Italian Camica

Generic kirtle over camica.

The panels of the camica have corded edges joined with fagoting. In an ideal world, I would have sewn the camica by hand, but I can’t do that amount of handwork anymore. Instead, I used my sewing machine.

The Italian camica is finished. A camica is the Italian Renaissance version of a shift or chemise. I followed the instruction in Margo Anderson’s Italian Lady’s Underpinnings pattern. The gauzy fabric came from Santa Rosa Junior College fashion studies program, where I am taking classes. In exchange for displaying the finished project in the sewing lab, students can submit a proposal using the donated fabric the school has.

I bet the first thing you noticed is that the sleeves look way too long, in proportion to the kirtle. Don’t worry, I don’t have orangutan arms, the length will get drawn up when it creates puffs in the sleeves of the gown. Since the gown is still hanging in the lab, I can’t test it, but it seems like a sure thing, besides I used up all my fabric.

Machine stitching plus fagoting
Close-up of cording, fagoting, and decorative stitching

I did the decorative stitching using my regular sewing machine. To be honest, I picked these because they looked the best, I have a very inexpensive sewing machine, the Brother CS600i which is fine for most sewing but the stitch regularity on the decorative stitches isn’t particularly good.

Machine embroidered Blackwork cuff

Recently, I acquired a Janome Memory Craft 230e, embroidery machine. I’m just learning to use it, it has a 5.5″ x 5.5″ stitching area, which is great for a lot of things but not for long borders. Long borders are possible but require planning, forethought, and measuring. I’m not so good on the measuring part. However, after downloading a design pack and practicing I was able to put blackwork the cuffs for the camica. Here is the better of the two cuffs.

Decorative stitches over gussets and sleeve seams

I wasn’t sure about how fagoting would look and hold up on the sleeve gussets so I sewed in the regular manner and then covered the seam with another decorative stitch.

That’s it except for the neckline which I gathered by hand and then hand stitched a gold braid over the gathering.



What the item is: Italian Camica
Challenge: Dressed to the 9s
Material: Cotton gauze
Pattern: ArtEmbroidery’s Italian Blackwork Borders; Margo Anderson’s #008 Italian Underpinnings 
Year:1490
Notions: cotton thread for embroidery, linen thread for cording, polycotton thread for stitching up.
How historically accurate is it?: The pattern is completely accurate. The sewing and embroidery was done by machine. So 70%
Hours to complete: Around 10 not counting practicing embroidery and seam finishes.
First worn:not yet
Total cost:

  • 5 yards cotton gauze $0 (from school stash)
  • pattern for camica,I used the one included with the pattern which retails for $36.00 but very similar instructions are available free online.
  • Cotton Madeira quilting thread bought specifically for the embroidery $4.50
  • other threads already on hand including the linen. $0
  • gold braid from stash but I’m guessing $3.00
  • Italian Blackwork borders machine embroidery design pack $37.75 (got a discount off list price).

Total: $81.25 if you include the patterns, or $7.50 if you only include the thread bought specifically for this project and the gold braid

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