The Man in...Green?
So waaaaaaaayy back in late fall of 2016 I started with an idea for an outfit for my husband that would coordinate with Kate and I's dresses that were planned at the time. We would wear them in April 2017. However, through busy schedules and a bit of miscommunication, I ended up making the green silk dresses and the black doublet for my husband instead. Those turned out great.
Kate has continued to get the originally planned dresses done, and I think it all works out rather nicely, as the bright green was better for the spring, and the oranges, greens, and browns of the upcoming dresses work better for the fall. Now we'll all just have to pray for weather that cooperates...
Anyway, I had a brilliant idea at the time - make his doublet reversible so there would be less clothing to keep track of! Thank goodness the day he wore that true doublet the weather was relatively chilly. He was still hot. Since then I bought thin cotton for lining and proceeded with the green version!
While the doublet pattern was the same as the black one (with trim in a slightly different spot) the sleeves on this one are different. It all started with this picture from Pinterest.
Sadly, the link from Pinterest back to the original image was dead. No luck with a tutorial there.
However, it seemed simple enough - it was just woven strips of ribbon, placed on the bias. I couldn't see how they finished either edge or seam, so I assumed the easy way out with a serger and bias tape.
My next task would be sourcing that much ribbon. A full sleeve's worth is edging into bulk territory. Fortunately Google Ad Services worked in my favor for once, and I found Fabric Wholesale Direct, with a reasonable price!
I had a pattern and material, so how could I let procedure stand in my way? I got started by tracing the sleeve pattern on to paper.
Well... tracing is too soft of a word. For this project you want a marker dark enough to actually bleed through your paper a bit.
My marker was watermelon scented, but that's not a requirement for you.
Then I laid out the ribbon on the diagonal, pinning it with a small gap in between each piece. It's a good idea to trace out a straight line to make sure your ribbon isn't warped.
If you know how to make a lattice crust pie, you know the next part. More weaving, cutting, and pinning!
Then comes the exciting part - you'll literally feel pinpricks of excitement! Or real pinpricks!
Take the whole thing, pinned to the paper, and sew around the original pattern tracing line. Use a basting stitch and a needle you don't care about dulling. If possible take out the pins as you go to minimize blood loss and cursing at your project.
After it has been sewn down and all the ouchie bits removed tear off the paper pattern. Sadly it cannot be reused, so for the second sleeve you'll have to start over with tracing another pattern, just be sure to mirror it if your ribbon is single sided.
You'll have options here on out. You don't have to tack ribbon down. In fact the original picture doesn't look like that was done. You might be able to get away with fabric glue here and there.
But I know my husband, and something had to be reinforced from the beginning, plus I wanted to add decoration. Cue the French Knots! I toyed with adding some green lazy daisy stitches, but after the French Knots I was DONE with embroidery.
And to finish mine off I sewed the underarm seam with the sewing machine, serged the edge, and wrapped some tan grosgrain ribbon at the bottom and top, since this sleeve laces onto the shoulder of the doublet.
On to other parts of the body!
Last year I actually started a pants pattern for Ryan, only to realize AFTER I got it made that the fabric was mostly polyester and my furnace of a husband would likely sweat to death in them.
I had a pattern with what amounts to lounge pants that would work. The top of the pants are covered, as are the bottom, so really it just needs to be two leg tubes of cloth. I cut the pants out one evening and sewed them the next.
All together it turned out great! There are only a few alterations I need to make, which is good. I always have another project on the back burner to get to.
Getting my feet under me
In the last post, I talked about the rocky start to the fall renaissance faire dresses. In this post you get to see the "guts" (or at least some of them) of the dress.
From my research of 16th century upper-class German dresses, I found that closures ranged from hidden hooks and eyes, to straight pins, or complete mysteries. For the dresses I was making I knew that the closures had to be secure, strong, hidden, and practical for us to get dressed without a lady-in-waiting. I decided to start with what I already knew; lacings through eyelets and grommets.
With some reservations, I chose the smaller eyelet, as I wanted to be able to put more holes in a smaller space than the larger grommet might allow. Also, I was also sure I had enough eyelets for both dresses.
I started with the center panel, which I had decided would be completely removable. The challenge with eyelets, however, is that there is a limit to the thickness of fabric they will stay in with any reliability, and they take a little more work to apply evenly and securely.
On the bodice lining, I sewed a strip of lightweight strapping I had studded with eyelets. Where I had challenges putting the eyelets through the layers of fabric, interfacing, and white denim lining of the center panel, the eyelets went in the strapping with relative ease.
I did come to regret my choice of eyelet over grommet for the center panel though. I'd laced and unlaced it only a couple of times, checking the fit and lay of the lacing, and I lost one of the eyelets in the center panel. In the process of removing the eyelet completely, I stretched the hole in the fabric bigger. There was no going back in with an eyelet. I did derive some satisfaction from putting in a two-piece grommet, however:
At this point I couldn't resist anymore - I had to try it on, even if "it" was just the lining. The system was promising! I was happy that I'd managed to evenly line up the edges, and I hadn't somehow made the center panel go in diagonally.
