Summer events 2018

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It sure was a rather busy spring and summer for us!  Let us have a brief recap…

  1. Medieval Wedding

The end of spring  started with a medieval wedding of two friends – I made some of their finery and Lucas  ( Timelight Photographic) was their official tog – for both the prewedding photoshoot and for the big day as well 🙂

I was attending an equestrian event in Devon earlier on that day, but fiished early, packed up and drove to the venue in dorset just in time for a lovely evening with the newlyweds:-)

 

2. Peterborough Heritage Festival

This is our regular event, as I was  yet again portraying Catherine of Aragon, whereas Lucas was the Old Scarlett gravedigger on one day and the HIghwayman on the other. We also did a very busy school day on Friday –  kids do ask the best questions, never boring!

The weather was well, like most of the summer, scorchingly hot, but somehow we managed in our wools and silks -the natral fabrics do breathe well and covering the scin from the direct sun has a trememdous impact! as was keeping to the shade…

and a few images from John Moore Photography…

and the ‘after hours’ feels….

3. Huntingtonshire HIstory Festival

This was a cracking mid 17th century event in the centre of the town – outside displays, battle drills etc, Cromwell’s Museum tours, as well as individual displays. I was demonstrating  lacemaking techniques, and Lucas was talking about medicinal practices of the era. We were based in a lovely courtroom – and it was just a few steps to the adjoining room where the public could witness a proper trial of  the folks accuses of siding with the roualists… lots of fun! (for details check the Cromwell Museum )

It was just a one day event, but a very busy one – we wre both hoars from talking by the end!

during the day…

and a short video of the plaited bobbin lace 🙂

 

4.Milton Keynes : Victorian Weekend  at the MK Museum

Again,  this is our regular event where I display a variety of clothing from the era, both originals and replicas,

There is a lot going on at the museum – soldier display,  tea with Queen V, sidesaddle show,  Dickens telling stories… lots. you can see it all well captures in Timelight Photographic album here-

5. Tudor Joust at the Hampton Court

An amazing spectacle  organised jointly by Griffin HIstorical and Past Pleasures, with  international jousters. Great fun, despite the heat, and a great privilage to be invited too!

Again, proper media coverage by Photosm – here  – below a couple of images of us 🙂

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And a few  behind the scenes, taken during the rample around the palace

Including a bit of a ‘glide’ practice i always fancied having a go at 🙂 not as tricky as it looks, simply a lot of tiny, fast steps. Though a rumba  might work just as well 🙂

 

6. St. Neots History Festival

Another regular one – this year it was a multi-period event with a lot of things going on –  craft demos, suffragets, barbers, quacks and philosophers ( Lucas as Newton included),  entertainment and kids games.

 

 

I was talking about the history of the sidesaddle and  many a delighted child got to sit on my trusty old Mayhew:-). Lots of folks seems realy surprised at the construction details and could finally understand why we dont fall off that easily – the pommels give us a good purchase! 🙂

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Next summer is already looking just as busy – if you fancy hiring us, the full list of what we can do is here  🙂

Hampton Court filming for the BBC

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Back  in the autumn we were doing a few filming jobs – a couple of days for Horrible Histories ( not released yet, I think) and  a bit for the BBC – filming the procession in Hampton Court.

 

There were close to 100 people in the procession and the task of sorting out the costumes was managed, very aptly, by Ninya Perry  ( Tudor Tailor – rings a bell? 🙂 ) and her team.   She talks about sourcing the costumes in her feature for the BBC here. It was a mammoth job, but the results were stunning!

 

Apart from the volunteers there was also a cluster of re-enactors, usually wearing their own kit ) I was wearing my old Tudor frockage in cream silk brocade and silk kirtle,all handstitched ( more on than and how to make your own here) – and I must say it is with the relief that I realized that I actually still fitted into it! I had a role of the train bearer – so following Lady Mary like a shadow…..

 

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Lucas was one of the canopy bearers, and Darren from the Tudor Roses, whose outfits  i made as well,  had  a prominent role too, looking resplendent in his new clothes of red wool – and he  was kind enough to hire out  the previous outfit I made him, in black wool.

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The filming was – well , regular thing, comparing with other experience it was actually very well organized – yes, there was sitting around and waiting,  and yes, we were repeating the same scene a few times, but mostly the work progressed smoothly – and it was a pleasure to actually meet  David Starkey, whom I have always greatly admired.

In short – it was a good 8 hours work, but in good company, doing useful things – and we were fed well too 🙂

And the finished  programme can be seen d=for the next few weeks on Iplayer –

A Night at Hampton Court

and a few behind the scene photos below:-) enjoy the feature, lots of interesting things there!

 

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feeding time

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lots of gable hoods!

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Lady Mary and her lady in waiting gossiping…

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caught sneaking out…

 

How to make French Hoods

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French hoods, the bejewelled headpieces of the Tudor era, seem to be one of the most mysterious and difficult to recreate items – a real challenge for any Tudor re-enactor wanting to portray an upper class persona. Throughout the last few decades a number of patterns and a number of ideas has been employed to recreate the look – some more successful than the others, some less. The main problems lies in the lack of evidence other than pictorial one – to my knowledge, not one of the headdresses we now call French hoods has survived to our times. There are surviving examples of the wire base used for the gable hoods, but not a single one that would cast some illuminating light on the construction of the French ones.  The only way then, it seems, is to rely on the portraits and accounts of the era, which, though immensely helpful, seem to be insufficient to resolve the burning issue once and for all – how  were the things made and how they stayed on the heads!

In the present article I will briefly discuss the origins or the history of the hoods and then proceed to show how Prior Attire hoods are made.   I do not pretend to come up with the pattern I have been using, and a full credit is given to the ones who did, nor will I claim that the method we employ is the best ever – I am confident it is only one of many, and it just happens that it has worked best for me and my customers. The purpose of the article is to show, step by step, how to achieve the creation – and for that you may want to buy the commercial pattern, as it will help you a great deal, but it is by no means necessary.

In my career I have come across several different solutions to the problem, and indeed a few of them seem to be working just fine. The two most popular for the last two years have been the following:

  1. All elements ( coif, paste, veil, crescent) are separate and are pinned together on the wearer’s head –  and the method has been discussed in great detail in an excellent article by another costumier, Sarah Lorraine (http://yourwardrobeunlockd.com/articles/historicalperiods/medievalrenaissance/280-reconstructing-the-french-hood-by-sarah-lorraine) )
  2. The Tudor Tailor’s way – the elements are stitched together in a sturdy headdress – with a few items being removable as needs be (coif, bongrace, separate billiment). The idea is not new, as I managed to dig out the references to it in an earlier publication by Denise Dreher, but is now enjoying a well deserved revival.

I believe that in the 16th century there wasn’t just one pattern for the hood – ladies were making do with different arrangements, striving to achieve the fashionable look by a variety of means and no doubt women across the world are doing the same nowadays. For me the latter way really worked as a way of making a headdress that is historically correct, easy to wear, looks good and most importantly, stays on my head.

 

 The genesis of the French hood.

It is becoming more and more evident how the English, or gable hood evolved on the UK, transforming from the open hoods into bonnets with paste and frontlets, and then in the most iconic form known from the portraits of  Jane Seymour or  the More family.

Similarly, it is possible to trace the evolution of the French hood – though it must be noted that its origins seem to be developed on the continent rather than in England.   Although they derive from the same ancestor, an open hood worn in the last decades of the 15th century, the evolution took the headdress two separate ways. In England, the front of the hood became stiffened, and started to fold in the middle over the forehead, creating a point (style also worn with some hennins). With further stiffening and additional decoration of the brim, the gable shape started to emerge – first with the long frontlet, laying on a stiffened and decorated paste, then with the paste shortened, frontlets folded back and pinned to the crown and divided veils.

