In Memoriam Sunday, May 3 2015 

Pigeon Montage

On Friday, I said good-bye to one of the neatest friends anyone could ever have, the extraordinary, silly, sassy, unsinkably happy Gracie Pigeon. She would have turned 14 today (although DH says there were at least two Leap Years in there, so we’re counting it!). Gracie was one of 9 littermates, the puppies of this dog, and twin sister to this one, both of whom have been gone now for a while. Pidge was a 29-month cancer survivor, going through her third round of chemo for lymphoma. On her protocol, the median survival time is 13 months (and she was already an old lady when she started!). She shattered that. And she beat lymphoma, soundly. Three times. But 14 years is a long time, and finally this week her amazing heart gave out. She left us, peacefully and suddenly, having made a dozen new friends at the ICU. Because that’s just who she was. Our silly extrovert. There will never be another one like her.

Thanks, Sillypants, for everything.

Cutest Happy Dance Ever (or The Sally Dresses!) Thursday, Feb 26 2015 

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If you’ve been reading the blog, you’ll know that my 2014 Christmas sewing was delayed due to injury. *Sigh* One—or, more properly, two—of the projects that got way off schedule were tiny dresses for my tiny nieces, who just turned 2. I’d never made baby garb—I mean clothes—before, and I can tell you one thing with confidence: THEY ARE FUN. Seriously, serious fun. Everything is wee! So everything is *fast.* And you can go bonkers playing. Which I did.

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These dresses are the super-adorable Sally Dress from Very Shannon, which comes in every children’s size possible. That was one of the things that appealed to me about it; the other was that with very little wrangling, this silhouette could easily be made to look more period-correct for the 16th century. Win!

The dress is designed for light-medium weight wovens; I used corduroy from my stash, which is just a bit heavy for the project. Some of the aspects of the pattern benefited from a little modification (frex, the pockets are designed to be sewn into the side seams and hem; my cord meant this design feature was kind of bulky, but I made it work).

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I sewed Tavie’s rust elephant frock first. I loved the two fabrics together but thought that the pockets looked a little bit lonely in all that orange—so I decided to bind the bodice! (You will know that I bind things willy-nilly whenever the opportunity presents itself. Wee bodice? Perfect!) With the bodice bound and lined, it seemed silly to have raw edges inside the skirt, so I did my first Hong Kong finish on the seams (did I mention the thing I have for binding?).  The gathered skirt also wasn’t a great option for this fabric, so I went with pleats instead.

Now’s a good time to point out how very customizable this simple little dress pattern is!

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Literally minutes after finishing the hem on Tavie’s dress, I completely mangled my left hand with a can opener (the can, to be precise), and could not get back to little Irene’s little dress for ages and ages (wails and sobs). And then I made my mom’s cape, and then FINALLY…

Irene Owl Dress canon 1

OWLS! Irene and Tavie are fraternal twins, but even if they were identical, they wouldn’t be identical, so I wanted their dresses to be the-same-but-different, too. The applique and feather stitch detail took the place of the binding, and the rounded patch pockets (and flat-fell side seams) were to skirt (ahem) the problems with the bulky fabric/pocket issues I had with Tavie’s dress. And the feather-stitched hem? I ran out of green thread! (The loden green corduroy is really hard to photograph; the picture above is the most accurate.)

Irene Owl Pockets

Irene Owl Dress armscye applique liningIrene Owl Dress back

So much cuteness and fun in such tiny projects!

Finished (at last) Woodland Stroll cape Tuesday, Jan 27 2015 

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Ohthankgawd. This project started out doomed, and I only barely snatched it from the jaws of death, but in the end I’m pleased enough with how it turned out.

It all started when… I found this really cute Green Pepper hat pattern in my stash, and decided to whip it up in a really luxurious fabric for my mom for Christmas.

I was delighted when I found wool fleece at Mood—I have an Early Winters wool fleece jacket that is amazing: rich and lofty and soft and just the perfect blend of luxury and utility. Trusting Mood’s reputation (and pressured by Cyber Monday), I ordered 1.5 yards without a swatch.

