Category Archives: Swabian gown project

Making it Work

With the words of that most popular fashion guru echoing in my brain I am now trying to put together the gown and I feel that I am watching that clock tick down and the dress won’t be ready for the runway.

Let me back up a few days. THE EMBROIDERY IS DONE!!! many happy dances about that. The relief, the joy, the little pat on the back I ave myself for making the deadline. Then reality set in.
I had to put it together.


The countless hours trying patterns out. The piles of fabric on the family room floor. The careful planning of the project and where am I? Trying to make it work.

Things I have learned:
1. Velveteen (and I am sure other fabrics) pinned on a dress form stretch out and the piece nicely laid out flat on my embroidery frame doesn’t.
2. Embroidered fabric doesn’t give like bare fabric. And it also shrinks the fabric slightly.
3. Having embroidery on only one side makes the dress feel funny ( and fit different) see above issues.
4. New techniques rarely work the first time even if you have tested them out.
5. Sewing takes a long time. ( okay I knew that but I underestimated it) Two weeks to sew is not enough time.
6. It is important not to gain or lose weight while you are working on a big garb project like this or you run the risk of it not fitting.

These are all things we know but rarely think of. And what makes historical reconstruction fun. We don’t know how they made it work. They ran into the same roadblocks we do. They had fabric go wonky. Or had patrons that gained 10 pounds ( or lost it). They patched and pieced and used whatever they had handy to complete the item. They made it work, and so will I.

Attack of the black fuzzies

As I was getting ready for bed tonight I saw little bits of black scattered on the sheet. I was a bit worried.. The OMG what kind of bugs are invading my bed worried.. But as I got up the nerve to look at them I realized they were tiny tufts of velvet that had come off the gown. I also realize I was covered in them, rather like burrs you can get rid of.

My wonderful hubby, indulges my projects or rather he ignores the pins, threads, bits of gold purl and other assorted embroidery supplies that dominate the couch lately. Do I tell him the velvet attacks?

Anyhow, the fuzz fest was as a result of pulling the back of the gown off the frame to hang up on the dress form.

I promised patterns last week and pictures. So here they are.
To remind everyone. This is what I an making. Or using as my inspiration


These are a few pictures) here are a few from during its making.



Next pictures are trials of the draping process.
Trial number 4 at least. Attempting to work out the pleating.

This one from the side.

Here is a test “front” or back, not sure. The bodice ends up laid out across the grain. from the draping exercises it showed me that it allows the odd shaping around the front of the bust without cutting it into that shape, which didn’t make sense.

Here I have the back on the frame, embroidery in process:

The back completed, on the dress form, sleeved pined on to make sure it looks okay.


Next …..the front..

Inspiration, encouragement and friends

This post was lost before xmas, but I meant everything in here so i wanted to still post it.

Two weeks agoor so I wrote about project fatigue and ways to get past it. Today I want to talk about what has been important to me along the path: my friends and family. More importantly their support and encouragement.

While Hurricane Sandy roared around me for two days I got to hang out and do embroidery….a hardship i know, but it was that or read. Anyhow I completed phase one of the dress: the sleeve is finished ( pictures to come ). It was an odd feeling. I sat back, feeling very proud that I finished it and somewhat ahead of schedule. I was also a bit in awe of how nice it turned out and thought wow, if I had not been kicked in the butt to make something I would never have done this.

I have mentioned before that I had plans to do one years ago but was sidetracked and just not inspired. If it had not been for my friends, I still would still be “planning” instead of doing.

A few days ago I shared what I had done so far with one of my instigators. I was like a little kid again, showing my homework. ( however she does not get to hang it on her fridge). She made me feel embarrassed, shy but soo good. She showed it off on my behalf and of course I felt more embarrassed but man it felt good, all those wam fuzzies. I listened as a few of the men in our group said they had been following the progress and wanted to see it, ( course they also used it as a template for the things they think I will make them).

Further away I have a couple of friends that I chat with regularity, sharing the joy and heartache/ headache of projects. One friend in particular, we are both knee deep in projects and its good to talk it out. Encourage!

Picking up where I left off

I was reminded a few weeks ago (before the holidays) that I had not posted in a while. I promised I would after New Years. So.. here I am.

