Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gray Dress Complete

The gray dress is (mostly) complete! The only thing I haven't done is to finish the interior seams. Since I'd like to wear it on Saturday, I've decided to hold off on that for now- there isn't enough time to finish them. The dress is not perfect, I knew it wouldn't be, but at least it's a new dress! I'm saving the final photos for the event so you can see it "in action"!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Here's just a little teaser of something else I've been working on.

If you're in South Oaken (Midrealm), come to the Regional A&S Faire (even if you don't have an entry) and find out what this is all about at my new class!

Gray Wool Dress Part 2

So, last I left off, I had the dress skirt and bodice ripped apart and two additional panels inserted, ready to be sewn. When I pinned the skirt to the bodice, I decided to go with two box pleats at the front, and two at the back. Back to the sewing machine, and after getting REALLY frustrated that I only had 8 inches more to do and the thread tension was messing up, I finally got it sewn back together.

My idea about the placement of the pleating was completely bogus. It was not flattering (I would have been better off with the original 8 pleats). As my husband so eloquently put it, it looked like I had a load in my pants! Suffice it to say, it was not photo-worthy. So, I took the dress apart. Again.

On the second try (or would this be third?) I decided to do 1 simple pleat on each panel, so that the pleats were evenly spaced all the way around. Sewed it together one more time, and:

These photos don't do it too much justice- it was kind of a "take a picture quick, before I take it off", and the skirt length is affecting the drape, but the pleats are a vast improvement. While I had it on, Dearg helped me once again by using some chalk to mark some modifications to the arm and neck holes.

I started the hand sewing last night- stitching the neckline hem- and it's slow going. I may not be able to get all the seams finished before Saturday, as I still need to trim the bottom and hem that. I'm going to cheat there, though, and use the machine.

I still need to decide what I'm going to wear underneath. It's a very tight fit, so I don't think I'm going to be able to wear my black dress. That would probably be too warm anyway. I may just pull out some leftover material and make a short tunic with long sleeves that I can wear over my sleeveless chemise.

I'm learning a lot of valuable lessons from this dress. The more panels the better. Eight was too few. 10 is OK. 12 would be better. I should have cut the bodice longer. Even pleating is generally better. I'm satisfied, though, with how it looks so far. I didn't have too many expectations about what it would look like, so I'm not disappointed, but I think there are a few things that would have made it better.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gray Wool Dress Part 1

With my new pattern ready to go, I was able to get a good start on my new gray wool dress. The outer layer is a suit-weight gray twill wool and the lining is a lighter linen. The dress will be light as far as weight goes, but will be on the warmish side (which is part of the reason I opted for a sleeveless gown.)

Speaking of which, here's a reminder about my inspiration for this gown:

This detail from Rogier van der Weyden's Saint John Altarpiece leaves much to the imagination, but you can clearly see that it's a sleeveless gown with a fairly full skirt and a fur lining. I'm skipping the fur lining, obviously. Since this figure is so small, and the gown in black, it's impossible to know where the seams are and if this is a waist seam kirtle or not. I knew, however, that I wanted to attempt a waist seam kirtle, so this seamed to be a good opportunity for it.

After cutting out my bodice pieces according to my pattern (with generous seam allowance), I went to work cutting out the panels to form my trapezoidal panel skirt. I wasn't sure how many panels I would be able to get, but I knew I could get at least 8, so that's what I went with. Using Mathilde's instructions, I calculated a 7" top. I had to use my linen, folded in half, to determine the bottom measurement. That ended up being 20". From one end, I measured a length of 40"- my length plus seam allowance- marked 7" in from the left on one end and from the right on the other, then drew a straight line to join them. With my folded fabric, that gave me 4 panels from one 40" length. Lather, rinse, repeat, and I ended up with 8 panels each of the wool and linen.

What took the longest was matching the linen to the wool and pinning them all together- that alone took me an hour and a half!

Now here's an important note: If your fabric has a wrong side, and you fold it to make your panels, you will end up with two mirrored panel sets! They will not match up straight edge to bias edge on the two ends. So, I had 4 panels in one orientation and 4 in the other, meaning that the front seam matches straight to straight and the back seam matches bias to bias. No big deal, though- it just means I have to pay attention to where the seams are in relation to the bodice.

After a short break, I sewed the bodice together and gave it a try. I had to rip the arm holes open a bit for them to fit, and at first it seamed like it may be too tight, but after wearing it a bit, it wasn't bad. It was a little short, though.

So, for next time I just need to not cut it off so high- it needs only about 1.5" more of length to be perfect. This is cool, though. It fits and that's all the matters at the moment!

After sewing all the panels together and sewing it to the bodice, I held my breath and put it on for the first try. Not great.

It's not so clear on the front view, but the side view shows that the skirt isn't as full as it needs to be. There are no pleats in the seam on the skirt, and clearly there needs to be. I'm also not too keen on how visible the seams are, but I think that's just the way the fabric is, and I'm not sure there's much I can do about it.

Luckily, I had enough wool left for two more panels. In order to get two more linen panels, I had to cut them across the grain. I took the dress apart and pinned the new panels back in, but I still need to sew it all back together.

So stay tuned!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hooray Pattern!

