31 October 2005


My cat, Figaro, is very ill and has lost a lot of blood for reasons as yet unknown.
I might be gone for a few days while I... God I don't know.


30 October 2005

Site Recognition and such like...

I found out tonight I'm listed on Festive Attyre (along with scores of other costume diaries) but the really great bit was when I realized my friend Guy finally updated his site to include his new leather Ramirez-inspired 'hunting costume'. Guy's a great... um... guy (sorry) and I am always happy to see him at fair. It annoys me that he lives down the coast a piece, so we only see one another at faire because there are so few fellows out there who can (or will) talk costuming with you.

Anyway, it's great garb, I've seen it and I highly recommend his site. He also did a great red silk Sir Walter Raliegh sort of court garb that has won a boatload of prizes.

There aren't enough male costumers out there, we have to stick together!

26 October 2005

Past projects...

At the moment I am working on some rather tedious handsewing which adds insult to injury by also being visually uninspiring. To wit: there's not much to talk about on the current project except that it proceeds apace. I should have the sleevelets all sewn up by the end of the day tomorrow (I had a lot of handsewing to do on the lining for them before I could finally sew them on) and then it's on to the buttons and buttonholes! Which should be more visually enlightening and require me to post some more photos...

In the meantime:
I thought you might be amused to see what else I get up to (costumewise) at the Washington Renaissance Fantasy Faire in Gig Harbor Washington this past season. Our guild is the village guild and I have assumed the role of guildmaster for the coming year, but in past years I was the masked fool Calabash.


I'm told this one looks a little sinister. Honest, that's
the guild songbook I'm holding and I'm singing.
I'm not plotting to overthrow the crown... honest!
The jerkin I'm wearing has been 'aged'. I made it from a jaquard
upholstery material and then beat it to heck with various
abrasives, including steel wool, wire brushes, sand paper
and then actual stones! Then I buried it for a couple
of days in the garden and dug it back up.
Now it's perfect!

Egad! Someone caught me without my mask on!
Lucky thing the camera didn't break!
I have a LOT of crap hanging from my belt in this picture!

Free Calabash! Free Calabash! Free Calabash for everyone!
Every morning I led the Queen's procession in chains and spent
the whole time running away and trying to convince patrons to
pick the lock while the Queen's Guards chase after me
and haul me back into line. It's a lot more fun than just
shouting 'Here comes the Queen, get out of the way!'

The quilted coat is the work of my beloved wife and is one of my
most prized pieces of garb. It's the length of a frock coat and swirls
nicely when I spin around, or roll down a hill,
or get tossed around by the guards or... or...

Why are the ale wenches always picking on me?
Seriously, I discovered that the mask scared small children.
Or it used to until I started hanging the braided green ribbons
out of one nostril. Now kids think Calabash is the coolest!
Face it, even Darth Vader wouldn't have been intimidating if he'd had a sniffle.
"LUKE! I am you (sniff, sniff, SNORT) your father!"

Incidentally, the burgundy doublet I'm wearing in
these shots was the one I made for when I was
Captain of the Queen's Guard. (The 'Scots Guard' we
protected the throne... or at least the cushions...) I'll try
to find some better shots of it. It was my first 'serious'
attempt at a doublet.

24 October 2005

Quilted Pucker...

This post had another title but I decided not to go there...

I have consulted numerous experts and decided to live with the wierd collar thing. Denise Helm, who is a gifted seamstress and a Regency Costumer who will soon be offering her own patterns for costumers of that period, pointed out "Depending on what extant doublets you are looking at ... the owner might really have had the same drag lines, or it could just be hard to tell with the quilting if the collar is separate or not. I know by looking at Victorian photographs, some of the strange lumpiness and bulges are what women really looked like - if they couldn't eliminate it then it explains why I can't now!"

She also beat me soundly about the head and shoulders with a sewing machine for cutting real cloth without at least two hundred muslin mockups under my belt.

Yes, well, this is the tip of the day for newbies... even experienced sewers can get too big for their... um, doublets. So anyway, my wife and Denise actually agree that the thing to do (and it is incidentally a period thing to do) is make the collar separate, including the chevron shape at the back and then ease it in, which will allow me to compensate for any dragging as it occurs.

So next post will be about fastening solutions...

