hsifeng: (Landsknecht)
So the lovely [livejournal.com profile] sstormwatch came by to work on some fittings last night and did me the excellent service of ensuring I didn’t lose my mind in Mock-Up Hell on my cloak project. I had started out with the basic de Alcega cloak pattern that I have posted in this project before. Just in case you (somehow) missed it:

de Alcega Cloak

Based on this I had come up with a lay out that looked like this for my mini-cloak:

Cutting Layout

The problem? Well, let’s just say that the de Alcega ‘cloak’ actually seems to be scaled on the size of a ‘cape’. And a short cape at that. Given that my inspiration image is clearly knee length, this meant that my layout was going to have to change.

I had planned on just whacking out some basic shapes in muslin and then ‘messing with them’ until they worked. Not only would this have been massively inefficient (in both my time and in materials) but the chances were good I would have made some pretty annoying mistakes right from the jump that would have sent me into a downward spiral of compensatory drinking and sewing machine cursing.

Let's just say it's happened before...

So how did she save me, you ask? She asked if I had graph paper. And of course, like any self-respecting geek raised on D&D, I did.

So, using my basic measurements and the mini-cloak mock-up as a guide, we developed the following.

Neck Placement - Charted
Note: I would have totally centered the neck hole on the body of this cloak and been miserable when it hung longer in the front than the back. Saved. Me. I tell you…

I used an online calculator to figure the diameter of the circle for my neck opening, and then added this number to my overall cloak length X2 in order to get the diameter of the final circle shape. This was 98” overall.

Yeah, no way the de Alcega based layout was going to work. Mostly.*

The neck is off-set for the center point of the circle so that 2/3rds of the space is to the ‘front’ of the cloak (4” of the 6” diameter neck circle), and “2 is the ‘back’ of the cloak. This is because our necks sit forward on our body by about these same proportions (2/3rds to 1/3rd).

So once I had the basic ‘circle’ figured out, I drew a representative example of the width of my fabric, which was folded widthwise, and folded the tiny pattern of the cloak body to a quarter circle for an example cut chart. This let me see what my ‘waste’ fabric would be and what I could fit into that space for other cloak bits.

Then I drafted up the hood pattern, based on the following measurements:

Middle of shoulder blades, over the top of head, to forehead = 24”
Middle shoulder blade to middle, plus some “wiggle and draping”/2 = 14”
Base of ‘trapezoid’ of main hood shape in mini-mock up is approx. twice the size of the shoulder to shoulder measure, making this = 28”

Pythagoras helped with the length of the angled side…  = 27”

Based on the mini-mock up, the ‘tail’ of the hood sections is basically the same length as the angled side of the trapezoid shape of the main hood body = 27” (or 54” overall).

Basic Hood Pattern - cropped

Please note, in the final shape the line without a measurement in this diagram will NOT be straight, it will be tapered into the long side of the trapezoid shape long before it reaches the mid-line of the hood (as it does in both the original art and the mini-mock up). When I am working in muslin, I go for the ‘more is better until you cut if off’ method. This allows me the maximum of material play with in determining the final/best shape for the ‘tail’ pieces on the hood.

So, with the grid hood in hand, I played with some lay out options in the ‘waste’ sections of my cut diagram. Sadly, none of them were perfect, but in the end I did find a means to using a majority of the waste fabric efficiently. If I was willing to piece the be-Jesus out of the hood (still an option) I could probably get the whole thing in; but I am not interested in a whole mess of seams in an area that I’d like to keep as water tight as possible, call me crazy. ;)

Hood Cutting in Theory 1
The circle and hood laid out on my 'test grid' version of the mock up fabric. Please note, the fabric is folded widthwise, not lenghtwise. Each square in this = 4".

Then it was time to cut fabric, but we appeared to be experiencing a greyhound infestation.

Nigel Helping
A more adorable pest I have yet to meet. With the possible exception of my cats. Who I think Nigel is taking lessons from.

Piecing in practice
Hood Cutting in Theory 2

Piecing in action
Hood Cutting in Action

Next steps, putting it all together and making up a collar. Then messing about with taping for drape.  Once I have test fired the patterns in real life I will use the graph method to devise my final cut chart based on my actual fabric widths (think of this as a trial run on the concept).

The important thing I have to keep in mind is that my final version needs to allow for TWO WHOLE SETS of the hood – since it will be both lined and covered in the same wool fabric (if it is lined at all, which is still up for debate depending on how much fabric I have in my stash…).

*Still theorizing on how a narrower fabric and additional piecing may end up with me going back to a version that is closer to the de Alcega in the end. We shall see.
hsifeng: (Ladies Sewing Circle)
We all sew in here, right? That means you all know how it is with us – our own projects always come in dead last when it comes to prioritization on a timeline. Same story here.  Now that my niece and sister were solidly on their way to finished dresses, I had to start my own.

And I was stumped.

Let me clarify; I knew how I wanted to put the dress together and how to get it done. The problems were:

1)      I had *too many* ways that I could proceed – nothing like choices to slow you down;
2)      I was pretty sure the best way involved a whole lot of things I have never done before…

As with all projects, I spent a lot of this time pondering my stash of freshly purchased fabric. I am actually very proud of my selections, especially in light of the All Purple, All The Time palette from my inspiration image. I managed to find a range that looked good together and got pretty close to the original colors/textures of the piece. Woo hoo!

