Saturday, October 20, 2018

Catch-Up and Moving Forward

painted salon at Guédelon

Goodness, it's been awhile, hasn't it?  Yikes.

From the dyers' workshop:
dyes from dye-specific plants
(there's another bank with
dyes from wild plants)
Since my last confession, I have done some sporadic bursts of effort with a bunch of nothing in between; work was fairly crushing due to start of semester + opening a new building that my people and I had a huge amount of work to do with, so I was very lacking in spoons by the time I got home.  Oh yes and ALSO I WENT TO BURGUNDY ahem.  Very little to report there on the textile front, alas, but I have a lot of photos on Gallo-Roman stuffs and the various phat loot belonging to the Dukes of Burgundy.  Also!  More exciting!  We went to Guédelon Castle--you know, the one they've been building for over a decade using 13th century construction techniques?  It was amazing.  And it's not just the castle; they have a whole working village with all the crafters (woodworkers, tile makers, dyers, paint-makers, basket-weavers, and so on).  Everyone should go[1] and I would like to go back every couple of years to see how it's all changing.

a few Landsknecht layers 
That said, we were still on the hook for His current Majesty's outfit for Coronation; and I did not get to help with that as much as I would've liked to, as the construction timing peaked as we were leaving on holiday, but I did a deal of pad-stitching and layer-attaching.  It was fun and educational.  I also started pearling a set of sleeves for Her current Majesty, but I'm not really clear on the due date for those--originally they were for Coronation too, but the fabric didn't really go with their color scheme, so it's been de-prioritized.  I found I was really enjoying the work--a little fussy, but intensely satisfying; much like putting decorations on a wedding dress.  I should get it finished & out the door, though.  Stop starting, start finishing!

Therefore, of course, I have some new clothes to make on a deadline.

So, the good folk of Settmour Swamp are holding a 13th-century Welsh immersion event in a couple weeks. It's not like the typical SCA event where you've got an all-day thing with a mix of fighting outside, a mix of A&S inside, feast in the evening, maybe dancing after; the whole day is constructed around a theme, and they're doing their best to limit modernisms, right down to the hall being entirely candle-lit.  I am entirely in favor of this sort of thing, and we can go to it, so we are going; but of course I want us to be dressed appropriately.  Now it so happens I have a Norman-ish gown that will pass muster, which I thought I'd have to take in but apparently I already did that--way to go, Past Me!--so I'm just going to take a few minutes to sew some nice enameled plaques on the neck facing[2].  I have a snood that can pass as an early crespine in candlelight and some linen that can work as a barbette so I should be good to go.  However!  My dashing consort only has summer-weight, somewhat-later-feeling tunics (that is, they're tighter and shorter).  This fussed me and I intended to do something about it.

Gerald helping with fabric
selection, as usual
Work was immediately set back by me coming down with the office plague...which I am still suffering from, thanks so much...but I had energy ynogh this morning to start rooting through fabrics.  My ideal would be to make him a plain light wool under-gown (which he'd wear under any of his existing linen shirts) and then a heavier, more decorative (or decorated) wool over-gown, but the patron expressed a preference for a non-wool, launderable under-layer so he didn't have to wear a shirt as well. He chose a black (brown) (brownish black)[3] linen for the undergown, and a very nice if dark olive-ish green stippled wool for the overgown[4].  

Now, the cut of an earlier-period tunic-gown-thing is rather different from the bourgie 14th-century feel (rather shorter, and rather more loose in the torso) I have been going for with his current stuff, so I spent a lot of time today making him take things on and off (fnarr) and scribbling in my notebook and mumbling under my breath like a crazy person.  I'm still in that transitional place in my understanding of fit where I don't have the intuitive grasp of how changing the location of this seam has those repercussions, beyond the obvious, so it is a slow and painful process for everyone concerned.  I think I have zeroed in on the right starting math, though (these are all without seam allowance):

  • body pieces 23" wide and 56" long (or one piece folded in half if I can swing it; not sure I can)
  • neckline I hope to make 6" wide with a slit; have to play with this
  • sleeves 19" long, 26" wide at the body tapering to 10" wide at the cuff (yeah, it ought to be gusseted, but I'm in a hurry and we're doing trapezoids today)
  • gores with whatever fits in leftovers, but they'll want to be about 36" long I figure; so probably about 15" wide at the bottom is fine? This doesn't need to be super-swirly.

