I decided to start my 16th century project with a shift, and a smocked shift at that. Smocking of course fitted well with the HSM challenge of tucks and pleats. This is a new area for me, and I haven't totally gone into full research mode on it. I relied heavily on the tutorials and instructions for a smocked shift, or hemd, by Katafalk and by Genoveva.
For fabric I used the last piece of fine linen that I had in my stash. It was a piece of 110x270 cm, and I thought it would be enough to make a narrow, but still smocked shift. I wouldn't had had a problem getting an 18th century chemise out of that.
Here is Genoveva's pattern for a shift that I used, even if I had to make every piece a bit narrower than in the pattern. I didn't sew the gussets, the sleeve or side seams, but just around 20 cm down to connect the sleeves to the back and front sections.
Then it was time to start with the smocking. I started with the cuffs, since I figured it would be good to start on a smaller section. I also first hemmed the edge of the cuff.
I covered the back of the smocking with a piece of fabric, to make sure it kept its size. I had ran out of fine linen so I used a piece of coarser linen for that.
Then it was on to the neckline. After having asked in the HSM group for a better way to mark the dots than chalk I simply used an ordinary pencil. The dots got a lot smaller, and it never broke.
Then I needed to bind the neckline, and my first try was to make a casing strip and bind the edges with it. Like this example from Mary of Habsburg's shift.
Then it was time to try the shift, and I was really disappointed. I had always known that the sleeves were on th edge of being too short, and now with the smocking done they were definitely too short. The neckline was gaping, since I hadn't cut the strip on the bias, and it was also somewhere in between a low and high neck. Still I wore the shift like that on the 29th of February, so technically I was done with the HSM challenge.
I started with making the sleeves longer. I ripped up the seam and to be sure that I would get a straight line, despite the pleats on the sleeves distorting the fabric, I pulled a thread in the linen.
I then ripped off the casing, stretched the neckline until it was wider, and just like with cuffs I just covered the back of the smocking with a strip of fabric. For that strip I used the old casing, and I had to patch it with some of the coarser linen as well. One problem now was that the edge of the neckline hadn't been hemmed, since I had planned to keep it within the casing. With all the smal pleats it was not going to be fun trying to hem it. In the end I simply folded the edge over to the wrong side and attached it there. It was a selvage edge so I didn't have to worry about fraying.
With all the strips that I had cut off from the bottom, by now the shift was way too short. So I finished by adding a strip of the coarse linen to the bottom. For the photos here it should be noted that the dressform is around 10 cm shorter than myself.
|The whole shift, front|
|Sleeve, with the added strips of fabric|
|Close up of the neckline smocking|
Just the facts
What the item is: An early 16th century smocked shift
The Challenge: 2 Tucks and pleats
Fabric/Materials: 110x270 cm fine linen, 150x50 cm coarser linen
Year: ca 1520
Notions: silk thread, hook and eyes (for the cuffs)
How historically accurate is it? I would place it around 85%
Hours to complete: 1,5 months
First worn: 29th of February (in it's first version)
Total cost: $5 for the silk thread, the rest was from really old stash fabrics.