Ramblings on costume challenges

So I have received quite a number of messages asking for advice on how to proceed in one of these costuming challenges that have been so popular recently.

Firstly i am kind of stunned that anyone would ask me for advice as I don’t consider myself an accomplished person or any sort of expert!

So this is just my ramblings on the subject and I know there will more than likely be a great number of people who disagree with what I say but hey that’s life.

The most asked thing is “OK I entered, now what do I do? I have so many ideas!”

Write down your ideas before they fall out of your left ear and are lost forever. Be concise, draw diagrams, even print out inspiration pictures and annotate them. Believe me, in 3 or 4 months these notes will be invaluable to remembering where you are headed in your challenge. Keep a record of where you find your information and inspiration such as websites or books, these can easily be forgotton and you may wants to go back to recheck things later.

Make yourself a timeline. List the items and when you plan to get them finished by, take into account you will more than likely required to do at least monthly check ins and sometimes this includes having an item finished each month so check the rules.

Know your timeframe, when can you start and when do you have to finish. Write this on your notes, I can’t remember how many times I have to go check the websites as I can’t remember how long I have to go!

Select your materials, tools and make a shopping list for anything you need. Collect or make your patterns, if you are allowed to make them before time starts. Put them into bundles i.e chemise notes, pattern and fabric in one bundle, sottana notes, pattern and fabric in another, you get my meaning right? I work from skin out on my outfits so I pile them up this way to prevent having to move stuff around my limited space too much.

OK next question, “how do I keep motivated?”

This one is really up to you, I personally am so practised at these challenges now that my mind just goes to, “the end of month is coming have I done what I needed too?”

I used to have a group of friends that would come around most Sundays and we motivated each other, but having moved away I lost that and now am one my own but I manage to keep going. So basically you need to figure out what will work for you, sorry this is a hard one to answer.

“How do I afford the correct fabrics?” “Do I have to use the expensive stuff?”

Well this is another hard one! It depends on the challenges rules, is it required to use only period fabric, or are you allowed to substitute more modern replacements?

I have a substantial fabric stash that I built when we had a better income but now I can’t afford to go fabric shopping so am limited to using what I have on hand, most of which is not considered “period” I don’t use linen as my skin reacts to it and comes out in nasty itchy red welts, but I can use a linen/cotton blend so I substitute whatever I can that gives the correct look for the outfit I am making.

Some of my favourite pieces have actually been made from tablecloths or curtains, which fibre wise are not period but they give the right effect.

Go with what you can afford, seems the best thing to say here.

“How do I maximise my points?”

I am totally the wrong person to ask this question to as I don’t enter any challenge to win it. I am not a competitive person, and just do this stuff for my own enjoyment.

I guess it comes down to how you view it:

Competition: The act of competing against others


Challenge: An instigation intending to convince a person to do something they otherwise would not do.

I personally enter these costuming challenges to stretch myself and hopefully manage to learn something new or do something better, it’s about my growth as a seamstress, I am not about gaining recognition or awards. I just want to relax and enjoy my sewing.

However I totally respect that some of you are competitive and are focused on the end results or getting everything as period accurate as you can. Fantastic, great, good on you! I cheer you on from my little corner and really hope you success!

I think that answers most of the general queries, I have messaged you all individually as well.

Best of luck to you all! Happy sewing!

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ircc10 The September update

so yeah I managed a hat this month.

It’s a nice hat, based on a portrait by Moroni,

and one I have never made before so it took a lot of thought and planning before I actually did it.

I took a lot of photos of the process so I could remember how to do it again 🙂

I am pretty happy with how it turned out, although were I to make it again I would cut the crown larger to make it taller.

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IRCC 10 August update



Two items completed for my husbands outfit this month.

First up the doublet. I decided on very simple black silk sleeves with some pinking as the body of the doublet was very decorative and the sleeves really needed to be plain to compliment this.

I had some black silk in my stash that was just big enough to get the pair of sleeves out of and I then did a very simple cutting pattern using my usually mallet and chisel method.

doublet sleeves slasheddoublet sleevs with chalk grid for cutting


I decided to baste the completed sleeves in so if I ever want to make them removable in the future I can do so. The cuff are finished with slashed binding.

