Monthly Archives: October 2014

Making an Italian Camicia – c1510

I decided I needed a new camicia for my new Italian gowns (okay I didn’t get them made in time). This camicia is based on a very specific style from the first quarter of the 16th century.
I drew from a number of portraits of women, specifically:

There are a number of other portraits that show a gathered camicia with a form of embroidery either around the hem or along the gathering in the neckline.
Bernardino Licinio –
Portrait of a Woman with "l'Acconciatura detta 'il Balzo'"

Raphael – La Velata

I made the camicia with linen batiste, which would give a similar look to that of the inspiration garments. It was made with 4 panels: front, back, sleeves.

See my paper on Camicia here: Evolution of the Camicia

I used the full width of the fabric (60 inches). I removed the selvage as it was much stiffer than period fabrics. Normally I would use the selvage and whip stitch the edges. As it was, due to the fraying edges, I ended up doing french seams.

The gussets are placed depending on the drape of the camicia and neckline you wish. I chose to have a camicia that would be more rounded.


The gussets are fairly generous, going further up towards the neckline.

If you make smaller gussets and place them further down the arm / body seam you will get a narrower sleeve at the bicep and around the body. It will create a square neckline.

I used about 30 inches of width per sleeve (1/2 the body) and made them extra long to allow for “poofing”.

Because the sleeve is pleated down to a small width (about 6 inches) and they are fairly narrow they created excess fabric at the head of the sleeve. This actually is ideal for a garment that you want lots of fabric for poofing at the top of the sleeve.

The embroidery was done with a silk pearl thread (Soie Perlee). The stitch was a chain stitch. I pleated up each panel and each chain was done picking up one pleat.


The seams were placed at the body/arm seam per the portraits.

Gathering threads were removed and a backing band was put on so the pleats would not move or the embroidery would not break under stress.



Testing out Embroidery Patterns – Pleatwork

So I decided to work on a new long term project to chart out patterns from some of the German Modelbuch’s and then recreate them in both white and black (embroidery). Well I got 3 done, and only in black. The charting is the easy part, but I quickly realized that it would take much more time than I expected and its very tedious.

However, the results are very cool. One of the big questions when looking at pleated and embroidered garments is it “trim” or “embroidery”.

People also like to interpret some of the embroidery as “blackwork” which is doable over pleats but would not be what we modernly consider blackwork.

I am going to designate this as monochrome embroidery on pleats. The technique used is modernly known as pattern darning. Its a very common technique, dating from likely 12th century onwards.

Sample 1

“Ein new Modelbuch auff außnehen vnd borten wircken … Anno Domini 1526”

Johann Schönsperger (der Jüngere), 1526, Berlin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Kunstbibliothek (Thanks to Katherine Bairch)

I did however reverse the colors.  This is the chart and the resulting sample embroidery:

DSC00021 DSC00018

Sample 2:



Sample 3 is a test from portraiture.



Sample 4 was done to try out the embroidery on the shirt from Portrait of the Margrave Casimir of Brandenburg-Kulmbach c1511

What I wanted to test if a silk could hold up to being carried over on the front of the pleats or was this more likely a stiff medium such as metal thread. I embroidered over 5 pleats using Soie Ovale ( a flat filament silk). It seemed to hold up, but over more pleats it would start to droop. So it was most likely a stiffer floss, or a fine fine metal thread.

File:Hans Süß von Kulmbach 002.jpg DSC00013



1. Silk for embroidery should be equal in size to the size of the pleats for the best effect

2. Very tight pleating (like Sample 2) will replicate trim / brocades

3. Not all patterns work for pleats. You cant have the thread carry over too many pleats or the pattern starts getting distorted.

More to come… next white..