Fabrics for the CoCo 2013 Mucha Project - Bieres de la Meuse Original Inspiration
The Palette (from L to R): Main Dress, Narrow Sash, Shawl

Then I spent another few days messing about with my accessory pieces. I started with the ‘fabric pauldron’ support structure you see on the left shoulder of the inspiration image. My sneaking suspicion is that Alphonse added this bit as an artistic whimsy (“Her shoulder would look so much better with a huge flying buttress of material…”), but since it was in the piece I had to try and make it work in my real-world dress.

Flying Fortress of Fabric

I started my process by strapping Eloise (my dressmakers dummy[i], a gift from [livejournal.com profile] claughter713) into my intended support garment. I knew I was probably going to end up draping the dress in the long run (although I feared the results) so I traced the shape of the Merry Widow onto Eloise’s form; this way I would be able to determine if my draping was going to cover the undergarment, even if the undergarment wasn’t on the form at the time of the draping. BTW - This was done with one of my favorite sewing accessory EVAH…

Not Your Grandma's Tailors Chalk
Click On The Pic To Get Your Own - I am not the only one who loves them.

Eloise - Chalked And Ready To Go

First, I made a paper mockup of the general shape I thought would work for the pauldron which I pinned to Eloise’s shoulder, making sure to overlap the line of the undergarment[ii] . This also gave me a chance to check the 'angle' of the pauldron's wear - not too sharp or droopy a line from my own shoulder.

Paper Pauldron

I checked the result from all angles, trimmed and shaped it a bit, and then cut two layers of my craft felt[iii] base, and an additional 'edging piece' of the same felt that matched the outer curve of the pauldron. Using my machine I sewed all the layers together along all edges, on the outer edge I sewed a number of channels, spaced approx. 3/8 of an inch apart. Between this stitching and placing a section of featherweight boning in the outermost channel, I achieved the level of firmness in the shape that I needed.

Not as effective at taking down small prey as I would like.
Weirdest fabric boomerang ever...

I then cut a cover from my fashion fabric using the same paper pattern and covered the whole shape, handsewing the final seam. Now I could work on placing my dress fabric over a support structure that looked (essentially) like another bit of draped fabric.

Easy Smeeshesy Items

Next up were the sash and the shawl. The making of both is pretty easy, so let’s skip on to the next project.

Miles of Silk Intestine One Seam Is All You Get!

The Medallion Belt

Early on in the project (like, back in April) claughter713 and I scoured the interwebz looking for a source offering oval belt buckle blanks for a price that was almost reasonable. What we discovered was that a wholesale license was going to be needed in order to get the quantity necessary for less than an arm-and-a-leg. Then I remembered, I *know* a costuming couple with a wholesale license – Better Yet! – they make custom belts!

I called A&B of Legendary Costume Works, they confirmed that they had the necessary blank on hand and were willing to give them to me. Hooray! Best of all, they hand delivered them at the headdress workshop.


Now I had the materials on hand, but they required both modification and painting in order to work the belt configuration I had in mind. So after I removed the original ‘mounting hardware’ on the backside of each, they got four holes drilled in them[iv] and a coat of paint (or two) inside and out and then mounted them on (yet more purple) rawhide cord.

For Some Reason This Belt Makes Me Want An Astromechdroid

I tried them on Eloise and was pleased as punch with the results. But now I had no more ‘distraction work’ to do and needed to get on to the final project…


Seriously y’all, if I spend as much time sewing projects as I do *thinking about* how I can sew them, I would have an entire wardrobe full of gear.[v]  I knew that the dress could be done in a variety of waysm and this was what I had been considering:

Plan A: Fully draped dress mounted to a fitted underlayer with no actually ‘patterning’ in sight;
Plan B: Fully patterned dress with some level of decorative draping over the top;
Plan C: A combination of the above (with about 12 variations possible dancing through my head at any given time).

So I hemmed[vi] and hawed, I did test drapes and cried at how they looked. I searched the internet for resources on how other people had made their Mucha creations, and found none. I leaned heavily on the trust that my fellow LSCaCS members were getting along with their projects, and they looked great (so mine could hid in the background if necessary).   Then I realized I needed to just pull the trigger on Plan C if I was going to be wearing ANYTHING[vii] to Gala.

So I started with an underlayer. Using Eloise as my base, I draped a pattern for a basic strapless bodice with a dropped waist. I bit my lip as I made my mock-up and then had my niece help me with a final fitting.

And what do you know? It. Totally. Worked.[viii]

The Front The Side The Back
With a bit of tweaking, the wrinkles seen here didn't end up in the final pattern

Transferring The Pattern
Making the mock up

Once the basic bodice was cut using the same pattern as above for the fashion fabric and lining, I got to play with featherweight boning for the first time. I literally applied in the Exact Same Manner And Location as shown on the product packaging.

Pictorial Instructions FTW!

Of course, what I failed to note was that the resulting bodice promptly rolled itself into a tube.

