Sophie Hatter Project – Combinations

Sophie Hatter finished combinations

The Sophie Hatter combinations were the first garment made for the Sophie Hatter project. This was for the Foundations Revealed competition 2021. The brief was to create and outfit or garment for a character from a work of literature.

I chose one of my favourite characters Sophie Hatter from Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Originally published as a children’s book in 1986, it was also made into a hugely popular animated film of the same name by Studio Ghibli.

For this project I went back to the original book as the source material to avoid any visual representations from the Studio Ghibli film to creep into my design. As much as I love the film, I wanted my outfit to be a more conceptual representation of Sophie’s character and the world she lives in, and not be a simple, easily animated baggy dress.

I started with the foundation layer first, from there I could work out wards. I had a clear idea of what I wanted to create after seeing the below pair of combinations held at the Chertsey Museum. These dated from 1901-1910.

Chertsey Museum – Combinations c.1901-1910

However my starting point had a clear disadvantage which was that there was no pattern for me to use to recreate this and no more photos of the back or any close-ups to help me figure out details.

I drafted a pattern using the split drawers pattern from Making Edwardian Costumes for Women – Suzanne Rowland (page 34). This was moderately successful after some major fit adjustments. However I could completely change this if I was to make another pair of combinations.

The pattern on the fabric

The main design concept which I used to link together the items I made for the Sophie Hatter project was the four elements, water, earth, air and fire.

The combinations were based on the water element and I used a hand dyed piece for fabric to represent this. It combined blues, greys and the natural white of the original fabric.


Fabric and lace for Sophie Hatter combinations
  • Gutterman Cotton Thread – 305 Steel & 5104 Dark Grey
  • 8mm Shell buttons – Petrol Blue
  • Cotton Voile Hand Dyed Remanent 1.65×1.5m
  • 32mm silk ribbon Grey 1 metre
  • 25mm silk ribbon grey 1 metre
  • 7mm silk ribbon grey 2 metres
  • Chantilly lace dark grey 5 metres
  • Grey lace trim 3 metres

I sewed these combinations entirely by hand. This was mostly because of the light-weight of the cotton voile I used. I was very afraid of the sewing machine just chewing it up and ruining it. The fabric was an exceptionally light weight, hand dyed cotton remnant I stumbled onto on Ebay. I bought it because of the colours but I should have used something a little heavier weight in retrospect.

I hand dyed project is defianatly in my future, but it’s a scary messy process to my current self.

Hand sewn pintucks

The main shaping of this garment are sets of pintucks. These were a steep learning curve as I haven’t sewn these before, either by hand or by machine. The pintucks above were for the drawers. They were in sets of 8 tucks, each one was 1/4 inch in size so each set gives a reduction of 2 inches.

There were 4 sets of 8 pintucks, two on the front and two on the back.

The waist of the drawers was sewn to a thin waist tape made from the blue cotton voile with the light grey eyelet lace sewn on top. The dark grey silk ribbon was woven in an out of the eyelet lace and acts as a drawstring to tie together the waist at the centre front.

Seams with rolled hems

All the raw edges had to be finished before the seams were sewn to stop the fabric fraying.

Silk bows, shell buttons, hand sewn button holes

For more information about the process of making these combinations, please see the two videos below:

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