Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Blue dress ideas /

I have been looking hard at the two pictures I posted recently which are the inspiration for the new blue dress. It looks to me that, in the St Ursula one at least (left), the large pearls are attached to the underdress or chemise.

I like the decoration, I am just not sure that I want to be restricted to wearing a particular chemise with that specific dress. I think I will have to pull out my stash of pearl beads and see how it will look if I add a line of pearls to the top of the bodice itself. There are lots of examples of similar dresses from similar times in Italy with pearl decoration, so I have a bit of lee-way. (I don't want to make an exact replica of the St Ursula dress.) If you look closely at the two portraits, there are big differences between the way the artists have drawn the layers of clothing.

Here are some more paintings that I have been looking to for inspiration:

Portrait of a Lady by Neroccio de Landi -

Carpaccio's 'Meeting of the Betrothed Couple' (1495) -

Carpaccio's 'Meeting of the Betrothed Couple' (1495) -

Portrait of Catharina Corano, Queen of Cyprus (1500)-

It's time to start thinking about sleeves and hair accessories too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Blue dress progress

Well, I tried the bodice on, and it looks like it will do. It is much less structured than I am used to, but should be fine for casual events when I cannot wear a corset.

Next I will hand finish the arm holes and make a decision about pleating the skirt, and the type of lacing I will use.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Blue Dress Progress

I am still plodding along slowly with the front-lacing blue dress.

I have sewn and edge-stitched the front and neck edges of the bodice and tacked the armholes into place. The tiny bones fit in very nicely and I am extremely happy with how that part turned out. I just sewed a small casing between the interlining and base lining and slotted them in.

Next I will dig out a chemise and try it on. That is always the daunting part! Then, I will stab stitch and edge stitch the armholes.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Blue dress progress

After my last post pondering boning options, I rummaged around in my stash and managed to find two tiny little flat steel bones that should be ideal for strengthening the front panel.

The bodice pieces are cut out now and have been edged. Next will be hand sewing.

I need to decide whether to cartridge pleat or knife pleat the skirt on. Any suggestions from readers who have done this sort of dress would be very welcome!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Un-corseted dress plans

I have been thinking a lot about that picture of St Ursula from the Denver Art Museum that I posted recently:

and also this, similar one

and I am thinking of making my new un-corseted dress in a similar sort of style. I am so used to the straight up-and-down look of corseted gowns, I think I may be disappointed with how it turns out.

I have chosen a dark blue cotton for this dress because I had it in stash and also because I hope it will minimise my bust a little. If it works out okay, I might add an over-gown as well.

I have adjusted one of my existing bodice patterns to allow for the rounder bustline. I have cut the lining in a medium-heavy canvas and also a cotton lining fabric. I have made it front-lacing so that I can dress alone. I think I will have to add some sort of boning structure beside the lacing holes to give strength and to stop the cords pulling the fabric too much. I am considering light weight flat steel boning or maybe cable ties with an eyelet and ring combination. I have used heavy duty cable ties (in casings) as a light weight structural support next to eyelets before, but never in a dress that is to be worn without a corset or underbodies, so I am not sure how it will hold up.

I haven't even had a chance to edge the cut-out pattern pieces yet, so there is still time to think about it!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Partlet neck pieces

I have been laid up in bed over the last couple of weeks and haven't had much opportunity to do anything much. I have been picking away at a couple of simple partlet neck bands for my planned Elizabethan partlets. I plan to make two, with the cut away front, and trim them with the blue and white bobbin-style laces that I picked up on Etsy and posted about recently.

The bands aren't finished or even rinsed properly. I plan to add some extra supplementary decoration when the main embroidery is done (although I haven't worked out what yet.) The designs are both period designs that I have used in the past; simple and easy. They are done in chain stitch because I like the raised effect.

I went for a subtle effect with the blue flower pattern. The stems are done in a sort of 'junior navy' colour cotton and the flowers are done in navy. But the difference is so subtle that you really can't see it except in bright daylight, which is disappointing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

TAFE Student Costume Display

While walking through Adelaide Arcade (in Adelaide) recently, I saw this display of costumes by TAFE students.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

New dress

As many of you may know, I have some health issues that affect my participation in SCA events in different ways. Occasionally, I can't wear a corset/stays/pair of bodies. This week I adapted a bodice to allow for no bodies, just a modern bra. I have a large bust, so this could be a disaster! I will let you know how it goes; I am also busy doing a little bit of mundane sewing which may delay the new dress a little.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Elizabethan Coif Pattern

Here is one of my Elizabethan coif patterns. It is a larger one, designed to be worn over unpadded hair, not behind padded rolls. I have a large head, so I would describe this pattern as large to extra large. The long ruler is about 60 cm long, and the smaller about 30 cm.

The motifs are all taken from extant examples in Patterns of Fashion and also period pattern books like A Scholehouse for the Needle. This is not a very shaped coif, that is, the flaps over the ear areas are not very pronounced. This is a purely personal thing, as very shaped coifs don't really suit my round face.

The top edge of the coif is sewn together about two thirds of the way along and the last third is gathered up into a little knotted bunch. This makes a 'pouf' to allow for your bun or hair taping. The bottom edge is sewn into a channel for a cord which is used to slightly gather the bottom edge and tie up and over the hair to secure the coif. If you are planning on making this type of coif, I would suggest tapering the sides in so that the gathering channel is a bit less wide. Just how far you go will depend on where your bun or hair tapes sit. I misjudged on this pattern and the ties are too far forward which means that the coif doesn't sit properly over my hair. I would recommend making a test pattern up in waste fabric to test out different variations that will suit your face. It really can make the difference between a flattering and unflattering coif, especially if you are planning to wear it alone rather than under a flat cap or hat.