Charles d'Angoulême et Louise de Savoie jouant aux échecs

Charles d’Angoulême et Louise de Savoie jouant aux échecs

On the continent, the hood was also changing at the time, but the emphasis was on the roundness – the stiffened and decorated part of the hood followed the shape of the head, eliminating any possibility of the rectangular shape of the English bonnet.  The beginnings can be seen in the portraits of Anne of Brittany or even Katherine of Aragon, who, contrary to common misconception, did wear the early version of the French hood as well.

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Katherine of Aragon, Michael Sittow,

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  Anne of Brittany, Jean Perreal

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Margaret aged ten by Jean Hey,

 With time, various elements were added and new styles were developed – ornaments and basic shapes of the crescent changed, the veil changed through the decades and the hairstyles changed as well – but the most recognizable style of the French hood seems to have persevered through many decades, starting as a simple hood and transforming into one of the most complex headdresses.

Materials:

Buckram (linen or hessian) 0.5m

Wire – 2m

White linen – 1m

Veil – black velvet or satin, 0.5m

Silk for the paste and the crescent, can be the same colour, can be different. Silk taffetas, satins and velvets work best. The most common colours were white, black, tawny-gold, though reds and colours coordinated with the gown were also in evidence. You will need very little; 0.5m for both in the same colour is ample.

Silk organza – a thin strip (fine linen also works)

Linen and silk threads

Ornaments – freshwater pearls,  lass beads, metal beads, gems –   depends on style.

Thimble, pliers, wire cutters, different size needles, including a curved one

A scrap of silk velvet or wool for cushioning the inside of the paste.

A bit of cardboard for mock up

Pattern:

I used an adapted pattern from the Tudor tailor book. The pattern is available in hard copy http://www.tudortailor.com/patternshop.shtml

 Method

It is a good idea to make a mock up of the pattern in cardboard or stiff paper – just to see how it lies on your head. The paste part is the most important as it provides the base for the whole construction. It should sit on your head snugly, with the front parts resting just below your cheekbones, and the back ‘wings’ cradling your head. Remember to make sure your hair is coiled in a bun or a plaited into one at the top back of your head- it provides additional support for the hood. If your hair is short, it is worthwhile to get a basic plait extension – coiled and pinned, it will do the job just as well. Depending on the shape of your head that should be sufficient to keep the hood on very securely. For very heavy hoods with lots of bling on them, I find I need to pin them just over the ears as well.

Experiment with the mock up till you find the best fit and adapt your pattern accordingly.

  1. Cut out the pattern shapes for the paste and the crescent in buckram. No seam allowances are necessary.

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The paste cut out.

 

  1. Cut out the pieces : in linen – 2 of each, with an inch seam allowance all around; in silk, 1 of each, with the same seam allowance
  2. Put the fabric pieces aside for the time being- the buckram pieces need to be wired first.
  3. Cut a length of wire – should be enough to go all around the paste, with a little overlap. Sew on the wire to the edge of the buckram – you can do it by hand, with a strong linen thread, or on a machine. If using the machine, set it to a wide zig-zag stitch and sew, slowly and carefully, making sure the needle goes down on both sides of the wire, and not into it. Do not hasten the process– it will most likely result in broken needles…

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  1. As you near any corner, use the pliers to bend the wire around it.

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Paste with the wire sewn on by a machine

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And the crescent with the wire

  1. Pin the back ends of the paste together and try it on. You will most likely notice that the buckram squashes your ears or at least feels unpleasant – take note of the areas and mark them on the buckram – they are the places that will need some cushioning to make the hood comfortable to wear.
  2. Cur small rectangles of wool or velvet – any thick and smooth fabric will work well. Fold it and stitch it to the inside of the buckram where your ears will be.

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The ‘ear protectors’ stitched in to the inside of the paste

  1. You are now ready to cover the outside of the paste with linen. Pin the linen layer to the paste, folding the seam allowances over onto the inside. Stitch around, keeping the fabric taut and secure – remember that it will not be seen as the silk layer will go over it, but if your silk is thin, try to keep your stitches small so that they do not show through it.

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The paste covered with linen

  1. Once the linen base is in place, you can cover the outside with your fashion fabric – it can be silk taffeta, velvet or satin. Again, fold the seam allowances under and stitch carefully, ensuring the fabric lies smooth on the curved surfaces and that the corners are well defined.

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Paste covered with black velvet

 

  1. Next step – pleated frill. You can skip it if you plan to wear a coif with a frill. If your coif has plain edges, you can add the pleated strip to the hood.
  2. Cut a length or organza (utilising the selvage, if you can – if not, you will need to hem it) and pleat it in even knife or small box pleats, securing each pleat with a pin.

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Once you have enough to fill in the front of the hood, secure the pleats with a simple stitch, pin the trip onto the ironing board and set it with steam. Do test the fabric first to see if you can iron it – if yes, go ahead, if no, just steam.

  1. Pin the strip to the inside of the paste, so that only about half an inch extends beyond the paste. Sew it onto to paste, at the back, and carefully, at the front, making sure you catch the fabric folded under but not going all the way through all the layers.

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Frill pinned and stitched on

  1. Leave the paste aside for the time being – it is easier to line it later on, once the crescent is attached.

Time to work on the crescent.

  1. Cover the outside of the wired crescent first with linen, and then with your fashion fabric, just like you did with the paste.

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Crescent covered – outside view

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And inside

If you plan to decorate the crescent by sewing the ornamentation directly, do it now.

Decoration options: you can stitch each individual bead and pearl directly – useful particularly if you are planning a more elaborate decoration option. Alternatively, if your embellishment is just a single row, you can string all of the beads etc on one thread, and then simply stitch between them, securing the string onto the crescent.

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Once the decoration is attached, line the crescent with the other piece of linen. Pin the piece around and stitch carefully so that it doesn’t peek from the underside

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Stitching the lining to the crescent

 You are now ready to tackle the most difficult task of all: attaching the crescent onto the paste,

If you have vice, it may come useful, but a spare pair of hands or long pins could do the job just as well.

Mark the centre points on both paste and crescent. Pin them together, and continue pinning at the sides so that the crescent is in position.

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Crescent pinned

Sew with needle (curved ones are best for the purpose) threaded with strong thread, catching both items. It helps if you first place a few strong stitches at both sides of the crescent – hidden by the decoration, they will not be seam, but they will go through all the layers of the crescent and the paste. They are the main anchor. Continue along the edge of the crescent, catching the crescent’s fabrics and going through the paste, the stitches will show a bit – but you can cover them later with more decoration.

Using normal needle – and a curved one, below

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  1. The two pieces are now in place – so the worst part is done! You can now decorate the paste with your choice of embellishment –braid, pearls etc.

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Pearls sewn onto the paste, covering the stitches.

  1. Line the paste with the last bit of linen.  The stitching will have to be careful and require some dexterity since the shape of the hood is now slowly emerging and you have to deal with concave and convex surfaces – again, a vice or a third hand can be useful. Pin the lining in first:

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Then sew with small stitches

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Lined hood

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  1. Time to connect the back ends of the hood; pin them first, so that they overlap a bit, and try the hood on. Again, remember to arrange your hair as described previously.   Make any necessary arrangements until the hood feels secure.  Once satisfied, take it off and sew with strong thread, connecting the two parts. Since you will be going through all the layers doubled, you will need a thicker and stronger needle, and possibly pliers too, to help you draw the needle through.

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Trying the hood on

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Last bit – the veil.

Cut the veil in silk satin, silk velvet or taffeta. Sew the back seam and hem the edges.

Pin the veil to the hood – mark the centre top first and pin that first, then pin the sides onto the crescent. Where the crescent merges with the paste, pin the veil onto the past, so that it goes smoothly in one circle.

