Category Archives: Technique

BFG: Basic Shift pt 2- Gores, cuffs and collars

In part 1 we created 1/2 of our shift, putting in the sleeves and sleeve gussets. In part 2, we will be adding the gores and finishing off our shift.

Step 1- Adding the gore
Take a gore at the point. Line this up with the open seam you left at the top of the side. Sew this line down. Go back up to the top of the point. Sew this line down the other side seam. If you have a little bit of a tail sticking up, that’s ok, it works it’s way out in the end.

When you open the side completely up, on your ironing board, it will look like this.

You should find this similar to putting in the gussets. It should be a little easier, since you are not trying to create an armscye at the same time.

Step 2- Seal, flip, press and sew down
Zigzag your edges. Turn right side out. Press all the seams. Then run a sealing over stitch.

Step 3- Repeat on the other side

Step 4- Cuffs
Cut out a cuff. I make mine about an inch larger than what will go around my wrist. This allows for a button and 1/2 seam allowance. I like my cuffs a little wide so when folded they measure 1.5-2″ wide. There is a 1/4 turned up on each side, to create the edge that gets attached to the shirt. If you want a full shirt sleeve, with lots of poof, you sleeve cuff will be 2-3 times longer than the length of the cuff.


Step 5- Attaching the cuff
You can pleat or gather the extra length of the sleeve prior to attaching the cuff. Pin it in place.

You can hand sew the cuff on or machine sew it.

Step 6- Repeat

Step 7- Turn Collar
With the wrong sides out, iron a 1/4″ fold of the collar. When you flip this, the fold will be on the inside of the shift. This creates a nice edge to bind to the shift.*

When this is done snip the corners and flip and press. Stitch it down 1/4″ from the shift opening/edge. You will run a second stitch along the now turned bottom edge of the neckline lining.

Step 7- Trim and hem
Trim the bottom hem of the shift. I like mine to be a bit rounded.

The completed shift has a decorative edge along the neckline and sleeves that have a simple embroidered edge in black silk.

*This is the collar of a man’s shirt. I forgot to take a pic of the shift. The principles are exactly the same.

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Posted by on February 18, 2013 in BFG, Technique


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BFG: Basic Shift pt 1- Gussets

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, which means that I have a back log to get through. Lets start off with a shift. Shifts contain the 2 “g” words that make a lot of people curse. Gussets and Gores. They aren’t difficult, just persnickety.  I’m going to try and break down the technique into small chunks.  I’ll be using the shift I needed to create for the Bavarian Dress as an example.

Step 1: Cut the pattern
This shift needed to sit about 1/2″ above the front seam of the Bavarian Dress. I used the same pattern to create the neckline. I tipped the pattern from the center line about 20°.This adds material at the center and sides of the dress. Allows me to create a fitted top in the arms and chest, and more flared at the waist where the gores will go.

I added a 1/2″ to the neckline of the pattern, above what as needed for a seam allowance. This puts the neckline at the proper distance from the dress.
At this time cut out a second collar that is about 2″ deep. It should be the same size in as the shift. This will form the clean neckline.

Step 2- Cut out the gores and sleeves
On the fold, cut 2 triangles. I cut mine so the diagonal is about 1-2″ longer than the edge of side of my shift. I like a little wiggle room. I will trim out the excess later.Set these aside, we’ll come back to them in part 2.

Step 3-Cut out the gussets
The gussets are just 5″ x 5″ squares of linen. 2 per side. Heat up your iron.

Step 4- Cut out the sleeves
The sleeves are large tapered rectangles. The top edge measures the same distance as the arm scythe.

Step 4- Attach the gussets to the sleeves
A. Find the top corner of your sleeve. Sew one edge of the gusset along the outer seam of the sleeve (not along the top edge)

B. Find the opposite outer sleeve seam. Match this up with the diagonal that you have just sewn. This will skew your fabric slightly, but it works out in the end I promise. Continue the line to close up the full sleeve.

C. Zigzag the edges.

Step 5- Press and flip and press again
Press all the seams flat. Turn the sleeve right side out and press the seams again.

