Thursday, 30 May 2013

Toddler's 14th Century Shirt

The shirt I said I’d start on Monday got finished earlier today. As with most historic sewing projects this year, I fit it into one of the HSF challenges. It’s made up from three rectangles, two squares and two triangles.

Hiding behind the straw hat from challenge # 9he looked so
adoringly sweet in one of the pictures I took, but as I try
to keep his privacy somewhat intact, I won’t post that one. Sorry.

As you might know by now I try to save fabric (and thereby money) when I can, and so this shirt is made from a medium coarse linen runner bought in a charity shop, and, as I could only get the body and sleeves from out of that (by the way, industrially made linen items are not cut along a thread), some old scraps from an old linen dress of mine that had the same quality, for the gores and gussets. The two fabrics differ slightly in shade, but not enough to be very noticeable. The gores are both pieced.

I believe that this might have been a possible practice at the time, cutting down old linens for the children. If they didn’t match perfectly, it was not as important as being able to dress the little one. One plus to making children’s linens this way is that the material is already worn soft.

 Felled seams and the different shades of the fabrics.

As usual, the shirt is hand sewn with waxed linen thread, and all seams are neatly felled. Usually I’d have hem stitched the hems, but I made the shirt too large, so B will be able to wear it next year as well, and running stitches will be quicker to take out then. The shirt might possibly be large enough for him to wear even the year after that. The sleeves have deep hems, and can be let down 4,5 centimetres, and the bottom hem can be let down 3 centimetres. It’s also cut really wide in the body and sleeves.

The Challenge: # 11 Squares, Rectangles and Triangles.

An old linen runner, scraps from an old linen dress.

None. I measured and cut.

It would probably work for the whole Middle Ages, and likely both before and after too, but it’s intended for 14th century use. A wide, rounded neckline might have been more common, but the higher keyhole neckline protects better against sun and cold when worn closed and overlapping a bit.

Linen thread.

How historically accurate is it?
Pretty much; the material, construction and stitching is all period.

Hours to complete:
Maybe seven or eight.

First worn: For the pictures.

Total cost:
30 SEK ($4,5; £3; €3,5).

Sunday, 26 May 2013

A Pile of Planned Projects

As our participation in this years living history and re-enactment season draws ever nearer I, as always, find myself heaped with 14th century projects that needs to get done. That’s the problem with having too scattered interests; you don’t make the things you will need until the need is upon you…. As I can’t bear the thought of cheating and machine sew our clothes it takes a bit of time to get it all finished. At the moment I’m working on:

- Tobias’ new buttoned cote. There will be 34 cloth buttons down the front, and a bunch on each forearm. I guess at least 50 in total.

- Shoes for little B. One is stitched, awaiting finishing, the other one not yet begun. They will eventually be front laced, not tied round the ankle as when tried on in the picture.

- A shirt for B. Well, I’ve not really begun it, only ironed the linen, but as I want it done for the next HSF challenge I’ll start it tomorrow.

What I have planned is:

For me
- A shift. Unbleached linen is ordered.
- A veil and wimple – I have semi fine, bleached linen for that.
- A new kirtle. Will be remade from an old grey wool early medieval cote.

For Tobias
- A new pair of hose – brown wool is ordered.
- A new bag hat. We have a lovely thin red wool for that.

For B
- A new cote or two. Wool left over from making Tobias’ clothes will do nicely.
- Possibly a new coif. Fabric for that might be found in my linen scrap box, or the stash.
- Fake cloth diapers, to go over his disposable ones. Again, linen scrap box.
- A period looking toy or two wouldn’t hurt…

Household items
- Pillow cases, from this linen/cotton blend.

- Pilgrims’ satchels. Coarse wool fabric from the wool scrap box (I have several scrap boxes…).

- Linen towels. If large enough linen scraps can be found.

I will likely also make some toddler’s clothes for a friend’s son, in return for nalbound socks for B, as she is much better at nalbinding than I am, and I am the better seamstress. Trading work is a good thing.

