Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tournament shield is complete

It was supposed to be a quick project, but it hasn't exactly been that. It has been an interesting and educational one though and I'm really glad I decided to make this.

The sanding didn't go as well as I'd hoped and I ended up having to rebuild the bottom set of points after they broke off. I also ended up adding a wood filler to the entire piece when the papier mache just wouldn't smooth and sand. I also added a bit of dimensionality to the cornucopia at the advice of my friend Marguerite. Sculpting with wood filler isn't exactly the best of ideas, in case you were wondering.

I spent some time reading  Cennino Cennini's Il Libro dell'Arte just because this is one of those interesting sorts of projects that artists would be called upon to do. Banners, embroidery designs, tournament shields, textile printing; it all had to be in the repertoire of the painter. I find the flexibility and scope fascinating.

The word impresa and the first emblem books are Italian, but my specific portrait reference is not, so I wanted to add a bit more Italian feel to my shield, so I referenced maiolica pieces when I added the scrollwork.

The piece I was most drawn to was this bowl by Maestro Giorgio Andreoli in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Dated 1530. The hearts, flourishes and scrolls are lovely as are the colors. I also like the putto with his pinwheel. Perhaps it is because I love toys, I'm not really sure.

The colors of maiolica with the bright blues and yellows really appeal to me and let me go a little nuts on the shield. I felt it was only fitting with a motto meaning "More is Better" that more be involved. The cornucopia was just a little too plain. I also added the Greek version of my name "Parascovia" on the horn itself.

I feel ready for battle now. On, on, to the couch to continue couching the cappotto. (It just doesn't have the excitement of a charge, does it?)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A challenge within the challenge

My friend Lady Maysun Nura al-Ishfahani al-Samarkandiyya decided yesterday to issue a challenge to the artisans in Artemisia to make a hat in the month of May. Beginning April 24th and continuing until the last day of May, the populous is challenged to make a hat, veil, headcovering, headfrosting, intricate hairstyle or some other kind of 'do. No prizes or judging, justfor fun and to stretch ourselves.

Conveniently, I was already planning  a bonnet to go with my cappotto. Everything was sitting in a pile to start it, just hadn't gotten going yet. So, I got going yesterday afternoon.

The extant Don Garzia cloak has a matching bonnet so deciding what style hat to make to match was pretty much a no brainer. I did briefly consider whether or not it would go with my outfit, but even if it doesn't go with the current dress, bonnets are very popular in 1540 Italian portraits on women. One of my favorites is this woman in bronze with lattice  partlet and feathered bonnet. Venitian School 1540. With the orange and blue, the cappotto and bonnet will coordinate with other parts of my wardrobe.

Super simple basic construction on this one. I followed the Sempstress tutorial for a cartridge pleated upper class hat but did it entirely by hand rather than using my machine. I did put a layer of wool felt into the crown. There are two layers of wool felt in the brim.

I may be the only woman in North America without a curling iron, so the feathers still need a bit of shaping and once I settle on my fan decoration I want to make a matching brooch for the hat, but other than that it is complete.

So, one more complete item, and I'm ahead of the game for Maysun's challenge. I've got a veil on my to-do list as well as a jeweled hair ornament so I might end up doing a few more headcoverings in May, just for good measure.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Poste revisited

I had a brain storm this morning while tying to decide what I wanted to do for the poste (sash.) Last time I made one I just hemmed a rectangle of silk and added tassels and pewter plaques. I keep throwing Luca Moia's definition of a poste from The Silk Industry in Renaissance Venice around in my head. "Poste: Silk veils related to sendals, sometimes made like a net, and usually worn around the waist as a belt."

The "sometimes made like a net," keeps getting stuck. There is this set of garters at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston dated 1575-1600, accession number 43.2001a. (The super cute pink and green ones.) They're made of silk using sprang.

Military officers (including George Washington) of the 18th century wore beautiful netted silk sashes made using sprang. . .

