A 16th century loose kirtle
Page two

2003-12-16   During the weekend I sewed the two linen kirtles, ie the lining and the top layer, separately and the I let them hang for a couple of days. Since two pieces on the bias are attached to each other on the sides (I choose to lay out the pieces so the straight front seam was along a selvedge), there is a great chance they will stretch. And I'd rather have that happen before I have sewn the two layers together. I had planned to let them hang for a week, but of course I couldn't stay away from them that long. First I sewed the first reinforcement to the grey lining. I had great trouble keeping myself from doing this by hand. Some parts of the linen strip is sewn together by hand, while watching CSI though.

Why not sew it by hand if I want to? you ask.
Well, I'm trying to make this as easy on me as possible and I really think it would be a waste of time and effort sewing a dress which is not made of 100% period materials all by hand. It's just so tempting, I think waxed linen thread is addictive. There will be no visible machine seams on either the outside or the inside on this kirtle, but I really don't have to be so fussy with the intermediary layers.

   I also started cutting and piecing the brocade. It was tricky, but I managed in the end, sewing the pieces by hand from the right side, so that I could see the pattern all the time. Since the brocade used to be a curtain the colour varies a little due to uneven sun bleaching between the different pieces, but I don't think it's so much that people will take notice. It's pieced in two places. The brocade will be attached last of all the mayor pieces. The main reason for this is that I want to sew both the 45 cm additional lining at the bottom of the kirtle and the brocade through both layers, the yellowish linen on the outside and the grey inner fabric. I think this will make the kirtle more stable.

   Yesterday I sewed the lining and outer layer together at the neck and back opening. The sides of the back opening were sewn right side to right side and then turned, while the neck opening just got a seam with ther right sides out. The neck opening is going to be bound with a ribbon or a bias strip of fabric and that goes for the sleeve holes too. of course I could have turned the neck opening too, but I think that would have made it to big, it's supposed to be quite narrow. The dress is now hanging for a few more days before I even the hems and add the yellow lining. Which I had to buy more linen to be able to make, by the way. Fortunately there was more in the same colour at the store. I didn't notice it when I was there the first time, but then I was in a terrible hurry, I maybe had ten minutes to buy what I needed and then I had to take a taxi to the university to meet the lecturer for that evening.
    After that I'll proabbly make the eyelets for the back lacing so that I can try it on. Maybe then I'll have a digital camera so I can you show you some pictures. This page really is a bit boring.

2003-12-28   I have been working quite a lot on the kirtle since my last update. How on earth I got time for that between christmas preparations and a bad cold that knocked me out totally for a couple of days, I have no idea.

Things I've done:
* I've evened the hem of the lining + narrower interlining, sewn the lining and top fabric together. After that I joined the broad interlining at the hem and attached it's upper edge with running stitches through all layers. The stitches are ca 5mm long and I used unbleached, waxed linen thread.

* Last sunday I made all the eyelets, 38 in all, while watching the first part of a BBC series called "The spies from Cambridge" or something like that. This is what it looks like:



It could have been a clearer picture, but I hope that you can see that they are made with buttonhole stitch, where the looped thread is placed on the outer edge of the ring of stitches. Other ways to make eyelets is to place the looped thread in the hole or just using overcast stitches. Since the colour matched good enough I used the unbleached linen thread for this too.

* I sewed the brocade to the kirtle.

* Today I bound the edges of hem and neck opening with a grosgrain ribbon.

Things I've discovered during the process:
* The person who originally owned this kirtle must have had terribly sloping shoulders. Since I tried to be true to the original pattern, and since I'm not really a very good seamstress, I thought it might work out in some way, even if it looked impossible to fit the shoulders of the kirtle to my, extremely straight, shoulders. Unsurprisingly this wasn't the case. I had to remove at least six centimeters at the neck on both shoulder seams, and still it slopes a little too much. This made the neckhole narrow, especially on the backside. The front piece is a little too big compared to the back piece, so the neck hole stands out slightly.Since I had already done the lacing holes, my options on how to fix this weren't that many. I could either open the shoulder seams again (which i had done by hand this time since I was doing this watching TV) gather the front part of the neck hole slightly before binding it with the grosgrain ribbon. I chose the latter and it seams to be working. I haven't laced it together probably, but I think when I add the sleeves, they will pull the fabric out towards the shoulders a little.

