Friday, 27 March 2015

Making a Tudor shirt, part 6 - the neck opening

If you're planning to embroider the fabric around the neck opening, it is far easier to do that before you start cutting and attaching the collar. If you do want to add embroidery, baste the lines of the neck opening in contrasting thread. Work the embroidery, remembering that you'll lose fabric all the way around the basted lines where you're either going to hem or gather for the collar. Once the embroidery is finished, follow the instructions below.

Press the fabric you're using for the shirt body. You can either use a single length of fabric for both the front and the back of the shirt body, or if your fabric is too short you can use two pieces joined at the shoulder. There are extant shirts in both styles. I'm using a single piece for my shirt, but I'll do instructions for both styles anyway. Check for flaws in the linen before you decide which section to use for the front: it's a pain having to either work around them or pick out and redo your work.

If you're using two separate pieces for the front and back, pin them together at the shoulders. If you're using a single length of fabric, fold it so that the back panel is longer than the front. Precise lengths on extant shirts vary, but what I've found works best is having the front panel end just above the knee and having the back end just below it. Hem the two short ends so that they don't fray.

The neck opening is T-shaped, with the horizontal line across the shoulders and the vertical coming down the front. Find the centre of the front panel (the easiest way is to just fold the fabric in half). Cut the front opening as long as you're comfortable wearing it - to the base of the breastbone is about right, but if you're uncomfortable with the Seventies sex god look or will be wearing a bra underneath, cut it shorter. I'm cutting mine six-and-a-half inches long.

If the shirt is in one piece, cut the horizontal openings. These should be about half the distance from the centre of the shirt to the shoulder. Conveniently for me, this distance is also about six-and-a-half inches.

If the shirt is in two pieces, use running stitch to sew the shoulders together, leaving the centre of the two pieces open the same length as the cuts indicated above.

Once you've cut the horizontal openings, follow the line of the cuts to the edge of the shirt and mark it with either a pin or basting thread. It's nothing to do with the collar, but when you attach the sleeves you can centre them on the marks. Much easier than faffing around with the finished collar trying to make sure the sleeves are attached in the same place on both sides.

(This step is only applicable if you're making a one-piece shirt. A two-piece shirt has built-in markings from the shoulder seams.)

At this point you have a choice. You can either leave the neck opening as a T-shape, or you can trim it to give it more of a curve. Both options appear in extant shirts. I prefer the T-shape because it's easier to sew fabric that's been cut straight on the grain.

If you're making a two-piece shirt, press the shoulder seams open so that they lay flat. Hem the sides of the neck opening. (Make sure you're making the inside of the hem on the same side as the hems on the short edges!)

The bottom of the slit is a bugger to hem.

Thursday, 19 March 2015


After I finished those grey socks back in January, I needed some socks that weren't grey. The spouse suggested using up my next oldest sock yarn. Since it happened to be a delightfully loud minty lime green, I went with it. These are the results:

Pattern is Nancy Bush's Anniversary Socks. Yarn is sKnitches Kettle Drum in Aegean. I'm not sure how long I've had it, but I added it to my Ravelry stash in 2008.

I've not actually cast on anything new since finishing these. I'm decluttering, and since most off my clutter is WIPs it makes no sense to start a new project.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Suddenly, a hat!

Sometimes after finishing a big project I end up with a hangover. Not a literal one, a figurative one. I look at all the stuff I'm working on and just... can't.

At times like these I need a mental cleanser. Something quick and easy to remind myself that not all projects are ten-year commitments. Thus, the newest baby hat:

One of the ladies in our SCA household is expecting her first, and I thought wee Nemo needed a hat. This is another pixie hat, this time out of leftover Noro Kureyon Sock (about 100 yards).

I think this may be the cutest one I've made yet...

Thursday, 12 March 2015

At long last

It will come as no surprise that I am prone to taking on Very Large Projects. Wedding dresses, embroidered Tudor shirts, enormous research projects... I love them all. Consequently, there are a number of WIPs whose age is measured in years rather than weeks or months. Today I finished one of them.

This is a piece of cross-stitch I've been working on for longer than I've been married. (We celebrate our tenth anniversary next January, to put that in perspective.) It's absolutely enormous, more than a foot wide. DMC cotton on 28-count linen, plus the staff and the bands at the bottom of the cloak are in gold metallic floss.

This is one of those rare occasions when I make a project that is very much not to my taste. It's a gift for my grandmother, who chose it but didn't make it herself. It'll be off to the framer's soon, and then I'll give it to her for her birthday in May.

For now, though, I've got a new sewing machine (did I mention the sewing machine?) to put through its paces and a couple of sexy little fat quarters that want to become some sort of bag...

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Thursday night in photos

Tools of the trade

Poor little sock

Awaiting my assistance

Leftovers for darning

Danger Mouse takes good care of my tea

An old favourite in the background

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Making a Tudor shirt, part 5 - attaching the cuffs

At this point, you should have two assembled cuffs and two sleeves with hemmed plackets.

The wrist end of the sleeve is significantly wider than the cuff, so it needs to be gathered in. The gathering process is what gives Tudor shirts those delightfully puffy sleeves.

Starting just inside the hem, about an eighth of an inch down from the raw edge, work a line of running stitch across the wrist end of your sleeve. Keep the stitches as even as possible, and preferably work them parallel to the same thread the whole way across.

When you get about halfway across, you're going to find yourself running short of thread. DON'T FASTEN IT OFF. Instead, carefully slide the fabric along the thread so that it bunches up, being careful not to pull the knot through the fabric.

Finish working the line of running stitch all the way to the second hem. Again, don't fasten the thread off. Leave the free end dangling, making sure you don't pull it back out of the fabric. (I generally leave my needle attached to the thread at this point because it's less likely to pull back out.)

Work a second line of running stitch parallel to the first one, another eighth of an inch in. Line up the threads as exactly as possible so that the second thread goes up and down at the same points as the first thread.

When you finish the second line of running stitch, get your cuff. Carefully slide the fabric of the sleeve along the two gathering threads until the bunched-up fabric is exactly the same length as the cuff.

As you can see the gathered fabric wants to curve around. If you're finding it difficult to match the length of the cuff as a result, err on the side of gathering too loosely. Too loose and you can always ease the gathers tighter. If the gathers are too tight, they won't fit the cuff.

Arrange the gathered folds of fabric so that they sit nicely. Mark the mid-point with a pin. (A sensible person would do this at the beginning, but I never remember until now.)

The open long edge of the cuff is going to be sewn down over the raw edge of the fabric, covering it and holding the gathers in place permanently. I sew the inside of the cuff down first so that I can fuss with the outside and make it look nice without having to worry about the fabric escaping.

So. Working on the inside of the sleeve (which is the side the hemming turns towards), pin one side of the cuff in place over the gathers. If you're using embroidered cuffs, make sure you're pinning the plain side to the inside of the sleeve. It should just barely cover both of the gathering threads.

Much as you did when hemming, whipstitch along the join, taking up a thread from the wrist gathers and a thread from the fold of the cuff.

Fasten off the thread and run it inside the placket hem. Turn the sleeve over so that the outside is visible and pin down the other side of the cuff.

Start sewing at the top of one short edge of the cuff and whipstitch all the way down the side, along the long edge, and up the opposite short side. As you sew, arrange the folds of the fabric so that they sit nicely.

Gather the second sleeve and attach the second cuff in exactly the same way.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Wolf Days

I grew up in Bulgaria. There are a great many folk traditions and superstitions still practiced there, including several to do with needlework and fiber arts. The most significant of them is the observation of the Wolf Days.

Basically, it's believed that for the two days after Candlemass (i.e. yesterday and today), and for a week in November, the wolves are hungry, angry, and prone to attacking people and livestock. To ward off these attacks, certain kinds of domestic activities are prohibited. Iron and metal tools are compared to wolves' teeth, so any work in which the metaphoric teeth "bite" wool (playing the part of the threatened livestock) is believed to encourage an attack.

The exact work that's forbidden varies from region to region. In the place I grew up, you're not allowed to:
  • Use scissors for any task, even ones that don't involve fabric;
  • Spin;
  • Card or comb wool;
  • Weave;
  • Use a needle.
In some places you're not allowed to knit, either. Fortunately not my region or I'd go mad with nothing to do! I'm also still allowed to wash fleece, which is what I'll be doing this evening.