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.

Third Update

I finally got the loose gown cut out. I pleated the back, sewed the shoulder seams, and added side gores. I liked the sleeves in the Portrait of a Lady by Girolamo Forni so got out a bowl and traced some scallops onto my sleeve bottoms. I cut the half circles out and stitched the lower edge, clipped, turned, stitched the sleeve and lining underarm seams, ran gathering stitches in the upper sleeves and set them into the gown.

Continuing on with the loose gown, I decided the pleats weren’t laying right, so I took them out and redid them. After pressing with a wet cloth, I was much more satisfied and moved on to adding the little stand up collar. I had a friend help me mark the hem and machine sewed it.

Several years ago I was gifted a box of white weasel pelts and decided to finely put them to use as ermine trim down the front of the loose gown. I am in the process of stitching them together.

For the veil I used a piece of sheer polyester fabric from my stash. I squared it up and then cut it in half diagonally to make a triangle. I narrow hemmed it and attached it to a pearl and rhinestone headband I found at a thrift store.

I patterned my pearl necklace after the one in the portrait of Margaret of Valois, Princess of France by Francois Clouet. I first made the dangle pearls by threading them on a beading wire and using a pliers to make a top loop and wrapping the rest of the wire around the loop. I strung these on beading wire alternating with small and large pearls and then crimped the fasteners on the ends.



Final Update

The handkerchief is finally finished. I’m very disappointed in the way my drawn-work turned out, but by the third side, I finally got the hang of it. I then added a narrow trim from my stash that resembles needle lace. It was pretty sorry looking for all the hours of work I poured into it so I decided to machine embroider a bit of white work on it. Despite it being only the third attempt at using my garage sale find machine, the embroidery worked out wonderful.

For the girdle I used a narrow piece of grosgrain ribbon and threaded on some metal ornaments I purchased from a fund raiser. I used a dot of glue from my glue gun to space them and a pearl in between each. I then hand sewed a smaller pearl on each side of the larger and gold seed beads where I caught the edges of the metal ornaments. I made a pearl tassel for the end and added a hook clasp.

Back to the flag fan I started the first month. I still wanted to use my parchment so I stamped a design on it. I painted a dowel and lace with the same gold paint. I used a nail and one of my leathercraft tools to pound a design into the parchment. I machine sewed the lace around three edges and hot-glued it to the dowel. I nailed three little brads through the parchment and into the dowel to secure it and touched them up with a little paint. I still plan to attempt my original flag fan plans but want to try making it on interfacing using my fancy embroidery stitches.

As I worked on the fur trim on my loose gown, I found it much more challenging working with real fur compared to fake fur. I nested the furs and hand stitched them together to make long strips and then attempted to machine stitch them to the gown front. It did not feed through the machine well and I ended up with a puckered mess I had to take apart. I then hand stitched the strips and then machine sewed them when the leather was encased between the gown and the blue lining fabric. I then hand stitched the outer edge of the fur while tucking in the legs. I turned the lining inside and hand tacked it down and then went back and machine stitched through all the layers close to the fur to help it lay better. I added a clasp to finish it off.

I finished the partlet and ruff by adjusting the pleating and machine sewing the ruff to the partlet and then adding a neck binding. I then machine hemmed all around the partlet and added ribbon ties.

I got a good start on the gown but wasn’t able to finish in time.