Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reconstructing History Patterns

Since I've been posting a lot about my garb sewing projects lately, I thought I'd focus a bit on Reconstructing History patterns. Kass McCann, who makes the patterns, thoroughly researches all of her garments and has lots of helpful and interesting articles on her site that cover everything from sewing tips (A Beginner's Guide to Historic Clothing, Handstitching Basics, Pleating Techniques, and Research Techniques) to articles on specific time periods (Late Medieval, Tudor & Elizabethan, 1603-1660s, Golden Age of Piracy, and Georgian/Baroque) to articles on clothing of specific areas (Irish, Japanese, Scottish, and Polish).

I recently bought my first RH pattern, the 14th Century Women's Sideless Surcote. I attempted to make a sideless surcote from a Simplicity pattern many years ago, and it was something of a disaster. I'm glad to have a well-researched, accurate pattern at last, and also glad that it covers many historical variations (the side openings can be either rounded or square, and can be of varying lengths).

Once I've got some money saved up and am no longer in danger of not being able to pay rent and bills (ah, the joy of self-employment!), I'd like to add the following Medieval RH patterns to my collection -

14th century Women's Kirtle or Cotehardie

The kirtle is the fitted dress that is worn beneath the sideless surcote. The RH pattern has many variations for this garment.

Medieval Irish Moy Gown

The original Moy gown was found in a bog in Ireland, and is one of two extant garments that offer a good example of what Medieval Irish people actually wore. Since my SCA persona is Irish, I thought that this would be a fabulous dress to make. However, the nice folks at RH tell me that this is probably one of their most difficult patterns to sew, so I decided to start with the more basic kirtle and surcote and leave the Moy gown for later (though I definitely want to make one!)

14th century Man's Cotehardie

This is the men's version of the kirtle. My boyfriend and musical partner (from the Tulstin Troubadours) Mark would like one of these, so I'm thinking of making him one in some combination of blue, green, and yellow. For myself, I'm thinking of making the kirtle in yellow with a parti-colored sideless surcote in blue and green.

14th century Man's Accessories

These are the accessories that go with the man's cotehardie, though I'm betting that I could use the liripipe hood pattern for myself as well. It would be a lovely addition to the rest of the outfit for the beginning of Sherwood Forest Faire, which started out really rather cold this year, and likely will again next year.

Since I haven't bought any of the patterns except the sideless surcote, I'd like to know if any of my readers own these patterns and have tried making them. Do you have any tips or suggestions?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Elizabethan Smock Update

I finally finished the size 10 Elizabethan smock in May, and I was much happier with it than with the size 16 smock that the pattern seemed to think I needed based on my measurements. The one downside was that the upper part of the sleeves were a bit too tight on my arms. Also, the fabric is more of a dark navy - this picture makes it seem much lighter than it really is.

I debated ripping out the seam in the sleeves and either adding a panel or adding lacing or some other type of connecting device, but ended up deciding to just take out the main seam from the armpit to the elbow, since I had done a zig-zag stitch over the two edges of the fabric. Ripping out the main seam left me with the zig-zag stitch as the only thing holding the sleeve together, but it also gave me about an extra inch around the upper part of the sleeve. I've worn the smock 2 or 3 times since then, and it seems to hold together relatively well.

I made a second smock from the same blue linen (from, and used the size 16 sleeves with the size 10 body. I also drafted my own under-arm gussets, since I really didn't like the way the gussets looked that came with the pattern. The pattern uses square gussets, turned sideways to look like diamonds. I stitched the sleeve to the body of the smock, ending the stitching where the gusset ought to start, tried it on, held my arm straight up, and measured the resulting gap. I drafted a diamond gusset that is much narrower than it is tall, and the second smock fits better and doesn't "blouse out" under the arms.

I've got a lovely piece of forest green linen that was meant to be used for a third smock, but I'm seriously tempted to try my hand at making a fitted, supportive kirtle, since I took a class at Lilies War (SCA) that taught me how to draft one. I also bought the Reconstructing History "14th century Sideless Surcote" pattern, though I think I'll need to buy more linen to make that. I had actually originally intended to make the fitted kirtle out of yellow linen and make a parti-colored surcote, like this, only out of blue and green -

Once I can get enough money to buy the linen, I think I'll try this. Stay tuned!