Bodice Taco

Apparently, plastic boning should be heat treated to get it to lay down flat and behave *before* you add it to your project. Since I had failed to do this utterly, I simply pinned the whole bodice to Eloise and then steamed it into submission with my iron.

This also works, by the way.  ;)

Finished Bodice
Finished Bodice - I cannot lie, this result made me very happy. :D

Once the bodice was complete and pinned securely in place (no back closure yet, since Eloise is just a *schosh* bigger than me – even when dialed down to her smallest size) I attached the fabric paudron and simply began draping.

The big head ache here was that my fabric, which I had purchased 8 yards of, was really *chunks* of yardage. What was left on the bolt when I purchased consisted of 2-3 pieces of 1.25-1.5 yards and another few longer bits. I loved the fabric so much that I had convinced myself that this would be OK to work with. Now that I was actually doing so, I wasn’t as sure.

I started with the shortest bits first, ensuring they were long enough to drape from the center front of the bodice and still hit the floor. They were. Then I worked my way around to the back of the dress, adding fabric and playing with the shaping of the draped bits as I went.[ix] This tutorial was very handy in calming my nerves and giving me a direction to go in.

Despite my initial misgivings, I was pleased as punch with the results! Eventually...

First Draping Final Draping
From L to R: First attempt - which resulted in a stiff drink. Second attempt - More Pins! = Success!

Next, handsewing. Lots and lots of handsewing. I made my way all the way around the bodice, removing pins and tacking the fabric in place. The biggest concern was not sewing all the way through the bodice and into Eloise – which I managed to only do twice!

Tools Of The Trade - NETFLIX
I could never do this much sewing without Netflix, praise be to the internet gods!

This handsewing included one bit of machine work which was installing the hook-and-eye tape at the center-back of the bodice. The closure was largely covered by the draped fabric that gathered at the back of the gown in a manner not unlike an 18th C sack-back gown (only much more free form).  That portion which was visible was then covered by the drapery that had been swagged and attached to the pauldron at the dresses shoulder being tucked in once the dress was hook-and-eyed closed.

At this point, all that was left to do was the hemming. Given that the dress was entirely draped, I had a lot more fabric at the hemline than you would normally encounter.  After checking to make sure that Eloise was as close to my height as possible[x] I placed her on my sewing table and then simply chalked a rough hemline into place. This allowed me to play with the shaping of the train a bit before any cutting was done, and the added height helped ensure my back wasn’t in agony.

Hemming Made Easy
Draping from the back - Eloise ready to help me hem
(the bit draped up over her neck is the tail of the fabric pauldron draping, placed up and out of the way)

I had intended to use the same method of facing the hemline that was employed on my niece and sister’s dresses; but in the end it wasn’t practical to attempt to create pieces that matched the cut of my draped-and-pieced hem. Thankfully, the ‘inside’ of the dress fabric was beautiful and I didn’t care if it showed (and I had taken the time to French my long seams), so I just used my chiffon hem finish and called it a day.

As soon as the dress was finished, I nervously tried it on over my Merry Widow and discovered that a) It Fit! B) It covered the undergarment completely. C) I loved it…

Sans Wig
Why yes, that *is* my inspiration image on my phone cover...also, that dog is not dead - no matter what he'd like you to think

So ends the saga of my portion of the Mucha Maiden’s project. I had an amazing time, learned a ton of new sewing techniques, and generally discovered that I can survive outside of my 16th C comfort zone.

Which of course means there are a TON of new projects to consider…


[i] Thankfully, Eloise is very close to my own figure; although she is a bit taller than me and her conversational skills leave a lot to be desired. At least she doesn’t steal my drinks or scream when I stick her with pins. Which I did. A lot.
[ii] At the time, I was thinking of sewing the pauldron directly to this layer…but later thought better of it when I realized just how complex that could make the draping of the garment top…
[iii] I think I actually had to burn my Historical Sewing Card just for touching this stuff.
[iv] My poor, long suffering husband helped with this portion of the activities by helping me figure out the best removal method and setting up the drill press and a template for me to use. Without him I am sure that I would now be down a number of fingers…
[v] OK, maybe TWO wardrobes; since really I do have at least one already.
[vi] Sewing pun alert! Of course, if I had *actually* been hemming there would have been more progress at that point…
[vii] BTW – naked was a totally legit choice in my head, after all Alphonse clearly enjoyed the unclad feminine form. I was pretty sure that CoCo administration would frown on that choice though. :P
[viii] You could have knocked me over with a pin. This was the moment that draping when from exotic art form to a skill I actively want to cultivate. Because seriously – WHO NEEDS TO EVER BUY A PATTERN AGAIN?!?
[ix] In the end, I didn’t even use the longest piece of fabric.
[x] I checked this by standing next to her and looking in a mirror to see if our bustlines were at the same level.
hsifeng: (Ladies Sewing Circle)
So now we had fabulous headdresses that were beautiful and drew comments from every random stranger we passed by[i]: clearly the pressure was on to produce gowns to match.  And that was when my sewing reality hit me like a ton of bricks.

