With the fervor of Christmas past us, and with Kachel now sporting what was beginning to look like an actual dress, I figured it was time for me to start on one of the parts of the dress that I said I'd do.
After posting what felt like endless pins to our shared Pinterest board, we had decided on a partlet with a collar of gathered lace and attached sleeves, instead of a full chemise or smock underneath. This was for several reasons: A) we didn't want to overheat in the dresses, and the so-far two layers of linen are adding up, B) I wanted to take the excuse to learn about a new Tudor garment and run with it, and C) while doing nothing to promote modesty, a partlet would be quicker to put on and take off.
Going off of the instructions from this site, I had traced out a partlet pattern based on the bodice pattern we'd made for the dress. You can see a bit of the partlet pattern pinned to Kachel back in this post.
After finding the most dreamy cotton voile fabric online, I cut out the pieces. You might notice some rectangles I drew on the fabric. This is because along with learning more about partlets, I wanted to take the chance to learn more about blackwork embroidery, and I thought the collar and cuffs would be a great place to try it out.
In my research about the kinds of stitches used in blackwork and the designs used, I learned that aside from geometric designs, nature-based repeating figures were used, and modern blackwork uses colors other than black. The stitch is usually done on a fabric like Dublin linen that has an even weave and with a thread count that is big enough to be similar to a modern even-weave cross stitch fabric.
Since cotton voile is a very fine weave, I settled on an embroidery design that incorporates a blown-up blackwork figure. You'll have to take my word for it because I trashed the evidence, but I tried a dragonfly and peacock figure before settling on the simple bee figure. After all, I am not an upper-class lady with endless quiet afternoons to sew.
I went with a blue cotton embroidery floss to match the dress fabric. In the picture below, you can see that the blackwork stitch starts out very much like a running stitch. It ends up being something like a double running stitch to do, with the goal being that the stitching looks almost the same on the front as on the back. True blackwork patterns are on a grid, with curving lines actually being made up of little straight or diagonal stitches.
I think the collars and cuffs took binging about a season and a half of a TV show to finish? I wasn't counting. I decided to frame the pieces with a simple chain stitch to help the design stand out more. I backed it with fusible interfacing the stabilize the stitching, and give the cuffs and collar a little structure.
One cuff done! The cotton crochet lace adds a nice frilly touch. The grosgrain ribbon was as much a practical choice as a design choice. I find ties a lot easier to do than buttons or lacing.
With the collar on, it's taking shape! So, the cotton crochet lace at the collar kind of hides the embroidery, especially on our short necks. But I wouldn't do the partlet without an embroidered collar either.
As you can see a bit from the photograph, a partlet ties at the neck, and (optionally) at the under bust through a narrow casing at the bottom instead of a hem. Most partlets did not have attached sleeves, as the chemise sleeve would be used, and the dress sleeves would cover the arms as well.
And here it is, all done and tucked under the bodice! (Also a preview of a trial trim placement for the dress bodice) Since Rachel and I have no intention of adding another layer with a chemise or smock, we attached sleeves to our partlets. You can decide to have the collar tied or open, and how open (or not) you want the opening of the partlet to be. The sleeves have a little bit of extra length to ensure that the cuffs can poke out from the dress sleeve, but otherwise they are not too extra long.
I can't wait to try out this new kind of garment, and to see the partlet (and the embroidery!) up against the rest of the dress!
Twins each with half a brain in reality; the other half displayed here!