Wednesday, 21 January 2009

peasant shoes II - peasant shoes for royals too! part 1

[pushed out early - please check in a week or two for updates]

While I was making the previous two prototypes I noticed this picture:

I have shown this before, but hadn't thought about how they were constructed.

So I tried to make my own copy:

I made these the same as the previous pair of peasant shoes, but with an initial higher cut at the ankle, which I then cut into tabs. There were less gathers at the front, due to the way the tabs pull. It might even be possible to remove the gathers completely for someone with a narrower foot than mine.

It wasn't much harder to make than the last pair, and looks more interesting. I didn't end up with an exact copy because I was working from memory and put too many tabs in.

Here's the pattern laid flat:

This didn't really look like the picture unfortunately. And something was not quite right to my mind about the fit of these too - there were stress lines the at ran along a diagonal over the outside of the heel. I began to wonder if instead of drawing on the curving tabs, I should just be making slashes, and letting them become their own tabs on my foot.

And then I found this, lurking in an article I'd looked at before and put away:

An extant shoe made in one piece! And one that looked quite similar to the ones I'd been making.

The Article: Gall, Günter. "Die Krönungsschule der deutschen Kaiser." Waffen- und Kostümkunde 15 (1973): p1-24

The caption to the above diagram says:
Die Schnittmuster für die Sandalia des 12. Jahrhundert, die aus einem Stück Brokat, wohl mit unterlegtem Leder, geschnitten wurde. Die Konstruktion dieser Sandalia zeigt die Nähte auf dem Rist und an der Ferse, die durch die Goldborte verdeckt wurden.

Roughly translated by me (corrections welcome) that is:
"Cutting diagram for the 12th Century sandals, from one piece of brocade, probably cut in one piece with the underlying leather. The construction of these sandals shows the stitches on the instep and heel, that were concealed with gold bands." (Note- I believe this should read vamp, instead of instep.)

The article talks about these shoes and 2 other existing and many post medieval lost pairs, one of which is the more famous "shoes of ". It notes that on this pair the gold bands are used to conceal the seams, but the other two pairs are made in a different fashion (a 2 piece construction similar to ordinary turnshoes of the day I believe), but still use this decoration placement. The article contains few details of the construction, but talks extensively regarding the historical provenance of the shoes. There are probably many more details I am missing in the translation.

I then enlarged the cutting diagram shown above to the width of my foot at the instep, and made a mock up shoe out of felt from this tracing.

[picture to be added]

Unsurprisingly, the shoe is too long for me - I do have wide toes, a narrow heel and high insteps, that mean few modern shoes fit well.

I decided to make a version that fitted my foot's peculiarities, adapting the above pattern to my measurements.
A few adjustments and I had a shape I was happy with.

[picture to be added]

The next step will be to make a version in leather an brocade fabric, but that will be in the next episode I think. Just a warning - this project is being nudged aside by other projects that are more wearable at the event's I'm attending soon, so it might be a while to wait.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

A Chemise for the Austrian Dresses III - Construction underway

Well, everything was going so well with the new chemise. I've started sewing and my seams are much narrower than last time I sewed a chemise.

And my sewing is happening really fast. I'd forgotten how fast I could sew, since my last few projects have all experimented with tricky materials, curving seams, new seam types, or have used new cutting diagrams and a lot of picking.

And then tragedy struck. I'd been carrying my chemise bits in a bag to work and back, sewing on the train. And somewhere the gussets fell out and didn't get picked up again. And I don't have any more of this fabric. Thankfully my sleeves are so long that I can easily shorten them by a gusset length.

Here's the sizes of my pieces now:

And now back to construction. Maybe I can finish it within the week!

full length hose

We're revisiting my 2008 creations here - I'm determined to get all my 2008 making things projects (the research projects will take too long) recorded before we get too far into 2009.

Here's my first foray into full length hose:

The fabric is linen, as is the thread (cheaper than wool, and friendlier on the thighs). The pattern for the bottom half is the same I've used previously, while the upper half is an attempted extension of this. seams are run and fell over the whole hose, since I can't work out just why the london hose open the back seam on their hose yet. It's weaker, I guess it could be more elastic, but is that really needed? The top of the hose fabric is turned over and a line of backstitch located about 3mm from the top edge to provide stiffness and reinforcement. The edge of the fabric turned over at the top is turned under and whipstiched to the rear of the inside. I have no historical justification for doing this, but it seems right given I'm not strengthening the portion by

This pair turned out fairly well for a prototype. The legs are possibly a little short, and maybe a little tight at the back of the knee. I discovered why so many period examples have a particular type of join at the top of the leg when my pattern exceeded the width of my fabric. This strange curving shape is in fact the straight line where a bias cut pattern meets the edge of the fabric at 45degrees. Here's another example in linen, although the seam is seems to be on the wrong side. I remember at least one more example in the latest patterns of fashion book. I wish I had used such a seam to give me extra room in these hose, but I'm reluctant to unpick a finished article.

