Projects, giant hats, and more

As seems to usually be the case for me, I’ve gotten a lot done, though not the projects I thought would get done.  😀

Way back when I was working on Duncan’s cloak, I was merrily stitching along when a nagging voice in the back of my head told me I should really doublecheck my measurements… sure enough, the chest measurement I had was too small by 8cm, meaning the cloak would fit over a shirt, but not over other layers of garb.  Bah.  So I started completely over on his coat, and thankfully got it done in time.

But, as luck would have it, that chest measurement was pretty much perfect for L to wear over his garb, so I’ve been working on finishing the coat for him.  It’s flatlined in linen for extra warmth and body, and 100% handstitched.


I also really wanted to improve my collar work, it was the one area of Duncan’s cloak I wasn’t happy with.  So I got to work on my padstitching, and ended up with a fairly sassy collar:

Except for the bottom lining, this coat is now done, so pics of the finished item when I get a chance.  I also made a pair of lightweight wool trunkhose for L that I am very very pleased with- adjusting commercial patterns never worked very well due to L being so tall, the rise was always wonky.  These were done using Mathew Gnagy’s new pattern manual book, and I am super happy with how they turned out.


Work also continues on the giant hat that will go over a riding helmet.  Getting it to the UK is going to be fun.  It’s a really big hat.

No… really…. it’s a *big* hat

I also finished my travel project, which was a 100% handsewn linen highnecked smock for myself.  My goal with this project was to both improve my linen sewing, and to try and get over my distaste for it.  Thankfully it was a success on both counts.  😀


Finally, I was asked to make a Laurel applique for an elevation for a friend in the UK- I’d never done applique before, but was happy to give it a try.  Thankfully I had some good green wool in my stash, so I looked at some various Laurel designs online, snipped some leaves and played around with the size and look, and then stitched them and edged them in gold to make hem pop a bit.  For a first time, I am pretty pleased with how it came out!

Laurel 2Laurel

Currently on the workbench are a 14th c bycocket, a new fitted kirtle for myself (testing the proper fitting/shaping, with better support and more accurate straps), and a 15th c kirtle… also working on plans for an early period coat for a friend along with some Venetian dresses, a Tudor gown, and a slashed fancy peacock suit for L, as I’m planning to start my Golden Egg project next year.


Projects projects projects…

So the first few months of 2018 have seen a lot of sewing, across a lot of different projects.  I seem to work best when I have 10 different projects on the go at once.  Not a whole lot is finished yet, though I did get this English fitted gown done:

Mafia 2

All in all, I’m generally pleased with it.  I started with the Tudor Tailor pattern, though I had to make a ton of adjustments to it, and I’m still not quite pleased with the sleeves, and the collar is a bit low.  I need to check a couple of wrinkles showing in this picture as well, to see whether they’re just from moving around/etc or if something’s not sitting right.  Though there’s one big plus- pocketssss!!!!!

Also featured in this pic is the lovely beige suit I made a while back, and the recent Pelican cloak and cap of maintenance project.  It’s a really neat feeling to see other people in garb I’ve made.

I’ve also been drafting and making a tall hat to go over a riding helmet.  This will be fun- the pattern I’ve drafted actually works surprisingly well, I think, I was worried the overall look would be odd, due to the size of the helmet, but it works.  I think with a pleated cover, some sassy feathers, and some bling, this will look pretty snazzy:

Hat usable

I am also making a handsewn wool doublet.  Not a lot of good progress photos on this one, but here it is all laid out.  It’s meant to be a fairly lightweight option, so instead of canvas interlining I’ve gone with a lighter linen, with a bit of linen padstitched into the shoulders for shaping.


I’m also also working on some lightweight black wool trunkhose, but I don’t have any photos of those yet.  They look pretty promising though, so fingers crossed the final product is good.  They’re drafted from The Modern Maker vol 2.

And finally I’m handsewing a new court gown for myself, a 1560s Florentine sottana.  I won’t be posting photos of this one until it’s all done, since I want to photograph it with all of the accessories, etc.  But so far it’s coming along well- it also started from a kirtle bodice draft in the Modern Maker vol 2, with significant adjustments to give some chest support, and to change the shape from Spanish to Italian.

