Charles VI Coat Armour Repro, Part 4: Sewing It All Together

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts describing the process I undertook to recreate the child-sized coat armour on display at the Musée des beaux arts in Chartres, France. This installment covers the sewing techniques used in attaching all the pieces and finishing all the edges. You can find the earlier installments here:

  1. Dyeing an Imperfect Lampas
  2. Recreating the Pattern
  3. Padding and Quilting on a Frame

Once I had all the pieces quilted and cut to shape, it was time to stitch everything together, make the buttons and buttonholes, and finish all the edges. I used the techniques I observed during my examination of the original. If you want to compare what I’ve done against the original, you should take a look at the photos in my article <link>, which the curator took at my request and which are not published elsewhere.

I acquired red silk quilting thread from Superior Threads and undyed linen sewing thread from Wm. Booth, Draper.

I started by connecting the lining pieces along the long seams, using a sturdy, undyed linen thread and a tight running stitch.

The lining assemblies sewn together into one complete assembly along side and back seams.

The lining assemblies sewn together into one complete assembly along side and back seams.

 

I then did the same for the outer assemblies.

The outer assemblies sewn together along the side and back seams to make one complete assembly.

The outer assemblies sewn together along the side and back seams to make one complete assembly.

 

Sleeve assembly came next. The original coat did not have any exposed seams, including inside the sleeves. This meant that I had to fold the sleeves in half length-wise and first sew the silk edge together, good sides facing each other.

The red stitches are where I sewed first, to finish the outside seam.

The red stitches are where I sewed first, to finish the outside portion of the sleeve’s long seam.

 

I then folded over the edges on the linen and sewed them together using an invisible running stitch that ran between the folds, out of sight. This would have been a stronger join if I’d used a proper ladder stitch, which is this situation’s equivalent to using stab stitch instead of running stitch.

Using an invisible stitch to finish the lining-side seam on the sleeve's long seam.

Using an invisible stitch to finish the lining-side seam on the sleeve’s long seam.

 

A sewn-up sleeve, inside out.

A sewn-up sleeve, inside out. The curved long seam is running down the middle.

 

Very carefully, I turned the sleeves right-side-out when finished.

The right sleeve, laid flat so that it folds along the curved long seam.

The right sleeve, laid flat so that it folds along the curved long seam.

 

A matching set of sleeves. Left sleeve on the left, right sleeve on the right.

A matching set of sleeves. Left sleeve on the left, right sleeve on the right.

 

I was beginning to see the shape of this tiny coat armour coming together.

 

The shoulder seams have not yet been sewn together, and the lining assembly has not been inserted yet, but already it was starting to resemble the real thing.

The shoulder seams have not yet been sewn together, and the lining assembly has not been inserted yet, but already it was starting to resemble the real thing.

 

Next, I put the lining inside the shell assembly, with the flatter, base sides facing each other. I stitched along the back seam on the inside, connecting the shell with the lining with a large overcast stitch. I had to be careful not to poke the needle all the way through to prevent the light gray thread from appearing on the crimson outside fabric. The original maker used undyed linen thread, so I used the same.

The overcast stitching on the original was as crude and obvious as that seen here. This was a brute-force stitch whose purpose was entirely practical rather than for style.

The overcast stitching on the original was as crude and obvious as that seen here. This was a brute-force stitch whose purpose was entirely practical rather than for style.

 

I then attached the lining’s shoulder seams and the shell’s shoulder seams.

A view of the back, shoulder seams attached.

A view of the back, shoulder seams attached.

 

Remember when I mentioned making a mistake in the last blog post? I said that using the undyed linen for outer assembly’s base layer caused a problem. On the original coat, the buttonhole flap was created solely from the outer assembly while the placket behind it was created from the lining assembly. The backside of the buttonholes were going to be visible, of course, and that linen needed to be the good stuff. Instead, the backside of my outer assembly—the base layer of linen that had been stretched on the frame—was the undyed linen that I had intended to hide. To fix this discrepancy, I basted a strip of good cream linen to the backside of the area where the buttonholes would go.

 

I folded the lining assembly back out of the way, and laid down a strip of the finer linen along the opening edge on the inside of the shell or outer assembly.

I folded the lining assembly back out of the way, and laid down a strip of the finer linen along the opening edge on the inside of the shell or outer assembly.

 

 

Before sewing any buttonholes, I had to make some buttons and practice buttonholes to confirm their width against the originals on the coat.

Practice buttons and a swatch for practicing buttonholes. Always warm up your buttonholes on a practice scrap before doing them on the good stuff!

Practice buttons and a swatch for practicing buttonholes. Always warm up your buttonholes on a practice scrap before working them on the good stuff!

 

Next I sewed the buttonholes, starting at the bottom. Tip: Always start your buttonholes or your lacing holes from the least-visible end of the area you will be covering. For front openings, this is the bottom. For sleeves, this is the area furthest from the wrist, unless your buttons extend all the way up your arm. In that case, the elbow area is the best place to start, working your way out from the center. You’ll get better as you go, and your earlier, less-wonderful ones will not be the first ones scrutinized by onlookers.

I left a sparse amount of cotton padding between the fabric layers under the buttonholes; just enough to give it body, but not enough to hinder the sewing process.

 

Some of my buttonholes were noticeably longer than others. Oops. Fortunately, this is barely noticeable on the front. Note the quilting stitches on the body piece are crimson. This is the backside of the shell or outer assembly, which was quilted with crimson silk thread.

Some of my buttonholes were noticeably longer than others. Oops. Fortunately, this is barely noticeable on the front. Note the quilting stitches on the body piece are crimson. This is the backside of the shell or outer assembly, which was quilted with crimson silk thread.

 

 

I then started the placket, or underlap. I laid down a strip of crimson silk lampas over the undyed linen of the lining assembly’s left front opening. This red strip would lay directly behind the buttonholes when finished. I did not attach it on both long sides of the strip; only on the inside long side initially. I took care to attach it at a deep enough distance from the opening to eventually hide the basting stitches between the layers. Also, I had to stitch only as far as the first layer of linen, to prevent the thread from showing on the outside of the lining.

 

I attached the silk placket piece with crimson thread along its inside edge. The outer edge stayed open to accommodate the addition of padding later. Note the quilting stitches on the body piece blend in with the linen fabric. This is the backside of the lining assembly—the undyed base linen—quilted with undyed linen thread.)

