How to Sew Edwardian Split Drawers
To make Edwardian circular drawers, you will need:
2.5-3 yards of 45”wide fabric.
White lightweight fabric like lightweight linen, cambric, nainsook, lawn
Optional: Edge lace and beading lace
White 1/2” wide twill tape, or buttons, depending on preferred closure method.
To learn how to draft a pattern for Edwardian split drawers to your own measurements, using a 1916 technique, check out my drafting tutorial here.
One component not mentioned in that drafting tutorial is the waistband. Simple measure your waist and create a rectangle of this length by about 1”wide. If you are planning on using a button closure, you will need to add a buttoning allowance to this rectangle, plus seam allowance.
If you are adding ties on both sides of the waist, like I did, your waistband will need to be split into two pieces - the front waist band should be slightly larger than the back waistband. Measure your drawers pattern pieces to be sure of the correct width (minus the pleat on the back).
Once your pattern is ready, it is time to cut out our fabric . . .
After washing and pressing your fabric, lay it out on your cutting surface. If you added seam allowance to your pattern pieces, you can simply trace or cut around each pattern piece, paying attention to the grain direction. I did not add seam allowance to my pattern, so I added it with a ruler directly onto the fabric. The waistband should be cut along the straight of grain.
If you are adding ruffles to your drawers, you will need to first decide how wide you want your ruffles to be, and subtract this from the bottom of the leg of the drawers pattern. Then, measure along the bottom hem of the drawers. You will need to multiply this by 1.5-2 to get the length of your ruffle strips. Cut or tear strips along the straight of grain for your ruffles, using the required width and length. Remember to cut two ruffle strips per pair of drawers.
To prep your pattern, you will need to mark the placement and depth of your back pleat line. Next, for split drawers, you will need to mark the point at which your drawers’ crotch will be open until at both the front and back. For my drawers, this was approximately 9 inches down from the front top edge, and 6 inches down from the back top edge.
Finally, mark where your closure opening will be. I used two side closures, one on each side, and each opening was 7 inches down from the waist.
We will be making these drawers with French seams. Keep reading and watch the video for an explanation of how to create French seams, which are perfect for historical undergarments! The areas of the drawers we will be stitching together are: both centre seams, from the top (waist) down until the point where we earlier decided to open the crotch from. For me, this was about 7 inches down from the waist.
We will also be stitching the two side seams, from the bottom hem up until the point we will be leaving the side open for the closure. Since I planned for a tie closure on both sides, this was about 7 inches down from the waist at both sides. If you have a closure at only one side, this distance will need to be greater. What are French seams, and how do we create them? A French seam is a seam which encloses the raw edges inside the seam. Assuming we are using a 5/8” seam allowance (recommended), you will first sew your seam with wrong sides together, and with a reduced seam allowance of about 3/8”. Press this seam, and trim the edges as close as you can to the seam. Then, pin and stitch the seam again, this time with right sides together, and with the remaining 2/8” seam allowance. Press this seam.
It is time to create our back pleat for these drawers. Watch the video for an explanation of why the back pleat is there, and why it is such a smart design detail! Hopefully, you will have marked the line from the pattern onto your fabric pieces for where the back pleat should be. This will be an inverted box pleat, so we will be working from the inside (wrong side) of the drawers. Bring the fabric together and pin along the two pleat lines, forming an inner flap of fabric. Stitching along the pleat line, down to the point indicated on the pattern. This should be just above where the split crotch opening begins. Then, press this into a box pleat shape, and pin or baste together. Now we are ready to attach the waistband!
Waistband and Closure
Let’s talk about interfacing! Your waistband will need to be interfaced, in order to be firm enough and resist wrinkling. Use lightweight woven interfacing, and fuse or stitch it in place. For me, I usually prefer to use an extra layer of my main fabric as interfacing. I cut an extra rectangle of linen, the same dimensions as my waistband, but without the seam allowance. I pad-stitched this in place. I chose to attach my waistband in this way:
First, I pinned the bottom edge of the waistband to the top of edge of the drawers. The right side of the waistband was facing the inside (wrong side) of the drawers. I stitched this seam, and then pressed and trimmed the seam allowance. Then I pressed under the seam allowance of the other, unstitched side of the waistband, and pinned and stitched each side of the waistband closed, with the wrong side of the waistband facing out. In my case, since I used tie closures, I inserted my ties into these side seams. Then, I turned the waistband right side out, pressed, and sewed the final edge down, which was the right side, using a top stitch.
I chose to make a couple pairs of my drawers with ruffles at bottom, and a couple pairs with edge and beading lace. Of course another option is to simple leave the edge plain. If you are creating ruffles, it’s time to bring out those ruffle strips we created earlier. You will need to add a couple lines of gathering stitches along the top. You can do this by hand or by machine. Then, sew the side seam of the gather closed using another French seam. Time to attach the ruffles to the drawers! Pull up on the gathering threads until the ruffles fit the bottom edge of the drawers. Pin in place, wrong side to wrong side. Begin by lining up the side seam of the ruffles to the drawers side seam, and go from there. Proceed a French seam. Finish the bottom of your ruffle with a rolled hem, and you are done!
For the drawers with lace, I chose to add first a strip of beading lace, then a strip of edge lace. I first measured the length of lace needed, attached the beading lace to the edge lace, and then closed the side seam, forming a loop of lace. I then attached this lace to the bottom edge of the drawers. I did not use French seams for the lace seams, as it would have been too bulky. Rather, I used a lace insertion technique outlined in my Edwardian blouse article.
How Do I Like Them?
I absolutely love these Edwardian split drawers- they are so frilly and feminine and fluttery, and really complement chemises and corsets, as well as historical ensembles. Of course, another great option is to use these same techniques and create a pair of combinations, which combine a chemise and drawers! Let me know if you are going to try this technique! Was this tutorial helpful? Please comment below and let me know!
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