12th century projects,  12th century white silk underdress,  Embroidery,  Hand-Sewing,  Medieval Embroidery,  Projects,  Running Stitch,  Trapunto

My 12th century white silk underdress .2 – revisited – Trapunto for the win :)

2015-11 - Racaire - 12th century underdress - white silk - hand sewn - TrapuntoAnd now it’s definitely time for the second part of my posting about my “12th century white silk underdress project” revisited.

Today I am going to show you more progress pictures of my “12th century white silk underdress” with a focus on some of my details for this project like the keyhole neckline, the Trapunto work at the keyhole neckline and my Trapunto sleeve cuffs.

Originally I intended to post all remaining progress pictures of this project today like the pictures of the decorated silk buttons I made for this 12th century underdress project. But as I still have quite many project pictures to share and am sure that this posting will get rather long again, I decided to devote todays posting mostly to the work at the keyhole neckline, the Trapunto work and some other interesting details.

But before I waste more words about the content of todays posting, let’s take a look at my next steps and progress pictures – first you have to endure some detail pictures of the finished top joint of my side gores and then we can directly get to the work at the keyhole neckline and the Trapunto work! Enjoy! 😀 

2015-11_Racaire_12th-century-underdress_1_white-silk_2_sleeves-5Ok, well, to not forget a detail let’s start where the last posting ended. The last picture which I showed you in my first posting about my 12th century white silk underdress was a picture of me trying on the underdress after sewing the sleeves together and connecting them to the main body part of the dress.

To fit or not to fit…

Normally, when working with normal (flat) fabric, I would fit the sides of my body part at least a little to achieve a more pleasing “round” and feminine look. The main purpose of this “fitting” is to take away some of the excess fabric and to add a slight curve to the sides. This curve adds a more feminine appearance to the dress and prevents the sides from looking very bulky and column like.

In case that you would like to do some “fitting” yourself soon – the procedure is in principle rather simple:

First I pin both sides of the body part and put the dress back on. Then the a little bit more tricky part of the fitting starts: I move the pins inward – away from the border of the fabric towards the body – always pinning through the fabric of the front and the back and by maintaining the same amount of fabric on both sides (the fabric from the border to the pin has the same amount at the front as it has on the back). This way I create a slight side “curve” along my sides with a (flat) peak at my waist line.

The pinning starts right at the bottom point of the underarm gusset – which is, besides the top point of the starting point for the skirt gores at the bottom, the only other constant point you have to pay attention to. All other pins in between this two points can be slightly shifted to create a new side border for your dress.

Just make sure that you have about the same amount of fabric pinned away at both sides at about the same height – a mirror is a great help in this case. Not only that – you can also use your own fingers to approximately measure your fabric at both sides quite fast – the joints of your pointer finger or one, two, three or four fingers next to each other can give you a good natural measurement which is good enough for a fast comparison…

And then the really tricky part starts with the question: “Can I still get out of the dress?” Well, unless you are aiming for a very tight dress with a side-lacing, you want to make sure that you can still slip in and out of your dress. It does not to be perfect at this time – just enough to that you are still able to get out of your dress. Once you are able to get out of the dress again you can refine this line by using needle and thread and by replacing the pins with a line of rather long running stitches. Btw. before you add the running stitches you can actually also check if the spacing between the border and the pins on both sides is really equal.

If you try on your dress again and think that you still have too much play – just add another line of stitches to both sides about 0.5mm / 0.25 inch away – starting and ending at your two constant points. This is the best way to fine-tune the sides without doing any actual final sewing.

Btw. a short hint – when you fit your dress very tight, you will reach a point where you will feel slightly stuck while putting your dress on or taking it off – it’s normally when you try to get your breasts through the waist line. That doesn’t necessary mean that your waist line is too narrow – normally it just needs a little bit of help of at least one hand to shift one breast after the other through the opening and then the rest of the dressing should be easy… If not, then you might need to open up your fitting a little bit more…

Racaire Meridian Grand TournamentThe main goal during this procedure is not to achieve the most fitted body line like you would do if you want to make a very tight dress with a side lacing – like my 12th century red silk dress which you can see on the picture on the right – but to add a slightly curve to the side which flatters your body.

Well, to be full and frank – the curve adds a slight highlight to your breast area and furthermore also adds a waist line which makes your belly look a little bit smaller…

Btw. I used the above described “fitting” procedure to fit the body part of my 12th century blue silk wedding dress – a very tight fitted pull-over dress – which you can see on the picture underneath:


But back to this 12th century underdress project and why I didn’t fit the sides of my body part. Well, working with this very special fabric with its wrinkled surface, I assumed that the fabric would regress into it’s “normal” wrinkled condition after the first washing and therefore decided to simply abstain from any further fitting. 🙂

As I really need another underdress and therefore am already planning to start a new underdress project soon, I will show you in detail how I fit the main body part of my dress when I start working at this new project. As I already stated above – it is not very complicated. It just includes a lot of pinning and some try and error as I always try to get to the point where I still can put on and take off my dress while aiming for the most tightest fit possible… And the best of all – it can be even done alone when you don’t have any help. But more about this during my next underdress project…

2015-11_Racaire_12th-century-underdress_1_white-silk_2_sleeves-5And now to the top point of the joint of my side gores

After I made the picture which you can see on the left (and which I already used at the beginning of this posting before I got distracted), I determined the point of my waste line and a little bit deeper – about 1-2 inches – the top point for the set in side gores for the skirt part of my underdress.

Then I attached the already cut gores with some pins to the fabric and continued with my normal hand-sewing and my “Flat Felled Seam Finish”.

