Monthly Archives: January 2019

A recipe for 18th Century Mitts

A recipe for 18th Century Mitts

Last week the Usual Suspects and I went to the Museum of the American Revolution’s History After Dark event which promised dancing and embarrassing the Couture Courtesan into admitting she knows us (did a fantastic hand sewn polonaise gown for them for an Eliza Hamilton exhibit). It being winter in Pennsylvania the forecast was brisk and I deemed it time to get around to making the set of silk mitts I’ve been meaning to make for 25 or so years.


This is a pattern for a pair in costume close up. If you don’t have that book, get it.

I thought I might make this a sort-of tutorial, okay more like an old school dress diary for how I made them. I’ll even leave in my mistakes!

Step 1. You’ll need a few measurments

  1. Around the widest point of your hand
  2. Around your wrist
  3. Around your forearm
  4. The length you want them to be
  5. length from the base of your thumb to where you want your mitts to end

Step 2. Lets start badly patterning together! I began with scrap fabric and drew a straight line on the bias. Mitts are always cut on the bias because you need as much stretch as possible. This line will be come the point where you fold the mitts in half.

Why am I including a photo here…I’m sure you all know what this would look like

Step 3. (which is what I really SHOULD have taken a photo of) You’re going to take your earlier measurements and draw horizontal lines off your center line. You basically center your measurment on the line.

Divide your measurements by 2, use that number to center the amount on each side

Line A is the measurment around the widest part of your hand. Line B is the measurment around you wrist and Line C is around your forearm.

The length of your point is complete personal preference

Step 4. pick one side to be the top of the mitt. I picked the right side. from the center line to the edge is the width over the top of your hand, draw on a point on that side if desired. There are examples without the point but I think it’s very elegant.

Please admire my terrible photoshop skills here

Step 5. Connect the dots for the outline. You’ll end up with an hour glass shape.

Step 6. add a thumb hole. Honestly start small and when you try them on you’ll tweak this. But a word of warning. My first mock up I centered the hole on the line. But thumbs aren’t centered on our hand. The beefy part of your thumb is more on the palm side.

Off center thumb adds extra wrinkles

Step 7. Cut them out and pin up the side seam. Try them on. If you have a very large hand to wrist ratio you may need to add extra ease to the wrist measurment so you can get them on. But make them as tight as you can, I made mine super tight and by the time I wore them an hour they stretched so much I want to take them in.

mock up #2 with off center thumb, muuuuch better

Now the awkward part. The thumb. I started by drawing a straight edge and then folding it around my thumb and pinning.

If there’s a way to draft this it’s beyond my skills

I wish I had helpful thumb advice but mostly I just…futzed. I promise it’s not hard. Just wrap your thumb and trim away the excess. You’ll be left with a pattern that’ll sit nicely on top of the body of your mitt.

ta daaa a finished mitt…pattern

Here’s what my final pattern looks like. But again everyones arm measurements are different so no one-size-fits-all pattern will look good on everyone. It’s really very easy to fit your own, don’t be intimidated!

I kept my seam allowances small, 1/4″ to reduce bulk


embroidered mitts from the MET

If you want to add any embellishment it is MUCH easier to do so before you assemble them. Mr. Sewloud got me a tambour embroidery kit for christmas so I wanted to try a small bit of practice embroidery on mine.

Drawing out a simple design
One of my mitts has WAY nicer embroidery as I was getting better as I went. Don’t look close


Okay you’ve made a lovely pattern for a pair of mitts….now what? The fun part! Sewing them together. I feel the need to point out here that there is no one way to sew together mitts. Four sets of mitts went to the MAR in the car I was riding in, and all 4 were sewn together differently, and all 4 were documented ways. This is just the way that I found easiest.

Step 1. Iron all the seam allowances in on both the lining and the fashion fabric. I made mine out of silk taffeta scraps and cotton broadcloth scraps. You need such a small amount this is a great “use up scraps” project. Just remember to cut them on the bias. This is important for giving you the stretch needed to get them on over your hands.

why yes I DID burn my fingers, what makes you ask?

