Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gothic update

I have one sleeve done. It's a beauty! Here's the thing, though: it's the wrong color.

See, I have made dresses before. Thing is, it's been summertime, so none of them have had sleeves. Red pettibodies, red kirtle, brown Flemish overgown, viking apron dress, green kirtle -- no sleeves! (Well, I guess technically the green kirtle had sleeves, but they're detachable and I rarely wear them.) So when I made my pattern and placed it on the fabric and said "Yes, I have plenty of fabric to make this" and got out the scissors and started cutting, it wasn't until after I got the body sections and gores snipped out that I thought "Oh yeah. Sleeves, too."

Sleeves take way more fabric than I think they're going to. I need, oh, almost a yard to cut sleeves, especially when they have little gores of their own like these Grand Assiette ones. So the 15 inches of remnant I had left after cutting out the body and gores was just not gonna be enough. Fudge.

Goodwill is awesome for many things, but one thing it falls short on is being accommodating when I show up late at night and say "I need another yard of that blue wool I bought a few weeks ago." Yeah. It's a real what-you-buy-is-what-you-get kinda place.

So I went to my stash and looked at all the wool bits I had available. No dark blue. I had green, red, brown, white, taupe, grey, tan, a brown-scale herringbone, black... once again, I looked at an overflowing drawer of fabric and chanted the sewer's litany "I don't have any fabric for this..."

Finally I took the grey and a packet of navy blue Rit and cooked it up to see how close a match I could get. And I was super-pleased when it turned out just right. I showed it to Dave and he agreed it was totally workable. The wool was a little lighter weight, but not by much, and since it's lined sleeves, it's no matter, right? And so I cut them out, stitched in the lining, attached the left sleeve to the dress body, and hustled off to try it on.

Now here's another thing: I do most of my sewing after dinner. Once the dining room table is cleared of dishes, I give it a quick wipe, slap my pattern cutting board onto it, and start throwing my needle and thread through wool and linen like a champ. I have a swingarm lamp for when I do picky work, but for general stitching, the dining room overhead light is fine.

But in the light of day, that sleeve blue was... obviously off.

It wasn't awful, but it was easy to see that it was not the same stuff. More blue, less navy/black.

My first reaction when things aren't exactly perfect, or I have to make do is to say "Well, that's how it's gonna have to be. I've done the best I can with what I have, and if anyone wants to say anything about it, they can be Mister Big Man and buy me yardage, or put on the thimble, and make me a dress."

My second reaction generally involves wadding the offending article up on the cutting board and then slinking to the bedroom, where I fling myself onto the duvet and mope for however long feels appropriate to the situation.

My third reaction reverts to the first, only I say it more strongly this time, and mean it.

So. My sleeves don't match perfectly. Who cares? A lot of sleeves were separate articles in those days, and weren't even the same color, much less the same shade. They're fine sleeves, made and fitted well, and if anyone wants to call me out on the color, well: Let's see them make a better dress for $5.99 and a packet of Rit.

Monday, September 26, 2011

14th Century Gothic Fitted Gown, update

Here you see the problem with making a dark blue wool gown: there's no way to take a picture of it and not have it look like a big dark blob.

Egad, and you can also see the mess that is my sewing enclave. (That bit of red? It's a wool half-circle hooded cloak I picked up at Goodwill for $9. And next to that is my pile of drafted patterns that I still need to make envelopes for.)

Anyway. Even though you can't tell from this picture, the gown is going great. Once I get the sleeves done and set in, it'll be time for the buttons. I am not looking forward to that, not one bit, but... *shrug*... I'll learn.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Fuschia File, part 4

Today I tried an overdye of Rit Dark Brown. But the fabric was so resistant; it almost seemed to be repelling the dye! When I dumped the used dye out, it had turned a dark wine color. I think the fabric changed the dye's color more than the dye changed the fabric's color.

