Friday, January 23, 2015

Early 16th Century German - Landsknecht / Kampfrau Dress

Here's a post on an outfit I just finished for a new SCA member who lives a few hours away. She joined a few months ago and is going to Talon & Crescent War in February, and she needed some more garb, for that event and for the future as she hasn't yet learned to sew. I figured this dress would be able to see her through a couple years of events before she learns to make her own. She is wanting the kampfrau/landsknecht style, which I had never done before, so this was certainly new territory for me, bodice-wise.

This dress has a long history with me. When I first joined the SCA in 2008, I was set on never bothering to learn how to sew- my plan was to just pay professional costume seamstresses to custom-make me outfits. I didn't think I'd ever be capable of sewing anything other than a button! I came across a costume seamstress online, and she ended up making me several garments: two Tudor gowns, a fitted English overgown, and this dress- an English kirtle. I supplied the fabric, a light green cotton sateen, and she made it from my measurements. I probably wore this dress a total of five times, as it wasn't too long before I started sewing for myself. I sewed on the red velvet trim.

Fast forward a couple years. The dress has been sitting in my extra garb closet (for non-SCA costumes or stuff I don't wear anymore that needs a new home). I hear from the new SCA gal that she needs some costumes, so I try on the old kirtle (that was still in great shape as I had only worn it a few times) to see how it fits, as the gal is only 1 inch bigger than me in bust and waist. The original plan was that I would hem it for her (as she's 8 inches shorter than me) and send it as is. Well, there were some spots on the bodice that needed cleaning. I decide to throw the whole thing in the washing machine. Skirt and sleeves turn out clean, no problem. The bodice, however... shrunk, a lot. The pro seamstress who originally made it never prewashed any of the fabric. The canvas lining shrunk terribly, and the fashion fabric did not shrink, so the bodice was now an unusable disaster. Time to start over!

I made a totally new pattern for the bodice, using her measurements. I tried it on a bit during the process, just making it a tad loose for me, but shorter and with a smaller armscye.



Another new thing for me was trying the German rolled pleats which are commonly seen on the landsknecht and kampfrau garments. About two thirds of the skirt has rolled pleats, the front few is regular knife pleats. I love how they turned out!

The front fastens with ten little lacing rings. The trim is sewn on the front and then whipstitched to the inside of the bodice. The sleeves tie on with lacing rings and ribbon.

For the photos I added an English shirt, as the gal didn't need an underdress with this outfit, and all my smocks are low necks. So shirt is just for pictures!




 She also got a corded petticoat out of the deal! I had made myself a red corded petticoat a couple years back, and I never wore it, as the waistband was too thick. I took off the waistband and made a new one to her size, and added a hook and eye instead of the former button that was there. Plus it lost several inches in the hem length! One thing I did unusually for both the petticoat and the dress was in the hemming: instead of cutting off several inches from the skirt bottom, I detached the pleated fabric from the waistband and bodice, cut off inches from the top, and repleated it to the waistband and bodice. Not necessarily easier, but enabled me to clean up the pleats and re-do them.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Adventures in Dyeing: Part One - Silk Damask


 This is my first time dyeing any fabric. I purchased some silk damask on Ebay several months ago. The listing said it was "blush" and the picture looked kinda pink, so I went for it. Well when it arrived, it was very much the color of my skin, a beige-y peach. I waffled for a while about keeping it, knowing I would never use it for myself with its current color. No friends wanted it as they didn't like the color either. I decided I would give dyeing a try!

Here's what we started with. See how it matches my skin? Ick.

 I bought two packets of iDye from Dharma Trading, but only used one packet. I did the stove top method, as I have a front loading washing machine (which doesn't make dyeing easy), and our house is for sale so I'd rather not have a dyed pink washer.

I had 5.75 yards of fabric to dye. I probably should have cut it into multiple pieces but as I still don't know what I'm going to use the fabric for, I didn't want to cut it at all. I bought the biggest stock pot I could find at a thrift store as it would have ruined my cooking pots with dye. I prewashed the silk in the washer to remove any residue or dirt spots.

I (mostly) followed the directions on the dye packet. It was very tough stuffing all those yards into one pot. I could not turn the heat above low as I had to use my hands to force the fabric to stay underwater. I could not swish the fabric in the pot, only cram it in. This is a no-no and I don't plan to do this many yards at once again! I could only tolerate 15 minutes before my hands couldn't handle the heat any longer- it should have been 30 minutes in the dye but oh well.


I poured the dye water into our utility sink and tried to rinse the fabric, but there was just too much! After about ten minutes of rinsing, I gave up and threw it in the washing machine (which you are supposed to do anyways but I wanted to avoid using the washer at all). Then I dried it on low heat.


Here's what I ended up with! A dusky, carnation rose pink. It is a vast improvement over the beige-y peach but I had hoped for something brighter or more vivid. I have heard that the iDye can make muddy colors, but again, I only kept it in the pot half the recommended time.

I'm surprised it dyed so evenly! I was expecting a lot of splotches but there's only a teeny bit for the last half yard or so. Here it is right out of the dryer, all wrinkly.

After ironing, which took ages and ages...

The only thing that bums me out is that the silk no longer has any stiffness at all, no body. I haven't tried any starch yet, that'll happen when I decide on a project and start cutting. I think this fabric will now be more suited to something flowy, not a typical stiffened bodice project, as the silk is now just too soft for anything structured.

I have two more projects to dye- some wool gabardine for a cotehardie for my husband (from kelly green into hopefully very dark green), and then maybe my white 14th century kirtle into a light lavender.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Very nearly finished with the Blue Silk French Gown

Getting close on the blue silk gown! Skirt has been cartridge pleated and attached to the bodice. Made a placket to go underneath the back lacing to allow for stuffing my face at feast and still having the gown fit. I put it on my dress form to see how it all looks together with some accessories. I am still debating putting more trim on the bodice, but am leaning towards no more trim at the moment. Now I just have to hem it, which should be a bit more time consuming that usual as I have two skirt layers instead of one.

Sorry for the dark and fuzzy picture! I need a picture of the dress in the daylight. I'll probably do that when it's finished!
I am currently working on two commissions so this dress might have to wait to be finished for a wee bit. My commissions have to be done in exactly a month, and this dress will be first worn on March 21, so I think it'll work out well.