Stupid Reality

The past week has been horrid. We have had three deaths , one of immediate family. We have a high school graduation and a visit from a far away parental unit this coming weekend.

I have been up to my eyes in housework and I just can’t get ahead. And the insult to the injury is the heat. Between the heat and the sunlight, I’m struggling to keep my hands functional. Insert whining here.

As I have made no progress at all on my proposed wedding dress, I think I need to re think it. I do not think I have time to make it by hand like I really want to. Just no way by the wedding. Not the way things are going.  I break out in hives and cry at the thought of making it by machine.
So I think I need to try something else. This is the THIRD time I’ve had to change what I wanted. I’m starting to doubt my ability to get ANYTHING done. I suppose doubts are normal for any bride, but this one doesn’t want to embarrass herself, or her fiancé by wearing a mess to wed.
My fiancé is wearing an early 1540s German outfit. Maybe I need to make myself a late 1530s, early 1540s gown.

If I stay early enough to keep the natural waistline, then the gown itself will be easy to construct. The 1530s to 40s are a much simpler style than the 1520s that I love so dearly.  Far less embellishment and far less actual fabric involved.  The only thing I am missing for it would be linen for a camica. And I only need to come up with about 5 yards of linen for that. Doable maybe. I really never want to go later than the early 1540s I’m my clothing, unless I need to for a friends event.

There are a few portraits that I love from that time frame. So maybe if I make THAT style, the sting of failing to make my doom gown won’t hurt as bad.
This one in particular has always struck me as being very lovely. It’s relatively simple, but still very luxurious.







This is a lovely version with a closed front.

Please bear with me. I’m having trouble editing the images to get the credits in, or the captions I wrote to show up. Technology, you humble me.
All of these portraits can be found at the AMAZING resource for Venetians, The Realm of Venus. Here:

I think I will go with a natural waistline, small and intricate sleeve heads, a visibly detached sleeve, and paning on the sleeve itself. I will make a full partlet to go with it, so I can wear it outdoors later on, I just may not have it done by the wedding this fall.

I still want my doom gown. I’m rather upset that I can’t make it in time. But I am not going to have the time or energy to make what I want. There is nothing worse than a half done gown. And it’s my wedding!  So I make something else that I want.  I didn’t want this for my wedding dress, but what we want and what we can do are often different things.


In Which We Get the Rants Out of the Way So Normal Thought Can Resume

  I’m getting married soon and I need a wedding dress.
Like all good historical sewing nerds, I decided that this was my chance to go all out both in terms of materials and in scope, and make my DOOM gown. The research on this is many more posts. Many.
In this post I will just blather on about the very beginning of the required start of any project: the underwear.

And the ranting I feel compelled to do on the topic.

At the very least, every gown in the Renaissance has a certain style of body linen that is meant to be worn with it. There may or may not be corsets, underskirts, bum rolls and so on as well.

So here is my rant about underpants.


For one, it protects your painstakingly made gown, from you. Yes, from you. Human bodies can be … Icky. Sweat will EAT certain fabrics.

Washing clothes is really hard on them. They simply will not last as long if you wash them. Dyes fade. Seams wear out. Modern commerce relies on your clothes wearing out so you will go buy new ones.

How bout THEM apples?

Rebel! Fight The Man in any way you can! You’ll save money , stick it to the corporations, conserve water and look better doing it.

So the answer ?

Keep them as clean as you can, and wash only when necessary. And when you do wash them, do so as gently as possible.

Body linen in the Renaissance is almost without exception, white. Hence washable and bleachable. Because the ick.  Our foremothers did not have “clorox”, but they did have lemon juice, salt and sunlight. It is not coincidental that all three of those things are also anti viral and antibacterial. Try leaving a colored piece of fabric out on the sun for a few days. Observe what happens. You’ll never leave your stuff sitting out in the sun while you are unloading for an event again.  

Most embroidery on historical body linen is situated in low ick areas, or protected by a lining from contact with skin.
( Or just made by someone rich enough not to care if it gets ruined! Those people did and do exist. I’m not one of them. )

So! The underpants for the doom gown is a massive undertaking. It is a set of items , eventually including a soft corset, drawers, a shift, an underskirt or bodices petticoat and a camica. The camica is what I am starting on today.

Step one: prep the fabric for work. In this case, it means pulling threads to get a straight line to cut on, and trimming the raw yardage down to the smaller yardage width available in the Renaissance. 
( My never ending thanks to Mona Raffaella for pulling threads for me last weekend while I finished the Sweet project. You rock!)
Mini rant!
If you -can- pull a thread for a straight cut edge on linen, do it. Linen is wiggly stuff. Even starched and pinned, a cut line is going to sneak around on you more often than not. No big deal unless you only have “x” amount of fabric and you need “x” amount of fabric to make your project.

I usually have “x” minus 1 amount of fabric to work with, so I have gotten ruthless about conservation of fabric in cutting. Ironically I am betting our foreparents were too.

Normally I wash and iron my fabric first. However, I am dealing with 15 yards of linen here.

I made the panels first because :

1. Any shrinkage won’t really affect the overall garment at this stage due to its construction.
2.  I can only pick up so much wet linen at once.
3. My sink isn’t that big.

Divide and conquer!


Body panels drying in the doorway to my kitchen. Which is where everyone dries their wedding gown undies.

Side rant!

I have noticed, when working  with the linen -I- can afford, that hand washing and air drying gives me a much better result.  A lot of people I know who get their linen from the same company I do complain of epic lint. Well, that’s because a short staple length like the one in this linen is never going to win against a machine wash and dry. 

