Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bits, bobs, and buttons for the belt

I'm hoping to have something of the underskirt ready to show tomorrow. I've got one eyelet left to do on the band, finished the seams on the shell and lining, and have most of the lining attached at the hem. I'm a little worried because the eyelets are HUGE due to the size of the aiglets. I think I need to find something other than what I have (small gold bolo tie ends I got on clearance several years ago) to do the aiglets for the sleeves and for the side back lacing. They aren't any larger than what they'd be if I'd reinforced with a washer, but they sure seem gargantuan and I don't think I want to put holes that large in the velvet. I've never done eyelets on velvet so I'm a bit nervous. It doesn't seem like the fabric would spread without having to cut them. Maybe I'm just not trying hard enough.

Fretting about the size of the eyelets took out a good portion of my morning work time. I also had a new SCAdian come over and we got her a basic underdress and Norse apron dress designed and cut out so she can make herself clothes for the first camping event of the season in two weeks. I'm pretty sure she thought I was nuts ripping rectangles of fabric and drawing big triangles, but we got it done quickly, and I think she's going to have something fun to wear. There went the rest of the morning (but I had a lot of fun.)

So, in a moment of sacrifice, in order to have something to show for today, I went shopping again. The girdle has been on my mind. I've been really concerned about the scale. Its such a large piece, there's nothing dainty about it whatsoever. Most of the findings and components I've been looking out that have the look of those in the girdle are far too small. I've been sort of considering making them from polymer clay, but am afraid that won't look quite right for such a large piece, especially if I do the zibellino's head in clay too. I lucked out yesterday and found some pendants and some buttons that I think are going to work. They aren't as rounded and dimensional as those in the portrait, but the scale is right. That's a quarter in the center of the picture, just to give you an idea. I also have some other large goldtone beads with a filigree finish that I couldn't find for the picture (my big bead box is hiding somewhere in the house and I'm going to need to clean to locate it. Last time I saw it was mid-March.) They are a little bit smaller, but should work texturally with the rest of these and are still pretty large beads. I'll probably swap them out for the pictured beads which I bought for a Russian necklace and I think they're a much better match for that project. I still need to find some tube shaped beads to fill in, but I think I have a start. I may need to add a bit of enamel paint to the filigree ovals just to break up all the gold and approximate the look of the portrait. Even better would be if I could find a glass gem to put in the center depression.

More sewing on the skirt to do today, maybe playing with patterns for embroidering the breeches, and always more lace to make

Friday, April 29, 2011

Itty bitty details of no consequence

I spent all yesterday making the underskirt lacing string because I am silly. I also worked for quite awhile on the waist band. This was also a ridiculously silly thing to do.

My backstitch has gotten better recently. It is much more regular and even, not to mention straighter, than it used to be. I taught a class on trapunto quilting at an SCA Collegium a couple of weeks ago and sewing up the demonstration samples and practicing so I could teach it really improved my sewing. So, I figured I should use the skill and sew the seams for the waistband by hand. Yeah, probably not my smartest move for time management. No one is ever going to notice as they are all hidden seams. Ah well, I guess I know.

I also decided to braid the lacing string for the skirt. I already had my marudai set up to do one of my favorite kumihimo braids and the colors just so happened to be red and gold with black They're my heraldry colors so that's not really a surprise, but they do match the dress nicely. It's one of the braids in Jacqui Carey's Beginning Braiding (which has been retitled in the new edition.) So, that's what I did with my day, I braided and backstitched, and suddenly the day was gone.

The braid came out nice, but I wasn't thinking about the fact that I needed it to fit my aiglets when I rejoiced over the fact that the braid was already set up. The braid came out quite a bit too thin for the hardware. I sewed it in and the ends aren't going anywhere, but its not a smooth transition between the braid and the aiglets. They're more like little baubles dangling on the ends. I should have put twice as much thread onto the bobbins. I guess its a good thing no one will be noticing the tie on my underskirt, because I'm not replacing it after spending hours making it. I feel like a total loser for deciding to braid it and then doing it wrong, when I could have just grabbed a piece of cording and accomplished the same thing in under 5 minutes. PPPHHHHPHPHT. Let it go and move on I guess. I still have 5 of the 6 eyelets on the waistband to sew and a day or so of cartridge pleating to do once I finish the seams on the skirt, because now that I handsewed the waist band, I felt duty bound to hand fell the skirt seams. Not to mention the hem that has to be sewn. I'm considering cording the bottom of the skirt as well, in addition to stiffening the hem with braid since I'd like to be able to use it for double duty under my Elizabethan loose gown.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I bought my fabric!

