Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Plan for A Suite of T- Tunics for a Friend

A friend needed a suite of under tunics and over-tunics so I offered to help. He provided the fabric and I offered to sew and decorate them. It has been a long process; not because the design was difficult or the fabric hard to work with, but because I have been having ongoing sewing machine issues for the last six months or so and my health worse than usual.

The recipient specifically requested traditional SCA-type t-tunics - no gores or gussets, and just  the simple t-shaped design that so many SCA participants start out with like the one shown in the image below.
Image from:
He is a tall guy, so the waste of fabric usually associated with this style of tunic was not really a problem as the sleeves are wide and comfortable and I used the 'waste'side pieces to extend the length of the arms. Fittings and checks happened last year to make sure the design would fit and be comfortable and to meet the recipient's needs. My furry helper also inspected all the fabric (as usual) and deemed it acceptable.

I cut out about six tunics in a variety of fabrics provided by the recipient. There was quite a lot of piecing involved in the sleeve areas. I expect these garments to be heavily hand washed so I enclosed the seams to make them last longer and prevent fraying.

On a more historically accurate tunic (designed with gores) such as the one below
Tunic pattern from:
I machine sew the seams and then turn each side of the seam fabric under and hand sew it down.
It is a time consuming process, but makes for neat seams and long-wearing garments. It is also easy because all the shapes are triangles and squares and rectangles with nice straight lines to work with. I couldn't bear to leave the edges zigzagged on these tunics, so I have been sewing the seam excess under. I find this sort of hand work calming, but it really is less so than normal when felling the curve of the seam under the arm. No nice straight lines here, so it is important to allow for the fabric to move and stretch a bit by stretching it as you go and not sewing the seam too tight or using too small stitches. I don't want the seam to rip when he puts his arms up, after all.

The neckline is a simple v-shape with a small hand-sewn rolled hem. The process is essentially what I did recently for the College Newcomer tunics as shown here

On most of the tunics, I am at the fun part - decorating! The recipient is an understated guy and is not the type who likes to be in the spotlight, so I have gone for darker and more muted colours. There is not much in the way of good trim available locally, so I originally planned to embroider several of the tunics. A knuckle dislocation in March and subsequent rheumatic hot spot that won't settle have slowed things down even more, so on a couple of the tunics there will be purchased trim. The recipient had some that was gifted to him by a friend, so I will use that. I also found some online that seemed appropriate.

Several of the plain coloured tunics will have embroidery. I have a nice design of interlocking knots coming along veeeery slowly, and plans for another design incorporating the recipient's heraldry. There is a lovely wool waiting to be made up also (I'm saving that until last because I am always afraid to cut expensive fabric, even after all this time!), which would look great with a design based on one of the Mammen textile designs, below
Image from:  
Of course, I will post pictures when they start to get finished. You know, I still find it nerve-wracking making items for other people, even after all this time. Male garments are especially stressful, because my experience is mainly with female late period clothing and accessories. I would like to branch out in future with more complicated male clothing, but the idea is very daunting especially as I really only have made t-tunics for men before.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

SCA Swap and Sell Day

A friend of  mine recently organised a Swap and Sell day at my local A&S training. People brought along old garb, jewellery, half finished projects, unwanted feasting gear, fabric, leather, threads- anything pertaining to the SCA or useful in any way. Wow! What a fun day it turned out to be! People were excited to get a bargain or clear out old bits and pieces. New people and older players stood around chatting about future projects, ideas and failed attempts. Low prices encouraged people to buy resources for attempts at new skills without worrying about wasting too much money if the project didn't work out.  People tried on garb outside their comfort zone and were inspired to try something new. What a great way to get people inspired and talking about the arts and sciences. And get some bargains to boot!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Second Newcomer's Tunic

A second t-tunic for the College newcomers, based on the same basic pattern (below).
Image from:
A pattern such as the one below would be more authentic and waste less fabric, but also take longer to make up, and time was something that was in short supply with this project as the tunics were needed for a newcomers event in a couple of days.
Tunic pattern from:

This tunic was made at the same time and in the same way as the one that I posted about yesterday. The sleeves were pieced from scraps as the fabric was not wide enough to allow for sleeves and I wasn't sure that newcomers would be wearing undertunics, so longer sleeves were needed.

