The Eighth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2018


Susan Malovrh
Wisconsin, USA

I enjoy sewing costumes more than real clothes any day! This challenge has introduced me to many new things the past half dozen years and I’m back to see what new skills I can acquire.

My plan is to make a partlet with a falling ruff, a Venetian style late 1500’s dress, and a loose gown. Accessories planned include a flag fan, veil, hankie, and jewelry.

First Update

I recently purchased a pleater at an estate sale and wanted a project to use it, so making a partlet with a ruff is the reason that I entered this year’s challenge and I’m building the rest of the outfit around it. My inspiration is found in A Concert in the Garden by Ludovico Pozzerrato.

For the partlet ruff I tore two strips of linen the width of the fabric by 6 ½ inches and sewed the two narrow edges together. I ran one long edge through the pleater just using the first two needles. With it being my first time using it and no instructions, I think it would have been easier to hand or sewing machine gather it, but it was a learning experience. Next I started to narrow hem the outside edge, encasing a piece of fishing line in the hem to give the fabric shape.

I’ve been wanting to try some drawnwork for the last couple years and was always going to make a camicia with drawn or/and cutwork at the neckline, but this year decided to try it on a handkerchief as it would be a fairly small project with potential of actually getting done.

To start, I tore a 14 inch square from linen and narrowly hemmed it. My book with directions came after I started and said to hem after doing the drawnwork so I’m off to a bad start. I’ve started pulling threads for the first rows but have not started the pattern work. If I have time, I will attempt to teach myself bobbin lace to edge it.

I found a wonderful yellow gold curtain at a thrift shop that I decided would work perfect for my loose gown. I looked at a lot of paintings for inspiration and couldn’t settle on any specific one. As the days started ticking by, I thought I just better get started and make my final decisions as I went along.

My gown is also being made from a thrift store curtain. After I opened up the hems, I determined my skirt length and cut rectangles of that. I compared several sleeve patterns and chose one that will give me a puffy top I want for the camicia to peek through.

Several years back, I did a class on paper making and purchased a piece of parchment on eBay that was made out of goat skin using medieval methods of scraping, preparation, preservation, and finishing. As it’s just been sitting around since then, I decided to make my flag fan from it. It measures 4.25 inches by 6 inches.

I found a picture of an extant flag fan on Pinterest I decided to base my recreation on:

Flag fan with white lacework , © MAK Venice, 16th century Parchment, silk Albert Figdor Collection

When I retrieved the parchment from storage, I discovered it had discolored and warped some but I moved forward with it anyway. I taped it over the pattern and tried to trace the design and found I couldn’t see through it clearly enough. I also decided it wasn’t going to be easy to cut it out as my parchment is quite stiff so I now plan to get out my leather craft tool and chisels and try a whole new approach to flag fan construction.

I had hoped to finish so much more by this point but still love to be part of this challenge as it pushes me to try new things and learn old ways.

Second Update

How quickly the month flies by when I'm working on IRCC!

I've continued working on my hankie and am finding that drawn work is very time consuming with not much to show for all that time. I got sets of four threads wrapped on two sides and have started dividing them on the opposite side to get a V pattern.

I finished hemming the ruff outer edge and when I pinned it together, decided It was to deep. I took about an inch and a half off the other side and ran it through the pleater again. I now have it pinned to the partlet and may adjust the placement as I finish the under gown and loose gown before sewing it all together.