Also on the list in various stages of planning/production are a 15th c kirtle and Burgundian gown, a Tudor gown, a couple of new hats (including taking another crack at coming up with a decent French hood), some more linens, including a set of bands for L, L’s peacock suit, and and and….  😀


A kirtle, a coat, and a cap, oh my!

So the past several months have been very busy sewing-wise, but it’s almost all been secret stuff I haven’t been able to post about.  But now that the gifts have been given, I can talk about them.

First, a nonsecret project- I made myself a new kirtle and sleeves, as a successor to the red kirtle.  I am *far* happier with this one than the red one.  I made a few tweaks to the pattern after my experience with the red one- I cut another 1,5” inch off the back of the pattern I used for my red kirtle, which made the back fit much more smoothly, bound the bottom for a bit of additional stiffness in the hem and for durability, and did some proper skirt gores instead of a pleated tube.  The overall look is very satisfying, especially with pinned on sleeves and an apron- though it’s still a fairly scandalous level underdressing for being in public.  I’m currently working on a gown to go over this to make it proper to wear outside the house.

BD 1BD 2

Secret Projects- a dear friend of mine was given a writ to sit vigil for the Order of the Pelican, and I was honored to make his Pelican cloak and cap of maintenance.  Since he got a writ instead of a surprise elevation, we were able to discuss what he wanted- which was ‘fancy and late period.’  So I decided to do a sleeved coat- the below image was the inspiration, though I chose to make the sleeves usable, as the recipient is not well suited to a cloak that just perches on the shoulders, with vestigial sleeves- he is always running around and doing things, so needed functional sleeves.


The pattern is drafted from Burguen’s pattern for a cassock, using Mathew Gnagy’s layout and bara drafting system.  The outer fabric is a wool/cashmere blend, with interlining in medium weight linen, wool padstitched stiffening in the shoulders, and a black silk taffeta lining.

Here’s the outer, interlining, and stiffening, with guitar included in pic for extra coolness:


As the garment was a special gift, I decided to completely hand sew it.  The construction seams are done with linen thread, while the trim and lining are sewn with silk thread.  The hem and fronts were bound in silk taffeta, which was also used for the lining.


For design, I wanted to play with texture- this is something that was done in the 16th century at many levels, but especially on the rich garments of the upper nobility- they were very fond of playing with the effect created by using different fabrics like velvet, silk, and wool on the same outfit, and slashing and pinking.

For the trim, I slashed strips of silk taffeta as below (to keep the slashing clean and relatively even, I marked every 1″ on the back of the strip in chalk as below, then slashed diagonally between the dots.  Don’t forget to leave yourself seam allowance to fold over the raw edges of the silk and sew them in place), then layered those onto the sleeves and coat with velvet ribbon and a very thin gold cord, to give the garment a luxurious touch.  The picture below isn’t the final trim pattern, but I didn’t take a closeup of that one- this gives the general idea though.


The gorgeous Pelican embroidery was done by Mistress Lia de Thornegge, with the gold nest made out of the same trim as used on the rest of the cloak.


And here’s the almost finished piece, as I didn’t get any pictures of the final piece- will update this post with them when I can.  Broadly speaking, I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out.  I need to correct the collar, as I made an error there and my correction doesn’t seem to have worked as well as I wanted, leaving one side of the collar to turn up more than it should.  But overall I’m satisfied- it fits correctly, looks good and hangs well, and I learned a lot while making it.  I am especially pleased with the drape at the bottom, as the cloak has a lot of flare and personality, and the overall look of the trim- I think it looks luxurious without being overwhelming.


For the cap of maintenance, I wanted a 16th century interpretation, but one that didn’t look like the extant one, which seems to have possibly been more of a ceremonial piece than an actual worn hat.  So I decided to go for a pleated tall hat, which I thought would be more visually striking than a plain hat, the texture of the pleats working with the ermine band and bright color.  After not being able to source satisfactory ermine tails, I decided to reference Duncan’s herald side by commissioning a woven wool band of heraldic ermine from Catherine Weaver.