I attached the silk placket piece with crimson thread along its inside edge. The outer edge stayed open to accommodate the addition of padding later. Note the quilting stitches on the body piece blend in with the linen fabric. This is the backside of the lining assembly—the undyed base linen—quilted with undyed linen thread.)

 

At this point I had not yet finished any edges.

 

You can see the unfinished neckline, front openings (including buttonhole edge and placket underneath), and hem.

You can see the unfinished neckline, front openings (including buttonhole edge and placket underneath), and hem.

 

Everyone’s favorite part of sewing is sleeve attachment (ha ha). Just as with a normal sleeve insertion, I put the right-side-out sleeves into the inside-out armholes from the inside of the garment. I sewed the silk sleeve edges to the silk armhole edges.

 

The silk outer edges have been sewn to each other. You can see some of the red silk stitching on the part of the armhole closest to the top of photo.

The silk outer edges have been sewn to each other. You can see some of the red silk stitching on the part of the armhole closest to the top of photo.

 

 

To finish the lining edges, I turned them inwards and whip-stitched them to each other with a tight, tiny stitch length for extra strength, as the original had.

 

The finishing on the inside of the armhole.

The finishing on the inside of the armhole.

 

With an s-curve sleeve cap like this coat has, the long seam of the sleeve runs down the back of the arm.

 

The sleeve seam sits in the middle of the back of the sleeve. This combined with the S-curve of the sleeve cap angles the sleeve downward.

The sleeve seam sits in the middle of the back of the sleeve. This combined with the S-curve of the sleeve cap angles the sleeve downward.

 

Once the sleeves were on, I returned my attention to finishing the buttonhole edge and placket. The original placket was padded, separated by a line of quilting down its center. I added raw cotton between the silk strip and the lining assembly and quilted the central line. Then I finished the buttonhole flap’s edge, using an invisible running stitch.

 

Here you can see the inner channel of the placket is completed, and the buttonhole edge is in progress.

Here you can see the inner channel of the placket is completed, and the buttonhole edge is in progress.

 

 

With the buttonholes finally squared away, I turned to completing the placket. I placed more cotton against the inner channel and then whip-stitched the placket closed, cutting it to the abbreviated, angled length seen on the original.

 

 

The original maker was not terribly concerned about which thread was used to close hems. Finishing was frequently done with undyed linen thread.

The original maker was not terribly concerned about which thread was used to close hems. Finishing was frequently done with undyed linen thread.

 

I then went back to the buttonhole edge and sewed small stab stitches parallel to the opening, about 1/4″ in from the edge to reinforce it, as I realized the original had this, and I’d almost skipped over it.

 

The placket does not extend the length of the front opening, but instead angles inward at the top and bottom, leaving one buttonhole at the top and 3 at the bottom with no reinforcement behind them. I misjudged something somewhere, because the original's placket leaves 2 buttonholes unprotected at the bottom, not 3, like mine.

The placket does not extend the length of the front opening, but instead angles inward at the top and bottom, leaving a few buttonholes with no reinforcement behind them. Here you can see the left front upper assembly folded back out of the way. The crimson lampas lies on the inner-facing side of the left front lining assembly.

 

But then, a small disaster presented itself. I realized I’d accidentally sewn an extra buttonhole! The original had 27 buttonholes, and I’d managed to sew 28. I decided to patch over the bottom-most buttonhole. To disguise the patch, I lined up its top edge against the bottom edge of the buttonhole above it and re-stitched the bottom half of that buttonhole to hold the patch in place. Then I folded over the patch’s edge on its right side, and attached it with tiny stitches. Later, when I finished the left edge and the hem, it would blend completely.

 

You can't see the top edge of the patch at all, because it's hidden under the bottom row of buttonhole stitches. On the inside, there's also a patch of cream linen.

You can’t see the top edge of the patch at all, because it’s hidden under the bottom row of buttonhole stitches. On the inside, there’s also a patch of cream linen.

 

 

With the buttonhole hullabaloo finally behind me, I connected the two assemblies to each other next. I sewed the lining (with placket) and shell/outer (with buttonholes) together with an invisible running stitch, just past the buttonholes.

 

An invisible running stitch connects the inner and outer assemblies to each other. This also hides the original basting stitch holding down the strip of lampas.

An invisible running stitch connects the inner and outer assemblies to each other. This also hides the original basting stitches holding down the strip of lampas on the placket and the strip of good linen behind the buttonholes respectively.

 

 

The neckline isn't finished yet, but you can see the ingenious method by which the placket was originally designed. The maker used the lining assembly edge to create the placket, while the shell or outer assembly was used to create the buttonhole flap.

The neckline isn’t finished yet, but you can see the ingenious method by which the placket was originally designed. The maker used the lining assembly edge to create the placket, while the shell or outer assembly was used to create the buttonhole flap.

 

 

You can see the patch covering the inside of Rogue Twenty Eight, the useless extra buttonhole, in this photo.

You can see the patch covering the inside of Rogue Twenty Eight, the useless extra buttonhole, in this photo.

 

Next came the button-side opening. I finished it by turning the rough edges of the outer assembly in to face the turned-in rough edges of the lining assembly. I whip-stitched them together using the undyed linen thread, as had been done with the original.

 

stuffed some cotton in the open edges of the two assemblies before attaching them to each other.

stuffed some cotton in the open edges of the two assemblies before attaching them to each other.

 

Finishing the neckline was the next logical step. The original coat does not have a collar. Instead, the neckline is bound with an on-grain strip of crimson lampas. I laid the binding strip good-side-down, against the good side of the neckline edge and stitched it with running stitches.

 

I started with a rather wide strip, to make sure I had enough. I could always cut it down if needed.

I started with a rather wide strip, to make sure I had enough. I could always cut it down if needed.

 

 

Then, I folded the strip over the rough edges and ratcheted it down tightly before overcast stitching the tucked-under binding to the lining.

 

The finished neckline. At this point, the buttons still need to be sewn on, and the cuffs and hem need to be finished.

The finished neckline. At this point, the buttons still need to be sewn on, and the cuffs and hem need to be finished.

 

The finished neckline, placket, and buttonhole flap.

The finished neckline, placket, and buttonhole flap.

