I’d decided long before retiring my old character who my new one would be, and after the Winter 378YE (E9) event, I was very keen to hang up his antlers and get started on my new costume.
Apologies in advance: Picture-heavy, quality of some aren’t great; lighting in my flat is a killer sometimes.
As you may have gathered from the title, at least if you’re an Empire player, my new character is from the Brass Coast. My old character was League, so I was back to building my wardrobe from scratch. With Empire starting on the same day that college ends for the year, and coursework being due about then, I realised quickly that I would need to buy back-up costume and just make an over-robe for now. So that’s how I’m starting this costume diary.
My first piece of hand-made costume for this character is the Entari from Folkwear’s Turkish Dancer pattern (pictured). Yes, this is a female pattern. That’s because I decided that, this time, I would take advantage of Empire’s lack of gender boundaries and play a female character; her name being Emiliana i DelToro i Riqueza.
The idea of this robe was to act as a coat to help stave off the chillier side of Spring, so I went for a wool-type fabric. I ended up buying 4m of cashmere/viscose lightweight blend from Maggies Fab Fabrics on eBay at £4 a metre.
The fabric itself is lovely and soft, but it didn’t take long to discover how horrible it is to work with.
The first thing I noticed is how easily it creases; because I live in a small flat and don’t (yet) own any kind of table (there’s only room for a folding type – why didn’t I think of that sooner?!), I had to work on the floor of my living room. 4 metres of fabric won’t stretch the whole width of the available floor space, so part of it ended up bunched over itself while I worked on the first half. By the time I was ready to cut out the rest of the fabric, it badly needed ironing – although on the plus side, it irons out a treat. Not like some fabrics like pure cotton, where you can iron and iron and never get all the creases out.
Cutting it fine
Ah yes, cutting out the pieces. This fabric proved to be a slippery customer when it came to pinning the pattern pieces. I’m in the habit of drawing round the pieces once in place, which isn’t easy on carpet – I do have a cutting mat, although it’s only A3 size, which is dwarfed by 4m of fabric, so I was having to slide that underneath to give me a surface. Which in turn kept knocking the fabric out of place, the pins were tearing from the paper if I so much as breathed on it, and I was generally already getting frustrated with it. Cutting out the fabric pieces is one of the worst jobs, I swear.. Really must get a folding table.
Then I noticed the fabric had another problem. It’s quite thin, so pin marks were already quite visible, but it also frays like a sod. It’s something you need to work with fairly quickly, otherwise it’ll end up threadbare before you’ve had a chance to finish it. Saying that, I have delayed things a little, mainly through having college work or, as of now, waiting for extra things to get delivered so I can continue working on it. That’s for another time, though.
The pattern likes to point out that the entari is meant to “drape sensuously”, so the thinness of the fabric is actually a good thing; however, as you’ll see, a combination of that and it being so fragile caused quite a few problems.
When stitching the shoulders, I noticed that the lengths were different. Now, I’m quite an awkward build; not only am I short, but I’m also all arms and legs with a short trunk. I’d already had to shorten the pattern to account for this, and was happy with the overall length. Matching up the front to back resulted, thankfully, in little more than a difference in seam, even though stitching was awkward.
I decided to hand-stitch the shoulders, but was a little concerned about the strength of the seam. Seeing it on the mannequin (pictured) told me it would be fine, and I continued with the instructions.
All in a bind
This isn’t the only pattern I bought that needs binding. Because Emiliana spent some time in the League, a little influence is allowed to creep into the costume. I decided to use that as an excuse to get some gold binding, and because at least one of the patterns requires wide binding, I picked up this little number (right), which is about an inch wide. I won’t be running out for a while.
Only thing is, this particular piece of clothing needs narrow binding (6mm), so there isn’t so much “bulk at the edges”. So, I decided to get clever and follow the instructions for making your own using strips of fabric. Specific to this, I did the following:
- Cut required length of binding
- Iron out flat (pictured above)
- Set down on cutting mat
- Take a sewing ruler, lay on binding along fold marking
- Take a cutting wheel and run up length of binding, using ruler as a guide for a nice, clean cut
- Repeat for other side
- Fold lengthways about 6mm in and press
- Fold again over itself and press
- You should end up with something like this:
Bit more faff than just getting the right width, but why buy more for this one pattern when there’s a whole reel right there?
I’m in the habit of always hand-sewing binding, just because it can get quite fiddly. As it was, the neckline was looking a bit bumpy by the time I’d finished:
Still, wasn’t looking too bad… at least until I checked the shoulder seam when it was right-side out:
Yeah, I wasn’t leaving it like that. To the sewing machine!
This where I started running the risk of going bald.
It started when I realised that I had a bit of unpicking to do. Of course, I couldn’t just do the felled seam at the time, or at least before adding the binding; that would be far too much like common sense.
Turned out unpicking was the easy part.
Having figured out the right tension to use, I went ahead and made it into a felled seam. Trouble started when the fabric snagged on something under the desk, and once pulled free, it left a nice line across the front part of the robe. Agh.
Oh well, says I, hopefully it won’t be too obvious where it is.
Then I finish the seams, and find this:
Then I had a light bulb moment. I still had some spare trim from the doublet, so I dashed off to check I had enough for a cunning disguise. Turned out I did.
With the shoulders finally finished, complete with extra decoration that also served to reinforce the seams even more, I got to work on the sleeves.
Sleeve it out
The pattern instructions advise to stay-stitch round the curves to keep them from stretching, which is especially needed with this fabric. I’d done it with the neckline, now it was time for the sleeves.
Only thing was, fabric problems reared their ugly heads again as I was sewing. Turns out the machine’s very partial to it and was feeling peckish…
The fabric’s so fragile and fray-prone that it got caught in the machine before I’d even started. Why did I choose this stuff again!?
Thankfully it was the part that would later get trimmed off, so it wasn’t too bad.
After the initial hiccup, I continued sewing without further issue. Adding the binding was easier, too, although that might just have been practice.
Only problem now is, for a Freeborn garment it looks a little plain. I started browsing eBay for ideas, and eventually settled on some more trim, plus something else, which I’ll save for next time. No idea yet how I’ll put it together, but hey, I play these things best on the fly 😉