Thursday, April 25, 2019

Elephant Skirt!

I saw this curtain at one of the thrift stores a few weeks ago and fell in love with it.  I'm a sucker for anything with an elephant print.  However, I thought it was a bit too much at €12 and let it slide.  I kept thinking about it for the next week.  When I went back, it was still there!  Yay!

This picture is really just to show the elephant print and that yes, it was a curtain and not a tapestry.  I mean, it's made out of the same type of cloth but the curtain was a bit longer.   

So, I took the border on all three edges and cut that off, cut it up slightly, and sewed it into one long strip.  It ended up being about 16.5" wide.  The center part of the curtain, I cut into two ~24" rectangles, making sure to get the max amount of elephants, and put the rest of the fabric to the side.  I ended up with two 36" by 24" wide rectangles.  This was a bit too wide at the waist for me so I cut it down by making them into trapezoids instead.  The top part of the trapezoid was 24" with the bottom staying 26".   

I sewed the trapezoids together at the sides, gathered the long border print and sewed that to the bottom of the skirt, and I folded the top of the skirt over a piece of elastic.  I sewed the elastic down to one of the seams but didn't sew it down to the fabric length ways.  I wanted the fabric to move irregardless of where the elastic was.  

The finished skirt!   It will be perfect for summer.   There is a ton of yardage in the border print and the fabric is a nice heavy cotton.  

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Dress!

For my Easter dress this year, I used McCall's 7804 with a linen cotton blend I bought at Fabric Mart.  The dress is actually even nicer than the photos and a LOT of fun to wear.  It's a pull over so it's a bit loose but very, very comfortable.

The pattern pieces were straight forward and I didn't bother with directions.  The only real change I made was I forgot to cut out the back facing piece so I just zigzagged the back neck hem.  No biggie.   
The bib front can be a bit tricky but I just ironed everything in the middle of putting the dress together and it came out fine.  I also used a frixon marker to mark where the neck opening should be and sewed around that before cutting.  That seemed to help a lot.

The lace at the bottom hem is a vintage lace I had in my stash.  I wanted a bit of lace added to the dress but nothing too overly frilly.  

Overall, I'm going to use this pattern again.  The dress is comfy and looks nice on.  I might try the longer version of the pattern - I almost did with this fabric but I didn't feel like cutting out three curved flounces, each on a fold, and then gathering that up when I already had to gather the skirt itself to the waist.  Too much gathering.  

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Mega Big Post of Random Things I've Sewn Lately

So, I have been sewing.  I just haven't been posting.  Once my sewing/computer/guest room is better organized, I'll post what that looks like and be able to work on more projects.

I finally found my sewing mojo again.  I've been sewing modern stuff lately but will get back into the historical stuff next week (I need a dress for the Mayday Renn Fest!!!).  I think I've just been overwhelmed by the amazingness that is Italy.

This is a simple tiered corduroy skirt I made back in February, I think.  I used Simplicity 4334 which is OOP.

I think I got the corduroy off of ebay and the guy said it was velvet.  It clearly wasn't when I got it.  It's a lovely teal corduroy that doesn't show well in the photos.  I've worn the skirt a few times to work - it's a nice spring/fall skirt.

Next are the trousers I made for Saint Patrick's day!   I ordered one of the 6 yard bundles from Fabric Mart when they were having one of their "free bundles if you spend over X amount!" sales.  This tight, heavy green knit came as part of the bundle.  It looks like twill until you have it in your hands, practically.  

I used an old pattern I recently acquired from a lady who was selling a whole bunch of patterns dating from the 1960's until the 1980's.   It's Simplicity 5357 from 1972!   I narrowed the leg at the ankle because I did not want bell bottoms.  Other than that, I pretty much followed the pattern.   

The next up is a lavender skirt I didn't make but I did make a minor adjustment to.  

The skirt is a linen cotton blend that I got from the thrift store for €4.50!  I immediately fell in love with it when I saw it and noticed the waistline would fit.  Yay! Right?  Nope.  Turns out the zipper only went down a few inches on the side.  I couldn't get it up past my bum.  

Ignore the fading henna on my hand.  I was holding the zipper open as far as it would go to show how bad it was.

Luckily, there was a good amount of zipper left on the inside!  So, all I had to do is rip open the seam and resew the zipper down, right?

Sort of.  The way the skirt was sewn, I had to open it up a bit in order to get rid of this "ridge" and make the seam open for the zipper.

Before I sewed the zipper down with the fully open seam.

The lovely lavender skirt once the zipper was redone.  It's not a perfect job but it fits!   Yay!

I've also made a black cardigan sweater out of some sweater knit I bought years ago.  I need to post that one was well.  

