Monday, May 21, 2012

Shirt Making, July 1, 1861

Ohio  Cultivator, July 1, 1861
The Housekeeper.
For the Ohio Cultivator.
Shirt Making.

            Perhaps some poor little wife who has before her the awful task of making her first pair of shirts for her “liege lord,” is anxiously waiting to hear the advice I promised.
            Take an old shirt, rip it to pieces and cut out the new one by it, baste it together and try it on. Don’t laugh at the idea, I know it is an odd one, for I once heard a young man say he “did not know there was any fit to a shirt,” but trying it on is the only way a shirt can be made to fit, unless you have a scientific pattern, cut by a practical tailor, to go by.
            After you have got it to fit nicely, unbaste it and cut out a pattern, allowing for the seams, and marking all the hems, gathers etc., by notches, so it will be just right to cut your cloth by. So far your trouble is ended. But few ladies are compelled, now, to make bosoms, as they can be bought ready made for a trifle more than the linen would cost, and by the way, young wives, buy cheap bosoms, nice high priced bosoms will not wear outs the shirts and two cheap ones that cost about the same will, and when starched and ironed nicely a twenty cent bosom looks nearly as well as one costing forty or fifty cents. I know this by experience, and I find two cheap bosoms last as long as the shirt, while one nice one is gone, leaving the shirt good. As a general rule I do not approve of cheap goods, but this is an exception.
            Putting the bosom into the shirt is the first thing to be done, after it is cut. Double the front of the shirt in the middle, also double the bosom, and lay it upon the shirt exactly square and even all around, then cut out a piece one inch wider than the bosom, and half an inch shorter. Unfold shirt and bosom commence at the top of each side and sew the bosom in, in place of the piece you cut out. Then lay a plait at the bottom, and upon each side, both plaits of a size, and large enough to make the bosom set smooth; stitch the bottom across, turn the bosom under and hem it down, it being half an inch too long, having been left so for that special purpose, and saves sewing a tape across as some do.
            The object of making a plait in the shirt, at the bottom of the bosom, is, to make the front of the shirt narrow. The back you will at once see needs to be wider than the front, to give freedom to the arms and shoulders; if both side are of a width the bosom will shrug together and set out beyond the vest, in a manner you may have seen bau could not explain.
            Line the front of the shirt the whole length and width from the bosom back to the arm size. Some only face a narrow strip just round the arm size, but the best way by far is to line the whole back from the neck down to the bottom of the arm size and the front as I before said.
            The quickest and easiest way to sew up seams in shirts, and all other under garments, is in this wise: Sew up you garment or sleeve, upon the right or outside, trim the seam very small, turn and sew up again on the wrong side and your seam is quickly and neatly finished, without felling, which is a branch of sewing most ladies dislike very much to do. The first time sewing the seam, the stitches may be long if the cotton is strong, but the second time it must be done tight and well, and you will find the seam strong and soft. Try it, ladies.  
            When the shirt is together, but on the back binding, which be sure is just the right size, and buttoning it, double it in the middle, and taking a piece of linen two inches wide, double, cut it one inch shorter than the neck binding then unfold the linen, put a stip of cotton cloth inside to make the collar stiffer and firmer when starched, sew up the ends which should be cut a little slanting, that is, longer on the top than where it is sewed on to the shirt binding, fold again, stitch neatly all round, sew tightly on the binding by two edges, turn the other under and fell over the seam and your collar is made and fastened to the shirt. No need of pins, buttons, or strings, no losing in washing or trouble in ironing. Perhaps your “liege lord” will growl a little at first, as the shirt so made must be taken off every night, and a night shirt substituted instead, which is by far more healthy than sleeping in the soiled sweaty shirt that has been worn three or four days.
            But your husband will soon learn to like shirts so made as they are much less trouble for him, when he gets used to not sleeping in them. I have heard my husband say he would almost as willingly set up all night, as to attempt to sleep in his day shirt and flannel.
            Make sleeves large, as they wear much longer and also look better. Sew the linen cuff on, without a binding as it is less work, and looks neater, by that I mean gather the sleeve at the wrist, and sew the linen cuff directly on.
            I now flatter myself that some puzzled young wife with no mother to aid her, will know better how to go to work to make a pair of shirts, than she would had I remained silent. If so, I am content.

West Amesbury, Mass. June 1861
            NOTE—Now Sarah dear, let me tell you something we have found out about shirt bosoms: Last winter wife Mollie made us a lot of shirts and did not cut out the body cloth at all form the bosom, but put the linen bosom right over the cotton. The effect is to make the bosoms “fit” better than they can do where the body is cut out, and also so to strengthen this most exposed part of the shirt, that even light linen will wear as long as the rest of the garment. We think this is a great improvement.
--ED. Field Notes.

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