Now the wool is more of a raspberry shade. I stuck a post it that used to match on it so you could see the difference. But it's still quite bright. I think an overdye of black is in order, don't you? Or green. Something to muddy it a bit.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Fuschia File, part 3

If you ever wondered how important it really is to wash your fabric before sewing, this pretty much sums it up: my 5 yards of 58" fuschia wool is now 3.5 yards of 50" wool. And I was washing it on a cold, gentle cycle, too -- although the 10 minutes in the 135-degree color remover bath probably contributed a bit to the shrinkage.

Other than that, (and the fact that it's still eye-jarringly bright) it's now lovely, thick and soft, and once I turn it a more appropriate hue, it will make a very nice garment. If I'm careful with my cutting, I can probably get a gathered-skirt kirtle from it.

With a dark brown over-dye, I'm hoping to achieve a sort of wine color. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Fuschia File, part 2

Rit Color Remover may do well in removing new color stains from fabric, eg. you wash a red sock with your white linens, but it doesn't budge the color that your fabric has to begin with -- at least, not in my experience.

To be sure, a lot of bright pink sluiced off when I washed it, and more when I put it into the vat of Rit, but I doubt it was very much more than would have washed out or bled in hot water anyway.

The color may dim, however, in the three subsequent washes I have run the fabric through in an attempt to shake the abysmal odor of the stuff. It's horrible, strong, and lingering. Like rotten fish, or ammonia, or sulphur. Ugh, just awful. The packet said "use with adequate ventilation" but I didn't think they meant "this stuff will make your house smell like a whorehouse full of home permanents". I'm never using it again, and I'd advise anyone else against using it. Phooo.

But just for fun, here's a picture of my fabric sloshing around in the kitchen sink, bleeding pink dye all over. It looks a bit yellow because of the light reflecting off the walls. Kind of organic-looking, isn't it? Yuk! Once I get it out of the dryer, I'll show you how it turned out.

The Fuschia File

Today I got (among other more reasonably-hued bits) five yards of 58" hot fuschia wool. For $5.99. Take a moment to absorb that amazing price, unclench your fists at missing out on this bargain yourself, and look at this picture:

Holy cow, is that bright. And you know what? The picture doesn't do it justice. It rather tones it down a bit, actually. The actual color is so violently pink it makes your teeth vibrate.

Good Lord, Wen, I can hear you saying, Why on earth did you ever buy it? What can you possibly plan to make out of that? Why, that color didn't even exist in the middle ages!

Tut tut, my friends. The price was just so darn good, I could not pass it up. And I have a secret plan. Well, not so very secret, as I'm going to share it with you, right now: Rit Color Remover. (

I have never used this stuff before, though I've been using Rit dye for years and usually get the results I'm hoping for. With a color this bright, I feel a complete removal is too much to ask, but hopefully the pink will be toned down enough that I can overdye it with another color and come up with something useable. And if not, well... I can use the stuff to make mock-ups or something. Cut it into a rag rug. Whatever.

So. Stay tuned. Pictures will follow with my results.

Monday, September 19, 2011

14th Century Gothic Fitted Gown

My Moy idea has amended itself into a gothic gown. No, not like the dreary Morticia Addams get-up you see in Hot Topic -- more like this. Though mine will have buttons at the front, not lacing, and sleeves buttoned to the elbows.

(<--- not me.)


The reason for the change is because of the Moy sleeve. The more I looked at it, the weirder it seemed, and my mind went round and round with different piecing ideas from the many images I looked at, so finally I went with my original inspiration: the grande assiette sleeved dress I first saw here:

Bettina's stuff is just lovely, and inspires me to no end. What a talent she has! Go ahead; spend some time looking at her work. She's really doing it up right. And that tent! I can't wait to work on something like that for Dave and I.

(<--- also not me.)

The bin of yardage odds and ends I got at a yard sale for $5 is providing me with plenty of scraps to make mock-ups with. It's very freeing to be able to cut and trim and experiment without worrying about ruining my good fabric. Sure, the stuff is hideous and the colors are daunting at times, but I had to do four test sleeves to get the fit right and fit has nothing to do with color. And now I know when I cut out my sleeves, they will be just right.