20 October 2005

A teeny tiny snippet of art history

It occurs to me that I've neglected to fully explain where this design came from other than to mention that I 'noodled with it', that the subject wasn't really Venetian and that someone named Moroni painted it. If you're familiar with the painting, feel free to skip this post. If not, well, the noodling was all me, but the painting itself was executed by the mannerist painter Giovanni Batista Moroni around 1560. Allegedly the subject is the Duke of Albuqurque (as I said, not a Venetian) but Moroni, was Venetian.

I've always liked this painting, if for no other reason than the man looks so earnest and postively normal rather than like some religious icon in a dogma where nobility is worshipped as was so often the case in renaissane portraiture. If you click on the duke's name, it will take you to the "Art Unframed" site, where you can view hundreds of famous historical paintings and even have a copy made of the one that you fancy. I've never used their services beyond browsing, but the idea intrigues me as I've never developed the brushwork discipline necessary to paint in the mannerist style in order to copy the painting myself.

Great panes...

Disclaimer... If I dug though my old text books from art school I could probably come up with a better name for this feature than 'sleevelet'. But the books aren't in a convenient place at the moment, and I'm too lazy. Not to mention that in the big picture, nomenclature doesn't seem all that important at the moment. If anyone has a 'proper' term for it at their fingertips they can email it to me, but in the meantime I'm going to stick with 'paned sleevelet'

I finished the rows of straight chain stitches on the panes and I've assembled the sleevelets. Below is a pic of the cuff with the panes sewn into it before I turned it and tacked it down. The cuff piece has a arch to it, which is why I clipped the edges prior to turning as you can see.

The dark burgandy layer is the canvas I used to interline the pieces. Yes, I know, I said something heartfelt in a previous post about interfacing being easier than interlining. Keep in mind the other things I said about only using modern conveniences where I can get away with it. In this case I think that modern interfacing would make the lines too stiff and starched-looking. Since an interlining is essentially only attached where the stitches hold it, it can give pieces like the panes and cuff of my sleevelet structure without forcing them to hold thier shape to an almost starched extent.

Trimmed and turned. At the moment it's just pinned together to check the shape and see if adjustments need to be made before there are too many seams to pull.

This is the scrye where it will eventually be joined to the body of the doublet.

Since I've never made a sleeve treatment such as this one, I thought it meet that I should pin and pose, trying out the thing and making 99.9% sure I got it right before I actually sewed it on. The sleeves of the doublet will be laced on, because I prefer that method overall, but in the Moroni painting the jerkin I am copying looks like it's been sewn into the armscrye. This is unusual according to most of my reading, but the painting shows no visible signs of lacing or points holding the sleevelets in place, so neither will this jerkin - or the final one.

Note: I didn't have one of my usual 'renaissance shirts' handy, so I'm wearing a white dress shirt in these photos. It doesn't really matter because at this point I'm just testing the angle. The 'bulky armpit' tests will come later when it's tacked on a little more securely and I can get a real feel for how it will go. The nice thing about panes is that they can be moved to expand or contract around as much or as little thickness of fabric as I am likely to find going through that armhole anytime soon.

At Extension


Shoulder back

Shoulder profile

I'm pleased so far with the similarities with the jerkin in the painting. There is a small issue at the back of the neck, however. It is possible that partially quilting might not work in the long-run. The point where the quilting stops has a pucker that just won't go away. I'm still looking for solutions to this (other than quilting the whole damn thing, of course). Maybe some of that cheap ultra-flexible boning they sell at fabric stores or some broom straw or something... I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually.

No matter how many times you've done this, the course of sewing garb never runs completely smooth.

19 October 2005

Quilting addendum...

That which goes without saying is often that which most needs to be said. Or that's the gist of what my wife just said to me after reading last night's post. She rightly pointed out that while adding two inches all around before quilting is well and good, I neglected to mention that after quilting, you trim away a good deal of those extra inches to get your quilted piece back to the correct size for the pattern piece.

I guess she was picturing that oversite on my little blog here starting a wave of John Travolta Saturday Night Fever doublets made from white polyester with huge honkin' quilted butterfly collars.

"You can tell by the way I move and the way I walk,
I'm a renaissance man, and no time to..." Oh, forget it.

