Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cotehardie Progress - Hand Finishing

Once the main pieces of the dress were sewn together it was time to start the lengthy process of hand finishing. I'm still not done with all the hand finishing - there are a lot of seams! But all the bodice seams are now finished and about a quarter of the skirt seams. They are all finished in the same way, so I will share what I do. Just apply  the process mentally to the yet-unfinished portion of the dress. ;)

For my pre-sewing machine-era historic dresses I prefer to use a straight machine stitch for seams that are not visible from the outside. For any stitches that will show on the outside of the dress I will use hand sewing. Alas. I am not a purist.

The first thing I did was attach facings to the center front opening of the dress. I carefully cut the center front edges of the dress to the curved shape I traced onto it, and then sewed 1.5" wide strips of linen to each side of the opening, right sides together. The strips are on the straight of grain, to help add stability to the center front opening. Since the curve of the front seam is not very dramatic, the straight strip of linen easily molded around the curves.

I then pressed the facing strips to the inside of the dress, turned under the raw edges of the facing strips and pinned them into place.

Using a small slip stitch I attached the facing to the lining of the dress. Below the lining, the stitches show on the outside of the dress. In this picture  you can see how the front opening curves (I laid a piece of brown fabric beneath the opening so you can more easily see the shape).

I topstitched close to the edge of the opening with a running stitch to firm up the edge. Now the front opening is ready for eyelets!

To finish the neckline I could have sewed on another narrow facing strip and attached it the same way as I did for the front opening. However, I decided to just press under the hem about 1/2" all the way around the neckline. I then tucked the raw edge under and slip stitched the folded edge to the dress - through the lining and the outside layer. Here is how it looks from the inside:

And from the outside:

The inside seams of the dress are finished with felling. This creates a much stronger seam and also serves to stiffen the seam to prevent wrinkling - it almost acts as a kind of soft boning! Here you can see one of the bodice seams felled. The seam allowance is pressed to one side, the raw edge turned under, and the folded edge slip stitched down to secure it.

And one of the skirt seams:

Here are what felled seams look from the outside of the dress:



  1. What thread type/color are you using?

    I wish I could find as much time in the day as you do to get so much accomplished! I'm home most of the week, and I still don't seem to get anything done!

  2. Wow! That's a lot of hand stitching! Kudos to you for having that much patience. It looks really lovely.

  3. I'm using cotton thread that is an off white color. . .I wish I had linen or wool to sew with, but I have fallen into the habit of sewing everything with cotton thread over the years and keep black, white, off white and any strong color I currently need (like red) on hand. The off white seemed to blend okay with this dress so, not a perfect match but close enough for me!

    Stephanie, I know. I am kind of regretting it right now! :P I have a doublet to make this week and will have just as much hand finishing to do on it as well. Maybe I will cheat and use a bag lining on it since the guy who is getting it is not that concerned with being totally accurate anyway. ;) Hopefully I can get it all done before next Saturday!

  4. Hand-stitching the outside seams takes a lot of patience!!! It's looking beautiful :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  5. Beautiful job Sarah! I think you make some of the most diverse eras, yet everything is well researched out and executed beautifully!

    You are an inspiration in a lot of sewing areas, not only for me, but you've inspired Little Miss to a large degree. She saw pictures of your Cotehardie, and now she wants one! She hasn't figured out color yet, but I am glad for your tutorial so when I start it, I can have a reference point!

  6. This is going to be really pretty! Your hand-stitching is very neat, I envy that!

  7. Your finishing is so pretty. I know it takes a lot of time (I speak from experience!) but I'm sure you'll be glad you did it this way once you're done :-)

    Oh, and I love the purple lining! So fun :D

  8. You sew so Beautifully and fast! And I love following your blog! I wish i had more patience for sewing... It would be wonderful to make something so neat. =)

  9. I love the look of hand stitching against linen fabric. It's so beautiful. Makes me want to sew something linen by hand, in my spare time, you know. :P

  10. Confession time: I've been lurking through your blog looking at your old kirtle and new cotehardie posts as I'm currently working on my very first cotehardie as a wet-behind-the-ears seamstress. Thank you so very much for documenting the process step-by-step; even though you may not have intended to write a guide, you did a fantastic job of it.

    I have one question, though, about your finishing work: about how many stitches per inch are you doing? I'm guessing it's not the standard twelve-per-inch that a machine could do, but alas, I'm terrible at estimating size in photographs.

  11. A True Amateur, wow thanks! I'm glad my muddled myriad of thoughts and photos can be a little helpful. Good luck on your project!

    I had no idea how many stitches per inch I was doing, but I just measured and it ranges 5-6 slip stitches per inch for the finishing. So, not extremely tiny but close enough together to not wear and break apart, and not so close as to take FOREVER to do. ;)


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!