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

Pics or it never happened

Sunday was the first run with the new Kampfrau dress.

– Wulsthaube worked fantastically well. I will be publishing my “how to” as soon as I finish writing it (and include pictures).(Published here)
– Dress and hemd were “done”
– Vertical stripy socks are cool. I’ll need to buy more of these.

– I’m still fat.. no dress is going to suddenly make me thin 🙂 that said, it was still very flattering.
– The front of the dress is kind of zigzagging on the hook/eyes. I think I’ll add a reinforcement to each side to cut down on this zigzag.
– Shoes still need to break in. I didn’t get any blisters from them but my feet definitely hurt.
– The dress was wearable.. but a bit warm. I think if I had strappy sleeves it would have been more bearable. This was OK for Coronet.. and will be OK for Fall events.. but for summer I’ll need to wear/make something else.

Picture taken by Edith

Picture taken by Edith

Picture by Julianna. Me and my Lord, Fearghus

Picture by Julianna

Down to the wire

I see the end.  It’s over there. I’m supposed to wear the dress for the first time in 5 days. I think I’ll have it all done in time (I’m hopeful that I won’t be madly finishing hand stitches on Saturday morning).

Still left to do:

– Finish Hemd(Plan to finish this tonight)

  • Line the collar
  • Add ties
  • Add sleeves and gussets
  • Wash (to remove the blue marks)

– Finish Wulsthaube(Plan to work on this today on commute and finish on Wednesday)

  • Attach Wulst to new cap
  • Add looped strap

Nice to have:
– Add guards to dress.  They’re machine sewn on the top and hand appliqued on the bottom.  I can -wear- the dress as long as they’re attached.. but I’d really like to finish them at some point. (Plan to hand-sew these tomorrow night)
– Bind the sleeve seams.(stretch goal for tonight or tomorrow)
– Bind the 3 seams inside the dress.(stretch goal for tonight or tomorrow)

Stretch goals that I won’t get done by this deadline (but still want to track for future projects):
– Gollar
– New flat hat
– Apron (I may prep the fabric for this and work on it on-site this weekend)

Sleeves (said with fear and horror)

I’ve only ever draped sleeves.. or left them for last and just kind of faked it. This time I want to draft a pattern so I have a sleeve pattern to use on my next dress. I’m planning to make a bunch of German dresses so it seems silly to have to fake the sleeves every time.

So.. I grepped the Intarwebs and found a bunch of sites saying a bunch of ways to do it. Luckily one stuck out.

Marion McNealy of Curious Frau has posted a very helpful article about drafting sleeves. This pattern ends up with the sleeve seam on the back of the arm instead of in the armpit.

The measurements:
Straight arm length: 21″
Bent arm length: 24″
Shoulder to elbow: 10.5″
Biceps + 3″ ease: 25.5″
Elbow + 3″ ease: 16″
Hand + 2″ ease: 13″

Armed with this and a measuring tape I went to town. I measured out a string around the armhole of my nearly altogether dress and I drafted my sleeve. Then got to the part where you lay your string over the top of your sleeve.. and I slammed into a wall. My string didn’t make a nice lazy S curve that draped over the top of the sleeve in a lovely manner.. instead my string was barely long enough to go from point A to point B at the top of the sleeve in a straight line. I was certain that a straight line won’t cut it for set-in sleeves.

So.. I officially gave up on drafting. Drafting is not my thing. New plan: go back to draping.

Edith came over an helped me with this on 4/28.

