Saturday, December 31, 2011

ACC Wrap-up Post

I have neglected to write my wrap-up post regarding the Artemisian Costuming Challenge, so let's get that done, shall we?  Links will take you to tagged blog posts for more information on my process and documentation.

Layer #1 (Skin) - Linen Camicia, hand sewn and embroidered in silk.  
Layer #1 Budget - $0 spent.  All materials came from my stash, including silk floss and beeswax for embroidery.

Layer #2 (main gown) - Damask sottana and silk sleeves.
Layer #2 Budget - This is where I splurged. 
$25.20 on beads for the sleeves.
$23.98 on silk fabric
$8.99 on satin ribbons to attach sleeves
All other materials are from my stash.

Layer #3 (Accessory) - Partlet
Layer #3 Budget - $0 spent.  All materials from stash.

I had a lot of grandiose plans for a beaded/couched partlet, but due to time constraints, I made a simple Florentine partlet.  It is cut out of one piece of fabric, and ties under the arms to hold it in place.  It's designed based on a combination of these two portraits, both by Bronzino, wherein the first clearly has no shoulder seams, and the second has an added collar.  I will still be doing a more fancy partlet, but at a later date with no time restrictions.

Layer #4 (Warmth) - Fur-lined muff with gold-worked trim, hand sewn

Layer #4 Budget
- $12.00 for thrift store fur coat to reinvent.  All other materials from stash.

I had intended mantelinne or Dutch Cloak for my warmth layer, but burned out, so I'm calling this my final layer.  It's for warmth, right?  My late start in the challenge due to scribal activities put me behind schedule, and I simply couldn't sacrifice my sanity over the holidays to rush making another layer.

Total budget -  $70.17

My overall experience was a good one.  I finally used some of my stash materials, and have a pretty new gown for the court season.  I do intend to add pieces to this for versatility, including a silk veste, beaded partlet, netted caul, and long pearl necklaces.  I have already secured most of the materials needed for these, so you can look forward to seeing them in the future.

Thank you, Maestra Bianca for spearheading this challenge and inspiring so many people.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Butter Yellow Damask Sottana - Complete!

My sottana is complete!  Joyous noise!

I was up until about midnight Friday night, doing finishing touches on the sleeves, and attaching lacing rings for said sleeves.  I was determined to get them done so I could the new gown to Solstice Court.

The event was beautiful, the company was divine, and everyone looked magnificent.  I feel so blessed to live among such wonderful, talented people.  Noelle, you always leave me in awe with your elegance and generosity.

So enough with the talk, it's time to see what I did!

The sleeves are a warm golden yellow silk taffeta, flat-lined with linen to add some durability, and lined in ivory silk taffeta.  Strips were assembled into a chevron pattern, resulting in looking a bit like a pseudo-spiral sleeve.  I won't say much about my construction techniques on them, as you can buy Lynn McMaster's spiral sleeve pattern.  I used her instructions, with my own sleeve pattern.  My arms never fit commercial patterns.

While I haven't strictly found portraiture of spiral or chevron sleeves exactly like this in Florence, this portrait of Isabel de Valois clearly has spiral sleeves, and the below portrait of Laudomia de Medici has chevron-esque sleeves.  I feel confident that extrapolation of these to what I created is well within the realm of what could have been done.

Isabel de Valois
Laudomia de Medici

My partlet was a simple straightforward partlet to use until I get a fancy couched and beaded one done.  I may be adding some gold lace to the edges of this to fancy it up a bit, but I was relatively pleased with how quickly it came together.  This was cut as one solid piece (no shoulder seams), which made the stripes end up in a fun diagonal bias angle.  I kind of like that.  This partlet was sewn 100% by hand. 

