Making a pair of Long Toed Shoes / 14th Century Inspired

This post is about making a pair of shoes. Yup. That is a thing that I decided to do. I don’t know if I can really call them shoes, since they have the flexibility and appearance of slippers, but they were supposed to be shoes. And I don’t think they look too bad considering this is my first attempt at making a pair!

I needed shoes to wear with my Cotehardie ensemble (post about making the cotehardie is here). I looked around online and couldn’t find ones in my price range. Even the really inaccurate, modern boots from DSW were double what I wanted to spend. So I decided to make a pair from wool I had leftover from making the mantle (post about that should be up soon).

Before getting into this I feel I should mention that I had no idea what I was going. And that I know nothing about making shoes. I didn’t spend a lot of (read: any) time researching what the process should be. I made it up as I went along.

But I did find a really amazing resource for medieval footwear! This is the site. I didn’t read through their construction guide, or use any of their patterns, but found the images very helpful. It was a fantastic starting point for figuring out what my boots should look like. I ended up combing the Side Lacing Boot and the Peaked Shoe.

Now onto materials!

For the soles of the shoes I used some embossed pleather from my stash and the cheapest shoe inserts I could find at target. The blue fabric is leftover heavy wool coating. I ended up using some spandex, wool suiting, and embroidery floss as well but those things aren’t pictured.

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For the pattern drafting process I used newsprint, cardboard, tape, and a plastic bag.

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To figure out the shape of the sole I traced the outline of my foot onto the cardboard. Then I made the end super pointy. According to this article, in the 1300s the point was usually only extended by 10% of the foots length. But I have big feet. And I always stay away from pointed toe shoes since they make my already large feet look like clown feet.

And I didn’t want that to happen here. So I decided to make the point really long with hopes that it would look very exaggerated, instead of making my feet look huge. I think it worked. Kind of.

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I cut out the sole pattern and traced it onto the fake leather.

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And onto my cushion soles that I bought from target. Unfortunately these weren’t big enough to accommodate the pointy toe.

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To combat that I fused felt weight interfacing onto the tip of the fake pleather, so the point would keep it’s shape.

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All that was set aside for a bit while I focused on making the shoe pattern. The first step in doing this was taping the cardboard sole pattern onto the bottom of my foot. Then I taped crumpled plastic bags overtop of it so the exaggerated toe had to some shape to it instead of being completely flat.

Then another plastic bag went over my entire foot and I wrapped painters tape around everything until I had the shape I wanted.

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I marked a seam line around the ankle, the centerline, where the sole ended, and the side line where I wanted the lacing to be. I also drew the shape I wanted the top of the shoe have. Then I cut the bag off my leg, fixed up the wonky guidelines, and cut it into two pieces.

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I traced that onto paper and bam, a pattern! The only major change was that I added seam allowances.

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I cut the shoes out from wool and sewed the pieces together.

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Then sewed around each edge to create guidelines where the fabric should be turned under.

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All the edges were turned under at the stitch line and sewn in place with a running stitch. I did this by hand so the stitching wouldn’t be too obvious.

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Switching back to the soles, I placed the pleather layer beneath the cushion sole. Then covered them with a wool suiting, so the bottoms looked pretty.

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I also cut out a layer of gold spandex, which will be used as a top layer for the soles. I figured this would wipe down well in case the shoes get sweaty inside.

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I used basting stitches to sew the spandex on after the soles were covered with suiting.

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Then I sewed eyelets into the sides of both shoes. I did this by hand with three strands of embroidery floss. The bottom inch of the side edge (that doesn’t have eyelets) was sewn shut by hand.

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Then I pinned the top part of the shoes onto the soles and sewed them on by hand. And that was it! They are done!

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Stuff I learned: The sole should be slightly more narrow than your foot. Mine ended up being a lot wider than they needed to be. But I would rather that be the case than them being too small! And using anything other than leather will probably result in the shoes looking like slippers. Oops.

Also – i’m fully aware these aren’t very practical. They definitely aren’t waterproof and have no traction. There also isn’t topstitching around where the top of the shoes meets the sole, so I doubt they will be very durable. I’m going to wear these for a few sets of photos, not to an event that requires a lot of walking so it isn’t a big issue for me.

But you could definitely use a similar process, with rubber soles and leather that would be more appropriate for heavy wear.

Here they are worn with the cotehardie and tights!

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And the matching mantle.

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A write up on making the mantle and a tutorial on the crown will be coming up soon. As for the leggings, I’ll include that info here because they were really easy to make. I used a pair of forever 21 leggings as a guide, then added several inches to the waist and ankles since my fabric was one way stretch (and the leggings I based them on were made from two way stretch knit).

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Sewed up the crotch seams and side seams…

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Folded the hem inward by a half inch, twice, and hand sewed it down.

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Then turned the top edge inward by a half inch, then by two inches, and sewed across the bottom to create a channel for elastic. I sewed the elastic in and that was it! This fabric looks very flesh toned in the photos above but it has a pretty gold sheen to it which should come to life when I photograph this outdoors.