This particular fabric (at left) is a nubby cotton blend of orange-ish gold and pink. It's really soft, for all it looks like a waiting room lounge. Dave actually likes it on me and said I should make a full-on dress from it. Uhm. No. It's ugly and frays like crazy.

(<--- yes, me!)

Want to see the fabrics? You know you do! Here's one of the gores. I put it in the sun so the colors would be more true. The navy blue wool is really dark. The gold linen lining is changeable in the light, sometimes it has almost a greenish cast to it. If you're old enough to remember Harvest Gold appliances in the 70's -- that's the color here.

And as I started stitching it together, all I could think of was this:

Oh well.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Side Project: Hakama pants

If you, like me, watched The Last Samurai and thought "Man, those pants look supremely cool, and totally comfortable" -- or am I the only one who thinks things like that while watching movies? -- then you might be interested in the construction of Hakama, the traditional garb pants of Samurai.

After a little digging, I found and used this helpful information
( to turn an old set of seersucker curtains into a test-run pair of hakama. They were surprisingly easy! More appropriate material choices might be a medium bottom-weight cotton or linen -- something that will take a crease and hold it. I would love to make a pair of these in a dark blue cotton printed with tiny cranes.

In this picture, I am pleased to introduce The Boy (my son, who is always requesting me to make him amazing clothing items, and I'm thinking maybe I'll just teach him to sew!) and The Girl (his girlfriend).

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I visited one of my favorite dress-blogging sites yesterday -- -- and was super-pleased to learn that I had been randomly chosen to win two patterns of my choice from her stash! Hooray!

I chose Simplicity 2621, a corset and farthingale pattern, because I've been meaning to make a farthingale for a while now, and more corsets = more fun, right? So that's cool. And for my second choice, I picked an Elizabethan court dress pattern, Simplicity 3782, because I gotta have something to wear over the farthingale and corset!

These will be my first projects with patterns I haven't drafted myself. That's kind of exciting. Of course, I have a kerjillion other things on my list, but keep watching my blog here and eventually you'll see what I make with my pattern-prizes.

A big thank you to Artemisia Moltabocca!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

You Learn Something New Every Day...

...and today was no exception. I was making something I've never attempted before, with no instructions to guide me except my own design and common sense. Something I've never seen before, and could not tell you the name of, except that I'm calling it a "Lucet Reel". Intrigued?

This is a lucet. String is cleverly worked around the two prongs to form a series of loops and knots that make a cord.
Lucets have been used since Viking times and probably before. (And no, I did not make this lucet.)

I like working a lucet because it is fast, makes useful cord, and is pretty darn portable. Mostly I've been using crochet cotton to make cord, because it's sturdy and doesn't stretch. I take my lucet and ball of crochet cotton along in the car (Not when I'm driving, silly! If I'm a passenger.) and can easily crank out 5 feet on a trip to the grocery store. But it is unwieldy to tote that ball of cotton around. If only I had a clever case that would attach to my belt or sling over my shoulder, that held my crochet cotton and left my hands free to work my lucet or gesticulate wildly while telling a story!

Oh my, I can make one.

And so I made a plan. And bought some bits. And worked out my idea.

Here it is.

I wanted ... well, basically a toilet-paper spindle sorta deal on which I could hang a spool of thread to work on my lucet. I had a big old wooden spool from some red thread that I finally used the last of, and I figured that I could just wind however much thread I needed onto it.

I would use a piece of dowel suspended between two pieces of wood (I decided on round after realizing that rectangular would just get too bulky with those unnecessary corners), and would tack a piece of leather around the round wood bits to make the case. Perfect!

Here is the inside of what will be the case: some dark brown pebble-finish soft leather and a bit of cotton canvas covering a thin piece of cardboard. I folded the
leather over and glued it down with some leather adhesive. The nails that would tack the leather to the wooden sides would eliminate the need for stitching the leather and canvas.

I put it all together and rolled it up, fastening it with a few
hair ties.

Then I carefully tapped the first tack into place... and then the same on the other side... and then there was an odd snapping sort of noise and that was when I realized the tacks had split the wood ends.

