Introduction to the Challenge

This challenge is specifically set towards those that have not had the opportunity to sew a garment/object by hand. This challenge is NOT a competion, merely a place for new handsewers to document their progress and seek feedback and help, and to challenge themselves. Sewers that are experienced in hand stitching items will not be excluded, but this is meant as a chance for those with no experience in this realm to get a start.The Challenge I propose is that all persons joining the challenge pick a garment or object of textile nature, no matter how small or large, i.e. a pilgrim bag, a Coif or any type of hat, socks, flag, gloves etc., and have at least one form of documentation for its existence during the SCA time period. Acceptable forms of documentation for this project will be paintings/woodcuts/drawings with the desired object in it or a picture of the desired object.The challenge starts first of June and will end one year later. People can join the challenge at any time during this year. Those of you with handsewing experience are invited to follow the blog, and leave comments and feedback as the challenge progresses. The challenge is based in Drachenwald, but is open to all kingdoms.
If you would like to join the challenge (and the blog) please email me at to be added!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mid April: Surcoat Neck Facing

Before I begin my description of how I have done the neck facing for the red surcoat I will review the choices of materials used.

As I had said in the beginning, I believe the outfit would have been made from wool, but since I could not find colours or weights of wool that would be suitable for the outfit I decided to go with 100% linen, which is a fabric found in period. For the neck facing on the surcoat I am using the same 100% gold silk as I used for the cuffs on the sleeves of the kirtle. As for the thread used, for the surcoat I have done the same as I did for the kirtle...I am using 100% cotton, both for availability and financial reasons.

For the construction of the neck facing I began by running a loose basting stitch on the area of the neck I wanted to gather on both the front and back of the surcoat.

I also used a basting stitch on the edge of the neck facing to ease in the curve for turning under.
I then laid the neck facing on the bodice, right sides up for both the bodice and the facing. I pulled up the basting stitch on the bodice and adjusted the gathers before pinning and then basting into place.
The facing was then sewn into place with a tight and even running stitch.

In the Codex Manesse image of the surcoat I believe I see a narrow red trim edging the neck facing, so I have constructed a small band with some of the leftover red linen to create that. It was folded in half leaving one raw edge and one folded edge.

The raw edge of the facing was laid down along the raw edge of the neck facing and basted into place.

Finally another neck facing piece was laid on top of the first neck facing piece, right sides together and pinned into place. A tight and even running stitch was used to sew the facing pieces together along the pinned edge.

The same steps were done on the back bodice piece.
The facing was turned right sides out and pressed into place, revealing the red edging. A running stitch was then used to stitch the edge of the turned in piece to the inside of the bodice neck.
With both back and front neck facings in place, the back and front surcoat bodices were then sewn together at the shoulders using a whip stitch.

Here is a view of the seam inside:

To finish the edges of the inside seam, the raw edges were then turned under and whip stitched to the garment, continuing around the outside neck edge to create a nice finish.

Here is a view of the final product, pressed and finished!

I'm feeling rather accomplished after this!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April 2010: The Surcoat Revisted, Re-Revisted, Re-Re-Revisted...You Get the Picture

I'm feeling a sense of deja vu as I write this. I'm sure I mentioned that I had finally figured out the pattern design for the red surcoat months ago. Unfortunately the design of the red surcoat now reminds me of one of those movies that have seamingly unending sequels. In fact, I think I've redesgined this surcoat more times than the number of Star Trek movies.

Let us go back to the end of September 2009. Yes, that would be 6 months ago! This was the last time that I mentioned the red surcoat. I had actually made a pattern design and was happy with it. Well, time away from the pattern allowed me to look at the surcoat in the Codex Manesse illumination with fresh eyes. I could see that my pattern was rather far from the design of the red surcoat I was aiming for. My design was too tight in the bodice area. I think I created it this way because I was denying the real desgin of the Codex Manesse style, which shows no real shape to the wearer whatsoever. I was thinking in the 21st Century, not the 14th Century. Now that I have been in the SCA for a year and now that my eyes have become accustomed to the various and sundry styles available I am more comfortable with the style I need to create to look like the illumination.

So, back to the drawing board!

