At the turn of the century, ladies of privilege could easily afford their own dressmakers, and even middle-class housewives occasionally employed competent seamstresses. But many women did their own sewing, often relying on Dressmaking, Up to Date, a how-to book published by the Butterick Publishing Company. First published in 1905 and widely considered the first modern American sewing book, this extremely rare volume is published here complete and unabridged.
This Butterick manual provides clear and concise instructions for altering patterns, hand-sewing stitches, and creating shirt-blouses, skirts, wedding and evening gowns, coats, jackets, maternity wear, undergarments, bathrobes, children's clothing, and many other articles of apparel. Today's costume historians and sewing enthusiasts will find fascinating instruction in such long-lost arts as boning a bodice perfectly, creating skirt sweepers and bust enhancers, concealing hooks and eyes, and other vintage dressmaking techniques.
An indispensable archive of information on late-Victorian and turn-of-the-century clothing, this volume will be of immense interest to anyone fascinated by the fashion and costume of the period. It will also be of value to needleworkers wanting to create accurate reproductions of Victorian-era costume, or to anyone interested in applying time-honored sewing techniques to a modern wardrobe.
Read an Excerpt
Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques
By Kristina Harris
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1999 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Dress making, up to Date
SIMPLE SEWING STITCHES
MAKING A KNOT.—Holding the threaded needle in the right hand, twist the end of the thread once and a half, around the forefinger of the left hand; press, roll downward on the ball of the thumb, twisting once or twice; slip off and draw down with the middle finger of the left hand.
BASTING.—There are two kinds of basting; even and uneven. In even basting the stitches and spaces are the same length; in uneven basting, as its name implies, the stitches are so formed that they are not of equal length.
EVEN BASTING STITCH.—Start with a knot in basting and always have it on the right side; it is more easily removed. Pass the needle over and under the material, making the stitches and the spaces the same size. To fasten the thread, take a stitch twice over the last stitch. (No. 1.)
UNEVEN BASTING.—In uneven basting the stitch and space are not of equal length. The same directions are followed as for even basting, except that the stitch which is taken up on the needle is about one-third shorter than the space covered by the thread, as seen at No. 2.
RUNNING.—In running, the stitches are shorter than in basting and spaces and stitches are the same length. It is used on seams that need not be very strong.
BACK-STITCH.—In back-stitch, a short stitch is taken on the upper and a longer one on the under side, bringing the needle out a stitch in advance. Insert the needle to meet the last stitch, passing it under the material and out again a stitch in advance of the one last taken. (No. 3.) This is used on seams requiring strength, to sew raw edges together, and also in stitching sleeves in a garment. Fasten by carefully taking two stitches over the last ones which were made.
HALF-BACK STITCH.—This is the same as back-stitch, with the exception that the stitch is taken half-way back instead of all the way, leaving a small space between each stitch.
COMBINATION STITCH.—This consists of one back-stitch and two small running stitches, as shown at No. 4, and is used on seams not requiring very great strength. It is fastened like back-stitch.
FRENCH SEAM.—This is made by joining a narrow seam on the right side and trimming evenly, close to the stitching; turn the seam on the wrong side, crease the edge and take off another seam a quarter of an inch deep. This must fully cover the edges of the previous seam; consequently the first seam must be trimmed off evenly and the second seam be of sufficient depth to cover this, else instead of a smooth finished seam the raw edges will protrude on the right side. The method is shown at No. 5.
FLAT FELL SEAM.—A fell is a seam hemmed down to protect the raw edge. Place the edges together, baste a three-eighths of an inch seam and sew with combination stitch. If the goods is bias, stitch so that the needle follows the thread of the goods and prevents ravelling. Remove the bastings; trim off the edge which is toward you close to the line of sewing, turn the other edge down flat to cover the line of sewing, press hard with the thumb nail, then baste and hem. (No. 6.)
OVERCASTING.—Overcasting is a slanting stitch, used to keep raw edges from ravelling. In taking the stitch the needle should always point toward the left shoulder. Hold the material loosely in the left hand. Do not use a knot, but turn the end of the thread to the left and take the first two stitches over to fasten. Make the stitches about one-eighth of an inch apart and one-eighth of an inch deep. Keep the spaces between the stitches even, as shown at No. 7.
OVERHANDING.— Selvages in muslin and certain other materials are best joined by overhanding. Baste the muslin with the two selvages together and overhand with close stitches over and over the edge, taking up as few threads of the material as possible, as shown at No. 8, so that when finished the edge will be smooth and flat and not form a cord.
CAT-STITCHING.—Cat-stitching, or, as it is sometimes called, catch-stitching, is a small stitch used to hold the edges of flannel and various edges in dressmaking. In the former, place the pieces of flannel together and run a seam, taking an occasional back-stitch. Trim off one edge and press the other edge flat to cover the seam, holding the material as shown at No. 9. Insert the needle under the flat seam at the upper left-hand corner; cross the edge and take a small stitch a few threads to the right through all thicknesses; cross again and insert the needle as pictured, taking a similar stitch, always pointing the needle to the left and encasing the raw edges. Finish the seam, the effect being shown at No. 10.