I didn't intend to buy my fabrics yesterday. Really. Not that my husband believes me. "If you went INTO the fabric store, you obviously intended to buy something."

I was just sort of vaguely looking. I didn't think I'd find anything. I assumed I'd have to order online. But then I got a deal. I had a 50% off one cut of fabric coupon. Home dec fabrics were 50% off, and red tagged clearance fabrics were an additional 50% off. I found silk in the red tags. In a pretty rosy gold. For $4.50 a yard. It was a sign. So, I started looking for the other fabrics.

I had originally intended to buy silk velvet. I hadn't found exactly the color I wanted though and was ordering swatches at a couple of online shops. Instead, I gave into impulse and bought red cotton velvet yesterday. Its not exactly what I wanted, but to be truthful, having the cleanability (is that a word?) of the cotton is probably a wise choice with my children. It's easier to work with, and since I got it for $6.50 a yard I really am not going to complain.

I found a nice cotton jacquard with scrolling pattern in the same rosy gold as the silk for $3 a yard. Its going to be the underskirt. I'm going to start working on that today I think. Cartridge pleating and more cartridge pleating. I'm actually rather pleased with the color I got. As I said before, I've been working on a never ending Elizabethan loose gown project. The colors for that are blue and gold. The gold cartridge pleated underskirt should be perfect for wearing under that as well. So, I'll be making twice the progress. Whoo-hoo!

Speaking of progress, I just emailed my second progress report in and did a recap of the last week. So there it is, a week in and I have purchased my fabrics for the dress, found a fur to make into a zibillino, put together a pocket, finished a fan, made a muff, and hand sewn a handkerchief. I also have about 8 yards of lace made for the camicia sleeves and have pretty much figured out the pattern for the lace I will make to go in between the body gores.

Not too shabby, even if the biggest projects are still to come.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


There's snow on my front lawn. Not a lot, but it stormed pretty badly yesterday. While it made for a pretty image with the lace and the snow on the grass (even if I can't take a decent picture so you don't get to see the great image,) I am done with snow.

Trying to think of something summery to do in protest of the weather. I'm considering making another fan. The one I made seems a bit sad. Not sure if its the handle or the the feathers, but it just doesn't seem as nifty as I'd hoped. Maybe real ostrich plumes would help, I'm not sure. I'm thinking I might try a flag fan style to see if I like that better. If not, I guess I need to buy some ostrich plumes and fuss with the handle a bit more and see if I can get it to something I like.

Lacemaking continues. Slowly. The hand sewing I did for the hankie sort of derailed my handwork time. I'll work on it more today.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Great-Granny would have something to say.

I'm not sure if it would be positive or not, but my great-grandmother would most certainly have something to say about my attempt at a hankie. My mother is a fabulous seamstress, but it was my great-granny who started me sewing. We would go out to her house pretty much every spring. She lived on main street in a tiny town. There wasn't much to do, but I remember everything we did. We went asparagus gathering by the railroad tracks with my grandpa. He showed us the boat he was building. He taught us to play pool. Grandma taught us how to play poker. She taught me to crochet and started me making interminable hot pads. Most importantly, she taught me how to sew. It was on handkerchiefs. The year I was five she taught me how to iron on hankies and then she handed me a needle and thread and showed me how to make a tiny hem. Her little hidden stitches were absolutely amazing. My hems will never be that neat and precise and beautiful. So, as I said; my granny would have something to say.

