Dress Like a Peasant – Parte Ye Firste
Good heavens. What have I gotten myself into? I mean to say, Kass is the brains of the outfit; I’m just a strong back to do the heavy lifting. It’s been ages since I’ve made anything other than holes in my clothing. I’m considered a clothes horse more than anything; Kass makes it, I wear it, and that’s about the size of it. What on earth possessed me to want to make a completely new outfit? Under a deadline?
Hang on; I think I’ve begun somewhat in the middle. Let me rewind. My name is Bob, and you could fill a book with what I don’t know about historical clothing. Matter of fact, one could safely say I only know which end of a needle is which because I make them for Reconstructing History. Kass likes the needles, so I guess I’m doing it correctly; still, there it is.
Recently, admiring Kass’s work on the Catherine of Aragon outfit, I mused that I haven’t had anything new in a while myself. After thoughtfully placing a finely-crafted brass pin into the back of my hand, Kass opined that if I wanted new historical clothing I had better ****ed well get busy on my own hook.
I had to rethink my initial impressions a bit. I lack the requisite manly courage to tackle something complicated like Elizabethan nobleman’s attire. So no codpieces, no frills; in fact, nothing really fancy, girls. Sorry.
The best part is I don’t have to do weeks of research on something, because Kass has already done that. I chose something uncomplicated and accessible for my debut: RH004, 14th through 16th Century Peasant Man. But, gentle readers, those of you who really groove on research won’t be disappointed; while I haven’t had to do any new research, through the course of this project I’ll be revealing a few tidbits Kass has shared with me which you might find interesting. I certainly did!
There are options in RH004 which permit the user to choose between both temporal extremes and anywhere along the middle. I have a penchance for the later periods in history, with an emphasis on the late 16th and early 17th centuries. RH004 has options for 16th-century look, so I should be set, right? Thing is, I’ve got positively nothing before 1470. So I chose the 14th-century shirt construction.
The day began by looking at these funny sheets of paper in the pattern baggie. I have no real idea what they mean. They have a big word at the top of the page I don’t know. I think it’s spelled ‘Instrukshuns’. I tried to throw them away, because Real Men Don’t Need Instructions, but for some reason Kass got really rather peeved at that. Something about making sure even an idiot can understand the instructions. I got the impression she was making a value judgement. But I can’t really be sure.
Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, the pattern pieces were scissored out of the wonderful heavy paper Reconstructing History uses to print all of their lovely patterns.
The cut out pattern pieces are shown below. In the foreground are the smaller bits; the larger pieces in the background are the Leggings and Tunic/Shirt Body pieces. Eventually, they’ll all find their way to fabric, from whence they’ll be more useful. At the moment, some of them are just sitting there being pretty.
I had an epiphany when first contemplating this project: Why not work on the body linens first? Get the good old feet wet, so to speak.
That, children, is today’s project: Ye Olde Shirte.
For that I’ll need linen (of course) as well as tools and notions. Hey! This is a great opportunity to finally USE one of those bronze needles I’ve been making! I’ll also use some of the Bockens linen thread we started carrying last year. The tools are pictured at left. Clockwise from the scissors are a prototype bronze pincushion based on a Maryland find dated to the mid-17th century. In the pincushion is one of our Bronze Needles. Next is a Brass Thimble Ring, which may become necessary when my poor un callused fingertips start smarting. Finally there’s a spool of white Bockens 60/2 100% linen sewing thread. Not shown is the block of Beeswax I’ll use to coat the linen thread.
Now, just because I’m hand-sewing using historical implements, don’t think I’m some sort of hoity-toity authenticity fascist who looks down on machine-sewers. Far from it – I think that Singer is a code-name for Jaelzeebtplc!igg, Arch-demon of the Seventh Plane of Gehenna, because that bloody machine is POSSESSED. I made the choice that, rather than increase my blood pressure to the point it could inflate bicycle tires, I’ll quietly sew by hand in front of the Nick and Nora pictures we got from Netflix. Plus it gives me a chance to really get to know some of our products in a very intimate way (not necessarily by loss of blood, but who knows? Watching me sew is like watching a hockey match).
Enough time-wasting. Time to start cutting things out of linen. First, though, the Tailor’s Assistant showed she had a really difficult morning. Pity Mellie. She has such a difficult life.
