The Beginnings of Making the Sacque

This probably wasn’t the best of ideas, but if you’ve read either of my other two posts you may have gathered that I’m impatient and rarely do things in the best order. I have yet to finish my petticoat, and I’ve already begun my gown…

To be fair, I have at least begun my petticoat, and it is sort of wearable. Following the instructions in the American Duchess Guide, I’ve decided to try and sew the entire gown by hand – it’s less scary, and sewing with silk is terrifying at the best of times! Anyway, the petticoat is simply two rectangles of fabric with shaping along the waist line to make the hem nice and level when it’s worn over pocket hoops.

The hem’s level! I’ve never leveled the hem at the waist before! (Please ignore the mess)

The fact that it was two rectangles of fabric meant that Mantua-Maker’s Seam was ideal to use, and it was nice and quick. That and the pleating along the top edge only took me 8 hours, and that was with accidentally hemming one of the top edges because I didn’t realise it was going to be covered by the waist tapes…

Once the hem of the petticoat was level, it was time to add the frill. Since I’d quite like to be able to wear this with more informal jackets as well, it’s going to be between the longer length of a formal petticoat and the shorter length of a more informal petticoat, and hopefully I’ll be able to get away with it? I also decided to try and have decoration going all the way round the petticoat, since the back will be visible when I’m wearing a jacket. This all points to having a frill around the bottom…

…which seems to be going on FOREVER! On a happier note, the scalloped pinking shears I bought from Vena Cava were amazing, but then I may just be biased, since my old zigzag shears are going blunt. Anyway, since the frill was going on forever, I decided to try and get on with the gown. This is probably not a good idea, and means that the odds of me ever finishing the petticoat properly are incredibly low, but still…

I actually made a mock-up! Which then turned out to be completely unnecessary…

I began by deciding to try and drape the pattern with some spare fabric, just to see what it might end up looking like. I looked at the Jean Hunnisett pattern to give me an idea of proportion, which was a bad idea. I only have a finite amount of fabric, and theatre seems to make things in bigger, more exaggerated proportions, meaning even more fabric. The American Duchess book was far less terrifying, so I ended up giving up on the mock-up (I was trying to be good!) and just trying to follow their instructions instead, which was far less scary.

The first step was fitting the lining, so that the dress could be built over the top. This was simple enough, along with the advice that for very broad backs, at least 80″ will be needed in the back of the sacque.

Then it was a case of working out how best to iron the silk. I covered the carpet with a couple of old sheets (one on top of the other) and then was able to iron it spread out on the floor!

Since it was 54″ wide, I worked out that the best way to cut everything would be to have the back panels as two 40″ wide pieces, the front panels as two 20″ wide pieces, and the bodice pieces and so on cut from the 14″ piece down the side. It was then a case of working up the courage to cut into the silk, and then pleating it and ironing, which was FAR TOO MUCH MATHS! With the pleats worked out on slightly narrower panels of fabric, I was then able to back stitch the centre back seam together.

My next step was to cut the bodice pieces. These are cut on the bias, so they’ve got a bit more stretch and fit round the body better. Then it was a case of attaching everything to the lining.

I found these clips to be really useful when it came to attaching the silk to the lining. They didn’t leave any pin holes, and the dent they make can be ironed out.

Anyway, that’s that for now. There’ll probably be a part two (and maybe even three?) at some point, depending on where I get to. I might even finish the petticoat!

(Update!) I’ve entirely forgotten about a part two or three, I’m afraid, so you’re just going to have to guess at how I finished the rest of the dress. I did do it all by hand, and between frustrations with sleeves and general lack of motivation, it took me months (and months, and months…) to get this outfit finished. I got there in the end, though, and you can see the finished results here!

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