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Costume College 2017 — The Shawl from Hell

As part of my personal continuing education and need to keep my brain alive by learning new tricks, I’ve taken up knitting, and not just any knitting, hand-knitting lace.  Because I don’t have enough things to drive my insane.  Anyways, my neurologist signed off on the idea as being a good one and gave me her blessing to proceed.  And ultimate truth be told, I fell in love with all the knitty bits that Claire wore on Outlander and had to have them …and the only way to get them was knit them myself.  Fortunately, Lion Brand carries the official Outlander kits.

As my current skill level is slightly better than a novice, there is a whole lot that I simply do not know, thus making any project that’s beyond knitting the 4th doctor’s scarf is new and has a steep learning curve.  I’ve ripped it out at least 5 times now because it’s such a simple pattern, it’s easy to get confused.

mohair-shawlMy chosen project is a Lady’s Wrap circa 1961.  It’s to go with my lavender silk cocktail dress for the Friday evening cocktail party.  According to the lady from whom I acquired it from on Etsy: “This pattern is from Bear Brand and Fleisher Yarns Hand Knit Mohair Fashions Vol. 55, from 1961….”  I invite you to check out her Etsy shop: Vintage Knit Crochet.  There are lots of good things to recreate there.

The yarn in question is Patons Lace yarn and the color I’m using what they call “Plum Smoke.”  I got it at Joann’s, on sale, before I even knew what I wanted to make because I loved the soft heathery deep lavender color.  So when I decided what I was planning on making clothing wise, a wrap for a sleeveless lavender silk cocktail dress seemed natural.

I decided to take a break and write up a little something on this project before I go bonkers and rip it out yet another time.





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What the Dickens?

I’ve always wanted to go to a Dickens Festival and could never make it up to San Francisco to work let alone visit the annual event that is still put on by the same folks behind the original Renaissance Pleasure Faire.  I do not even remember how I found it — I may have been searching Steam Punk — but I found one that in held in Riverside, CA and in February.  Since it was only just a weekend event, I thought I might be able to get pastoral dispensation and work it, so I volunteered.  Then, I realized that I literally did not have a thing to wear, except for a pair of brown tights.

Here is my list:

My patterns are split between two companies: Past Patterns, whose patterns I’ve worked with before and will need to grade up a couple of sizes, and Laughing Moon Mercantile for the first time.  Their patterns go up to size 34, which is larger than I actually need.

Chemise: Past Patterns: # 717 — Tucked Chemise, circa 1850-1860, purchased via  I found some really awesome paisley eyelet fabric for the body at and some interesting eyelet trim from Korea on  The fabric washed up beautifully and is both delightfully semi-sheer and soft.

Petticoat and Drawers: Past Patterns: # 706 — Mid-19th Century Petticoat & Drawers, circa 1860-1870, purchased via  I found some very reasonably priced border eyelet fabric on in white for both and denim blue for the top petticoat.

Corset: Bijoux Pattern Co. (they’re a division of Laughing Moon Mercantile) Ladies’ Victorian Corset #1.  I picked this one because it’s got more seams and should be easier to make the necessary sizing adjustments.  I’m also going to make this in a light khaki-color 5.3 oz linen that I have in my stash.

Day Dress (wrapper style): Laughing Moon Mercantile 120# — Pleated Wrapper/ Word Dress.  I found a cream background reproduction print for it at

I also have a ballgown pattern and hoops and bustle pattern, but since I won’t be going to the ball, I won’t be making them for this go-round.

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Tudor kirtles and petticoats

Intro: The Tudor Tailor’s Patterns for Tudor kirtles and petticoats

I am still in the midst of writing my historical romance novel and have hit that crossroads where I have run out of original Renn Faire character story arc and the proverbial wall. So I decided, “Hey why not make yourself a costume and go to some local faire and be your female protagonist again and see where she takes go.”

So I’m going the Nottingham Festival …. in a month …from yesterday. It’s the last local faire until the spring and will tie in nicely with the timing of #NaNoWriMo which starts on 11/1. No pressure. Since time was of the essence, rather than draft my own patterns because I have to start from the ground up, I chose to go with The Tudor Tailor’s Tudor kirtles and petticoats pattern. I bought the pattern a couple of years ago and it’s been sitting around calling to me.

The fabric of choose is asphalt grey 5.3 ounce linen that I also acquired two years ago. The sleeves may or may not be made in either willow or natural linen, it depends on our capricious weather.

More to follow …

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Simplicity’s 2621 16th Century Underpinnings: Farthingale review

First of all, I want to give props to Simplicity, they’ve really stepped up their game over the past 15-20 years with their period patterns.  I’m sure it’s part whining from costumers like myself about inconsistencies and their marketing and R&D  people telling the higher ups about such sites as Reconstructing History and the plethora of period patterns.  Or then again, it could such be the success of The Tudors, which I have taken the first season to task here.

The pattern pieces are very, very close to those in Juan De Alcega’s Tailor’s Pattern Book 1589.  In fact, it’s close enough for me to never try to draft a farthingale from De Alcega’s book again.  I’d really prefer to use my own tried and true and Renn Faire tested pattern from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion, but time is of ye ole essence, so I’m making due with what I have readily on hand.

