Monday, December 23, 2013

Dominico's Award of Arms belt

One of my friends was getting his Award of Arms. An award of arms is the first level of award in the SCa. It is what lets you stop being called m'Lord or m'Lady and become a Lord or Lady with the right to bear heraldic arms. Your device become a Coat of Arms. In Artemisia, unlike many other SCA kingdoms, we don't wear circlets. Instead, we receive an "A". If you take a look at His Majesties neck in the picture, you can see a chain of estate made of A's. Each bearer of arms in Artemisia holds an A of the same type as in the Kingdom Chains of Estate. A custom that has also cropped up is the receiving of a belt to hold a knife that you are now allowed to carry in the royal presence. (Yes, the SCA is an odd place with unusual customs. But we're having fun :) )

Often the belt is rather generic and pulled from the stock of the kingdom. Mine was purchased by my Province and was a plain leather belt blank. Other times if someone is given enough notice they will make of purchase something a little more individual. I previously made a pleatwork apron for a cooking friend who was getting her AoA. Dominico is the husband of my friend Maysun. They tend to dress in two extremes brought on by the exciting place that is Venice. Maysun's persona is Persian. Dominico is Italian. Since he has two different styles of dress that are worn about equally, our household decided he needed two belts. I was tasked with making the Persian one.

Dominico is a pretty plain person, so I tried not to get carried  away since I wanted him to like wearing his belt. The belt is brown linen brocade backed and self bound with brown silk. I wanted to put on tassels, because everything is better with tassels. but they weren't appropriate for Persian style. I did add some jewelry findings to vaguely represent belt plaques, and a few pearls.

I wasn't able to attend the event where this was presented, but I heard that it was well received.
Speaking of SCA awards, I recently received my White Lark from the Barony of Loch Salaan and induction into their Labouring Artists Recognition Company. I felt very honored, especially as I am not part of the barony, so this is my first baronial award. Baroness Jennet displayed the fan I made her last year while explaining why I was receiving the award. She's carried it rather prominently since I finished it. Getting to know your work is appreciated by seeing it cherished by the recipients is worth all the time put into it. And getting a shiny is rather fun too.

Friday, December 20, 2013

And now for some overwhelming cuteness

This is Fia's little boy pushing cuteness into overdrive. Honestly, I don't think anyone cares one iota what he's wearing what with the 1,000 watt smile. He does, however, show just how awesome wearing trunkhose can be. I don't have any pictures (yet, I hope yet) of him in the full outfit, but with hose, a shirt, and hat he cut quite the dashing figure at Solstice Court. His mama was more than a little worried she'd be outshone.

Scraps from his mom's dress serve as the lining, underlayer for the trunk hose and part of the trim. I had a random piece of brow/gold fabric that matched the contrast on Fia's dress and makes his jerkin and the panes for the trunkhose. The trim is just more of the metallic yarn trim I made couched down.

I just made up the pattern on the fly, laying down one of my son's shirts and cutting a vest following the shape.  I added some shoulder wings, a collar, and some skirts and called it good. Sewing for little people with no actual shape has some advantages when it comes to reckless disregard for fitting. I had planned  to put on some  little heart clasps to hold the jerkin closed, but turned that over to Fia. She got them in place for Solstice and I think it carries the heart motif over nicely into his suit.
The trunkhose are a base of canvas cut into a basic pant pattern. I only cut them knee length and then did an overlay of the blue satin. rather than do a two part hose with attached canion, I simulated the effect by putting on a band of the brown fabric to cover the bottom of the panes. There is an elastic waistband for quick diaper changes.
The hat was done using Missa's floppy brimmed pleated hat tutorial. It has a felt inner and more of the blue satin as the outer. I embellished with bronze and black ostrich feathers and a random feather pick I got on clearance. Because every little boy needs a jaunty cap.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cutwork and pearls part 1

I am a bully. A costuming bully. I have been known to force sewing on friends on more than one occasion. My friend Fiametta was in need of some new clothes for Solstice Court but was in the middle of making a wool coat for His Majesty as well as being in the middle of life. I told her I'd make her something. She said she had to sew for her kids and niece. I volleyed back that I'd sew for them too. She returned with the fact that there was only two weeks until the event. I rather forcefully rejoined "just tell me what you want." She dithered. I muscled my way into her house and grabbed the fabric and then proceeded to make what I felt like she should wear. Sometimes being my friend comes with a bit of peril.

She had been thinking about doing the Bella Nani with this fabric. It is a gorgeous, gorgeous painting, but she didn't have fabric for the sheer overlay or ideas on building the large jewelry pieces. She had some lion heads that she wanted to use, but we needed to layer them with something and I was fresh out of ideas. Without the outer layer, that dress really loses something. I wanted to do something a bit more blatantly ostentatious. I had fallen in love with Carol Salhoum's IRCC I dress and the inspiration portrait of Clarice Ridolfi Altoviti
by Christofan dell'Altissimo. The cutwork on the bodice is just scrumptious. And there are beads. It is much more decorative than your standard Italian dress. Since Fiametta is anything but understated, I felt like it was a perfect match.

The fabric I was working with had gorgeous drape and incredible color, but was not a natural fabric and wanted to fray, so I felt no compunctions whatsoever in just deciding to interface the entirety of the pieces. Even with the interfacing, the cut edges still have that lovely fuzzy halo that cutwork can bring. Rather than doing the petal cuts of Clarice's gown, I decided to do hearts. Fiametta's emblem is a flaming heart and I wanted to use a lot of heraldic ideas in this gown. I made up a small stencil of the graduating panels and used that to draw out the entire pattern piece on brown paper.
I used an exacto knife to cut out the pattern and then laid on the reverse of the bodice. I just traced the openings in the pattern with a regular pencil directly onto the interfacing. Then it was just a matter of cutting, and cutting, and cutting out hearts. The pattern is pretty much identical on both front and back of the bodice. The picture at the head of the post is of the back.