The most correct method for making 16th century hard foundation hats is blocking, but as I didn’t have a hat block Duncan’s size and getting one was problematic, I decided to build a hard foundation and cover that instead.  The first layer is a heavy paste buckram, wired on the edges.

Here are the foundation pieces (not yet sewn together, just stacked here).


I then sewed on a layer of thick wool felt to soften up the edges and lines of the hat and give a good foundation for the red wool.  The red wool outer is a large circle that I pleated with some large stitches, then draped over the crown and pulled the threads and fiddled the pleats until they were generally aesthetically pleasing.  I then trimmed the edges, folded the excess over the bottom edge of the crown and stitched it into place.

The brim is done the same way- wired edge on paste buckram, wool felt, and then a red wool outer.  The tricky part about the brim is sewing the wool over the outer edge- you essentially have to convince a larger circle to become a smaller circle, so there’s a lot of fussing and manipulating the wool to get it to lay smoothly.  I’ve found that I need to keep the allowance to about ¼” on the brim inside- any larger and there’s too much puckering and wrinkling.

Once the brim is covered on one side with the wool, the crown and brim can be joined.  The nice thing about hatmaking is that a lot of it is hidden, so you can use big strong ugly stitches in thick thread where needed, as I did.  Once they were joined, I stitched feathers on, and then the wool band at top and bottom, and attached a small brooch at the join of the band to hide the folds.  The very last step is to sew in the lining- generally, tall hats were black, so you can simply sew in a black silk lining and call it good.

However, a black silk lining with this bright red hat looked awful, as did white.  I couldn’t find a red silk that matched in tone, so- stash to the rescue, where I found a decent red linen.  At this point I was really crunched for time, and ended up making the lining slightly too big by mistake.  Also, using linen for a lining led to a weird issue- while silk is nice and crisp and stays in place with no tacking needed, linen is soft and wants to drop a bit, so I found the linen was puffing around the brim of the hat when worn, causing a weird effect.  My solution was to tightly smooth the brim lining, then do tiny hidden stitches on the edge of the brim lining, angled up through the crown/brim join, which effectively hid the stitches.

And here’s the almost finished hat (at the design stage, so feather/hat band/brooch not yet sewn on)- will update with finished pic when possible.  Except for the lining (I’ll probably steal the hat back and redo the lining at some point), I am pretty pleased with this- it fit well (always tricky with this kind of hat when you can’t check it at each step, as the various layers of fabric and joining can wreak havoc on your sizing), is lightweight, and looked awesome.

And thank you to Constanza and Lia for all the design chats, sewing help, and general good company in our sewing group chat.  😀



Successes and ….Not Yet Successes

Mixed results on my last few projects.  Two successes, and one TBD- it could be salvaged, or it could be back to step 1.  Still working on it.

The earliest, a truncated hennin, was a success.

Medieval_woman 1470

Here’s the inspiration image.  I read through a few tutorials online to see how others had made them.  They boiled down to ‘find a basket that fits your head  and cover it in fabric’ or ‘make a paper cone pattern.’

I figured I’d try to come up with a draftable pattern, but nope- the best result really did seem to come from ‘put a paper cone on your head and cut it off where needed.’  So that’s what I did for the pattern.

The hat itself is made from two layers of stitched buckram, wired around the edges, mulled with wool to soften the edges a bit, then covered in cotton velveteen, lined in linen, and edged with a gold braid.  I wanted the hat to be as lightweight as possible, and also to breathe, as the person the hennin was said overheating was a concern.  The linen lining is replaceable- stitched around the edge of the hat, and tacked in a few places on the inside.

Here’s the frame, the interlining/mulling, and the finished result:


Unfortunately I don’t have a pic of it with the Burgundian it goes with- hopefully soon.

The next item is still a work in progress, a French hood for me.  I started with a Tudor Tailor pattern which was apparently meant for people with tiny tiny heads.  So I expanded it all around, then tweaked the shape to fit my head and face shape.

