The Shirt of Pelitanical Insanity

As previously mentioned…. 5 or 10 or 15 times, William/Tanis/T finally got made a peer!

(Because I think I never explained this– they are the same person. He is also the guy who walked into Lacis last November and convinced me to go to fighter practice. These days he’s my best friend)

T does primarily Landsknecht and 14th C costuming, and since I’m getting OK at blackwork, I decided to make a really nice Landsknecht shirt with embroidered pelicans. I am all about the subtle peerage symbols.

I looked at a lot of Cranach paintings, and any tutorials/guides I could find on the internet, and Patterns of Fashion 4, specifically the Nils Sture shirt and the 1535 boy’s shirt from the V&A.

William is 5’10” and wears a men’s XL. Here’s what I ended up doing


I do not research German costuming. Based on the amount of research I did, this is Blatently Not How Shirts Were Constructed. However I think this will look roughly right when finished.

I used my favorite Burnley and Trowbridge cambric linen, which is 56″ wide. I used two full widths for the body of the shirt, and two half-widths for the sleeves.

I wasn’t sure how long to make it, so the body hits my knees. For some floof in the sleeves they are cut 5″ longer than his arm measurement.

The plan is to just gather the wide fabric to make a ruffle and sandwich it between two bands. Shirts in period seem to usually have a separate piece to make Moar Ruffle, a la my Chemise of Doom.

Because I am nuts, I am handsewing the entire thing, using the Elizabethan Seam method documented by Laura Mellin at Extreme Costuming and Kass McGann in her guide to early modern sewing.

This is what that looks like

What I’m doing is hemming the edges of both pieces of fabric (with a turn and turn hem, because this is linen) and then doing a very narrow whipstitch to join them together. I was trying to grab two threads on the edge of each fold.

Compared to a normal open-fell seam (spaced backstitch the seam and then iron it open, turn the edges under, and fell it down)

As you can see the “Elizabethan seam” is a lot tighter, and I feel like I at least can get a smaller felled-ish seam by hemming it first and then sewing it together.

On the outside the seams look like this:

“Elizabethan seam”

Open-fell seam

Again, the Elizabethan seam seems overall stronger and tighter. Apologies for the weird white balance, I’m writing this in the evening.

Although this technique is slow (you are essentially sewing each seam 3x) I don’t think it’s slower than handsewing a seam and open-felling that, again, because that’s still sewing it 3 times. A big plus for me is that I can never figure out the mental gymnastics to do French seams on under-arm gussets, but with this method I just hem everything, put it where I want it, and whip stitch.

So yes, this is an entirely handsewn shirt using linen thread with reversible hand-done blackwork… In silk thread. The collar ties will be fingerloop braided.

I’m calling it the shirt of Pelitanical Insanity for a reason, guys. I’m also overall trying to up the details on my costuming game–seam finishes, edge techniques (stab stitching necklines, integral braided trim) lotsandlots of buttonholes and thread/fabric buttons, etc. I also tend to have a higher standard for Stuff I Make For Someone Else than Stuff That Is Just For Me.

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