Friday, June 17, 2016

Historical Sew Monthly May: Holes or in my case fixing them

I know this entry is woefully late, but I did in fact finally finish it!   I am however too late I feel to post on the facebook page, so I am only posting it here!

When the May challenge came up, Holes, I immediately thought of Landsknecht fashion of the late 15th and early 16th century. This time period and fashion style is one of my all time favorites and I immediately wanted to make something completely new.  Then I remembered the dress sitting in the naughty pile.  I dont know if other costumers have a naughty pile, but this is where sewing projects or outfits go that did not go as planned and now require some work I really dont want to do. Examples of this are usually that the sleeves are wonky and I really dont want to redo them.

In the case of this dress, I put the whole dress together out of linen (black) and wool (blue).  The blue wool is woven, so I washed it with hot water and dried it in the dryer on hot.  This shrunk the wool, but also thickened it and strengthened it so it can handle the open cutwork.  The fabric looked good, so I designed the cutwork and carefully cut out the design in the blue wool.  I then hand stitched the white bands (left over linen from a previous project) to the bodice and pieced the white and black bands for the skirt. I then handstitched the blue bands over the white bands. 

Since I have made several of these dresses, the pattern was already worked out, the banding went very quickly.  I decided to see if lacing was a functional option for the the fronts of these gowns, so I stitched eyes (the eye part of hook and eye sets) to the inside of the bodice opening.  The eyes were off set to allow spiral lacing and also went into the dress very quickly.  All in all, this dress took about a week of working in the evenings so I was very chuffed with myself!  I then wore the dress to the Maryland Rennaisance Faire.  When I returned, I noticed I had ripped some of the blue wool and thought "Wow, I must have really caught the skirt on something sharp!"  I repaired the rip and ignored the whole incident. Fast forward about 6 months (and a cross country move) and I wore the dress again to a local SCA event.

This time I felt the skirt catch and rip!  When I got home, I found multiple rips in the blue wool that occurred at a specific place in my design.  I realized that my choice of cutwork design plus the wool being thinner than the wool I usually use meant that there was a systematic weakness in my design.  Really, there should never be too open shapes that close together with the grain straight between them as you can see in the ripped image to the left.  I realized I would either need to replace the lower cutwork band with a totally different fabric (this is totally a correct for the style solution), deal with repairing the rips every time I wore the dress or hand stitching down around the cut outs to stabilize them.  I did not want to do any of these things and I was frustrated with myself for not seeing the design flaw that I threw the whole dress into the naughty pile!

The dress stayed in the naughty pile until this challenge.  You see, I love the color combination and I love the way this dress looks and moves when I am wearing it so I decided that fixing this dress should be my goal for the May challenge.  I decided I loved the color combination and the lower cutwork band so replacing it was not a good option.  I also decided repairing the rips as they happened was not a good option either, so I decided to hand stitch around each cutwork motif by hand.  First I repaired the rips and then each motif took me 40 minutes to stitch. There were 16 motifs, so the total time was about 11 hours of hand sewing.   Here are images of the newly handstitched motifs. There are 2 different motifs that alternate on the lower band.

While this took a really long time, I am so happy to be able to wear this dress again!  I am even thinking of making a special chemise with blackwork or smocking details on the sleeves to showcase the dress!  Here are some detail pictures of the final dress.

The Challenge: Holes!
Material: linen (black and white), woven wool (blue)
Pattern:self drafted from woodcut images
Notions: metal eyes, thread (poly), cotton cording
How historically accurate is it? Maybe 70%, the pattern is accurate and the cutwork is based on woodcuts.  However the dress would have most likely been all wool, the thread would have been linen, the eyelets hand made and the cording silk, linen or wool so there were compromises on the materials.  Also, while sleeveless is document-able, it is rare and I dont have an image with both cutwork and sleeveless on the same dress. Finally, of the outfits for Landsknecht we have color descriptions of, this would be very tame and may not have been the best choice on my part.
Hours to complete: Initial construction was ~20 hours and this current batch was 11 to fix the holes
First worn: In the current incarnation, not yet
Total cost: none, all this was stash