I cut the hood out and stitched together two double buckram layers.  Then I wired the hood all around, padded the front point and ear areas for comfort, interlined it to soften the lines a bit, then covered the hood in cotton velveteen.  I then followed the instructions for sewing the veil on around the circle in the back of the veil and just…. meh.  Wasn’t pleased with the drape of the veil at all, and it seems like the hood, even after all the sizing up I did, still isn’t the right size for my head in the back, as there was too much visible hair in the back.


I dug around a bit more, and found some 3d effigies that really made me question the pattern design.  Many of the mid 16th century hoods actually look as though there are two pieces- a caul covering the hair in the back, and a separate veil stitched on at the top that falls in folds down the back.  So I’m going to see if I can salvage this hood and turn it into one styled with the caul and separate veil look, or if I need to go back to the drawing board.


The final project I finished lately is a 1560s Florentine-inspired sottana for a dear friend.  This is only the second stiffened bodice dress I’ve ever made, and the first one for someone else.  The bodice is quilted layers of cotton and linen canvas, with a wool interlining, and the dress laces at the sides.  The sleeves are open at the elbows and tie on at the shoulders.  The trimming is modest, as the fabric is such a bold color.  There is another pair of more elaborate sleeves in the making as well.

On one hand, the dress creasing a bit at the waist bugs me, but on the other hand, the creases are exactly the same as those seen in portraiture of the time, so it does look ‘right’ and realistic in a way that an overly stiff gown often does not.

I didn’t get a lot of construction progress photos of this dress, actually- just a couple shots of the bodice interiors:

M bodice 1M bodice 2

And here is the final result.  All in all, I’m pretty pleased, though I see a few tweaks that need to be done.  😀

M dress

Other than attempting to salvage the French hood, I’m currently working on a blue wool kirtle and a black wool/silk blend English fitted gown for myself, and a 16th century pleated men’s tall hat for a good friend, like these others I’ve made:

F hatL hat

I don’t have a whole lot planned over the summer, so I’m hoping I can make some serious sewing progress.  Fingers crossed!


Action Garb! 16th Century Men’s Suit

Long time, no write…  unfortunately the medical issues I started having last year really flared up this year, severely limiting my sewing time.

But, under the pressure of two events coming up, including an archery event, and with my partner having nothing else to wear for shooting save a very uncomfortable doublet (the first real one I made) and his fancy cream silk court garb (which I’d kill him if he did archery in), I was able to finish a basic wool suit (taking 4x as long as I usually need to make something like this).

The idea wasn’t originally to do a full suit.  Nor was it intended to be this colour.  I ordered some supposedly tobacco brown wool from a UK website, intending to make some breeches or a coat.

On the plus side- I paid for 2 yards and they sent me 2 2/3 yards, so I was able to get a whole suit out of it for my 188cm tall partner.  On the minus side, it was… not quite tobacco coloured.

full suit layout
… this is tobacco?

But, as this colour suited (haha, suited… see what I did there?) him well, I decided not to return it and to forge ahead.

I didn’t get many pictures of the trunkhose in construction, but they’re basic unpaned trunkhose.  I’m still not 100% happy with my pattern for these.  I’ve been working off a commercial pattern to make these, with adjustments for his height, but I think I’m going to try to draft the next pair.

For the doublet, the wool was substantial enough that it didn’t need a lot of shaping underneath, plus I wanted to try and keep it as light as possible so he didn’t overheat.  I did want a bit of structure though, so did some layered, padstitched linen for support.  This worked pretty well for giving a bit of shape without overheating him.

padstitch 1padstitch 2

We decided to cut down the collar, as the large collar folding out wasn’t really suited to a suit that was meant to be workaday ‘action’ garb.  A few of the long seams are machine sewn, owing to my health issues, but most of the doublet ended up being hand sewn anyway, and it’s all hand finished with handsewn buttonholes (so many buttonholes…).

Here’s the final fitting, before sewing in the arms and lining (hence the somewhat puffy look in the shoulders):

fitting 1fitting 2

And here’s the final result!

finished 1
Suit and hat by me, shoes and stockings purchased commercially, and garters knitted by the lovely Mistress Genevieve.
finished 2
Action garb!