 

Next came the buttons. The original coat had 11 spherical buttons and 16 flat-faced buttons, both covered in the silk lampas. The flat-faced buttons were stitched through in concentric circles. For the spherical ones, I was hard-pressed to come up with the right material for the stuffing. They were clearly not made from wood or metal, as they had some amount of give. It was also clear that self-stuffing them with the lampas would not achieve the desired firmness or smoothness. I know I’m going to get teased for this admission, but I ended up using lint from my clothes dryer’s lint trap. What can I say; it worked perfectly!

I made the flat buttons from a thick sheet of industrial, 100% wool felt from McMaster-Carr. I cut out disks and shaved off some wool at an angle on the underside to sharpen the edges and create the mild conical shape seen on the originals. Then I covered them with silk and stitched through in 3 concentric circles of stitches.

 

The buttons sit ready to be sewn to the front opening with a thread shank.

The buttons sit ready to be sewn to the front opening with a thread shank.

 

I sewed the buttons to the right front edge using a silk crimson buttonhole twist thread. To form a sturdy shank, I looped the thread between the backside of the button and through the edge 3–4 times before winding the thread around the loops as tightly as possible. I then poked the needle back through the edge of the front opening and tied a knot on the inside, between the outer and lining assemblies. Since the hem had not yet been sewn, I could easily reach up between the two assemblies and tie hidden knots.

 

The top button is flat, followed by the 11 spherical buttons, and then the remaining 16 flat-faced buttons.

The top button is flat, followed by the 11 spherical buttons, and then the remaining 16 flat-faced buttons.

 

 

Buttons in this time period were not off-set from the edge; they were placed directly on the edge and typically had shanks, rather than being the kind with holes cut in them for stitching them down flat on the surface of the garment.

Buttons in this time period were not off-set from the edge; they were placed directly on the edge and typically had shanks, rather than being the kind with holes cut in them for stitching them down flat on the surface of the garment.

 

 

Close-up of the flatfaced buttons attached.

Close-up of the flat-faced buttons attached.

 

On the original, the maker had done a running stitch about 1/4 inch in from the finished edge, presumably to keep the padding from bunching against it and reducing its sharpness. I did not take this step, but in retrospect I should have.

On to the sleeve hems. They were something of a mystery on the original. The original bottom edges had been worn away, so there is no way to know whether the current conserved finishing is accurate to the original. There may have been a binding like the neckline, or perhaps even a full separate cuff.

I chose the most straightforward course and folded in the rough edges, whip-stitching the hems closed using the red silk thread.

 

Maybe this is how the original coat's sleeve hems were done. It's plausible and in keeping with the techniques applied elsewhere on the garment.

Maybe this is how the original coat’s sleeve hems were done. It’s plausible and in keeping with the techniques applied elsewhere on the garment.

 

The skirt hem, with its shallow, wavy scallops, was the only remaining piece I had to finish. And man, it was the hardest part of all. This is because the deep fullness of the stuffed channels results in a superfluity of fabric at the hem. There’s no easy way to smooth out the rough edges before finishing them in the wavy shape seen on the original. Indeed, the hem on the coat armour is slightly gathered all around in order to make it lay flat rather than buckle.

Complicating matters further, the original assemblies had each been prick-stitched about 1/2 inch in from the hem edge, presumably to hold the padding up so it would not pool at the hem. The lining assembly had been stitched with linen, while the outer assembly was stitched with red silk. The short, widely-spaced stitches show on the front (i.e. on the lining and on the outside of the coat), while long floats must exist on the inside, out of sight. This means the maker had to finish the prick stitching first, and then attach the two assembly edges together last.

I was running out of time, as I was working on this last task in England, on my way to the International Medieval Congress at Leeds in July 2012. I was presenting my paper and planned to show the reproduction as a visual aid. As a result, after completing the prick-stitching on the lining assembly, I gave up on prick-stitching the outer assembly. I proceeded directly to hemming the two assemblies together with an overcast stitch. It was a challenge to wrangle the extra fabric to create smooth wave shapes. Later, I should have gone back, picked it out, and done the prick-stitching first to hold back the padding. Now, 5 years later, some padding has migrated south and is plumping up the hem too much. It’s on my to-do list.

 

View of the lining hem. Could be better. At the time, I had not differentiated between running and prick stitch, and so the stitches you see here are running.

View of the lining hem. Could be better. At the time, I had not differentiated between running and prick stitch, and so the stitches in linen you see here are running stitches.

 

View of the outer hem. Not quite right, but close.

View of the outer hem. Not quite right, but close.

 

At last, I was done (more or less). It turned out remarkably close to the original and I’m proud of the project. I finally understand how makers coaxed such sleek, structured silhouettes from puffy, quilted panels of fabric. With densely packed cotton built to varying and curving heights and widths with the help of a quilting frame, the body can be transformed into a new shape.

 

The final reproduction, back view.

The final reproduction, back view.

 

 

The final reproduction, back view.

The final reproduction, back view.

 

 

The final reproduction, inside view.

The final reproduction, inside view.

 

The inner and outer assemblies are only attached in a few places: the center back seam (the rough overcast stitching mentioned above), the armholes, and all the edges (front opening, neckline, and skirt hem). The original had a line of light stitching that ran horizontally around the waist on the lining side, but does not show through, obviously, to the outer fabric. This could have been an anchoring stitch at the time it was added, but felt as though it were disconnected by the time I examined it. I omitted it from my reproduction, unsure of its necessity or purpose.

 

Displaying my project in August 2012 at the Arts & Sciences Exhibit at Pennsic War, an event sponsored by the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Displaying my project in August 2012 at the Arts & Sciences Exhibit at Pennsic War, an event sponsored by the Society for Creative Anachronism.

 

I estimate that the time it took to create this garment once I had the materials in place was approximately 200 hours. Surely a more experienced maker could move considerably faster through the quilting and sewing. Even so, if the time were cut in half, that is still a significant resource sink. It’s clearer than ever that such garments could not have been cheap to purchase. In fact, they likely existed solely at the pleasure of the most monied classes. These were not cheaper substitutes for other forms of armour, but armour in their own right. Men-at-arms wore them in a complementary manner with other armour pieces, such as mail and possibly plate.

I hope you enjoyed this series and learned a few new things. I certainly learned a lot from the process, and as always, my mistakes taught me the most.

Charles VI Coat Armour Repro, Part 2: Drafting the Pattern

This is the second in a series of blog posts describing the process I undertook to recreate the child-sized coat armour on display at the Musée des beaux arts in Chartres, France. I’ll be covering the process of drafting the pattern. Find the first part here: Dyeing an Imperfect Lampas.

