Saturday, June 30, 2012

Pictures of me in my underwear

Underwear is almost done! I have given up on getting the knitted stockings done in time, so I'm going to make a quick pair of linen ones and I need to finish up my camicia, but I'm getting close to being able to start the dress. I'm so excited!

For still unknown reasons possibly having something to do with recent weight loss and my general squishiness, the corset came out far too big. I trimmed off  6 tabs total and reassembled it and it is much closer now, but could probably stand to be taken in more. Right now it is super duper comfortable and I'm thinking I might want it a bit tighter. Especially since I'm losing weight right now and don't plan to wear the dress until December.

I made quite a few adjustments from the Effigy stays. I moved the seams to the sides since my body couldn't take the extreme shaping from the back seams. I also cut the back low instead of the high racer back of the Elizabethan bodies in order to work with the low back of the Venetian style. The long straps curve around to sit on the bottom of the shoulder. I know many people solve this problem by doing away with straps altogether, but I felt I needed the support. They're pretty much where I want them to be, but a little more fussing might be necessary after I saw what happened when I turned to show the back.

I'm really happy with how the petticoat turned out. It is flame orange dupioni silk lined in dark peach linen. The guards are the same canvas used in the corset, and they are edged in red grosgrain ribbon to echo the pigskin binding on the bodies.  Vecellio mentions farthingales being used in Italy in the 1590's and I did consider making one since the dress is such a late period style. I also had planned to do rope or wool felt in the hem at the very least. After I got the guards on, however, I decided the 5 rows of canvas and 10 rows of ribbon had given me enough stiffening. Additionally, I'm thinking about making matching sleeves and wearing this under a jacket in the English style as Laura Mellon mentions here and shows here.  Getting an extra outfit seemed like a fine idea and I love the color of the petticoat so getting to show it off is fun.
 My camicia from last year is far too open for this, so I'm cutting out a much less full one tonight and starting on that. I do think I'm going to do another lace inserted one though. I have a plain camicia but I always seem to wear this There's just something about the lace that makes me feel great.

I still need to decide on stocking color and if it will match the petticoat or the drawers. Might go with the former because the knitted stockings are blue and I will eventually finish them. Just not in the next month while sewing a dress.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Somebody needs to convince me to do some work

Sorry about the lack of updates. I've been staring at hairpins that need final filing, a pair of bodies that needs a lacing, a petticoat that is half pleated, a fan that needs some gluing, and a Dutch cloak that needs couching and then not working on anything. I'm grumpy, the kids are bored and grumpy, it is really hot,  and the air is pretty thick with smoke from fires (not too close, thank goodness.)

I'm promising myself that I'll take pictures of the bodies tomorrow, even if the matching petticoat isn't complete and talk about how it somehow or another ended up too big and freaked me out. I got it fixed, but I think the panic involved in that is another reason I can't get going. Got derailed a bit and not recovering for some reason. I don't have time to be this moody. The dress isn't even started yet. Ack!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hair pins

17th century copper alloy bodkin/hairpin

Anyone else super excited by the recent Catherine de Medici hair pin find for reasons other than the fact that is was found in a communal toilet? I was really thrilled, both by the interlocking initials (beating Coco Chanel to it by several centuries) and the fact that it apparently has some enamel coloring to make it green and white for Catherine's heraldry.

I had loads of fun last year making my hairpins based on the 16th century Venetian example held in the Met. I've worn them quite a bit and was excited to make more hair jewelry but hadn't really found anything in portraits I was excited by that wouldn't require major lapidary skills I do not possess.

Seeing the Catherine de Medici pin with its interlocking initials and hints regarding the enamel that make it green and white to match her personal colors got me excited. So, I went browsing to see what other 16th and early 17th century pins I could turn up. I found several at the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Granted, they're English, but there is some interesting stuff. I really liked this rectangular early 17th century pin. The issue is it might be Flemish and more likely something worn by a working class woman as a bride or to a festival. I like this more ovoid one as well but  it runs into the problem of whether it is a dress accessory rather than hair jewelry. Not that things have to be all or nothing. The bodkin pictured above is from the Wiltshire Heritage Museum.  They have the probability that it might have found use as a hair ornament as part of the item's description. I know I certainly cross uses with my textile tools and jewelry. They all find their way into my hair at some point. My fancy beaded crochet hooks probably get used as hairsticks more frequently than for making afghans. Not to mention the fact that my favorite handcarved dymondwood hairstick gets used more often than not as an awl for eyelets. It has a wonderful taper and is just a little bit larger than my stilletto and the awl that was purchased for the purpose of lacing holes.

