. I kinda stalled out before Christmas as I needed to put in the placket and pocket, and I was skeered. But this past session at the Victorian Sewing Circle, I tied on my big-girl apron, did the research (two whole paragraphs of it, as it turns out), and put the pieces in.
I found a quick description of what I was looking for in “Studies in Plain Needlework and Amateur Dressmaking” by Mrs. H. A. Ross. (Published 1887)
Here’s my source documentation. P. 11 from the above.. It does seem to require a little bit of decoding, however.
“Skirt pockets are cut from. the lining”-ok, check.
“And are heart-shaped when opened flat. Twelve inches long by six wide is a medium size, leaving one side double and straight on the fold; the other wise rounded to a point on the top.”
There are definitely times when a picture is worth a thousand words, and the downside of the old sewing texts is the further back you get, the more scant the illustrations become. It sounds like what she is describing how you would cut out a paper heart for a valentine, but upside down…
“Sew around the bottom and five inches of the rounding side, leaving the remaining space to be sewed in the skirt seam. Unless covered by the drapery the pocket should be faced. Leave three inches of the pocket at the top, above the place for the hand.”
She does like to leave the important bits for last. So the opening for the hand is on the curved side of the half-heart, towards the point, but at least 3″ down from it so the pocket isn’t too narrow for your hand to get into. Also, the pocket opening is sewn into a gap in the side seam, after it’s all complete.
“A tape must be sewn to the point and jointed to the belt (waistband). There is danger of the pocket being so narrow at the top that the hand cannot be inserted, though the pocket was cut plenty large enough.”“All pockets are sewed in double seam. first sew the seam very narrow upon the right side, the pocket turned and stitched again on the wrong side in an ordinary seam, without taking in the seam first sewed. This makes a strong seam and required no overcasting.” (AKA French seamed. Got it. Except that it’s the last bit and I didn’t read it before I sewed the actual pocket. Oh, well. Overcasting edge it is.) Unfortunately I didn’t actually think to get any photos during construction, and I’m a smidgeon too lazy to make another one for demo purposes.
As implied by the rather terse instructions, I left a gap in my skirt side-seam the length of the pocket opening (and hopefully in about the right place) and stitched the pocket to it after the fact. This wasn’t as slick as a modern inseam pocket but wasn’t as cumbersome as I originally feared it might be. I think as a method it makes more sense for something hand-stitched, where the fold would decrease the time it took to sew while the stitching it in afterwards wouldn’t be nearly as cumbersome by hand as it could be by machine. (Though as I said it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.)
I also did the placket for the skirt opening, which I was also kinda dreading for no good reason. The page above describes about four different methods in about 20 words each; I used the instructions for making the slit version for this petticoat, but for the skirt I planned to have the opening in a seam. In the end I just cut a rectangle of my cloth and used it to face/lap the opening in one piece, down one side and up the other. Not quite what was described, but simple and it will function just fine. It needs hooks, and of course the whole thing needs the waistband, and then I’ve got to start thinking about trim.
This is where shit gets exciting. Or intimidating. Oh, hell.
I’m thinking about using the middle skirt for my inspiration, though I also really like the one on the left. This is a picture from a reproduction of an 1886 Bloomingdales catalogue, belonging to my mom. I love the online resources but it’s so amazing to flip through the catalogue. Anyway, I definitely want an overskirt reminiscent of the two In the picture—I have TV368 (below) for a pattern.
Getting mighty ambitious, aren’t I? 😀
And then I will have to start muslining the bodice, I mean waist. somehow compared to that decorating the skirt doesn’t seem so intimidating…
4 responses to “A Victorian Skirt Pocket”
Thanks very much for sharing this – so interesting. I also have some old catalogues. I have an interesting one from Eaton’s from the 1920s that I’d love to photograph and share online, but everything is still under copyright I think. Good luck with the remainder of the project.
I do love old resources! There are a couple of online digital information piles (scanned books) on dressmaking techniques, but turning pages makes something in my brain function a little better.
That said, the tape is a wonderful idea. If added bulk isn’t an issue, I’d run bias tape all around the pocket edge and use that for the tape at top.
I am a ‘shoves hands in pockets’ person. I do wear them out at the bottom.
I so admire you for tackling these sorts of projects! I’ve been talking about making an 1898 gold-rush era dress for our winter festival up here in the Yukon for YEARS, but never really get going on it. If I ever do, I know who I’m coming to when I need to weep on someone over the pain of it all. 😉
Good luck with that bodice, btw. Yeh gods, how does that flair at the bottom even work?! Although I’m sure you have a book somewhere that explains it!
Love, love, love the cute and funky sewing patterns you’ve created and the fact that you took the time to photograph them. Thanks for the post!