Sunday, May 22, 2011

Garb Performance

I took my camera yesterday with every intention of taking photos of my outfit, but alas, no pictures were taken. It was one of those events.

Very last minute we decided to day trip Spring Faire in Columbus instead of camp at Border Raids in Kentucky. We found out on Wednesday that there wasn't going to be archery at Border Raids, and since that was the primary activity Dearg wanted to do, it didn't make much sense to spend the money to go to an event he'd just sit around at. Spring Faire ended up begin a great choice, however, since there were several archers and three tournaments. Dearg won all three.

I spent most of the day chasing after Owen, who decided that he was hard of hearing and insisted on running toward the archery range or several yards away to find whichever one of us was missing. Therefore, though I'd brought several things to work on, I didn't work on any of them (except for a few stitches on a German brick stick I've had kicking around for a long time now.)

I did, however, discover a few things about the garb I'd worked on all week.

First, the lavender hose worked well (though my leather garters had an issue by the end of the day.) I did have a few instances when the seam at the bottom bothered me as I walked. I didn't get a blister, but I think that was pure luck. I did not finish the seams on the hose, and that was no doubt the issue. I think I may just go back in and tack the seam allowance down at the seam to keep it from bunching up. The wool hose probably won't have that same problem, but it's made me re-think going with the full sole instead to avoid the seam under the foot altogether. I wasn't able to get my black hose cut out before going, which is a good thing now. I'll need to go back to the drawing board on the pattern.

I was pretty accurate about the starching on the fretwork veil. I did not have an opportunity to re-starch it, so I knew that the center was going to collapse. By about 2 the very center 2 inches had completely flattened. By the end of the day, the rest of it was still open, but was no longer stiff. If it had been more humid, I'm sure they would have collapsed more. I think the issue was two fold. I did not lay on a thick enough layer of starch in the center and I think the starch needs to be more concentrated. If I put the liquid back on the stove and boiled it down a bit, that might do the trick.

I also wore the huvet under the veil. It was perfect. The bumps did effect the way the veil draped from the top of my head, but I'm probably the only person that noticed. I'm glad I finally upgraded. Since I didn't get my wool hose cut out, I cut out my second huvet attempt. I redrew the curve of my head with some chalk, then double checked it using my 15-minute huvet (which I know is right) before cutting out. So that's the project on my plate right now.

The sideless surcoat was nice. It's a little long, but I think a quick turn under on the hem will fix that. The top kind of had a mind of its own, but I don't think that would have been a problem if I were wearing a different dress. The neckline on my black dress is so wonky, if the surcoat wasn't centered on my shoulders everything looked off. It will be a nice piece of garb, though, during my pregnancy, since it's pretty accommodating.

Not sure what event I'll be going to next, so I'm going to go back to my regular pace for at least a bit. I'm still working on the hose, but since I have the huvet cut out, that's probably the main project I'll be working on. At least until I see something shiny.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Gates of Hell

No, this isn't a post about the impending rapture, but rather about my final project for the week: my new sideless surcoat:

I'd been in a debate about doing a true sideless surcoat (versus the sleeveless dress I just did) for some time. Most evidence suggests that by the 15th century, the "gates of hell", as we so lovingly refer to the sideless gown these days, was primarily a symbolic or ceremonial gown. By the middle of the 15th century, it's almost always shown worn by either queens (or other exceptional women) from the past, or allegorical/saintly figures. I thought I would do an earlier version from the 14th century, but then decided that since my goal is to have more 15th century garb, I should probably delve a little deeper and see what was more appropriate.

I could find enough evidence that in the very beginning of the century simple versions of the sideless surcoat were at the very least an out-of-date style. Since I had no desire to do a fur trimmed gown, the simpler version seemed valid enough.

Image 1 above, from Belles Heures de Duc du Berry, 1408-09, shows my primary inspiration. The top of the gown looks almost like a yoke- wide at the shoulders, then cutting rather dramatically inward. The side opening is also pretty low, showing a fairly good amount of the hip below.

It is very much like Image 3, From
Tristan de LĂ©onoi, first quarter of the 15th century, though the later clearly depicts a queen and is probably one of the allegorical versions. This one does not have as deep of an opening, but the "yoke" effect at the top is enhanced by the fur trim.