See, my sister and my niece were coming out to CoCo with me for the first time. Having never been before, and having not been ‘in the sewing game’ for a while (in my sisters case) or as a costumer before (my niece), I realized that they were going to need a bit of help getting their Mucha dresses together.

Like, from the ground up help.

Fabric procurement, pattern drafting, mock ups, assembly, final fit – the whole rodeo.

So I wasn’t working on one Gala dress, I was working on three.

*head desk*

OK, let’s be honest here: I love this stuff! Three different gowns that are all based on artists sketches which only bear the most passing resemblance to how *actual* gowns fit and *actual* fabric flows? Sign. Me. Up. But holy hell, this was for my family members and my normal ‘mess around until the last minute and then blow it all out at once’ would never work (not just because of the volume to be done, but because I needed their Actual Physical Forms present for a lot of draping and fitting work).

That mean procrastination was not going to be my friend.

So we got right to work.  The inspiration images had already been selected:

Nieces Dress
Inspiration Image - Cybil

Sisters Dress
Inspiration Image - Kim

We bought our fabric at Stone Mountain & Daughter and at JoAnne’s. I beat my fiber snob fairy into submission.[ii] The selection was cheeringly wide, and cheap, and made me feel better about not forcing everyone into silk. We bought satins, and textured poly, and the Demon Chiffon. We bought WAY more than we needed (I had no idea how much all this drapery was going to take). My sister and niece were champs about my guesswork, but I suspect they will have new curtains to match their gala gowns at some point…[iii]

The principles we used in selecting fabric here was much the same as those used in the headdress construction workshop. We knew the colors we wanted, but we tried to ensure that we used a VARIETY of textures and fabric weights. This helps to add depth to the finished pieces.

The next step was for me to put my brain hat on and try to figure out HOW to put these dresses together. Let’s be clear. Alphonse Mucha did not paint many women in dresses. Mostly he painted them in sheets and curtains. I mean that literally. Sheets and curtains.

Its a Curtain - Not a Dress Its a Curtain - Not a Dress v3 Its a Curtain - Not a Dress v2Its a Curtain - Not a Dress v5 - Clutch It Like This DearIts a Curtain - Not a Dress v4 - Nudie!

Yes, that is a boob. It's art people...get a room. ;)

A number of the ladies in our project actually *did* this, literally took bed linens and uncut yardage and made their dresses from it. And, might I add, to great effect! I am still really hoping that [livejournal.com profile] ladykalessia will do a write up on her dress and the technique she used to make it because – ladies and jellyspoons – this little number is GENIUS.

Laura's Dress
Photo Credit: American Duchess - CoCo 2013

But oh no…not me.  When I looked at the inspiration images for these dresses I saw structure in the fit of the bodices and the drape of the skirts.[iv]

So I had the girls come over and we did some duct tape pattern making. For those of you who don’t know this process, a mini-tutorial on using this technique for a basic bodice is here.

Of course, unlike my prior uses of this technique, I realized that I could actually use *darts*[v] to fit my bodice patterns in this period[vi]/application.

Also of course, I have no idea how to use a dart to save my life.

A Rough Translation From The Duct Tape Base

The Mock Up - Don't Judge

The Bodice - Prior to Skirt & Trim Application: This Is When I Knew The Darts Had Won

Again, thank god my family is forgiving.

The darts aren't horrible, but I realize now that I could have put them UNDER THE BREAST to better effect. *sigh* I got this right in my sister's bodice, and thank god my niece has a naturally beautiful figure that helps to make up for my errors in pattern making!

Once we had the basic bodices down, it was time for the skirts. Based on the fashion plates of the time, I used the fabulous tutorial available here to make a basic, trained skirt form.

Seriously folks, if you have to make an Edwardian skirt from scratch, Use. This. Tool.  It was dead simple and that is coming some someone who has *never* drafted a pattern from measure before.

Hard to See, But I Swear There Is A Pattern On That Paper

My Cat Begging For Death and the Implement Of His Potential Destruction

Success! - the Muslin Proof on Eloise

The original idea was to use this pattern for my niece’s garment only. But upon looking more closely at my sister’s inspiration piece, I realized that with the addition on a ‘false apron’ to one section of the skirt, I could achieve as similar ‘wrapped and tucked’ effect[vii].  I had my sister wear the muslin mock-up we had created and simply pinned and drafted the apron bit from another section of muslin.[viii] Perfect!

Now we had both bodices and both skirts patterned and a plan of action. Over the next few weekends, we met repeatedly to put the garments together; the work order went something like this.

