[Plain Chemise]

Easy Faire Legal Chemise

Basic "Peasant blouse" chemises are incredibly easy to make with almost no pattern at all. You will need three to four yards of fabric, depending on the fullness of the sleeves, more if you want an ankle length chemise. I like to make my chemises hit at least mid thigh so if need be they can be worn as a night shirt for those early morning privy runs. <G> The width of the sleeve depends on the weight of the fabric and the station of your persona. (More fabric = more money).

Personally, I use full width of the fabric for muslin weight fabric and half width for heavier or bulky fabric. If money is tight, go for half width (although not if the fabric is very narrow...some muslins are only 30" wide, so check if your using muslin, most are 45" and that works well at half width), as it will save you at least a yard of fabric. For full width sleeves, plan on using at least four yards of fabric. This is enough to make a mid thigh length (on most people) length chemise. Add two more yards for ankle length, two and a half if you are very tall (over six foot). You will also need 2 or so yards 3/8" elastic or ribbon/cord to gather neckline and sleeves.

Where to measure for Chemise You need a few measurements before you start. (Figure A)
Wrist circumference: Measure around narrowest part of wrist.

Arm/Sleeve length: The length of the sleeve should be the measure from where your neck meets your shoulder over the shoulder and down to your wrist PLUS four to six inches (for the bloused effect and casings-more if you plan on a cuff or ruffle).

Arm Scythe (arm hole): To figure the arm scythe (arm hole) take the measurement of your arm where it meets your shoulder. Start at the top of shoulder, pass measuring tape LOOSELY around under arm and bring back to top. Divide in half and add two inches.

Desired body length: For the 'body' of the chemise, measure from hollow of throat to desired length and add two inches for hem allowance.

Remember, always pre-shrink fabric...this is important as you will be sweating into the chemise and will want to launder it frequently. For the same reason, use a natural fiber. Linen is authentic but can be costly, cotton is "faire legal" and can closely resemble linen. A good, inexpensive fabric is plain 45" cotton muslin. Any other lightweight or loose weave fabric will work. I recommend choosing light colors to help keep cool. Natural or ivory is ideal.

After washing, make sure your fabric has a straight edge across its width. You can either pull a thread and cut along it (best for heavy or loosely woven fabrics) or snip the selvage and tear across the width (fast and easy...works with most muslins like a dream).

Now that your have your edge, measure off the length needed for the sleeve, snip & rip or pull and cut.

If you're making half width sleeves, take this piece and match selvage edges and cut or tear lengthwise to get two sleeve pieces. For full width sleeves, measure and cut/tear another sleeve length. Now measure two full width body lengths.

You should end up with four rectangular pieces. Press each piece, straightening grain if needed. (I find it much easier if I use a spray mist bottle to dampen the fabric as I iron.) If you're making half width sleeves, you will have only one selvage per sleeve...you want to zig-zag or otherwise finish the other long edge so it won't fray.
[fig b]
Placing right sides together, take a sleeve and a body piece, match cut/torn (Top) and selvage/finished edge (side) and mark/pin the arm hole depth. Sew with about a 3/8 seam allowance and back stitch for reinforcement. (Figure "B")

Repeat until all sleeve and body parts are attached. Be careful to alternate sleeve and body pieces and keep the seams on the same end and side...you will have a huge amount of fabric and it's easy to get mixed up. Press seams open. Okay, now you have a bunch of fabric sewn with partial seams at one end that could fit three people. That's what you're supposed to have, so don't despair!

Next, find the body pieces and match side seams, right sides together. Starting from the armpit (the seams you just finished) sew towards the hem. (You will need to push previous seam allowances temporarily to the side when you start this seam) Again starting at the armpit, match and sew sleeve seam (push seam allowance to the other side). Repeat for other sleeve & body.

Stitch across area where armpit and sleeve/body seams separate for reinforcement. (Figure "C") [fig c] Press seams open. Finish raw edges on sleeves and neckline. Turn under 3/4" on top (neckline) and sleeve, and sew a 1/2 inch casing, leaving an opening for elastic or cord. Use elastic cut one inch longer than the wrist measurement to gather sleeve and about 48" of elastic for neckline. If using ribbon or cord, add at least 12 inches for tying. Feed elastic or ribbon through, adjust gathers and try on the chemise.

If the neckline is too low, pull the elastic or ribbon tighter until it fits as you prefer. If elastic is used, pin and sew, then sew casing closed. If using cord, tie ends together in a square knot. Repeat for sleeves.

If using bulky fabric, finish hem edge, if using light weight fabric turn raw edge under 1", then turn under again at desired hem length. Stitch and you're done!

This is a simple chemise suitable for peasant to middle class personae.

[Cuffed Chemise]

With just a little more effort, you can have a more middle to upper class looking chemise with a gathered /ruffled look at neckline and cuffs just by following these simple steps:
Create the cuff "look" by lengthening the sleeve measurement twice the amount of the desired cuff. For example, if you want a three inch cuff, add six inches to your sleeve pattern, fold it back at three inches beyond original pattern fold line, wrong sides together, and sew completely around on the original fold line. Sew another line behind this one (closer to shoulder) to form a casing. (Figure "D") cuff casing

Remember to leave an opening for elastic or ribbon. Thread either thru casing, and gather. You can do the same trick on the top of the chemise, adding 2 or three inches and making a 3/4 to 1 1 /2 inch ruffle when finished.

This is an easy way to class up a basic chemise.


[Ribboned Chemise]Another way is by tying two or three ribbons around each arm *over* the chemise. Blouse the chemise sleeve above each ribbon, tie another around your wrist and Ta da! Instant class!  You may wish to embroider sleeves and cuffs or trim the cuffs with lace.  

Questions or suggestions about these directions?  Just contact me.


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