Friday, December 28, 2012

The Baronesses birds

Baroness Jennet of Loch Salaan surprised me awhile ago with a large box of feathers she'd been collecting.  She raises alpacas (and I have a closet full of fleeces from her last shearing destined to be rugs and boots) but there are also peacocks and chickens running around the farm. 

I was busy teaching classes at Collegium when she handed the box over so I didn't get to really talk to her much about the projects, but she asked that I make her a fan in payment for the feathers.  Seemed like a more than fair trade.  Especially since I didn't actually have to start from scratch.

Jennet had a fan she had received that used to belong to Constance de la Rose.  Constance was one of the greats.  I met her only briefly once, but her legacy is extensive.  Everything anyone has to say is glowing and sweet.  There is a memorial cooking competition held at Uprising in her honor so her love of cooking and learning continue. I found this beautiful article she wrote published on Florilegium about what makes a peer that hold some of the magic the SCA Dream embodies.

The fan needed some rehabilitation.  It had come in contact with something that left big pink and black mess on some of the feathers.  They also needed to be combed and fluffed a bit.  I tried spot cleaning the feathers but whatever it was was not coming off.  And it was hot pink.  I ended up trimming the feathers a bit to remove the worst of it and then adding feathers to cover.  The inside of the fan now has a layer of  new black and white feathers.  I picked out the feathers Jennet had collected from her silver laced Wyandotte chickens.  Her Barony's heraldic colors are sable and argent. They have a populous use badge of an ermine spot so the white spots on the tops of the black feathers were absolutely perfect.  I added pearls and black pear shaped rhinestones to continue the theme.  Then I topped it with a little dragonfly button since dragonflies are one of Jennet's heraldic charges.  The silver Celtic knots also bring her persona into the composition.

Here's hoping she likes it and it's what she had in mind.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Praxilla-- but no pear tree

I'm working on my own 12 days of Christmas as I scramble to finish my dress and gifts for 12th Night.  Yesterday was focused on beading the billiments for the dress.

Yes, I know billiments and oodles of bling is more English than Italian, but it actually isn't unheard of.  I was just going to do a total fantasy as I used up some questionable things in the stash, but then I found this Tinteretto over at Starlight Masquerade (thanks Angela-- again.)
As you can see, there are ouches on the partlet and a heavily jeweled billiment type band across the top.  The dress is also a greenish brocade, which fell in with my plans perfectly.  My colors are a tiny bit less pastel, but a pretty good match.  How fortuitous!  I love it when my crazy ideas turn out to be documentable.

So yesterday was consumed with wiring 28 pearl ouches and stitching on the 15 red jewels (they're buttons) and 14 large black rhinestones. The gold trim underneath is lined in red linen to give a bit of contrast. It also happens to be the same trim I have on my chopines, so I'm considering wearing them to 12th Night.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I'm joining the Historical Sew Fortnightly

I always accomplish so much more when I have deadlines.  I was really excited when Lorna McKenzie of The Tailor's Apprentice pointed out The Dreamstress Historical Sew Fortnightly.  26 themed challenges and you can pick and choose what you want to participate in.  There's a bonus challenge starting now.  #0 is to start simple with a due date of New Year's Eve.  Make something quick or something you've done before.

I'm just starting on the much procrastinated 12th Night dress made from the sideback lacing pattern that was drafted for my red IRCC I dress.  I used the same pattern for my green camping dress. Projects already started and UFO's finished are fair game so here's hoping the extra challenge gives me a bit of extra motivation amidst the craziness of Christmas.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Go look at Angela Bacci's Zibellino

Angela Bacci/Starlight Masquerade (you know the place where I go to drool over galleries when I'm not haunting Realm of Venus) just made an adorable zibellino for Mistress Laurellen (Tammie Dupuis/Renaissance Tailor) for 12th Night.  Mistress Laurellen is getting her Pelican at that event I believe.  Anyway, go look at the zibie.  It's adorable.

And she mentioned my crazy pink zibie.  So I get to have another fan girl moment where people I deeply admire talk about me.  Squee!

Friday, December 14, 2012

So what about the hobby horses?

Remember the 30 stick ponies and the dollies I spent way too much time cutting and sewing together?  And then I followed it up by getting sick and missing the event?  Yeah.  Well, I've been wanting to get some pictures of a complete stick pony from the event.  Unfortunately, every picture taken seems to have someone's child in it (go figure.)  Which is why this one was impossible to resist.  His Royal Majesty Khan Timmur IV of Artemisia with his stick pony and the paper dolls made in HRM's image in commemoration of his attendance at Toys for Tots by Lord Yamanuchi Eidou. Seems like the hobby horses were a hit.
Photo taken by Katie Fullmer    

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2 white scarves

Photo courtesy of Katie Fullmer
I didn't end up getting my grand blackwork plans accomplished, but the scarves were well received and done within the short window, so I have to say they were a success.

Here's Kynewynn the Kind, Artemisia's premier Dona of the Order of the White Scarf about to attend the ceremony for her son, Giovanni Il Ratto, as he becomes the youngest Don in the Kingdom.  Research is still out as to whether he's the youngest Don in the SCA Known World or not.  He also might be the first second generation Don.  He certainly is the first in Artemisia.

I was so honored that Kynewynn chose to wear the scarf I made her for the ceremony.

I have to say, I'm totally nuts about drawnwork.  I think it may be my favorite type of needlework,  That's rather amusing to me since I am such freak for color and I would swear I don't really care for counted work. There's just something peaceful and easy about the white on white and the manipulation of threads though.  It makes me happy.  And it looks classier than I really am.

