Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Landsknecht Dress Diary; “Hanne v.1” Part 4

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

The final step to complete the dress was sewing the skirt and bodice together. Every picture I have seen of the Landsknecht stuff, the women do not have any gaps between the skirt and bodice, making me think they are connected. The men’s clothes are often pointed (tied) together, but the women’s stuff does not look pointed to me.

I had created a complication for myself by making a front close bodice, and a side close skirt, so I could not sew around the entire skirt and bodice. I stitched around from the right front of the bodice, all the way around the back to the left side skirt opening. Then I put hooks and eyes along the left front of the skirt and bodice so that I could get the dress off and on with openings that did not line up! I stitched the bodice to the skirt right at the point where the waistband met the skirt gathers, so that the waistband was almost entirely on the underside of the bodice.

To cover my head I made a little cap to hold my hair, like the little caps worn by women in the Cranach paintings. I made mine out of yellow linen and wool left over from Stephen’s new outfit. I measured around my head and cut a band of yellow wool to hold the cap in place. I stitched it into a circle, and folded and ironed in the seam allowances. I cut a circle 24” in diameter out of the linen, and gathered it into the wool band. I machine stitched the band to the linen because I thought that this first one would just be my prototype on the way to making one out of some shear fabric that looked a little closer to the look in the paintings. But I liked the linen one so much that I spent my time on other things and never got around to making a different one. To hold it on my head I did my hair in two braids that I wrapped around the crown of my head and held in place with barrettes so they would not slip. My hair is not quite long enough anymore to tie up with ribbons in a more historical fashion. Once the cap was on top of the braids they both helped to keep my slippery hair in place., with the help of two straight pins on the top of the cap to help keep it from sliding off my head.

I also made a hat. Spending so much time out-of-doors I hate going out without a brimmed hat of some kind, and the landsknecht have such interesting hats! The simplest is a platter hat which is 2 big circles sewn together with a head hole cut in the bottom circle. These hats are most often seen with a lot of ostrich feathers on the top of the cap. I wanted something a little more involved, so I did a platter had with a square top. Stephen made an educated guess on fabric size and cut a prototype out of some scrap fabric we had laying around, wouldn’t you know he got it right on the first attempt! Both the head hole size and the amount needed to fold into a good square. I cut my wool based on his scrap fabric prototype.

The deal with the square is that you cut a square piece of fabric with a head hole in the center. You lay it out on a flat surface and fold the corners in to the middle, then you take the new corners created by the fold, and fold those into the middle too. That is the shape of the hat. I hand stitched the upper folds to each other starting in the middle and stitching toward the corners. That was the top of the hat.

For the brim I machine stitched two circles together (both with head holes since the square would be going on top) and ironed the heck out of the seam. I stiffened the brim with a round of wire, a nice thick wire that a friend had picked up. The wire was already fairly round because it came off a spool, so all I had to do was lay the hat down, lay the wire on top in a circle just slightly bigger than the outside of the cloth, and duct tape a bit of overlapping wire to keep its shape. Making the wire a bit bigger than the cloth meant that the wire stayed in place and the brim stayed nicely round and not too floppy. I squished the wire through the head hole, between the two brim circles. I also put a few stitches around the wire through the outer seam, just to keep the wire in place. I hand stitched the brim of the hat to the square top part, since the brim was now very tight with the wire inserted. I did not finish the edge, just sewed the three layers (two brim, one square) together and figured that the seam would be hidden by my head.

I sewed ostrich feathers around the hat by tucking the ends under the square part, and just catching the feathers with a few stitches to keep them in place. I also sewed a couple of ties around the head hole since this style of hat acts like a kite on a windy day, and I did not want to chase the darn thing all over the faire grounds.

Wearing my creation
I wore this dress every day that I was at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire this season, a total of 7 days. I wore it with a plain renaissance chemise underneath, since I ran out of time to make a more historical and geographically correct hemd. I also did not make my own hosen, but wore long stockings with my square toed (often called cow-mouth) shoes. On cold days I wore my wool-lined leather hood which Stephen made for medieval events. Totally not right for the Landsknecht, but really warm and waterproof, so good enough for a first-year endeavor. As the wife of a baron I added some chain necklaces, one that was fake amber beads (though I lost that one after the first weekend) a nice curly chain that my parents brought back from a visit to Lithuania (I do not know what metal it is made of, or if it is historical in any way, but it looks old, and I can’t really wear it anywhere else) and a “gold” chain I got for cheap at a department store.