I include Image 2 to show a different version of the back. This one is much later, from
Speculum Historiale, 1463, but this woman is a maid to another woman in the image (cropped out) that is wearing an ermine trimmed sideless surcoat. That leads me to believe that her gown is probably not meant to be allegorical and is probably more akin to what had been worn in reality. While the backs on the other two are clearly cut wider, this back is cut in much the same shape as you would expect the front to be cut.

My surcoat is completely symmetrical- the back and front are exactly the same. I decided not to go with as much of a yoke look as the examples for a pretty simple reason- my chest is big and if I went too narrow in the front it wouldn't be flattering. After taking a few measurements of my length and hips, I used the pattern piece for the front of my gray wool to get the neckline and shoulders drawn out, then added what my measurements (and some math) came out to be. The front has a slight angle into the skirt, as do the gores at the sides. There are four gores, so that the pattern for the front and back look like this (though not so "yoke-y"):

I used a dark silver-gray linen that I'd scored when my local JoAnne's had their moving sale. I only had 3 yards, but since there are no sleeves, it was pretty much exactly enough. I also used a nice brown striped linen I had kicking around for the lining in the top. I couldn't really get away from doing a lining- there's a pretty good chance the inside will be visible as I move around, plus it adds something nice to the silvery gray of the outside.

I'm pretty jazzed about how well it turned out. It's also probably the most "done" gown I've ever made, since most of the seam allowances needed to be finished because it's so open. There's no hand-sewing here, though- the seam lengths are all long enough, with very easy curves, that I could do all the sewing on the machine. I think it will look great tomorrow over my black linen dress, and with my lavender hose and fretwork veil!

On a completely different note, this may be of interest to some of you (it is to me):
The Morgan Library & Museum Exhibition:
Illuminating Fashion: Dress in the Art of Medieval France and the Netherlands

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New Garb for the Boy

So with some of my pressing projects done or well underway, I took some time to create a new outfit for Owen. He isn't really in need of one- we've got a couple of good hand-me-down tunics that still fit him well- but sometimes I just feel the need to make nice new clothes for my little boy.

Owen's built for 14th century. He's lean and has a long torso. He's at the stage now, however, that I need to make things a little loose in order to last longer than one wearing, so I can't make his tunics quite as fitted as I'd like. He's kind of small still, but I'm pretty sure he'll keep his long and lean frame even as an adult. I think Dearg's pretty much resigned himself to me dressing Owen 14th century garb. Not to would be a huge waste!

He's been wearing garb since he was 2 weeks old, and he loves it. He even already seems to understand that we wear garb for special events, and though we try them on at home, they aren't regular clothes. I'll be so sad if the day ever comes that he thinks dressing up dumb.

He's got three new pieces. The short-sleeved undertunic is white linen. The parti-colored tunic is also linen. The gray is yarn-dyed, and the natural is solid. I counter-changed the sleeves as well. It took a little extra sewing, but the result was worth it. The hood is from the leftover wool I used for my goller. It's a bit big, but that just means he'll be able to wear it longer.

It's nice to take some time to make quick little garb like this. It's almost instant gratification, and I get a well-dress toddler out of it!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hose Success!

My second hose pattern works! I have to make one or two modifications to the foot, but I now have a viable hose pattern for my garb quest hose!

I had just enough of this lavender linen. It's fairly stretchy which means it slides on really well. My hand sewing on the gussets (barely visible in the photo, but there are gussets on both the inside and outside just in front of the ankle bone) needs a little work, particularly at the points. I use Tasha McGann's method, but I think I need to take a little more time with it.

I'm going to re-draft the pattern to make my adjustments, so I'll start documenting the process of making the wool hose there to share with you.

I've got a handful more projects to get done before this weekend- hope I'm not going too fast for ya'll!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hooray Headdress!

In addition to getting some chores done around the house, I spent this past weekend diligently getting some overdue headdress projects done. I starched my frilled (fretwork) veil and I completed my first huvet attempt. Since the veil is older, we'll start with that one.

I used Elina's method almost exactly, except that my starch was made from barley (more on that in a moment) and instead of heat-setting in a sauna, I used a blow dryer. It turned out well, and thus far is holding up. The ultimate test, however, will be when I wear it on Saturday. I Linkthink I rushed the heating in the middle, so it's not as stiff as I'd like. I may go ahead a re-starch that section just to be thorough.

