Sunday, January 29, 2012

Medieval Pink Linen Gown - It Is Finished

It snowed in the night and although it was quite cold, David took some photos of my dress and yes. He let me use his sword. :) Alas. Is it right a married mother of soon-to-be four children can still feel happily silly and giddy when donning a new frock and playing with pretty things? I have photos to share later of the festival (we had a marvelous time and I felt like Cinderella going down the steps at midnight!) and for now, here are some of the dress. (I think the next thing I make from this period definitely will have to be shoes). 
And what is this we see? Is that a baby bump? A very small one, perhaps?
 People, I think we can safely say that this is no longer just a belly pooch.
 There is a very small human creature in there! 12 weeks down, 28 to go. :)
Tippets! They don't go *quite* all the way to the ground but I am happy with how they came out.
The wool facing does a great job keeping the hem clean
Here you can (kinda) see how the tippets are a separate piece attached at the back of the arm. 
Okay. David said I could show the photos with the sword ONLY IF I EXPLICITLY stated that this is NOT a medieval style sword but an 1850's medical officers dress sword and is used for "real" (i.e. non-SCA) reenacting. So. Here I state this.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sneak Peek - Sleeves!

The dress is *almost* done. I have to whip the tippets into place on the sleeve bands and THEN the dress will be done. I decided to make the tippets totally separate so that if I need to, I can easily remove them if I just want to wear a short sleeve overgown without tippets hanging all over the place. I had to try it all on so I could position the tippets in the right place. I think I will go with them in this position:

I hope to get better pictures of the dress tomorrow, which is, of course, the day of the Festival. :) Maybe I can convince David to let me pose with his sword. . .


Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Very Big Hem and Making the Lacing Cord

Since I have been working on the doublet and my dress at the same time it is taking a bit longer for the dress to finish itself up. Still, I am nearly done and the dress doesn't have to be worn, technically, until Saturday afternoon. So I am still making good time, right?

Today I finished the hem of the dress. The hem is quite large - I didn't measure it exactly but I think it falls around 200" or so at the hem. I am probably crazy but I decided to leave the skirt exactly as it came out after I sewed in the gores. This gives a slight train at the back and at the sides which looks very medieval, but unfortunately it not practical. Especially for outdoor wear!

To help protect the dragging, unfortunate hem I did not simply turn the hem under and sew it down. I cut a very long strip of wool flannel, on the straight of grain, about 2" wide. I sewed it to the hem right sides together, turned it to the inside and attached it with running stitches to the dress. The wool strip will take the majority of the wear and tear on the hem and once it gets ratty and worn I can easily remove it and replace it. 

I also spent an hour braiding a new lacing cord for the eyelets. It is made of four strands of woolen yarn. Fingerloop braiding is more appropriate but that skill is yet elusive to me. I used the braiding instructions found here: Four Strand Round Braid

Now for the part I dreaded most. Making the sleeves! The making of them won't be so bad but it's the deciding on a style. I still don't know what to do! Loose sleeves or tippeted sleeves? Alas, alas. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Red Linen Doublet - Progress

So, Peter came over recently to be fitted for a doublet. Actually he just kinda slouched there while I pinned and fitted a few rectangles of fabric to get the pattern for his bodice. But his pain and suffering did not last long - draping bodices like this can be done in ten minutes. (and yes, I am using pillows since nothing else I have comes close to the shape of a male torso. . .forgive the weird shoulder sticky-out things.) ;)

Good Sir Peter has been bugging me for a while to make him a medieval "vest". It took much convincing but I finally persuaded him to let me make him a sleeveless doublet instead. He will be wearing it as outerwear, not under a gown like would have been done in period, but it was a compromise I was willing to make. I knew if I didn't make him a proper doublet he would have gone to Goodwill and tried to renovate a modern vest into something "medieval fantasy" ish. Or something along the lines of Robin Hood, Men In Tights, which he looks up to as a movie devoted to the most wonderful medieval costuming yet in creation.

I based the pattern off the plain doublet in The Medieval Tailor's Assistant. I was under the impression that earlier doublets (14th century) did not have a waist seam but I may be mistaken. I cut the shapes as so:

It is made of three layers - medium weight red linen for the outer layer, natural colored cotton (I think its cotton - Peter's mother donated it to the cause) for the lining and cotton corderoy for the interlining. It made up into a very structured, heavy, molded garment.