My Easter Dress will be done soon.  It's a linen cotton black background floral that I love.  I've cut out the pattern; I'm using McCall's M7804.  We'll see how that comes out.  

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Colors the Peasantry wore in the Middle Ages and Renaissance Part One

So, I ran across a post on the superiority of chemical dyes over natural dyes that stated the lower classes didn't even have access to colors before chemical dyes.  ......  The individual honestly believes that everyone who wasn't rich or upper middle class only wore white, brown, and black before the 19th C.   Now, I put that up in the "we didn't have color before the 1930s.  Haven't you seen the old films?!?" category.  I just found it rather strange that anyone would actually believe that old joke.

To help put an end to the idea that peasant=boring, drab colors, I figured I'd put a new compilation together regarding colors in the middle ages and Renaissance.  Here's the first post to the series I did last time on fabric types and colors available in the middle ages and Renaissance.  In that, I went over what was available to show that, for the SCA, there really isn't such a thing as "that color didn't exist yet!!!!".   If you can document it, you can wear it.  I documented everything from hot pink to lime green and eye blinding yellow.

The difference this time around is that I'll explore a specific class in the medieval society to see what they were wearing.   Yes, the poor wouldn't have been wearing the expensive dyes but they weren't wearing monochrome either.  I'm looking at paintings, written evidence, and archeology to show what colors were possible. 


Now, I know a few people will say "paintings?! But those were highly stylized and meant to be pretty for the people viewing them, not true representations of life!"  However, I call bupkis on that idea.  First, there are just too many different illuminations and paintings that show colorful garments for the beggars and peasants that it just doesn't hold water. Second, as I will show with the archaeological and written evidence, the poor were wearing colorful garments.

St Stephen Distributing Alms by Fra Angelico, 1440's
Above is a popular motif in the middle ages and Renaissance - a saint distributing alms.  Any time a saint's life is shown, this is likely to show up at some point.  There are manuscripts, paintings, and drawings showing various saints handing out alms.  Since the alms are always being handed out to the poorest of the poor, it gives us a chance to look at their clothing. 

In the background, we can see the donor who commissioned the painting in a lovely green, with his hands in prayer.  However, in front of him are some examples of the poor in the mid 15th century.  The lady is wearing a peachy pink dress with a light blue scarf around her waist and arm.  The child in front of her is wearing a dusty mauve tunic.  Behind the lady is a poor man wearing a nice blue shade.   They may not be the brightest colors but they aren't monochrome either.

Saint Lawrence giving alms, Fra Angelico, 1450s
Just a few years later, the same artist depicted a different saint, Saint Lawrence, giving alms.   Here, one of the beggars wears a rather rich red. The little girl with the little boy to the right of the saint is wearing an old green dress.  The baby in his/her mother's arms on the left is also wearing green.  Although there are beggars wearing gray, black, and brown, there are also blues, greens, and reds.  Check out the guy wearing blue on the right's burgundy hosen.  Again, it might not be the best of colors but they aren't colorless either.

"Catherine of Cleves Distributing Alms" by the Master of Catherine of Cleves, circa 1440
Although the two paintings by Fra Angelico might have been considered a bit low key on the color, this one is anything but!  This illumination shows a lady wearing a worn green cloak, a rather nice rose pink hood, and a mauve dress.  The man begging besides her has on a very bright blue doublet and an orange boot.  In front of him is a guy with an older styled, patched up doublet in a light green with rose pink collar and cuffs.  These are nice, BRIGHT colors but given the holes and patches, they are all clearly beggars.

Saint Lucy giving Alms circa 1435

The gentleman at the front of the beggars may be wearing gray but check out the lady behind him!  She is wearing a rather nice wine purple with her black veil.  And the gentleman next to her?  A good orange outfit with a green cap.   Even the beggar wearing gray as blue hosen on.  These aren't boring colors.  They are very much dyed garments.

The Alms of St. Anthony', oil on wood painting by Lorenzo Lotto, 1542. Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice
This one is pretty much 100 years later than the others but, again, we see green on the bottom left and yellow, orange, and red.  Although there are some blacks and browns, the over all colors are pretty much like what, really, you'd see today on the street.  It's a good mixture. 

Now, the giving of alms isn't the only time we see the poor depicted in medieval and Renaissance artwork.  Another common theme is one of my favorites for other reasons: shepherds.  Anyone who knows me, knows about my love for Shepherd's huts.  Shepherds were not rich by any means; they were the working poor.  Often, they are shown in rags; but, mostly, they are shown in common, peasantry outfits.

