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.