The Cognitive Shift, or 18th Century SHIFTS,
WHAT I KNOW AND HOW I LEARNED IT
© Sharon Ann Burnston 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2017

Introduction
Choosing Suitable Materials
Cut and Construction
Custom Fitting Your Shift
Shift Neckline Woes
Sewing the Shift
Stroke Gathers
Ruffles
Monogramming A Shift
FAQs
Replica Shift

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

"I was doing just fine until I cut out the neck of the shift and it ended up much too big. I don't know how that happened! What should I do?"

About the only thing you can do at this point is to make a narrow casing for a drawstring. If you use a 1/4" to 1/2" wide tape as a facing, you won't have to turn the fabric under twice and this will help to minimize how much too-large your neckline is. It isn't optimal to have a drawstring neckline, but a few such shifts did exist, so it isn't awful either. Relax and know that you are far from the only person who has made this mistake. Next time, use one of the neckline diagrams to make your shift neck hole, and you won't have this problem. Don't forget to cut out your shift neck hole *smaller* by the width of your hem allowance, so that when the hem is turned under, the finished neck hole is the right size.

"How do I get the hem of the neck edge to lie flat?"

Make your hem allowance as narrow as you can manage, no more than 1/4" and preferably about 1/8". The wider your hem allowance, the more difficulty you'll have in getting it to turn under smoothly around those inside curves. As an alternative, you can turn it under once, then use a strip of linen tape as a facing. Your tape should be no wider than about 12mm.

"...my question is regarding fixed cuffs or cuffs that button closed. Did those exist too or not?"

I have never seen an original 18c shift with cuffs that had any other configuration than this: one buttonhole in each end of the cuff. Those could be fastened with sleeve-links, or with a pair of thread-buttons sewn together to form sleeve-links, or they could be tied with a ribbon. One cannot tell from a portrait that this detail isn't there, because the painting cannot ever show you all the way around the arm. The only original shifts I have seen that don't have this configuration are the post-1790 shifts with narrower sleeves and no cuffs.

"Could you show us what the sleeve buttons are supposed to look like?"

Sleeve buttons could be made of silver, gold, brass, or more rarely, pewter. Some were set with gems or with "paste", the 18th c. forerunner of modern rhinestones. Some were engraved. Less elaborate ones can be made by creating a sturdy thread-link between pairs of thread buttons, such as Dorset buttons. All 18th c. sleeve buttons are linked in such a way that when the buttons are lying flat, they can lie side by side, just about touching.

Here is a photo of a pair of original sleeve-links from my collection, to show you how it's all supposed to look when you are done.



"How does the placket hem turn over into the flat felled seam of the sleeve?"

I pondered how to write that bit. In truth, I measure 3 inches at the end of the sleeve and turn the teensy hem(s) for the placket *before* I sew the sleeve side seam.

"Are period shifts made of such fine fabric and with such narrow hems that one can simply twist the allowance over to the other side?"

Actually, yes. Yes, they are. On the 1752 specimen in my collection, the hems on the sleeve plackets are so fine, it's almost impossible to see them with the naked eye.


Click on the image for a larger view.

If you have a usable selvedge, then you can make that the upper side of your flatfell, and then there are no raw edges to worry about, as the raw edge is on the inner layer of the flatfell, and gets contained by the selvedge which is on the upper layer. (With me so far?)

If however, you haven't got a usable selvedge, it gets trickier. What I do is roll the upper end of each placket-hem away to nothing, a long taper. Then when I turn the sleeve seam under to flatfell it, I make sure that the upper layer of the felled seam has a well-rolled itsy-bitsy placket-hem all the way into the felled part.
Still with me??
This is hard to explain. And this is one reason why I will continue to teach workshops on shift-making...



Introduction
Choosing Suitable Materials
Cut and Construction
Custom Fitting Your Shift
Shift Neckline Woes
Sewing the Shift
Stroke Gathers
Ruffles
Monogramming A Shift
FAQs
Replica Shift

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