Friday, September 30, 2011

Petticoat In Action


I wore the petticoat out to the NorCal Renaissance Faire last weekend and really liked the look it gave to my skirt (compared to just wearing a corded petticoat).

However, I found that by the end of the day my back was killing me!
I'm not sure whether the petticoat was too heavy or if the waist ties just didn't provide the proper support (they did become a bit loose as the day went on).
Granted, it could also have been the fact that I was breaking in a new corset or perhaps the massive pocket I was wearing...which between a phone, camera, wallet and lip balm was maybe a tad over-burdened.

Aesthetically I loved it, but I'll have to wear it a few more times to see if the weight is a problem. The construction technique is sound, but the fabric choice my not have been a clever one...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Red Petticoat - Complete!

The Petticoat is now finished and hemmed to walking length (not as pretty but considerably more practical).

Finished Petticoat

I was hoping to put a small cord around the bottom to help the petticoat keep its shape, but I didn't have quite enough to make up the whole circumference so I improvised one instead.
I folded up the hem by 3/4" and turned it under twice (I would have liked to have turned it a third time but due to the Elizabethan seams the side seams were starting to get very bulky).
This narrow hem was stitched down with a running stitch to keep it in place and voilà! A perfectly serviceable cord!
After finishing that I folded the bottom up by 4" and then folded it again so that the 'cord' of fabric was now laying at the bottom of the skirt, encased within the fold of the larger hem.

I then hemmed the bottom in the standard way and sewed the cord down so it would not move around or bunch up the hem...I'm not sure if this last step was a smart one or not. I guess we'll just have to see how it wears.
Between the 'cord' and the wide hem the petticoat keeps its shape pretty well, despite the very heavy fabric.

Finished hem (inside)

Finally, I basted 1" black linen tape around the bottom of the petticoat to guard against wear (as seen in the photo at the top of the post). I used silk rather than the stronger waxed lined thread for this last bit because a) I'm not convinced I like the look of it and want to be able to pull it out easily, and b) if I do decide to keep it it will probably have to be replaced often as it becomes damaged and scuffed.

And of course, Tuque is on hand for any and all fabric-sitting-assistance

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Red Linen Petticoat

I almost finished the petticoat this evening!

It still needs to be hemmed, not to mention a good iron!

I started it 2 weekends ago, but haven't had much time to devote to it due to a crazy work schedule and some very late nights.

It's a bit of a hodge-podge as far as the design and construction goes.
I followed the instructions (up to a point) for an 18th century petticoat found on the Fashionable Frolick blog. However I changed the pleating pattern for a more 16th century look.

As to sewing techniques, I decided to try a 16th century seam as demonstrated by Laura Mellin on her Extreme Costuming site.
My images are going to be pretty similar to hers since I'm also using red fabric, but I'll document my process anyway.

I started with two pieces of heavy linen measuring 60" across and 48" down. This meant that I would have a final circumference of about 120" (or a little less due to seam allowances). Since this method involved finishing each piece first and then sewing them together I turned the side seams down twice (encasing the raw edges) for a final seam allowance of 1/2".
I actually didn't need to fold it under twice since I was using the full length of the fabric and therefore didn't actually have a raw edge, but I thought it would be good practice for when I moved on to the shift.

Anyway, I then used a running stitch to sew the seam down (using a 2ply waxed linen tread). As you can see I used a larger stitch on the inside, but an extremely small one on the outside. I repeated this process for all 4 side seams (two for each side). By the time I reached last seam I had gotten much better at getting the outside stitch to "hide" within the weave of the linen so as to be almost invisible.

Then I whip stitched the two panels together along the side seams, ending 10" from the waist on either side and then re-enforced the last couple of stitches.
This resulted in an extremely strong and extremely flat seam! However, this method is very labour intensive since you're effectively sewing each seam 3 times.

Whip stitching the two panels together

Finished seam (inside)

Finished seam (outside) showing my first attempt (right side) and far more successful final attempt (left side)

I then knife pleated the front and back panels separately (with pleats moving towards the front) and then did a loose whip stitch over the top of the pleat to hold them in place. These stitches are a little messy but that doesn't matter since they'll eventually be encased in the waist band.
I then encountered a bit of a dilemma. The tutorial I was following was for an 18th century petticoat and so recommended the use of linen tapes to finish the waist, but that wouldn't be appropriate for the 16th century. A self-fabric waist band would have been better, but since the linen I was using was extremely heavy that would have resulted in a lot more bulk at the waist. So I reasoned that since I was already using an anachronistic construction method I may was well use the's not like anyone but me was going to see it.