And then, when it's time to make the over-gown, much the same but a little wider in the body and sleeves, much wider in the gores, and a keyhole neckline.  

[1] except for the well-actually people.  they can stay the hell home.
[2] I just wish I had time to ring them all with pearls.  *sob*
[3] this is the same linen I made his first Elizabethan suit out of and we continually argue over whether it is brown or black
[4] To be honest, together it all looks drab AF to me, but I'll see if I have any interesting silk I can quickly tart up the overgown with.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Not Much With My War, Ho Ho Ho, How About You?

My après-Pennsic post was going to be about all the stuff I threw together at the last minute & how it all worked.  And you will still get that; but first:

...this was a thing that happened. At the end of the A&S War Point (which I was an alternate combatant for[1]), their Majesties rolled up to hear the results and congratulate their champions; and then I got called up to be told to go pick a date[2] to sit vigil and consider the question of being made a Companion of the Laurel.  I comported myself with all dignity and rectitude throughout, I will have you know.

Then we went back to camp and had scorpion bowls.  And cake.  They got me a cake!

So, well, good thing I had already started in on my fancy outfit.  What terrifies me now is whether my shape/size is going to keep changing betwixt now and then; which is why it's even more important to get the date sorted out.   It has to be after Coronation (because Beth and I are on the hook for the Prince's clothes, as mentioned, and that's a big job); and then immediately I'll be away; so basically sometime between late October long as I can stand the suspense.  (Obviously a huge number of our peeps come to Mudthaw, but I think if I have to wait for eight months, I might die.)  And the later the date, the more likely my shape is going to change, so AAAAAAA.

I also have to take thought to my dashing consort's outfit.  I have offers of help with actually making it; but I need to plan out pieces, fabrics, und so weiter.  I did actually succeed in making two pairs of braies for him before Pennsic, and of course that nice new shirt, so the underwear layer is taken care of; but the rest bears thinking about.  At least, since it's 14th century, there's no goddam pants involved.  (I would sort of like to make him a bycocket, but this may not be the absolute best moment to try and learn a new skill.)

"Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?"  Well, it was a bit of a tough war; I'm happy to make this my last year of running camp, because I'm just exhausted.  Both weeks were wretchedly humid, which really takes it out of me, though at least it was reasonably cool the first week.  I did actually make it to two classes I wasn't teaching!  And I made a paternoster in one of them, which is an accessory I'd been conspicuously lacking, so that was nice.  Also, our excellent Baron was getting knighted, so we had the fun of planning a vigil in our camp behind his back.  (Of course that was one of the 90+-degree days, poor guy, but at least we set up his vigil spot next to the tree line.)  Oh, and I learned how to do the whipcord braiding thing.  Yay, more narrow-wares!

I completed one iteration my dashing consort's full Bocksten outfit: braies (2 pr, one of which he says is too scratchy), shirt as mentioned, coif as mentioned, white linen hose, white linen hood, sand-colored extremely-light wool tunic.  And he wore it for both opening ceremonies and for the War Point (i.e., me getting called into court), and I presented the ensemble at the A&S display as "Bocksten Man in a Time of Climate Change". 

Now, on the topic - we had the felicity of post-Pennsic dinner with Master José, who was rocking his full early-17thc. glory in the hot weather; and his experience was that having a wool garment over his linen underthings was the absolute most comfortable.  And importantly, not a very light wool (like what I made the aforementioned tunic out of), but one with some, in his word, sponginess; that it made a big difference in the wicking action.  So that's an interesting angle and I want to explore it next year.