I knew this project was going to use a whole lot of trim. As we all know, trim can eat up a budget like nothing else and often costs several times what the fabric cost. This wasn't one of those circumstances where that was going to be okay, so I took a day off sewing and made trim. Once again, this is one of those moments where I use non-historically accurate methods and my tool of choice, a crochet hook. I didn't have the time to do lucet cord because I needed close to 100 yards to do this dress and the outfits for her kids, so I chose to do a crochet version of the square braid. Ingunn Santini has a free tutorial. Or there are several youtube videos of 2 loop i-cord for crochet that all work out to be about the same stuff. It isn't actually crocheting since it doesn't involve crochet stitches, but using the hook to work with your loops makes for a fast trim. I managed to make about 50 yards in the time I had allocated and then ended up using plain interlooped chain to fill in the trim gaps. I used Kuka Bright in Gold by Ice Yarns. It doesn't look like it is available any more, but I laid in a large supply. It's a light metallic yarn about the thickness of a size 10 bedspread weight crochet thread.

I treated the cutwork layer and an underlayer of a bronzy gold as a single layer. The beads and trim are attached to both and keep them together. I've got a large pearl in the center of each square heart motif, a smaller pearl in the center of the diamond cut, and two smaller pearls flanking that. I've also got gold rocaille beads tacking the gold trim down to the underlayer. The small pearls in the center of each heart are only on the underlayer, but I liked the look. Yup, I took the nice beaded look of the portrait and went more than a little over the top.

I knew this dress was going to be a bit fantasy with some weirdnesses (as heralds are wont to call steps from period practice.) I didn't want to blow right through the line, but it certainly isn't comfortably accurate.Ah well, it is fun. And beautiful. And full of sparkle.

I still need to babble on about sleeves and construction, so we'll get around to those in a different post.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Stained glass" at Toys For Tots

Even though I was the feast steward for my Province's annual Toys For Tots event this year, I had my fingers in a few other parts of the event. Several of us tend to hang out at the IHOP after fighter practice and some good ideas get mixed into the weird ones that pop up at 1 AM when all carbed up on pancakes. I'd been reading some of the earliest printed examples of fairy tales (because they are Italian and smack dab in the middle of my persona) and thought it would make a great theme for a kid centered event. We use one of the local Senior Centers pretty regularly for our events and I'd been trying to come up with ways to add to the decor. When I wrote up the bid for the event, I casually included that there would be stained glass windows as part of the decor with fairy tale themes.

Yeah, I always get myself into the best messes. But this one did at least have a giant tote of stained glass paints I got on super duper clearance behind the impulse. Thing is, they are formulated for use on glass. And I certainly didn't have the time to go in and put stained glass paint on the Senior Center's windows. I don't think they would have appreciated that particularly much either.  So I tried a few alternatives and settled on a thin clear vinyl to paint on.

The next issue is the fact that I've never painted any stained glass and I'm not much of an artist. I had grand plans of doing full panels involving the various fairy tales, but became disabused of that idea pretty quickly. I scaled back and decided to try doing one design that I'd use as a frame for all the windows. I then left a center medallion to put the stories in. Since stained glass was often painted, I took markers and drew the tales. Not remotely accurate, but nothing about this project is. There is also the great thing that the marker on vinyl is removable with some alcohol and we can use the painted frames for other themes by wiping off the marker.

So here's Jack and the beanstalk, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty. I tried to introduce a swirling element into each panel to tie random items from the story together. Cinderella's pumpkin vine curls around the mouse and the shoe.
 The briars of Sleeping Beauty pull together the spindle, the bed  and the prince's sword.
Jack's beanstalk holds the singing harp and the goose who lays golden egg's nest. Jack's old cow is a bit more chipper than usual since the autocrat's device is a dancing cow and I put it in to make her laugh.

Rapunzel's hair tumbles from her tower and covers her comb, brush and a rampion or two.

I had some help from my friend's KyneWynn, Marguerite, and Eidou with the leading and then I spent a few evenings painting.
We attached the vinyl to the doors of the building with some electrical tape and called it good, but I'm hoping to improve on the idea for next time. I hope they were well received, but I was in the kitchen, so what went on at the rest of the event wasn't something I was much in touch with. Tabitha was kind enough to take pictures of the windows for me and well as keep an eye on my kids so they could enjoy the day. I can't express how grateful I am for that. I feel like it was at least a step in the right direction in decorating the site.
Regardless of anything else, however, as the expression on my little boys face says-- it was a fun event.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lots done-- none of it posted

I got rather swamped with the feast I was preparing in November and then with crazy Solstice sewing and just kept working and never got around to pictures and posting. Since I've got some more big projects coming up in January with The Realm of Venus' Fabulously Fashionable Fur mini-challenge and The Harpy's Needle and Thread Grudge Match going from January-March, I figured I'd better start playing catch-up.

I don't have all that many pictures, so what gets described is contingent on what pictures I get. First up is a gown I made for my daughter's best fried/my best friend's niece. She's 11 and looking so grown up in her first sottana.Her aunt told me she needed a dress the week before and I had several other outfits going at the same time, so this was an afternoon project and I took all the shortcuts I could.

I love doing Italian for little girls. Doing side back lacing is basically like making a modern jumper. Because I used a heavy weight upholstery fabric, I didn't add support layers to the bodice, it is just the upholstery and a broadcloth lining with lacing rings. The baragoni are scrap from my cappotto with a simple interlooped trim. I cut tabs and stacked them and then whipstitched them to the shoulder. I used the same blue for her skirt guard.  Her girdle is just beads strung on a length of beading wire (tigertail) with an extra large lobster clasp so it can adjust as she grows older and changes shape.  She loves horses, so I found a set of carved stone ones and stung them on wire for her.

