A long time ago in a webstore not so far away…there was lace.
Amber of DSA Threads created the most beautiful historically inspired lace to ever grace my Instagram feed, “Rebel’s Handiwork”. The package arrived on my birthday, making it extra special, and I immediately rummaged through my books and fabric stash to brainstorm the best use of the precious 33 inches of geeky magic.
My first thought was to make a new shirt with lace edging on the collar, but I didn’t want to run the risk of damage through stains and repeated removal/re-stitching for the wash. Then, I remembered everyone’s favorite embroidered linen waistcoat, which has similar trim. I happened to have exactly enough Burnley & Trowbridge medium weight pumpkin linen leftover from my 1740s English gown. [NOTE: I say “leftover” but I bought way more than I needed for those sleeve cuffs. The Universe planned this long game perfectly.] I also had a Star Wars cotton print sitting in the bottom of the fabric bin, for lining. I updated my WIP whiteboard and set all of the pieces aside for a rebel pilot inspired 16th century waistcoat.
Emerging from a series of self-imposed sewing sprints, I picked up the waistcoat project with the intention of making it a palette-cleansing weekend jaunt back to my beloved 16th century. As a general rule, I never use just one source on a historically inspired piece, so I grabbed “The Tudor Tailor” (and “Child”), my Margo Anderson patterns, and “17th Century Women’s Dress Patterns” for a combination of historical and modern construction methods. I also referenced “Patterns of Fashion” and “Drei Schnittbucher” later in the process.
I cut the waistcoat front and back pattern pieces from Margo Anderson 024 (MA) and altered them according to the fitting guide. I have a large bust, narrow shoulders, and a short waist, so I always need to make considerable alterations. Margo’s manuals are fantastic in explaining the best ways to get it all done. The mock-up was cut from the lining fabric and required additional shortening for swayback, with a graded 1/2 inch lengthening on the front piece at the side seam. The mock-up sleeves were only shortened and fit well over the shirt sleeves (more on that later). I took apart the mock-up, traced new pattern pieces with the changes, and cut all but the cuffs and collar from the linen.
This is where my construction preferences start to jump around. Starting with MA, I used some on-hand fusible interfacing on the lining for the front edge and shoulder wings. The majority of the waistcoat is machine sewn. I followed the MA technique for ease in what would be a bust dart area, at the front of the armscye. The wings were added to the armscye after the front and back were stitched together. I referenced the simpler godet insertion in TT, measuring and cutting the back godet last to accommodate the…ahem…space that I need. The sleeves were assembled wrong side to wrong side, basted at the top, then handstitched in place at the wrist opening with the lining rolled slightly further to the inside. Setting the sleeves is when I noticed a grave error.
Those sleeves that fit so comfortably during the mock-up were horrendously oversized at the top. When I put on the waistcoat, I have a great range of motion, but that wibbly linen made the extra room look baggy and sad. And since we’re on the subject…despite making the same swayback changes that I’ve been making for years, linen is a jerk and forced me to make an ugly scar of a fold across the back of the waistcoat. There are decorative options to make this less unsightly, but I’m going to leave it as is for now.
Ignoring those issues because I’d already blown my timeline out of the water, I drafted and cut the cuffs and collar to a size that would fit the lace strips. Those pieces were stitched on by hand. Over all of my layers, I put on the waistcoat, pinned myself up the front and marked the new edges with a heat erasable marking pen. The lining edges were turned in, and the outer fabric was turned under 1/2 inch, then over again at the edge marking and stitched down by hand. Finally, I took my never-ending spool of heavy polyester thread and put in the alternating hooks and eyes down the front edges and at the cuffs. Too bad that I can’t actually close the top hook. So, now of course the jacket is ready. But the project that it would become was not.
On about Day 2 of the build, the day of the mock-up, I’d realized that the blue bodiced petticoat I’d used to take my measurements didn’t fit the rebel pilot color palette. Additionally, I’d built the petticoat for the Carracci gown, so it included boning, and a slightly lower waistline. My intention with this set was something more relaxed, so a new kirtle was required. I’d ordered light brown wool from B&T a couple of weeks prior to starting the waistcoat, prepping my fabric hoard for “The Typical Tudor” release, and decided to use it here instead.