Now, not all of the above are equally important. I will have to choose carefully in what order to make things. I also have a paper to write, so as to finally finish my education to be a specialist nurse in paediatrics. Though I’m a stay at home Mum, a university education is always good to have. With all of the above, all I can say is; it's a fine thing that Sunday is a day of rest!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Cinderella Dress

I was a little girl when I first saw Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella from 1965, starring Lesley Ann Warren. I fell in love with it completely and wholeheartedly, and no other version can so far compete with it in my eyes. Certainly, the set is a bit too stylized for my taste, and the costumes are not period – but then, it is a Hollywood interpretation of the Middle Ages from the 60’s, so not much should be expected. Some of the costumes are charming nonetheless. The cast and characters however are just what I think they should be: Cinderella is beautiful, meek and scared of confrontation as she should (if she weren’t she’d not got herself in that serving position to start with); the Prince has a charming personality, and is so sweet when left by the mysterious girl; the King and Queen a fine, properly regal couple; Cinderella’s stepfamily a fun mix of meanness and comical relief. Unfortunately it’s no longer available on DVD. If it’s ever released again I’ll be one of the first to buy it.

As you might guess, little B was  
coming to me when this picture was taken.

I imagine more than one little girl wanted Cinderella’s ball gown, and it is beautiful, though I’d have liked it better with sleeves; it would have fitted in better with the medieval-ish theme. However, being a bit of a Plain Jane I always loved Cinderella’s simple work dress better. The same kind of dresses can be seen on some of the extras. I love how they all have not only blouses, but whole dresses under those sleeveless ones.   

I’ve had an olive-greenish cotton twill fabric in my stash since I was in my late teens, and never could quite decide what to make from it. Recently I decided I wanted a plain Cinderella dress, and this fabric would be perfect for it. 

I did not want to make a reproduction; I just wanted the same feeling, so my dress in constructed in a different way than the movie costume. The bodice is made from four panels, based on my old blue Belle dress, and all fitting is in those four seams, so no darts. I like the clean look it gives. The cotton lining and fashion fabric are treated as one, and all bodice seams are piped, as are the neckline, sleeve holes and the waist seam. 

It closes in the back with hooks and eyes. The bodice is hand sewn, as I am not best friends with my sewing machine, and piping turns out much nicer if I do it by hand. 

It took me a bit of thinking to figure out how to do the skirt. I wanted a ¾ circle skirt, but I couldn’t fit all three panels and still get the length I wanted. After a while I realized I could piece the skirt at the hem in the back. Duh. Had this been a period dress it would have taken no thinking at all to figure that out – with historic clothing piecing is a matter of cause. Excuse the wrinkles: the picture were taken after wearing the dress for a few hours. 

The skirt has pleats at the waist at the front, back and sides, and sewn in smooth in between, and the hem is hand stitched. As with the mid 1800’s common dress, I lost weight between cutting out the bodice and finishing it, so after the dress was done I had to take it in five centimetres, which is about two inches.  I can’t understand that it was so much too large, as I don’t think I’ve lost that much weight, but I don’t think the fabric has stretched either. Now it fits well again; almost too well, just in case I'll loose some more weight.

I really like this dress style, and will very likely make more. I wore the dress for church today, but worn with tricot tops, or coloured, more sturdy blouses it could easily work for everyday. I have a nice denim-look fabric that could work well....

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Child's Medieval Straw Hat

I didn’t think I’d have anything for the HSF’s ninth challenge, Flora and Fauna, but this morning I realized I did! A very small project, but still.

I want medieval straw hats for all of us to wear at sunny events. There are pictures of straw hats beeing used by farmers at harvest through the centuries.

  Maciejowski Bible, French (?) mid 13th century - way too early for us.

 Tacuinum Sanitatis, Italian, c. 1390-1400.

 Great Bible, Britain (?), c. 1405-15.

