Renaissance Chemise

Here’s a tutorial on how I made my chemise for the renaissance costume I am sewing.  I had a lot of fun working on this project! 
Renaissance Chemise Tutorial|Designers Sweet Spot|
Featuring Simplicity Pattern # 3809
This is part two of a four part post on how to make an entire Renaissance Costume. For info on what pattern I am using and a few costume tips, check out yesterday’s post. The skirt and corset are yet to come, so be sure and stop back cause you won’t want to miss them!

At this point you should have your chemise cut out. Let me tell you that this is not a real fitted pattern which makes it rather easy to work with. On the down side, the sleeve is just GARGANTUAN! I ended up tapering my sleeve at the wrist because it was way too large for me. I will explain more on this later in this tutorial.
The pattern has only three pieces, front, back and sleeves. I will show you how to make this garment in less than two hours with a few minor adjustments to how it is sewn. I do not use the pattern instructions.
Why does this matter? Well, it’s like driving a stick shift car. If you learn to drive on a stick shift with a clutch, you think that’s how all cars are made. Until, one day, someone comes along and says “Why don’t you drive an automatic? It’s so much easier?” Then you drive the automatic without the stick shift and you wonder why no one ever told you how much easier it was. That’s how I feel about pattern directions. They are not helpful, but make each project longer and more complicated than it needs to be in my professional opinion.
My methods are professional, simple and quick. You decide what kind of car you want to drive.
I recommend this method of construction:

Step one:
Begin with the sleeves. Make a rolled hem 1/4″ wide at the bottom of the sleeve. Use the width of your presser foot as a guide. Turn the fabric over 1/4″ one time, stitch. Then turn it again, 1/4″ and stitch on top of your first row of stitching. You will have a beautiful flat, even seam. No one will know that you stitched it twice. Also, do not be tempted to use pins to hold the fabric in place. Pins slow you down and break needles. You will be a better sewer without them. Trust me on this.
Step Two:
Mark the placement of the elastic on the sleeves by notching the sleeve on either side where it is marked on the pattern. Cut 1/8″ elastic according to your upper arm measurement plus 1″. Place the end of the elastic on the notch, directly under your sewing needle. Back tack in place with a single needle stitch.

Pull the elastic taught all the way over to the other side of the sleeve. Using a zig zag stitch, or decorative stretch stitch, stitch on top of the elastic while pulling it taught. Ease the extra fabric evenly under the needle as you go. It will naturally create perfectly spaced gathers.
This is how it looks when you have done all the rows of stitching. One word of caution, my sleeve was far wider than the elastic was capable of stretching. Most elastics can stretch a maximum of about a 2:1 ratio. If your sleeve is 24″ wide, you may use 12″ of elastic and this method will still work. I ended up tapering the sleeve so it was narrower at the wrist. According to my pattern, I would have had 36″ of fabric gathered up at my wrist which only measures 8″. This is a ridiculous 4:1 ratio, so I altered my pattern to be a 2:1 ratio at the wrist.
Step Three:
Attach the sleeves to the garment front and back at the armhole seam. Do not sew the under sleeve seam, leave it open as well as the garment side seams.
At this point I suggest trying on your garment, make sure it fits through the upper arm, elbow and wrist areas. Also check the fit across the bust. Don’t worry about the large neckline, we will get to that next!
Step Four:
Now for the neck. Open 1/2″ single fold bias tape. With right sides together, sew a single needle stitch in the narrow fold closest to the raw edge of the neck. When finished, turn the tape to the inside of the garment.
Make a single needle topstitch catching the seam allowance underneath to the body of the chemise. Sew as close to the seam as you can. This is called under-stitching. It will keep your tape from twisting and showing on the front of your finished garment. It also makes a professional looking, flat seam. It will not be visible on the finished garment.

Fold the tape over to the back of the garment, completely encasing the raw edges. Top stitch the other edge of the bias tape, 1/8″ from the edge. This stitching will be visible on the outside of the garment. It should be easy to sew if you have already under- stitched the tape. The fabric will remain flat and even, giving you a smooth surface to stitch upon. When you get to the point where the ends over lap, tuck the top one under and tack in place. Be sure to leave a slight opening for your elastic. Using a safety pin, insert the elastic that you have cut to size according to the pattern directions. Then hand sew the casing closed, and arrange the gathers evenly around the neckline.

Step Five:
Sew one sleeve and side seam closed. Generally, it should be the left side of the garment. Over cast the seam if desired. Then make another rolled hem at the bottom of the entire chemise (hemming back, and front) as in step one.
Step Six:
Close the remaining sleeve and side seam making sure all elastic ends and rolled hems properly line up. Overcast if you choose. You are now done sewing the garment. You may press the hems and side seams at this point if you have not already done so. A well constructed garment should require very little pressing, and only at the end of the construction.
How does that feel? Pretty easy, huh?
On to the trims!
Step Seven:
The pattern calls for bows where the gathering is on the sleeve. I made my own decorative trim by layering two ribbons on top of each other and stitching them together with a decorative vine topstitch. (I am playing with my new sewing machine, LOVE it!) This is optional of course, but it has a very rich look to it and it didn’t take me long to do. Then I tied the ribbon into bows and pinned them in place for effect before I hand stitched them.
Here are some other tips on sewing the chemise. I chose to keep mine rather short, some patterns have a long chemise that is as long as the over skirt. I wanted mine short for comfort, however if you want a long style it’s easy to just continue the side seams to the desired length (you may need to add a bit more room for walking at the side seams, about 2″ on each side should do the trick).

I really like how this turned out. I may even wear it with a pair of jeans and cowboy boots around town! Thanks for stopping by! Let me know if you have any questions!
Tomorrow, it’s on to the skirt!
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Renaissance Chemise Tutorial|Designers Sweet Spot|

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