Wherever possible I enclosed the seams so that the tunic would last longer. The guide below explains the process:

Image from

The neckline was finished with a handsewn rolled hem.

When finished, I saw a bit of a problem with the bright fabric- the garment was looking alarming like a soccer guernsey. I was on a very tight time deadline and I was pretty desperate. I decided to stencil or stamp a design.

 I had some woodblock stamps that I had never used, and gave them a try. I had trouble matching up the design and very quickly realised that I didn't have time to master a new skill with the deadline looming. Also there was a lot of potential for things to go disastrously wrong very quickly.

Next I drew a quatrefoil design on a piece of cardboard and  cut the design out with a craft knife. I used a removable pen to mark the design at measured intervals and painted it in with craft paint mixed with a fabric fixative to make it washable.

The design looked OK but needed a yellow dot in the centre to break the design up a bit.
I put quatrefoils on all the green bands (arms and hemline).

The finished tunic. The colours are not to my taste, but I worked with what I had available and the garment should last reasonably well and be easy to care for.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Sewing for Newcomers' Month

March was SCA Lochac Newcomers' Month, and as part of the festivities I went to my local College group to teach a basic garb making class. I had a big box of donated fabric scraps and some purchased fabric and unfortunately no attendees as everyone wanted to learn rapier. So I busied myself making some scraps into t-tunics for newcomers. I ran out of time and took some projects home, thinking it would be a quick job. Which it probably would have been if my sewing machine had not decided to break down! I have more to do at a later time when my machine is fixed.
Basic t-tunic pattern from

The pattern above is the basic shape that I cut my fabric pieces into, although I had to piece the sleeves.

Putting all the pieces together

 The tunic was machine sewn with enclosed seams wherever possible for durability.

Hand sewing a narrow rolled hem for the neckline

The finished tunic ready to go back to the College

Friday, March 23, 2018

Stress Sewing A Chalice Cover

My furry little helper has been very ill lately. We had a public holiday here recently, and I was waiting to hear from the emergency vet on how she was responding to treatment. The hours were ticking by with no word. I was too agitated to work on anything for someone else, because my concentration was elsewhere. So I converted a vintage doily into a chalice cover for use at outdoor SCA events like tourneys. We have a real problem with European wasps here when it is warm, and a cover for my drink seemed like a good idea.

The original, vintage doily

I marked my heraldic design out by tracing it onto the linen doily with a removable pen, using a window as a light box.

The stitching is double running stitch with a double thread of DMC cotton floss. I'll admit that it is not terribly accurate stitching because my mind was elsewhere. I knotted the embroidery off on the back as this will be washed in the washing machine and needs to be sturdy.

When the main embroidery was done, I did a line of running stitch around the edge of the doily and also wove some floss around the needle lace edging.

Some beads were required to finish it off and add weight to the cover. I used some green glass beads and secured them with the embroidery floss.
My cover is very simple, but suits my needs. I had just finished pressing it when the crucial vet call came in, so the timing was good. Quick projects can sometimes be just what I need to get my motivation and enthusiasm for craftwork back.

Here are some SCA-period chalice covers (used in a religious context) in case you feel inspired to make something more complex:

Image from V&A Museum:
Chalice veil - Place of origin: England (made)
Date: ca. 1560 to ca. 1600 (made)
Materials and Techniques: linen, silk embroidery
Museum number: 1415-1874
Gallery location: In Storage

Image from: LACMA
Chalice Veil -England, circa 1600
Costumes; ensembles
Linen plain weave with silk embroidery, metallic-wrapped thread lace
22 1/2 × 22 3/4 in. (57.15 × 57.79 cm)

''Shepheard Buss'' Textile held in the V&A, Image from

Place of origin: England (made)
Date: 1570-1600 (made)
Materials and Techniques: Embroidered linen in silk, bobbin lace
Museum number: T.219-1953
Gallery location: British Galleries, Room 58, case 6

Russian Chalice Veil. Image from Pinterest
Chalice veil Date: 16th century. Culture: Russian. Medium: Metal, silk Dimensions: 18 1/2 in. (47 cm). Classifications: Textiles-Embroidered, Textiles-Ecclesiastical.: Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accession Number: 2009.300.3453
Attribution not confirmed.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Red Velveteen Caul with Gold Trim

I was so pleased with the grey velveteen caul that I decided to do another one.

