Making My Chemise

Vivian Yongewa
3 min readAug 3, 2022

Or My Medieval Sewing Adventure

Photo by Darling Arias on Unsplash

The skillset I’m trying to perfect for the zombie apocalypse is hand sewing. Fortunately, medieval underdresses are relatively easy to make. They were supposed to handle anything and to be something your average mother could whip up quickly once a year for a growing brood.

Unfortunately, I am a subpar mother.

The Pattern

I ordered an Irish chemise pattern off Etsy.

I took the paper pattern out and was immediately confused. You were supposed to cut along something called the selvedge and there were all these suggestions for pleats vs gathers for the sleeves.

Don’t talk to me about sleeves.

The Cloth

The problem with projects is that they take resources. I went to Walmart and bought entirely too much linen because I knew they would charge a bundle more for cloth at Jo-Anne’s and Michael’s. The zombie apocalypse is already eating up my other supplies.

The Cutting

I failed cutting and paper-folding back in sixth grade, and I still am bad at it. I cannot, for the life of me, cut cloth in a straight line without a physical guide to cut along.

This meant that I spent two hours cutting, then arranging and rearranging the pattern pieces. It took me that long to figure out that the pattern was telling me to fold the linen cloth and then lay the pattern on the fold.

It took me another hour of painstaking scissor work to cut along the pattern, though it still looked like a weasel had chewed the edges of my pieces when I had finished.

And did you know that you should iron your cloth before cutting? Hah, hah, I sure didn’t until it was way too late.

The Sewing

With the edges of the cloth all screwy from my inability to cut in a straight line, it took quite a bit of attention to make the pieces come together.

First, the six long body pieces had to be stitched in place. Then the gussets had to be attached to the top of the body pieces.

And then I hit those darn sleeves. The pattern had puffy balloon sleeves that attached at the top of the body of the dress. They were supposed to gather at the shoulders in pleats for a frilly look.

I could not make the gathers. I went online and watched the tutorials. I read and re-read the instructions. I practiced gathers this way and that. Nothing worked.

I finally cheated with a bunch of backstitches on the gathers.

Then I hemmed the bottom of the skirt and the neckline.


The top of my sleeves hung off my elbows when I tried it on.

I cut the darn sleeves off and made it into a spaghetti-strap dress. Not one that you could walk in, mind. The tube-shaped body threatened to rip if you tried to walk in them without lifting the hem above the knees.

My chemise is not for the faint of heart. It is still a bit too big for my chest, and I added four gores at the sides so I can use it without constant repairs.


Appreciate your clothes! They are harder to make then they look.

Vivian Yongewa

Writes for content farms and fun. Has an AU historical mystery series on Kindle.