* Talking about the sleeves, it turned out there will not be enough brocade left for the sleeves so I will have to make them from some other fabric. I'll probably make them from red velvet so that I can use them with the flemish dress, whenever that will be finished.

* The four layers of linen didn't make the dress as stiff as I thought they would. They did make it heavy however, this might well be on of the heaviest dress I own, and I do have quite a lot of heavy wool dresses. To make it stiffer I chose a rather sturdy grosgrain ribbon to bind the hem, and if that isn't enough I'll add a 10 cm strip of heavy felted wool to the hem.

All in all, the project is proceeding reasonably well and now I'm fighting the urge to also make the loose gown that belongs to it. It would take an awful lot of black velvet, black satin and black cord... And I still have lacing holes for the sleeves, the sleeves and the decorative borders of net (which I haven't found any suitable yet) and silk applique and a couple of rows of cord to sew to the kirtle before it's finished. I think I'll think about it later.

2003-12-29   The slightly puckering neckline:



Not too bad. I might still have to wear the lacing slightly open in the back of the neck to make it look good, but I can live with that.

2004-01-01   I tried it on and made my husband take some pictures.
It turned out it was possible to lace it all the way up while still being able to breathe. What I also clearly could see from this trial is that I can't use my husband's shirt, the neck is much too wide, but have to make a blouse of my own. Of course I could use a partlet since I'm going to wear a smock anyway but I have a feeling it would be more comfortable to have a blouse with this kirtle. Usually the partlet is kept in place by the bodice on top of it (and when needed pinned to the corset), but this kirtle is too loose for that. In the pictures it looks like the kirtle has a little train, which is disturbing because it may mean that I have to redo the hem and bind it with ribbon again. I really shouldn't have a train, it's like two centemers longer in the back than in the front. But of course there are no breasts and no belly to "shorten" the dress in the back. In the pictures I'm not wearing any shoes. Period shoes have no heels and are very flat so it shouldn't make a difference, but the pink slippers I intend to wear have a 8 mm sole in the back which might help a little. I might also have to wear shoes with supportive soles since my arthritic feet aren't too keen on walking without support, especially when I get bigger, and then the extra length is no problem, I will actually need it so that I don't show my fairly modern looking shoes.
   So next I'm going to bind the sleeve holes, I made the linen bias tape today (burnt my left thumb on the steam) and make the lacing holes, I think it's twelve for each sleeve or something, no big deal. Then I must start hunting for black (or brown) net for the decorative borders and silk braid. I think it would look best with brown net, but I think I have a better chance of finding black. Then I wouldn't have to find brown silk for the appliqué either, since I have scraps of black silk satin.
   I have also almost convinced myself that I need to make the gown that belongs to the kirtle. I'm insane.

