The Age of Innocence – Girl’s Victorian-style nightdress

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McCall’s M4505 – pattern features Victorian-style nightie, slip and pyjamas

This is a McCall’s pattern (now out-of print) which I got from work a few years ago.  My thought process at the time went something like this:  ‘Seriously, this is the most impractical thing ever, anyone who actually has children is never going to have the time to make them dreamy frilly nighties.  I’m never ever going to make this pattern.’  Obviously, the result of this chain of thought is that I have the pattern…

And I’m glad I do, because this is actually the second time I’ve made it up!  I made one for our god-daughter a couple of years ago, at the request of her mum who’d seen something similar and loved it.  Gratifyingly, Evelyn wears it loads and of course looks gorgeous in it.

It’s a very simple sew, and I greatly enjoyed making it – the finished result is really very hard to resist.  So I was pleased to be asked if I’d make another, this time for Evelyn’s friend who is turning 4.

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I made a size 5, to allow for growing room.  Sideways, this probably wasn’t necessary, as it’s pretty generously sized.  However, I made so many novice mistakes assembling and attaching the flounce at the bottom (seriously, how hard is it to sew the lace on the right side?  Or to sew the frill onto the body right sides together?  Judging by my many attempts, apparently it’s REALLY hard…).  So in the end, the length was actually the same as the size 4.  Oh well, she won’t be tripping over it…

I used a cotton batiste from Cottonpatch, which is a nice fine soft cotton, almost identical to lawn. It’s one of those fabrics which, no matter how much you iron it, will always have very faint creases showing.  I chose it because it was the fabric recommended on the pattern, and I was interested to try it as I’d never used it before.  It’s lovely to work with, and gives a simple but quality effect.  You could use lawn with very similar results.

SDC12426Although the pattern doesn’t feature a lining in the yoke, I’ve added one both times, and definitely wouldn’t make this garment without one, because:

  •  The fabric is semi-sheer, so placed in one layer flat against the skin it  looks very see-through.  Contrasted with the body of the nightie, which is heavily gathered and therefore quite opaque, a single-layer yoke would look odd.
  •  In addition, the gathering of the body and flounce (the flounce hem is 4 1/2m around…) means that the yoke has to support quite a bit of fabric, and I think a lining helps a bit with this.
  •  Finally, it hides all the raw seam edges in the yoke and gives a very neat finish.  What’s not to like?!

Adding the lining is really easy – just cut out two sets of yoke pieces, lay them over each other, and you’ll see how much you need to chop off the lining:

Yoke, showing one facing folded over and one unfolded
Yoke, showing one facing folded over and one unfolded
Yoke lining overlaid after the facings are turned back, showing excess fabric in lining
Yoke lining overlaid after the facings are turned back, showing excess fabric in lining
Marking a cutting line for the lining, allowing 1.5cm seam beyond edge of facing.
Marking a cutting line for the lining, allowing 1.5cm seam beyond edge of facing.
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Finished yoke inside out, showing neck edge and seam of lining/facing.

There is no need to worry about turning the lining through the shoulders, as the armholes are only sewn closed after the body is joined on, which makes lining the yoke much easier than you might think at first!  You then just leave the lining flapping around at the top while you complete the pattern as in the instructions, then attach it around the edges right at the end.

My favourite detail on this garment is the use of a continuous lap in the middle of the back, where it joins the yoke.  This enables the use of a single piece of fabric for the back, while extending the opening far enough to make it easy to get on and off.  I’m sure this is a pretty common feature, actually, but it was the first time I’d come across it in sewing – it’s really neat!

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Lap stitched in along one edge
Lap stitched in along one edge
Opposite lap edge turned under and folded to meet seam.
Opposite lap edge turned under and folded to meet seam.
Edgestitch to enclose seam, and stitch diagonally across the bottom end of the lap for a neat finish.  When the fabric is flat flat, you have a single layer of fabric, but the 2 sides of the lap overlap (strangely enough...) at the centre opening.
Edgestitch to enclose seam, and stitch diagonally across the bottom end of the lap for a neat finish. When the fabric is flat flat, you have a single layer of fabric, but the 2 sides of the lap overlap (strangely enough…) at the centre opening.

You might think it looks awkward to avoid catching the excess fabric in the stitching as you go over the point of the v, but actually it’s really not!

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As I may have mentioned…  The ruffle at the hem caused me no end of problems.  I have to assume it was a combination of tiredness (I’m guessing you can probably tell from the quality of the in-progress pictures, that they were taken at 11pm with me holding the lamp over my head…) and over confidence (‘I’ve done this pattern before, it was really easy, I don’t have to check stuff.’  Yeah.).

Initially, I stitched the lace to the wrong side, rather than the right side.  Sorted that out.  Then I stitched the ruffle to the hem inside out.  Then I reinforced it with a second line of stitching.  Then I zig-zagged it.  Then, yes, then I realised it was inside out.  I believe I may have mentioned the ruffle being 4 1/2m around?  You can say what you like about diamonds – I now believe, in all honesty, that scissors are in fact a girl’s best friend…

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As you can see, the flounce at the hem isn’t quite deep enough, but I wasn’t about to make it again by this stage.  I think it still looks darling, to be honest!

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