Various cultures in the Eastern Mediterranean islands as well as some Slavic groups still utilize sprang sashes as part of their traditional folk costume. . .

Am I completely up in the night here or might there be a connection? And if there is, do I want to pursue it? Making a silk sash using sprang is going to be a significant commitment of time and money, especially as I've only ever done tiny samples of sprang, nothing even approaching this magnitude. How crazy am I really?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bias tape and couching cord

In order to understand how actually exciting this post is, you have to understand that I detest ironing. Nothing in my house gets ironed except for those things that absolutely must be. That means clothing to be worn gets done maybe twice in a year and many things are topstitched that should not be so so that I can get away with finger pressing. That being said, I spent 2 hours last night ironing. There are now 25 or so yards of 1 1/2" bias in blue brocade ready to be attached to the cappotto. It is sort of a miracle brought on by my vanity goading my laziness. It is just going to look so pretty though and I know it will be worth it. Even if the half assed voice in the back of my brain keeps trying to convince me otherwise.

My mom taught me to do continuous bias when I was a kid. Large numbers of quilts happened at our house once we were all old enough to hold a needle. Quilting at our house was also usually stitching on whole cloth so the stitching was the important part of making a quilt. Anyway, that is the method I use for bias. A search will turn up plenty of tutorials if you need one. Basically you cut a square corner o corner and then reattach into a parallellogram, mark, sew into an offset tube, and start cutting. It is all one strip, which is rather nifty. You can calculate the size of the square to make just the right amount of bias, but I didn't really want to and have other places to use it if I have extra. I did a 60" square cut into 3" strips.

Somewhere in my sewing room there should have been bias tape makers but they were not to be found. Some stuff is still in storage, so they could, technically, not actually be there and the 3 hours I spent searching for them was not fruitless because I'm just a dope. I really hope that is the actual reason. Anyway, they didn't turn up and it was late and I was determined to finish this. Luckily, Margo Anderson had posted a tip a few days ago to the Elizabethan Costume Facebook group. If you take a large needle and stitch it through your ironing board cover twice, leaving your bias measurement in the middle, you can run the fabric through and it will fold. Press it as you pull through and it works about as well as the tools meant for the job.
And voila, there is a huge coil of bias.

 I pinned the first section in place and began couching. Finished one side of the front, which was my goal. I've divided it into 4 sections, because the vents already do that. Each section has 2 guards so it should (cross your fingers) be done in about 8 days. Then there's sleeves to couch and assembly. I'm shooting for a two week project. I hope.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cappotto begun

I drafted the pattern for my cappotto and got the cloak itself cut out. I have a basic sleeve drafted as well, but still haven't decided for certain if I want to do a functional sleeve or a hanging one so haven't cut that out yet. As you can see by my sleeve, I'm a lazy drafter. The reason I pointed it out though is because I wanted to share my favorite drafting material, especially for large/full projects like this one. I use a medium weight plastic drop cloth. They are nigh unto indestructible and great for tracing things on to because they are clear. Sharpies work great with them. They also have some drape so you can see at least part of how the garment will hang as opposed to butcher paper. I ran across this mural by Nicolo dell'Abbato
while looking for bonnets. The matching bonnets, particularly the lady in orange with her back to us, convinced me I needed to do the bonnet to go along with the outer layer. There should be extra of the blue-grey feathers I got for my fan to trim it.
Buttons and frogs are finished for this, so that is out of the way. I did the same raised rib type of button as those for my loose gown, but with 6 ribs instead of 8. I happened to have a ball of DMC Senso wool/cotton/metallic in a spice color that was a really near match to the fabric. I made 14 buttons and matching braided frogs. The loops themselves are knotted/buttonhole. I had thought to braid enough cord to use to couch the guards on, but I only had one ball and Senso has been discontinued. I'm going to use a basic gold cording instead. I cut the guards from a blue cotton brocade that is the same fabric as the cloak, just in a different colorway. I've been alternating ironing bias and sanding my tournament shield throughout the day.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Just a quick update