Enzo, the melancholy zibillino was made by the ever fabulous Holly/Aine of The Sable Greyhound.  Her work is always marvelous, and you should go check out her shop at the link above.  She also has an etsy shop.  Okay, enough with the crass commercial announcements.  I just love sharing her with the world because everything she's made for me is amazingly beautiful.  She also made the necklace, earrings, and girdle belt I wore to Solstice.

Photo by Kao Martin and blatantly stolen by me.
I was lazy and didn't take a camera, so I'm forced to thieve this picture taken by Kao.  I haven't seen any full length photos pop up anywhere either, so this will have to do for now.  I'll try to get more images taken at 12th Night.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Silk Sleeves Sneak Peek

I spent almost the entire weekend cutting strips of silk and linen, and magically converting an ugly pile of strips of fabric into tubes of fabric, and then magically turning tubes of fabric into what will one day be some pretty cool sleeves, if I can pull it off properly.  Will I be done by Solstice Court?  I damn well intend to be!

All I can say right now is that what I'm doing is very time consuming, but hopefully the results will be worth it.  Also, rotary cutters are the bomb.  Don't know how I lived without one before.  I kinda wish I'd gotten the bigger mat now.  Also, my entire house is covered in flitting bits of silk thread.  Supportive boyfriend is slightly annoyed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


My Sottana is progressing nicely, if slowly.  Them hem turned out a smidge shorter than I wanted, but it is passable. Apparently my dress form settled down a little and is now a bit shorter than me.  Didn't think that would be possible.

As you can see, the padded hem holds the hem out in a pretty graceful line despite how flimsy and drapey (is drapey a word?) this fabric is.  I would definitely do it again, but next time in an even stiffer fabric.  This is simply a strip of felt tucked into the fashion fabric as it's turned under, resulting in about three layers of the fashion fabric, and one layer of felt.  This damask is a pain in that it does not hold crisp lines, so despite the steaming and pressing I did, it still looks somewhat unpressed at the hem.  I'll give it another go to see if I can clean it up further.

As you can see, I have added a bit of ivory braid to the neckline in order to try to give it a more finished look.  I was unhappy with it previously due to the aforementioned problem with it not pressing well.  Yes, the skirt is hanging funny in the front.  This is largely due to the felt padding in the pleats.  It looks different on my body than on this skinny form.  I do need to do some alteration at the flat/unpleated section in the front though, as it is pulling to one side.  Not too pleased about that one, but c'est la vie.

I have made a decision about my sleeves, and did the necessary patterning for them last night.

I spent the weekend fighting with my partlet.  My silk organza is not as stiff as I'd liked, and my plans to hold it to a stretch frame without damaging the delicate fabric ended up less than successful.  I also struggled with getting my pattern laid onto the fabric, which resulted in lines which were less than straight as I couched my silk cords down. After some exhaustion in fighting with the thing, I have put that on the back burner while I do my sleeves and a quick "alternate" partlet, using the same pattern with different fabric.  It's good to test the pattern anyway, right?  And who doesn't need more partlets?

I had hoped to have everything done and ready to wear to Solstice Court, and that's not looking feasible at this point.  However, perhaps I will have enough done to be dressed in an entirely new gown, even if it's not in line with my original vision.

Monday, November 21, 2011

ACC Partlet and Sottana Update

I had some misgivings about my standing collar partlet, mainly about the heavy embellishment and how that would on both the inside and outside of the collar. My examples of full partlets with high collars do not have heavy embellishment like this on the inside of the neck.  This appears to only occur when worn with a high necked doublet or veste.  I had concerns about it damaging the inside of my veste if I did a full scale embroidered/beaded partlet that is not just the inside of the collar.  It is logical that different partlets existed to go with specific types of gowns. So after a nice brain licking session with Noelle (mainly to see if she saw the same issues I did and justified my changing directions), I have come up with a "plan B."

