Monday, March 3, 2014

Henrican Men's Shirt, 1530s

Henrican Shirt, 1530s

This project is creating a new men’s shirt for Etain.  She’s after something from the later Henrican period, and likes the tall, pleated collar with small ruffles.  I finally found a excellent article on the subject of how to make these shirts (first in the bibliography), allowing me to have more options than the one Elizabethan style I used previously.
Portrait of a Young Man, 1530s, Flemish.  Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, Belgium
           The style is characterized by having a standing collar with a substantial amount of fabric pleated into it, and sleeves that were not pleated into the cap (but were at the wrist—usually).  They may or may not have had the pleats sandwiched between two more pieces of fabric, and small ruffles at the top, although the ruffles are more common now than they were previously.  The sleeves are drawn up, almost to the neckline.  The neckline is open in the front, although also at this time, and earlier, a side (or no visible) opening was common.

Often there was some form of embroidery, usually blackwork (whether it was actually black or not, there are examples of red, and gold) worked embroidery at the collar.  Other types used would have been pattern darning and forms of smocking.  If the embroidery was stitched directly onto the shirt, the individual pleats would have been used instead of individual threads for the counted work.

The Pattern

The pattern consists of a front and back panel, which will be pleated into the collar; two sleeves (obviously), which are inset into the side seam several inches from the top of the seam—this short seam becomes about half of the shoulder, and the height of the collar; and underarm gussets.  These do not include any extra ruffles and re-enforcements.
Rough Pattern Illustration
To determine how wide I needed to make the body of the shirt, I took a sample of the material, ran a running stitch along it at about 4 (visible) stitches per inch, and drew it tight.  By this means I could measure off an inch of gathered material, mark it, and flatten it back out to show me how many inches were gathered into that inch of material—in this case the ratio was 6.5” / 1”.
I believe that in order to have the armscyle large enough, rather than using the usual straight measurement, you need to measure around the underarm (plus a little ease) to above the shoulder where the top of the sleeve is anticipated to go.  Also, I think that the sleeve length should be the measurement from the center back to the wrist, to give you enough length, with just enough bagginess—we’ll see if it does or not...

The first part of the construction was (since I had just enough fabric to do it this way) to tear off a strip of material that would become the sleeves.  The remainder was torn lengthwise and then in two to create what became the body (selvage at the top.  I marked off 4.5 inches at the top that would become the shoulder seam and collar and inset the sleeves.  Underarm gussets were added in such a way that they laid fairly flat.  All seams are being sewn with 2-3 rows of close stitching, and a row of zig-zag to prevent fraying.
Top of Sleeve head.
When it came time to sew in the gathering stitches, I tore a short strip down the center (marking the center front) and commenced with the running stitch at approximately 4 to an inch, with the first row being just below the selvage.  I did the first row there so that the selvage edge would be able to form good ruffles at the end.  The second two rows were much more difficult as I was trying to sew a straight line, while matching the above row of stitching—needless to say, I didn’t quite succeed all the time.  
Horrible looking first try.  There's a reason I redid it.
Following this I did the same with three rows of stitches on the cuff. 
After having Etain try it on, I decided that I would need to add another good row of gathering stitches at the collar—the arm length is good, though.  It does look somewhat bulky, however—I believe that in order to get the proper look, I need to wet it down, and dry it in such a way that it is gathered throughout the length.
After reviewing the collar, I decided to take out three of the rows and replace them with two rows at 1 ¼ inch intervals, which got me closer to the look I was after.  Once the pleats were shifted around to my satisfaction, I sewed a band of linen down with an overcast stitch to keep them in place—later I went over the top and middle band of gathering stitches with a stab stitch to ensure that I got every pleat stitched down to the backing band.
Inside of collar.
Finish Work

           In order to keep the measurements correct, to finish the raw edges of the cuff and neckline openings, I bound them with a strip of linen sewn on with a stab stitch.  Through this I created an eyelet hole, sewn with heavy linen thread—cord made with the waxed linen thread (by luceting) was to follow to tie them closed.

The neckline was finished by running a thread across the bottom and chaining a buttonhole stitch along it, and repeating several times, creating a small web of thread[i].

At the 25” mark (from the top) I left the side seam open, and hemmed the open parts of the side, and the bottom with a double rolled hem by machine.
Collar of finished shirt.  Note the reinforcing at the bottom of the slit

Time: 21:45

Post Construction:  The recipient was happy with the results.  There are a couple weak points in the garment, namely, the tip of the shoulder seam, which I had to darn.  There have also been issues with pleats pulling from the backing--this was due more to the quality of the linen than my construction...however, if I remember correctly, I later went over the pleats with a running/backstitch to better anchor them.


Portrait of a Young Man, source unnoted. 

[i] There is a shirt from the 1620’s in Patterns of Fashion that has this, and, finding it interesting, I decided to give it a try.  It is not necessarily appropriate for this period shirt.

© John Frey, 2014.  The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.  Photos of my work may not be duplicated.

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