I got asked about the reta a couple of times. As I said earlier. I was taking shortcuts all over the place with this one. An accurate reta would have been netted. My netting skills are minimal and very labored. I have, however, been crocheting since I was 5, so that is fast for me. Totally inaccurate since crocheting didn't come around until the Victorian age, but fast and pretty. 

I did, however, want it to be a step above the cheap snoods from overseas, so I took care to make this shaped more like an Italian one and there is no elastic involved. It hugs closer to the head than the mass market snoods and has a thick fitted band that I jeweled and pearled and that is pinned in place.

If anyone else needs a fast (totally innacurate) project, here's my crocheted Italian reta recipe. (I am terrible at patterns and this is probably totally incomprehensible, but basically you are increasing 9 each round, and then decreasing on your final 2 rounds followed by a dense single crochet band of 5 rows.)  You can also make something more decorative by using the center from your favorite doily pattern and then decreasing the final rows and adding the band.  You will want to use a hook that is at least 3 sizes too big for your yarn so you get a very loose chain/stitch. I used about a size 10 bedspread crochet thread and a size G hook.

Round 1: chain 3. slipstitch together. sc 9 times in ring.
Round 2: hdc twice in each sc around
Round 3: chain 4. hdc in first stitch. *Chain 2, skip next stitch, hdc in next stitch. repeat from * around.
Round 4: chain 5. hdc in first stitch. *chain 3, work hdc into chain 2 space of previous row, repeat from * around.
Round 5: chain 4. hdc in first stitch. chain 1,* hdc in chain 3 space of previous row. chain 1. hdc in same chain 3 space, chain 1. repeat from * around
.Round 6: chain 4. * hdc in first chain 1 space, chain one, skip next stitch, hdc in chain one space. repeat around
Repeat rounds 3-6.

Round 10. chain 3. hdc in frst chain 1 space, skip next chain 1 space. hdc in next chain 1 space. repeat around.
Round 11. Chain 3. hdc in first stitch. skip next stitch, hdc in next stitch. repeat around.
Round 12. sc in each stitch around
Round 13-16. sc in each stitch around. Finish off

As I said, I am terrible at patterns and I did this on the fly, but if you want to give it a go, I'm happy to help  you figure out what was going on in my brain.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Heraldic applique

My evening in front of the tv project has been appliqueing my local area's device onto a banner. Our old banner is fine, but doesn't get used that often since we are a Province. That means we don't have ceremonial representation, but have all the responsibilities of a Barony in the SCA. It also means that there isn't a specific individual to display the arms. They get put up at our own events and at one or two events a year where we have a large local encampment, but don't get flown on a particularly regular basis since it is more usual for us to have one or two or five members at any event and it is a pain in the butt to go to the storage shed and get out the banner for smaller groups. I thought it would be nice to have an extra to carry with me or lend out so we could have symbolic representation at more events.

This is just basic period style applique. Unlike modern quilt applique where the edges are turned under, period style is to couch gold cord or gilded leather over the edges. I was a bit worried about the edges of the green's tendency to shred, so I ran a small machine zigzag down first before couching over the top. I wish I hadn't, because it isn't as well hidden as I'd hoped. Not to mention the fact that the green is still a bit precarious. I got the idea and bought cheap materials and I'm paying for it. This thing won't last long. Oh well, I'm chalking it up up to practice, and if it gets used and demonstrates a need, I'll make another one from better materials.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Starting to think about Solstice

Yes, I am in the middle of prepping a feast, not to mention trying to get garb made for my kids. They only go to a few events a year and they always grow in between so I have to start from scratch every time. I decided to take a break from all of the required stuff and took a break and played with some beads. It probably wasn't great for my schedule, but I certainly feel refreshed. After I got about half way into it I decided that it would be perfect to go with the red fabric I picked out for making my Solstice dress. Rather nice when playing around accidentally accomplishes something useful.

I grabbed a bunch of randomness from my bead box, but I'm rather pleased with how it worked out. I had bought the silver plated plaques to decorate a Rus hat several years back and they have been staring at me ever since. I very rarely use silver, so I didn't have any great ideas, but it also meant that I wasn't saving them for any reason and didn't have to dither about whether this was the best use of them. Often taking things from my stash can be a negotiation with myself and I'm afraid to use the good stuff in case some better use comes along. Anyone else have that problem? I hadn't planned on having silver with this dress either, but I very much like the girdle, so I'm reconsidering the color scheme for the dress. Besides the silver plaques, which are Jill MacKay that I got on something like 90% off clearance, there are two shapes of flame jasper, some silverish beadspacers that I'd sorted out of a bulk lot that was supposed to be gold but didn't have good plating, some magnetic hematite rounds, glass pearls in both white and grey that I got for 70 cents a strand, and freshwater pearls dyed an iridescent blue/green/black that I got on an 80% off clearance. It's wonderful when all the super cheap clearance purchases come together and actually justify themselves and the fact that I have a stash. As I need about twice the beads for a girdle that a non-plus sized person needs, making a girdle is normally a significant outlay of money. This one wasn't so I'm rather proud of it for that reason alone.