It still isn't finished yet, so you'll be seeing this again tomorrow when I actually get the reticella looking squares inserted and the fabric cut away. Right now they are just sitting on the linen to show you the proposed layout. I was going for something sort of like this hankie in the V&A (288-1906) dated around 1600. I really love this one too with its frothy lacy and this one all embroidered in red. The first one won out because a) its Italian and b) I had lace that would work. If I did the reticella by hand I'd still be here in a year or so, so my hankie isn't going to be that spectacular. I had some bits and pieces of lace I got in a grab bag from a local manufacturer of children's heirloom clothing about 2 years ago. They've just been simmering in my stash and this was the perfect place for them. I wish there had been 2 different motifs, but having something that looks sort of vaguely at all like old Italian lace is a stroke of luck, so I suppose I can't complain. I just hemmed the edge and whip stitched the lace to the edge. I had sort of planned to do a drawn work edge and thus do some handwork of my own, but since it took a day to get the hem done with all the interruptions at my house, I'm just going to do the insertion and call it good. Not nearly as delicate as I would like, but it does at least reference the extant piece. Its just infinitely, infinitely cruder. That's the frustration, isn't it? Wanting to have more skill than possible and wishing I could make all the pieces when no one actually did that themselves.

But, I almost have a hankie. Should finish it later today and then either move on to the hat or take a detour and start the underskirt just to work on something other than accessories. I'm starting to get a little worried about how slow the lace is going, especially since this is just the insertion for the sleeves and I still need to make different patterns for the hem, neckline and insertions between the gores. Its only a week in, how am I this far behind?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tiny bubbles

I've said it before, and I'll say it again; Seraphina is the best. While she was fitting my bodice the other day, I was babbling about the partlet and how I wasn't sure how I was going to get the right look. I'd looked at goblet pleats (shape if good, but the fabric lost its sheerness,) smocking pleats (too rigid and geometric of a shape) sculptured box pleats (both problems) and a few other types of treatments and was getting nowhere fast on the partlet problem. She smiled, went to her stash closet and pulled out this sheer linen with gathering threads woven in and handed it to me. PERFECTION!

I was over thinking it. Rows of gathers is going to give me the soft bubbly dimensional appearance of the portrait. The plan is then to couch over the gathering lines and add some sort of decorative stitch as well. That should stabilize the gathers and give me the finished look I want for the partlet.

Big sigh of relief from me. The partlet is such a large part of the visual for the portrait that I knew I had to get it right. Doing pleats was going to be pretty time consuming as well. This should be much faster and easier. Since the gathering threads are already in the fabric I don't have to measure and hope the threads I put in stay and don't break. There is much happy dancing here. A project that was going to take a month of handwork should be done in a week. At least that is the hope. Depends on what I decide to do for the decorative stitching.

I should finally get back to making progress on the project after a weekend of family. I have some lace that is really reminiscent of reticella. The plan is to play with that a bit and see if I can come up with a hankie. I also need to get the wood rasp out and start shaping my chopines. Probably most urgent though is the need to shop a little harder and see if I can find a fabric for my dress.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Edumacating myself

I was planning to just keep the research for this to what I needed to make a nice dress, since Italian is not my area of research for my persona. Shows me for thinking. This is just far too interesting to not read and read and read.
I decided on my portrait because of the subject matter. Finding a little more out about Camilla is really fascinating and I think its going to add to the outfit.

First of all, she's not from either Venice of Florence, which I suppose does explain why her dress is a bit different from so many other portraits. She's from Mantua and married into one of the most prestigious families in Emilio-Romagna, living near Parma. Parts of the house she lived in still stand, decorated with amazing frescos.

The house apparently offers tours and as part of their production, they do a reenactment of Camilla's marriage to her husband Pier Maria Rossi. That's him in the picture to the left. It's a companion piece to her portrait, also done by Parmigianino. How cool is that! If I ever decide to get ambitious again, my husband might need garb to match mine. Sounds like a totally fun vacation destination too. I'm pretty drawn to the wallpaper behind Pier Maria there. Maybe artichokes will find their way into some of the embroidery on the drawers,

I also started looking into shoes. I knew I wanted to make some chopines, but wasn't sure what the shoes to wear with them looked like. Hadn't thought too much about it yet, but since I am down at my parents, and my dad has a pretty great woodshop, it sort of asserted itself. I started thinking about shoes so I could make sure to size the chopines correctly. I found some wonderful info here. I adore the cutwork effect of the pinking on the extant pair to the right. The pinking on this pair of chopines seems sort of similar and I might fiddle with it a bit to see if its something I can do if I simplify the pattern a bit. A trip to Tandy is in the works once I get home. I'm hoping to get the wood for the chopines at least crudely cut today so I can carve and shape it later this week.

