Cut using the pixel trace function. I increased the pattern until the measurements matched those noted in the diagram. I then cut the pattern out with our KLIC-N-KUT (KNK).

This negated the need to figure out which rule from the NGC cutting system was the base measurement.

A quick mockup told me I was going to have to increase the pattern if I wanted my straps to sit just at the edge of my shoulders.


I could've done all of the pattern increases digitally, but as I'd already put the KNK away to make room for fabric cutting, I was feeling the pressure of working to a deadline and considering I'm a newbie to digital pattern making I decided to go the good old fashion paper slash-and-spread method. 

I decided to place the increase at the bust, slashing vertically and spreading the pattern out from there. 

It then occurred to me that NGC increase points we not on the vertical at all. Nor were they on the true bias of 45° (turns out to be 50°) so I redid the increases as per the NGC positioning.

I figured out the position by the highly technical means of turning the pattern around to match the diagram. Then to be doubly certain I ended up redrafting the front yoke by hand and comparing it with the digital version. There were some slight differences so I used my hand drafted version.

It was simple to then draw in those increase points and slash and spread from there.

Grading method does make a difference!

You can see from the above image that using the NGC method of increasing the pattern effected the placement of the shoulder, the armscye and the neckline, effectively making the whole front yoke piece slightly smaller. Once cut out the difference was even more pronounced.

Above back yoke, below front yoke - 1888 chemise

Having searched the internet for other's work on recreating this chemise I came across a few tidbits of information that helped me to avoid some pitfalls with this pattern.

Tudorlinks advise that the back yoke is incorrectly marked with the top actually being the centre back. I tried it both ways and the yokes match up nicely at the shoulder if used the way Tudorlinks describe. They also have reconstructed the pattern, it seems from a later edition of NGC based on the dates and instructions supplied on their site.

At What We Did When The Power Went Out (Sewing In Walden) there is an insightful comment by Tropical Threads about the yoke front not laying correctly due to the yoke point being longer then the angle on the corresponding front body of the garment.

Over at Tropical Threads I got to see what the pattern looked like made up without any size adjustments and read all about her experience in making up this 19thC chemise.

For my mock-up of the chemise, in some rather stiff upholstery cotton, I cut the front yoke in two pieces due to lack of fabric. Once sewn to the body of the chemise the angle mis-match causes the CF to spread open by the difference.

CF of chemise yoke when angle does not match the angle of the body of the garment

Correcting this is an easy fix. The point on the yoke is 3 5/8 inches deep and the angel on the body is only 3 inches deep. Mark the angel on the body at 3 5/8 deep and the problem is solved.


I made my chemise in a super soft light rayon. The finer fabric behaved differently and a slightly smaller size may have made for a better fit, however once the corset was on over the top of it everything stayed nicely in place. I swear the rayon is the reason I survived the heat of the day at GHF.

1888 Chemise

I chose not to add sleeves and there is plenty of evidence that chemises with yokes were just as popular without sleeves as with. Besides the puffy sleeve wasn't appropriate for 1870's.

You can find a lot of my inspiration and research on my underpinnings pinterest board.

It was a good thing I didn't want sleeves because as it was I had to piece the front yoke. I hid the joining seam under ribbon and decided to do pin-tucks instead of gathers over the bust. Can you tell I forgot to go back and press those tucks?

1888 Chemise satin ribbon trim and pin tuck details

I have a few loose threads to trim after it's first wear and wash. I didn't want to risk distorting the neckline by zig-zaging the raw edges so I used a straight stitch instead. After all it's only me that's going to see it.

As for the other seams I zig-zag stitched the raw edges on the yoke and chemise body where they join, the hem and sleeve openings were doubled over and I French seamed the sides. Both the neckline and hem are edged with satin ribbon and that's as far as my 3m roll of ribbon went.

1888 Chemise with satin ribbon trim and pin tuck details - sleeveless