For those who've been following this, I've removed much of the detail of construction from this diary. This was in response to comments that the diary, whilst entertaining to read, was too complex to act as a beginners guide for new participants. I've written a new kirtle guide which details methodically how it should be done; this diary shows how I actually did it. Because the two documents are derived from the same source, there's some duplication, but I've tried to limit that as much as possible.
Okay, I 'fess up. Part of the reason for doing this is to jump on the Costume Diary bandwagon. I've been reading these things for years, and it's about time I started one myself. So, in the hopes it'll keep me on track, I'm planning to run this diary style, dating entries as I go.
25th March 2004
I am a fabricoholic. I am a firm believer in the adage, "She who dies with the most fabric wins." The fabric pile now fills five shelves in what is suppossed to be the library and, inspite of me spending hours sewing, shows no sign in getting any smaller. Starting a new project is normally kicked off by finding some pretty fabric, and this one is no exception. The wool spoke, and I responded...
The wool in question is a lovely soft tabby weave in a colour that can be best described as "cat sick yellow". (If the Tudors can call light red "lustie-gallant" then I don't see why I shouldn't be inventive, too). I've shown it with a couple of the linens I'm thinking of using for lining: a slightly olive green and a dairy-milk brown. The brown is eminently achievable with walnut - I've seen the dyers make it - but I'm slightly sceptical about how realistic the green is. At least, I'm sure it's doable, but whether it's achievable at a price my persona could afford is another matter. But I think I prefer the green. The yellow is bang on: the dyers have produced similar colours with weld on wool mordanted in an iron pot.
Complicating this is the amount of fabric. I bought all that was on the bolt - a scant two metres. I usually reckon three for a kirtle and sleeves, so this is tight. It's also got a very definate right side. I'm going to have to be very careful about how I cut this out, in order not to waste any fabric, and possibly use gored panels for the skirt in order to get more fullness there. Gored panels, by the way, are trapezoid shape - they have slanting sides so they're wider at the bottom than the top. Rosemary recommends making the skirt of your kirtle out of a long rectangle pleated onto the bodice, and that's certainly the easiest way, but I'm concerned if I do that with this little fabric I'll end up with too narrow a skirt. Hmmm. Decisions.
I also only have two metres of linen, and its narrower than the wool. So I'll be lining the bodice with something else and, if I still don't have enough, putting in a panel of something else at the back of the skirt. Matching sleeves are not going to be possible - not enough fabric. Besides, I like being able to mix and match sleeves, often in inappropriate or obnoxious colour combinations. I'm contemplating tomato red with these. The red, by the way, is rather more brick and rather less orange than the picture suggests. Although it was achieved with a happy hour with Dylon, I'm reasonably confident that it's just about doable with madder.
Normally I make my kirtles in two distinct stages: the bodice is made, finished and fitted and then, when I'm happy with it, the skirts are assembled and whip-stitched to it. I'm going to do that again. I am, however, going to do one thing differently. I've always boned my bodices with metal boning from John Lewis or with cable ties but I've been itching to try a corded bodice for a while now. Since I've finally found the cord I bought two years ago now seems as good a time as any. (It was lurking under the stairs. I'm sure I didn't put it there. I blame the cats in this). I've no idea how it'll work, and I'll be illustrating the way I normally do it, too. We'll see what happens.
The end result will be a front-opening kirtle, hopefully similar in shape to this snippet from Breugel's Hay Harvest.
A note: I normally hand-sew everything on the kirtle. In the interests of getting this online in time to be useful I'm going to be using the machine as much as I can. This is something of a learning experience for me: bear with me!Onto making the bodice.