The kids have swiped the batteries from the camera for the remote control, so no pictures until tonight, but I've started sanding the tourney shield. Hoping to get some work done on it tonight after they go to bed. The other project I've got going is a cappotto/Dutch cloak based on the Don Garzia Medici extant piece. I finished the buttons for it yesterday. Fourteen goes much more quickly than 100 something. I'm doing simple braided frogs, with the loops formed by half hitches (would have been buttonhole stitch, but I tied them rather than stitched them) and they are almost complete, just 3 left to finish the second side of. Planning to cut the cloak and guards out tonight or tomorrow and get started on the couching. I just have to decide for sure on the couple of things I'd like to change. I'm considering doing a picadil on the shoulder rather than the wing in order to make it more feminine. I might also make the sleeves hanging, but do like having them functional. I'll be honest, I'd really have preferred to do a much fuller bag sleeve, or even the Neopolitan type that Katerina or Purple Files did on her cappotto, but I didn't want to make that many buttons after all the buttons I just made. Simple as that. The just 3 buttons per sleeve on the extant piece was very convincing for that reason. Still thinking about the picadils at the base of the neck. They're kind of weird but rather fabulous as well.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Impresa for the tourney shield

My impresa came together pretty quickly. I knew I wanted something very clearly rooted in the emblem books, rather silly, and totally appropriate to my current "tournament." I also wanted to very clearly follow Paolo Giovio's "Rules" for making an impresa from his 1559 Dialogo dell'imprese as listed by Ursula George after Alan Young's Translation in The English Tournament Impresa.

" There should be a proper proportion between soul and body [motto and picture].
The impresa should be neither so obscure that the Sibyl must interpret it, nor so obvious that every plebeian can understand it.
It should have a beautiful appearance, making use of stars, the sun, the moon, fire, water, green trees, mechanical instruments, strange animals, and fantastic birds.
It should contain no human form.
It should have a motto, which is the soul of the body, and should be expressed in a language other than the native language of the bearer, so that the meaning may be more obscure.
The motto should be brief, but not so much that it creates uncertainty. Two or three words may be enough, unless they are in the form of verse. "

I also wanted something that fit Praksedys' persona (the personality, not the Russian place and time) so I could possibly use it at a future point in the SCA. Between my tendency to create quantity and embrace color and Praksedys' love of pearls and over the top decoration, I settled on the concept of positive excess. Throwing a few wording options into translation software in a variety of languages and picking the one with the best ring to it gave me "Magis est Melius," the Latin for More is Better.

I had already been gifted with the idea for the perfect symbol by my friend Dame Kadrina Tanskalainen after she took my impresa class and was then forced to brainstorm about this on the way home since she had been my travel buddy to Collegium. A cornucopia seemed rather perfect. How perfect I didn't quite realize until I dug a little.

Abondanza, Abundance/Plenty, with her cornucopia is the very first emblem in Cesare Ripa's Iconologia, an emblem book first published in 1593. The symbol is as Classical as they come, often attached to a variety of Roman Ggoddesses or Dionysus on occasion. One of the original myths has it being created from a horn ripped by Zeus accidentally from his nannygoat wetnurse Amalthea. To make it up to her, he insured that it will always be full of the best foods for her.

There is a double cornucopia in the emblem for Fortune in Alciato's Book of Emblem's as well. It turns up constantly in decorative art and allegory. It has a solid pedigree for use in imprese all around.

So, I have a 3 word motto in Latin with a mythological symbol full of nature. Check, check, and check. If I draw it without the goddess we're clear on the no human figure (the rule is often ignored, but I was trying to be a good kid and follow it.) Balance is subjective, but it seems pretty reasonably matched, and because of the circumstance, the motto seemed pretty clear. Add a couple more checks and I think the rules are fulfilled. I should probably write a poem or compose a song just to be thorough, but visually the impresa is complete.

I'll get a scan of my drawing tomorrow. Hopefully, the shield will be done drying by then and I can start prepping it for paint.

