Saturday, December 31, 2016

HSM December: Special Occasion

Birth of the Virgin 1365
Now that it is December, I regret how few of the Historical Sew Monthly Challenges I managed to do. They always help me push my boundaries and get something actually done!  This December challenge was no different.  Our local SCA Barony was having a Midwinter feast set in 14th century Italy.  I had originally planned to just wear something 16th century that I already had.  Then a friend challenged me to join him wearing 14th century and I remembered that I could use this for HSM December!  So this was a perfect fit! 

cutting the gown front with leaf detail
First I did some research and decided I loved the gown on the lady on the right in this image.  This image is a detail shot of a fresco by Giovanni da Milano in the Rinuccini Chapel in Santa Croce, Florence.  This fresco depicts the Life of the Virgin  and this detail is from the birth of the Virgin panel.  Giovanni da Milano was active from 1345-1369 and this fresco is dated 1365.  I absolutely love the leaf detail down the front of the gown!  However, I quickly decided I needed to use fabric I already owned as I already have a sizable stash.  So this eliminated a true copy as I have no white wool.  I did have some tropical weight blue/gray wool gabardine however, so I threw it in the washer and the dryer to felt it up a bit.  While the wool was washing and felting, I drafted a quick kirtle pattern and a quick leaf pattern.  I then cut the gown and sleeves from the wool and used the leaf pattern La Cotte Simple and was fairly happy with how they came out!  The then used the remaining silk for straight cut binding for the cuffs and collar of the gown.  I did this for 2 reasons, one there appears to be some binding at these points in the fresco and two, I have a skin reaction to wool so I wanted to bind the places that might touch around my underdress and shift.  The straight binding does not behave nicely on the neckline however, so I will need to fix this in the future!

hand sewing the wool to silk
silk bound buttonholes
Cutting the leaves was a bit tedious, but the effect was worth it!  I then searched the stash for a color of silk or wool that would contrast nicely with the blue/gray wool and found some cream colored silk satin left over from an old project.  There was not enough to cut the front panels in a single piece so I had to piece the front.  Due to the detail of the leaves, I had to hand sew the wool to the silk.  I was not sure if the leaves would have been sewn down or left free, so I decided to leave them free.  I also decided to add a front closure, as I am usually dressing myself! I used small round metal buttons and hand made buttonholes.  Hand done buttonholes make me really nervous, but I felt machine buttonholes would look terrible down the front of a dress like this.  Since I had never hand sewn buttonholes from this time period before, I used the tutorial from

For headwear, I wanted something more than what the lady in the fresco was wearing so I spent some time looking and some favorite blogs of mine for ideas. I decided I wanted a St. Brigitta's cap with embroidery and a D-shaped veil after looking a Katafalk. I am not going to post any in progress picks on these two since they basically followed tutorials from Katafalk, Cathrin has a wonderful guide toveil shapes and instructions for both a plain and a fancy St. Brigitta's cap.  I did simplify the insertion stitch since my thread turned out to be too thick for the fancy stitch Cathrin did. I also altered the band embroidery just because I felt like it.
St. Brigitta's cap
insertion stitch and embroidery

Here are some images of the full outfit and one event picture!  I really enjoyed this style and will likely make more in the future.  I also really want a frilled veil!

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