The Great Pattern Review
The Elizabethan Lady's Underpinnings
Christa Roberts - Highly Recommended
High Neck Smock: I have had many problems trying to recreate the high neck smock on my own as I am a very beginning sewer. Using this pattern, I was able to make a High Neck Smock in a few hours. That smock has seen a lot of use. but by following her instructions and closing all the seams, it still looks like new. I have also used this pattern to make a very comfortable night gown. Anyone who is looking for the Elizabethan Noble look cannot live without this Smock. This pattern is by far the best.
Janet Canning - Recommended
High Neck Smock: The smock was fairly easy and straight forward. It was a great review of gussets. However, the neck band was tricky and I had to have my partner look at the diagrams. He was working on his smock from the Men's Wardrobe pattern and we decided that the diagrams were better in his instruction book, so I followed that. I like the fact that there is not too much fabric around the middle as that adds to the squeeze under the corset.
Christine Gorman - Highly Recommended
High Neck Smock: I made the Low Neck Smock, Corset, Farthingale, and Bum Roll. Each of these was relatively easy to make. The Underpinnings patterns (one full set of patterns, in one set) come with about eighty pages of instructions, tips, pattern layouts, and alteration directions. With little trouble, I was able to construct all four pieces and they came out great. The pattern pieces all fit together beautifully, provided you make any needed alterations, but with the slash lines for lengthening/shortening on the pattern pieces, and directions for any other necessary adjustments (such as gaps), altering becomes a piece of cake. I would recommend this pattern to anyone who wants an historically accurate set of Elizabethan underclothes. The patterns are worth the price. I would, however, recommend contacting Margo to check when version 2.0 is coming out, If it is soon, I recommend waiting; it will have corrections to errors.
Kendra van Cleave - Recommended
Corset: If you're looking for a pattern that will give you the basic shape of an Elizabethan corset and don't want to deal with drafting up a scaled pattern, then this is the pattern for you. BUT be ready to make mockups! The sizing doesn't take into account the "squish" factor, and I ended up needing to take out 8-10" total at the side seams to get it down to a size that fit (which also meant repositioning the armholes and straps). Because of this, it's really important to follow the advice in the pattern instructions and to fit it with the side seams intact (you can remove them later, if you want a more period cut). One other irritation was that the side seam markings didn't match up, necessitating about 30 min. of measurement and pattern piece checking. I didn't follow the pattern instructions so I can't comment on how clear they are, but I didn't have any other major problems. I was making this for a German outfit, which have curved front bustlines, so I used spiral boning instead of spring steel in the front to give myself some flexibility. Pictured at right.
Heather Murray - Recommended
Corset: I am on version three now. I had been fighting between two sizes as my back fit one size and my front, the other. As was suggested in the instructions, I had to adapt front pieces to back and may have a version to get by with and hopefully, will redesign a new and improved version later. I chose the long tab version and am working on reinforcements at the slits so it will not rip. I do feel it's a good pattern, I just have to find a better way to trace all the boning casings on. Other people have said that it took two or three attempts to get to a corset that fit.
Farthingale: It's pretty strait forward. I am average height and found that the bottom may be too long for the 5th hoop. We are still playing with it. It has a actual waist band which is good as the hoops that have drawstrings just spin around on you when you are trying to walk around.
The Elizabethan Lady's Wardrobe
Christine Gorman - Highly Recommended
This set, like the underpinnings, is VERY well-researched, and historically accurate. The variations included are enough to make gowns for an entire entourage of Queen Elizabeth and her ladies-in-waiting, as well as at least half an SCA court. For instance, there are four different skirt "views": one gored, one five-panel (the one I made), and two trained skirts. There are three main bodices, and several attachments for the bodices, such as wings, shoulder-rolls, and skirting. Last but not least, there are many different sleeve-types. The patterns are meant for a fairly experienced seamstress, but with less than a year of sewing under my belt, I was able to make myself an entire outfit in two weeks- and it turned out very well! Another plus is that if you join the creator's Yahoo group, you'll be privy to updates, self-confidence boosters, and plenty of help and advice when you need it.
Drea Leed - Recommended
Click here for her extensive review.
