After my last article Panzar II I got some questions on Facebook about how I did the quilting, and I’m only happy to try to make things clearer, if I can. Quilting here means the visible stitching done on my panzar thurough layers of fabric (or fabric and some light padding), all sandwiched up. The quilting is done in lines that create a striped effect. The tighter the quilted lines, the more compact, smooth and tough the quilted material becomes. When I look in manuscripts, my perception is that certain parts of (the kind of textile armour prefer I to call) panzar is more often quilted in tighter lines than the rest – the arm below the elbow and/or the ”skirt” part below the waist.
Choose your style
The first thing to do before one starts quilting is to decide for how you want the quilting lines to go, what look you are after. I may have made a mistake here. If I had paid better attention to how the fashion trends differ between countries in my sources, I would have gone for a more straight forward pattern than I did. Most typical for late 1390 and northern Europe would probably be a shorter panzar with vertical lines on the chest and horizontal below the waist. I did not realise until it was to late that the pattern I had started on seems to be a little Italian in style, but thankfully not uniquely so.
If you didn’t know, the Italian trap is a thing. Italian fashion can be very different in some aspects to that of northern Europe and not only because of climate and such, it is simply a different culture. I love the fact that we have many well preserved frescos and manuscripts from Italy, but they are often not representative for other areas during the same period, so I try to avoid looking at Italian pictures for my gear and I hate it when I step in the Italian trap anyway. I must be more careful in the future, but I cant help the Italians look so good all the time!
Draw the lines
To give my panzar an harmonic over all impression I started with a fixed measure – the 25 mm I always use between buttonholes when I make stuff for myself. I decided that it also was the perfect distance between quilting lines on most of the panzar. The lower sleeves was done with half that distance and I think it looks really good, don’t you? I didn’t measure the distance between individual stitches, but I tried to keep the needle in the same angle for every stitch as it went through the fabric. With a little practise, this helps to make the distance between stitches even.
Both sides of every piece was marked with stitching lines, but I drew just one line at a time so they would not become wonky or fade over time. To measure the distance between the lines I used a pair of compasses, the kind with a sharp pointy tip in one ”leg” and a piece of graphite in the other. The graphite was a little prone to rub off, but I decided that it was much better than the other way around, if it would stick to the fabric forever. Once a line was quilted, I drew the next one below, measuring at point by point from the row of stitches I had just done above. To make clear lines that would last long enough, I also used an erasable tailor pen with ink that disappear after a few days, or just wash off with water. To be on the safe side, I made sure to wash, lightly scrub and dry each piece when it was still fixed in the frame afterwards. This way the quilted pieces dried much faster and kept their intended shape very well.
Alternatives for quilting in frame
There are other ways to work in a frame than the method I decided for. One very interesting method is described by Cotte Simple here in her reproduction of Charles VI:s arming coat. I haven’t tried her method because it gives a very different look than the one I’m after, a panzar much more sturdy than mine. I don’t know, but I think Charles VI:s arming coat is that kind of panzar you’d probably rather wear mail under, not over.
The first way of working in a frame I ever heard about I tried on parts of my old panzar. The difference from the one I used this time is that you don’t cut the individual pieces out before quilting. You work with a (more or less) square frame filled with layerd material. You stretch and fix it to the edges of the frame in such a way that you can adjust the tension of the fabric if needed. Then you draw your pattern in the middle of the frame and make sure to have some extra space around it as a buffer in case of shrinkage. You draw your quilting lines and start quilting from the middle, working outwards towards the edges.
The advantage of this method is that if you are making a padded garment, you have to be able to handle some shrinkage. As you start quilting from the middle and out, you can adjust your pattern outwards and re-draw the lines for the edges if you notice any tendency of shrinkage. What I don’t like about it is that I feel like there is a lot of material wasted on the sides around each piece when they are cut out from the frame. It also becomes a little fiddly to handle the seam allowance you need to close the edges afterwards and at the same time keep the right shape of the piece.
My friend Erik let me borrow some of his pictures of his work in progress using this method. I’m so looking forward to comparing our experiences and results when he is ready!
Thank you Fil for asking about the quilting, it was good for me to go over it again and I hope I made it clearer this time. All questions are welcome, I love feedback on my writing!
Next article: Panzar IV – Buttons and closing, coming soon.