Sewing started January 2012 - Dress finished March 2012
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Research and background

Running costs

Black velvet bedspread ca 350 kr
Diamond twill linen (0.5 m @ 200) 100 kr
Blue suiting weight wool lining (2m@100) 200 kr
Tan and black trim 100 kr
12 plastic cable ties (100@70) ~10 kr
Total: 760 kr
Research and background: A bedspread - Back in October 2010 I went to a very local outlet shop in Morjärv with Countess Anna and Lady Lali. They had been tipped of that you could get cheap fabrics there, and to out joy we found some cotton velvet bedspreads of a size that would easily convert into garments for not much money at all. I got a black one, Lali got one blue and one red, and I think Anna got at least one.

From the start I knew I wanted to make a 1560s black velvet gown with quite severe lines, and the plan was to apply black satin tape trim for a textured approach to decorations. However, after digging into my stash of trim I found a woven tape with a tan background and black gridlines over it, which would work perfectly. It also worked out to be just enough to go pretty much everywhere I wanted it. If I had had two more metres I could have covered the back seams of the sleeves as well as the front.

January 2012: Interlining - I wanted this gown to have its own supportive structure, so it would be an easy item to wear, warm and comfortable for early spring or late fall events where I might venture out of doors. For this the gown needed a supportive interlining, and since pretty is not only for the outside I decided on using a diamond twill to make the stiffening layers. I used the same pattern as my red kirtle, that is to say the bodice is one piece which laces closed in the front. The red kirtle is very comfortable, very pretty, and very easy to get into and out of, and I wanted essentially the same functionality out of this garment. The only thing I did was add about a quarter inch to the sides, as the red kirtle is a little tight on me at the moment.

Interlining in progressI used the tried and tested method of 7mm wide plastic cable ties to stiffen the front sections of the interlining, which I made sure was on the straight of grain. One channel with a cable tie, one channel left empty for eyelets, then two channels with cable ties parallell to the opening, then a couple of oblique channels with cable ties to the shoulder straps, and one channel with a cable tie straight down from the outside of the shoulder strap keeps the bodice stiff in the right way, without being uncomfortable, or overly restrictive. The channels are hand stitched in waxed linen thread, using fairly large stitches, as the cable ties never really move around from side to side once they are in. The back of the interlining was only closed up, and there is no stifferning other than two layers of fabric. The eyelets were made with an awl and stitched around with buttonhole stitch in a gorgeous blue silk which I dug out of my stash of random silk threads.

So much for the handwork, for the skirt I decided that the cotton velvet did not deserve to spoil my hands, so I used the machine to join the major seams of both the cotton shell and the wool lining. That went together fairly quickly, and I merged lining and skirt at the waistline by simply bag-lining the skirt, stitching the top seam, again on the machine, and turning it inside out. Then I could pleat the skirt into the waistline of the bodice in my usual divide-and-conquer method for cartridge pleats. The bodice had first been attached to interlining with a crow's foot stitch all around and the seam allowance folded in, stitched down again with crow's foot stitches, in preparation for the skirt.

detail of sleeveheadI wanted this to be more of an outer garment, so I decided early on that the sleeves should be attached. I used my scaled up Layton jacket pattern for the sleeves, lined them in an unbleached linen and stitched them into the armscye. The sleevehead was little too full for the armscye, so I gathered about two inches of sleeve to the top inch or so of the armscye. It is not a lot, but a couple of pleats makes the sleeve a tiny bit fuller at the top of the shoulders.

View of the trim on the front of the skirtAt this point the dress got a little bit of a rest, to let the skirt hang and assume its final shape. During this time I also decided on the pattern for the trim, and stitched that on. It was a given that two lines of trim would go down the front of the bodice, to hide where the interlining is firmly stitched through all layers of fabric so that the lacing keeps the bodice nice and tight, and also outside of this where a row of hooks and eyes keeps the shell fabric closed over the lacing. But then I also ran a line of trim along the neckline from front opening over the shoudler straps and around the back to the other front opening. I could also afford to extend the line of trim from the centre front of the bodice down the front of the skirt, which tied the two parts together very nicely.

Skirt shortage: Ingenious solution time - By now, the skirt had stretched as much as it would and I discovered that the front panels were much too short! A moment of panic, as there was not much time before Nordmark Coronet Tourney where I planned on premiering this gown, which, thanks to wool lining, is eminently suitable for chilly, foggy mid-March days. Then I looked at the remainder of the black velvet bedspread and saw that there was enough to make a guard out of the same fabric. So I cut a number of strips about 10 cm wide and attached it 9 cm up from ground level on the skirt, helpfully marked out by sewing circle friends. I laid right sides together, stitched it up on the machine and flipped the guard down, and then covered this seam with a line of the trim all around the hem by hand. It looks very sharp and makes the seam completely disappear. Plus it ties the skirt in even more to the rest of the dress. The overall effect of this gown is of understated and restricted elegance, if I do say so myself.

Gown worn at Nordmark Coronet Tourney, March 2012, from the front Gown worn at Nordmark Coronet Tourney, March 2012, from the back Gown worn at Visby 2012, from the side

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.

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