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It came, it was gorgeous, it was everything you could want in wool except… IT WAS NOT FLEECE. It was flannel. And it was reeeeelly expensive. Thankfully, the wonderful folks at Pattern Review stepped up with suggestions for alternate uses for my tiny piece of glorious (acid green!) wool. When the Liesl/Oliver+S Woodland Stroll Cape came up, it seemed like the perfect solution. Great reviews, looks awesome made up, takes only a yard and a half of fabric, reports that it “can be made in a morning…” Done. Plus I could tell my mom would love it.

I gathered the rest of my supplies–houndstooth lining, leather kilt straps for fasteners (both b/c I loved them on the model and b/c I don’t do buttonholes), printed out the pattern, and…

Incapacitated myself for the rest of 2014 with an unfortunate run-in with a can of pumpkin puree that resulted in four stitches, a tetanus shot, and a splint on my left hand until after Christmas. Erg. Fortunately, I knew this would give me time to fit a mockup on Mom when she came to visit for the holidays, so that was good! And to confirm that she would, indeed, love to have an acid green wool flannel walking cape! Whew.

Unfortunately, by the time I could finally get back to working on it, I had completely lost my mojo. Just after New Year’s is never the ideal time to do your Christmas sewing. Ah, well–no choice but to forge ahead.

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For the most part, the pattern is as nice as commonly reported. It’s simple (three pieces) and makes up reasonably quickly… but it wasn’t a great match for me (I remembered why I only do a bag lining every five or six years. Oy.). I also ran into trouble with the neckline facing, which did not fit the lining piece. It seems to be a drafting error (and a recent one?), because another user reported the same issue on the Oliver+S blog. Thanks to some coaching from Jenn and a make-it-work attitude, it turned out beautifully… but further diminished my enthusiasm for the project. *Sigh*

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Also, I ended up having to piece the lining b/c I ran out of fabric (the pattern calls for 1.75 y, and I had a yard and a third), but it turned out wonderfully inconspicuous (and forever invisible, as I forgot to snap a photo). I further soothed myself with understitching the lining in place by hand (not just on the facing, all around the perimeter), a nice tailoring technique which the glorious fabrics just deserved. And then, egad, the toggles. The toggles. Lots of drama, ultimately saved by hand-sewing.

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All in all, it really did turn out pretty damn smashing (I absolutely love the combination of acid green wool with the on-trend houndstooth lining, plus the black leather fasteners) although it took considerably more than “a morning”… And I am really damn thrilled to have this piece done and off the desk, so I can get back to the other Christmas sewing that was put on hold by injury: Tiny Toddler Twin Dresses.

Hopefully Mom will get some pix for us of her wearing it!

Fitted English gown debut! Thursday, Oct 9 2014 

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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The UFO Files: Butter Yellow Giornea Monday, Sep 15 2014 

Florentine Overgown | From Elizabeth's Needle

That would be me, doing a little happy dance, because I finished an old, old UFO!

Inspired by the Historical Sew Fortnightly Yellow Challenge, and KCRF buddy Raven’s own yellow Ascension Day ensemble, I dug out a  project I started waaaay back in, oh, 2006 or so. I had abandoned it when I realized I’d made the bodice straps too narrow to cover the straps on its undergown, my brown Botticelli dress. But I have newer Italian garb with narrower straps, so I decided it deserved another chance. It’s worn here with a dress from Sofi’s, because I wasn’t sure if it was worth making the sleeves to go with it, until I’d test-worn it.

The Challenge: #17 Yellow!

Fabric: butter yellow cotton (?) damask from Fashion Fabrics Club, called “Coriander” (It does not behave entirely like cotton; I now suspect a much greater synthetic content than I was lead to believe.). Bodice is flatlined in canvas and lined in cotton broadcloth.