Here's a couple of in process pictures since I never went back and wrote up the post I'd planned on it.  Here's the mess of drawing the threads after I'd stabilized the ends.  The scarves are just over 2 yards long so, while there really aren't that many threads pulled, they're long and make quite the pile. 
Still not a great picture, but this is a little better at giving you an idea of what the laced hemstitch looks like.  Each side is 3 passes with the first one securing the hem and bundling the edge threads.  I did bundles of 4 threads.  Second pass is going back the other way and bundling the other side of the drawnwork section.  Final pass just takes a thread down through the middle.  The lacing is really easy.  Rather than doing a bundle of the bundles, which is what several other patterns call for, you just pull one bundle over the other and the thread keeps them from flipping back in place.  It's one of my favorite stitches.  I did the same one on the towel I made for Serafina's Laureling last year.  This was just a lot more of it.  There's a little over 24 feet of hemstitch.  I was working pretty solid on them starting just before Thanksgiving, other than the week I took off to make Mikey's doublet.

Photo courtesy of Sue Fullmer
I ran out of time for the more complex borders I'd planned, so I settled for simple backstitch monograms with some elements from their heraldry.  They both have vert  and sable and Kynewynn is well known for her heart (both heraldically and as one of the sweetest human beings ever.) Gio wants a frame drum as part of his, but it didn't translate well, so I settled for rapiers.  The fringe is handknotted.  It's just Gutermann  white silk sewing thread and their gold metallic.  I secured the short edges with a buttonhole stitch after hemming them and tied the fringe into those stitches. I use a crochet hook to pull the bundles of thread through and then do larks head knots. Super simple, but a lot more time consuming than you would hope.  Definitely worth it.  I love the fineness of this fringe rather than the perle cotton I usually use on things.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Terrible picture of Mikey's new doublet

 Hoping to get a better picture on Saturday when he wears it to Solstice, but this is at least proof I've been working on something.
And here's the "boring end" of Gio's scarf with the fringe.  I'll get a closer picture when the sun is a little higher and show off the laced hemstitch.

Friday, November 30, 2012

I kept swearing I'd finish something

Sorry for the huge gap in posting.  I really have been working on things.  Drawnwork in progress is just not that exciting.  I've been working on Gio's scarf as well as a matching one for his mother Kynewynn.  I'm vaguely modeling them on the white scarf in William Segar's Portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh (held in The National Gallery of Ireland, the image is from Wikimedia Commons.) 

Mine are much more robust linen since getting some this sheer wasn't possible.  Not to mention these might be used to fight in and I don't want them ripping.  It's hard to see much of what is going on in the portrait other than the fabulous fringe.  What I'm interpreting as drawnthread work might be an insertion stitch.  It does look sort of herringbone like.  I think the scale is off for insertion stitches.  That could just be me justifying my choice.  Primarily, I just wanted to do drawn thread work rather than an insertion and so that's what I'm doing.

I have all of the drawn thread done on Gio's scarf and almost done on Kynewynn's.  Then the scarves will get a soaking in some Oxiclean to remove the signs of the Thanksgiving weekend travel they went through in my purse.  I'll block them and get some pictures after that before I go on to the embroidery on the ends and the fringe.

I've got a really tight deadline since I have to finish these and the doublet I'm working on for another friend by Solstice on December 8th.  I'll try to get a few updates between then and now.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lots of planning, nothing done

Paola Priuli Querini
It's been one of those weeks with loads of planning (and family obligations) so nothing much to show.  I had hoped to show you the adorable pink linen apron I smocked for a friend's Award of Arms as part of my 50 favors and tokens challenge, but she still hasn't gotten pictures to me.

I'm continuing to work with the GIMP tutorials to do some embroidery designing and have prepped y linen for the white scarves in the meantime. My plan is to do some drawnthread work down the long sides and the blackwork on the ends.  In part I think it'll look best that way, but the biggest reason for not doing the blackwork all the way around is time constraints.  Solstice and the White Scarf ceremony is a couple of weeks away (December 8) so I'm in a rush.  I may just end up doing a drawn on pattern and doing real charts later for use on another project.  We'll see.

In other planning, I bought some new fabric at a ridiculous deal.  I've seen this faux silk with flocked velvet pattern at several places over the last year that is a dead ringer for Palma Vecchio's painted fabric in the unfinished wedding portrait of Paola Priuli Querini.  The scale is a bit different, but the color and pattern is a great match.  I've resisted buying it because, well, its polyester.  I'm trying to up my game and do less theatrical sewing and improve my accuracy.  Then I found it again at $4 a yards with an additional 40% off.  I'm weak willed my friends.  I bought the rest of the bolt.  I got almost 11 yards for $27 even with the tax.  Even if it just becomes pillows or drapes it was worth it.  It might be a 12th Night dress if I get a serious wiggle on it.  It'll be fun and I'll do reenactor's penance and make something handsewn from linen after that.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Of rapiers and blackwork

Design for a hilt in blackwork. Dated 1619.  British Museum

I just realized last night that I don't have a current project.  I'm waiting for pictures of things I just finished to dribble in so I can babble about them, but there is nothing pressing on my plate.  Something is seriously wrong.

Conveniently, I got inspired. I've decided to make a white scarf for a gentleman in our Province who was just asked to join the Order of the White Scarf, Giovanni Il Ratto.  I don't know that he's the youngest, but he's certainly up there, being all of 20.  He's a second generation player, with his mama being one of the nicest human beings ever.  She's also a Dona-- (member of the order) herself.  Watching them duel with wooden spoons or pencils at the drop of a hat is always a source of a smile.

Giovanni also has a late period Italian persona.  He obviously needs something embroidered.  I'm sure he'll get several white scarves at his elevation, but you can never have enough accessories, right?  I want to do something custom.  Conveniently, I just took a class on blackwork design offered by Master Braden von Sobernheim at Kingdom Collegium.