All in all, I’m quite pleased with the result, though there are some minor tweaks I need to make to the pattern (it’s based off Mathew Gnagy’s bara system, which is excellent).  L says it’s quite comfy, which makes me feel good- hopefully I’m getting this menswear stuff down.  😀

Current projects are a women’s dress that is kicking my proverbial sewing ass (but that I will conquer, and hopefully by mid-June if all goes to plan), a new kirtle and English fitted gown for me, a 1560s French hood, and a ~1460s truncated hennin.  That last one is new territory for me, I’m not often in the 15th century, but it should be a fun little project.

Patterns patterns patterns…

So unfortunately I’ve been dealing with some health issues that limit my sewing time, but I’ve still been somewhat active!  In preparation for attending a 10 day long event next year in Sweden, I’ve been patterning out some outfits for my partner and myself.

For his doublet, I decided to try my hand at drafting a doublet using the bara system detailed in Mathew Gnagy’s book, The Modern Maker Vol 1.  The bara system is based on actual period practice used by 16th century tailors, so I was very eager to give it a go.  The method is completely alien at first, but I found that I was able to get my head around it fairly quickly.

In general, I’m extremely pleased with the resulting pattern.  I needed to use the errata notes Mathew provides on his Facebook page, as my partner has a chest measurement 11”/28cm larger than his waist, which results in some weird patterning, as most of the pattern is based on a chest measurement.

Here is the first doublet chest pattern, before I tweaked it at all.



Don’t you just love that grow on collar?  😀

You can see some pretty minor adjustments that need to be made, but all in all, the shape is promising.  I adjusted the shoulder seam to account for shoulder slope, raised the waist a bit front and back, and brought in the bottom half of the back seam.

Pleased with these results, I then drafted out the sleeve.  This is where I struggled with the pattern- my partner is really tall (6’2”/188cm), and broadchested, and the sleeve is drafted based on height and chest measurements.  It was supposed to be a pretty loose fitting sleeve, but I still ended up with a sleeve that was just way too large.

You can see here how much sleeve I had to take in, and also how long the sleeve was- it reached halfway down his palm.


So I made all the tweaks, and the final pattern (save one mistake on the sleeve) looks like this (adjustments made on model’s right hand side):



I cut a bit too much length off the sleeve, so need to add some back on (though it’s not as short as the photo looks, the cuff of the shirt here is pulled a bit past the wrist.)  I’m looking forward to making up the doublet from this.

I’ve also been working on some items for myself.  First is an English style fitted gown to go over my kirtles.  A friend draped the pattern, which resulted in the below:



And I’ve also started work on a sottana pattern for myself, for a mid-16th century Italian gown.  Here’s the pattern front, back, and sides, in a layer of canvas and two of wool.


All in all, I’m happy with how it’s coming along, though there are still some adjustments to be made.  The back needs to be brought up, as pinned here, and the side waist as well, and I want more support in there as well.  It will be machine stitched for stiffening, though I think I’ll add in a layer of linen canvas I just got as well.  I’d like to experiment with glue stiffened fabric some time too, though I’m a bit wary after reading about one experiment where the person’s bodice interlining broke in two.  But!  Further experiments in the new year!

Happy new year to all, all the best for 2017!


More Experimenting!

The petticoat bodies is almost done, here’s a pic of its trial run- I just need to adjust the waist and pleats a bit, and make a placard for the front.  I’d also like to add a guard, and maybe see about some stiffening on the inside of the hem as well to give it a bit more oomph.


All in all, I’m fairly pleased with it so far.  The support in the chest and stomach is excellent, and extremely comfortable.  The back waist needs to be brought up about ¾”- the stiffened interlining fit fine in that area, but the wool itself is bulky enough that my construction method moved the waist down a bit, resulting in the back wrinkle you see here.  The right front pleat is a bit too low as well, I need to bring that up.  Not entirely sure what happened there- possibly I was so blinded by the color of the dress that I mispinned that pleat.

