Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Tudor Gown, Friday through to Sunday

Definition: extremely large
Synonyms: behemothic, bulky, colossal, cyclopean, elephantine, enormous, extensive, gargantuan, giant, gigantic, great, gross, humongous, immeasurable, immense, jumbo, leviathan, lusty, magnificent, mammoth, massive, mighty, mondo, monster, monstrous, monumental, mountainous, outsize, oversize, planetary, prodigious, stupendous, titanic, towering, tremendous, vast, walloping, whopping

I spent a good part of Friday night looking at a great deal of fabric and thinking of other words for huge.  I didn't think of cyclopean, will remember it for next time!

The instruction to hand stitch the skirt together, and then to the bodice, was met with a certain amount of belligerence until I started pinning it all together, at which point trying to do it any other way was obviously impossible.  So, I can now tell you all that I can hand sew 11yds in 47 minutes.  It's a detail, I like details.  There's not much more to be said about an evening of stitching, stitching and just a little more stitching ;o)

We did, however, check on the shrunkies and are loving their progress; the 11 yr olds' long nose head is particularly cool with his veiny cheeks.

Saturday morning was when the work started in earnest.  The first job was to attach the front of the gown to the front of the bodice or make 26" of fabric fit onto 8": this was done with two large pleats.  First I attached the pieces at the seams then found the centre of both, marked them with pins, and joined then to create two large loops of fabric.

Once marked, each loop was then pushed flat along the waistline of the bodice until it reached the pin (either the at the centre or the side seam) and then folded back on itself to create a pocket.  They were then pinned in place.

For the tightest/strongest seam I slipstitched and then overstitched the fabrics together every 3-4mm, making sure I went through each layer.  It left a neat seam both inside and out.

The remaining 80" now had to be fit to the 14" wide back!  The instructions described a "hanging pleat" method; which followed along the lines of the front bodice pleats.  Both sections were divided into eight, marked with pins and then pinned together to leave eight loops of fabric along the width of the back.

loving my new slippers ;o)

The loops were then pinched together at the centre and pinned in place either side.  Using the same combination of slip and over stitches, I attached the skirt to the back and closed each of the loops.  These would then hang inside the skirt, invisible from the outside, whilst still creating the right look but with none of the bulk.

Finally, I attached the lining to the bodice.

Sunday was spent in a much more leisurely manner - apart from anything else I had housework to do and food to buy!  I finished the sleeves, attaching their lining at the armholes and then folding them back and stitching them into place.  The bottom of the gowns' bodice is supposed to sit higher than the kirtle, but doesn't... The reasoning behind this is to stagger the bulk of the costume but this isn't an issue in my case, I also think that the position will shift once it is laced in.  I tried it all on and then dressed Miss G in the bumroll, kirtle and gown.  I think it will be fine, but annoyingly I had to remake the plastron as it was more than an inch too short.  As the gown bodice length is dictated by the length of the bones (total length - the seam allowance) I don't see how the corresponding plastron was ever going to be the right size.  As remakes go though, it was quick and simple enough.  I have not inserted the piping yet though, and will not until the gown has eyelets and is laced.  Then I will fit the plastron to the gown and finish it along the final bodice line.  I also need to hem both the kirtle and the gown... by hand... before Saturday... I have not yet dared measured that!

So, definitely getting there.  One last comment, it is heavy.  Without the corset and the petticoat and the bumroll it is heavy.  Hard to breathe heavy.  And this is using lightweight fabrics in comparison to some of the ones suggested; I don't know how you would breathe or move in a velvet, fur trimmed equivalent.  And no, the Tudor's did not need to worry about being cold, not at all... I think I will spend my Halloween party haunting the garden to keep cool!  It is a shame the headdress will not be done in time but, honestly, I'm not that upset, I couldn't be wearing that on top of all this, the coif will do just fine.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Tudor Gown, Wednesday & Thursday

This week has been spent on the Tudor Gown.  It's been hard work!  I changed day job and offices too, so all in all, there wasn't time to do everything and write about it.  Instead. here are the highlights, day by day. 

Wednesday evening was spent sewing the pieces of the gown skirt together.  Six in all, two back (which form the train of the gown), two side and two front.  There was also a matching lining.  It was huge - the waistline is 11ft! - there was no use in taking any photos. they would have simply been of large piles of grey or black fabric.  Instead I waited for Thursday afternoon, when the lovely Mr S and the 11yr old helped me demonstrate just how large the skirt is...

I also caught the 11yr old practicing her ballet in her pumpkin tutu outfit for the Halloween disco at school.

The rest of Thursday was spent relaxing with my lovely friend V, having curry for dinner and sympathising with Finn who had had "the op"... 

poor Finn, he did look sorry for himself!  If only lasted the night though, you'd not think anything had happened the way he's charging around now.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Sleeves... the sleeves... *sigh*

It started off being a very relaxed evening last night, such a rarity in our house that I commented on it.  It was at that point I jinxed myself.  With everyone doing their own thing, and a little behind on what I'd hoped to do on the gown, I decided to fit the sleeves.

I love fitting sleeves.  It is one of those points, when making a jacket or dress, that a group of relatively disjointed pieces start to come together and you get your first inkling of what the final item will look like.  The first sleeve went in perfectly.  The second?  Well, there are no photos.  I have no spare fabric left; thank goodness I'm a "round it up and add another metre" girl.  It was nearly midnight when I got to bed; I could have got there half an hour earlier, but had a restorative glass of wine first.  And the final sleeve is the third attempt.  It was a long night!