Last week I found a straw hat in a charity shop that would fit little B. It was your average little girls straw hat, with a round crown, and a brim angling out from it at a ninety degree angle. It was undecorated, but had a petersham band on the inside. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of it before refashioning it, which feels really stupid.

I took off the petersham, wet the hat, and when it was pretty much soaked, I put it over a plastic covered wooden bowl I thought had a good shape. I worked the hat a bit to make it shape itself to the bowl, and to make the brim angle down slightly. When I was satisfied with the shape, I let it rest on the bowl for a couple of hours. I then took it off and put it upside down, to encourage the hat to keep the flat crown, and let it dry over night. The crown was still a bit damp in the morning, so I turned it right side up .

After drying it looked just like I’d envisioned, and fit B very well, with room to grow. Little B loves it, which helped a lot when he wore it last weekend to a medieval fair we visited. I added a wool cord to it, to prevent it getting lost.

The Challenge: # 9 Flora and Fauna


None. I looked at pictures of medieval straw hats, and tried to imitate them.

Late 14th century.

Twisted wool cord, from my stash.

How historically accurate is it?
Tolerably. The rough shape is seen on medieval straw hats, but it’s sewn with plastic tread. Shudder. I intend to restitch it with linen thread when there’s time, but in the meantime, the plastic only shows if you look really close.

Hours to complete:
Maybe five to ten minutes to cut off the petersham, soak and reshape. One minute to add the cord, that was a left over from another project.

First worn:
For the pictures.

Total cost:
20 SEK ($3; £2; €2,3).

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Corded Petticoat

Several years ago I began working on a corded petticoat, and almost a year and a half ago, just before little B was born, I finished it. As I didn’t have stays that fit me at the time (first being pregnant and then having a post partum figure), and didn’t want to wear the petticoat without that support, I never hade pictures taken of me wearing the petticoat back then. Now, with my new regency stays looking good enough with it, I finally have some pictures!

The petticoat is completely hand sewn, and has 82 rows of cording sandwiched between two layers of fabric. 

As the 1830’s up to the mid 1850’s, when a petticoat such as this would have been worn, isn’t a period I normally do at this time, I wanted the petticoat to fit a large span of waist measurements, so I won’t have to remake it if I happen to be pregnant (or just gained a lot of weight) when the opportunity to wear it comes. 

To accomplish this I pleated the petticoat to a very long waistband, which gathers up on a drawstring. It’s very flexible, without being too clumsy at the waist. 

When wearing it, I pull the gathers toward the back (which I forgot to take a picture of), as I want most fullness there. If it’s a period practice?  No idea. 

The petticoat is not ironed or starched in the pictures, as I won’t be using it in a foreseeable future. When it is, I think it will work very well in giving the skirts a bit of poof.

Making all the cording took quite a bit of time, but I liked the work. I might make an 1820’s corded petticoat in the future, if I decide to make a dress from that decade. I would also like to try weaving a petticoat, as in the majority of cases the cords were woven in, not stitched. As I have neither the skills, the loom, nor the time for it at the moment, it’ll have to wait for a future date.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Swedish mid 1800's Commoner's Dress, a.k.a. The Insanely Pieced Dress

I didn’t participate in the Historical Sew Fortnightly's ninth challenge as I had too much else to do, and couldn’t think of what to make with what little time I had. I was, amongst other things, actually working on challenge # 10.

I have long planned to make a mid 19th century common woman’s dress, and when I saw the theme for the HSF tenth challenge, literature, I realised this dress would fit in there. The book I chose is Utvandrarna (The Emigrants) by Vilhelm Moberg, which is about the first group of people in a certain Swedish farming community to emigrate to America. The main female character, Kristina, have several personality traits I can see in myself. I can especially sympathise with her fear of the dangers of bringing three little children on such a long and dangerous journey, and her grief in leaving her home, family, and friends forever. 

