Fiber Friday - Ancient Patterns

The past two weeks, I've focused on why I enjoy Ancient fashions, and where I gather my ideas. This week, I'll focus on how I take the idea into a finished product. Now, for those wondering, I don't have anything specific at the moment I'm creating (sewing machine's down); neither do I have fashion sketches, so I am limited on what I can show.

All that being said, however, I have played around with the ideas. The simplest design to duplicate with handwoven fabric is the t-shaped tunics of Europe and the Middle East. These provide the underpinning of most styles with various external elements such as togas added for protection, status or both.
Poncho, 2014

The photograph to the right shows one of these simple shapes in the form of a poncho - in this case one with sleeves, and more squared. I've recently added a lower panel around the waist to lengthen the overall shape providing a tunic. Still, this style, when adding the bottom, does create the same shape of many t-shaped garments of Ancient Europe.

My first foray into Ancient fashion was successful, but still not quite what I wanted. What I've found to be the difficult portion, for me at least, is the combination of fabric limitations and patterns.

Fabric Limitations

As I've stated before, I don't want to cut the fabric anymore than needed. This has more to do with securing the handwoven edges which will fray even after sewing if not secured. To that end, creating a piece sometimes proves interesting, especially when I need to consider how the fabric is woven.

By being able to weave fabric myself, I can counter some of the limitations I foresee in the pattern such as making shorter lengths of woven fabric, binding them off to be sewn later. In this case, I'm able to create a series of panels which I don't have to cut. Sometimes, guessing right doesn't work out, but normally it's an easy enough process. The other way I deal with cut ends is to place the portions with selvages along the interior seams such as sleeves. If I can add less bulk in logical locations then I reduce the amount of extra work.

Since Ancient fashions tend to be loose anyway, I can utilize draping methods in which I set my dressmaker's dummy to a set size and drape the fabric over her, pinning as needed, to create the silhouette I want. This tends to work well for me.


Sometimes, however, what I have visualized and what I can do through draping doesn't work. In those cases, I need to find a pattern. There are two ways I go about doing this - the first is to find a physical pattern to cut out the pieces. This proves expensive since patterns run in the ten dollar range. What I've done of late is to find patterns online which give me the general overview of the item. Often, the piece(s) will be laid out with measurements given to lengths of sleeves, armholes or widths of bottom hems. With those measurements, I can extrapolate what I need to cut for my own patterns.

I haven't tried more complicated online patterns just yet, but with many Ancient fashions, I can take patterns and adjust them slightly to fit the fabric I have. Patterns, for the most part, help me visualize how the garment is constructed which in turn helps me figure out the problem for myself.

When all is said and done, I sew up the garment and let my sister model it. She is then able to give me pointers on the fit, structure and ease of the garment.

Ancient Styles, Modern Designs

I love the look of Ancient fashions - how they drape, the ease with which a person moves, it generally appears to be comfortable. Taking those initial ideas into the modern world sometimes proves interesting. Despite those bumps, I enjoy the challenge.

There are a great many places where you can buy costumes in those styles. Some are cheaper, some more elaborate, but what I find the most entertaining is attempting to do the same form with handwoven fabric. I have limitations considering my weaving widths, but that just adds to the fun of it.


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