I wore a woven belt at my waist, mostly to hide the point where the bodice and skirts joined. I wove it on a belt loom out of some nice wool yarn. I wore a second woven belt around my hips so that I could pull my skirt up in a poof around my waist, just like in all the woodcuts. Since the poof around the waist reminds me of the inflatable tubes that kids wear when learning to swim I call the hunk of fabric my swimmie, and now my entire guild group does too. It is so helpful to have the skirts up and out of the way when lugging firewood or bending over a camp fire as well as looking just like a woodcut.

And that is the whole outfit!

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Landsknecht Dress Diary; “Hanne v.1” Part 3

Read Part 1, Read Part 2,

Bodice Construction
The tricky thing about the bodice of a landsknecht dress is that you don’t necessarily wear a bra underneath it. The bodice itself is supposed to provide support. There is no boning in this bodice, all of the support comes by fitting the fabric really well. Back in the patterning stage I made a duct tape version of the bodice and drew out the seam lines based on the “Period Patterns” pattern. I cut up the duct tape bodice along the seam lines, and lay it underneath my pattern trace in order to modify the pattern piece to my size while still maintaining things like arm holes, and seam placement, seam allowance etc.

To start the bodice I first cut the lining material out. I made my lining out of a rather stiff cotton canvas. I had some left over from another project, and was hoping it would give me the right shape while not being visible. I cut out the two front and two back bodice pieces. I like to put a seam up the middle of the back to get a closer fit. I stitched them together up the back, at the shoulders and the sides, so the bodice lining resembled an unfinished vest. I put it on inside out, and pinned up the front. Stephen then helped me pin and draw out where the seams actually should be. It turns out my shoulders are also slightly uneven! After that I had left and right pieces that were slightly different, but closer to my measurements. Stephen also pinned the pieces in such a way that the cloth formed a natural shelf for bust support.

Once I had all the pin lines chalked out, I ripped out all the stitches and used my lining pieces to cut out my bodice pieces and bodice guards. I stitched up the back seam, the shoulders and the sides on the wool bodice fabric, ironed those seams flat, then set it aside.

Bodice Guards
Using the bodice lining I patterned out the guards. I was planning for a strip of the green wool to go around the neck opening in the bodice and down the front closure, slashed with black underneath it, just like on the skirt part.

Using tracing paper I drew out the bodice lining edges, then measured two inches in towards the rest of the lining, and a half inch beyond that for seam allowance. I did not need to worry about seam allowance on the other side since it was still figured into the lining and not finished yet. When I had the pattern I drew various slash patterns on it until I found one that I liked, then cut out both the green wool of the guard and the black cotton I had used underneath the skirt guards. I used tailor’s chalk and an exacto knife to cut them, just like I had on the skirt. Once I had all the pieces cut and slashed I began the painstaking process of assembling all these various parts.

I used light basting stitched and stitched the black under guard to the green slashed guard. Then I used a much tighter stitch to sew the guard that went around the back of my neck to the guards that went down the front, and ironed the seams flat. I then pinned the guards in place around the pink wool bodice, right sides out. I pinned and re-pinned because this part was tough to get right. Some of the time I used the old dressmaker’s dummy that belongs to Stephen, but most of the time I just lay the dress on the edge of the ironing board to pin around the arms etc. Once I had the guards pinned to the bodice I lightly stitched that in place along the outside edge, mostly outside my seam allowance. I did not bother stitching the inside edge in place, since that would all have to be hand-done later. The final step was to sew the lining in, this one I did right sides together, so the right side of the lining covered the guards, and the pink wool. This seam was the actually real outside edge seam so I did nice tight machine stitch on this one, up one front side, around the neck line across the back around the other side and down the other side of the front. Since there were so many layers I cut the seam allowances fairly close, snipped all my corners very tight, and did a thorough ironing job while the thing was still inside out, and again when it was right side front.