Buttons are some from my stash that have black velvet centres and they are a nice finish to the doublet.


Next item was the Capotto that I drafted from the MM vol 2 book (pg224) As per other items I cut first a muslin and fitted it , some adjustment to the arm holes was required to allow for the doublet to be worn underneath., other than that I lengthened it to bring it down as long as the doublet.

capotto cutting out

The fabric I had selected was not enough meterage, I was amazed at how much this needed! The only other black I had that was enough was some plain cotton drill, so I had to use that instead of the linen, as this was the first time making this item I was happy to go with the cheaper fabric in case he doesn’t end up liking the piece. My lining fabric was also not enough and I had no alternative that was big enough so this became unlined. Originally I though about fur lining or facing by again no budget for purchase and nothing in stash so I went with black velveteen facings and trim along the edge.

The whole piece came together quite easily. When it came to the sleeves I added some cuff decoration by weaving black velvet ribbon in a simple weave pattern as I had in my stash a lot of short pieces of ribbon.

I am quite happy with how this turned out and am considering making another in nicer fabric with lining in the future.

capotto completed frontcapotto completed sidecapotto completd back

Next up will be a hat, but that’s next month. Along with finally starting on mine if I can eventually actually decide on what I want!

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IRCC10 the July update

This month was very slow on the sewing front again, but I did manage to complete the second pair of Calcon (pants) for Adrian’s outfit. They were drafted from the Modern Maker book 2, and with just a little bit of altering turned out nicely and he says they are very comfortable.

Next up is his doublet. Again a new pattern I drafted using the barra system and the pattern on page 90 of the Modern Maker book 2. I cut it from calico for a test fitting and did a few minor alterations, including adding length as Adrian wanted it longer.

The outer fabric I gave Adrian free reign to pick whatever he wanted from my fabric stash and he wanted this faux silk, ok yes polyester, it is black background with embroidered flowers and leaves.

4 layers were cut, with assistance for my daughter. 2 canvas, cotton lining and the outer fabric.

Construction has been done mostly on machine, my hands are just being ridiculously difficult right now as I lost my compression gloves somewhere which has meant extra pain.

The body of the doublet is completed but the sleeves I keep changing my mind. As the fabric is so patterned I feel the sleeves need to be nice but not too busy and hence my indecision. Also I am unsure if I am going to permanently attached or make them lace on.

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IRCC 10 Pants….


This month I managed a pair and a half of pants for my husbands outfit. I had a load of pain and movement issues so sewing was very sporadic. Also photos are crap as my old phone has died and my tablet does not take good pictures, I will replace the photos once I get a new phone.

The pattern was one I drafted in the first month of this challenge from the Modern Maker book, The Freyle 1588 Calcon.

I cut them out of a heavy drill for the first pair, my husband has requested two pairs, one for general day wear and another for nicer occasions.The drill was not wide enough, and there was no option for more fabric so I took out some of the width and they are just not quite as full. Once these were constructed, I tried them on him he was very happy and now the second pair are from another, mystery fibre content fabric from my stash, but this pair will be lined with some red cotton.




I finished off the Second pair of pants as well. Yay  things are happening! Might get totally motivated and get onto the doublet soonish

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updating the Blog and an awwwww moment

So in uploading pictures to update this blog I had a total awww moment in looking at how much my sweet Hannah has grown up during our years in the SCA

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IRCC 10 The second outfit

OK. Then came May!

We had to move house again so I lost almost 3 weeks of sewing time.

With only ten days remaining I decided to make a shirt for my husband whose outfit is next on my plan.

He wanted bear blackwork embroidery to reflect his personal SCA heraldry, so I designed some simple collar and cuffs and then spent 10 hours over 2 days embroidering them. Did I mention I don’t enjoy embroidery? Anyways once I could move my arms again, shirt was cut out following the same pattern I used fro my daughters, obviously much larger though.

Once constructed the collar and cuffs needed something more, so I did the needle lace in black this time. Nice but not enough so black thread wrapped buttons, and then more embroidery around the seams happened, also hand made button loops and that little bar thingy on the front opening to help prevent tearing.

So it’s complete, yay I made something this month!

Next month, pants! And maybe more….once I decide on the inspiration portrait for this outfit.