So yes, the Tip Of the Day is: Please trim away the excess after you're done quilting. Big collars are scary. Only you can prevent renaissance liesure suits!


18 October 2005

A short one...

Quick Update...
Sadly life is not all four-day weekends and garb-o-thons, so this one will be quick and not incoporate a great deal. Mainly I have been cleaning up my quilting and handsewing the back seams.

If you're quilting something add two inches on all sides to account for 'quilt shrink'.
or, better stated:
Consult your experts before you start.

My wife is an avid quilter so I'm lucky. I may not claim to be an expert, but I'll call her that with no hesitation. So my quilt consultatn is in the next room when I need to ask a quilting question that will save me a boatload of fabric and stitch-pulling headaches. Remember that, folks... two inches of what she calls 'Quilt Shrink' as the quilting stitches pull the fabric down into the 'ditches' and thereby cause the fabric to contract and appear to have shrunk. Which turns out to be functionally true.

Anyway, I also sewed the peplum on so the thing actually looks like a jerkin now. Here's a quick picture before I head off to bed...

Wise Spaniards

My friend Rachael sent me a card recently. On the cover it pretty much outlines my view of a perfect world in the words of what it calls an "old spanish proverb""

Las cosas claras y el chocolate espeso.
translation: 'Ideas should be clear and chocolate thick. '

Can't get much clearer than that.
Back in a bit with a real update... Scott

17 October 2005

Interlining and turning tips

Tips for new garbhounds...

TIP 1: On Interlining...
The best advice when you're interlining something that will be curved when you wear it is to pin it when it's curved to keep it from buckling. Keeping it draped over your thigh works well.

The second best piece of advice about interlining is... don't interline, interface. I know, it isn't period. It's also not out where anyone can see it. No one knows but you and your sewing machine and it gives you that smooth structured look you're seeking with less fuss.

Cut it out, line it up and (if it's the fusible variety) iron it on. It's that easy.

Whether you're interlining or interfacing, if you're working with a piece that needs to be turned later (sewn right sides together and then turned rightside out for a finished edge); cut off the corners before you iron it on, as seen here in this terribly out of focus photo...

Despite the poor picture quality (I'll try to get a better picture when I'm making the next one.) I hope you can still see what I mean. The tabbed-looking cuts on the outside curve are just as important to getting a smooth edge once it's turned right-side-out. Just about every book on sewing tells you to do this, and so do most commercial patterns. Very few of give a good example of why. Doing this gives you less bulk to contend with in the corners and helps stave off 'conical corner syndrome' as well as getting the fabric out of its own way. This will allow a graceful curve when all that waste you just cut divots out of is on the inside.

Oh! When I first started my math never seemed to turn out right and I always ended up with too many or too few tabs for the waist of my doublets. I'm still not sure why. Just measure the heck out of it and you'll waste less fabric. Or, as Norm Abrams from The New Yankee Workshop might say: "measure twice and cut once".

See? I told you this was a sewing site for men!


Well, in my excitement at trying a new - and more period looking - method of collaring a doublet (well, what would you call it?) I got carried away and sewed up the neckline on the two breast pieces prior to turning it. To wit, I had to go in and pull two seams. Unfortunately the cats distracted me (my story and I’m sticking to it) and I nipped the lining fabric with the seam ripper. D’oh! Too far to turn back now! I sewed up the rip with a nice satin stitch and decided it just added to the wear & tear aspect of what probably shouldn’t look like a new doublet anyway.

Isn’t it amazing how we rationalize these things?

So anyway, on to quilting the collar. I cut a double-thickness of Warm & Natural quilt batting using the pattern I showed awhile back and eased it, the lining and a band of trim that sticks out an even width all the way around into the existing collar 'stub'. It wasn't easy pinning all that thickness into place, but I prevailed.

This is what it looks like with all that pinned together…

With the quilting lines marked out in chalk…

And the quilted finished collar…


The machine quilting wasn't too terrible an experience. I think that some hand quilting might even be somewhere in my future, perhaps even trapunto ( which is quilting where you sew the quilt-lines first and then stuff them with fibers such as yarn ). We shall see how I feel once I've experimented a bit more with it.

Stay tuned for the next in my series of begginers tips!

16 October 2005

Cutting & some sewing done...

