Projects for Perfectly Period Feast – Burgundy

The West Kingdom Perfect Period Feast – Burgundy Guild (PPF-Burgundy Guild) is dedicated to exploring the time and culture of Burgundy in the fifteenth century with a goal of producing a Perfectly Period Feast on the theme in Fall of 2017.”

The Perfectly Period Feast is an event that happens in the West about every two years. The two years leading up to the feast are filled with classes, projects and research to enhance the “perfectly period-ness” of the Feast. November 2017 will be the PPF-Burgundy. The feast day is centered in 1450 to 1468 in a pretentious, wealthy merchant household. This will be the first PPF in which I’ve participated.

Inspirational Images

Pinterest board:

Items for the outfit:
White linen smock
Brown velvet V-necked overdress with black velvet collar and cuffs
Wide belt
Black velvet truncated henin
Red velvet or wool frontlet (to cover the kirtle)
Kirtle (I’m planning to wear my Hannah Brown kirtle which is the only one that sort of fits me at the moment)

Continue reading Projects for Perfectly Period Feast – Burgundy

Just a bit off the sides

Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.

Pictured here is the amount of fabric I removed from both sides of ONLY the front pattern piece of the bodice that took it from “filling in the cone in a not entirely flattering manner” and “actually working as a flattering and supportive bodice”. Honestly I’m a bit gobsmacked that removing that little bit from each side was enough. The sliver is at most 1/4″ wide in the center. That little adjustment made to ONLY the front pattern piece suddenly made my breasts stay up where they’re supposed to be. Color me surprised.

When I tried the pattern on I also realized the L value (46) is too long so I’ll be iterating this one more time with a shorter L value. When I’d bend to the side there was about 2″ of bodice below the bend point. I mathed it and figured out that I’d need to use a Bara tape of about 40″ long to end up with an L that caused the bodice to end at/above my bend point.

Starting with an L of 40, I then fiddled with the calculation Mr. Gnagy offered in his book and feel I may have backed into the way Bara tapes should be made for women.

The calculation in the book starts with your height and then subtracts 9 inches to get the “Cloak length”. All the rest of calculations are based on this. I suspect that since women’s garments are floor length it may be that you have to use the full length rather than the cloak length when building patterns for women. When I omit this subtraction I end up with a final value of L=38.6 which would easily round to 39.. which is comfortably close to 40 for me to call that good.

“Yes, but where do my boobs go?” Part 2

After much thrashing about I’ve finally landed on a “Low-neck bodice” pattern that’s close to fitting me. Close.. but not quite there.

Our story so far: (see also Part 1) I need a new kirtle. I’ve lost 50 lbs and my old kirtles are just not supportive any more. I don’t want to wear a modern bra under my kirtle so I just need to knuckle down and make a new one. Rather than going the easy route and doing what I’ve done before I decided to use the bara method described by Mathew Gnagy in “The Modern Maker Vol. 1: Men’s Doublet” and hints dropped by Mr. Gnagy on his facebook page about how to do this with a woman’s low-neck bodice(here). Then I ran into issues.

The bara method involves using graded tapes which are measured to the clients specific size. In this case it looks like I’ll need C (chest), W (waist) and L (length).

In “The Modern Maker” book he gives a graph which tells you how to setup the L based on your height. According to the book my L would be 34″ since I’m 5’5″ tall. Using this tape as my L for my initial patterns I ended up with a bodice pattern that was impossibly short. The “waist” of the bodice was barely coming down to my bra strap. I expected the waist to fall at my natural waist so I decided to use a longer measurement for the L value. After experimentation I ended up using an L of 46″. Either I’m completely off base and my new kirtle will have a much lower waist line than the period patterns.. or (hopefully) he’ll explain in the next book how I’m actually supposed to calculate this for a woman. Regardless I plan to use this longer value for L, at least until I learn better.

Initially when I measured for C I measured my bust over a super-supportive sports bra. This gave me a measurement of 46″. That is, with no compression applied by the tape it would take 46″ of fabric to exactly skim my already supported figure. When I used a 46″ bara tape and turned this into a sample bodice I found that 46″ was impossibly loose and would NOT work as a supportive garment. I went back and re-did my measurements and found that pulling the tape tight across my bust (as tight as I’d like the bodice to be) my new tape was 40″. I made a sample using this measurement and found it to be a bit too tight. This caused my bust to practically burst out of the neck line. I then backed this off to 41″ and find that I like the fit of that better.

Initially I measured my waist (for W) much the same way I measured for C (loose). Initially my W was 41. This, as with the C value above, was much too loose to actually be supportive. Especially when I reduced the C to 40/41. After a few iterations on the pattern I settled on using 38″ for W. This is as small as I can compress my natural waist comfortably.

