Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Colds stink, but at least I get to go shopping

I did not, in fact, get the mantellino done yesterday. Grumble, grumble, blargh! I didn't get much of anything done at all. Big kids stayed home from school sick and everyone was stuffed up and whiny. Especially me.

The mantellino was all bunchy and sat badly in the back, so I drafted Davey to help me re-mark the neck curve as well as help me figure the waist for the petticoat. He was kind enough to pick up leather for gloves for me and dropped it off, then I ambushed him for assistance. Poor guy gets caught up in a lot of my schemes.

The curve is MUCH lower in the back than I would ever have guessed. It makes sense, I suppose, since the entire point of the "baby mantle" is just to cover the cold spot made by a low cut front on the dress. I'm re-cutting it today and pushing forward with the last few pearls. I still need to decide if I'm going to add further embellishment. Maybe some gold trim along the edge. Deciding on closures for the front would help that decision a great deal. nothing has jumped out to be something I adore. Maybe I'll tie some frogs. I suppose I could do hooks and eyes and not have a decorative closure.

Looking for closures is on today's shopping agenda. As is buying Sculpy and some chain to do the necklace in the portrait. I stripped one of my belly dance pendants in an attempt to come up with another option for making the pendant and am going to fiddle with that as well. We'll see what develops. Cable ties for bodice boning are also on the list along with thread, possibly something for the partlet, and a few other notions. Why yes, it is payday.

I did another couple of inches of blackwork on the garters and Davey brought over buckles when he brought the leather. We're driving down to my mom's Christmas party Saturday and will be out of town all weekend, so I plan to get some serious work done on them in the next couple of days as they are the best traveling project I have.

So, in general, progress continues. I am a little worried that its going to have to stop again so I can work on my kids' Christmas presents, but we'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I spent most of yesterday pearling the mantellino. Just 4 motifs left to go. As pearls were the theme of the day, I thought I'd go back and show you the first girdle I made as it is pearls and gold.

I had the circle disks hanging around after purchasing them on clearance and had oodles of freshwater pearls that I'd picked up cheaply from the Gem Faire back in June. The pearls are sort of a problem as the have holes too small for any of my beading needles and won't take a second pass of string through them and are far too large for embroidering with. As a result, they really haven't been all that useful. However, as I said, I have a lot of them. Making a girdle for me takes a lot of whatever it is I use, so they seemed like a likely candidate. The gold disks are set up to sit on two strands and two strands of pearls seemed pretty. One of my favorite Venetian necklaces in portrait has two strands of pearls. (Albrecht Durer's 1505 Portrait of a Young Venetian Woman.)
I'm plotting a green dress this spring and it is on my "must make" list.

However, pretty pearl necklaces being documentable does not mean pretty pearl girdles are. In looking over the portraits in my little chunk of time, it seems that they are all pretty much exclusively gold. Most don't have any visible "drop" either. Thick links at the waist seem to be the most common. However, in the portrait I just finished working with, Camilla's girdle had two drops that were very definite, one to the zibellino and one that her son is playing with. Its still very gold, however. I did find one portrait with a pearl girdle on a Venetian dress. Its from a 1565 fresco by Giovanni Antollio Fasolo. It might still be gold backed, however, with the pearls simply mounted to the gold. (And have a look at the entire piece, its pretty cool. I love the colorful print skirt of her dress.

So, basically, I'm not sure if I'll wear the girdle with this dress. Its pretty, but it seems more English in style to me. My portrait doesn't have a girdle at all to be honest, and I'm not sure the pearls will look right with the crisp lines of the patchwork as the only decoration and the colors. I fretted about it for a couple of days and then went on to make a primarily gold girdle. I'll show you that soon, but I suppose I should wrap up telling you about the girdle itself.

These freshwater pearls, as I've said, did not want to be cooperative and let me do multiple passes of stringing material. I eventually just strung them straight on a 28 gauge wire. I'm rather nervous about how the whole thing will hold up with the weight that any girdle for me automatically is, but that's the largest gauge I could get through the holes. I put the clasp at the back of the waist so there would be as little fiddling as possible. After considering making a pomander, and even starting to carve one, I just chickened out of that and found the tassel on the end at Hobby Lobby. If I end up using this, its $5 more of my budget used.

