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Ian S LaSpina




PostPosted: Fri 24 May, 2013 6:03 pm    Post subject: Charles de Blois Pourpoint, a sewing project         Reply with quote

The proceeding will be a combination DIY project with a little bit of a review:

The arming clothes that we wear beneath our armor forms the foundation necessary for a good fit and comfort of movement. If neglected, it would be akin to building a beautiful home on naught but the bare earth. However, our arming clothes do often go neglected for none other than the simple fact that they are neither glamorous nor visible when we don our kits.

I've been through many iterations of my arming clothes, and I believe I've finally found the solution, as both practical and historic to the best of my knowledge. My period of interest is the late 14th century, the tail end of the transitional period from the maille hauberks of before, to the white harness of Agincourt. During the age of maille, the standard foundation for the hauberk is a thickly padded gambeson, perhaps made from many layers of linen, or padded with raw cotton, horse hair or other materials. The padding beneath maille serves not only as a cushion for the wearer, but when struck, the outer skin of the maille flexes into the cushioning of the gambeson beneath and acts to dissipate the force of the blow. As plate began to cover the knight, padding got lighter, and disappeared altogether by the time of the white harness, when a tightly fitted doublet replaced a padded gambeson completely. In the late 14th century, the maille hauberk had shrunk to a three-quartered sleeve garment, and the skirt only approached mid-thigh. With a majority of the body being covered in plate, the need for the older thickly padded textile armors of before became redundant and unnecessary.

The late 14th century pourpoint, or aketon, or gambeson (the language of the Middle Ages is not nearly as precise as our modern sentiments would prefer), was most likely the foundation for the late 14th century harness. This garment is much more closely tailored to the body than the older heavily padded gambesons. Similar to the arming doublets of the 15th century, it must also serve as the support garment from which to point plate armor, specifically the leg harness.

As my knowledge increased, so too did my collection of arming garments. For the last several years I had settled on the combination of a vest-like garment, very closely fitted to support my leg harness, and a lightly padded gambeson worn over it to support the maille. The vest-like garment is a modern solution and there is little evidence for such a garment in the historical record. The late 15th century does depict some vest-like garments from which hose could be supported, but this is too late for my period of interest, and also not appropriate for martial use. In order to correctly support a leg harness, the garment absolutely must be very fitted and tight through the waist and hips. If you can imagine pulling down on the bottom of the garment (as the leg harness will when supported by it), if the garment creates this girdling effect, it will support the weight of the legs on the hips instead of transferring the weight up to the shoulders. If your garment is even slightly too large, it will not girdle the waist and hips, and you will be holding up your leg armor with your shoulders, resulting in vertical compression of the spine, and thus fatigue will set in much quicker than you want it to and your armor will be incredibly uncomfortable to wear for anything other than a few minutes.

It seemed that the only way I could really get what I wanted was to either have a custom tailored garment done in person, or make it myself. I decided to try my hand at making the garment myself. As a complete novice to sewing (my wife had to show me how to turn on and operate the machine), I was a bit intimidated, but I found the ideal solution. Tasha Kelly (some of you may be familiar with her as Tailoress on the Armour Archive) has for sale an excellent pattern for the Charles de Blois pourpoint. The actual surviving garment is a civil garment, but as was custom, many civil garments mimicked their martial counterparts. This particular pattern is very approachable for someone who has little to no sewing experience. I contacted Tasha directly and asked some questions before I began and she was immediately helpful with all kinds of advice on how to get started and what I should do to make it work for me.

Here's a photo set of the progress on the garment I've been reproducing. I elected to machine-sew for the sake of speed, sanity, and ease of construction. The outer layer is heavy linen. In between the outer layer and lining are layers of cotton batting to provide padding (ahistorical, but invisible and easy to use, this of course can be done using more historical techniques if preferred), and the lining is a medium weight linen. The lacing eyelets and arming point eyelets are hand-sewn and made using embroidery floss
.
Here is the pattern booklet, followed by the pattern laid out before cutting.



This is a quick prototype I did in muslin before committing to the linen and batting.


Here are pieces of the linen quilted garment prior to being assembled



The inside of an arming point. Each cuisse has two pairs of 4 eyelets from which to suspend it from the garment. I've placed a square piece of leather inside the garment as well through which my arming points go to take some of the stress off the garment itself.


Here you can see the cuisse properly suspended from the pourpoint.


In this shot you can see why the grand assiette sleeve design is so important. The grand assiette sleeve is inset into the torso of the garment much further than any modern cut jacket. If you imagine a modern suit jacket, when you raise your arms, you also raise the body of the garment itself. This would be less than optimal for arming clothes, because it would mean that every time you lift your arms over your head, you'd also be pulling your leg harness up in to your groin! The grand assiette sleeves allows full mobility of the shoulder joint while keeping the torso of the garment in place.


