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!
I tell myself: you do not need a new outfit each year. And yet, I'll attend 5 - 6 days of Renaissance festivals each year, so whatever I make will be worn. And technically these outfits aren't all new this year; I started the pants at least 5 years ago. It just took that much longer to find matching materials and patterns for the rest of the outfit. Click through the slides to see how it was put together.
Here are the patterns used. Click on the pictures to go to the Simplicity website to see the front of the pattern envelopes. I didn't have a pattern for the underskirt; it was two pieces of fabric, gathered at the waist, each with a curved hem and attached ruffle. The corsets were custom made from the pattern on the Elizabethan Corset Generator.
In past years when attending the KC Ren Fest we've either stayed with friends or found a great deal at a hotel nearby. This year the great deal was actually in Topeka, about an hour away. We stayed at the Senate Luxury Suites in a two bedroom unit. Of course we were sewing late into the night getting buttons on everything.
And here is the infamous matching trio at the KC Ren Fest! Hubs is sporting turkey leg stains on his shirt already.
Too Good to be True?
It's the holy grail of every person who makes and (tries to) fit garments to their own measurements - a pattern pre-generated to your own shape. So, when I stumbled upon the Bootstrap Fashions website, I knew I had to give it a try. That, and the pattern prices were very reasonable.
I decided on two blouse designs to give it a try; a sleeveless yoke-front blouse, and a sleeveless blouse with asymmetrical ruffle.
When you set up an account with Bootstrap fashions, you can take your body measurements, and save them to apply to any pattern you are buying. In addition, you can choose to apply some common fit adjustments like fuller bust or longer legs. If you're feeling really confident about your ability to take specific measurements for fit, you can choose a "Pro-fit" option that will allow you to manipulate the less common fitting-points of a pattern, like armhole height and bust width. You can also choose to include seam allowance for an extra 50 cents.
Bootstrap fashions includes pretty detailed step-by-step construction steps, but no pictures. For this reason, I wouldn't recommend this to a beginning sewer. For example, this blouse has a button-closure front, and so the instructions (and pattern) includes a button stand. If you've never made a shirt with this kind of button closure, it can be difficult to understand from words alone.
Ta Da! All done! I didn't know really what to expect, but I think it turned out really nicely. I didn't have to worry about the bust or waist length - which are usually a nightmare to fit on my shape, especially on a button front blouse.
The only problem I had with the fit of this blouse is in the shoulder/armseye. I chose the wider-shoulder fit option, and it turns out I really didn't need to. If I make this pattern again, I will shorten the length of the shoulder, and make the armseye a little bigger.
And, spoiler, this was the main fit issue on the other pattern I tried. For this shirt, I used a soft denim chambray with a palm-tree print and beautiful drape:
And the shirt all done! Like I mentioned above - I still want to go back and adjust the fit of the arms/shoulders, but the fit everywhere else was pretty good. The shirt is a little movement-restrictive along the upper bust, where the yoke seam is, but I think that's down to style, not sizing.
After these two shirts - I've not been scared off from trying more! I plan to make adjustments in how I take (and enter) measurements.
What is really really tempting is that Bootstrap Fashions has a custom dress-dummy pattern generator, specifically for plus size ladies. I'm sure it will take more than one go (on my part), but the thought of having a custom dummy for my other costume and apparel projects...mouthwatering!
Twins each with half a brain in reality; the other half displayed here!