My coat for 12th Night is getting quite close to done. Needs hemming & a short collar. But I will probably go sleeveless at this point. See, I still have this crazy idea to wear it over the 1530s gown as more of a giornéa or perhaps it might be called a cioppa — either are types of loose overgowns worn by Italian women of the 15th-16th centuries, though I think the first one is typically open at the sides as well as the front, while the later is a more generic term. Anyway, it’s sewn, lined, the armcyes are finished off, & I even tacked two pockets into the lining, I also have some trim from The Stash plus toggles bought of eBay for down the center front.
Archive for the ‘16th Century’ Category
I didn’t plan on making anything new to wear at 12th Night because I just made a nifty new 1530s dress for Collegium, so of course I wanted to wear that. But I was asked to join the court of Obidiah & Ascelin, and her royal highness requested a festive, wintery 16th-century theme for their coronation, specifically with hats & coats. How could I deny this honor? And besides, I’ve been wanting to make a zimarra — a loose, coat-like garment for Italian period dress — anyway, so I figured I could simply make one to go with my Italian gowns … perhaps even the 1530 dress, tho’ that’d be blurring the lines of historical accuracy a bit in the silhouette. I have some gorgeous deep red, white, & gold silk-cotton blend damask in The Stash which should be perfect for this, as well as a lot of gold trims. And maybe even faux fur. We shall see.
First, inspiration images!
These portraits show several of the things I’m going for: long, loose shape to go over a full gown; short or no sleeves to show the undergown’s sleeves; a variety of collar styles to choose from; fur lining &/or trim; gold &/or embroidered trims; & sticking to a general 1530s-1560s time frame. The basic shape is always the same — a loose overgown without a waist seam & generally the back is flat, without pleating (that appears to be a very late-16th-century addition & mostly in English & Dutch versions of loose gowns). The Italian version in this century tends to have sleeves (unlike the earlier giornea), whereas the English style of loose gowns seemed to be as often sleeved or sleeveless. However, for 12th Night, I may leave off the sleeves & make them later, depending on if I do wear this with the giganto-sleeved 1530s gown or something else.
After owning a fancy new sewing machine that does embroidery for nearly half a year, I finally got around to testing said capabilities just this week. I was spurred on by two things: 1) I was finished with Collegium so I had time & 2) a new group popped up on Facebook devoted to historical machine embroidery. Coincidence? I think not!
The FB group mentioned several pages of free downloadable files of digitized blackwork (one & two) that come from the amazing work of the Blackwork Embroidery Archives (which have free patterns for those who wish to hand-embroider). I had previously looked on EmbroideryDesigns.com & found some fonts that I liked & a bat — since my SCA device features a bat, & my longterm goal is to put bats on all my household linens. So a-downloading I went.
Caveat: While both the free & purchased patterns are all fantastic to embroider (I’ll get to that in a minute), none of them display very well on my machine. Ugh, it’s kind of guesswork! While the designs preloaded on the machine show up crisp & clear on the LCD display, all of the downloaded ones appeared as either blobs or as sketchy connect-the-dots-like images. Updating the file names doesn’t help, since those don’t display. I have no idea how to fix this. I may have to take cameraphone pix & stitch out each pattern to make a sample book of all the downloaded files I like, then cross-reference that to the file number (since that displays). Anyway, do beware of this problem, at least if you have a Babylock machine, since it may be different with other file types.
That said, once I tested out some designs, WOW, how freakin’ cool??? Omg, I love it. See, I do not embroider by hand. I’ve tried, & I hated it. Most I ever did successfully was my initial. I did a fair amount of cross-stitch when I was a kid, but proper embroidery eluded me. And yes, many people have said if you can cross-stitch, you can do blackwork. But whatevs. I have a machine that can do this now!!! Holy crap, it’s amazing. It’s magic. It’s brilliant. It’s totally worth the money spent on the machine.
The hard part is the setup — you REALLY have to plan where you want the design, & then you have to keep fussing with the placement so that the repeat lines up. I sense a steep learning curve, plus each design is a little bit different. So no, I won’t have it down for a while.
I decided to make a square-necked smock as a test garment because I actually need one (all my smocks are round-necked, but I have several square-necked gowns). I copied one of my smocks for the pattern; it’s super-basic & sleeveless because sleeved undergarments irritate me. I made it in a soft, thin cotton, which I knew would not be ideal for embroidering (a heavier linen would be better), but linen feels like sandpaper on my skin. I don’t care how historically accurate it is, I’ve tried so many types, & unless it’s a blend with cotton or rayon, it rubs me raw. I’m so much more comfortable with cotton.
Of course, I made a rookie mistake that I knew the second after I made it: I cut everything out before embroidering! Doh. When embroidering near an edge, like a neckline, if you cut fabric away, you won’t have anything left to put inside the embroidery hoop. I usually bind the neck & arm edges of my smocks, so I cut it & then realized the problem. So I had to make a neckline facing just to give me enough fabric for hooping. Still didn’t have enough fabric to hoop the arm holes (tho’ I suppose I could have if I put sleeves on, but see above re: hating sleeves), so no embroidery there. Ah well, this is only a test.