I made the starch from 1.5 cups of whole quick barley. I used 2 cups of water and boiled according to the directions on the box. I did end up putting 1 more cup of water in about halfway through. When the directions called to remove heat and let sit, I strained out the barely at that point, before the water could soak in. Then I let the liquid cool in the fridge for about an hour. I ended up with a liquid about the consistency of runny snot, and it left a viscous coating on my fingers. Though it was sort of off white in the bowl it did not leave a stain on the veil.

Before dipping the front of the veil into the starch, I got it wet with regular water. Then I pinned the frets open and worked the starch in with my fingers to the places it didn't go when I simply dipped. Then a blow dryer on high heat dried it and set the starch.

I expect that it will stay stiff for most of the morning, but any humidity in the air will start to take its toll by the afternoon. I think re-starching, paying more attention to how thick the starch is on the fabric, would help. Hopefully I can work that in this week.

And now, the huvet:

I already discovered that the huvet's curve was shifted back, causing ugly bumping, and preventing me from using it for my garb quest. It took a little mental persuasion to get myself to actually finish it, but ultimately I decided that I couldn't use my 15-minute version forever, especially since I tout the benefits of the Saint Birgitta's Cap in almost every single class I teach. A finished huvet, even one that isn't quite right, is definitely in order.

All I really needed to do this weekend was cut out and sew the band that formed the loop and the front edge of the cap, but since I wanted to continue hand sewing, it took a bit of effort. I decided not to continue to use my linen thread (which I'd used on the rest of it) since I need to save that for the garb quest. I used silk thread instead.

It's a good thing that this ended up not being an A&S entry. I thought the linen I used for the band was the same as what I'd used for the cap itself, but when I started to pin it on, I realized that they were not at all the same. You can't tell in the pictures above, but the band is white, the cap is off-white! Though, they did find that the band and the cap were not cut from the same linen on the extant SBC, so I guess I'm not all that far off!

I'm glad this one is done. It's comfy, and a bit larger than my 15-minute version, which will take a little getting used to. I got a good number of tips out of it that will help me on my second (hopefully for-real) try. The major ones being to pay more attention to the angle of the curve, and to use linen embroidery thread instead of the stretchy crewel wool.

I'm still playing around with hose patterns, as I would really like to take my black wool garb quest hose to work on this weekend. I'm also toying with the idea of throwing a new, non-fitted dress together for this weekend. Maybe a sideless gown? Something kind of Lutrell Psaltery?Link

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Internet Round-Up: May

I apologize that I missed April's Round-Up. The month kind of ended on me before I knew it!

May's Round-Up is brought to you by Baby Number 4 and focuses on pregnancy & nursing garb, as well as a few related topics. There are not too many links here, basically because there aren't that many good links out there.

One thing that has always bothered me about trying to find information about garbing a pregnant body is that there seems to be a void of truly inspiring information. Many photos or pages online display garb that is not necessarily well researched or well crafted. The misconception that to be pregnant and comfortable in the SCA, you must wear what equates to a mou-mou, AND give up your chosen persona, abounds. This is completely false. EVERY period had pregnant women. Otherwise civilization would have ceased to exist and we wouldn't be around today to recreate it.

If you're in the early stages of pregnancy (in the first trimester), take heart- unless you've been over indulging with the excuse that you're eating for two, you won't need to worry about accommodating garb just yet. In fact, if you've been wearing kirtles or cotehardies, your current garb may be suitable well into your second trimester. Just expect the skirt hem to sit a little higher in the front as it raises to go around your baby bump.

Once you're in modern maternity clothes, however, new garb may be in order depending on how big you get. Don't over anticipate growing out of all your garb. If you're pushing the limits of your modern maternity clothes, pregnancy garb me be a given, but until you reach that point, don't waste the fabric and effort on large garb you may not ultimately really need.

As the copious images Karen at has collected indicate, pregnant women didn't just toss out their fashionable tendencies the moment they grew out of their dresses. Expectant mothers wore the fashions of their time, sized appropriately to their frame. What this means in a general sense is that most of your garb efforts may just mean subtle alterations on the garb you're already used to wearing. For example:
  • Garb for late 14th century into the 16th century can utilize a loose front lacing over the belly.
  • Gores can be inserted in gowns (particularly useful for earlier styles) and later removed to fit your non-pregnant frame.
  • Viking apron dresses can be opened in the front and secured at the top with a brooch.
If you plan to breastfeed (which is the period thing to do!) this is where new garb, or at least a better appreciation for the way your current garb works in necessary. I can only speak from failed experience here. When I attempted to breastfeed Owen at his first event, I wore a cotehardie with a button front. I wasn't prepared for the emotional issues involved with trying to maneuver my dress open, get my chemise out of the way, get my breast properly uncovered AND get Owen to latch in a public setting. A nursing shirt a bra are one thing, a 14th century outfit is something entirely different. When I tried nursing the twins, I encountered a similar issue. I skipped the chemise and wore my nursing bra, but I realized that I couldn't just lace my dress back up as easily as I'd undone it. I ended up using my pump in the rather public bathroom the rest of the day.