And here two pictures of the top point of the joint of my side gores after I finished all of the hand sewing – first a look at the joint on the inside of the dress:


…and here a look at the same joint of gores as it appears at the outside of the dress:


This is one of the reasons why I simply love hand-sewing as you can create beautiful seams with it and they just look as good as they are functional.

When you do hand-sewing for the very first time it will appear to you like it takes forever to get a small piece of hand-sewing done. But I can assure you, the more practice you get, the faster you will become. Been there – done it – and finally, some years ago, I reached a stage of hand-sewing where it just feels less like a chore and more like a relaxing treat.

It actually turned into a kind of meditation where I don’t really need to pay much attention to what my fingers are doing but reflect about my day, my life and other project details on my mind… and best of all – it keeps my fingers busy and calms me down when I feel anxious or twitchy. Yes, I think it has some really good therapeutic benefits. 🙂

…and next: the keyhole neckline…

And now let’s take a look at how I made the keyhole neckline. The very first important step for a keyhole neckline like this is to cut an opening that is quite big enough for your neck – the bottom opening at the front gives you enough room to get the rest of your head through.

Do you remember the helping line which I made with a running stitch and a blue thread at the top shoulder line which I described in my last posting? I now use this line to center the middle of my neckline. First I determine the middle of this line and put a pin at its center to mark it. Then, to make this rather small neckline I take a measurement of the width of my neck and divide it into two parts and apply this neckline/2 measurement two both sides of the center pin and mark them with another pin. This two pins give me the left and right border of my neckline.

As soon as I have this two side points of my neckline, I make a small cut where the center pin is located and enlarge this cut from this point to one side (the future front side) – this cut creates the front opening of my keyhole neckline. This front cut doesn’t need to long at this time – you can enlarge it later when needed. Then I cut along my helping line to the left and right till I reach the pins which indicate the left and right border of my neckline.

Btw. – please be very careful while you are making cuts in your fabric – it is important that you really just cut the fabric you intend to and nothing else!

Now I just enlarge the front center cut until I can get my head through. As soon as you try on your dress at this point, you will get a similar looking result as you can see at the full body picture which I posted above. With the help of a pair of good scissors and a mirror then I slowly enlarge the neckline until it lays perfectly around my neck and also enlarge the frontline slit to whatever point I have in mind. By folding the fabric in half, I simply copy this neckline cut to the other side.

Then, for the second layer of my keyhole neckline, I cut out a piece of fabric which is a little bit bigger than the final intended keyhole neckline (and don’t forget to add the seam allowance!) With the help of a rather stiff pillow (or a big book), which I put into my dress to give me a firm surface in the middle to work on, I center this new cut piece of fabric for the keyhole neckline on the inside. Btw. the dress fabric you can see on the picture underneath is the actual outside fabric of the dress.


As soon as I am sure that I have enough extra fabric for the keyhole neckline at all sides I start to pin this two layers together. As you can see on the picture above – I had to make a small cut into the added fabric to be able to get my fingers underneath the two layers for the pinning as the pillow allowed me to flatten the fabric upon it but not to pin it. Nowadays I can say that a good firm book works much better than a firm pillow…

Well, the rest of the work is rather easy – you pin along the already created neckline and cut – pin and cut – pin and cut… until you get a similar end result as shown on the picture underneath:

As soon as you have all pins in place you can start with sewing both layers together. When the hand sewing is finished and all pins are removed, you take the new added fabric which is now at the inside and flip it to the outside where you then can cut off excess fabric and pin the outside border of the keyhole neckline and sew it:


Well, you might have already encountered it – I again added some very small stitches close to the border of the neckline and the slit to connect all fabric layers including the seams on the inside in order to create a very flat border.

Last but not least – the Trapunto work

And as soon as I completed the sewing of the keyhole neckline, I started thinking about a good size for the “tubes” for my Trapunto filling. At this point I was still not sure if what I had on my mind really works therefore I decided to create a very first line of Trapunto to see if it would work out. Therefore I created the first “tube” by adding another line of running stitches:


And then I filled the “tube” and decided that it looks good enough to continue and to create more filled “tubes”:


Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of how I filled in the “Trapunto” but it was quite easy. As soon as I finished the hand sewing and had the “tube” ready for the filling, I took my small old-fashioned awl (which I normally use to make eyelets) and carefully created a good sized hole at the backside of the “tube”.

Then I threaded two or three threads of some quite thick cotton thread which I found at a nearby crafting store onto a big thick needle without point and inserted the needle through this opening into the “tube”. And then I pulled the big thick needle very carefully through the whole “tube” until I got back to the opening where I pulled out the needle again. After pulling the needle out, I carefully stretched the wrinkled fabric and pulled in more and more of the thread until the whole “tube” was filled and wrinkle free. At this point I cut off any excess thread, pushed the ends of the thread into the “tube” and with the help of a pointy needle I pushed the silk threads around the opening which I just created to fill the “tube” back to close the hole in the fabric again.

And here a look at the finished neckline for you:


In sum “Trapunto” can be described with four steps:

  1. Create a tube or shape you want to fill in
  2. Create an opening through which you can insert the filling
  3. Fill it
  4. Close the opening for the filling

And last but not least a look at my cuffs:


At the picture above you can see how I determine and pin the final length for the second layer for the Trapunto cuffs and at the picture underneath you can see one of the finished cuffs:


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I hope you enjoyed todays posting and the pictures of my Trapunto neckline. In the next posting I will show you the progress pictures of my decorated silk buttons… 🙂

Best regards Racaire

Other postings about my 12th century white silk underdress project till now: