This diary is finished: 28 February 2005

16 July 2004

Last year at Rowany Festival there was a competition held amongst the costuming Laurels of Lochac to make a dress within a year which could be worn during market day at Festival. It was a great competition and it was also great to see our Laurels planning and making a dress in that time frame. This competition became colloquially known as the Laurel Frock-Off, as in frock competition similar to bake-off, rather than suggesting anything indecent about the competition. Caterina Sansorvino, my apprentice sister suggested that next year it should be the apprentice’s turn, so that we can get experience and feedback in this sort of arena and this is the dress that I am making for this competition.

It is going to be a 1520s burgher class dress done in the Leiden style made as accurately as I can based on current research. It will have a red linen kirtle with straight sleeves, probably a black wool overdress, a simple linen partlet, a white cap with redwork embroidery on it, a black silk tablet woven belt, a pouch, linen hose and shoes, and maybe klompen if I can find the time.

The cap is going to be based on the cap worn by the woman in the left of this engraving by van Leyden, “Potiphar’s wife accusing Joseph”. I am interpreting the lines on the back part of the cap to be embroidery and have chosen redwork to match the colour of the kirtle. I have started the redwork for the cap which is on a frame at home. It takes about two hours for each square of the embroidery, so I figure if I do an hour each day after work in front of the television it will probably get done by Easter next year. I am using a pattern from a German pattern book published in 1548. As Leiden is close to Germany I am making an assumption that German patterns would have been available in Leiden and that anything available in 1548 is going to be the same as or similar to patterns available in the 1520s. The reason it takes me two hours to complete a square is that the linen I am working it on is uncounted linen which means I have to spend time working out where each stitch goes so that the pattern remains even. Thank goodness I have 20/20 vision!

I started the kirtle today. It is being made of a rusty red linen cotton blend (40:60), The bodice and sleeve pattern will be the same as that of my green dress, although I am going to put more room in the elbows as currently my green dress is too tight through that area. I have forgotten to wash the canvas I am using to line the kirtle so I haven’t cut that out yet. The kirtle will have two lines of black bias along the neck and front and at the wrists, also a thicker line which will enclose the hem. I know that there is little to no evidence for the use of bias at this time, however I have a reel of lovely black bias that I want to use up and this will save me heaps of time and I don’t have an iron at the moment so I can’t make turned under strips of fabric anyway.

Before I start seaming the kirtle I need to decide which method to use. A recent discussion on MedCos has inspired me to try a method which involves sandwiching all the layers together to create a piece then joining these pieces together and finishing the seams internally. However I am unsure how to finish the neck and front edges, and I am unsure as to whether I have left enough seam allowance to enable me to do this. Probably needs some more thought. So much for sewing the outer layer together tonight and starting to sew the bias strips down. Maybe I should cut out the sleeves…

28 July 2004

Well the sleeves are cut out. I have pinned the black bias down to be sewn on tomorrow so that I can get them to handsewing stage for a car trip on the weekend. I’ve been thinking about the new seaming idea and realised how much I hate seam treatments. That’s one of the reasons I love the bag-lining method, it’s quick and easy, designed for machine stitching and I don’t have to treat my seams as they are protected inside the garment. So I think I’ll put the period seam treatment trial on hold for the moment.

16 August 2004

The bias has been sewn onto my sleeves, and I’m halfway through the bias on the bodice, hopefully I’ll have that done by the end of the week. Although after a Calligraphy day on Saturday I must admit I’m a little distracted. I would like to wear this dress to an event in September, so I really must stop being distracted and actually sit down and finish it.

I’m very curious about the Durer sketch I found last week. I’m convinced it’s a skirt, although I’ll happily be persuaded otherwise if I can get a translation for Durer’s scribbles. I would like to make the skirt with the elongated oval shape that you would get if you put all the pieces together as I love full circle skirts. However at this stage it probably depends on the amount of fabric that I have. I Must make sure I get enough fabric to do this for the overskirt.

17 September 2004

It’s amazing what an upcoming event will do to my motivation levels. There is a feast on this Saturday, being run by my old College and so I decided that I wanted to wear the kirtle to this event. Therefore it is now finished apart from stitching the hem in place and a couple of minor adjustments which will be completed tonight.