I will still be making my standing collar partlet, but not for wearing sans veste.  Speaking of standing collar partlet, I picked Holly's brain on doing something to get the star shaped "goldwork" effect without actually doing goldwork, and came up with an awesome plan.  I'm excited to share that with you too, when I am ready to go on it.  But, that's on the back-burner for the moment as I will focus on making a partlet more suitable for wearing just with the sottana:

Eleonora di Toledo, 1543
Agnolo Bronzino
Always remember, it's your prerogative to change your mind/plan a zillion times as an artist of any sort, including costuming.

For now, I'm focusing on finishing up my padded hem.  I'm about 3/4 finished with it... have I mentioned how HUGE this skirt is?  Pretty sure I hemmed for three hours last night.  I measured my hem using my dress form, which is more scientific than what I've done in the past (ball park eyeball, guess, and pray).  I've gotten lucky in the past with only having hems that are a smidge too long, which is a better problem to have than too short.  Let's all pray I get lucky again.

While I was hanging out with Noelle, I was reminded of how awesome it is to be with her and her little family.  Such snuggle-butts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sottana Sleeves

I have several thoughts/ideas/inspirations for sleeves for my Sottana, and need to come to some sort of decision.  I hate making decisions.  My top choices, in no particular order are:

Spiral Sleeve - Neapolitan Woman from Moda a Firenze
White pinked sleeve from Allesandro Allori's portrait of Isabella de Medici

Paned sleeve from Bronzino's portrait of Eleanora de Toledo and Son

Pinked and striped sleeves - Painting associated with Allesandro Allori, 1535-1607

I do want to keep the baragoni (sleeve head/shoulder treatment) minimal with this Sottana as I will want to fit the sleeves under the Veste once I eventually get it done.  Or possibly make something removable/multiple sleeves.  Gah so many options!

My fabric choices include the butter yellow damask, and if the postal service doesn't lose my package for another month (growl/snarl), ivory silk taffeta or yellow silk taffeta, which I've yet to determine how well it will match.  Yikes!

I love love love the look of plain white pinked sleeves, but they are very similar to my elevation sleeves, sans the pearls and crystals, of course.  So that's currently at the bottom of my top choices, so to speak.  If my silk doesn't arrive, I may be stuck with the damask, which means the panes would be the best choice.  Plus, I haven't done paned sleeves since my first 'Bethan, back in '03 or '04. 

Thoughts?  Opinions?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sottana Progress

I have pleated and attached the skirts, and appear to have plenty of room for hemming (Thank goodness).  The unfortunate thing is that I did 1/2 inch cartridge pleats, and they are packed onto the skirt so densely that they are bunching and flipping over each other in groups, rather than laying smoothly.  It's kind of hard to tell from the pictures though - I'll have to take close-ups.  I'm hoping that once I get it on my body, they'll spring up and be pretty.  If not, I'll have to rip them off and either trim part of the panels off or re-pleat with slightly deeper pleats.  I've never had this problem before - this fabric is more wide than what I normally use.

The bodice front looks like it's having some weird vertical wrinkling, but  it's because my dress form is significantly less curvy than my body.  It will smooth out when I fill it up.  Also, my camicia back is not actually V-shaped.  It's pinned that way to keep it from falling off the dress form.

I think I'd like to try doing a padded hem, since this fabric is super flimsy and drapey.

I played dress up on the form, and the girdle belt that Holly made me for my elevation goes beautifully with this dress, so no need for another belt! Woo!

Next up (other than finalizing the hem/pleat questions), sleeves and partlet.  I need to pick Serafina's brain on the partlet, for she is far more experienced than I.

I will probably not have the Veste done to wear to this season's court events, so I'm hoping it will look fancy enough on its own, and not too similar to my other gold brocade dress.  Obviously the older one is Venetian rather than Florentine, but my mind wants reassurance that they are dissimilar enough without the Veste.

Monday, November 7, 2011

ACC Update

I have a lovely time at Kingdom Collegium on Saturday, though I didn't get chance to attend or teach any classes - I was sitting as troll all day. I did sneak off to go to the ACC meeting, and got to socialize a little.  I didn't have a chance to take any handwork to Collegium, as I had already finished my lucet cords for lacing the dress.