It's at this point that I'll mention that unlike previous dresses, I decided to go with a conventional featherweight sewn-in boning in the lining, rather than my old friends - cable ties from the hardware store. This was in part due to an attempt to avoid a separate corset and the extra layers it would bring, but also to try to achieve both the more natural silhouette of the German renaissance gown, and also give enough support and shape that I could go without a bra if I wanted.
You can see some of the boning in the picture here (those white strips on the cream of the lining fabric). There are also boning strips on the long edges of the center panel, in the back of the bocide, and I ended up adding boning to the front edges of the bodice so they don't waffle and wrinkle under the strain of the laced bodice.
I'll leave you with an artistic picture of the half-finished bodice on the dress dummy, showing off the hidden lacing. The trim has yet to be sewn on (it's just pinned), and the whole skirt needs to be sewn, pleated, attached to the bodice, and hemmed before this can really be anything more than a fancy, raggedy-edged vest. But at this point, you can join me and Gene Wilder in saying "It could work!"
More of a stumbling start
This last April, Rachel and I wore the green Renaissance dresses that she made - you can read about that project starting from this post.
But! If you remember back in January, Rachel mentioned that she was taking part of her inspiration for the green dresses from a design that I had started. Here is the sketch and fabric samples from my sketchbook to refresh your memory:
Between the two of us, Rachel is the one to take an idea and run with it - and I'm the one to fully develop and sit on a plan until the time is right, then devote all my creative energy to it. Both tendencies can get us into trouble. In my case, you'll see below.
So, with the above design, I'd planned on a smocked hemd for the top-half undergarment. I was taking my inspiration and instruction from the Dorthea Hemd, except in cotton. I carefully marked and hand-sewed the smocking pleats. (By the way, these Frixion Colors markers are a God-send for sewing. They completely disappear with the light touch of a warm iron)
I taught myself the modified stem stitch used to secure the pleats. The method really does tightly pleat an amazing amount of fabric! I even twisted a couple strands of gold lame embroidery floss in with the plain white I was using.
Plus, the stitch is invisible on the other side. You can choose to leave the stitches on the front for decoration, or stitch on the back if you want an "invisible" look.
I was really proud of my work! It took me almost a month to get to putting the binding on the top/neckline edge on the first hemd. It was also about this point that I realized this garment would not be practical at all for the fair. All those lovely pleats meant this was a very voluminous garment. Great for a chilly 14th c. German climate, not so much for a Kansas September. Plus, doing two of these would probably take more time than I really had before the fair to finish everything.
This was a tough blow to my pride, and to my creative energy. And it probably took me another month to pick myself up and re-direct the project. This is the part that a lot of "creative types" don't show you; their almost-masterpieces. I still think the hemd I started is an amazing garment, even if I do look like an adult version of an angel in a Christmas play or the angel at the top of a Christmas tree in the thing. I'm sure I'll find another life for it - it's too good to just completely abandon.
On the bright side, this stumble in the project gave me a chance make some other changes. Rachel and I had been discussing the design, mostly through posts to a Pinterest board, and this was a chance to make some changes.
With those in mind, I came up with a new sketch to give me fresh motivation.
By this point I'd taken long enough that Rachel had made two coordinating silk underskirts for the dresses. Although the design doesn't have the skirts bustled up like the green dresses, if we ever want them to, now we'll have pretty underskirts to show off.
I started the hemds over, and this time I chose the same poly-cotton voile that was used for the green dresses' shirts. I used the same pattern ideas that I found for the Dorothea Hemd, but I halved the width of the back - no need for fullness there if it's just going under the dress bodice. To re-create the idea of smocking, I ran two lines of gathering around the neck, about an inch apart, and then I used cotton lace to hint at the embroidery that's sometimes found in the smocking of fancier hemds. Here it is on the dress dummy (that I have borrowed from Rachel, for this project), along with the peach silk underskirt.
It's finally at this point that I feel like I've "caught up" to where I was before I decided to not use the first hemd I'd made. The next step was drafting a pattern of my dress design. Original design = original pattern. I took a little shortcut and started with the bodice pattern we'd made for our Italian dresses. After tweaking things here and there and making a muslin mock-up to test the fit and that lines of the mock-up looked like the sketch's design, I took that scary step of slicing into the fancy, expensive dress fabric.
With all the pieces cut out of the fancy fabric, I had to lay the bodice front pieces out with the trim, so I could see a preview of my vision for the dress. Above, you can see the fabric and trim for the golden yellow version of the dress.
Cutting things out is only the first step, though! Stay tuned for the next post about this project, where I'll talk about trying a new closure method for this dress, and I revive my love/hate relationship with eyelets and grommets.
Twins each with half a brain in reality; the other half displayed here!