Sleeve Draping Steps:
– Cut out a rectangle of non-stretchy fabric the size of my bidep+3 inches ease by length of arm bent+ a few inches.
– Line this up with the sleeve seam running down the back of the arm (not the armpit). It “seems” right.
– Pin the rectangle to the top of the arm hole (may need to leave 2-3 inches of extra fabric above the arm hole so you have room for the rest of the adjustments).
– Move the arm so you’re reaching forwards and all the way across your chest and have your helper pin at the back of the arm.
– Continue to move the arm and pin all around the arm hole making sure that no matter where you put your arm you have full freedom of movement. You may need to snip the sleeve rectangle in order to free up the arm to get full range of motion and to get the rectangle to line up with the dress arm hole.
– Pin down the length of the arm to get a relative snug fit (not skin tight but not excessively loose).
– Make sure that you like how far up your arm you can push the wrists (specifically I want to be able to wash dishes while wearing this dress so I need to make sure the arms can push up to my elbow or I’ll need to add buttons/laces (which I don’t want to do)). Re-pin as necessary to get the fit and freedom of movement you want.
– Mark the seam at the arm hole and the seam down the arm.
– Even out the seam down the length of the arm.**
– Cut out the new arm based on the evened out seams and the slightly S-curved sleeve cap.
– Trace this on a big piece of paper or posterboard and add seam allowance to all sides.
– Using this new pattern piece, cut out your sleeve in your fashion fabrics.

The sleeve cap actually did come out mostly flat. Not as completely flat as it was looking when I tried to draft the sleeve with the string method.. but damned close to that. So now I have a pattern to use for all the rest of the German Dresses I plan to make.

Using my new pattern I cut out two sleeves, seamed them down the back of the arm(the seam is enclosed between the lining and the outer fabric), attached them to the dress and added my cuffs. I think the cuffs are too long but I’ll try them out for a while and see how they work.

On the next dress I may make the cuffs integral (part of the sleeves). In this case they’re an added bit at the bottom of the sleeve.(see cuffs in this picture. Incidentally, I -love- the strips she used on the top of her sleeve. Must remember that for later.)

**there’s a whole article here about “evening up pinned snorking” but I’m not going to write it now. Maybe later.

Skirt: The Fiddly Bits

Gaposis Before the hooks were added and the opening was finished

Inside the front opening. The fiddly bits.

The bottom of the bodice is smaller than my hips. In order to be able to get into/out of the dress I needed to leave a slightly longer opening. To hide this I want to slightly overlap the front skirt closure.

The right-hand side of the skirt ends flush with the right hand side of the bodice. The left-hand side is about 3 inches longer and attaches inside the dress with hooks. Finally there’s one last hook right at the very bottom front of the bodice to get rid of the gaposis.

The opening is hemmed and then reinforced at the bottom(just a bunch of whip stitches so I don’t accidentally pull the stitching out when putting the dress on). The rest of the front of the skirt is closed with a french seam.

Next To-Do:
Mark hem and trim.
Add Guards.

Skirt: Done except for fiddly bits (and guards)

Successful sewing day.. all by hand.

Dress Sans Sleeves

– Because I’m an idiot.. I had to go back and fold in the bottom edge of the bodice so I had a finished edge (next time I’ll just sew it right by machine before I put the blasted thing all together). I did this on all 3 pieces of the bodice so that there’s a finished edge between the bodice and the skirt.
– I used a silver sharpie and marked the length of my little band at 7/8 inch intervals (silver sharpie because it’s what I had on hand that would make visible marks on dark green wool).
– Starting at the middle of the band and working my ways outwards to each end, I tacked the top of each pleat to a mark along the length of the band leaving 3-4 inches of the band exposed on each end. Then I went back to the end of the band and used a pin to mark the center point between the first two pleats (just folded the fabric over an inserted a pin in the middle). (1)
– I sewed the first pleat onto the band from the tack to the marking pin(whip stitch through the band, and all 3 layers of the bodice). (2)
– Then I flattened down the second pleat and sewed from the marking pin to the next tack. This left a little flap of pleat on what will be the inside of the skirt. (3)
– Then I moved the marking pin to the next mid point repeated the process until I’d sewn down the length of the band.

When all the pleats where sewn down I attached the band to the bottom of the dress. The band is completely on the inside of the dress. Initially I thought I’d run a line of stitches around the top of the band on the inside of the dress.. but now I’m thinking that’s unnecessary. I’ll leave the band loose and move on.

