Slow and steady

I’ve completed the bumroll, and bought the last hose joiner for the top hoop in the farthingale, but I need my model in order to arrange and pin the pleats, before I can put the waistband on and attach the bumroll.

Now debating what to do about the open sections of hoop casing on the farthingale. If I sew them completely closed, there will be no chance of making any adjustments to the hoops. But if I don’t, they look nasty. I think I just sew them closed, and if I need to open ’em up again, well, that’ll learn me, won’t it!


As promised, photos.

Well, I don’t know if I promised, but either way, here are some photos of the semi-finished smock.

First, the whole garment:
2013-05-20 12.50.07

The only downside to undoing all the gore seams and resewing was that the it made the edges a whole lot more frayed, and the resulting french seams now need a lot of trimming to make them neat. I have not yet done this trimming.

Anyway, here’s a close up of the neckline, with its “frame” for further blackwork should I feel the inclination:

2013-05-20 12.50.29

Otherwise, I’ve been reading up heavily on farthingales (and many thanks to the sempstress for her in-depth mathematical analysis. If you didn’t guess from the excel charting of the blackwork manuka, I also have a weakness for trigonometry), as that and/or the bumroll will be the next step. I’ve decided that although the Simplicity 2621 pattern for a farthingale is probably fine, I want to at least consider something closer to an Alcega arrangement of gore dimensions.

That’s all for now. I’m off to inspect some lime green linen (if it’s as affordable as I recall, I might dye it) and borrow The Tudor Tailor (again) and Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d (for the first time I think) from the library.

More on the smock and other components

I have nearly completed the smock (for now).  After trying it on The Girl, I could see I wasn’t going to get away with having put the side gores in on the grain instead of on the bias, so I undid all the (frenched, of course, though fortunately not trimmed) seams and turned the gores round and resewed them.  It did make a difference.  I’ve not hemmed the sleeves, and won’t till much closer to the day of wearing, as the distance between her wrist and the sleeve end will likely change considerably in between.

I have sort of got some blackwork round the neckline of the smock.  I started by edging the neckline itself in black silk, with the machine, then hand sewing again along the same edge, adding double knots every few milimetres, as I wanted to try to reproduce those little black dots along the neckline edges in Holbein’s Jane Seymour portrait (you know, the one with the awesome blackwork cuffs… OK, this one…

I think the effect I achieved is close, but not quite there – next time I think I’d triple knot instead of double.

I’ve also machine stitched a fairly plain border round the neckline to hold the facing in place.  It effectively creates a frame for whatever blackwork I might want to put in the middle, and looks quite sweet on its own.  I will add photos when I get to the camera.

So the next step will be to make the bumroll, and then the farthingale.  I bought some irrigation pipe at the hardware store to use for the farthingale hoops.  It has the advantage of being cheap, but the disadvantage of being thicker than hoop boning, which means thicker ribbon for the channels.

I’m thinking probably the grey taffeta for the farthingale.  I quite like the look of just plain white cotton, but the taffeta is probably stronger.  On the other hand, cotton is probably cooler, and with all the layers The Girl will be wearing, cooler might be preferable to stronger.

At the same time, I’m figuring out what other fabrics to use.  After watching Trademe for some months now and no sign of inexpensive dark blue velvet (it’s always the shipping that’s the killer) I’m thinking I might have a go at dying the dark green velvet I bought earlier this year.  It’s probably an acetate/nylon mix.  It’s not really my colour, so if the dye doesn’t take I’m not really any worse off.

That leaves the forepart and sleeves to decide on.  Having seen some pieced sleeves, I’m leaning heavily towards making them out of the velvet too, with the smock underneath, so it would just be the partlet to settle (though would probably use some of the fabric for trim and embellishment as well, to help tie it together.

I’d really like to use the Japanese silk kimono fabric I got originally intending to use for the corset, but I doubt there’s enough of it.  Anyway, I’d best dye the velvet first to see what colour I’m matching.

Two steps forward, one step back..

The smock is mostly assembled, however…

1.  I have discovered (I wasn’t sure at the time, so I followed the illustration) that I should have sewn the side gores in on the bias rather than straight.  Having sewed them in straight means the hem dips at the sides.  I will have to trim and hem straight instead, but also…

2.  On closer examination of the inspiration piece (and more knowledge of practices of the time), I can see that what I took to be little tulle pouffy decorations on the epaulettes are in fact bits of the smock pulled through between the sleeve attachments.  That would be fine, but the smock was made to be quite fitting, so I doubt there’ll be enough fabric underneath to pull through in a pouffy fashion.  I think pouffy bits would require some pleats or gathering in the sleeve, and I’d probably want to be more sure of the smock fit too in relation to the model’s shoulder line, otherwise the sleeves won’t sit at the right height to be pulled through in the right way.

3.  In the oil version of the inspiration piece, it seems pretty clear to me from the way the folds sit that the smock fabric is silk.  Replicating the chalk would probably be possible in cotton/linen, but yes, clearly it wants to be silk.  The smock edge at the neckline is also finished in lace rather than blackwork. 

So I’ve clearly reached a point where I have to make a decision about how strictly I want to stick to that inspiration piece, vs e.g. making a dress according to the pattern I have, with Margeurite to Valois only providing inspiration for trim.  Decisions, decisions!


I have found a model of what I’d like to make, but am having problems interpreting it. There’s this chalk drawing of a young Margeurite de Valois in 1559:

Margeurite de Valois sketch

and then there’s a painting based on that sketch, completed about a year later:

Margeurite de Valois painting

Somewhere between the sketch and the painting her dress has changed colour, so who knows what colour it was originally. My daughter likes the colours of the first, so I’ll use that as a starting point; I’m not sure the rust colour would suit her as well as the blue. Having them both is useful though, as they show different things. The painting shows the detail of the epaulettes beautifully, while the chalk shows the little ruffled cuffs peeking out from the end of her sleeves.

Some quizes though:

1. I’m not sure what would have given the striped effect on the sleeves. In the second it looks like beading, or possibly gilt embroidery. In the first, however, it looks more like it’s part of the fabric – a raised velvet perhaps? – or cording? or piping? I just don’t know enough to tell.

2. What would forepart of her skirt would have been like? Presumably to match her rust-coloured sleeves, but how would the stripes translate to the forepart? Neither picture shows anything below the waist, so I’m stuck.

Time to consult the experts I think.

Running before you can walk

I’ve tried out some blackwork. I did long complicated graphings in excel, involving sin, cos and tan, and transformations by 72 degrees, in order to devise a pattern for manuka.

Here are my first two attempts:


and here’s the image I’ve based them on, from that link in the previous post:

Leptospermum scoparium

The first attempt is on the left. I tried counting it, but the fabric was too fine and did my head in, so then I drew it on with a washable pen and worked it freehand. It’s pretty and recognisably manuka, but not quite the look I’m after.

The second is on the right. I found some wider weave linen and counted it. I think it’s not bad for a first attempt (so long as noone looks at the back) but it took … too long, and I could only do it during daylight hours or I ended up squinting and giving myself headaches.

So for my next trick, I’ll be seeing what’s possible with the limited range of embroidery stitches on my sewing machine.