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Pinning the bottom centres together

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Hood pinned

 Sew with small stitches – again, a bit of manual acrobatics will be necessary, but it can be done – with experience you will work out which way of holding the hood works for you. Again, a curved needle is a blessing!

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Sewing the veil on…

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And the hood is ready!

Optional: if you plan to sew the crescent billiment onto a separate base, you can do it as the last step.

Cut a narrow strip of buckram, mirroring the shape of the upper edge of the crescent. Wire it, cover with lining and fashion fabric just like the other items before. Attach any decoration and pin the billiment onto the hood – it can sit on the top of the veil too. Attach the billiment.

Hood in silk velvet with a separate billiment:

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Other examples of hoods:

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Silk taffeta base and crescent, silk satin veil, freshwater pearls and metal beads decoration on the upper billiment, gold metal braid on the lower

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 Silk satin base and crescent, freshwater pearl and garnet beads decoration, silk satin veil

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Silk velvet base and taffeta crescent, satin veil, freshwater pearls and gold braid decoration

your turn now! :-0

And if you need a gown to go with these –  How to make a Tudor Gown, and Katherine of Aragon gown…

Bibliography

Boucher, François. A History of Costume in the West, Thames & Hudson; Enlarged edition (23 Sep 1996)

Mikhaila, Ninya and Malcolm-Davies, Jane. The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing sixteenth–century dress. London: Batsford, 2006.

Caroline Johnson,  The Queen’s servants, Fat Goose Press, 2011

Hayward, Maria. Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII. Leeds: Maney, 2007.


 

 References:

 

Boucher François,  A history of Costume in the West, Thames & Hudson; Enlarged edition edition (23 Sep 1996)

Denise Dreher, Fromm the Neck up; An illustrated guide to hat making, Madhatter Press

Mikhaila, Ninya and Malcolm-Davies, Jane. The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing sixteenth–century dress. London: Batsford, 2006.

Caroline Johnson,  The Queen’s servants, Fat Goose Press, 2011

Hayward, Maria. Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII. Leeds: Maney, 2007.

Medieval & Renaissance

1-Sarah Lorraine, “A Lady’s French Hood”, Mode Historique, 2002.

Katherine of Aragon gown 2014

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Since I was to be back in Peterborough this June, representing this much beloved queen, I needed a new frock.  I have been their Katherine for the last 3 years or so ( more of that here), and my kit needed an upgrade. the upgrade had been planned from the  last year or so anyway ( and fund were being assigned from the project over that year too) – but alas our garage fire changed the plans a bit. 18 metres of black silk velvet I had secured from the gown was damaged in the fire – bits were still usable but not good enough for the gown – but ok for a kirtle 🙂

Below  find a short pictorial story of piecing the outfit together, as well as links to the providers – and since I am always asked how much the outfit would cost –  I specified the cost of individual items as well – the raw materials and labour-)

 

1. Smock- in linen, hand stitched.  Each piece was hemmed first , then the pieces were assembled using silk yarn and openwork seams shown in Patterns Of Fashion 4.

linen – 1.5m, Material cost – £30, labour – £100

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pieces of the smock hemmed and prepared for assembly

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Kirtle  ( I already had a good silk petticoat, so could skip that step 🙂

fabrics – silk velvet ( 6m – around  £120), silk satin – left over; buckram – 1m ( £10);silk taffeta for lining – 6m – £150 ( I used 2 different colours – making use of odds and pieces i had available),calico for intelining – 5m, £20 pearls and braid for decoration – £40; reed – £5

labour cost – £200

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kirtle bodice insides – ready for boning with reed

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bodice bones, covering the outside with silk satin

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bodice covered , decorative bands of velvet attached, eyelets worked with silk thread

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pearls attached, metallic braid next…

 

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the skirts are interlined with calico, lined and bound with velvet…

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kirtle worn – here at the end of a long, sweaty day – pray excuse my hair escaping the headgear…

 

Gown:

fabrics – royal purple metallic damask , 10m – I was lucky to get it second hand, at £50 per metre – normally the price is about double, if not treble that ( Watts&co)

lining – silk taffeta  8m ( James Hare, @ £25 a metre) – I used 2 remnant lots, peacock blue and gold

purple silk taffeta for forebodice and binding – 1m – £25

calico for interlining – 6m – £25

rabbit pelt for the cuffs – £150

labour – £350

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bodice pieces cut of, paired with interlining – yellow silk for lining

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adjusting the fit…

 

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the shell ready – eyelets worked, all ready for setting in the sleeves

 

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preparing the fur – cutting it outside to avoid the mess inside! 🙂

 

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sleeve ready…

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sleeve showing off the turn back

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innards – all ready for attaching the skirts.

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binding the skirts with silk taffeta

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skirts pleated – in front knife pleats, at the back 8 large cartridge pleats. here ready to be attached to the bodice

 

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the cartridge pleats are stuffed with long ‘sausages’ made out of the velvet remnants – here stitched at the top, read to be secured in place. they fill in the cartridge pleats nicely, giving a nice shape – and make sitting on harder surfaces pleasant – like carrying your own cushion with you!

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all ready, the forbodies lace under the placard ( pinned on)

3.  forseleeves

fabric –  gold metallic brocade ( 1m), silk taffeta lining – 1m, calico interlining,  decoration – estimated – £60

labour – £80

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half way there….

 

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ready!

 

girdle –  brocade fabric, tassels from Gina Barret. material cost – £130, labour – £20

 

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Partlet – linen, with blackwork worked by Embroidery Emporium – £150

 

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cuffs – also blackwork by EE – £150

bonnet – made on the paste I have used before, with a silk velvet veil, and a variety of frontlets – I have made 2 frontlets for this gown, the gold brocade ( and left it unpinned, in the earlier style)l and one in 2 brocades, purple and gold, and pinned the lappets to the side of the bonnet – an early  rendition of the gable hood.

material cost – £60,

labour – £100

 

shoes – by Pilgrim Shoes, slashed, with silk pulling outs – £70

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hose/stockings – I had 2 pairs, one by Quartemasterie, one by Sally Pointer – approx £20

Jewellery;

a lovely Piece by Gemmeus  £300,

other pearl necklaces and rings – £80

 

and the end product….

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Peterborough Heritage

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chilling out with my lady in waiting ( wearing a my previous Katherine outfit)

 

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Peterborough Heritage

Peterborough Heritage

and with the hubby ( well, Thomas More)…

 

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and the royal hubby – Ian from Black Knight Historical

 

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and a funky one – look, am hovering! 🙂

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the final costing…

 

smock  – 130; kirtle – £550; gown £1200; sleeves – £160; girdle – £160; cuffs and partlet – £300; shoes – £70; bonnet – £160; bling – £380, hose – £20; brass pins for pinning things – £30

 

total – £3230…  ouch…

Admittedly,  I don’t charge myself labour – but  obviously if I am working on my own stuff, i am not working on commissions that bring the revenue – so still counts as it creates a dent in my budget – making this outfit took about 10 days.   The materials were collected and saved for  over the last year – I am not a particularly wealthy person, so there is no way I would be able to afford such a frock all at once… I doubt I would be able to afford it now, if it weren’t a part of my job….

Needless to say, I do not plan another Tudor frock for myself in the next few years….. or a decade maybe…

 

photography of the finished product – Pitcheresque Imagery and John D.Grant.  More photos of the even itself soon!