It laces up the front just like my medieval dresses do. (excuse the twine cord used for the pics; we will replace it with something more appropriate before Peter wears this!)

I still have to make a narrow band collar for the neckline, finish the armholes and hem the skirts. Then Peter will have his "vest" and be happy. It was a fun project.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Never Ending Eyelets of Doom

Not quite never ending. But in the midst of the swimming, one feels like one is drowning. Drowning in eyelets.

All made quite the same way. Tiny dots 3/4" apart. Take small pointy object, insert into a dot and twist. Take knitting needle, insert into the hole made, and twist til the hole is nice and large. Whip stitch around edges. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Half are done. The other half will be done today and once I have made a new lacing cord I will be able to put the dress on and fit the sleeves. We are in the home stretch, people!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cotehardie Progress - Hand Finishing

Once the main pieces of the dress were sewn together it was time to start the lengthy process of hand finishing. I'm still not done with all the hand finishing - there are a lot of seams! But all the bodice seams are now finished and about a quarter of the skirt seams. They are all finished in the same way, so I will share what I do. Just apply  the process mentally to the yet-unfinished portion of the dress. ;)

For my pre-sewing machine-era historic dresses I prefer to use a straight machine stitch for seams that are not visible from the outside. For any stitches that will show on the outside of the dress I will use hand sewing. Alas. I am not a purist.

The first thing I did was attach facings to the center front opening of the dress. I carefully cut the center front edges of the dress to the curved shape I traced onto it, and then sewed 1.5" wide strips of linen to each side of the opening, right sides together. The strips are on the straight of grain, to help add stability to the center front opening. Since the curve of the front seam is not very dramatic, the straight strip of linen easily molded around the curves.

I then pressed the facing strips to the inside of the dress, turned under the raw edges of the facing strips and pinned them into place.

Using a small slip stitch I attached the facing to the lining of the dress. Below the lining, the stitches show on the outside of the dress. In this picture  you can see how the front opening curves (I laid a piece of brown fabric beneath the opening so you can more easily see the shape).

I topstitched close to the edge of the opening with a running stitch to firm up the edge. Now the front opening is ready for eyelets!

To finish the neckline I could have sewed on another narrow facing strip and attached it the same way as I did for the front opening. However, I decided to just press under the hem about 1/2" all the way around the neckline. I then tucked the raw edge under and slip stitched the folded edge to the dress - through the lining and the outside layer. Here is how it looks from the inside:

And from the outside:

The inside seams of the dress are finished with felling. This creates a much stronger seam and also serves to stiffen the seam to prevent wrinkling - it almost acts as a kind of soft boning! Here you can see one of the bodice seams felled. The seam allowance is pressed to one side, the raw edge turned under, and the folded edge slip stitched down to secure it.

And one of the skirt seams:

Here are what felled seams look from the outside of the dress:


Friday, January 20, 2012

Cotehardie Progress - Sewing the Main Dress

Well, once the cutting of my dress was done I had to take a break. I hate cutting things out and it's a bit nerve wracking to lay out large pieces of fabric on the floor and try to work quickly before a dog or a cat or a boy comes in and tramps across the laid out cloth.

The fun part is actually sewing the dress together! To start with, I sewed the front half gores to each front panel.

Then the rest of the sewing was extremely straightforward. Just sewing the gores to the dress and stitching up the side seams and shoulder seams. Here you can see the gores sewed to each half of the dress. After this photo I sewed the side gores to the front panels and sewed the back to the front along the side seams and shoulder seams.

Then it was time to check for fit! Although I fitted the pattern for the torso before I cut into the linen, with these types of self-supporting dresses it's important to fit as you go, because the stretch properties of each fabric is different. I found the fit to be pretty good but I did have to tighten up the center front seam under the bust to get good bust support (it doesn't help I've already increased a cup size or so since getting pregnant) : / Instead of a straight-seam front opening for the dress, I found the support and shape to be MUCH better by curving the front opening. I pinned it along that curve to try it on, and here you can see the black line indicating where the curved seam will be located. I have read that for ladies who need more support this curved-front-seam method is better. For my wool kirtle I used the straight front seam method, which works pretty well but always gives a crease under the bust after a while because the fabric stretches and the boobs droop. It will be interesting to see the difference between the straight front seam method of fitting and this method of fitting after I wear this dress for a day or so. Maybe there won't be as many underbust wrinkles?