So, pretty hairpins are on the agenda. The only question is, in what form? I could do something with beads and wire again. I've also got some nice headpins that wouldn't need much modification. Then there's casting. I've got enough space to carve something on the soapstone I've got and I just ordered two pounds of pewter that will be here in a couple of weeks. The issue is whether or not I have the patience to wait that long.

In other news, the binding on the bodies is done and I've got the petticoat cut and the long seams sewn. I need to attach the canvas guards, determine if I'm going to add rope channels, and get it pleated into the waistband. Not to mention loads and loads of eyelets to do on the bodies.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Progress on the bodies and the needlelace cuffs

 Seems like I've been working on this pair of bodies for far too long. I've got one of the front sections complete and all of the tabs bound on the back as well as one of the straps. Just keep plugging away it and it has to get done eventually, I guess. My finger tips are not enjoying the leather binding.  I like the clean finish it makes however. Another couple of days on the binding and I should be able to move on to all the eyelets for the front fastening on on the tabs in order to attach the skirt so it is actually a petticoat.

I took a little break from the corset yesterday in order to try out an idea I had to make the free standing cuffs I talked about back here. Since then I found a couple more pairs of cuffs. This one is in the Royal Ontario Museum and besides having adorable animals, it has beads! They have it dated between 1566 and 1599.
Image from Wikipedia

The Met has a more square pair that are Spanish that have some similarities to the Italian ones as well. There are a number of other similar pairs dated 17th century, but with no more exact date, so I am sticking with linking the 16th century cuffs. Three extant pair found quickly and easily made me feel pretty confident that this wasn't an idea out of left field. Every Italian dress I've seen done by someone else seems to just have a bit of lace tacked to the edge of the bottom of the sleeve so I hope I'm not making a big mistake here. I know the English certainly had stand alone sleeve cuffs. The portrait of Margaret Layton wearing her famous jacket (waistcoat) has a lovely pair. I was actually thinking I could add my cuffs to the list of items I can swap into the English outfit to be made later.

Anyway, back to the idea that was niggling at the back of my brain. I got the cuffs cut out to the shape I wanted. I cut bits from the scrap left after cutting the stomacher, so getting the figures centered wasn't happening. It is most certainly reticella though and I think the look is fine. There is also the brown spot on one of the birds/dragons/gryphons/whatever which is what made this table runner the deal that it is (in addition to broken brides.) I figured I'd try a little bleach on the one spot later and, at the very worst, the spot is under my wrist so won't really be seen.

My original plan had been to handstitch the cuff edges for stability. Then I looked at all the other handstitching projects I had going in the next two months and laughed myself silly. Yeah. Not going to happen. I still wanted cuffs if I could manage it. So, my brainstorm was to try a similar technique with my sewing machine to how machine embroiderers make freestanding lace made from nothing more than thread.  I hand tacked the cut lace into place on a tear away stabilizer and used a satin stitch along the lines of the edges. I think with a couple of washes the cotton thread should blend a bit. I still need to do the handwork: bars for the fastening and tiny pearl buttons.

BTW, some machine embroiderer should totally digitize some of the lace designs in the modelbuchs. Can you imagine being able to buy custom lace that was the real pattern rather than something that sorta kind looked okay?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Complete fan (at least for a minute or two)

This is documentary evidence that my fan was complete. The feathers are a bit unruly, but for the most part I was pleased and took a picture. Then my boys (ages 4 and 2) got their hands on it. Apparently destroying my IRCC projects is a habit for my son. I thought it was up high enough, but they're climbers and it was sparkly and important to me so they had to have it. I was in the other room fixing dinner and came in to them using it to hit a ball around the living room. One had it and the other had my new parasol I got for Mother's Day at the Renaissance Faire and planned to paint. That's broken too.