Step 6- Sew the shoulder seams and neck line.
Sew your shoulder seams. Press. And then add the neckline. This is right side to right side, sew and clip. Do not flip the neck line at this time.*

Step 8- Attach the sleeves to the shift
This is where it gets “interesting”. You start the attachment of the gussets to the garment in the same fashion as step 4. But you are now going to take the right side out sleeve and “set it” into the arm scythe that hasn’t yet been sewn. You can pin this, but I like a little more freedom of movement. So I start with one side of the garment and work around the hole. Start by taking the free corner of the gusset and lining it up down the side of the shift.GussetToShirt1

When you start sewing, follow the line all the way around the scythe. You will be attaching the sleeve and the gusset at the same time. When you get to the end, sew the remaining seam to the shift. Continue down for another 1/2″. Leave the rest of the side open for the gores.**

Step 7- Press and finish your seams
Run a zigzag stitch around the full sleeve. Flip and iron flat. Add a finishing seam to lock the edge down.

Step 8- Repeat on the other side
Once you have the sleeves on, take a break. It will be time for part 2 and putting in the gores shortly.

*We did this technique in this post Rather than do a full lining, we are only doing a 2″ border.

**If you are sewing a man’s shirt (you can follow the same instructions), continue sewing down the full side of the shirt and stop at the hem line.

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Posted by on February 18, 2013 in BFG, Technique


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BFG: Hidden seams in lined garments

In today’s BFG, we are going to take a look at how to create a lined garment, with hidden seams.  This is one method for costume construction.  It is useful if you have easily irritated skin, as I do.  If the garment can be constructed with lining, this is my go to method for getting the smoothest lines against my body.

The easiest way to explain this is, you will making your garment twice. It does take 2x longer to do, but fortunately, most historical costumes are constructed using straight lines. And I rarely line the skirt. Since we are only talking about a bodice and maybe the sleeves, it’s not too bad. We will use the Bavarian as an example.

Step 1:
Cut out your material according to your pattern. You will cut the pattern once with pretty/external facing fabric and once for lining. I am fairly symmetrical from the natural waist up. The 2 sides are close enough to each other that I can use the same pattern for both. If you are using material with a pattern, make sure you have placed the pattern in the correct direction. I’ve been costuming for a long time, and i still check it 3x before cutting. And even then, I still occasionally cut a piece the wrong way. As this is a historical costume, I am not as concerned with lining up all the patterns together.

Step 2:
Heat up your iron*. Sew the lining. Sew the pretty fabric. For the Bavarian,the pretty is the blue silk brocade and the lining is a complementary blue linen. You will now have 2 identical garments. To round out step 2, go press your seams flat in both parts.

Step 3:
Line up your garment, finished seam, to finished seam. This means you will be working with the Wrong Side facing out, from both garments. Sew these together.

Inside Out

Step 4:
Clip and flip. Clipping allows you to get crisp edged corners without warping.** Once you have clipped , you can turn your garment right side out.
Flip and Clip

Step 5:
Press your seams. Once pressed, you can run a 1/4 inch seam around the new edge. This keeps all the seams nicely sealed.

If you are working with all linen, take the time to run a zig zag stitch over the raw edges, prior to step 4. This will help prevent fraying. The zig zag stitch is very useful if you do not own a serger (which I do not).
Seam Binding

*Note: The iron can make or break your outfits.  A well pressed seam helps your garment look crisp, clean, and it helps keep your lines clean while you are sewing. It will also help the garment sit better on your body. It is just as much of a work horse as your sewing machine.

**Note: This is a technique for machine sewing. If you are hand sewing, your technique around edges allow you to get the same effect without clipping. Clipping does cause a weakness in the fabric. However when used appropriately, you get wonderful results. The key is not to clip all the way down to the seam. You just need to nick V corners to get a clean line. With 90 corners, you snip a diagonal.

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Posted by on December 16, 2012 in BFG, Technique


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Techniques- Stained Glass

I’ve gotten a couple requests for a How to on the stained glass look for appliques. These instructions are for machine sewing.

