By early December I hadn’t yet started drafting a pattern for a Cranach gown, and was starting to feel nervous… when the Historical Sew Monthly posted the January theme, I could see an obvious item – and decided to make a German gollar for the challenge.
Historical Sew Monthly January 2017
What the item is: German Gollar
The Challenge: January: Firsts & Lasts – Create either the first item in a new ensemble, or one last piece to put the final fillip on an outfit.
Cathrin Åhlén (Katafalk) describes the gollar as a “common garment” for keeping warm; a short cape with “either a high collar or no collar at all, and it can be either short or it can be more of a cloak and go down to the hips”. She describes it as made in silk brocade with fancy clasps for higher social classes, but on “simpler women you almost always see no closure at all”. She speculates that those garments are closed with hooks and eyes, had no closures, or may have had hidden lacings. She notes that they can be lined in fur for extra warmth, and were often decorated with contrasting borders.
I found most examples of the border-decorated gollars on the ‘camp-follower’ (kampfraus, lower-class) styles, while when the gollar is worn with a Cranach-style gown, (court gown?) it’s almost always plain black. With that in mind I thought to make a semi-reversible gollar… though got a bit hung up on that when it came to the closure.
Since it’s a ‘top’ layer garment, worn over the dresses.. I would see it (and a hat) as the ‘last piece’ put on when dressing. In her “how to Frau” tutorial, Cathrin names the gollar as the last item (before accessories like purses, belts, etc). Funny enough, it’s the FIRST item I’ve made for this overall project, with the hopes that if I really can’t find enough time to finish the gown, that I can “throw” this over another gown and “pass” for an attempt at German. (Italian tourist perhaps?)
Fabric: teal wool suiting for the exterior, black cotton velveteen for the lining (salvaged from two thrift-store skirts), and scraps of linen-cotton blend canvas.
In early December I started sharing teaser photos on my Instagram account of these fabrics.
Pattern: I started with Cathrin Åhlén’s (Katafalk) Gollar pattern, and then made a few adjustments.
Year: Generic 16th Century… though brief research puts it in the first half of the century.
Notions: Thread, five black hooks and eyes
How historically accurate is it? I think it’s pretty good. My resources suggested the material would be wool or silk, velvet, damask, or plain wool. Cotton velveteen has been said to be more similar to period silk velvet than modern silk-rayon velvet, so I think it’s a good substitution. My neck-support solution is entirely based on post-period tailoring techniques that I can’t document to the period. All construction done by machine, all finishing by hand.
Hours to complete: 2 evenings from drafting to final photos
First worn: Not yet – to be worn mid-January at Twelfth Night
Total cost: No out-of-pocket cost. All of the materials (save the thread) were given to me. If I had bought the wool it would be about 30$ retail, the velveteen about 15$ retail, and the canvas probably $2. The hooks and eyes were also given to me, but perhaps $3 if purchased retail.
I used Cathrin Åhlén’s (Katafalk) Gollar pattern, pretty much as described on her website, and made up a mock-up in a green cotton-poly blend that has a similar hand to suit-weight wool. The pattern includes a gusset in the back neck, which I found gave me too much room in the neck/throat to represent the high-collar fitted look from the paintings I was observing online. While I liked the length in the back, I found the front too short on me – as most of the paintings show the front of the gollar sitting about mid-high bust. I also didn’t like the line at the shoulder-seam. The pattern didn’t account for this line, and I didn’t think to shape it in the patterning.
I adapted the pattern at those three points – removing the gusset, lengthening the front, and smoothing out the shoulder line. From there I cut it out of my teal wool… and then must have sewn it up incorrectly. The result didn’t match up, and I didn’t even think that I might have switched my pieces until I’d already trimmed off some “excess” (that wasn’t excess) and tried it on… and that front-length hadn’t been resolved!
I cut it out of velveteen… and things worked out well – and I’d realized what I had done incorrectly, re-cut the wool, and proceeded.
In the photo below you can see the alterations I made to the pattern – though for my finished version I omitted the triangular gusset at the centre back. You can see the extended front length and the adjustments to the shoulder edges on front and back.
I was using two velveteen skirts for the lining (velvet was supposed to be an acceptable material, and I thought it would make for a lovely warm, cushy lining) but there was not enough material to get away without piecing. While the face fabric was cut in three pieces in total, the lining is cut in 6 pieces. Piecing is period! 😉
Once the two layers were sewn together, I moved to the neck structure.
I had noticed with my green cotton-poly mock up that the neck had a tendency to bunch a bit at the back, and it looked exceptionally good when the sides stayed up but the front opening fell open exposing the lining. I cut three strips of cotton-linen canvas, hemmed them on three sides, and hand-stitched them over the shoulder and centre-back seams to support the neck. Victorian tall necklines would have tiny little zig-zag wires (not unlike boning) to keep the neck up, and modern tailoring techniques include layers of hair canvas in collars for shape and support… this was an attempt at a similar technique to add support and soft structure to the neck of the gollar.
I could then layer the face and lining fabrics wrong sides together, and stitched the edges together – so that when the binding was applied the fabrics wouldn’t shift.
From the cabbage (scraps) of black velveteen leftover, I cut two long on-grain strips for the centre front of the gollar, 2″ wide, and then small strips of 2″ wide on the bias. These were sewn on by machine to the inner neckline and exterior circumference of the gollar. All of the binding was finished by hand.
If I had more velveteen I MIGHT have tried to add a border along the outer circumference – but I really didn’t have enough, and I think the crisp inky black line outlining the entire garment looks really sharp 🙂
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Another #workInProgress photo of my less than secret sewing project. The teal on the left is a bit closer to the real colour of the teal wool. It's lined and trimmed with black cotton velvet. ✂ #wool #cotton #velvet #velvetEverything #sewing #handsewing #handmade #costume #cosplay #collage
I REALLY wanted to use my pretty silver ball-buttons on this, sewn to the edge, so that I could make the gollar totally reversible…. since the lower-class gollars seemed to be colourful, while the upper-class gollars seemed to all be black… BUT, I couldn’t find any resources that could back up that choice.
Instead, as Cathrin wrote, there were either decorative clasps… or no visible closure at all. I saw that she had used small hooks and eyes for her gollar, so this is what I did as well, putting the hooks and eyes on the interior of the garment so they are virtually invisible.
The hooks and eyes are virtually invisible – but not entirely. Still, I don’t mind it with the black velvet side out. I think the velvet on the outside reads more upper class and will work better with the Cranach gown, but the bright teal doesn’t read as high class, and might work better with an outfit not intended for “court”.