 

 

Tudor Kirtle and Gown

 

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How to Make a Tudor Kirtle and a Gown

a bit of a warning – this post is a  rehash of the article i wrote some years ago and includes old photos etc –  so the photo quality is not the best, alas. also, since most of the gowns were made some time back ( 7, 5 years ago or more) when i was starting, they are not flawless, and I admit I have learnt a lot since then. nevertheless, the basics  remained the same, and i thought that the post may be useful before i can update it ( and since a rather posh frock is being made in June, there will be more info  then…. 🙂 )

 

With the Tudors recently enjoying such popularity, the demand for Tudor clothing has been high – after all, the clothes are very flattering for all figures and the period fabric are simply sumptuous. As a result, I have been working on several Tudor projects in the last few years and have repeatedly been asked for hints and advice on making the garments.  In this article I will discuss the making of a kirtle and a gown suitable for a Henrician lady at around 1530 – 40.

 

The garments of the period were complex and a lady would be wearing the following layers:

A smock (chemise),

Hose and shoes,

A petticoat,

A kirtle,

A gown,

False undersleeves (foresleeves),

Girdle,

Headdress (a French or English hood, or a coif and a flat cap)

Optional – a farthingale: a hoop skirt in linen or in silks, with rope, reeds or cane hoops

Partlet – either a linen neckerchief, often decorated with embroidery, or made in silks, wool and sometimes fur (particularly for later styles).

 

I will concentrate mainly on the instructions how to make a bodiced kirtle and a trained gown, specifying fabrics and techniques used, and presenting the process step by step using illustrations to show the details.

I will also briefly discuss sleeves, cuffs and girdles, and the detailed instructions how to make a gable and a French hood will be covered in a separate article.

 

 The kirtle

 Materials:

4-6m of silk taffeta for top fabric (good quality wool can be used for middle/upper class attire; silks for higher classes, including damasks and jacquards.

2m of silk velvet for borders, front and guard (ignore if your top fabric is sufficiently decorative in itself)

4 m of linen for lining (thin wool and silk can also be used)

0.5m of linen for interlining the bodice

Reeds for boning the bodice

Metal braid or gems for decoration

4m of narrow braid

Linen and silk threads

The Pattern

 The patterns shown in The Tudor Tailor book and sold online (http://www.tudortailor.com/patternshop.shtml ) work very well, though adjustments will be necessary for different types of figure – I always make a mock up to check the fit.

The Method

Cut the pattern pieces for the bodice in calico.

For fuller figures, it often helps to cut the front piece in buckram or even stiff paper to see how the stiffened front will look, however, to get the best results, bone your mock up as you would the kirtle.

Stitch the pieces together and try on. Adjust if necessary and mark the changes on your pattern.

Cut the front piece in linen – 2 layers.

Baste the layers together and mark the boning channels. You can follow the channel layout presented in The Tudor Tailor

Or make all the channels vertical – often works better for fuller figures

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vertical boning on another kirtle bodice

Sew the channels – either by machine or by hand (small running stitch or backstitch work best).

Baste the back pieces of the calico mock up to the front piece.

Stitch a readymade lacing strip to the back pieces- it is only a temporary measure used for the fitting.

Insert boning and try the bodice on, carefully checking if the boning is of correct length, and mark the position of the shoulder straps on the front piece.

If everything fits well, take the bodice off; remove the lacing strips and the boning. You can use the mock up pieces as an interlining.

Cut the pieces in top fabric and lining.

Lay the top fabric on the boned front piece and baste it together.

Place the back pieces (top fabric plus interlining) on the front piece, right sides together and sew. You should now have all the bodice pieces together.

If you plan to bone the back pieces to make lacing more durable, do it now.

Secure the shoulder strips to the front piece.

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boned foundation for the kirtle bodice – handstitched

If your neckline is gaping, sew a narrow bias cut tape or strip of fabric around the neckline, stitch it down and insert a narrow braid. When pulled tighter, the braid will pull the neckline closer (see The Tudor Tailor for details).

This step is not always necessary, on some figures the kirtle top sits nicely and snug without the additional incentive!

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bodice covered in silk taffeta and you can just see the channel for the drawstring…

If you plan to use a more decorative fabric to border the neckline, do it now. Simply cut pieces of fabric and stitch carefully to the neckline.

You can now add any decoration or jewels. You can stitch them onto the decorative border or simply on the top fabric.

 

Lining: stitch the back pieces to the front piece in the same way as you did the top fabric.

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decorative velvet pieces stitched on

Pin the lining into the bodice, and stitch around the edges using a slip stitch – make sure the lining covers any stitches from applying the decoration. Do not stitch the lining to the bottom of the bodice, but pin it slightly up, out of the way.

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lining stitched inside

 

Work the eyelets at the back – use an awl and take care not to damage the fabric. Work the eyelets in linen or strong silk thread.

 The skirts

The skirts can be either even or trained. If you plan to wear your kirtle over a farthingale, make sure you measure for the kirtle on the farthingale – it will need to be longer! It is always a good idea to make the skirts voluminous and long enough to be worn on a farthingale – it is easier to make one that can be adaptable to both styles.

Cut out your pieces in top fabric and lining.   If you are using more decorative fabric on the front and hem of the skirts, you will need to piece them first. It is advisable to interline the front panel – especially if your fabrics are light.

Stitch the top fabric pieces together to form one layer. Leave a small opening at the back seam – or at the side seams if your bodice is side laced!

Do the same for lining, then insert the lining into the skirt and baste the layers together at the top.

Arrange the pleats, pinning them firmly in place and pin the skirt to the bodice. Try it on, wearing a farthingale if you plan to wear one.

 

Re- arrange the pleats if necessary. Take the kirtle off, place the skirts right side together to the bodice and sew. Alternatively it is possible to sew the skirt only to the boned interlining – then the top fabric can be couched on top – on option for those who like handstitching )

Be careful not to stitch the point at the front to the end – leave a small gap and finish it off later by hand, making sure the point is sharp and lies flat.

Fold the bodice lining over the seam and sew.

The bottom of the skirts can be either bound or unbound.

For unbound finish, simply fold the top fabric under and hem, and then attach the lining with a slip stitch.

For a bound finish, cut diagonal tapes of fabric or appropriate width – the binding or the guard, can be wider, as it protects the fabric of the skirt proper from damage and dirt. If the binding gets dirty and tattered in time, it can be removed and a new one sewn on.

Bind the skirts, carefully enclosing the edges – the process is discussed in more detail when we focus on the binding of the gown skirts.

 

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knife pleats of the skirts, attached to the bodice and additionally secured with top stitching.

Your kirtle is now ready.

Kirtle worn without the farthingale – this kirtle is entirely hand-stitched

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Kirtle worn on a farthingale, and below, others without farthingales

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The gown

Materials:

8-9m of top fabric:  silk damask, brocade, cloth of gold, tinsel, silk velvet, satin or taffeta are appropriate

The amount of fabric will depend on how wide your fabric is, how voluminous you want the skirts, how big the sleeves and how long a train, if any, you want your gown to have.

8-9m or calico for interlining

8-9m of lining (lower grade silk, taffeta, fur)

2-3 m of lining fabric for turn back sleeves, if you plan a more decorative finish – fur, velvet or different colour silk works well.

Fabric strips for binding the skirts

Reeds for boning the forepart

Silk and linen thread

Method

As always cut the bodice pieces in calico only first. Baste together and try them on the kirtle. Adjust if necessary.

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trying on a mock up in calico

Cut the bodice pieces in top fabric, interlining and lining. If you are working with slippery fabrics like silk velvet, it is a good idea to cut the interlining first and then the top fabric, pinning the interlining pieces to the left side of the velvet. If your fabric has a pattern, be careful to match it, if possible!

 

Pin or baste the top fabric and interlining together.

Start building your bodice from the back.

Place the two back pieces right sides together and sew. If  you are sewing by hand, backstitch works best – then fold  the seam allowance twice, hiding the edges, and couch them down to the interlining. Whether sewing by hand or by machine, press the seams carefully.

Repeat the steps for all the back and side pieces.

