Wednesday, September 25, 2013

kid's garb blitz: Elizabethan Coif

We're switching back to my daughter's Elizabethan outfit today.

I had figured that a new headdress was in order way back in the planning stages for this outfit, but it wasn't until I used an old pink linen cap for her kirtle photo shoot that I realized how badly she needed a better hat. Since the whole outfit is Elizabethan, it made sense to make a coif suitable for the mid-to-late 15th century.

Coifs of this period seem to come in a wide variety. While there is plenty of evidence in the art of the time that coifs were plain (white or cream colored linen being the likely material), there is also a very large number of extant coifs that display varied types of embroidery styles. The colors used on the embroidery also create a layer of variability, as some used just black threads, while others, closer to the 17th century, used colored silks.

I love doing embroidery, and I certainly wouldn't balk at the opportunity to create an embroidered 16th century coif, but I just can't justify spending that time and energy for a coif for a 3-year old, who's head is still growing. I do, however, love how these embroidered caps look, and for the end result of the outfit I have in mind, the more decorated look would be the nicer touch.

So I decided to do a "faux-work" coif using a patterned material. It took a bit of searching at the fabric store, but eventually I found a pretty cream-colored cotton with a small-scale floral pattern in dark brown. I also picked up a cream-colored linen from the remnant bin. It's not perfect, but it's fine for a little girl, and the feeling of the embroidered coifs is definitely evoked.

Before I did anything with the fabric, though, I needed to sort of exactly how to create the coif. Luckily, many intrepid costumers have gone before me, and it was fairly easy to figure out the logistics of turning the flat piece into a 3D hat. What I didn't know, though was how to get the correct sizing.

Eventually, I decided to take some measurements and see how they applied to the piece, knowing how the whole thing would eventually sit on the head. It took some trial and error, but eventually, I came up with this measuring method:

Keep in mind that you're working with half the pattern here, so if you measure around your head for D and C, make sure to divide that in half. The C measurement should fall roughly at the nape of your neck and just at the front line of your ears. The D line should go out to about the outside of your cheekbone.

The trick was to keep the measurements loose to account for gathers and bulkiness of the hair. I also created a toile from the pattern these measurements created, and made some minor stylistic adjustments (most notably removing the severe peak at the top front). I also used a scrap piece of fabric for a forehead cloth stand-in during this stage. After seeing a fitting photo series on Morgan Donner's Sewing Party blog, I decided that the easiest way for the coif to stay in place on my daughter's head was to utilize the friction of the forehead cloth.


With the pattern figured out, I moved on to the real deal. With a piece each of the linen and the cotton, I put them right sides together, and folded them in half so that the cotton was wrong sides together on the inside.

Then I grabbed my final pattern and lined it up against the fold.

Since I was working with the inside of the lining, I used a quilting pencil to trace the outline of the pattern. Very carefully, I flipped the whole thing over and traced the pattern on the other side too. That was just to give myself a guideline all the way around, but it wasn't really necessary. Once the pattern was traced, I used a seam gauge to periodically mark a 3/8" seam allowance.

I just connected the lines by hand to get my cutting line.

Cutting through all the layers along that guide gave me the widened urn shape.

I began the construction of the coif by sewing a running stitch along the line I'd traced from my pattern (which was the reason for making sure to draw the line on the back side as well). I left a gap in the bottom to be able to turn the two layers right-sides-out.

Before doing that, however, I needed to do some clipping to make sure everything smoothed out once reversed. I clipped the valley curves and notched the mountain curves as need all the way around, as well as clipped off the corners.

Then I turned it right side out, making sure to get all the curves and corners pushed out. I tucked in the allowance at the gap and used whip stitch to secure it closed. Then I ironed the whole thing to get it nice and flat.

At some point during all this, I cut a triangle of the linen out to be the new forehead cloth. I stitched that together with a mitered corner, just trying to make it look as cleanly finished as possible.

Back to the coif, the next step was to convert the flat piece into the hat. To begin, I folded it in half with the lining out. I used overcast stitches along the front portion of the top seam, to just past the halfway point.

At the end, I switched to going through one side only, working a running stitch all the way around the loop.