After quite a break to recover from all that excitement I loosely zig-zagged the armholes, more to keep the lining and front together while I did my hand work, and for eventually fitting the sleeves, though all that stitching will have to come out eventually. Then I tackled the inside edges of the guards. The cool part about stitching the black to the green first was that I now had lines of stitching at exactly where I wanted the fold to go, so I cut the black fabric very close to that stitching line, and ironed under what I could of the seam fold before blind stitching the guard down along the inside edge by hand. Since I did this after attaching the lining, my hand stitches show on the inside of the bodice. If I was to do it again I might stitch the inside of the guards first before sewing in the lining.

To get the length of the bodice just right, I put on the skirt and the bodice and had Stephen chalk the line where the two met. Then I folded the excess to the inside, ironed it flat and hand stitched the bottom edge. If I had not sewn the guards down through the lining I probably could have flipped the bodice inside out and machine stitched the bottom seam. I’ll know for next time.

The sleeves ended up being the most complicated part of the entire process. I relied heavily on the pattern, plus a little advice from Stephen. The sleeves are actually three layers thick: the outer pink wool layer that is puff and slashed, an inner yellow silk layer that is puffed and shows through the pink slashes, and a black cotton that is the actual lining. The black cotton is the layer that is actually the size of my arm so I cut that one out first and stitched it up to make sure the fitting was correct. It was a little short so I cut a new one a bit longer, and based all the rest of the cutting on that one.

Next I cut out the pink wool layer, I cut it 7 inches longer than my black lining layer to get the multiple puff effect that I was going for. I wanted to have two puffs each at the wrist, elbow and shoulder. I chalked out where I wanted those puffs on the black lining, then pinned the pink layer on to it. I eyeballed the amount I wanted each section to puff, and moved the pins around until I felt I had it right, then chalked those lines on to the pink. I needed the chalk lines on the pink in order to cut the slashes in the right locations (i.e. only on the puffed parts.) I spent quite a bit of time chalking in the slashes for each puff. Since the sleeve tapers, it was awkward to have the same number of slashes for each puff, and almost impossible to have them evenly spaced. In the end I measured the width of each puff section separately and determined the slash pattern based on each puff. When I cut the slashes, I cut both sleeves, as this was the part that would most determine if the sleeves would look symmetrical.

Once I had that all figured out I tackled the yellow silk “lining”. The silk got cut at the same length as the pink so that it would also puff, but I cut it 7 inches wider than the pink to provide the actual bulk for the puffs and so it would show through the slashes. I put gathering stitches along the top and bottom of each puff, and gathered the yellow so it was the same width as the pink. If I had to do it over again, I would probably do only half the rows of gather stitching. Once the yellow was gathered to the same width as the pink I put zig zag basting stitches along the edges of the sleeves and along the top and bottom of each puff.

Then I stitched up the pink and yellow so I had a tube, and did the same for the black lining. I ironed the seams flat, turned the black inside out and stuffed the pink and yellow inside the black. This meant that I had right sides together. I sewed up the wrist seam, turned the lining to the inside, and ironed it flat, so that the bottom of the sleeve was finished. I then pulled the black lining material up so that the shoulder of the black was lined up with the shoulder of the pink and yellow. Since the black is significantly shorter the pink wool puffed up, since it was slashed, it puffed in all the places that I wanted it to. I did a quick basting stitch around the shoulder to hold it in place.

To get the puffs to look right -- the wrist puffs smaller and the shoulder puffs bigger—I put the sleeve on and slid the pink up and down my arm to get the puffs to the right shapes. I then asked Stephen to safety pin around each puff so I could take the thing off and sew the puffs in place. I did this by hand, with little stitches to catch the fabric just above and below each puff. I’m not sure there is a way to do it by machine. I actually thought about putting some nice trim in between each puff, but changed my mind when the hand stitching just to keep the puffs in place took so much time. Besides, the yellow silk underlayer was fancy enough when matched with the wool guards on the rest of the dress.

Once the hand sewing on the sleeves was done, I machine stitched the sleeves to the bodice. Since the linings were structural to both the bodice and the sleeves I could not hide the shoulder seam under a lining, instead I whip-stitched the rough edge just to keep it from fraying. I am so glad the inside will never be seen, ’cause while the outside looks good, the inside sure ain’t pretty!