When I examined the coat in the museum in Chartres on July 1, 2011, my first order of business was to take a myriad of measurements. I gave careful thought to all of the lengths I would need to recreate the pattern on flat paper later. I laid them out in a spreadsheet before going to France. My best friend, Greta, accompanied me as my assistant and recorded them for me as I measured and called out each number to her. Time was short. I was only given three hours to gather all the data I would ever get from this coat.

Here are the measurements I took. Each number corresponds to a measurement on the following tables.

Measurements I took in order to recreate the pattern faithfully.

Measurements I took in order to recreate the pattern faithfully.

 

Chart of measurements taken on the front of the garment. The numbers in the left column corresponds to the numbers in the first image in this post.

Chart of measurements taken on the front of the garment. The numbers in the left column correspond to the numbers in the first image in this post.

 

Measurements taken on the back of the garment.

Measurements taken on the back of the garment.

 

Measurements taken on the sleeves.

Measurements taken on the sleeves.

 

This may seem like an excessive number of measurements, but without them, I couldn’t be certain I was accurately reproducing the flat pattern. It’s probable that with fewer measurements I would have been forced to fudge some aspects of the pattern from memory. This way, I could be confident.

I framed out the shapes of the torso pieces using straight lines crossing each other (an x and y axis) as a guide. I was delighted to discover a beautiful symmetry at play. The waist ran exactly midway between the highest point of the shoulder and lowest point of the hem. The torso pieces could also be bisected by a line that ran from the highest point of the shoulder, directly down the middle of each piece.

The front piece balanced across an x and y axis.

The front piece balanced across an x and y axis.

 

Note the chalice shape framed by the square in the middle of the diagram above. We frequently think of an hour-glass shape when describing the fashionable silhouette of the 14th century. This certainly applies for women. For men, however, I think a chalice shape describes the silhouette better, especially in the last 40 years of the century. Their chests were framed with bold curves, but their hips less so. The lower half of the torso was more typically defined by an A-line. In the most fashionable clothing, this A-line was enforced with the use of rigorous padding and quilting.

That straight-line flare from the waist to the hips was made all the more striking by placing the waist artificially high. The dotted line extension in the diagram above shows where the bottom of a man’s hips would end. The waist on a man typically sits about halfway between the armpits and the bottom of the hips. Here, the waist has been placed about one third of the distance between armpits and the bottom of the hips. Modern re-creations typically place the waist too low to give the correct silhouette.

Analysis of period silhouettes aside, I drafted the pattern using pencil, wide craft paper, ruler, yard stick, a flexible curve ruler and—of course—the measurements. Here is an example of the back piece in progress:

Drafting the back piece, in progress.

Drafting the back piece, in progress.

 

In addition to re-creating the pattern shapes, I had the added challenge of re-creating the placement of the quilt lines. The curator at the Musée des beaux arts took photos at my request, which I consulted when placing the quilt lines. As you can see in the picture above, the quilt lines were not uniform or parallel.

Final drafted back pattern

Final drafted back pattern.

 

Apologies for the dark photo. I did not have a decent camera at the time. As you can see, I added a half-inch of seam allowance all around. See how the quilt lines do not line up with all the hem scallops? It’s clear that the maker was not concerned with that sort of neatness. Far more important was the emphasis on the waist. The lines move inward proportionately, and then back out again, once past the waist.

Here’s a photo of the front piece before I added the hem scallops and seam allowance:

The front pattern, almost done.

The front pattern, almost done.

 

The quilt lines are complex and somewhat unpredictable. Some curved more strongly than others, and the curves themselves were all slightly different.

The front pattern piece with buttonhole guide and seam allowances.

The front pattern piece with buttonhole guide and seam allowances.

 

The sleeve was quite straight-forward. It had a somewhat shallow s-curve sleeve cap, which allowed the curved seam to run down the back of the arm and provide a fullness for the elbow to bend into.

The sleeve pattern, almost finished.

The sleeve pattern, almost finished.

 

The finished sleeve pattern’s quilt lines were much easier to map out than the body pieces’ quilt lines—straight lines that run parallel to each other are the easiest of all.

 

The sleeve pattern, finished.

The sleeve pattern, finished.

 

The cleaned-up pattern, including tiny godets on the side seams, finally emerged. For the purpose of reproduction, I decided to incorporate the tiny godets in the main pattern pieces. They existed on the original because the original, lengthwise-folded fabric was not wide enough to accommodate the full width of the skirt for cutting purposes.

 

The completed pattern, shrunk down for the publication of my article.

The completed pattern, shrunk down for the publication of my article.

 

I also mapped out the shape of the padded placket which sits behind the buttonholes on the original coat:

The front piece with placket overlay

The front piece with placket overlay.

 

Clearly plackets were a done thing, because this is not the only extant garment from the time period with one. The jupon preserved with the Black Prince’s funerary achievements (dated to 1376) in England also has a placket behind its lacing holes. See Janet Arnold’s article (citation below) for a good source of information on the jupon.

The final step in preparing this pattern was to treat the pattern pieces like stencils. Instead of cutting the fabric into the shape of the finished pattern pieces, I was going to lay these stencils on rectangles of linen fabric and then transfer the final shapes as well as the quilting lines. I planned to use the prick-and-pounce method for the transfer. These large rectangles of linen would serve as the base upon which I would build the padding and quilting.

Close-up of the upper back piece with pricking, in preparation of pouncing, which is the pressing of a colored powder through the holes to transfer a design to a new surface.

Close-up of the upper back piece with pricking, in preparation of pouncing, which is the pressing of a colored powder through holes to transfer a design to a new surface.

 

In the next installment, I’ll show you how I padded and quilted the garment pieces before sewing them all together. (Part 3: Padding and Quilting on a Frame)

 

Suggested Reading:

Arnold, Janet. “The Jupon or Coat-Armour of the Black Prince in Canterbury Cathedral.” Journal of the Church Monument Society VIII (1993): 12–24.

Kelly, Tasha D. “The Tailoring of the Pourpoint of King Charles VI of France Revealed”. Waffen- und Kostümkunde Hefte 2 (2013): 153–180.

Pourpoint of Charles VI of France article now available in digital format!