I have all of the cutting-out done now and I've progressed to piecing the thing together.

Looks like I'm making the "Bat Doublet" with it all laid out like that, doesn't it?

The body of the doublet is interlined and turned and I'm taking a break from the handsewing to do some minor embroidery work on the panes of the sleevelets. I know that doesn't make sense, but it works for me. Something about the... I don't know why it just does. I'm embroidering by hand. Hopefully that will appease anyone who is appalled by the amount of machine sewing I've talked about doing on this project.

Since this is to be a lower middle class outfit, I'm keeping it simple and straightforward. Just a run of chain stitching along the edges to define things. I've always been attracted to a monochromatic scheme for my embroidery. Subtle. It goes back to what I said about designing for texture.

Oh! And for the record, I did do a mockup of the paned sleevelets in muslin and some tapestry fabric scraps we had lying around. Good thing too. I went through a couple these trying to get the length right and the correct width for the panes. Sometimes you have to know when to break even your own rules. The mockups got chopped up so many times I didn't bother taking a picture of them.

So far, I'm pleased with the results, though.

15 October 2005

Beginner's Garb Tips

One of the reasons I decided to do this 'doublet Diary" was because when I got started there wasn't much out there geared toward gettign a fellow started. That included some of the basic stuff like pattern drafting and the like. So, I will periodically be posting "Tips O' The Moment" for the newbie garbmongers among us. The rest of you can skip these posts if you like or laugh at the way I do things.

Here's the facts... despite certain key similarities, we all tend to take slightly different paths to arrive at roughly the same destination. That is to say: This is how I do it, I'm not an expert, just experienced. Do it my way, don't do it my way, it's your choice. The success or failure of your sewing project is in your hands. I'll tell you my route to the summit but you have to climb the mountain yourself.

Enough metaphors! Let's sew!

TIP 1: That's not a big roll of toilet paper or a really small kitten. It's my eleven pound 6-month-old kitten Dusty illustrating the rough size of a roll of butcher paper I picked up at my local Costco warehouse store. If you don't have a Costco, go to Sam's Club or Pace or whatever. Odds are they sell this stuff by the roll. I think it cost me ten bucks two years ago. My wife & I both use it and we still have this much left. If you don't use it to light the woodstove or as a cat toy, it'll last you awhile.

Even if you are using a commercial pattern (and there are several good ones out there) don't cut out the flimsy tissue paper pattern that comes with it. Trace your pattern pieces on heavier paper (like butcher paper) and cut those out, saving your tissue pattern for the next time you want to make a garment and this time want an extra two inches on the left front piece or whatever. Everytime you alter your pattern from what it was, trace out a new one or you'll be sorry. Each minor alteration requires minute changes at other points that you may not be aware of until its too late to go back (ie after you've cut the expensive fabric.)

TIP 2: Which brings me to another point: "Do as I say, not as I do..."
I mentioned earlier being reckless and not doing a muslin for this project. I can get away with this because this will be the umpteenth doublet I've made. Even that's not really a good enough excuse, though, because even the most experienced tailor makes mistakes once in awhile. Even the pros rarely just sit down at the machine and wing it. I'm doing it anyway because the entire outfit is really a prototype for another outfit. I am confident enough in my abilities to anticipate problems and know that I have the MacGuyvering skill to roll with it and still turn out a suitably wearable garment. It's a gamble, but I feel pretty comfortable making it. Also, the mistakes are learning experiences and I have plenty to make before I put shears to velvet.

Don't do this until you're experienced enough to make the gamble with your eyes open. Fabric dollars add up fast and mistakes can be costly if you don't know how or can't correct them after the fact.

All that said, I advise making a complete mockup of your garment in muslin and trying it on before you cut even so much as the lining fabric. Better yet, make it out of scrap canvas in a weight and give similar to the final fabric you're going to be using.

If it's a doublet or slops, put it on, walk around in it. Do the things you think you're likely to need to do when you're wearing the final product. Can you reach? Stretch? Bend? Squat? Climb Stairs? Do jumpingjacks? Run a marathon? Fence? Swing from a chandelier? Quaff and ale? Fit your cuirass over the doublet? Fit your billowy shirtsleeve through the armhole?

