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Monday, January 2, 2012

The end of the ACC

Well, the ACC is over as of midnight on New Year's Eve/New Year's Day, and while I didn't finish, I'm very glad I participated and pleased with how much I did finish in time. Tonight, I shall report on that experience.

For my underwear layer, I completed my Spanish farthingale, as you already know. The English adopted it from--you guessed it!--the Spanish, and wore it all through the Tudor and Elizabethan periods. Later in the Elizabethan period, the French farthingale and the Great farthingale gained more popularity. As my outfit is intended to be from the 1560s, the Spanish farthingale made sense to me. I also like the look of it.

In period, it would have been made most commonly from silk and stiffened with reed or cane in England (some areas such as Italy preferred a softer look and were more likely to use things like rope to stiffen their farthingales), but I don't have a lot of money, so neither of those materials were readily available to me. I made my farthingale entirely out of cotton, and stiffened it with electrician's fish tape (plastic). I assembled it mostly by machine, although I used some handstitching for finishing certain areas. For pictures of this item and information on construction, please see my previous posts on it. I did draft my own pattern.

My other undergarment is a simple chemise. I roughly followed these instructions from Sempstress's blog. However, instead of using a conic block to draft it, I actually simplified further and used a T-tunic that fits me well, and used some "about there" math to determine how wide and long to make the sleeves in order to have them as fluffy as I wanted. I cut the neckline after finishing the rest so that I could actually try it on and make sure to get it right because I am very picky about my necklines.

Again, my setting is 1560s England, but I believe this general style of square-necked chemise was used over most of Europe, and it was definitely used throughout the Tudor and Elizabethan time periods, although not exclusively. There were high-necked chemises, both gathered and not as well.

This item would have been made of fine linen in period, but again, I didn't have access to that. I did, however, have some white cotton voile that I thought would do nicely for a chemise. I did construct it mostly according to period construction techniques. The body consists of two rectangles, the sleeves are rectangles gathered at the wrists to cuffs, there are square underarm gores, and the sides have triangular gores to give fullness. In the interest of time, I assembled most of the pieces by machine, but I did fell the seams, hem it, and attach the cuffs by hand. I will also finish the neckline by hand.

(There's a slip on my dummy because it makes it much easier to get things to slip on over her nonexistent head.)

For my main layer, all I completed was the underskirt (minus a button and buttonhole) and most of the overskirt. This style of skirts would have been worn in England, again, for the majority of both the Tudor and Elizabethan periods, although as the style of farthingale changed, so did the shape of the skirts.

This is where my choice of fabrics is most correct, as I was given these lovely brocades to work with (out of Hastings' stash just before the competition, not bought for me). However, they are, I believe, cotton (and possibly partly synthetic in the case of the black and gold), and in period they would more likely have been silk. Linen and wool were also much more commonly used than cotton in Europe during that time period. The overskirt is trimmed with a purchased trim that has the right sort of look (and will even more so when I add an absurd amount of pearls), but is definitely made of modern materials.

I didn't exactly bother to "draft" a pattern because they are both constructed of rectangles, and again they are both assembled according to techniques that existed in period, except for the use of my sewing machine. The underskirt is a cylindrical tube that I knife pleated into a waistband at the top, leaving an opening to get my hips through. It will button closed. I machine sewed it, and as I was able to use the full width of the fabric, I didn't bother to do anything to finish the seams--I just left the selvages on. I used the blind hem foot and stitch on my sewing machine to hem it. That pains me a bit, but I was badly running out of time. I literally made this article of clothing entirely on Friday.

The overskirt is two rectangles with a seam in the back. Again, I used full fabric widths, so there is no edge finishing, other than hemming the front edges where it would open. I did have to trim some excess fringe from one selvage. I machine top-stitched (Yuck! I know.) the front and bottom hems because I knew I was covering them with trim. The top of this skirt is also knife pleated, but they were only pinned in place, not sewn, by the end of the competition.

The things I am most pleased with about the overskirt (besides the sheer gorgeousness of the fabric) are the seam in the back and the seam in the trim.

Look how well the motifs line up!

Can you even tell there's a seam in this corner? (By the way, if you can, that's fine, but I do think I hid it rather well.)

