Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Venetian turpentine and boiled linseed

The strange brewing of substances for sticking wool to silk continues.  I am trying to use the recipes from the De Kethan Treatise/Sloane manuscript 345 as those are specifically described as being used for printing fabrics. They are called "assays" in the manuscript which is encouraging as "assays: are a term otherwise used as a preparatory layer for gilding with leaf metal. It certainly sounds promising and like the sort of thing I should be using. It also has the advantage of being a later manuscript, dated to the late 15th century and therefore relatively close to the time period I am aiming for. The recipe I am planning to use is a combination of boiled linseed oil, amber and colophony. Colophony is also called Greek Pitch and is a resin. The most easily accessible source of it modernly is bow rosin. I played violin all the way through college. I can tell you that there are few things quite as sticky as this stuff. It can also be found in soaps, shoe waxes, and glues.

The recipe: ‘Substancie tmaken daer alle verue in dinet Recipe .j. lb. Lyn olijs ende sidet een vre ende dan nemt (fol 25r) .viij. loet bernsteen ghepuluert, ende doen dy yn een erden poot ende ghiten dar op lyn olij dy voer gesoden is dat dy wynsteyn bedowen ys myt den olij ende laten dat syen en also langhe dat di bernsteen ghesmonten ys ende roret weel omme myt eyn yseren leppel. Ende als gesmouten ys dy bernsteen soe salment syghen doer een doeck ende doent totten irsten olij ende latent siden, ende pruuet op eyn leye of het sterck genoch sy Ende ist sterck genoch soe doet dar .4. (of 1)pontspigel hars yn ende latent syden een luttel ende dan so settet af, ende dan ys bereyt. 

from Braekman, W. L. Medische en technische Middelnederlandse recepten. Secretariaat van de Koninklijke academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde, Gent, 1975

‘To make substance that serves all paints Collect 1 pound of linseed oil and cook it for one hour. Then take (fol 25r) 8 lot pulverized amber, and put it in a clay pot and pour on it linseed oil that has been cooked so the amber is covered with the oil and leave it to cook until the amber is melted and stir it well with an iron spoon. And when the amber is melted one should sieve it through a piece of cloth and put it with the first oil and leave it to cook, and try on a piece of slate if it is strong enough. And when it is strong enough add 4 (or 1) pound of colophony and leave it to cook a little and then put it off (the fire), and then it is prepared’

Translation by Indra Kneepens in her thesis "Understanding historical recipes for the modification of linseed oil: an experimental study into the properties of modified linseed oil for use as binding media in early northern European panel painting."

In addition to having been mentioned as an ink for printing fabric, and discussion that it tended to be so viscous that it had to be thinned to use to paint with, and it being from the right ballpark time, Ms Kneepens also did extensive experimentation with this oil as part of her thesis. So, I decided that this was the oil for me to try on my crazy experiment. The only issue at all is the expense. Amber-colophony varnish is commercially available at $144 plus shipping for 30 ml. OUCH. Buying amber to burn and make my own is also a bit costly for an experiment, but i am currently shopping around.

I do have some other things going as other options though. I started some glovers size with leather scraps from the leather jerkin and ordered some Venetian turpentine. There was specific mention in the discussion of the 17th century flocked wall papers that the glue used for the flocking was ant-pest because it contained turpentine. I wondered about this a lot since turpentine is used for things like cleaning brushes and thinning paints and I wondered how that worked. Then I found Venetian turpentine. http://www.dickblick.com/products/sennelier-venice-turpentine/ It is a resin made from larch trees with the consistency of honey, a gluey sticky substance that was added to paint to create enamel like effects. Many of the linseed oil varnish mentioned in the various manuscripts from the 9th through the 16th century have boiled linseed combined with different resins. There's copal and incense and other evergreen saps. The Venetian turpentine is not only similar/exactly one of the resins used, it is easily obtainable from art suppliers (and not $144 per 30 ml.) Sounds like a winner to me. I'm not sure if the liquid resin will be any different than the colophony I'm trying, but figured a few options and trials were a good thing.

