Ladies in Red (Part 2)
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!
A new hat for an old dress
“Some hats can only be worn if you're willing to be jaunty, to set them at an angle and to walk beneath them with a spring in your stride as if you're only a step away from dancing. They demand a lot of you.”
― Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys
There's nothing like a new accessory to liven up an old outfit, and at The Great Plains Renaissance Festival this fall we planned to wear an old favorite - our Always Winter Never Christmas dresses. These dresses have an Italian/Venetian influence, and we've struggled since the beginning to find some kind of head-wear to go with the dresses.
As the September dates of the festival almost always bring the heat of the last gasp of summer saying "and another thing!" before Kansas's brief fall sets in, this was also an excuse to make a head piece that was a little lighter than the winter turbans. After consulting a few reference pictures, I sketched a design (spoiler - the design evolved before the project was done).
Historically, these hats would have been stuffed with wool or reed, but I opted for cushion foam, both because it's easier to use, and because it's what I had on hand. I used E6000 glue to glue the pieces to wide headbands, and then the leftover linen from H's Viking tunic to cover the foam. It was easier to sew the linen closed on the underside of the headband than glue it.
A post-script! We were surprised with the honor of receiving titles! We are now Barron and Baronesses of the court. What this means in practical terms is that we're allowed to wear a tiara/circlet (as long as it doesn't outshine our betters on the court), we can be addressed as Lord or Lady, and we can officially represent the crown by occupying the thrones while the Royals are out shopping or attending a joust.
Of course Rachel just happened to have ordered some tiaras direct from a Chinese distributor. They came broken, but she had pieced enough of them back into two tiaras to go with our outfits, just in case.
Twins each with half a brain in reality; the other half displayed here!