Retaining Bags for Their Majesties of the East

August 12, 2013 at 2:32 pm (Finished Projects, For Others, Sewing and Garb)

More details to come, but I have pictures so I’m posting :)







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16th Century Florentine Gown

July 20, 2013 at 10:25 am (16th Century Gowns, Current Projects, Sewing and Garb)

Wow, this project actually has me adding a new category for the 16th century…. I guess its fitting that after such a long hiatus I would need to expand my projects into a later time period!

In planning for this summer, I found myself in a pretty good place for garb this year, and I really didn’t need to construct a lot of new items to get through this year.  I did want, though, a few items that can be quickly put on and would be relatively cool in weight for some of the hotter days.  And I’ve been wanting to branch out into a new style.  So, I decided I’d go with a later style, and purchased this pattern from Reconstructing History for a Florentine Gown.  While I’ve never used a pattern from them before, their reputation is exceptional, and this seemed like the perfect option since I was looking to dabble a bit in this style, but not stray too much in time and resources from the 14th century.

I will upload pictures in August, but I constructed three of these gowns.  They were relatively simple to put together.  The pattern covers a wide range of sizes, and I ended up tweaking it a little to get a hybrid pattern that seemed to best fit my measurements.  What fascinated me about these gowns was the research surrounding how to achieve the right look to the bodice.  Period pieces clearly show a smooth and supported bust, and there seems to be several predominant theories as to how to achieve that look. 

Let me be perfectly clear, here… I have done absolutely NO primary research on this, and I am relying on a few hours worth of looking into research by people much more educated on this topic than I am.  If you are looking to learn more about these dresses, please find those who know a lot more than I do on this subject.  Honestly, these are likely the only gowns of this style I will make, as I really wanted them for one specific wardrobe niche, and I didn’t have the time to thoroughly research at this point in time.  I wanted an overview of what was out there to know I was keeping my gowns reasonably correct, because what is the point of starting with a great pattern if you are then going to just do it wrong?  Bottom line:  I’m not at all certain I’ve gotten these right, but I’m pretty certain I haven’t gotten them blatantly wrong.

What I found indicated that the look of the bodice could be achieved through a combination of wearing foundation garments (which seem to be simpler versions of the gowns themselves, and may or may not have been designed to be more supportive?), as well as having many layers to the bodice itself (lining, interfacing, and an outer layer).  Since I was trying to make something like and cool and simple for Pennsic using linen, I decided I would strive to create what could potentially be considered a type of simple foundation garment for a more complete ensemble.  I wanted the right look for the bodice, as maybe I will someday use this as an underlayer, but I had no plans to embellish these gowns or even necessarily give them sleeves, and so they likely would not have been an outer layer.  At least I don’t think so.

I cut the bodice out of linen, and lined it in linen as well.  I modified the pattern a bit to try and achieve the correct look.  Since I relied heavily on how I make fitted dresses supportive through tweaking the seams right below the bust, I’m honestly not sure if I did this correctly or not.  It was a lot more difficult to adjust to side back seams as the only places you could really adjust, and ultimately I ended up “cheating” a bit by making the lining layer a little more supportive than the outer layer.  This resulted in the look I wanted for the bust, but also the smooth look of the overall gown, as the out layer was not as tight.  I have no idea if this is even remotely plausible for the period construction of this dress (Have I said that I am not entirely sure what I’m doing??)  but it seemed reasonable to me based on what I know about gown construction.

The bodice is front laced, and will have hand sewn eyelets, and I gather pleated the skirt.

Overall, I am happy with how these turned out as a first endeavor, and I know that if I do ever create another of these gowns I will definitely allow more time for research, as I found the discussion behind how the bodice appearance is achieved fascinating and I really wish I had more time to devote to making sure that I understood the options  and had done the construction correctly.

Updated with Pictures! :)

Pattern Pieces



Modifications to the Pattern (I raised the shoulder seam and took the sides in, then curved the side seams on the lining)

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This achieved a slightly fitted look (Sorry for the bad pics)

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Final Dresses… The green ended up the least fitted, the pink and blue are more fitted and have fuller skirts. 

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Teal Linen Fitted Dress

July 11, 2013 at 10:15 am (Finished Projects, For Myself)

So I was all excited to finally have a picture to add to one of my dress posts, and I came to add the photo and realized I never added any information about this dress!  So this is a teal fitted dress in the same style as the other gowns I’ve posted.  See those posts, and these two websites for more details on gown construction: by Mistress Mathilde Bourette who taught me this technique

and which is also amazing and has a fabulous comparison of straight vs. curved front seams.