My detailed paper on the tailoring and construction methods used to create the beautiful coat armour on display at the Musée des beaux arts in Chartres, France was published in Waffen- und Kostümkunde in July, 2013. Now, over two years later, I am comfortable providing this publication in PDF format for educational purposes to the world at large, rather than requiring that it be bought directly from the journal publishers. At this point, anyone who really REALLY wanted the article has already bought it, and I would like the rest of the people interested in recreating medieval quilting technology to have access to this information.

I am providing it for view/download here, as well as on on my existing page for this paper. You can also find a higher-resolution version on Academia.edu. Note: if you don’t already have an academia.edu profile, you will be required to go through a multi-step process by the site first.

PLEASE READ: If you want others to see this article, please provide the link to my site or the academia.edu site and do not upload the article or any excerpts or images from the article anywhere on the web. Please play nice so we all can share our knowledge in good faith.

Direct link (copy and paste to share): http://cottesimple.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Charles-VI-pourpoint-article-Tasha-D-Kelly-reduced-size.pdf

Sample pages:

p. 159

p. 159

 

p. 171

p. 171

 

My trip to Verona, Italy in May of 2014

This is a long, meandering tale. If your attention span is not up to the task, just skim through all the pictures.

Almost two weeks ago I got on a plane and traveled to Italy. But let me back up and give you some history first…

The plan for this trip germinated a year ago in Ottawa, shortly after meeting Christian Cameron – an acclaimed author of historical fiction as well as the author of a popular new fantasy series called the Traitor Son Cycle (under the nom de plume Miles Cameron). Wait… I need to back up even further… My sweetheart, Greg Mele, is an avid student, scholar, and teacher of European medieval martial arts, and as such, travels around North America and occasionally the world to attend and teach at gatherings focusing on these topics. Last year I went with him to the Borealis Swordplay Symposium in Ottawa, Ontario, because Jason Smith, the founder of this event, was kind enough to ask me to present some of my work in the area of medieval martial garments. It was a richly rewarding experience, as I recounted in this post, and I came to realize that there was an intellectual home for my niche interests.

So, we met Christian and soon understood we were of the same tribe – passionate students of late 14th century/early 15th century European culture and in the case of Christian and me, the clothing and accessories in particular. I was delighted when he boldly explained to his fellow Western martial artists that his first love was sewing and making things, though sword fighting was certainly fun too. Christian comes from a background of 18th century and ancient Greek re-enactment, and so already had a well-practiced respect for the accuracy needed for presenting a historical impression.

By the end of that weekend in Ottawa, he had hatched a plot, and Greg and I were lucky enough to be included in it – to create a company of adventuring knights to travel to Verona, Italy the following year, to fight in Il Torneo del Cigno Bianco, a late-14thc-themed living history event centered around a series of deeds of arms on foot.

Brochure for Il Torneo

Brochure for Il Torneo

I myself did not qualify for the title of knight – neither possessing the requisite fine armour nor the knowledge necessary to actually be effective in the lists. I also am female, and the knights in this tournament are (so far) only men, in keeping with the historical norm. However, as Greg’s sweetheart and a fellow material culture enthusiast, I was invited, and I brought my own set of skills to the group’s effort in the form of sewing, research, and clothing advice. We also decided Greg’s mom should go, as she was overdue for an adventure.

The company ended up comprising four knights and a squire: Christian, Greg, our friend Sean Hayes of the Northwest Fencing Academy, Marc Auger, a re-enactment compatriot of Christian’s and member of Hoplologia, and Jon Press, a fan of Miles Cameron’s work hailing from the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Jon wrote Miles (Christian) an appreciative letter one day and was promptly invited to attend the Veronese tournament as Christian’s squire last year, as well as this one. A better choice was never made – Jon was the *perfect* squire. More on that later.

The name of the Company became La Compagnia della Rosa en Sole.

Compagnia with standard

La Compagnia with their standard.

We planned for a year and in some cases, prepped just as long. Me? I left it to the last minute and paid for it while there. I committed to produce a new outfit for Greg and two dresses and a hairpiece for myself, but really only got down to the serious sewing about 3 weeks before leaving. Insane, I know. I ended up leaving a fair bit of hand work to be done while there, and even missed a day exploring Venice and a chance to see the guys fight each other in full armour on the Ponte di Castelvecchio in Verona, due to sewing buttonholes. (Hear my o’ fellow medieval sewers, there are certain rites of passage you should go through to gain fortitude, and one of them is to hand-sew an obscene amount of buttonholes onto a single garment. Another is to bleed on whatever you’re sewing, but that’s one for all periods, not just the medieval ones.)

Without Christian's help on the buttonholes I would have been in much worse shape.

Without Christian’s help on the buttonholes I would have been in much worse shape.

The work was worth it – it gave me an excuse to explore turn-of-the-15th century northern Italian fashion for both men and women. My process often starts with the figural art of the time, as extant clothing is sparse on the ground and textual sources — while available — are often harder to track down, translate, and synthesize in a meaningful way (but doing so is a worthy venture I take up from time to time – when I’m inspired). My art survey centered on the Tacuinum Sanitatis manuscripts. There are four well-known surviving illuminated copies executed at the end of the 14th century. They’re known today by the names of the cities where they’re housed: Vienna, Paris, Liège, and Rome. The Vienna manuscript can be seen in a great little book, The Four Seasons of the House of Cerruti, and that’s the one I focused on.

But inspiration did not end there. I immersed myself in the art of Giovanni da Milano, Giovannino de Grassi, Altichiero da Zevio, Anovelo da Imbonate, and the beautiful illuminations of the school which produced Guiron le Courtois (BNF Nouvelle acquisition française 5243 Roman de Giron le Courtois) and Lancelot du Lac et la quête du graal (BNF MS Français 343 Queste del saint graal). I took in the Big Picture – the trends and features which identified clothing as northern Italian in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. I also studied the details – the tailoring of certain sleeves, the silhouette variations, the hairdo details.

I used that newly-mined data to design garments for Greg and I. I stepped outside of my comfort zone, which is the curved-front fitted dress, in order to explore the smooth-fronted, side-laced dresses which appeared in the art.

A clear example of side lacing from the Paris Tacuinum Sanitatis.

A clear example of side lacing from the Paris Tacuinum Sanitatis.

