A Medieval Child's Shift

The other day, I was checking my blog overview to see where my views were originating. I discovered that a photo from my blog had made it onto Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/9992430397232346/. This link leads to my post about inserting gussets on a chemise: http://fabricoftime.blogspot.com/2013/11/inserting-gussets-on-chemise.html. At first I felt like someone was appropriating my work, but then I realized that it is actually very flattering and positive that someone thinks my blog is useful and interesting enough to share or bookmark. I never intended it to be a means of reaching out to other tailors/seamstresses; my blog was meant more as a portfolio and a personal reference. However, I am really excited about what it has become and happy that I have readers who appreciate it. Thank you very much! Also, thanks to The Dreamstress for adding a link on the HSF page! I get most of my web traffic from there.

In other news, my latest project is to make some medieval clothing for my goddaughter, "A." She is getting some relatively generic items which would be acceptable for 13th to 16th century Europe--it's such a wide window of time, but infant and toddler clothing didn't change much. This is essentially my first realistic attempt at medieval European clothing. I hope I do well with my limited knowledge. It is also my entry for The Historical Sew Fortnightly 2014 #1: Make Do & Mend, because I cut up a shirt for the fabric.

Naturally, the first part of "A's" costume that I made was the undergarment layer, though there is more to come. I had her parents take meticulous measurements as I have never made children's clothing. "A" is currently a size 24 U.S. on top. I drew out a square cut shift with a few inches of ease, but I am so afraid that it is too small for her. It looks dreadfully tiny! Hopefully that's just my adult perception. I cut out underarm gussets, but then decided that a sloped sleeve would be simpler, and Sarah Thursfield's book "The Medieval Tailor's Assistant" reassured me that this decision was not a faux pas.

Gores at the sides of the shift

This shift is machine sewn with hand sewn finishing. Though I have great respect for artists who try to make garments as historically accurate as possible, my priorities are efficiency and affordability. I used polyester thread. Since I used a large linen shirt for the fabric, I had to piece the front, so there is a seam going all the way down. I left a long slit un-sewn at the neckline to make it slip over the head easily. There are small gores in the side seam, but I wonder if I should have made them wider. Well, if it doesn't fit, I'll have learned something nonetheless. I finished the neckline with a facing of bias tape cut from the same linen fabric, a technique that I learned from this source about a 13th century linen tunic: http://heatherrosejones.com/stlouisshirt/.

Bias tape facing on the neckline

I put a small pleat at the back of the neck to gather up fullness as I had cut the back wide to allow for extra room and comfort. This pleat is probably not historically accurate, but seemed like a logical measure. All of the seams are flat-felled. I learned the hard way that seams should be finished this way for extra strength; I pressed the seams open on a similar garment and discovered that they were very weak and would probably rip easily.

Finally, I made the sleeves a few inches too long and then rolled them up to the correct length; "A" is tall and slender, so letting the sleeves down may be the only adjustment she'll need for a few months. The sleeves are probably ridiculously too long, but I can always make them shorter whereas I wouldn't have been able to make them longer. I made this shift fairly quickly as it is more of a utility garment than an art project, so I didn't want to waste time making it perfect.

Back view, showing pleat at the back of the neck and the sloped sleeves

The Challenge: HSF 2014 #1: Make Do & Mend (I made it out of a modern shirt that I disassembled)
Fabric: 100% linen, lightweight

Pattern: My own, created with help from "The Medieval Tailor's Assistant" by Sarah Thursfield

Year: 13th-16th century Western European

Notions: thread

How historically accurate is it? Maybe 50%, as a took liberties in construction, but at least the fabric and overall appearance are accurate.

Hours to complete: 3

First worn: hopefully next month

Total cost: $1.00 U.S. (That's what I love about re-purposing garments; they're cheap!)

Reinforcement at the neck opening

One final note: I added this reinforcement at the neck opening to keep the slit from ripping. It is a few bar tacks spanning the gap and then covered in buttonhole stitch, illustrated better here at this link for a "detached buttonhole stitch:" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Detached_buttonhole_stitch.gif.


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