While I was at it, I strung a simple pearl necklace and threw together a set of earrings. I'm pretty definite on wanting to wear the necklace, but I'm not so sure about the earrings. They might get put aside with the girdle for another project.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Progress and a saccocia

I spent yesterday sewing round and round my petticoat, attaching the lining, sewing two cording channels and putting three rows of trim on. I'm planning to take it to fighter practice tonight and have someone help me mark the waist so I can trim the top, pleat it, and add the waistband. I think I solved some of the problem I had with my last petticoat by making it quite a bit shorter and less full. That should solve the issues my gold one has with slipping down and showing. There's also more fabric in the petticoat than the skirt of the dress so the red skirt doesn't hang as well as I would like. Part of the issue is that I made the gold one intending that it could be worn separately with an Elizabethan jacket. The new one is just a plain old petticoat. I'm sewing it by machine rather than by hand like the first one. I even did the cording channels and trim by machine in the interest of time. I'm not really that pleased by it, but it should be functional. Its at the bottom of the picture. Salmon colored linen I bought for 97 cents a yard at Handcock's last year with the rest of the chestnut linen I used for the lining of my gold petticoat as lining. I corded it with the cotton clothesline rope I had left over from the gold petticoat. The trim is green cotton ribbon that I sewed down with the honeycomb stitch on my machine. The ribbon is actually ribbon yarn. I bought it on super clearance at my favorite knitting shop for 99 cents a ball several years ago. One of the cheapest ways to buy really nice trim is the have a look at novelty yarns. Even really expensive yarn can be very cheap trim once you calculate the yardage.

I also spent some time working on the sleeves for my zimmara. It's the blue and yellow fabric with pomegranates in the picture. I cut it out in January (or maybe February?) with the intention of doing a loose gown to wear with my blackworked coif. Its cut using the diagram for the "Learned man's gown of cloth" from Alcega dated 1589 as pictured on page 6 of Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion. Since then, I've read several reviews of people using the giant bag top sleeve in the Reconstructiong History pattern (which is basically the Alcega sleeve) and HATING it. I got rather worried by that. I didn't have enough fabric to re-cut the sleeves into the round sleeve that I would have preferred for the zimarra, but I had plenty of leeway to futz around with the top of the sleeve I had cut. I ended up trimming some of the sides away so it wasn't as unstructured and cutting the top section in panes. I still need it to have quite a bit of fullness as it will be worn over the puffy baragoni of my Italian gowns and I think it should have it this way. I guess we'll see how it works. At present I have 2 somethings resembling either badly drawn trees, tentacled monsters, or possibly cubist squid. The panes are cut and sewn to the interlinings and I'm trying to determine if I'm going to catch the panes at intervals and pull out false puffs or what. I'm also staring at a silver fabric for lining and trying to determine preferences. A deeper blue or possibly a crazy yellow are also in consideration.

Then we coma around to something I actually did complete. I made a giant saccoccia. My previous pockets have been much smaller, mostly because I just don't have much to put in to them. I have to carry a diaper bag with my twins anyway, so I haven't had much need for a small bag. Decided to try one out anyway, especially as I will be attending Solstice and 12th Night by myself. This is closer in proportion to historic examples, although the shape isn't as long of a teardrop. For that matter neither is my tasseled bag. I just prefer a broader bottom and a more blunted shape. Not sure why, but that's what keeps coming out. Looking at the various pockets we have from frescos and paintings as well as the extant Spanish example (assembled for easy viewing by the fabulous Anea)it seems like one of those items that is decorated to the wearer's taste, and the Spanish one is shorter and more blunted.

