Good mooooorning! It’s a beautiful day and I’m in a *great* mood

Good mooooorning!  It's a beautiful day and I'm in a *great* mood.  This is possibly because I managed to get the whole skirt pleated, and the tops of the pleats sewn down, before I came in to work.  I had brief conniptions yesterday when I realised that the width of the skirts was more than five times the length of the bodice waist.  And that I am planning to pleat, not gather, this skirt.  Ordinary knife or box pleats reduce a fabric's width to one third of its original, if they are packed as tightly as possible without overlapping:

Box pleats

Double box pleats reduce the fabric to a fifth of its original width:

Double box pleats

But these skirts are MORE than five times as wide as the bodice.  Eeeep!
Fortuitously, it turns out that almost all the 'excess' can be considered to be in the back panel of the skirt.  This skirt has six panels; one front, two side-front, two side-back and one back.  Because the bodice's back waist is much smaller than the front waist, only the back panel of the skirt attaches to the back of the bodice; the rest attaches to the front.  Confused yet?  Good.  In short, the front five panels are almost exactly five times the width of the front bodice waistline, allowing a small amount to create a placket.  So, double box pleats there.  The back skirt panel is quite a bit longer, even with double box pleats, than the back bodice waistline, so the two box pleats at the back are *triple*.  It works, perfectly.
I've also managed to fix it so that all the pleats are all the same width around the skirt, but a 'peak' aligns with the centre back of the bodice and a 'valley' aligns with the front.  I figured that a pleat would 'ploof' out more at it's peak, and that, along with the triple pleats at centre back, will give a nice bum-roll curve-enhancement-esque thing, with lots of fullness in the skirt back there.  But I also decided that I wasn't going for the 'very pregnant' look, so I probably didn't want a 'poof' at centre front, but a bit offset.  The fact that this has all worked out so neatly is pure dumb luck.  If I've learned anything from making this dress, it's that the important bit, when planning the skirt, is how it will attach to the bodice.  The one other time I've made a tight-bodice-big-skirt dress, I used cartridge pleating (a posh kind of gathering) to attach the skirt, and that took far less planning.
I'm planning to sew the bodice to the skirt by hand, but I did sew down the pleats on the machine, just running it straight across all layers.  I wasn't entirely sure my machine would cope; there are up to seven layers of curtain lining and top fabric there, and I just got the poor thing repaired.  But I was even less sure my fingers would cope with sewing through all the layers, and I am getting desperately short of time.  So I crossed my fingers, gritted my teeth, and threw the skirt at the machine.  It coped fine, if noisily, bless it.  I'll have to feed it some extra-tasty oil later, as a thank-you.

Oh – it's just occurred to me that I've never told the blog what I'm actually making.  Well, it's an outfit in the style of early 16th century Florence, Italy.  It has been inspired by (if not generously ripped off from) Jen Thompson's work.  You can see her finished outfit here, complete with the same type of sleeve that I'm going to use (hers are reversible!  How cool is that?) and even a round/wrapped hat-like thing.  She's also gathered a selection of portraits from the period, which you can see here.  This painting gives a good impression of the overall 'look' of the period; the woman in the orange/red dress is wearing a different sleeve style, but the woman in the yellow dress is wearing sleeves like mine (that is, like mine will be…):


This has become an obscenely long entry.  I originally intended this to be pretty much another 'todo' list to keep me on the straight and narrow today.  So I'll put that very important bit after the cut for anyone who is still interested!

So, the current state of affairs.
The sleeves for this type of dress are not attached permanently; they
tie on, which is why I keep talking about them as if they are a
separate garment.  In effect, they are!  I love this idea, because it
means you don’t have to deal with fitting the bodice/sleeve/armscye
bit, and also, it’s a very nifty way of expanding your wardrobe via the
mix-and-match options.  I still haven’t started my sleeves, but they
should not be *too* much work.  I plan to use
pattern (also from Jen Thompson’s website – are you spotting a theme
here?), so there’s only one seam, and two hems.  I am *very* attached
to my fabric for the sleeves, so I want to be a bit careful; I will cut
out and sew at least one sleeve in the lining fabric first, to make
sure it works.  Then, I can unpick that, cut the rest and sew.  The
seam and the top hem will be done by machine; the lower hem by hand, I
think.  I will be attaching two brass rings (which I already have,
thankfully) to the underside of the top edge of each sleeve; that’s how
it will be tied on to the dress (which also needs rings).  I’m not sure
if rings are the way to go *permanently*, but they are quick and
non-destructive, so will do for now.  The sleeves, incidentally, are
about the only piece of this outfit that I am considering to be really
*good*.  The fabric is fabulous, and I adore the style.  Clearly, all I
need to do is start the damn things.