Definitely a test … some misunderstanding of how the pattern fit within the hoop space meant that one side has poorly aligned motifs — let’s just call that the back. And the motifs aren’t as tightly closed as they should be on either side. Still, it’s kind of pretty & was a good, wearable experiment. Or it would be for someone else … because after I finished it, I found that somehow the smock is about two sizes too big for me! Yeah, even tho’ I copied it off a garment I’ve been wearing for years. I’m guessing that something in cutting the square neck & adding a facing instead of binding put off the measurements just enough to be slipping off my shoulders. Oh well — it was a learning experience! And the result can go to the garb exchange at 12th Night for another lady to wear.
This is the gown I made to portray Veronica Gambara, the hostess of the “Feast in 1530s Correggio” at the SCA’s Collegium Occidentalis XLVII. I was running the event and wanted to cap off the day with a festive meal set in a specific time and place in history (which is not typically done in the West Kingdom of the Society for Creative Anachronism). With the great help and creativity of my dear friends, we turned a generic church room into a grand renaissance dining hall filled with candlelight, music, wine, and food. I played the widowed ruler of this small Italian city-state, a poetess and diplomat, known for inviting diverse peoples from foreign lands to her court — thus, quite appropriate for the somewhat unusual gathering of SCA dignitaries and people in 16th-century garb from various places who were at the event.
I can’t believe how fast this gown went together! Ok, it didn’t hurt that I essentially had the patterns already done. But the sewing was all straightforward stuff, nothing complicated. Attaching the parts together was really just a lot of cartridge-pleating, which I find easy — well, tough on the fingers, and yes, blood was spilled, but that’s just because I was sewing through heavy fabric and I can’t stand using a thimble. Known issue.
There isn’t much trim to this gown, so it looks a bit spartan. Or is this what they call “simple elegance”? I just hand-sewed two lines of black grosgrain ribbon around the neck, somewhat like the inspiration portrait. Silk ribbon would have been nicer, but I didn’t have time to order any online and that’s not something I can find in local stores.
I was going to make a fancy balzo, but then I realized I had a funny little roll hat thing that I’d made and used as a demonstration for an SCA newcomer’s event to wear with a veil. It’s of questionable historical accuracy but looks kinda nice on, plus it’s of a burgundy brocade fabric that goes really well with this gown. Tip it around on the side and *ta da* balzo-esque appearance! I added a filigree gold piece and a ton of gold trim crisscrossed to bling it up. You’ll just have to wait until I have pix wearing it with the appropriate hairstyle.
Speaking of wearing it, I tried on the gown with a shirt (several different shirts, even) to get the look of the portrait and HATED IT. For one, every period shirt I have makes the forearms of these sleeves way too freakin’ tight. They fit fine without another layer under them, but all my shirts are too full-sleeved, even the ones that I cut slimmer to fit underneath gown sleeves. I think it’s just the stiffness of the velvet. But worse, the beautiful wide neckline and shoulders of this gown look AWFUL with a high-necked shirt/partlet underneath. It’s beyond prissy into absurdly layered. Maybe my physical proportions are so different from the tall, long-necked woman in the portrait or I cut the neckline of the gown differently. I don’t know. But the shirt/partlet thing did NOT work at all. Icky. At least I realized that now instead of the night of the event.
When I did have the gown on, I pinned the hem, since that was the last thing to sew. All that’s left after that is to figure out a fancy belt.
There’s not much to show for it, but really, I’ve started and am, in fact, well on the way with my gown to portray Veronica Gambara at the Collegium class “A Feast in 1530s Correggio.” The gown is a loose interpretation of the portrait shown on the right. Except I’m using burgundy velveteen from The Stash (I love the pink, really I do, but when you already *have* appropriate fabric, sometimes you actually should try to use it ;-).
I started with the giganto sleeves of d00m. I loves me some big crazy sleeves, and these are the biggest ones I’ve made yet. First, I enlarged the pattern I had drafted for the similarly shaped sleeves from my French gown (note: always keep patterns you’ve drafted for yourself! but try to write down when you made them, so you know what the size might be, and it helps if you mark whether or not seam allowances are already included). I needed to enlarge the top part of the sleeve twice to get it suitably enormous. They still might not be as freakishly large as in the portrait, but I also didn’t want them to overwhelm petite me — the lady in this portrait appears taller and with a very long neck, whereas I’m much shorter and stubbier. No need to make me look dumpy!
Then I cut the final sleeves out with an interlining of twill for body, along with a linen lining and the velvet outer layer. These got sewn up, with the bottom edge of the top section gathered into the snug lower portion of the sleeve. I’ll cartridge-pleat the sleeve head into the armscye.
