31 January 2021

Please do not mind the zombie post

Finished late 16th c. Kirtle
Finished late 16th c. Kirtle
Originally uploaded by Catrijn.
So, what could get me to write a new post for a dead blog? Did you guess irritation/frustration?

I'm very slowly working on a project to extend my wardrobe into the end of SCA period, around 1580-1600. I'm primarily using M. Gnagy's Modern Maker series (books and videos) for patterning and construction, with portrait references for stylistic details. The kirtle continues to be a major workhorse of a woman's outfit, so that's where I started. It's my first time using the Bara system.

If you're not familiar, the Bara system, used in the late Spanish tailors' books, is a proportional drafting system. The units of measure are subdivided fractions of body measurements like chest, waist, and height. Starting with a tape or string of the correct total measure, it is marked down in half, thirds, quarters, sixths, eighths, and even smaller divisions. It essentially shifts the math to a different point in the process. If I need to mark 1/4 of a chest measurement of 38in or 96cm, in a modern system, I'd do the division, grab a single tape measure in standard units, and mark at 9.5in or 24cm. In the Bara system, I pick up the measure labeled 38in, and mark at the line marked 1/4 (Q). It's an interesting way of thinking. I like that this makes the old pattern manuals more interpretable and accessible. That said, I've made more mistakes using this system than I ever have in any other kind of drafting. Two tips from my mistakes. First, a tape that has any stretch or give is NOT your friend. Cotton twill tape? Right out. Try for tabby woven, and artificial fibers are probably better. Who'd think I'd ever say that. Second, get yourself some alphabet charms, put them on safety pins, and attach them to the tapes in use. I'm not even kidding. I've made so many errors just by grabbing the wrong one.

The other thing to comment on is the drafts themselves. I don't know how much of the problem comes from each of various sources - no draft is truly universal, using Spanish patterns for a Dutch style, or inherent issues. My kirtle skirt I ended up doing completely twice (and actually cutting a third time) because the result of the draft was not what I wanted or expected. If you're using the pattern in v.2 p.162-163 and want the look of p.175 or 177, increase the waist measurents significantly (I believe I ended at W-QQQ for both front and back), and you may need to increase the bottom width to keep proportion, perhaps L-BM. The second part is to closely observe the length between side and center. Each side is drafted to L-BM, and so is the center... until you drop the waist curve. Now the front and back length is significantly shorter. Maybe this is just right for wearing over the bum pad? But for my look, it just gave me an uneven hem that was an absolute pain to fix. If doing it again, I'd lengthen the bottom as well when drawing in the waist curve. For my still in the drafting stage doublet, the initial draft fit pretty well, except having a very high waist cut around sides and back. I'm lengthening by 1.5-2" to hit the waist line of my kirtle, which is still slightly above my natural waist. I'm not tall, I'm petite; I don't think of myself as having an unusually long torso.

I don't want it to come across like I'm bashing the Modern Maker. I'm learning a lot about late period tailoring, construction and finishing. But there have definitely been some wrinkles. So, I guess, go in with some caution, and if something doesn't seem right to your purposes, you don't have to just trust it. I'm not entirely happy with this kirtle, but I'm just so DONE with it and I'm moving on.

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