As always, economy is a factor to be counted with, especially in outfits from periods I don’t really do, but I was lucky enough to find an old tablecloth in a charity shop, in colours that I love, and with a hand woven look. As the tablecloth measured only 1,5 x 2,5 metres, this dress proved to be a study in piecing:

 - each sleeve is made from ten (very carefully placed) pieces, not counting the cuffs

- the lining of the cuffs are made from four and seven pieces respectively
- the piping is made from twelve pieces, and sadly I didn’t have enough scraps to pipe the armscyes.
- the hem binding is made from seven pieces
- I needed to steal a bit from the skirt to have enough for the sleeves, and had to put a piece of another fabric at the centre front. 

It’s perfectly period though: there are several examples of skirts being pieced with a different fabric in front, where it would be hidden by the apron. The result of the fabric shortage, however, is that the skirt is slightly shorter and less full than I’d have liked. 

Also the cuffs are narrower than I had intended. A handful of tiny scraps are all that was left of the tablecloth when the dress was finished.

The bodice is cut in four pieces, two in the front and two in the back, the checks making a v-pattern, as was common in these dresses. 

The front is shaped by darts, and there is boning in the front, darts, side and centre back. It closes in the front with thirteen pairs of hooks and eyes. 

The plan was to make a dress that could be worn without a corset, as that was likely the most common thing for this social class in Sweden at that time. EDIT: I'm no longer sure that is necessary the case, though extant stays from this class are few and far between. The ones I have found are of much simpler construction than fashionable corsets of the time. END OF EDIT. It would have worked very well, except for the fact that I lost weight during the making of the dress. When first stitched together it fit perfectly, like someone painted it on me. Then after a week or two it was sort of loose, and I had to take it in a couple of inches. When trying on the finished dress it was too loose again. Sigh. As there is a nice open air museum where my in-laws live I planed to have pictures of the dress taken there, while we visited them. I finished the dress the day before we were to take pictures, but I decided not to bother with the loose fit anymore just then, but spend some more social time with the family.

The sleeves are smooth at the top, and gathered to a cuff, and closes with a hook and sewn bar. The skirt has a facing, and is also bound at the hem. 

The skirt width is taken in at the waist by knife pleats, and a few deep cartridge pleats at the centre back.

I wore the dress with the apron and kerchief belonging to my folk costume, as that is what would have been worn with these dresses by country women, and also because I haven’t had the time to make more simple, everyday versions of them. Only problem is that my apron and kerchief is from the county Skåne, and the people in the book is from the county Småland, and there were some differences in traditional dress. Instead of looking like a poor, starving woman from Småland, I look like a woman from the more prosperous Skåne, who would not have had to emigrate to get food on the table. Ah well – that is what my ancestors were. 

As for underwear, I’d have liked to have worn the dress with wool petticoats as well as a quilted one, as that was common, but so far I haven’t had time or material to make any. Instead I wore it over one of my everyday wool skirts, and my still not blogged about corded petticoat. Not right, but gave a tolerable poof. I also wore my regency shift.

Little B was with me, and had pictures taken in his clothes from challenge # 6. Need I say I found him adorable? I always do, but there is something extra with a child in period clothing…

The Challenge: # 10 Literature

An old cotton tablecloth for the dress, another for the bodice lining, and a piece of a third for the piecing in the skirt. A bit of cotton sheeting from my stash as facing and sleeve lining, and a linen scrap from an old skirt my mother had when I was little for the binding.

None. I looked at lots of pictures of original dresses of this kind, especially lots of detailed pictures of a one dress sent to me by a friend who works at a museum, and then draped my own.

Mid 19th century.

Cotton cording for the piping, hooks and eyes, linen thread.

How historically accurate is it?
Very much. It’s close in style to other dresses of this kind, and it’s hand stitched with waxed linen thread, using period stitches. The use of several different fabrics in the lining, facing and binding can be seen in period dresses of this kind.

Hours to complete:
Many. The piecing took an awful lot of time….

First worn:
For the pictures.

Total cost:
120 SEK ($18,3; £11,8; €14), including hooks and eyes.