Once back to the closing top seam, I pulled it tight, gathering the pleats into a roughly circular shape, and stitched through it in a few places to secure it closed. This technique can be seen very clearly in this extant coif from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. After turning it right-side-out, the gap widened a bit, but not terribly noticeably, so I left it.

Along the bottom, I also gathered the coif to create a pocket. I decided against installing a drawstring here so that it was fixed and easier to get on my daughter's head (since she hardly ever holds still).

And that's it! After tying the forehead cloth tightly into place, the coif goes on from the back, and with a little bit of tucking, everything is in place.

It stays in place very nicely, and she really likes wearing it. I hope that means she'll keep it on all day at an event. But kids will be kids. We've got another week and a half before she'll have the chance to wear it at an event, so stay tuned for better photos!

And just for good measure, to see if the measuring method I used would scale up to an adult sized head, I made a toile for myself. It fit, though it could have used maybe an inch more in the A and B measurements.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

kid's garb blitz : Middle-Layer Tunic

For my middle son, I decided to assemble an 11th century Rus-inspired outfit. The first component for that was a new tunic.

I'd picked up some mustard-colored linen look from the remnant bin at Joann's (which has honestly been a gold mine for me for kid's garb fabric). Since the tunic is a layering item, the weight of the linen will be sufficient. He'll be wearing a white linen shirt underneath, and at some point, a wool jacket over top.

When I created my youngest's plaid tunic, I used a modern shirt that fit him as a basis to draft a pattern. This is a very common method of patterning in the mundane sewing world, and it takes a lot of the drafting work out. For this tunic, however, I returned to traditional measured patterning. This method allows you to make a tunic with a more precise fit.

When taking measurements, keep the tape measure loose- as in grazing, not tight against the body. The trick to getting measured patterns correct is to increase your measurement to introduce ease. There are very few areas on a garment where tight or exact fitting is necessary, but a tunic for a pre-schooler doesn't really have any of those. On my kid's garb, I try to stick with .5" of ease as a standard.

There are two areas in particular where a looser fit is better- across the chest and in the bicep, so those two measurements will be given a bit more ease than the others. You should also add in seam allowance. I add 1/2" allowance to all sides. Here's how I handled L's measurements:

Chest (measured around torso at widest point under the armpits):
  • Measured = 21"
  • Divided by 2 = 10.5"
  • Seam allowance at 1" (.5" each side) = 11.5"
  • Ease at .5" = 12"
  • Add .5" for additional chest ease = 12.5"
This works out to a full measurement of 25", but 2" will be lost to seam allowance. So the final girth of the chest will be 23", which provides 1" of ease each on the front and back. Some additional ease will be added in as well through the extra ease found in the underarm of the sleeve.

In my case, the hip measurement is not that much bigger than the chest (only .5"), so the insertion of gores just above the waist will account for that with no problem. If his hips were more than 1" bigger, I'd need to make sure that the gores included the width needed to clear the hips, which would potentially require the gore angle to be more significant.

Sleeve Length (arm from shoulder point to wrist):
  • Measured = 11"
  • Seam allowance at 1" = 12"
  • Ease at .5" = 12.5"
  • No additional ease required in length.
  • Measured = 6.25"
  • Divided by 2 = 3.125"
  • Seam allowance at .5" (the other edge will be a fold) = 3.625"
  • Ease at .5" = 4.125"
  • Add 1" for additional bicep ease = 5.125"
Since measurements like this are so oddball, though, we'll round up to the nearest .25", which makes it 5.25". This will create a very roomy bicep that will also eliminate the need for an underarm gusset. The exra .5" ease compared to what was added into the chest accounts for the process of actually putting the tunic on.

  • Measured = 4.5"
  • Divided by 2 = 2.25"
  • Seam allowance at .5" (other edge will be on the fold) = 2.75"
  • Ease at .5" = 3.25"
  • No additional ease required in wrist, unless the hand is significantly larger than the wrist. In such a case, measure the hand when it's positioned like it's going through a sleeve, and use that measurement for the wrist with no additional ease.
The next important step is figuring length and gore sizes. In the past, I tended to make shirts too short, so these days I go by a "knee-length" standard that I either stick to, or shorten by no more than 2". I'm going to go with 1.5" less on this tunic.
  • Measured (from 7th vertebrae to knee down the back) = 23"
  • Seam allowance at .5" (added before subtracting length) = 23.5"
  • Minus 1.5" = 22"
To figure out the gores, you'll need to know the torso length measurement. I measure that from the 7th vertebrae to the natural waist.
  • Length (determined above) at 22"
  • Minus torso length (11" in my case) = 11"
  • Seam allowance at .5" (for to top of the gores, since the bottom is already added in from above) = 11.5"
This will be the measurement of the edge cut on the straight grain. The gore base width (below) will come off one end of this at a 90 degree angle.