Tried on the dress. Fearghus confirms that it’s “N-ice”

Next to-do:
Add a hook at the bottom of the front opening. The hook/eye stop ~1.5 inches above the bottom of the bodice so I need one final hook to hold it closed and aligned.
Add another hook at the end of the left band so that it can attach ~3 inches off center of the front. This will allow the skirt to have an overlapped opening so I can get in/out of the dress.
Finish the front skirt opening. French seam until ~5 inches below the bodice.
Mark hem and trim.
Add Guards.

Skirt: the pleating

Sunday was for pleats (not all day.. but a good chunk of it).
I’m totally cheating.. and I’m ok with that. For pleating the skirt I’m going to use a cheater strip of gingam. I’m relatively certain -they- wouldn’t have done this.. but I’m fundamentally ok with the cheat.

I found a nice woven-in gingham with (mostly) even blocks. Each block is ~3/8 inch square. (1)
I cut off a ~4″ wide strip as long as my skirt fabric. Folded it in half. Ironed it and then attached this to the top of the skirt. (2)

Then I did “the math” and figure out how many pleats for the dress. 52 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).

Then I flipped the cheater srtip so that I had a nice “finished edge” at the top of my skirt fabric (probably not necessary) and ran the gather threads. (3)

(1) Measuring the blocks

(2) Sewing on the cheater strip

(3) Running the gather threads

I pulled the gather strings tight to get my pleats. (4)
On my Cranach dress I attached the pleats directly to the dress. This meant that when I had to fiddle with the bodice I had to completely remove the pleats from the dress and then re-pleat the skirt and resew it. So to avoid that pain I’m gong to connect the pleats to a band of wool (the same as used in the outer fabric of the dress and then attach the band to the dress. The band is a 3″ wide strip of the wool with the edges folded inwards (5) and then sewn closed.

(4) Pretty Pleats all in a row

(5) The unsewn band

{NOTE: AFTER I took the pictures I realized that I had skipped 8 blocks on each of the gather stitches.. which ended up giving me ~25 pleats instead of 52 pleat. I have now unpleated that and repleated it skipping 4 block for each stitch. It just wouldn’t be a sewing project if I didn’t repeat at least one step in the process.}

Next to-do:
Attach skirt to band
Attach band to bodice
Trim skirt to length
Add guards. I want two guards. (2″ to hem, 5″ guard, 2″, 3″ guard).

The bottom of the bodice is about 45.5″ around.
I have 158.5″ of 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 52 pleats (45.5 divided by 7/8″ ) around the bottom of the bodice.
Which means that each pleat needs to be around 3.04″ each (158.5 divided by 52).
Rounding this, I’ll be using 8 blocks in the gingam as my guide for each pleat. (each block is around 3/8. 3/8 x 8 = 3 which is as close as I can come in whole blocks to 3.04).  Each pleat has two sides which means I’ll be stitching over 4 block in my under/over pleating stitch (4+4=8).

It should leave me with ~2.5 inches left over. This will work for the french seam and for overlapping the skirt opening.


Saturday was about German-ating. I started the day with a nice fitting single layer of linen bodice mockup pattern and end the day with a mostly complete bodice.

  • I clipped my seams on my mockup to 1/4 inch. Then I seam ripped my mockup apart.
  • Using these pieces I cut two copies in linen and 1 in wool. Then I sewed these together along the front openings and then flipped the wool to the back so that there was a finished edge along the front opening and neck.
  • I then sewed the front and back shoulder straps together. I think I’ll need to make a picture to describe how that works.. but anyway It ends up with all the raw edges enclosed.
  • Then I sewed all around the raw edges of the bodice so that all three cloth pieces would move together and I could treat each of the bodice patterns as a single piece of cloth.
  • Then I sewed the side seams. The raw edges are going to be on the inside. Initially I’ll jsut leave them raw in case I need to adjust the fitting. In the long term I expect I’ll bind them.
  • Then I added the hook/eye tape along the front edge. The hook and eye barely line up with the front edge.. in fact from the outside I couldn’t even see the hooks/eyes. I don’t want to end up with gap-osis so they hook/eye is set a little bit back from the front opening.
  • The guards are yellow wool (the same stuff I used for the yellow cote in fact). They’re doubled over and were originally cut at 6″ wide (when they wrap around the front of the dress the final guard is ~2 1/4 inches wide. which is narrower than I wanted originally.. but ok).
  • Then I did the first seam for the guards. Because the hook/eye tape was only attached on the edge AWAY from the opening I was able to flip the hook/eye tape back and line the raw edges of the guards up with the front opening of the bodice. I think I used a separate piece of fabric for each straight edge and added a new one at each 90 degree turn. I overlapped the heck out of them so that after the guards were flipped they’d overlap enough to make a nice mitered corner.
  • Then I flipped the guards around, pinned the snot out of them.
  • Then sewed down the guards with what I learned as an “applique” stitch. I think it’s the same as a hidden hem stitch.
  • Then I hand whip stitched the inner edge of the hook/eye tape to the inside of the guards.
  • Then I sewed down the miter at each corner.