For my own clothes: both the gowns (the pink GFD and the lavender kirtle) that I took in still feel too big, but everyone said they looked fine.  I could take the pink one in again, but it was a right fucking PITA to do that for the kirtle and I don't know if I could face doing so.  We'll see.  I do want to smock the green apron I made to wear with the kirtle, though; I don't like the look of the giant rectangle of green across my front.  We can be a bit more elegant, I think.  (I also need help on How To Arrange Your Own Partlet.)  

For works in progress; during various lazy time, I also finished one half of my consort's madder-wool hose.  I have the lining for his light woolen hood cut out, too, but not made up; and I'm nearly done with one leg of my white linen hose.  And, I have his ochre linen hose and my burgundy wool hose cut out as well.  So that will be some nice small pieces to work on in upcoming spare time HAW HAW HAW HAW.   

Today I'm hoping to re-center and triage all the upcoming work (not just sewing specifically, but brain and planning, of which there is a lot).  I lost most of this past week to work wharrgarbl[3] and a nice case of John of Gaunt's Revenge that I came back from war with; living on beige food does not leave a lot of energy or drive, I can tell you, and what little I had was entirely consumed by le job.  Feeling mostly myself today, though, so here we go.

[1] all the attention and none of the pressure!
[2] Usually, Writs are for people who hate surprises and want time to absorb the info/get a new outfit together/etc.  In this case it was because my friends figured, not wrongly, that there were too many conflicting priorities and it would be better if I was involved in choosing the date.  They promise there will be other surprises on Der Tag.
[3] Lots of things went along quite well while I was gone.  Some...did not.  And some UXBs were clearly timed to go off when I returned.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Overdue Book Report: "Clothing the Past"

I know I promised this like two months ago; I'm sorry.  And honestly I have a lot more sewing I ought to be doing right this moment, but now the book is about to be overdue as well, so let's do this.

Title: Clothing the Past: Surviving Garments from Early Medieval to Early Modern Western Europe
Authors: Elizabeth Coatsworth & Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Publication Information: Leiden: Boston: Brill, 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-28870-6 
(There is also an ebook version, ISBN 978-90-04-35216-2)

This 450-page tome contains full descriptions (ranging from 1-3 pages) of ~100 medieval garments.  Each item begins with a full-page color photo, and finishes with a description of Materials, Dimensions, and Further Reading [about that item specifically].  The remainder of the text gives context for each piece--e.g., the entry for the Museum of London wool garter starts by talking about garters in general, when you start seeing them, what variations of material they were made of; and the entry for the Golden Gown of Margrete goes into detail about who she was and why she mattered...and then into why it may well not be hers after all, ahem.
the "Little Sampford" hat,
mid-14th century. Wool
felt originally covered w/
silk.  I HAD NO IDEA

Some of the items in here are old friends that many of us have a lot of bookage about already (e.g., three Greenland gowns); some are ones we know but may not have had access to much detail about them; and some are completely new, at least to me. That in itself is exciting--I thought I knew the whole canon.  NOPE!   They've also chased down as much data as possible about the newer finds, like the Lengberg lingerie...and some old finds, too, for that matter.   For instance!  They got access to an article I couldn't, so now I know that Gold Charlie's flat buttons have a wooden core, not metal and not felt. 

many diagrams!
An excellent feature of this book is that all textile terms more recondite than, like, "cloth" or "thread" are marked with asterisks to show that they're covered in the extensive glossary in the back.  Said glossary defines fabric types (e.g. felt, lampas, damask), sewing terms (e.g. gore, selvedge), specific period terms (e.g. chaperon, guibbone), and stitch & weave types (e.g. stem stitch, twill weave)....and they include small diagrams of the latter.  So, it's an accessible resource for even a comparative newbie to the textile world.

The items are organized in chapters by broad category of type: footwear, headgear, outer garments, vestments, etc.  (Not all of the categories are immediately obvious to me--hose and socks are separate from footwear--but the table of contents is clear and detailed.)  There are also a number of handy tables and diagrams at the front so that if you're interested in, say, Stuff From Germany or Stuff From The 12th Century instead of Stuff That Are Socklike, you can cherry-pick the entries of immediate interest.

Does it include every single item known to science?  No.  But most of the choices they made make a lot of sense.  You don't need the whole canon of Greenland gown remnants in here, nor do you need every single ecclesiastical cope; they chose a representative few.  And I'm not sure, but it might be otherwise complete for ordinary citizen garments between 700 and 1500. (They don't include the Thorsberg trousers, for instance; sorry.)  

The kicker here, of course, is that the book retails for $225.00 of your Earth dollars.  Even by scholarly-tome standards, that is a hell of a whack.  But if you can at all budget for it, it is worth every penny.  (And if you can't, grease someone who works in higher ed. who can ILL it, like I did.)

Monday, July 2, 2018

Conquering the Shirt of Lamentation; or, a Superior Method of French-Seamed Underwear Reveal'd


I finally got over my avoidance and attacked the problem of the very wrong shirt this weekend.  Spoilers, yes, making larger gussets and everything else smaller and adding some narrow side gores was the correct answer; also I did some interesting non-pointy things at the top of those gores; but that's not what I'm here to tell you about, neighbors.

OK, so, yes, in an ideal world we'd do all our clothes by hand and that would be lovely and great and experiential.  But too often, we are faced with a situation of "I'm about to go to Pennsic and I have no underwear / I need to outfit my newbie/partner/offspring" (or any one of a thousand variations on that theme), and there's nothing for it but to whip out the ol' Singer and turn your domicile into the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory[1].  Frequently in these cases, too, we have a particular need for sturdiness in the garment(s), because they will be worn in the field and will see heavy use.  What this means is "seam finishes"; and although there are lots of perfectly period methods of hand-finishing seams, if you're under the gun, this is not going to help you; you need an industrial solution.

(There are people who are that fast with hand-sewing.  They are not the people who need this blog post.  Drive on.)

A serged fabric edge
Most folk will do one of two machine seam finishes: serging, or French seams.  Serging (or overlocking) is thorough, but requires a special type of (not super cheap) machine, so it's not an option for many amateur sempsters.  (You can also kind of fake it by running a zig-zag stitch on your normal machine along the seam allowances, but it's a definite kludge, and not the simplest thing to manage particularly on some fabrics.  Still, it can be a useful option.)  The other downside is that it's a little untidy if someone looks at the inside of the garment--and indeed that also means that if the threads get caught on anything, they'll unravel like whoa.

French seams are more painstaking (particularly when you are first getting to know them), but because the original seam is encased entirely inside another seam, it's very sturdy and protected.  It's a particularly good choice for your linen underwear of all kinds, since linen loooves to fray all over the place.   (I'm going to plow ahead assuming you know from French seams, but if you don't, here's a decent tutorial.)  Now, there are usually three challenges to French seams:

1) they're still a bit slower, since you have to sew everything twice and keep pressing things vigorously with your iron; 
2) it's easy to lose track of what you're doing and end up with one or more seams on the incorrect side of the garment;
3) getting the fiddly bits at gores and gussets is a right PITA and often results in unsightly bunching or messes.

Now, some several years ago, Beth and I spent a weekend cranking out chemises for War, since neither of us had nearly enough underclothes; and we came up with a general and efficient process for the order of construction of this sort of garment.  I have, this weekend, improved (dare I say, perfected?) our previous work, which also encompasses some mitigations for the three challenges mentioned above.

This is intended for shifts / shirts / etc. of the main medieval period; the usual composed-of-rectangles-and-triangles style you see for centuries with minimal variation. You can use it for a Bocksten tunic, though, too.  And, I apologize for not taking photos in media res; I was on a manic roll and it did not occur to me.  Have some ASCII art instead!

