Thursday, November 25, 2010

Finished Pictures - Wool Medieval Kirtle

Despite temperatures hovering in the 20's this afternoon, David was still obliging and took some photos of my finished dress so I can share them with my dear readers and fellow costume enthusiasts. A layer of linen and a layer of wool may not seem very warm, but I was actually far more comfortable being outside than I had anticipated. I still need a big heavy cloak though. :)

So this is my first kirtle. I was inspired by many costuming sites and will list the ones I found most helpful at the end of this post. I would like to encourage anyone who is thinking about making a dress in this style to just do it! I was intimidated at first because I have heard it is not possible to fit this kind of dress on oneself. I do not have a sewing buddy and my husband is rather . . .well. . .less than helpful with pins and fitting. ;) The fit is not perfect and the bustline is not as high as I may have been able to achieve with the help of a fitting buddy, but for a working class, active impression I think it will work nicely.

The fit is not all that different than fitting for a corset. The support of the bust is gained purely from the cut of the bodice and the natural stretch and molding abilities of the wool outer layer and linen (for the bodice) inner layer. The critical areas to fit are the neckline, shoulders and underbust. The bust is supported by the tight fit of the underbust and the bosom is pushed as high as it can go and held in place by the cut of the armscye, neckline and shoulders. To accomodate the resulting mounds of flesh, the neckline is cut away so as not to compress or flatten the shape. This may seem immodest, but after experimenting with several mock ups, it was the only way I found to get this shape and as this dress is meant to be, for full dress occasions, worn beneath an outer gown or kirtle, it is not really so bad. Since the bust is lifted as high or almost as high as it can possibly go, there is no danger of "falling" out of your bodice. I find the fit very comfortable and supportive and secure, similar to a sports-bra.

The kirtle is made from four pieces cut as rectangle, shaped above the hips to fit the torso/bust. Four gores were inserted at the sides and the front and back to add fullness to the hem. Since this is technically an under-dress it does not need to be as full as an outer gown. The hem on this one measures about 140". The Medieval Tailors Assistant calls for a kirtle hem of about 103" so mine is fuller than that - just because to me, that amount seemed so skimpy. The length is ankle length, for active wear. Fashionable ladies would have had longer, trailing hems. I plan to cook over a fire and chase children in this, so ankle length is the most practical for me.

I used a combination of machine and hand stitching. All the main seams are done on the machine but all the finishing work and any stitch visible from the outside is done by hand. The lacing cord I braided from four strands of brown wool yarn. It laces the fifty-three eyelets up from neckline to hip. I use a bobby pin to lace the cord up and have to almost fully unlace the dress when putting it on or taking it off. So far, it takes me about fifteen minutes to get this dress on and laced and everything arranged properly.

The sleeves are narrow but not tight. They are slit for about six inches up from the hem and close with six handmade ball buttons and buttonholes. A more fashionable lady may have many more buttons on her sleeves than these. The buttonholes are worked close to the edge of the sleeve and the buttons sewn directly on the edge, so there is very little overlap.

I made a simple and quick kerchief to wear based on instructions in The Medieval Tailors Assistant. It is basically a 32" square of white cotton (I had no linen light enough and TMTA recommended sheer cotton or semi sheer cotton to use in place of linen for headdresses) knotted at the neck and with the ends brought up and pinned around the face. It was very easy to make and it easy and comfortable to wear. Even in blustery winds, it did not come off my head. :)

My next accessory will be an apron. I definitely need an apron if I want to do work of any sort in this dress! Then I will be making a dark gray surcote to go over this dress, hopefully to be finished before January 8th. A hood would be nice too, for winter wear.

Here are some of the links I found very helpful:

Dame Helens Site
Jessamyn's Closet
Historical Life


Monday, November 22, 2010

Malachi's Yellow Wool Medieval Gown

Yesterday afternoon was our first participation event with the Barony of Illiton. I just barely got our basic clothes finished in time. Actually, I still have quite a lot left to sew for us but at least we all had a basic garment to wear. I will never attempt to make a kirtle, two little-boy size tunics and a baby gown all in one week, ever again. It was a lot of work and the last few days incredibly stressful since I didn't think I'd get everything done in time.