I love these guys. Mister mis-matched hosen and his ruined hemmed shirt.  Look at what the shepherds are wearing.  Yeah, the one guy on the right is wearing gray...but with lots of red.  Mister mis-matched hosen has yellow, red, and blue.  He's wearing primary colors!  The lady in the back who has her shepherds purse with her is wearing a lovely shade of red as well.  Theses are not boring colors at all!

Heures à l'usage de Rome Bellemare, Noël (14..-1546). Enlumineur
In this, yes, the guy in the back is wearing boring brown and gray but the lady sheering the sheep certainly isn't.  She's wearing a lovely deep red and a blue overdress. 

Livre d'heures du Maître du Bréviaire de Jean sans Peur (Paris ou Bourgogne, vers 1413-1419
Again, some brown but lots of blues and reds.  This is pretty common through everything I've found - lots of blue and lots of red.  Other colors are less frequent.  There is a good reason for this and I'll show later in the writings and archeology of the period. 

MS M.1004, fol. 044v ca. 1420-1425
There is no question these guys are poor.  Look at the tatters the shepherd's clothing is in.  However, they have fabulous colors!  Pink, blue, yellow, and an orangy red as well as brown.  Another example of not boring colors. 

MS M.0179, fol. 076r ca 1480-1500
Tell me that isn't lavender purple the lady is wearing.  Again, blues, reds, and now lavender purple.  The shepherds are pretty colorful.

MS H.5, fol. 059v ca 1500
I had to include these guys too because more lavender purple but also that fabulous "dear me!" orange on the guy to the left. 

Despite the amount of evidence here that poor did not mean boring colors in the least bit, I know there will still be people who will claim "but these are paintings!  They are meant to be pretty!  It's not what was really worn!"   So, in the next post, I'll show some of the written evidence and the archaeological evidence of the poor wearing colorful garments in the middle ages and renaissance. 


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Christmas Dress

This is what I wore for Christmas Mass 2018!  :-)   The dress is out of a plaid silk and the jacket is out of black cotton velor.  The jacket closed well but it turned out the bodice of the dress was a bit too big and closing the jacket meant the neckline of the dress bunched up. jacket it is!


McCall's M6953 - The dress pattern
McCall's M7315  - The base to make the bolero


The only real changes I made to the pattern were to make the bodice an inch longer and make the skirt a bit fuller.   Other than that, the pattern is pretty much exactly the same.   I'm glad I made the bodice longer - it's a bit short and I could have probably gotten away with an inch and a half.   I wanted a full skirt because I have a lovely black petticoat to go with the dress. 

The dress is made out of silk I got from Fabric Mart a few months ago.   It was on sale for $9.99 a yard.   It was sold as dupioni, I think, but it's really more of a shantung.   The bodice is lined in striped white cotton and interlined in duck.  I didn't bother reading the directions - the pattern pieces are all pretty basic- so I don't know if the pattern calls for an interlining or not.  However, if you do make this pattern, having the interlining in a heavier material helps a lot.  The only notion I used for the dress was a 22" long black invisible zipper.


I wanted black velvet but the cotton velor was on sale so...cotton velor it is!  I used the dress pattern M7315 as a base because I loved the side dart and I am terrible at drafting side darts.  However, the pattern proved to be nothing but trouble.  I knew something was wrong when I looked at the sleeve.  The sleeve pattern for M7315 for a size 12 (I went up from my normal size because jacket) is only 14" across at it's widest point.  That's including the seam allowance.   Ummm.....

Yeah.  No.   My bicep is about 17" snuggly.  The shoulder (ie, going around the armpit and over the shoulder) is 19"~.  There was no way the sleeve would fit.  Still, I was curious if they meant this to be an off the shoulder number or something else was going on. 

The first mock up looked abysmal.  I couldn't fit it past the "end of the t-shirt sleeve" length on my arms.  I took the sleeve off figuring something like that would happen and marked the mock up with a new armsyce (it was a good inch and a half off).   The mock up already had the curved front and the solid back that should have worked.   It did but it was just a bit too short.

Once I made all the changes, I tried a new mock up and it looked like it would work.  However, I didn't try it over the finished dress.   Turns out that the neckline of the bolero would be too tight over the dress and cause a bunch of bunching.   I ended up leaving the bolero unhooked like in the photo.

The bolero is lined in what I think is a poly blend satin lining...thing?   It was €3 a meter at the thrift store and I think it was one of the Ralph Lauren fabrics so I didn't ask too many questions.  It's lining. 