Lots to do today with family, so I don't see much else happening with the project until Monday other than more lacemaking in the car on the way home.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Its almost a muff

Fur and the red gold scrap I used to make the pocket I posted yesterday inspired me to make a muff. One thing about having a Russian persona, I have no lack of fur in my stash. The trim is one of my favorites. I was sort of thinking about using it on the dress rather than making my trim, but I think its too wide for the dress. I love the sheen of the gold in person though. Its not plasticey and overly shiny, in a bad way, like a lot of trim. I've actually pulled this trim to bits a few times and used the cord for doing my own goldwork when I'm being cheap and haven't purchased passing thread. Its kind of a fun effect and makes for nice couching practice. So that's fabric, fur, and trim pulled from the stash. Seemed like the perfect quick project. What I didn't have in my stash and needed for the muff was crystal buttons. I didn't have anything I liked at all. I spent more time looking for something to work than I really should have. I finally decided to just make some. At least temporarily I did some quick basketwoven threadworked ones. The loops are buttonhole stitched bars. I still need to do the two in the center, which is why its almost a muff. I have a jam packed day today though so it was either post it now or not post today.

I got about half a yard of lace made in the car, so that's plugging along. Probably won't get much done today with the family party and festivities, but I have found some really interesting info on the subject of my portrait and the accompanying portrait of her husband, so I'll probably share that tomorrow.

Friday, April 22, 2011

There's a Wocket in my pocket

The vintage fur I bought for my zibellino got here yesterday. It is HUGE! I wanted something a bit larger than a mink just to make the proportion better, since I'm 6'1" tall and so I found and bought what is probably a fisher. I may have overcompensated. I think it'll probably be okay though. The pose of the portrait has him up on the shoulder. I took another trip through portraits with zibellini. Antea certainly has a large one on her shoulder. Its also by the same artist. Granted, its supposed to be more of an ideal/allegorical portrait, but there are others. The color of the fur is a deep and gorgeous brown and that makes me very happy.

He does not, however, fit into my pocket. I think its the perfect size though. I made it from a piece of upholstery velvet I had left over from the scholar's robe I made for my husband for Winter Solstice Court last December. I was a little worried about the red clashing with whatever red I end up getting for my velvet, but its such a pretty fabric and will be hidden under the dress so I went for it. Its lined in red linen scrap. I considered doing some pearling or something, but I really like the gold print so after several attempts at finding trim or beading it up I just left it alone. Besides, it was supposed to be a quick project to have something to show while I worked on visually boring lace. I'm pretty happy with it.

Speaking of lace, I have two yards done. Not too shabby. I should get lots more done over the weekend with four hours in the car both ways and lots of family party once we're down there. Not to mention grandmas who want to hold and play with babies. Yay for having my hands free!

The biggest news on dress progress, however, is that Seraphina Basso is AWESOME! I went over to her house and she drafted and fitted my bodice pattern. I really wish I'd thought to take pictures of the mockup. I felt instantly beautiful even in half sewn ticking pinned to my tank top. The thought of how great its going to look as a real dress had me doing a little dance while driving home. I'm planning to draft the sleeves once I get back from the weekend of holidays. I want to make a trial bodice as soon as possible before moving on to the velvet to try figure out how construction works. I've decided to not do the corset and do a felt lining for support instead and want to play around with that a bit.

Lots of stuff swirling around in the back of my brain. More laundry to do so we can head out of town. Two disks of Project Runway to spend today watching and more lace to make.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My magic spatula and girly power tools

One day down and 121 to go. I'm really excited about the lace. I picked up a nice firm 6 cord cordonnet 20 weight thread. It's working up really crisply and holds its shape and shows definition much better than the generic size 10 crochet cotton I used for my sample. It's going to be gorgeous! Now I just have to make yards and yards and yards of it.

Unfortunately, yards and yards of lace just aren't that exciting to watch pile up. Especially a couple of inches at a time. I decided to make an accessory or two in the meantime so that there's something interesting to look at and my pile of completed stuff gets to look a bit more substantial.