So, now there's a long crack in the back of the part that holds the feathers in and it doesn't hold the feathers in so well. After staring at it for quite some time, I've come to the conclusion that if I go ahead and mount the feathers on cardboard or leather or something I can insert it into the fan handle and glue it inside the pocket so there's no functional stress on the handle. I've got a small mirror I had considered attaching to the back of the handle anyway and it should cover the crack. I'd say that's tomorrow's project but I'm still a bit riled up about it so I might wait a day so I don't make it more of a mess than it already is.

As for the parasol, they pulled one of the struts out of one of the ribs. They're bamboo with a small wire pin and they pulled the pin through the bamboo, leaving a groove. I can either push it back in and wood putty the damage or drill a new hole close to the original. That's also going to wait a day.

Just to reassure you, both boys are still alive.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Intaglio signet ring

No pictures of the finished fan yet. Primarily because it isn't finished. I've been having some kind of crisis about whether or not I really want to gild it. Whether or not I want to add peacock feathers to the blue ostrich feathers and whether the crystals are a good idea. Maybe I should add pearl drops to hang from the gryphons' claws. (The questions continue but they become silly past this point.)

 Anyway, I've been having design freakouts and had to set it aside for a little while. On the plus side, the way in which I split the top back works absolutely perfectly for inserting the feathers. they just slid right in and I could play around with arranging them really easily. No elaborate pad and paddle with oodles of glue like the other fans I've done. These hold in nicely and yet can be removed if I want to.

On  less crazy note, on to the project I did finish today. The intaglio signet is done. It even works! I cheated and used some new diamond tip carving/engraving bits I just got for my Dremel tool to do the last little bit rather than the hand files I used for most of it. Just zipped through it. Much harder to control though, especially as I have the one speed tool rather than the variable. Upgrading to the variable speed is high on my wish list. I just used the diamond tip to deepen the existing lines a little more to make certain I'd get a good impression for stamping. It took maybe 10 minutes. Which was sort of a let down after the hours I'd spent with the emery slurry and hand files. I like having the new tools though. Especially as I'm going to start on the rosary next and have a bunch of glass pebbles to drill holes through.

Once I was satisfied with the depth of the intaglio I decided to set it. As I don't have the skill or tools to do my own bezel setting (that's on the list with casting for things I want to learn that will take me years to be proficient at) I just put the carved gem on to a ring setting I'd picked up at Joann's. Also sort of anti-climactic, but this is a first attempt and I figure I've got to start somewhere. The jasper is curved on the bottom and I'm not a big fan of glue anyway, so I used plumber's epoxy so I could settle the stone down into something. It was a little too small for the setting and I needed to cover the black of the epoxy, so I pushed some tiny glass pearl beads into the excess putty at the edge. The nifty thing about that is the pearls show up in the impression if the matrix is deep enough and I like the look. The blue, gold, and pearls also coordinate nicely with the other jewelry pieces.

It worked!

I about lost my mind in the few minutes it took to bake this, sure that something would go horribly wrong and it would explode or something. It's out of the oven and cooling now and my heartrate has dropped back down to normal. Just need to gild it, jewel it, and add feathers.

Lots of things I'd do differently, not least of which are a) not do a human figure and therefore a human face and b) make the whole thing quite a bit smaller. It rivals the turned table leg that is the base of my peacock fan for size. I'm sort of thinking I may need to get a few really big ostrich plumes to go with what I already have, but we'll see.

Come on silly thing, cool down so I can play!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

More of the same

Another fan update. I'm always so tentative about doing ART projects rather than craft stuff so the going is slow. I did, in fact, put the forelegs with curled talons along the sides. I love how it looks, but it left a large chunk of open space between the braided border of the central medallion and the gryphon heads. Not sure what to put there yet. I tried a few things, including flourished seeblatter like on the bottom but it didn't work shapewise. I tried a different type of border around the central medallion as another option but it made the gryphons get really lost and the border became the star. Not really the look I'm going for.