For gore width at the base, I'm going with 4". This is just a randomly decided measurement based on other tunics I've made. This includes seam allowance, so the finished gore (full triangle made up of two halves) will be 6" wide.

The final step is to adjust the shoulder so that the width of the shoulder more closely matches the actual measurement. Otherwise, the sleeve will hang much further down, since the unadjusted shoulder seam will fall across the bicep, instead of the shoulder. That type of sleeve is not incorrect for early period, and particularly Norse tunics, but on such a small frame, it's a little on the ill-fitted side. Reducing the shoulder width just makes for a better proportion on a young child.

In order to make that adjustment, I take the calculated width of the bicep (5.25" here), and cut that off the two top corners, so that the resulting edge is equal in length. This will allow the sleeve to exactly fit onto the space, and when it's all in place, the sleeve will actually be angled upward when laid flat, rather than straight out. It's helpful to know the shoulder measurement (from shoulder point to shoulder point, across the back), since you don't want the resulting shoulder width to be smaller than that. If you measure that out centered across the top, the end points of the shoulder measurement should be where the bicep measurement comes in. In this case, L's shoulder is 10.5", plus 1" for seam allowance, so the top edge should be no less than 11.5" across.

So applying all that into a pattern, I get this:

When working with measured patterns, it's also important to keep a close eye on your seam allowances as you work. I've allowed for .5" allowance, so as I stitch, I'll periodically double check my allowance with a stitch gauge. While it's ok to slide into a smaller allowance, I shouldn't go any more than .5" or I'll compromise my carefully calculated fit.

You'll note in the pattern that the gore appears backwards. In reality, the edge that's cut on the bias (the unmeasured edge) is the edge that will be sewn to the edge of the main body. The center of the completed gore is a seam that runs along the straight grain. This does two things: first, it offers better drape between the pieces, and second, it brings the bottom center point of the gores upward so that when it falls straight down with gravity, it doesn't extend further than the rest of the shirt. You can do a minor curved cut to enhance this, but I rarely go to that effort.

I hand sewed the tunic with white linen thread in pretty much the same way I always do, first by sewing on the sleeves, then the half gores, then folding it in half and sewing down each side. I finished the seams by flat felling them and used royal blue pearl cotton for contrast.

I was a bit worried that the tunic would turn out too long, but in reality, it's a precise fit. My son really is that lanky!

To see the rest of the photos, check out the Flickr set!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

kid's garb blitz : Plaid Toddler Tunic

In this installment of my Kid's Garb Blitz, I'd like to share with you how I went about making a new tunic for my youngest child. He is 21 months old, and very much on the move. I wanted him to have a really simple, warm tunic that wasn't going to get in his way, but also that I wasn't going to get frustrated over him getting dirty. He'll no doubt be grown out of it before the weather turns really chilly, so it really is just a quick solution.

I also need to mention for the sake of this post as well as the next that, both of my younger sons have very flexible arms and shoulders, and can move around easily without underarm gussets. If I felt that they were in any way limited in mobility by the structure of the sleeves without gussets, I would add them. It must run in our family, though, since my husband's sleeves also do not require gussets. If you'd like information about adding underarm gussets, try Dagorhir Gear's Bocksten Tunic page.

Several months ago, I had picked up a lovely dark plaid from the remnant bin at Joann's with the vague idea that it could be a piece of kid's garb. I never really stopped to look at how much fabric there was before I tucked it away. When I found it again recently, I realized that there was barely enough for a tunic, so I had better make it before I'd lost the chance!

Rather than trying to wrestle him down to get his measurements, I decided to employ a modern DIY trick to patterning. I found a shirt that fits him, and used that as a basis for the tunic.

I folded the shirt in half and tucked the sleeves in to try to get the seam line as accurate as possible at the armhole. Then I traced the shirt onto the paper.