Pleats are made and sewn down.  Need to attach the bodice to the skirt (hand sewing), which will finish the top edge of the skirt well enough for now.  the bottom edge of the skirt will need cutting to the correct length (need to do this tonight) and hemming (handwork, very rough!).  Although… This dress is supposed to have velvet ‘guards’ at the hem and round the neckline.  I’d given up on these as ‘impossible in the current timescale’, but it might actually be faster to sew on some velvet to wrap around the bottom hem than to do the hand work.  That is, it would definitely be faster, but I only have limited time with my sewing machine, because I’m not planning to take it with me, so things that absolutely *must* be done tonight, or with the machine, get priority.  Hmm.  Thinking about it, of course, the velvet might be the way to go, whether I have to finish by hand or not.  Velvet pile can hide a multitude of sloppy stitches.
The dress still needs eyelets; I checked last night and I do have some.  This is Good.  It will also need lacing cords; I plan to use skinny shoelaces, which I am hoping to buy at lunchtime today.  I will also need to attach lacing rings or loops to the underside of the sleeve straps so I can attach the sleeves.  I’ll need more laces for this bit, too.  Better write a shopping list…

I want to make a rolled hat/turban-like thing, possibly a bit like the one in the foreground of the very last picture on this  page.  I happen to have some fantastic fabric (that I was going to get rid of!!) that will suit this dress wonderfully; I can’t for the life of me remember what I originally bought it for, but it must have been a specific project.  It’s in a bag with some matching (wonderful!) lining fabric and various notions, including some rather fancy piping/cord.  I haven’t got time to ‘realise my true vision’ with this hat, so my interim aim will be to create something approximately right which doesn’t trash the fabric too badly (i.e. try not to cut it).

I *really* need a sash; it’s pretty much a vital component of this ‘look’.  I have no idea what I’m going to use for it, though, unless I make a really quick one by twisting yarn that I *just happen* to have lying around.  Or I suppose I could make a ‘chainmaille’ one; there are plenty of decorative tubular weaves.  That might do, in a pinch.  For now.  It’s more hand work, though.  I wish I could just find a strip of fabric that will ‘just work’, but I doubt that I will.  Especially not in a workable colour with the rest of the outfit.

Basically done, though the ends need sewing in around the neckline.  I also figured out why omitting the underarm gussets wasn’t a good idea, but this really is a ‘throwaway’ shirt, so it *really* doesn’t matter.  I can wear it for now (or even unpick the underarm join, if it’s *too* much).  Also, I’ve read that it’s easier to get the characteristic ‘poofs’ of shirt fabric at the shoulder if the shirt sleeve is gathered there, so I might poke some holes in it so the lacing can go through.

Shopping list:

  • 1 pair long (at least 80 cm per lace, preferably 100 cm) shoelaces for sides of dress
  • 2 pairs short (c.25 cm per lace) shoelaces for attaching sleeves
  • Maybe an internal support for my ‘hat’??

Handwork list:

  • Attach skirt to bodice
  • Eyelets on dress
  • Lacing rings on sleeves
  • Lacing rings on dress
  • Lower hem on sleeves
  • Finish hem, at least roughly (and if I have to go with hand work, this *will* be rough; there’s over two metres of fabric there!)
  • Sew in ‘ends’ on shirt
  • Finish hat?
  • Attach skirt to bodice (handwork; hope to get a lot of this done at lunchtime)

Must do today/tonight:

  • Make sleeves, apart from lower hem
  • Cut skirt to correct length (need to use Skinny Annie for this, and she’s not coming with me)
  • At least start the ‘hat’
  • Decide on sash, and pack anything needed to make it
  • Pack!  Must remember: camera, shoes, day clothes, sewing stuff, drop spindle (?), night clothes, toiletries/medicines, money.  Keys.

One comment

  • The Dragon

    Eeep – this is a day and a half you have planned! will you be able to get all the essentials done in time Ota? Do you have to have a hat or could you just have a coif? I wish I could help!

    26th June 2008

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