This isn't to say that trying to nurse at an event is an exercise in futility, but instead my message is this: be prepared for the emotional toll it will take to find a system that works for you and your baby. One thing I did not do, that I will be sure to remedy with this baby? Practice at home first.

One of the important things to remember about nursing in period is that it was rarely ever done by women of high class. If your persona is wealthy or of high rank, you may consider adopting the persona of a wet nurse during your breastfeeding time. This essentially allows you to use lower class garb with nursing access instead of trying to make higher class gowns work.

What Nursing Mothers Wore is a great little page with many period images. The images are grouped by nursing accesses method.

Let's not forget that after your trial of pregnancy in the SCA, you'll have a new bundle of joy to take to events as well. There are many points of view out there on clothing infants in garb, but I personally subscribe to the thinking that my children should be just as well dressed as I am. I have used Mathilde's Infant Gown paper as inspiration for all three of my babies. For the twins, we used a vintage christening gown pattern and it has been extremely successful thus far.

Finally, The Lady in Waiting is an email group for expectant mothers in the SCA. They don't post often, but if you've got specific concerns, other pregnant mothers can give you their advice.

Like I said, not too many links here, but I hope you find this information at least a little helpful!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hose Saga: A New Hope

I was getting pretty frustrated with trying to create the pattern for my hose from scratch, but I really didn't want to cheat and use a pre-made pattern since I intend to include a pair of hose in my garb quest A&S entry. Being able to create a fitted hose pattern is kind of a crucial element to proving that I know what I'm talking about.

I tried three time to do the pattern on myself, but failed miserably each time. Then, in a blog comment to Heidi over at Medieval Threads (who was also going through the cloth hose pattern dilemma), I suggested using a duct tape leg dummy. She beat me to the punch and ended up with a great result. Check out hers and the instructions for making one.

I decided to only go to up to just below my knee because I wasn't sure I'd have enough duct tape to go higher. I'd taken measurements of my leg (in one of my pattern making attempts) and decided that I could make up the rest of my leg with those if I really needed to. Mine's not particularly pretty, but man does it help!

One of the things that made me question whether I wanted to go this route or not is because I do intend to enter my hose in an A&S faire. Using a modern duct tape leg to help me create the pattern is not an authentic method, obviously, and has the potential of knocking my score down. Ultimately, however, I decided several things justified the use of the dummy.
  1. Fifteenth century fitted hose (of the luxury level I intend to recreate) were more than likely created by skilled tailors, not average housewives, which would have eliminated the fit-to-self issue. By creating an independent leg, I can treat the patterning as if I were the tailor, not the wearer.
  2. I want to be able to try out a few patterns in order to find the foot style that works best for me. The dummy allows me to cut the time-consuming effort of that.
  3. Because I can look at the dummy from more than an above angle, I can see more clearly fit issues and alternatives.
  4. Finally, I'm pregnant, and being able to bend over and fit on myself is hard and uncomfortable.
So, with my new leg, I was able to do my first hose. I chose to use an off-white linen/cotton blend with a subtle stripe in the weave. Linen doesn't fit the same way wool does, so getting the snug fit is a little more difficult, but I had it and didn't have any other plan for it. I decided to do what seemed like the easiest pattern from The Medieval Tailor- what's typically known as a London style hose- but when I got to the actual sewing together portion of making them, I discovered that they weren't as easy as they looked. Because of the cut over the top of the ankle, you end up essentially with three alternating gussets in a row (!!!). After a few attempts, I did finally get them sewn together, but it's not pretty.

