It’s done! It’s done! That little project Raven and I started a “couple” of months ago is finished, and finally made its debut last weekend at KCRF. Alas, I ran out of time to finish a proper hat and sleeves—but that’s what the Garb Closet is for! Milord’s hat and a pair of sleeves I made for my MIL were admirably up to the task.

Fitted English gown of duck green velvet, lined in bronze taffeta. From the Tudor Tailor pattern.

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The day was fairly rushed and hectic, so we didn’t have time for a proper, all-angles photoshoot, but here are some of the best shots we did manage.

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The trim is a gorgeous rayon gimp braid that is actually a dead match, color-wise, for the teal velvet and brown taffeta… but for some reason it photographs much lighter. (Click & zoom!)

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The velvet began as two curtain panels from World Market, originally purchased to make a short jacket/waistcoat (I think there’s a page here on that project). I was planning to use some charcoal grey wool for this, until I saw Laura’s beautiful purple version, and realized how pretty this could be in a rich color. If the lining looks familiar, that’s because it’s the exact same fabric as my Valkyrie skirts. (It’s great stuff!)

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Lucas de Heere’s sketch of English women, circa 1575

Mostly the project went together fairly easily. We had a couple of hangups (I lost almost 20 lbs during the course of the pattern fitting, which threw some things off. I ended up having to alter down the size 16. Had I known what my final size would be, I should have started with the 12. No way to predict that at all.). I made my standard narrow shoulder/center back seam alterations to the bodice, and fiddled a bit with the fit of the cut-on stand collar, thanks to coaching from Jenn at Centuries Sewing.

Certainly the most complicated part was the sleeves. There are thirty-four (34!!) separate pieces involved, from the structural layer (with boning!) to the puff to the lined panes, not to mention the binding and the cuff! Arranging everything so they looked pleasing was fiddly and fussy, and if I were to do this again, I would definitely stabilize the cuff with an additional layer of something; all that handling and manipulation left them looking a bit limp, instead of crisp. Happily, the trim stiffened them up nicely! Of course, I made the project more complicated by using velvet—each sleeve is a mirror image of the other, and every separate pane is different. I was VERY careful not to mix up my pieces, pinning them to a cork board, in order, while I figured everything out (and then when I actually got ready to put them together, DROPPED THEM ON MY FURRY KITCHEN FLOOR AND MIXED THEM ALL UP. Ahem.). But it all turned out all right in the end.

One very nice thing about this project is that it’s very amenable to hand-sewing. Except for the long seams (sewing the main bodice and skirt sections together) and some of the sleeve construction, everything was done by hand. Inserting the lining, making up the panes, binding the armscyes, and tacking on twenty five miles (ok, 10 yards, twice) of trim… lots and lots of handwork. Fortunately, I love to hand sew, so this was more pleasurable than onerous. I did have to break out my machine’s walking foot to power through inserting the sleeves (remember the 34 pieces? Yeah.), and for the record: it is impossible to machine sew velvet to taffeta. The velvet is a bad influence, constantly dragging the taffeta off the straight and narrow, and the taffeta doesn’t have enough self-esteem to stand up for itself. Anyway. Hand sewing: Yay.

For the second outing, I wore it atop my coral Campi dress and embroidered smock.

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I was hoping to work it into a couple more ensembles this weekend (our final weekend of fair is three days long!), but we are in the middle of a monsoon. Sigh. The first really bad weather all season, of course! No mud for this gown. (See the surface I’m standing on? The unpaved, packed earth surface? Yeah. Sometimes I really wish I was in a re-enactment group that occasionally meets indoors.)

So. Although the fitted gown itself is finished, it’s not really finished yet. Not until I make proper sleeves and a more suitable hat (the de Heere hats are awfully charming! I rather like the Italian bonnet on the lass on the left.) and do a full photoshoot will I really consider this project complete!

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