Friday, January 20, 2012

Cotehardie Progress - Sewing the Main Dress

Well, once the cutting of my dress was done I had to take a break. I hate cutting things out and it's a bit nerve wracking to lay out large pieces of fabric on the floor and try to work quickly before a dog or a cat or a boy comes in and tramps across the laid out cloth.

The fun part is actually sewing the dress together! To start with, I sewed the front half gores to each front panel.

Then the rest of the sewing was extremely straightforward. Just sewing the gores to the dress and stitching up the side seams and shoulder seams. Here you can see the gores sewed to each half of the dress. After this photo I sewed the side gores to the front panels and sewed the back to the front along the side seams and shoulder seams.

Then it was time to check for fit! Although I fitted the pattern for the torso before I cut into the linen, with these types of self-supporting dresses it's important to fit as you go, because the stretch properties of each fabric is different. I found the fit to be pretty good but I did have to tighten up the center front seam under the bust to get good bust support (it doesn't help I've already increased a cup size or so since getting pregnant) : / Instead of a straight-seam front opening for the dress, I found the support and shape to be MUCH better by curving the front opening. I pinned it along that curve to try it on, and here you can see the black line indicating where the curved seam will be located. I have read that for ladies who need more support this curved-front-seam method is better. For my wool kirtle I used the straight front seam method, which works pretty well but always gives a crease under the bust after a while because the fabric stretches and the boobs droop. It will be interesting to see the difference between the straight front seam method of fitting and this method of fitting after I wear this dress for a day or so. Maybe there won't be as many underbust wrinkles?

Because of the curved seam in the center front, I think I will probably do eyelets and a lacing cord for the front opening instead of buttons and buttonholes. I think I'd get better tension and a firmer fit with the lacing cord; plus that means I can wear this dress alone as working attire if need be, without the wool dress underneath it. Both the wool dress and this dress support and shape without the need for anything on underneath except the shift. Here you can see the side: (I am really happy with the drape of the skirt!)

And the back: (and yes, the center back seam is not exactly straight on my body - I didn't adjust it to be straight when I quickly pinned myself into it so the back line isn't straight and the front line isn't either! But that can easily be remedied when I put it on and can shift it around to lay properly instead of having to pin it)

And the front:

The skirt gores on this dress start higher up on the torso than on my wool dress. I find it more comfortable to move in but I do think next time I will make the skirt gores slightly lower to give a more streamlined shape over the hips. However, I do have a bit of "wiggle room" in the lower torso so that ought to be adequate for the growing baby bump and hopefully I won't have to adjust the dress to fit a new shape in a few months.

I'm contemplating an elbow length funnel type sleeve now instead of a tight short sleeve. It seems it would be more appropriate for this type of dress. Alas. I don't know what to do! But I have to finish all the seams before worrying about the sleeves. That should be at least six hours of work so I ought to have had plenty of time to decide on a sleeve style by then. ;)



  1. wow, Sarah...the dress looks beautiful so far. It has a nice drape, too :) :) Again, another great job :) :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  2. The dress looks gorgeous! You have done a great job!


  3. So, no matter why you do it, there are plenty of benefits associated with sewing your own clothes. Whether you do it to save money, for fun, for the self fulfillment, or to be prepared in case of an emergency, sewing your own clothes can be a good idea.

  4. Hi, I am currently making my first kirtle and as your wonderful cotehardie is one of my foremost inspirations I would like to ask for your counsel in solving my latest dilemma - I have my gores cut, but am still undecided as to whether sew them bias to straight-edge, or cut them all in half, reverse them and sew them together bias-to-bias and attach them straight edge to straight edge. I have never previously experimented with bias to straight edge, so I am worried about the seams sagging. I understand from your instructions that you sew in the gores as is, that is, bias to straight edge, and also have a few other sources that seem to imply this, but it seems kind of counter-intuitive to me. I am immensely interested in hearing your opinion; and would like to know what are the advantages of using one or the other. Thank you and keep posting, your blog is wonderfully optimistic and colourful and very very inspirational :). Edralis from Slovakia

  5. Hi Edralis!

    I personally would sew the gores with bias edges to straight edges. Straight to straight works as well, but that leaves you with having to sew bias to bias. Straight to straight is no problem but bias to bias is a problem, as a bias seam needs to be stabilized in order to prevent it from stretching and from the threads you sew the seam with breaking.

    If you sew bias to straight, the straight edge naturally acts as a stabilizer for the bias edge, so you get no stretching on your seam. It is less work than having to stabilize bias-to-bias seams.

    Thanks so much for your kind words about my blog! Will you be posting about your kirtle when it is finished? I'd love to hear how it turns out!! Best of luck!!

  6. Wow, thank you so much for your prompt answer and the support! The kirtle is a slow progress, as I have a job and sew everything by hand and as a beginner I tend to pin and repin and redraw and resew a lot, but if it turns out relatively presentable in the end, I will gladly share the link to the article about the process and photos somewhere around here :). Thanks again!

  7. I'm working on making a kirtle right now, using your cotehardie as my pattern. I love your pictures and descriptions! I've got a few more nights of work to go before I get to the sleeves aspect, but how do you fit the sleeves? For all my years of sewing, I feel like such a novice with this project!

  8. Well, the sleeves were pretty much trial and error. The nice thing is, they are just 1 piece so there is only one seam in the sleeve and that seam goes down your back arm. So you just adjust that seam to get the degree of tightness you want.

    The tricker part is fitting the sleeve head into the armhole. The sleeve head should fit smoothly with no excess easing or gathering. So that is always tricky for me. One thing I do that helps is to lay my sleeve out flat. It should look like a trapezoid (narrow end at the bottom, being the wrist-line) with the top of the sleeve having a shape like an S laid on its side. The top curve of the S is the longest point of the sleeve, so you need to make sure it equals the longest point on your arm, from the top of your shoulder to your wrist, (or wherever your sleeve will end) and the lowest curve of the S curve being the shortest point of the sleeve, with the line from there to the bottom of the sleeve equalling your measurement from your underarm to your wrist (or wherever the sleeve will end) So that is what I do to start out with a rough sleeve shape. Then I loosely sew it together and pin the sleeve into the armhole of the dress. try it on, adjust, fit, repeat til the fit is what you want.

    The sleeves are definitely the hardest part of making dresses like this (at least for me!) but they aren't so bad. Hope this helps! I'd love to see your kirtle when it is done!

  9. I'm looking for a pattern or tutorial for making a shift similar to yours. Can you point me in the right direction?

    1. Mine is made on the square method. This link has instructions on how to make a pattern for one like this based on your own measurements:


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!