Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cotehardie Progress ~ Dyeing the Linen

So, I decided to make a cotehardie. And for clarification, I don't know if cotehardie is a period-correct term for a fitted overgown, but, since it is the modern term that most people use when referring to this type of garment, I will use it, since everyone who reads this IS a modern person, like it or not! :P It will be fitted to the waist since my belly bulge is in my lower abdomen (and based on all my previous pregnancies my babies always carry quite low) and will close with buttons instead of lacing. The sleeves will be tight fitted short sleeves finished with a band of fabric and a faced band of fabric hanging from the back of the sleeve to above the dress hem (I'd love them to go ALL the way to the hem but will have to see if I have enough fabric for that).

If I am feeling adventurous, I will make it with lacing at the sides from hip to underbust. If not, I will just sew those seams as I regularly do and either make lacing holes for it later by facing the seam in that area and working eyelets, or I will just wear my sideless surcote over my fitted undergown (modernly called a kirtle) for our event in April. The sideless surcote has quite a bit of room below the waist.

The next step was dyeing the linen. I had good results when dyeing the wool for my underdress so I felt more confident as I filled the washer with hot water, added the salt and the dye (appx. 1 TB of "wine" RIT dye; it wasn't crimson as I had thought) and added the wet fabric. Before putting in the whole length of fabric I dyed a few samples, so I could get an idea of how long I needed to let the full length of fabric sit in the dyebath. Here you can see a few of the samples. The tan is the original fabric color; the pale pink is the tan after 5 minutes in the dye and the dark purply-pink is the fabric after 30 minutes in the dye. I was shocked at how vibrant the colors came out after only a few minutes.

I liked the middle sample (the pale pink) the best, so added the wet length of fabric and let it sit for 5 minutes. However, I didn't take into account the time it would take for the dye to leave the washing machine so the fabric ended up being in the dye for probably 8 minutes. As a result, it came out darker than I was wanting:

Here is the finished pink linen with the underdress (darker blue-green) and the pale green linen I plan to use for the lining. It's very. . .pink.

It caused me considerable troublesome thought yesterday. I did find a few examples of similarly colored vibrant pinkish-purple gowns in a few period images:

However, I never got to the point where I loved the color. : / And if I am going to put time into making something, I want to love it. I deserve to love it! The pink is pretty and cheerful, but just not ME. So, I had an awakening last night when I woke up around 2:30 a.m. and started thinking about the color. I will remove the dye and re-dye the linen a soft gray. With gray, I don't really care about the particular shade as long as it doesn't come out looking black. Gray is nice. I like gray. It's me. It should be easier to get a nice gray than a pale pink. And gray will look nice with the color of the underdress and the lining (you will be able to see the lining on the sleeves).

To dress it up a bit I may trim the sleeves, neckline and hem with dark brown. (I know, a boring color, but, alas, me). I think a really dark color for trim would accent the lines and make it look more festive.

So, farewell pink linen.



  1. Too bad the pink did't turn out the way you wanted. _Greys and browns are some of "my" colours as well :)

  2. The pink was a bit bright, but I always love grey with another soft colour like green or blue. It'll look absolutely lovely.

  3. I have been following your blog for a little while now and I love it. I am currently taking a Costume History class and my teacher was going over terms of Early to late gothic attire. The Cote Hardie was only worn by men because it was an early version of the Doublet/Jerkin. I think from looking at the picture she is wearing a Bliaud with narrow sleeves. I am not an expert by any means but I thought I would pass along this information :D

    Have a Good Day ^_^

  4. Marika, thank you for clarifying that term! I always wonder the origin of the terms we modern folk use when speaking of historic garments; sometimes they are accurate and sometimes not. In the book I am going off of (Medieval Tailors Assistant) the author refers to the style as a cotehardie, but does mention both men and women wore it (although men wore it shorter). There is no documentation of the term, though.

    Language is absolutely fascinating!

  5. Well if the pink is too strong maybe washing it a bit or leaving it in the sun might help take the edge of and fade it a bit.

  6. I did think of trying to wash it multiple times to fade it, but decided that I didn't love the pink enough to do it. (yes, i'm lazy!) :P I am going out today to get the dye remover and the new dye. I will try RIT's "pearl gray" and I think it will come out nice, no matter how dark or light it is. I hope so anyway - I need this done in about 2 weeks!

    Eventually it would be fun to experiment with natural dyes. That would make a very fun project for this year. . .just get some wool, linen and silk and see how dye takes to each fiber with various natural dyes. I'd need to do a lot more research and invest in dye materials (or grow my own this summer) but it would be hugely fun, and a big step towards getting "into" the SCA rather than just hovering round the edges. That and I want to make mead this year as well.


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!