Think of everthing this garment has to put up with and design and alter your design accordingly. You'll feel where it's tightening across the shoulders as you make a few parries and thrusts with your rapier. You'll notice the tightness and lack of give in the crotch as you try to bend down and pick up the cloak you threw across the puddle for your lady. If it's tight, loosen it and try again. Keep making alterations and new mockups until it feels wearable and you're sure the butt isn't going to tear out when you bend over. Then pull the seams and use that one as your final pattern.

HERE is a link to the Sempstress' website. She's great! This is where she explains in great detail how to make your pattern from scratch. I recommend this for your second doublet. Make the first one with a commercial pattern and wear it for awhile. Figure out what you want from it. Then go back and make it up from scratch.

Good luck!
Let me know how it turns out!

On patterns and planning...

It has occurred to me that these are my favorite set of juggling balls (pictured below)… My how those colors look familiar!

Hmmmmm, I wonder if subliminally I’m trying to cling to my “Fool” persona? Nah!

Anyway, I’m what a relative of mine calls a “mental sprinter”.
He’s a smart guy and even though he was talking about himself when he said that (honest!) he couldn’t have described my mental state better with regard to sewing. That is to day that once I get going on something I have to get it over with quickly or I’ll get tired of it and never finish. It's a nice way of saying I like to procrastinate the fun stuff. That’s why this one is going so fast. If I embroider it later, you can bet that part will slow down and take much longer because though I enjoy the effects achieved by embroidery, I find the actual execution of it to be pretty tedious.

I've been toying with the embellishment options. I rather like the effect of some of the late period doublets shown in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion, especially the ones with quilting and tabbed edgework. I've always accomplished the tabbing with bias strips in the past but Janet Arnold describes it in one passage as a silk piece that was folded and sewn into the seam and then slashed or clipped to add texture and visual interest.

Below is a small experiment in how to pull that off without using fray-check to keep it from ravelling.

before washing after washing

The cuts are made on the bias, which keeps them from fraying overmuch. The small amount of fuzziness looks okay to me and even adds interest and makes the doublet look less like I just made it (or will once I've made it if you catch my drift). I think I shall keep it simple and just use the cut trim around the collar, though I might use actual silk and do the whole collar and front of the jerkin or doublet on the final project if I can find something with a tight enough weave to resist fraying.

The other collar embellishment (if it can be called that) is the quilting. I want to do an entirely quilted doublet, but I have to wear the darn thing in August so it's a problematic costuming decision for me. To give myself the look and collar control of a quilted doublet, I have decided to quilt just the collar, which will hopefully be facilitated by making the back of the collar integral with the backpiece of the doublet pattern. The oddly shaped pattern piece above is for the quilt batting I shall be using, Warm & Natural two layers. The quilting will follow the chevron contour down the spine.

Hopefully it won't be too hot. I've never quilted anything before so we shall see.

The paned sleevelets have been giving me fits, but I think I have drafted a pattern that will make it work (shown above).

The pattern I use is an old one I drafted six years ago or so with the slight modifications I mentioned earlier. I've decided to be a little reckless and not do a muslin first since I've used the pattern so many times and the alterations I'm making in terms of button plaquette and collar are relatively minor. The skirting will also be longer than I usually go for so it can be belted over with my sword carrier.

Oh yeah! And...

Partly because I am deeply in-touch with my own fallability and partly because my wife is an engineer and she's rubbing off on me (ack! Dilbert cooties!) I will be prototyping this with a middle-class version of the same outfit. The doublet for the initial outfit shall be a mustard yellow with a rust jerkin in a heavy canvas. I will noodle with the pattern quite a bit, and use the canvas jerkin as my prototype for the pattern mods and the doublet as my beta test - so to speak.

Buttons will be the bead-buttons pictured here. (I love this image for some reason). I drove all over greater metropolitan Seattle looking for these so I'd have enough for the doublet and the jerkin! I'm using these because on the final garb I will be using pewter shank buttons cast from extant period examples that I bought online awhile back and have been waiting for an excuse to use. They attach much the same as these and are about the same size so any problems and/or solutions that occur with the beads should apply to the pewter ones.

Other alterations to the pattern I usually use will include:
- Collar will be integral to the back piece of the pattern
- A quilted collar ala Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion
- Overlapping front L over R to replace my usual buttonhole plaquette or lacing holes
- Some low-key embroidery just to get the feel for how best to decorate the final piece

Now... really I'm going to bed!

