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Summerfest is coming and as always I feel the urge to make kit for my character. The fests of the season give me a chance to mix up the wardrobe, tweak bits of kit that have been niggling at me over the past few months, and generally try to stay cool over the three days I get to be in-character.

Having been trawling Pinterest (I have a problem – so many pretty things, so little time) and roaming around the internet following various SCA and costuming blogs over the past few years, I have had the joy to stumble across Morgan Donner’s Sewing Party. Her kit always knocks my socks off and inspires me to attempt to make beautiful clothes for my character rather than just costume. As tempted as I was to attempt to make a Burgundian gown, a houpplande like this one, or this one, or an extravagant gown with LOTS of material … I had to consider wearing the garment out on the field and how it could be used in future (I do have some self control sometimes). But having considered my current kit and the garments I’ve enjoyed wearing in the past, I came up with a cunning plan. And borrowed inspiration from Morgan Donner’s beautiful Venetian Zimarra.

This blog delves into the beginnings of my new over-robe as I attempt to make my own garment by deliberately combining different patterns. Part 2: the making of will follow in time.

Sadly, no matter how hard I tried to push Lady Judith towards more Tudor / Elizabethan / Renaissance garb, she stubbornly remains in the medieval period and has grown quite attached to her wimple and veil combo (alas, all of the shiny things on Pinterest that I cannot make for the Lady-Knight). And whilst I wish I could get away with big voluminous skirts and delicate details of sleeves and brocade sleeves, the bulk of my kit is geared to being in armour or prepared for combat based on my character class (I don’t feel like having to kirtle a big gown or drape a train over my arm because someone has asked for a duel by being insulting).

But I can give the illusion of billowing gowns by wearing robes or layers of dresses, and I have become fond of my dress/over-robe/sleeve combo. My go-to robe for being fancy at fests is a long black chenille sleeveless robe which drapes to the floor and gives a mock train when walking (so much so I have to lift the front of it when ascending stairs, which makes anyone feel like a princess in my opinion). This last year I’ve added a pair of reversible bell sleeves that get pinned on at the shoulder and can be folded up to give a contrasting edge to the sleeve or simply worn down for a draped effect.

P1140814 lady j leeds valley fest

Photos by: my OH, November 2017 ; Edward Matthews Photography, July 2017

However this black over-robe is quite solidly placed in Lady Judith’s banquet garb and is a bit too heavy to wear around camp in the summer (particularly if we have temperatures heading back to the recent heatwave). But seeing Morgan Donner’s Venetian Zimarra made me pause and think that I could make a similar garment to wear around the camp / over armour / with a gown / over a shirt and trousers. And I could do it using patterns I already owned! (I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to self drafting – tabards are ok, but anything more complicated I freeze and panic, so back to the patterns we go).

I asked myself the question – what was I wanting? Was I wanting something to billow behind me if the wind caught it? Yes. Was I wanting something to pull on when it got a little chilly in the evening? Yes. Was I wanting something hardwearing that fit with the rest of my garb and the other things in my kit cupboard? Yes. Did I want it to be able to be worn by another character or a man? Uh … yeah, should probably consider this too. After having a serious think and an examination of my collection of fabric (because I really wasn’t keen to go out and buy lots of material for this project given the collection lurking in the work room ..) I determined I could make something suitable. This was not a quick process and has been hummed and ha-ahed over for many many months, to the point where I knew I had enough material left over in my stash to make the robe after making a surcoat for my OH based on the same pattern as my bright blue one. All I needed now was the oomph to make it.

Gathering materials

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My cunning plan is to make the sleeveless robe from pattern 5840 (my go-to robe pattern that has seen much abuse over my years in LARP) but combine it with the shoulders and sleeves of the doublet pattern A from pattern 4059. The sleeves are massive on me and I’m not keen on adding elastic at the cuff to bring it in tight against my wrist. However I recalled that I have used the shirt pattern to make my old arming shirt from my previous knight and my ruffed banquet shirt and liked the fit of this – so I’m adding the shirt cuff to the sleeves to get a more fitted look when I’m actually wearing the sleeve.

Actually wearing the sleeve? What do you mean? I hear you ask – well, I intend to continue my love of removable sleeves and make another pair of reversible, removable sleeves. This is partly because I want to be able to wear the blue pair of bell sleeves (possibly turning the robe from day wear to night wear) and because I found I had a length of electric blue satin left in my stash and got excited at the idea of having these outrageous electric blue sleeves alongside my sensible dark blue robe. And once I got the idea of using the satin for the lining of the sleeves and being able to turn them inside out … the sleeves got more complicated.

Because the sleeves have buttons sewn on them to give the slashed effect, and I want to be able to reverse the sleeves, I decided that I would sew ribbon ties at these points down the sleeve in a similar manner to these sleeves documented on Handcrafted History so that I can have them:

  • closed at the cuff, with ribbons tied up and worn like proper sleeves
  • closed at the cuff, but with ribbons undone so I can wear them like the inspiration Zimurra
  • open and draped down from the shoulder like a wing

And with that in mind … I had to find 4 matching buttons that could be sewn onto the sleeves so the cuffs would button regardless of which way up they were being worn!

Ugh. I really need to learn to stop the little voice that goes “and then, and then, and then” when I’m considering craft projects.

At this point I would like to make it known that I was stubbornly set on making this garment from the stash, from top to tail, from ribbons to buttons to thread. I don’t know why I did this to myself, don’t ask, since I don’t normally have a mass of buttons or ribbon just lying around the house. However, I was in for several strokes of luck as I rummaged my stash hunting for trims and notions. I was given a box of ribbons ages ago by the mum of one of our friends and hadn’t really looked through it properly, but when I did I unearthed a length of pale powdery blue ribbon that toned nicely with the materials I was intending to use and was just long enough for my schemes. I have also recently inherited a sewing box (!) from a relative which is a treasure trove of things – I have, like, a big biscuit tin of buttons to go at. A literal tin! And rummaging through this led me to find four matching buttons that have been snaffled for this project. For once I am able to make a project from materials I have in my house at the time of cutting the fabric – I don’t know whether this should make me happy or concerned …

 

Beginning to cut

And so, after scheming and pinning more inspirations to my Pinterest pin board (I tell you, it’s a problem), I finally found the oomph and energy I needed to get going on this project. And so I will leave you with photos of my pattern pieces laid out on my workroom floor. Catch up with us next time to see the finished article and the trials and tribulations of making a pattern mash-up without making a mock up first. And yes, you read that right – I’m not doing a mock-up as I only have a few weeks to go until Summerfest.

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AS an aside, none of the pictures do the satin lining justice. It’s a proper bright blue colour that you wouldn’t think would go with a dark sensible navy, but it really does.

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