2004-01-05    Last friday, three days ago I started the quest for black net. I had made the lacing holes around the sleeve holes (turned out it should be ten and not twelve) and now I was ready to proceed with the decorations. This proved a little more difficult than I had expected. I looked at a hobby store and the best haberdasher in town, but they did't have anything except tulle so I went to the very expensive fabric store which usually has everything you need. Apparently not net however. I had hope for something in cotton or even silk, but in the end I had to buy some softer nylon tulle, that at least was "made" of lozenges and not hexagons, which are really out of period. That evening I attached the first border of net and it actually looked better than I thought it would. First I had though that the borders were unnecesseary and that it would look better with just the brocade, but I think the broad band gives the kirtle a nice german look and it will be even better when I add the narrower band below.
    After sewing the net to the kirtle it was time to start on the applied silk motifs. On the gown that belonged to the outfit the applied shapes were glued on paper to prevent fraying but I thought it would be fine to use fusible interfacing instead. I also decided to use silk satin instead of taffeta, which the original kirtle had because, as mentioned, I already had silk satin. Quite a lot of it actually, it will probably be enough for the guards on the velvet gown too. The drawings of the pattern in PoF isn't too clear, unfortunately there is no detail drawing of the appliqué, but after a while I could make out three different motifs. I have now drawn, cut and sewn three of the pieces to the kirtle. In the original the pattern continues all the way to the side seam, but I think doing that would be the ultimate proof of insanity, since I don't intend to let the linen parts be seen. I will actually only need two more pices to cover the brocade and that will have to do. It's quite a lot of work to stitch these things in place and the interfacing may prevent some fraying but not all so you have to stitch over all the edges carefully to protect them. After I've put all the silk pieces where they belong I will edge them with a black and gold braid that I bought during the three hour quest for net. The original was a narrow braid with silver tinsel in the middle. I couldn't find anything that looked excactly like the original and I also had decided that gold would look much better with the yellowish background. Failing to find a braid with gold in the middle I have to make do with a narrow trim made of real metal thread and black chenille, where the latter is in the middle of a "chain" of "gold" thread. It's hard to describe in words, but it looks good together with the silk.
   All this, and the second band of trim, will take quite along time to make, but I'm really not in a hurry, I might wear this kirtle to an event in april. Hmm, what will I use it for later? The baby's due by the end of april and I don't plan to have any more. I guess I will still be "plump" as Janet Arnold put it so I'll continue to use it, but with a corset and a farthingale.

2004-01-21     The gold and chenille trim turned out to be both too wide and too loosely woven to sew around the edges of the silk appliques. Since I hadn't been able to find any other narrow braid or trim with gold thread I decided to go for good old soutach braid. At least I knew that while it was tricky, it was possible to edge appliques with som many narrow turns with it (I have made a banner with lions on before, they were only 20 cm high and had many very sharp turns). Since I still wanted the metallic thread from the original I decided to sew running stitches with gold thread in the middle of the soutach braid after I had attached it. That means that I have sewn around all the motifs three times! First whipstitching them carefully in place, then the soutach braid and then sewing the gold thread. At least the last went much faster than the other ones. Here are pictures of the whole band of trim and a detail:
The border looks a it more wobbly than it actually is. Apparently I didn't manage to lay the dress out even before I took the photos. Compare the position of the band with the pattern on the brocade. The hem isn't uneven either.
   Yesterday I also started attaching the net for the second, much narrower (c. 4 cm) band. The silk decoration is much simpler than in the broad band, but it will still need to be attached, edged with braid and sewn with gold thread.

2004-01-26     during the weekend I finished the second band of net and applique.



Now all I have to do is:
* Rip of the ribbon that binds the hem so that I can shorten the kirtle, especially in the back. Then bind it again. Not too much work really.
* Sew the two rows of black silk cord that follow the edge of the fancy front fabric on the original. It turned out to be impossible to find thin silk cord in the shops in this town, so I ordered it via my favourite sewing shop. 50 metres, since I'm going to use it on the loose gown too. It might not be enough, but it's a good start. It'll probably arrive next week.
* Make the sleeves. I have changed my mind again and will try to make them out of the remnants of the yellow brocade. The biggest problem is that because some pieces have been exposed to sunlight (it has been used as a curtain) they have a much lighter colour than some of the other pieces. Especially the pieces that apparently never was used, but are scraps left over from when they made the curtains. Those had never been washed, so they also had a more even texture. To try to even out the colour some and make the texture more alike I threw it all in water and soap yesterday. The result was quite good, since the unwashed brocade bled quite a lot and now I actually think I can piece them together so that I get sleeves where the colour difference isn't to jarring. The main reason I changed my mind about the sleeves is that I saw that they also have this nice trimming with net and applique and i think it will look really noce to have that at the cuffs too.

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