Bodice Woes

Having now worn the red/black linen dress twice.. I can say with authority that my bodice pattern needs to be altered.

The straps in the front are too far apart so that when I reach forwards (ie, wash dishes) the edge of the strap cuts into my arm uncomfortably. Further, I believe the lower part of the bodice isn’t flaired enough over the ribs so that if I slouch the bodice tends to bunch up under my bosom.

As long as I’m standing up straight with my arms at my side, the current bodice is fine.. but as soon as I get more active I become uncomfortable with the way it’s fitting. Ah well. I guess it’s back to the drawing board.

Definitely I’ll fiddle the bodice pattern BEFORE I make any more dresses for me. ATM this fiddling is scheduled for AFTER my vacation next week(and hopefully BEFORE Purgatorio). I’d like to be able to re-cut my red linen bodice and have it all set to go for Purg (Aug 27-29).

Not-so rushed

I’ve done a bunch.. and it’s been a while since I updated progress on the dress.. but frankly, all the stuff I’ve done is kinda boring and not-picture-worthy.

I’ve been doing this big push to get the dress done by Crown. I will definitely -make- it.. but the current weather report put the weekend in the low 70s.. so I may just wear my green wool German instead of this new linen dress. So I’m not really rushing to get everything done. Not to worry, I’m sure there are some scorching events coming up soon.

Stuff done:
I did a simple 1/2″ rolled hem at the top of my skirt fabric.
Just below this I attached a cheater strip of gingham. Then I pleated the skirt. I only ran a single line of thread for pleating. It went relatively fast and had essentially the same outcome as I got by running three lines of thread.. so I think I’ll stick to 1 thread in the future.
Then I made a little band of fabric 3″ wide by about 50″ long. I folded this to enclose all raw edges and sewed it down. On this I added marks 7/8 inches apart. At each mark I tacked the top of one of my skirt pleats.
After all pleats were tacked to the strip I removed my pleating string and the cheater strip.
Then I worked my way around the skirt band and attached the tops of each pleat to the skirt band.

Once that was complete I attached the band to the bottom of the bodice. The band is completely hidden inside the bodice.. but this way if I ever need to pull the skirt off the bodice I can do that without having to completely re-pleat the whole thing.

I did a french seam down the front of the skirt leaving the top ~5 inches open so that I can get into/out of the dress.
I did about a rolled hem along the edges of that opening to finish it.
Then I attached another hook/eye to hold the overlapped piece in place on the inside of the bodice.

Edith stopped by and marked the bottom of the dress and I cut it off to slightly-longer than the correct length (leaving enough fabric for a nice rolled hem).

Still to-do:
– Finish hem. Since I’m nto really rushing to get it finished by this weekend I think I’ll make this my weekend project to finish the hem by hand.
– Add pieced guard to the dress. I want to add one pieced triangle velvet guard to the bottom of the dress. I want to use velvet both to match the bodice guards and because I think the velvet will add a nice weight to near the bottom of the skirt. I haven’t even started on this. I need to buy velvet, cut it into little triangular pieces and then sew it together. No rush on this. The dress is wearable without the guard.
– Pleat sleeves of the hemd. I haven’t even started on this. So.. yeah, need to do it.
– I’m also tempted to use the last of the left-over red linen scraps to make removable strappy sleeves. Will need to think about that for a bit.

Mmmmmm Velvet

Linen guards are so boring. Having fixated on the idea of using velvet guards I turned my house upside-down looking for the spools of black velvet ribbon I -know- I have. Sadly I couldn’t find it. After hemming and hawing about it I decided I really did want velvet.. so I went out and I bought more ribbon. Viola, instant guards.

Saturday I sewed the bodice together, added the hook/eye, and added the guards. It’s looking mighty spiff.

Now for the skirt. “The Math” says I need 53 pleats which translates to 8 blocks per pleat. Each pleat has two sides.. so my pleating stitches will be over 4 blocks each (see math below).

The bodice bottom is 46.5″ around.
I have 179″ of fabric for the skirt.

I want the tops of each cartridge pleat to be at about 2 squares on the gingam which ends up at about 3/4″(3/8″+3/8″=6/8″). When this is attached to the bottom of the bodice I’ll need to add another 1/8″ to that to account for the bulk between the tops of each pleat. This give me a total of about 7/8″ for each pleat (6/8″+1/8″).