I absolutely don't have time for embroidery right now. I'm already doing blackwork garters, couching cord to sleeve panes, and stitching pearls to the mantellino so something pretty for the pocket just wasn't going to happen. I looked instead to the trim application of the gold and black saccocia that is most often reproduced. Since I'm using the orange silk of my dress I considered making piping from the blue silk but then I found about a yard of crazy orange and gold trim a friend had sent me. It really wasn't enough to do much with, so I figured this would be the perfect project. I laid it out, matched it up, and the trim determined the pattern. I like the trillium effect the tiny triangles near the bottom of the opening create. The pocket is lined in a navy linen and I had a package of brown bias tape so that's the strings for tying it on. Looking forward to trying the larger size out at the upcoming events.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Calze/stockings are done

My little boys had me up early again, so I stitched up the stockings. I used Katerina's pattern and research at Purplefiles as my starting place last time and I really liked how well the draped pattern worked. I've had to darn my green stockings up near the toes because of the loose weave, but they are very comfortable and I love wearing them. I used a tighter weave of linen this time around and I tweaked the pattern a bit to fit a little more nicely through the calf and was able to trim about an eighth of an inch off the ankle as well. It fits much more smoothly. Plain white linen isn't as flashy as my silly green ones, but I'm glad I made a more classy pair. The welts are a purchased thick cotton lace that I purchased in a grab bag and had in stash. I just whipped stitched it to the tops of the stockings.

With the pattern already draped, this was such an easy project. I'm thinking I should just make up 3 or 4 pairs to have around. Going to have to wait until after new Year's however, no matter how fast I think it'll go.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gold Rosaries

After making my earlier rosary with its inaccurate but sweet smelling beads full of fun memories with my children I started seeing them in lots of Italian portraits. One I find most intriguing is Moretto de Brescia's Lady in White.
The dress is 1540's and such an interesting mix of things, but the two parts I am most enamored with are her giant gold rosary and the fact that her earrings aren't earrings. Instead, in a way very like Rus temple rings, they dangle from the hair ornament down in front of her ears. I'd really like to try doing a similar hair ornament, but right now lets look at the rosary. It hangs clear down the front of her dress, ending in a 3 bead tassel with a little white bow. Chris Laning over at Paternaster Row mentioned it on her blog but I haven't found much else. I had gold beads, but certainly not large enough ones to create something nearly that long. I went looking at other gold rosaries to see if anything further inspired me. I ran across the Langdale Rosary at the V&A (m.30-1934) It's one of the only surviving 16th century English rosaries.
I love the lozenge shaped beads that act as the gauds in this piece. The beads themselves are just amazing. Each is decorated with 2 saints. There are similar early 16th century gold Italian beads with "Ave" carved into them. They're currently held at the Cleavland Museum of Art. They also end in a little bow. I'm not sure if that is surviving or a product of later restringing, but the single decade rosary terminating in a pink ribbon is rather beautiful.
As I'm not a master goldsmith, beads like that are way out of the realms of possibility, but I did have some heavy gold beads with a bit of filigree on the surface. I'd used some of them for my IRCC hairpins, which was unfortunate since it meant that I no longer had the 50 required for a 5 decade rosary, which is what da Brescia's Lady was wearing. Additionally, even if I had 50, they just wouldn't give me the length required. I didn't necessarily want it to hang all the way down to the end of the bodice, but it needed to be longer than a standard necklace.

Then I ran across a gold rosary that had belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots. It had non-counted spacer beads between each of the beads in each decade.

So, I decided to go ahead with a combination of the things I liked about each rosary while working with what I had on hand. I used the heavy gold filigreed beads with a few similar gold beads added to fill up the number to 50. The size is similar, and since I had decided to do flat vaguely diamond shaped gauds the difference between the aves and gauds is significant enough I felt it wasn't an issue. I strung everything on black silk with small rice shaped gold filigree beads for spacers, leaving a little space for the beads to move freely. I had a filigree pendant found in the bottom of a bag of junk jewelry, and I threaded a bit of ribbon through it and tied it in a bow for the concluding tassel

I'm rather pleased with the results of the mash-up of the various rosaries and think its a pretty necklace in its own right. Once I don't have budget constraints I think I'll pick up some silk ribbon for the terminal, but that's all that I might change.

And I only broke 4 needles!

My darling Colin once again decided to wake up at 4 AM and refused to go back to sleep. After 2 cups of juice, a fried egg, banana bits and 2 clean diapers, along with a lot of cuddles, I gave up trying to get him back to sleep. I certainly wasn't going to get any more rest, so I started on today's projects. I'd already cut the leather for the slippers so just had to cut lining, applique, and trim.