Seams in flannel are also pressed open and cat-stitched, working the stitches over the raw edge of each side of the seam, thus holding both down well, as shown at No. 11. Cat-stitching is referred t o frequently in the following chapters for holding down the edges of collars, sleeves, etc., and in other places where it is necessary to hold an edge firmly. In these instances it may be made by taking a small stitch at the upper side, then another across the edge and below, but making a plain stitch instead of a cross-stitch. This style of cat-stitch is worked from right to left.
HEMMING.—A hem is a fold of goods turned down and folded over to protect a raw edge. The first turn of a hem is the most important; if even, the second turn will be even also. Always turn a hem toward you. The hemming stitch is a slanting stitch, the needle pointing directly across the middle of the left thumb.
In turning a hem, crease the edge over one-quarter of an inch exactly, creasing with the thumb and forefinger. Mark a card for the width of the hem, place the end of the card at the turned edge and mark the desired width, making a perforation with a pin. Move the line to the left and make another perforation; continue across the material. Fold the hem on the perforation. Baste with even basting.
In hemming do not use a knot. Pointing the needle toward you (to the right), insert it under the fold, close to the right hand. Draw the needle through, leaving a little of the thread to be tucked under and then sewed down, point the needle toward the middle of the left thumb and take up one or two threads of the cloth and the same of the fold (No. 12). Hold the hem across the end of the fore-finger of the left hand, but not too tight. Continue hemming in this manner. It is important to have all the stitches slant in the same direction and of uniform size.
MITRED CORNERS.—A mitred corner is the joining of two edges to form a right angle. Make quarter-inch turnings on the edges to be hemmed, then turn over the desired hem width. Open the material, turn one corner toward the centre and crease exactly where the lines of the hem cross, as seen at No. 13. A quarter of an inch below (or toward the point) fold and cut the corner on the crease last made. Arrange the remaining corners the same. Turn the edge of the diagonal cut in on the crease, as shown at No. 14, fold the hem down all around, bringing the mitred corners together and hem the sides. Hem the mitred corners but do not catch through the under material.
SQUARE CORNER.—Fold the turned hem down, and where the hems cross in the corner fold back and crease hard. Open the material and cut an oblong a quarter of an inch from the last crease made (cutting toward the corner) and a quarter of an inch from the crease made for the hem. This is shown in the upper left hand corner of No. 15. Fold the square corners down as seen at No. 16, hemming the turned over edge to the side hem, but through the latter only and not through to the right side. Finish the hems on all sides in the same manner if the material is square.
When a handkerchief is to be hemstitched the corners are not cut away but are folded one over the other and the hemstitching continued across. A corner may be finished with a plain hem in this way also.
TO MAKE A DAMASK OR FRENCH HEM.—Make a narrow turn on one edge of the material, then a second; in the illustration this turn is very narrow. Fold the hem back on the right side and overhand the edge formed. Do not try to take too deep a stitch. Open the hem and crease with the thumb. If the article is square turn the opposite side the same. Hem the remaining sides, overhanding the corners before folding back on the right side. The method is shown at No. 17.
GATHERING AND STROKING OR LAYING GATHERS.—A gathering stitch is an uneven running stitch. Always begin by inserting the needle on the wrong side to conceal the knot. Take up two threads and pass over four. Never use a double thread for gathering. Gather on the right side a quarter of an inch from the edge. It is always better to slip the stitches along on the needle and not remove it from the material. When the edge is gathered remove the needle and draw the gathers up tight. Place a pin in vertically close to the last stitch and wind the thread around several times in the form of a figure 8, as seen at No. 18. This holds the gathers well together and facilitates the stroking.
Use a coarser needle for stroking. Hold the work between the thumb and fingers of the left hand, with the thumb below the gathering thread. Put the point of the needle under the gathering thread and press the little plait under the thumb, drawing the needle down. Care must be taken not to scratch the material. Continue entirely across the gathers, putting the needle under each stitch, and holding the plait firmly with the thumb. Stroke the upper edge of the gathers as well.
INSERTING RUFFLE IN HEM.—To insert this gathered ruffle, cut the hem open at the lower edge. Divide the ruffle in quarters, then divide the hem in quarters and mark these places with colored thread. Pin the hem and ruffle together after quartering. Place the right side of the ruffle to the right side of the hem and join in a quarter of an inch seam with combination stitch. Turn the seam up on the hem as pictured at No. 19; this also discloses the hem turned back. Turn over one-quarter of an inch of the remaining edge of the hem and hem down to cover the sewing line. The finished effect of this, showing the turned edge of the hem with the stitching above, is pictured at No. 20. Although directions are here given for hand sewing, machine sewing may be accomplished in the same manner for seams, hems, etc., as explained here for hand-work.
ROLLING AND WHIPPING.—Holding the wrong side of the cambric toward you and beginning at the right-hand end, roll the edges between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand for about an inch. Take a needle and thread to correspond with the material, make a small knot, insert the needle at the corner of the roll and fasten. Hold the roll firmly with the right thumb and forefinger, and with the left hand roll one inch. Overcast with the thread as far as the cloth is rolled, taking care to take the stitch below the roll, and not through it. (No 21.) Continue to roll and whip (or overcast) across the length of material.
