It came to my attention a while ago that a busy life of timetravelling, adventuring, and maintaining the Automata had had a detrimental effect on certain items of Countess Isabella’s wardrobe and she could really use some new undergarments to preserve her dignity when dancing with the Automata.
I awoke recently on a Sunday morning with a sudden impulse to remedy the situation. The Difference Engine provided me with a tutorial from Evange Sews on how to make Victorian Bloomers and Victorian Nonsense had supplementary instructions for adding ruffles. Armed with this information and an old bedsheet (cream organic cotton with a subtle sateen strike (sadly threadbare in places) nothing but the finest for the Countess) I set to work.
Unfortunately I struggled to take in the information as it was presented in an animated format, being more used to written instructions with supplementary diagrams. I also did not have the Countess’s measurements to work from, having instead to estimate the correct proportions from those of one of the Automata who happened to be in the vicinity. It was in my favour that the fit of bloomers is fairly forgiving to minor discrepencies. I eventually worked out a system and I shall record it here in written format for my future reference and also in case it benefits anyone else. I wish to stress that this is my notes on the original tutorial by Evange and the method remains hers, apart from the supplementary notes on adding ruffles, which were provided by Victorian Nonsense as described above.
First determine the amount of fabric needed. 45″ wide fabric will be sufficient for most (unless your thigh measures more than 40″ circumference). Measure the distance from your natural waist to your knee and add 8 inches (2″ ease both top and bottom and 2″ seam allowance both top and bottom) or 9″ if you wish to have ruffles at the bottom. You need two pieces of your fabric this length. Lay them on top of each other.
Then fold them in half, so that you have 4 layers of fabric, which will be 22 1/2″ wide (or whatever half your fabric width is) and Waist to Knee length plus 8/9″ deep.
At this point the Difference Engine and I had a disagreement over whether it was supposed to create illustrations for me and I had to resort to Other Methods, so if would aid you to see further diagrams you will need to click on this link.
At the top edge of the fabric, measure in from the fold a distance of a quarter of your hip measurement and mark (you’re making the waist here, but it needs to go over your hips as your widest part, to get the bloomers on and off, then it’s gathered with elastic),
Then at the bottom edge of the fabric on the non folded side, measure up and mark the distance of your crotch to your knee + 2″ ease (or 3″ if you’re making the ruffled variation). This is the length of the “leg part” of the bloomers that you’re marking.
Now draw a curve joining those 2 points, it should be reminiscent of a quarter circle. Cut along the line you just drew and discard the 4 quarter circle pieces.
Unfold you’re fabric so that you have 2 pieces lying on top of each other that are kind of a giant pair of pants shape. I think it was this similarity to pants that got my poor brain muddled as to what to do next. First make sure you’re pants are upside down, with the smaller straight edge at the top (which should be half your hip countermeasure – this will be your waistband) and the longer straight edge (the original fabric width) at the bottom.
Now sew the two pieces of fabric together with two seams along each quarter circle (if you’re still thinking about them as pants now, stop, as this is equivalent to sewing the leg holes of the pants shape up, which feels wrong, whereas actually you’re sewing the crotch seam, which is what you want).
Take the points at where the curved seems join the short edge and bring them together, refold the waistband so that they’re now in the middle, rather than at the edges (so much easier to do than to describe). It should now be fairly obvious where your upside down “U” shaped inside leg seam needs to be sewn and then all that remains is to make casings for the elastic at the waist and cuffs.
Anyway, enough of the description, the important matter is were they fit for purpose? Well, due to the benefit of time travel I managed to present them to the Countess for her 21st Birthday when she had taken her Automata to Teignmouth. Unfortunately there is just one historical plate recording her reaction and none of her dancing in them so you will have to take my word for it that her modesty was duly protected.