The black bias strips around the sleeve cuffs and the neckline went on very well, and look very effective against the dark red of the dress. I like having a style where the decoration is so easy.

The assembly of the bodice was fine, except where I cut too close to the fabric in the corner of the front bodice, which I have a tendency to do as I like really sharp corners. Must stop doing that in future, it creates a mess and adds nothing to the sharpness of the corner. The bodice feels a little short, so either I’ve grown through the torso (unlikely!) or I’ve not transferred the pattern properly. That’s OK as this is a kirtle I can cover the waist line with the overdress. However last night when I took it to the Baronial A&S meeting to get help with my hem everyone said it looked fine, so maybe I’m just in that pre-wearing-not-quite-finished paranoid stage. Also the back was cut higher than the front so I pulled the skirt up on the front bodice to compensate. This means there is about an extra inch of fabric in the front bodice which I can use to drop the waist, one of the things I need to do tonight.

The sleeves gave me nightmares, for the first time in a while. They were copied almost directly from the ones I made for my green dress. However as that dress is very constrciting through the elbows and shoulders I loosened the pattern through the upper arm and added a gusset to the back of the shoulder. This is where all the problems came from. For some reason I found it hard to get the curve of the armscrye to match the pull of the gusset. I finally managed to wrestle it into an acceptable arrangement, took it to the sewing maching and promptly created a whole heap of extra pleats in the sleeve, by catching various bits of fabric in the seam that shouldn’t have gone in. All very frustrating. I unpicked the problem areas and ran it under again and the same thing happened. So I ended up whip stitching the area under the arms in by hand. After this was all done I did the mandatory try the bodice on to see how it fits thing and the sleeve head is pulling in a strange way, lots of gathers through the inner shoulder. BUT it fits really well, is quite comfortable AND I can put my arms over my head, so I’m going to leave it. Ultimately it’s not actually unsightly, I am just self-concious of the all the small flaws in my work that no-one else can see. And again last night at the Baronial A&S everyone said it was fine and that they’d seen pictures with the same thing happening. What I think has happened in hindsight is that I have inadvertently rotated the sleeve head when I put the gusset in, which has created a twist in the sleeve. This could be corrected by pulling it apart and untwisting it. Or I could just remember this when I make the overdress.

The skirt is made up of 5 trapeziums, as I didn’t have enough fabric to make a circle skirt. I’m not happy with the fullness in the skirt, but that was before hemming when it was way too long for me. So this should be fixed now that it is hemmed. If not I could pull apart the back and repleat it, which will help with the distibution of the skirt. Hhhmmm many tasks for this evening.

1 December 2004

I have some photos of the finished kirtle, taken on a disposable camera.


full and half views of a red renaissance dress

I’m not very happy with the second photo, but ultimately is anyone ever really happy with a photo by a disposable camera? Also not happy with the way the hovetcleet is sitting on my head in these photos, but that’s the price of throwing it on without pins for a quick photo.

Some comments: The kirtle is pulling through the front, which could be a result of the fabric to be pinned being pulled too far to the right, or that I have recently put on weight. Possibly both, or maybe this is just what happens with this style, as there are creases in the bodices in contemporary art. This kirtle is going to be worn under another dress for the competition so it won’t be obvious. I’ve worn it to a couple of events and it is very comfortable. The skirt probably still needs to be dropped an inch or so at the waist, as it is still too high, and I probably should re-set the sleeve head as it’s twisted strangely, but overall I like the look of the whole dress and am happy with it.

12 January 2005

Diary re-activation time. I cut out my first project for the year last night, the partlet for this dress. It is going to be a very simple lightweight partlet, in the style of the one worn by the woman in Lucas van Leyden’s engraving “Couple with a torch and a fool”, shown above. This is a partlet that is flat across the neck and shoulders as it is not gathered to a band at the neck. It seems to be joined by a button, bead or loop at the top of the neck and is then left open. I cut out the partlet last night from some mystery fabric in my stash, that is probably a cotton. The photo above shows the state it is currently in. The pattern was based on the one used for my partlet for the “curtain dress” although I have lost the front of the pattern, so the front two pieces are repeats of the back. Once I have all the seams sewn up I’ll do some shaping through the neck and front.

As I now have a digital camera I thought I’d share some photos of the progress of other parts of this project. The first is the redwork embroidery which I am doing for the cap to go with this outfit.

