Italian Partlet

My super awesome friend Temetgen was offered her laurel earlier this summer.  After squeeing, and bugging her for a bit, she agreed to let me help out with some of her outfit for the procession.  Yay!

We decided on a 16th century Italian gown, aiming for 1580’s working class, but in her Sunday/festival best, where she brings out all her finery.  I recently did some lace insertion on an apron, she said she liked the look and wondered if it could be incorporated into the partlet.Lace Insertion Apron on

After looking around, I found plenty of examples of partlet embelishment that could be translated into a pretty lacy partlet.  Examples: Bordone, Florentine, Venetian, Moroni, Moroni 2, Drawing, Campi, and Allessandro sketch.  Those last two are good examples of how the final outfit should look, along with this nifty image I had not seen before, by Campi’s workshop.
On to happy partlet making!  I hand sewed all the tiny hems on my apron, and then whip stitched the lace to the hemmed edge.  I had to be rather careful about not putting too much tension on either the fabric or lace, since that would cause the seam to pucker up and wrinkle unattractively.   I know I had to undo a few seams where I had pulled them unevenly, and resew them.  While that method totally worked, and is likely how lace insertion was done in period (inserted lace only of course, drawn work lace was a totally different beast), I remembered seeing a machine technique that I wanted to try out.  I cannot recall which website I discovered the idea on, but here’s three to check out what I mean: Wearing History, Creations by Michie, and SewNso.

Lace Insertion Sample on

I tried out the machine method, and found that after it’s ironed open, the machine stitching is not at all obvious.  Unlike the links above, I do not want to zigzag my seam allowance down, or top stitch since those will definitely be obvious machine stitches.  But will I have enough room to hem the seam by hand after stitching the lace in place?

Lace insertion sample on

Yep, totally have enough to fold over.  I like itty bitty hems, so this works out for me.  Something to keep in mind though is the width of the lace.  If I were using something narrower than this, I would quickly run into problems with sewing the seam open.  And if you go for wider, than you may have to trim the resulting seam allowances down to avoid an overly large hem.

Practice Piece on

Next I tried a sample that stopped in the middle of the fabric, since I did not have a lot of lace, and did not need the whole length of the partlet embellished.

Marking the pattern out on

I put my back piece over the dress, and as you can see above, I marked about an inch away from the neckline.  This will be my guide for how low my lace needs to go.

Ironing reference fold lines on

I am putting the lace on those fold lines.

Lace insertion pinning on


Lace insertion pinned, front on

I pinned the lace in place, on all front and back pieces.  I used the same tracing method to figure out where I wanted the front lengths to stop.

Machine Settings for lace insertion on

I tried both straight stitches, and a narrow zigzag on my sample pieces: I found the zigzag to be preferable.

Needle Positioning on

You can see here, I did my best to hit the needle on either side of the lace edge, avoiding going right through it.   Go slowly!

Extra Left at the Edge on

Don’t sew the edge down, that needs to be flipped to the back side.  Or I suppose you could leave it in front, especially if it’s not visible, but for extra neatness, leave that last bit unsewn.

Lace insertion tutorial on

We can still see the fabric behind the lace!  Time to fix that.

Cutting the Seam Open, Lace insertion tutorial on

Carefully cut behind the lace.

Lace insertion tutorial on

I tried to give myself more to sew down the end by cutting it into that little wedge shape.

Lace insertion tutorial on

As you might have noticed, I tend to work in stages.  Instead of inserting one strip of lace, ironing, and sewing it, I sewed down all the lace, then I iron all of them (with a healthy amount of starch added),  and then hem all of them.  Happy stages.

Lace insertion tutorial on

Such a pretty lace!  I am a big fan of this one.

Lace insertion tutorial on

This is the right side of the fabric.  You’ll notice that the ends of the lace are still visible; flip them into the wrong side.

Lace insertion tutorial on

Like so.

Lace insertion tutorial on

And all the hems get folded in, ironed, and sewn as invisibly as possible.  The ends got extra buttonhole stitches around the curve where there was not enough seam allowance left to do much of a turn.

Lace insertion tutorial on

Stitch stitch!  My friend Annisa did most of the lace hems, while I worked on other parts of the outfit.  Yay teamwork!

Lace insertion tutorial on

Remember what I said before about trimming the seam allowance down if you use a wider lace? This is why.  I was in a bit of a hurry, and figured a bit of extra support to the shoulder seam wouldn’t hurt, but if I were to do it again, I would have made the hem narrower.
Lace insertion tutorial on

The ruff is made from a long strip of linen, around 150 inches long, hemmed much like this apron, but with fishing line sewn up into the hem too.  Then I ran the whole length through my pleater, and it turned into the lovely figure 8 image above.  I tacked the edges where the 8’s meet together, keeping them perfectly placed.

Lace insertion tutorial on

Lace insertion tutorial on

Mostly finished!

Lace insertion tutorial on

Prettier light on this one!  All that was left to do at this point was some stitching inside the collar, and adding ties to the front.
Lace insertion tutorial on

And completed on it’s wearer!  Yay!
Lace insertion tutorial on

I admit, I’m kinda jealous.  I seriously need to make one for myself, and do a happy partlet dance.

Before I handed it off though, I totally borrowed it for some pictures.

16th century Italian male outfit, including ruff, on

16th century Italian male outfit, including ruff, on

16th century Italian male outfit, including ruff, on

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