A continuation of this previous blog post.
When I started this project, I could tell it would be finished in a time crunch, since we started a bit late for the spring fair. This was to be the first costume I completed from scratch since I had a very busy near-toddler taking up my time. I have been working late nights.
We decided earlier on that the accompanying color would be grey in the underskirt and sleeve lining. I pulled a budget trick I have used many times before and ordered a cotton sheet set to use for lining fabric, which I used for a very simple chemise.
The teal overskirt was equally as simple - just gathered on a waistband. She wanted a split front, so it just ties there. The bodice will cover it up.
Unfortunately because of the shape of the fabric left over after cutting out the bodice and sleeves I had to turn the fabric and cut panels instead of just gathering the edge. The hem was just serged and turned. The panels did leave a design at the opening and in the back that turned out rather nicely.
Here is the part I was disgusted with myself later. I didn't take pictures of the construction of the bodice. Time was getting tight. However, it was identical to what we did for the bodice of the Blue Bees dresses. With one crucial exception. Instead of spacing out extra large zip ties like we've done before, Taylor wanted something more flexible. Time to research!
Historically, grass reeds were sometimes used, as were sticks from hedges and rolled linen fabric. These would be replaced from time to time. One option I stumbled upon was hemp twine, or rope. This lovely blogger has already done the research, and I heartily recommend you read her posts if you are headed that direction yourself.
In her post one of the problems she had with sewing corsets was getting the cording into the channels after they were sewn. For my part I used two cords per channel and installed them as I went, using a zipper foot to sew close to the cording.
It was also highly recommended to go with uncoated hemp, and I only found one brand available in the US - fortunately available on Amazon. One spool will do for dozens of dresses! It's usually used in jewelry making with the very largest of openings in beads. As a side note - as this is uncoated hemp, it still smells "fresh." Well, as fresh as a barn full of alfalfa. Good thing Taylor works grooming dogs and I grew up on a farm!
When I was done it didn't look weird on the outside - a good sign!
The next thing to do was sleeves and trim, and here I stalled. See, this little event called COVID-19 started to affect the middle of the US. It's all happened quite quickly. Schools have shut down, my library is closed for now, and it is looking like our little faire will be cancelled for the spring.
I got some mock-ups pinned on to see what things would look like, but since I'm able to take a breath and not rush through the end of this project I am counting my blessings. Here's a preview of the sleeves, however!
I will leave this post with the three options I gave Taylor for trim placement. The trim is deconstructed from the Blue Bees dresses. I was more than happy to use up my own stash, since I don't typically use gold tones myself. We'll see what she chose when I make the next post!
When I made the first sketch of the red renaissance dresses, I just put a generic gathered-necked chemise underneath - the simplest design to both draw and make. But the more I researched the style of dress I was going for, the more I realized that I would want an actual hemd (German shirt/chemise) with a higher neck and actual collar.
In researching German hemds, I came across the wonderful Cathrin Åhlén's blog, Katafalk. She is a trained tailor and dressmaker who has a passion for historical dress. The walk-through of her hemd seemed straightforward but also detailed enough that I was willing to give it a shot.
Of course, the real show-stopper here is all the smocking, done by hand. Hundreds (and I do mean hundreds!) of tiny, perfectly straight folds, with meticulous embroidery in decorative patterns over them - daunting for sure. But with every new project, I want to learn something new.
The next slide show of pictures took many evening hours after work in front of the TV to complete. Each gathering line stitch meant picking up only two or three threads in the fabric, and they had to be a straight and even as possible. And once the gathering lines are all pulled up, each embroidery stitch has to be as neat as you can make your hand stitching. Thankfully (for once), I have a short neck, so there's only a little embroidery that can fit on the collar.
Once the neck was done, the sleeve cuffs follow suit. After the yards of fabric in the collar, the sleeve cuffs went by in breeze by comparison! I used a different color gathering thread, both for variety, and so I tell in the pictures what I was working on.
As I was nearing the completion of this hemd (I will be making a second one, of course), the pandemic hit. Everything about it feels surreal, but at the same time, I am taking things seriously.
After 4 days of working from home, I could already tell I would need to make an effort to reach out virtually, or my natural introvert/hermit tendencies would leave me miserable. So, I planned a little Facebook Live book review/tea party, and invited friends. It also gave me a deadline to finish the hemd, because I knew I would want to feature it during the tea party.
There is a post-script to this part of the project, and it has very little to do with the actual project. Life feels very uncertain with the onset of the pandemic. No one knows how it will play out, but I do know myself, and I know that being entirely by myself during this shut down is not good for my mental health. Theoretically, working from home will give me more time to work on projects...it just may not be from my own home. Stay tuned!
As Aida cloth didn't exist in the Renaissance, most work was done on linen, or some other kind of evenly-woven fabric. From my very first frame-able piece, I've used evenweave, which is an embroidery fabric usually made of a blend of cotton and rayon. However, I came across some Belfast linen for needlework on clearance, which I snatched up, knowing I'd find a use for it. Linen is a little more difficult to work with than evenweave, but it has really given the project a more period-appropriate look.
Secondly, I stumbled across this song on YouTube that I found myself replaying for its beauty and calm. Below is the version I first heard. It's not your typical recording space, and it's not a professional quality camera/microphone by any means, but take a couple of minutes and listen:
There are a few things to know about the song; it is one of the most popular hymns in Iceland. The lyrics are a psalm composed by the devoutly christian poet-cheiftan Kolbeinn Tumason in 1208. He had been mortally wounded in battle, and it was composed on his deathbed. The tune was composed in 1973 by Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson, but it evokes the style of a medieval chant.
Here's the first verse, translated into the modern Icelandic you hear in the song:
Heyr himna smiðr
hvers skáldit biðr;
komi mjúk til mín
Því heitk á þik
þú hefr skaptan mik;
ek em þrællinn þinn,
þú est dróttinn minn
After reading through several different English translations (both word-for-word and more poetic translations), I came up with my own version of a translation that I really liked. Here's the first verse as a teaser:
Hear my invocation, Smith of Constellations,
May your mercy come softly to me.
So I call on thee, for you have crafted me.
I am your slave, you, my Lord on High.
I really have no timeline for how long this cross-stitch will take. I tend to work on these more in the winter, and as we're just getting into the good parts of spring, I may not get back to this until late fall. In the meantime, hopefully by telling you all about it, I'll have more motivation to pick it up again when I have the time?
Twins each with half a brain in reality; the other half displayed here!