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 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!


rose said...

your work is amazing!

Tom Riley said...

Well, the medieval clothing is so unsexual, that's incredible - When I imagine that very similar surcoat was used also for men (Codex Manesse shows very similar surcoats worn by women and men)... but it's very nice work! Regards!