A quick design brain pathway here: When I started down the rebel pilot route for the waistcoat, my palette was orange, gray, black, and white. I was an X-Wing fairy years ago, and was going to try my best to match that costume. However, Hera Syndulla wears a similar palette with primarily light brown. Adding in the new kirtle decision, the Star Wars theme began to snowball.
I started with the headdress. My green silicone lekku were purchased from Twi’lek Pam a couple of years ago with no particular character in mind. I used the simple coif instructions from The Tudor Tailor to draft an extra long center piece from the middle of my forehead, between the narrow center of the noodles, and down far enough on my neck to cover any hair that might peep out from under the headpiece. The sides of the coif were fitted around the outside of the lekku and have a little pocket inside to keep the ear cones in place. The lining is white sheeting cotton, and the outer fabric is lightweight linen (IL020 from Fabrics-Store.com). In the vein of covering the skin, but keeping the standard twi’lek aesthetic, I crossed strips of cotton tape down the length of the tails and capped the ends a couple of inches from the bottom. I added a drawstring casing along the neck edge to keep things in place, tied under my chin.
Next up was the apron. There’s a quick pattern in “The Tudor Child”, and my measurements fit onto a linen/cotton remnant leftover from Medieval Link. I had fleeting dreams of adding embroidery in the colors of a pilot chest box, but again, this was supposed to be a simple project, so we’ll leave that detail for another day.
I LOVE making animal pouches for the kids, so I finally had an excuse to make one for myself. Now, a large number of people have called the Porg pouch a “pelt”. I would like to state for the record that I have never in my years considered these cute little bags to be representative of the skins of any fictitious creature. That said…he does look quite angry to be hanging from my apron strings. The little darling is made from fleece remnants and lined with the Star Wars cotton print from the waistcoat. His eyes are faceted notions, colored with Sharpie, nose and mouth details are stitched, and the top of his head is colored with fabric markers. The tassels are embroidery floss that I had in the bin.
And then there was the kirtle. Here again, I started with pattern pieces from Margo Anderson 025 and worked through the fitting guide. The mock-up was done in one layer of canvas and fit on the first try. The front bodice section is experimentally stiffened with medium weight linen for interlining, medium weight wool (cut short of the seams), interfaced canvas (cut short of the seams), and another layer of canvas. All of the layers were zig-zagged in rows by machine and basted around the edges. Here again, I added the armscye gathering for ease. I opted for boning channels at the front edges only. All of the bodice edges were turned under and secured to the canvas with a herringbone stitch. The lining is yellow linen remnants that I had to piece. I managed to stitch one pieced seam wrong side out, so I tacked the raw edge down with some decorative stitching. The lining seam allowances were turned in and the whole piece was hemmed in place.
The skirt panels were shaped and pieced a few inches at the bottom of the side seams due to fabric width. There is no lining or seam finishing, but I do have plans to go back and remedy one or the other. There is a facing for the front opening that I kind of hate, but it’s already prevented me from ripping the fabric while taking the kirtle on an off. I guessimated where the flat front should end, then did a divide-and-conquer for the pleats. Pointed skirt fronts are the bane of my existence, but after three attempts, I was able get the fabric over the hips to sit level all the way around. The kirtle hem is turned under twice and secured by hand.
Again, with time constraints and no desire to sew through the stiffened bodice, I opted for metal grommets and the hand press. I have done handsewn eyelets for too many years to punish myself on this kind of project. Most of the time, the kirtle is going to be covered with the waistcoat, a partlet, or a gown. Overall, the bodice could be tighter, but I’m very pleased with the look.
In the final push to get this project completed and photographed before the end of my vacation, I added a Henrician coif. As per the original project of just a waistcoat to add to my 16th century wardrobe, I wanted to include the “mundane” version, which is how I plan to wear it once events begin again. For a number of reasons, I wouldn’t wear my lekku to the renaissance faire–starts with grabby hands, ends with melty makeup. Anyway, using what I had on-hand–linen and 19 gauge wire (non-millinery), I followed the Tudor Tailor instructions with no big issues. As a point of experience, my wire is just slightly too long in the front edge, so the fabric curls up and away from my face in the finished coif. This does not affect fit, so I won’t worry about it.
As I may have mentioned once, twice, or thrice, this was only supposed to be a waistcoat. In the end, this project hit to the heart of why I love the costuming hobby. I was able to blend historically inspired pieces with one of my favorite fandoms, without a deadline. And Grogu even came along for the ride!