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?

New Project!  Slashed Doublet and Trunkhose

I’ve started a new menswear project, as my boyfriend’s only garb so far is quite heavy wool, which won’t be suitable for an event we’re attending in July.

I don’t have a doublet pattern for him yet that I’m 100% happy with, and as the event is so soon, I decided to start with the Tudor Tailor pattern and modify from there instead of drafting from scratch to save a bit of time.

Here are the first adjustments.  Quite a bit had to be taken in from the belly as we decided not to go with a peascod- this suit is meant to be light and summery, so a padded belly was right out.  😀

Doublet 1Doublet 3


Doublet 2


Several other adjustments were needed here as well.  The waist needed to be raised a bit, and I also curved it quite a bit more (not shown in these pictures).

The sleeve needed to be lengthened and made wider in the forearm- we decided on a looser fitted sleeve for maximum mobility.

The fabric for the doublet is a thin, lightweight cream-coloured silk/wool blend we picked up in Japan for about € 4.50 a meter.  😀  The weave is quite tight, so we decided it’d be perfect for slashing, which meant the back piece would be better off as a single piece.  We cut the silk/wool body pieces out for a fitting check:


Fabric 1Fabric 2

You can see the linen through the silk wool blend on that second piece- it’s such a light fabric.  I made a couple of additional tweaks to the pattern from here, and then started slashing.  After a disastrous attempt at using chalk to do a grid (which made me very glad I’d purchased extra fabric.  Always get extra fabric), I decided to use some old polyester thread I had laying around to make a grid pattern for the slashing.

slashing 1slashing 2


In general the slashing went well, though I had to change up the pattern after making a mistake (oops).  Still, I think it livens up the fabric a lot.  I’m toying with further trim/decoration ideas, but think it will be minimal, I don’t want to take away from the visual impact of the slashing.  Very occasionally the Elizabethans embraced a more minimalistic look.  No really, it’s true, I’ve seen portraits and everything.  😀

The doublet is flatlined with a lightweight silk that turned out to be wonderfully breathable and soft after I washed all of the sizing out of it (when I bought it, it was horribly papery and stiff.)  At first we considered using a contrasting colour for the flatlining, but then decided to go with cream as well, in order to keep all jerkin options for the future.  The body alone will be lined with a medium weight linen to give the doublet a bit more structure without adding too much thickness/warmth.


Here’s the doublet in its current state, with slashing done and the sleeve pinned in to check the overall look.  I think I might make the armscye just a hair bigger, but overall, I’m pleased so far.  Please ignore the way the skirting is misbehaving on the left side, it hasn’t been pressed yet (nor has anything else on the doublet yet).  I am also still considering whether or not to slash the skirt, but am leaning towards not.  Leaving it smooth will provide a good transition into the trunkhose, I think.

Speaking of the trunkhose, here is one set of the panes, with trim pinned in place for handsewing on the 10h flight I have tomorrow.  😀  I’ve never made trunkhose before, I’m looking forward to this.  The challenge with these as well will be getting the structure without making them unbearably hot (so the usual solutions of polyfill stuffing, etc are out.)  At the moment, I’m planning on using the Tudor Tailor’s method for making them- we’ll see how it goes!


Kirtle Work Continues…

The kirtle is coming along nicely.  I decided to handsew the whole thing, so progress has been a bit slower, but not too bad.  Everything is French seamed- the long seams are done with running stitches with a backstitch thrown in every 3-4 stitches, since they’re not under any strain when the outfit is worn, while the sleeves are fully backstitched for strength.

Here’s the kirtle front, with the side panels attached.  I went for a heavier weight linen for the rest of the dress- I wanted something that breathed well, but was durable.

kirtle front with side pieces

So far I’m happy with the linen choice, though my decision not to line the kirtle has presented some interesting challenges.  I’ve never sewn eyelets through only one layer of fabric before, and this dress has about 60 on the kirtle body (40 eyelets up the back, 10 each on the armholes), with another 20 eyelets on the sleeves.  I’ve had to take care when sewing to keep the eyelets correctly shaped and from turning into too oblong of a shape, as once you make the eyelet hole with the awl, it kinda wants to rip along the warp of the fabric with only the one layer of linen.

At this point, the only things left to do are finish sewing the sleeve and armhole eyelets, finish applying bias binding to the armholes and neckline, and hem the gown.  If all goes well, it should be done this weekend.  It’s definitely been a good learning project, and I’m happy with how it’s come out so far.  Then- accessories time!

kirtle with sleeve