Master Braden uses Visio for designing and charting.  I considered purchasing a copy, but then I remembered Kim Salazar had posted a series of tutorials on using Gimp for charting while she was doing the patterns for Ensamplario Atlantico, her collection of free blackwork fillings.  I'm rereading them now and am going to give it a shot.  Wish me luck!

Friday, November 9, 2012

How to do it

  The University of Chicago Press does a free e-book a month and this month's is How to Do it: Guides to Good Living for Renaissance Italians by Rudolph M. Bell.  It is a really fun book full of information on How-To manuals published in the 15h and 16th century.  I bought it a couple of months back and have really enjoyed it.  The footnotes are exceptional and have already sent me on a variety of tangents from which I've learned a great deal.  The book itself is pretty entertaining, as it looks at all sorts of manuals, starting with important issues like how to conceive a son.  The info on that is rather illuminating, as Bell discusses how Classical sources were used, shared, and also abandoned and modified. The look at Italian publishing in general and publishing directed at women in particular was really useful to me and I now have a new stack of books on that.  Bell is wonderful at setting up context and the writing is very, very readable. 

Anyway, if you are interested in daily life in the 16th century, women's issues, cooking, child raising, popular views of science and medicine, publishing, middle class mores, and 30 or 40 other topics, this is a good read.  And it is free, which makes it even better.  Go get a copy.  If you don't think you want it now, you may find some reason for it later.

Also, while you're having a look at the University of Chicago Press, have a poke through the 60 or so titles of their "The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe" series.  They just finished it's run this year.  The books are translations of a huge variety of writings that were not previously available in English.  I've been working my way through the Italian women poets and writers and most of the books in my bibliography for the classes I just taught on poets and on the Querelle des Femmes (the question of women) is books from this amazing series.  It's astounding to realize what has become available for the everyday, non-academic, researcher in the last couple of decades. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Making stick horses and poppets

Anton Moller, Portrait of a Boy via
I'm currently assembly line sewing a bunch of fabric horse heads and dolls for children's activities at my Province's annual Toys for Tots event. Since we're short a youth officer right now, I decided to make the arts and science activities appropriate for all ages. So, we're decorating and stuffing hobby horse heads, customizing little dolls, making pinwheels, and stick horse jousting.

I really love making toys.  I used to have a business doing needlefelted and wet felted toys as well as soft sewn animals from wool felt, so this feels really familiar.

It always makes me smile to realize children of today, while they do have all the electronic choices and hunks of plastic, still enjoy playing with the very same toys our ancestors did.  Larsdatter has a collection of links to dolls and hobby horses and pinwheels and loads more that is a fun browse.

And just to show what I used to do, here's a few of my (rather old) creations.  A needlefelted Ent of Grandfather tree with cardinal and squirrel to play on his branches.  A selection of fall pincushions, and a hedgehog and his house under the leaves.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Didn't finish the jacket, but I sure had fun teaching

Photo by Jeri Foster
I swear my hair looked loads better at 5:30 AM when I styled it (this was 12 hours later.)  I followed that up by driving an hour and a half in a corset in a small car that I had to angle in and out of and it got pretty messy.  I had serious fun though.  My classes on 16th century subjects weren't all that well attended, but we had some great conversations as a result.  There were just too darn many great classes on the schedule all at the same time (not to mention Laurel and Pelican circles during 2 of them.)  That's certainly nothing to complain about.  The class list for this Collegium was varied and exceptional.  I got to take some classes on scroll layout, A Walking tour 16th Century London, and designing blackwork patterns.  There were several others that I didn't get to take that I'm sad about.  Wool shoes, olive curing, medieval history of slight of hand. . . the list continues.  Many of my friends took classes in the youth track because those classes were so good looking.  There was bobbin lace for kids, sweets and treats, board games and quite a few others that I wouldn't have minded sitting in on.  I really hope my stick pony and pinwheel class I'm planning for our Province's Toys for Tots event this Saturday is as well received by all ages.

I also go to take home two helmets to play with.  I need to get off my butt and finish my armor.  Collegiums and other academic gatherings are more my comfort zone, but I promised myself I'd give fighting a try and I'm excited by the prospect.

I'm doing another super busy week, prepping activities for the event this weekend so I'm afraid I'll be doing very little sewing on the jacket.  I also need to fix the issues found in the brown dress after wearing it for Collegium (and do eyelets rather than the temporary lacing rings I put on,) but I'll have some other things to show off after the event happens and they go to their new homes.  Not to mention some links and notes for the classes I taught this week.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Looking at lacings

I've been thinking about lacings quite a bit lately.  My first attempt at ladder lacing a bodice was my IRCC II gold dress and I looked around a bunch at dress diaries to see what other costumers did.  I adapted several ideas and ended up doing a lacing strip made from grommet tape.  It sits beautifully and the edges of the bodice are nice and crisp with no pulling since the lacing is fully supported by bones underneath and all the stress on the tape which is additionally stitched to the lining and interlinings.

It just seems a great deal of engineering to go to and to be counter-intuitive.  It also didn't seem particularly likely to be an historical solution.

Portraits don't show much, however, and the extant Italian gowns are not of this style.  And then I found this gorgeous close-up picture of the lacing on Fede Galizia's Judith.   It was taken at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota Florida by Cindy Lyon (sea95lion)/ Signora Ciana Leonardi di Firenze.  You can find it and several other amazing detail shots of this painting in her Flikr stream .  She was gracious enough to let me link to it (see the caption of the picture for the link.)  Take a look at that, huh?  Eyelets sitting behind heavy embroidery.  Distortion on the edge as they pull, and a slight intertwining of that looks to be a doubled lace.  How COOL is that?