In other news, I have finished the swatch for my knitted stockings so I can calculate the pattern. I also think I've settled on a camicia style. I'm going to put off the black pointed project until later. I want to do this dress next, and that camicia will be nice for that project I think.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Camicia ideas

I've been trying to get excited about the camicia. The two I currently own are nice, and I especially love the lace insertion on my first one. I had planned to make another with lace, as it is my favorite to wear. It just seemed that this was the opportunity to do something different, rather than making more of the same.

The problem is that I think the lace or plain camicias are what I need for the new gown, but it isn't what I want to make. What I want to make is a camicia with black points like this one painted by Bartolomeo Veneto.
Here's another similar one, again by Veneto, this one in a portrait of Beatrice d'Este from the early 1500's
Here's more of the cute little bows, this one by Raphael's "Woman in a Veil" (1515, and in the Pitti Palace)
And this one is Andrea Solario's "The Lute Player" about 1510 ish as well.

So, camicia I think is interesting. Wonderful. The fact that the style is far too early for my dress-- not so wonderful.

I think what my solution is going to be is to make it anyway. My next dress is going to be an earlier style and I have the two other dresses from the 1530's so it will get worn. I think I will remodel the plain camicia I made this winter and make it much less full so it can be worn under the gold dress I'm making and more wearable all around. That isn't a new item and won't count for the competition though. The black pointed one would be entirely new and I'd just swap camicias and wear it with a different dress. Hey, I swapped petticoats for my other dress. My gold one now goes under the Lotto gown and the salmon linen one I made for it is now worn with my red dress.

I'm going to sleep on it though. Maybe some brilliant idea will hit. Either way, I know that I eventually want a black pointed camicia.

Tournament shield in progress

After spending all the time researching impresa for my Collegium class I decided I really needed one. Also, possibly a tournament shield. Because it would be fun. Not to mention the fact that it would look awesome on my sewing room wall. Since I'm not doing bunches of fighting just yet, this is the type of tournament I enter just now. Additionally, I really liked the banner Christa Gordon made last year for the IRCC to take her pictures against. I think it added a great deal to the look of the presentation and it also made it really nifty to see her heraldry displayed that way and then find the bits of it used in the dress. Not sure that it counts towards my final point total, but it makes me happy anyway, so I'm making one.

I really love the tournament shield in this portrait of George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland as Queen's Champion to Elizabeth I (image is from Wikipedia.) The flourishes and fact that it is absolutely in no way functional make it so much better. The shape is also seen in Alciato's Book of Emblems which is the first of the published impresa. Here it is in emblem 19, an owl with the motto Prudens magis quam loquax "Wise but not wordy."

Tournament shields like this are meant to be ephemeral, and are made of papier mache or similar materials. There is a surviving pageant shield from 1470 in the Louvre by Antonio Pollaiuolo. It is carved gesso with guilding. Sort of like stucco built over an armature.

I decided to make mine from papier mache. As I intended it to hang on my wall, I wanted to keep the shape of the one in the painting of Clifford, but chose to only bend it forward, rather than having back curving sections as the one in the portrait appears to have.

I started by sketching my shape and cutting it out of brown paper to trace it on to the cardboard I was using as a base.

After cutting the cardboard to shape, I built a little bit of an armature from tin foil so I could build up the center for the dimensionality I wanted.

Then it was just a matter of covering it with papier mache and sculpting the shape I wanted. I used Celluclay, as I have previously used the product successfully. I know there are several other similar products on the market and I certainly could have made my own mixture, but I don't have much waste paper hanging around so I went with what was easy.

I just used my hands for the sculpting, no fancy tools involved. You'll notice the other fancy equipment-- I let this dry on my husband's desk and used some of his soda cans to prop up the edges so that they would curve properly.

It is going to take a few days for the papier mache to dry. Then I will sand it, prime it and begin painting and gilding.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

First project of IRCC II done!