Because of the curved seam in the center front, I think I will probably do eyelets and a lacing cord for the front opening instead of buttons and buttonholes. I think I'd get better tension and a firmer fit with the lacing cord; plus that means I can wear this dress alone as working attire if need be, without the wool dress underneath it. Both the wool dress and this dress support and shape without the need for anything on underneath except the shift. Here you can see the side: (I am really happy with the drape of the skirt!)

And the back: (and yes, the center back seam is not exactly straight on my body - I didn't adjust it to be straight when I quickly pinned myself into it so the back line isn't straight and the front line isn't either! But that can easily be remedied when I put it on and can shift it around to lay properly instead of having to pin it)

And the front:

The skirt gores on this dress start higher up on the torso than on my wool dress. I find it more comfortable to move in but I do think next time I will make the skirt gores slightly lower to give a more streamlined shape over the hips. However, I do have a bit of "wiggle room" in the lower torso so that ought to be adequate for the growing baby bump and hopefully I won't have to adjust the dress to fit a new shape in a few months.

I'm contemplating an elbow length funnel type sleeve now instead of a tight short sleeve. It seems it would be more appropriate for this type of dress. Alas. I don't know what to do! But I have to finish all the seams before worrying about the sleeves. That should be at least six hours of work so I ought to have had plenty of time to decide on a sleeve style by then. ;)


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cutting the Cotehardie

Since I did not do any indepth posts about how I constructed my fitted underdress, focusing instead on the fitting of it, I decided to document my progress as I work on this dress. That way, in case I ever forget how I put things together I can go back and read what I did. (and that happens way too often with me!)

So in this post I will describe how I cut out dresses like this. I cut my kirtle in the same way as I am cutting this one although the skirt gores were narrower, making for a narrower finished hem on the dress.

So, to start out with, I had my 5 yards of washed and dried linen. It ended up about 58" wide so I decided to use full widths of the fabric to avoid waste. Instead of planning my fabric around my pattern, I plan my pattern around my fabric! First, I measured from my shoulder tip to the floor plus a few inches for play. That was the length of my front and back dress pieces. I measured my bodice pattern pieces (the part of the dress that is fitted to my body) across the widest part. The widest part on the front piece was about 10" and on the back about 12", so I cut the 4 panels (2 front, 2 back) 13" wide and 53" long. See:

To shape the upper body portion of the panels, I laid on my pattern pieces and cut around them. From the hips up, the panels are shaped to fit the body closely. From the hips down, everything is squared. Easy.

I cut lining for the bodice from a purple linen dress I had on hand. I decided to use this linen instead of the pale green since it is heavier and will take the strain of wear better. I will use the green for the lining that will show (in the sleeve). The dress is lined only to the hips, since from the hips down there is no strain of wear and the pink linen is heavy enough to drape nicely on its own.

Here is the back seam pinned together, ready to be sewn:

To add flare to the skirt, gores are inserted at center front, center back and each side. I made my gores by measuring from my hip to the floor, plus a few inches. I tore a full width of my linen to that length, and then another one. I had two panels approximately 42" long x 58" wide. Here is one panel:

To cut the gores, I folded each panel in half and pressed it flat, matching torn edges and selvedges. I cut from corner to corner diagonally across the fabric. This gave me two gores - one whole gore and two half gores, which are sewn together to make a whole gore.

I repeated this for the other panel, ending up with two whole gores and four half gores. I rounded off the bottom edges to make things even.

Here are the front pieces laid out with two half gores. Since the dress will open down the center front the seam down the middle of this gore is ideal. You can see how much width the gores will add to the dress skirts - quite a lot!

Here are the front pieces and the center gore and both side gores laid out on the bed. I think the skirt will hang very prettily in the finished dress!

Next up: sewing it all together!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Success in Dyeing - Pale Pink Achieved!

Okay, I know posts about fabric and colors are getting old. It's kind of a cop out. I don't have anything interesting to post so - whoopee! - I'll post about dyeing. Or trimming ideas. Or style musings.