There isn't a fan in my portrait, but it is a possible accessory and I had the materials floating around the house so it was quick. I'd started one a couple of years ago, but never finished it and had pulled it to pieces. Putting it back together and figuring out how to finish it up went pretty smoothly. I'm not quite sure I like the length, and am considering cutting it down a bit, but I'm going to live with it awhile. The portraits and engravings show a variety of handle lengths so I think I'm okay either way. As it is now it fits in my hand really well and is a great fan for, well. fanning. If I decide to attach it to the girdle it might be nicer if it was a little smaller, just because it'll be less heavy. On the other hand, the girdle is already going to have a zibellini attached, so I'm thinking another large accessory might not be a great idea. Decisions, decisions.
The reason its not smaller already was the failure of my girly power tools. I have a real Dremel somewhere around here, but it was not poking its head out yesterday and I had to use my pink buttoned Walnut Hollow tool. It was a present from my brother in law a couple of years ago. I was excited at the time, but I've since become disenchanted by it and its total lack of power. Who came up with the idea of branding "girl tools" and then making them inferior? I'd like to give that individual a piece of my mind. Pink power tools are silly and perhaps a bit degrading. I'm frustrated that my multi-tool didn't have enough oomph to really sand and shape this handle. There are little rounded grooves I put into the sides for decorative effect that at present aren't particularly visible. They do, however, make it FEEL nicer even if they aren't adding much visually.

I started with a nicely tapered spatula for the handle and then cut two pieces of leather into a fan shape and epoxied them over the end of the spatula. That made my spatula into a fabulous leather flyswatter. Then I glued the feathers in place and added a decorative piece of metal on both sides. I think they were meant to be part of a drawer pull. I bought about 20 of them at a local antique store for a quarter a piece a few years ago thinking they would grow up to be something steampunk. There's enough of them left that they still might. To jazz up the handle I added a strip of wood with a filigree look that I bought from Michaels. Then I painted the handle with an orange metallic enamel paint. To highlight the filigree in the wood and hopefully make it look more like a metal handle I rubbed it with a metallic wax in gold and a brownish bronze. Its sort of like Rub and Buff, but mine was specifically meant for painting pewter gaming miniatures.

Today's project is more lace. I also have a lot of laundry to do so we can leave town. Ooh, the excitement.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

And we're off! I am apparently going in a diagonal.

This weekend is a bit crazy with my twins first birthday also happening to be Easter. We'll be driving down to my mom's and spending the weekend there. If I'm going to get anything done over the next week done its going to need to be portable. I thought about starting the embroidery for the breeches, but I really want to do that on my big floor frame rather than messing around with it in a hoop. So that left the chemise. As I said, I wasn't all that gung-ho about doing blackwork. For that matter, there wasn't any visible blackwork in Camilla's portrait. So, I went cruising through portraits and such again.

I'm really thrilled with all I'm learning about late Italian stuff. It's not my primary period of interest and research, but its really beautiful to look at and a big change from the Slavic things I normally dig into. It's nice to actually have resources and oodles and oodles of paintings to pick from. Looking at the extant camisias again finally made something click. No blackwork. Lace. The chevron insertions/cutwork are AMAZING on this. Just so pretty. It also sort of made me happy that the diagonal design in both the chemise lace and the breeches embroidery will unify them. I'm sold.

I spent early this morning fussing with a possible lace pattern and came up with the test piece pictured up in the corner. Its not quite right, but I think it has some of the same feel of the lace in the sleeves. I'll finish the edges of the camisia in sort of a scallop and then add the lace and do a bit of embroidery to make it all mesh together. Hopefully it'll give the effect of the punto tagliato while being infinitely faster. I need to get a smaller thread and work it more tightly, but I'm optimistic that once blocked and finished it'll look nice.

So, now I'm all ready with a mindless and mobile project for my long weekend. Hooray!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Just say no to granny panties

You ever read the really lame Harlequin romance novels where they start waxing rhapsodic about the girl with the amazing contrast of gorgeous silk undies under the bland business suit or utilitarian denim? Yeah, me too. My early teens were full of them. I was shaped and warped by them I'm afraid. Between that and years of nursing bras and fat girl underwear I've decided its time for a change. At least as regards my Italian dress.