Nieces Dress[ix]:
·         Cut and line bodice in blue satin
·         Get ready to cut trained skirt from off-white satin
·         Realize that satin is so thin a moth could fly through it without damage
·         Gnash teeth
·         Realize we can line satin skirt with cotton muslin already completed during patterning phase
·         Have a celebratory drink
·         Actually cut off-white satin for skirt, as well as additional facing sections to create lined dress as per the instructions here (see 'Step 3': again, DEAD SIMPLE – except for the part my niece had to do with all the hands sewing… )
·         Cut cream chiffon for skirt cover
·         Realize that [livejournal.com profile] love3angle is completely correct and that chiffon is the DEVIL
·         Have a bracing drink
·         Cut the trained section of the skirt pattern after having ‘expanded’ the overall size of the patter piece by three times, this included expanding the overall curve of the train so the chiffon over layer would be evenly expanded over the whole hem
·         Consider cutting each of the other skirt pieces individually
·         Finish the bottle that you are drinking
·         Decide that the remainder of the skirt can be constructed of a rectangle composed of the remaining SEVEN YARDS of chiffon
·         Attach ‘trained’ chiffon section to large chiffon rectangle
·         Use a gather stitch and an army of pins to attach the gathered waist of the chiffon to the lined satin
·         Baste the two together
·         Hem all nine yards of chiffon using this technique (Bless You Pinterest!)
·         Open new bottle, start chilling the third...
·         Add skirt to bodice, ensuring a split in the back waist for getting the dress on - with a proper modesty panel
·         Add hook and eye tape for closure
·         Drape, pattern and add a dropped sleeve/strap to one side of the bodice in the same blue statin as the body proper
·         Trim the neckline of bodice and top of the sleeve/strap with a constructed ‘ruffle’ of various textures of fabric hand cut, stitched and trimmed to a variety of heights[x]
·         Construct and add ‘chained arm decorations’ to alternate arm
·         Dip dye ornamental scarf in orange

I know that my niece didn’t get a chance to add the additional embroidery and metal blingy bits to the bodice of the dress and that the 'chained arm decorations' abandoned ship not long before we hit the Red Carpet, but I hope she goes back and adds these all later because it will take a beautiful dress to gorgeous!

Sister’s Dress:
·         Cut and line bodice in white – to be used as a base layer for attaching the skirt to and draping the burgundy material onto
·         Cut trained skirt and false apron from gold satin (hem with facing in the same manner as the skirt above)
·         Thank the gods that you don’t have to line this one too…
·         Attach skirt to base bodice layer
·         Add hook and eye tape for closure
·         Cut and assemble sash from burgundy satin[xi]
·         Drape and hand sew burgundy layer over under bodice, leaving the shoulders free in white fabric (see footnote, as above)
·         Cut and assemble false ruffle/drapery from a variety of textures in white fabric[xii] and affix to neckline of the base bodice layer

What did we achieve?

Lessons learned?

You know, sometimes draping and pinning really *is* the way to go.

Start sooner.

In our next installment we will explore the insanity that was the real draping and handsewing nightmare: my own gala dress. See, all this time working on the gowns above was really just a means for me to avoid having to make a decision about my own clothing…

[i] This is what happens when you wear these things out in public, en masse, for no apparent reason. Who knew? Well *clearly* we weren’t waiting until AUGUST to wear them for the first time… *grin*
[ii] “What do you MEAN synthetic fabric is going to pass under my sewing machines pressure foot?!? NEVER!!!” *whack whack whack*
[iii] OK, that might be a *bit* of an exaggeration in some cases – I know that my niece’s skirt fabric was pretty much spot on and we used every inch of chiffon, but I think my sister and I could make a whole second dress from our cuttings.
[iv] Trust me, you don’t have to tell me to get my vision checked. I know. *chuckle*
[v] My normal application being 16th C. German costuming…which apparently also has some proof of darts being used per research done by those better versed than I!
[vi] “Period? What period? The period of the forest nymphs?” Let’s just say that I was trying to roughly base my construction styles (in some cases) on the fashion forms used during the time that Alphonse Mucha was painting these images.
[vii] Little did I realize until later how much ‘wrapping and tucking’ would go into my sister’s final gown…
[viii] This was the first bit of *actual* patterning from draping I have EVER done. Needless to say, it was not the last in this project…
[ix] To be clear: My niece and sister did the lionesses share of the handsewing and construction on these garments. I basically just ran the weekend sweatshop that helped get the pieces cut and basically assembled to send home with them for finishing
[x] In the original dress, this was probably just the top of the sheet sticking out around the neckline where the blue wasn’t wrapped high enough to cover it… But you know me… STRUCTURE! *head desk*
Structure! In Progress!
[xi] Remember when I said before that I had no idea how much ‘wrapping and tucking’ would go into this dress? Well, my original plan was to create a two yard long, 4 inch wide sash out of the burgundy fabric (to create the drapey sash in the inspiration image) and actually drape and sew the remaining burgundy sections on my sisters white under bodice.  In reality, my sister ended up making one HUGE sash (approx. 5 yards long and 10”-12” wide that we pinned and wrapped around her on the night of Gala. And you know what…? It totally looked just like her inspiration image.
[xii] By ‘cut and assemble’ I mean, while standing in a hotel room with your freshly burgundy wrapped sibling, holding safety pins in your mouth and muttering under your breath about not having time to tack the filmy bits in place. Again, the result was *spot on* for the original image. W.T.F.
hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)
For Gala this year, I am coming as this hot piece of tail...

Make that SMOKING hot...

At first there was angsting about finding a vintage tux, cutting it down to size, tailoring a white waistcoat, etc. 

