V87: Period Piecery – Elizabethan Cabbage

I started on a new Elizabethan ladies’ doublet the other night, and to make a long story short, it didn’t fit.  I thought I had traced the pattern – Margo Anderson – out correctly, but when I put the thing together, all confidence and glee, it was clear there was no way in a million years that thing would fit me.  No. Way.

Franken-Doublet looks like it should in the front.  This is after achieving the basic fit.  Those front edges weren’t even close to meeting at first…

What to do? Slice and Dice.  I hadn’t sewn the side back seams, so I added a panel on each side, and when it *still* didn’t fit, because clearly I can’t do simple math, I added, erm, another panel to the sides.  Additional, well, additions to the shoulders have finally got Franken-Doublet fitting, but I have new problems to solve with the neckline and collar, as well as some nip n’ tuck to do on the seams around the armscyes, which are now considerably larger than before.  Good thing it’s not meant to have set-in sleeves.

Here you can see all the piecing.  The original had one back piece, no center seam, and one side back piece.   Not now!  I really like the way this all looks, although it will hardly be noticeable by the time all the trim is on there.

Despite all the addings-on being somewhat frustrating, this *is* a very period method of doing things.  Scraps of fabric were never thrown out, after cutting the pattern, but instead were kept for future piecing, the art of splicing bits of fabric to “fill in the gaps,” if you will.  Elizabethan tailors were very economical with their cutting, and when working with far narrower widths of fabric than we have today, splicing bits together was a necessary task.  These “bits” were called “cabbage,” and I like to think, completely un-related to history in any way, that the bin they kept them in was perhaps called “the cabbage patch.”  Lol, at least that’s what I call the box I keep my cabbage in.

Good thing for cabbage, I was able to eek out just enough extra to add the panels on Franken-Doublet, although it seems kindof silly since I just went and bought more yardage today … ah, modern world <3

If you’d like to read more about cabbage and Elizabethan seamstering, I highly recommend The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Dress


  • Anonymous

    March 28, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    I love reading posts from folks I consider professional that admit their mistakes. It keeps me from disparing over mine! (And gives me hints on how to fix future mistakes I make!

  • Rowenna

    March 28, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    I love that moment when you realize that the "scrap" fabric isn't going to end up scrap after all! Many fun moments pulling pieces out of the bin and fitting them together 🙂 Basic math is not my strong suit either…I have to get my physics-whiz husband to check my calculations (but he has me do all his sewing, so it all works out!).

  • Aylwen

    March 28, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    If this is one of her older patterns, I think its an oops part of the pattern – it happened to me as well but it was so long ago I can't remember what I did, but believe I found the right piece in the end.

  • Caroline

    March 31, 2012 at 4:19 AM

    Always keep the cabbage! I have a whole box filled with bits left over. Even if I don't need them for the same project they usually come in handy later. Ps, I love the color!

  • Isabella

    April 3, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    Sorry I'm a little late to the game. 🙂 The fabric width thing is a bit of a myth. Yes, for silk damask there was a statute that it had to be 26" wide (30" in Florence) but we still have silk brocade that is only 36" wide (or, Kimono silk with is only 17"!). In the book "Tailor's Pattern Book 1589" the measurements for hems -as shown on a length of fabric- are typically either listed as "b" or "bb" which is 33" and 66" respectively. In the back of the book -as well as through out it- fabric is listed as being 2 ells wide which could mean anywhere between a yard to as much as 64". There is also a great website that goes a bit further into period fabric widths and sewing here. Although silks were a bit smaller in width, wool was actually woven to be much wider than we are typically use to today.

    Sorry for the long comment! Also, if the piecing bugs you, putting trim over it is perfectly period as well. 🙂 And, even though I know you are already beating this mantra into your head "Mock-up is good!". 🙂


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