Read Part 4

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Landsknecht Dress Diary; “Hanne v.1” Part 2

Read Part 1

Skirt Construction
The pattern I was using to construct my Landsknecht dress called for the bodice to be made first and the skirt second, but I have a lot more experience making skirts, and felt more comfortable tackling that part of the project. The pattern also called for the skirt to be sewn directly into the bottom of the bodice, but I wanted a waistband on my skirt, since I do not have much in the way of hips and wanted the skirt (which would be heavy since it was made of wool) to hang from a band around my waist instead of around my hips or off the bodice.

I did not use pattern pieces to make the skirt, I simply measured from my belly button to the floor and added 2 inches for seam allowance. The wool I’d bought was 56” wide (54” once it had shrunk in the wash) so I used the width of the fabric for the width of the skirt and cut two pieces of the right height, one for the front one for the back. For the waistband I measured around my waist and then added 2 inches for seam allowance and a bit of overlap. That got me the length of the waistband, I cut the strips 4” wide to give me the height

First I sewed the two halves of the skirt together. I sewed the entire length on one side, but on the other I left the top 5 inches unattached (just reinforced the end of the seam with a few extra stitches.) A few notes on sewing here. I did use a sewing machine. I know some hardcore reenactors do not, but my hand sewing is not as good as a historical seamstress’ and the machine stitches on things like seams are not going to show. In my opinion a well cut, machine sewn dress out of period fabrics is going to look much more authentic than a hand sewn dress that is not out of the right material, or is cut using modern patterns.

Next I stitched up the waistband. I folded it in half lengthwise, right side in and stitched up one short end and the long side, leaving the second short end open. I clipped the corner, then flipped the waistband inside out, ironed it flat, then ironed the open end in. I did not finish off the second end, since I could finish it when I sewed on the skirt and also because the wool was fairly stiff and was likely to hold the right shape once ironed even without the stitches. I can not say enough about ironing. I can guarantee you will not have a well finished seam, any seam, if it is not ironed flat.

Gathering the Waist
The top edge of the skirt was obviously tons wider than the waist band, so I had to use some method to get all the skirt fabric to the right width. The main two methods of doing this are gathering and pleating and, as a general rule, I prefer pleating. But I’ve read some reenacting group guidelines, and have looked closely at the woodcuts, pleating often comes out looking flatter than I was going for. I wanted to try a really tight gather instead of pleating. Many years ago a reenactor in Florida told me that she’d used drapery tape (sometimes called gather tape) to get a nice tight gather to sew into her skirt, this time I thought I’d try it. I purchased gather tape at Osgoods when I bought my fabric, and it proved incredibly easy to sew into the fabric then gather up. On the skirt top I folded and ironed over about 1/3 inch of the skirt fabric, then positioned the top of the gather tape about a 1/3 inch below the fold and machine sewed the top and bottom of the gather tape, using the longest stitches on my machine for easy removal later. Once it was sewn on, I just pulled on the two strings in the gather tape, and I got perfectly spaced, very tight gathers along the top of my skirt.

The difficult part is sewing the gathers to the waistband. Pleats are easier because they lay flat along the same axis as the waistband, gathers lay the skirt fabric perpendicular to the waistband. I like the look of gathered skirts since they tend to poof out from the waist which helps me since I do not have much in the way of hips. In the past I’d tried sewing the waistband along the front of the gather, but that makes a weird fold in the band, to accommodate all that fabric underneath. I’ve done it by just attaching the bottom of the waistband to the top middle of the gathers (by hand) but it seemed sort of flimsy to me, and I never ended up wearing the skirt I made that way. I’ve tried just shoving all the gathers inside the waistband, ie, sewing one half of the band on the front of the gathers, and the other half on the back, but that makes for a very round waistband, which hurts my hips.