I am a fan of light fuseable web (that’s the real secret). Heat’n Bond Light Weight Iron-On Fusible web (It’s in the purple package) is the brand I use. If you are doing a machine sewing, the lead lines are created with the widest machine zigzag it can handle. Mine is a size 6 or just about 1/3″ wide. The stitch distance is .3″ or as close to 0 as you can get without being 0. And you want to stock up on a lot of black thread. Your machine will eat it like there is no tomorrow. For the smaller detailed lines, I made them 1.5 width. This ensures that it will look much narrower like a painted line rather than a lead line.

I work almost exclusively in linen. I should probably own stock in it.

What you want to do is create an image the exact size that you want the end applique to be. You want to then print it out reversed. Make a couple of copies. If you are doing any layering, keep in mind the lighter color linen will need to be doubled or you will get bleed through. You will want to cut out your images based upon how you want to lay your pieces out. Trace the pieces onto the fuseable web paper. Do not remove the paper until you have cut everything out and you are ready to go. For the stained glass look, you will want to have a ground, that is bigger than the actual piece. You will cut this out later. shows the various steps.

Step 1: The pieces are a jigsaw puzzle. I have not ironed everything down, until I am happy with the placement.
Step 2: Iron down the pieces and ink in the details. Keep in mind everything you ink, you need to stitch or paint (with fabric paint)
Step 3: The big lines go down first. This holds the piece in place while you do the little stitching.
Step 4: The bird was done. The outer ring was pieced in the same method as steps 1-3.

When you go to attach it to a cloak, you will apply another layer of fuseable web, bigger than the applique, smaller than the ground. I recommend doing this from the “wrong side”. Don’t try to go through all the applique. It wont melt completely. Do this in small stages, depending on how big your piece is. Cut the art out of the ground and attach it to the cloak. As a final step, I applied the lead lines around the outer ring and went back over some of the other lead lines in the bird. It helps really secure it down. Otherwise you can get weird puckering.

That’s it. Let me know if there are any questions.

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Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Sewing, Technique


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Rapier Armor-Fabric Configuration

I often get asked what is the “correct” layers of linen needed to create list legal rapier armor. The long and short of the answer is “it depends”.  As Don Ian would say, “here’s a fire hose of information”.

I order all my linen online from fabrics-store. Here is the configuration that I use for 95% of my armor work:

  • The basics: doublets, cotes, simple waffenroks:
    • 5.3  oz outer layer, 7.1  oz natural linen middle layer,  5.3  oz inner layer.  This is a doublet that should be able to stand alone as protective armor, with any weight shirt with the appropriate arm gussets. This is the configuration I use most often. Konrad’s armor.
    • 5.3  oz outer layer, 5.3  oz natural linen middle layer,  5.3  oz inner layer. This doublet needs a shirt of 5.3 oz in order to pass drop test. I use this one for pieced/custom stripped fabric and faux puff and slash. Matt’s stripey armor and puff and slash waffenrok.
    • 5.3 oz outer layer, 7.1 oz natural linen inner layer. This doublet needs a shirt of 5.3 oz in order to pass drop test. I generally do not make armor in this configuration as the shirt that was used to drop test the armor MUST be the one worn with this outer layer. But that does not mean it cannot be done.
  • Soldiers coat: 5.3  oz outer layer, 7.1  oz natural linen middle layer,  5.3  oz inner layer.  2 layers of 5.3 oz colored linen. Alethea’s armor.
  • Skirts: 5.3 oz linen, single layer.  Sometimes I do a 2 button overlap with 3-4 inch overlap of fabric.  Depends on how the top part of the armor is constructed.  Between the 2 layers of linen, pants/female guard and jacket the squishy bits front and back are protected. Margarite’s armor.
  • Shirt: 5.3 oz, cut 4 gussets of same weight linen.
  • Split dresses: 5.3  oz outer layer, 7.1  oz natural linen middle layer,  5.3  oz inner layer for the bodice. 2 layers of 5.3 oz linen for the attached skirt. Sleeves are faux puff and slash, with 2 layers of 5.3 oz linen with 4 layers of gusset. This armor needs additional protection at the neck and throat because of how the neckline is cut. Additional partlet is 5.3  oz outer layer, 7.1  oz natural linen middle layer,  5.3  oz inner layer.  3 Inch placard and ties extend down past the crotch area for an additional layer of protection.  My armor.