Since the dress is patchwork I thought parti-color shoes would be fun. Davey gave me a scrap of deep blue leather he'd had kicking around and a couple of leather cushion covers that he had left from buying a giant stack of them to re-purpose. He refers to the sandy orange as "Hastings' colored" and made me a set of lightweight cuffs that I wore with my bellydance kit when I danced with Shawaza. You can't see them in the shot, but there I am in the back row right. Wearing blue and orange. It really is my favorite color combo. I'm using the same colors for my heavy fighting armor that Davey and I are working on right now. So now I have dainty slippers to batch my bazubands and lamellar klibanion (breast plate.) The thought makes me giggle rather a lot. The applique on the shoes are actually leather pieces that I had cut for embellishing the elbows of my bazubands. The soles are leather scraps from armor making. I also used some brass findings that I got to mount on the armor as parts of my girdle for the dress, so there's quite a bit of snitching of supplies going on.

Documentation on this is more than a little iffy, so I guess I really just get to say they're not obviously out of period. The shape is similar to a shoe found in the Mary Rose shipwreck. Its the pair of shoes to the far right.

The 1540's shipwreck is perfect timewise and the shape isn't too far off, but my construction methods are not correct by any stretch of the imagination. They're the skills I learned making leather and felt baby "soft shoes" rather than a period correct type of manufacture. They're sewn quickly on my sewing machine and then just turned right side out. Real shoes of this type would have a welt and an exterior sole. The weight of the leather I've used is off, being much lighter. The dual color and applique are pure fantasy. But, I have pretty,matchy slippers and they are fun to wear. One of these days I will get around to learning how to make real shoes. Its on the to-do list but my husband gets a little nervous about me adding even more new hobbies and the accompanying equipment and tools.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey and button loops

I'm sure they go together somehow or another. I didn't get much else done today in between baking and cooking and feeding people turkey and potatoes and pie, but had a few minutes for handwork in between turns while playing Chinese checkers with my kids. I finished the button loops on my muff and tacked on a chain for fastening it to the girdle or skirt.

This is the same envelope style I made for my IRCC muff. While muffs may be a little later than my preferred 1540's gowns, with most references to them not coming until 30 or 40 years later, I love having warm hands and adore the Italian envelope style muff with the embellished outer, fur inner and fabulous buttons that allow the whole thing to be opened up into a mini lap blanket so I made one. I don't think its too outrageous or jarring. Furs were certainly being used as accessories in 1540's Italy as zibellinis, mantellinos and capelets, and similar stole type drapes. While the fashion craze didn't hit until 1570 I doubt the fashion police are going to arrest me for jumping the gun a little. I was going to type up my earlier notes on documentation from when I made my first muff in May, but honestly, Jaquelinne Serafina Katerina and Bella have it covered pretty darn well. I do make my button loops differently than any of them do, but that's about the only place I have anything useful to add to the discussion.

Regarding this particular muff, some of the same accent fabric I used for my tassel bag makes the outer. It's lined with a lovely vintage chinchilla. Buttons are made from glass pearls with a spacer bead below and a blue bead that matches my girdle sandwiched between two large copper seed beads. Contemporary descriptions of 16th century Venetian muffs mention the crystal buttons they were fastened with. I looked for some large clear glass beads to use but all I could find were cheesy plastic ones so I settled for the pearls. I actually much prefer the thread worked buttons that fasten my other muff to these for functionality, but the pearls are very pretty.

As I said, I do my button loops differently than the ladies I previously mentioned. Rather than doing loops of trim tacked in between layers or otherwise attached, I finish the muff and then do 3 or 4 loops of embroidery floss. Then I cover the loops in buttonhole stitches. Basically its this technique My reasoning is this: the technique is used to make edges in period needle laces so it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume they might have used it and it holds really well. Since its an integral loop rather than stitched in the chances of it pulling off are very small.