The remainder of the main layer is completely undone. Jon helped me with patterning the bodice, but I didn't manage to get it even mostly assembled before the contest deadline. It will match the overskirt, and it will have slim sleeves that match the underskirt.

My outer layer is a waist-length cloak. Cloaks of various lengths have been worn nearly forever and all over the world, and yes, they were used in England during the 1560s by both women and men. Many materials were used, including wool, velvet, and furs (primarily for trim and/or lining, as far as I can tell).

Mine is a full circle, as some were at that time. It is made of three layers because I wanted it to actually be warm. The outside is black velveteen left over from a project for a friend a few years ago (thank goodness I had enough!), the interlining is Welsh wool that I got from my husband's grandmother, and the inside is actually a tree skirt that Jon's sister-in-law gave me! Can you tell that I try not to take myself too seriously? That being said, this item of clothing reduced me to tears--I'll explain why in a minute. I bound the edge with bias strips of some rather cheap satin I acquired earlier in the summer by sewing for a friend's wedding, I used jewelry clasps I already had, and I made the collar of white rabbit fur that my husband also already had.

Now for why it reduced me to tears, but I have to give you a little background. As you may have noticed, this is not the "warmth" layer I originally said I was making. I ran out of time for that. But during the period of the Challenge, I was also working on some Victorian pieces because my husband and I are part of a vintage (Regency and Victorian) dance group, and this dance group got hired to go Christmas caroling at the zoo. My husband and I also love to sing, so we signed up to participate, but my mother-in-law (from whom I had been borrowing costumes because I haven't had time to make mine yet) didn't have a lot of warm things, so I needed to make some for me and Jon. I did not make this piece at the very end of the ACC, but I was in a rather urgent hurry because I had this cloak and Jon's Inverness to make in two days because we would be caroling, and that was two hours outdoors after dark. So, I was burning my candle at both ends (with a blowtorch), and the binding did not turn out up to my usual standard. I honestly don't mean this to brag, but I am a rather picky person, so usually, the insides of any clothes I make are very neat. This trim is kind of "twisty" even on the outside and rather messy (at least in my opinion) on the inside.

So yes, I literally cried and didn't want to ever wear that stupid cloak! Practicality won out. Then after I caught up on some sleep and was less melty, I realized I actually like the cloak pretty well and can survive the fact that it's not that pretty on the inside.

Now on to accessories! I did not finish any in time that can count. I completed a muff (a beautiful muff, if I do say so myself--and that's not too braggy because my husband planned it), but with my husband's help. And not just design/patterning. He did some of the sewing. I'm still going to tell you how we made it, though, because I think it's super awesome--and Jon gets all the credit for this.

First, he cut two long rectangles of some satin I had lying around, sewed them together, and filled the resulting tube with down harvested from a fairly ugly (and too-big) coat someone had given him. (Sometime I may tell you about the disaster that results from a bag of down left in the same room with a greyhound who is home alone!) Anyway, then the tube got sewn shut, and the resulting fluffy rectangle got wrapped into a smaller tube, overlapping to avoid a cold spot. Next, Jon sewed three furs together--two coyote pelts with a rabbit pelt between them. This gets sewn into a tube as well so that the rabbit pelt becomes the wonderfully soft lining of the muff, and the coyote pelts fold out over the ends to become pretty cuffs. (Can you tell that my hands get really cold?)

This is where I took over. I then made yet another tube--deliberately a little tight for the down--of some pretty cut velvet that I had left over from another past project. This I hand-stitched down, then I fixed some of the seams of the coyote pelts, trimmed the edges a bit, then hand-sewed them down over the cloth.

I love the resulting product. It also gets both Victorian and Elizabethan use, and it kept my hands so warm while I was out there caroling. And it's pretty!

My other accessories will be forthcoming, hopefully by Saturday because I would really prefer to have them at Twelfth Night. Since the competition is over, I will probably enlist Jon's help because he likes doing it anyway and would have helped a lot more if I had been able to let him during the actual ACC. We will be making a partlet, necklace, and girdle belt.

p.s. Sorry for not posting on some of my other miscellaneous projects this month. I promise those will still be forthcoming. And if anyone wants better instructions including pictures of the muff's construction, please tell me soon because I will be making one for a customer.


  1. It's all gorgeous, Karena! You are a very good seamstress -- and I am super impressed!

  2. Thanks! I really appreciate that!