Warwick Shirt Motif
The shirt itself is dated to c1600-1620. It is likely that this style of highly decorated shirt was not worn as an everyday undergarment, but worn in bed when accepting visitors. However, I plan to wear it as a normal chemise. The original and my version will be made using rectangular construction techniques. The original shirt has 12 pieces, and is constructed using buttonhole and insertion stitches on all seams.
13th Oct, 2004
One project I have wanted to do since getting involved with the SCA is to make an embroidered Elizabethan shirt. I had planned on making a pair of detachable, puffy sleeves seen in many late period portraits. However, I've never really been able to come up with a design I like and I really wanted to avoid those as they tend to involve counted work. There are several shirts that appear to be just out of period but with plausible enough designs to work within the SCA environment. However, due to the limited number, the same designs have been done over and over again.
This is where the Warwick Shirt comes in. I found it on a website a couple of months back and I fallen in love with it. I like the designs, the colour of the embroidery and the overall effect of the finished object. So I am going to make this shirt, with a couple of modifications.
I will be using a medium weight, white linen. The normal linen I use for chemises will be too open a weave, so the medium will mean I will mostly use this chemise during winter. I will be doing the embroidery in black silk, probably Maderia rather than the original red silk. The reasons for this are purely asthetic, I love the red, but black will go with the dresses I already have. Also, I expect less colour bleed with the black silk.
At this stage, I have put all the motifs onto tracing paper. They now need to be done in transfer pencil. At that stage, they will be ready to be applied to the fabric. So my next step will be to measure and mark out the layout of the motifs on the linen.
I will be following the construction method of the original shirt. Below is a diagram of the construction of the origianl shirt (image from catalogue record from Warwickshirt Museum Service - with much thanks!)
17th Oct, 2004
I've just spent 4 hours transfering the designs for the shirt to the linen. As I was standing over the ironing board, I thought to myself, "If it's taking this long just to put the designs on, it is going to take forever to do the embroidery. I am insane". I can't say that I have changed my mind! But at least I can begin to do the sewing. This project is going to have to be washed before the pieces are put together, so this will be my carry around project.
20th Oct, 2004
The two underarm gussets are finished. I may have made the actual gusset piece slightly too large, but not worth worrying about yet, still fixable later if I want to.
23rd Oct, 2004
The two cuff pieces are done. The only issue I have is how to attach the bobbin lace. The cuff are one piece at the moment, and could just be folded over and sewn, but this gives no real place to sew in the bobbin lace. If I cut the cuff in two and make it a two piece construction, I can sandwich the bobbin lace between the two layers. Again, an issue that can wait for a later date. I am now working on the collar. 10 hours of work so far.
26th Oct, 2004
Collar is now finished. Below is an image of a section of the collar, I couldn't get it to all fit on my scanner. I have started working on the left sleeve.
16th Nov, 2004
I've put in about 12 hours on the first sleeve. The band is taking about 6 hours to do with each of the individual motifs taking about an hour each. I haven't had a lot of stitching time lately, I am getting driving lessons, so sewing is taking a bit of a back seat. (Get it, back seat...)
4th Dec, 2004
Still slogging away. Nothing special to mention. This is the progress at 28 hours. Feel like I am getting somewhere now.
17th Dec, 2004
More work. Up to 26 hours now.
29th Dec, 2004
The first sleeve is finished. I need a break. I have worked on a couple of really small, quick to finish projects - Largess Needlecases and Lady Gro's pouch. I need colour and finished products!! Here is the sleeve at about 36 hours work.
7th Feb, 2005
Well, I've gotten back on the blackwork horse after a bit of a break. As well as the above mentioned pieces, I also got another LOG pouch done, this one of Anglo-Saxon inspiration. I've done two hours on the second sleeve.
22nd Feb, 2005
It might not seem like it, but I am making progress. I've been working on a Persian outfit, so not alot of embroidery is getting done at the moment. Here is sleeve 2 at about 6 hours.
30th May, 2005
Another 6 hours on the second sleeve, not enough progress for another picture. This project is really starting to drag. I am forcing myself to work on it. Whenever I take too long making a decision on what I want to do, this is the default project. I will get this finished. I will!
26th August, 2005
Well, I promised an update, it just took a bit longer than I thought! Below is an image of the second sleeve at approx. 19 hours of work. Slowly getting there.
28th August, 2005
A slight bout of flu is getting this project along. Last time I was sick, I was too sick to sew (which gives you an idea of how bad it was!). But this one just makes me want to sit down, so I won't waste that time, I will sew. I did another 7 hours yesterday, made real progress, I can see the end of the project, yeah!
31st August, 2005
Only a couple of hours last night, just enough to finish off the last band. I will tackle the floral motifs at work and home. They only take about an hour each, so with another 5 hours work, the sleeves should be done. That leaves only the body of the shirt. I am thinking of only doing the first couple of motifs on the body rather than all of them. No point sewing stuff people will never see. And I just want this done!!
1st Sept, 2005
Did another 4 hours yesterday, finished the bottom four floral motifs, one more to go, I should get it done today.
2nd Sept, 2005
The second sleeve is finished. Can start on the body now. Below is the second sleeve at 34 hours work.
Here is a progress picture of the finished pieces including two underarm gussets, two cuffs, collar and two sleeves.
13th Sept, 2005
I have been getting some stitching in here and there.Here is the progress on the body panel of the blackwork shirt at about 6 hours work. I have to try my dress on to work out how far I have to go down with the decoration. I don't want to do more than will be seen.
