tudor frock part2

So, two days to make a kirtle that should have taken one.

When I made the Tudor stash frock last year, I apologised for looking grumpy in the photos. In large part this was due to how very very difficult I found it to lace myself into a side lacing kirtle, it hurt my arm, I couldn’t see what I was doing properly, I got really really stressed out and very bad tempered about the whole thing. And I’ve found things haven’t improved much upon subsequent wearings.

I thought that may be it was just me, But decided that with this kirtle I would mitigate things somewhat by moving the side laces slightly around to the front – not all the way, just a couple of inches so I could see what I was doing a bit better.

Then this morning I had to try on the new version of the side laced bodice to make sure it fitted properly, then try it on again after adjustments.

 As you can see its the same madder linen canvas I used for the boys outfit a few months back, and I used dress rings for the lacing. I always feel a bit dirty when I make costume with the sewing machine, but in this case its the only option as this stuff is too tough to handsew.

Techincally, I think the lining ought to be unbleached linen, but I’m using an old Roman dress, recycling is authentic.

Anyway, by eleven o’clock and two fittings I was so stressed and grumpy from getting into this thing I had to take a quick nap to calm down again. My arm really hurt. I still couldn’t see what I was doing in spite of moving the laces round to the front as far as possible.

I am an authenticity perfectionist, always have been, and I find compromise in this area very difficult to rationalise, but in this case I was left with no choice. I had thought I would try it for a few months and see if I got used to it, but I simply cannot be even half as stressed as I was this morning before a performance and still do my job properly. I don’t have the luxury of anyone to help me dress so I have to be self sufficient. And calm. I can’t perform when I’m stressed.

The problem was how to front lace for convenience and still get the flat front I want. My old outfit is based around what the tudor tailor calls the dorothea bodice, which had been adapted for front lacing but which had failed under the wieght of my boobs, and curved too much. No onewho hired me noticed but I have been finding the wrong silhouette embarassing.

 I pulled the bodice apart and kept the back, which was fine. Then I sliced the front buckram down the centre, and pulled some of the bones out of my old bodice. These are very rigid. I think they’re fibre glass, and they were long ago encased in soft leather to stop them slicing through cloth. I”ve cased them right up against the centre lacing, side by side, in the hopes that they’ll act as a busk.

I tried it on and it worked really well, and I know these bones will never give the way the old ones did (the centre of the old one was standard half inch steel dress boning) because they’ve been with me nearly fifteen years – I keep re-using them because they never die. Unfortunately I forgot to take A pic while I had it on, and I can’t put it on again until I get more linen lacing tape, as the nylon cord I was using as a stopgap snapped on me.

 The silk brocade I used for the front panel was expensive. It’s meant to retail for over £250 a metre, and although I paid a fraction of that I could still only afford two metres, so cutting it  to go right round the bottom of the kirtle skirt involved some piecing that, to paraphrase ms Potter, left not enough for tippets for mice. This is literally all that’s left.

 That’s some pretty extreme piecing at the back of the skirt there. And the line went a bit wonky, but at least the hem is completely covered. as you can see, any consideration for continuity of pattern also went right out the window.

I actaully quite enjoy piecing, it appeals to my frugal side. Normally my frugal side appears when I cook. Yes, for the last 25 years, long before hugh fearnley whittingless made it a cause celebre, I have gone out of my way to buy the best free range corn fed chicken, but I use every scrap and make a soup that lasts all week, because a good cook buys the best and respects her ingredients by using them properly. I remember once going round to a friend’s house who always criticised me for this percieved extravagance  whilst complaining how she couldn’t feed her family on a budget, and having to bite my tongue when I saw a roast chicken carcass poking out of her kitchen bin. I see piecing as the same thing for dressmaking.

As you can see, I did machine the silk, but at the front where it will be visible, I hand hemmed.

 Gosh, that looks ever so busy against the rug, doesn’t it? Maybe I should have carried it upstairs and used the oak floor in the bedroom.

To accomodate the new front lacing the two panels of silk have to carry over. the one at the neckline is going to be pinned in place to fit in with any variance in the lacings. The skirt panel is sewn on up to the lacing, and then there’s a ribbon (which you may not be able to see very well) to tie it into place at the other side.

 You can really see where the silk went wonky at the back there, but there really isn’t a scrap left to even it up so theres no point in obsessing over it. I made the linen skirt full length and then put the silk over the top as at first I wasn’t even sure I had enough silk to go all the way around, so even this is quite an achievement. Not that anyone will ever see it.

The kirtle, by the way, has to weigh at least six or seven pounds, and its so stiff it will almost stand without the farthingale. even the silk is stiff, pobably because its got at least seven colours in it.

Robe tomorrow. Am A bit behind now, so I think all hope of some buttoncoat fun this week is lost.

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~ by opusanglicanum on April 9, 2012.

22 Responses to “tudor frock part2”

  1. Side lacing is for them that has maids.

    I made a side lacing kirtle and found it much easier to dress myself using a extra long lacing needle. I purchased a package of the long upholstery needles (6 – 12 inches) and ground the tips down so they were no longer sharp. YMMV

  2. that’s absolutley gorgeous – love the silk brocade

  3. Don’t worry dear, even perfectionists have to compromise sometime. lol
    It still looks absolutly lovely

  4. We’re inclined to forget that people just didn’t live alone in those days – there would always have been someone around to help.

  5. Once again I am agog at your skill. I love your blog.

  6. I just spent the last 2 hours reading through all your previous posts – well, most of them because my little ones came home! Your work is a.m.a.z.i.n.g. I do have paitence to smock and embroider, but entire garments – authentically constructed – by hand? I’m chicken. In a dream world I would love to do this sort of work. Thank you for keeping this blog. It is a huge source of awe-spiration.

    • once you get your hand in you can sew quite fast by hand, and I’ve done it for so long using the machine feels wrong. Thank you for the flattery, its much appreciated

  7. That is amazing piecework! At £250 a metre or even half of that, the fabric is too expensive to waste. I imagine the ladies back then did the same, using bits of leftover fabric on sleeve and neck accents and hairbands. Too bad Branston can’t lace you up. XD

    • using the pieced bit round the back as I’ve done here is very authentic, cos they did do it – there are extant royal garment from the medieval eriod with significant piecing – but they always his it somewhere. It was also routine proceedure in tudor times to watch your tailor cut out your garment to make sure he didn’t waste or steal any leftover, and then you could take anything worth having home with you

  8. It looks just beautiful!

  9. That silk is THE NOM. I have a couple side-lacing kirtles now. I lace them up with super duper long cords so they can be loose enough to pull on over my head, but still be laced (Tie the ends in large knots or secure them to none of the lacing pulls out). Once it’s on my bod, I can pull the laces tight, which I then tuck under the skirt though slits in the sides of the skirt, and tie around my waist in a HUGE bow… else the long laces will trail down the alley about a mile. Oh, I use spiral lacing with hand bound eyelets.

    • my other one has a very long lace at the side as you describe, but I still find it physically gruelling just to tighten it, I really couldn’t cope with it on an almost daily basis so had no choice but to adapt

  10. Where did you get your damask? I am in love with your silk Damask

    • It came from quartermasterie at torm. But it’s a brocade, not a damask. Damasks are where the pattern is textured into one colour, if there’s more than one colour it’s generally brocade

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