After several days of being frustrated with my new fitted dress pattern, and wondering if I wasn't going to be able to get away without a center front seam, I finally buckled down and worked on it yesterday. I put it on, figured out some of the areas that were wrong, took it off and started making some the changes. I was really flying by the seat of my pants, but I determined that the problem was two fold. First, the shoulders at the front needed to be brought up considerably (I cut off about 2" on both sides). This removed the weird pulling I was getting at the top of the bust. The second problem was caused by the side seams being too loose. That, in turn, made their respective curves wrong, which is why my chest was getting squashed in that unpleasant manner.

I'm still getting some wrinkling at the side-most under-breast areas, and there's also a bit at the back. My new seam at the back didn't meet the original in the right spot (highlighted area on the photo). I was extremely happy with it, though. It gives me a nice shape overall, and supports and flattens my bust without smooshing it.

I had Dearg help with with some last minute things before I cut it down. He measured and marked for length and figured out the real curve at the small of the back for me. When I asked him how it looked, he said "Tight". I couldn't have asked for a better answer!

Now that I have the pattern, I can make my next dress- the gray wool sleeveless dress. I plan to do a trapezoidal panel skirt (with a waist seam), and I'm also going to attempt French seams, just because it actually makes the most sense. I'd like to machine sew the panels together, then hand sew the finishing stitches. Hopefully I'll have it ready for Unicorn next weekend.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Garb Quest - Huvet Progress Update

I completed the herringbone stitching on the huvet, and was eager to show you my progress, but when I put it on yesterday, I realized that there is a bump at the crown as a result of the curve along the center being slightly off. I'm not sure how that happened, as the curve was right when I did my initial test. Regardless, I'm going to just start over. I could remove the stitching (the herringbone and all the inner stitches), re-cut the huvet and then re-do all the stitches, but that would be a huge waste. I'm going to complete it as is, since there's no harm in having an extra huvet around, but it won't be for my garb quest.

Even though I fretted about the best way to create even stitches and keep the two halves together, I ended up just freehanding it. I used some floss every 1.5" or so to keep the two halves lined up, and removed each when I got to them. Once I got into the rhythm, it wasn't hard to keep the stitches even.

The bump is really just a convenient excuse, though. My real reason for wanting to simply start over is that I decided that I really should have used a linen embroidery thread for the herringbone instead of the wool. The wool is too stretchy for this project, which meant that I had to go back and stitch the two halves together on the inside to keep it from gaping more than I intended.

So, until I can get a hold of more linen and linen embroidery thread, I'm going to move on to a different item. I think it's time to tackle the hose.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Internet Round-Up : March

This month's Internet Round-Up is brought to you by aprons!

First and foremost is Karen Larsdatter's Aprons page, with tons of links to a huge variety of period examples.

A Viking perspective on aprons from Cathy Raymond

Matilda la Zouche's Smocked Apron

Mordenvale Magazine pages 5-12
Martelle's example
Various images on the Luttrell Psalter Film site (and obviously in the film itself)

Cristina's apron tag shows both smocked aprons as well as other types

A simple apron for 16th century Flemish in this Flickr photostream
Another by Alina Silverthorne
And another over at The Sinister Spinster blog

Saturday, March 19, 2011

This is Me

Not that I'm thrilled that I was wearing my make-shift garb for this, but check out this wonderful portrait that Master Phillip took at the event today. I could sit here and criticize myself until the cows come home, but that would completely negate the fact that this is a very lovely photo. The food, by the way, is completely fake.

This really is just the kick in the pants for me to get some new garb done. So the next time there's a photo booth, I don't look so uncomfortable in my garb.

Did you spot the ferret?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Issues with Pattern

I've been trying to create a new pattern for a dress with no front seam, and the results thus far have been extremely disappointing and not remotely flattering. I have never been able to successfully create a fitted dress that is truly fitted. Every single dress I have can be pulled on over my head without having to undo the lacing. Even the newly fitted black linen dress. In this new experiment, I'm completely at odds with my boobs. It's not so much that the dress really needs a center seam (which would completely ruin the point of this pattern), it's more that, in order for the dress to be small enough for my shoulders but still large enough for my chest, my boobs get flattened in a completely uncomfortable and ugly manner. Down the road I might find a flattened chest useful if I ever decide to start wearing Burgundian V-necks again, but at the moment it is not the look I need.

I don't know what I'm missing, or what I need to do differently. I do know, however, that if I'm going to be successful at my garb quest, I've got to buckle down and figure it out.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Did you see the flying pigs?

I tried to avoid this as long as I could, but with my husband very much into it, and some other, more professional reasons, I've finally activated my Facebook account. It must be a cold day in you-know-what. So, if you'd like to friend me, please do! Just be sure to note that you read this blog when you send the request so I know where you came from!

Monday, March 7, 2011

And the Winner Is:

It looks like I'll be making a BLUE underdress for my garb quest!

Thanks to everyone that voted!

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I received the swatches for the peach and pink linen today, and, simply put, I can't make up my mind. So, I'm going to use the power of the internet, and see what you all think. I put a survey up on the sidebar. Pick your favorite:



Don't be shy! Poll closes Monday morning. You can also leave a comment on this post if you'd like.