The pattern cut out and ready to be spangled

The coif made up

The embroidered coif that I am currently working on is smaller because I plan to wear it behind padded hair rolls and also because I have been gradually modifying my coif pattern to make it sit better and flatter my face more.

I draw my patterns out on tracing paper or lunch paper which I then tape to a window. Then I tape the linen or base fabric over the pattern and use the window as a big light box to transfer the patterns.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Daily Inspiration

I've decided to start posting pics of garb that I like on days that I haven't got anything much done.

Here is today's: a picture of St Ursula from the Denver Art Museum (now in the Accademia in Venice). (

I like the pearl trimming on the underkirtle/chemise(?) and also the narrow ware tie. I am wondering if that design is woven into the tie, or embroidered. I think that this is a relatively short-waisted bodice, judging from the accessories she is wearing. Perfect for someone with my body type!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Balls Against the Pestilence or Plague

Here is a recipe for scented balls that contains Gum Arabic. It is from The Secrets of Alexis of Piedmont, 1558 (as reprinted in The Perfume Handbook, Nigel Groom, 1992).

Balles against the pestilence or plague, whiche also give an odour unto all things

'Take storax, one part, labdanum one parte, cloves halfe a parte, camphor at your discretion, but less than any of the other substances, of spikenard a good quantity, and of nutmegs also, of all this make paste with Rose water, in the which you shall temper gomme dragant and gomme Arabic, stirring and brusyng them well. Of this paste, you shall make balles to hold in your handes, and smell to.'

See also William Ward (1534-1604) author of The Secretes of the Reverende Maister Alexis Piemont. (Containyng excellent remedies against divers diseases and other accidents, with the manner to make distillations, parfumes, confitures, diynges, colours, fusions, and meltynges. …) (Translated out of French into English by William Warde),_William_(1534-1604%3F)_(DNB00)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

Some new lace

For many years I have wanted to learn how to make bobbin lace. I confess that the idea intimidates me a bit, (plus I have so many embroidery projects on the go,) so I have never got around to it. Over the last month I managed to find these laces on various sites. I plan to use them  to trim Elizabethan partlets and smocks.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

New Pair of Bodies

Lately I have been going through all my projects and stash, trying to clear things out a little. I have lots of small pieces of patterned fabric in the stash. At one stage I thought I might take up quilting, but I changed my mind after I finished my first quilt.

I need a new pair of bodies. My current one has intermediate boning and is generally very comfortable, except that the front of the armhole nips quite a bit at long events. I adjusted my current pattern and made some changes after looking at The Tudor Tailor and Janet Arnold's pamphlet on Queen Elizabeth I's effigy bodies.

I hope that this new version works, because I really hate doing eyelets and I don't want to have to make another corset for at least eighteen months.

I have decided to do something very different - mainly because I was feeling guilty about the amount of fabric in my stash! I have cut out the outer layer and inner layer in modern print fabrics. All my past bodies/stays/corsets have been linen or plain cotton, and honestly, I am really bored with them! So this time I am doing something completely different. After all, no-one ever sees my underwear, and I won't shock you with a photo of me wearing the completed corset!

The fashion fabrics for front and back

I really like the front fabric, with it's vaguely Elizabethan flowers. I don't like the lining much (which is why it is lining,) but no-one will see it and it is very stiff.

I think that the finished corset would look quite nice with a bold edging like bright pink or purple. (Unfortunately the colour didn't show true in this photo; the purple binding is less blue and is  more purple.)

I did see a lovely bright hot pink and purple stripe taffeta type-fabric on the sale table at my local fabric shop, but I decided not to get it because my boning lines would probably ruin the stripey pattern, and I am supposed to be NOT buying fabric, but using stash instead.

The inner lining of the corset is two layers of a strong cotton canvas type fabric. It actually was a panel for a strong beach bag which I got on sale for less than $2.50. No-one will ever know!

I am not sure if this new style of bodies will be comfortable for me. I have a DD-E bust and have always had a fixed strap on my corsets before. Perhaps the tied-style strap will cut in around my armpit? I will have to wait and see. Here is the rough sketch I put on the pattern envelope, to give you an idea of the style:

And here is a picture of the effigy stays from

Clearly, there are some differences between my pattern and the effigy stays. I have opted for unboned tabs because I have done them before and also because my version of the corset is shorter. Elizabeth I was clearly a very svelte lady, and I am more (hmmm..) rotund. Hence the wider stays. Plus, I don't wear low or pointed bodices (as they just make me look fatter), so a shorter corset was a more practical option for driving etc. I like the side seam too, because I change shape a lot and altering a side seam doesn't affect the armholes like altering a side-back seam does.

I have made a pair of bodies completely by hand before, but it took a long time. My next big decision will be whether to sew the boning casings by hand or not. My machine is not too good with thick fabrics, and I just got it back from the shop. On the other hand, do I really need another incomplete project sitting around, waiting to be finished? I really don't know what to do, so I will give it some more thought. Let's face it, we all know that I have dozens of other things to finish, so I won't be bored while waiting for inspiration to strike!