I’ve got one miter corner to go.

I decided to attach the guards plain. I may leave it that way.. or I may go back and slash them. Kind of undecided about that.. but I just wanted to get them done and not futz with the slashing right now. I -think- it will be relatively easy to do them on the bodice if I decide I want the slashing.

Laying out the pattern piece on the final fabric

Pinning the snot out of the guards

First part of the "hidden" stitch

Second part of the "hidden" stitch

The finished bodice

Closeup of the hook/eye attachment.

Since my pattern was a single layer of linen and my final is 3 layers of fabric I totally forgot to add seam allowance along the front edge (where the hook/eye are located). I also ended up using a 3/8″ seams on the sides… so overall the new bodice is a scotch smaller than the pattern. I’m hoping it will be ok. I’ve tried it on and it is tighter.. but not horribly so.

I also forgot to add seam allowance to the shoulder straps.. so these are thinner on the final than they were on the mockup.

Also, if the fabric inside the guard gets all smooshy I may need to run a tacking stitch down along the inside of the guard. I’ll have to wait and see how it behaves first.

Next up, gathering the skirts onto a band.

My sewing muse is a BITCH

First she disappears for like 3 years. THEN when she finally comes back and starts hinting about how spiff it’d be to wear Germans.. and I actually start sewing.. ONLY THEN does she remind me that I’ve totally forgotten how to sew fitted garments.. and although squares and straight angles are nice to sew for early periods (and look nice in online gif patterns).. they totally don’t work for fitted supportive garments (hence the reason I have boob droopage and flattenage on Mockup 1).

So although my Mockup 1 is OK.. it will need ALOT of work to get it fitted right.. AND the final pattern will have wonky curves that will look funny on my pattern gifs. So Mockup 2 is a wash. It was a good thought exercise.. but it’ll never be made into fabric. SIGH.

Stupid sewing muse. I think she wants me to sacrifice a t-shirt to make a duct-tape pattern. Hrm.. Must consider.

Mockup 2 made me consider tweaking my pattern to use 3 pieces instead of 7. It makes sense in my head. Something like this:

Initially I thought about also having the front seam curved but I’m bothered that all three of the vertical seams would be wiggly. I -feel- like at least one of them(center front) should be on the straight. It just seems wrong to be tweaking all three seams to get it to be fitted.

Add to that I’m hesitant to throw away what I already have.. I may procrastinate on the duct tape pattern and just go with tweaking my fabric mockup instead.

Current tweaks in the works:
– Change it to use a side-seam instead of side-back
– Combine side-front and front pieces to get a 3 piece pattern instead of a 7 piece pattern
– Add 1-2 inches at the sides and use that to snork it up to get it to be fitted (Snorking involves pinning, looking in a mirror, pinning some more, then even-ing it out). I want fitted but not really tight. From my experiences with the fitted yellow cote, I just need it to be tight enough under the boobs to keep the boobs elevated.. after that the fitting is all shaping.

Originally I cut the sleeve caps as separate pieces because it allowed to have a very crisp square at the back neckline. Combining these pieces loses that crispness.. I think I’ll have to fiddle with it alot by hand to get it to be as crisp. But combining them does have the bonus of eliminating a couple of extra, unneeded seams.