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And that’s it for this blog post! Thanks for reading and I hope your New Year is off to a good start!

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Making a Menswear Inspired Cotehardie

It’s time for a new project! It’s been a while since i’ve been able to say that. I’m finally beginning work on a medieval ensemble that I bought fabric for a few months back (more info on that here).

This project is menswear inspired and consists of a few different pieces, the first is a cotehardie, which is a slim fit long sleeved garment. It will be worn over tights and a pair of shoes which I plan on making myself. Overtop of that there will be a mantle (capelet) which will have a liripipe (long pointed hood). And I might be making a crown to go with it as well. So lots of different pieces to keep me busy!

I decided to start with the most important piece which is the cotehardie. There are tons of reference of these in artwork from the middle ages, but that artwork isn’t very fun to look at. So here is an example from “The Complete Costume History” book. These are some pretty fancy examples, mine is a little less elaborate!

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Here are my main fabrics for the ensemble. The cotehardie will be made from a wool suiting, the mantle and shoes will made from a really heavy wool coating, and the tights from a gold knit.

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Once I had my references gathered I started draping the pattern. This part was a little tricky. Cotehardies shown in artwork seem to be really fitted but do not have any seams in the front or back. I managed to accomplish this but the end result hinders mobility a bit which is kind of a bummer.

When I was draping I added darts to get the fabric to fit the form tightly, but I removed these when transferring the pattern onto paper.

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Once that was transferred to paper and seam allowances were added I had a pattern. Then I made a mock up.

Here is my mock up being tried on, the left is before pinning, the right is after pinning. I managed to get an okay fit by raising the waistline and shoulder, but even after doing that there is some gaping around the arm opening. That part doesn’t look great, but It’s kind of unavoidable when trying to make something super tight and without seams when you have boobs.

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Once my alterations were made to the pattern I cut the pieces out.

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At this point I realized the wool suiting I bought was really flimsy. I felt like it would show every lump and bump and not look as hardy as a cotehardie should be (haha). I know with suit jackets interlinings are often used to bulk the material up…but I didn’t have any of those around. So I cut out a layer of flannel and used a random pad stitching(ish) technique to attach it to the wool.

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I didn’t bother to add it in the hips, I felt like the fabric stiffness was more important at the front and waist.

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When that was done I folded the front edge inward and sewed it down.

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Now I had two pieces that looked like this!

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This will have a false button closure on it. During this period buttons were used as decorations more often than not. If they were functional they closed with a button loop system, not button holes. I’ve used buttons/loops before and it can become quite finicky, so I decided to make the buttons decorative and have the cotehardie snap closed.

I used bright pink basting stitches to mark the centerline on the lapels, which show where the buttons and snaps will be placed. Then I used chalk to pinpoint where each one would go.

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A MILLION YEARS LATER (or nine hours, one or the other) I had all the snaps and buttons attached. I’m really out of practice with sewing these on because it took me so long. It also ripped my fingers up a bit, since I sewed them all on in two days.

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Here is what it snapped closed! They don’t all line up perfectly a couple might be a few millimeters off. But it doesn’t effect the look or wear of the garment at all so I don’t mind too much.

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Now at this point I realized my cotehardie was pretty boring. And I don’t like making boring things. Even though I liked how the buttons looked, it just wasn’t enough detailing to make it really pop. But I didn’t have any gold trims that would match, so I wasn’t sure what to do.

Then it hit me: I should add lions.

Because when in doubt, add lions, right?

Heraldic cotehardies were actually a thing (as seen here) where a coat of arms/crest/emblem would make up the pattern on a dress or tunic. So using that theme I started googling medieval emblems until I found one I liked. Eventually I came across the “Coat of arms of Castile and León” which had a handy vector image of a lion on it’s wikipedia page.

I ran that through photoshop, then printed out two lions.

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When I held these up I realized it would look like two lions framing my crotch. Which wasn’t a great look. So I decided to only use one lion and figured out a different pattern for the other side later on.

I traced the outline of the lion onto double sided fusible interfacing. Then I fused it onto gold spandex, since spandex doesn’t fray I managed to avoid the frustration of turning over each edge, which was awesome.

Finally, I cut the lion out. Which took ages, there are so many fiddly bits!

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Then I ironed the lion onto my cotehardie, and tah-dah! Instantly fancier!

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For the other side I decided to add fleur de lis, which I traced from this coat of arms.

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I cut them out so they looked like this.

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Then fused them on.

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Before doing anything else I stitched up the side seams and turned the hem inward by an inch.

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Then I stitched around the edge of my appliques and added some details with more stitching. I did this with regular cotton thread since I didn’t have any embroidery floss, which isn’t ideal, but I still think it looks pretty good!

Next time I have E6000 out i’m going to add rhinestones to the lions crown and eye. I think that will look neat.

