i wanted the speed of a peasant dress with the fit of a set-in sleeve, but i didn't want to make the pattern from scratch because i am doing a lot of that lately and i just wanted this to be a fun, quick project. so i went thru my stash and found the perfect pattern, mccall's 4547, which happens to be what ella calls an "old times outfit". it includes a pattern for a chemise that fit the bill perfectly.
the pattern instructions are written for use with woven fabrics but i chose to use a soft knit that i found last winter at joanns--sorry internet, i like joanns, most of the time. but i refuse to put a drawstring in a neckline, especially on night clothes, i don't care how historically accurate that is, so i chose to ignore that and make an closed casing and elastic. the construction sequence i used was:
- join shoulders on the serger, then topstitch the shoulder seams flat on the sewing machine (top stitching adds stability to the seam that bears all the weight of the gown).
- fold down the neckline casing and stitch in place with a narrow, short zig-zag on the sewing machine (this preserves the stretch in a knit fabric--totally not necessary on this neckline since it will already have stretch built in, but i needed this stitch setting for the hems and i didn't want to keep resetting the machine). leave a place open in the back to insert elastic.
- set in the sleeves on the serger--don't waste your time pinning--just serge with the sleeve on the bottom and stretch the armscye to fit. i promise, it will work.
- serge the side seams closed.
- serge finish the sleeve hems and skirt hem.
- hem sleeves and skirt using the narrow short zig-zag stitch from step 2.
- insert elastic in neckline, zig-zag the casing closed, add a tag so the child can tell front from back.
if you don't have a serger, just do the whole thing on the sewing machine using the narrow zig-zag, and don't bother finishing the edges--the knit won't fray.
this was the fastest thing i've made in a long time--less than an hour from cutting to wearing.
she loves it! so much so that i already made another. behold, the old times nightgown dance:
the long johns underneath are because it got COLD here last night! yippie! i pray this is a sign that snow is in our future this winter. also, she does not wear eyeglasses, she was wearing mine for fun.
i plan to make more of this design, adding embellishments and different sleeve designs so she can wear them as dresses. tiny versions of this might just become my new go-to baby present.
i highly recommend this pattern, it fits well and sews together accurately. the only error i found was in the notches on the side seams but that is so minor it isn't worth mentioning except that i don't want some beginning seamstress to think she was the one who messed up. and i do believe a beginner could manage this whole pattern package--after all, mothers and daughters on the prairie were sewing these things, by hand, without so much as one website to guide them. i'm pretty sure a modern seamstress with access to the interwebs could do it too.
and now, back to the project!