  1. Cut out your fabric pieces and have them all ready.
  2. If the body of the garment is two pieces instead of one long piece, sew the shoulder seams together & French them.
  3. Cut the neckhole.  (You can hem it now if you want, but I always leave that to the end, just in case I need to make any edits.
  4. Pin each gusset to its sleeve along one side.
        |               |
        |               |
        |               |
                   |    |
                   |    |
  5. Pin the rest of the sleeve closed (remember the gusset wants to form a triangle with the hypoteneuse towards the cuff end).  You now have a tube with a triangle on it:
      fold line ----->  ----------------
                        |              |
             cuff --->  |              | <--- arm opening
                                    \  |
                    gusset fold ---> \ | <--- also open
  6. Sew the 1st gusset edge.
  7. Start at the wrist and sew the sleeve closed, continuing along the 2nd edge of the gusset.
  8. Repeat the previous two steps for the other sleeve.
  9. Go to ironing board, press out the gusset and sleeve seams, prep them for Frenching.
  10. French them in the same order you sewed them.
  11. If you are doing front and back gores, well, I haven't perfected these because I don't put 'em in my underwear (St. Louis notwithstanding); I suggest following the La Cotte Simple tutorial - it is written for grande assiette sleeve funkiness but the principle will work here.
    1. Insert the back gore to remind yourself how to manipulate them again[3]
    2. Insert the front gore now that you remember how to do it
    3. Press them out in preparation for Frenching
    4. French 'em most of the way up and just fahddle the top by hand.
  12. Sew up the center seam of the gore that's currently two halves of a gore; press it, and French it.
    1. If you were dealing with taller people who have some side seam in between the bottom of the gusset and the top of the side gore, you would do something different than what I'm about to do, probably. That's not what I've got, though, so put a pin in that thought and come back to it.
  13. Pin the sleeves to each side of the garment.
  14. Sew from the point of the gusset on one side, all the way up around the top of the sleeve and back down to the point of the gusset on the other side.
  15. Repeat for Sleeve #2.
  16. Pin the side gore in, and sew it - again you're following the Cotte Simple method, because you've effectively created a slit to set the gore into.  You can kind of hand-flatten the existing seam and get your "top point" into that.
  17. Repeat for Side Gore #2.
  18. Press the bejesus out of all of that and prepare them for Frenching.
  19. OKAY HERE'S THE SEXY PART.  Start at the hem level on one side of the gore, French your way up, and then cross over diagonally onto the gusset/sleeve seam opposite--so if you started with the side of the gore that's at the rear of the garment, you'll move to the gusset/sleeve part on the front of the garment.  Go all the way over the top, and back down, and cross back over onto the other side of the gore.
  20. Do the same thing on the other side.
  21. Profit!  (or hemming and cuffing and other fiddly bits, anyways)
That step 19 there, it makes that really irritating portion where the gusset & gore meet actually behave.  It was a complete miracle.   But even without that, the ordering of events here means you are stacking as much work together at the ironing board/work surface as you can, and stacking as much at the sewing machine as you can.  Moreover, it should reduce--reduce, I say, nothing can eliminate--the risk of getting a seam on the wrong side of the garment, because you are batching the 1st-seam work and it should be more obvious when you're going awry.

So, that pin there in Step 12: The received wisdom is to use the gores without a center seam on front & back, and the other pieces that you do have to sew together to make the full triangle on the sides; and if you're doing that, it's easier to sew the halves separately to the front & back of the main garment, and then just run up the center. There is a lot of sense to this, particularly if you have some distance between gore & gusset. And if you are making a thing for a tall person, it may work better. On the other hand, sometimes you end up with gore halves at slightly different heights. :-/

Anyways, I hope that people will find this valuable. If there's one thing more true than another, it's that we always need more underwear, and it's a tiresome slog to produce it; I hope this will help expedite a necessary but disagreeable task.

[1] hopefully with fire exits[2]
[2] but lemme tell you about my pre-tenement-law first apartment
[3] ™ Beth

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Bursts Of Productivity

My productivity over the last two weeks, if graphed, would look not unlike the seismograph in Tremors[1]: nothing nothing LOTS nothing nothing LOTS nothing, und so weiter.  I needed some time to process the Shirt Failure; and between that + assimilating a bunch of stuff that had been in the basement storage room + several social obligations, I had a week of small work--mending my wool hose, fixing the bodice length on last year's kirtle[2], etc.  We were also away for the weekend again, which cuts into the work time (though I whiled away some Royal Court time by sewing various site tokens & badges onto my dashing consort's canvas satchel).

