Friday, June 1, 2012

Making Hand Sewn Pantalettes

The sewing machine (I love all
three of mine, one is a treadle)
has convinced us that every stitch & every
seam should be perfectly straight............
Before it's invention everything was
sewn by hand.  It gave women the ability to
make clothing faster and the time to create
fancier garments, but even into the 20th
century much hand sewing was still done.
Here in the Ozark mountains not many
 pioneers owned a machine and the treadle
was used well into the 1950's. Hand sewing
skills were a source of pride for Ozark women. 
 I used to take great pride in my tiny even
hand stitches but, I am approaching 60 years
 of age, my eyesight isn't what it used to be
and I have arthritis. So these days, I am grateful
 I am still able to hand sew and I'm proud of my
uneven seams & stitching.

It doesn't have to be perfect
to be pretty!!
   So, I thought I'd show you how I made a pair
of pantalettes for this little doll.  Lots &
lots of white on white photos.  You might
want to get a cup of coffee!
First of all, I often just draw my body
parts without a definite pattern so each
doll varies in size. Each doll stuffs
 differently. Clothing is made to fit each doll so
I don't have specific patterns,  just general
shapes. The pioneer woman didn't have
patterns, clothing was cut and sewn
to fit the individual wearer or the
little dolly!
I have an earlier post with some
hand sewing tips.

I made some measurements and
drew on a piece of cotton a general
pantalette shape.  You can faintly
see it below on the left.  I wanted
to make some pin tucks so I added
1/2 in for each tuck to the length
of the leg plus a hem amount.  I cut that
out and laid it on the piece on the right
& cut another one just like it.
I then cut a strip of cotton about an
inch longer than the waist measurement
for the waistband.  It was about 1 1/2 inches
 wide.   I also chose some lace but, I didn't
use it in the end.
I folded the waistband in half.
I folded both edges toward the center.
I ironed this flat. These folds will be a
folding & stitching guide a bit later.
You can see I laid the 2 pieces side by
side and marked lines 1/2 inch apart for
pintuck guide lines.  I left enough
fabric below the lines for the hem.
I folded the top line down to the 2nd line &
the 3rd line down to the 4th line.
You can see the 2 folds below.
I laid this on the doll and I could see I had
extra length in the leg so I added a third tuck
on top of the other 2.  Pintucks generally were
 sewn in sets of three or in singles. 
These pieces of fabric are small, I eyeball
my tucks. The pioneer didn't have a water
soluable marking pen or see through plastic
On the back side I folded up about 1/4
 inch at the bottom.
I then folded up about 1/2 inch. This is
going to be my hem line later.
The front.
I sewed the tucks close to the top edge with
a back stitch but, you can use a running
stitch here too.
Sewn tucks close up.  These are wide
tucks, they can be closer together.
To make the front of the pantalettes,
I pinned the WRONG sides together & using a
back stitch I sewed a seam.  This seam
is sewn on the OUTSIDE of the pantalettes,
the opposite of a regularly sewn seam.
I turned it over to the other side and
trimmed the back side of the seam.
On the front side I turned under the
 top side edge OVER the trimmed
 back and finger pressed
it down.
Using a back stitch I stitched a
seam on the top right side.
This is called a flat felled seam. It is
seen on the outside of the pantalettes.
Close up below.
To make the back opening,
with the RIGHT sides together I
pinned the bottom half together.
Using a back stitch I sewed a seam about half
way up.
I opened up this seam.
I folded the edges under and finger pressed.
I turned it to the Right side.
Starting on the left using a back stitch I sewed
down the left side stopping at the seam stitching.
I crossed over to the right side (I made three or
four stitches for added strength at the cross
over point) and continued up the right side.
This is what it looked like inside.
On the lover half of this seam I whip stitched
the edges.  1800's garment had finished
seams on the inside to prevent fraying.
With RIGHT sides together
I pinned the lower legs together.
I took great care to make sure the
tucks matched when I pinned
them together.
To prevent getting the pins entangled
with my thread....................
I turned it over & using a back stitch
I sewed a seam, wide enough to
fold over the edges..............
so I could finish the sides with
a whip stitch.
 I put the pantalettes on the doll and felt they were
 a bit too long so I moved the hem up & whip
stitched it to the top of the lowest tuck.
See how perfect these match!!
At this point I ground some Dunkin Donuts
beans, made a cup of coffee and enjoyed it
on the back porch while I listed to the sounds of
the creek and cheerful birds.    
I made 2 rows of running stitches at the
top of the pantalettes & put them on the doll.
I gathered them to fit her. (I don't
do much measuring)
With the waistband on the OUTSIDE  I pinned it
to the top, evenly spreading out the gathers.  I
left about 1/2 inch hanging over the edge of
both sides.
My pins are on the inside so that they do not
get tangled up in my thread as I sew.
On the OUTSIDE using a back stitch I
sewed them together using the top fold
line as my guide.
This is what it looked like on the outside.
On the back starting on the LEFT side....
I folded toward the INSIDE matching
with the finished edge.
I then folded down the top along the
first press.
I then folded down along the center press
all the way to the RIGHT side pinning down
as I went along.
When I got all the way to the end, I added
an eye, stitched down with 3 buttonhole stitches,
(double thread for sewing hook and eyes )
before I folded the end toward the INSIDE. 
I then slip stitched it all down including the
end pieces, starting on the left side (removing the
 pins as I sewed preventing any tangles as
I stitched) ending on the right side.
This is what it looked like on the inside
after it was all stitched.
You can see the little whip stitches here.
On the INSIDE LEFT side, I added the hook,
stitched down with 3 buttonhole stitches.
 (double thread for sewing hook and eyes)
 You can also see where I stitched under the top
of the hook to secure it down.  You can also
see the whip stitches on the end.
This is how it looked on the outside.
These will be mildly aged, hand washed
& ironed before I call them done.
As you can see these are not the proper
Butterick or Simplicity sewing
instructions.  I hand sew my dolls
the old fashioned way.  I don't always
measure things, I finger press a lot, &
sometimes I cut away fabric to make
things fit.  I have even been know to make
big changes in the middle of something, but
this is how I work & I enjoy every stitch.