My best friend, Greta (hereafter renamed “Super G”), sacrificed two Saturdays in a row to helping me sew. She also helped me in the fitting of the straight front bodice pattern needed for the dresses I had in mind. For Greg, I designed a farsetto (doublet in Italian, basically). It had 64 buttons on it…. Brass buttons, we hoped, which we ordered from Lorifactor plenty of time ahead, but which never arrived due to a snafu with US Customs. We asked them to send them to our B&B in Italy instead. I was appropriately wary and brought a batch of buttons I had on hand – pressed leather ones that matched the fabric well. This was a fortunate choice, because the buttons never arrived in Italy, either.

In the end, Greg’s farsetto and joined hosen turned out well. He cut a dashing figure, and due to his Italian heritage, looked right at home in the clothing.

Greg in his turn-of-the-15th century farsetto

Greg in his turn-of-the-15th century farsetto on Saturday of the Torneo

I think I did justice to the tailoring and hairstyle I chose for myself (a basic Vienna-manuscript lady with two dresses — a fitted rust-red silk dress with long, fitted sleeves and  fitted gold dress with long, open, mini-angel-wings, as well as pearl-wrapped hair), though I think it would have looked better on a thinner version of me. I haven’t come across any pictures of me in the full outfit that don’t make me cringe, so we shall have to finish this story without them.

The week leading up to the tournament was full of sights to be seen. On Sunday we got an amazing tour of the medieval sites in Verona, thanks to Chiara and Alessio, members of the hosting group for the tournament. Chiara is a professional tour guide, so this was a treat. I didn’t bring my camera that day (still quite unhappy about that), and so missed some great photo ops of Cangrande della Scala’s and Consignorio della Scala‘s funerary monuments. But Sean snapped a sweet picture of Greg and I touching the brass breast (of Romeo & Juliet fame, naturally) for luck in love.

At Juliet's house in Verona; rubbing the statue's breast purportedly provides luck in love.

At Juliet’s house in Verona; rubbing the statue’s breast purportedly provides luck in love.

On Monday, we went to Padua to see the Giotto frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel, as well as  Altichiero’s frescos in the Oratorio di San Giorgio and in the Basilica of Sant’Antonio. It was a veritable orgy of 14th century figural art. I felt a bit like I had gone on pilgrimage and was finally standing before the exalted relics of my favorite long-dead saints. Photos were verboten at these locations, so I had to rely on Sean’s stealth photography with his phone. My giant camera was not going to get a pass. I haven’t seen Sean’s photos from these sites yet, but we came across some really curious details which I look forward to sharing in a future blog post.

We went to Venice Tuesday, where we soaked up the Doge’s Palace and the Basilica of San Marco.

The Doge's Palace

The Doge’s Palace

Sunset on the grand canal

Sunset on the grand canal

Bocca di leone — rat out your friends, frienemies, and enemies here!

Bocca di leone — rat out your friends, frienemies, and enemies here!

Wednesday was a day of rest and sewing for me, while Greg, his mom, Jon, and Sean went back to Venice for more exploration. I spent a quiet day sitting in the dappled shade outside the villa where we were staying for the week, sewing. In the evening, Christian, his wife Sarah, and their daughter Bea returned from a trip to Chioggia and cooked dinner, to which I was thankfully invited, as I had no other dinner options and no transportation to go get some elsewhere.

On Thursday we went as a group to see Castelvecchio and the museum attached to it, in Verona. Finally, a museum that allowed photography!

Saint Cecilia, mid-14th century; note her long,  split braids — the 12th century visits the 14th.

Saint Cecilia, mid-14th century; note her long, split braids — the 12th century visits the 14th.

Next, we visited the Basilica of San Zeno. Some great art to see there, too.

San Zeno fresco of St. George and the Princess; she looks pretty unconcerned.

San Zeno fresco of St. George and the Princess; she looks pretty unconcerned.

The weekend of the tournament was a busy one. On Friday, May 30st, we all went to the site, Castello Montorio, which sits atop a steep hill. The castle was a stronghold of the della Scala family, who ruled Verona for most of the 14th century, until Gian Galeazzo Visconti took over.

The list below Castello Montorio

The list below Castello Montorio

So already, the setting was slightly magical by American standards, because we in this hemisphere don’t get to play history in the shadow of 600-year-old castles. The site was set up as a sprawling camp with a list, a row of merchants selling very high-end gear, and vendors of modern-day food and drink. (By the way… no hot dogs and Coke for these folks… The food was gourmet by our sad North American standards, and the drinks ranged from espresso through limoncello.) There was a performance stage as well as an archery area, where members of the hosting group, Doppio Soldo, gave talks and helped the public try out bows and arrows. The camping setups were top notch; something to aspire to.

Merchants and demonstrators set the bar high.

Merchants and demonstrators set the bar high.

That evening there was a man-at-arms tournament with one-handed sword and shield. We watched our friend Alessio Porto compete in the lists and enjoyed the honorable comportment of the participants.

Alessio fighting; fool watching.

Alessio fighting; fool watching.

 

I was dressed in street clothes, as I had not yet finished my sewing. Greg wore the Charles de Blois coat I’d made him for his birthday in 2012, because the farsetto was not yet done either. Aii! I missed so much because of all that sewing. A lesson learned.

Greg in his Charles de Blois-style cotte

Greg in his Charles de Blois-style cotte

After the tournament, we left for dinner, intending to find a nice spot in the center of Verona and drew bemused stares due to the historical clothing. We finally settled on a restaurant on the Piazza dei Signori —

Piazza dei Signori Verona, picture by Lo Scaligero

Piazza dei Signori Verona; a statue of Dante Alighieri stands in the center. Picture by Lo Scaligero

—which straddled both that piazza and the inner courtyard of the Palazzo della Ragione.

Palazzo della Ragione, picture by JoJan

Palazzo della Ragione, picture by JoJan

We sat under the loggia, our table providing a view of the courtyard and the beautiful medieval stairs leading up to a higher floor.

The men of our company informed me that they wanted a picture taken at the top of the stairs. Rain was threatening and my knees were not at their best, but I could feel something Important in the air, so I complied. When we reached the top, they immediately left — except for Greg. I turned and looked at him, and then I was sure… he was going to propose marriage. He got down on one knee and said some beautiful things to me, and asked me to be his wife. He gave me a ring that his beloved grandmother had worn, and I said “of course,” because there was never any question that he is the One. I kissed him to seal the deal, and then he stood and spread his arms wide, and yelled, “She said yes!”  We heard applause from below, both from our party and others dining at various locations around the courtyard.