Next up was the bodice, and I used the same side-lacing bodice pattern I’d used for the French gown and the grey kirtle. But when I wore that kirtle the previous week at Mists Coronet, it felt a little snug, so I altered the pattern a smidge, which necessitated a fit-check with Sarah’s help. Once done, I sewed that up, also with a twill interlining, then put a narrow strip of boning down each lacing side and made eyelets, since my fancy new machine can do that. These eyelets weren’t perfect due to the thickness of the material (twill + velvet), but neither would my handmade eyelets. They’re functional, and that’s what counts. I bound the bottom of the bodice with linen so it’s tidy when I cartridge-pleat the skirt to it.
Lastly, I cut out the skirt — I only had enough fabric for three panels, so I hope it won’t look skimpy. It’ll be about 130″ around in width, which is just barely reasonable IMNSHO. Now I have to assemble the parts of the gown together, then buy and apply some black ribbon for trim. I’m not doing the fur sleeves (way too hot for California!), but I would like to figure out the belt and have some gold cord that would be a nice, rich look. And, oh yeah, a blingy balzo to top off the outfit.
As I last blogged, I needed a partlet for my Venetian courtesan gown. Well, here it is. I ended up going the simple route because I had a spectacular fail when I attempted a fancy ruff neckline. The saving grace is that it was easy to just hack the whole thing off for this no-neck version which is perfectly historically accurate (and easy to cover up with trim! yay, trim!).
Working with organza is never easy, & French seams always seem to break my brain. That whole ‘sewing right side out’ thing. However, here’s a pro tip for ya: have a chopstick handy, preferably a plastic one. That’s the best tool ever for turning the seams as you iron them out smoothly. Try it, you’ll like it.
Because the partlet closes up the neckline some, I decided I needed a new necklace — a simple choker that wasn’t quite as big & chunky as the necklace I’ve been wearing with my courtesan gown. In the jewelry-making stash, I found just enough gold beads to go with the numerous pearls & strung up a necklace easy-peasy.
One can never have enough bling, tis true. At Forever 21, I found some cheap & surprisingly appropriate faux pearl & goldtone filigree necklaces that I knew I could make use of. Turns out, one would be the right length for a girdle around my courtesan gown. I sewed it down with light tacking stitches so the girdle followed the waistline’s point in back & front. Don’t know what I’ll use the other necklace for, but it’s in The Stash for now.
A costume is never truly complete. You keep adding bits to it, changing accessories, modifying trims, wearing the outfit different ways. Costumes evolve over time.
For the upcoming renfaire Much Ado About Sebastapol, I need a partlet to wear with my Venetian courtesan gown when I perform with Bella Donna. This small addition to my outfit will make it even more historically accurate & a bit less, um, busty, which is better for this very family-friendly faire.
So I looked around for inspiration & settled on a few portraits that I like…
There are, of course, fancier ones I like too, but any of these three I could whip up in the short time I have before this faire (especially considering I’ll be away in Kauai for a week, & no, I am not taking sewing with me on vacation ;-). I also had to limit myself to partlets I could make with materials I currently have in The Stash, e.g., plain white silk organza & gold lace. There just isn’t enough lead-time to order embroidered, striped, or other types of patterned fabrics. Still, these options are all pretty, & I should have time to bling it up a little bit.
There comes a time in every costumer’s life when she or he must clean out the closets. And why not pass along things you’re no longer using to someone who could? Thus, I’m having a virtual garage sale of some perfectly usable costumes, accessories, & costume reference books that I don’t need any more but perhaps you do!
This specific sale has the added intention of helping me fund a project I’m working on — the 1530s feast for Collegium Occidentalis, an SCA event I’m running, which occurs this November. My team & I are creating a ton of decorations to turn an ordinary church social hall into an Italian Renaissance feast hall, & we have a miniscule budget. In fact, all of the budget so far has gone towards the food. So this fundraiser will really help us make & buy period-esque candleholders, banners, wall hangings, & linens for the tables.
Take a look at what’s for sale here & email me through the address on that page if you’re interested in something. Thanks!
Sometimes, you don’t have time to sew. Or there are certain things you just don’t care to sew for yourself. Or you realize that someone, out there, somewhere is making & selling something better than you could sew & for a price that is more reasonable than you tearing out your hair to attempt to create a similar item. There’s no shame in not making every last item of your historical kit with your own two hands — few people in history did! Then, as now, people specialized, & some artisans were master embroiderers or master cordwainers or master wigmakers or master milliners. It’s a reenactorism to assume that one person must know how to exquisitely make everything she wears from skin-out all by her lonesome.
I’m always on the lookout for good value in readymade historical clothing & accessories. This isn’t easy because inexpensive items tend to be wildly historically inaccurate, & accurate reproductions tend to be wildly expensive. I do want to support skilled artisans who are selling their work because I can appreciate what goes into it. You’re not getting mass-produced junk from foreign sweatshops, & everything from the materials to the tools used may be higher quality. Of course, you still have to suss out these sellers & make sure their goods are worthwhile.
Here are a few vendors I’ve found to be reliable, reasonable, & a good deal, in a variety of historical eras & items… (more…)