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And here it is laid out flat~

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After a quick fitting I realized the shoulder fit was pretty bad. So I took it in a bit and added some quilt batting to stand in for shoulder pads. Even that didn’t help very much, since the main issue is that the shoulder was cut too narrow. It is too late to fix that on this piece, but I made a note on the pattern. If I ever use it again i’ll add at least a half inch to that area.

Then I turned the collar and arm holes under so they had pretty finished edges.

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Which meant it was time for sleeves! Here is the pattern I drafted for them. It was hard to get them really tight, but also wide enough to have a nice silhouette.

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They were cut out of the suiting and sewn up the side.

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And the process was repeated with some polyester lining fabric.

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Then the lining was sewn to the wool sleeves.

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The lower edges of the wool got turned under by a half inch, then the lining was sewn to cover the raw edge.

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And I sewed on more buttons! Because you can never have too many of those.

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I whip stitched the sleeves on.

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Then cut out lining for the body of the garment and sewed that in. This was probably the hardest part since i’ve never lined something with such a curvy shape before. I also took my cotehardie in quite a bit, but didn’t mark those changes on my pattern. So there was some guesswork involved when I used it to cut out the lining.

But I managed!

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And now it’s finished (aside from a couple rhinestones)! I love everything except the shoulder fit. The slope on those is a bit to dramatic and they are too narrow. But I think the rest of it is pretty awesome. Especially the lion. That is probably my favorite part.

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One piece down, a couple left to go! Worn photos of it will be taken soon, but I want to get the tights and shoes finished first.

Thanks for reading!

Making a Maroon Medieval Dress

Last October I started on a 15th century inspired project which I titled the “Maroon Medieval Ensemble”. Unfortunately it didn’t go as planned and the only finished part of the project is a rose colored chiffon chemise (which I blogged about here). The dress ended up in a bin at the top of my closet, which is where projects go to die. Or at least it’s where they go when i’m not ready to throw them out but don’t plan on finishing them.

The reason i’m now blogging about this project is because it’s survived the bin of death! Or at least part of it has.

When I was working on my Medieval Escoffin I realized the colors and materials I was using were quite similar to the fabrics in my Maroon Medieval dress. I even used some of the leftover piping from that project on the escoffin. Though the dress wasn’t wearable at all I got it out from the bin of death, I figured I could salvage some part of it and use it as the base for a dress that could be worn with my escoffin.

Which I did! And that’s what i’m blogging about.

Here is the dress in it’s unaltered half finished state:

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I don’t think it looks bad from the front. The real issue is that it didn’t fit properly. The waist was too long and didn’t flare enough to sit smoothly over my hips. This caused the bodice to constantly ride up and fold around the waist/stomach area which looked pretty awful.

I majorly goofed up on the back. I added boning panels to a bias cut seam and didn’t realize until later on how warped and pointed the back had become, especially around the neckline. The eyelets were also placed too far apart into fabric that wasn’t reinforced properly. And I tried to sew them with rayon thread which is a big no-no, they were an absolute mess!

I decided that the top part was unsalvageable. But the bottom half was perfectly fine – okay, it’s a little shorter than I’d like, but other than that it’s fine. So I decided to keep that part and attach it to a new bodice which would hopefully fit better and nicely compliment the escoffin.

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Before talking about the new bodice, here are some pictures of making the bottom half of the dress. My pattern for the front side looked like this.

I flat drafted it and didn’t make any mock ups, which I think is the reason behind my fit problems.

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The bottom band was also flat drafted. This part of the dress is made from the cheapest jacquard fabric that Joanns has in their home decor collection.

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The bottom band is trimmed with piping. I used a really pretty floral brocade for this. I cut strips out on the fabrics bias and sewed them together.

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Then I folded them in half so they covered a piece of cotton cord and sewed with the presser foot as close to the cord as I could get.

I made this before I realized that lightweight fabrics need another layer of material between them and the cord. Otherwise the markings on the cord are visible through the fabric and the piping can looked puckered  – which totally happened here.

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I think I made fifteen yards of puckery piping.

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The bottom band was sewn together with french seams.

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The raw edges were turned inward by a half inch and hand stitched down.  Then the piping was sewn on by hand. To prevent the edges from fraying I sewed some thin horsehair across the top and bottom edge, but I don’t have a picture of that

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Here is the finished band, which was then sewn onto the dress. I think those are all the relevant progress photos I have of this part. The dress itself is made from a cheap suiting I got for less than $3/yard from fabric.com. It’s a three piece pattern and sewn together with french seams (at the sides and at the back). The collar took the most time but that part got cut off so I won’t ramble on about making it!

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My new and improved bodice is made from more of the red jacquard. I used the bodice pattern from my Damask Print Dress since it doesn’t have any front seams (dresses in this time rarely did) and fit me surprisingly well. I just altered it to be a three piece pattern with an opening in the back instead of at the sides.

I would have cut this as one single piece but I didn’t have enough fabric left to do that.

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I made facings to go around the arm holes and neckline of the bodice.