I then did the same thing with the sleeves.

I marked a line at the armpit to indicate the angle of the seam, which meets up with the top right corner of the paper.

I also measured a desired length.

After cleaning up my pattern pieces and cutting them out, I folded the fabric into quarters, and laid the two pieces out, utilizing the folds. I also made sure to measure for my desired length. You'll see that my sleeves had to be shorter, but it actually worked out correctly, since the t-shirt sleeve hangs lower on him anyway.

When everything was cut out, I had two body pieces and two sleeves.

I decided to hand-sew this one, due to the size. The first order of business was the shoulder seams. After attaching the two pieces with running stitch, I trimmed one side and did a flat-felled seam.

Then I added the sleeves.

I foldied it in half (for a front and back), and sewed it together down each side. Then I went ahead and hemmed it, since I knew I wasn't going to need it any shorter than it was. After that, I adjusted the neck hole a bit for him to be able to try it on.

Looking good!

With a better neckline established, I hemmed that, then hemmed the sleeves.

And when all was said and done, I had a finished plaid tunic!

I think he should always be dressed like this.

Next week, I'll share a different method of patterning a tunic for my middle son.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

kid's garb blitz: Elizabethan Kirtle

As we head into the cooler months, it's the ideal time to update my kid's winter garb. They don't get to attend too many events that require warm clothing, since most winter events we take them to are indoors, but some fall events can be fairly chilly. October, in fact, is the perfect month to attend events in the Midrealm, since the sun is usually out, but the air is crisp and perfect for medieval layering.

My daughter was the most in need of cool-weather garb, so I decided to start with her. I've never been particular about the period I put her in, but I have tended to lean toward the later periods. I've always admired 16th century clothing, even if it's not something I'd create for myself, so I decided that her winter garb this year would be vaguely Elizabethan. Nothing overly fancy, mind you, but something that will layer nicely and suit her pre-schooler frame.

The first thing on the list was a kirtle. Unlike the 15th century kirtles I create for myself, hers is a sleeveless, waisted kirtle. I had plenty of my green-toned charcoal gray wool, which I also used to make a little boy's waffenrock some time ago (which my baby now wears), and enough brown linen left over from a pair of my husband's pants to do a lining on the bodice.

In order to get the pattern, I combined her measurements with a t-shirt that fits her well enough to get a toile together.

She's so cute when she knows I've got something for her to try on. She'd just finished dinner, so she's got pizza face.

I made some marks for adjustments to lower the front neckline a bit and make the straps a little narrower, then transferred the adjusted pattern to a couple sheets of paper to clean it up. The bodice is composed of three pieces, but the back pieces are mirrored.

I decided to combine machine sewing with hand sewing by first affixing the lining to each bodice panel (by machine), top stitching the inverted panels (also by machine), then sewing them together by hand like I would for an Elizabethan seam. I'm very pleased with the outcome, and I'm considering using this technique on my next dress. It just finishes everything so much better. It can easily all be done by hand as well.

After assembling the four panels of the skirt, and pleating it into place, I machine sewed the waist. Then I used an additional piece of linen to create a binding on the raw seam. first I top stitched the bottom of the binding onto the seam allowance, then I folded it under and hand stitched to the bodice lining, tacking it in place and out of the way.

Finally, I machine hemmed the bottom of the skirt using a wide hem allowance. Every dress she's outgrown thus far has been through height first, so I figured that leaving a wide hem that I could let out if needed wouldn't be a bad idea.

To help her get into it, I decided to leave the back seam open and utilize a lacing. This feature will also help it lasting her more than an event or two, since the lacing can be loosened up as needed if she grows in the chest. I created the eyelets with my eyelet awl and whip-stitching.

I had a short finger-loop braid lace made with black cotton embroidery floss that came from some other piece of outgrown kid's garb.

The skirt should have been a little fuller at the bottom, but she's not terribly inhibited by it. Since it's meant to be an underdress, though, not having a lot of fullness really isn't a disadvantage.

I already had an appropriate shirt from when my oldest was K's age, so that's already taken care of. A pair of knit tights will help keep her legs warm when she wears it to an event if needed, but I may also make a slip for her if it seems she needs it.

You can see more photos of the kirtle on Flickr!