I think the tightness at the back of the knee problem relates to me making this section moderately tightly fitted like the rest of the hose - I think this may be one of the places where a bit more looseness is needed. Experimentation with more wear and on later models will tell.

The top of the hose has an eyelet bound in buttonhole stitch, from which I used ribbon (a temporary measure) suspended from a band of ribbon at the waist. This mostly worked, which is surprising since I expected to need proper braes to make the suspension work properly. I don't think these hose will get a lot of wear until I have braes though.

That's about all I can think to say about these hose for now. In the interests of discretion, I'm not providing photos of me wearing them until I have braes.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Blue Wool Cote I: cutting plans

The most frequently worn item in my wardrobe is my red linen cote. It's very practical, easy to move about in, quick to slip on, and I can even slip it over modern clothes. It's also quite cool, which helps on our hot days, and is easily worn under my thicker wool garments on the colder days. In fact it makes life easier to have a dress under garments such as my thick burgandy wool dress, since if I get warm I can remove the wool dress and still be respectably dressed.

I have two main problems with this dress. Firstly it's made from coloured linen, and I'm fairly confident that coloured linen was not at all common in the era I try to portray, especially not in garment which would need more cleaning. There are references to the white chainse, a form of linen dress in the 12th C, but the very fact that this linen garment is synonymus with the colour white makes me think coloured linens were unusual, and generally not worth the effort for clothing. The linen doesn't flow on the body like my wool dresses do (the aforementioned chainse incorporates pleats for a non-flowing look), and the colour is fading, and when the day cools down, or the garment gets wet, it's so much colder than wool.

The second problem is simply that the garment is getting old and wearing out. I made it in 2003, and wear it at least one day a month, often more. It gets washed at least 4 times a year. Servants were given one new set of clothing per year, so I guess this is a guide to how long a garment might be expected to last. My garment hasn't but it is getting laundered more than I'm sure most medieval garments do, and it is made from a noticeably thinner and weaker weight of linen than I would expect most medieval people to have had access to. The garment is pulling out fabric around stitches, developing wear patches and similar. While the points that are wearing out first do reflect weaknesses in my sewing a tailoring technique, the cloth of the whole garment is on the verge of unravelling.

Well the solution has been at hand for a while, I've had a nice bargain buy piece of navy wool suiting waiting in my stash for me to be ready to cut it up. It's a lovely thin suiting, so It should be nearly as cool as the linen on the hot days. (Well the navy colour may be a mistake if I'm in the sun, but as long as I stay in the shade it should be good). My inspiration to make this the time to cut up the fabric was two-fold - I'm going to canterbury faire, and want to look my best (and have clothing that reflects the state of my knowledge today, not 5 years ago) when I meet a lot of new people, and I'd just read a lovely ladies description of a 13th C dress, and detailed answers to my questions regarding seam treatments and this seemed the perfect place to try them out.

So this is the general shape I decided on:

It's a general shape that seems to be in line with what we know of 12th C tailoring. It doesn't incorporate any of the fancy features of bliauts, and it is very tight about the body, unlike the 13th Century fashions. In fact I may have made it a little too tight in the body compared to historical reality (although with so little in the way of extant female garments you'll find it difficult to prove me right or wrong), but let's just call me a fashionable young girl. I'm not going to try and explore proto set-in sleeves in this garment - being a cote, it is more likely to have been of a simpler older-fashioned cut with less technological innovations than the bliauts.

It's basically the same lines I used on my red linen and burgandy wool tunics, but with the following alterations:

  • the seam allowances will be smaller in line with the different sewing technique
  • the dress will be a little longer than the red linen dress - the dress was always intended to be longer, but I made an error in placement of the gores and was too heartbroken to resew everthing, so I moved the sleeves down and resewed the shoulder seam lower, thus reducing the whole height
  • the dress will have slightly longer sleeves. I would like to play with the concept of rucked up sleeves on an ovegarment, and if I don't like them, I can easily shorten the sleeves.
  • the dress will be slightly narrower in the body. I want to see how tight I can make the garment (in line with 12th C fashion), before lacing is required. If I can't pull this on easily then I will lace the sides.
And here are the pieces I need to cut out with measurements incorporating those changes:
And here's the way it fitted on the fabric (wastage/scrap in pale blue):

The exact length of the sleeves and width of the gores was determined by the fabric width. Likewise the choice to have a shoulder seam or continuous fabric was make by the fabric (too short, but wide).

Sunday, 11 January 2009

A Chemise for the Austrian Dresses II - revised cutting plan

Well my plans have hit their first hitch. I conducted burn and other tests on my suspected linens, and I'm not really sure what the larger piece is, but I'm no longer sure it's linen. The smaller piece though, that at least behaves more like linen, though in my more skeptical moments I'm not sure it's pure linen either.

