Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Teething corals and other kid stuff.

Getting nowhere fast on projects. I'm managing about 5 buttons made in any given day (not lack of time, just boredom with it) and have tied a few frogs. I'm supposed to be working on a fairy dress for my daughter's eighth birthday party. She also put in a request for a detective hat today. So, mommy's stuff is being put off for a bit.

If you're looking for something interesting to read (and it just so happens kid themed) I came across this rather interesting article on corals and rattles and other children's jewelry. Beautiful silver mounted pieces of coral, like this one from the Walter's Museum of Art, dated 1475-1550, more usual with red coral, and gold mounted wolves' teeth were part of upper class children's dress. Their aesthetics beat modern binkies hands down and the associations of the materials with keeping away bad luck is intriguing. I'm teaching a class on apotropaic jewelry (jewelry intended as charms against bad luck and for good health) at the end of next month and I'm sure these will find their way in. Really wish I read Dutch, the museum catalog looks fascinating. There is also a page at Wikipedia of some of the portraits with corals in them and once you know what you are looking at its amazing how frequently they are encountered.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Finally found the super zoom so I can see how to tie the frogs

The inspiration for my overgown is another painting in the Prado's collection and I've been taking advantage of the super duper zoom feature. It's a portrait of Catherine of Austria (the wife of Juan III of Portugal.) I saw it first in Janet Arnold in one of the little portraits above a couple of loose and academic gown layouts. The two things I found most interesting were the full sleeves, slashed open and then buttoned closed, and the fact that Catherine is a larger woman. Always nice to see how something fits a bigger body before embarking on its manufacture.

This project is actually supposed to be my mock up for a more extensive version down the road. The inspiration portrait has all that lovely goldwork. I didn't think about it too hard when I started this, but grabbed a blue and yellow cotton upholstery with a pomegranate print I had in stash. That was over a year ago. I'm still working on it and thinking I should have considered harder. This has become a lot more than a quick mock-up, quite obviously. Thankfully, I don't have anything against the fabric, but it is probably not the most accurate choice. With the bright colors, its certainly going to turn out to be much more whimsical than the inspiration. 300 yards into making trim and dozens of buttons later its staying those colors though. I better like it once its done. Like it a great deal, or I don't see myself doing the goldwork, let alone a bunch more buttons in order to make the "real" version.

I stitched on several of the buttons, just to see how I wanted the layout to be. Not particularly thrilled with it. Hoping I'll like it once I get the frogs tied and stitched into place. There are loads and loads of those to make. They don't seem too bad. Just a 4 loop configuration and a knot with a bit of tasseling fringe on the end. Only issue is the sheer number with a pair for each button. Each sleeve has 9 slashes. The inspiration has 3 buttons per slash. I was trying to do less, in part because I have two sizes of button and wanted to use one size only for the sleeves. I alternated 2 on one and then 1 in the middle of the next. Doing that leaves the openings too large. I was going to just fill them with a poof of some sort, but I'm not seeing that sort of treatment on a zimarra with the buttons and frogs (the sleeve on this portrait is unusual enough)so I decided against it. I also have no idea whatsoever what fabric I would use for the puffs. I got 3 opinions on alternating the slightly smaller buttons with the large ones I've already added. The consensus is that it will look just fine as long as they are done in a consistent pattern. I'm going with that. Just need 27 buttons per sleeve. I have around 50 of the buttons done, so that's not too bad. I'm not even going to count the slashes in the chest and the front opening yet. I'm not going to like the totals.

So, I guess I'm going to take a break from button making and switch to tying frogs for a bit and keep experimenting with this sleeve. Doesn't really look like its getting completed this month to be honest. It takes me approximately 25 minutes to make a single button and the whole thing is consuming more time than I'd hoped.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Musings on Me

I'm thinking about changing my persona. I'm contemplating starting another 4-6 months of working on a dress and its accessories and its got me thinking that it might be time to just embrace the Italian.

I know it rarely seems like it, but my persona is 12th Century Russian. I've only been in the SCA for about 3 years, but I created the persona about a year before that. It was sort of an accident really, brought on my my husband's wish to coordinate personas at least a little and his desire to have an early persona who was into math and science. Actually, he started out wanting to be a Norse skald. I didn't really want to wear Norse women's clothing so I went looking for something different but close. I found the Russian and became intrigued because, despite a large amount of history classes, I knew absolutely nothing about Russian early history. Then, he decided he wanted to be Persian. I told him I was staying Russian.

My earliest attempt at SCA (back in 1991 for a summer) was an Italian persona. Her name was Belcolore. I got about as far as finding the name in a Florentine charter and then I moved away from any place that had an SCA chapter. I wanted a late Italian persona this time around, but wanted to play as a family as well, and that won out.