After a full day of teaching at Collegium on Saturday, I didn't even try to start the Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge on day 1. I also knew I needed to do something on Sunday that didn't involve barricading myself in my sewing room. I needed something small so I could spend the day with my kids. Conveniently, I even had a project on my list that involved my husband. We spent the day playing with rings and making chain maille. Holly pointed out these beautiful bracelets that look to be a half Persian weave in Bronzino's 1550 Portrait of a Lady. Like anything else, once you see something you keep seeing it. Here's a set painted by Veronese in the Portrait of Isabella Canossa. She's even wearing a ladder lacing. There are more here, here, here, and here. So, basically, they're everywhere. I decided I needed some.

I made another set with a different weave for the ACC with rings I made myself on my husband's mandril (which I actually made a few years ago for a Christmas present for Gandhi with the help of my dad.) The first set was just random wire I had hanging around so I could learn the technique. I wanted to do a shinier set with the more complex weave that were nicer. I used 16mm jump rings which I thought would be perfect. Gandhi informs me that it would be better if the wire was thicker and the ratio of the size of the ring to the gauge of the wire was smaller. The weave would be tighter in that case. I freely admit I probably wouldn't have managed to make these as painlessly as I did if my long suffering husband wasn't sitting right next to me keeping me in line and sorting out my mistakes. At one point I had put the bracelet down and picked it up in the wrong direction and completely confused myself.

I used a plain toggle for a clasp rather than the fancier pearl clasps I'd planned to use. The more ornate clasp was just too fiddly to open. I may keep looking for something fun, but right now the toggle is functional and unobtrusive and I'm happy with them.

Other than that, I cast on the stockings and started knitting. I'm a super duper slow knitter so getting started now seemed the best plan.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Just over 11 hours to go

Countdown to IRCC II starting No running start for me since I'm teaching at Collegium all day and don;t see myself staying up late to sew, but Sunday morning I'm planning to get going bright and early. Hooray, I'm so darn excited!

Bouquets of buttons

Just in case you wanted to see what a hundred or so hours of button making results in. Doesn't really seem like much. . .

Still need to finish making all the frogs that match them. One day I really will finish this loose gown. I hope.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spent the day working on my Impresa class

You gotta love the Rainbow Portrait. Elizabeth I in masque costume declaring that there are no rainbows without the sun. Herself, of course, being the sun.

I became entranced by emblems and impresa and other types of badges and temporary heraldry ages ago, but Michael Bath's book Emblems for a Queen about the emblems in Mary Queen of Scots embroideries really solidified my fascination. Ursula George's article on Impresa convinced me I needed to devise my own and spread the word so other people would make them too. The class I'm teaching follows along with her article pretty closely. It's just that good, clear, and concise. My presentation has several of the portraits she links to, a generous selection of my favorite emblems from Alciato's Book of Emblems (I love the fact that you can put the Latin and English on facing pages for comparison) and another big helping of images from Claude Paradin's Emblems Heroiques (the English translation)

If you have any desire to read my goofy newletter article introducing impresa, particularly in reference to Mary's embroideries, you can read it here. One more class to add to my A&S 50 challenge.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Interesting lacing detail

My husband's favorite painter is Caravaggio. I would like to say that is the reason I was intrigued by this painting; Judith beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio dated 1598, located in the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome. It is a fabulous painting with the deep contrasts. I'd like to say that. Honestly though, I like it because of the interesting lacing detail of her bodice.

Anyone else have the issue of the extra fullness of a camicia being held up only by the tightness of bodice lacing? I try to do mine nice and full and, as a result, have the problem seen in many portraits. If the bodice isn't fully tight, the camicia is exposing all kinds of important bits. Judith has her open bodice unlaced and has the laces stretched across holding up the camicia. Seems like a practical sort of thing to do. Wonder if that is at all influenced by the probably model? Fillide Melandroni, the Roman courtesan, probably posed for Judith. Random thought, but I love the little bows on the pearl earrings as well.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Shopping and zombie bunnies

As I have not forced you too to revel with all that is wrong as regards the event I just stewarded, I figured I'd let you see the zombie bunny pouches I made as prizes for the various tourneys. I had one of our scribes (who is a very good sport) design a plague stricken rabbit and then I appliqued and embroidered it on wool and linen. Why a bunny you ask? The reason is twofold: the proximity of the event to Easter, and the number of children that are a part of our Province, thus making rabbits an unofficial mascot. Besides, bunnies are less gross and more heraldic than regular zombies.

