HSF #10: Art

Based on this image in the Tacuinum Sanitatis:

purple tacuinum

The woman in the purple gown on the far left. What I see in this image is a round neckline, fitted bodice with the GFD sort of silhouette, full skirts, and sleeves with some looseness in the upper arm. Since this suits my preferred style quite well, I’m pretty happy with it.

I had a piece of linen/cotton blend in my stash for years now, in a purple-ish pink shade, 6 yards long. I don’t really remember buying it, and it’s not a color I normally favor, so it must have been on a good sale. There was plenty for this dress. The yellow linen blend I used for the lining was also from my stash, leftover from lining something else (yellow looks terrible on me, why did I buy this big piece of yellow linen? It’s good for linings though).

I don’t have anyone nearby that sews well enough to fit a GFD to me, and my experiences self-fitting have not turned out the way I wanted. They were okay, but they didn’t make me super happy. I decided to start from scratch, and had an idea for how I could get my armorer husband to help out. He’s used duct-tape armor forms before and has a pretty good understanding of three-dimensional shaping, so I thought he could make a duct-tape GFD form for me. It wouldn’t be a perfect replica of the draped and tailored fabric method à la Tasha Kelly, but I thought it might work. My husband is already used to the idea that his wife is crazy and asks him to help with weird things (we’ve been married 13 years, he’s not new here), so he got out a couple of rolls of duct tape and volunteered a t-shirt to use as a base and we got started.

Once the tape had lifted and held everything where I wanted it, depth to floor marked at hips and CF/CB, and my torso was good and sweaty inside a nice layer of duct tape, he cut down the center back (mostly in a straight line), and I cut the resulting t-shirt and duct tape shape into four quarters. I measured, flattened, and drew the shapes out onto a piece of heavy cardstock, and the resulting patterns looked like Tasha’s latest blog post shows hers looks, so I decided to go for it and cut out the fabric and lining without doing a muslin first (eek!).

I first stay-stitched the lining to the body pieces (the lining is hip-length) and then assembled the pieces (two front, two back, side gores, and front/back gores) and tried it on. With just pins holding the front together, I was cautiously optimistic about the fit. I went ahead and put lacing holes up the front (sewn by hand with cotton thread, because I couldn’t find silk to match this color, and cotton is cheaper) and tried it on. I swear, I actually bounced up and down with joy. It is the best fitted 14th century style dress I’ve ever made. And the hem was the closest to how I wanted it that I’ve ever done (for some reason, hems and I don’t get along: usually too long in some spots, too short in others, I wind up having to mess with it a lot before it’s finished).

After dancing around chortling with glee for a while, I took it off and tried the sleeves. I had given them quite a bit of ease, since they looked loose on the manuscript painting, but I didn’t care for how it looked on me when I pinned to test-fit. I took them in a bit and sewed them up. They are still a bit loose, but I like the look better now.

To hem, I used the pin and drop method described here, which worked very well, and then steamed the hell out of the curved edges and used cotton thread to hand-sew the hem.

The neckline is finished with a strip of the same fabric sewn to the edge, folded under and pressed, and hand-stitched down. Sleeves are finished with a double fold and hand-sewn.

All visible seams are hand-sewn. The inside seams are machine-sewn and seams zig-zagged to finish. I decided for a dress not made of 100% period material or color, I wasn’t going to spend forever hand-sewing the entire thing. One day I’ll make a gown that way, but not this one.

(pictures coming soon)

The Challenge: 10: Art

Fabric: Linen/cotton blend, in purpley pink and yellow

Pattern: Draped, no pattern, Gothic Fitted Dress

Year: 1386

Notions: cotton embroidery thread, cotton/poly all-purpose thread, wool cord for lacing

How historically accurate is it? B+ probably. It should be wool, stitched in linen or wool, the color is more pink with red undertones than the bluer purples I usually see in 14th century manuscripts (though in some lights it looks pink enough to look like 14th century manuscript pink dresses), and we can’t be 100% sure that this is how dresses were made in the 14th century, but it’s a best attempt for my budget and climate.

Hours to complete: I should have kept better track of this. Not as long as I’d feared, but long. Maybe 18 hours? Machine-sewing the main construction took a lot of time off that.

First worn: Not yet. The event I was finishing it for, we wound up not able to go. Thus, no pictures of me wearing it yet.

Total cost: I’m not even sure. I didn’t have to buy anything new to make it, everything came from my stash. I’d had that linen blend a long time. My best guess would be this probably took $35 worth of material, since I suspect that I paid $5 a yard for that linen.

HSF #9: Black and White

A black hood for me, open style as in Fortune’s Wheel (the woman on the right with the pink hood and red dress), Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 22545, f. 192v (Fortune’s wheel). Guillaume de Machaut, A True Story (Le voir dit). Paris, end of the 14th century.

Reference: Herjolfnes 79 and London hood no 246

The plan: I have a 1 yard cut of black linen that I’m itching to use. I decided to line it in white, going with the theme, but I’m not sure how happy I am with it. I think it needs some color. I may add embroidery around the skirt and the face opening (there’s probably a word for that, but I can’t think of it right now) – I have some purple and blue wool in my sewing room that would be pretty. It doesn’t have buttons or buttonholes right now, because I plan to wear it open, but I’m still considering that. For now though, I’m calling it done.

Black hood laid out on my cutting board for visibility

Black hood laid out on my cutting board for visibility

The white lining. You can see the finished seam at the back. The top is on the fold so no seam there.

The white lining. You can see the finished seam at the back. The top is on the fold so no seam there.

The Challenge: #9 Black and White
Fabric: Linen/cotton blend
Pattern: drafted based on a blue one I made a few years ago, changed the fit (blue one was always too big) and removed the liripipe
Year: about mid 1300s
Notions: Silk thread
How historically accurate is it? Linen blend isn’t accurate, but I had it on hand and it’s cheaper than 100% linen. More in my budget range. Hand sewn everywhere. Overall I’d give it a B+.
Hours to complete: 6 I think. I watched the season finale of Once Upon A Time (2 hours), Game of Thrones (1 hour), and a half hour comedy show while finishing it off, and I sewed at least 2 hours yesterday.
First worn: Not yet. Wore it while watching the last 10 minutes of GOT, sitting on my couch.
Total cost: $10. Fabrics were remnants purchased years ago and hiding in my stash, my main purchase was the silk thread. I didn’t have any black silk thread.

HSF #7: Tops and Toes

The Challenge: #7, Tops and Toes

Fabric: 100% linen, medium-weight

Pattern: from Katafalk

Year: 14th century. The existing cap is said to belong to St. Birgitta of Sweden, who lived 1303-1373.

Notions: 100% cotton thread. Linen would be more accurate, but I don’t have any on hand and wanted to be economical.

How historically accurate is it? All hand-sewn, and it’s based off an extant piece, so definitely one of my more accurate efforts.

Hours to complete: about three.

First worn: not out yet, just around the house to test it.

Total cost: The linen was a remnant I bought a long time ago, and the cotton thread I’ve had on hand for a few years too. Neither was entirely used up in this project, so I’d say about $3 or 4.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. It’s comfortable, and it fits relatively well. If/when I remake it, I’ll try out a slightly lighter-weight linen, wider seam allowances, and attempt the embroidered gap.


My version of the Birgitta cap.

My version of the Birgitta cap.


Inside view of the cap.