Three years in, I've done Italian stuff for a full year of that. I'm really interested in late styles of embroidery and lace. I have a pretty deep background both academically and in practical construction of late period clothing. My undergraduate thesis was on Elizabethan sumptuary law and I sewed for the Utah Shakespearean Festival for several years. (I can't wear the Elizabethan silhouette and really don't want to.) I feel beautiful wearing Italian dresses. I'm making more progress in learning Italian than learning Russian. My husband rarely attends events. He's also got a crush on Leonardo da Vinci (and always has) and could probably be strong armed into late Italian. He certainly likes the doublet and Venetians I made him last summer.

On the other hand, there are a large number of Italians in my kingdom and being something unusual is fun. I have a couple of thousand dollars into my Russian research library of books. I love crazy Russian hats. I like pearls and over the top bling (they are time consuming to do though.) I kinda like my goofy name that no one pronounces correctly. What I like more is that everyone seems to know me as Praks.

Despite some digging, there just doesn't seem to be anything that will give me anything approaching that. The sounds just aren't Italian. Praksedys is based on the Greek name Paraskevi. It means "Prepared" or Friday. I chose it because of the associations of the Russian saint Paraskov'ia Pyanitsa with earlier Russian goddesses. I also like the meaning. Paraskevi of Rome was a 3rd century saint so the Greek name in Italy isn't unheard of, just pretty far out of the time I want. The Italian version of the name goes with the Friday association (Venerdi) and transforms the name to Venerada. Nickname versions of that and Paraskevi are Vivi, Evi, Vuada and Veta. Not that anyone ever called me the nickname version of Praksedys which is Petka. I vaguely considered just going with Paraskevi and having a Greek name in either Russia or Italy, but everyone I mentioned it to started giggling like crazy over it. "Skeevy" just isn't a great sound to the modern ear. I could certainly pick something not remotely related to the old name. I had a long running RPG character named Dianora and that would be totally appropriate. Not unusual and interesting, which is my preference, but pretty and easily pronounced.

I changed my legal name over a decade ago and don't think I was this angst ridden about it. I guess part of it is I feel like I'm giving up. Russian research is harder, especially as I don't read the language. There just isn't much to go on. Every little scrap is treasured since there were not conventional portraits and so much was flat out destroyed by invasion, followed up by centuries of different types of repression. Italian research is easy and fun, but I won't be coming up with any new theories of my own, as the field is heavily populated by some pretty brilliant and dedicated people. I'm a researcher at heart, so that is a consideration.

Having a Russian move to Italy just isn't likely. There were Italian architects going to Russia to build, but nothing really the other way. Not to mention that late period women from Moscow were pretty thoroughly repressed and I don't particularly want to be late period Russian for that reason. The clothes are wonderful, but the situation was abysmal. Lots more opportunity for artistic expression in late Italy. The famous female painters just make me smile.

I know, this isn't a big issue, but its still had me thinking and considering it for months. Yeah, I'm odd. But we already knew that, right?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I am sooooo making this!

One of the first things I do every morning, while waiting for kids to get ready for their day, is to spend a few minutes browsing online museums. The V&A and the Met are tops on the list. I'm somewhere in the middle of the 7,000 plus items at the Met that come up when you put Italy into 1400-1600. This morning I found a really beautiful round bottomed leather case. It's description was "case for a coconut cup." I sort of assumed that was a name for the shape or something. Nope. Its a real cup, made from a coconut.
And it is not alone. There are English ones, Low Country ones, and even one from Hungary. According to the little blurb on the Timeline entry, its sort of like having a magical unicorn horn cup. They were thought to protect from poison and have miraculous powers. Getting a hold of a coconut is a so much easier than finding your own unicorn horn though.

I was also thinking it would be much easier to camp with than my pretty glassware. As well as looking less obtrusive for midnight reveling than a 16th century Italian lady walking around with a Viking horn full of mead. Yes, I understand that they would have been a big deal in period and not something you wandered around with, but I'm having too much fun with the idea to leave it alone. I'm not against buying a coconut and hollowing it out. Seems easy enough, and I'm a coconut fan. (Mmmmmm macaroons are my favorite.) However, I found these coconut cups already hollowed out for $25 for a dozen. Rip the stupid flower off and gild it or make a collar from some of the embossing metal from the craft store, and I think I could have a reasonable 16th century Italian coconut cup on my hands in a short afternoon.

Yes, there is the bit of me giggling like a madwoman in the back of my head as a contemplate mini silk parasols with fringe put into my gilded coconut cup. That's the same fool who is laughing herself hysterical with thoughts of swallows, and Graham Chapman "galloping" along. I'm so thoroughly amused that coconut halves are period. Even if they don't make galloping noises.

Friday, February 10, 2012

My new needle roll

I really want a pair or two of knitted stockings a la the Eleonora di Toledo pair to go with my dresses. Unfortunately, I'm not a very skilled knitter. Therefore, I'm challenging myself to learn to make socks this year. Yes, I probably could buy them or have them made, but has that ever been how I do things? No, not really. That would be far too easy as well as being the sane move.