So this dress is made from teal linen with eyelets in DMC cotton.  You can see a little of the white linen chemise at the neckline.  I love this dress.  It is soft and comfy and great for hot weather.  And I sincerely thank Albreda Aylese for capturing this photo while I was teaching.


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Teal Linen Viking with Appliquéd Turtle

June 24, 2012 at 3:49 pm (Finished Projects, For Myself, Sewing and Garb)

This entry is subtitled “Don’t look at all those unfinished projects over there… look at this one I’m just starting over here!”

So I’ve reached that time of year where my persona has a bit of an identity crisis… I love fitted gowns, and hands down, I think nothing beats the look of a nicely fitted 14th century gown…. however, there is very little that beats the ease of being able to put together a viking apron dress in less than 4 hours, thereby yielding a fantastic canvas to have fun and get creative.  Add to that the fact that by their very nature, apron dresses have no sleeves, I have only ever needed to rip and re-sew an apron dress *once*, and I have yet to throw one across the room, and well… the apron dress won this time.

My current project is to embellish a teal linen viking dress with a turtle.  This turtle, to be specific (which is the combination of several different turtle designs):


As of right now, the apron dress is assembled and ready to have the hems marked and cut.  For putting together apron dresses, I use the fantastic pattern by Lady Nastassiia Ivanova Medvedeva, called Tasha, which can be found here.  It works wonderfully.  (See above about never ever throwing one across the room).

I am starting with a cream base for the turtle, and will be layering brown and green fabric to create the pieces of the shell.  I have found from previous projects, that its best to work from the top down, and so I will be starting by blanket-stitching the green pieces of shell to the brown pieces of shell, and then I will blanket stitch those pieces to the cream base.  After that, the entire turtle will be blanket stitched to the dress.  I plan to use linen thread for the stitching.

I am also going to embellish the seams of the viking with the same double herringbone stitching I’ve done previously.  I’d like to play with the spacing a bit this time, though, and see if I can create a different look.  I will also be embellishing the top and bottom hems with a chevron stitch (see here), which I have never tried before.  This stitching is going to be done with DMC cotton, because I’m having trouble finding the colors I want in linen or wool.

So here are a few pictures of cutting out and piecing together the turtle.  The first few are taken on the teal linen to show the color, and the last one is on a flatter surface to try and better place the pieces.

Update 7/5/2012:  I’ve added a photo at the bottom with the “inner shell” pieces all stitched down, and all of the shell pieces in place.  I am now about halfway done stitching down the “outer shell” pieces, and will add a photo of those as soon as they are complete!

Update 8/12/2012:  Its Done!  Its actually been finished for about two weeks now, but I have been forgetting to update.  There are pictures at the bottom of both the completed turtle and the finished dress.  Please forgive the clutter and the wrinkled edges of the apron dress— finally remembering to post meant not having the time to make the pictures a bit more “staged” :-)

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Grey and Navy Hoods with Roses and Thistles! (9/28/2011)

October 4, 2011 at 10:35 pm (Finished Projects, For Others, Sewing and Garb)

So after posting the details on the Navy and Gold “Test Hood” it only seems fair to post the finished product of the Navy and Grey hoods to be used for the Queen’s Guard for Queen Kiena.  With much embroidery help from Duchess Katerine Stanhope and cutting/sewing help from Lady Alanna (see her blog here), 20 of these hoods are now complete!

These were constructed of Grey Cashmere and Navy Linen, and are all closed front with a Rose and Thistle to the left of center.  More details on the construction process can be found under the entry for the test hood.

Without further ado, Pictures! (The first photo is of the hoods in use at Coronation, and is courtesy of Baroness Cateline la Broderesse)

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Blue Wool Overdress for Coronation (8/22/2011):

September 1, 2011 at 8:48 am (Finished Projects, For Myself, Sewing and Garb)

Although I have a separate post about the entire coronation outfit and I will post pictures of the completed ensemble there,  I wanted to make a new post for just the overdress so that I may go into a bit more detail about how I constructed this dress and the changes I’ve made to my pattern/design.  These details also reflect changes that were made to the gold linen under dress of that same outfit, but as many of my patterns are yellow, its easiest to demonstrate some of these things using the blue overdress.

