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.  😀



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