See that? How the wood has completely split and separated from the rest? Dave says my tacks were too big, but the were the tiniest I could find. So small I have to use needle-nose pliers to hold them steady as I tap them in with my hammer.

I'm going to try gluing the wood back together and using smaller nails. I liked the way the tack head looked --rugged, sort of -- but it's obvious they won't work for this at all.

Oh, and that gap? Yeah, that's not meant to be there. That's what comes from measuring and cutting the leather without taking its own bulk into account. Fold in a seam, and suddenly it's too short. Since it still needs a clasp to shut it, I figured I'd just cut a decorative piece that would cover the gap and fudge it that way. We'll see. Stay tuned and see how this one turns out!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Plans, plans, plans...

Dave and I went to our area's September Crown SCA event and enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. Even though we hardly knew anyone there, there were vendors with wares to peruse, everyone else's garb to check out, a blacksmith forging iron into pothooks and nails right in front of us, bards singing and playing instruments, and one huge cake covered in buttercream frosting that was slowly melting in the 85-degree heat and dripping into a sloppy, bee-attracting mess (a sad fate for any cake, I'm sure you agree).

After watching the heavy fighters for a bit, we walked through the campsites checking out the various pavilions and tents, and there came a point where it was all so overwhelming and I had to stop in my tracks and wail, "There's just so many things I want to make, Dave, and not enough time for them all!"

Well, that's not to say I won't give it a try. Next project I need to finish is a wool dress for the upcoming cooler weather. I've decided to go with the Moy Gown (I'd link, but you'd do better to Google it. There's a lot of different sites, and they're all quite good). I have some dark blue wool that I picked up a while back, and so today while I was doing laundry, I tossed it in with some other things while I drafted a pattern. It washed into a lovely, thick, soft piece that I found myself hugging for a few minutes after I'd folded it out of the dryer. I can't wait to have a dress of this stuff!

I'll be making a test-run garment first, to make sure of my pattern, and the material I'm using for that is a hilarious white and gold diamond patterned bit of yardage I got in a mixed bin at a yard sale for five bucks. I'm actually anticipating seeing what the test-run dress ends up like. I may end up wearing it just for fun. I think a bright solid-colored sideless surcoate would look great with it; something I could wear when I just didn't give a damn for authenticity.

The blue Moy will look terrific over my red flannel petti-bodies, and I have a bit of forest green diamondweave wool that I plan to make into a chaperone (hooded capelet, no liripipe on the back) to top it off.

Dave's doublet needs a real finish on the front, with the leather button plackets and decorative embroidery on the white wool, and he needs pants to wear with it, too. And sleeves. And epaulets, yes.

But what I really need is... someone I can talk shop with, who knows more than me and can guide me when I have questions. It's all well and good for me to look things up when I need an answer, but what I'd really appreciate is someone who can look at what I'm doing and point out thing I might not be thinking of. Like what? Well, I dunno. If I knew, I'd not need someone like that, would I?

Anyway, it's seamstress bedtime. Stay tuned for pictures of the Mock Moy in the future!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Doublet of Dave ... for now.

The doublet got "done enough" this morning at 2:30. The wool buttons were the sticking point; figuring out how to make/making those took over an hour and a half. Ugh.

The original design plan was to make "hinges" of leather to serve as button plackets across the front, but once it passed midnight, I just wanted to get it wearable so I could go to bed. (Work in the morning at 6!) I made a fingerweave braid of brown and white and stitched it along the front seam, leaving loops to act as buttonholes. It made a nice finish, and is easily removable when I have time to re-visit the doublet and finish it the way I originally planned.

And yeah, I know what you're thinking. I did forget the epaulets. But I can add them later too.

Finished: Fabbard

Here is my fan scabbard ("fabbard") all done up and ready for use. Yeah, it's a little lumpy. Yeah, the design isn't all that great. But considering it's the first time I've made anything like this, I think it's not a bad start. It serves, it's sturdy and reasonably attractive, and it's given me ideas on how I can improve the design for next time.