 

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top fabric and underlining

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hand stitching done, awaiting pressing

The pieces in the very front, the forebodies, can be cut in a cheaper fabric as they will be completely hidden by the placard. Work on them first, before attaching them to the rest of the bodice.

Cut them in lining, interlining and top fabric.

Pin the interlining to the top fabric.

Place the top fabric and lining right sides together and sew at the centre front line.

Turn out and sew the boning channels.

Fold the upper edges to the inside and stitch carefully.

Bone the forebodies, and work eyelets.

Attach the forebodies to the main bodice.

Fold the neckline edges in, and stitch using a silk or linen thread

Try the bodice on to make sure it fits correctly.

 Sleeves

Cut the sleeves in top fabric, lining and interlining.  You may have to piece the sleeve if you don’t have enough decorative fabric to cover the entire sleeve.

 

Top fabric and calico interlining

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Decorative sleeve lining, made out of 4 pieces.

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Baste or pin the top fabric and interlining together, fold and sew with right sides together.

Turn right side out, fold the hem and stitch, securing the edge.

Press the seams – for the curved seams use a tailoring ham.

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Pin the sleeve into the armhole and sew.

Tidy the edges and notch the seam – it will work better and the seam will lay correctly, without stretching the fabric too much.

Notched seam in the armhole

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A hand worked seam seen from outside

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Repeat the same steps for the lining, starting with the back and side pieces of the bodice and then inserting the sleeves.

Set the lining into the bodice, sewing with a slip stitch.

For an earlier style, you can bind the edges in contrasting fabric – it works especially well for the bodice with ties.

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Finish the sleeves as well – slipstitching the lining top the folded hems of the sleeves.

Your bodice is now ready. Do try it on the kirtle again, making sure that the waist line is in correct place and that the sleeves lie correctly.

A bodice of the gown over a kirtle in gold.

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The skirts

Making of the skirts is very similar to the kirtle skirts.

Cut the pieces in top fabric, interlining and lining.

Baste the interlining and top fabric pieces together, and sew – it is often easier to start with the back pieces.

Repeat for the lining.

Place the lining right sides together, on the top fabric. Pin at the top and sew.

Turn over and press the seams. Fold again, this time left sides together and press.

If necessary, sew with a running stitch at the edge, just to make sure the edge is firm and even.

At that stage, especially if you are using silk velvet, hang your skirts for a few hours, allowing the fabrics to stretch.

If you are finishing the skirts without binding, fold the top fabric and stitch it down.

Pin in the skirts on a dummy, on the farthingale, if you plan to use one and check if the hem is even, and pin the lining to the top fabric, making sure the lining is not too long and does not sag below the hem.

Fold the edge of the lining and slip stitch. It is actually easier to do that while the skirts are still on the dummy!

If you are binding the skirts, there is no need to hem the top layer.

Simply pin the three layers together at the bottom – again, working on the dummy makes it easier.

Take the skirts of and lay it on a flat surface. Tidy the edges.

 

Pin your binding fabric onto the skirts; the pins should go through all three layers.

 

Sew along the edge all around the skirt’s hem.

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Tidy the edges so that they are even.

 

 

Unfold the binding and press.

Bring the binding over the hem, fold it and pin, so that it completely encloses the edges.Image

Slipstitch with a matching thread.

Your hem is now bound!

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You can repeat the same steps on the front edges of the open skirts – here, since the line is straight and not curved as in the case of the trained skirt, the binding cut on the straight grain, not on the bias, works better.

All you need to do now is to pleat the skirts and attach them to the bodice.

You can use either box pleats or cartridge pleats, or combination of knife and cartridge pleats.

For box pleats, more suitable for the earlier gowns with closed front, simply arrange the pleats, pin together and sew together.

 

You can also stuff the pleats with woolen waddling, a technique described in The Queen’s Servants book.

It provided the back of the skirts with more volume, achieving the fashionable look depicted in the famous Holbain sketch.

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Alternatively, for open fronted gowns, a mixture of knife and cartridge pleats works better.   Arrange the front parts of the skirts into a few deep knife pleats, and leave the back section to be pleated into large cartridge pleats there.  Before stitching the pleats, try the pleated skirts on the dummy – with the farthingale, making sure that they fall gracefully.

Skirts with pinned pleats – the first knife pleats work better on farthingale if they are deep.

Place the bodice and pleated skirts right sides together, and whipstitch them together.Image

Back cartridge pleats whipped to the bodice – inside and outside view

 

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All that remains for the gown to be ready is a placard.

Cut the pieces in interlining (2 layers, light buckram works well, plus one layer of linen or calico if your top fabric is flimsy), lining and top fabric.

Place the two layers of interlining together and run a channel for a bone at the centre front. It always work well to run bigger channels  across the whole width of the placard as this will stiffen the fabrics even more , even if you do not place the boning inside.

Place the buckram layers on the left side of the fop fabric (with interlining if necessary).

Fold the top fabric edged down and stitch, securing it to the base.

Line the placard with the last piece.

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Finished placard with a decorative jewel

The placard will be pinned to the bodice using pins – a method evident from a few portraits from the era, the most famous one being the one of Jane Seymour, by Hans Holbein.

 

Pinning the bodice works well as it is possible to adapt the size of the gown with the lacing and removable placard – important for example in case of pregnancy. It is a painful and lengthy process however, often requiring the help of a maid, and many re-enactors and actors often resort to sewing one side of the placard to the bodice and pinning only one side.

Alternatively, it is possible to discard the pins altogether and used hooks and eyes – but that method obviously does not allow for size fluctuations!

The gown is now ready, but it still needs accessories.

  The false sleeves (foresleeves)

Fabric:

1m of top fabric, and lining

A piece of white linen for puffing-outs

Gems, ouches and other decorative items

Linen tapes or braid for attaching the sleeves to the gown.

There are excellent instructions on how to make the sleeves to be found online, again, curtsey of The Tudor Tailor.

here...

 

I used the very same method to create mine – with ouches and pearls

Attach the ties to the sleeves, and to the inside of the gown’s sleeves.

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For a complete look you will also need cuffs.  Cuffs can be a part of a smock, but can also be made separately so that they can be changed and washed separately from the smock. They were often embroidered with blackwork or redwork.

They can close with buttons, hooks and eyes or can just be pinned together. These were embroidered with black silks by Embroidery Emporium.

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Embroidered cuff, open

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Cuff pinned close

 

Girdle

 All you need is a length of fabric- taffeta, velvet or satin.

Fold the fabric in half, lengthwise, right sides together, and sew.

Turn right sides out; secure the ends by folding them in and stitching.

You can tie a knot at the ends, sew tassels or hang a pomander.

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Add hose and shoes

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And a French or English hood and you are ready!

A gown in silk/linen brocade, worn on a farthingale, French hood. ( the whole outfit is entirely hand-stitched)

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Other gowns created using the same methods:

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Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard interpreters wearing French gowns, one in silk velvet, worn without a farthingale, the other is silk damask on a farthingale. Gable and French hoods. ( Black Knight Historical event)

 

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 The damask gown, side view, and the velvet gown side view below

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  Gown in cloth of silver, worn without a farthingale, and with a farthingale, below


 

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shamelessly flashing my layers – including a silk taffeta petticoat… love the woolen stockings from Sally Pointer btw…

Bibliography

 

Boucher, François. A History of Costume in the West, Thames & Hudson; Enlarged edition (23 Sep 1996)

Mikhaila, Ninya and Malcolm-Davies, Jane. The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing sixteenth–century dress. London: Batsford, 2006.

Caroline Johnson,  The Queen’s servants, Fat Goose Press, 2011

Hayward, Maria. Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII. Leeds: Maney, 2007.

