Diary Started March 28th 2006 - Finished May 21st 2006
On this page:

Research and background

Running costs

Lilac shell wool from stash (4 metre @ 119) 476 kr
White linen from stash (1.15m) ? kr

Total: 476 kr
I am determined to get a surcote for my gothic fitted gowns of goodness. I have three so far (plum wool, blue buttoned and the green linen gothic army dress), but no outer layer. I have purchased wool, some time ago now, and I have been harbouring plans. It is now time to act on those plans to end up with a surcote in time for Double Wars 2006.

March 28, 2006 - Basically all the research for this surcote was already done, in the search for manuscripts and sources for the gothic fitted dress (GFD) that is the foundation layer. The pattern will also be based on the GFD research, but I will still need to make a toile to adjust the pattern to fit the surcote over the finished dress.

Inspirational pictures

Most of these I found for the GFD projects, but I thought it worth re-posting them here to have them all collected.
Roman de la Rose surcote Tres Riches Heures Christine de Pisan, City of Ladies Boccace, De Mulieribus Claris
Fig 1: Roman de la Rose, Louis XV 7 MS. 1405
Fig 2: Elizabeth from Les Très Riches Heures Folio 38v. Undated
Fig 3: Christine de Pisan, City of Ladies. 1410s.
Fig 4: Giovanni Boccacio's De mulieribus claris Folio 124v. 15th Century.

Other Costumer's Interpretations of the Surcote

Fabric choices

The fabric
The Grey
For the surcote the original, and only, idea was to use the lilac wool flannel I had 4 metres of in my stash, purchased for this very purpose at "Sumpan". However, when pulling the cloth out to have a look I also discovered in my wool storage thingy, 4 metres of lovely luscious dark blue wool, bought at Visby last year. I checked my notes and find I had earmarked this wool for surcote as well. I was in trouble. The blue cloth is undeniably a much finer material, but again, I have got lots of blue dresses, and when else will I use up the lilac wool? After looking at the comparison in daylight when the lilac is no longer a horrible option, I'm decided on the lilac wool. The blue was telling me it wanted to be made into another supportive gown instead, and who am I to argue with the voices in my head? There is a third option still open however: the grey wool, of which I also have 4 metres. Going that route I would end up looking very much like the grisaille from the Roman de la Rose (Fig 1 above).

Design Concept

I went back to check my mailbox, as well as posing a few questions to knowledgeable costumers, chief among my advisors was Mathilde. Almost exactly a year ago I was given the advice to use the basic pattern from the supportive gown, draft out the front seam so that it can be cut on a fold in the fabric, and have the surcote itself just skim the body already contained by a supportive gown. This advice was restated by both Mathilde and Millicent, and as such I will believe in the soundness of the concept.

My pattern then will be taken from my GFD fitting. I shall do a toile with the front panels laid on a fold and I will add a couple of inches for fitting at the side, and back, seams. If at all possible with such a pattern I would want to be able to wriggle into the surcote entire. If that can not be achieved, I will try opening one or both side seams where it is tightest and see if I can stitch myself into it that way. If I am unable to do that to myself, I will entertain the idea of eyelets at the side seam, or letting out the surcote slightly, depending on the fit at the time.

The sleeves, now, I am tempted to go sumptuous and have them dragging the floor, but it has been pointed out to me that that is not very practical, and likely to get them very dirty very fast. I am resisting going as short as Elizabeth in Fig 2 above, as I'm afraid that would do nothing to keep the warmth on my lower arms and hands. The length shown in Fig 3 might work for me, perhaps make them slightly longer, such that when I let my arms hang at my sides, the end of the tippet reaches the tips of my fingers.

Pattern Making

April 2, 2006 - With the help of our regular sewing circles I have determined that I need to add 1 cm to all seams on my original GFD pattern, with the front seam drafted out. I might possibly be able to leave out the back seam as well, but it is handy for adding the gore, so it stays in.

The General Idea(tm) is to flare my body pieces out at the waist, and add centre front and back gores. In order for it to be practical, the armscyes must also be made larger, with enough ease in the sleeves to get underlying layers through without having to fight my way out. I marked that on the cotton toile we pinned over my plum wool gown.