So- when last I wrote, the outer fabric had not yet been cut.  I cut out the bodice and wrapped it around the stiffened interlining, as below:



The skirts are very simple rectangles- I should have shaped them, honestly, and will do on the next pair- possibly I’ll gore the next kirtle as well.  I also bulked up the pleats at the back with a strip of wool:


The end result is a great foundational layer for late period garb.  I’ve tested it under an old doublet and found that the slight underbust wrinkling is pretty much entirely hidden under an outer garment, so the theory of this being one of the ways kirtles were stiffened is definitely showing promise in my book.

I’ve also been working on two sets of trunkhose- one paned, one unpaned.  I’ve been working with the pattern from The Tudor Tailor, which seems to be an amalgamation of a few different extant sets of trunkhose, as well as some conjecture on their part.  Some mixed photos below, as I found I had different steps photographed on different pairs.  😀

Their hose are designed with an inner bias cut foundation.  The canions (if worn) are straight cut and basted to the bottom of the foundation, as below:


The fronts and backs are then sewn together, in preparation for the ‘bag’ of the trunkhose to be attached after it’s prepared.  The trunkhose lining/bag is multiple layers- as an experiment, I cut one pair with layers of canvas, linen, and silk, and one pair with thin wool, linen, and silk.  The lining is marked on the inside with darts, and then darted to fit the lining, sewn into place across the tops of the canions.


Once the bag is attached to the hose, you add stiffening to the inside- I used a folded layer of quilt batting.  I wanted to see how much poofiness the stiffening added to the pants, so, here’s the brown pair before stiffening:


And here they are afterwards.  You can see the stiffening definitely makes a difference.


And for comparison, here’s the pair that are interlined with canvas, but no additional stiffening:


The canvas definitely gives a whole lot of poof, and not much extra weight.  I think this will be my preferred method going forward in constructing trunkhose.

Next steps- I need to finish the panes for the white pair, and attach those, and sew the waistband/eyelets on both pairs.  The brown pair is wearable, though I ran out of thread before I could finish sewing all of the eyelets.

I also have decided that for future pairs, I will cut down the interlining layers a few inches short of the waistband- the additional layers added a whole lot of bulk that was awkward to manage when sewing the gathers into the waistband, and added far too much bulk into the waistband itself.

Upcoming projects for myself include a French hood, and “something” out of some gorgeous black silk/wool I have, and some plum wool… if I could only stop the internal debating as to what those “somethings” should be.  😀



Experimental Archaeology: Petticoat Bodies

For many people, one of the defining garments of 16th century women’s clothing is the corset.  We see it in movies, tv shows, and assume that it must be under the gowns in portraits.  How else is such smoothness attained?

It’s also unfortunately a deterrent for many people who are otherwise interested in 16th century garb, thinking that a heavy, stiff, uncomfortable corset is required.

Part of this is due to our position looking backwards in time- the corset became so ubiquitous in the immediately following centuries that we just assume it’s in the 16th as well, as soon as gowns began to take a less natural and more rigid shape.

However, the more you look for corsets as a boned separate garment in the majority of the 16th century, the more they’re just…. not there.  Instead what you find are many, many references to ‘bodies’ or ‘petticoat bodies,’ or just references to items used to stiffen gown bodices.  These bodies are described as being stiffened with glue, buckram (glue soaked fabric), canvas, etc, but you don’t really see rigid boning.

Dame Joan Silvertoppe of Caid has a great post on her blog discussing this very point, with excellent citations regarding the various times garments are mentioned in wills, wardrobes, etc.  While I’m working on composing my own notes on this as well, hopefully for a future class, please look at her post if you care to read deeper about this in the meantime.

So, in the interests of science, I decided to see if I could achieve a satisfactorily smooth torso using only fitting, fabric, and thread.  I was somewhat dubious, as I’m unfortunately apple shaped and a DD/E cup.  I decided this would be a middle class kirtle- something I could wear with a waistcoat or doublet bodice over it for a quite late period look.

I started with The Tudor Tailor’s kirtle pattern, but it needed some serious changes to look even remotely flattering.  I decided to drop the front point about 10 centimeters- not quite as severe as those in Alcega, but it helps give the correct look and illusion of a more narrow waist, and draws the eye down.