Then I realized: THEY RENT THESE THINGS. They rent them right down to their shiny patent leather shoes and carefully folded hanki square. Then I found out how much they rent them for (especially when the guy who owns the rental shop is the one helping you and he is *clearly* excited about the idea of you showing up for a costume gig in this number).


"But hsifeng! The point of your Gala outfit is to slave over it for months; crying tears of blood from your fingertips and tears of cash from your bank account! You can't possibly RENT your Gala costume! That's cheating!"

Blah blah blah...

I hear your argument, and I counter with this: Part of costuming is Knowing Your Resources.

If you are doing costume work for theater or screen and you have to come up with a tuxedo for a cast member, you don't sew that bastard from scratch (unless you are insane or you have a no-limit-corporate-credit-card and private jet to Hong Kong where they can knock that tux out in less than three hours using hands smaller than your iPod). 

You BUY it. Or in this case, rent it. 

And yeah, it would fit me better if I had the thing tailored. But seriously? It's for one night and I am modeling a woman who loved to drag it up in men's fashion on occasion.

I'm going to channel Greta** Marlene and go with boy clothes. ThankYouVeryMuch.


**The internet is FULL OF FAIL. As both [livejournal.com profile] claughter713and [livejournal.com profile] grlfuryboth pointed out - this particular hot blond is Marlene Dietrich, not Greta Garbo. Apparently my 'Want To Dress Like The Pretty German Women' thing is still in full effect no matter what century I choose to play dress up in. I have no problem with this...

PS: Don't freak out. I am still sewing. I am just sewing on things that will actually remain productive parts of my costume closet for years (ie Things Not From The Last Century). 

PPS: I hereby claim First Official Drag Privileges at CoCo. If I see anyone else out there in this outfit I am going to demand a drink in reparations payment. This is how you avoid the tangled web of telling everyone in advance what your Super Secret Gala Outfit is... *chuckle*

PPPS: *psst* Meet me at the Gala, I'll be the one wearing the big, white flower.


hsifeng: (Landsknecht)
I have been harassing Robert Harbin about webbing his Landsknecht kit constructions techniques FOR YEARS. If you don’t know Rob, you should. He does amazing leatherwork, knife construction, good basic wooden kit items (boxes, etc) and is generally one of the most “screw-it,-if-I-want-it-I-should-learn-to-make-it” people I know.

But he sorta hates the idea of having a blog.

So I have told him that if he types up information periodically, I would re-post it in here as an archive point for folks to use.

The first item (inspired by recent discussion on the GermanRenCostume list on Yahoo) is the Lederwams. This is the basic piece of clothing/light armor seen worn as an ‘over vest’ in many images of Landsknecht. If you’d like corresponding images of these items for reference, let me know and I can post them to you or add them to this thread.



Hi all- lots of info on the ledergollars (leder wams is more correct, I've been told) especially for folks looking for a pattern. Guess what? There IS no pattern out there!

The main reason for the lack of a pattern is that this is a fitted garment, often made of a single piece of material, and fitted to go over the main garments. So- first off- if you take some time and look at the woodcuts, you'll see very few seams evident- almost always there are seams on the sides, under the arms. You see a few with a seam in the center back, a couple with seams on the shoulder tops- and those same ones have an added shoulder cover as well. Note- in all of the 'cuts I've looked at, only a very few have the shoulder seams and added shoulders~

Now- on to materials. The leather of the period was typically much "softer" than what we get today, as a result of the processes. It would start hard as a board of wood, but would soften quickly. The slow tanning process is a discussion for another thread, maybe later! In any case, you would almost always have leather for these being from a cow or bull- a "buffalo". It was fairly thick, and usually split down to the "right" thickness. Full hides could be as much as 10mm thick, sometimes! However- for us, that would be a bit much, so we'll stick with one of the following leathers- an upholstery leather, usually @3 oz thick, a tooling leather, between 3 and 4 oz, or finally either a latigo or oil-finish (blacksmith or utility) hide- but those are hard to find in less than 5-7 oz.

With each leather, you will have some slightly different work ahead of you. For the Upholstery stuff, you'll need to de-glaze it. This is just using acetone to take the shiny finish off, or you'll look like some shiny fetish weirdo... For the tooling leather, you will need to beat the heck out of it to soften it- you can do this before or after making it, but if you don't it'll be stiff, and will not shape to you at all. For the latigo/utility hides, you'll also need to beat it up to soften it- but you'll have a much longer time doing it. A fast way to do so is to use your dryer, on air dry- NO HEAT!!! - and throw in a couple a couple of clean sneakers. In an hour or 2 you'll have much softer leather! You will need to pull it out and re-stuff it a several times in this process, however.

OK- so now, the pattern. As I said before- "there is no pattern". Let me amend that by saying "there is no pattern, there is only DRAPE". By this, I mean you must make the pattern yourself. This is actually easy, but you will need help, a good pair of scissors, a large piece of cloth to make into the pattern, and well, yourself in your garb. What you will do is simply cut a head hole, and a small neck slit- (do not make it too big! Just enough to fit you noggin!). Now, starting from your back, draw carefully (I use chalk or pencil- as sharpie may bleed through onto your garb~) where your back dags (half-circle thingies~) are going to be, and note the side seams, under the arms. I actually will pin it in place, over-sized a bit- then will cut the excess off. Be careful not to cut too much around the shoulder, as it starts down a ways on the back- again, look at the woodcuts. O.K.- now it gets a little tricky. I make these with a single piece of leather- the finished pattern will look like a lumpy letter "Y", so the front is well... tricky...