Ian's shoelace site has a diagram of ladder lacing for shoelaces that creates crossed/intertwined center cords very like what I think I'm seeing here.  It puts the thick ridge on the outside, but it can be reversed and put on the inside.  There's also a simple bar lacing that gives the same look without the interlace.  I figured I'd put eyelets in my new brown dress and try both.  What I'm hoping will happen is the extra side ridges for the ladder lace will create a more stable and secure lacing with less pulling, but I'll have to experiment to see.

Cheesy trim + cheap fabric is shaping up to be a dress I adore

I still need to finish tacking the cartridge pleats for about half of the back of the skirt and do the lacing, but I'm closing in on finishing this sottana.  You'll notice I didn't end up using the bobbin lace.  I got it dyed a really fabulous teal blue.  I also dyed a yard of linen to match so I had some other fabric to make trim with.  It will have to wait for another project.  While I was waiting for the dye I was digging for something else and found 30 or so yards of this blue and gold metallic trim that I picked up for 10 cents a yard.  I got it for the price, obviously.  I thought it was a bit tacky-- which from me is saying something. 

I was worried that this brown dress would be a whole lot of plain.  I only had about 3 yards of bobbin lace in that pattern, which would have trimmed the bodice, but the skirt would be plain.  Wheels in my head started rolling and the fact that this is an underdress to be worn under a jacket where the bodice will be mostly obscured was a big factor in deciding to give the tacky trim a go.

As my motto is more is better and I had plenty of the trim, I just kept adding more.  It really worked.  One row was rather eh, but three looks good.  I still have about 16 yards of trim, so the plan is to be just as generous when I get to making the sleeves. I'm sure I'll have leftover and no ideas for what to do with it.  I am rather astonished at how much I like this dress.  The dark brown of the twill tones down the metallic of the trim and makes it look more opulent than tacky. The trim makes a plain brown cotton bottomweight I bought for $1.50 a yard look like something planned rather than a happy accident.  Putting it up against the silk, I think the whole outfit is going to look great.  Once again I'm breaking every rule with $40 a yard silk paired with clearance table materials.  Not sure how it happened that this seems to be working, but I'm doing a serious happy dance.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Is this too weird of an idea?

I was going to wait and do trim for the brown later, but I had a brainstorm.  I have a bit of this vintage bobbin lace.  What would happen if I dyed it either blue or copper and layered it with ribbons over a base of either a contrasting or coordinating color?  Would it look like embroidery?

I'm really, really tempted to try.  Especially since I don't see myself actually spending the time to do real embroidered trim for this sottana.   Am I completely up in the night?  Too theatrical?  Just plain wrong?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I guess I should make this first-- blue silk jacket

I'm much more excited about projects for 12th Night and the Masked Ball, but I've got Collegium and Toys for Tots in the next couple of weeks, so I suppose I should pay attention to those.  I had planned to do the pink with green sleeves for Toys and finish my blue and gold loose gown and wear it with my blackwork coif for Collegium.  Neither project seems to have gone anywhere, however.  I've got a loose gown cut out of purple and yellow, and I keep staring at the never-ending-100-button-loose-gown.  I misplaced one of the pieces to the back yoke and am rethinking the entire back piece.  Not to mention not wanting to rush the trim.  I just found the yoke piece yesterday, but I'm just not inspired by it right now.  I was convinced I wanted to wear my blackwork coif, but I think I'm over the thought of that.  Especially since I'm teaching 3 very Italian classes.

Sooooo.  Back to a project I was supposed to get done for IRCC II.  A jacket like the one in Lady and the Squirrel.  I bought this blue silk just before the start of IRCC II and it was supposed to be one of the first projects.  Yeah.  I get weird ideas about what I'm actually capable of getting done some times.  Anyway. I have two yards of this gorgeous thick blue and bronze silk.  Only issue is I need a sottana for underneath since I'm not wearing the big trained gold dress to teach and wrangle kids in.  The silk isn't the easiest thing to match.  I'm not really one to wear black, so I'm toying with the idea of this chocolate brown cotton bottomweight.  Seems sort of sacrilege to pair the silk with that rather than a silk or linen, but I have it in stash and I'm trying to not buy anything new right now.  Kind of blah, but the jacket is a casual piece worn with the camicia and what might be an apron. Not much of the under dress shows anyway.  At least that is what I keep trying to tell myself.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Muse for a Masked Ball? Maybe

I'm seriously considering making this.  It is a costume sketch for a Muse by Bernardo Buontalenti from the spectacle that accompanied a comic play called "La Pellagrina performed at Ferdinando de Medici and Christine of Lorraine's wedding in 1589.

Complex set pieces with mythological subjects are accompanied by madrigals.  The video below is the first of 8 from a modern production if you feel like checking it out.  The music is gorgeous.

The dress is a heck of a lot of fun.  Not to mention the fact that it is orange (my favorite color.)  There's a Masked Ball up in the middle part of our Kingdom in January and I'm really tempted to go.  I don't dance much, but an excuse to make something silly is awfully tempting.  And there are tassels at the hem.  How can I resist tassels?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pink and sapphire zibellino

Not bad for a first try if I do say so myself.  I want to figure out how to give it a better polish and work with the ears a bit more so it isn't quite so "mouse looking" (as my 8 year old tells me.) On the whole, though, I'm pretty happy with it.

I still want to try doing some pewter casting of bits for the girdle and the drop to attach it, but I settled for a purchased finding for now since the month disappeared into carving and I just plain ran out of time.

