Mill blog

Making a Holgate Miller’s Smock

Would you like to make a smock like the one Holgate millers wear? Here it is. The design is basically an 18th century man’s shirt (think Poldark).

A 5/8” seam allowance is included in these dimensions. It’s assumed you have experience of sewing. Everything is cut from rectangles.

Fabric pieces

Cut from white cotton or cotton/polyester such as a sheet:

  • One rectangle for front, 26” wide by 30” long (or your preferred length plus 2” for hem).
  • One rectangle for back, same size.
  • Two rectangles for sleeves, 23” wide and as long as the distance from your shoulder to knuckles.
  • Two x collar band 16 1/4” long by 2 1/4” wide.
  • Two x underarm gusset 5” square.
  • Two x neck ties about 2” wide, length to suit you tied in a bow.
  • Set aside fabric for 1 1/4” wide strips to bind neck edge and sleeve openings. Total length needed about 40”.
  • (You may want to make a paper pattern first.) Cut a piece 18 1/2” long x 9” wide. Mark the centre of the length and the centre of the width. Plot a 5” diameter circle centred on this point then move the circle 1/2” toward either long edge. Draw in the circle. Cut out the hole for a neck opening. Cut two yokes in fabric (yoke and facing).
  • Make a paper pattern first: cut a rectangle 19” long x 4” wide. Fold it in half crosswise and pin together. Piece is now 9 1/2” long. Mark one edge at 7 3/4” from fold. To make a point on the collar, cut a diagonal line across unfolded end, from corner on one side to 7 3/4” mark on the other. Open out pattern piece and cut two in fabric (collar and facing).



Gather tops of back and front to match widths of yoke back and front. Figure 1

Attach yoke to front and back. Attach yoke facing to fronts and backs.

Find the body front. This is the piece with the lower neck opening. Fold front in half, press the fold, and mark centre front line on the fold. Cut 9” long slash down centre front from neck edge. Staystitch 1/4” from edge round whole slash opening. Figure 2

Snip tiny notches inside staystitching at bottom of slash to make it easier to attach binding.

Attach binding down one side, across the bottom and up the other side of the neck slash with seam 1/4” from edge. Trim the seam close, press. Fold the other binding edge in and topstitch it round the neck slash. Figure 3


Sew collar pieces together around the short ends and the longest side. Turn, trim and press. Baste the open side closed along the seam allowance line. Figure 4

Make the neck ties: fold each strip lengthwise, right sides together. Stitch entire length and across one end, trim seam allowance close to stitching, turn to get a tube. Press.

Pin collar band pieces right sides together. Tuck neck ties between the layers with raw ends inside collar band seam allowance, rest dangling. Stitch across collar band ends. Turn the collar band right side out. Fold in the seam allowances on one long edge. Press, checking that the band forms a tidy rectangle. The long ties should now be sticking out of its ends. Figure 5

Push the basted edge of the collar into the folded-in side of the collar band, leaving an equal gap at both ends (the collar is slightly shorter than the collar band). Top stitch to secure the collar inside the collar band. Figure 6

On the body, staystitch around the neck edge just within the seam allowance, then snip a 1/4” notch every inch or so from edge toward staystitching. Attach one side of the collar band to neck edge.  Figure 7 Press the seam allowance into the collar band and trim. Fold in the seam allowance on the other side of the collar band. Sew this side of the collar band to the neck edge either by hand or by top stitching through all the layers.