So.. now that you’re all caught up. I have a bodice that’s conic and almost supportive. Sadly it’s not yet REALLY supportive. I think if I was in my 20s and had firm perky boobs I’d be all set to go. Sadly.. I’m in my 40s.. and perky is a thing of the past. Now, especially with my recent weight loss, my boobs are… what is the word which is the opposite of “dense”? … I’m going to go with malleable. Given a conic bodice.. and no other restriction.. my malleable boobs are filling in the cone in a not entirely flattering manner.

So, ok. I mulled this over for a night. I can see two possible solutions.
Either I need to fit the pattern more specifically to my shape.. and remove a bit from the sides such that my bosom will be unable to head south towards my belly button OR I need to size-down the C and W measurements 1 more inch.. and then use stretching of the pieces to encourage my bosom to stay up.

I went back to Mr. Gnagy’s bodice pattern and laid a ruler over the side seam for the front and finally noticed that’a not actually a straight edge. It’s subtly curved.

Posted by The Modern Maker on Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Digging deeper I stumbled on this post on Mr. Gnagy’s facebook page from a year ago.

Posted by The Modern Maker on Thursday, May 12, 2016

If you look at the side seam you see that this is not a straight line from the top to the bottom. Instead there is an accommodation for boobs at the top of the pattern. So.. now I have a plan I will go and iterate my pattern some more.

Ball walker

Be a ball walker!

NESAT XIII: The Lengberg Finds: Remnants of the Lost 15th Century Tailoring Revolution

Hinting at the answer to the question: “Were modern tailoring techniques in use prior to the 16th century?”

Lengberg, exciting for more than just bras.

Taylor’s Thimble

Someday I want my garb to hang like a well made suit.”
– Posted by me on Facebook Feb. 5, 2017.

Thank you eBay. Stupid things that make me absurdly happy. 1600-1700 brass open top thimble

From Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns(p. 9):

The tailor
Contemporary sources demonstrate that tailors needed relatively little equipment to set up a workroom. In his illustrated survey of heraldic devices, The Academy of Armory,
Randle Holme states: “We come now to give some examples of Taylors Tools, or instruments of working: which in themselves are but few in number, though thereby most rich and costly Apparels are made: and being the fewer, the less fear there is of a Taylors breaking, for to be and unthrift and so run away he may, but break he cannot: for at the next Town he comes too, he is set up again if he have but Needle, Thimble, his Goose [a pressing iron] and Shears.’

The accompanying image indicates that the closed top thimble was used by “Sempstres” while the open top thimble was used by “Taylors”. “Sempstres” being the trade open to women that focused mainly on undergarments, hats and embroidery while outerwear was made by “Taylors” which was a mainly male occupation.

From Modern Maker Vol. 1: Men’s Doublets(p. 46):

Tailor’s Thimble: Traditionally, tailor’s thimbles are open-topped and are worn on the middle finger. Properly positioned on the middle finger, the tailor uses the thimble to push with the side of the finger, not the top. There is no need for a thimble with a top; in fact, a closed thimble can actually interfere with the finger sensitivity needed for tailoring.

From The Cutter and Tailor forum: Learning to Tailor by Self Tuition

Starting out

Your first hurdle, when starting out, is to hold and use your thimble properly. A simple enough thing you might think, it’s not for most people. This in itself will test your mettle in wanting to become a tailor, or at least learn tailoring methods to improve your home-sewing projects. Your thimble should be an open top thimble, to make sure it’s the right size you must place the thimble on the table, wide in up. Now place the middle finger of your sewing hand into the thimble. The tip of the finger should be able to touch the top of the table easily yet not fall off when you lift your hand.


Gnagy, Mathew. The Modern Maker Vol. 1: Men’s Doublets. Charleston SC: Printed by, 2014. Print.
Tiramani, Jenny, Claire Thorton, Luca Constigliolo, Armelle Lucas, and Susan North. Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns Book One. London: V&A Publishing, 2011. Print.

Parable of Miles and the Knight

The parable of Miles and the Knight:

This is as applicable to the Laurel/Apprentice/artisan relationship as it is to the Knight/Squire/fighter. Some people aren’t willing to ask for help and would rather hack at the trees themselves. This isn’t wrong but is the hardest path.

Some Laurels rest on their laurels.. this isn’t wrong.. but it’s not the only possible action.

The forest is deep and dark.. and overhelmingly huge.. and the center is impossibly far away. Sadly I believe the closer you come to the center (and to “Perfect Master”) the more convinced you become that it doesn’t exist.. and it’s still impossibly far away.

“Yes, but where do my boobs go?”