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It all got turned inward and tacked down by hand so stitches weren’t visible.

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Then I made some trim from remnants of the brocade piping, some damask print bias tape that is covered in gold mesh, and little chiffon ruffles. All these fabrics were used for my escoffin and I thought this would be a good way to bring those textures and colors into the dress.

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Then I sewed a whole bunch of eyelets into the back. They are sewn between two pieces of plastic boning so they won’t stretch or tear.

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Then the side seams got done up. I did this the normal way, then folded the seam allowance inward and stitched across the folded edge to create a boning channel. I added two pieces of plastic boning to each side of the bodice. This is to prevent the bodice from bunching up at the sides, which can easily happen in bodices that don’t have darts or bust allowances in them.

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When that was finished I hemmed it and got to try it on for the first time. The fit is pretty much perfect, it’s the right length and doesn’t compress the bust too much or flare out awkwardly around the arms, which is great. I’m really pleased with this pattern!

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Now it was time to work on the sleeves. I decided to do layered sleeves, which will make it look like I’m wearing a kirtle underneath a short sleeved dress.

The long sleeves are made from a two piece pattern. The top part will be cut from stretch velvet so it nicely clings to the arm and the lower section is made from the damask print fabric with a gold mesh overlay. The short sleeves are made from a very similar pattern that is a bit wider and much shorter. Here are the patterns:

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I started by cutting out the short sleeves.

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The lower edge got turned inward by a half inch and sewed down.

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Then I made more of my piping/bias tape/ruffle combo which will decorate the hem.

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That got pinned onto the hem of each sleeve.

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And sewn on by hand. All of this was done by hand because I wanted to avoid visible topstitching.

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The side seam got sewn up, then I sewed lining into each sleeve.

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This is the top part of the long sleeves, made from the same velvet I used on the escoffin. In the end the short sleeved layer will cover this part, so you won’t see it, but I wanted it to match anyway.

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These are the lower sections, made from the same fabrics as the sides of the escoffin. I still love this fabric combo,  I think it looks very rich and has a lot of depth to it.

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To finish the edges I stitched it onto a piece of lining with the right sides facing each other, then turned it the right way out. I topstitched around the sides (by machine) and hem (by hand), then it got sewn on to the velvet part.

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The side seam got sewn up and luckily they fit!

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Then the top edge was sewn inside the top edge of the short sleeves. That edge was a frayed mess so I finished it with bias tape.

I set them aside for a bit and sewed lining into the bodice. When that was done they got sewed in with a whip stitch.

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Which left me with a lovely wearable bodice!

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I’m really happy with this. I like all the fabrics together and it fits, so I don’t have anything negative to say about it at all!

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Now it was time to attach the skirt. I put the dress on and hiked it up a little bit so it fit loosely around the waist. I needed some extra room so I could take the dress in at the back so the terrible eyelets wouldn’t be visible.  Then I marked a line about one inch above my waist and cut across that point.

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I ripped out the boning and as much of the eyelets as I could. I cut about an inch off either side which got rid of half the eyelets, what was still visible I covered with bias tape.

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After it was sewn on you couldn’t even tell!

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Then I sewed the skirt to my new bodice with tiny whip stitches. And the bottom edge of the bodice lining was stitched down to cover the raw edge of the skirt.

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The skirt fabric is too weak for eyelets so I hand sewed in a zipper. It isn’t accurate, but it’s really convenient.

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And that was it! The dress is finished! I love how this turned out. It was a very spur of the moment project which makes the end result feel even better.

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Here are a few worn photos of the whole thing. I should have the entire set up soon but I have a bit of editing to do first!


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Thanks for reading!

Making a Medieval Escoffin / Heart Shaped Headpiece

Last week I decided to make a Medieval Escoffin. They are a tall, usually elaborate, heart shaped headdress with a padded roll on top. I thought it would be a fun little project and unlike any of my previous headpieces.

The finished piece looks like this – I’ll be taking better photos of it when I have the matching dress finished.

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I’ve seen these headpieces in a lot of paintings and etchings, though they are usually just called heart shaped headpieces or heart shaped hennin. Fig. 50 from the page below was my main inspiration for this, since I thought the slightly wider shape would be more flattering on me than the completely upright ones (like Fig. 51). I didn’t intend for mine to look so similar to the drawing, it just sort of worked out that way.

Also this isn’t to go with the Damask Medieval Dress I’ve been working on – I just borrowed some materials from that piece.

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Oh, and those drawings are all from this book. It’s really great for seeing the styles from various periods but it doesn’t have any information on the patterning or making of any headdresses. Which is totally fine with me – I like making that part up on my own.

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I started doodling what the pattern might look like flat. Once I realized the curves in the headpiece could be created by adding batting to a flat pattern this became way easier.

My first  few sketches kind of look like the Modius crowns from Ancient Egypt – in fact the shape of a lot of early European headpieces remind me of ones Egyptian Royalty wore. Which I wouldn’t have expected.