For the front- start by slitting the poncho, which is marked and pinned to your sides, down the center front. Now, overlap the pieces, whichever way you wish- there doesn't seem to be any rule here, really. Turn the font pieces over now- if you intend to do so on the finished piece (kinda like a collar, you see several different kinds in the 'cuts). Now- for the sides- mark and pin them, just like you did the back, again a bit oversized. cut the excess off, and then make you front dags- either the short or the long ones. For the long ones you see gunners wearing- I add those pieces with extra fabric and pins, so I can get the body fit better first~ also note that the long dags are on the OPPOSITE piece- so the right side of the lederwams has the attached left leg cover, and vice-versa, as they overlap. Some of the long-dag lederwams also seem to have a tie for holding the long front dag onto the leg. Up to you, though.

Finally, and I know this sounds like no help at all- you kinda mark and cut the shoulder to look like you want. Make it big, going far down the front and back arm hole, as it looks like most modern reproductions make this too small, and it looks kinda different from the 'cuts.

Now- on to the scary part. First off- if the fabric doesn't look right, do it again. Buy flat sheets from Goodwill for like a buck for you patterns. Much less $$ than leather, and only a bit annoying if you flub it! Once the pattern is good- get you leather- and now you have one more decision to make- do you want your smooth outside or rough outside? It seems like all extant (later period, I know~) buff coats but one were done with the rough side out. I think this is so the leather and cloth can move over each other better, and it really does, I might add- but that is conjecture. What I Do know however- is that leather bleeds less color from the smooth side. Up to you, in any case- I'll not argue in either case, so you're safe there. Basically, just lay the pattern on the leather, and cut it out. You need about 1/4" or so for seam allowance- but ONLY on the sides, unless you needed to add seams elsewhere. I'm not going into that here, however~ ask if you need... To sew the sides together, you will use a "saddle stitch", where you pass the thread through each hole twice. I pre-punch the holes using as small a punch chisel as I can- which is about 1/32" for me- as I made the punch. You can get 1/16" from Tandy, but only in a set with replaceable heads. Still, not too bad. This seam is going to be just like a fabric seam, and "opens" to the inside. Do not over-tighten the stitches, or it'll pucker the leather. Also- use linen thread, as the synthetic types will possibly tear the leather, over time. I'd rather re-sew the whole 10" seam than have to bodge it back together from a tear.

Finally- the last 2 steps! Yay! First- you'll need to make your closures. Thankfully- this is easy. Attach a leather thong to where the overlaps are on the waist with 2 holes, then make corresponding holes in the right and left flaps of the outer portion. You may want to add a second set of thongs for if you wear it over your breastplate as well, sometimes. Second- decide on the slashing pattern you want, if any. You ought to be wearing the garment with all you stuff on under it- and use chalk, and another person to help. For leather, you may need to open the cuts a bit, but not too much. By opening the cut, I mean making it look like () rather than just /. Some slashes will not look right until it's been worn a while- so take your time. You can always add them later, or open them more after a while- but adding leather back is, well, not going to work.

So, there it is- my method of making a lederwams, as best as I can write it. If you have any questions, let me know.


Robert in Reno
hsifeng: (handsewing)

Well, for those of you that made it throug the monster of yesterday’s post, I said I was going to be doing sleeves next.

But you see, I hate making sleeves. )

Thankfully for my husband, German men’s Wams’ patterns are often a matter of pleating 10 pounds of sleeve-head into a 5 pound armseye. Even I can do that.

But I have always wanted to be able to make my own well fitted sleeve pattern that could actually be mounted on an armseye and still let me move my friggin arm.

You know how it is with sleeves sometimes…

“Hey, could someone get that lantern for me? I can’t reach it even though it is hanging just above my head.”

I set out to put together something that I could live with last night, all the while imagining that I would be spending at least a couple of hours wrestling with muslins and pins and cursing like a sailor. Since I have pimped [livejournal.com profile] chargirlgenius‘s document on sleeve head construction1 to others in the past, I decided to actually sit down and read the whole doc again and perhaps even use some of its information for my first attempt.2 In the worst case, it would give me a starting point and some basic fitting tips.

Starting out.

I set up my station, took some measurements, did some plotting-of-points on muslin, added seam allowance as directed, cut out the resultant sleeve (which, let me say here, was not the sort of sleeve shape I am used to from prior constructions – really long trapezoid with a perfectly bisected sine wave at the top), pinned it together, pinned it to the bodice as directed (getting mildly excited because the sleeve-head actually fit to the armseye, and tried the whole thing on.



It worked, first time. The elbow was a bit baggier than needed, so I took it in a bit. Other than that. Perfect Pattern is Perfect.