I have been crocheting since I was 5 and am rather skilled at that, which is the largest reason I'm not a knitter. I enjoy crochet far too much and am fast at it. I haven't practiced knitting that much and only learned about 4 years ago. The completed items I have made can be counted on one hand. I did make a Jayne Cobb hat though, and I'm rather proud of that. Granted, being a bad knitter is an advantage when making a Shiny hat.

So, practice, practice, practice. As I am not inspired by scarves, I'm starting with socks. Wait, its not as crazy as it sounds. I have made socks before. I made a rather nifty pair of naalbinded socks based on an extant Egyptian set held in the V&A for my husband. I've made quite a few pairs of crochet socks and taught a class on them at my local yarn store when I lived in Cedar City, about 5 years ago. I understand sock construction. I just need to work on my tension and knitting. Not to mention working on double pointed needles and getting down to the tiny needles and gauge required to make the Eleonora stockings.

To further inspire and organize myself and all my new tiny dpn sets, I made a needle roll to store them in today. Its a bronze and brown striped silk taffeta with a little blue in it that I bought on ridiculous clearance for less than $2 a yard. I had a smaller piece as well as a 10 yard chunk. Even after making this I have at least a yard in the small piece. One day it will become. . .something. . . just not sure what yet. It probably should be something 18th century, but I just can't see myself looking good in panniers and polonaises as much as I think they're gorgeous. Not to mention the fact that I have enough crazy outfits to make within SCA period. But it would sure be pretty. The brown cotton velveteen is left over from my mantellina, and the blue dupioni silk binding is a scrap left from my ACC dress.
So, not exactly anything Italian, but tangentially related. At least in my head. On with the knitting!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I ordered "zibabies" from Holly at Sable Greyhound for Valentine's for my two oldest children and got to see pictures today. Aren't they adorable? The kids love my zibellino Arcano and I promised they could have their own back last fall. They reminded me just before Christmas and each designed their preferred "pet." As much as I worry about them being destroyed I gave in, with the requirement that they remember that they're not stuffed toys and that they be worn with garb and not played with. They're part of my grandiose plans for Easter/Mystery Event(March 31.) I'm the event steward for Mystery and figured we should look reasonable. Mostly its just an excuse to stuff my entire family into Italian though.

The green one is for my son. It's name is Ranocchio, meaning frog. I plan to decorate his jerkin with frog applique and make him brown Venetians with a matching Italian bonnet. The zibaby will be pinned onto the hat as its "plume." I thought that would be a cute way for a little boy to wear his totally inaccurate, but very fun favor.

My daughter's is named Cerulean. She's rather obsessed with blue these days and I had no input on the name. My daughter has always been my mermaid (she's a Pisces, born in water, with a mermaid name.) Her kirtle will be blue with silver accents and mermaid appliques. I'm planning to push the "fairytale princess" vibe while at least giving a nod to accuracy. Not a very big nod though. Sort of the "whaz-up" head bob really. . .

My two year old twins are also getting their own zibellinos, but theirs really will be toys. I'm working on a fake fur version with a stuffed head for them to wear so they aren't left out. My daughter's dress is purple with fairies and my son's is still up in the air. I might put him in more blue or possibly green. Maybe puppies or knotwork for the decoration. I really haven't had inspiration hit for his outfit yet.

I still have the sleeves to make on my husband's doublet I made last summer and this seems as good an excuse as any. I'll wear one or the other of my dresses depending on my whim. Sort of drifting towards the red, but I've only worn the orange and blue once.

Anyway, I pick up silly accessories Saturday and hopefully I'll have my sewing room organized and set up at some point his weekend so I can start to play with my little group of fairytale outfits.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

16th century Steampunk- sorta

I've been looking around at the various types of pomanders as I'm determined to make one. Right now it will probably be more the Mary Rose carved wood type since that's manageable for me as opposed to the crazy jewelry types. Granted the Mary Rose one is more a masculine style, but one step at a time I suppose.

Meanwhile, I found this little cutie at the V&A. It is not, in fact, a pomander. it is a handwarmer. Reading the description, you find out that it had a little lamp inside on gimbals so it could be rolled around inside a muff or whatever and remain upright. How cool is that! I wish I had some idea of what the inside looks like. Regardless, my brain is percolating with the idea. My math and science geek husband is also intrigued. I love the clockwork quirkiness of it. And its brass. Stick a gear on the outside and its TOTALLY Steamy, right?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Still trying to get unpacked

But, the button making continues. In the meantime, want to drool along with me at this fan from the V&A collections? Museum number T.184-1982

Dated 1620 from Florence, it's cut straw applied to silk covered cardboard reinforced with metal ribs. Its just so different. I love the whimsy of the decoration and the shapes of the fan staves.