The even was loads of fun and rather educational if I do say so myself. We had a full day of classes on various topics relating to the theme. I taught a class on jewelry designed to keep away evil, there was an overview class of the myths in a variety of cultures involving undead and another on ghosts and ghost type stories. One of my teachers took the opportunity to look at Norse views of death. Another introduced us to the Welsh Mabinogion, a poem that goes at least back to the 6th century and possibly the Bronze Age. There are several stories in it involving people that don't die-- both warriors thrown into a cauldron and a head that laughs and tells stories for 77 years after death until the wrong door is opened. There was a wonderful class on the imagery of the Dance of Death that included a fun group participation segment where people read the various levels of society and their poetic response to death. Lots of literary references being thrown around to be honest. I was really pleased with the creativity of the classes and how different they were. Also, how silly some of the event was and how much fun was had, but how there were still lots of serious educational moments. We also had a fabulous turnout for the bardic with some great historically accurate ghost stories.

I know several people were dubious about my theme when it was announced, but I appreciate everyone who went with me and trusted that I wasn't completely off my rocker and that the undead would be a reasonable "Mystery" to explore.

In other news, I have been shopping. I've been looking at blue brocades for days, trying to figure out what I wanted for the jacket. I was thinking I wanted something in the teal blue, but this one grabbed me. I don't normally wear black, opting instead for brighter (and more obnoxious) colors, but I bought this one. Still no idea why, but I think it is going to be gorgeous. I also bought 40 or so ostrich feathers. I wanted to get the giant sized ones, but my budget wasn't so thrilled by the prices, so I've got 10-12" ones coming. I am telling myself that I already have the peacock feather fan that is sort of like a war mace in its size and heft, and a smaller fan isn't a bad thing. I couldn't decide between bright blue or white, so I split the difference and got a soft grey blue. Things are shaping up to be classy and elegant-- I'm wondering how that happened?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I think I want shoulder ruffs

I also think I adore Francesco Montemezzanno. Most of the very late period portraits I've found that I want to make anything from seem to be either him or Veronese with one of two Robusti thrown in. The one up top is one of Montemezzano's. The image is from the Federico Zeri Foundation online photograph library at the University of Bologna. It is tentatively listed as a portrait of Eleanora Gonzaga. Regardless of who it is, the dress is gorgeous.

The Maggi illustration is dated 1571. It has the falling ruff and is too early for shoulder ruffs. I really think I want to push things a little later though and go crazy and do the full blown standing ruff with the shoulder ruffs even as I keep the Maggi color scheme. As most people who know me know, I'm not really a subtle person. The giant open ruff with accessory ruffs is rather appealing. Maybe even going larger than the Montemezzano and doing stacked ruffs or a supportasse. I have absolutely no idea how I will accomplish it, but as I am out on a ledge anyway with the dress design and fit, adding crazy accessories seems the way to go. Also, as I have found with my giant Russian hats, if you are wearing something like that no one really looks at the rest of your outfit much.

I'm not sure I can do the spiral sleeve if I do the shoulder ruffs though and I kind of love them. On the other hand, the Montemezzano has a beautiful stomacher type insert which could bring the blues in if I were to do it right. I'd also get to play with buttons and tab tops to the sleeve if I followed the Montemezzano. It still has the squared guards so the dress itself is pretty similar. For that matter I could do two sets of sleeves and a falling ruff and wear it without a stomacher or the shoulder ruffs and have 2 different looks with one dress. That is certainly an idea. . .

