Sunday, March 6, 2016

Adventures in Gown Construction: Tudor Tailor Kirtle

So let me first say, if you aren't familiar with Tudor Tailor, and you want to wear lovely clothes from the 1500's based on well researched, thoughtfully built and tested patterns do not stop, go to now! They have an etsy shop too, and I can't recommend their books enough. That said, they really aren't writing and creating patterns for beginners. I'm a better milliner than I am a sewer. The time it takes to create an entire gown, soup to nuts, is a little beyond my attention span. This dress took me over 4 weeks, I had to break it into small mini projects, as I only sew and make hats for 10-15 hours per week.

By the way, I did not receive any products from Tudor Tailor, or any one else. I purchased the books and patterns myself, and my opinion, is just that, my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

If you don't want to manually enlarge the patterns in the Tudor Tailor book, you can buy them enlarged and ready to use. I used the "Pattern for Women's Tudor Kirtles and Petticoats - Small Sizes by TheTudorTailor on Etsy" and there are excellent additional details in the Tudor Tailor book that really helped supplement the instructions in the pattern.

If you do want to transcribe the pattern, I like to get the large office easel paper with one inch grid and tape it together to make a larger piece if needed. Then think back to high school art class, where you copied a picture using a grid. It works well, it's just time consuming.

Here's the muslin bodice, with a canvas layer. The bones will be inserted into channels in the canvas, I used a heaven linen canvas, in fact, the whole dress is linen. It breaths, wicks moisture and is period appropriate.
The muslin became the interlining for the bodice, so no fabric wasted. I am applying the bias silk trimming before I sew all of the layers together

I got a bias tape maker to help, I have used this gadget way more than I thought I would! I use it frequently for making the bias opening for my Coif hats too. I loved this red silk taffeta so much, and it went so well with the fabric. I'll bet everyone reading this knows what happened when I threw this in the wash! Yep, I forgot to pre-wash my silk, it bled all over the dress! Don't worry, this story has a happy ending, lots of stain remover, about 6 re-washes and the bleeding was mostly gone. The red has also faded in a really nice, well worn way. But I don't recommend that approach for aging your garb!


You can very slightly see the boning through the linen. It doesn't show at all when I am wearing the dress. I took some liberties on how I assembled the bodice, deviating from the instructions in some things like the shoulder seams. By the way, I got this fantastic linen and silk from They specialize in fabrics for garb from medieval through Victorian. Bonus: they ship quickly and are great to work with, sending swatches on request and prompt email responses.

The skirt taking shape. Getting the trim lines to line up on the skirt was way harder than I planned.
And pleating. I ended up ripping out the pleats and changing them to cartridge pleats.
Putting skirt and bodice together. The skirt is fully lined with natural up dyed linen.
Oh, and of course I made a hat to go with it!
Linen on buckram. I blocked the crown in a dome shape popular in Enland in the late 1500's.
Pinning in the lining, after I put the feather trim on. Then hand sewed in the head size ribbon. I usually use black, but made an exception for this lovely peach linen.
My hair was really short, so I needed a coif to cover it.

All put together!

I tried it out at the Valhalla Renaissance Faire in South Lake Tahoe, Ca. I made my daughter a dress too, you can tell she had fun with it.


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Designing a Renaissance Fair Booth

So after a couple of years of etsy sales, I decided I wanted to have a booth at a Renaissance faire. After all, ren faire is what got me started on this whole crazy hat making journey. The thing is though, I can't take 6 or more weekends to work at the big faires. I have a job and an active toddler! Plus, I get tired. I mean there is only so many hours per year I want to spend strapped in to a steel boned kirtle.
So I picked a small, one weekend, local faire. After exhaustive reading and re-reading of the rules, year one I went with a 'tarted up' easy up. Basically all of the metal has to be covered, and the canopy has to be made from fabric, not nylon. I made a canvas cover for the top, which didn't fit quite right, but it wasn't bad either. Then my genius idea: all the metal bits would be covered with fabric covered foam. I would just glue it together. It worked great, but not for the reasons you might think. You see, my canopy was a little on the short side. And when that canvas got warm, it sagged like an elephant skin. So, my tent started to shrink inwards. And all of the lovely tall men and women in their tall hats had to awkwardly crouch to enter my humble hat shop. And when they tried to make their escape, they hit their heads on the sidewall of the easy up. Good thing it was well padded, because it was a bit like watching birds run into your window. You wave you arms and say "look out!" then, BAM and watch with guilt and horror as your prospective clients wave off your apologies and try to reorient themselves.
So yea. Taller tent needed. So I asked a lovely co-worker, at my 9-5 job, who is in SCA, what kinds of tents did he prefer. Now I am sure I could have asked other vendors, but many of them have clearly made their from scratch or had the same Ye Olde Folding Canopy that I did. Plus I'm and introvert and, well, I'd sometimes rather walk over hot coals than make friends with people just so I can get information from them. It just doesn't seem right, even though generally the other vendors, actors and guilds people were really really nice. So, Panther Primitives tent was my friends recommendation. Pricey, but handmade and worth it.
So I saved my pennies and bought a 10 x 10 center pole marquise tent. I have to say, it is probably the most beautiful tent I have ever seen. It even smelled good coming out of the box. Wow. And the side walls are 7 feet tall, no more hat strikes. Now, it takes real ropes and poles to hold it up, and I am really really glad I practiced putting it up in my backyard before the event.
So of course I had an awesome plan for table layout, and created a cool screen for a private area to stash a cooler, boxes and supplies. Once I got there and started setting it up, my plan went right out the window. The center pole made it difficult to set the tables up as I had planned.
My dad surprised me with a chair. Yup, he made it himself, it packs flat. It's a more medieval style, but I had people coming in to my booth just to sit in it. What an awesome gift!
The shelf loops from panther also worked really well, though I plan to either cut notches in the shelves or get narrower wood next year

I had lots of positive feedback from customers and faire participants on my booth. It worked quite well, and I have only a small wish list of things to change for next year. I may try a different table layout, and I could have used a better space for doing on the spot hat customization and trimming.