Now, on to the fabric in the background. That's going to be the dress for Solstice. I've settled on doing a veste over a sottana, like this portrait of a lady and her little girl from the school of Veronese. I had considered doing the more common style with a doublet under the veste, but to be frank, I'm afraid of trying to fit the doublet. I've already got a sideback laced pattern that I love and fits, so this way I can concentrate on the veste. I'm going with the red for the outer dress. Now I just have to decide on what color I'm making the underdress. Black and steel grey are not my normal choices, but I'm sort of drifting that direction. I'm open to suggestions if anyone has any.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Making chardequince

A few years ago, I was sitting at fighter practice when a friend mentioned the fuzzy, hard, mystery fruit that one of their trees was growing. I just so happened to have been reading C. Anne Wilson's The Book of Marmalade, and thus could easily identify it as a quince. Before marmalade was made from oranges, it was made from the rather magical quince. The friends were kind enough to let me have the produce from their tree that year and since. I've had a lot of fun trying out some older recipes. They are moving next month though, so this will be the last year I get to play. That thought has made me sad enough that I've decided to plant my own quince tree. I'll have to wait a few years, but I know it will be worth it.

Quince aren't a popular fruit today, but medievally, they were known as the Queen of Fruit. They've been cultivated longer than apples. There are even legends that quince was the fruit that tempted Adam and Eve.
Full of tannins and pectin, quince don't get soft and juicy. They do get a beautiful floral aroma, however, and they smell amazing. They are a late fruit, not ripening until October and the first frosts. Cooking them is easy. Cutting them is not.

It takes a rather sharp paring knife. Much sharper than the poor neglected knives in my kitchen. I did have a sharpener in the back of the drawer, however, so that was easily remedied. The recipes I have for chadequince, the sweet and spicy quince paste I am making, calls for quartering the quince and then boiling them. I decided to do a finer chop, hoping it would make putting them through the sieve later easier.

The fruit in the picture has been cooking a few hours and is nice and soft. I'll put it through a fine sieve (and cheat a bit and put it through the food processor as well.) Then it goes back on the stove with equal amounts of sugar to fruit by weight.
There are a variety of recipes. I found several in the marmalade book I mentioned earlier, as well as here. There seem to be at least one in all my late historic cookbooks as well. I figured I'd try out a few options since I has quite a few quince. The first batch was sugar with heavy spices (clove, allspice, cinnamon.) I love the flavor, but was disappointed by the color. The spices turned the paste much more brown than I would have preferred. One of the best things about cooking quince is watching the magic of it turning color from the warm yellow gold of the fruit to a beautiful pink/orange/rose as it cooks longer.

For the second batch, I did something much more like Portugese membrillo. This form of quince paste is still popular for eating with salty cheese. It is the quince, sugar, and a bit of lemon juice and vanilla. I love the color, but the flavor isn't quite as exciting. Really nice though (at least from the spoonful I snuck as I filled the molds.

Chardequince was put into decorative boxes/molds in the Elizabethan period. Since I don't have any of those hanging around, I decided to try out some of my jelly molds. They are much larger and deeper than those made for quince, but I had them on hand. I'm hoping they'll look nice on my dessert table for the Fairytale Feast I am cooking for Toys for Tots in November. I've got them in drying out and setting now, so we'll see how it goes.

In the mean time, I made a small version shaped with a large cookie cutter to try. Not as decorative, but it is nice and thin and I put it in a warm oven to speed it up a little so it was set and ready to eat this morning after I made it yesterday. Here's the picture before I cut into it. It lasted about 5 seconds once my son tried it and shouted "Come on guys, it's CANDY!"

Sunday, September 29, 2013


I've been sewing a bunch, just not finishing much, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to show something I finished. My husband and I worked up the heraldry for the house we belong to in the SCA. Basically that means I told him what I wanted after I researched it and conflict checked, and he tweaked it so it looked better. We're in the process of registering this, so this isn't the officially official blazon, but I THINK this works up to something similar to: Azure, on a pile rayony throughout issuant from dexter chief Or a serpent glissant sable. I'm a bit iffy on where the throughout and the rayony go in the heraldic sentence to be honest. Yes, I know, making banners and such is jumping the gun with an unregistered device, since the College of Heralds could want changes and this could end up being a bunch of junk that looks nothing like the final device, but I had fun anyway. Having to make another one of the officially official device won't be the end of the world.

No, the right steamer is not curved-- it just decided to turn and this was a bizarre angle in the first place. I was utilizing hooks on my front porch and trying to dodge my lilac bushes to get a picture. Picture notwithstanding, I'm pretty pleased by it.

Since, as previously stated, this might not end up being official, I took the opportunity to be a little crazy and made a parade banner. Our house has a large number of late Italian personae, and I've always wanted to make a gonfalon. They are modernly used for ecclesiastical purposes. but this type of flag with streamers hanging from a crossbar was originally used by medieval Italian communes and guilds. The name comes from confalone, a meeting held in Florentine neighborhoods where each neighborhood had its own flag. Eventually the flags took on the name of the meeting. At least that is the scoop according to Wikipedia. I didn't feel like doing real research, I just liked the excuse to make a velvety, sparkly, fringy banner with tassels.

The base is an uncut blue corduroy and I appliqued scraps of the gold brocade from my IRCC 2 dress on to make the pale. The snake is black linen canvas. I did use an accurate form of medieval applique with gold interlooped cord I made couched down along the edges of the applique. This 14th century banner with the arms of the Dukes of Savoy uses the same technique. As does this 16th century heraldic applique from the Museo Lasaro Galdiano
Applique was very popular for heraldic use because of its speed. Being able to quickly produce hangings and trappings for parades, festivals, and other uses was important since these things were often not intended to be permanent and there was not enough lead time to embroider or weave. Paint was often used as well, but applique seems to be a step up since it takes just a little longer and requires more materials.

This should have its maiden voyage at Crown Tourney next weekend and I will try to get someone to take some pictures of it in use.