There are still a couple small tweaks I would like to make before I declare it 'done.' But it's fully functional at this stage. It is relatively light in the padding compared to some of my other arming garments, but I find this to be a good thing with this particular style of harness. All during the construction process, Tasha was always available to answer any questions I had. She made the process very pleasant and I really didn't run in to any major problems. She stands by her product and I recommend it 100% to anyone interested in making something similar, be it an arming garment or a civil garment. The pattern itself has multiple construction methods depending on how historic you woud like your garment to be. It also has options for button up or lace up front closures, as well as button up or pull on cuffs. The step by step instructions are clear enough for people of all experience levels to walk away with a very well constructed garment when it's all said and done, and if you run in to any snags, Tasha was always there to help.

If you're at all interested in the reconstruction of medieval garments and textiles, please stop by Tasha's website, La Cotte Simple. There you can see some of the museum grade reconstructions of garments she has done, including the magnificent reproduction of the Charles VI Jupon.

Tasha's Website:
http://cottesimple.com
Charles de Blois Pourpoint Pattern:
http://www.lulu.com/shop/tasha-kelly/the-pour...26605.html

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Thomas R.




PostPosted: Sun 26 May, 2013 2:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What is this - 200 views and not one comment on this extraordinary work?

Ian, that's a really neat reconstruction! A lot of work for sure. And I am a little bit envious, since I am not THAT good with the needle... I can't believe you didn't sew anything before...Eek!

Best wishes,
Thomas

http://maerenundlobebaeren.tumblr.com/
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Tomas B




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PostPosted: Sun 26 May, 2013 3:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Congrats on a great arming garment. That is my favourite late 14th century option. You have put together a great presentation that I'm very envious of.

Tomas
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Greg Mele




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PostPosted: Sun 26 May, 2013 6:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great work, Ian! This turned out fantastic. Hard to believe that THIS was your first sewing project.
Greg Mele
Chicago Swordplay Guild
www.chicagoswordplayguild.com

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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Sun 26 May, 2013 8:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Really impressed when anybody undertakes to make their own stuff...especially since its just not in my bag of tricks! Thanks for sharing your project with us!
Joe Fults

"INVENIEMUS VIAM AUT FACIEMUS (We will either find a way or make one)" Hannibal

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Julian Behle




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PostPosted: Mon 27 May, 2013 12:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A truly fomidable garment! It makes me fortunate to try myself one day on a similar project which I am somewhat hesitant to start out. But how about the weight? How much is it and is there really such a great difference to your old pourpoint? I saw your suit in your "how to don armour" video - by the way a great presentation as well. So do you got any experience yet with the tight fitting pourpoint in contrast to your west-like under garment? I would be very interested in some details.
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Radovan Geist




PostPosted: Mon 27 May, 2013 2:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

great job! and thanks for insights on sleeve construction and great links (esp. cotte simple, with very good tutorials).
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Ian S LaSpina




PostPosted: Mon 27 May, 2013 5:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you everyone for the kind words! Truly, the credit belongs to Tasha who created instructions and a pattern simple enough for a beginner to make such a complex garment with little to no experience! It's truly broken down in such a step by step manner that the normal non-sewer like myself need not turn away from such a project!


Julian Behle wrote:
A truly fomidable garment! It makes me fortunate to try myself one day on a similar project which I am somewhat hesitant to start out. But how about the weight? How much is it and is there really such a great difference to your old pourpoint? I saw your suit in your "how to don armour" video - by the way a great presentation as well. So do you got any experience yet with the tight fitting pourpoint in contrast to your west-like under garment? I would be very interested in some details.


Julian,

The weight of the garment is really up to the maker. I elected to make this particular one fairly lightly padded. It's lighter in the padding than the gambeson you saw me put on in my video. Also, when you consider this pourpoint has replaced the two garments you saw my wear in that videol, this set up is much lighter and more comfortable than what I was previously wearing.

As far as the fit goes, I tried to make this garment as tight as possible to match the function I was getting out of the vest. This was the key factor in making the CdB Pourpoint, because I wanted it to pull double-duty as that vest and the gambeson all-in-one like I believe a true 14th century arming cotte would have. Once I had the muslin prototype completed I started tweaking the pattern a little bit to achieve that really tight fit through the waist and hips. Once I got it to the point where it would provide the same girdling effect as the vest, I took the muslin garment apart and traced it over the paper pattern to show what I had cut away so that when I cut the real thing from linen it would achieve the same result.

There are two other factors in getting the proper leg suspension besides it being tight in the right areas. We know that in order to support the legs without excess fatigue, the weight of the legs should be supported by the hips and waist, and not the shoulders. So when the garment is tightly fitted and being pulled down by the legs, the goal is that it can't move further down because your waist is theoretically the narrowest part of your body, and since your hips are wider than your waist, the garment is 'stuck' in the vertical plane and can't shift lower. To prevent any weight from going to the shoulder however, you need to ensure that the torso of the garment is long enough, that when the legs pull downward and the garment is locked in to position, that the top of the garment is not pulling on the shoulders at all. It just needs the smallest amount of excess up top and it will work just fine.