For this skirt I chose to lay the top of the skirt gathers against the flat front of the waistband. So the skirt top really is perpendicular to the waistband. All this had to be sewn by hand, I don’t think there is a machine out there that could handle the angles I was working at. Before I sewed a single stitch (in fact, before I’d gathered along the gather tape) I put pins every 1 quarter around both the skirt and the waistband, so that once I’d gathered I could match them up evenly. I then pinned the skirt into the waistband about every inch and a half, with the opening in the seam of the skirt about 1/3 inch in from the edge of the waistband. I had to pin with the skirt and waistband parallel instead of perpendicular (pins don’t go at the angle I was sewing either) which meant that when I was sewing I had to take the pins out a few gathers before I got to them and just hold the last few gathers in place while I was sewing, The gather tape helped with this a lot, as did the fact that I was hand sewing.

I started by sewing up one edge of the gather and down the other, but quickly switched to putting two stitches at the top pucker of each gather along the length of the waist, then going back and putting two stitches in the bottom on each pucker. This part is fairly hard to describe, so I’m putting in photos that I hope will help explain. The stitches in the skirt part were fairly well hidden up against the waistband, and the other side was on the inside of the waistband, where I did not mind if they showed. I used a lot of thread, and the job from the inside is not pretty, but from the outside, at initial glance, it did exactly what I had wanted it to. The skirt poofed out in nice even rolls.

Once I had put in all the hand stitches and had the skirt entirely attached to the waistband, I needed to take the gather tape out. The tape was much stiffer than the wool it was stitched to, and made the sides stick straight out at the waist, also the two rows of stitching holding the tape in place were very obvious. This was not as easy as a normal seam removal, so much of the tape was hidden from view in the folds and gathers, but removing a seam always feels easier to me than putting one in. Once it was all out I hung the skirt on a clippie coat hanger for a few days In order to see if the skirt would relax and if the fabric would stretch, so I could hem the thing with some degree of accuracy before affixing all of the guards.

I sewed a couple of hooks and eyes that I had purchased from Reconstructing History on to the waist band, two on the outer overlapping side, and one on the inside. I wanted to do that before I hemmed so that the skirt would always sit at the same spot on my waist. I chose the closure to be on my left hip, so that I could put a pocket underneath (a colonial pocket that ties around the waist, totally un-period, but great for holding a wallet and inhaler.)

Stephen pinned up the hem for me while I was wearing the skirt, since we females are not even all the way around. Unless you are very oddly shaped you will need more fabric in the back of the skirt than you will in the front. Also, my hips are uneven, so one side will always be higher than the other. My legs are the same length, but because my hips are uneven, nothing of mine will look right unless the bottom hem is measured from the floor. This is also the reason why I had to pick where the skirt closure would be before I hemmed it.. Stephen pinned up the hem just about at my ankles. Since this is a working dress, I will wear it kitled up most of the time (more on that later) so I wanted a pretty good length on the skirt. My machine has a blind hem stitch, which I used on the bottom of the skirt. Still, I promised myself I would pull out the machine hem and put in one by hand once the whole thing was done. In the end I never got around to it.

Skirt Guards
My next step was to sew on the guards, or stripes of a different color wool around the bottom of the skirt, in good landsknecht fashion. I hemmed the skirt before attaching the guards, because I wanted the guards to be even with the bottom of the skirt. When I was cutting the skirt I made sure to measure the width that the skirt fabric had shrunk to, because the guard fabric had shrunk differently. I had to make sure my guards were not too short, but also not too long either since I was planning on slashing them, and having to sew a seam in the middle of a slash is a pain.

I wanted to put three stripes on my skirt. I have a theory that the more srtipes, the higher in standing the person wearing the skirt. Not in any codified sort of way (i.e. one stripe, soldier’s wife, two stripes officers wife) nothing like that. But still, I wanted to show off a little, and thought three stripes would do it. The two upper stripes I cut narrower bands and did not do any slashing, the lowest stripe I cut a fairly wide band, and slashed it.

The thing about slashing the guards, is that I’m told the colors underneath the slashes is not necessarily the same color as the skirt itself, and that sounded good to me. I wanted to put another solid color band underneath the slashed band, without bunching, puckers, or becoming too heavy. I had green wool to make my guards so I chose black linen to use underneath. I washed the heck out of the linen just like I had the wool. I also cut the linen on the bias, that is, I cut the stripe at a 90 degree angle to the weave of the fabric. This meant that the linen was stretchier and had plenty of give, in case it wore out differently than the wool over time.