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Gold and blue. I have a bunch of gold and blue that will hopefully become a dress. Once I bought the gold brocade at less the $4 a yard and my nifty blue silk ribbon for trim, I had to match them. Turns out I really like this blue apparently and had a few things lurking in my stash in the same color that I think will work. I bought a bunch of robin's egg blue linen about two years ago on deep clearance and it is going to either be lining or a petticoat or possibly drawers. It will most certainly be involved somewhere. I was considering it for the short jacket/jerkin ala Montemezzano's "Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel that I want to make, but I think I'm going to splurge on a silk brocade instead. The jacket will take such little fabric compared to any other article of clothing, that it seems the place to go nuts and buy something great.

I have several balls of silk/bamboo yarn that I picked up when I was buying crochet cottons for making buttons and frogs for the loose gown. I will finish it. Eventually. In the meantime, I think the yarn will find its way into either stockings or woven garters. It is a bit deeper than the ones I'm using for the trims for the loose gown and the soft texture isn't really what I wanted for the frogs. It should make lovely knit stockings though. The only issue is if I have time to knit them.

In the center there, is the discarded thumb of one of my first attempts at gloves. I had a soft icy blue pigskin suede to do my gloves for my Lucretia gown. I wasn't really happy with how the first pair turned out, but I still have a good portion of the side left and the leather actually matches this dress better anyway. I'm going to give glove making another whirl and stop trying to cut corners and use my machine and see if I like what I come up with better.

I bought the jasper beads a couple of weeks ago when the gem faire was in town. I picked up the swarovski crystals first, then pulled out the swatches and realized how off they were colorwise. The jasper has a marbling of gold and is just perfect. I may still use some of the crystals though. Even if Fia does say they look like they belong at the Country Music Awards. I need to pick up more pearls for sure, and will be disassembling my pearl girdle and re-doing it completely and maybe mixing some of its bits and bobs in with the blues. Not really sure what I'm doing with jewelry yet to be honest. hopefully once I stare at beads and findings something will gel.

The little red minks are going to be something different. I have been staring at Tawny Sherrill's article "Fleas, Fur, and Fashion:Zibellini as luxury accessories of the Renaissance" in Medieval Clothing and Textiles II and looking for inspiration.I already have the two regular zibellini and wanted a fur, but didn't want to just make another one just like I already had. I have pretty much settled on doing a matched set of zibellini to be worn around the neck. There are no images of them, but there are listings in inventories. I considered trying my hand at carving a rock crystal head, but the price of the quartz in that size, especially if I were to mess it up, dissuaded me pretty fast. Haven't decided if I'm going to do Sculpy again or try something new. I really wold like to try some repousse and chasing and form the heads out of sheet metal, but that might be a pipe dream.

Still need to pick up loads of things, not least of which is white linen and laces for underthings and ruffs, but it was nice to pile everything together and feel like I had at least a start.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Deciding on a dress.

You know how it is; so many dresses, so little time. The above "Portrait of a Lady" by Prospero Fontana held in the Museo Davia Bargellini in Bologna has been calling me for some time. The image here is from Anea's site because the only other images I could locate are black and white. The painting is actually flipped from this and she's looking in the opposite direction. There's an interesting discussion of the imagery of this portrait in Patricia Phillipy's book Painting Women: Cosmetics, Canvases, and Early Modern Culture. Her 3/4 turn to the right is part of the symbolism of her chastity and status as a good wife. Her zibellino, ruby necklace, and the flowers on the table add to that. I've quite obviously been having too much fun learning the conventions of Italian portraiture in preparation for my class at Collegium later this month.

I was all set to do this portrait dress for IRCC II and had it in the back of my brain for most of the winter. I love the intricate pinking and the fabulous sleeves. The color is very different from the two dresses I have. There's even a hat. Then I started second guessing the underbust cut. I've got a pretty generous bust and am rather lopsided and being held in place by just a partlet is rather worrisome. So I talked myself out of it and never got around to buying the green velvet for it.