I know that the embroidered silk drawers are a courtesan thing, not to mention a bit late for my 1540's dress, but I don't think I care. Nobody is going to see them but me and they'll make me happy. There are records of silk and satin breeches in inventories of some of the queens so I suppose I could really dig and justify if I felt like it, but I'm just going to go with, "I'm making them because I want to." I was folding some pink linen I'd washed with the thought of using it for the girls' Easter dresses and it struck me that it was the exact pink in the floral embroidered drawers in PoF4 and it decided me. It's not silk, obviously, but I have it and it'll be easier to embroider than silk. Its actually a rayon/linen blend so there is quite a bit of luster and its got a very nice drape. Besides that I have 10 yards I got on clearance for $2 a yard so using it will give me more cash for other parts of the outfit.

Now to decide what to embroider. I might go even further from accuracy and do something Persian. The diagonal layout of the ones in the painting in Janet Arnold reminds me a lot of Persian Naqshi trousers where the bottoms of the trousers are embroidered in diagonal bands up to about the knee. I just got a copy of A Brief Guide to Persian Embroidery and it burning a hole in the back of my brain, so some of it might need to come out (in a very simplified form.) There is a thought that the Italian drawers were influenced by Moorish/Arabic styles so its a silly stretch but not a discordant element I don't think. Should certainly be a fun project and make me smile by making "sexy underwear."

Monday, April 18, 2011

I've been thinking about blackwork

I know I want to do some blackwork, possibly in red, on my camicia and drawers. That's easy enough, right? I've done blackwork. I do it all the time. Decorating my underwear will be easy and fun. Or not. While I do blackwork all the time, I really don't like doing it. Okay, that's not entirely true. What I don't like doing is counting. I really don't like doing counted blackwork. Blasphemy! But true. I just can't get into the counted kind as much as I love the look. If we take a little tour through my finished pieces, one thing becomes obvious; while I own books and patterns galore with regular graphed blackwork, those are not what I end up doing. Lets take a look at the first of my foibles, shall we?

My coif. My first attempt at blackwork. In my little world it is important to jump in with both feet and then try to avoid drowning rather than wade in and have a chance to jump back out. I get that and the "of course I can do it, why wouldn't I" attitude from my mother. So, for my first attempt at blackwork I went with the full coif rather than a small sample or something. It was drawn on the linen in pencil. Well, the circles were drawn on. I just did the tesselating geometry and then went for it. You can tell that, but I don't think it's too terrible. It was certainly a learning experience. Its based on an extant original in the Carew-Pole collection which also happens to be the cover of Mary Gostelow's book Blackwork. That fact always makes me giggle. The reason? Its done in blue silk of blue fabric and that's the cover of a book on blackwork. I love the irony of the definition being "blackwork is black on white, except when its not." I did mine on gold and added gold thread like the original and then added pearls because it was fun. As I said, it was a learning experience. The gold linen and the pearls were my first big mistakes. I made more mistakes than right decisions with this, but I love, love, love it anyway. Next mistake was the stitch. I did double running stitch because I thought I was supposed to. the extant piece is not done in double running. That made a difference when I put in the gold and when I looked at how dense the stitching coverage was. It was too thin looking and I ended up using further decoration and stitch ideas from a second piece. I stumbled on through, fixing problems and continuing to stitch and 400 hours later I ended up with a coif that I will be thrilled to wear-- one of these days. Yeah, there's the other mistake. I made a coif and have nothing to wear with it. Sigh. I'm 13 dozen threadworked buttons and 200 yards of handmade trim into the never ending Elizabethan loosegown project that is intended to give me something to wear with the coif.

So, blackworked undies and a distaste for counted blackwork. How's that going to work exactly? I have a cunning plan. It involves Bronzino. I was looking at his Lady in Green again last night. While the inside of the collar is regular and gridded and the outside of the opening at the throat is regular, the majority of the collar is done in a flourishing scrolling very not counted manner, There's also this portrait of Cosimo I after Bronzino that has pretty scrolling blackwork that seems to be of the non-counted variety. The Italian style smock in Patterns of Fashion 4 that is done in the rust colored thread with the floral decoration also seems to be a bit less counted. So, I'm going to just not do counted thread work. Probably. I'm still very much in love with the drawers done in acorns and eagles from POF4 and that is very much counted and regular though. Nevertheless, I'm going to draw up some scrollwork and see if I can come up with something I like for the camicia neckline and then see if I can figure out a pretty detached motif for working on the sleeves. It will certainly give me something to think about today while I sew up the pile of leggings I cut for my kids yesterday so that they will have some camping garb.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Getting up close and brushstrokey