Friday, August 23, 2013

I think I have a crush on Pellegrino

Plate from Pellegrino
As usual, I'm neck deep in modelbooks. I've been looking at various interlace designs for use on the Ursula dress, since the original pattern has some heraldic significance. The d'Este's got a fad going (as they were wont to do) and so there are quite a few examples of period versions to choose from. Right now I'm chewing at Francesco Pellegrino's La Fleur de la Science de Pourtraicture Et Patrons De Broiderie. Facon aribicque et ytalique.  (Full scan of Harvard's copy is available at that link, so you too can drool. Or maybe that's just me. . .) Kathleen Epstein mentions this as the first collected pattern book of this type of embroidery design for couched cord work in her introduction to German Renaissance Patterns for Embroidery, a facsimile of Nicolas Bassee's 1568 modelbook. Earlier strapwork and couched patterns certainly existed, and Durer had some published as individual sheets around 1506, but Pellegrino's 1530 book published in Paris seems to be the first collection.

Probably because I'm really not a counted blackwork fan (yes, I understand that it is heresy to say that) I adore the swooping curves and floral ornaments of these designs. More that that, however, I love the thought of how fast they work up with surface couching. Not to mention how much fun they would be to paint, since Arabic calligraphy is where the designs came from to begin with. They'd be lovely done in applique as well. The type is very similar to the pattern I used for the leather applique on my turquoise squirrel lined muff. Imagining similar borders worked up with cording and some wool or leather applique is rather exciting.

And then there's the girdle. I squeeed rather heavily when someone on the fabulous Facebook Elizabethan Costuming group posted links to a Flikr page from the V&A's blog containing gorgeous closeups of the textile girdle in the V&A's collection. You absolutely must go look at them.  The girdle is T.370-1989 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, dated between 1530 and 1580 and listed as either Italian or French. I've considered making it before, but the closeups of the knots and green silk convinced me it has to happen soon. Aurora from The Earth is Flat also reminded me of this 1530 portrait by Pierfrancesco di Jacopo Forschi with a similar girdle tied from cord.

It is a 1530's gown with a similar style to my Ursula dress, so it has the amazingly unusual advantage of being a project I can do that is actually in line with my current project instead of a random tangent. See, it was meant to be!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Pad stitching

Progress around here is about as exciting as it looks. I'm on hour umpteen of the embroidery and about the same on the padstitching for my new bodice.

As I really can't justify in any historical way the boning I've been putting into my bodices, I'm trying something new.  My super pudgy body that has gone through 3 pregnancies (one of them twins) and the bustline that reflects having fed all 4 of those children doesn't really think this is the best idea. I figure I have to give it a shot however, just to say I tried.

Last weekend I wore my brown sottana. It is a self boned open front that was intended to be worn with a corset. I have dropped a couple of pounds since I made it and wanted to see how the V would work on me without a corset.
Photo by Laura Davis

It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't terrible either. My bust stayed up pretty well.  The largest issue I had was that the dress only has one set of lacing rings and it pulls the lining out. There's a possibility if I put in eyelets and lace that way that the problem will be solved. I certainly can't wear it as open as I originally intended it to be, but it seems like it can be a totally serviceable dress. And it gives me at least a little hope for how the open front will work without boning.

I, once again, want to wail about loads of handwork hidden from the light of day. It makes me grumpy to do stuff I can't brag about. I'm stitching through 2 layers of canvas and a layer of wool felt to make the inside stiffening that will then be sandwiched between fashion fabric and lining. It is certainly creating some texture. I think it is having some effect. At the very least, I feel like it is making the shoulder straps sit better.

Monday, August 5, 2013

50 seems like a nice round number

I still have loads to do on the mermaid bands for the camicia neck and cuffs, but they are coming along.  I have about fifty hours in to them at this point. I still have about a gryphon and a half to go with the backstich in the purple silk. Then there are four mermaids to do in the green silk. Then I've got to do some satin stitch and couching in gold. I have absolutely no idea how much more time it is going to take. I played with the gold on one cuff just a little in order to decide on whether to plan for gold, but I am nowhere near finished with what I want to put in. I'll probably put some gold on the centers of the mermaid tails and maybe some in their hair. The design looks a bit bare and I think it needs some bands on the edge, but there's not enough space on the linen strips, so those will need to be worked once they are attached.  It probably needs some lace as well.

Fairy Tales!

Lion from a felted tapestry I made last year with the Fiore animals

Another reason I love my persona? It gives me an excuse to research just about anything. I'm helping plan (and doing the feast for) our local group's November event. It is always a toy-raiser for Toys For Tots and we try to have a compatible theme. This year we are doing a fairy tale theme. Since many of the most familiar tales we still know were published in the 16th Century by Italians, I'm in heaven. I took a class in college on the history of children's literature and as a result always thought fairy tales began with Perault. Even the WIkipedia article agrees (ha!) He was beaten to the punch by the appetite of the Italian presses for things to publish. Giovanni Francesco Straparola published his 2 part book of 75 tales in the 1550's. It includes the oldest version of Puss in Boots (Constantine Fortunato) as well as others. Perault borrowed many of them for his collection. Giambattista Basile's book "The Tale of Tales: Or entertainment for little ones" was published pothumously in the 1630's and includes Cinderella and Rapunzel. I just got Out of the Woods: The origin of the literary fairy tale in Italy and France, which discusses many of the themes as well as why these tales came out of Venice, and am currently consuming it.

I'm also trying to decide on a menu. I keep going back and forth between a feast selected from Platina's "The Temperate Voluptuate" in keeping with the Italian origins of the tales or if I want to pick and choose recipes from times and places based on individual tales.  Plotting it out is giving me something to think about as I keep embroidering away on my mermaid cuffs.  The new camera is here so I'll post pictures of my progress in just a bit.

And, just in case you happen to be in Utah November 9th, here's the event announcement.