The muzzle is made from bronze colored foil tape, and I wrapped some blue crystals in the tape to give it the look of actually being set.  I am really thrilled with the effect.  May have to do it to more beads for clothing decoration in the future.
I'm sorta kinda toying with the idea of seeing if I can get some jet and try carving that.  There are zibellinos in inventories made from that.  Most notable is an ermine with a jet head in Mary Queen of Scott's belongings.  Jet is apparently very soft to carve, but can be difficult to take detail since it can break.  It'd be an entirely different experience.  The black would certainly be a contrast to the soft pink of the rose quartz.  Also, and this is sort of rather nifty, jet is available to find in Utah.  It is not the highest quality of jet, but I'm not the greatest carver, so who knows if I'll notice.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Collecting squirrels

Have I mentioned before that I have a fascination with portraits with squirrels in them?  I've seen a few mentions that squirrels were popular pets in the 16th century and I've started digging for more information on that.  In the meantime, I just started a folder and have been shoving every squirrel portrait I find into it.  I think I'm up to about 8 so far.

I just found this one this morning.  Called alternately Double Portrait or Family Portrait, it is Lorenzo Lotto.  Dated 1523-24, it is currently in Russia in the Hermitage Museum. It is a little hard to see, but he is pointing to a squirrel at the center of the portrait. 
While squirrels were usually in portraits as either pets or as symbols of obedience and personal restraint, The Continum Encyclopedia of Animal Symbolism in Art by Hope Werness, has this one as symbolizing infidelity.  As the dog is for faithfulness and the squirrel is the dark center of the portrait where the couple is basically miles apart, it is certainly an intriguing painting.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ericka's new dress

 I've been working on this dress for a friend to wear to a steampunk ball.  Just a couple of days squeezed between other projects, with minimal measurements, and no time to make the foundation layers, but since she had nothing whatsoever to wear and wouldn't have been able to go at all without it, it isn't the worst thing I ever made.  My biggest issue is the gap up front, but I'm hoping once the bones shape to her a bit and things move around, and maybe once she gets some real bodice laces in there it will close.  If not, I made a stomacher/placard of the stripe she can wear if she opens up the rest of the lacing a bit.  Wish I had time for more adjustments-- and to make a bustle petticoat.

The bodice is linen.  Actually, it is the bodice from my red camping dress remade.  I had put "I'm in a hurry" eyelets in the side lacing and they ripped out immediately.  I had also put minimal boning in it and it did this weird jutting out thing in the front due to fit problems.  Ericka was originally just going to borrow my red velvet from IRCC I and wear that as a Queen of Hearts outfit, but she was uncomfortable with the sleeves.  I needed to rehem it as well.  Since I hate to mend, I decided to just make something new so she'd get a dress at the end and I wouldn't have to put my red velvet back together once the ball was over.  Since the "Happy Meal Dress" was bugging me anyway, I pulled it to pieces and this thing just sorta grew.  I put a stripy panel in the side where I'd trimmed out the mess made by the eyelets and then closed it up, cut the center front and moved the central bone and put bones on either side of the new opening.  That sounds an awful lot like mending: extreme edition.  Ah well, I never claimed to make any sense.

The skirt is a hemp blend I've had kicking around for ages. I had a bolt of the striped cotton I'd purchased at Halloween from Walmart a few years back.  I followed Historic Sewing's 1870 Bustle skirt tutorial on YouTube.  Super simple, and I want to try doing another one soon.  My husband and I were supposed to go to this dance as well, but plans changed a few days ago.  Ah well, I didn't have the perfect dress anyway.  Since I keep wanting to do Steampunk things, I think I need to assemble the underpinnings and have them on hand so there isn't a scramble.  I'm thinking maybe I'll make them in February.  I've got Laughing Moon's Dore Corset pattern as well as the plus size add on (I've had it for 3 years or so and it is still uncut. . .)  I figure I should do that and probably Truly Victorian's Petticoat with Wire Bustle.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Persona questions

I've been plugging along on the rose quartz zibellino as well as doing the standard October activities for costumers in the US: Halloween costumes. I'm making my husband and myself Steampunk(ish) outfits as well as doing a corset and bustle skirt for a friend, and working on things for my kids.  The Steampunk stuff has to be done for this weekend to attend a masquerade ball.  I'll get some pictures posted once they're done.  My friend Davey (who has done my IRCC wrap up pictures the last 2 years) is attending, so hopefully he'll get some nice ones.

In the meantime, I've been trying to squeeze in some non-sewing projects to give my brain something to do.  Since I recently changed my name and persona to Italian, I think this is the perfect time to start some fun research (not that I ever need an excuse to research.)  To help give my delvings some structure, I joined the Midland's Persona Challenge (no I do not live in the Midlands, but they were willing to take out of area visitors.)  They plan to post a series of questions on a topic every 2 weeks.  The first topic and questions were posted yesterday:

Midlands Personna Project- Question Set 1: Topic Current Local
1 What country do you live in? What part of the country?
2 Are there any maps from your area (from your time)
3 What is your capital?
3b. How far is it to the capital city? (in units of measure your persona would have used?)
4 Have you ever been there?
5 How did you get here?
6 What is the climate like?
7 What is the terrain like?
8 Who are the people who live in this place?
9 Who are the people who travel to or through here?
10 What is the largest road and where does it go?
11 The nearest church or cathedral?
12 Nearest waterway? Is it navigable and how?
I'm still trying to settle on whether I've been in Bologna and moved to Venice or am still in Bologna, so I'm going to need a few more days to think on things before I start writing.  Should be fun.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A&S 50 class challenge update

Gentleman of the Trivulzio Family
I just realized I hadn't updated my class list for the A&S 50/50 challenge.  Last update was back in January.  I've taught quite a few since then and have made some progress towards my personal challenge of finishing the requirements to achieve a Fellowship in the University of Artemisia.  I'm also scheduled to teach at Kingdom Collegium in November with 4 more classes.