My look of glee (and mild sleep deprivation)…

So happy with the results! I will be using this same pattern for my English sleeves, and with some modifications it will end up making me flashier German sleeves in future (plans within plans I tell you). I deviated a bit from my inspiration image in the trimming of the sleeves, and I am using ‘cheater’ buttons until I have time to make some ball buttons up post-event). In the meantime, here is the finished product.

I went kinda nutty and overstitched all my seams. I just like the way it looks.

Cuffs and temporary buttons.

The sleeve isn’t this baggy when attached to the dress, which will happen on Friday.


In closing:

1) This reading other peoples work thing, I should do it more often.
2) I think I owe [livejournal.com profile] chargirlgenius a drink at CoCo.

Up Next: Finishing the skirt, hemming, closures and attaching the sleeves.

If I Have Time: Totally making one of these for this weekend. In red. Because that is how I roll.  ;)


1 “Farm Boy… Fetch Me That Pitcher: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Reach My Own Damned Pottery” by Maistresse Mathilde Bourette, written for St. Anne’s Guild Costuming Symposium; April 28th, 2007 (and no, it’s not in MLA, APA or Turabian…bite me academia…*grin*)

BTW – If you ask I can send you a PDF of this item since I snagged one awhile back. Clearly, my recommendation of it carries more weight now that I have ACTUALLY USED IT. *head desk*

2 Because I am an Old Dog, and even though I had read the article in passing my brain filed it away as ‘medieval information’ and therefore something I couldn’t really use. Have I ever mentioned that I am sometimes a little dumb? Maybe you figured that out for yourself by now.



hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)

OK, it’s been more than a week since I posted the teaser about my new costume project.

Now for updates (with pictures)!  )UP NEXT: Sleeves!

EDIT (because I am an idiot and [livejournal.com profile] jillwheezul is nice enough not to point it out). *grin*

"So what did you do next", she asks... )
hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)

*And yes, I add that every time that I use a “2” in a title to indicate the second part of a post. Because I am an idiot.

For those of you who don’t know, [livejournal.com profile] claughter713  is BRILLIANT!

She found me this page, which goes into great detail about making a 18th century corset pattern. Out of cardboard.


That’s right, the Google-fu that totally failed me, [livejournal.com profile] claughter713  has it. In spades.

*runs around doing the happy dance and generally flailing like a monkey on crack*

Cheers Dears!

hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)

As someone who has only been lurking on the Yahoo ‘h-cost’ list for a little bit; I am constantly amazed by the brilliant sewing tips that pop up there. For example, this little gem:

“A note on fitting corset muslins:

“A hint I got several years ago - don't remember from where - was to create two strips out of heavy material - old jeans will do in a pinch. Make them at least double thickness, and put a narrow bone of some sort along the edge fold. Then put in grommets about every inch. Make them longer than you think you'll need for any possible corset style you might ever make. These can then be basted into a muslin so you can lace it up properly to check the fit, without having to put in grommets, try to pin it to fit (not happening), or making slits that then rip out after one fitting. Once you have the fit, remove them and use them for the next corset muslin.

“These have made corset making much easier!!


*boggles* OMG. Why didn’t I think of that?!?

*beats head against desk for the years of ‘pin hell’ she has subjected herself and others to*

On another note, here’s one I picked up from a friend ages ago.

Get a length of ‘swing set’ weight chain (ie. the weight you find on children’s outdoor gym equipment, not the kind you’d lock your bike up with), about 6 yards long. Longer if you’d like.

Using old fabric of a medium weight, make yourself a length of bias tape, where the finished tape (when folded in half to make a casing) is about 2” wide.

Sew one ‘end’ of the tape shut, sewing in a sturdy cord or ribbon.

Tie the cord or ribbon to the last link in your chain.

Carefully sew the chain into the tape, enclosing the entire length of the chain in the casing. There should be enough room to easily sew the tape closed, this will be important later. Sew another ribbon/cord into the open end of the tape, type other end of chain to this.

Now, you should have a very long, weighted ‘chain snake’ covered in a medium weight fabric with the chain tied securely into each end of the casing.

What to do with this item, you ask?

This clever little bit will help you hang the bias stretch out of your fabrics for skirts, skirting, cloaks, etc.

Simply cut your pattern out, then sew the panels/pieces together which need to be stretched. In other words, if you are stretching a cloak, sew together the pieces of the body, but don’t worry about the pieces in the hood (unless they need separate stretching, for some reason). Then sew the ‘chain snake’ to your mocked up garment’s lower hem.

Finally, secure your mocked up garment’s upper hem to a sturdy dowel which you can hang over hooks in a location that can get wet. I have a couple of old ‘bike hanging’ hooks secured to rafter ends in my back yard in a shady location. Once your garment is hanging, with the weight at the lower end, wet it.

Between the water and the weight, your bias stretch will hang itself out relatively quickly (I normally do this with wool, and depending on fabric’s weight it takes 2-3 days and 2-3 wettings to get all the bias stretched out).

Once the fabric has stretched, you will need to re-cut your lower hem to level it.

But at least you won’t end up with ‘short and long’ bits on your garment as time stretches the bias on a finished piece!

Anyone else have some tricks-o-the-trade ore “homemade sewing tools” to share?


hsifeng: (Default)

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