Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Sideless Surcote

I finished my surcote today and now, with a few accessories I still need to make, I will finally feel "fully dressed" for the 14th century.

The sideless surcote was worn with fitted kirtles/underdress and though at first glance it may strike you as dowdy and plain, once on a female form this is a *very* feminine style. During the few months I've been researching this kind of cote I have run across several contemporary descriptions that indicate that, in the 14th century, this was rather a revealing garment to wear. I don't know if the phrase "gates of hell" is authenticated (but it certainly often turns up when reading about this garment) but it creates an interesting mental picture of the way the curves of a woman, revealed through the cut away sides of this cote, may tempt a man into sin. Honestly, clothing and the inevitable people who complain about what they perceive as immodest styles have not really changed *at all* over the centuries!

Well ladies, if you have curves you might as well show them off. This is one period where being curvy is a good thing. :)

My surcote is made in a dark gray wool. I only had 3 yards of it but it was more than enough for this style. The construction and cut is really very simple and the drape and cut away armholes is what makes this garment stand out. The colors are a bit drab; in contemporary art brighter colors are often depicted. But, it is what I had and is what I used. Maybe my next outfit willl utilize some more cheerful colors.

I based the cut on the sideless surcote in The Medieval Tailors Assistant. I didn't follow the diagram exactly since the way it was cut would have created more width across the torso. I wanted it fairly straight to the hips, where it flares out with the use of four triangular gores to a full hem. A website that was helpful was this one: The Sideless Surcote Another helpful site was this one: Sideless Surcotes.

I apologize in advance for any typos. Our computer is kind of working, but the monitor is still very, very difficult to read.


Friday, December 3, 2010

I Finished My Coat!

After lunch today, the boys decided to all three nap at once in the living room. Judah was the last to succumb to sleepiness and his little yellow head with his bright blue eyes peered silently at me as I sat on the couch opposite him and stitched away at six buttonholes to finish up my winter coat. The white lights on the Christmas tree sparkled, Malachi sighed in his sleep and shifted position. David was curled up next to me in a corner of the couch, a pillow on his legs for a blanket.

I battled with silk buttonhole twist, wax, and a very shifty area of moleskin and fleece. But, at last, it was done. My coat is finished! Yay! And just in time. Tomorrow we are supposed to get our first substantial snowfall of the year. And I will be ready for it! Hmm. I must make some peanut butter blossoms later this afternoon so we will have something nice and homey and chocolatey and peanut-buttery to eat while the snow flies outside.

I'm really rather happy with how my coat came out! David says it reminds him of an 1860's generals frock coat, reenactor-style. Reenactor style because the cuffs and collars are black velvet, while military regs of the 60's called for dark blue velvet. But most renactors just use black.

I was very bad this week and started a new sewing project before I got this one finished. I know! But it was an impulse thing. Here is a sneak peek of it; a 1930's/1940's style silky print blouse. I'm not much of a blouse person and I'm not very experienced at making blouses but I thought I'd give the pattern a whirl and I had the perfect fabric on hand to try it out in. (Thanks Jackie!!) It needs buttons and a hem and I need to sew the tucks down at the waist.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tis the Season to Stay Warm

Warm weather stayed for a long time this fall, but cold temperatures are inevitable - especially here in Illinois. We were blessed with a long and beautiful Indian summer but last week the month finally remembered it was November and the skies became overcast, the wind picked up and gray flimsy clouds scudded quickly overhead. Precipitation came - some hard icy bits of snow, freezing rain and plain rain.
Thanksgiving weekend was fun for David and I. We rarely get to go out by ourselves and my mother in law came over on Friday afternoon to watch the boys while David and I went to the Yule Ball and she stayed the night so as to watch them again on Saturday when we went Christmas shopping. While we were out, I realized I needed a coat. I have had many coats over the years but currently have a 7-year old denim coat lined with fleece - an old favorite, much worn - and a cream colored fleece coat that zips up the front. I love my denim coat but the fact that it is getting dingy is getting harder and harder to ignore. The cream coat is rather fashionable but it is absolutely not flattering on me and it is rather not warm. . .being made of a single layer of fleece, smooth on the outside and “fleecy” looking on the inside.
Some modern coats are hideous and some are actually pretty cute, but it always seems the cute ones are more than I want to spend. I have had good luck finding like-new things at thrift stores so we stopped at our favorite one on Saturday and I browsed their coat rack. There was a cute green one in my size, but it was way too long waisted. David pulled out a substantial snuff-colored woolen one, straight of the 70’s. . .it definitely looked warm but it was too hideous to wear, even for me. There was a 1980’s styled long black leather coat, embossed all over. It was actually tempting. . .but $17 for a used coat? I left the store feeling a little depressed and as we walked into Wal Mart, our last stop before going home, I shivered and pulled my coat tighter around me. Then I had a brilliant idea. I remembered 5 yards of a dark royal blue sueded moleskin I have been hoarding the past few months. I had no idea what to make with it. . .until then. I knew it was destined to become my new winter coat.
Wal Mart coughed up a few yards of black fleecy fabric for the body lining. . .it was ugly with a flashy zebra print on the right side, but the inside was perfectly good. From my stash I pulled some worsted wool scraps for the sleeve interlinings and cut up a dark red satin sheet for the sleeve lining. Black velvet bits cut from a pre-baby Laura Ashley dress was set aside to be lapels, the collar and cuffs.
I had a few ideas for the design but in the end went with what I knew was best for my needs. It had to be long enough to reach my boot tops. It had to have some feminine shape to it, darn it! I hate ugly coats that are all up and down angles and make one look like a stuffed sausage. It had to have fairly classic styling. I debated making a “real” historic style but tossed the idea. I always make historic things and then rarely wear them. . .this coat can go with modern or historic clothes and still look normal.
I settled on a princess style coat with a double breasted front closure, for extra warmth, with skirts flaring gently from a slightly fitted waist. The sleeves are plain and long. It is very basic, but, I hope, will be very serviceable for many years.
I have been working on it this week, more from necessity than from desire. I am really burned out on sewing right now but I really do need this coat. It is currently about 75% done. I need to hand stitch the lining to the armholes to finish the seams there, even out and make the hem and make buttons and buttonholes for the double breasted closure. I may make some pockets for the front - just welt pockets with a black velvet tab - but I don’t know for sure yet. I should. I use pockets as I rarely like to carry a purse. I need to decide before I do the hem, or else I won’t be able to access the outer layer separately and putting in the pockets will be hard and awkward.
It is hard to believe it is December 1st today! Where has the year gone?! We set up our Christmas tree over the weekend and I made my first batch of Christmas cookies. I want to savor every moment of this Christmas season instead of waking up in a few weeks and realizing “Oh my! Christmas is in three days!” We went to the Festival of Lights parade on Saturday night and the boys enjoyed seeing the huge lighted figures drive by. A very perfect way to kick off the Christmas season, I think. :)

Stay warm! Happiness to all!