Post-engagement kiss

Post-engagement kiss

The next day, Saturday, the men arose early to go into Verona to spar on the Ponte di Castelvecchio, the beautiful bridge leading across the Adige River to the Castelvecchio. Again, I stayed back to sew (there is a terrible theme going here). From the pictures and video I saw, it was a resounding success for them, as well as the tourists who happened upon the scene and got to enjoy some flashmob medieval fighting.

Ponte di Castelvecchio, which was faithfully rebuilt in the late '40s, thanks to WWII destruction.

Ponte di Castelvecchio, which had to be faithfully rebuilt in the late ’40s, thanks to WWII destruction.

Ponte di Castelvecchio

Another view of the Ponte di Castelvecchio, scene of the flash-fighting.

Later in the day, after I’d finally finished sewing, we all got dressed in our medieval finery and made our way up to the Torneo to see the sights, meet people, and attend the Knight’s dinner, presided over by the “Il Conte” hosting the event (portrayed by Simone Morbioli).

Simone addresses the knights

Simone addresses the knights on Sunday

Christian, the captain of our visiting English company, outdid himself with a sumptuous array of finery fit for a proper noble, let alone the capitano di ventura he was portraying.

Christian in finery

Christian in finery; note the beaver purfelle on his gown.

 

While the light was still out, I got to hang out a bit with Giulia Grigoli, one of our contacts and an event organizer, who was wearing a beautiful reproduction of a dress seen in one of Giovanni da Milano’s most famous works, a fresco in Florence (see caption for details).

Giovanni Da Milano, Birth of the Virgin, Rinuccini Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence

Giovanni Da Milano, Birth of the Virgin, Rinuccini Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence

The dress was made by a lovely lady named Monica Rossi. You can see more of her work on Facebook, here.

Giulia, Beatrice, and Margherita, a friend of Giulia's with a lovely tippeted dress

Giulia, Beatrice, and Margherita, a friend of Giulia’s with a lovely tippeted dress also made by the same tailor, Monica Rossi.

 

Giulia and her sweetheart Maurizio were the reason we were all there, and they were the kindest, most gracious of hosts.

Bea, Giulia, Maurizio, and Sarah at dinner on Wednesday night.

Bea, Giulia, Maurizio, and Sarah at dinner on Wednesday night.

The dinner that Saturday night was utterly magical. We ate inside a large pavilion with red walls, one side open to the cool night air. A talented group of medieval musicians played softly at the back of the tent, providing the perfect ambiance. Candlelight glow warmly illuminated our tables, and the courses and conviviality were unmatched by anything I’d experienced before this. We slowly dined on dishes that once graced the tables of 14th century nobles. We drank wine, toasted many worthy subjects, and laughed the night away.

The knights' dinner on Saturday

The knights’ dinner on Saturday

Jon, Christian’s squire, served at table, and was amazing. He has the perfect combination of good nature and alacrity of service, and we all pretty much adore him.

Jon Press, head squire

Jon Press, head squire

At the end of the evening, Greg stood up with Alessio, whom he named “Bocca de Ferro”, due to an injury he’d received in the man-at-arms spear tournament —

Greg, Bocca de Ferro, and Sean

Greg, Bocca de Ferro, and Sean — Greg “helpfully” hides Alessio’s bandage

— and gave a thank-you speech to our hosts. He began in Italian and eventually settled into English with Alessio translating. He explained to our hosts that we had figured out the strategy of Italian knights — to serve so much good food and drink to the visiting foreign knights, that they would be incapacitated and therefore unable to fight well in the lists the next day. This got a hardy laugh from all.

It is worth noting that the dessert servings were so gigantic and delicious, we all set to whimpering as our stuffed bellies had to cry “uncle!” before we could finish it. We escaped into the night as the grappa came out, and we were told later that many of the knights stayed up at least an hour or two longer, drinking grappa and talking. We doff our proverbial hats to their fortitude.

The next day, Sunday, June 1st, the knights fought in spear and long sword tournaments. I baked in the sun as I watched, unwilling to give up my precious seat as I took photos from the modern viewing area. Hence, one of the marshaling nobles was pretty much constantly in the middle of all of my photos. I will work on adjusting my priorities when trying to capture good photos. At least he’s wearing something with fabulous fabric!

This would have been a good action shot, but...

This would have been a good action shot, but…

I confess I did not want to wear my headdress again, and so I wore only my first dress (rust red with long, fitted sleeves) and let my hair fall free. It was far from historically correct, but I was pretty exhausted by this point, and it was the best I could summon.

The day was great, though long, and we lost Christian for a long swathe of it, due to a finger injury he sustained that required treatment off site. Our group found a tree under which to siesta. I couldn’t help but think of it as the “English Diaspora” tree, due to it serving as shade for people from the U.S., Canada, the Bailiwick of Guernsey, and the UK, as we also had a visit from Guy Windsor (from the UK by way of Finland).

Our English diaspora shade tree, and our B&B hosts

Our English diaspora shade tree, and our B&B hosts, who came to watch the action

Now back to the tournament! Greg fought well, as did Sean.

Sean, bringing it

Sean, bringing it

 

Greg, parrying

Greg, parrying

Which one of these is not like the others?

Which one of these is not like the others?

Christian, alas, had injured his finger during the spear tournament earlier that day, and had to sit this one out. Marc had also injured himself and could not participate. I thought that Greg and Sean demonstrated martial sprezzatura in their bouts while simultaneously placing honor above all else. These deeds were not about winning at any cost. They were about the joy of crossing weapons with a worthy opponent. They won some and lost some and all agreed it was a good day of fighting.

That evening we retired to our B&B where our hostess fed us a dinner to end all dinners — a singular honor which we were looking forward to. Course after course of delicious Italian food was set before us, culminating in shots of grappa, which I declined, but which several others accepted with gusto. I coined a new verb: “to grappinate”, which is the act of an Italian person plying a North American with grappa until they are either under the table or begging for mercy.

It was so pleasing to see Senora‘s enthusiasm for our avocation, one which is frequently misunderstood and unappreciated by those not involved in it themselves. In fact, she enjoyed it enough to ask for a loan of medieval clothing so that she and her friend Max could be dressed in it at dinner.

Sunday night dinner at our B&B; our hosts are wonderful people

There are many other tales to tell of this trip, but I think that’s plenty for one (extremely long) blog post. The end result of this adventure for me is that I have a profound appreciation for playing this history game in Europe, the source of all of our fascination. I believe that events like Il Torneo del Cigno Bianco are just the ticket to satisfy my yearning for an immersive experience in the coming years.