We invite you to join The Province of Arrow’s Flight on November 9, 2013, for Toys For Tots, our Signature Event devoted to generosity, history, fairy tales, and the child in all of us.

Rapunzel, Cinderella, Puss in Boots, The Goose who laid the Golden Egg, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty. The stories charm every child anew and yet are timeless. Legend goes that Emperor Constantine’s mother Bertrada of Laon was called Regina pede ancae or “Queen Goosefoot.” She was known for her stories and love of children and as her tale evolved the nickname shifted to “Mere l’Oye” or Mother Goose. 16th century Italy finds the first publication of The Pleasant Nights by Giovanni Straparola and The Story of Stories by Gianbattista Basile where old tales, including those just mentioned, are first collected and published.

Bring your favorite tales to tell for the bardic and participate in storytelling and crafts based on stories throughout the day. Participate in our I Spy scavenger hunt, finding characters and treasures hidden in the stained glass decor. Youth, heavy, and rapier fighters can save the fair maiden, foil the dastardly witch, and create their own legends in scenarios based on classic stories. While away the afternoon by attending some wonderful classes on fairy tale subjects, or teach your own, then end the day with a sumptuous feast featuring subtleties like 4 and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie and Cinderella's Coach as well as seasonal favorites like gingerbread and baked apples.

Also planned: lunch fundraiser, youth activities, contests, games, prizes, and more. Watch for details!

Directions: From I-15, exit 278 for American Fork Main Street, turn East. Drive for 1 mile and the destination is on your right.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I think this is needlelace with gold woven through

screen shot of the zoom of  16th century Italian camicia at the Met 
I am still without camera, but the embroidery is starting to come along.  I've got about 30 hours into it so far and the base work is done on the cuffs.  I've got loads of gold couching to do still, however.  Not to mention the neckband. Since I was feeling accomplished, I decided to go stare at one of the inspirations for my camicia, an extant shirt in the Met.  My first thought was that it was bobbin lace, especially because of all the color in the head or foot or whatever it is called.  Zooming in (after the pity party where I kicked stuff because I don't do bobbin lace) makes me think that it is actually needlelace, however.  I'm certainly seeing
what look like buttonhole stitches. The gold seems to be woven in.  It might in fact be something I can do. And now I'm wondering if I have a chance at finishing the dress sometime this year since I keep complicating the underwear.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Sirena Bicaudata

Mermaid from Egenulf, 1527
I decided to go the easy route and use the mermaid and gryphon band pattern I found first in the Ostaus modelbook for the bands for neck and cuffs. I did a quick sample at about 3 inches wide and it will be rather beautiful I think. The unusual style of the camicia makes it a rather long band however, and I don't want to use it for the spot motifs after doing all of that. Something simpler is in order. So, I've continued to look for design inspiration.

I hit the jackpot with search terms earlier. Sirena Bicaudata brings up some wonderful flickr pools of historical mermaids. There's a gorgeous series of them from a 12th century Swiss church that I'm in love with. Not to mention a 1513 siren by Durer that is totally fabulous (keep scrolling in the first link.) This group of images, many of them architectural, is also tons of fun to go delving into.

I also found a siren pattern in one of my favorite modelbuchs, Christian Egenulf's 1527 Modelbuch aller art Nehewercks un Strickens. I love the goofy book because it is so very hand drawn. It doesn't have the slicker more etchy look of so many of the other books. Nor anything as formal as grid lines.  It is inspiring me to simplify the mermaids for the motifs and to just go for it. The date is also helpful for my early documentation.

And just to throw in one more design inspiration and make sure we keep it 16th century Italian, despite my drooling over sirens hither and thither and yon, here's a roundel from a print made in 1460-70's Florence. It's held in the British Museum and the curator's comments state that it was probably reference for ivory or wood carvers.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Materials are here

Another mermaid from Ostaus 1567
I'm really hoping to FINALLY have something to look at soon.  My pretty, pretty purple silk arrived on Friday, as did my 3 oz linen. The hank of silk was gorgeous for about 10 minutes.  I put it out to start winding it into balls and then made the mistake of going to the bathroom.  And then my boys got to it. Now I have a giant mess.  All I can say is that I'm glad I'm not trying to knit with it. 1,600 yards of laceweight silk all tangled up. I pulled out enough to get started, and I can cut off long enough lengths to stitch with as I go.  I just don't get to enjoy the luxury of balls of beautiful silk, which is a bummer.

I spent some of yesterday sketching mermaids. I really like the look of the various patterns I've found, but I'm becoming concerned at how long they will take to stitch.  One or two would be one thing, but for as many as I need, it is a bit daunting. Not to mention the size required to get good definition. I'm going to have to do some samples to see just what I'm taking on and how much simplifying is going to need to happen. My plan is to try at least one today. I think I should at least be able to do the Ostaus mermaid on the collar and cuffs, even if I center one or two and do a simplified border. She's just so charming. I really want to make it work.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Well, that was fast

I woke up this morning to an email from a pictures library assistant at the Royal Collection with a nice high resolution picture of the portrait attached.  I can't publish it, but it gives me something else to stare at. It also just makes me so darn happy about how easy researching has become. Even when I was in school, a response like this would be unheard of, and now it is an everyday occurrence.  Ain't technology grand?

