Monday, March 6, 2017

A baby's Kirtle (Historical sew Monthly February)

So after a brief rest, during which time I caught up on my knitting and mending, I'm back to historical costuming! I'm going to TRY to make all 12 challenges for the Historical Sew Monthly this year. I squeaked January (Firsts and Lasts) in by finishing off my flag fan for the Lady in White project. This months challenge "re-make, re-use, re-fashion" has so many possibilities. at first I thought about something for myself, but most of the projects I could come up with are WWII era and therefore out of the scope of the HSM. What ended up happening in the end, was I at the last minute decided to take Kitten to an event with me, and then realized that she hadn't anything seasonally appropriate to wear. While perusing my stash, I noticed a stack of my dad's old shirts and was instantly inspired by the color combo off a wool plaid and a blue silk twill. But there wasn't enough for the typical tunic style baby dress, as I'd already used the sleeves off the shirt for a previous project. My immediate thought was some pictures I'd seen recently on the elizabethan costuming group of women in laced kirtles with pinned on sleeves.... and I was off and running.
 I was inspired by images like this one by Peter Aertsen in the Kunstheistorisches Museum, vienna, Austria. which show women of the middling sort wearing laced gowns with pinned contrasting sleeves, and various types of partlet over a smock. Although the Aertsen painting is dated the first part of the 16th century, this combination seems to have held for a period spanning the end of the tudor era right through the elizabethan period, and spanned several different nationalities.

This painting by Vicenzo Campi (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan) is dated 1580, and shows a mother and her daughter wearing gowns in a similar style to the Aertsen painting, although the childs seems to be rear laced. There's either a high necked smock or a partlet of linen under the gown, visible at the neck. The girls gown seems to be back lacing, or possibly side lacing: we have examples of both in adult garments. While it would be ideal to work from an extant childs garment, you can extrapolate from existing adult models, as children's clothing were typically made much like their parent's in miniature during this time in history (indeed, we don't really see specific childrens garments until much well into the 18th century, 1)

I drafted a pattern for the bodice from the Girls Romantic Dress bodice, from sense and sensibility patterns, lengthening the waist, moving the side seam and re angling it to match period garments, and redrafting without the rear princess seam. I've made a bunch of dresses from this pattern, and knew  it would work, the armhole would fit, etc etc etc. I could also use the cap sleeve as a base point for the pinned sleeve and know it would be the right size proportionally to the armhole. I on purpose left the center back too long, long enough to overlap and button, so that I could tuck extra inside the dress, giving possible room for expansion later.

I first figured out what the most skirt I could get from the shirt was, maintaining plaid matching, and then fussed round to see if I could fit the bodice pieces on the leftovers. Behold I could, but there was no way to do it without a center front seam. At this point I decided to add some trim to the bodice , which turned out to be fortuitous since I was also unable to miss all the moth holes that caused this shirt to be retired from service in the first place. Attaching trim is always a slippery slope. I began with every intention of just sewing the trim on. Then, since I don't like visible machine topstitching, I decided to sew it on with silk buttonhole twist and a running stitch.... then  I decided it wouldn't be all that much work to just use a small decorative stitch.... and all the sudden I'm chain stitching all the trim down with silk buttonhole twist....

 I based the trim pattern on the geometric designs found in lot of existing paintings, and just angled it so as to cover up the moth holes. I had to do the last three pieces after I had lined and turned the piece, so I could accurately line them up with the neckline. I also ran out of blue and had to switch to green embroidery thread, but I think it turned out looking nice anyhow. I turned the back edges in, whipped them down, and worked eyelets down the lacing edge. I think I'm finally getting the hang of making the eyelets large enough to get an aiglet through. I use the awl to open the hole, then an lacquered chopstick to really enlarge it. I push the chopstick back and forth until it's fairly loose in the hole, then work a few large whipstitches in regular thread around the hole to hold the fibers back. After that it's fairly easy to work over it in buttonhole twist or embroidery thread and have it turn out a usable size.

I made up the skirt, hemmed it with a hem tape (which is fudging a little, but so practical) and cartridge pleated it onto the bodice, using 1/2 inch basting stitches. When doing small people gowns I always use carpet and upolstry thread (The heaviest I can find) and put an extra stitch in every few pleats. Little people invariably do things like trying to stand up with their foot on their hems etc etc etc and can rip out cartridge pleating amazingly easily. Probably a heavy waxed linen thread would be good for this purpose as well, but I tend to have the generic modern kind on hand. (silk buttonhole twist would be extremely strong, but you should never sew seams into wool with silk, it tends to wear the fibers out and then the seams tear. Which is disheartening.)

The pinned sleeves are just a standard long fitted sleeve with a little length and pointyness added to the top of the sleeve cap to give it room to overlap the shoulder strap without pulling the strap down. I finished the top of the cap with a scrap of bias tape turned in and stitched down. (visible top stitching, but I was running out of time!) and then hemmed the bottom with some extra growing room.

She wore the outfit over a small linen smock, cut like my husband's shirts, and worked out of scraps
of handkerchief linen left from making said shirts. The odd sized leftover bits turn out to be just the right size for tiny human smocks. I added a scrap of lace to the neck, and fastened the neckline with a hook and eye, since I dislike slobbered on chewed on neck ties.

The sleeves I fastened with elastic loops and small buttons. I'll replace the antique buttons I've got on now with either self fabric or thread buttons for a better look, but you can't see them at all under the sleeves for the moment. The elastic button loops are a small, invisible, modern practicality for wiggly busy little ones. You can get them much tighter around the buttons than thread loops, so little folks can't get them undone, and they're quicker and less fiddly to do up.

Finished! and ready for her to wear!

She's a moving target and hard to get pictures of, and by the time I got home from the event with her she was SO over tired that these are the best pictures of it on her I have!

 I still have a stack of shirts with moth holes and pants with the pockets worn out, so I was hoping to get a few more projects in this month, but everyone in the family got sick, so I was playing nurse mommy instead of sewing. I do plan to use those garments in upcoming children's outfits (everyone needs more clothes this year) so stay tuned.

1: History of children's costume, Elizabeth Ewing, Pg 25

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