This time around I got to use my new set of buttonhole gauges. My friend Patience made me a set for my birthday. I'd never used anything like them before, just eyeballing things, but the gauges are nice and easy to use. Just wrap the thread over the gauge and pull tight. Once the threads are anchored you can pull the gauge out and each loop is the same size. I did mess up on one of my loops whn I gauged it and then had to go make whip cream for pumpkin pie. When I sat back down I didn't regauge it and it wasn't anchored so it pulled a little more open and is slightly larger than the others. I may still snip it off and redo it but haven't decided how much its going to bother me yet. I'm definitely looking forward to using my gauges for ding button loops on my camping Persian coats, though. I've got 4 or 5 coats all in need of a couple of dozen buttons and they're going to make the process SO much easier.

Sprinting to the end

I've changed my mind multiple times on my project for the Artemisian Costuming Challenge and hemmed and hawed about what I was doing. Back and forth between Russian and Italian and in the process time has run out on me. The deadline is in basically a month, so I'm going to have to buckle down and run to the end.

Since my IRCC dress would actually count for the ACC according to the rules of the challenge, I decided doing another Italian would be the best idea since I could fill in with pieces of the IRCC ensemble for things I don't get done. I'm going to do the Lotto gown, as I've got the hat pretty much done already, the mantellino in progress and a few other bits and pieces in process.

I also made the soccaccia, a couple of girdles and other bits of jewelry, and have the muff almost done. Since I'd like to get back to posting on a daily basis, I'm going to wait and show those one at a time and talk about sources and such separately rather than putting everything in a pile today.

So, today's project is a tassel bag. I wasn't really happy with the IRCC one, so I've been working on doing a better version this time around. I'm pretty happy with this one. The picture also gives a glimpse of the fabrics I'm using for this project. The dress will be orange and blue instead of the orange and green of the portrait. I'm using a smoky/frosty blue dupioni and the rosy orange dupioni silk that I used to line my red dress. Both are stash fabrics and, while not as nice as a taffeta, are a step up from the cotton brocades I'd originally thought to use. I splurged and spent $14 of my $100 budget on a half yard of upholstery fabric for the muff and this bag. Not that easy finding something to match my crazy fabric choices, so I was happy to find it.

The tassel bag is an attempt to make a tasseled round bottomed drawstring pouch worn on long strings over the dress. It hangs low on the skirt. There are two portraits in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion showing this. Illustration 40 is Parisian and 52 is Dutch and I've found a few in other portraits from a variety of countries. Here's a French example from 1581. This print by Jacques de Gheyn II is from slightly before 1600 (de Gheyn stopped engraving in 1600 and was active from the 1580's.) It is a lower class individual, but it has the flap top in addition to the rounded drawstring purse shape.
Album Amoricum of a German Soldier dated 1595 has a number of them pictured, including this lady and this one.

Bags and purses seem to be much like modern ones, with shape size and preference shifting a bit according to the whims of the wearer. I wanted something with a bit more structure after my plain unstructured tassel bag. Looking around, I took inspiration from this German bag made in 1596 and this French tasseled bag from 1595
Although this is later (17th century) I liked the tassels and feel of this Italian coin purse at LACMA

I knew I wanted some structure, lots of tassels, a covered opening, and to be able to use the nifty metal mount I had picked up at a garage sale awhile back attached to a really sad pouch with an elastic opening. I cut the flap to match the mount and then tried to figure out how to give it some structure as I didn't have a purse ring. What I ended up doing was cutting a thick piece of leather that stiffens the back section even with the width of the flap. It also helps the bag hang nicely rather than droop. Then I cut two wide tear drop shapes from my fabric and lined the bag and flap with a blue linen that I'll be using as the lining for the dress as well. I placed buttonhole slits around the top edge and inserted a drawstring. It's a plain piece of grosgrain ribbon with a sliding bead to tighten it. I finished the bag off with little tassels made from the fringe I'll be eventually edging my parasol with and beads left over from my girdle. At present I'm planning to attach a short length of chain to each side of the stiffened section and bring them up to a single attachment point that will attach to another longer piece of chain that attaches to either a pin or my girdle directly. I haven't sewn the chain on yet as I'm going to have to buy the long chain for this and it might not match my short pieces. Or I may change my mind as I dig in stash a bit further since I'd prefer not to spend any of my budget on that.

Anyway, I'm back working on this and determined to finish by the New Year's Eve deadline.