I brought my camera to the event but due to the wild behaviour of our children, and my resulting disappearance from the audience to sweep the unruly boys outside, I did not get any pictures. At all. Much to my dismay, because there were some really lovely clothing examples there. I was so inspired by everyone and am sooooo excited about being a part of this awesome group of people.

Some of you may remember the diagram of a childs dress I posted about a few weeks ago. I fell in love with the style when I saw it so I was excited to try it for Malachi. It is an easy style to adapt to specific measurements and Malachi's dress ended up taking me only four hours to make, including a lot of handsewing. The wool is a yellow-tan color and is lightly twilled and a bit on the fuzzy side. In these pictures it looks a bit darker than it really is since I had to wash the gown this morning and it is still currently quite damp. Malachi decided to dunk a chicken leg in some beef stew and press it fondly against his heart yesterday, leaving quite a horrid pinkish-brown spot down the front of the dress! Thankfully the stain came out after two washings!

I absolutely love how clever 14th century cutting and piecing techniques are! Malachi wears a size 2/3 and this dress, being full length, took just under a yard of 60" wide wool.

I cut it large, so hopefully it will fit him for a while. It is unlined and the neck is faced with a straight grain strip of lightweight linen.

He looked quite adorable, if I do say so myself. ;) Unfortunately, he is learning how to use his cuteness to advantage in order to attempt to decieve and emotionally control other people. Sigh.

Here is me and my baby boy. I am pretty happy with how my kirtle came out, although I think I may have to take it in a little under the bust since it seemed to stretch a bit as I wore it. I will hopefully have pictures of it later this week, as David will have some time off for Thanksgiving and will be able to help me take some photos. I think I'm hooked on medieval style clothing!

Have a wonderful start to your week, dear ones!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kirtle Progress

I have been working on my kirtle this week and today finished what I think was the most time consuming part - the eyelets. They are spaced 3/4" apart from neckline to hip level so there were a lot of them. It took me about 3 hours to do the eyelets and another hour to make the lacing cord. I was extremely nervous when I tried on the kirtle to make sure of the fit before I continue on with finishing it. Here are some pics of it so far, thoughbe forewarned; they are very bad pictures and I look horrible in them but they will give you an idea of the look.

I am pretty happy with how it is working, though! When I stand perfectly still it fits smoothly, but as soon as I move, well, there are wrinkles around the waist. Not terrible by any means, but they are there. Sigh. I guess I will have to wear this and get used to how it fits and feels and moves with my body.

I have to make the sleeves still and then hem the skirt, but otherwise the hard parts are done.

It is such a simple garment, but the more I work with these styles the more I realize that it is the simpler garments that are hardest to make well. Because of the utter simplicity of style, everything must be executed as flawlessly as possible - the fitting, the cutting, the stitching. If not, the error glares out at you and makes everything look just awful. No room for error to be hidden beneath gathers or pleats. :P No corset to take the strain of wear - it must be fitted exactly so, to support yet not be too tight nor too loose.

It is definitely not perfect but for my first kirtle I'm pleased. It will work! The only thing that really bugs me is the drape of the skirt at appx. hip level on the front of the dress - see how it kind of droops in a scallopy shape? I think it's because of my stomach though. :P If I suck my stomach in to appear more slim, it droops. If I let it naturally bulge out (having 3 babies just does that ;) ) it does not really droop at all. I guess I will have to get used to the protruding stomach look.

More pics this weekend of everyone, hopefully!


Friday, November 12, 2010

1860's Ballgown Progress

Not completely done - but almost! I should have this sucker finished tomorrow and then I can relax and breathe a sigh of relief as I lay it away for the Yule Ball.

I really had no idea how it was going to come out. A dear lady I made some gowns for earlier this year gifted me with this beautiful taffeta after I told her the blue-green color of the dresses I made for her reminded me of my Grammie. Unbeknownst to me, this dear woman searched high and low to find the same fabric to give to me since I had liked the color so much. She couldn't find the exact fabric, but this shade is very close. This was back in the summer - since then, I have wondered about how I ought to make this up and at last, with the ball coming up in a few weeks, I decided now was the time to do it.