From the sketchbook to the sewing machine...

(Please note that even though I call this a "Doublet Diary" I will be recording every aspect of the costuming of this piece from head to toe. I now return you to your regularly scheduled Doublet Diary...)

I am about to embark on my most ambitious garb project to date. Hence the desire to document it. My wife & I have decided that we're tired of always being generic "Joe and Jane Elizabethan" so we're going to be branching out. When we are not actively participating in Guild activities with St Brigid's Hearth or if we're Playing Patron to scope our a new faire, we will be far fancier than our typical Elizabethan working class. My wife has caught the Courtesan Costuming Bug and I have have consented to squire her around in a new Italian-inspired creation of my own.

Before your start in on me, yes I know that Venice was independant of Italy and an Imperial power in her own might. Also, the portrait I was noodling with when I drew the sketch above isn't Venetian either, but the overall costuming is very much the flavor I am seeking. When asked, I shall tell folk that I have a Florentine tailor... or that I am the Venetian Trade Ambassador to wherever it is we are visiting. The thing to remember about costuming for Ren Faire (as opposed to other reenactment pursuits and groups) is that you can do anything you can get away with. I tell you good sir, I have traveled the continent and one cannot expect a single set of attire to see a gentleman on his way to... on my way to... where am I again?

That isn't to say I'll be out of period, just out of place. :O)

The planning for this actually began a couple of years ago, but I had a novel to write, a new house to move into and several perfectly suitable outfits for ren faire, so it was back-burnered until a few weeks ago when I began sketching ideas and toying with the original painting as above.

And - just because - new pic! No costume involved, just a snapshot my wife took on the ferry the other day. That's me, always with the nose stuck in a book or a needle stuck in my finger! (Ouch!)

The final outfit will be colored similarly to the colored pencil sketch above, using a much deeper wine red than I had a pencil handy to illustrate and a more muted sagey green than shown as well. The red doublet will be an embroidered open-weave linen and the jerkin a sage cotton velveteen.

I plan to use a pattern I am familiar with, which I drafted ages ago and works for me. One thing I won't be doing is getting into the how-to's of pattern drafting. At least not right away anyway. There are numerous sites dedicated to just that, I suggest Googling them.

More later... I need some sleep!


These truths i hold to be self-evident

There are five essential truths that I adhere to when creating garb for faire...

1. Good garb feels natural when you’re wearing it.
2. Good garb won’t kill you to wear in the August heat.
3. Good garb is garb you won’t hate putting on in the morning.
4. Good garb is just as durable as the other clothes in your closet.
5. Good garb weighs style against wearability and strikes a healthy balance.

Unlike many who perspire over visible handsewing and 100% period fabrics, I tend to focus more on the overall “feel” and the correct “look” of a garment. I use handsewing when I need to (usually only if it will be visible) and the machine when I can get away with it. I'll use interfacing if I can and interline when it calls for it. My fabric choices tend to be about cost, breathability and texture (in that order) and the cut of my clothes accentuate the need to be comfortable and able to move in them.

In my opinion that’s a Good Thing.

I've won a number of awards in contests judged by people who are self-appointed "garb police". I attain good results with my five little rules. I arrogate that you can too.

OH! And the best advice I can think of... Don't fret so damn much. This is supposed to be fun.
I believe that it’s more important to get the look and fit right than it is to be 100% period correct in terms of construction techniques and materials. Get the look right, get the thing to be comfortable. What good is garb that looks fabulous, is made of expensive period materials, and is as uncomfortable as the Iron Maiden? If you can't feed yourself, looking pretty won't do you any good. (We lose more nobles that way)

People lived in the stuff we're imitating here. The chased lovers, coddled children, fenced, swung from chandeliers, quaffed ales, guffawed hearty guffaws... and generally lived active lives in thier clothes... their garb. Sometimes I think we forget that in our blind pursuit of alleged 'period perfection'.

Attain the look. Make it wearable. Make it comfortable. Don't stay up nights worrying about it.
A thousand “Garb Nazis” just began gnashing their teeth as I wrote that, but it’s how I truly feel.

Oh! And stop that. It's bad for your teeth!