Anyway, that was the last project of 2018!   Hopefully, I'll sew a lot more in 2019 now that the sewing room is pretty much finished.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Halloween: Vannozza Cattanei's gray/green archery dress in the Borgias Part 1

The problem - because there is always a problem before the start of a project: I wanted something Venetian for Halloween - living here in Veneto- but I didn't want to do the 1550's/1560's thing because I'm trying to lose weight again. I wanted a dress that will fit for a while - which are typically the higher waisted gowns. However, I have a TON of the early 16th C gowns and didn't want to add another to my already bloated collection. Solution?


I saw the gown and was immediately in love. It's very similar to many 1520's/1530's styles. Also, I happened to have a nice five yards of a lighter gray silk stashed away that was perfect for this gown. I'm not coping it exactly - mainly because I'm trying to go with mostly stash fabric - but I'm trying to copy most of the lines. So, the back...

The sleeves are detachable. There is a seam at the back sides but it looks like it has a zipper (not very Renaissance...) up the center back. Because I want to wear this to SCA events later on, I'm just doing lacing at the back sides. Also, it helps with losing/gaining weight that way. The skirt is gathered around and appears to really be just the typical rectangles with maybe some extra in the back. Again, SCA events, I'm just doing rectangles because trains and SCA events do not mix. Ever.

To start, I'm using a base I made from McCall's pattern 2806:

Really, the only thing you need to do to the above pattern to make it perfect for 1490s/1500s is take out the darts in the bodice. That's really it. The skirt is already just three rectangles put together.

I modified it slightly more than that - the shoulder straps are a bit long and the neckline is umm...more early 1520s and not sensible for anyone more than an A cup? So I raised the neckline, cut the straps slightly, also made the width a bit tighter, and I drafted out the darts so I could use this as a base.

The base!   I knew I had to add an inch or two to lengthen the bodice; I also wanted to move the side seam a bit and square out the neckline.  So, first, I drew around the existing base in brown marker.
Then, I took a red frixion (the kind you can erase!) marker and matched up the existing base back with the brown outline I just did.  I wanted to mark where I was moving the seem on both pieces and make sure the curve of the armscye was preserved.  
I only moved it over an inch, really.  You can see the new "red" outline for where I moved the seam over too.  
Inversely, on the back piece outline, I drew a red line to mark the new back side seam.
This picture is a bit hard to see but I squared off the back neckline.  I ended up doing the neckline in the back even deeper than this once I tried the mock up on.  However, the red lines mark the new template.
Front side bodice piece!   It has the new squared neckline and is lengthened.   
However, I realized when I tried to draw the correct length for the back piece that I didn't have enough room.  I ended up erasing the back piece and redrawing it all a lot higher on the paper.  
New back piece as well!!!
Comparison to the original bodice front, with the dart pinched and the new bodice front for the 1530's dress.  It's a lot longer and the neckline is higher.  Still, I realized I had a couple more issues that needed fixing still.  The underbust/rib cage waistline was 2" smaller than my actual rib cage.  My ribs do not shrink like my waist will.  They just don't.  So I ended up adding a bit to the bottom of the bodice so I can breathe.   Also, I didn't like the shoulder strap angle on the front bodice piece so I changed that as well.
The lining fabric!   I'm using teal silk dupioni for the lining.  The actual dress is out of the fabric pictured below.
This is going to be the skirt front.  It's just a 45" cut of the fabric.  The pink silk is silk I had on hand that I thought went well with the lighter gray/silver silk.  The dark lines are hunter green velvet trim.
This is the fabric for the upper sleeve as well as some trim ideas for it.  I like the idea of the pink with the silver trim.  I ordered some light green trim but it's not good for anything more than knitting or crocheting - it's recycled sari ribbon that was sewn together hastily.  I might check out the trim store here in town but, this is the direction I'm going so far.  

Friday, October 12, 2018

Teal Pumpkin Project

Although Halloween in Italy is very different from what it is in the US, I thought I'd still do this PSA. Some of you might see this a couple of times because I'm trying to get the information out before everyone buys up their Halloween treats.

The Teal Pumpkin Project

The Teal Pumpkin Project is all about food allergies. My nephew has it way worse than me. (It's not like people regularly hand out buckwheat and tomatoes at Halloween.) Oldest nephew is allergic to peanuts and eggs. No reeses, no mr. goodbar, no paydays... he typically has to give up on well over half his bag if not more because of allergies.

By putting out a teal pumpkin, it means you have allergy friendly treats available. I always gave out play-do in the States (80 cans are about $35. Even the big kids love play-do) but other fun things are Halloween Stamps which are 50 for $10.95 or whistles or even those spider rings that I scared my Mom to death with accidentally when I was a kid. :-) The Teal Pumpkin Project has a lot more idea for fun treats that aren't expensive.

Btw, I've been told that Target has teal pumpkins if anyone would like to get one. :-)