Friday, January 31, 2014

HSF14 Challenge #2 - Innovation

My plan for the first several challenges has been to make costume pieces I can also use for the faire I take part in every spring.  I was a bit at a loss as to how to cover “innovation” and my fellow costumer Kami suggest bobbin lace.  It was introduced in the 16th century, and is therefore perfect for the time of my show.  

"Bobbin lace evolved from passementerie or braid-making in 16th century Italy. Coarse passements of gold and silver-wrapped threads or colored silks gradually became finer, and later bleached linen yarn was used to make both braids and edgings.

The making of bobbin lace was easier to learn than the elaborate cutwork of the 16th century, and the tools and materials for making linen bobbin lace were inexpensive. There was a ready market for bobbin lace of all qualities, and women throughout Europe soon took up the craft which earned a better income than spinning, sewing, weaving or other home-based textile arts. Bobbin lace-making was established in charity schools, almshouse, and convents."
"The earliest unmistakable documentation of bobbin lace is the pattern book of LePompe, published in 1559."

I used Simplicity 3623 up to a point.  Once the base of the chemise was put together, I hated the gathers at the shoulders, so I pulled them out and changed them to pleats.  I also took some of the puff out of the sleeves and deepened the cuffs almost to the elbows.  The pattern instructions say the facing of the neckline flips to the outside of the chemise, which I did not like in the least.  So I did the facing on the inside and altered the shape of the neck a bit. 

The cuffs involve the most departure from history.  I wanted buttons, but couldn’t find any I liked.  So I decided to make fabric covered buttons for the first time.  Modern fabric covered button kits are not terribly historical, but I loved the look of them.  And of course, most pieces I make have to accommodate my fighting.  I needed the cuffs to have some give, and not risk ripping out thread or fabric loops every time I swing a sword or throw a punch.  Hence the use of elastic loops around the buttons. 
The Challenge: Innovation
Fabric: White cotton/linen blend
Pattern: Simplicity 3623, with alterations
Year: Mid-1500’s
Notions: Vintage black bobbin lace, fabric covered buttons, and elastic cord
How historically accurate is it? I took some liberties with the buttons and elastic, plus there are some overlocked seams on the inside.
Hours to complete:  Already realizing I’m terrible at keeping track. 
First worn: Not yet
Total cost: $30-40
Shoulder pleats

Lace around the neckline

Lace trimmed cuffs with covered buttons and (unfortunately) elastic loops

Finished product

I really love my cuffs

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Historical Sew Fortnightly 2014

So I have decided to take the plunge into the Historical Sew Fortnightly.  See here:

I am a longtime costumer, but this will be one of the biggest challenges I've ever attempted. I am one of the head costumers at the Bay Area Renaissance Festival in Tampa, FL and this will be my 9th year doing the show. I am hoping to make the first few challenges a part of my costume building for festival, to make my life easier. There are just a few important things to note about how I have to build costumes for my show.

This is a 7-week show. Costumes have to last seven weekends in Florida sun, heat (and the occasional cold spell), dirt and grime, and overzealous actors like myself. In addition, I am also a fighter at this show. If you've ever been to a festival that had a human combat chess match or a sword fighting show, that's what I do. So the costumes must stand up to running, jumping, rolling, swinging swords, and flipping off of structures. This means I have to balance historical accuracy with what is safe and comfortable. So I use plastic boning instead of steel, metal grommets before their historical use, elastic on occasion, and several other non-historical shortcuts.

The Challenge: Make Do and Mend

Fabric: Silk
Pattern: A blend of Simplicity 8881, 3782, and Janet Arnold patterns
Year: Mid-1500's
Notions: None
How historically accurate is it?  See above; the silhouette and silk fabric is pretty historically accurate, the metal grommets and plastic boning, not so much.
Hours to complete: The repair took only a few minutes.
First worn: Bay Area Renaissance Festival 2013
Total cost: Nothing at all, for the repair.

I made this costume last year to play Jacqueline de Longwy at the Bay Area Renaissance Festival.  This is one of the most expensive costumes I've ever made, because I fell in love with $25 a yard fabric.  I'm really happy with how it turned out, and it stood up to a lot of punishment.  However it is one of the longest gowns I've ever had to fight in, and I stepped on the hem more than once.  Thankfully, it ripped along the waist seam and the fabric itself remained intact.  So it was just a simple little repair to start off the year.

And a couple shots of the dress in action: