Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mom's New Italian Lace Chemise

Mom stated she wanted a chemise like the lace ones she saw at the Renaissance Faire.  Ones like this out of cut velvet but with the sleeve sewn up so it's...a sleeve and not a hanging sleeve.  I also pointed out this style worn under a gown and she liked that as well - she wanted something a bit more decorative than the normal plain linen chemise she has for her gowns.

Well, her birthday is coming up and I decided she needed a as-historically-accurate-as-you-can-get lacy Italian 16th century chemise.   So, first, the inspiration:

From Realm of Venus
From Realm of Venus

From Realm of Venus

All the above are 16th century Italian and all have some sort of lace-look to them. The top and bottom one have cut work while the middle one does have insertion bobbin lace. Using bobbin lace was common through out the late 16th Century and early 17th Century Europe with a high neck smock in England using the same technique and another well in the 17th century. I used bobbin lace because I had a lot on hand and it's far more time effective than doing cut work now.

For the fabric, I'm using a linen cotton blend.  Linen cotton blends, known as fustian, were quite popular throughout Europe.  Italy, being so close to Egypt, the cotton capital of the world at the time, had cotton for much cheaper than places like England or Germany.  So, although it is period, the real reason I'm using it is because it's cheap and I had it in the stash.  I've used this stuff for many of my own smocks and chemises and LOVE it.

A little over 3 yards of linen/cotton blend
1 spool of linen thread
Beeswax to pull the linen thread through before I sew with it
5 yards total of insertion bobbin lace (2 1/2 yards of each type)
around 4 yards or so of the lace for the cuffs and neckline

I first cut out the rectangles for the sleeves, the rectangles for the body, and the cuffs.  I then took a small strip of fabric from the length of one of the body rectangles to be used as the neckline binding.  From scrap fabric of the same type as the fabric I was using, I cut out the two underarm gussets (squares).

The big part about the sleeves was really cutting them up correctly.  I made sure the sleeves mirrored each other (chemise sleeves are always mirrored) and drew lines on the fabric in pencil. I then cut along those lines and rolled the edges of the sleeve pieces along the former pencil lines.  After I stitched up on row of the rolled up edge, I'd add the lace via whip-stitch.   I'd then roll up and stitch the next piece, add it to the lace edge.  Once the sleeve was sew up correctly and back in rectangular from, I added the sewn up gussets.  It was then a matter of leaving a 2" opening at the bottom and stitching up the rest of the sleeve to make a tube.  Once that was done, I gathered up the cuff, put the cuff binding on, and added gathered lace to the edge of the cuff.  I wanted to make sure there was a lot of lace on this one.  

For the body, I just rolled up and stitched the edges, followed by stitching the two pieces together, leaving about 8" at the top to insert the sleeves.  I only added half the sleeve (the gusset and up to about half way) into the body.  I then gathered up the top of the sleeves and neckline, added the neckline binding, and added lace to the neckline.  Here is the result:

All laid out

This is before I redid the cuffs slightly to make the cuff binding smaller.

On the dress dummy

Close up of the neckline and cuff detail

Close up of the lace around the neckline and inserted into the sleeve

Sleeve detail

I gave it to Mom already and she loves it.  I told her I'd happily take it back if she didn't like it and she told me in no uncertain terms I was not getting this one back.  :-)