Tuesday, 1 March 2011


Having heard what the Tudor year is at Kentwell this year, I can now get on and make any new pieces of kit. These are: foresleeves, French hood, partlet and, of course, the forepart!

I went to my beloved silk shop in Sudbury to buy some silk for the forepart and sleeves and got some half price in the sale line. To save myself some money, my forepart this year is pieced - the silk is on show at the front, but the back of it is...cotton...yes I know this isn't authentic, but it saved me spending about £10 or so on linen. Because I have made a forepart before (for a different gown), it didn't take me long to make this one, hand sewn of course!
To fit over a farthingale, the forepart had to be at least 3 metres. I cut out 3 panels, one of silk and 2 of cotton. I sewed and neatened all the seams, but left a 10" gap in the CB seam so I can put it on when finished. I then pleated the forepart - one large box pleat at the CF and the lots of smaller ones for the rest to make it my waist measurement, I didn't actually measure the pleats just did it by eye! Once that was done, I sewed down the pleats and added a waistband.

Afterwards I hemmed the forepart - I took the length measurements from my other forepart to determine the length of the new one and it worked fine. The forepart is virtually complete, it just needs a guard sewn onto the bottom of the silk piece to protect it.

A bodice and cuffs

I have actually been very naughty by not updating my blog, but my excuse is uni work!

This blog is about the making of my C18th polonaise gown bodice (I made it in January!) and another set of hanging cuffs.
So, the bodice. The patterning of it can be seen on this blog post. A few days later I got round to making it - it took two days to hand sew it all together! My gown silk is of a red and orange stripe so I made sure, and did calculations to make sure the stripes would match when the pieces were sewn together as there are lots of them. When it was sewn together, it didn't quite match in some places, but on the whole it did so I was very pleased. I then made up the lining in the same way - I used some white cotton for this.
Once this was done, I placed the right sides of the lining and silk together and sewed around the edge leaving the centre fronts free. After this I clipped the curves and turned it the right way and ironed the seams flat. I then made a boning channel for either side of the front opening and inserted a synthetic whalebone in each. When this was done I sewed on some hook and eye tape, yes I know this is cheating, but it was a quick and simple method considering I hate sewing on hooks and eyes and trying to get it right! I also sewed on some silk covered buttons to the back when the ribbon loops will be hooked to create the scrunched up skirt. Then hey presto, the bodice was complete. I know the way I made it isn't the authentic way, but I couldn't get my head round how one is supposed to make it that way, so I made it my way!

I had also at this point cut out the panels for the skirt. If the silk was wide enough, I 'd only need one, but in my case, I had a large panel for the back and two smaller one for the front. I've sewn the panels together and neatened the seams - I made sure the selvedge was at the front so I didn't need to neaten them. I have also hemmed it and have pinked along the top edge, all ready for pleating and sewing into place.

As for the cuffs, I have started on another pair - these ones are for the polonaise gown and are made from a fine silk. The measurements are pretty much the same as the last pair of cuffs I made except this time I went all fancy I pinked and scalloped the bottom edge (going by the designs in Janet Arnold) and they have two layers. Having seen in a book, one on seventeenth and eighteenth century dress in detail (I can't remember the proper title!), I fell in love with the hanging cuffs with flowers on and wanted to make my own. I will one day embroider such cuffs, but at this point I don't have time and have gone for an alternative version. I used some narrow green ribbon and some red ribbon roses! These cuffs will be finished when I have some gown sleeves and will then know how much to gather. They will be finished in a similar fashion to my other hanging cuffs.

Tomorrow I am off to see a friend to do some more C18th based sewing. I am going to be fitted for some gown sleeves and hopefully together we can sort out the skirt too.