The middle layer is the work horse.  90% of the stopping power comes from this layer. I use natural linen because is is the raw fiber and un-dyed.  Less processing, means a stronger bond with the fiber and more stop power.  The 7.1 oz is negligible in the over all scheme of things.  The 3 layer + shirt combo is only slightly lighter.  Depends on what you do and what patterns you will be using. Also it is unseen when sandwiched between 2 layers of colored linen. If you are going to be working in white, the natural linen will show through.  In this case I will use a middle layer 8-9 oz white linen.  This keeps the linen looking bright and white. Ian’s armor.

Wash and dry the linen in the hottest temperatures you can.  This will take out the sizing and appropriately shrink the material. Make sure you drop test the armor in the configuration it will be worn (order of fabrics can matter). This is because of dyes and weaves. After the initial shrinking, wash in cold, hang dry.  This will preserve the armor for quite a long time.

Get to know your local kingdom’s armoring rules and your local rapier marshals. If you will be sewing rapier armor on a regular basis, I highly recommend getting trained on how to use a drop tester (and possibly building one of your own). Aside from my mask, this was the first piece of fencing equipment I owned.    You must test AFTER the garment has been constructed. I usually test the fabric first so I know what will need to pass and a second time after the garment has been constructed. An authorized marshal must conduct the final drop test in order for it to be considered passed.

Armor is considered “good” for 2 years from its final drop test, though a marshal has the right to test your armor at anytime you take the field.  If your armor looks like it has seen better days, replace it.  It is better to be safe, than sorry. There are 3 things that will break down your linen armor: sun, salt, and moisture.  As an SCA rapier fighter, you will be guaranteed to subject your armor to all 3 of these things.

Here are a couple of things you can do to help prolong the life of your armor:

  • Do not store wet/sweaty linen in your bag.  It is a natural fiber, it can rot.
  • Wash cold, hang dry.  Use an iron to remove wrinkles and soften the fibers.
  • Have more than one set of armor. Rotate your outfits.

Have I thrown enough info at you?


Posted by on September 1, 2010 in Fencing Armor, Sewing, Technique


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Technique: Trim “Tacking”

This handy little trick allows you to “tack down” 1/2″ edging into straight lines without bunching, folding and did I mention straight. The glue holds everything in place while it gets sewn down. You can use pins to help the holding power. I use the 1/4″ so that I have a clean, clear edge for stitching down. Sometimes it is hard to get a needle (hand or machine) through the glue. I am not substituting sewing here, just using a product to help keep those nice even straight lines. On the Bear Dress, I am doing a double diagonal pattern and machine zig zag stitching the edging down (this is a respectable 1 ft dress, not an A & S entry).

In period they used chalk, pins, time and probably quite a bit of cursing, un-doing and re-doing.

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Posted by on July 27, 2009 in Sewing, Technique


Technique- Concealed buttons and sewed on garters

When I’m working on armor, I am most concerned with how the garment looks and its structural integrity. So I am not using 100% period techniques and occasionally I add a modern element that is concealed. Like buttons. The only way you are going to see this is if you are up close and very personal with the fencer and you better be buying breakfast. This adds a level of safety to the garment in case a tie fails. Which is not very likely, but is possible.Though oddly enough I draw the line at velcro… A girl has to have some standards.

I don’t know about you… but some people I know have a hard time getting all the parts of their garb and themselves to the same event. Garters are one of those pesky items that complete the “finishing” touches on the pants, but… I know that they would get forgotten, lost, mutilated, etc… who know what else would befall these little fabric strips. Heck, I consider it a win if the garters actually make it to the rapier list tied properly (as opposed to “still pinned” neat little ironed rolls). Solution, sew them to the pants. If the pants make it to the event… the garters make it to the event. If the pants don’t make it, then we have a different problem.

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Posted by on July 27, 2009 in Sewing, Technique


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