I drew my slash pattern on the inside of the wide guard with chalk, before actually cutting it. I used a pattern of almost “x”es for my slashes since it is a good idea to slash in the direction of the bias. That way you get less fraying on the edges of my slashes. This is another incredibly good reason to pick wool, you can be fairly certain that a good wool will not fray on an unfinished edge. I slashed the guard with an exacto knife on a cutting mat. I’m told that scissors work, but that seemed a little fussy to me since I was slashing in the middle of a piece of fabric and not right up to the edge. I am also told that a rotary cutter works well, but they scare me a little, and the exacto worked fine.

Once the big guard was slashed, I folded the top and bottom seam allowances over (on the wrong side of the fabric,) ironed them flat, then opened them back up. This was so I could tell where to position the black linen layer, and also to help me attach the guard to the skirt. I cut the black linen under piece a little less wide than the green wool guard and stitched the right side of the linen to the wrong side of the guard, just on the outside of the fold lines, so I could be sure that the lines of stitches would be hidden. I ironed the seam allowances folded again so that the black linen would have the same fold lines as the green wool. And I was finally ready to attach the guards to the skirt.

I measured 2.5 inches up from the bottom of the skirt, and drew a chalk line all around the bottom of the skirt. I pinned the guard, right side of the guard to right side of the skirt below the chalk line and pinned it in place. Yes, it was upside-down and inside out, but it was all part of the plan. I machine stitched just on the outside of the fold line, as close as I could get to it without being on the line. Then once the seam was in place I flipped the guard upright. S since the fold had been ironed in, it was a nice flat line that totally hid the machine stitch. I could have done the upper edge of the guard in this fashion instead of the lower edge, but I was measuring from the bottom of the skirt, and figured the less distance I measured the better.

Now, I can hear you asking, how did you hide the seam on the upper side? The trick above can really only be used on one side of the guards. For the other side I just folded it along the seam fold that I had already ironed, used a machine baste stitch to hold it in place, then hand sewed that side in place since the hand sewing is so much easier to hide. I took out the machine baste once the hand stitches were in place.

I sewed the first guard in place, then measured a few inches up and used the same trick to sew the next two guards into place. I almost put a fourth guard on the skirt, but that looked like overkill to me.

With that, I was finally finished with the skirt, and ready to start on the bodice.
Read Part 3, Read Part 4
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Monday, October 19, 2009

Landsknecht Dress Diary; “Hanne v.1” Part 1

Now that Connecticut Renaissance Faire is over, I finally have time to put up my dress diary for the new outfit from this year! I am dividing it up into parts, because the diary is so long!

Previous Experience
The first Landsknecht dress I attempted was made with luck and a lot of chutzpa. I was (and still am) madly in love with a Landsknecht reenactor, who is also a fantastic tailor. Back when we were first getting to know each other I desperately wanted an outfit to match in time frame and geography. I had a bit of sewing experience, but not very much, and a borrowed pattern. Stephen really saw me through the first outfit, though he swore he was no good at teaching people to sew.

Today, five years after that original Landsknecht dress, Stephen and I are engaged and have started our own Landsknecht unit. My original dress served me well, but going into the new venture I was looking for one that was more historical. Also, I needed to be able to teach others in the unit how to make their own Landsknecht dresses, since they are practically impossible to purchase. I wanted to document my whole process to help the other females in our new group.

Before making my outfit I wanted to know about the character I would be playing since clothing varies widely by class, and clothes tell a story without using words. My first thoughts about character were that Gutstav (Stephen’s character/persona) is a soldier’s soldier, so Gustav’s wife Hanne (also spelled Hannah) would have to be a soldier’s wife in order to be happy (and playing happy is much more fun than playing miserable.) I also wanted my character to spend a lot of time around the fire, cooking and such. So I determined that I should not go with something too upper-class, and could be a lot wilder in my color choices than I was last time, as long as those colors were still historical.

After I decided on what I wanted, Stephen determined that in order to lead the fahnlein, he needed to captain the unit, and be noble, a baron in fact. As the wife of a baron I had to alter my costume plans a little, but I still wanted to make a basic kampfrau outfit, so I could help the others in the unit, and because I liked my original plan.

