So back in 2015, the first time I volunteered at the Great Plains Ren Fest I helped serve punch at the Queen's Tea. It was the traditional red color/flavor of Hawaiian Punch, served in little cups.
Of course, I tripped over a tent line and spilled several cups all down my dress. Everyone was horrified, but some sewing minded saint up above must have been looking out for me because it rinsed off my dress right away.
Since then there is a running joke about keeping me away from the punch served at the Queen's Tea. I'm not even allowed to serve the white grape juice we have now!
The stain repellent properties probably have to do with the fabric that was used, which was all upholstery grade and most likely had stain repellent built in. The skirt fabric was supposed to be drapery lining stuff, and it took forever to dye it properly. Even then the color turned out different in the daylight than in my kitchen.
These were Kate and I's first matching dresses, and we did actually get several uses out of them. (You can see a photo gallery here.) After three dusty, hot, day long events that I can remember. I thought it was probably time to carefully wash the dress. In the tub, with cold water and Woolite detergent.
I was fairly certain this would be a safe bet. I was very wrong. I chronicled the horror story in stages on Snapchat as it was happening. The instant I put the dress in the cold Woolite water the color from the skirt started leaching out into the tub.
It. Just. Wouldn't. Stop. So, I hung the dress to dry and hoped for the best. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Maybe the color just got lifted, but then by some miracle redeposited on the fabric. Maybe Kate's skirt had faded to nearly the same color??? Sigh. Nope.
I tried taking a picture in natural light to show the worst of it, but my beagle, Polly decided she loooooved the new cover to "her footstool" in the living room. It took tempting her with a treat do get her to move.
Anyway, I found an angle in my basement florescent light that shows the worst of it. No getting around it, these skirts no longer matched in color.
I knew I wanted to use silk on these skirts, since it would go from very heavy drapery fabric to easier to wear and lightweight, breathable silk. The green dresses I made for the spring have spoiled me forever more on ever wearing heavy fabrics again.
It actually took 3 orders before I found two coordinating silk saris that would match the colors in the original bodices (which we were re-using). I would call the color I was looking for taupe, but the Indian sellers online disagree in their item descriptions. I'm not mad at having extra silk for future projects though!
I finally settled on two coordinating and beautifully woven silks.
Both were a little thin. As in, you could see the stripes on the hoop skirt fabric right through those silks.
I was in no mood to buy YET MORE fabric to correct my mistake, but fortunately the chemises we originally made for these dresses were full length, and had already been split once to allow for the fullness of the hoop skirts. (The hoop skirts had been made after the dresses.)
On to chopping and re-forming the chemises!
There was some discussion on how to use the silk saris. I wanted to use the decorated pallu if at all possible, and keep the front split. So, we talked about separate skirts, a fake front panel, or coordinating, but different skirts.
In the end to keep some fullness we went with identical double skirts. This took some math and geometry on my part to create the fullest skirts with not quite enough material.
Here are my notes for posterity (and because I'll likely loose them in my cluttered sewing room).
I find literally cutting and pasting in these situations immensely helpful. It was even to scale enough that I was able to take miniature measurements and scale them up to the fabric width!
The underskirts only had to flare out enough to not pull tight over the hoop skirts, but for the overskirts I wanted the front split to fall away starting from the top. That the back formed a little train is just a coincidence. (But Kate's backside looked cute when she was walking in it!)
I had hats planned for this too... So to see how the dresses PLUS hats turned out stay tuned for another post!
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!
A Dress for L - Part 2
Amateur cosplayers and ren faire goers are easily spotted by their lack of proper undergarments. You see paintings and pictures of the outer most layers, of course. And to be fair it takes a bit of research to find appropriate underclothes, but that's where I started on "L"'s dress.
To keep costs at an absolute minimum I just used inexpensive percale flat sheets purchased from hotel suppliers on Amazon. Seriously - if you can break away from the traditional fabric store format of 44" wide fabric, sheets are a fabulous way to go. Some of the better ones are cut more on the grain than others, so I highly recommend taking out the hems and straightening the fabric right after washing in the hottest water possible. It may be plain, but these underclothes can undoubtedly take a rough beating and stand up to wear for years and years.
The original pattern I found for making a hoop skirt used a VERY LARGE rectangle with channels sewn in at intervals for the hoop insertion. The hoop material I was using wouldn't stand up in a channel on its own; it was made to be sewn down to the fabric directly. So, I though I'd use separate strips that were gathered at each level. In the future I'm not sure I'd use this method again, but it worked out ok this time.
I didn't take a picture of the top of my last-minute floating dress contraption, but the set up happened because I have a lower part of my ceiling that is covered duct work. I was able to put a nail in the trim and suspend an embroidery hoop, which I then used to hang the hoop skirt at the right height for "L"'s actual measurements. I used heavy duty button thread actually sewn through the hoop skirt waistband and tied plus taped at the embroidery hoop at the top. The polyester sew-in boning needed time to adjust to the skirt and I didn't want to leave it flat on my floor.
But on to the chemise.
I had offered both the gathered raglan sleeve style above and a skinny arm version, and "L" chose the raglan sleeve. It really does fit better around the arm, and allows for lovely poofy bits on the outfit later on.
Of all the pieces that make up a ren faire outfit, the underskirt is by far the easiest. In fact, I recommend it to beginning tailors who are comfortable buying other elements of their costume. It was the final piece of "underwear" for this costume, and came together in just a couple of hours.
First, the chemise added to the outfit.
There really aren't any construction photos of the underskirt, so here it is together on the floating thing.
There are two reasons I didn't build this on a dress dummy:
1. Kate has my real dress dummy at her house still, while she works on other dresses.
2. That dress dummy is a plus size model and "L" is a size 6-8. No way I can squeeze it down far enough!
After a while my contraption suspended from the ceiling became known as the "floating lady." It worked just fine as a stand in dress dummy and even doubled for the basement ghost for a while! The dog kept walking underneath it, setting it twirling and spinning just out of the corner of my eye. However, this is actually preferable to the dog laying on the incomplete dress, which certainly would have happened otherwise.
Next post will be the pretty stuff!
Twins each with half a brain in reality; the other half displayed here!