The Fourth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

June 1 to September 30,  2014

Susan Malovrh
Wisconsin, USA

I have been sewing since I was a child and enjoy making costumes, doll clothes, and quilting. This will be my third time in the Italian Costume Challenge and I love that it pushed me to get something done with a deadline and try something new each time. My inspiration is Portrait of a Woman by Bernardino Campi (Italian, Cremonese, 1522-1590). I plan to make a linen camicia with insertion stitch joining, a cream under-gown with hand embroidered trim, and a blue over-gown. Planned accessories include a girdle with an attached fur fan, a partlet, and veil.  

June Update

I used the Elizabethan Smock Pattern Generator to make the pattern for my camicia. It is linen and I have spent the month hemming it in preparation of putting it together with an insertion stitch. I used Eithiniís Magic Veil Stitch for the narrow rolled hem. Itís done by folding over the edge of the fabric about ľĒ and then sewing tiny stitches catching the top fold and just below the fold and looks like a row of Zs. After sewing about 4Ē, I pull the thread and it magically rolls an even hem. It is a fun stitch. I still have three gores to do before I start putting it together and then need to do some trim on the neckline and sleeve edges. Iíve also worked on my under-gown pattern and have cut a linen canvas interlining. The embroidery is started but Iím thinking of painting the inside area as I donít think I can finish all of it in time. I should have started months ago. I hope to make MUCH more progress next month.


July Update

I have very little progress to report this month. I've been busy with Grandchildren and getting a couple quilts done. I have finished hemming the camicia and am ready to put it together. I also started on my fur fan. I bent a wire frame and inserted between 2 layers of buckram. Next is the fur layer and then a clay handle.


 August Update

August finds me frantically trying to create my outfit with pieces of IRCC scattered throughout the house. I've started picking apart the fur collar and drew up the pattern for the fan. I'm also working on the handle design and plan to try cold porcelain. The under-gown is in various stages of getting cut out as I work on the embroidery layout. The over gown lining is being made from a bed sheet and I've unpicked the hems on that. 

My real progress this month has been making the partlet. I used silk chiffon and a pattern I got off the web from Margo Anderson. Cutting out the slippery fabric was challenging and I ended up using a rotary cutter. I did French seams on the shoulders, narrow hems on the fronts and then put a casing in the bottom. I gathered the top ruffle and sewed it into the neck band and then attached that to the partlet. Ribbon neck and bottom ties were added. I'm quite pleased with the results.


 September/Final Update


The camicia is made from linen using Elizabethan smock generator. All pieces were hand hemmed and then sewn together with fagot stitch. A square of linen for the neck facing was sewn in right sides together then turned and stitched down with some machine black-work.



I made the corset at an event called Griffin Needle Challenge where our team of 5 made an outfit from the skin out in 20 hours. I made a pattern using corset generator and cut 2 layers of cotton canvas. I placed them together and marked sewing channels with a pencil. The channels were machine sewn and then cable ties were cut to fit each one. A piece of a wooden yard stick is used in the center front as a busk. After the cable ties were inserted I machine sewed eyelets and then bound the corset with bias tape. Itís laced with a synthetic cord.



The gown is made from a cream colored synthetic fabric from a thrift store and lined in linen with a felt padded hem. It is loosely based on Eleanora of Toledoís gown In Janet Arnoldís Patterns of Fashion 3 and using an alteration of Margo Andersonís Historic Costume Patterns The Elizabethan Ladyís Wardrobe. The bodice interlining is cotton canvas and the front has jute twine zigzagged down and cable tie boning for support. The lining was then machine sewn to it and the fashion fabric hand sewn over. Machine eyelets were added to the back side openings which are reinforced with plastic boning. 


Unfortunately there wasnít enough fabric to make a train. The skirt is cut in 3 width of fabric rectangles and knife pleated to the bodice. The sleeves are cut with the seam running down the back of the arm. Tabs are added to the bottom edge and a cuff sewn over them. The trim is hand embroidered with DMC floss using chain, stem, and split stitch. The center of the design is colored in with colored pencils. I plan to fill it in with embroidery in the future. The embroidery is framed in satin cord machine couched down.



The over-gown was not completed. It is made from a synthetic fabric. I marked out a 3Ē grid with chalk for the bodice and machine sewed gathering stitches on it. I cut the lining out of a blue sheet sort of T-tunic style and plan to stitch the gathered grid fabric to it with a gold decorative stitch. The skirt was cut in 3 rectangles the width of the fabric, sewn together, and a piece of fleece fabric was used along the top edge to beef up the cartridge pleats which will be hand stitched to the bodice. Gold trim will be added to the front of the gown skirt.



The partlet is made from silk organza. The shoulder seams are felled then a rectangular collar had the ruffle inserted into it and was attached to the body. A casing was machine sewn along the bottom and ribbon inserted to tie under the arms. Narrow ribbon ties were added along center front. 


My zibellino is made from a rabbit fur. The head and paws were made from a polymer clay recipe also known as cold porcelain. I used this recipe using corn starch, Elmers glue, baby oil, and lemon juice. I added a little yellow food coloring. It took 20 minutes to cook the clay and 30 minutes to clean out the pan! After it was cooled the clay was still quite sticky but was very easy to work with after applying Ponds hand cream to my hands. I formed the paws on the top of a pencil so they are hollow and I could make holes to sew them onto the fur. The head was formed over a piece of crumpled aluminium foil to make it more light weight. I twisted a piece of wire around the foil before covering it in clay so I would have a hanger to attach it to my girdle. I pushed black beads into the clay for eyes. When the clay was dry I painted the pieces gold and sewed them to the fur. Jewels and fabric trim were hot glued to complete my pet.


FAN: The fan started with a piece of metal wrapped for the base and covered with buckram. The same clay I used for the zibellino was used to form the handle. The designs in the handle were embossed by wrapping the clay with sewing trim and pressing. Decorative cuts were made around the top and circles made with a pen tip. Strips of fur were sewn over the buckram.


New techniques this year include embroidery, knife pleats, insertion stitch, and working with fur and clay. Many thanks Bella for offering us this opportunity to push ourselves to create these past fashions.