My absence was not really deliberate. Somewhere there are about 3 posts started that I never completed. I found out the hard way that a drafted post only saves on the device you are typing on, not on the blog itself. So when I went to finish them, they were not there, and I somehow couldn’t recreate what I was trying to say as eloquently. I will find them however and put them up in the very near future.

So where am I today with my various projects?

I did take a hiatus from the Swabian gown. I finished the sleeve, and needed to move onto the gown itself but I had not yet sorted out the pattern I was going to use. Instead of doing embroidery, I spent many hours on the web and buried in books looking at mid and late 15th and early 16th century pictures trying to determine cut of the gown I wanted to use. This is a huge problem when working from just portraits; you can’t see the rest of the garment!!!,

As of this writing, I have gone through about 8 yards of fabric, a few dozen broken pins and a couple rolls of duct tape fitting the dress form. Trial and error is slowly paying off, and I managed a plausable pattern on New Years Day, thanks to my daughter, who has for years suffered through fitting me. The reality is she knows how to fit garments, and does a good job at it (even though she doesn’t think so). I am going to devote a separate post to the garment fitting. I have to get the various pictures of the trial and errors off the camera.

I also took my own advice and did a mini project. A friend of mind had asked me to make her a small embroidered case for her phone. She knew the dress was my first priority, and was not in any hurry, but the case proved to be the perfect “break” piece. I will try to get an image up in the next few days.

The rest of my time was tied up in holiday prep, work and some vacation time with the family over Christmas.

Happy New Year!!



Project fatigue

Project fatigue
One of the most prevalent problems with large, complex or long term projects / research is project fatigue.

Simply put.. Sick of doing it. Bored with working on the same thing every day. Frustrated that it us going slower than you want.

After a while you start to hate the project and it ends up unfinished in a corner or a box somewhere.

Combatting project fatigue:

Set mini goals – break the project into smaller parts, each with a different focus, style, color, materials , design. Set a goal to finish one of the smaller parts before tackling another. Maybe it’s getting all the white color or all the goldwork done. It might be doing a single band, or row of embroidery.

Have mini projects to do in between. And I do mean mini, because if the mini project is too big you will get wrapped up in the new one and will be less likely to finish the big project.

Be committed. Make sure the big project is something you want to do. So many times we take on something because we think or are told we should. If your heart is not truly committed to it, once the fatigue sets in you will be less likely to push through the fatigue and keep going.

Lastly, Enjoy the doing. Seems simple. Of course you enjoy it. But again, often we do things because we “have” to. Stop, take time to really look at what you are creating; the beauty, the skill. I have to admit I have been known to “pet” some of my embroidery. Other days I am truly amazed that it came from my hands (makes up for all the horrid stuff I throw away. ) Be proud of yourself and what you do…enjoy the doing.

Things they never tell you

I was originally going to name this post ” the money pit” and write about underestimating materials and the expense of projects. Then I realized there are other things people never talk about with projects, maybe because we don’t like admitting they happen. But here it goes:

1. The Money Pit: doing period projects cost money. Specialty fabrics, silks, gems, wood, metals, you name it.. They cost more than the imitations. I use imitations, or good substitutions all the time. I can do more for the same budget. But I have also found you can always get the right look or the material to do what you want it to do without breaking down and shelling out money for it. Which takes me to my next item……

2. Underestimating: whether its time or money, we all underestimate our projects. Remember that earlier post about my awesome pearl stash.. I need 3 times what I bought. Same with the gold bullion. And it’s not just materials. What about all the things you need just to make it. Sewing machines, embroidery frames, scissors etc. What about time. This started and I knew I had till next year but all of a sudden it’s like less than 4 months and I haven’t even finished the sleeve.
So on to the next point:

3. It is all consuming: once you get started on it, you will get obsessed. Researching, designing, sewing..driving our family nuts with the question of doom ” what do you think….” Remember , there is no right answer other than ” it looks great.” Otherwise we are likely p have a meltdown and trash it. Which leads me to the last point.

4.Perfection: We are own worst critics. We can see, every flaw in the piece. We know how any times we ripped something out or balled it up and threw it in the trash. People looking at your work aren’t going to be nearly as harsh as you are. I am not saying don’t rip out work you are unhappy about. I am just saying give yourself permission to make mistakes.

So this all being true. Here is where I am at as of this evening. Amazing how much you get done when you are laid up for a few days .


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