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IRCC 10 the finished Miss Hannah outfit

So now that IRCC  has moved completely onto Facebook.

It occurred to me that many of you are not members of the book of face and won’t be able to see whats going on, which is a shame.

Anyways here is Miss Hannah’s completed outfit, I did the whole thing in the first two months.

of course I am still working on more for the challenge, now I have moved onto an outfit for Adrian.  This wil be in the next blog post 🙂

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And so it begins…IRCC 10 The Big One

This year is the tenth  Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge and the tenth time I have entered, I am the only person worldwide insane enough to have entered every year. Also this year the challenge has been extended from four months to ten months and requirements expanded from four items to ten!

So of course I am totally up for the challenge! This year I set my sights on making not one but three outfits for myself, my husband and my youngest daughter.

Outfit 1 of 3: based on portrait Sisters playing chess by Sofonisba Aguissola


First up is one for my youngest daughter.
I started with designing the black work for her shirt which is chemise length. She requested a design based on the symbols in her favourite book series, and so I drew up the design and embroidered it by hand using a double running stitch. After constructing the collar and cuffs I added some simple needle lace to give a nice edge. The shirt was constructed and I finished with hand worked buttons and strengthening bar and button loops on the neck opening and cuffs.
The pattern for the shirt was based on one I have used before which is found on The Elizabethan Costuming page

Next up was a simple pleated underskirt made in a blue indigo linen. It features a tuck and nice trim lined with felt to give a stiffened hem. The skirt is simply box pleated to the waist band which closes with a hook and eye.

I spent a couple of days making Bara tapes for the three people I am sewing for, so used these tapes to draft patterns from the Modern Maker volume 2.
The fabric my daughter selected for her sottana was a lovely silk sari in dark red with gold pattern and blue stripes.
I constructed the bodice with a lining of red linen two internal layers of denim and then the outer layer of silk. The denim is the only stiffening in the bodice as my daughter was adamant she did not want any boning.

The skirt is a simple gathered skirt attached to the bodice, the hem features the nice gold sari edge and a black velveteen skirt guard for strength and length. The sottana is machine sewn internally but all finished by hand where the sewing is visible, sides are closed using spiral lacing.

Sleeves for the sottana were cut carefully from the sari end that had the blue stripes so that the stripes form bands around the arms. I carefully used a double needle to sew the sleeve pieces to linen lining to highlight the stripes and also give strength to the very fine silk. The cuffs are finished with black velveteen ribbon to reflect the skirt guard. The baragoni were shown in the portrait being scalloped pattern topped with small rolls so I created small scalloped strips which were hand manipulated and sewn to reflect the portrait. The sleeves tie to rings sewn under the straps of the sottana by hand made ties finished with brass aglets.


The overgown is currently underway.


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IRCC9 All the final write up

Month 1
Item completed Camicia
pair of handkerchiefs accessory
The camicia was based on an extant historical item held in the Prado museum which features a squared neckline with attached lace and very full sleeves that are tightly gathered at the cuffs, again with lace added. The extant example shows goes added to give the fullness in the body however the fabric I chose was wide enough that I could simply cut the width rather than add it in.
I have attempted to stay as true to the extant example as I could.
The pair of handkerchiefs were simply off cuts from the camicia, and some of the lace that was left over. It is seen in a number of 16th century portraits that ladies did use lace edged hand kerchiefs.