Last week I got some mojo back.  I've done some preliminary sketching and mumbling about the shirt proportions; my current theory, after putting Himself into various other shirts, tunics, and even one of my shifts, I have a new theory:

- Shorter and narrower sleeves, yes; but much narrower, with
- larger gussets
- yes to gores (ugh) but starting higher up, and rather sharper angles than we do for tunics
- and therefore the body pieces can be somewhat narrower too.

when you were
right the first time
I also found that I had hung onto the pattern from last year's Laurel hood; and since I was using him as the reference body for fiddling it, I knew it was in shouting distance of fitting him; so I cut out one of those in a lovely light wool twill and fit it more properly to him; it's pinned and ready to sew today.  AND I marked the pattern clearly, so I can bang more out in short order at any point--I'm figuring to make him one out of handkerchief[3] linen as well, for sun protection rather than weather protection.  I'm not sure that this was an actual variation in the 14th c.; broad-brimmed straw hat over your coif seems to be more the thing; but here again, they did not live in Pennsylvania in August.

I am still in major avoidance on the braies question, though. :-/

Yesterday, we diverted course to fulfill our obligation of knocking together a few Bocksten tunics for His Highness to run around in at Pennsic.  Of the three we set out to make, I'd say that one's at 90% completion, one's at 80%, and one's at ~55-60%.  I've taken the first two home to finish up, and Beth has the third.  It's not clear whether any decoration or ornamentation is desired by the patron, so we're leaving them plain fabric for the moment, and will extend an offer to add trim real quick if wanted.  (On the one hand, I am strongly of the opinion that the Prince ought to have some richesse on his clothes.  On the other, I can 100% understand preferring to just toss a Pennsic garment in the washing machine; and in most cases, adding trim takes that option off the table.) 

Also, setting a gore with a French seam sucks donkey balls.  (We are machine-sewing & French-seaming these for reasons of speed and durability; don't @-me.)   The workaround is to not do French seams on those, but to just serge (if you have a serger) or zig-zag oversew (if you don't) the seam allowances instead.  Once again, we observe that many of the sewing techniques you see in our era make lots of sense if you hand-sew, and become a giant bucket of poo when you add industrialization. 

So we did a lot of good work, none of which would have been possible without the support team: the beloved redhead, who opened his house and especially his large dining room table for us to make a complete bear-garden of, and my dashing consort, who grilled lunch and picked up dinner &c.  And both of whom put up with our racket and our rackety music over the course of a very long day.

I did not, alas, manage to slip-stream a tunic or two into the production line for my consort, as I haven't mathed out what the proportions ought to be yet (do the shirt first!); and as can be seen, we didn't really have the time anyways.  But, having a day's boot-camp practice on this garment should make me move faster with it when I do get to long as it's fairly soon.   I'm not switching gears to move that up the queue, though; I need to stop starting and start finishing.  Therefore, today's orders of priority are:
  1. Finish the princely tunic that's at 90%
  2. Finish the princely tunic that's at 80%
  3. Sew together the wool hood
  4. Simultaneously cut out a linen lining for the wool hood, and a plain white linen hood of the same cut.  Probably out of the same fabric.
  5. Sew those up as well
  6. If time, attach the lining to the wool hood
On-deck circle: the $*@& shirt; taking apart & redoing the neckline of my kirtle, which Beth kindly marked for me last night[4]; drape a hose pattern on him; try and take a pattern off my wool hose for me (I found the foot portion of my pattern, but the leg portion is clearly gone, never to be found again. -_-)

[1] Also now I know that they made five straight-to-video sequels, including one last month.  Really?!
[2] though that was more of an embuggerance than I anticipated.  Still, fiddly rather than difficult, if you see what I mean.
[3] or as I call it, "underwear linen"
[4] this will also be an embuggerance.  So much easier to get help before you do the eyelets...  