They're not perfect, but they are comfy. I'm not going to worry about finishing the seams or even hemming the top, since they're more of an experiment than anything else. I think I'll just keep them around for those cold camping nights.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Random Bits

Well, first and foremost, I have some news. Baby #4 is due December 1! We are obviously surprised, as the twins are only 8 months old, but we're happy about it. So ya'll know what that means- more pregnancy-related projects! Which is pretty funny, since someone recently posted and asked for more information about garb during pregnancy. I missed my Internet Round-Up in April, but May's Round-Up (which I'll post next week) will be pregnancy related.

I kind of let a bunch of projects sit around for a while, since I wasn't feeling well, being prego and all, so I don't have much to report. I made a very quick case for my bow out of a scrap I had left over from my gray wool dress. I used it as an excuse to do button holes (3 of them). I didn't do a wonderful job, but by the third hole I had a better sense of what the heck I was supposed to be doing. Since my Garb Quest supportive gown will have buttons on the sleeves, I figured I could use all the practice I could fit in.

I also (finally) did the gathering bits on my failed huvet. I figured out what went wrong as well. When I'd cut the curve, it was slightly rotated clockwise, causing the curve to fall on the wrong part of my head. When I shift the whole thing forward, the curve fits, but it's super long on my forehead and too short at the back. Glad I figured that one out, though, so I know what NOT to do next time. I've got to find a strip for the loop and front edge binding, then I can finish that up.

I also tried to do my hose pattern again. Either, it's really difficult to do on yourself, or I've just got no talent for it. I can get the leg part- that's easy- but when it comes to the ankle and foot, I screw it up. After reviewing this time, however, I believe I know what I'm doing wrong. I cut straight up from the bottom to the ankle bone on both sides. This ends up giving me too little of a heel to work with. Essentially, but cutting to the ankle bone, I'm cutting too far back. If I shift the cut forward about an inch, I can cut straight up, then across the top of the foot (where it joins the ankle). That would give me something like the London Hose. I'm also thinking that I may try to work off of measurements first, instead of trying to fit directly on my legs.

I think I'm going to experiment with making starch for my frilled veil out of barley. It would certainly be more period than potato!

I've got a bunch of little projects to get done in the next few weeks gearing up for Border Raids the weekend of the 21st. I'd really like to have the hose pattern done in time to work on sewing the hose while at the event. It's also the first camping even of the year for us, so we've got some things to pull together to make sure the kids are set.

So that's all I've got for now, but stay-tuned. The hose saga isn't nearly complete yet!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Starching a Frilled Veil

This post from Elina is a life saver. Now I just have to figure out the best starch to use.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Cristina over at Cristina's Ramblings chose my blog to pass along this award. Thank you!

So I'm supposed to answer the following 5 questions, then pass the award on to 5 other blogs.

1. When did you start your blog?
Hee-hee. I just wrapped up a two-week celebration from my blog's anniversary. My first post was April 17th, 2008.

2. What is it about?
In general, I write about my experiences creating a more authentic wardrobe for my 15th century, middle class, Flemish persona. I also try to incorporate my research as well as provide "stepping stones" for others on their own garb journeys by sharing what I find.

3. What are the differences between this blog than others?
One thing you'll find on The Compleatly Dressed Anachronist is that I'm pretty open about screwing things up, and I show my trials and errors. I'm not a sewer, and the process of creating my own garb is a huge learning experience. Not that I'm happy when my projects don't turn out as well as I'd like, but if I can help someone NOT make my mistakes, I'm happy to share them.

4. Why did you start it?
To think back, my main reason for blogging was because I didn't want to feel like I was creating garb and learning so many new things in a bubble. I started with the hope that I could be part of a global community of garb enthusiasts, and luckily that's come true! I'm thrilled that my blog is one of many re-creation blogs that have created a community of shared knowledge and know-how.

5. What would you like to change in your blog?
As I listed out that the beginning of the year, I'd like to incorporate more of the back-end "production" and research involved with my projects. I've also been considering moving to a different platform to bring my blog and website together.

My five picks for the gorgeous blogger award:

Sunday, May 1, 2011


And the winner of the linen veil is...Vanessa!
Vanessa's entry: "I'm up in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada). I would love to win this veil because I'm super new to the SCA. I don't currently have a veil... because I tried to make one out of the leftovers from my first (and currently only) under tunic. ... but it wasn't enough fabric!"
Thank you to everyone that entered! Don't fret if you didn't win- there will be other giveaways this year. Look for the next one shortly before Pennsic!

Vanessa, please email me with your full name and mailing address so I can send your new veil to you!