Items completed in month 2
Sottana with optional removable sleeves in the style of Eleanora di Toledo
Beaded girdle belt- accessory 2
This sottana serves multiple purposes. It will be worn as an under gown as it is padded and boned as a supportive layer to wear with the veste and giubonne over the top in the style Lavinia Fontana’s self portrait of 1575. The sottana can also be worn with it’s optional removable paned sleeves in the style of  the portrait Eleanora di Toledo of 1545. This style of Sottana spanned a number of years and styles in the 16th century ladies styles, beginning as an under gown, then becoming a gown in it’s own right with removable, optional and interchangeable sleeves, and then it moved back to being an under gown again with the incoming veste and giubonne styles later in the century. I look forward to wearing this very comfortable gown with or without sleeves, and also under it’s over layers, it will be a very  flexible addition to my ever growing renaissance wardrobe. The design and pattern was originally based upon an Alcega  that I adapted over time to best fit my ample proportions ans alter over different gowns to be most comfortable but still in keeping with the period design, with it’s side back lacing being reachable and able to be laced on my own without assistance when necessary. The skirt on this gown was not cut with the additional side gores as per Alcega due to  the minimal amount of fabric I had, however the skirt if still very full and in keeping with the style I was trying to achieve. The skirt has been hand gathered onto the bodice and carefully enclosed between layers as it was very frayable and was worried it may give way without support. The hem has been thickened with an added layer of felted wool and some beige fabric I had on hand. I have always found this to be very helpful in keeping moisture from wicking up skirts and also to keep skirts from wrapping around ankles causing tripping which I am inclined to do. Both the front and back of the bodice were boned and padded to given the nice flat stiffed look and be very supportive giving a good base for the over layers to come.
The sleeves were created by using a normal straight sleeves pattern which was divied into several pieces, cut and sewn together with it’s lining. These panes are then turned in the right way and ironed, then the long process of hand sewing these panes together and adding the beading at each catch point. There is also lace with hand beaded added at the wrists and the tops of the panes are gathered onto tapes and then again sewn to each other to create the scrunchy baragoni. The ties for the sleeves are made from folded hand cut silk bias tape, I prefer these on the sleeves not the gown,they also feature lovely cast brass aiglets from the style of the 16th century, these pass through brass rings sewn on the underside of the straps of the gown, making them very easy to put on and take off and very secure once on. The construction and beading of these sleeves took a lot of hand work and tie but they are certainly work the effort.

Items completed month 3

giubonne with much handworking
accessories 3 Jewellery set consisting of two short necklaces, one pair of earring and a long coral necklace. One necklace to be worn with the sottana and sleeves option, the other two, being the real pearl and real coral ones, for the multi layered outfit. Earrings obviously can be worn for both

The third, but not final layer of my Lavinia Fontana inspired outfit is the giubonne (doublet) layer. It is based on a blend of a Alcega pattern and the waist coat pattern from the Tudor Tailor.I made a giubonne in last years IRCC and I started with that pattern but then I went on drafting several patterns to get this one sitting just as I wanted it to but without being overly tight as I find it too constricting due to health issues. It also needs to to be able to be buttoned up completed or left with the collar open depending on which style I am opting for on that day. For this outfit it will be worn collar open. The sleeves in the Fontana portrait are shown with quite full tops coming down to tight forearm so I added flare to my sleeve pattern and made the forearm into a style that is buttoned almost to the elbow.

The sleeve pattern was drawn up  onto a piece of calico and I then drew the cutting pattern onto this. It features diagonal cuts in a star pattern and small holes in lines. It was difficult to make out the actual pattern from the portrait but this seemed fairly close. I cut the silk for the sleeves, NOT on the bias but on the straight grain this time. The three pieces were pinned down to a sheet of plywood and I cut the slashes with a small wood chisel, new so that it was very sharp. The small hole were punched through with a paper hole cutter I had in my kit from paper crafting days. It did not cut very well but enough that I could then careful trim the holes with small scissors. I then hand beaded small groups of seed beads into the middle of the slashing pattern. This was a very long piece of hand working but again very worth the time and effort. he more the silk has been manipulated during the sewing process the more the slashes and hoes have started to fray and open up showing the lovely cutting pattern and also the gold silk I used as a middle layer in the sleeves. The internal layer is simply a cotton. The cuffs of or the giubonne feature hand made slashed binding in the same silk as the body of the piece. this just gives a nice finish to the cuffs and reflects those shown in the portrait. the buttons for the sleeves and front are small pearl buttons carefully chosen to tone in with the ivory silk. This layer is very comfortable and I am glad I took the extra time to get the fit as I wanted it as another tight layer would have not worked for me. I am especially pleased with how the hand working had added subtle interest to this middle layer, those many hours were worth it.
The giubonne does not fit over the optional sottana paned sleeves these have to be removed when the outer layers are worn, so two outfits in one really depending on how many layers you want to wear.
The giubonne took a lot of my limited hand strength so in between layers I played making up the jewellery sets fro this outfit. I have a collection of jewellery making supplies which include old pieces that I pull apart and remake in renaissance styles. The necklace and earring for the sottana alone set were made in this fashion. I disassembled some items and played around until I got the look I was after. The short real two colour pearls and very long real coral pieces were simply strung from pearls and coral I bought for this particular purpose. They are strung on very strong wire to ensure no breakages.
I did begin on the put layer veste by starting the cutting out and making the hand cut bias for the edging.