15th Sept, 2005
I managed another few hours, here it is at 11 hrs work.
27th Sept, 2005
A bit of a break. Was sewing clothes for Spring War. I got in seven hours on it yesterday, so here it is at 18 hours work.
5th Oct, 2005
Another few hours. The end is really in sight now. I am motivated!!
7th Oct, 2005
Another few hours done. Up to about 25 hrs for the body of the shirt. I could probably get it done this weekend, but I've got a heap of housework and a wedding, so that will take care of most of Saturday and alot of Sunday. But I will have tonight, so that should be another 3 hours at least, so enough to do the other band, which will just leave the floral motifs (no peascods, yeah!) and the two bands on the shoulders. I will probably also do one row of motifs on the back, but they are smaller and different to the rest so that should only be another few hours. I think if I put in a big effort, there is a good chance that all the embroidery will be done by next weekend, which would mean I could get it washed and pressed a couple of times (to pre-shrink everything) before I then start putting it together.
10th Oct, 2005
Got a band and a row of motifs done over the weekend. Not long now. 33 hours done on body.
14th Oct, 2005
Well, the day has finally arrived. I have finished the embroidery on the shirt. The next stage is to wash and press the panels a couple of times before they get sewn up. I can do this one of two ways, just traditional sewing together or I can do it like the original, which is to use insertion stitches to put it all together. While I am really keen to get it done, doing it the second, traditional way is really appealing to me at this stage. After 109 hours, whats another ten or so putting it together this way. I will have to do this after washing, because the silk tends to felt a bit (I've used similar finishings around the neck of a square necked chemise). So after they are washed and pressed (I am doing that to get all the shrinkage in the embroidery out of the way before I sew it together. Once it's together it will be hard to iron the embroidery. But once it's been washed its less of an issue) I can then go around the edges of all the pieces in buttonhole stitch. I will then join the pieces together with some sort of insertion stitch. Not sure what yet. I will have to do some research.
I decided not to work the back of the shirt. It would look better, but realistically, no one will see the back except for a small section at the back of my head and I'd much rather just get it finished at this stage. People will get the full impact from the front and that is done.
17th Oct, 2005
After a mild panic attack, the washing has worked. All of the pink transfer pencil is now out of the linen. It was touch and go, but a little bit of press wash stain remover got the last really tough bits of pencil out. Even in the edge seams where it was folded over into the seam. I washed and pressed all the pieces twice. After the second soak, quite a bit of black dye came out of the silk, but it didn't bleed into the fabric, so all is good. The linen comes up so nice when it's pressed.
I've started going around the edges of the various pieces. I did the two gussets and two sleeves last night. It will probably take a couple of nights to get the body piece done, but that's too be expected due to the size. So, with a bit of luck, I should be able to put it together on the weekend. I think it should only take me two or so hours to hand sew the sleeves, gussets and body together. I will have to time it for future reference because I think I am going to need to take it apart and reassemble each time I wash it. It will just be too hard to press the embroidery if it's not in flat pieces.
The only other thing I have to do is to make gussets for the neck, and for the small section that joins the body. The original doesn't have a facing for the front slit, but I am going to put one in, I think it will sit better if I do. Just hope I've got enough of the linen left. Also, after this weekends clean up, I hope I can find it!
18th Oct, 2005
Nothing special, I started the buttonhole outlining on the body section of the shirt. I got about half of it done. I was so tired, I decided to have an early night. So I should get it finished tonight. Then tomorrow night I can start on the collar and cuffs.
19th Oct, 2005
I was able to get the cuffs on both sleeves done. Machine stitched the front seam and then hand-stitched the inside seam. I was then able to sew the gussets in and finish off the sleeves. I ran out of silk thread, so I used some cotten perle I had on hand for the whip stitching. Probably better to use that than the silk anyway, as I am going to have to deconstruct the shirt each time I wash it. The perle will be easier to deal with and cheaper as well.
I am happy with how the black edging is turning out. It really does finish the shirt off well. I should be able to get the neck gussets, front opening facing and collar done tonight. Then that will just leave side gores and putting the sleeves on the body. Looks good for a weekend finish.
20th Oct, 2005
Got the neck gussets and collar on as well as the front facing. The neck gussets are fiddly little buggers! But they do make it a stronger garment. I must have been tired cause it took me two goes to get the collar on. I realised after it was all together that I should have made the front facing wider. It would've then covered the back of the embroidery when the shirt is worn open at the front. Ah well, I keep that on record for the next one!!
21st Oct, 2005
It's finished!!! Yah, happy dance, can't wait to ware it! Just a matter of interlacing the sleeves to the body. Took about an hour. Below is a photo of the finished shirt. I will be getting some better photos done on the weekend. But this is to show you that it is indeed finished.
Before that is an image showing a close up of the interlacing used to join the pieces together. All the pieces of the shirt had their seams finished before I started embroidering. Then each piece, once the embroidery was done, was outlined in basic buttonhole. Then the pieces were just lined up and whip stitched together. The whip stitch goes through the loops created by the buttonhole stitch rather than through the fabric of the shirt. The catalogue entry says the original was joined with "interlaced insertion stitch", now in my opinion that is a category of stitch rather than a specific stitch. So in the interests of practicality ie I'm going to have to take it apart and sew it back together every time it's washed, I just used whip stitch. I believe that the reason for this type of joining is purely practical. You need to be able to take it apart in order to press the embroidery after washing. As well as practical, this seam treatment also acts as an additional form of decoration.
6th March, 2006
Not the best photos in the world, but they give you some idea of what the shirt looks like on.