The Medieval Buttonhole

To skip the talkity-talk below and go right to the tutorial, click here. But I recommend you read on anyway.

Buttonholes… the mere thought of them strikes cold fear into the hearts of European 14th century clothing enthusiasts. The 14th century was probably the most insanely over-buttoned century ever. We few, we committed few, will hand-sew upwards of fifty of them on one garment with grim determination. Our fingers grow sore, the tedium reduces us to hunched lumps on our sofas, staring at the fabric and thread before us, repeating a mantra in our minds that goes something like this: “Only 27 more to go… Only 26 more to go…. Just do two more and finish this side tonight…” You find yourself enjoying your masochism on a detached plane of awareness, noting that when it is all done, it will be your garment with the most badass buttons on it, and that will be reward enough for your suffering. And, if you are going to put yourself through all of that, shouldn’t your buttonholes look righteously medieval?

I am partial to what I call the “boxy buttonhole”, because it’s the most documented style of medieval buttonhole from my favorite time period. It is a simple design— a row of buttonhole stitches placed close together to create a long, thin rectangle of stitching on one side of the buttonhole’s opening, following by a mirrored row of stitches on the other side. The result is a neat, rectangular shape.

Buttonhole from lower center-front opening of the pourpoint at Chartres, France

Buttonhole from lower center-front opening of the pourpoint at Chartres, France

In France, this buttonhole style can be found today on the extant pourpoints attributed to Charles de Blois and to Charles VI. In England, fragments found in London are much the same. For more reading on the topic and to see English examples, check out the Museum of London’s Textiles and Clothing, 1150–1450.

To make a proper boxy buttonhole which will look just like the originals, correct material choices are important. In addition, you must understand how your fabric will behave when you slit it open and encase it with thread to make the buttonhole.

I recommend only ever using silk embroidery floss on buttonholes because silk is strong and documented as a preferred fiber for such tasks. A less-twisted option like Soie d’Alger or Soie Cristale will work, but a more tightly twisted floss such as Elegance or the thicker Grandeur works better.

Elegance and Grandeur, by Rainbow Gallery: excellent for hand-sewn buttonholes

Elegance and Grandeur, by Rainbow Gallery: excellent for hand-sewn buttonholes

There’s a brand of Japanese silk thread I rather like, called Fujix Tire, whose Buttonhole Silk #16 is gorgeous. It is what I used to recreate the buttonholes on my reproduction of the pourpoint attributed to Charles VI.

A buttonhole I sewed on my reproduction of the pourpoint at Chartres

A buttonhole I sewed on my reproduction of the pourpoint at Chartres

I would avoid super-slippery silks such as Trebizond, as well as thin sewing thread like Au Ver a Soie 100/3. Mind you, Trebizond is fun to fingerloop and Soie 100/3 is the only silk thread I use for regular sewing.

Au ver à soie and Trebizond silk flosses

Au ver à soie and Trebizond silk flosses: don’t use these for buttonholes!

You may be tempted to use the full set of strands in thicker-wound floss in order to cover ground faster, but don’t give in to this temptation, because your resulting buttonholes will bulge and buckle in an awkward manner and the opening may shrink too small from the thick thread crowding it. Instead, I recommend splitting thickly-wound floss in half (or close to half, if the number of strands is uneven).

 

Soie d'alger: slightly too thick to use without splitting the strands in half

Soie d’alger: slightly too thick to use without splitting the strands in half

Soie d'alger split into 3-strand and 4-strand lengths

Soie d’alger split into 3-strand and 4-strand lengths

Elegance floss is a good thickness to use whole, without unraveling the strands, as is the Fugix Tire Buttonhole #16. Elegance is my go-to workhorse floss for buttonholes and eyelets for this reason. Grandeur is what I use when I’m in a hurry and I am willing to cheat on the time involved. Admittedly, the buttonholes are slightly more bulky than I think they should be.

As for fabric, the biggest annoyance factor will be its tendency to fray where you have slit it open for the buttonhole. With this in mind, the easiest fabrics to put buttonholes on will be wools, especially fulled wools. Silk fabric runs the gamut from relatively easy to control fray-wise to nightmarishly hard to control, and linen will pretty much always be somewhat of a pain, but do-able. Many of us line our clothes in linen. Keep this in mind when lining an area where buttonholes will go — sometimes it’s better to self-line with the outside fabric (as long as it is not linen) to avoid the frustration of dealing with the frayed bits poking out visibly through the front of the buttonhole and between stitches.

For those familiar with modern machined buttonholes only, the approach taken for finishing a medieval buttonhole is quite different. With a machine, you sew tight zigzag stitches back and forth, sometimes in a thin teardrop shape, sometimes rectangular, with a strong, reinforcing bar tack at both ends, etc.. When finished sewing, you slit the inside open, making the actual hole appear.

 

Machine-sewn buttonhole with bar tacks. It is more visible on the left in this photo, but there is a small bar tack on each side

Machine-sewn buttonhole with bar tacks. It is more visible on the left in this photo, but there is a small bar tack on each side

For medieval buttons, you cut the opening first, and then you encase that opening with buttonhole stitches. The result is a much stronger, long-lasting buttonhole which, if you are neat and diligent, will not suffer from frayed threads even over time and use.

Judging from the limited 14th century extant buttonhole samples, they did not routinely come with bar tacks for reinforcing each edge. Instead, the stitches appear to abruptly end at each edge, often with a crisp, rectangular shape (hence my descriptor, “boxy”). So, how was each end of the slit reinforced to prevent tearing from tension and use?
I have a method for achieving a strong buttonhole without bar tacks which looks like the original extant examples. In wearing garments with buttonholes sewn in this style, I have found that bar tacks are not strictly necessary as long as the overall quality of the buttonhole is sturdy and tight. I’ve created a tutorial that walks you through the steps for creating a handsome medieval buttonhole in the boxy style.

I recommend you try this out in practice form before committing it to your good garment fabric. You will need fabric, embroidery floss, a needle with a big enough eye for the floss, and snips. If the snips are sharp-pointed, you can use them to cut the opening for the buttonhole by folding the fabric and cutting a slit into it. Otherwise you can use a straight edge tool (pressing down flat on the fabric, against a self-healing mat, for instance), or a seam ripper (be careful with this tool or you will find yourself mending an extra-long tear!).

Now, on to the tutorial!