So the final parts of my outfit

The overgown or veste- extra layer
the lace collared partlet – extra layer

the woven garters acessory 4

The outer most layer of this ensemble is the pinkish silk veste, with it’s two layered ruffled and pointed baragoni and very long hanging sleeves. This is a mixture of two portraits, the Lavinia Fontana one and one by Zuccari of alady seated in a yellow veste. The two portraits ar of a very close time frame and both artists were active in the same area so it stand to reason the styles are very similar, both have the ruffles but one has the long sleeves and the other the second row of baragoni, I have simply added both extra features into one gown.The Zuccari veste shows a loose back to the gown but it is hard to make out the fit in the Fontana portrait but it looks like a fitted back, for my own comfort and preference I have opted for the loose mongil style back  as I already made this style and had previously drafted my pattern from one in Alcega I simple use this rather than reinvent the wheel. I had also previously mage the hanging sleeves and had a pattern for those saving myself a lot of time. Time that I sued to careful hand bead and attach the many many metres of trim that went onto this veste.  The beading took a couple of days of many hours to complete but really made the trim much nicer. Again though the extra time and pain I put my hands through is well worth the effort and it really adds interest  to the piece.
The baragoni themselves did not take too long to actually create. The ruffles were simple box pleated and the points were cut in half oval shape, sewn turned, ironed and more beading. I sewed the two layers together to stablise them before fitting them in the armhole along with the hanging sleeves, this did give many layers to sew through but thankfully my machine is made for the heavier duty sewing. This year I chose to completely line the veste and I hand sewed this lining in with invisible stitches. The body is lined with a cotton/linen blend that tones in with the silk, the handing sleeves are lined with a golden silk. All the edge seams also feature hand made and slashed binding. The top front of the sleeves have a hanging pearl where they finish in a point.
I had intended on make silk button for the veste but on making a few I did not like the ook of them, so I went rummaging around my stasha nad found some pearl cluster beads, caps and eye pins, and created 42 buttons for the front of the gown, As these are purely decorative they did not need to be be very strong. The gown is closed in front with hidden hooks and eyes.I really enjoyed hand making the buttons and already have plans to make more for future projects. The veste has very small openings in the side seams to allow the belt to be worn without holding the loose back in.
The partlet was actually fairly simple. I used my regular partlet pattern, or I should be calling it a coverciere, pattern. The lace was a wide lace I found in my stash. I hand pleated it and added temporary stitches to hold in shape, the ends I add some thin lave to give a nicer finish. The lace I box pleated onto the collar piece and sewed onto the partlet. The temporary stitches were then removed. The lace is stiff enough to keep the shape by itself. I am still not quite convinced I like how wide the lace is and might trim it in thinner in the future sometime but for now it is a lovely finish to all the layers of this outfit.
Although made last the partlet is worn under the giubonne.
The last item made was my final accessory, a pair of woven garters. I used my new inkle loom with some lovely silk thread alternated with some gold tone cotton. I created the pattern using an online inkle loom pattern generator which made warping the loom much easier. I used the silk as the weft thread as well, and as this was quite a thick thread the weaving was quite a lot quicker than I though only taking me a few days to complete. I sewed the weft thread back into the weaving to finish the ends off nicely. I did weave the whole warp in one go and the cut this in half to create two garters, I thought these would be long enough and they do work but I would like some slightly longer and will make another pair sometime in the future maybe. I do love the softness that the silk thread bought to these though and they are very comfortable.
The only day I had set aside to take my final portraits and it was teeming down with rain so we made the best of it and headed to the Arts centre which provided a nice background and enough protection so I did not get too damp.
I am so pleased that I finished this again, nine years! I look forward to next year being the tenth, and for me probably final, but who knows I may not be able to break the habit!
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