This one is made of a remnant of red cotton velveteen. I cut the basic circle pattern out last year when I cut out all those sleeve pieces. I tend to zig zag the edges of my patttern pieces for stability and protection, especially since it so often takes me a long time to finish these projects.

You may remember that my pattern is traced around the top edge of a bucket to get a nice circle. Another option is to use an oval shape to get more of a German-style caul with a bit more body at the back of the head towards the nape of the neck.
This embroidered caul that I finished in 2017 has an oval shaped bag pattern and is wider at the back of the head

On my circle bag/piece I marked out a grid pattern but only sewed down my ribbon where it intersected. I hoped that this would create a nice visual effect as the ribbon puffed up a bit.

At the intersections of the ribbon I added a glass bead.

I didn't think there was a need to line this caul; I tend to get overheated rather than cold and the velveteen is quite bulky.

I put gathering stitches around the edge of the circle/bag piece. I used to do one unbroken line of gathering stitches, but I now do two lines that each go roughly half way around the circle/bag piece. This allows me to better control the gathers and even up any areas where the gathers look a little bulky.

For the last few cauls I have been leaving an ungathered section across the top of my head. I think it is more flattering and looks more like the portraits from the time.

Once the gathering stitches are in the circle/bag part, I prepare the band. It is a rectangular piece the length around my head plus seam allowance on both ends. I join the short ends so that I have a continuous band. (I also usually stab stitch the seam allowance down flat to reduce bulk, especially when using thick fabrics like velveteen.) I then fold the band in half and iron a crease into it. Then I fold the two outside edges into the centre crease and tack them into place. This gives a narrow band with the raw edges fully enclosed inside the band.

Slide the edge of the circle/bag piece inside the band so that the edge of the circle bag piece butts up against the crease. I usually start by matching the centre top of the circle/bag piece and the centre top of the band and pinning it into place. Do the same at the bottom centre - it will help you to keep the gathers even.

Then start drawing up your gathering threads. I adjust my gathers by eye, and pin them into place as I go. I double check again before stitching to make sure that they look even. 
The next step is to start hand stitching the band into place. Stitch around the band on the outside (the part you will see); I use a small whip stitch.

Now turn the hat inside out and pin the gathers down on the inside of the band and stitch around again, securing the inside of the gathers as you go. Use very small stitches as you don't want any to show on the outside of the hat if you stitch beyond the band.

Your hat is done! At this stage  I add a metal comb in the centre front and a wig clip in the area of the band that sits behind my ear. This is not authentic and simply helps to keep the caul on my head and stop wispy bits of hair escaping as the day wears on.

On the red velveteen caul, I decided to add some commercial trim around the band at the last minute because it looked a bit bare. It is hand-stitched down. You could also add beads or embroider a design onto the band before sewing it to the circle/bag pattern piece.

The inspiration portrait-

Image result for judgment of paris by attributed to antonio da vendri
The Judgement of Paris (detail), Attributed to Antonio da Vendri
Image from

This project has inspired more ideas, including a caul with different coloured panels like the one above, and one decorated with little tufts of thread (inspired by the inside of this caul)-

I'll keep you posted on the results!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Felling Seams

Well, it took quite a while but I think I have found the issue with the photos that were not showing up on the blog, and fixed it. It took me on quite a trip down memory lane; reviewing past projects and remembering other things that were going on in my life at the same time. It reminded me also that I do achieve quite a lot despite my health challenges, and that I should probably stop criticising myself quite so much and stop comparing my efforts to what all the able bodied energetic people are doing. Hmmm...... easier said than done.

This week I have spent my sewing time hand felling hems for a friend who has an event coming up and needs some hot weather garb. It's not exciting stuff by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a good opportunity to practice my hand stitching. And it is lovely to work with pure linen, which is usually our of my price range.