As I’ve mentioned before,  I have been making these gowns long enough that I tend to use a hybrid system of drafting a pattern from my current favorite gown that fits and then re-fitting each new gown once the panels are sewn together.  I have found that I am almost never able to sew the gown entirely from a pattern, as my size and the flexibility of each fabric varies enough that a pattern does not yield a fully supportive gown.  However, I do not need to start with a gown from scratch each time, either, as a basic pattern is sufficient as long as I leave enough seam allowance at the back and the sides to really play with the fit when assembled.

If you are looking for information on how to fit these gowns and make your own pattern, I highly recommend both: by Mistress Mathilde Bourette who taught me this technique

and which is also amazing and has a fabulous comparison of straight vs. curved front seams.

I have found that gowns with a straight front seam provide a more consistent fit for me personally, but I think it depends on your body type as to which you may prefer.

To begin, I lay the body piece out onto two layers of fabric, making sure that the front and back seams (straight portion of the pattern) are lined up on the grain of the fabric to ensure the best support and fit.  Since I tweak the pattern once sewn together, I do not need to use a left and right piece, but can use the same pattern for all four panels.  I incorporate a fuller skirt into the pattern piece, but if desired you could use a more narrow pattern and side gores. For the front and back gores, I used a 46″ square since I wanted a very full skirt for this dress.

Recently, I’ve been struggling a bit with the armhole and sleeve design of my latest pattern, and so I was focused on getting a new gown that had a better sleeve fit this time around. In my recent gowns, the arm hole has been gradually getting larger, as I’ve found the sleeve to fit most comfortably that way, and it increased my range of motion.  However, the fit does not seem entirely right to me with that pattern, and I’ve had several issues with the shoulders sliding or support decreasing over time.  I wanted to try and go back to the “proper” method of fitting the sleeve right up under the armpit to see if I could tweak that for the same level of comfort and range of motion.

From this point forward, the photos will just show the pattern on the navy without placing the pattern at the edge just for the sake of better illustrating my changes.  This is the original pattern:

To start, I used the same yellow cotton pattern that I’ve referred to before, which was based off of a previous well fitting gown.  I adapted this pattern by bringing the fabric higher into my armpit, as I really wanted to the armhole moved higher. This is the adapted piece:

I also sewed the sleeve seams with 2 inches of seam allowance, instead of 1, also raising the entire pattern and bringing the side seams higher.  This provided me with plenty of fabric and left me in a position to basically refit the entire pattern from the waist up.

After starting the construction this way, I sewed all four panels together and added the front and back gores at the appropriate height.  I baisted the front seam where the eyelets will be, as this is sufficient for the initial fittings, and put the dress on inside out to begin getting a better fit.  With help, I then pinned and took in the top of the side seams so that they fit snug but not too tight, and then took in the seams right below my bust to achieve a more supportive fit.  This was not the final time I’d take these seams in, but it was enough to ensure that no major changes will be needed to these seams.

The result of all of these adjustments was a pattern that fit higher on my body, and allowed for the armhole to begin up under my armpit. Here is the navy gown placed over the original pattern and adapted piece to show how much the pattern differs from what I started with:

The next step was to mark the top of the armhole at the shoulder joint, and begin sleeve construction.  For the sleeves, I once again started with a page by Mistress Mathilde, which can be found here.  From this, I drafted the basic sleeve design on yellow cotton, and tested to make sure I was happy with the design and fit.

The initial design sat very strangely, and did not have the tippets hanging well at all… not to mention, for whatever reason they did not fit the armhole very well either!  So I used those to make up a second mock up, changing the curve at the top a little, and altering the length of the sleeve vs the tippet.  The two images below show the initial design, and the second one with my additional changes. 

When I attached these to the dress, they still seemed to hang a little funny, but hoped this was mainly just due to it being a stiffer fabric than I’m used to working with.  I took note of a few more changes (adding a little length to the sleeve and narrowing the tippet a little), and moved onwards to working with the “real” fabric.

After a bit of an adventure in trying to figure out how to cut and sew the navy wool and white lining together to have both sleeves showing blue on the outside, white on the inside, and not end up with two right or two left sleeves…. and I still ended up with two right sleeves.  After a bit of fussing, re-cutting, new seams, and some prayer… I was once again at the point of fitting the sleeves into the armhole and hoping that they would fit well and hang nicely….

And this time they did!  I  made it past the sleeve step– woo hoo!  From here on out, its a matter of re-fitting the gown and sewing the hems and eyelets…. I’m almost done!

This last picture is of the gown at Coronation worn over the gold linen under dress.  While I got all the hems done, the eyelets were not finished, and so this project is not *quite* complete yet– but I was quite happy with how it turned out, and will post more photos when the eyelets are done.