When washed by hand ,air dried, and ironed,this stuff will keep excellent hand and body. I don’t get any lint and the linen retains its ability to bead water up on the surface.

I happen to have a piece of the very same linen I cut and washed by machine a year ago. The difference compared to the lengths I hand washed is very, very sad.


Two pieces of the same linen. The left , machine washed. The right, hand washed.

See the color difference? Trick question. There is no color difference. It’s exactly the same color. The difference is that more of the ironing board cover is showing through on the left. Epic amounts of lint = thinner less sturdy fabric. Yes the machine washed length is soft. But it is now so fragile that the seams are pulling out of it and it cant be worn without further damage. It is, in essence, ruined. A lot of effort gone to waste because I was in a hurry and didn’t want to deal with hand washing. It would have taken me about 8 hours to prep that fabric by hand. To remake that Turkish kamiz? Even by machine, at least 15 hours. I have in effect lost time, all the money that linen represents, money for replacement linen, and a useable garment, because I was in a hurry.

I have also found that thinking of my clothing as ONLY being able to be hand washed helps me behave in a much more period manner about my clothes. I keep them much cleaner than I used to, and with more spot cleaning and hand care, they are looking MUCH better too.
Ironically, the fact that I have been thinking of my clothes as a long term investment for the last five years is helping me make better clothes. Rather than trying to get a new outfit for every event, because everything I have is “falling apart”, I’ve shifted my focus to building a wardrobe.  My stuff is lasting much longer, so I can breathe, and start adding the things that take my garb from being a really intense costume, to real,honest, working clothing. 
That’s a different rant for a different day.

I still do things like make an entire new outfit in “X” style because its a nifty event I want to go to, and I’m a masochist, but in large, I have stopped the endless cycle of ” I need a new ____.”  It is a mindset of fewer, better, things. I believe this is much closer to the way our foremothers thought about their clothing, and it suits me just fine.

The Sweet for the Sweet

My local barony of the SCA gives out an award each year for the nicest person in the barony. It’s called the Sweet and it’s symbol is a strawberry. Normally, with awards that are passed on, baronies make an item of some sort, usually meant to be worn or used, and have each recipient pass it on to the next.

My darling fiancé won it last year.  As the items the barony had were quite badly worn and not really usable any more, I decided to replace them with one new piece.

I proposed a bag, rather than an item of clothing. The folks who win this award are usually quite useful, on the go people and a functional bag would come in quite handy.  The powers that be agreed and thus the new Sweet can to be.

I over engineered this poor thing. It has a double bottom, one part of which is 5 layers of wool quilted down into what is essentially cardboard. I used a black wool flannel I had sitting in my scrap bucket.  The other part of the structure is merely three layers of quilted wool.


The bag I lined in a heraldic gold linen donated by my lovely Mona Raffaella, a lady of ridiculous talent and beauty.  I went with the gold because I hate not being able to see inside a bag I am digging in. I’ve stabbed myself with scissors, needles and what not far too many times.

As everyone I know puts way too much stuff in any bag they have, made the strap on this one very very wide. This will help keep it from digging into shoulders and sliding off. Its so wide they almost have to sling it across the body, meaning it will cause much less fatigue and pain.

The strap is two layers of canvas, one of wool, and an exterior of gold and blue linen.  I topstitched through the thickness of the strap. That made it nail tough, but took two whole days as I had to use a stab stitch rather than a rocker quilting stitch.

Once I had the body parts made, I moved on to the embroidery. The symbol was a strawberry, but I felt that a disembodied giant red strawberry was kind of bizarre looking. So I found an illustration from the 1400s and adapted it to the bag.
The leaders of the barony asked that the bag include symbols of the barony as well as the strawberry, so people would know at a glance that it was an award, rather than a random strawberry bag. Gosh, that made sense!

So I decided to to appliqué the baronial symbols onto the body of the bag and the strawberry became the cover flap.

I used a heavy linen for the applique background. I also underlined the linen with a layer of white wool flannel and linen canvas. This meant there was very little distortion while I stitched. It also produced a very solid cardboard like flap that needed no extra work once finished. All I had to do was line it in the gold linen and bind off the edges in the blue linen of the outer bag.








For giggles I added a wooden bead tassel embroidered as a strawberry to help weight the flap down a bit.
To go with the item, the barony hands out an illuminated paper award. My fiancé drew it up and I painted it. It too goes along with the strawberry theme.





Beginning in the Middle

I never know where to start. I pick a spot, jump in, flail about for a while, THEN find where I should have started. Blogging is no different.

This is a blog to share my projects in the SCA,  the Society For Creative Anachronism.  The SCA is a cross between, well, LARPing, and getting a history major. All while camping! My personal obsession is Venice. Specifically Venice of 1490 – 1530. Well, actually the clothing of Venice,  1490 – 1530.
While I have a backlog of projects both finished and in progress, my focus at the moment is THE WEDDING.   Weddings. There are two. Because one wedding isn’t  enough hassle. No, just not enough work for me. I need two. One for our SCA friends,  the other for my fiancee and his decidedly normal family.

To make the normal hubbub of wedding prep even worse, we are making period accurate garments to wear for our accurate as possible wedding. I’m Venetian. His SCA alter ego is German. Guess what I’ve never sewn? Men’s German stuff.  And hopefully making Venetian gear for the ladies who have volunteered to stand with me as my family.  Go team over commitment!

I have one project I have to finish, this week, and then we wade into wedding wear up to our noses.
Come enjoy the insanity!