As I mentioned I’m very excited to try out Mathew Gnagy’s methods and apply that to a late-15th/early 16th century kirtle. That said.. I will need back out some information from “how they did it in the 17th century” to make sure the garment I’m creating is as true to my period as I can make it.

Juan de Alcega’s 1589 tailors’ pattern book

F.59a – “Kirtle and low cut bodice of silk”

Mathew Gnagy has a version of this which is slated to be included in his next book (due out by the end of the year).

Being presented at Invocation of the Beltan Memorial Tourney as Mistress Sylvie. Photo by Joel the Brewer.

I’m terribly excited about this because of the super narrow straps that go over the arm. Very late in the Hannah dress project I realized that my neckline was incorrect for the period (1488-1515) and location (Brittany) I was trying to reproduce. I had honestly never paid such close attention to getting the time/place right on a garment before and doing so suddenly brought up that I’d gotten a detail totally wrong. Well, ok, mostly wrong. The neckline I’d used would be correct for a middle/lower class gal from Brittany but the upper-class gals were wearing the much narrower straps.

Alcega (and by extention, Mathew Gnagy’s) pattern has this very narrow strap. I buzzed about with eagerness to reproduce this before that little voice in the back of my head cleared its throat and forced me to consider the sides of the bodice. This bodice is conic. The sides are absolutely straight and have no indication that the bodice would be fitted to cup/support the breasts. Instead this appears to use the much more 17th century idea of shaping everyone to be a cone. It looks like the breasts will fill the cone and there will be no give in the pattern to hold the breasts up.

I spent about a day mulling this over.

Either I’m wrong.. and all my efforts at “fitting” bodices has been wasted effort.. or I’m right.. and they did something different (which eventually morphed into this conic shape).

So ok.

Alcega’s pattern book “Libro de Geometria, Pratica Y Traca” (Book of the Practice of Tailoring– Measuring and Marking Out) by Juan de Alcega, printed in Madrid in 1589. This details Spanish patterns. Much later time period, very different location.

I started by skimming “Tudor Tailor” and “The Queen’s Servants”. Both of those are focused on “English” dress styles later than I’m aiming for.. and both of those use the “conic” layout for the bodice.

Next I skimmed through “Drei Schnittbücher“. These patterns are from tailoring manuals from about 1590 from Upper Austria. Jackpot. Four of the dress patterns include an indication of fitting for the breast. Coincidentally, they all show the shaping happening on only the center front seam. These are contemporary to Alcega.. and still in the wrong location.

Finally I skimmed through my pin board “(black) velvet hat, Europe 1488-1515” and honestly I just don’t know. There’s a lot of pictures there that look conic. There are a few that don’t.

Well, so okay. I guess my previous efforts have not been wasted.. but this time I’m going to try out a new style of bodice for my next kirtle. We’ll see how that turns out.

The continuing pursuit of a better kirtle

Someday I want my garb to hang like a well made suit.”
– Posted by me on Facebook Feb. 5, 2017.

Un traje para Pitti Uomo 89

Posted by Sastrería Serna on Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I’ve often joked that every time I fit myself for a new self-supportive kirtle I lose 50 lbs (friends have also remarked that if that really worked then they would never stop fitting themselves for new kirtles). This time is a little bit different in that the reason I’m doing a new fitting is because I am currently down about 25 lbs from where I was when I made Hannah “Brown” kirtle and it’s starting to no longer work as a “supportive” garment. See previous iteration at In pursuit of a better kirtle.

It’s been about a year and a half since I made the last dress and despite the fact that I haven’t been posting much here (and I haven’t been actively creating things from the early 16th century) I’ve still been reading quite a bit of very interesting and illuminating books and since I’ve been distracted with other eras (6th c. Kentish Anglo-Saxon/10th c. Norse) the ideas have had quite a bit of time to marinate. So when I finally came back around to wearing early 16th century garments and finally got to the point where I need to make a new 16th century kirtle the ideas that had been mostly in the back of my mind sprang to the front and demanded attention.

Foremost among those is the thought that “I’ve done it all wrong”. To be fair, I did what seemed logical (given no other guidance) but under new light the old ways were.. well wrong. The thought exercise goes like this: “If I’d done the previous dresses ‘right’ then I would be able to adjust the fit of the garment so that it works for me over a wider range of weights. BUT, since the method is ‘wrong’ instead I have to create a whole new garment to adjust the fit.” I was aware that my previous method of creating the kirtles was not very tolerant of size changes.. and for the most part I’ve lingered in the neighborhood around the original size so that the dresses have been usable for about the last 5 years. Not bad.. but I could have done better. Funny enough, the “better” way to do it was probably the more period way too. I’m not 100% certain on that.. but all signs point to it.

