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Sewing Guidelines for Sewing a Traditional Doukhobor Woman's Suit

Shared by Seamstress: Emma Kavaloff


•  Choose a woven material, rather than a knit. A knit may sag when completed and is also difficult to work with    as there is a tendency to pull.


•  If the fabric has a pattern, cut and sew in the same direction.


•  If the Doukhobor suit is to be laundered after wear, pre-wash the fabric and hang to dry before cutting. This will set the fabric. The finished suit may be dry cleaned, dependent on the fabric.


•  Shoes – Measurements are taken with the correct heel height that will be worn with the ensemble.


•  If a blouse pattern is too long, the person will appear shorter.


Polyester crepe, available in different weights, is the ideal fabric. The lighter weight fabric will create a softer pleat. These pleats will fall into place without pressing the finished skirt. The heavier weight polyester crepe has both sides finished and either side can be used depending on the desired effect. One side has a dull matte finish whereas the other side has a shiny finish.


Fabric requirements: 5 ½ - 6 meters of the fabric 115 cm (45 inches) wide which allows for 3 lengths for the skirt and enough fabric as noted on the blouse pattern. If purchasing 152 cm (60 inch) wide fabric allow for 2 lengths for the skirt and enough for the blouse. Alteration in fabric requirements depends on the height of the woman. As well, if the blouse pattern indicates a bias cut, more fabric might be needed.


Other notions required

•  Thread – 3 spools of matching color 100% polyester thread as most fabrics are polyester 7 inch zipper


•  Colour that matches the fabric.


•  Bias tape – not recommended as it may pull on the skirt material when completed ensemble is washed.


•  Elastic – .3 meters ½ inch sturdy elastic.


The traditional Doukhobor blouse has evolved from the pin-tucked, front buttoned short woolen blouse to a modern garment sewn from a professionally designed purchased pattern. Today, along with the fabric, the style of the blouse is an individual choice although a front button opening is recommended.

Guidelines to adjusting a purchased blouse pattern to individual body measurements:

•  Add 4 inches to the width of the blouse at the bust line. (eg. Bust =34, finished blouse measurement should be 38. Allow for seam allowances)


•  Add 2 inches to the width of the shoulders. (eg. Shoulder =16, finished shoulder blouse measurement should be 18. Allow for seam allowances)


•  Add 3-4 inches to blouse at the hips. (eg. Hip =38, finished blouse measurement should be 41-42 . Allow for seam allowances)


•  Sleeve – Actually slip on the sleeve pattern. Pinch the tissue where the upper arm is the fullest. If you can’t pinch 1”, adjust the
pattern piece.


•  Blouse length would be 4” below the waist. Allow additional 2” for the hem.


•  Measure sleeve from shoulder top to the knuckles to allow for the hem or the blouson effect when attaching the cuff.


For a waist measurement under 38 inches, 2 1/2 fabric widths (45 inch) are required. For a waist measurement over 38 inches, 3 fabric widths are required. In the lengths of these pieces, include the waist seam allowance and a 5 – 6 inch hem. A wider hem allows the skirt pleats to drape more evenly. Take time to check that the length of the finished skirt would reflect the shoe heel height and the desired length from the floor.


Join skirt seams. Sew the 7” zipper into the left side seam of the skirt. A pocket may be sewn into the right side of the skirt only if using 60 inch wide panel lengths as 60 inches will be pleated in the front and 60 inches will be pleated in the back. Front pleats might have to be adjusted slightly into the 60 inch width.


For a waist measurement under 38 inches, the skirt consists of 7 front pleats. The centre one is 3 1/4 inches and each side has 3 pleats facing outward at 1 ½ inches wide and 2 inches deep. For a waist over 38 inches, the pleat measurements will change. There will be 9 pleats on the front of the skirt. The center pleat will be 3 ½ inches and 4 pleats of 2 inches will be placed on each side of the center pleat. Begin pleating from the left front zippered closure by ensuring the seam in which the zipper is sewn is neatly tucked in to the first side pleat. Continue pleating across to the width of the first width panel and across the second, adjusting the seam into an under pleat, until the desired number of pleats have been secured in place, pinned and basted. Then continue to pleat the back of skirt.


Overlap each pleat on the back of the skirt, about an inch. The width of the under pleat may need to be adjusted dependent on the waist measurement. The pleats start at the back of the hip at 1 inch each and meet in the center back of the skirt. Measure the pleated skirt. It should be 3-4 inches wider than the actual waist but this will be tightened in by the elastic in the waistband. Adjust under pleats if necessary. Sew on the waistband. Insert the elastic on the back of the skirt through the waist band and secure with a zigzag stitch at the sides. This will keep the skirt from slipping and the pleats will come closer together for a better look.


Fold lower edge ¼”of the hem, wrong sides together and stitch. The hem is the standard 6”. Hem by hand.

If using bias tape, stitch the bias tape on the hem edge without folding. Hem by hand.


Note: If the skirt length is too short for the 6” hem, insert a wide lace bias to make a 6 inch false hem.


Lighter weight fabric – Steam the pleats from the back of the skirt and hang against a heavier garment to dry. Pressing is not necessary as the pleats fall into place.


Heavier weight of fabric - Hang the skirt on a hanger using pins to secure the pleats into a straight line. Pin the pleats into place along the hem. Steam the pleats into place using a pressing cloth and let hang so they settle.



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