Laying out was straightforward; the instructions (remember those?) were very clear.
Pieces that needed to be on the fold were placed on the fold, pieces that needed two or four were cunningly placed to maximize efficiency and minimize waste.
Still, I ended up with some extra linen scraps of considerable size; as they’re mostly rectangular, I can make them into nice linen napkins to pack in our picnic basket.
At left is the shirt body. The neck hole is facing you. There is a fold across the shoulders.
At right is the marking of the linen for some of the gores and the sleeves. This requires some care, as the sleeve can either be cut on the fold or in one piece. Since I had the linen folded for the Body, I just flipped paper around until I had things lined up correctly.
Kass is mighty cunning, too. The Gore pieces fit in the spaces not occupied by the Sleeves when the Sleeves are laid out along the grain of the fabric. I’m sure I could have saved more fabric than I did, but I just wanted to start cutting.
That’s when tragedy happened. During cutting, I accidentally pulled a Frodo and lost a finger. Scissors are sharp, kids; don’t rush your fabric cutting, and sure as hell don’t run with them! Forensic science hobbyists: Note the significant spatter pattern.
Nah. Just kidding! Made you look, though, didn’t I? Photoshop is Teh Tits.
Where was I? Oh, yeah – cutting things out.
At the same time I cut out the Shirt bits, I also cut out the Coif bits. Waste not, want not. I already have a bunch of coifs, but another won’t go amiss, and it’ll give me more practice before I move on to the stuff made out of sheep.
I must confess to being rather proud of myself. Not only did I figure out a fairly efficient way to cut my linen bits, I also figured out how to cunningly put marks on them so as to be able to cut the linen without cutting the paper pattern.
The Shirt Body piece has two cuts along the grain of the fabric: One at the neck, to make the keyhole neck thing happen, and another from hem to approximate crotch, in order to set the skirt Gores. The Instrukshuns say to cut to Point Whatever, but I couldn’t figure a way to do that without cutting the pattern. (Of course, it might have occurred to me to cut the **** pattern while it’s still atop the fabric, but that was a touch too obvious.) Then it came to me in a flash – stab the marker straight through the paper! Joy! I can haz idear!
Shirt Gores and Sleeves laid out with purple disappearing marker…and then cut out, ready to go.
You know, I really have to hand it to you people who do this all the time – sewing is hard work! My back and elbows are screaming, enough that it’s even difficult to type.
I suspect I know what that’s from, but first, let me show you something amusing: Me sewing.
First pic is waxing the thread. That’s my favorite part, because it smells of sweet beeswax and honey, one of my favorite aromas, bar none, evar.
The second is trying to get a tiny bit of linen thread installed in the needle. I’d rather be a fat man stuck in one than have to thread needles all day long; it’s really quite frustrating. I’m glad I had the option to not use the photo with my tongue hanging out in furious concentration; I’d never live it down.
Last action shot is me actually … [gasp] … sewing something. The world did not go out of skew on the treadle, no nuclear holocaust occured; but sewing did in fact take place without significant injury.
I didn’t even bleed on anything.
Here’s the pic, anyway, at left.
But, by the end of the day, I haz a shurt! Here I thought it’d be a couple of hours, tops, but I forgot the thing I suspect is making my joints scream: flat-felling. I got the thing stitched up, and Kass says, “Aren’t you going to flat-fell that?”
“What eez thees ‘flat-fell’ of which you speak of?”
She explained flat-felling and how important it is. If you don’t want your seams to shred themselves the first time you wash the shirt, you need to encase all the raw edges. Flat-felling accomplishes that quite well, it’s a historically-authentic method, and it’s great.
It just means sewing every seam. Again. Did I mention ‘twice’?
So I took all the live-long day to get it done. Almost. The skirt Gore seams still need to be flat-felled.
Here goes with the “Look at Me!” photos. First is the gores set into the skirt. Second is the collar. Last is the Big Kahuna in his new shirt!
Okay, you may have noticed that my left hand is behind my back. That’s because I can’t get my hand through the wrist, because I goofed and made it too small. And the skirt gores need to be flat-felled. And and and…
But I haz shurt! Wheeeeeee!
Next up: Coif and (possibly) Hood. Stay tuned!