Step 2. Place the lining over the silk, wrong sides together.

it’s so pretty when all the edges are encased

Step 3. Fold in half and sew up the side seam. I personally used the “English Stitch” Which is demonstrated far better than I could by American Duchess Here. I was really pleased with this stitch though as it provided a stretchy very small flat seam allowance, and I didn’t want bulk on the inside of my mitts

Step 4. Sew the top and bottom hems, I used a hem stitch but a whip stitch would work, or really any hand stitch will work.

Thumb seam ready to be sewn before applying to mitts

Step 5. Thumbs! Thumbs are fiddly. No way around it. So I can’t stress this enough, it’s like 4″ long, it’s worth it to hand sew it. You just can’t fit that small space in a sewing machine. or if you can you’re a better woman than me. (making these did lead to a long thought experiment where I wondered how they mass manufacture barbie clothes). Begin by pressing all the thumb seam allowances up the same as the mitts. Overlap the side seams and top stitch into a tube.

Imma thumb!

Step 6. Pin the thumbs onto your mitts. Make sure they point in the correct direction.

It’s happy to see you…

Step 7. Sew your thumb! I used tiny back stitches. This is the one part of your mitts that will really take strain so take the time to really sew them on.

I use gutterman silk thread and I do recommend waxing it

ALTERNATIVE: Amanda made her mitts by folding under the seam allowance of the mitt body and inserting the thumb from below.

That’ll work

Step 8. Thumb lining. Assemble the thumb lining in a tube same as the thumb, now turn the entire mitt inside out so the thumb is sticking up, shimmy the thumb lining down over the thumb. Whip stitch in place to the lining and slip stitch to the top edge.

This would be easier to see if both my mitts and lining weren’t white

Step 9. If you want a facing of a contrasting silk or leather cut a triangle the size of your flap and iron the edges under. I used a scrap of lavender silk and whipped it into place.


A note on fit

You may be like me, tempted to be annoyed that your mitts are wrinkly in the arm, live with it. The wrinkles come from the bias, and if you have any difference in the width of your hand and the width of your wrist you will have wrinkles. You NEED those wrinkles to get them on.

See? period correct wrinkles

Also fit them as tightly as possible because any fabric, even stiff silk taffeta will stretch with repeatedly be taken on and off. I could BARELY get them on when making them and in an hour of wearing them I need take in the palms.

also…I don’t normally flip my wedding ring that way..I blame the cold.

Lets end with more beauty shots

The Alphabet Dress

The Alphabet Dress

Four Score and seven years ago, okay 1.5 years ago, the theme for the Friday night ball we were attending at Gettysburg’s Remembrance day was “Fancy Dress” and when browsing through fashion plates of fancy dress ideas I found the dress of my dreams. The Alphabet Dress. Incase you’re unfamiliar with what IS fancy dress, it’s basically the Victorians playing dress up. Imagine a halloween party, but not at halloween, and with no “sexy” everything.

Why am I just writing a blog from a costume that is over a year old you ask? well first of all stop nagging I’m a slow writer, and secondly because there were exactly zero good photos at Gettysburg but I just got to re-wear it to a fancy dress party and got actual photos.

I started with easy foundations, I used a bridal hoop I bought off e-bay and cut the bottom hoop off of, my standard 1860s off the shoulder chemise, and my 1860s corset which is from the Redthreaded pattern (highly recommend).

The skirt

I stared at the skirt for a long time deciding what was the best method of construction. I debated appliquéing grey stripes onto an orange skirt but I just didn’t think I’d be able to get them straight enough for my OCD. So I went with what I deemed the easiest method.

Prepare for incoming math: I figured out my pattern by measuring the circumference of my bottom hoop then divided it by 3. I wanted the grey stripes to be half as wide as the orange. So circumference divided by 3 = grey width, and circumference divided by 3 times 2 = orange width. I made patterns out of poster board and cut away.

