I keep fighting to establish a routine in my life–like blogging once a week–but I keep getting distracted. Before, we lived far from our friends and family, and a good 30 minutes’ drive from the nearest city; it was easy to sit down and write a book or blog because there wasn’t much else to do. (That, and I had down time at work–something I never have now.) Now, we’re near almost all of our friends and my family, and everyone wants to visit with us, and when we’re not being social, we’re usually eating out or going to a movie (how novel!). And we’re also going to events again–now that we have money and live in a central location–and meetings and fighter practices.
At some point–surely–the new will wear off of us (and off the city) and we’ll go back to staying home most of the time. Then, maybe, I can blog again.
To catch up a little, I’ve been doing some serious sewing lately. I have gone to handsewing all of my clothing (with the exception of a quickie dress I’m making right now; I’m cheating and using knit velvet). One benefit to having high speed internet is that I have access to all sorts of new documentaries on Nextflix, Hulu, and YouTube; I love to watch (or more like listen) to documentaries while I work. It makes the project seem to go by faster, plus I learn stuff as I go. (The drawback to having high speed internet is CandyCrush.)
I made this pink dress like the yellow one I did last year. Here it is, inside out, on my dummy, with the lining partially attached. Unlike the yellow dress, which has a muslin lining, this one actually has a linen lining. And I don’t like it as well. Sure, it’s period-correct–unlike the muslin–but linen stretches. And when you sweat in it–as is wont to happen in Tennessee in the summer when it’s 90+ degrees outside–it stretches even more. Which means you end up with a lot less support in the bust at the end of the day and you start looking like you’ve melted–literally and figuratively.
I think I’m going to go back to muslin linings for all my dresses except the ones I enter into competitions. At the very least, no more linen linings in summer dresses; I think they’d do alright in the winter, but not the summer.
Here is where the lining is sewn to the armhole. Check out that shoulder seam; it looks machine sewn. It’s not!
I really like half-lining or bodice-lining my dresses. It gives me the look of a lined dress without a lot of extra fabric. I learned to appreciate the beauty of a lined garment when I was at The Original Re-Enactor’s Market in England and everyone was wearing lined garments. However, it gets very hot in Tennessee. The first time I wore this dress, it was in the upper 90’s, with a heat index (thanks to the humidity that we have in abundance) of 104 (that’s 40 degrees Celsius for the non-Americans). When I lived in Ireland, by contrast, I wore a light jacket to the pub on the Fourth of July, made my mother mail me my flannel footie pajamas (which I wore all summer), and the hottest it got the entire time I was there was about 89 degrees (32 C). That lasted one week, then it went back to being comfortable pants and long-sleeve shirt weather.
And that was in Kilkenny, which is one of the driest, warmest parts of Ireland. I have a picture of me, in the middle of August–at the same time I would be melting in 95-degree, 80% humidity weather in Tennessee–wearing a zipped up coat and sitting huddled on a rock in the Burren on the west coast.
So, unfortunately, I can’t get away with wearing all the layers and linings that people in Europe can wear. Hence why I half-line.
And here’s a picture of the sleeve. I learned my lesson from the yellow dress and flat-felled all my seams before I put in the lining.
Here is is completed and right-side out. The vertical slits are called “fitchets.” This is the first time I’ve put any in a dress, and I have to say I like them. While they don’t have to be a contrasting color, I like the extra splash of color.
The yellow around the front of the dress and neckline is a tiny piece of braid made from embroidery floss. Despite my best ironing efforts, the lining wanted to roll up and show around the edges. On my yellow dress, this isn’t a problem because the lining is beige muslin and the linen is a pale yellow; you don’t notice it. But on this dress, the lining is a natural wheat color and it does show around the pink. So, in an effort to hide it, I braided the thread and sewed it onto the edges. This is meant to simulate the card-woven edges that were found on some woollen garments. (The purpose is to make sure the wool doesn’t fray on the edges and become fuzzy and ugly.)
While it was meant to be corrective, I ended up liking the bit of yellow trim around the edges. It gave it a very finished look.This purse was something of a first for me, too. I’ve made exactly one purse for myself and that was 11 years ago, when I first got into the SCA (and I almost never used it). Fitchets, however, make it a lot easier to wear a purse. Just tie on a belt under your dress, attach the purse and pull it through the hole. (If you expect cut-purses, though, you can keep it on the inside.)
The design on the purse is block-printed and I’ve never done that before (block-printing is period, although it seems to have been largely imported into Europe from the middle east and India–where it’s still done by hand today). I bought a block at the flea market in Nashville and this was the first time I tried to use it. It was harder to use than I expected; it wasn’t like using a sponge or rubber stamp. I guess the paint didn’t lay on the wood as well as it does on rubber, so it was hard to get the print to transfer without overloading it with paint and creating a blob instead. There was definitely a sweet spot that you had to hit with how much paint you put on it. I found that putting my fabric on top of another piece of fabric–creating a soft work surface–helped. I guess the springiness of sponge or rubber helps transfer the pattern, too; since wood lacks this, you have to make up for it. Still, I made a number of impressions before I had one I was satisfied with (I used the second-best print for the backside of the purse).
In period, it’s unlikely that your purse would have matched your dress that well. It likely would have been made from a really nice fabric or embroidered, and most women would probably have only had one. So it ended up being worn with all your outfits, whether it matched, coordinated, or clashed spectacularly. (Although I’m not sure if medieval people had a sense of “clashing;” some of the combinations of color and prints you see in paintings really makes you wonder.)
I kind of don’t like how matchy-matchy the purse is, and yet I couldn’t think of anything else to make it out of that wouldn’t clash, and I hated the idea of clashing even worse. But if I do fitchets again–and I’m planning to in my next dress–I will probably make a purse that doesn’t match.
Speaking of my next dress, here’s the material for it:
This is a light-blue and white Celtic key pattern. This is actually the reverse side. The front side is kind of a synthetic-looking chenille, but the back is a very heavy, nobbly cotton that passes for wool unless you touch it. It will make me a very nice, heavy winter dress (which I will like, since I get cold easily). I was just thinking that I might trim the neckline in white fur.
And, before I go, here is me wearing the pink dress. (Our camera lens was very dirty, so that’s why there’s a blur, even after I ran the pictures through Photoshop.)
My yellow underdress is synthetic and barely stretches at all, so I managed to keep a decent-looking bustline all day at this particular event. But the first time I wore it, when it was so bloody hot, I wore a cotton gauze chemise under it that provided very little support on its own, and coupled with the stretchy linen, gave me what I termed the “melted birthday cake” look.
In the 14th century, women often posed with their hands on their abdomens and their elbows pointed out. I learned, while wearing a sideless surcoat, that the reason for doing this is to allow the contours of the waist to be seen; if your arms are hanging down at your sides, it hides your curves and can make you look fatter. One of the reasons why I like the fitchets is that it gives you a place to put your hands, while creating that medieval silhouette. (Other people say that they’re nice in the winter for keeping your hands warm. I’ll find out in my next dress–especially if I trim the holes with fur. Mwahaha!)