The Renaissance Tailor: recreating the 16th and 17th century clothing : http://www.renaissancetailor.com [Accessed 27/01/2012]

Elizabethan Costume Page, http://www.elizabethancostume.net/  [Accessed29/01/2012]

 

 

Useful links to suppliers mentioned in the post, or providing decoration/fabric etc  used in the creation of the gowns

The Tudor Tailor

Sally Pointer ( lovely stockings!)

Gina Barrett ( spectacular tassels)

Embroidery Emporium

 Pilgrim shoes

jewellery Gemmeus

and my own page for the costumes shown here…. Prior Attire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Managing big projects

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 Have you ever spent a night diligently sewing away till dawn so that the costume could be worn the next day?  Have you realized a day before the event that there is no way you can hand stitch as much as you wanted and you’d have to cut corners and trust to your sewing machine to speed the process up? Or maybe discovered that you forgot to buy that lining or trim and you need it for tomorrow?  If any of that sounds familiar (and to be honest I do not know of a costumier who would not have been in this kind of situation at least once in their life…), then read on – this article is aimed at the time-management issue that most of us struggle with.

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sewing the night away…

 I have spent many a night stitching well into the small hours when costuming was a hobby and I mostly was sewing for myself. Then it didn’t really matter too much that one or two things were not completed on time, and safety pins saved the garment on the day. True, it would have been nice to be more rested at the event, but last minute frantic stitching was all part of the fun, after all.

 It is different however, when you start making clothes for other people, especially if you are being paid for it. Then it is other people depending upon you, your skill and its outcome; if you do not manage to deliver the item on time, as finished goods of immaculate quality, it is not only the other people that suffer the consequences – your reputation suffers as well.

 And that really clinches it – when your livelihood depends on your reputation, you cannot ignore the time factor. Your creations may be of outstanding beauty and quality, but if you fail to produce them within the agreed deadline, you will find fewer and fewer people will place their orders, and their trust in you. I have had more than a few clients coming to me complaining that they have placed orders with other costumiers, have paid, and are still waiting for the outcome – in one case  the seamstress was 2 years behind her deadline, and that was considered more or less normal. I was puzzled at first, but after some market research I understood the reason.

 In the last few decades there have been very few established historical dressmakers in the UK, and people did not have a great deal of choice – they would go to a well known company and if that meant they had to wait for months, or years, for their quality garment, they did – there was simply no other option. And the dressmakers, knowing that, felt secure and grew complacent.

 However, recently there has been a surge of newcomers to the business of historical dressmaking – talented people who knew they need to get an edge in order to survive; they needed to provide quality services and quality products for their businesses to be noticed – and to thrive.  And that competition factor has changed the dynamics of the UK professional dressmaking scene situation completely.

Don’t get me wrong – competition is not a bad thing in business. It drives progress and improves quality of everybody’s produce and service – if a business cannot keep up with it, they will disappear. But it also means that lots of businesses have had to re-think their strategy and improve.  Some did – and as their work standards rose, their businesses soared. Some didn’t – they either went out of business, or still exist thanks only to a few loyal customers – surviving, but not thriving and expanding.

 In this article I will endeavour to provide some advice how to manage your time better; whether you use the time freed for your private pursuits or for working on more projects, it is up to you! Although I am writing with professionals in mind, especially those dealing with bigger orders, I do hope that the advice I am able to give will also be helpful to all of you who treat sewing as a hobby and do not have to meet imposed deadlines.

 Whereas it is not too much of a problem to improve your time management when working on small, individual projects, the moment I went ‘pro’ changed things a lot. When I first started my business it was easy to plan as I did have quite a lot of time available, and since I was costuming part-time, I took on only the commissions I wanted, and worked at a leisurely pace. When I went full-time, I realised that in order to stay afloat and to expand, I needed to improve my timing.  I managed to get out of the procrastination habit within a few months, (well, almost completely, I do sometimes enjoy a bit of a good old bout of procrastination), and soon candle-lit sewing and finishing garments mere seconds before the deadline became things of the past (almost…)

 However it is the bigger orders that have been the most difficult to manage, and the learning curve here was steep. My first big project was my wedding gown and my bridal party, comprising outfits for 2 bridesmaids, 1 matron of honour and my mother in law, all bedecked in late Victorian finery .   I didn’t really do too well on that, as I was stitching lace to my veil the day before the wedding, and the final work was completed at about midnight before the wedding – and not without my bridesmaids’ help!

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the Bridal party, all ready on the day.

 My next two big commissions were a bit better – I was making 4 complete sets of Elizabethan and Tudor clothing for children – and a commission that should have taken me perhaps 3 weeks took 5 for the first order and just over 4 for the next one. 

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 It was an improvement, but not enough – I needed to get my act together and identify the factors that were slowing me down. My next big order worked much better – and I will be using mostly the examples from that to show how to manage your time efficiently.

 My order was for a set of 12 early 16th cent robes, (‘rock’ or ‘wappenrock’ – the inspoiration board: http://pinterest.com/priorattire/german-garb-early-16th-century/ ), in the German style, with headwear, plus two Durer gowns. The contract was signed in January, the event was in the south of Germany at the end of August. Loads of time! The deposit was paid in February, fabrics bought in March, so now I could relax till August, you might think.  Taught by bitter  past experiences, I decided to manage this one better – so that everything would be done on time – more, in fact – with time to spare.   And with just a few slight changes, it was done – I finished the last plumed cap the day before the event and even had time to make my own German beret to fit in with the crowd when we delivered the order and spent a day  at the tournament. Not only that – I actively enjoyed making all the gear in a stress-free and relaxed way – a win on both fronts!

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all tarted up in the new beret:-)

The client in his new attire at the event –

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 The work in progress and some tournament pictures can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151023619121693.422290.140313531692&type=3

  and a post on the event – here

 And so, there we go…

  • Plan.  Not just in your head, but on paper/screen.
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planning …

Write down all the things you need for a particular costume/set, down to the last set of hooks and eyes, the last point and aiglet ( I forgot the last ones and was very lucky when they arrived with just a couple of days to spare…  Have all the components ready, ideally before you start.

  • Run a trial.  Not always possible, but if you are making a few similar garments, make one and time it – from drawing the pattern, cutting the fabric down to the last stitch and iron
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timing … each phase of making a coat is measured

I was lucky – one of the coats and one dress were needed in May so I could use them as examples. Once you have timed how long it takes, allow for mistakes, coffee breaks, admin, procrastination (it doesn’t hurt if you have 20min of Facebook browsing allowed for… 🙂 , and add at least an hour for the unexpected.  Once you have a figure, you will be able to plan how long it will take you to finish all the remaining items.  I worked out that it would take approximately a day to make 1 coat in this case.

  • Be prepared for the unexpected – think of all that can go wrong and assume that “Murphy ‘s Law” will apply. Have a contingency plan in case your machine breaks down, you get ill, you have a family emergency, or whatever. If you have friends who live nearby and can be on standby with their equipment or just able to help, have a chat with them and inquire if they might be able to lend their machine or give you a hand if needed. Most likely it won’t be necessary, but it will give you an amazing sense of calm and security! If you can afford it – buy a second machine. Even if it is an absolutely basic, cheap model, as long as it can do a straight stitch, you are covered. Stock up on machine needles and threads so that you don’t need to waste time going to the shops when you run out of blue thread… 
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hardware at the ready

  •  Also allow for the things going wrong at the customer’s end.  The Durer dresses for ladies were made with remote fitting options – I got the measurements, sent the toiles, and then the ladies were supposed to send back the toiles with any corrections and email the pictures. In the case of the first dress I waited quite some time for the return of the toile as they forgot they had to post it….  so do factor things like that in, and be prepared to chase your clients up- they have to understand that fittings, remote or in person are necessary and their delay may mean the delay in completing the order.

