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!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Drum Roll Please...

Lords and Ladies, may I present to you

The Finished Product!

On Mother's Day, May 9th 2010, I finally finished my First-time Handsewing Challenge! I am so proud of myself and I know my mother would be too.

So, just to refresh everyone's memory, here is a copy of the Codex Manesse illumination that contains the outfit I decided to recreate:

And here is a photo of me wearing the completed outfit, all hand sewn:

A closer look:

I believe I have done a rather nice job recreating this outfit and not only that, I am proud to say I made it all by hand. I'm hoping to wear the complete ensemble at a future SCA event, but it has to be a special one, since this is a very special outfit. Perhaps I can convince my husband to make me some shoes to go with it and I may even attempt to recreate the head piece being worn in the image as well. When that event happens, rest assured, I promise to upload some photos so you can see the outfit being worn in context.

Seeing this project at its end is somewhat bitter-sweet. I am so happy with its outcome, but at the same time I am sad to see it finished. It's been like a good long takes you forever to read, but you don't want it to end. This project began even before the actual challenge, since the inspiration began as soon as my interest in the SCA began in the spring of 2009. I can't believe it's been over a year since I saw that image for the first time. I have enjoyed every second of it though, including the many hours I spent in my sewing room planning and experimenting, the many evenings spent with my mentors in their living room and sewing room (fondly known as "the shoe"), the many evenings at our local SCA fight practice, a couple of SCA events and even lunch hours spent at my workplace.

I have learned so much over this past year! I have gone from a very basic knowledge of hand sewing to a much deeper understanding. I have gone from absolutely NO knowledge of the Middle Ages to at least a basic level of knowledge. I have learned to research sources and to look closely at what I am attempting to recreate. I have learned that it is okay to change my mind about what I'm doing, even when I thought I had it all figured out. I have gained a new perspective on the whole world of sewing, realizing that machine sewn pieces are not necessarily better constructed, better looking or easier to make. And most of all, I have learned patience! I have never spent so much time on one project in my sewing experience AND completed it! Would I do this all over again? Absolutely! This has been one of the most valuable sewing experiences in my life and I have gained a new level of respect and enjoyment of sewing that I never realized I could reach.

With all that said, I must must MUST thank my mentors: Her Excellency Baronne Estela du Frayse and the Honourable Lady Cristiana ingen Mec-Bead. Without their expertise and knowlege, their instruction, their advice and their patience, this project would not be half as good as it has turned out to be today. Thank you SO much for all of that and most of all for your friendship.

And thank you to those who created this First-time Handsewing Challenge! It has been an absolute joy!

What will I do next? Time will tell I suppose.

Best Wishes,

Isolda Fairamay

aka: Chris Hulme Colin

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May 4, 2010: Almost There!

It seems like I'm finally getting the hang of this project now that it's almost done! I'm moving much faster with the red surcoat than I did with the green kirtle. Perhaps not having to hand sew four gores might have something to do with that!

With the neck facing done, the next step was to sew up the sides of the surcoat. I have sewn them in the exact manner as I sewed the kirtle with a whip stitch on the outside and finishing the seams individually on the inside.

The last decision I had to make on this project was what to do with the armholes. When I look at the Codex Manesse illumination outfit I am trying to recreate the top of the armhole seems to look like it might have some trim on it. However, looking further down the armhole, I don't see any evidence of trim. Suffice it to say, I was in a conundrum about what to do with the surcoat armholes. Here is a close-up of the armhole in the illumination...what do you think?

So it seems I had a choice. I could add some gold trim or leave it and simply turn under the armholes. I felt conflicted because I knew that adding trim would mean more work for me. I didn't want to be lazy and go the simply route.

I decided to ask my mentors and a few other sewing friends what they thought would look better...with or without trim? Almost all of them said it would look better without, because adding trim would take away from the nice look of the neck facing. The one person who said I could add trim said she could go either way. Esthetically, it seemed like simple would be better.

Still, I felt kind of "guilty". I honestly wanted to do the best job possible on this project...perhaps because I knew it was getting close to finishing I didn't want to leave any stone unturned.

So, before making a final decision, I did a little more searching online to see what I could find. I had already used another Codex Manesse illumination image to help me confirm how to design the surcoat so I thought looking at other images might help. And thankfully it did!

I managed to find another Codex Manesse illumination image of a woman wearing what I believe is exactly the same outfit at the one I am recreating from my own chosen Codex Manesse illumination. Perhaps it is even portraying the same woman. Here is a look at the image I found:
And here is a close-up of the armhole area of that woman's surcoat:

When I look at the close-up here I believe definitively that there is NO trim on the red surcoat armhole. So what DO I see on my own illumination image? Well, if you look at the bottom of the woman's surcoat in the second image, she is holding up the edge of the surcoat, revealing a white colour on the underside of the surcoat. My belief is that this could possibly mean the surcoat is lined with another piece of fabric of some sort, which leads me to believe that the area around the armhole in my own Codex Manesse illumination that might show some kind of "trim" may very well be lining instead.

With all that said, perhaps I should have lined the surcoat, but it is too late to do that now, and quite frankly, my main purpose of the project was to recreate the outside of the clothing that is showing.

So, the absolute final decision on the armhole of the surcoat? No trim. I simply turned under the edges and finished it with a running stitch on the inside.

Here you can see a photo of my finished armhole as well as the finished inside seam of one of the sides of the surcoat:

And that leaves one final step in this whole process.

Hemming the red surcoat.

With that said, I guess it's safe to say my fear that I could not complete this whole project by June 2010 is unfounded. So my decision to move my deadline to November 2010 is being reversed! The original deadline stands!

Can't wait to write my last post!