Can I just say how much I love technology and what it lets museums do? While I hope to do the grand tour at some point and visit some of my favorite museums in person, its so nice to be able to visit online, zoom in, and see things up close. Lucky for me The Prado has my portrait available for close scrutiny. You just keep clicking and it keeps getting bigger and bigger. Since I was up at 2 AM guess what I was doing?

Panicing. That's what I was doing. I was zooming in and looking at the portrait and writing up lists and getting worried. Not that its too much to do, but too little and will turn out to be too simple and I will get totally dusted by the competition. As much as I love this portrait, the dress is super plain, the partlet is really unusual, and the interest is all in the subject matter and the accessories. The dress is a vast expanse of plain red velvet with minimal trim. It has no embroidery and simple detailing. If I don't find the perfect fabric, do a large, bold girdle and zibellini, and figure out how to make the partlet, there is really nothing there.

That was me at 2 AM. Then I went to bed. When I woke up at 4, things were a bit better. Sanity had asserted itself at least a little. I have no delusions that I really have a shot at placing in the competition. I never did. The plan is just to use the accountability of the challenge to make something beautiful to wear. This dress is beautiful. It will be flattering to me in a way that something with more excessive styling won't be. Red velvet should be something I can locate. If I make a pretty dress that is well made I won't embarrass myself. The accessories are the best part and getting to make them is going to be fun. Not to mention a great deal faster than embroidering something. Now, to figure out that partlet.

Zooming in, the most interesting thing to me is the shoulder. That's where is seems that the decoration is not just plain whitework, but is dimensional. It looks like its puffed or bubbled. Its also made of strips of the puckery detail. Its going to be something I need to play with. Not to mention needing to decide what material is going to be the best to make this work. As soon as I can buy fabric for this I need to get a silk organza and a fine lawn and try out some ideas. As it is I might be headed to the fabric store to grab a few sheers and experiment. I won't get the same effect, but it'll let me experiment with some folding, gathering, smocking etc. Once I get that under control I can figure out how I want to cut the back as well as the serious question of how to get it to lay flat with the strange triangular cut in front.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

So what's an Apres anyway?

What the heck am I babbling about anyway? What is an apres? Does it have something to do with skiing? Its a strange and mythical creature from heraldry. Very, very exotic. Well, not really. It is a mythical creature, though, at least in heraldry. An apres is a bull with the tail of a bear. Its the left hand supporter in the full arms of the Muscovy Company. So what's the Muscovy Company? It's the short and transformed name for a join stock company originally named, "'Mystery and Company of Merchant Adventurers for the Discovery of Regions, Dominions, Islands, and Places Unknown." I love that name. Its a group founded in 1551 to look for a trade route to China via the Northwest passage. Sort of the same concept as the Hudson Bay Company, but the Muscovy Company did it first.

They succeeded in getting to Moscow via the Barents straits and the Tsar invited them to open up trade. In 1555 the Company was renamed. I like the original name myself. It makes them sound so much more exciting. They were at one point asked to help work out a marriage between Ivan the Terrible and Elizabeth I. The concept of that makes me squee. Can you imagine the ornament of Russia mixed with Elizabethan style? That would be some serious, serious bling. One day I'll finish my Elizabethan loose gown project and then it might need some pearls. Sort of my own homage to an alternate timeline.

Speaking of projects (is that a smooth enough segue?) the Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge is now officially closed with 27 participants. Three of them are from my Kingdom, Artemisia. One each from the three large groups in the Wasatch; Province of Arrow's Flight (me,) )Barony of Loch Salaan (Andrea/Maysun,) and Barony of Gryphon's Lair (Jennie/Fiametta.) There's a bit of talk about doing an in kingdom competition to supplement the official competition for those that weren't able to officially join the Realm of Venus competition so we can all play along together. I think that would be fabulous. Being one of 27 with the competition closed just put a little more pressure on me to not waste my spot. I've really got to do this and make a serious attempt at doing something beautiful, rather than getting overwhelmed by it and quitting. I'm sort of glad for that. And sort of not. I'm already falling asleep plotting the dress and dreaming of the projects. I guess that's a good sign.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My new Russian dress is going to be Italian.

