Cut Your Corners: #Sewing a Slip From 81 Year Old Instructions.

This leaflet was produced and distributed in 1934 by the much revered, 200 plus year old thread manufacturer, Coats and Clark.  You can read all about their history on their website.  In the 1930s they published a series of leaflets called “Smart Cuts to Sewing”, and I have seven of them, purchased from a long forgotten vendor.

Its a little peek into the sewing world of 1930s America through this leaflet.  I mean to sew up the projects in all 7 leaflets, and begin here with the slip. Because, I need a new camisole in my life, otherwise this pretty silk georgette tunic will forever remain unworn.

needs slip


So let’s see how the leaflet guided me. Hey Coats & Clark, why a slip? Because, according to the leaflet, long bias dresses in diaphanous fabrics were making the rounds in fashionable circles in 1934 and a slip would be a good thing to make and wear under the dresses. Very practical, and 81 years later, I need a slip – actually a camisole. So I gave this a try.


Reading through it, it’s a simple process and puzzle-like; it’s a minimal waste project, if not zero waste. Above is an image of the diagram – It needs two squares of fabric, three pre-measured triangles cut away from each square, and then the triangles rotated and re-attached to another part of the square to shape a slip.  Fantastic!!


Then there are instructions to make bias strips into faggoted embellishment. Gorgeous!!

There is emphasis on pinning the re-attached pieces to the individual body (for whom the slip is being sewn) to ensure a good fit. Perfect!!

Trying to fit around curves

Here we run into a conundrum. Shaping the triangles to the bust is passed over in the instructions; the triangles are obviously meant for an almost flat chested figure. People, when you put a flat triangle (or any shape) on your 2016, well-endowed self, shaping is needed – in the form of darts, gathers, easing. In my case, I had to increase the dimensions of the front triangles, too. The flat triangles for the back worked out OK, but never the front.  While working on this, I was reminded of the fabulous sewing educator Gale Grigg Hazen who used to say that creating darts is like “fitting a beach ball”. Or, fitting is like “sewing for a beach ball” – words to that effect.

Back to the slip; a camisole in my case. So, here is a “muslin”, which is a very cheap but very soft cotton which has been in the stash at least 10 years. I firmly believe that a fabric will not be sewn before it’s time.

I did the best I could with the bust triangles by pinning out the excess through darts and gathers;  ignored the lower hem triangles (those are for full slips according to the guide sheet), added pre-made cotton bias binding to the top edge and skinny straps (the guide has instructions for making the bias), ignored the embellishment instructions (this was just a trial), and decided to wear this slip as a nightie or pajama top.

Onto the “real” camisole”, where I’ll take the time to fit the top. Pattern manipulation, anyone? The embellishment on the front is the focal point and beauty of this, so I’ll add that. More trouble than I thought it would be — but I like to make things worthy of my sewing time. Do you agree?



9 thoughts on “Cut Your Corners: #Sewing a Slip From 81 Year Old Instructions.

  1. I kind of love this pattern. I like “puzzle” sewing that magically works out in the end. What a great find! The cutting diagram is brilliant. I may attempt my version of this in the future.


  2. Indeed, any fine fabric must be savored. I do feel like I ought to get the entire quote from Orson Welles wine advertisements (just watched F for Fake again this summer) to respond, but it’s waaaaaaarmmmmm.
    The ‘snail’ motif is sweet. That’s handwork you can pin to a small foam object and work on under a tree, in the shade.
    Or in an air conditioned bar, with a glass of wine. Red or white, depending on your chemise’s final color.


    1. I haven’t seen the Orson Wells wine ads you are referring to, so it’s kinda lost on me. Thank you for leaving your always-lovely thoughts here. I love the snail motif, or pinwheel as some may call it. I definitely will add it to the next version if this slip.


  3. The pattern reminds me of tangram puzzles. In a previous generation, every woman had full length slips, but it’s hard to find any today in a department store.

    As far as the trouble of the fitting or embellishment, I find it’s attention to the details that give me a sense of satisfaction when sewing, and enjoyment when wearing.


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