I started by prewashing a handkerchief weight (3.5oz) white linen I purchased from www.fabric-store.com. Depending on your size and how you layout the needed pieces you will need 3-4 yards to create a shift. After prewashing, and without ironing, I carefully cut out my rectangles for the body, sleeves, what will become my gores, and a strip for the neckline as recommended by the article.
To finish precutting my fabric, I folded the rectangle for the gores in half and cut along the fold line. Next I folded the rectangles from the upper left corner to the lower right to form two right triangles and cut along the fold line. After repeating with the second rectangle I end up with four right triangles. I then flipped two of the triangles and sewed the right angles together in order to create two isosceles triangles which will be my gores. This method results in less fabric waste than if I had just cut out two isosceles triangles.
The few extra pieces of linen that weren’t used to create my shift were saved and used to make the same style shift for my daughter. If you don’t have a precocious child to clothe, you can still use these pieces for parts of other projects, linings, etc.
Anyways, having several linen rectangles, it is time to turn them into some semblance of a garment. In prepping this, I noticed that Lyonnete’s write-up says to simply sew the rectangles together, but the diagram shows that the corners had been angled before being sewn. I tried both, the first for my daughters and the second for mine. As a note, they both work, the first seems a bit more awkward under the arm pit, but having done this same thing and putting in a drawstring when I first joined the SCA, I can say it doesn’t really impact anything.
On mine, I went ahead and cut the corners off creating a more box like shape rather than tube. I then pinned the corners together and sewed everything together. Next I pinned a gore to either side of one body piece and sewed everything I pinned.
After that, I pinned the sleeves together and the body to the free end of the gore so I could sew the entire piece at one time and basically create a T-tunic shape. At this time I also did a quick zig zag stitch along my seams to prevent the linen from fraying with wear and washing. Yea! Now it looks like a shift!
Since giving my husband a bunch of pins to help fit anything me scares me, I placed my shift on my form, using pins to hold the shoulders in place. After pinning it on the mannequin, I tried it on to ensure I was happy with the fit and once satisfied, I stay stitched my pleats in place before attaching the linen strip I made for the neckline edging.
A note on the strip: In the article it is stated that you can use bias tape or just a straight strip. I would highly recommend bias tape simply because it stretches. I wanted my edging to be the same material as the rest of the shift. Since you can’t readily buy linen bias tape, I either had to make my own or go with the straight strip option, which wastes less material. However, the straight strip doesn’t stretch the same as bias. Therefore, you’ll have to either make slight gathers in the strip so it will curve as you want or it will stick out a bit funny when you stitch it in place. This is just a word of caution so you don’t go screaming into the night because it’s not laying flat.
The final steps were adding the roll hem to the bottom of the shift and to the sleeves.