The smaller piece is 4m long, but it's only 112cm wide, so it's just enough to cut out a chemise. But if I use a trapezoid shape for each piece that is originally a rectangle, I gain only the width of the rectangle added to the circumference of the chemise, while with triangular gores, I gain nearly twice the width of the rectangle, as the rectangle is cut diagonally and the other end added to the circumference.

Now I guess some of this is false economy, since wider skirts over the hips would be really useful to me, but since only the calf section of the chemise will be visible under the dress, and extra width at the hem should help me dance better, and well I just can't fit in the size of trapezoids I want, I'll make a non-shirred chemise now, and aim to make a shirred one later in the year.

How the styles look and hang under the same dress, cut to the same plan except the gores should be a great comparison to see.

So here's my planned layout for the chemise:

And here's the pieces I will require:
And how they fit on my fabric:
I'm quite happy with the efficiency of this. The only portion not used is a scrap in the corner next to a piece that had been cut off. If there hadn't been a piece cut off, I would have used this to make my sleeves longer.

A Chemise for the Austrian Dresses - initial planning

The calf length Austrian dresses have revealed a deficiency in my wardrobe - all my chemises have hems that are well above the ankle, but the style requires a floor length chemise. So it's time to make a new chemise.

First I guess I need to analyse the style. Browsing through my posts on Germanic dress, and particularly Austrian dress, and looked at what was visible of the garment below the dress.
All were white or other pale colours likely to be meant to represent undyed or bleached linen. This could be a layer between the chemise (body layer) and the dress, but to me this seems superfluous - chemises were generally linen because this could be washed and bleached more often, with the chemise absorbing sweat and thus protecting the more expensive dress - why would an intermediate layer recreate these characteristics of the chemise? It could be a fashion that evolved out of visible chemises, making them more elaborate mock chemises, and adding areal chemise underneath, but I'm going to use Occam's razor and assume the visible layer is just a chemise.

So the chemise is visible in two places only - the hemline and the sleeves. The sleeves that are visible are quite tight to the forearm, ending at the wrist. Some are smooth, some wrinkled, and a few have a band of trim at the wrist. The hemlines are floor length or just a whisker above, and fall in many folds. No decoration is visible on the hem of the chemise.

My construction plans

This doesn't give many clues to go by, but if we assume that chemises followed the general lines of other garments of the day, particularly albs (which are a kind of clerical undergarment), then we have a couple of cuts that could be used. There is the version with a square body and gussets or there is the body that is slanted to allow sleeves to make self gussets. I choose the earlier version as I'm more accustomed to it.

Sleeves in this model are a long tube from the end of the gusset down. I'll fit the end to the forearm as I have done for earlier versions. I think I may make a modest wrinkle in the sleeves. A long wrinkly sleeve like on my old court chemise can be a little awkward to get in and out of, but I'd like to have a little wrinkling. So perhaps 1m long - halfway between an unwrinkled sleeve and the extent of wrinkles on my previous court chemise. Initially I'll leave the cuff untrimmed, but I may add trim later, especially to reinforce the stress point of the cuff - but I don't want to delay making the chemise to wait for appropriate trim to be made/acquired.

Several albs use methods of pleating in side gores into the body of the garment which creates sudden flaring at the hip. I think this will probably be needed to create enough fullness of the skirts to create the required number of folds. A couple of these albs use a technique called Italian shirring (I am told) to pleat gores into side seams. this creates a lovely pattern with the very small pleats, which should sit fairly flat. "The art of manipulating fabric" says that Italian shirring (shirred Italian smocking) shirring encourages the fabric to fall in very full folds - which is precisely the look I wish to achieve - the skirts on these Austrian chemises are actually quite tight to the body when you look closely, and the closer the chemise sits, the less fabric I require to make lots of folds. I would like to use Italian shirring to pleat in my gores if i have time to do so. I'm still not sure exactly what shape gores that are Italian shirred should be, but I plan to experiment and find out. I'm guessing a trapezoid.

If the side gores don't provide enough folds in the front, then I will add some front gores as well.

Here's how I envision it looking:

And a cutting plan for that:
I'm not yet sure what hte top width of the trapezoid should be - I need to try some test pleating.

Materials and seams
From what material should the garment be made? That's an easy answer - linen. That's what overwhelmingly all the high class undergarments are made of. I've got some mystery fabric that I think is linen, and I've had such trouble finding assured linen cheap that I'm desperate enough to use the "probably linen" fabric.

Thread? Again linen, for the same reasons, as well as practical one - wool is too weak and will snap, and silk too strong and will often snap the threads in the linen fabric (no the same does not apply to embroidery, where the fabric isn't under stress). I've some lace making thread, in 60/2 size, which has done nicely on previous chemises, and will do nicely on this one.

Finally seams. There is one technique which is used very commonly on linen textiles in the medieval period - the run and fell seam. It is much more common than other techniques, and for good reason - it is tough, easy, requires a smaller seam allowance, and is quick to sew by hand. Why would I want to use anything else?

So I guess it's time to wash and cut some fabric!