Pattern: My own; draped on myself

Year: late 1400s Florence

Notions: Lacing rings from Renaissance Fabrics and gold soutache to lace with

How historically accurate is it? Um… I’m happy with the silhouette, the color, and the woven-in diamond pattern of the damask, but it’s been through so many crazy incarnations, pattern-wise, and I seem to have arrived at some loony hybrid of a giornea and a cioppa (I’m not even sure what, if anything, the actual difference between those is, but to the best of my understanding: A giornea is one unbroken piece of fabric, open up the sides; a cioppa has a waist seam and usually opens at the front). I will wear it, and cheerfully, but would not like to send it up before judges for anything. There’s also, strangely, quite a bit of invisible hand-sewing and visible machine stitching!

Hours to complete: Unknown

First worn: KCRF, yesterday

Total cost: Again, I bought the fabric in 2006, so I don’t remember, but if I had to guess (based on my fabric buying habits!) I probably bought about 6 yards (I have almost 2 left over, some of which will go toward the sleeves) and wouldn’t have spent more than about $8/yard on it. So ~$50 US.

Florentine Overgown | From Elizabeth's Needle

WIP pix Fall 2014 Wednesday, Sep 10 2014 

I’ve been so busy Making Things all summer that I haven’t had a chance to update the blog. Well, now’s as good a time as any, I guess. Fair has been in full swing for a couple of weeks yet, but as usual my projects are lagging behind.

Raven finished her yellow Italian kirtle, and a host of over-the-top accessories, although she wasn’t wearing her awesome embellished apron that day (check out that HAT!):

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Also, it was approximately nine gazillion degrees and two hundred percent humidity that day, so. It’s amazing this isn’t a photo of a puddle.

I have been a busy little seamstress on my English fitted gown. A proper page for the EFG will follow, along with more WIP pictures, but here are some of the darn-near-finished-except-for-sleeves state we have achieved today! It still needs (sleeves) a good pressing and the trim, but this is a pretty good shot of the duck green velvet and bronze taffeta, which play *so* nicely together:

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And a closeup of the turned-back “lapels” (they’re not technically lapels; it’s just sort of the front, flapped open):

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I have LOVED working with the velvet and taffeta; so much of the construction has been done by hand (and the sleeves are almost entirely done by hand), and these fabrics responded beautifully.

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That somewhat odd ensemble worn under the EFG is my other big project of the summer–a resurrected UFO alluded to here: the butter yellow giornea-thing! I abandoned the project six years ago after discovering that the straps were too narrow for the brown undergown it went with… and then my weight changed, and then changed back, and the brown dress has been worn into the ground (alas)… BUT thanks to the Historical Sew Fortnightly Yellow Challenge (and Raven’s own yellow Italian ensemble!), I was inspired to pull it out again. My newer gowns have narrower straps, and it looks well enough with the coral Campi (and the purple Sofi’s gown sported by the dress form… which was, in fact, the original original gown meant to be worn with it), so it is back in the queue!

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This morning I cut out the skirt panels for it, discovered I had oriented the fabric the wrong way, thus giving myself too much fabric in the skirt, decided to go with two cross-grain panels, knife pleated to the bodice. I am now trying to decide which direction the pleats should face (all the same way, or meeting in the middle… and if they meet in the middle, do so with a box or inverted pleat?).  …All of which was the whole purpose of the photoshoot, but I got carried away and ended up with a blog post!

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This has absolutely nothing to do with historical costuming, but it’s a fun home dec project that delayed the EFG progress for a couple of weeks. Typically, it ended up being FAR more complicated than it should have been, but I’m delighted with the finished results (if not entirely thrilled with the photo!).

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A box-pleated COCKATOO valance! For my new laundry room, where I have been happily washing and prepping my wool stash since my birthday.

Here’s a better shot of the fabric, a home dec linen purchased entirely on impulse (there is a cockatoo in my new book) at Hancock’s a couple years ago. It goes with NOTHING, but I love it, so a feature in a small room was the perfect use for it.

cockatoo fabric

It was supposed to be a super-simple gathered valance, but I only had a yard, the parrots were oriented the wrong way to slice the fabric in half and butt the ends to make the length necessary, and the print was wildly off-grain, so I lost a fair bit of the small amount I had to begin with! So I ended up with that crazy design of the lined inverted box pleats, and I just *had* to do the curved hem, because once I decide on something complicated, I go all in. I was lucky enough to find some greyish linen in my stash to line the pleats with.