Lay the sleeves flat, side by side, right side up. Figure 8 Along the bottom of the sleeve on the left mark the place 5” from the left edge. Along the bottom of the sleeve on the right mark the place 5” from the right edge. You now have a right and a left sleeve. At each 5” mark cut a slash 4” long, straight up from the bottom edge. Stitch binding round each slash as you did on the smock front. These openings will be at the back of your wrists so keep track of which sleeve is right and left from now on. Figure 9

At the top of each sleeve mark the centre with a safety pin, a bit below the seam allowance. Sew two rows of gathering stitches along the top of each sleeve. Pull gathering to make each sleeve 18” wide at the top. Secure ends of stitches so width is fixed. Figure 10

Sew the side seams on the sleeves to make them into tubes, but leave the last five inches, minus seam allowance, open at the top for the gusset. Figure 11

Fold each gusset in half diagonally. Sew adjacent sides of a gusset to the open top of a sleeve seam. When done you should have a triangle sticking out of the side of the sleeve top. Do the same on the other sleeve. Figure 12

Gather lower edge of each sleeve with two rows of basting stitches, starting and ending at the slash opening. Leave threads long for adjustment later. Figure 13


For each cuff:

Fold cuff in half lengthwise, right sides together, press fold. Fold back one long edge on seam allowance and press. Stitch across ends. Trim and turn, press. Cuff now has one raw edge and one folded-in edge. Figure 14

Pull in gathers on lower edge of sleeve until it fits cuff. Pin raw edge of cuff to right side of sleeve and stitch. Trim off excess gathered fabric inside cuff. Turn cuff and slip stitch the folded-in edge to sleeve. Figure 15

Sleeves to body

Match each sleeve to the right or left side of the body. The slash should be at the back of your arm. Mark halfway points on yoke with safety pins, ie where shoulder seam would be if there were one. Mark 9” down from this point on body back and front, left and right sides. Figure 16

Arrange the gathers on the sleeve evenly. Pin the gathered and gusseted sleeve to the body front and back, matching the marked yoke centre with sleeve top centre. The gathered section of the sleeve should stop at the 9” mark on the body. Stitch the sleeve and its remaining two edges of gusset to the body. The gusset will form a diamond when sewn in and pressed flat. Stitch the rest of the side seams.


Try on the smock and mark the hemline. Test the cuffs for comfort and mark the overlap. Make button and buttonhole in cuff. Figure 17 Overcast all raw edges. Stitch the hem.

Please let us know how you get on.

Ulla Wiberg



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Holgate Windmill at St Crux

Instead of a milling day last Friday the Holgate Windmill Preservation Society were at St Crux Hall in the centre of York for a fundraising event. For the second year we provided home made food in the café and sold a selection of bric-a-brac outside and just like last time we were blessed with some lovely sunny weather. In the café we sold tea and coffee together with a wide selection of home made cakes together with leek and potato soup and filled sandwiches using bread buns baked by one of our commercial outlets, Ainsty Farm Shop – using Holgate flour of course. Outside we had a number of stalls selling a wide selection of books, jigsaws, toys, assorted bric-a-brac and jewellery. It was a very busy and enjoyable day and we couldn’t have done it without the fantastic support of a large number of our volunteers who ran the day and provided the produce for sale. I am sure that they all had a well deserved sit down in the evening!

And of course a great thanks to everyone who came to see us during the day and parted with their cash on the stalls and in the café, we raised over £1100 and all of that will go to the ongoing operation and maintenance of Holgate Windmill.


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Easter Chick’s at the Mill and our first batch of Spelt Flour.

Easter Bank Holiday Monday was not the nicest of days weather-wise but the annual Easter Trail drew a large number of excited children to the mill and they enjoyed the challenge of finding all of the numbered chicks, discovering the key word and collecting their Easter egg prize. Congratulations also to the adults who seemed to spend more time working out the key word than the kids , a real team effort and thank you everyone for coming, it was a really enjoyable day.

A few weeks ago we received our first delivery of Spelt, this is a variety of wheat called Triticum spelta. Its nutrition content is very similar to wheat, and it is high in gluten. As a trial we have only ordered a quarter of a tonne and it has been extremely interesting for us to mill this grain alongside our usual Sky Fall wheat variety. It mills just as well as ordinary wheat but it is different, slightly finer in texture when milled and a little more oily when bagging. Quite a few of our milling team have already tried this in differing ratio’s with our ordinary strong wheat flour and report good results. At the moment we are selling 1.5kg bags in the mill for £3.50 and this price reflects the much higher grain price than ordinary milling wheat. If Spelt proves a commercial success we will order larger quantities and we will probably start to sell this in smaller 1kg bags which have been requested by a number of our customers.