I assembled in bulk. First I sewed every orange stripe to a grey friend, then I sewed the pairs together, then into quads etc etc until I had a whole skirt.

Did I mention I frenched my seams? looots of trimming
Before hemming or a waistband

I had a really limited amount of the orange silk I was using (it was a generous gift from Jenny-Rose that she got in the LA garment district) actually I had a limited amount of both fabrics as the grey was a generous gift from Adrienne. (it really takes a village to dress this Robin). To save on fabric instead of turning up a hem I faced it with a bias facing made of a different orange silk I had. No I do not have an orange problem, I have an orange solution!

Inside view
Lookit those pretty french seams

The Bodice

For the bodice pattern I used the Truly Victorian ballgown bodice. It’s a very versatile pattern. I cut the point off and piped it all with double piping. Because piping is my faaavorite detail. It’s flat lined with cotton broadcloth and boned at the center front, darts, sides and back. The finished bodice is sewn to the waistband to prevent gapping. I used to leave them separate in my 1860s outfits but they ALWAYS gap when I move so now I join them.

I never fit the darts till the very end as they’re always different than in your mock up
Back lacing is annoying as you need a friend to help you,
but please admire my hand done eyelets

The bertha is black cotton sateen that I am 90% sure Amanda draped on me but it was so long ago I can’t remember (this is why you’re supposed to blog right after the first wearing) I free handed the design onto it with gold fabric paint.

Fun fact: it accidentally spells S-T-A-B on my right shoulder
where it closes with hooks and eyes

The sleevey things are just strips of silk organza gathered to the armscye, I again hand painted the letters, and if I’m honest they’re the part of this ensemble I’m least happy with. I may revisit them again, if this ever gets a third wearing.

I know some people like to see the messy inside.

The letters

I was planning to print the letters on printer paper and pin them on. They used lots of cardboard in fancy dress costumes, remember it was a throw away outfit. But Mr. Sewloud was HORRIFIED that I’d put that much effort into the dress and just phone in the letters.

So he painted them all, good job honey only 25 more to go!

They’re a layer of painted silk backed with muslin and tacked in two places. and yes there are 26 of them. Can we discuss how fun turning all those corners was?

It took exactly as long as you can imagine

Finishing touches

There’s a really tragic derth of orange boots on the market (please American Duchess get on that) so I was left with a bit of a quandary about what to put on my feet. I settled on using white dance boots that I bought from Amazon and dying them with RIT in my washer.

I thought the grey lacing tied in with the grey,
I’m unsure and may swap for orange

They were pretty perfect visually but have the distinct downside of not being waterproof so on a snowy day in DC you have to wear rainboots to the party then change there. Not the end of the world, but not my classiest grand entrance.

The first time I wore it in Gettysburg I ran out of time to make the tiara and just wore a generic one, but for the second wearing I really wanted to try to replicate the fun Alpha, Omega tiara. Sewcialist Revolution convinced me to try using Worbla and I’m glad she did. It was actually pretty easy and I was very happy with the result.

It’s on a cheap headband to keep it on my head

The Dress in Action

This is probably the most work I’ve ever put into a dress so please forgive me as I’m about to spam you with a bunch of photos from the party at The Modern Mantua Maker’s house in DC.

Okay first one in Gettysburg as proof it WAS there
Pre-party mirror selfie circa 2003
Her staircase was the most amazing thing ever, I wanted to stand there for hours
WHEEE it is SO fun to spin in
I found some naughty can can girls! Lauren and Carolyn are the most fun and you really lose something without sound as they jingled everywhere they went
Posing with Amanda for a tintype
While I’m fascinated by how dark the orange went, I’m more so amused by Amanda and my epic Derp Face
Watch the magic happen!
Damesalamode really captured what a party it was
(I love that I’m not cool enough to really do rock on and did ‘I love you’ instead)
Did you know it snowed in DC this weekend? it was pretty

So that’s my most ambitious and lest blogged about project finished! What’s your big wish project? What should I tackle next?