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 I started by drawing out the shape I thought it would have on newsprint. The right side is what it looked like originally and the left side is the one I altered. I took it in a lot, lowered he top arch, and raised the bottom. Then I drew out the various sections onto the newsprint so I could better visualize the proportions.

I kept holding it up to/putting it on my head and adjusting things until I liked the way it looked. It was surprisingly easy!

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This is the pattern I ended up with. But I ended up raising the bottom portion since it was lower than I wanted.

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I traced the pattern onto heavy felt weight interfacing and cut it out. I also drew on the separate sections so I would know where to put the padding.

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Then I hand sewed wire around each edge. This makes the headpiece a lot more durable and shapeable. For the lower edge I stitched the wire about a quarter inch away from the edge. This will help reduce the bulk at the there, which is good since a lot of fabric will be layered there.

I also tried it on at this point to make sure everything looked okay – and it did, so I carried on.

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Then it was time to pad the lower section (I’ve been calling these the “ears” but there is probably a proper name for it). I used circles of quilt batting which I cut up and layered until I had a nice rounded shape.

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Here they are pinned on. I whip stitched the edges down shortly after taking this picture.

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Then I covered the ears lower section with a damask print fabric. To jazz this fabric up a bit I covered it with a gold mesh – the damask fabric is from NYC and the mesh is from Joanns.

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Then I sewed some home made brocade piping across the bottom edge. And I covered the lower edge of the felt interfacing at the centerfront with a scrap of red fabric. This part will eventually be hidden by a ruffle but I didn’t want the felt to be visible from any angle.

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Here you can see the textures of these materials together, I really, really, love the combination.

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I decided to line the interior before doing anything else. I used some red suiting for this.

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Then I tried it on. I was happy with the way it was looking but I thought the lower panels looked a little empty.

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So I started fiddling around with some beads and I realized I had enough of these gold glass beads to embellish the lower panels with a cross pattern.

I got these from Michaels (or maybe Joanns?) the pack of gold ones was on sale for $2. I also decided to stitch fake pearls across the bottom of the panels. For that i’m using super cheap 6mm ones by darice, I think these are 99c a strand.

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I made up a paper template for the cross pattern, which looked like this.

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I pinned them on and traced the edges of each strip with a yellow copic marker. If I did this again I would definitely draw this pattern onto the fabric before sewing the fabric over a dome. Because that make it way more difficult and the design isn’t even on both sides, which is a bummer.

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Taking the fact I was trying to draw straight stripes on a dome into account, I think this looks pretty good!

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But I still wanted it to have more details. So I decided to add a little ruffle. I had pink, red, and ivory chiffon, but none of them looked quite right with the damask material. I found this orange chiffon at the bottom of the stack and thought it was perfect, so I cut it into strips which got folded in half to create a finished edge.

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I gathered that down and sewed it onto the escoffin. It looks a bit silly, but I was happy with it.

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I started doing a little bit of the beading, as you can see on the right side. But the major difference here is the addition of batting to the top portion of the headpiece. This is seriously just a giant rectangle of quilt batting that I folded three times. Then it was pinned and draped inside the guidelines I had drawn.

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Here it is after being sewn down!

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Now I came to a little roadblock. I had no idea what fabric to use to cover the top portion. This is a spontaneous project, so I didn’t buy any materials with it in mind, I’m just using things I have around.

I figured if the fabric stretched that would give a smoother finish, and the only stretch fabrics I have are stretch velvets. So I raided that bin and luckily came across scraps of red velvet that I used for the cloak on my Christmas Costume in 2013.

I had just enough to cover the top portion. It took a lot of pins, stretching, and pricks to get it to lay smooth but I managed!

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I had to cut centerfront to get it to lay flat. I didn’t want the raw edge to show so I covered it with a scrap of velvet.

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With the assembly done I went ahead and finished the beading.

(I did this well watching American Ninja Warrior – that show is really addicting)

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The last thing to do was add a gem to the front. I don’t actually have any gems, but I do have glass montees. I used a clear one and painted it with alcohol inks until it was a rich gold that matches the other materials used. Then I glued gold beads around the edge and set it into one of the brass cameo frames I got in NYC a few weeks ago.

I think it’s super pretty!

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That got sewn onto the center front.

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Then I did up the back and it was finished!

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I love how this turned out. It’s one of my favorite pieces i’ve made in a while.  That is probably  because it’s so different from any of my other pieces. But I also really like all these materials together, I think they look quite stunning.

And this was really fun to make, which  raises my opinion on it. I love figuring stuff out without any information other than what the finished thing should look like, and I definitely got to do that with this. So that was great.

No photos from the back yet. I think i’ll make a veil to hide my hair, because right now it’s visible from the back and doesn’t look great.