Here's the run down.

1.An introduction to making felted hats
2&3. Beginning naalbinding
4.Quilting IS period: an introduction to trapunto
5. 16th century Italian accessories (roundtable class, part of panel)
6. Gryphons and Giants and Dragons: Introduction to Geomythology
7. Bookplates, Bookcurses and Decorative bookbindin
 8. Pretties for keeping the plagues away: Apotropaic jewelry  
9. Perfectly Period Applique
10. Research techniques for working with period portraiture
 11. Poetry and Pageantry: The Renaissance Imprese
  12. Guzzle, Guzzle, Guzzle: an introduction to Medieval soft drinks

Those are the ones that have  already been taught.  I have the class notes as Google documents linked to a few of them and plan to clean them up and expand them to be real stand alone classes and post them on the blog.  I've been talking to a friend about helping me do a bit of changing and adding around here so I can have a tab to post class notes and tutorials in a spot that is easily found.  Hoping to have that done before Christmas. (I'd say earlier, but we're both costumers so Halloween time is crazy busy.)

The 4 classes I'm scheduled for at Kingdom Collegium next month will bring me up to 16, so I'll at least be past the quarter mark on the 50.  I'm excited by that. They should also finish my Fellowship requirements, but I haven't gotten any confirmation on that yet.

                   13. 16th century sumptuary law: comparing England, Italy, and the Low Countries
                   14. 16th century Italian female poets
                   15. Pomander balls using a recipe from Nostradamus
                   16. 16th century Italian proto-feminist writings

As I am the retiring bard at Toys for Tots the following weekend in November, I'm hoping to teach a class on storytelling and start in on my requirements for The College of Performing Arts as well as creep a bit closer to the halfway mark. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A woman is more than her dress

I've been working on the handout for the class I'm teaching on 16th century female poets at Kingdom Collegium in November.  One of the things I wanted to do was put some faces to voices, so to speak, and match up some portraits of women with their poems.  I've seen the Veronica Franco portraits and Tulia Aragona before, but I'd never connected Isotta Brembate with her poetry before.  This portrait is actually on my "must make this dress!" list.

Brembate was rather well known for writing poetry in Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian.  Unfortunately, very few of her poems survive.

One non-poem survival that I was really excited to see is her imprese.  It was published in 1565 in Le Imprese Illustri by Girolamo Ruscelli.  The text (in Spanish) translates to "I will guard them better."  The image is of a dozing dragon in front of the Garden of Hesperides from which Hercules stole the golden apples.  The entirety of Ruscelli is available online.  Some rather interesting imprese.  What I found most interesting was that the imprese of a non-royal woman was published in her lifetime.  Granted, she was interesting in her own right as well as being part of a powerful family that was involved in a giant family feud with intrigue and multiple murder going on at about this time (the family troubles came to a head in 1563.)  Regardless of the reason, I'm excited to see it.

It is sad that her poetry didn't survive as well.  There is a volume of poems dedicated to her with poems by 31 OTHER poets, but only 3 sonnets and one longer piece survive.  Of the 3 sonnets, two are pretty specific to particulat historic persons. This is the other one.
                                      Sublime thought always
                                    unburdens my heart of other thought
                                    like the brilliant sun lightens dark clouds
                                    shows me the true path to heaven.

                                    This alone rules my breast
                                 and creates desire, forms rose and violet words,
                                 as changing as April
                                 under the majestic sun

                                    Now, if Heaven and Nature
                                  wish that the sun be within me
                                  who is powerful enough then to take it away?

                                     However much cruel Fortune might oppose this
                                  she can never challenge 
                                  the mindful care of heaven.

Translation and most of the information is from Irma B. Jaffe's book Shining Eyes, Cruel Fortune: The lives and loves of Renaissance female poets.  I can't recommend it enough.  Besides being a scholarly work that is easy to read, it includes art of a variety of types to give more insight into the poets. On top of which, it comes with a cd of the poems being read aloud in both English and the original Italian.

You're probably wondering what this has to do with the month I'm supposed to be devoting to pink-- other than something to distract me from carving.  Ummmm.  Okay.  Here's something. The other portrait of Isotta has her in pink.  Moroni painted her with ribbons in  her hair and pinkish fuzzy embroidered guards on her dress as well as that fun redwork partlet/ruffle combo.  Even better, for lovers of pink, is her husband Gian Gerolamo Grumelli's portrait.  The seated portrait of Isotta is thought to have been commissioned by Grumelli after her death in order to make a matched set with the one of himself.  The backgrounds do coordinate. His is by Moroni and is usually known as "Gentleman in Pink."
In private collection of Count Antonio Moroni.Image via

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Quartz dust in the hair is not to be recommended

I need to add a hat or scarf to my protective equipment. I started out working with the cutting wheel to remove some of the unwanted bulk at the back edge. I'm also cutting the rock into a few smaller pieces.  Vaguely toying with shaping and polishing them up and setting them into the pewter findings I'm hoping to cast to make the girdle belt.  That may be FAR too ambitious for the next two weeks, however.

I was a bit too overzealous and pushed the first wheel, rather than letting it work it's own way through the stone.  Hence the discoloration.  It will wash off, so that isn't an issue.  Other than the destruction of the cutting wheel.

 After the third day (and an interval of waiting for more wheels in the mail, when I upgraded) of cutting, I shifted to starting to do some shaping and some smoothing with my carving bits, just to hopefully make myself feel better about progress.  It isn't actually as bad as I just made it sound; I have limited time for carving due to the noise and the fact that I need to do it after the kids are asleep, so there is a little window between bedtime and the point when it is to loud.  We're also pretty close to our neighbors, so powertools after 9 is probably not the best idea.