Background Research
The first thing I did when preparing for this new dress was look at a lot of woodcuts and portraits from Renaissance Germany. There are a number of woodcuts portraying the Landsknecht, less of the women camp followers than there are of the soldiers themselves, but still quite a number, both online and in books. I also looked at paintings and portraits from the Holy Roman Empire, 1500 to 1550. The most disappointing part of my research has been that I have not seen any photos, drawings, or examples of extant German Renaissance clothing. Woodcuts and paintings are good, and show quite a bit about construction, but it is nothing like looking at the real thing. If anyone reading this has seen the real thing (or photos at least) please let me know, I’d be delighted to learn more.

I ended up mixing and matching a bit to get to my final dress. My initial inspiration and color choices came from the spring panel of Die Augsburger Monatsbilder, a German wall painting from the 1520s that I found on a dress diary by the Curious Frau. In the “spring” panel the woman in the lower middle playing cards was my initial inspiration, though I liked the darker colors of the woman just above her. I wanted to go a little more kampfrau since I needed to be able to tell others how to make guards etc. so I went for the guards on some of the woodcuts that I’d seen especially Musketeer and Wife c.1535 woodcut, also from Curoius Frau. I used sleeves straight off the pattern “Period Patterns”. For headgear I went for the small cap found in Cranach paintings, and a more traditional hat pattern that I had seen on various reenactors. More on that later.

In order to make our new Landsknect outfits, a bunch of us went wool and linen shopping. We encouraged everyone in the group to go with natural fibers since, obviously, back then folks did not have the newfangled fibers that we have now. Though there are some synthetics out there that try to mimic natural fibers, they rarely succeed, the most historical looking and feeling fabrics will, in my opinion, always be the real thing. We asked our crew to stick mainly with wool and linen as those are the most prevalent fabrics in continental Europe in the sixteenth century. There was a little bit of cotton, but it was expensive, especially in the northern parts of Europe. Silk is a little more common since by this time Italy is producing silks, but would not necessarily be found on the common soldier.

For wool and linen we all trekked down to Osgoods in Springfield, MA. It is a long drive from Southern New Hampshire but totally worth it. They have a ton of wool, all year round. They’ve got all sorts of colors and weights, they have linen, tons of upholstery fabric, really anything a historical costumer could want. Stephen and I then spent the next month washing wool.

We washed and dryed all the wool at least twice for a number of reasons. First, we’ll be wearing these clothes non-stop in the fall, so they will get dirty and we will have to clean them later. If we did not pre-shrink all the wool they would undoubtedly shrink later, and the colors could run, and make a mess of everything. Also, Landsknect clothing is often slashed, that is cut in various ways, and if your wool is tight enough, or fulled, then you will not have to worry about finishing the edges, just like felt. Washing wool shrinks it and tightens it so you can slash to your heart’s content and not worry too much about the edges.

As far as I am aware there are two patterns out there for making Renaissance German gowns, the original I used which is “Period Patterns” and another made by Reconstructing History. I decided to go back to Period Patterns since the last dress turned out so well. I again had to borrow a friend’s but the next time I make a landsknecht dress I will probably go out and buy the pattern since it has served me well twice. To help with patterning Stephen helped me make a duct tape bodice pattern which would help me get a better fit. I wore an old t-shirt and he taped me in, we drew on the duct tape with sharpie where we thought the neckline, seams, arm openings etc, would go, then cut me out of it.

Since I had borrowed the pattern I traced out the individual pieces instead of cutting them up, that way I could get my size, and others can use the pattern for other sizes later. To do this (and to make my own patterns from garments, measurements etc.) I have a roll of yellow tracing paper that I bought at an art supply store. The first time I bought it I was told it was architects tracing paper, so if you are looking to buy any, I’d ask for it under than name. Using my own tracing paper also meant I got to lay my duct tape pattern under the same piece that I’d drawn the pattern out on, and reconcile the two for things like arm holes which will have to match up with the pattern pieces for the arms to work.

With a good design, pattern, and cloth I was ready to actually start construction.

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