Photo on 10-19-15 at 3.18 PM #4

Photo on 10-19-15 at 3.20 PM #3

Photo on 10-19-15 at 3.21 PM

Cost Break Down:

1/4 yards of:  velvet, damask fabric, gold mesh, chiffon, and suiting = $6

1/2 yard of interfacing & quilt batting = $5.00

Beads, cameo frame, glass montee = $6.00

It probably has fifteen hours of work into it. Maybe twenty. I was pretty damn focused on it for three days, and by the fourth day it was finished. But all the work was fun, I really enjoyed this project!

Thanks for reading!

Making a Damask Print Medieval Dress, Part One

This is my first time blogging about a historical project in a while! I’ve missed it. Historical projects are definitely my favorite and i’m happy to be back to focusing on them.

This is a dress inspired by (and based off the shape) one Eleanor of Portugal, the Holy Roman Empress wore in this painting, which is by Hans Burgkamair the Elder. I love how unusual the style of this dress is. The simplistic design was very common in the Middle Ages, but the fuller sleeves and skirt hint at the Renaissance fashions which were just starting to become popular.

I like a lot of the more traditional medieval styles (close fitting and a lot of layers) and plan to make things similar to them in the near future, but the uniqueness of this design made me want to recreate it. I’ve decided to drop the laced collar, but the shape and neckline will be similar. I found a drawing (which is probably not very historically accurate) with similar sleeves which i’ve also used for inspiration.

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I would also like to pair it with a headpiece of some sort. Not sure what exactly, but it’ll be elaborate.

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My materials consist of four yards of a gold and orange damask print. I bought this in NYC but found this website which sells it for almost the same price. I also have some fake fur trim to edge the neckline and sleeves.

I’m going to alter pieces of a  failed red medieval ensemble and use them for the chemise/underdress. That is what the red fabric represents.

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I have some matching red beads, rhinestones, and gold beads which will probably end up in the headpiece. I read that mesh overlays were very common on hennin so I bought some on my last trip to joanns. I also picked up four yards of quilting cotton, which will be the lining.

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I think that’s everything – lets move onto making it!

The bodice i’m basing this off of does not have seams or darts in the front. Which means mine won’t either. That design element paired with the high neck meant I couldn’t drape this pattern on my dress form (its bust is bigger and doesn’t squish into flat front bodices). I ended up using the “pillowcase and pin” method which I show in this blog post.

When that was done It looked like this.

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I did my best to make sense of the markings and create something a bit easier to transfer onto paper.

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I ended up with this! But I made some alterations to this after creating a mock up. One of those changes was separating the pieces, since I wanted the centerfront and centerback to be cut straight with the damask print. I couldn’t get the front and back to line up while still cutting the bodice as one piece.

I also lowered the neckline, waistline, and took in the shoulder seam.

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I drew a chalk line down the backside of the fabric. I made sure the line went right down the center of the damask print and laid the pattern piece against the chalkline. I traced around the edges with sharpie and repeated the process with the other side. Then I cut the pieces out and labeled them because the front and back look really similar.

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I didn’t want a back closure so I decided to have eyelets going up one side. I added two and a bit inches on the sides with the eyelets. The other side has a three quarter inch seam allowance.

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Somewhere along the way I decided to bind the seams instead of sewing them the normal way. To make that a little bit easier I added a medium weight interfacing where the binding would be. On the side with the eyelets I used a lighter weight interfacing, this was to prevent fraying more than anything else.

This fabric is REALLY prone to fraying,  so I left the bottom edge (the waistline) uncut while I worked on the neckline and side seams.

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To get super smooth finishes on the edges (and so I wouldn’t have to worry about fraying) I made facings for the neckline and armholes. I traced the edges of the bodice onto my lining fabric, then measured one and a half inches away from the traced edge. These got pinned on with the right sides facing each other.

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I sewed a half inch away from the edge at the armholes, and three quarter inches away from the neckline since I made it the tiniest bit too high.

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The facings got turned over and pinned down…

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Then sewn down by hand to prevent any topstitching from being visible on the front of the fabric.

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With those edges finished, I moved onto the side seams. I started with the side that has eyelets.

I turned the fabric inward by three quarters of an inch and sewed half an inch away from the edge. Then folded the fabric inward by one and a quarter inch and sewed half an inch away from the edge. I topstitched a sixteenth of an inch away from the edges to secure it in place. This created two boning channels about three quarters of an inch apart. The math there doesn’t really make sense when I think about it, but I swear that is what I did!

It looked like this.

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I added the boning and prepared to sew sixteen eyelets.

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At this point it still kind of fit on my dress form. Okay not really. But you can get some idea of what it’ll resemble.

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Now I did the eyelets. They took maybe five episodes of Treasure Quest: Snake Island to finish. That is how I measure time when hand sewing in front of the TV and it is totally valid.

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I ironed the other side edges into a fold, then bound them together from the back.

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A fitting made me realize having boning on one side and not the other was a bad idea. The side without boning collapsed and puckered. If I’d realized this before binding the seam I could have hidden boning in the seam allowance, but it was too late for that. So I sewed an ugly boning channel instead.