Photo by Baroness Cateline la Broderesse

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Navy and Gold Hood with Crenulated Dags (8/21/2011)

August 29, 2011 at 10:25 pm (Finished Projects, For Myself, Sewing and Garb)

This hood was a practice or test hood of adding dags to a hood for a project that involves making approximately 20 hoods for the Queen’s Guard.  The pattern is based on The Medieval Tailors Assistant, and does not have a liripipe as it was requested the hoods be completed without one.  A fabulous description on how to construct a similar hood can be found here.

Since I’d never used this specific pattern before (it’s different from my typical pattern in that it doesn’t have any gores) and I’d never added dags to a hood, I wanted to test it out on my own fabric first, and figured since I was already working on my coronation garb, I’d stick with the navy and gold theme for the practice hood.

The hood panels were cut out, and then left and right sewn together at the front and back for both the outer layer and the lining so that there were two separate hoods with none of the edges hemmed.  The right sides of both hoods were put together with the face opening matching, and the lining was then sewn to the outer layer at the bottom hem, leaving the face still not sewn.

A 3″ square was then used to mark the dags along the bottom stitching, with the dag lining up with the seam.  A 1″ gap was left between each dag.  A second seam was sewn on the chalk lines for each dag, and the fabric in the gaps was cut, seam allowance was trimmed, and the hood was turned right side out through the face opening.  The dags were then pushed out and ironed flat.

The face opening still needs to be sewn (I plan to blanket stitch a hem), but here is the finished project so far (and an extra photo of the 20 other hoods still awaiting their linings and dags!):

Updated 8/29/2011: New picture with blanket stitching of the front opening– blanket stitching was done with gold wool thread (From Ursula’s Alcove).

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Coronation Garb– September 2011

July 8, 2011 at 11:54 am (Finished Projects, For Myself, Sewing and Garb)

So there is to be a new outfit for Coronation this year… and it has been requested that it be blue and gold or blue and silver/white/grey.  So its time to plan– how to incorporate their chosen era (1411), chosen colors, and make it something that represents my household at the same time?  (Because I’d really like to make something that involves the Tarragon colors/Gryphon, and I think this is the perfect time to do so!)

Current thoughts on what might be fun include:

  • Keeping it simple with a gold linen or wool long sleeved fitted gown under a blue wool overdress that has short sleeves that end in tippets.  This can be combined with a gold or blue hood potentially embroidered with a gryphon
  • A blue wool gown with a gold band around the hem with gottes embroidered of appliquéd on to the band around the hem.  Potentially paired with a blue wool hood with a gryphon
  • A blue wool dress over a gold linen under dress and paired with a blue cloak with gold around the edge an an appliquéd gryphon.
  • A blue wool dress (potentially over a gold base layer) with gold pin on sleeves or a gold surcote.
  • A blue wool dress over a gold base layer with gold lace or embroidery sewn on to the sleeves, waist, and hem, similiar to what is seen here:

Update on 7/13/2011: As I re-read the ideas I have come up with, I realize that several of them mention a hood with a gryphon and seem to ignore the fact that I was planning to wear a specific hat.  This is what happens when trying to bring too many things into one dress, i think!  For Coronation, I am going to try and have the hat I mentioned, but for later events, to make this more representative of my household, I may wear it with a hood with a gryphon.

In thinking over these ideas for the past several days, I keep coming back to a desire to keep it simple and use a blue short sleeve wool gown over a gold long sleeved base layer.  I haven’t decided yet if I want to have the sleeves end in tippets, or if I want to pair the short sleeves with fancier gold pin on sleeves. Either of these options allows me to later embellish the blue gown with gryphons as time allows, or to pair the gowns with a hood with gryphons, and so this works well as an outfit that can transition into something representative of my household.

Fortunately, I do have some time to decide on the sleeves, and it may depend on if I am inspired by any gold fabrics to turn them into sleeves.  In the mean time, I will begin to work on the pair of gowns in a style similar to that shown in the image below (but potentially without the tippets), and will update as I make progress.

Update 8/16/2011– construction of the underdress:

Similar to the 5/14/2011 gown, this update is to help me remember what pattern I am using and what changes need to be made.  Please see that previous post for more details on the pattern itself and how I currently fit self supportive gowns.