The bodice is complete, and I have discovered what a delicate and moody fabric this is.  It has a very light, open weave, so it's very easy to snag the fabric, and seam allowances need to be very carefully finished as they will fray out and become nuisances of themselves.

I assessed my skirt issues, and I think I'll be fine for length. I removed the front panel from the rest of the skirt and am dealing with it separately for now, as it will not be pleated all the way across the front.  Once I'm done marking my pleats, I will reattach the front panel to the back/sides (making sure to do it correctly this time), and all will be well with the universe.

My goal is to have the skirts fully attached and hopefully hemmed by the end of the week.  I'm running several weeks behind schedule, and need to get started on my partlet.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sottana Fail?

I have been ignoring my Sottana with much fervor.  Knowing this to be a BAD idea, considering the looming deadline, and worked on it this weekend.  I may have allowed my sewing-fu to get the worst of me.  That adage of measure twice, sew once?  Yeah... make that three times and think ahead if you're dealing with a patterned fabric that might require pattern matching.

I cut my skirt panels, originally with the premeditated intent to not worry about pattern matching.  It's got to be a period practice given the amount of fabric waste that can go into matching, and I figured the patterns would probably get lost in pleats anyway.

I was wrong.  I sewed two of the panels together and determined I hated it with the pattern all messy like that.  My inner Virgo-cusp yelled at me.  I picked apart the panels, made some matching happen, and re-sewed them together.  This of course made the panels not line up exactly, forcing a loss of length.  Now, I thought I'd be golden because being super scared about short hemlines, I cut them extra long.

I got to my third panel, and somehow, it was NOT cut on the grain.  I ended up having to trim a good five inches off the top to straighten it out, which will in turn make me lose additional length.  I gave up at this point, and have not yet determined the final damage.

The good news is that if I must, I can pick this panel off and cut a new panel, and use the failed panel to make sleeves.  I should have plenty of fabric for this.  The bad news is that I was so frustrated with my unfocused brainspace that I didn't take pictures, even though I got my dress form all assembled, and could have taken some mighty nice ones.

Oh well, another day.  Until then, enjoy this picture that amuses me, of a most NOT amused kitty.  Rudy dog came to visit us, and Sim Sim Salabim did her best Halloween kitty impression the whole time he was here, poofy fur and arched back galore.
"I'd better make myself look big!"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fabric Haul

I got a major score on the clearance shelves at Hancock Fabrics a few weeks ago! Royal Blue (about 5.5 yards) and Royal Purple (10 yards) 100% wool. So now I get to play the "what am I going to make with this?" game.

These are all things I've been wanting to tackle for a long time:

Saxon Gown
Flemish Working Class
Early 16th C. Florentine

FOLLOWER OF TITIANEmilia di Spilimbergo, c. 1560


For the smaller yardage in blue (my favorite color, by the way), I'm thinking either a zimarra or sleeveless ropa, embellished with applique and couching. Another option would be an outer gown to go over my chocolate linen kirtle to convert it into a Flemish working class dress.

 For the purple wool, I may try my hand at a saxon gown, or an earlier Florentine style dress. I'm almost thinking this shade of purple is a bit too vibrant though. I think I'd rather it were dialed down a bit into a nice plum. I might try dying it if I don't chicken out.  There should be plenty left over to do something for my Sven as well.

Thoughts?  Opinions?  Other ideas I haven't thought of?

Let's not forget I also have eight yards of evergreen and ultramarine linen getting bored in my stash.  Maybe I can combine the wool and linen to something awesome.  I won't be starting on this any time before the New Year, so that gives me plenty of time to stew and plan.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blog Design

Since I'm a total fail-face at making progress on my sottana, I have instead re-done part of my blog layout.  If you read via an RSS feed or Google Reader, please check out my actual page and tell me what you think. Specifically, I added top tabs with some slide-shows of my work on their own pages, and some other misc. stuff to make it more of a "stand alone" webpage, now that my old webpage is gone.