This is one of the 5 lines I will need to do to complete the embroidery for the cap. As you can see it’s quite effective, but rather time-consuming. Considering it is only “two sleeps till Festival” i.e there’s not much time left to complete this project, and it took me three months to get this far I think this embroidery will have to wait for another time, and I will need to plan another hat. I am currently deciding between a plainly decorated cap, a beguin or my hovetcleet.

2 February 2005

I’ve been thinking a lot about this kirtle and I decided that I really was not happy with it. The major problem was the skirt. There was not enough fabric in it. So I went back to the shop I originally bought it from and luckily enough they had 1m of fabric in that colour left. I’m glad I hadn’t made the decision 3 weeks later! The picture to the left shows the remade kirtle. After pulling the skirt off I put two 50cm wide drops into the back of the dress, around the trapezoidal piece that sits at centre back. This meant I could now afford to put more pleats into the front of the dress. The skirt was then pleated to a waist band. This is not my normal practice, I prefer to attach the skirt directly to the bodice so that the weight of the skirt keeps some tension through the bodice. However the other problem I had with this kirtle was the length of the bodice, so by attaching the skirt to a waist band I could use the smallest hem possible for the bodice edge which gave me a little more length in it. It’s still a little high, but I can live with it. I then stab stitched the bodice to the waistband to keep it together.

One other thing that I did was to loosen the bodice through the waist. This was easily achieved by removing the lacing strip on the fold-over and resetting it just a little further in. This has reduced some of the lines that were forming across my stomach, and I think the rest will be removed when I put hooks and eyes along the edge of the fold-over to hold it together. This is an idea I got from E House, who has been recreating transition styles for a number of years now. Realistically I can’t find any evidence for pins holding the front of the dress together (except the Jane Seymour image from England, which is a related but different style of dress) so perhaps hooks and eyes were used. I’m going to give it a try.

I’m also wearing my new partlet in this photo, which will need a little more work. The neck is too loose with a dress on and needs to the drawn together another 1.5cm. I was a little worried about the way that it disappears into the back of the neckline, however an examination of images shows that this is what they did. For instance see the images on the Dutch Clothing page. Those partlets are a little higher as they have a neckband, but you get the idea. After the 1.5cm is removed from the centre it should sit closer to the base of my neck.

I have the fabric for the overdress, it’s lovely bright blue wool. However I am concerned that I have over committed myself yet again and won’t get that dress finished. I have promised to make a waffenrock for Fitz and a basic middle class Tudor for myself as livery for duties we currently have and I think they might take over my priorities list, after all it is only 7 weeks till Festival.

28 February

I am going to close this diary. The kirtle has been finished, and I am not going to complete a tabbaert in time for the competition in 3 weeks. I’ve learnt a lot through making this kirtle and I am going to re-draft my bodice pattern before making my next Leiden dress. It’s too small through the shoulders, too short at the waist and I am seeing more images of bodices edges butting together rather than over-lapping. I also need to play with sleeves a bit more, to get a better fit in a tight sleeve.

Here are some photos from a recent event. After looking at these to get them web-ready I’m not quite as unhappy with the dress as I was. It has a nice line through the waist and the pulling across the bodice should be fixed with the hooks and bars I am going to sew on before Festival. However, the hat and partlet need a little bit of work. A button, or hook and eyes to close the partlet and less fullness in the padding under the hat, which will stop it weighing my head down.

6 thoughts on “A Red Leiden Kirtle: Dress Diary

  1. Pingback: Lucas van Leyden’s The Chessplayers – hats and trade « Clothing the Low Countries

  2. I personally wonder the reason why you labeled this blog, “The Apprentice Frock-Off Dress: Dress Diary | Clothing
    the Low Countries”. In any case I personally loved the post!
    Thanks for your effort,Melvin

  3. Hi Melvin, thanks for the comment. The title of this post made sense to my small group of readers back in 2004, however it doesn’t make sense now. I’ve renamed it, so others won’t be confused.

    The specific reason is in the 2nd paragraph. It was a play on the phrase “bake-off” – i.e. a cake making competition. This dress was originally made for a dress competition.

  4. Pingback: Planning my gown for Yule Feast 2013 | Clothing the Low Countries

  5. Pingback: 2013 Project Wrap Up | Clothing the Low Countries

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