For a refresher I have posted a photo of the outfit in the Codex Manesse illumination which I am using as well as a photo from another Codex Manesse illumination in which the woman is wearing a very similar outfit. Because she is standing in this image it was easier for me to see what I needed to do to the pattern. As you can see in the photos, the surcoat is rather voluminous in the skirt. As well, the bodice area is voluminous with gathers in the neckline under the neck facing. The armholes are fairly high up but there is some view of the kirtle underneath.

In my original surcoat designs I had thought I would need gores to create the fullness of the skirt even though I do not see gore seams in the illumination image. I think I was trying to create more fullness in the skirt hoping it would "fix" the bodice as well. Even this past week when I started working on the design again I included gores hoping for a better fit. I was again disappointed.

Then one morning while lying awake in bed trying to pretend I was sleeping in it finally dawned on me what I needed to do. It finally occurred to me that I needed more fabric in the bodice area and that more fabric meant I might need to include gathers. I created a whole new pattern and tried it on. It was almost there! And after some more tweaking and more cutting I finally arrived at THEE design. As soon as I looked at myself in the mirror I knew it was finally right. I didn't see anything that bugged me anymore. It looked like the Codex Maness surcoat! And it didn't need gores either. I used the full width of the fabric (60 inch width) at the bottom and tapered it somewhat closer to the bodice, although not completely so as to create the fullness in the bodice as well.

And here are the results of my final mock-up surcoat design in front and side view photos (You can see the satisfied smile on my face!):

And just for fun I thought I would do a "mash-up" photo of all the various and sundry designs of the surcoat that I actually photographed:

Amazingly enough, although 5 photos are shown, I can actually count in my head at least 8-10 times that I went back and re-designed, adjusted and tweaked the design during the whole process! It became an obsession that I wasn't going to let go until I got it right. Perhaps if I was a professional seamstress I might have had it sorted out a long time ago, but I am not. Perhaps if I had found a pattern that matched the image I would have had it done sooner rather than later, but I didn't find such a pattern. I am content with my trial and error technique that has resulted in my very own pattern design! It was a trial and there were definitely errors but I think it has paid off in the end.

So, today, April 6th, 2010, I cut out that red surcoat with the gold neck facing.

Now to sew it together!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Beginning of April 2010: Eyelets, a Hem and a Finished Product!

And on April 1st 2010 after 4 months of hand sewing I finally completed the first piece in my quest! The green kirtle is complete!
In a flurry of activity this past week I was able to get much done. First came the eyelets. Using the same techniques that I learned to complete the eyelets on the brown kirtle I made months ago I proceeded to sew 18 eyelets onto my new green kirtle. When it came to the choice of thread, the fabric store did not offer much. I had a choice between polyester buttonhole twist or cotton quilting thread. Although the buttonhole twist would be heavier I did not want to tarnish the finish of my kirtle with polyester so I purchased the quilting thread, hoping I could double it up for thickness. As it happens, though, I was spending an evening with my mentors, Estela and Cristiana. Once they knew my intentions there was a furtive search in their stash of sewing materials and lo and behold, a spool of 100% linen thread, nice and heavy, and in the perfect colour was found! We waxed it up and I began my eyelets!

Below is a photo of the 18 completed eyelets:

The next and final job was the hem. And the hem was the purpose of my evening with Estela and Cristiana. After a rather unsuccessful attempt at measuring up the hem myself at home I realized I would need help. So that evening I tried on the kirtle and thankfully had Estela trim around the bottom of the dress while I stood with it on. A perfect way to measure up a hem! The next day I proceeded to press up the hem. Estela had given me a wonderful tip in easing the fullness of the hem and it worked beautifully. I pressed up the edge about a 1/4 of an inch, then ran a loose running stitch around the edge. I could then pull up the thread to ease in the fullness as I pressed down the hem. A little trim here and a little adjusting there and I had a hem marked up.
Below are two photos, the first showing how the hem is gathered with the running stitch and the second showing how nicely it presses down:

And on the evening of April the 1st I hand stitched that hem, using a nice even and close together running stitch and with that the kirtle was complete!

Below I would like to present to you the finished product in front, side and back views!

Now to start all over again and begin the construction of the red surcoat!