It’s so ugly. But it works.

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I made up some double fold bias tape out of scraps.

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The lower edge finally got cut to the right length, then bias tape was sewn overtop to hide the fraying.

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 I cut out my lining (all as one piece) and pinned it in place. I sewed it down at the waistline, sides, and the lower half of the armholes. It’s much easier to sew lining in when the garment is flat, so I didn’t sew up the shoulder seam until most of the lining was in.

When everything but the lining around the neckline and shoulders were done, I did up the shoulder seam.

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But I still didn’t finish sewing the lining in. I had to attach the fur first!

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I did that with a whip stitch, then finished sewing in the lining.

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And that’s it for the bodice! It needs sleeves and a skirt but that will come later. Here it is worn over my rose chemise I made a few months ago. I should have tied the cuffs but I forgot.

The fit could probably be a little bit better, but i’m pretty pleased with it considering how hard it is to make fitted bodices without darts or seams. It also doesn’t have any boning or interfacing (aside from the sides) in it and is worn without a foundation garment. The skirt will weight the bodice a bit and make it lay a little smoother, which will help.

I think I might add some red pearls around the neckline, just below the fur. But I also like how simple it is, so i’m conflicted. Opinions on that are welcome!

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Oh, and I filmed the process of making this. If you want to watch that, it can be seen here!

Thanks for reading!

Making a Pleated Navy Gown, Part Two

The draped dress continues! Part One is posted here, it talks about making the lining for the dress, and though that was successful, it wasn’t looking very pretty. Today i’ll be adding the satin faced chiffon and making it look much better!

So this is the mess I left off with. The first step towards improving it was creating side panels from chiffon.

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But the chiffon is too delicate to keep the shape these panels require. So I backed them with a medium weight fusible interfacing.

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The edges got turned under, then the side seams were sewn.

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I removed the bodice lining from the dress form and pinned the side panels over it. I rested the bodice over an ironing ham to make sure the shape was right!

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Then the side pieces were sewn on with big basting stitches, these will get removed later on so the sleeves can be attached.

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Here is what it looks like on the form! Once it was pinned in place I could begin draping the chiffon overtop.

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I had this weird assumption that this part would be easy. I was wrong.

Granted my only experience with draping comes from watching Rami Kashou and Austin Scarlett do it on project runway, which apparently isn’t enough of an education to make my attempts turn out brilliantly on the first try.

After two – or maybe three, it all blended together in a big mess of frustration, hours I had something that looked decent! And kind of symmetrical. Not really symmetrical, but it was close(ish).

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I used large basting stitches and white thread to secure down all the pleats. My first plan was to sew them down by hand, which I did on the left side. After trying it on I realized it looked TERRIBLE. Even the tiniest stitches created a lot of puckers and it lost the effortless look I was going for. So that got ripped out.

You may notice the back left side looks a little weird. Because I was doing this in a dim room and didn’t realize I was working on the wrong side of the fabric, so that had to be ripped off and re draped.

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The back up plan of keeping everything when it should be involved ironing the crap out of it and hoping the pleats would stay in place, which totally worked!

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Now it was time to move onto the skirt! I cut out another large rectangle, but I made it a couple inches longer than the gabardine layer I cut for lining. I wanted to make sure the gabardine wasn’t visible at the hem, and since I wanted the skirt to drag it made a lot of sense to leave it extra long.

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After cutting the skirt to the proper length I had a three inch wide strip leftover. I folded that strip in half and ironed it so there was a sharp fold. Then I stitched the side with two raw edges onto the raw edge of the skirt.

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I treated it like you would any hem tape and turned it inward to the wrong side of the fabric, so the raw edge was hidden. I pinned this in place and then spent a few hours hemming the damn thing, doing my absolute best to avoid puckers.

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When that was finished I stitched the top of the skirt to the gabardine layer. Then I pleated the top into three quarter inch wide pleats. Two thirds of them face one direction, and one third faces the other.

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I attached a gabardine waistband to the skirt and turned the raw edge under so there was no added bulk at the waist. Then the raw edge was finished with home made bias tape to prevent fraying.

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With all that pinned to the dress form I had something resembling a dress!

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Now it was time for sleeves! The original plan was to have an undershirt made from brocade with fitted sleeves. I made the undershirt but I eventually realized the print was a little busier than I wanted, and I wasn’t happy with how it looked under my dress.

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So I scrapped it, and decided to make sleeves from ivory jacquard. Coming up with a pattern was a huge pain because the bodice has pointed arm holes, which are really difficult to set a sleeve into. The end result aren’t very pretty on the upper arm, but they are functional enough.

I didn’t take any pictures of the process, but here they are!

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Overtop of those sleeves I wanted draped sleeves that were open at the tops and nearly hit the floor. I was expecting this pattern to be quite complicated, but after cutting my remaining chiffon into two panels (40″ x 60″) and playing around I realized I could create a really pretty sleeve without cutting them at all!

This is just a rectangle pinned around the arm hole, and it falls really nicely.