The last part to the proper fit is that the garment in my opinion should use spiral lacing and not buttons. Buttons will work if your garment is perfectly tailored and you never change size. Spiral lacing allows more flexibility in the fit and function of the garment. If you get bigger for instance, you can still lace it nice and tight. There may be a slight gap in the front closure, but the garment will still function appropriately, and truly that is all that matters with an arming cotte.

So, the too-long did not read version:
Ensure the garment is tight enough to firmly girdle the hips and waist
Ensure the garment's torso is long enough that when supporting a leg harness it does not put tension on the shoulders
Preferably use a spiral laced closure instead of buttons to control how tight the garment is

If you achieve those three things, than the cotte will serve you just as well as the modern vest solution in properly suspending a leg harness. The bonus here is of course that I got to shed a full layer of clothing, and I was in full control of how padded my garment is. All of this was driven by a desire to have a more historically appropriate set of arming clothes, and shed a little unnecessary bulk.

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Julian Behle




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PostPosted: Mon 27 May, 2013 7:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the elaborate explanation. I take it as a brief answer for such great information. It will take some more time but I hope I will wear my suit as comfortable as you will from now on.
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Ben Coomer




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PostPosted: Thu 30 May, 2013 9:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ian,

You said that the weight could be altered to suit the user. How suitable do you think the pattern would be for a more sparring level protection? Would it just be a matter of increasing the padding?

Thanks
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Ian S LaSpina




PostPosted: Fri 31 May, 2013 4:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben Coomer wrote:
Ian,

You said that the weight could be altered to suit the user. How suitable do you think the pattern would be for a more sparring level protection? Would it just be a matter of increasing the padding?

Thanks


I see no reason why this pattern wouldn't be sound for use as a sparring garment with increased padding in the right places. The great thing is you get to control exactly where it has added thickness and added padding to suit your specific needs.

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Frederik K.




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PostPosted: Fri 31 May, 2013 8:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am also wearing a de Blois type pourpoint beneath my 1380-1390 Kit an the pourpoint is padded with just a few layers of cotton an without any pressure in "fluffy" conditions 1 cm thick in the maximum. I wore it years befor and i wore it on this years BoN i i have to say with the period armor suiting to the de blois type you wont need an extremly thick padding even wehen you are facing russian halberts
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Ian S LaSpina




PostPosted: Fri 31 May, 2013 9:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Frederik K. wrote:
I am also wearing a de Blois type pourpoint beneath my 1380-1390 Kit an the pourpoint is padded with just a few layers of cotton an without any pressure in "fluffy" conditions 1 cm thick in the maximum. I wore it years befor and i wore it on this years BoN i i have to say with the period armor suiting to the de blois type you wont need an extremly thick padding even wehen you are facing russian halberts


Excellent to know! Thank you!

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Jonathan Blair




PostPosted: Fri 31 May, 2013 11:09 am    Post subject: Re: Charles de Blois Pourpoint, a sewing project         Reply with quote

Ian S LaSpina wrote:
Tasha Kelly (some of you may be familiar with her as Tailoress on the Armour Archive) has for sale an excellent pattern for the Charles de Blois pourpoint. The actual surviving garment is a civil garment, but as was custom, many civil garments mimicked their martial counterparts. This particular pattern is very approachable for someone who has little to no sewing experience. I contacted Tasha directly and asked some questions before I began and she was immediately helpful with all kinds of advice on how to get started and what I should do to make it work for me.
Here is the pattern booklet, followed by the pattern laid out before cutting.

If you're at all interested in the reconstruction of medieval garments and textiles, please stop by Tasha's website, La Cotte Simple. There you can see some of the museum grade reconstructions of garments she has done, including the magnificent reproduction of the Charles VI Jupon.

Tasha's Website:
http://cottesimple.com
Charles de Blois Pourpoint Pattern:
http://www.lulu.com/shop/tasha-kelly/the-pour...26605.html


Yeah, Tasha is a great lady and VERY knowledgable of the subject of medieval clothing. You cannot go wrong with her patterns and instructions if you want something that is spot on historically speaking (unless you decide to make it out of modern materials like polyester).

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Tasha Kelly




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PostPosted: Tue 11 Jun, 2013 4:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you so much for the kind words, Ian. I really do appreciate this write-up and the conscientious attention you gave to this project. As I've said previously, it's an absolute pleasure to help people out who want to learn and spend the time understanding what they are making.

This is my first post here in a long time -- I had forgotten my login info and had given up previously... but it turns out that if you spend a few years away, you magically can remember it again!... or just take a really good guess and get it right. Razz (And for the record, my name is Tasha Kelly these days. I'll look into changing my login name so as not to confuse people.)

Regards,
Tasha
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