 Since posting without pictures is a faux pas, here are images of my linen caul.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Tisket a Tasket; What goes in my Basket

One of the first things you'll learn, whether it's for a day event or a camping event, is there will be things you will regularly need.  This is a list of things I keep in my basket, aside from my mundane wallet, keys, and cell phone, to keep me comfortable in all the modern ways I've grown accustomed to:

  • Painkillers
  • Antacid
  • Glucose Tablets (handy if you know anyone diabetic or hypoglycemic)
  • Small sewing Kit
  • Safety pins
  • Extra ribbon for emergency lacing.
  • Kleenex or handkerchief
  • Hard candy or mints. Breath freshener.
  • Lip balm or gloss
  • Sunscreen (a Jaquelinne MUST-have)
  • Lotion
  • Small snack 
  • Mug or Goblet and Water
  • Fan
  • Wet Ones
  • Umbrella/Parasol depending on weather predictions
  • Small garbage bag.
  • Hair pins and elastic bands
  • Comb and/or hairbrush
  • Event Schedule
  • Small tokens/trinkets to give away to people caught doing something awesome.
  • Notebook with Pens/Pencils
  • Small hand-work project (embroidery, lucet, etc.)
  • Time piece if you don't also have a cell phone (kept on silent!)

You may find this to be an awful lot to haul around (I know I do).  It can be divided into two parts - the things you can leave at "base camp" (typically only a short walk away - be it a grouping of your chairs/tables or a tent on site), and those things you want on your person, always.  Every item here has come in very handy to multiple people in the past.  That's the key - don't hog the haul!  Share your lacing ribbons and safety pins.  It makes everyone have a better time.

If you serve on a retinue, you will find this basket a ready-made retinue basket without any effort, save finding out if your Royal has any allergies/medications/preferred beverages you should be aware of.

What do you keep in your basket?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Boned Interlining, Part II

Boning your back pieces isn't entirely necessary, but I like a few pieces to ensure the proper silhouette.

After you have inserted your boning, you may have an issue with the potential of the boning channels showing through your fashion fabric, particularly with zip ties under a delicate fabric like silk. Fear not!

Insert the bones and cut a piece of felt or flannel that is big enough to cover the bones, but smaller than the inside to your seam allowance. You don't want to bulk up your seams, just smooth out the bumpy boning lines. The thicker the bones, the more padding you will want- I have found felt to be the most effective over zip ties. Flannel would probably work well over spring steel. For this project, I'm using cheap synthetic felt due to the dollar cap set for the gown. I would prefer wool, but c'est la vie. For any concerned about added warmth, don't be. I overheat easily and used this method on my chocolate linen kirtle, which I wore several times in the heat of Utah's desert summer and was fine. I did not pad the back piece, which may make a difference for some.

Pad-stitched felt over bodice front
Lay the felt over the bones and pad stitch it into place. There are many videos on You Tube on how to pad stitch, which is a technique used to shape thick layers of fabric, particularly in suits and collars. ( Let me Google Pad Stitching for you! )  I'm not using it to shape the garment, so tight, symmetrical stitches are not so important. I hesitate to show you my ugly pad stitching at all, but for the sake of sharing knowledge and my poor techniques, here you go.

This use of thin padding to disguise wire/stiffening is also used in millinery, and this layer is called mulling, if I recall correctly. You only need to pad one side, as the other will be facing your body. I pad-stitched everything in place with the boning already inserted, as I wanted to make sure not to stitch through boning channels, and to ensure this layer is firmly attached, with a smooth final product.

Inside of pad-stitched bodice
Once this is complete, flatline your fashion fabric (or lining fabric, whichever you prefer) with this padded, stiffened layer.