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the toile took its time – but in the end it was all done ahead of schedule:-)

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another Durer dress, also made with remote fitting

 

  •    Once the time arrives and you get going, try to shave some time off the original timing by working in batches.  If you have garments of the same size, cut them out together at the same time. The majority of my German coats were generic sizes – S, M, L, XL. I would cut out one size at the time, so 3 garments, machine stitch them and then hand finish them. Working this way meant I was able to make 3 coats in 2 days, if I worked my usual 10 hour day.
  •  Allow for rest.   Schedule lunch breaks, time for exercise, walk, reading a book. If possible, do allocate a day or two for rest during extended projects – just a plain ‘no stitching’ day, spent with your loved ones, or on a day trip – anything to get you out of the workroom and recharge your batteries.  It is worth it – you will go back to work with renewed enthusiasm. In the worst case, that extra time can be used if you happen to fall drastically behind.
  •  If you are having problems staying within the original allocated time, do not panic. Take a few minutes to calm down, switch off your computer, go for a walk. Rethink your strategy – ignoring the problem and hoping it will be all right in the end will bring you more stress and more late night stitching.  Face the problem, identify the factor that seems to cause the delay and deal with it. Find a solution, ask for help – if necessary, swallow your pride and call that friend to come over to give you a hand, (warning – it does not work if the friend is very chatty and talks more than actually helps…)  sometimes you can plan an unhurried ‘stitch and bitch’ sessions and  combine work with  pleasure

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Lucas and Eleanor helping out with some silk bunting for a friend’s wedding

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more bunting fun!

 

  •   Stay in touch with the client. Inform them about your progress – when they see you are keeping to the schedule and see the effect of your work, they will worry less.  You can either send a mail once a week or call – or, like me use Facebook. I simply added photos of each finished garment as it was completed and the client could not only see the progress but show their appreciation and give an early feedback too. In my case after the first two coats the feedback was – “loving the slashing!” So I was able to adjust the remaining designs to incorporate more slashing on the coats – it took me maybe 20 minutes more, but it was worth it. 

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slashing on sleeves…

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slashing on sleeves and back

 

  • If the worst happens and you do fall behind – again, grit your teeth and contact the client as soon as you realise that you may not be able to finish all of it on time. If it is early enough, they may be able to find someone else – or, if they are well organised, have a contingency option for just such occasions. It is much better to warn early, finish most of it and know that the client had time to deal with the situation rather than turning up at the event and informing them then and there that you were able to only do 9 out of 10 garments…  so communicate, communicate, communicate…..

  A few extra points on time management for business:

  • Take note of how long it takes you to make each new garment. Have a little notebook or a file and write it all down. Next time someone books you for a similar commission, you will be able to book a precise slot.
  • Tend to overestimate the time necessary rather than the other way round. I usually add at least a day to the expected time – and if I finish early, I can either take on a last minute commission from my waiting list, or simply enjoy a day off.
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enjoying a short break in between the stitching – a walk with the hubby

  • I know it is tempting to book everybody in, as the allure of the prestige, or money, or both can be strong – but be realistic and do not overbook. In my experience very few people are discouraged from booking because they have to wait – most will wait and will respect you for respecting other people’s orders – they know that when time comes, you will be concentrating on their commission only, and not trying to squeeze in 3 other clients in between.
  •  Always sign a contract with a detailed specification of the garments. A proper contract protects you as well as the client, and sets up clear parameters for the order and your working relationship with the client. Set a price on any changes your client may want to introduce – but above all, do not be afraid to say no to them if the contract have been signed. I have recently been dealing with a difficult customer who placed a  big order. I received about 200 emails before the contract was signed, but they continued after the final designs were agreed on, as the client was fond of browsing the net and every site she visited gave her fresh ideas. At some point, after about 327 emails, I simply had enough. I asked her either to stick to the original, with a few changes that were feasible at that stage – or the contract is null and void, and I will return the deposit. She opted for the former and the order was completed to mutual satisfaction. If I hadn’t signed the contract, I suppose I would still be negotiating the designs now… 
    •  The last but not the least – enjoy your work.  Not only take pride in its outcomes, but relish the process too. Even when the labour can be dull or repetitive, you can brighten it up and still enjoy it – put on your favourite music when sitting at the machine, listen to an audiobook when hand stitching ( I personally love it – either listening to books, or to a language course  – time flies away!), if the weather is nice, go and stitch outside in the garden or in a park.  It is your business, work, hobby – but it takes a great deal of your life too, so have fun!
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stitching and bitching while working on corsetry projects with Julia from Sew Curvy

   Recommended reading – 4hr work week, by Timothy Ferris. The idea of spending only 4 hours a week stitching is completely alien to me, but there are really good tips on time management issues – well worth a read!

And a couple of links to other bigger commissions …

https://adamselindisdress.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/victorian-commission/

https://adamselindisdress.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/victorian-commission-part-2-kiddies-stuff/

Spectacular! Spectacular! Masquerade Ball 2013

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And it is done.  The Ball has taken place, and what a night it was!

The last few days before the ball ( 27th April) were manic – i only had about a day and a half to get my dress sorted ( a separate post on that here..)  and deal with the last minute issues, problems, cancellations etc.

But all was sorted in time and by 1pm we were on the move, driving first to our hotel in Slough, even managing a short nap there, and then by 4 we were at the beautiful Heatherden Hall – a part of Pinewood Studios.

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outside, at 4 pm

Inside, the team from Corporate Events already laid up our oak dancefloor, covering the entire ballroom.

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flooring sorted!

We had a quick chat with Paul, our DJ on the day ( also from Corporate Events), about the music, preferences, set up etc –  and with the music working  we simply had to have a go on the dance floor ! we decided to go through our  tango routine, but the stress was making it more of a free style improvisation rather than our proper routine! At that point our photographer, Paul Mockford and his assistant Jason arrived – and without much ado filmed the thing! you can see it here

After that sneaky footage the boys got started on setting their photo studio in the Pools room, and we had a chat with the resident staff who was to care for us in the evening, headed by  the competent Ivona. after that all that was to do was getting ready. Sarah and Lizzie, providing the beauty saloon services, were ready at 5, and the ladies who secured their make up and hairstyling slots were arriving on time  – the rest of the guests were to start arriving at 6.

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Sarah and Lizzie hard at work…

By then I was already dresses, make up and hair sorted ( more or less) and helping other ladies to get dressed – the facilities were great as we had the whole of the Conservatory and the PIne room just for ladies.  during various lacing, arranging and pinning, i talked to our dance teacher, Charlotte Ewart, going through the last bits of information on the dances to be taught.

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getting ready… the atmosphere was great as everybody was helping everybody else:-)

The weather wasnt perfect – but luckily by 6 it has stopped raining and the guests started arriving on the red carpet. Soon the gardens, patio and the bar, where the welcome drinks were served,  were throbbing with people dressed in their finest..

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the bar…

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having fun on the patio

The gardens, with their bridges, sculptures and the labirinth-like hedges were a popular destination for strolling and taking photos…

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  Then, at 8 the dancing started. We begun with the traditional Polish dance, Polonaise – it is a promenade dance, easy to follow and it is still the dance that opens every Prom Ball in Poland..

I led with Chris , our musician ( Blast from the Past) and Lucas followed with Charlotte.   Our fears that people would be reluctant to dance were quickly dispelled –  the dancefloor was packed full as we processed to the polonaise from Eugene Onegin

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Lucas and Charlotte

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polonaise in full swing…

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leading with Chris

After the polonaise Charlotte  guided us through the Duke of Kent waltz, proper waltz hold and steps, aend even a few polkas. Polkas were a killer, leaving us completely breathless!  all to lovely live music from Sophie and Chris.

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a polka

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one of the waltzes…

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us having a go at a polka

some people preferred a more passive participation though, simply enjoying the view. Some took it very easy indeed!