Then, I got an amazing deal on a really pretty rosy gold colored brocade and bought the whole bolt. Primarily because I have no restraint when it comes to sales, and not in fact because I wanted a gold dress. In point of fact, I probably don't want a gold dress. Not because gold isn't pretty, but basically every late Italian persona in the Kingdom of Artemisia has a gold gown. There are some truly lovely gold gowns. Several totally fabulous ones actually. As I enjoy doing things differently, that isn't really a good place to start for me. Then, I found 60 yards of vintage silk twill ribbon in a scrumptious peacock blue. For no particular reason I became obsessed with it. While I was considering its purchase, I found this picture on Angela Bacci's site from the Travels of Carlo Maggi. It's a gold dress. With spiral sleeves and an interesting hem treatment all done in a thin blue. I bought the ribbon.

And with that, I seem to be committed to making a dress way outside my comfort zone. I'm doing an open front Venetian. Every example I see painted has them further off the arms than I'm really comfortable with and about halfway down the bust and low in the back. Add to that the open front, pointed back, conical shape and low point and I'm more than a little concerned that my body is just not going to work for this. If I was mildly disturbed by the underbust, I'm biting my nails over doing a full on Venetian style. The fitting is going to be so critical. I wish I weighed at least 100 pounds less. But, I'm going to try it anyway. If it doesn't work, there's a couple of other dresses I have my eye on and I can certainly buy more fabric if I have to, but I've got the bit in my teeth just now and am being stubborn and contrary and am in a "what the hell" mood. Nothing lost by giving it a try and maybe I'll be pleased by what happens. I've been nothing but pleasantly surprised by my other Italian costuming adventures. It will be another learning experience regardless of what happens.

Tomorrow I'll get some pictures of my fabrics and talk about some of the design choices I'm thinking about.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Signed up for the IRCC II and updating A&S 50 projects

My event went really well yesterday. I think everyone that could attend had a good time, and we had wonderful turnout for classes. I learned a great deal in the moments I was able to carve out to attend classes. As a result, I now am excited to go read a 6th century Welsh epic and a couple of Norse sagas. Fighting went well, people had a good time playing our scavenger hunt and the bardic was so jam packed we ran out of feast (though not food) before we ran out of entertainment.

While everything else was going on, I also managed to snap a few pictures of some of the tokens I made for part of my challenge. The first is a bunny bag for my friend Lady Kristine Ragnaldsdottir,called the Killer Rabbit. It it both based on her heraldry and the Rabbit of Caerbannog from Monty Python. That in turn is based on an incident in one of the Medieval French tale of Reynard the Fox. There is an incident of a hunter bragging of his escape from a fearsome rabbit. He spits in its eye and escapes to the tale. The passage is embroidered around the edge. The terrifying teeth made from rice pearls make me giggle every time I see it. Kristine has had the bag for about 3 years now, but I keep not getting a picture so made it a point to take one yesterday.

The other goofy favor from yesterday is a set of folly bells I made to be a protege belt for Lord Michael McCraney. The base is a black linen embroidered with polka dots. I appliqued a white felt cow to yellow wool and it is stitched in place with a herringbone stitch. The cow and the herringbone stitch match Dame Kadrina Tanskalainen's gown I made the trim for when she received her Pelican (it is another one of my 50 favors.) There are 24 bells going down the side. Kadrina said she will probably give him a larger cow bell to act as a weight on the end "when he deserves it." I actually made 2 basically identical sets of bells so she can have one for another protege when she's ready to take a second. I love the cow rampant and the cow bells. I also like the challenge of making something silly still be beautiful, elegant, and meaningful to the people involved; even as we don't take ourselves too seriously.

In other news, I sent in my entry for the IRCC II this morning as soon as I saw the announcement. It had been 6 hours since Bella opened sign-ups, so I'm far from the first. There are already 2 on the entrant's page and who knows how many in Bella's inbox. Hope there's room for me to play. I've started planning what I want to do, but keep second guessing myself. I want to do the Venetian open front style and am seriously concerned about how it will work on my figure, but we'll see. It will certainly be a fun adventure.