After lining and turning, the padded layer will fall behind your fashion fabric and disguise all those unsightly boning lines!

Bodice front - not yet pressed or finished!  It'll look even better soon.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Boned Interlining, Part I

There are probably a myriad of ways to make a self-boned bodice, but this is how I do it.

I cut two of my pattern pieces out of heavy cotton canvas. A strong trigger, linen canvas, or coutil would also work. I used what was buried in my stash. I draw my boning channels directly onto my fabric, as this layer will not show at all.

The brand of zip ties I used
I then cut pieces of heavy zip tie (found at any local hardware store) at custom lengths to fit in these channels. Be sure to account for seam allowance when measuring what length to cut. I use my heavy snips to cut the plastic, simply because it's what I have. I can also use these same snips to cut spring steel boning.

Close-up of bones - left is filed, right is not
I then snip the sharp edges off of the bones and use a heavy metal file to round the corners. This will help prevent boning break-through. Sandpaper would also work for this step, but I use my file since that's what I have to file my metal bones. It makes pretty quick work of plastic bones.

Some people also dip the ends in a plasti-dip. I find this is less necessary for the zip ties. Metal bones do tend to need something as they are more prone to break-through, because they are not as thick. I have also had some luck with wrapping the ends of metal bones in medical tape in lieu of plasti-dip or nail polish.

I then number the bones from left to right, so I know later which bones belong in which channels without having to re-measure. I use a fine-tipped sharpie or similar so the ink doesn't rub off immediately. After this is done, I sew down my boning channels, with the two pattern pieces sandwiched together, creating channels in which to slide the boning down.

It is important to always sew the channels in the same direction, such as from top to bottom or bottom to top, but not to switch directions half-way through. This may cause some awkwardness from bulk of fabric under your sewing machine arm at some point, but if you change directions your fabric has a much higher chance of warping and causing wave-like wrinkles along the channels.

Once I am done sewing the channels, I give them a test drive and slide all the boning inside to make sure all pieces fit properly - if the channels are sewn too narrow, it will have to be picked out and sewn again as the boning won't fit. So far, I've yet to need to take that step thanks to careful measuring.

I will continue the next steps in another post soon!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

ACC - Sottana

I have begun some preliminary work on my ACC Sottana, also often called an Italian Petticoat or Kirtle. To do so, I took my chocolate kirtle pattern, and modified it to have a more pointed waist, instead of curved. Since my inspiration portrait is of Eleanora di Toledo, it was a logical decision to make. The Pisa Gown, and Eleanora di Toledo's burial gown (both are extant gowns you can see here), both had a distinctive point in the front, so I used the burial gown pattern in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion for a basis on my lines.

It's hard to tell just by a picture of the pattern piece, but I'm confident that this will not only fit, but will be much more representative of the overall look I'm going for than the curved waistline.

I will not be wearing a separate corset beneath this gown, in the spirit of Eleanora's well known active lifestyle and the belief that she did not wear a stiffened pair of bodies. Anea has an excellent article on this topic on her website. I will, however be stiffening the bodice with boning and cotton canvas in order to maintain the clean lines and bust support my body needs. In period, bodices would have been stiffened with all manner of things, from cardboard to glue-stiffened linen (buckram).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I had a random crazy happenstance occur last night. A week or so ago, I was telling Justin about the handkerchiefs I inherited from my Great-Grandmother a few years ago when she passed. I had not seen those handkerchiefs for a number of years, and was rather upset by it. Somehow they had gotten misplaced in one of my many moves following the divorce.

Last night, in a search for watercolor markers, I found them. I cannot even express how happy I am to see these little gems again. Grandma always kept a handkerchief tucked in her blouse.

The polka dotted fabric they are laying on is also an piece of my inheritance - it's an old flour sack from once upon a time. The "W" is for Wilma.

I love how light and sheer this one is - so delicate, and very fine in quality.

