Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Matelasse 18th Century Pockets and Baby Goats

When preparing for my trip to Uganda, I knew I wanted to take two hand sewing projects with me. A primary hand sewing project and a back-up project just in case I finished the primary project. I already had my red wool petticoat all cut out and ready to go, so I just needed to figure out what my second project would be. After rejecting a couple different ideas because I didn't have time to gather supplies or to properly prepare patterns, I settled on a rather simple, but supremely useful, project - Pockets.

In the 1700's pockets were not sewn into dresses, rather pocket bags were made separately and attached to tapes which were tied around the waist and worn under dresses and petticoats. The pockets could be huge and were easily accessible slits in the side seams of the petticoats and gowns.

Reaching into my pocket worn beneath my petticoat.
When you think about it, this is such a practical idea! Why sew pockets into every dress or skirt when you can just sew one set of pockets and use them with all your garments?

  I did not yet have a set of pockets, and that seemed like a travesty to me. (Ok, so I do have a set of pocket hoops, which serve much the same function, but they only work under 18th century gowns of a certain silhouette, so I needed something a bit more universal.) Thus, I decided I was going to make myself a set of pockets during my Uganda trip.

Pockets are a rather simple garment over all, but there were still a couple decisions to make. Primarily, what materials would my pockets be made from? What would they look like? 18th century pockets can be quite elaborately embroidered. Now I would love a set of embroidered pockets, but I didn't feel like taking the time to do that at the moment. Thus, I took to the internet to see what other, non-embroidered, examples of pockets I could find. I could have just made a set of pockets from plain linen fabric, which I knew would be historically accurate, but that sounded boring. I wanted to see what other options I had.

I found several examples of matelasse pockets in online museum databases. (Such as this one from the V&A and this one from the MFA Boston) As I'd just made a matelasse petticoat, this made me super excited. I had fabric left over from my petticoat! I could totally make a set of matelasse pockets for myself!

I pulled my matelasse scraps out of my stash, drafted a pocket pattern based on the one in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1, read about pocket construction in Costume Close-up, then cut out my pockets so they would be ready to sew on my trip.

The matelasse would be used for the front of the pockets, but most extent pockets were backed in plain linen or cotton fabric. So I needed to find something in my stash to use for the backing and binding of my pockets. Inspired by this set of pockets at the MET with its opening bound in red fabric, I decided I wanted to use something other than white material for my backing and binding. After some looking through my stash, I decided to use a lavender linen tank top as my backing and binding fabric. I made this tank for myself several years ago, but it never fit right, so it was time for it to become something else. There was just enough fabric in the top for me to cut out two pocket backings and binding.

I took my cut out pockets with me and began sewing them at the airport on my way out of the country. By the time I returned to American soil a week and a half later, I had a complete set of pockets.

The front and back pockets were stitched together with a back stitch and the binding, cut on the straight-of-grain, is applied with running stitches on the back and slip stitches on the back, according to the descriptions given in Costume Close Up.

At the top of each pocket is a channel, which the waist tape is threaded through.

After making my pockets this way I realized all the pocket examples I've seen actually have the waist tape sewn to the top of the channel, rather than sliding on the waist tape the way mine do, so I did that wrong, historically speaking. Oh well, I like the adjustability this way, so it can be historically inaccurate.

These pockets are my entry for the second Historical Sew Monthly challenge of the year - Re-Use: use thrifted materials, old garments, or bedlinens to make a new garment.

What the item is: Pockets
How it fits the challenge: These are made out of scraps of a cotton matelasse bedspread (left over from making my matelasse petticoat for the December 2019 challenge) and the lavender linen is harvested from a top I made myself, which never fit right, out of a pair of thrifted linen pants - so a double re-use on this material!
Material: Cotton matelasse from a bedspread and linen from a thrifted garment.
Pattern: The pocket pattern from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1.
Year: 18th Century
Notions: Thread and cotton twill tape for waist tie.
How historically accurate is it? Well, linen and cotton matelasse were used to make pockets in this era, and they're all handsewn, however, in the era, the cotton matelasse would have been actually woven with a design shaped for pockets, rather than just cut from a bedspread scrap, and I've not seen any linen in this particular color on extent pieces, so probably about 75%.
Hours to complete: A little here and there as I was traveling so I'm really not sure, but probably around 10 hours for both pockets.
First worn: 2/1/2020, just for pictures
Total cost: All left over materials for other projects, so essentially $0. However, of you were to go back and count the cost of each little thing it would probably come out to around $5 or less.

After returning home from my trip to Uganda, when it came time to photograph my new pockets, I thought it would be fun to take pictures with my goats, a la 18th century shepherdess. My sister and I trooped out to the goat pen and expected the goats to come running, the way they usually do when they see me.

Only on this day the goats were a little grumpy with me. It was mid morning and I hadn't fed them yet. So I stood in the pen and called to them, and they stood at the feed trough and cried at me. "No pictures unless you feed us."

Eventually a very pregnant Florecita decided to join me and posed nicely for some pictures. (And as soon as we finished pictures, I hurried up and fed everybody!)

A few days later, kidding season kicked off, and Florecita was the second doe to kid!

My pocket pictures were taken on Saturday, and on Wednesday morning I came out to feed and found Zillah with a big single doeling in the kidding shed. I named the baby Flurry as it snowed that day.

Less than 24 hours later, at 2:30 am Thursday, Florecita followed with twin does, named Azalea (front) and Fresia (back).

Sweetie quickly followed with triplet does Thursday afternoon - Delacour (top), Dobbina (bottom left), and Dittany (bottom right).

Friday it was Ocarina's turn, with a doe (droopy ears, named Mandolin) and a buck.

Saturday I got a break, but Sunday afternoon it was a set of twin bucks, Fred and George, out of Sunrise. Sadly, she rejected the black baby, Fred, so he's a bottle baby now.

Monday it was triplets from Giselle, two does (the tan babies, Astoria and Dalia) and a buck (the black one, Ralph).

And, after making us wait several days, Milkyway finally kidded last Friday afternoon with a set of twin bucks (still unnamed). 

9 days start to finish. 7 mamas and 15 babies. All healthy. It's been my shortest and easiest kidding season to date!


  1. Lovely pockets and lovely babies! :) That is a very short kidding season, mine used to take more than a month.

    1. Thank you! Yes, mine are usually over a month as well - this year was a breeze!

  2. One can always use a massive pair of pockets! : P
    Still eagerly awaiting the final costume!