So I cut two long pieces (about 64" each) of 1" linen tape, folded it in half and then encased the pleats on the front panel, leaving two long ties on either side.
I back stitched the tape down, sewing though all layers of fabric. I then did the same thing to the back panel.
(I had forgotten how much I disliked back stitching...It's so hard to make it look neat and tidy! The Elizabethan seam is starting to look a lot more appealing!)

Front and back panels showing inside seam and side pocket.

Finished front and back panels showing relative size.

I now had a more or less finished petticoat!
As you can see from the image above, the front piece is much larger than the back. This was done on purpose and is another point at which I diverged from the tutorial (which had both pieces the same). I used larger and more widely spaced knife pleats on the front and very narrow ones on the back...ending in some sort of quasi-box/rolled pleat that I improvised to get the two sections to meet properly.
Basically, I wanted to move the most of the fabric of the petticoat towards the back, both to cut down on bulkiness over the stomach (because who wants that?!) and to achieve a more 16th century silhouette. Also, since there will be some overlap where the two pieces meet, a wider front panel will move that additional bulk towards the back.

The base: a corded petticoat
(cat is optional)

Tie the front panel at the back

Then tie off the back panel and tuck in
(either at the front or wrap around to the back)

Side detail showing overlap

One of the reasons I opted for this construction method is that I really wanted a petticoat with an adjustable waist but didn't want to just put it on a drawstring (especially with a fabric this heavy).
This not only allows for any weight fluctuations, but more importantly for my purposes, it lets me easily adjust how far up my hips/waist it sits. This is especially useful when wearing multiple petticoats, since you don't want them all siting at the same place and bulking up your waistline. I tend to wear my inner most petticoat lower on the hips, moving up to the waist with each progressive layer. So depending on where this petticoat ends up sitting in the pecking order I can always adjust the waist measurement accordingly.
Plus it allows for easy access to a pocket worn underneath! (Handy for hiding cell phones, IDs and other modern necessities)


And finally, Tuque oversees the process...


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fabric Hunting

Just got back from fabric shopping at B. Black's & Sons in the L.A Fashion District with what I think is a fairly awesome stash!

Unfortunately they didn't have an appropriate blue grey fabric for the kirtle (at least not in the weight and weave that I wanted) so I went with my back-up design and bought a lovely burgundy/brown wool camel hair for the kirtle and a poor black or maybe it's a dark grey/brown wool Melton for the fitted gown.

However, as you can see from the photo I picked up a bit more than that...

Since the Camel hair was rather expensive, and since I haven't sewn anything is years (and certainly not by hand) Craig suggested that I try a simpler outfit it in a less expensive fabric.
While I had always intended to do a mockup I wasn't planning on making it up in the labour intensive period way I was planning (more on that later), so this didn't seem like a bad idea...especially since I had recently developed a hankering for a late 16th/early 17th century jacket.

So I decided on a mustard linen kirtle and a blue jacket:

I guess we'll see how it goes...
It's possible that by the time I've made up the kirtle I may feel more comfortable with tackling the fitted gown. That's the great thing about these pieces, they are ideally suiting to mixing and matching:

I also picked up some red linen for a petticoat and white for a shift.
Now to start sewing!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Design


Having decided to rely exclusively on the Tudor Tailor pattern I did a quick sketch based on the photo from their website.
(I've seen other versions based almost entirely on the unaltered pattern that also look fantastic, so I'm determined to stick as close to the instructions as possible).
Then I did some colour studies. I wanted a dark fitted gown, something in either a poor black, dark brown or just a darker version of the kirtle for a more monochromatic look.

In the end I think I've settled on a grey/blue kirtle and dark brown fitted gown with back trim.

For this outfit I will also need:
  • Linen shift (with either a square neck or high collar)
  • Petticoat, in either wool or linen
  • Partlet (especially if I opt for the square-necked shift)
  • Some sort of head covering (certainly a coif, and possibly a hat as well)
Accessories may include:
  • An over-partlet
  • Ruff
  • Corded petticoat
  • Stays (if I decided against boning or otherwise re-enforcing the kirtle)
  • Gloves
Now I just need to go fabric shopping!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Project

The Challenge

I'm not quite sure where to begin.
It's my hope that this will someday be a Dress Dairy, but for what exactly I'm not entirely certain.

Let me back up a bit...

Last year I moved to Los Angeles from Ottawa, ON (Canada) and after attending the SoCal Renaissance Faire in April I began to feel the itch to start a new sewing project (after a 5+ year hiatus).
With my sewing machine in storage some 3802Km away I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to learn to properly sew an entire outfit by hand and perhaps to make something reasonably historically accurate as well.

Let me be clear...this can only end in tears.