After the pattern was ok enough to start fitting, I decided to first check and see how much support it was feasible to get from one layer of fabric alone.  Below are a few pics of one layer of heavy linen canvas, with mild tweaks for fitting (you can see the darts pinned to take in excess fabric, the edges rolled up where a bit needed to be trimmed off the waist, etc).  The fabric was a gift, so I don’t know the exact weight, but it’s pretty heavy.

Front Fitting 1


Back Fitting 1Side Fitting 1

Please ignore the slightly wonky laced up front- my lacing strips are cut off the side lacing of an old kirtle, and so too short- so I had to sew two onto each side, which meant the eyelet holes didn’t quite align, which meant wonkiness.  Ahem.

There’s some underbust wrinkling (which is period!), but the overall results were quite promising.  The one layer of canvas definitely supported and smoothed, and yet was extremely comfortable.

From the side, you can see a more rounded look, but this was quite common in middle class kirtles, and even in some nobility:

Bolstered by these results, I then turned my attention to what stiffening and other layers I would do.  The outer layer of fabric itself is pretty thick red wool, which will add its own stiffening, so I didn’t want many more layers – plus, I’d still need to sew eyelets through the dress, which would become increasingly difficult with each additional layer.  In addition, I’d like the dress to hopefully be wearable for most/all of the year, so keeping it somewhat light would boost its versatility.

I decided on one additional layer of a lighter cotton canvas canvas, stitched together to add additional stiffness.  As this is an experimental dress, I decided to machine sew it.

Here are the two canvas layers basted together to prevent shifting while stitching.  The very thick linen canvas is only in the bodice area itself, and trimmed away from seam allowance and the shoulder straps to reduce bulk.

canvas 1canvas 2


And here they are after a whole lot of machine stitching, which is quite wobbly in some places as my machine decided now would be the perfect time to start misbehaving.  I debated exactly how much stitching to do, but eventually decided to mimic a pretty small pad stitch- while today we might blanch at doing this amount of hidden stitching by hand, I don’t think it would be unreasonable in period.  It also allowed me to attempt to remove one variable from the experiment- if the end result isn’t satisfactory, at least I will know it isn’t due to insufficient stitching of the layers.

canvas stitched

As an illustration of exactly how much stiffness the stitching added- this is a pic of the two bodice fronts, one stitched, one not, both balanced on the point of one finger.  As you can see, the rows of zigzag stitching have added a significant amount of stiffness to the bodice.

stiffness check

Next steps will be to cut and attach the bodice outer layer and lining (this will be done by hand), then attach skirt if all goes well.  I’m tempted to put a small facing in the front and stitch the eyelet holes before I sew in the lining, to give myself a last chance to make any necessary fitting adjustments/add extra stiffening where it might be required before I line it.  I’m also making a placard to hide the front lacing, which will allow me to wear the petticoat with open fronted gowns.  The experiment continues!

Completed Outfits and Lessons Learned

So, the 30th of June has come and gone.  What did I manage for Coronation?  A new pair of Venetian pants, the slashed doublet, and some tweaks to my beaded loose kirtle.  All in all, not bad.

This doublet was my first attempt at handsewn buttonholes.  In general I’m pleased with how they came out.  I did the full basting…


Then blanket stitches over each hole…


Then buttonhole stitches (very similar to, but not the same thing as blanket stitches, despite what many websites seem to want to tell you)


In general I’m pleased with how they came out.  Next time I definitely want to use proper buttonhole twist though- no stores around me seem to sell it, and as time was a factor, I had to make do with cotton perle embroidery floss.  It worked out ok, but it did fight me some, and want to tangle and snarl no matter how much I ironed the thread.  I think buttonhole silk would give a bit finer and more lustrous buttonhole as well.

In addition, the doublet was so light that the buttonholes wanted to pull a slight bit and it was a bit difficult to keep them straight across the top- next time I do a super lightweight doublet like this, I will experiment with double or triple facing the buttonhole area to give some stability and thickness to the area.  I did one silk facing on these, but it wasn’t quite enough.

