Thursday, February 26, 2015

Medieval Fantasy Kirtle and Paternoster (Rosary Beads)

So I made myself a second kirtle for a medieval fantasy group project that I got roped into and I found myself wanting to come up with an outfit to wear it with.  Hence the non-specific Medieval fantasy-like project was born.

I used Burda 7977 for the kirtle and ended up fitting it with bust darts to give it a bra-less snug fit, so not terribly historically accurate, but comfy as hell.  Darts were a much easier fix to do when fitting myself, as opposed to trying to re-work the armscye.  There is not enough yoga in the world that would let me do that properly and I was too impatient to wait for help.

The dress is a mid-weight (4.7 oz) linen from Dharma Trading Co, dyed a pale green to match the details in the as-yet unfinished overdress.   Machine sewn for all weight-bearing construction seams, since learning when to say no to hand-stitching is one of my goals in life.  But I did cave and tack down the felled seams by hand.

This is the second time I've made up this pattern, but the first time that I attempted the double sleeves thing it has going on.  They actually turned out pretty nice and I think I'll leave off the lacing on the over sleeves so that they hang open a bit for some flair.

Here you can see the hand stitching to finish the seams, as well as where I used gold silk thread embellishment to hide the top-stitching around the neckline, which was also how I treated the lower edge of the cuffs of the over sleeve.

Once it's on me and I'm wearing shoes, the hem will sit just off the floor.

While I was fitting with the back safety-pinned closed, I realized that I could slip the dress on and off without un-pinning it.  Therefor, the lacing didn't have to be strictly functional.  So to save a truly epic amount of time, I skipped binding the eyelets and just gently used an awl to help thread a rayon yarn through the edges.  I was able to keep my lacing intervals much narrower this way, so to avoid too much puckering of the center back when worn.

I came across the idea for a paternoster while browsing through medieval costume sources online, looking for accessory ideas.  While not a particularly religious person myself, I latched onto the notion of the rosary being an acceptable way for individuals to express their tastes and show off wealth, without being considered "too flashy" in doing so.  As the outfit I was making was gearing up to be an upper class representation, the rosary became an essential accessory.  Sarah Edgecumbe has put together a fantastic pinterest board on the topic, with LOTS of references from paintings.  Also,, as well as this SCA paper were super informative.

I ended up making mine from materials that I already had on hand.  Fifty 5/16" light red beads meant to resemble coral, separated by larger beads of "jade", also quite decadent.  Christ Laning has an entire blog post devoted to the red beaded paternooster that helped cinch my choice of beads.  My fantasy lady apparently has expensive and exotic tastes.  I strung them all on gold silk cord and I made a small tassel from the same.

The whole thing isn't large, but just enough to wear wrapped around the wrist and offer me something for my fidgety hands to play with.


  1. Very nice! Can't wait to see the full finished outfit. Will you be wearing this to any local Ren Faires?

    1. Thanks. I've got a brown wool kirtle with black silk velvet trim currently making a velvet spit disaster of my sewing room, so hopefully that'll be finished soon and I can get back to my regularly scheduled costumes. I don't really do ren faires anymore. I got food poisoning from a smoked turkey leg at one once upon a time and haven't found the stomach for going back. But if I did, I don't think I could wear one of my nicer costumes. Dragging the hem on a comparatively clean hotel carpet is hard enough. I think the dirt and mud might make me cry.

    2. Yikes! Yeah, velvet is so very nice... once it's finished, but getting it to that stage is a pain. Hope you have a good vacuum to help with all the bits that just want to run away.

      Sorry about the bad Ren Faire experience. :( But I definitely understand about messing up a nice costume. Will you be bringing this to CC33 then?

    3. Won't bring the full outfit to costume con as the kirtle is part of a SF/F entry and wearing even part of a competition piece before the competition is just asking for something to happen to it. And I can't save it for Sunday because I already have something in mind for the cotillion. Ah well. It'll be a comfy thing to have in the hall costume arsenal.