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So THAT, my friends, is what I have been up to this summer, that and revising the aforementioned Cockatoo Book (which, to tell you a secret, is shaping up to be My Favorite Yet. Don’t tell Charlotte and Digger.).

 

 

 

Spring Stitches Saturday, Apr 19 2014 

Today I got together for a sewalong with a fellow local costumer and KC Renfest musician. We met in person last year on a rainy Fair morning.

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We are coaching each other through this, Tudor Tailor’s English Fitted Gown:

Raven has some gorgeous black wool flannel for hers; mine will be “mallard green” velvet. We have four whole months to do this, and it’s only four pattern pieces (not counting the sleeves), so we should be able to manage it! We are inspired by some stellar versions made by friends, like Centuries Sewing and Silverstah (Laura’s was the first I’d seen that was A COLOR!).

Her mom volunteered her spacious, tidy, sunny, quilt studio as a workspace—and I am totally sold on the idea of a cutting table. Now… where to put it? Do I really need a sofa? (Because the books aren’t moving.) I hardly use my stove…

To say thanks to Sandy for hosting us, I stitched her up a little biscornu pincushion from stash! This is Matrioshka’s Frozen January freebie stitched on what appears to be platinum (or very light blue) Jobelan, with Ozark Sampler’s hand-dyed floss in Lantana. The flower button came from my vintage button jar. It’s fitting that all these bits and bobs ended up this way, as the fabric and floss were all gifts from other stitchers. I’m happy a quilter will get to enjoy them now!

 

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And a peek at the finished stitchery, because the button covers up a bit of it:

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Ok, now I suppose I should dive into that English fitted gown mockup….

 

Recent Site Updates: Lots of New Content! Monday, Apr 14 2014 

Hello, readers! It has come to my attention, first, that there actually ARE readers of this dress diary (Kate), and that I have been updating it in such a way that subscribers have no idea that I’m doing so! I have been adding new PAGES, instead of new POSTS, and those don’t appear in your readers, alas! So here is everything you may have missed since my last POST in, um, 2012ish.

Lots of pinning—no, this pinning! Come see me on Pinterest!

pinterest profile

Wagner’s Valkyries cosplay

 My (re)new(ed) obsession with Early Netherlandish gowns

resolve

An obnoxious Saxon hat (details to come, if I ever finish the obnoxious-for-entirely-different-reasons Saxon gown):

A spectacularly fortuitous fruit stand!

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A new Fairwear bodice

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Some pretty fancy-schmancy needlework

…Some more fancy-schmancy needlework

blackwork snip

And some more cosplay insanity

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…And I’m at work on a bunch more new stuff, too! Stay tuned for some needlework and cosplay updates coming soon, and there are More Hat Plans in the works, as well.

Thanks for reading!

Come See What’s New! Wednesday, Sep 26 2012 

If you haven’t been around the site much lately, don’t worry—neither have I! But I’m getting caught up, and I’ve just added at least ten pages of all-new content, including projects, tutorials (TC), and dress diaries.

Be sure to check out updates and new posts in 16th C. Middles, the all-new Fantasy & Fairwear section, and don’t miss the award-winning Italian working class dress.

While you’re at it, you may be interested in my interview at Fabrics-store.com.

And stay tuned for stash updates and a reversible doublet tutorial.

Thanks for stopping by!

The Needlework & Historical Costuming of Author Elizabeth C. Bunce Thursday, Jun 12 2008 

Many of you have been asking for details about my needlework, so I’ve put together some pages for my stitching and costuming.

Here you’ll find finished projects, works-in-progress, and some odds and ends.  Use the links in the sidebar to navigate through the projects.

Enjoy!

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