Anyways, by then end of the evening I did, at least have two sleeves and, if all else fails, I'll make a very good Halloween bat or an Emperor Palpatine!  I obviously need to fold them back and tack them into their final position.  I also think that I need to play a bit more with the top of the lining; now that the sleeves are in the armhole, even with the easing of the seam allowance they feel tighter than I would like.  I am going to get the skirt on, so that I can line and finish the jacket, and then I'll see what to do with the lining.

In the meantime, our "shrunkies" are coming on nicely (the 11yr old is fascinated by it all)... though, in my sleep deprived haze, I left the oven on this morning (I turn it on low for a bit each morning to keep everything nice and dry) so I may get home to "crispies"!  

Sunday, 21 October 2012

More of the Gown... and other things

Well, I was wrong.  The bodice of the Elizabethan Gown is indeed lined.  Unfortunately the instructions don't tell you this until a good 15 or so pages after you've put the eyelets in. The fact that you are supposed to stitch in a lining which would cover, and thus render useless, the eyelet holes that lace the gown together is just another of the frustrations of this pattern... it's a darn good thing that a) I always save the eyelets till last and b) that I checked the instructions again.  I promptly cut out and sewed together the lining.

After that, my Sunday took an altogether more relaxed turn.  The lovely Mr & Mrs B and I popped over to K's house; she is recovering from surgery, so we spent a happy hour or two indulging in tea and sympathy and talking horses and dogs.  The 11yr old came home and we carved out the apples to make our shrunken heads for Halloween.  This is an American tradition that I recently discovered and promptly fell in love with.  They look rather cheerful now, but I'm hoping for wizened and wrinkly in a couple of weeks time.

Meanwhile, Finn relaxed on the sofa in his smart new jumper.

And the child showed off her new hat and mittens.

Eventually, it was time to settle back down to some serious sewing.  I promised that I would have the sleeves done today as well.  The lining is a fabulous burnt orange, it was nice to sew with a bit of colour after all the grey.

The sleeves are very simple; simpler to sew than to photograph!  Both the outer fabric and lining are sewn together... the 11yr old kept me company and I love the concentrating child/sleepy owl hat combination, they make a good pair :o)

Once each piece of the sleeve was sewn, they were pinned, then sewn, together along the bottom sleeve edge and turned the right way round.

I then tried the sleeves on.  Just over my t-shirt the sleeve felt tight, though I do love the colour of the lining as it's turned back.

I quickly put my kirtle on and retried the sleeve.  I spent the next 30-40 minutes turning both sleeves back the wrong way, unpicking the seam and resewing it with less seam allowance to give myself a little more ease in the sleeves.  At a push, you could have left the sleeves, but it would have been uncomfortably tight; even with a little more room, once sewn to the bodice I think everything is going to feel good and snug!

You've got to love unpicking... especially black thread on dark grey fabric...

And here's a honest peak at the the realities of historical costuming (in my world at least!)... late nights (I work  better at night), in my pyjamas (comfy is best), half in or out of part of the costume (depending on what needs to be tried at any given time), clutter everywhere (who said a dining room is for eating...?), not exactly looking my best (please ignore the suitcases under my eyes) but  smiling and with my willing and happy assistant to hand... she does a damn fine job!

Finally, on a sadder note.  We said goodbye to Hammy, who is now in heaven charming the angels.  

He was a good hamster.

Elizabethan Gown, Part One - The Bodice

Yesterday I started on the Elizabethan Gown properly and the first job was the plastron and bodice.  As a Tudor gown is generally laced together at the front, a separate piece is attached to the front to cover the lacings, this is the plastron.  I started by pinning and then sewing piping to the top of the plastron and then layered interface, the top fabric and the black cotton lining together.

Once pinned, the plastron was sewn down the sides and along the bottom.  The top is then handsewn closed.

The bottom curve and point of the plastron needed to be closely clipped to ensure that the shape held when turned out.  The piping was then turned and the black lining handsewn in place before the plastron was pressed.

One plastron, done.

The bodice started with casings for the boning on the front panels of the bodice.  The patterns is supposed to be marked but is not.  I was using twill tape for the casing, so lined it up with the edge of the panel, marked the 5/8" seam allowance and then placed the bone inside the seam allowance and marked it too.  I sewed the casing edges either side of the markings.

On the boning was done, piping was sewn up the front and across the top of the piece which was then pinned to the side bodice panel and sewn in place.

Once the front panels were together I started on the back, which comprises four panels, for strength.  Each side back panel is attached to a centre back panel and then all four were sewn together.

It is a nice detail to the back.  The "v" neckline needed a last piece of reinforcement though, as it is carrying a great deal of weight.  I cut an inch wide strip of coutil, folded it in half and then stitched it to the "v", inside the seam allowance.  This picture gives you a good idea of the true colours of the fabrics.

Finally, I tried the bodice and plastron on Miss G for size, I still have to sew the side seams and finish the seams.  I contemplated lining the bodice, which the pattern does not suggest for a nicer finish but, having quickly tried the bodice on over the kirtle etc. I can see why it wouldn't be a good.  The fit is tight (good tight, you don't want any extra room with this many layers all working together) and everything is heavy!  The extra weight and thickness wouldn't work.  I will turn and handsew the seams instead.

The bodice of the gown is smaller than the kirtle, which distributes the weight of the skirts better and avoids a build up of layers on top of each other.  However, it seems tiny in relation to everything else;   in drawing out the pattern pieces, the bodice fits an American size 10 and the gown length is two inches longer than the largest size on the pattern, 30.  The bodice for a size 30 was more than twice the width of the size 10; it will be interesting to see how it takes the weight of the sleeves, skirt and train.  Anyways, I hope to get the seams sewn and, at the least, the sleeves on today... though I'm being very lazy and it's already 11 o'clock!
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