Cauled out for cockading & hattitude Monday, Oct 5 2015 

post serious ps

I saw an interview with Cindy Crawford last week, where she said, “Have a story in your head when posing for photographs.”  Here I evidently suspect this fence post of foul and nefarious doings, and am attempting to ascertain its guilt via mind meld. Glamorous! 

5 October 2015

Huzzah! It’s FINALLY really finished. Do you remember my big garb project from a year ago, an English fitted gown? At the time I had only completed the gown itself, with its epic short paned sleeves-of-a-million-pieces. But it was missing the appropriate period accessories: hat, caul, and proper sleeves.

Not anymore! Thanks to inspiration from the Historical Sew Monthly September challenge, Brown, I have at last completed the ensemble.

EFG complete ps color

Yond fence post hath a lean and hungry look….

The sleeves and caul are lovely, but the hat is the star.

brown feathers

I’ve made plenty of other hats before, but this was my first time working with buckram and millinery wire to construct a period hat completely from scratch. What fun! I can’t wait to try another one.

I used the Lynn McMasters Elizabethan Arched-Brim Hat pattern, which also included the pattern for the caul (made from these scraps).

caul shot crop

Believe it or not, this thing actually just stays on the head like that! For a whole windy day….

I really wanted a hat like the one Lucas de Heere gave his English townswoman, with the high, slanted crown and a narrowish brim:

de Heere Englishwomen

But I couldn’t find a commercial pattern with exactly that silhouette. The Lynn McMasters one came close-ish; but the mockups were not encouraging! It seemed like the crown was too short, the brim too wide, and the whole thing not quite large enough overall. Still, lacking enough understanding of hat architecture to alter the pattern, I forged ahead anyway. And it looks a gazillion times better finished than I feared!

Chris Steph Tess Sept 26 2015

This project involved a lot of hand sewing, wearing out thimbles, needles, and fingers along the way! I used black microsuede for the fashion fabric, and lined it in the same bronze taffeta as the fitted gown. Trimmed out with extra fitted gown trim, the most perfect feather cockade from Michaels, and a lovely vintage brooch from etsy.

hat snood morning glories

For the sleeves, I used the basic sleeve pattern from The Tudor Tailor and reprised some of my favorite fabric. I’m very pleased with them–scaled straight out of the book as drafted, the only alteration I made was lengthening them a wee bit. All of my previous sleeves have been far too large for me, so these are a vast improvement.

with jade ps cropped final

That might be it from me for garb this year (although the sleeve pattern is tempting me to make a couple more pairs—and I just cut one out this morning!—so who knows!). If anyone is still keeping a tally, I think this brings me to seventeen or eighteen finishes since my birthday.

Thanks for looking!

Historical Sew Monthly Challenge Details!

What the item is: A Trio of Elizabethan Accessories (Hat, Caul, Sleeves)

The Challenge: September Challenge 9: Brown. Brown is my favorite color (yes, really!), and I needed a set of proper period accessories to complete the duck green and bronze fitted English gown I made last year. I loved working with brown as an accent color—brown embroidery and lace on the caul; bronze trim and glorious brown feathers on the hat; and the small tan-and-cream motif on the black sleeves.

Fabrics: Hat is buckram base, covered in microsuede and lined in taffeta; sleeves are cotton jacquard lined in cotton sateen; caul is pre-embroidered muslin.

Pattern: Hat & Caul: Lynn McMasters Elizabethan Arched Brim Hat; Sleeves: Tudor Tailor

Year: 1560s-70s

Notions: Feather cockade, brooch, and braid for the hat; golden brown Cluny lace for the caul; just a bit of grosgrain ribbon to tie the sleeves on.

How historically accurate is it? Except for the fiber content of the fabrics (linen, silk, and wool would have been period), it’s pretty good. The patterns for the sleeves and caul are from reliable sources and are dead on. I am a little more iffy on the hat. It doesn’t really look like like hats of its type from period sources  and illustrations (the brim seems too wide, and the crown is too short); and I read that the designer’s original source/model for the pattern was a book whose research and silhouettes are now considered out of date. So I just can’t say for sure. Construction was a mix of hand and machine. I’d give myself about 85%.

Hours to complete: Hat: About two weeks, so maybe ~30? Caul, a bit under 2 (some fitting and fussing); sleeves, about 1.

First worn: Kansas City Renaissance Festival, Oct 2015.

Total cost: The sleeves and caul were all scraps left over from other projects, so free! The hat was about $40, all in, with the pattern and specialized millinery materials. The cockade was the real bargain! I stumbled across that lovely thing, as is, in the floral aisle at Michaels (large US craft store). It was on sale for something like $2.00, and I instantly knew it was meant to be on my hat!


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.


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.


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!)


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!)


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.


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!


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!):


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:


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


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.


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!


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!


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!).


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.


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.).