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!
The spring Renaissance Festival came and went in April, and we got LOTS of compliments on our costumes! As promised, here is a picture of us all in our finery:
And did I mention that Kate and I had matching outfits? We were busy that day! Part of the time was spent handing out prizes from the musketeer's treasury. We were also in charge of reading the story during the Queen's Tea. The kids were enthralled! We read "The Knight and the Dragon" by Tomie DePaola.
My dearest hubs was also busy pulling triple duty as both Hearald for the Court and Executioner later in the afternoon, plus a Prince of dubious origin when the rest of the Royal Court was at the joust. He loved it all! We have found that elusive thing all couples desire: an activity we like doing together for fun.
And, lest I forget! L looked great in her purple gown. So good, in fact, that I'm doing an Anne Boleyn style dress for her this fall out of green silk. More blog posts to come on that for sure!
And you should see LOTS more from me in the future too. In October Kate and I have a bachelorette TEA party to host. I've already made a miniature music box for that. I just need to get the photos uploaded.... In addition Kate is doing our fall Ren Faire dresses, I have a skeleton of a plan of some pirate/steampunk/renaissance inspired costumes to wear to the KC Ren Fest, new skirt material to make over the Italian dresses from several years ago, a Renaissance princess teddy bear to make for some friends who just had a baby, brown pants to make for the hubby's new fall outfit, plus his black and brown doublets to re-line. Instead of making them reversible I'm just lining each with something more lightweight. I'd say that's enough to keep me busy!
You may recall these green/black Renaissance dresses I'm making are meant to be matching. As such, the pictures of the garment construction up until the little differences DO start to appear is a little confusing. I didn't even try to post photos on Facebook, although I did keep Kate up to date with progress pictures.
Sewing this chemise the second time around took waaaaay less time. This could also be because I already had the pieces cut out, but I'm sticking to my initial sense of accomplishment.
Similarly, the underskirt took almost no time at all. Granted, the pleats aren't even, and I didn't even use a style of skirt closure that requires me to get even close to Kate's waist measurement. If I ever sell these skirts on Etsy, this is how I'm making the closure. So, so easy and can cover a variety of waist measurements! Plus, I didn't even melt any fabric with my iron this time around!
Part of the reason the underskirt took less time was because this time around I knew exactly how much fabric I could use for it and how much would need to be left over for the color blocking on the bodice and skirt. I didn't take any pictures of the construction process, and the bodice even looks the same as my own, even if the decoration on the sari is different.
What I didn't get last time was a progress picture of my cheater's method of putting in even-ish box pleats. Having a dress dummy around for this part of the construction saved my bacon. And sanity. Also, because of the way Kate's sari was embroidered she actually has a little more fabric in her skirt than me, but I did have to do some extra hemming and the pattern at the waistband meant the seam allowance on the bodice/skirt seam has no extra wiggle room. I serged the inside edges just to be safe.
And that's all she wrote folks!
No, I did actually get her dress done and delivered. Funny story about the sleeves though: I ran out of wunder-under for the black bands on her sleeves. (Wunder under is a sort of iron-activated web of glue to fuse larger pieces of fabric together.) 3M heavy duty spray adhesive to the rescue! Seriously, it worked almost as well.
And of course there were slight adjustments to be done to the shoulder seam, but otherwise it fit pretty well. Kate and I were also able to work on the headpieces to be worn under the black hats for this dress, and for the outfits she's designing.
I was relieved because now I can concentrate on Ryan's outfit and...my dress commission! I'm excited, so look for future posts about the dress for Ms. De La Cruz. :)
Twins each with half a brain in reality; the other half displayed here!