The stone is smoothing nicely, and it at least feels good, even if it doesn't look much different yet.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Rose quartz zibellino

A dress was obviously not inspiring me.  I was getting sort of excited about couching an interlace pattern in silver on the green sleeves, but to do it the way I really wanted to, a month deadline was a bit tight.  Especially after wasting 2 weeks. So, I'm shifting gears and trying something a little wacky. 
I had seen this extant zibellino head carved from rock crystal on both Sable Greyhound and Oonagh's site.  Not much info is available on it, other than it is in the Thyssen collection in Zurich.  More recently, I found another view of it at Bridgeman Art, originally from Christies.  I've made 4 zibellinos at this point, and my excuse for making them from polymer clay was that I couldn't afford materials and I didn't have the skill.  I've had a piece of rose quartz kicking around the house for ages, and with the pink theme for this challenge, I started thinking about using it as a replacement for the clear quartz that is rock crystal.  Skill, well, that's probably still an issue, but I have the diamond drill bits I got to carve the signet ring and a Dremel tool, so I figured I really didn't have anything to lose but time.

I also had the reddish mink I had planned to make the pair of zibellini from for IRCC 2.  I rather like the redheaded mink and the pink.  Conveniently, my chunk of quartz is already close to the right size and sort of has a snoutlike pointy end.  Unfortunately, I'm not quite sure I'll actually get the shape I want since it is pretty thin on one side of that projection.  That's something that is still up in the air.
I started looking around for what it would actually take to cut quartz.  Basically, you need a diamond cutting blade/wheel as the stuff is pretty far up there on the hardness scale.  A respirator is needed since the dust isn't something that should be getting in your lungs.  Safety glasses are a must due to the dust, sparks, and glass like bits it throws off.  Coveralls are good so you're not getting hit by the shards and the dust.

I've worked with bone before, so I had equipment to stop the dust, and safety glasses.  I bought a set of diamond cutting wheels for my Dremel for $8 plus shipping. (Dremel doesn't sell them, but there are off brands that fit.)  A water wheel would have been nice, but I settled for working in a plastic box and swapping that out with mineral oil.  It seems to be working,  Mostly.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Supposed to be cutting out fabric

Instead, I'm fooling around with ganutell flowers again.  I got inspired by nosegays and hair ornaments like those in this 1590 Livinia Fontana.    I did start fiddling with my new crazy idea where I carve a head for a zibellino out of rose quartz to go with the dress.  First experiments will get posted some time this weekend.  And I'll post the fabrics if nothing else.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Waiting for a screen for my laptop

My kids cracked the screen on my laptop. so I haven't had computer access.  Should be fixed in another day or two.  In the meantime, here's a picture of me in the super quick dress I threw together for camping this past weekend.  I'd just finished teaching my class on Medieval soft drinks and we were down in the "grotto" with loads and loads of shade.

The bodice is a bit bigger than planned, somehow.  Luckily,  it is side laced so I can take a couple of inches out without much hassle.  I also did super minimal boning on this one, and I may want to add a few more bones back.  Or possibly another layer of felt or two.  The bones would be cooler, however, so they may win.  It was certainly comfortable, however.  I set up my tent in this and tromped all over the place with no issues at all.  I just need to make a few alterations so the bust stays put and I don't end up with a bit of the center front poking out.

Did I mention this is now referred to as my "Happy Meal Dress?"  Thanks go to my 5 year old who exclaimed when seeing the guards in the back (which are vaguely arch like)  "Mom!  You're a Happy Meal!"   I'm sure it was meant as a compliment.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I've been scrambling to finish up a basic red sottana with yellow guards for camping this weekend, and consequently have been doing lots of thinking about my next project but not much doing.  I'm planning to participate Bella's next Italian Renaissance Costuming Mini-challenge "Perfectly Period Pink."  It starts in 2 days, but I won't get started until after the weekend is over.

I will be up front with the fact that I don't wear pink.  Ever. I don't really care for pastels to be honest.  I did think about making something for my youngest daughter as she does look adorable in pink and there are some absolutely beautiful pink striped little girl's dresses in some portraits.  The problem is that if I made something for one child I would have to sew something for all four.  They just got some functional garb (I need to get pictures of the girls in their dresses and smocks and the boys in shirts, doublets, and Venetians.  They turned out rather cute, even if it was a rush job with a great deal of compromise.)  I also considered doing a fun fashion doll, possibly dressed in the black strapwork gown with pink underlayer like the one in this portrait of Margherita Paleologo.  I had far too much fun, in general, hunting for pink, as evidenced by the Pinterest board I created for it.

I then went digging in my sewing room.  So close to IRCC II, this absolutely had to be a stash project since I blew my crafting allowance.  Since I don't wear pink, I also don't really buy it.  I have a couple of things I picked up for the girls, but they're modern fabrics.  I did, however, have about 6 yards of a shocking pink linen I bought a couple of years ago on ridiculous clearance.  I think it was 97 cents a yard.  You don't leave linen at that price so I came home with about 20 yards.  I've used it as linings and interlinings and mockups for things and I'm down to just enough for a dress.  That basically settled me on doing a dress.  Not a a winning strategy for a mini-challenge where handwork is huge, but I have an event in November I can wear it to and deadlines are great things to have.

I also found a really fun silk with pansies that I thought would make a nice version of the Venetian take on the Ottoman coat.  I thought it had a bit of pink in it too, but on further inspection it is more mauve.  Especially up next to the eyepopping color of the linen.  So I kept looking, but kept the idea as a fall back plan.

Then I kept finding portraits of pink with green and realized I had some of the green textured linen I used for my stockings for IRCC I, and the drawers I made for that were this same pink linen.  The combo is pretty fun.  It certainly is not pastel.  And I started to think maybe I could like pink.  I'm going with the Moretto da Brescia portrait up top. I'm rather looking forward to it.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pleater needles are here!