Also, in further news regarding the embroidery reference, I found this rather grumpy siren published in several modelbooks close to my target date.  The portrait is dated 1531, and the woodcut is published in Niccolo Zoppino's Ensamplario di Lavori published in 1530 and in Giovanni Tagliente's Ensamplario Nuovo daed 1531. It's found in several other later books, but those are both right at the correct date, so I'll take it. If you want to have a look at either Zoppino or Tagliente, Kathryn Goodwyn has both as pdf's on Flowers of the Needle.  The blackwork patterns in the same collections are of the stairstep type, however, so I'm still a little muddy on what I'm doing. Not that I can't use them, but I might need to do them polychrome, or just possibly in mixed stitches.  Still thinking on that.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Mermaid pattern from Sibmacher

Getting better reference pictures is always such fun. I have no idea why, but no matter how often I tell people researching things the best way to get information is to ask the museum, I always get a hole in the pit of my stomach when I make those requests. I guess I feel I'm being frivolous and wasting their time. But, an email has been sent, so we'll see.  I'd really like a better view of the balzo and the embroidery.

Right now I'm having a hard time determining if the balzo is one of the ones that looks like hair, or just highly textured, so better pictures would be nice.  I'm changing the embroidery anyway, but it would still be great from a documentation point of view to have a good look at the original.  It does sort of look like the collar has a pretty elaborate pattern, but I can't really tell as is.

I have 5 yards of 3 oz handkerchief linen ordered from for the camicia, and ordered a hank of 2/30 Gemstone silk from Halcyon Yarn for the embroidery. I decided on a purple color since there is such contrast between the pink and black of the dress and I thought it could handle the purple.  There's also an example of purple blackwork flowers with gold on a shirt in Patterns of Fashion 4.  I'd get a page reference, but my copy is still packed-- somewhere.  I've never used the Gemstone silk, but Laura Mellin uses it for her blackwork so I figured I'd give it a shot. When I did my last big blackwork project (the disasterous blackworked coif where I did everything wrong,) I tried both Gutterman silk and Rainbow Gallery's "Splendor." I wasn't really thrilled with how thin the lines were with a single strand and wanted a bit plumper look.  The Gemstone is supposed to have that. Also, because it is sold as a weaving yarn rather than an embroidery thread, it is less expensive. It is sold either in mini-cones of 250 yards for less than $9 or hanks of 1,600 yards for about $35. I bought the hank because I wasn't sure how much I'd actually need, in great part because I'm not sure if I'm settling for just the collar and cuffs or if I'm going to add spot motifs as in the portrait.  If there is some left, I can always do some fingerloop braided cords for various parts of the outfit.

I like buying supplies. I always feel like I'm making progress on something that way-- even if I'm not.

I'm still doing drafts of the embroidery patterns.  I'd like to find a few more mermaids/undines/sirens to alternate, especially if I go with spot motifs.  And yes, there is the concern that the motifs from the late modelbooks are too late for my dress dated 1531.  I'm still juggling that with the character concept issue.  Right now its a bunch of mush in my head.  You'll get an update as soon as I have a clue what I'm deciding on.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

But at least it is the SAME tangent. Well, mostly.

Mermaid from Johan Sibmacher's 1597 modelbook

I really have been getting ready to start the embroidery. There's just the issue of finding the materials. I don't have any clue where my embroidery silks are, where my needles are, nor where my linen is. So, there's a bit of a delay.  Actually, I decided that I probably don't have the right weight linen or enough of any particular embroidery silk to do the camicia, so I'm ordering supplies. I am unpacking my sewing supplies, but unpacking to try to find something doesn't seem like it is going to bear good results long term for my organizational goals.

In the meantime, I'm back to reading up on the symbolism of embroidered mermaids. You may vaguely recall my dip into that pond before.  This time I found a really interesting article on traditional embroidery from Crete and its use of two tailed mermaids.  What I found most interesting about it was it's connections to a lot of the research I did for my Rus persona Praksedys. Mary Kelly has done some really interesting work on the goddess symbols in embroideries and has three books and several articles available on the subject in various areas. I actually own most of them. Rather intriguing stuff and it makes me even more excited to make the camicia. The book I mentioned in the previous blog on Venetian mermaids ties it all back together and makes me even happier about my cartoon themed embroidery since it can be easily tied to my persona. Praxilla's family is from Crete and she now lives in Venice, the city married to the sea.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I have 142 days to make this dress

Pattern from Giovanni Osthaus' Perfection of design 1567
I've been looking at my inspiration for The Disney Challenge and trying to map out what is going on with it so I can divide it into manageable chunks.  It is a pretty crazy dress and I A) want to do it justice so I'm happy wearing it and B) want to have something I'm proud entering as an Arts and Sciences entry.  My recent gowns have been made for wearing and being happy in, so B is new.

It was kind of a weird journey to deciding I wanted to make a dress to enter since that is usually the last thing on my mind.  I tend to think of research and other types of projects as Arts and Sciences worthy and dressmaking just sort of something that happens in the SCA since everybody has to wear something. When I decided to do this dress for the challenge I picked it because I wanted something that easily worked for a character concept yet was absolutely and totally accurate with no ifs, ands, or buts. I knew that many people were bound to dismiss the challenge as a bunch of fluff that didn't have any place in a re-enactment society and lump it with glitter, elf ears, and plastic Viking helmets. I didn't want that.  Not that I am not the first person to have fun with costuming, but I wanted to demonstrate that thinking out of the box would get people excited about looking at things through a different lens. I hoped that it would put excitement into an educational exercise and get some creative juices flowing. I really am a believer in "A spoonful of sugar." It's the frustrated high school history teacher in me, what can I say.

Anyway, wanting to do an accurate representation of the dress tripped me up first thing.  It is a MONSTER of a dress.  It isn't something I'm going to toss off in a weekend, wear once, and be okay putting at the back of the closet to wait for a bad garb contest or another goofy theme to happen.  My knee jerk reaction was to change my mind and just pick something else.  Something simple that I either could adapt for regular garb later or make and not worry about.  Then I returned to all my reasons for wanting to do this challenge and noticed that "making a silly outfit" was nowhere on the list.  Stretching my skills was on the list. Research was on the list. Adding to my persona was on the list. Being proud of what I create was on top of the list.

