April 28, 2013

It's a Dutch thing

Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm Dutch and living in the country's residence, The Hague (the Netherlands being one of those countries in which the seat of government is not in the capital. The capital, of course, is Amsterdam). 
These days, all of the Netherlands are preparing for a fairly rare event: the abdication of the present Queen and the inauguration of the new King, this Tuesday (a ceremony which will be held in Amsterdam, by the way). 
In most of the world's remaining monarchies abdication is very rare but that is a bit less so here. In fact, in the two hundred years this country has been a kingdom, 3 out of the 5 (soon to be 4 out of 6) monarchs have left the job by abdication. 
What is unusual to all Dutch people alive now, is the fact that, after a century of queens regnant, there will be a king. And a queen consort as an added bonus, obviously. 

I'm not much of a royalist, but I do think there is a long tradition connecting the country, its people and the house of Orange-Nassau. A tradition which helped shape the nation. Just a bit of a pity that tradition won't be reinforced with the official name of the King: it will be Willem Alexander, not Willem IV...

So, after some not-very-thorough consideration, and after seeing shop windows and street decorations slowly turn more and more orange, I decided to fabricate my own little nod towards the orange fever. (although the Dutch flag is red-white-blue, the colour associated with the royal family and the colour which, in itself, is used to represent "Dutch-ness", for example in sporting events, is orange).

I think orange is too much of a cliche and it's not a colour I can wear anywhere near my face. Instead, I decided to use an old idea of mine: a heraldry print t-shirt. 

This is the Dutch coat of arms. Very much one of a late date, I think (it is, this royal version came into use in 1815). Loads of flourices and the actual shield making up only a small portion of the whole thing. Also, in some cases, like on the uniforms of national sports teams, only one lion is used, without the sword and bunch of arrows of the one on the shield.
I also found an image of the crest without the ermine drapes and top crown, which would have been easier to trace, but I thought the outline of the whole thing would work better on a t-shirt. 

To create the 'print' I didn't use t-shirt transfer paper. I don't like the plastic-y layer you get with that. I used my cheat's method to trace the whole thing with fabric marker. It's a method I've mentioned on this blog before, but never explained well.

The principle is simple: You find a picture to use, either on the internet or by scanning (consider copyright though) and scale it up to the size you want. If your picture has writing in it or is directional in some other way, flip it vertically (I forgot that this time...), then print. Black-and-white is fine. For this t-shirt, I used two A4 prints, printed with a bit of overlap so I could easily stick them back together. 
Then, trace those elements you want to copy with tailor's chalk. Pick a colour which contrasts both with the print and with your fabric. And be very careful to work from the top down and from left to right (if you're right-handed, that is) to avoid smudging your work. At this stage, I simplified the draping and left out all the spots of the ermine.

Then, it's time to get the image onto the fabric. You could do this on a finished garment, but I prefer working with a single layer. No risk of getting colour on the other side and less shifting about. Position the traced image carefully above the t-shirt front, image side down. To get a clear image to trace, you can't put it down and shift it. Put it down when you've decided on the position and gently pad and rub the back of the paper. When you remove it, you will see a prefect mirror image outlined on the t-shirt front in fine lines of chalk. At this point, I discovered my mistake...

Now, get out your fabric marker and trace the chalk lines, working from the bottom up and from right to left, so you won't fade out any of the lines. I decided to trace all the symmetrical elements of the coat of arms now and leave the writing and the directional shield for later. In stretchy knits, it is impossible to get perfectly clean and smooth lines, so you have to work carefully. 

With the image half-way finished, I was kind of fed up with all this detail. Those lions have a ridiculous amount of curly bits. I didn't really feel like going back to an even smaller and more complicated version of the animal. And writing has to look sharp or it will look silly... So, I just went ahead and sewed the t-shirt. Symbolically, a lot can be said about the message of an empty coat of arms but when I showed the t-shirt to E, he thought it to be a very royalist look...


  1. It looks great and you can always finish it step by step :-)

  2. Looking more and more at this picktuer I would not have enough patience to finish it as well... well, even to start :-)

  3. This is awesome-I love it! Good on you for keeping at it despite the detail. And thanks for all the background on the cultural aspects-reading Knipmode makes me more interested in that stuff (they did a couple of issues with 'royal style' XD).
    I do t-shirts by carbon tracing onto fabric and fabric painting over-works really well for fine details too. Will you be colouring this in at a later stage?

  4. Ever since my sister was in Amstewrdam for 6 months and on hearing her daily tales, I have fallen in love with Dutch people and I find them more friendlier to outsiders than what I have seen elsewhere, I could experience this on my holiday there last December. I am already imagining abdication ceremony ... Kudos to the seamstress in you who makes every occasion count for sewing expedition. Me I am a seamstress who is seamingly under lot of marital and domestic stress, hope to find my sewing bliss soon !

  5. I actually like the look of the empty coat of arms. Thanks for the process details!

  6. Thanks for explaining how you did the t shirt. That's much nicer than the transfer paper. It opens up lots of possibilities. Enjoy your coronation.