Thursday, September 8, 2011

Garb Quest Extension

I've had to take several more step backward with my blue linen test dress than I expected, so I'm not entirely sure it will be ready for this weekend.  When I really stopped to look at the areas we identified that needed to be taken in after I'd worn it around for a bit, I realized that I had probably not gotten the sleeves positioned in the right place and that was the true culprit.  So I removed the sleeves and I also removed my finishing along the lacing edges, since that wasn't quite right either.  I decided to go ahead and wash it.  Here in a few minutes, I'll put it on, figure out how the armscye needs to be adjusted, and wear it for about an hour.

If it's going to be done for this weekend (and it really needs to be, because I don't really have any other long sleeve dresses) I'm not going to be able to do the handsewn finishing I'd intended.  I'm not actually worried about this, because the dress has already fulfilled its purpose- a test for my garb quest, to help be better understand the work involved in creating two dresses by hand.  The results?  I've failed the test. I'm not disappointed with myself- I didn't have any real expectations about my skill level prior to starting the blue dress- but I have realized what my garb quest has thus far taught me.

When I read back through some of by garb quest posts, I came across these two statements:
"...the bottom line is this: I need more experience with garment construction."
"The point is to create an outfit with as much authenticity and craftsmanship as possible based on the criteria." 

What I came to understand, through my blue linen test dress, is that failure is part of the process.  As I explained it to my mother- I don't want to enter the outfit next year and feel that it wasn't as good as it could be.  I need to go through the process of figuring out what's acceptable to the goals stated above and what isn't.  And so far, I don't have what it takes.

I've spent much of this past year focusing on research.  That's been fun, but that's not where I need improvement.  I already know (from the huvet) that I can do fine stitching by hand (just short of finishing details like buttonholes and eyelets.)  I also know from the blue dress that I can do flat finishing with running stitch on a long seam fairly well and quickly.  It's the actual construction and fitting of the dress that I fall short, and it's that overwhelming feeling of laziness that creeps in and tells me to be OK with less than perfect.  Turning to the work of others I find inspiring (some examples are here, here, here, and here), it's easy to hold my own attempts up to critical lens.  I don't want to fall into a self-pity spiral of "I'm not worthy", but I do want to be honest with myself.  Though I have my moments, all-in-all, my dress construction skills are mediocre. 

To that end, I am extending my garb quest deadline another year, so that I will enter it the spring of 2013, rather than next year.  Since I've only completed one item (the huvet), and it was only recently finished, I won't have any problems with everything being completed no more than 2 years prior to the entry.  There are some mundane reasons for this extension as well (pregnancy being only one), so for the time being, I'm putting the quest on hold to re-evaluate exactly how the quest will allow me to accomplish my original goals.

While I'm sorting that out, like I mentioned earlier this week, I've got some major plans for my website that I'll be putting together.  I also need to take a longer look at my fabric stash and make some decisions about how to use it and what more I might need.  Therefore, it may be pretty boring here after this weekend, but it won't be for a lack of progress.

BTW, I put the blue dress on about halfway through writing this, and it fit almost exactly as it had before.  I can already see where the arm holes are the problem (as well as one of the shoulder seams).


  1. Taking the time to assess your skills, finding areas of improvement, and challenging yourself is good. I commend you on your honesty and willingness to start from square one if necessary. More seamstresses and tailors should take the time to do this on occasion.
    I know my handskills personally are no where near the skill I would like them to be. Though I think getting it "just right" is really hard. When we as Anachronists are working on a incomplete puzzle at times, be it shorting comings on our skills or lack of facts on reasearch. I find research gaps so much, medieval contemporaries just didn't write some facts down.
    Filling in the research gaps, giving myself sewing challenges with gowns and making improvements is my goal. In the 6 years I have been in SCA society, have seen rare few get it "just right". I must say I love your work and pray you reach your sewing goals.

  2. Thank you so much for the words of encouragement, Mairin. Sometimes, in order to improve, you need to step back and be honest, even if "improvement" isn't "perfection". I'm glad to have come to that point now, rather than this coming spring. You're right about the research gaps- a lot of our recreation relies on educated guesswork which means that everyone comes to the same subject from different angles, making consensus of that topic that much harder to achieve.