Give hand sewing a try, slow the process down. 
Happy Sewing!!


  1. Terrific instructions. I put a link to them on my artwrinkles blog.

    1. Wonderful, I'm glad you liked the post.

  2. This is great, Sherri!!! Your hand sewn stitches are perfection...afraid mine aren't so uniform as yours. Your stitches look like those of an experienced quilter.

  3. sherri, Great instructions. Sewing is where i am the weakest. I have tried to do more hand sewing on the clothes. I am slowly learing how to bend the edges under so you don't have raw edges. It took you along time to put this on your post. I wish I could get some up close sewing lessons, but I guess I'll have to learn by myself, but things like this sure do help. Great instructions and nice pantaletts.

  4. Holy cow that was fun. And you have saved me some aggravation with the concept of doing the pin tucks BEFORE sewing the legs together. I've always done them (on pantaloons and on skirts) after sewing the seams, which is doable, but a pain. Hmph. Learn somethin' new every day, right?

    Your little hand sewn garments will last a hundred years, and then another hundred...and will still be a marvel to whomever finds them.

  5. Dear Sherry . . . your dolls are amazing! You my dear are keeping the art of hand stitching alive.
    I so enjoyed reading your bloomer post!
    Happy stitches!
    Lori Ann

  6. I love, love, love tutorials. That's how we teach each other. And with lots of pictures. Thanks for teaching me. I learn by pictures, and I appreciate that your tutorial has lots of them. I am now following your blog.

  7. Thank you so very much! The patterns I have leave seams raw and the legs are too wide, your pantelettes look authentic. It's wonderful to see pictures instead of diagrams. I love to hand sew and am in awe of your beautiful stitching.


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