So, I'm making a monster of a dress and I'm going to do all the persnickity details. The accessories, the copious embroidery and handwork, the whole hog. Which is how we get back to figuring out manageable chunks and a schedule to match those deadlines.

Couching gold cord to the edges of black velvet is going to be a big part of the time since the overgown is incredibly intensive. There's more going on though. There's a detailed balzo, a lovely lapis lazuli paternoster, a gorgeous undergown with striped sleeves, and then there's the camicia. It looks like pinky peach embroidery on the collar, the cuffs, and down the body as well. Hmmm.  This is totally crazy already. NO!  Manageable chunks.

I'm starting with the collar and the cuffs.  I know myself pretty well and know counted embroidery would make me absolutely crazy, so I'm not going to stick with the blackwork pattern that is there. Instead, I'm going to take the opportunity to incorporate the character concept.  Pinky peach and floral made me snap to "Ursula's Garden" of enchanted merfolk. I know, I have a rather twisted mind since the twisted things aren't sweet flowers. But hey, it's a villainess' dress-- what can I say. To turn it back to historical accuracy, I decided to use the siren embroidery pattern from Osthaus. It is classy and perfectly elegant while still letting me Bwahahahaha! in the dark reaches of my mind as I consider the association that got me there.

Tomorrow's goal is to decide if I am using the gryphon and the rest of the original motif or adapting it some way and draw up the final design.  Then Saturday I will transfer it to linen and start with the embroidery. Here we go. First bite of this whale taken.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I guess I better do a Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge

The challenge is about half over and I haven't done a single one.  How's that for consistency? No more excuses though, the move is almost complete-- just some cleaning and a trip to the dump left at the old place. My stuff is all ready to reassemble my sewing space.  I even got a serious upgrade; a brand new laminant floor in my studio.  I ordered a new camera, so pictures soon, but I have a beautiful teak colored floor and happy yellow walls to get me in a sewing mood.  Now to haul the stuff in from the garage. . .

But back to the HSF. I'm really excited about the next 2 challenges that are due.  Number 13 is "Lace and Lacing." As anyone who has been anywhere near me knows, I have a serious lace addiction and a penchant for buying vintage linens. The above trim is one I bought awhile back and stashed in my drawer.  Not sure if it is going to get the nod and be part of my project, but the plan is to go pawing through the stash and hope for inspiration.  Since I shut down projects before the move, I'm rather adrift with nothing on the agenda other than the Disney Challenge dress which is due for November. I really hope my brain gets firing again.

Challenge number 14 is "Eastern Influence."  I do actually know what I want to do for this. I want to do a zimarra. Specifically, the more Turkish influenced type from the undress style portraits. I have a gorgeous silk with pansies printed on it that looks a bit ikat like.  No, it isn't really an authentic Venetian silk pattern for the period, but it should be fun. And as I intend for it to be more of a dressing gown type coat, I've decided to not stress about it. It's a lovely silk that I got for a great deal and it has been sitting in a box for at least 2 years so it is time to cut it and wear it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

More music

Remember when I went looking for information on the repertoire for the Concerto delle Donne? I then got distracted by home buying, but it has been at the back of my mind.  Today someone in the ever helpful Elizabethan Costuming group on Facebook posted a link to the Petrucci Music Library.  It is chock full of public domain scores and can be searched by genre, instrumentation, time period, composer, melody and several other ways.  I'm having far too much fun!

I went looking at the major composers associated with the group. So far I've turned up several compositions by Luzzasco Luzzashi. None of the vocal pieces, but I'm fiddling with a round for 5 recorders which looks like fun. I'm almost overwhelmed by all that is available from Carlo Gesualdo.  There are 5 complete books of madrigals and part of a 6th. Luca Marenzio also has an extensive collection (55 pages.)  I haven't gone past that yet.  I'm going to be humming and playing along on the recorder and fiddling with these for some time to come as I see what I like.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Apology for not posting, and I think I know what I want to do for next year's IRCC

I have been working on projects, just not posting. I finished the embroidered shoes, went on a jewelry making jag, and am currently assembly line sewing my kids 6 outfits each in order to go camping in June.  So why no updates?  My kids destroyed my camera and I can't take pictures. Our new house closes the 14th, so we have been putting all the extra money into inspections and repairs and such and trying not to touch any of our savings.  There's a bit of spending going to go on once we begin the move-- yay for new furniture! I'm planning on sneaking a new camera in there too.

In the meantime, you can drool along with me.  While I don't really like the entirety of this family portrait, the details on the lady in red (Laudomia Gozzadini) are amazing and I want them.
Portrait of the Gozzadini Family by Lavinia Fontana  1584, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna
I have been wanting a lynx zibellino for ages. They're unusual and that interests me, but I also like the scale of them.  With my height, the minks can look a little bit lost, so I'd like to see how the lynx would work with my proportions.  The fur itself runs about $300+ so it has been low on priorities.  I have, however, found some bobcat pelts and am exploring that option.  The selling point for this portrait is the cutwork lace cuffs.  They're incredible.  With the rules change to encourage extensive handwork, I'm hopeful I could start on them this fall/winter and have them ready to finish once next year's contest starts.  

I adore the pinked/slashed sleeves and the dress and veste.  And then there's the jewelry.  Mmmmm.  She's wearing two sets of bracelets; one set above and one set below the cuffs. There's the girdle the zibellino is attached to.  A ring on each hand. She has two necklaces, one with a nifty pendant. It looks like there is a small nosegay in there as well. Just above the ruff she has earrings. There is also a sheer gold striped veil.  Loads of fun details to play with make up a project that should be interesting to work on.  I just need to start being on the lookout for a great red brocade.