Heather Murray - Recommended
Overall, a well though-out set of patterns for sizes 2 - 30. Every set comes with a manual with clear directions and pictures. My early version of the manual has a few snafus, but simple use of common sense solved them, and I understand that Ms. Anderson's Second Edition corrects these. Included are suggestions for fabric, notions, purchased yardage, layout, and ornamentation, as well as basic stitchery. Ms. Anderson also includes short basic discussions of period methods, and provides a solid bibliography at the end of the manual. She discusses the process of construction well, advises a toile, and provides directions for adjusting to acheive a proper fit and silhouette. I highly recommend a toile for any bodice, ESPECIALLY the first time! In addition, read the manual before you start work on the item you're after. There is some required hand sewing work, but the final product is easily worth the effort. Not recommended for the beginning sewer, unless she learns very fast. Intermediate sewers and up will find her patterns easy to use, and may learn some pointers. An Intermediate sewer is someone who is familiar with their machine or other method of clothing construction, has used it to make clothing, who can't necessarily draft their own patterns, but understands how to take measurements. This pattern set makes clothing, not a costume, and the finished product is nicely tailored if the sewer takes the time to follow directions.
Underskirt and Forepart: Nice swish in the final product! Again, clear directions and easy construction. Includes recommendations for fabrics and embellishment, and tells you where you can get away with machine hemming.
Overskirt: Nice flow to the skirt, which I've made up at least twice. I prefer the version with bias side seams, personally, for this reason.
Trained Overskirt: Went together very well, with a very satisfactory train for a smallish church wedding. I and my bridesmaid found it easy to work with during and after the ceremony. The directions were clear and easy to follow, and offered pointers on shortening the time involved in cartridge pleating, as well (using track computer paper edges to mark dots).
High Neck Bodice: I've made a few of these, too. The directions and pictures got a bit mixed up, but I received an early version of the manual, so these will no doubt make it into her second edition. Very sharp look, perfect for winter, and the occasional day gown for tromping about the merchants/vendors when paired with a nice contrasting or complementary skirt. I found the armscye to tend to cut in a bit into the front portion of my shoulder, but I believe that to be a call for personal fitting adjustment rather than a flaw in the pattern. Several ladies have made this up for SCA fencing with some slight adjustments and proclaim their successful use. Again, all of the seams are not period (there's one over the line of the bust point, for example), but she explains the placement very well in her manual, and once you've made one up, a little experimentation can fix this.
Low Neck Bodice: I've made several. This is absolutely my favorite late period bodice pattern, and I've also used it as the basis for variations on several lower-class bodices - for other nations! The first truly well-thought-out set of directions for proper tailoring of a bodice that I've seen to be reliable, and recreates the same good look every time I use it. Gets wows whenever I wear these bodices, even those bodices which are plain. The seams are not all period (there's a straight underarm seam), but are easy to make so, especially since Ms. Anderson includes the directions for such. There are three methods of closure: front, side back (on each side back seam), and middle back. I have not made up a front-closing one, but she includes directions for solving various problems that can occur with front closure on a bodice of this nature. This bodice also has a higher neckline in the back as an alternative for use with a supportasse and standing ruff. Be very picky when you make up the toile, and you'll have a great final product. Ms. Anderson recommends piping for edges, and I agree that the bodice looks sharper when trimmed that way.
Shoulder Treatments: I had problems with two sets mine that turned out to be flaws in the pattern pieces (let out seam allowance). Ms. Anderson quickly sent me and all others who'd ordered this set replacement pieces for these, and once I added in the seam allowances, I had attractive shoulder treatments. In a rather cunning turn, Ms. Anderson has made them darn near mix-and-match. Love it. I've used the Paned Sleeve Cap, Wing Cap, Tabs, and Loops. They all look nice. The now-published Second Edition has fixed the missing seam allowances, I believe.
Waist Treatments: Again, the same problem with missing seam allowances, easily identifiable after the experience with the shoulder treatments and once again replaced by Ms. Anderson. Fixed in the Second Edition. Also again, they turn out lovely after this correction. I've made up every variation of the waist treatments except the Rounded Tabs, and they've all turned out well.
