“These shurts are wrought throughout with nedle work of silke, and such like, and curiouslie stitched with open seam. ” Phillip Stubbes, the Anatomie of Abuses, 1583.
Once I finished the Jamestown shirt, I was able to once again work on my own shirt. I originally started the project in October 2012. The shirt pattern is based on a boy’s shirt from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion volume 4 on page 17. However, several patterns were reviewed for various options and techniques. I wanted monochrome embroidery and open work seams.
Boys shirt in the V&A
I planned to embroider the collar and cuffs and possibly the front opening. Based on the thread count of the material I was using, I needed a tall collar to get an intricate design. Since the collar was relatively tall I decided against a ruff.
The cuffs needed to be rather narrow due to my tiny wrists, so the design for this was simple. I had planned for ruffs on the cuffs as well, but decided I liked the look better without them.
The pattern was pretty straight forward as I had made various versions of shirts/shifts prior to this. I used measurements that worked for those. This pattern does not have the shoulder gores often found in shirts/shifts from the period. So I tried without them. I failed to account for their lack in my measurements so the shirt did not fit or lie properly when assembled.
This was a minor setback as the entire shirt was assembled with open work seams. However, once the gores were added everything fit great! Only lost a couple hours work. So for future reference different chest measurements are in order for shirts/shifts without gores in the shoulder/neck area.
I wanted a geometric pattern with blue thread for a manly look. The period shirt I based mine on uses cross stitch of a geometric pattern. I choose embroidery patterns from period pattern books: Esemplario di Lavori Vavassore for the neck and Giovanni Ostaus plate LXVIII for the cuff’s. The cuff pattern was adapted somewhat as it was too tall for the narrow cuff’s so I just cut off the top and bottom parts.
Collar and cuff embroidery completed
Collar pattern from Vavassore in center
Cuff Pattern from Ostaus at bottom
The shirt pieces were individually hemmed with a rolled hem using a whip stitch of waxed linen thread. The end of the sleeves were sandwiched in between the cuff’s. While the neck pieces were finished individually and then stitched together with waxed linen thread. All other pieces were assembled with an open work seam with the blue silk used for embroidery.
I love the decorative effect of open work seams. My first attempt was the Jamestown shirt with a relatively simple stitch. For this shirt I tried a new stitch. Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 4 shows a few examples on period pieces and in her opening remarks on page 6. Sadly they are not clearly defined or does she show you how they are created.
Referencing a modern stitch book from the early 20th century, Samplers & Stitches by Mrs. Archibald Christie, I found a stitch called tailor’s buttonhole that creates a knotted tight seam. This looked like some of Janet Arnold’s examples so I moved forward with it.
Open Work Seam
The front neck slit has a simple working of thread that I created on the fly. I liked the simple look.
Finally, the 7-8 inch long ties are all finger weaving using 8 bows, 4 of white and 4 of blue silk in a spiral pattern. It took 80″ of thread per bow to create 26″ of usable cord.
Front slit embroidery and spiral ties
i enjoyed creating this shirt. I did not have everything planned out from the beginning. For example I did not choose the patterns to embroider until I was ready for that step, nor did i have the open work seam worked out until I got to that part. When starting a project I often feel overwhelmed at all of the steps involved. This approach made it easier to tackle each step. And it broke up the research as I went along.
- off white linen fabric – 40 thread/inch – unknown brand
- off white linen thread – unknown brand
- Soie Perlee #356 blue
- white silk – unknown brand
Total estimated time – I’m bad and didn’t keep track of everything, research, practice and assembly – 90-100 hours