Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Lose at Posting

I'm so focused on getting the stuff done that I'm being really bad about photographing and posting my progress. The linen kirtle is pretty much finished. I just need to bind the armholes.

Ignore the weirdness as the waist point. I've fixed that since this photo was taken.

The kirtle made of vineyard green linen from fabrics-store.com, and is sewn entirely by hand using period techniques. There's very little evidence of middling types of women wearing separate boned bodies until at least late in the 16th century, so my original plan was to stiffen the bodice of the kirtle itself with hemp cord. I changed my mind, though, and decided to make a separate pair of bodies stiffened with reed, thinking it would be a bit more versatile. Here's a photo of the bodies.

The bodies are made of a linen/cotton blend canvas that I got on sale 'cause it's such a blech dust color. They're boned with teeeeeeeeeny little reeds I got from Reconstructing History. They're essentially broom straw. They come coiled up in a huge bunch, and are an enormous pain in the patoot to try and cut down to usable lengths. I machine sewed the boning channels at about 1/4 inch, then filled each channel with 8 lengths of reed. As you can see, it looks pretty cool when it's finished. They're bound with just regular old bias tape in a shocking shade of tangerine. The binding is sewn on by hand. The lacing eyelets are also done by hand in a matching shade of tangerine. The bodies are spiral laced.

The kirtle itself was draped by my fabulous guildmistress and partner in costuming crime, Valerie. The bodice is lined in a light green linen I picked up somewhere for another purpose altogether, which I have now forgotten. The lining and the outside fabric of each individual bodice piece are sewn to each other by turning in and pressing the seam allowances, then edge stitching the pieces. The backs and the front are then whipstitched to each other at the side and shoulder seams as seen here:

Outside of seam

Inside of seam

The back of the kirtle is boned with cable ties for a little extra stiffness along the lacing edges. The eyelets are handbound and arranged so the kirtle is spiral laced.

The skirt is two lengths of the same green linen, each hemmed on the selvedge then whipstiched together. It is pleated and whipstitched directly to the bodice with single knife pleats at the side-fronts and double knife pleats in the back. It's about 110 inches around.

Next up is the wool overgown. I'll try to be better about posting the progress photos and descriptions!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Almost finished!

I'm almost done with my smock. All I have left to do is fasteners for the collar and cuffs. Total time so far--about 35 hours. Total number of miniscule blanket stitches--approximately 4300. I ended up making this considerably simpler than I originally planned. I didn't do any additional embroidery and I didn't add neck or wrist ruffles. I decided I really just needed to get this thing DONE, and if I decide at some point to add ruffles--well, they're easy enough to whip stitch on.

Here's a couple of pics. I need to recharge the battery in camera, so I didn't get as many as I would like. I'll add more later.

Friday, May 8, 2009

New Link

I added a fantastic blog to the blogroll--The Embroiderer's Story. Tricia Wilson Nguyen is an expert in heritage needlework and one of the professionals heading up an amazing project at Plimoth Plantation. Needleworkers from across the country and the the world have donated their time, money, and skills to reproducing a 1620s embroidered jacket.

The blog documents the efforts that went into securing the most historically accurate materials and learning the most historically accurate techniques. Thread companies were inspired to reproduce specialty threads unavailable for years. Needleworkers mastered new stitches and gathered to teach and learn from each other.

The project is wrapping up now, after two full years of work. I just found out that Tricia was at Needle in a Haystack in Alameda talking about the project in April and I missed it! Arrgh! Anyway, the photographs on the blog are incredible, and I hope to be able to make a pilgrimage out to Plimoth to see it while it's still on display there. I've ordered their sample kit, the one stitchers used to "audition" to stitch on the jacket, even though they've come to the end. A portion of the price goes to help pay for materials for the projects, and this way I feel like I contributed my little piece to history.

It's a wonderful project, and anyone with an interest in historical craft or costume should check it out.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Smocky Goodness

I've started my new smock for the upcoming faire season.

My in-laws got me a copy of the new Janet Arnold book Patterns of Fashion 4: The Cut and Construction of Linen Shirts, Smocks, Neckwear, Headwear and Accessories for Men and Women c.1540-1660. SQUEEEEE!

It's really fabulous, and includes some amazing things, like a smock embroidered with polychromatic clouds and rainbows (can you imagine if I showed up for costume approval with that one?)!

There are detail shots of a couple of the high-necked smocks that show the construction. The individual pieces are finished separately, then whip-stitched together. One in particular appealed to me. The edges of the pieces are finished with what look like alternating open and closed blanket stitches. The whip stitches are done through the blanket stitches for a kind of openwork seam.

I decided to do a simplified version of this smock (not so much other decorative embroidery). The side gores and the "skirts" of the smock are finished with a plain narrow hem and will be whip stitched together. The sleeves are two pieces edged in black blanket stitches the stitched together with white thread.

Here's a picture of the top seam of the sleeve:The stitching isn't quite even on the two edges, but hey, it's my first attempt at this!

Here's a shot of the stitching along the edge. This edge will be whipped to the underarm gussets that will be finished the same way.

The fabric is a fairly fine white linen and the edges are embroidered with black cotton floss. I considered using silk, like the original, but let's be honest--I'm gonna be wearing this a faire. It's hot. It's dusty. I'm gonna need to machine wash this sucker on a regular basis. I think silk floss probably wouldn't be color fast.

So far, I've put about 25 hours into this smock. I have to:
  • edge and sew together the two pieces of the other sleeve
  • edge the underarm gussets
  • sew together the side gores and the main body
  • embroider the neck slit
  • embroider the neck and wrist bands
  • edge the neck and wrist ruffles
  • attach the sleeves
  • attach the neck and wrist bands and ruffles

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Yes, it's true. I'm an enormous idiot

So, because I'm a little slow on the uptake, I'm just now discovering Laura Mellin's fabulous costuming site. I love the look of the blackworked coifs and of course, I fell in immediate lust with her monochromatic embroidered jacket.

So now I've added those two projects to my grand faire wardrobe plan. Luckily, Ms. Mellin has a line of embroidered coif patterns available from Reconstructing History, so I've ordered a couple that I like, as well as a late Elizabethan/early Jacobean jacket pattern. I'm very excited to get started on these! I also plan to sew these by hand using period seaming. Yes, it's entirely possible that I'm the biggest idiot I know.

Monday, January 19, 2009

And off we go!

Hurray! New costume blog!

So, plans for two new costumes in 2009. First, new clothes for the Northern California Renaissance Faire. I've been wearing my blue wool kirtle for three or four years now, and while it's still in pretty good shape (needs some minor repairs to boning and hems) and I love the color, the wool is so warm that I can't really layer anything over it without risking heat stroke for the first, oh I dunno, 4 weeks of the run. Plus, I've done a bit more research since I made it, so I'd like to make some updated clothes. The plan is to make a linen kirtle and summer-weight wool fitted English gown from The Tudor Tailor.

Second big project is a new dress for the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. Since I don't work this one, I can do pretty much whatever I want. The plan is to go for c. 1858 up-to-the-minute fashionable gown. I'll be making a new cage crinoline to replace my e-bay special using Truly Victorian's pattern. The dress will have giant pagoda sleeves, fringe, and a huge whitework collar.

So, nine months to finish the faire clothes and almost a full year to finish the Dickens gown. Hmmm, doable? We shall see.