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taking it easy to the next level…

 After the lesson the DJ took over and more waltzes, quicksteps, and more waltzes following for another hour. The dance floor emptied a bit as at the same time food was served and most folks made their way to the pools room to partake in the buffet.

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The food was delicious – alas so delicious that some people went to get seconds and thirds – and as a consequence a few folks  who were still dancing, us including arrived to see empty plates – or half full plates being carried back to the kitchen as people piled more food than they could eat… a bit of a lesson on human nature here, so the food issue is one to be seriously addressed in the future, if i decide to organize another ball. As it was, I was lucky enough to get a bite of a tiramisu Sarah managed to secure for me…

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At the same time the photography team had their hands full – people were having their photos taken, printed and mounted in one go!

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Paul Mockford at work!

After a few more waltzes ( lots of improvisation on our part – but there were a few good couples who could really whirl around!) music gradually changed to a more modern tracks, including music from Moulin Rouge  and a fully eclectic mix of rock, tango ( again, lots of improvisation  and silliness here on our part!) and other dance tunes. The Prince Charming theme went down a treat – many thanks to whoever requested it!  some gilrs chose to take the log skirts off and boogie around in shorter numbers, but the majority danced the night away in their finery!

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prince charming walk….

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girls having fun!

And so the evening continued – dancing, drinking, chatting in a relaxing manner.

As far ars the costumes are concerned – I was hugely impressed!  I must admit that I dreaded  seeing those cheap fancy dress rental pieces, but I shouldn’t have worried. tTe garments were absolutely divine, in most cased hand made by the participants or by few skillful costumiers present at the ball – Felicity Westmacott, Denise Piggin or Christina Dettmers to name just a few – and of course I had a hand in making a few of the costumes too…..:-) ( historical and bridal)

The range was astounding – from pure blown out fantasy, through fashion corsetry to authentic Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian or Tudor garments. Steampunk was very much in evidence as well – in short a true feast for the eyes!  just a few picture s here, more can be founf on fb – link here

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best hat ever!

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The fun ended at about 12.30 when the bar closed, and we saw the last of the guests off just after 1am…

Absolutely knackered, we made our way to the hotel when at last, hungry as we were, we shared a left over bagel… 🙂

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after party bagel… yum! and after paerty look, not so yum…

Altogether, a successful night, with the food issue to be addressed at any future events. Feedback so far was good, so  many thanks to all of you who contributed to the fantastic atmosphere at the ball – and thank you for those who let me use their photos…

another blog on the ball, written by one of the guests, can be found here

and if you fancy another ball – this year;s event is coming soon!  Check out our Victorian Ball

and some of the feedback received on our pages – many, many thanks for it, i was really down because the food situation, and the feebback received did raise my spirits a great deal!:

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Thank you for a truly spectacular evening! We all had a fantastic time! Really appreciate all the time and effort you went to to make it such an incredible event! ♥
great evaning Izabela! Thank you for all the hard work. It ran so smoothly, a testament to your great planning!

What a lovely night! I got to dance to The Sound of Music- Edelweiss and NIN- Closer all in one night… As always I am blown away by the talent that surrounded me. The dresses and coats, the skirts and corsets, waistcoats and pantaloons, each of them were beautifully constructed and many of them by the very people wearing them. It inspires me 🙂 Thanks to everyone who came for making it such a friendly evening, it was a pleasure meeting you, and thank you to the Prior Attire team for putting together a truly Spectacular! Spectacular! event 🙂

We are all amazing. What a beautiful evening.
Thank you Izabella for a great night, and thankyou to all for their fabulous costumes, makeup, masks and headpieces, I so enjoyed looking at all the creativity. As you might have guessed, the kit did get finished, and got some really nice comments from other guests.
We had a lovely evening. Thanks for all your work in putting together such a lovely event in a stunning venue!

Sankt Wendel Tournament: the commision and the event

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 Last year I  was commissioned to prepare several outfits for The Grand Tournament of St.Wendel. As I am now working on a similar order ( 4 Tudor coats for Griffin Historical ), my mind inevitably wandered back to the previous commission –  it was simply so much fun to research the garments, make them, and then see them in action at the tournament.

 The garments in question, 12 early 16th century coats ( Rock, or wappenrock ), plus two Durer gowns, were commissioned by a friend of mine, Arne Koets – an excellent jouster currently working for a Buckebrug museum.

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Christina in her new silk gown

  Almost all the garments were to be ready in September, delivered in person. the exception was a separatelly commissioned late 15th century robe and a dress based on Durer ‘s Nuremburg dress; both items were sent  over in June. 

 The rest of the garments were made in the few weeks leading to the tournament, and were a joy to make. I was given a relatively free rein within the set parameters, at least as far as the finish and decoration went. ‘The more varied the better’ was Arne’s look on the matter and so I set about making 12 garments, in different colours, sizes, with different finish – with velvet ribbons, without ribbons, with simple slashing, no slashing or a more complex slashing pattern. Posting  the finished garments on my FB page meant I could adapt the design as I was going, since it was easy for Arne to see the work on daily basis and to give immediate feedback.

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my hubby posing in one of the freshly finished rocks…

 

 All the coats were fastened using brass hooks and eyes, plus linen tape ( dyed using natural pigments) with aiglets – both purchased from Annie the Peddlar.

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points at the ready!

Apart from the coats, the order included headdresses – and again, i was free to decide what kind and make sure they were varied enough.

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berets, hats, caps – you name it, all with ribbons or/and feathers

 I finished it all in good time – in fact, I even managed to get myself a suitably german headdress, to mix with the crowd….

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at the event, sporting my new German hat!

All the gear was packed into the car and off we went, driving to Sankt Wendel, in South Germany –  just off the Black Forest, so a beautiful place. We arrived Thursday night, in  time to try on the other Durer gown, just in case we needed any adjustments – the two gowns plus the coat for Arne’s were not generically sized, but made to measure, with distant toiles. Fortunatelly, the gown fitted perfectly!

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trying the dress on…

 

Then it was time for sleep – much needed after such a long drive!

The next day  marked the beginning of the tournament. After the morning briefing, detailing everybody’s roles, timing, performances etc, folks went about their business. The site  consisted of a recreated early 16th century encampment and the display arena and there was a lot of work involved in getting all the equippment ready.

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Dominic, a jouster from England putting his steed through his paces in the arena

 Since the event was starting at about noon, there was time to try on different outfits and see which coats matched who, and there were some who found some time to give the horses a warming up exercise session:-).

  Then it was time for everybody to get ready for the first display of the day – a hunting party, flying birds of prey.

  Folks got dressed up, mounted up,  hawks and horses ready and  the public waiting. the weather wasnt fantastic, but nothing to worry about –  indeed the slight drizzle didnt iven have any impact on my silk velvet gown ( luckily!)

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getting ready…

The ladies, sitting in early side saddles, opened the parade, both looking splendind in their new gowns ( no false modesty here!;-)  )

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the ladies mounted and ready to go hunting

 Then  the  menfolk followed – first the mounted knights…

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Joram and Dom

 

And then the foot followers…

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Griff with a bird!

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and guys with the hounds

 

We watched the show together with hundreds of spectators, who didn’t seem to mind the drizzle too much. Once it was over, it was time to get ready for the more exciting show later on – proper jousting. Alas,Lucas and I had different business to attend to so after the first show we said our goodbyes and left for Poland – another very long drive…

 Still, the event was a great success, you can see the official video from the tournament here! : http://arnekoets.de/jousting/ 

 The video contains footage from the event itself, as well as the interviews with the participants, the research information on the tack, weapons, saddles etc and lots more:-)

And more photos of the costumes here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151023619121693.422290.140313531692&type=3

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Arne looking resplendant in his new gear