In my defense, though (and I did want to have this dress at least half way done by now) I have been working on the Great 1860's Steward-Dressing Project and finishing up the baby gown I started several weeks ago. In addition, I was taken violently ill on Saturday and so was not able to do any work this weekend. (never eat buttered movie-store popcorn and drink pepsi simultaneously, especially if you are feeling nauseous to begin with and are in the habit of unwillingly ejecting your meals - even healthy ones - shortly after consumption). I determined to not start on this project until the baby gown was finished and the first part of the stewards outfit done. The baby dress is finished, ironed and ready to be mailed tomorrow and I am about three hours away from finishing up the stewards shirts (square-cut, blue-checked cotton) so I do firmly intend to start my gown tomorrow and have it done by Saturday.

Last week I dyed my tan linen with wine colored dye and consequently turned it a bright fuschia pink. I was unhappy with the pink color so I decided to remove the dye and redye it a light gray. David brought me home some dye remover although he could not find gray dye anywhere. So on Friday, I thought that at least I could remove the dye so the fabric was prepared for taking gray dye whenever I found some. I filled the machine with hot water, agitated the dye remover, and plopped the 5 yards of fuschia linen inside it. I then was gone for about five hours to take my oldest son to a doctor appointment. When I got home, I lifted the lid and was shocked to see the color the linen had become. See:

A very light brownish-pink - exactly the color I had wanted in the first place. Not close to the color I wanted - not similar - no, but the EXACT color I had wanted!

It looks SO much better with the greenish-blue undress than the bright pink did. I like it just as much as I would have liked gray. Perhaps even better than gray, since this color seems to turn up a LOT in medieval images and I haven't found nearly as much evidence of gray, especially combined with the greenish-blue color of the underdress. From what I've been able to find, greenish-blue is a popular combo with this certain light pink color.

In other news, my lil baby boy is three years old today! He was such a red and squishy little fellow with dark blue eyes and black hair when he was born; the eyes lightened into a light blue-gray, the black hair fell out and   blonde hair grew in its place. And here he is today.

Three years old! The baby of the family, but the bossiest, most opinionated and dare-devil member by far. Of all the children, he is the most like me.

And he's still not too sure about giving up his place as baby to make way for a new one. But no matter how old he gets and how many other babies will follow him, he will always be my special little boy and my own true love. We are pards.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cotehardie Progress - Trim Ideas

I have been scouring the internet for images that show how a fitted gown may be trimmed - all to little avail. It is HARD to find any clear details on how these garments may have been trimmed. After deciding I wanted to put trim on my dress I started thinking about proper trimming materials, how trim would be applied and where it would be applied. I am so afraid to be putting my own modern tastes of what "looks right" into the place of what IS right!

I did find this image of dancers and looking at it, there is a lot of interesting detail that gives some good ideas of trim placement and scale.

This dress looks a lot like I want mine to look, with the sleeve tippets, lined with a contrasting color. There is a band of trim around the bottom of the hem - it looks like it may be fur?

These ladies are wearing light-colored gowns with dark trim around the neckline. They both appear to have some sort of (non matching) trim at the hem. It also looks like the lady on the left has put trim down the center front of her gown. 

There are a lot of interesting details in this group of 4! The hairstyles (are these young unmarried ladies since they aren't wearing a  headcovering?), the colors. Oddly enough the figure on the far left appears to have a non-matching top and bottom portion to her gown. The second-from-left figure looks to have a parti-colored garment, the second-from-right looks to have a plain, untrimmed gown and the one on the far left appears to be wearing a short sleeved overgown with tippits and a split skirt, showing the underdress at the sides, with the hem finished in a light colored trim (looks like it MAY be a pleated flounce?) 

And this one depicts a short sleeved overgown with interesting trim placement on the bodice. It also appears to have an overgown with trim at the hem, but the hem of the overgown is shorter than that of the underdress. 

So, I think I may be one step closer to deciding what kind of trim to put on my gown. Now I need to figure out WHAT to use for trim - strips of fabric? If so, what kind? Linen, wool, silk? Velvet? (too fancy??) Fur? (seems an odd combo with a linen gown though and I don't feel exactly comfortable wearing real fur - and fake fur looks kinda. . .fake. . .) 

And Peter is coming over this weekend to be fitted for a plain, basic doublet. It will be interesting to make a more fitted male garment for the 14th century period. David currently prefers the loose skirts of his tunic. (odd, since he likes the fitted nature of his 1860's attire).