I made the shiny new blog to put my SCA craziness on with the intent that I would focus on my progress on the A&S 50/50 Challenge and the development of my Rus persona. And then it sat here. And sat here. It's not that I haven't been doing projects; just that I haven't been taking pictures and talking about them. Everything seems sort of little and rushed and not important enough to blog about. I'm turning over a new leaf today and I have a beautiful Italian dress to thank for it.

I've been turning the idea of making something really beautiful and fun to wear to celebrate me recent and ongoing weight loss around and around in my head. I'd pretty much just decided to bag the idea and wait until I'd lost more weight, but then Realm of Venus decided to sponsor the Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge I love a challenge. Not because I have any hope at all at winning, but because I'm competitive enough that the deadline will actually get me to make something. Its so much fun to know that someone else is sewing along with you. It always seems to help me focus when people are looking over my shoulder.

I also totally fell in love with this portrait. Camilla Gonzaga and her 3 sons. The dress is nice. It may not be the most fabulously cool dress ever, but its beautiful. I love the slashing in the sleeves, the beauty of the shape of sleeveheads, the dimensionality to the partlet, the color of the velvet, and its general fit and such. I freely admit, however, that that is not why I picked it. I fell in love with it because she's a mom. She's dressed to the nines in something gorgeous and her children are hugging her, fiddling with her outfit and playing with her jewelry. What is there not to love about that? I've gotten lost in her facial expression more than once. There's such strength, character, peace, and humor there. It's reassuring, even if I'm only imagining it. She's me and there's hope that I can be both the woman that is interesting and elegant, but also the mother with the patience to survive those children. So, I want her dress. To make me feel good about my body with a good and figure flattering fit, and about the place I am in my life right now. It's freeing to understand that you aren't alone; that this has been done before. So often portraits show the unattainable ideal. This one makes me outrageously happy.

The dress is pretty plain, relatively, without a lace or embroidery. I'm going to have to find a really plush and pretty velvet in the right red. I'm kind of hoping I can afford silk velvet, but it will depend on what I can find and how motivated I can get to work and make a budget for this. It might have to be cotton velvet. Which would be more washable/spot cleanable which might just be the reality of my life. There's the nice gold trim that I may braid. No buttons which thrills me since I'm still in the midst of making dozens of buttons for my Elizabethan Loose gown.

The really exciting part is her accessories. The balzo (hat) makes the Russian in me thrilled. I couldn't imaging not wearing a goofy hat. This one has lots of fun embellishment. It is a bit calm and small for a balzo, but I may or may not make it a bit larger. I think I have some pelt like objects from the stuff my friend Kyoht gave me when she moved that can be transformed into a zibellini and that is cause for rubbing hands together and giggling. Pretty, pretty. Not as cool as Aine's stuff from Sable Greyhound, but I wouldn't get any bonus points for buying one. I might need to get one after the challenge is over though depending on how mine turns out. I've got to figure out how to do the partlet. It seems dimensional but I'm clueless on construction since I haven't researched Italian enough. I need to pick some of my costuming guild's brains.

Not sure if I've got anywhere near the time to do any embroidery at all on the undergarments since I'm going to need to build a corset, camicia, and drawers just to be able to wear this and I still have some blackwork collars to finish for Queen Esabell. We'll see. I was drooling over drawers in Patterns of Fashion 4 last night and sort of thinking about painting a pair that I could then later embroider. The set with the blue blackwork acorns that declares"I want the heart" is just so very pretty. That's a six month project on its own (or more due to my rather ample derrier) so if embroidery becomes an option I'll do something with just embroidered cuffs.

So much to think about. not to mention having to get patterns for things drafted. I'm very, very, very grateful that Serafina agreed to help me with patterning for the dress. I just have to get some measurements and start fiddling with corset sizing. Just as soon as I get the kid's clothes for Easter done. Thank goodness I'm not allowed to start this week. There's no way I could.