For the HSF’s “Art” challenge, I ventured into the unknown waters of a new-to-me period: the early Middle Ages. So, here is the wrap-up of this little expedition: A Saxon gunna, or over-tunic. The occasion for making it was a Medieval fantasy fair I attended with my friend. Since the general focus was more on the “fantasy” aspect, I had a lot of freedom when it came to making the tunic. Hence it was a good entry project to warm to Medieval fashion. The cut I was going for was fairly close to that of a t-tunic, which made drafting the pattern quite easy.
After finishing the initial pattern sketch, I drew it onto a quartered piece of fabric. This way, the gown was symmetrical and got by without a shoulder seam. While researching for the project, I found that this kind of seamless cut is actually period-correct. When I tried it all on though, I found the one-piece tunic to be somewhat shapeless and baggy. So I cut a set of front gores and some side gores from the leftover fabric. Before sewing it all up, my pattern pieces looked like this: And, yes, I was feeling a bit lazy and actually patterned in the underarm gussets. I am still feeling like a total cheat about it. But, on the upside, this little shortcut worked really well. ;)
To finish the tunic’s hems and keyhole neckline, I grabbed a scrap of self-dyed cotton to make facings. This, too, was a very common finishing method all through the Middle Ages. Since I wanted the contrasting fabric to show on the outside, I sewed it to the garment’s insides first and then folded it to the outside. When everything was in place, the finished product looked better than I had expected, for a first dabble into Medieval styles. The biggest embarrassment of it all was that the neckline was not really symmetrical after finishing it. So I whipped the top corners back together, to balance things. As you can see, it looked pretty even afterwards:
Sadly, my friend and I had little time for taking photos at the fair. So I went ahead and posed for you in my living / sewing room the next day. I hope you do not mind. To round it all off, here is a brief summary of the challenge details:
The Challenge: HSF #10 – Art
The Inspiration: This 11th-century text illustration:
Fabric: Burgundy cotton gabardine and a scrap of self-died cotton.
Pattern: My own, inspired by researching on some SCA sites and “Historical Costumes and How to Make Them”.
How historically accurate is it? It was my first Medieval gown, made for a Medieval fantasy fair. I hand-sewed most visible seams but finished everything else by machine, for the sake of durability. The pattern though is fairly close to extant sources.
Hours to complete: About 16 hours.
First worn: On the fair, last weekend.
Total cost: Around € 11 for the gabardine. The dyed cotton came from my stash and was free.
That all being said, I will admit that I had wished for the gown to turn out more historically accurate. Usually, I am a bit of a pedant, intent on accuracy and little details. Yet, throughout this project, I felt a little out of my depth. Now that it is done, I am much looking forward to continuing my Regency journey. I am feeling so much more at home in this period.
The other day, I began drafting my first 1810s day dress, using one of Janet Arnold’s patterns. The draft and toile are coming along nicely. Starting this project has excited me so much, I even told my parents about it. And, in the past, especially my dad has frowned at the whole sewing business a little. But this time, he sounded almost as avid about it as me. It was a first and really cheered me on. If he goes on like this, he might end up with his own period waistcoat at some point…
I will try to give you a little update on the Regency progress very soon. :)
All the best, Nessa