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.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Spinning and knitting in January

In further adventures of things that are not Tudor shirts, I present the two most boring projects I've ever made in the same month.

First, in an attempt to use up some of the random bits in my spinning stash, a hank of cashmere/silk, spun on a spindle and 2-plied using a plying bracelet. Still not keen on plying bracelets, but it's less effort than winding it off the spindle for something this small. About 25 yards of worsted-weight yarn.

Second, a completed pair of socks that I started over a year ago. Ringwood ribbing for the cuffs and a plain foot. In charcoal grey on 2.25mm needles. YAWN.

The good thing is that this was the oldest sock yarn in my stash. Now that it's finally used up, I've cast on the next-oldest sock yarn - something that isn't grey or white!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

A little bit of crochet

It hasn't just been all shirts all the time this year. I found myself a week and a half ago with a wild urge to crochet a shawl using some mill-ends I bought back in 2013. I'd planned to make a hat, maybe something stripey, but it somehow never happened.

Anyway. Variation on the basic granny square triangle, balls of yarn arranged in increasing size so that the stripes remained more or less the same width, crocheted until I didn't have enough left of each colour to finish another row. Also added an extra four rows at the end because I still had yarn left.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Making a Tudor shirt, part 4 - the wrist plackets

I had planned to do the neck opening and collar next, but it's complicated and I spent yesterday at an event doing archery and making merry. So instead, a chilled out session of hemming.

First, press the sleeves. (You're no doubt going to get tired of me going on about pressing. I get tired of pressing, but it gives much better results, so it's worth the faff.)

Next, hem the wrist placket. That's the opening in the side of the sleeve that lets you get your hand out through the cuff.

The wrist placket of a modern shirt

Unlike a modern shirt, where the underarm seam goes all the way to the wrist and the placket is cut into the intact fabric, the wrist placket of a Tudor shirt is worked as part of the underarm seam. Before the cuff goes on, the raw edges of the sleeve fabric need to be hemmed for the full length of the placket. On extant shirts the placket ranges from just over an inch to five inches; most are between three and four inches. My hands aren't much wider than my wrists, so I'm going to make mine three inches long.

Making sure that you're measuring along the long side of the sleeve, place a pin to mark the length of your placket.

Bonus points for not stabbing yourself

Press over the raw edge of the fabric along the length of the placket. I usually finger press all of my hems because I end up with straighter hems that way. If you are more skilled in the art of hot pressing, go for it.

Fold the fabric in again. This will completely encase the raw edge of the fabric.

Insert your threaded needle into the opening inside the hem and out through the first fold you made. The needle should come out about an eighth of an inch away from the raw edge of the short side of the sleeve.

This will keep the knot at the end of the thread hidden inside the seam, and because it's away from the raw edge, won't pull out from the side.

Next, whipstitch the hem. I take one thread from the flat piece of cloth and one thread from the folded edge of the hem, and make one stitch about every eighth of an inch.

As I go along the hem, I always pick up the same two threads. This lets me keep the hem perfectly straight. It sound tedious, I know, but you get into a rhythm and it's done before you know it.

Once the hem is done, it should be all but invisible on both sides.

Tie off the thread. You can trim it off next to the hem, but I always worry about it coming undone, so prefer to bury the end in the hem. Push the needle into the fold immediately under the end of the thread, down the inside channel of the hem, and out the fold on the far side. Make sure you don't push the needle all the way through to the front the the hem - if you turn your sleeve over, you shouldn't be able to see the needle on the fabric at all.

Pull gently on the thread so that the fabric is ever-so-slightly bunched up.

Clip the thread off against the fabric and smooth the fabric out flat. This will pull the end of the thread into the hem.

Do the same thing on the other side of the sleeve, making sure that you put the inside of the hem on the same side of the fabric as the first hem! Then do the same thing for the placket on the other sleeve.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Making a Tudor shirt, part three - collar and cuffs

The collar and cuffs are assembled in exactly the same way, so I find it easiest to do them all at the same time.

First, make sure you've finished any embroidery you want to put on.

Next, press the pieces. You want the edges to be perfectly straight, and it's MUCH easier if the fabric has been pressed first. If you've added embroidery, press it on a towel with the right side facing downwards. Cotton can be pressed at the same high temperature as the linen fabric, but if you're using silk you should turn the heat down when you're pressing over the embroidery.

Next, pair up the pieces of fabric. The right side of the embroidery should be in between the two pieces of fabric, because once you've sewn the first seam you'll be turning it over.

At this point you can pin the two pieces of fabric together so that they stay in line. I do for the collar because it's so long, but don't bother for the cuffs. Up to you.

Next you'll need to do a little measuring. Take your first cuff (both pieces) and wrap it around your wrist so that the excess fabric of the seam allowance is divided evenly on both ends:

You don't need to pin anything at this point - I've pinned the ends together because I can't hold a loop shut and take a photo at the same time.

Fold the excess fabric first to one side and then the other, keeping the loop pinched tight against your wrist. Use your fingers to press hard on this fold and create a crease.

Same deal with the paperclip - it's a photography aid, not an instruction.

Unwrap the cuff from your wrist. You now have a cuff with a vertical crease at either end. The creases mark the finished circumference of the cuff.

The next step is to sew the two pieces together. If your cuffs are embroidered, you are going to sew them together at the edge you want to be closest to your hand!

We're sewing the seam on the side of the cuff where my hand is.

Using running stitch, sew in a straight line from one crease to the other about half an inch in from the long edge.

For the second cuff, you can skip wrapping it around your wrist and pinching - just use the vertical creases from the first cuff as a template. Sew the second cuff's seam in the same manner.

At this point, you're done with the sewing, but there's still a fair bit of pressing to do. First, press open the seam you've just made.

Next, turn the cuff so that the seam allowances are on the inside and press it flat along the fold.

Next, open it back up and lay it flat with the right side facing down into the ironing board. Fold the short ends of the cuffs in, along the creases that you folded in earlier.

Close the cuff back up and press along the short sides and at the top corners. There's a lot of fabric folded up here, so be careful that your corners remain square.

Next, open it up yet again and fold half an inch of each of the long open edges in.

Finally, close the cuff back up and give it one last good press, paying special attention to the corners.

Press the second cuff, and then assemble and press the collar.

You won't do anything else with the collar and cuffs until it's time to attach them to the shirt body and sleeves respectively, so put them somewhere safe so that they won't get crumpled (but not so safe you can't find them).

Making a Tudor shirt, part two - planning the embroidery

It's much easier to add any embroidery to the shirt before you start assembling the pieces, so the next task is to decide which bits to embroider. Because my shirt is going to be a working shirt, I'm not adding any embroidery, but you might want to.

When worn, the only parts of the shirt that are visible are the collar and cuffs. (See, for example, this painting.) If you do want some embroidery, then, those are the parts that should definitely be embroidered. However, for something truly sumptuous, there are other places to add embroidery. These are:
  • The sleeves (either in columns or in an allover arrangement)
  • Around the neck slit on the front of the shirt
  • Across the upper torso, both in the front and in the back 
  • All the way around the rectangle of the body piece, close to the hem or seam
  • Occasionally, directly on top of any seams, especially on pieces with shoulder seams
As with the shirt of insanity, you can also work blanket stitching around hemmed pieces and lace them together. You can also hem the pieces and work direct insertion stitches, as was done in the example photo in part one of this tutorial. I'm going to be working plain seams, though, as they are simpler and less likely to catch on things.

The style of embroidery changes dramatically during the 16th century. Pieces from the 1530s and 1540s are very strongly geometric, with densely-stitched patterns that create a voided effect. By the end of the century, however, embroidery has become much more representative: plants and animals are clearly identifiable.