I also want to add fichets* to the surcote, so it will remain a practical item. I could throw it on in cold weather and still have access to the belt and any pouches hanging from it on the layer beneath. The real reason is of course to see if I can do it. If I determine that my front gore is high enough, I might just leave a bit of those seams open and use as fichets.
* Fichets. The general use of this term means a slit in a skirt of an outer layer, working sort of like a pocket, but with no pouch attached to the inside to catch items. It allows access to pouches or other items worn with the next layer down.
Also, I've decided on the lilac wool as the material to use. The lining I have is light blue and white linen. The light blue linen will go inside the body of the surcote because I did not have enough of the white. This goes in the sleeves as being the only bits that will show. I hope.


May 8, 2006 - Over easter I started on the construction of my surcote. After some prevaricating and self-doubt I cut out the body pieces while watching an old western movie. This left me with a bit over 1 metre of my wool left for sleeves.

First try-on, front
First try-on, back
After cutting the body pieces out in the shell wool I continued on using a light blue linen for lining. I had to piece the three full-length body panels at the waist to fit on the two cuts of linen I had set aside for lining. Unfortunately this effort ended up wasted for this project as I decided, after basting all shell and lining pieces individually together, that I did not want this surcote to be lined. The shell fabric is quite heavy enough, the drape is lovely, and without the linen lining the entire dress will be a bit more flexible so that I can wriggle into it without having to resort to lacing at the sides. So now I have a full-length linen layer for any future surcotes I might decide on making.

After ripping the lining out, I started assembling the surcote. With an initial basting I tested to see how well I could get into it while wearing my gothic army dress. I could do it quite readily so I went ahead with the major seams using a seam allowance of 2 cm and a foreshortened backstitch for most of it. That was as far as I got over easter.

Since that time I have managed to press and fell all seam allowances together to one side using as invisible a hemstitch as I was able. First I clipped the seam allowance on the side toward which I was folding, then I stitched through only the top layer of seam allowance into the fabric. All the seams were done by the end of April, 2006. I intend to go over all seams and add topstitching just because that feels more secure and it will look pretty. I've been using a black silk thread for all of this.

Sleeve-draping Malfunction

The last week I have been making progress with the sleeves. Measuring the armscye on the dress itself I figured out how much larger I needed to make the sleeveheads as compared to my GFD sleeve pattern. Armed with that measurement and Hang 'Em High entertaining me, I went ahead and made up a new sleevehead pattern directly onto cotton sheeting. This was practical as I could then just pin this into place as a toile and get a spiffy pattern at once.

Or so I thought.

My troubles started because I did not have enough of the cotton left to make a full-length toile. There was only enough for about elbow-length fitting. But I thought that would be ok because I would be cutting open the sleeves at around the elbow anyway to get the tippet look. Well, I pinned the sleeve-toile in, put the surcote on and decided I looked good. Then I marked where the front was a little long and where I could make it shorter, marking out at the same time where the rest of the sleeve ought to continue down to wrist length. With that I put my pattern onto my shell wool, chalked a line about a cm outside the pattern for my own sanity, extending both edges to the full length of my GFD sleeve pattern. I was very glad of this later on. I also marked where, on my toile, I had marked for the cut-out to begin and end.

My weird sleeve pattern The sleeves in placeAfter having cut out the sleeves in my wool I quickly pinned one of them together and into the armscye to see if I had done it right. I had not, much like the lynching didn't suceed in killing off Jed Cooper (as played by Clint Eastwood). The marking for the cut-out was very, very wrong. Other side of the arm wrong. Completely insane wrong. How I had managed this I still have no idea. What to do then? Well, I did not want to start cutting into the middle of the sleeves leaving a seam in the middle of the tippet. The standard seam placement of the S-curve sleeve (along the back of the arm) would mean this was inevitable. I had to rotate the sleeves so that the seam ended up on the inside of my arm instead. Then I could cut out a rounded rectangle from one edge of the sleeves, rather than in the middle of the fabric producing a somewhat recognizeable pattern and leaving a wide tippet. Said and done, I cut out the surplus fabric from the sleeves and stitched both together into tubes, then went ahead and stitched them into the surcote, producing a sleeve that ought to look good once completely finished. From the toile and the cut-out I then produced a two-part pattern which I used to cut out the lining in white linen.

Finishing Touches

May 30, 2006: The home stretch - Seeing as how I was nearly finished with the surcote for the Principality Coronet Tourney I kicked the project into high gear again and made sure to finish it in time for Double Wars two weeks after. Well, I nearly finished. All that was left to do for me on site was cut out and stitch on an edge facing for the neckline out of self-fabric. I also took some very nice photos of the surcote before finishing off the neckline neatly.

Photo Gallery

For images I may not have linked in the diary, close-ups and overviews et cetera please have a look at the photo gallery.

Valid HTML 4.01!