Our regular Summer open weekends start in 5th and 6th of May and our volunteers will be busy before then lime washing some of the interior walls and ensuring that the mill is looking great. We hope that you get the opportunity to visit on one of our open days between May and October.

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A quiet time at the mill

The last few weeks have been quiet at the Mill, not least because of the “Beast from the East ” but it has not stopped us milling as usual. The new electric drive gear has been further run in and the new Applewood teeth are wearing in nicely – we have probably milled about 75 kilo’s so far without a problem. The teeth were crafted and fitted by John Byrne who volunteered to carry out this difficult work and we are extremely grateful for his care and craftsmanship.

Dave Andrews our Millwright was at the mill last Saturday to carry out his monthly maintenance work. ably assisted by Jenny Hartland, and they took the opportunity to mill by wind and this has all now been bagged and delivered to one of our regular commercial customers Ainsty Farm Shop at Green Hammerton. This Friday we took the opportunity to strip and clean down the wind stones as part of our regular cleanliness regime.

We did have a grain delivery booked for Friday but the weather put paid to that and this has now been rescheduled for the coming Friday, hopefully there will be some wind so that we can use the sack hoist to lift the sacks up to the Dust Floor. We are getting another tonne of Sky Fall high protein milling wheat but we have decided to widen our flour for sale by trying a small amount of Spelt. This is expensive to buy and will cost more than our standard flour but it will be interesting to see how it mills and what the response is from our customers.

We now have an Instagram account so if you are an Instagram user you can find us at holgatewindmill.  Our website also has a recipes section if you click on More > Mill Recipes

Hopefully the weather will now start to improve and we can look forward to a busy open season with our next open day on Easter Monday 2nd April.


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Events at the Mill – 2 February 2018

Thursday was windy and an excellent milling day so some of the milling team met and milled around 70kg of grain. There was also quite a bit of cleaning up during the week from the Residents Festival Weekend as the bottom staircase and Stone Floor floorboards had seen plenty of wet foot traffic and were dirty and slippery in places.


Friday’s regular milling day saw us bag up all of the flour produced on Thursday so the shelves are now full again after some excellent sales over the weekend.


As you know we now have a re-cogged electric drive wheel and this needs running in. We crossed our fingers and ran the electric stones for about 30 minutes slowly increasing the motor speed and after a few strange noises the gear teeth seemed to be settling in and started to run quietly. We milled around 20kg of flour and then examined the timber teeth – they are showing some marking but this is to be expected as they will wear down to accommodate the cast iron drive gear. This is work in progress over the next few weeks.

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Events at the Mill – 26 January 2018

Today was a normal Friday milling day and we proceeded to bag up the remainder of our wind milled flour so that the shelves are now full for this weekend’s Residents Festival. The mill is open both days at our usual times 11.00am to 4.00pm


Alison Leadbetter, who manages our commercial flour sales, suggested that we might try a new gift bag idea for sale in the shop (see photo). We have had quite a few people over the years who have not baked bread before and would like some initial guidance so Alison has come up with a gift bag which contains 500g of our wholemeal flour and 500g of coarse flour plus some yeast, a sheet with two recipes and flour and mill information. These are on sale this weekend at £4.00 so it will be interesting to see if they are popular.


We had a tidy up for the weekend and Ulla cleaned the glass viewing panel in the cap floor, so if you wondered how this stays so clean now you know who to thank. And Rosy greased the curb ring in the cap – something that we do weekly, especially if the cap is sitting in an unusual direction and we can access an often-hidden section of curb.


And as we were leaving Jen Hay arrived with a spade and a rake………….


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