Sleeves: GREAT sleeves. Many variations, and all of them lovely. I've made all of them except the narrow sleeves that close in the back, and no matter the fabric, from velveteen to boiled wool, the finished result is sharp. Some handsewing at the sleeve cap is required for a period look, but for those willing to compromise, machine sewing is possible.
Elizabethan Wardrobe Accessories
Heather Murray - Recommended
Once again a darn good job, with clear directions and easy-to-follow pictures. I recommend reading before beginning construction.
Attifet: I made this up in a linen-cotton blend, and though the outward appearance looked all right before I put it on, after I put it on it appeared too small for my huge forehead after tucking in my hair. Not a favorite for me personally, but others I know have used it and it nicely framed their faces. Easy to follow directions, and this piece goes together quickly. I really recommend milliner's wire for this, as opposed to the floral wire which is a recommended alternative.
Caul: It works very well, and looks very good. I've made it up in Belgian linen. Functionally, you can use it either with or without a small comb to keep it in place. I've done both, and find that I prefer to use it without. Nice clear directions that show a mind for period detail - when done correctly, no machine-made seams show. A staple of my period lower-middle-class wardrobe.
Soft Cap: I made this up for a man with a HUGE noggin (24" around) and it came out awful because of my [poor choice of fashion material. Something with a firm weave is called for here, and I knew it, but experimented anyway. The directions are solid, the overall form is great, and several folks have made up this item with success. Their photos can be found on Margo's website and also on her Yahoo!groups list for her patterns' users, margospatterns. She gives directions which recommend either buckram or for a modern substitute, the plastic grid material used for needlepoint, edged with wire. Once again, spend the money on milliner's wire for this.
Ruffs: I've made a standing ruff using the gathered method described in her manual, and find it to be infinitely easier, and with the same appearance, as the method normally used of cartridge pleating the ruff onto a collar band, which she also gives directions for. She doesn't mention it that I recall, but when using a standing ruff with a supportasse be sure to pin the ruff in several places on the supportasse so that it doesn't gather in around your face. Her directions form figure-eight folds, with no directions for other possibilities, as outlined in Hunisett, but a solid staple nonetheless and definitely period.
Supportasse: It went together well. I used a modern version of pasteboard - matting board, the stiffened paper used for borders in framing! Worked well, and looked better. I added a gold lace edge onto mine, which looked very nice. The Supportasse is made for use with the high-backed version of Ms. Anderson's Low-Necked Bodice, which also has space for the two eyelets to make through which to tie the ribbon attached to the base of the supportasse so that it stay in place. Stayed in place even when I got pictures with the firemen who showed up at the reception.
Needle Book: A very useful item for me, since I do a lot of hand sewing and embroidery and possess a lot of different sorts of needles. Fairgoers also find it useful to hold things like identification. I didn't make up the portion whereby it's strung onto a belt because I always keep my needlebook in my basket, but the book goes together well, and looks nice. I recommend using a cotton (washed) men's handkerchief for the inside lining of the book, as the pocket edges are then already finished. For the outside of mine, I used a synthetic chintz, and the glue shows through on the cover and back - those considering this fabric type may wish to use a lining of some sort in the middle of the fabric piece that comprises the cover fabric. If you use it as a needle book, place needles perpendicular to the longest edge, otherwise getting the needles out from near the fold of the book will require asking your five-year-old with the tiny nimble fingers! Remember to embellish the cover fabric before application, as the instructions direct. After that, you can only hot glue things on.
Purse: I've made this up in both leather and fabric (black twill) with very satisfactory results. It was a bonus pattern for me, since I was really buying the pattern set for other patterns, and makes a really nice gift - and a nice change from having to buy a pattern set of forty-billion pouch patterns for a single pouch!
Sweet Bag: Simple construction for a simple item. I've one in progress, and need to begin embroidery before I construct it, but I've read the instructions and they're, well, simple.
Amanda Jakubowskisrah - Highly Recommended
Purse: This pouch is certainly different from the average Renaissance Faire pouch. The lid goes together a bit strangely, but with some imagination (and some plastic canvas) it can be worked through. I fit my wallet, keys, eye drops, lip gloss, pen, and a map in this thing. Just wonderful.