The primary influence here was Mathew Gnagy‘s book “The Modern Maker Vol. 1: Men’s Doublets“. I resisted buying this book for a long time since my husband has no interest in wearing a late period doublet.. and the pattern considered here is a 17th century doublet. It’s out of period for the SCA.. and I just didn’t see how this was going to be useful. Boy was I wrong-ish. Mathey Gnagy comes from a bespoke background. This is the methods use by super-high end tailors to make stunning modern suits. Mr. Gnagy has taken his knowledge as a high end tailor and reviewed “period” garments and then written a book detailing the steps you need to go through to get the proper silhouette with traditional tailoring techniques. It’s all the things I wanted to know about “how did they do it” beyond basics questions that no one was writing about. Reading this book made me super anxious for him to publish the next two books he’s committed to write (Pattern Manual: 1580-1640 due by end of 2017 and Women’s Kirtle coming up after that).

This book led me to “17th-Century Men’s Dress Patterns” which was just published this year. After I received that book and read over it I found out that they had already published another book with Women’s patterns. Both of these are fabulous additions to a late period recreation library.

I’m not completely certain that all of the methods shown in these books were used before the 17th century, but it seems reasonable that some of them were. These types of things did not spring like Athena from the head of Zeus, fully formed in the 17th century. I’m fairly certain that some form of these methods was used earlier than that.

In short the method is to create the garment with the outer fabric and the interlining and sew this all together (seams, eyelets, binding, etc) and then attach the lining in such a way that the lining could be easily removed in order to make alterations to the garment. Reviewing the patterns I’ll also need to change the shape to be more period correct for the late 15th century (more shallow point/no point at the bottom of the bodice). Sadly, because Mr. Gnagy’s other books aren’t out yet I’m having to extrapolate both from the 17th century way of doing things.. and the “men’s” way of doing things. So, since the “right” books aren’t yet available (and I totally could not afford to participate in Mr. Gnagy’s Kirtle workshop earlier this year) I will again be making my best guess.. but this time I hope it’s a better guess.


Braun Melanie, Luca Costigliolo, Susan North, Claire Thornton, and Jenny Tiramani. 17th-Century Men’s Dress Patterns 1600-1630. London: Thames & Hudson, 2017. Print.
Gnagy, Mathew. The Modern Maker Vol. 1: Men’s Doublets. Charleston SC: Printed by, 2014. Print.
Johnson, Caroline, The Queen’s Servants: Gentlewoman’s dress at the accession of Henry VIII, United Kingdom: Fat Goose Press, 2011. Print.
Tiramani, Jenny, Claire Thorton, Luca Constigliolo, Armelle Lucas, and Susan North. Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns Book One. London: V&A Publishing, 2011. Print.

Menologion of Basil II

From: Menologion of Basil II (
between 979 and the early years of the 11th century in Constantinople

What I see (that I think is cool):

St. Hermione: Hermione was beheaded because she would not worship Hercules. “Two servants, Theodulus and Theotimos, were entrusted to perform the execution. Since they were in such a hurry to execute the saint, not allowing her time for prayer, their hands withered. They immediately believed in Jesus Christ and with repentance fell at the feet of St. Hermione.” From Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Short sleeves! Ok, a friend commented that it could be sleeves that are rolled up.. but I think it reads more like short sleeves. I also see either tall boots or straps over something else on the lower leg. Pants appear to be patterned or embroidered. It’s possible the beads in his hands are a early form of paternoster and signify him converting to Christianity.

Epimachus of Alexandria: “During a persecution against Christians at Alexandria (about the year 250), Saint Epimachus in his fervent zeal came into the city, destroyed pagan idols, and fearlessly confessed Christ. … After fierce tortures, the saint was beheaded by the sword.” From Orthodoc Church in America
This reads as either a short-sleeved tunic over a long sleeved tunic OR an arm band half way down the sleeve. Either is cool for me. The sword is suspended from a baldric. I don’t think I can recall seeing anyone recreate this but now that I think of it I can think of at least one other example, from a burial, that wore the sword like this (Anglo-saxon tablet woven baldric… I’ll have to dig up the reference). Patterned or embroidered pants. Armor boots? or some kind of tall sock tied behind the knee? Cool either way.

Bulgar soldiers slaughter Christians: The guy on the left is wearing the stereotypical coat with horizontal buttons Ive seen recreated. All of the attackers seem to have fur around at least the color. The non-yellow guys have fabulous brocades. (I’ve got to wonder why they’re fighting/shedding blood in brocade but, whateves) Added bonus, the guy in yellow also appear to be wearing a fuzzy hat. Bare legged guy.