This gives me around 53 pleats (46.5 divided by 7/8″ ) around the bottom of the bodice.
Which means that each pleat needs to be around 3.37″ each (179 divided by 53).

If I followed this exactly then each pleat would be 9 blocks of gingam. Unfortunately that would make me have to deal in half blocks. Meh, I’d rather have to cut off a few inches of the skirt fabric. So instead I’m going with 8 blocks per pleat.

Each pleat has two sides which means I’ll be stitching over 4 block in my under/over pleating stitch (4+4=8).

I should have plenty of fabric left for the french seam and the skirt opening.

Red will be the color

I dug through my fabric stash and found that I had enough light blue (denim colored) or red linen available for the dress. Since I’ve been wearing the light blue as a tunic for the last year I’ve decided to make the linen kampfrau in red. I’m not 100% certain that ruby red is utterly appropriate.. but I think it will look striking. I plan to guard it either with black linen or with some of the black velvet ribbon I used for my Italians (long long ago).

Using the pattern I made with my last German dress I cut out the bodice. I’ll be using two layers of the red linen on each panel of the bodice. The skirt will be a single layer of the same linen. After cutting out the three pieces of the bodice I sewed the individual pieces together to give them a finished edge along the bottom (between the bodice and the skirt) and along the arm hole. I’m planning initially to have -no- sleeves on the actual dress. In the long term I think I’ll add the ability to lace sleeves onto the dress. But I wanted a finished edge there so I can be done with it.

I’m toying with whether I want to put a finished edge all the way around the top of the bodice. IF I use black linen guards then I”ll be attaching them on the inside of the bodice and flipping them around the edge of the opening.. so at that point it’s not really necessary to finish the edge.. BUT if instead I decide to use the velvet ribbons (which I’m really leaning towards) then I’ll need the edge finished before I can attach the ribbons.

Decisions Decisions.

Linen Kampfrau

Diary started June 1, 2010
June 2: Decided to go with Red Linen and fixated on using velvet ribbons for the guards.
June 6: Turned house and garage upside-down looking for ribbon. Gave up and bought more 2″ wide velvet washable ribbons and put the bodice together. Bodice is done.
June 9-12: Pleated skirt onto a band and attached the band to the bottom of the bodice.
June 16: Added one more hook/eye to the skirt closure and finished the front opening of the skirt. Cut skirt to length. Dress is altogether.
June 17: Added temporary machine hem (temporary until I replace it with a hand-done hem).

– finish the hem
– add skirt guards.
– need to pleat sleeves of the hemd.


“Aren’t you hot in that?”
Yeah.. so I finished my first Kampfrau.. and it’s smashing.. but it’s a bit warm. It will be perfect in the spring/fall.. but in the summer I may just melt (Winter is a -whole- other story.. but I’ll deal with that later).

Most of it I blame on the sleeves. I think if my arms were cooler I’d be more comfortable. The sleeves are all-one-piece and wool. I think with different sleeves it’d be perfectly usable for the summer. That said, I think I’m going to attempt to make a linen kampfrau dress that has -no- sleeves. My interpritation of the inspiration picture is that the hemd sleeve have fancy honeycomb pleating and those are what’s showing.

This has the added bonus of potentially being quick to sew(only need a bodice and a skirt). I’d love to be able to wear this dress for A&S (in two weeks) or at worst, for June Crown (in four weeks).

Details to include:

  • Dress made of linen
  • Simple front-closing bodice with hooks/eyes.
  • Long sleeved white linen hemd with pleatwork on the sleeves
  • Fancy pieced guard(?)/hem (stretch goal)

Inspirational Pictures

G. 615 Ro. 255 Tailor as Lansquenet and Seamstress c.1535 The German single-leaf woodcut, 1500-1550, Max Geisberg ; rev. and edited by Walter L. Strauss, New York : Hacker Art Books, 1974.

Cranach the Elder, Lucas 1512. Lucretia

Lucas Cranach: The Elder Magdelena of Saxony, 1529


G. 615 Ro. 255 Tailor as Lansquenet and Seamstress c.1535 The German single-leaf woodcut, 1500-1550, Max Geisberg ; rev. and edited by Walter L. Strauss, New York : Hacker Art Books, 1974.

Lucas Cranach the Elder. Portrait of a Lady around 1513 oil on panel 47.0 x 35.0 cm The Thomson Collection © Art Gallery of Ontario


Curious Frau