Sunday, June 10, 2018

There's Planning, And Then There's Planning Ganging Aft Agley

The vaguely-nauseous and anxious feeling I got when looking at my kanban board the last two weeks made it clear that I had to do some clearing of the mental decks before putting serious needle to cloth.  (And also some physical clearing, as I hadn't absorbed the, cough, 25 yards of fabric I brought home last weekend.) So I spent some time on that yesterday.  The first step was to make a card (i.e., Post-It) for every item that a) I might want for Pennsic or b) wanted to make out of the new fabric--these are overlapping but by no means congruent sets. The purpose of this step was twofold: to get all the ideas out of my head and on record, so they would stop floating around taking up skull space[1]; and also, to know what fabric to keep out and which to stash.  I also flagged some blockers and linked them where appropriate (those are the smaller ones in the center, and the colored tags on some items). 

Why did I do it physically instead of in my Trello board, you may well ask?  First, because it's easier when you're going back and forth between fabric piles to just scribble on a scrap of paper than it is to go through the steps of making an electronic asset--particularly since some get crumpled up & thrown away; and second, because my board is presently full of stuff that's not immediate as well, and I'd need a much bigger monitor to see it all, and this made for more & better instant visualization.  All of these Post-Its will now get turned into items on the Trello board, certainly.

As you see, this resulted in a pile of projects that will keep me going into the next decade; but I resolutely refused to sweat about it, and after consultation with my dashing consort[2], selected/prioritized the items that are Minimum Viable Product for his 14th century Pennsic, to wit:
1. Linen shirt (white) 
2. Linen braies (white)
3. Linen hose (heavy ochre)
4. Wool Bocksten tunic (tropical-weight; I have several fabrics for him to choose from)
5. Linen Bocksten tunic (blue)

(The bonus rounds are, in order, a light wool hood; a fitted cote--pourpoint pattern sans padding--; and wool hose.)

Now, my BFF and I have a play-date in two weeks for a Bocksten production line, since we volunteered to make some Pennsic tunics for His new Highness; so my intent is to slip #4 and #5 into that process.  Therefore the immediate priorities, other than washing the linen that hasn't been washed yet, is to get cracking on the undies.  And lo! I had cut out a shirt two weeks ago! so let's just assemble it!  HAW HAW HAW

First, my sewing machine started playing silly buggers.  I am not going to weary you with a detailed account of my two hours of shrieking frustration; suffice it to say now I know a lot more about timing, timing errors, and troubleshooting, and also I had done something stupid that should have been obvious if I'd approached the problem with logic instead of rage. But! Finally I was ready to roll.

I spent the next couple hours assembling the shirt with French seams (dont @-me; I know perfectly well they aren't period; but they are a good way to keep underwear linen together under heavy use) and, mirabile scriptu, I did not do a single one of them backwards or any other fashion of fuckup.  That may in fact be a new record.  I was feeling pretty damn smug about myself, as it was wholly assembled other than finalizing the neckline and doing the side seams from the gusset down, and it was only about 9pm; and I put it on Himself to decide for sure whether I wanted to just make the sides straight or add gores[4].  And then the screaming started.

- The sleeves are too long.
- The sleeves are too wide.
- I thiiiiiink the underarm gussets are too big too?
- The body is correctly wide around his midsection but bunches up like whoa under the arms (though that might resolve itself if the first three points are addressed).
- The neckhole is wider than I meant it to be, in spite of stringent and intentional efforts to Not Do That.

What makes this doubleplus frustrating is, I spent hours mumbling over a notebook and taking measurements of other garments he wears to get to the dimensions I used; and I basted various parts together and tested them on him before sewing; so to be this wildly wrong after all that work makes me feel like a complete loser. It also is rubbing my nose in the fact that, yes, I am pretty darn OK at draping and fitting at this point; but the true skill of the master, to look at a person or even just their measurements and intuitively turn that into a list of garment piece proportions, is still way beyond me. 