I decided to move on and rough in the Amazon. Depending on what I do with her hair in the frog below the central medallion I think the upper might blend. Or maybe inspiration will hit and I'll have a brilliant idea for what to put into the empty space. Nothing worse than empty space.

I have decided I need to do something further with the Apres. It is a little squished anyway right now from getting knocked as I smoothed and worked with the back of the handle, but in general I think it is too cartoony in contrast to the gryphons. Maybe some muscle modelling will help. Not sure. It certainly needs something.

I'm playing around with adding some swarovski crystals in blue and considering some pearls as well so I set these on to see how it might look. It might be a bit over the top. But who knows. The entire project is a might bit crazy. I'm going to keep fiddling with it and see what happens. Hopefully it will be done in the next couple of days and I can pop into the oven.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Progress on the fan

Not really much to see, but after resculpting the gryphon on the right five different times I wanted to get a record of the wings and faces before I screwed them up again. I'm just not very good at symmetry. Considering I haven't had an art class since junior high school though, I don't feel too terrible about how it is going.

I'm planning to do a twisted rope around the central medallion to set it off and I need to do some sort of flourish about midway down on the sides in order to get the correct shape. Considering a curled claw/foreleg. Maybe. I also need to do some work up between the wings to echo the bulb at the bottom of the handle and reiterate the seeblatt.

I spent a couple of hours couching gold cord on the cappotto this morning as well. Anyone remember that? It's been crumpled in a pile next to my couch as I've ignored it for several weeks. There was some serious consideration of just ripping off all the gold cord since it just doesn't lay like I want it to. Plain guards would go on much faster and then I could just finish the thing. The little bit of gold really does pop though so it is still there. I'm determined to keep plugging away at it. I'm bound to finish eventually. Of course, I said the same thing about the never-ending loose gown. . .

Sunday, June 10, 2012

More extant tourney shields

I was browsing the Met last night and came across some more tournament shields as well as some decorative parade and pageant shields. Like anything else, once you're aware of something you start seeing them. My tourney shield project got me looking and now I'm starting to see them pop up. The one to the left is German, dated about 1500 with a fabulous owl. The motto translates to "Although I am the hated bird, I rather enjoy that." How's that for a thumb your nose at 'em declaration!

There is something sort of whimsical about the entire piece to me and I can't nail down why. The quartered arms and image with the looping ribbon certainly are perfect for what  imprese should be. Maybe it's just the expression on the owl's face. Or maybe it's just my personal biases. The shield itself is linen, leather, wood, gesso and paint.
There's another fabulous German one with similar materials from about fifty years earlier. It's motto is "Take me as I am." The face of the woman is really lovely.

I found a couple of other pageant shields in the Metropolitan's collection which were lovely art in and of themselves. The second one made me especially happy. It is 1580's Italian with a lovely gold color background and floral decoration. While it is not an imprese type shield, it is meant for display and the motifs on it made me feel like the maiolica inspired enthusiasm of my decoration might not be as out there as it seems.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sent in my update for June

I kept hoping to finish more to have it to report so I've been procrastinating my update to Bella for the IRCC II but I finally just bit the bullet and sent it in today. Figured I should do some updating here too. Most of the last week has been spent working on a pair of Effigy style (ish) bodies for the petticoat bodies. I drafted them correctly the first time with the long angled seams in back, but it wasn't working with my body so I adapted the back from my side back lacing bodice pattern and put a seam at the side, then kept the shape of the Effigy from there forward. It doesn't have the dramatic shaping from the back seam, but since most of my intent is for smoothing and structure I think this will work just fine.

The fabric choices are kind of funny. I've been dithering over what I wanted to use and have gone shopping several times and come home empty handed. I actually pulled this canvas from my junk pile for use as a mock up. It was a $1.50 table find. I made it into a coat awhile back, but it has issues with fading when washed. Since the corset and silk skirt won't be washed in that manner I think it actually works great for this project. The firey orange silk was a gift from Maestra Bianca da Ravenna a couple of years ago. It's one of those fabrics that doesn't quite go with anything so it has been sitting in my stash, but it somehow matches the crazy red and orange of the canvas. I'm going to do wide guards to tie it in further. I've got the stays boned (130 bones/two packages of 36" duct ties later) and am cutting the binding now. I'm using a really soft red pigskin suede that I had originally planned to make embroidered Rus boots with. That keeps getting back-burnered so I decided to go ahead and use it rather than hoard it and replace it later if I got around to the boots. Working on the binding is this week's project and then I'll move on to stitching the far too many eyelets for the front lacing and the points at the waist tabs to tie on the skirt.

As you can see, work on the fan continues. I pulled off the clay ring from the bottom and intend to replace it with an eyebolt screwed into the wood armature so it will be more sturdy for hanging. I got the Apres sculpted in in the center medallion and blocked in the gryphons on the side. I've been fiddling with the Amazon a bit, trying to figure how to make her work on the back of the handle rather than just being plopped down on the front. The last attempt got pulled off, but I think I'm getting closer. The armature is just too wide, but it is too late to fix that so I'm adapting to it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sculpting the fan

Lelio Orsi Design for fan handle 1526-87 Via
I've been turning this idea over and over in my head, trying to figure out how to make it happen. I really want to take a step forward and do something more exciting than the turned wood, dowels, and pressed wood filigree I've done in the past.  I found several drawings of designs for Italian fans that are just shatteringly beautiful, including the one to the left that is in the British Museum. They were major luxury items at the time involving skill and a great deal of gold. I got the harebrained idea that I would cast one in pewter and then gold leaf it. That was a delusion of grandeur I'm afraid.  Loads of research on lost wax casting later, I have put that idea up on a shelf and decided to go with modern methods for now and learn to cast to that level of expertise later. I figure it will take a few years.

Sculpy wins again! Just like the zibellino masks, it is a quick and easier solution for not having a goldsmith in my pocket. I decided to use the basic layout of the Orsi fan and change the individual details to be more in line with my preferences. The figure is getting shifted to an Amazon, I'm adding my seeblatt, and the side grotesques are becoming gryphons. The central medallion is probably going to have my Apres. I'm not sure yet. it will really depend on how well the sculpting goes and what I can manage. I've got a wooden stir stick covered in a tin foil armature as my base and it's working so far. I'm liking the pieces I've sculpted on the bottom. Hope the rest goes as smoothly..

Not dead, just boning a corset

Sorry for the radio silence. I got the boning done for the back yesterday and am still working on the front pieces. I am sort of doing an adapted effigy. It has the tabs and the front piece is similar, but my body just wasn't going for the back seams so I adapted my bodice pattern for the back, adding tabs, and put the seams at the sideback. It loses the shaping from the seam, which is where the major shaping comes from, but my column body and barrel chest really hasn't got much shape. I'm going to make them and wear them awhile and see how it works and make changes from there.

There are way too many bones in this thing so far. Another of the disadvantages of being a larger than average lady.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Stomacher synergy

1590-1610 Blackwork embroidered stomacher
You ever have one of those moments when someone else posts just the right thing on their blog at just the right time? I got most of my research on stomachers taken care of this morning by Pat Poppy over at The Costume Historian. I hadn't really run across much on early stomachers and was a little worried after my early erroneous assumption that the triangular patterns in the lace modelbuchs were stomachers when they are apparently partlets instead that I was completely off base. Granted, the info is on English pieces, but at least (some of it) is in the right century. Most things I'd seen previously were all 18th century which didn't help me whatsoever. I went searching for the references to Elizabeth I's stomachers and the diversity of attachment method and stiffened and unstiffened bases as well as the wide variety of materials is making me heave a big sigh of relief. I like having loads of wiggle room for trying things out.

I've got the first draft of a set of Effigy stays based on my new conic block drawn up and ready to mock up. Once they're tweaked I can draft the bodice and finally cut that lace. I'll be combining my observations about lace over color filling in the center of the open bodice and the information from extant English pieces like this embroidered one from 1590 ish in the V and A. That piece of blue silk that was tossed aside in favor of the printed linen for the pocket may get to be involved after all.