Used pattern from yellow cotton, which was roughly drafted from black wool gown (current favorite of my self supportive fitted gowns) Changed the arm hole based on observations from the purple linen gown.  (Used paper pattern adaption)

Pattern has 1.5 inches seam allowance added to it, but based on mock-up, gown should be sewn with 1 inch seam and then fitted after to be supportive (sewing with 1.5 inches barely fits, so with lacing and fitting, 1 inch should work)

Pattern has no gores, but front and back gores should be added. (Sides gores are accounted for with the extra width built into each panel of the skirt) Gores are cut from 1 yard square piece.

Fabric used: Yellow Linen

Thread for hem and eyelets:


The gores were a bit short on the last few gowns, and so instead of a 36″ square, I used a 48″ square this time.

See the construction of the overdress for detailed description of how the shoulder and armhole were changed.

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All New Projects Need a Plan….

June 22, 2011 at 10:08 pm (15th Century Gowns, Current Projects, Sewing and Garb)

Because I need a new project like I need a new hole in the head… but I think I finally have the proper motivation to begin working on something I’ve been wanting to do for years…. and so next up I will be doing my best to recreate the blue, black, and white outfit in the center of the April image from Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1410).

So— I need a plan.  Or at the very least, need to begin listing the components of this outfit.  And as a change from the normal, I believe I’m actually going to be starting with the hat that is pictured, and the reason for this is that I’m going to use that same hat for a different outfit for Coronation at the end of September 2011.

Once the hat (and the Coronation outfit) are done, I will move on to the under-gown, which appears to be a long sleeved bright blue fitted gown.  I will likely make this out of linen, as it can serve as a base layer for other things during summer events.  The over dress seems to be a short sleeved black fitted gown that has a wide band of white fabric at the hem, and is worn with white tippets.  To me, this band of fabric has the appearance of a lighter fabric, and does not seem to be fur or a heavy fabric, and so I will likely construct this gown and the hem out of linen as well, although I may use wool or velveteen for the over dress.  The white tippets will be linen.

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Fitted Gown 5/15/2011– Pink Wool to Match Pouch and Hood

May 15, 2011 at 12:28 pm (14th Century Gowns, Current Projects, Sewing and Garb)

Similar to the 5/14/2011 gown, this post is to help me remember what pattern I am using and what changes need to be made.  Please see that previous post for more details on the pattern itself and how I currently fit self supportive gowns.

Used pattern from yellow cotton, which was roughly drafted from black wool gown (current favorite of my self supportive fitted gowns) Changed the arm hole based on observations from the purple linen gown.  (Used paper pattern adaption)

Pattern has 1.5 inches seam allowance added to it, but based on mock-up, gown should be sewn with 1 inch seam and then fitted after to be supportive (sewing with 1.5 inches barely fits, so with lacing and fitting, 1 inch should work)

Pattern has no gores, but front and back gores should be added. (Sides gores are accounted for with the extra width built into each panel of the skirt) Gores are cut from 1 yard square piece.

Fabric used: Pink Wool

Thread for hem and eyelets: Pink Silk


Paper adaptation for the sleeve definitely helped, but my carelessness by cutting too quickly has made the arm holes just as large in this gown as in the purple linen.  Oh well, the sleeves are still okay, and next time, I’ll take it a little slower.

Sides have small puckers under the arms, due to not quite getting the fit right before putting in the sleeves.  Its barely noticeable, as its under my arm, and will likely not even show when I’m moving and walking, but I need to remember that the sides need to be fit all the way to the top before the sleeves are set in.

Update: 5-21-2011

This dress and I are no longer friends.  From the bust down, it looks really nice and everything fits properly.  However, I’ve discovered that there’s a good bit of stretch to the fabric, and so hanging the dress after sewing it has led to some.. issues.  The underarm puckers are now definitely noticeable, although I think some tweaking can fix that.  Also, the neckline has come out a bit uneven, and there are multiple wrinkles in the sleeve and neck seams.  Overall, I think I’ll be very happy wearing this dress with a hood, but will avoid wearing it without one.

Update: 10-28-2011

I have finished all of the hems and half of the eyelets for this dress.  It has taken me this long to decide I want to even tackle the issues with the side seams, and even now I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to just leave them be for a bit.  The dress does not scream “wow, what a disaster” and its really only if you analyze the side seams that you noticed the issues, and so I think until it needs to be re-fitted due to changes in size, I will leave it as it is and just refrain from wearing it when I want to look overly nice.  It has been a good lesson in the fact that not every dress needs to look fabulous to be functional, and this one will be a nice warm layer to either wear with a hood or under a better fitted gown :-)

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