I am notoriously lazy and sloppy when it comes to sewing by hand and I've probably forgotten everything I once knew about fitting a garment and following a pattern.
Nevertheless, after some hmm-ing and ha-ing I finally settled on an outfit for a Middle Class English woman.

English Women, Lucas De Heere c1570

In retrospect this was a fairly obvious choice.
Given the already ambitious scope of this project (considering my near total lack of ability) an Upper Class ensemble would have been completely unreasonable and would have required far too great an outlay in material cost and time especially when measured against the very real possibility of...well, failure.

Inspiration & Ideas

Having settled on a middle/merchant class outfit I didn't have to look too far for inspiration...

In addition to the De Heere image above, one of my favourite images was that of the Nonesuch Women from Braun and Hogenberg's Civitates Orbis Terrarum (1572-1618).

Illustrations of Social Hierarchy, c1582

I was especially fond of this lady.
The overall silhouette is spot-on but most of the details are too grand for my purposes.
What I assumed is either a brocade forepart or front panel of the kirtle wouldn't be appropriate (not unless I planned change the scope of the project) and some of the accessories are a little too fine.
However other elements, such as the slashed sleeves and what looks like a hood with bongrace are really nifty. I also liked the large sleeve caps.

(Realistically I'm probably nearer the mark with the second woman from the left in the above image...but clearly I already have illusions of grandeur)

But some of the best inspiration I found was from other costumers.
(~All images link back to the original websites~)

I've been a fan of Melanie's Schuessler's work for years and her Flanders gown is no exception (in fact it may be one of my favourites).
This is a great example of how much richness you can get from a limited pallet.

And of course you can't mention fitted gowns without referencing Ninya Mikhaila's wonderful ensemble (modeled here by her sister).
Realistically this is probably as much detail work as I can muster and even at that the sleeves are a little intimidating.
Of course the obvious benefits of heading in this direction are the extensive instructions found in her book, The Tudor Tailor.

Emily Knapp (of the invaluable Tudor Costume Page) looks fantastic in her version of a fitted gown. This is one of the few examples I've seen of a cooler rather than a warmer pallet.
It's tempting to go in this direction if only because it seems so rare by comparison.

I love Laura Martinez's grey herringbone kirtle. I hadn't planned on doing contrasting sleeves but this is certainly an argument for it (and the matching guard along the bottom is a nice touch). It's also good to know that if I have a complete breakdown and can't finish the fitted gown I might still come away with a nice working class outfit.

The Pattern

I'd already decided on using some sort of commercial pattern where's been a long time since I'd put anything together and I definitely need a bit of hand-holding.
Naturally, the 'Big Three' are out so that left the smaller, more historically correct pattern companies, and I very quickly narrowed it down to the following options:

Margo Anderson's Historic Costume Patterns
Margo Anderson's products are amongst the most popular Elizabethan pattens on the net and are very popular at Faires. She's recently released a Working Woman's package, but you can achieve the same result by altering her original Elizabethan package.
This isn't quite the look I was going for, but it comes with extensive documentation and instructions.

Reconstructing History
Of the historic pattern companies Reconstructing History is amongst the oldest. Their 'Flanders Gown' pattern is pretty spot on, however I've heard their products aren't the best for...shall we say less then confident sewers.

The Tudor Tailor
The Tudor Tailor now offers a pattern line based on their wonderful book. I have yet to find reviews for the pattern packages themselves, so I'm not sure how they and/or the instructions differ from the book (except for the fact that you no longer have to scale them up).

In the end I oped for the Tudor Tailor. I love their book and found the instructions clear enough (after I'd read them over a sufficient amount of times) and the photos very helpful.
But what tipped the balance was of course Ninya Mikhaila's fitted Gown. I can think of very few if any alternations that i would need to make, and if I could follow the instructions and come up with something half so nice I would be extremely happy.
(but I also picked up a copy of Margo's Working Women's page to see me through the underpinnings and accessories)

Now...onto the Design!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Wardrobe

Here is a compilation of the items and outfits I've made to date.  They are listed roughly from newest to oldest, with links the original Dress Diary as well followups where applicable.  
Hopefully this will be easier to navigate than the "labels" list in the sidebar!

(Also, I apologize for the image quality in some the posts... Blogger had a default image setting called "Extra awesome!" or something ridiculous like that, so that all the images uploaded horribly saturated and garish.  It took me a while to figure out how to turn that off. )

Red & Tan Petticoat Bodies

Brown Fitted Gown
Followups OneTwo & Three


Beige-Brown Kirtle 
Followup One

Brown Kirtle

Blue Waistcoat
Followups OneTwoThree and Four

Grey Dorothea Corset
Followup One

Followups One and Two 

Followup One