WHIPPING AND SEWING ON LACE.—The lace may be gathered by pulling the thread which will usually be found at the top of the lace, or it may be whipped over and over with needle and thread. Roll an inch or two of the material and place the lace with the right side against the right side of the material, then whip both together (No. 22), as directed before. The lace need not be gathered unless so preferred, but, instead, may be whipped on plain; although it is always advisable to hold the lace at least "easy."
WHIPPING AND GATHERING.—Divide the hem on the bottom of the garment into halves and quarters, marking each division with a cross-stitch. Divide the ruffle in the same manner and mark. Trim off all ravellings. Now whip the edge as explained for No. 21 but after every inch whipped draw up the thread. (No. 23.) Place the right side of the ruffle to the right side of the hem, end to end, centre to centre, matching the cross-stitches. Adjust the gathers evenly and pin. Overhand the ruffle to the edge of the hem, taking a stitch in every whipping stitch of the ruffle. For whipping make the ruffle twice as full as the garment to be trimmed. The lower edge of the ruffle may be trimmed with lace whipped on, as shown at No. 22, or hemmed.
TUCKING.—When making a tuck, it is always best to use a measure or gage so that the tuck will be the same width from beginning to end. The size of the gage must be regulated by the size of the tuck since a deep tuck requires a longer and broader gage than a fine tuck. The method of basting the tuck by the aid of the notched measure is seen at No. 24. When one desires to mark a number of tucks where they are not indicated in a pattern, as, for instance, in tucking a straight piece of material from which to cut a yoke, a second notch may be cut by which to measure from the fold of one tuck to the next. This also is shown in the illustration.
Cut the measure from a piece of card or stiff paper. When the tucks are one- eighth of an inch deep and the space between an eighth of an inch, the measure is cut in one-eighth of an inch from the top. An eighth of an inch below this, cut bias to meet the first slash. This makes a notch with one straight edge, and the distance from the end of the card to this straight edge will form the measure. Half an inch below the top make another cut and below this the bias slash.
It is quicker and more accurate to make a measure of this sort whenever short spaces, as hems, tucks and the spaces between, are to be measured, than to use the tape measure, as some times the eye becomes confused at the eighth marks on the tape, and mistakes may occur that will prove quite serious, particularly when a number of tucks and uneven spaces are to be made.
SETTING IN A GUSSET.—A gusset is a triangle of cloth set into a garment to enlarge and strengthen an opening.
Fold diagonally a piece of muslin two inches and one-quarter square and cut it on the fold. Take one of the triangles and fold it down a quarter of an inch all around, folding straight lines first. Holding it with the wrong side toward you, right angle down, fold the point at the bottom up to meet the folded bias edge. This crease is shown at No. 25. Fold the ends together and cut the projecting points at the sides, cutting straight with the grain of the goods. If the gusset is not at the end of a seam slash the material the desired depth, cutting by a thread. Make a narrow hem all around, tapering at the corner so it will be little more than a roll.
Pin the corner of the gusset to the corner of the opening, right side to right side. (No. 25.) Beginning at the centre, overhand to the edge of the hem as far as the crease. Overhand the other side the same. Fold the gusset over on the crease and pin at the centre, also at each corner. Take care that the warp and woof threads at each side run parallel with the warp and woof threads of the garment. Baste and hem all around, as shown at No. 26. The lower edge of the gusset will have to be stretched to fit. The finished effect is pictured at No. 27.
BUTTONHOLES.—A buttonhole is a hole or slit cut in a garment to receive and hold a button. The edges are worked to prevent ravelling. A buttonhole must always be cut straight by a thread of the cloth. At No. 28 will be seen the several processes for working a buttonhole This model is made by simply barring the edges with the thread or twist used for the buttonhole. Put the needle in from the wrong side at the lower right-hand side of the slit, which is the farthest edge from the fold of the material; this is shown at the lowest figure in the illustration. Carry the thread to the end and form a bar by taking two stitches as shown in this, and finished in the second figure; then carry the thread across the opposite side.
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Table of ContentsFrontispiece?The Sewing Circle
Important Points and Aids in Dressmaking
The Correct Method of Altering Patterns
"Novels, Artistic Seams"
Wedding and Evening Gowns
The Tailor-Made Gown
Coats and Jackets
Practical and Ornamental Stitches
Bias Bands and Folds?Turning Corners
An Empire Tea-Gown
Desirable Garments for Maternity Wear
Making and Finishing Underwear
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a really fascinating look at how Victorians made Victorian clothes. I found the info on boning, making street sweepers, and the entire section on wedding gowns really informative and helpful in creating repros and costumes
Butterick's sewing manual (which went through a number of editions) was among the most popular of the early 20th century, judging from the number of copies usually listed on the used book exchanges and ebay. This reprint makes one edition available to people who want a new copy. It is really early Edwardian rather than Victorian; the sewing techniques are those used from around 1900 to 1910. Well written, and by the standards of the time, well illustrated.
This book is just fascinating if you want 'insider' information on dating clothes or if you sew at all. What an inspiration!