Sunday, September 13, 2009
In which I make an Elizabethan gentleman's shirt.
In order for Justin to rock a kilt at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival this coming weekend, he was going to need a shirt. So I bought some 100% linen, handkerchief weight, with which to make it. I picked up four yards of ivory linen from Denver Fabrics for $9.50/yard. They only had ivory, not pure white. Now, when they said "ivory" I assumed they meant "off-white", and I wasn't totally thrilled about that, but it was about $4/yard cheaper than I had seen anywhere else online, and none of the local fabric stores seem to carry that weight of linen, so I went for it. Imagine my surprise when I opened the package and saw that it was as white as I would have expected it to be had I actually ordered it in "white".
I used Margo Anderson's Elizabethan Gentleman's Pattern for the shirt, and it worked really well. Because the body of the shirt is comprised of just one loooooong rectangle with a horizontal and vertical slash to make the head hole, it require the use of neck gussets. These are basically triangles stuck in the ends of the horizontal slash to make the head hole more rounded. These are also an enormous pain in my ass. I actually had to go back and rip out some stitches, which pissed me off, because the weave on the fabric is so fine that the needle totally leaves giant holes. Oh well. Hopefully the kilt will cover that part when it's all pinned up.
All-in-all, the process of making the shirt wasn't really that much different from making my smock, with the notable exception of the high-necked collar. But setting the sleeves and everything was the same, and it went together quite easily.
Going into this project, I really wanted to change the way I finished the seams. I don't own a serger, and I don't feel confident that using pinking shears and reinforcing with a zig-zag stitch is going to prevent a really fray-prone fabric like linen from unraveling during washing or even general use. Reading through the manual for the shirt, Margo talked about a period technique of seam finishing called "run-and-fell" seams. Basically, you sew your seam as usual. You take one of the two resulting seam allowances, and trim it down to about 1/8"-1/4" from the actual seam. Take the longer remaining seam allowance, fold it over, and fold it over again, enclosing all the raw edges, and stitch it down.
This is all very well and good if you're going to be hand-stitching everything, but I don't have the time or the inclination to do that, so if I followed the instructions exactly, I'd end up with visible machine stitching on the outside of the shirt in several places. Hems are one thing, but I don't want a line of machine stitches going down the side or up the sleeve. So I decided to modify that method just a bit. I followed the instructions exactly right up to the end, and then instead of stitching the enclosed seam DOWN, I machine stitched it to itself. It actually worked really, really well. This is what it looked like when it was done:
Very neat, very tidy, and very fray-proof. It had the added bonus of not being terribly time-consuming, so that was good.
Here's a closer view:
There was a lot of gathering to be done on this particular garment. There are gathers located at the cuffs, and around the neckline in front and in back. I discovered that the easiest way to deal with gathering, for me, is to lengthen the stitch on the machine to as long as possible, but leave the tension at it's normal spot. Then just use your fingers to hold the fabric down as it's coming out of the machine (instead of feeding out and away from the machine on it's own), and the machine will actually do most of the gathering work for you. So that process ended up being much easier than previous attempts at gathering.
We wanted it to be a little more rustic-ish, so I made ties to go at the neckline rather than using buttons or hook-and-eye closures. It turned out pretty well, although the ties were a complete pain in the ass to make. Note to self - if I decide to make myself a partlet or high-necked smock at some point, use ribbon for ties instead of making my own.
There was a minimal amount of hand-stitching required on this garment - I had to hand-stitch the inside of the collar and the inside of the cuffs. Otherwise I was able to do machine-stitching on everything, which makes life so much better.
And so, now that you've seen all the various components, here's the finished product in it's entirety:
I can't wait to see the whole get-up put together!
In other news, the Tudor Ladies Wardrobe Pattern by Margo Anderson HAS NOT SHIPPED YET. Does this mean that I have abandoned my dreams of making a brown kirtle made from brown table cloths purchased from Shopko on clearance? HELL NO. Because I have come up with Plan B.
I will be utilizing this custom corset generator and accompanying alteration instructions to make myself a kirtle not unlike the one that I made for my friend Darcy (pics and info to follow). Darcy's laced up the front, though, and I plan on making this one lace up the side-back, as per these instructions. I'm thinking that I'm going to knife-pleat the skirt, rather than gathering. I toyed with the idea of having it lace up both sides, but that's going to be a lot of extra eyelets to sew, and I don't have the time. So we'll just stick with a one-sided closure on this one.
Before I can start though, I need Justin to get home from his mom's house so he can take my measurements to put into the corset generator, and I need to buy some nice heavy canvas. I'm going to use, like, two layers of heavy cotton canvas to interline the bodice to make it more supportive. I'm debating boning right now...I'll put in some plastic zip ties where it's going to lace up, but otherwise I think I might just leave it un-boned for now. Maybe I should do a layer of interfacing between the two layers of canvas to give things a little extra oomph...it won't breathe very well, I suppose, but great cleavage is worth the sacrifice as far as I'm concerned.