So I can fix this, yes.  I can cut down the sleeves and possibly the gussets and see where that gets us, and then it'll be another quick job to reassemble; and the neckline is within acceptable tolerances (just not what I had in mind).  Possibly I can even do it today, depending on how long it takes us to deal with clearing our stuff out of the communal storage room (thanks, landlord). But this has wasted time, fabric, and spoons, and I hate that.

I am also not looking forward to braies.  At all.

[1] I cannot overstate the importance of this step. 
[2] I'm not getting a new dress this year; my own goals are just to fix last year's new dresses so they fit.  The only thing I'm hoping for myself is a snuggly tunic for colder mornings, and maybe a shift with a more U-shaped neckline--most of mine are more boat-necked-ish and it just ain't right[3].
[3] I can get away with them under my GFDs but it starts being more obviously fail with the new kirtle.
[4] Yes, I know the St Louis shirt has gores.  But it's a century earlier and I'm not convinced something worn under a tight-fitting men's cote would, because you don't want a ton of undies fabric mushed under your body-con upper garment.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Gearing Up For Summer Sewing; or, Better Late than Never

[You do not get any cutesy photos on this post because my very old laptop has just crashed twice just trying to do image manipulation.  Deal with it.]

May has not been a productive month for me; at least, not in the sense that this blog discusses.  My Project From Hell went live...not without a good deal of hair-pulling and shrieking at the back-end developers, and a subsequent fortnight of having to nurse it along like a 20-year-old car leaking fluids that you're trying to drive back from Pennsic in...and that plus some other work pile-on plus experiencing severe seasonal allergies for the first time in my life has made my evenings mostly be a bunch of flopping on the couch and watching silly TV.

We did go to a camping event last weekend, which was fun in spite of the weather (88 and humid Saturday; 62 and rainy on Sunday), and also I discovered a new sewing failure mode!  To wit: that there pink linen dress I have mentioned before?  So I machine-sewed all the seams, fine; but the thread I used on the bobbin was one of the many "cleaned out grandma's attic" spools I have been regifted unto.  And, that thread started failing in a number of spots (even ones not under pressure, interestingly).   Thus, I started popping seam leaks all over myself.   The takeaway is, if you have thread older than you are, only use it for basting purposes.

Well, I was going to redo a bunch of the seams anyways.

This weekend I am working in concert with some friends, and although I have not achieved a number of the tasks I hoped to[1], I've fixed the front waistline of the lavender kirtle I cut out last year, and I've cut out the panel to add to my blue silk dress & opened the center back seam to receive it.  (I cannot tell you how painful it was to cut open that seam.)  I also re-gifted a dress I made for myself years ago that I am too much of an absolute unit for, and the pieces of a dress cut out to the exact same measure, which happen to fit one of the crew nearly as if it were made for her.  Boo for the fact that I loved both of those fabrics and wanted them for me, but very much yay that it's not going to waste.     

I may also have bought 25 yards of wool off a friend who's clearing out stock.  YES I KNOW BUT I HAVE PURPOSES FOR ALL OF IT.  There's some madder-red-orange twill that will be hose for both of us; a hard-wearing dark green that will be hoods for both of us (and his will be trimmed with a strip of that madder stuff); a brighter kelly-green that will make a tunic (or maybe a cote) for him and a dress for me; some exquisite drapey white herringbone to make an under-dress for me; and a very light, creamy tabby-woven that I've got too many visions to decide on.  

Also it is possible that we volunteered to make the new Prince some tunics for Pennsic.  But we have a cunning plan for mass-production; and if I stir my stumps, I can slide in a few for my dashing consort into the production line.   EFFICIENCY!~

Things not accomplished: getting hose fitted for him and for me; working on the shirt I cut out for him; figuring out what exactly I did wrong on the linen trousers I made for him last year to make them split up the rear exit.  (Because I don't want to cut out braies for him, either, until I understand how butts work.)

[1] and don't tell me about how much of today there is, because I have to leave to drive to a wedding in three hours