The only changes that I recommend making are:

  1. Make life easier on yourself and do not sew up both side seams until after you sew on the casing for your hoop wire unto the right side of the fabric, stopping about 2-1/2 inches from edges on both sides. [picture below]  After the hoop wire casings are sewn in place, then sew up the remaining seam, remembering to leave an opening as show on the pattern.Photo-0266
  2. Why do step #1? It is much easier to pull the hoop wire out and re-insert in for washing and Rennie worth their weight in um… well, they know that after a season of Faire farthingales need a good washing and unless you’ve used the plastic coated hoop wire and have some way to hang the silly thing up, it’s just a lot nicer to be able to throw it into the washer and dryer, I’m just saying.  (Also, now that I’ve used it, not a fan of the plastic coated hoop wire, too flimsy for anything other than lightweight fabric, which this is for.)
  3. Spacing: if you are planning to wear a heavy, jewel encrusted velvet Noble’s gown, you will want space your rows of hooping closer together.  I recommend 4 inches rather than the near 6 as laid out on the pattern.  Remember, more hoop wire, more stability and less likely your new farthingale will collapse under the weight of your gown.
  4. Cut your hoop wire about 12 inches longer that recommended on the pattern and either use use the little metal caps in the cut ends that are sold for this purpose or use the lazy girl’s choice of wrapping the edges with a piece of water proof bandage tape.  This will allow enough extra hoop wire for an overlap and it extra gives you something to garb a hold of when you are extracting said hoop wire for laundering and repair.
  5. Number your hoop wire.  After you’ve cut it, use a sharper (color of your choice) and on the back side write the row number on it.  it will make life so much easier, especially if you are doing this at 3 AM. [Yes, I speak with first-hand knowledge on this, so just trust me.]
  6. Pre-wash both your fabric and twill tape — cotton and linen both are notorious for shrinking more than you would suspect, and nothing is more frustrating than finding out something is now four inches too short (or too small) and there’s nothing that can be done about it.
  7. I suggest you use a 3/4 or 1 inch rather than the recommended 1/2 inch wide twill tape on the pattern envelope.  Again, nothing worse than having the odds stacked against you before you’ve even started threading the hoop wire through its casing.
  8. Also good a better quality fabric than the $1.99/yard muslin special.  For personal costumes, I have “re-purposed” solid colored bed sheets when I’ve up-sized our mattresses.  A good quality percale top sheet can take the abuse and still give you many years of use as the base for your farthingale.
  9. Let your farthingale hang overnight or a week if time (and environment) allows before hemming it putting the last hoop to allow the fabric to stretch itself out naturally. This way there are no surprise “growth spurts.”

Now, will I use this pattern again? Maybe, maybe not …I haven’t decided yet.

Would I recommend: surprisingly: Yes.  It will serve its country well.


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14th Century Commoners – part 1

The assignment: 14th Century peasant clothes for a “couple of guys who will be out digging in the dirt” for period piece.

I dug though my fabric archives (“stash”) and pulled out several pieces of unbleached 5.3 oz. linen and both large and small pieces of hunter green, reds and what I call mouse-brown, but if memory serves the retailer called it “tobacco.”   I also pulled out about 5 to 6 yards of a prewashed chocolate brown wool flannel and a 5 yard piece dark gray tweed that had flecks of blue, rust, taupe and tan; a piece of unwashed rust flannel and unwashed black flannel; some odds and ends of a light weight, bright  finally and prewashed “popinjay blue” wool crepey flannel.  [Yes, I really did have all of that my stash … and then some.]

Since time was of the essence, rather than draft my own patterns, I chose to go with a Reconstructing History pattern — RH004: 12th through 16th Century Peasant Man’s attire.   I’ve had the pleasure of working with this company several yeas ago and beta tested a couple of her early patterns.   I trust scholarship that goes into every pattern, although I have disagreements with construction instructions, but that’s probably more due to the fact that I almost exclusively use an industrial straight-stitch machine and avoid handwork where possible (well, these days anyways because of the carpal tunnel) and the charming and lovely Kass has put entire period ensembles together by hand, for which she has my never-ending admiration.

The Shirt: As this pattern covers the basics for 12th through 16th I chose the early shirt option, which has a modest center front and back gore.  The construction is fairly simple, and once you’ve made the first one and worked out how to assemble it, you can easily put one together in 3 to 5 hours.

Notes: If you choose to the tapered sleeve option, unless the gentleman who will be wearing it has smaller hands you will need to leave the bottom 3 inches of the sleeves open and use some type of closure (I used wooden beads and made loops with pearl cotton).  Make sure you transfer the marks before you start sewing; it will make it easier all around.  Attach the gore to the sleeve and sew the underarm seam (think set-in sleeve) and then sew the sleeve to the flat shirt rather than sewing the flat sleeve to the flat shirt pieces — much much easier.
The shirt and the tunic are essentially the same construction, the exception being gores.