I got a Read pleater last August at a garage sale and it has been sitting in a box since then because there were no needles.  Pleater needles are not the cheapest items around so I kept putting off buying them.  Then, one of the prizes for the IRCC (did I ever actually mention I won?) was a pleated and smocked camicia that I really, really, really wanted.  As it was pre-made I knew that there was no way it would possibly fit me as I am most definitely not a one-size-fits-most sort of person.  It did inspire me to want to make my own, however.  The prize I received as part of the IRCC was a chunk of money meant to purchase fabric donated by Lorna at The Tailor's Apprentice.  I wasn't sure what fabric I wanted right now as I have the fabric for my next few projects already, but Lorna was kind enough to tell me to buy "whatever makes your heart sing."  The only stipulation was that it not go for bills.  I decided pleater needles and a new fluffy smocked camicia would be fun so I went for it.  The rest of the money went to buying a melting pot for pewter so I can improve my casting of dress accessories, and some threads to start embroidering some drawers.  All in all, I'm over the moon about my prize.

I have to laugh a little, however, because the money was sent in Australian dollars, converted to US, and then became Australian again since that's where I had to order from.  They got here very quickly and the packaging was lovely, with some enclosed English steel handsewing needles in a variety of sizes as an extra.

They arrived this afternoon and I spent about an hour hunting for good pictures to explain how to change needles.  Then I put them in, threaded the thing up and held my breath.  IT WORKED!  I've got a random piece of linen in beautiful pleats now.  When my husband saw it he immediately put in a request for pleated cuffs on a new shirt.  Since the man never wants garb, as he rarely goes to events, I guess my next project is a smocked shirt.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Courtesans bullbaiting

Just sharing this because it makes me laugh.  Because, why wouldn't you wear a soaring ruff to chase cattle?  At least there's some good sense in bustleing the skirts. Not to mention that the pinked shoes are adorable.

Anyway, at least in Giacomo Franco's Habiti delle donne venetiane (dated 1591-1609) there's an association of bulls and courtesans. Not sure what the story is here, but I'm intrigued. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Dresses for my girls

I still need to make the smocks and the lacing rings, but I've pretty much got the girls' dresses done.  I put together a girdle belt for L so she can wear her zibaby from Sable Greyhound and then did a matching necklace and bracelet.  I'm running low on time, but I think I can still get the boys outfits done by Saturday. Cross your fingers.  The dresses are headed to the washer and then a solid ironing.  They'll look loads better on my cuties and I'm hoping to get pictures of the kids at the event.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Working on largesse

Our Province is hosting Kingdom Coronation Sept 1st and I decided it would be a nice gesture to put together a basket of items for Their Majesties to give out during their reign (or the next reign.)  Fast and easy is the watchword.  I'm working on some mini-pincushions and a few other things, but this is what I got done today.

I made stamped notecards and envelopes and did "Viking" necklaces based rather loosely on a Finnish necklace from Eura grave # 56, dated 1025-1050.  I still had a bag of Kuchi coins hanging around from when I danced American Tribal Style bellydance so they came together nicely. 

Dress for my oldest is coming along still.  Hoping to get both sottana's done tonight and be able to start the boys garb.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Baby sottana

My poor children are garbless.  The twins have never really had much other than a tunic I tacked together the day before the event, neither has my 4 year old for that matter.  My 8 year old hasn't had something made for her in quite awhile either.  Guilt has set in.  The only issue is that the event I'm sewing for is in 12 days and I have to make a bunch of largess, sew pennants for my local group's new fighting eric, plan children's activities, and sew for 4 little ones in that span of time.  Not to mention the first day of school for my 3rd grader and kindy boy and a few dentist appointments and such thrown in.  So it should make the IRCC look like a cakewalk.

I cut out kirtles for the girls today and jerkins for the boys.  There isn't going to be a sleeve in sight.  The kids aren't used to wearing that much clothing since they haven't done very many garbed events in the summer and it has been around 100 degrees lately so I'm going with lightweight stuff that looks kinda sorta okay.

This is E's, my youngest, sottana.  I took a jumper that fit her and used it as the base pattern.  It'll have lacing rings on the side and I'll whipstitch the shoulder seams together.  Cartridge pleating this small of an amount of skirt should be a breeze.  The bodice is a linen outer, a layer of cotton duck and a linen lining so it has a bit of shape.  I figure with the side lacing and ability to extend the shoulder seam as well as a large hem to let down she should get considerable wear out of it. 

My iron finally officially died after being babied along for some time so I need to replace that, do some pressing, and then I can finish this up.  I can't believe how fast bag lining and sewing for someone this small made this go.  I guess I need to make the kids garb more often.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

So what's next?

This week is actually more than a little crazy with my son's 5th birthday tomorrow and back-to-school shopping this weekend.  He's going to kindergarten and my oldest daughter will be in 3rd grade.  I'll have a couple of hours every day where it is just me and the twins. I'm looking forward to that.  I've also got to get us ready for Coronation Labor Day weekend since none of my kids have garb that fits.

I'm hoping to finally get around to making a version of the dress in this Titian portrait of Clarice Strozzi for my older daughter so she can wear her zibaby from Sable Greyhound.  I'll probably do one for my youngest as well.  Seems pretty straightforward and comfortable.  Probably too young for my 8 year old, but I don't think she'll care.  I need to make the boys something as well.  With the extreme heat, I don't think I'm going to worry too much about accuracy and just do them shirts, Venetians, and jerkins rather than full doublets.

I'm being lazy today, but should at least get the fabric in the wash tonight so I can cut something out tomorrow after the 5th birthday party.