I adore how they turned a simple rolled hem into this scalloped embroidered corner. I presume these were machine embroidered, but the quality is gorgeous. I don't know how old these are, but would guess from the 1980's, so not terribly vintage, but they do come from a lifetime of her habits.

I spent a great deal of time with her as I was growing up, but am ashamed about how little I actually know about her past. I recall being told she had a government job during the Great Depression, and I know she raised her children on a small dairy farm - a farm which I was sad to see sold when she passed. I used to chase her neighbor's peacocks all over that place. Mom tells me stories about visiting and watching the cows get milked when she was a child.

Anyway, I'm so very happy to have found these and thought I'd share how pretty they are.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Saccoccia Test

I made a saccoccia! This was basically a test, to figure out the best size, shape, etc for me, and to figure out a sewing method that would work for me.

I had a scrap of this modern dragonfly fabric, and decided that it would make a fun lining for a saccoccia... but he gold satin that was going to be the outer layer decided to be a total cow, and got demoted to lining. This dragonfly fabric was a birthday gift from Grifon's sister exactly six years ago. How fun is that?

The most amusing part? It matches my corset! Hah!

I used Serafina's construction techniques, and created a bias strip from my lining fabric to seal the top and then folded it over and sewed it down to create a casing in which to use for an apron string or a simple cord to tie around my waist under my skirts.

Next time I make one, I'll do a couple of things differently (aside from using better fabrics). I will decrease the slit by about an inch. I have small hands and this will still allow me easy access, while giving me a bit more cargo space, as it were. I would also like to try one of the more square-bottomed ones, just for fun.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

ACC - Camicia

For my Camicia pattern, I used the pattern outlined in Dorothy Burnham's Cut My Cote, which had further research and extrapolation as shown at Realm of Venus.

This camicia is made from a lightweight white linen from my stash.  It is not as light or high-quality of linen as I would have preferred, but given cost constraints, I went with it.  I was able to use a finer quality linen for the embroidery, from a small piece in my stash - there was simply not enough for the entire garment.
Completed Camicia (excuse the poor photo)
I initially was going to sew the camicia by machine. In fact, the sleeve seams were done by machine, but when I got to the point in which I would need to set in the gusset in the underarm, I switched gears and completed the rest of the camicia by hand. This was done to test my own hand-sewing skills, and to see how much control I could have.  I historically make a mess of gussets, and I had read how much easier it is by hand.
Hand-set Gusset

Using Laura Mellin's documented method of Elizabethan hand-sewing, I finished all seams first, and then connected the pieces with a tight whip stitch. The close-up photographs in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 4 clearly indicate this was a commonly practiced method of sewing in period. I was thrilled with how much control I had, particularly when setting the gussets, and it was nothing but a success.

Close-up of hand finished and whip-stitched seams

I gathered the camicia into a neckband, using a piece of blackwork as the front center part of the band which I completed. I did the blackwork in silk directly onto the linen by counting threads, in a pattern based on one from the 16th Century Italian Blackwork Sampler from the Victoria and Albert Museum. It's the blue one directly under the large red central voidwork pattern. (Bonus points for the embroidery matching my nails!)

Blackworked neckband

 After hand stitching the neckband into place and finishing the hem, I hand stitched lace at the sleeve cuff, rather than gathering the cuff into a band. This sleeve finish is shown in quite a few period portraits, such as Leandro Bassano's Portrait, Lucretia, c. 1570-80's.  I chose this sleeve finish simply because I have a camicia with a gathered sleeve already.  The lace was from my stash, and turned out to be almost exactly the right amount for this project - I only have about three inches left over!

Hand-Sewn inside seams

Lucretia by Bassano


Burnham, Dorothy K. "Cut My Cote." Royal Ontario Museum; Illustrated edition (1973)

Janet Arnold, "Patterns of Fashion 4." Macmillan, London, 2008.

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