Here we are at Coronation- photo by Margaret de Mey.  All clothing and hats in the photo made by me, except the shoes and stockings (the coif is handsewn by me, but made from machine worked blackwork from TrulyHats- I wanted the right look while teaching myself to embroider.  A handworked one is on the list!).


Overall I’m happy with the outfits, though the next steps will be to add and upgrade accessories.  I need to do a set of collar and cuffs for the doublet, and a different hat for myself (I really should be wearing a French hood here, this is too middle class of a hat to wear with this rich of a dress.)  I also need a set of ruffs.

I also want to work on a fully drafted doublet pattern- this was based off a commercial one in the interests of time, and there are a few tweaks I’d like to do.  It’s also about an inch or two too short in the waist as well- as the person wearing it has a fairly unusual body type (chest measurement 11 inches more than waist measurement), I think a custom draft is going to be the best way to go for future doublets.

I’m pretty pleased with my beaded loose kirtle, though looking at it I can see the line would be improved by a proper farthingale instead of the corded petticoat I’m wearing under this.  That will be one of my next items to create as well.  The loose gown is an ongoing project- I’m tempted to recycle the sleeves and remake the body of it as I’m not particularly thrilled with the line of the cutaway front- I’d rather get the same effect with a straight front gown over a farthingale, which would give additional versatility with the outfit as well.

The beads themselves have proven somewhat tricky too- the weave of the fabric is juuuuust loose enough that the knot can slip between the threads of the fabric, and then the beads start coming off.  I’ll be repairing the dress soon, as it was just worn at events these past two weekends and lost a few pearls, and will be cutting small bits of tightly woven canvas to sew behind the beads.  Hopefully this will hold them in place better.

So, for these outfits to be complete I need a farthingale, a French hood, a set of collar and cuffs, and a set of ruffs for me.  But, I also need to work on some suitable daywear, as I realised this past weekend I pretty much have no casual wear at all, and possibly something Italian for our local group’s Italian themed event in September.

In addition, this weekend I’m hosting a sewing day for local shire members to help make clothes, and a sewing weekend next month.  Busy busy, but I’m enjoying it!

Elizabethan Men’s Suit Progress

Continuing to work on the new suit… that 30 June deadline for it to be ready in time for Coronation is rapidly approaching.  So, that enthusiasm I had for ‘ooh, trunkhose!  I’ve never made trunkhose before!’ has been slightly dampened by a combination of the most annoying trim ever to sew, and some pretty unhelpful pattern instructions.  I got the pattern to help speed things up as I didn’t really have time to draft things out, but now I’m thinking that might have been faster.

The panes have a cream braid trim down the middle, and the edges are bound in matching cream silk.  The braid was an absolute nightmare to sew as the weave is loose, so it’s a bit wobbly.  I have some more of this trim in different colours, so I’ll have to work on methods of sewing it straighter when time is less of an issue.

Here is one leg’s worth of the finished panes:

Edged Panes

The lining and interlining of the bag is cream silk, a light canvas layer, and a light linen layer.  The ends of the legs have been darted to help them puff out, as below:

Trunkhose Lining

I’ve started the process of gathering the lining and panes now- pictures of that once it’s been properly subdued.  😉  After that it’s time to attach the trunkhose to the foundation, line the foundation, add the waistband, sew in eyelets, and that should be about it.  Hoping I’ll have time to make a codpiece for the suit as well.

The doublet is coming along as well- though in true garb fashion, I had to undo and redo some work on it after I realised “hey!  This wobbly loose annoying trim needs to be on the doublet too!  Undo your side back seams and sleeve seams and add it there too!”  It does tie the suit together nicely though.

In addition, I’ve also added the eyelet lacing strip to the inside of the doublet.  Here’s a few photos of where the doublet stands now:

Doublet EyeletDoublet TrimTrimmed Sleeve


I’ve just added the silk facing to the buttonhole side of the doublet.  Next steps- bind the edges of the doublet, sew in the buttonholes (I’m doing them by hand), attach buttons, attach and finish sleeves, collar, and finish the waistband (I’ve not yet decided on a finishing for it, still toying with ideas here.)

Pfft- plenty of time till June 30th, right?