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So I went with that! After making sure both rectangles were the same size I used a crayon to mark guidelines on the raw edges. The raw edges got turned inward by a half inch, twice, to prevent fraying.

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I stitched them down, which was time consuming since this fabric is so delicate.

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But the end result was really lovely. In this photo they are just pinned, but they got stitched on properly soon after. Both sleeves were sewn onto the lining, then the side panels of the bodice – which were previously basted in place, were stitched around the sleeves to hide any raw edges.

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The skirt got sewn onto the bodice, then I made a waistband to cover the raw edges. I wish I had enough chiffon leftover to make a blue sash, but the only remaining fabric was a 1/2″ wide strip of salvage. So Instead I used a piece of brocade. Brocade also got sewn on to create a collar.

Lastly I stitched eyelets into the back of the dress, I had originally stitched a zipper into the back but it wouldn’t zip smoothly past the bulk the pleated skirt created. But that’s okay, I like eyelets!

With that finished, the dress was done.

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Here are some worn pictures! I used the salvage strip of leftover fabric in the wig because I didn’t have a matching headpiece.

I think in the future I would like to add some boning to the centerfront and sides, which should keep the front smoother and allow me to lace it tighter at the back. Right now it isn’t very flattering. But before making any changes i’ll try it on with my pair of bodies or stays, which should give a similar result.

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So that’s it! Not bad for something I made in four days from things in my stash.

Thanks for reading!

Making a Pleated Navy Gown, Part One

Today (well, yesterday) I was supposed to post about finishing my Fluffy & Feathered dress. Unfortunately I didn’t get around to taking the photos required for that post, so that couldn’t happen. However, I have a new project to talk about, which is always exciting!

Right now i’m not in a very positive place project wise. I’ve hit a lot of roadblocks with my tudor costume and realized I have to accept that it won’t turn out the way I wanted. That is a very frustrating position to be in, even if it is part of learning.

After two days of moping around and doing a whole lot of nothing I decided it was time for a procrastination project! I was aiming for this to be a forty eight hour project, but due to some setbacks it ended up becoming a seventy eight hour project. Oops.

My main inspiration for this dress was this painting, and how Saints were depicted in [early] Renaissance times. I’ve wanted to make something soft and draped for a long time, so this seemed like a good opportunity! I decided to use navy satin faced chiffon for the dress and brocades for an undershirt.

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Since chiffon is sheer and far too flimsy to make a dress with this shape I’m lining it with navy gabardine – I’ve had this fabric for a good two years so I was happy to find a use for it!

I had five yards of gabardine and seven yards of chiffon for this dress and I used almost every scrap, so that worked out well!

This is the sloppy little sketch I did before starting.

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Step one was draping the bodice! I still really need to make a proper write up on how I do this…but I really don’t have a specific method, I just pull the fabric around until it fits the form tightly. Then I draw the seam lines and trim any extra material.

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After I was happy with it I removed the fabric from my dress form and ironed it. This is what it looked like when laid flat!

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 Which got turned into this.

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 Unfortunately since I was trying to make this quickly and because I worked on it at night, I wasn’t very good about photographing the process.

Luckily it is pretty easy to explain! I started by cutting the pattern from gabardine, which will be used as the bodice lining and as a base. This post is going to be almost entirely about working with the gabardine, since I had to completely assemble a skirt and bodice with it before even touching the chiffon. The chiffon gets draped overtop of the gabardine later on.

Once the  pattern was cut I turned the edges over by a half inch – I used my machine for this, which is kind of rare for me! Once the edges were finished I assembled the pieces. Below you can see the collar pinned in place, ready to be attached.

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 This is the bodice lining finished! I used an ivory jacquard for the center piece.

DSC_3167 And here is the first fitting. In my rush to make this I neglected to do a mock up, so I was thrilled to see it actually worked!

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Then it was time to start on the skirt. I chose to make the skirt a rectangle since those are fast, easy, and an effective use of material.

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I decided to hem the gabardine layer with horsehair braid to give it a bit more volume. This is cheap, kind of crappy horsehair so it didn’t add much “oomf” to the dress, but it certainly didn’t hurt!

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And here it is on a dress form! I’m intentionally leaving the hem very long, because it was quite common in paintings from the middle ages. And it helps differentiate it from my other dresses, which I like.

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The last step before beginning work with chiffon was adding the lace up front panel. Since I was working under time constraints I decided to just stitch it down instead of making functional laces.

The panel is cut from jacquard, then I used a piece of lace as an overlay to add texture.

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The lace was gathered overtop the front panel, then stitched down.

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I made marks every three quarter inches down each side, then cut pieces of leather covered cord. These will serve as the “laces”. I used a tiny stitch length and backstitched over the ends of the cord to make sure they were secured over the markings I made earlier on.

This was the end result!

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Ok so it looks like a big mess. But I promise it turns out okay!

Thank you for reading, and hopefully I will be better about posting next week!