I could have made it perfectly plain - but what fun is that? I drew lots of sketches and at last settled on what has always been my "dream gown" design. I always loved Disneys Cinderella. I watched it every day when I was little (just like my boys now love to watch Cars and Toy Story.) You know the dress the mice make for Cinderella so she can go to the ball? It is pink and whit eand has scallops and flounces. Very pretty and one dress I've always wanted. So I trimmed the skirt with two rows of ruching in a scalloped shape. To dress up the plain fabric, I added a fringe of clear beads between the rows of ruching. Although the bodice is not done yet, it will also have two rows of ruching and one of beads as well. The sleeves are trimmed with beads at the hem and will have one row of ruching just above the hem. I may make some poufy sheer white undersleeves but I haven't decided for sure yet. The trim on the bodice is just hastily pinned on for the pictures. I may move the position of the beaded fringe to a gentle curving horizontal line instead of the corset-like line it has. . .I think that may "go" with the skirt better.

For Christmas, the high points of the scallops are trimmed with a gold poinsettia. I have doubts as to the period-correctness of gold poinsettias, but this ball is not really a strict ball by any sense of the word and the gold looks pretty with the green. :) After Christmas, I can easily take off the tacked on flowers and replace them with other flowers, or bows, or ribbon clusters, etc. Or leave any trim there off altogether.

All that is left to do is to make and attach the bodice and sleeve ruching and attach the sleeves and sew on the hooks.

Right now it's lunch time! Time for soup and crackers and shutting windows. The whole area, outside and in, reeks strongly of ammonia. I'm hoping its just a standard thing that farmers put on their fields in the fall. Whew. It's awfully powerful.

Have a great weekend everybody!



Saturday, November 6, 2010

David's Brown Linen Medieval Tunic

This week has been one of making David's tunic. He was sick on Monday so he stayed home from work. I draped the pattern on him that afternoon, cut the fabric on Tuesday and started sewing. I finished the garment a little while ago and he tried it on for the last time - the last time prior to his first event, that is! :)

This is technically a "Middle garment", being worn over his undershirt but underneath an outer garment. I haven't made his outer tunic yet, so for now, he has to make do with this. It has some rectangular construction (skirt gores, lower skirts) but the chest and shoulders are fitted and the sleeve is a transitional type sleeve that is curved in shape but set in with a gusset.

The fabric is a medium weight brown linen. I got the linen from Fashion Fabrics Club and wasn't happy with the rest of the order so I was reimbursed - and got to keep the fabrics. There is some controversy as to whether linen was used for main garments during this era, with it being th ough wool is generally more accurate to use, but I didn't know that before I got this fabric. David really liked it, so I used it. Most of it will be hidden beneath the outer garment anyway.

The sleeves were the thing that gave me the most trouble. The first sleeves I made had the buttonholes on the wrong side, so I made a new set of sleeves this morning. I had to sew the new ones in twice to get them to hang right but I think now they will work nicely!

Hopefully this coming week I'll get my kirtle done! I have an 1860's ballgown to make for a ball the day after Thanksgiving too. So much to sew!

Have a wonderful weekend!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Plaid 1850's Dress, Simplicity 3727

A few months ago I posted about the then in progress 1850's dress I was making for my friend Nona. Well, at last, it is finished! Nona came over two weeks ago for the bodice fitting and over the weekend I made the bodice. Since Nona and I are very nearly the same size, here are a few pictures of the finished dress on me.
The dress was fitted to go over a hoopskirt and modern undies.

Even though I wasn't personally thrilled with the overall design for myself at first, and the style is really not appropriate for me to wear for 1860's reenactments, I really really like the finished dress. I need to make one for me!

Even if not for reeancting, it would be fun to wear for church or around the house on those days when I feel like wearing something a bit more exciting than my standard jean skirts and sweaters. I think I'd love a deep blue and brown or gold plaid. And I love black trim. The velvet ribbon and fringe just sets off the lines so nicely, I think. 

Now to plunge back into the 14th century. I have David's basic tunic draped and patterend and cut and partially sewn together. Today I need to make the eyelets for lacing the front. 22 of them.