So grinding and straining and mixing continues as I prep to smear my silk with oil-- an action that seems totally wrong to me. Here's hoping it goes well.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Back to IRCC stuff: Slippers

In the past I've made a variety of leather (and faux leather) slippers to go with my dresses. I did a parti-colored set in rust and blue to go with my Lucretia patchwork dress, the 'strawberry toes in red trimmed with green for the IRCC I dress, and the teal vinyl I for IRCC II. While the shapes aren't too bad, the materials are definitely not standard for Eleonora's wardrobe. According to Roberta Orsi Landini in (your favorite and mine,) Moda a Firenze 1540-1580: Lo stile di Eleonora di toledo e la sua influenza, Eleonora had few shoes and lots of slippers with the majority made up in velvet of various colors. Inventories hold thirty-two pairs of red, ten yellow, ten green, five brown, three pairs in grey, two in white, and one in black. Landini suggests the slippers normally matched the dress since there was a letter dated April 16, 1550 requesting white velvet slippers to wear with the white velvet dress Eleonora wore to Don Garcia's baptism but there were also ten green pairs of slippers and green was not a very common color in her wardrobe.

Eleonora's burial slippers don't survive. They, as well as the hairnet have disappeared since the original examination of the grave. There is, however, a lovely pair of surviving velvet slippers in the Rijkmuseum dated around 1550.  The shape is what I used to pattern the teal pair, so I should have a pattern around here. I just need to locate it. Although, with the state of my sewing room, drafting a new one might be easier. I have black, gold, brown, grey, and red cotton velvets but don't have white. while white might be the better choice to match the dress, even with a chopine or other overshoe, i can't imagine white staying clean for more than 10 seconds, so I am drifting towards a darker color. I have a charcoal grey as well as a silver grey and am leaning towards that, since it nods to the white but should stay a bit cleaner. On the other hand, the gold/yellow was more frequent in her wardrobe. Only one pair of black, but it is hard to argue that they would stay cleaner. I may test out stitching some buttonholes to see which one looks nicer in the treatment and see if that helps with decision making.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Kool-aid Peplos

I need to get some clothing done to wear to the SCA's 50 Year celebration within the next few weeks while still working on the IRCC dress a good portion of the time. I also can't do things too fitted because I'm once again having a bit of rapid weight loss. My solution is to do some quick Greek peplos (well, they are sort of peplos. Peplos would have been open at the sides. I'm sewing up the sides so I don't go all Spartan and get labeled as a "thigh shower." ) My registered name is Praxilla, after the poet from Sicyon, writing in the 5th century BCE, so the choice isn't totally out of left field.

University of Cambridge Peplos Kore
Although many people make their peplos out of linens, in Ancient Greece, they would have been fashioned from wool. The reason usually given for substitution is expense. I happened to have found some very lightweight suitings as well as a wool challis recently on clearance (for around $4 a yard) and had some other lightweight wools in my stash, so that was not an issue for me. What was an issue was the lack of color. My wool fabrics are beige and vanilla. Not because that's what I wanted to buy, but that is what was cheap.

More Peplos Kore from the Bunte Gotter exhibition
But it is Greek, right? White would be best, right? No, actually, Greeks wore lots of bright colors. We've known what sort of colors since the 19th century thanks to bits of paint still found on excavated sculptures like those at the Acropolis in Athens. The colors are probably an additional reason that their clothing was made of wool rather than linen. Linen didn't hold color well previous to modern chemical dyes. There are also examples of Roman Senators complaining that they were cold while wearing a toga, so it isn't the only reason for the use of wool. But lightweight wool can be just as comfortable and cool as linen, so I'm not too worried about using it in June in Indiana.

Amphora at MFA by the Camtar painter showing nifty patterned bands
I decided to take the painted Peplos Kore at the University of Cambridge as inspiration, since it uses some of the bright colors and patterns the Greeks were known for (although possibly not as wild and crazy as they actually were-- yes, this might be conservative!) Not to mention the fact that it was created about 530 BCE, so it fit nicely into Praxilla's time period.  I got super excited to do some dyeing. And then my kids got sick so I couldn't go out for supplies. Oh well, I guess we punt. I have done a lot more dyeing of wool fiber than I have wool fabric and I have a selection of Wilton Cake Colors and Kool-aid that I use for that. Mostly because I used to make felted wool toys for kids and so the food safety of the colors was more important than the colors themselves. Not that the food dyes don't make for nice colors, they certainly do.

 Also, they are easy to use. The only issue I ran into is I usually dye in a pot on the stove top and none of my pots are big enough to dye the fabric necessary for a peplos. So I tried dyeing with Kool-aid in my washer for the first time. I just turned on the hot water, mixed up some Blue raspberry lemonade with hot water to dissolve it and dumped it in. Kool-aid doesn't need anything else since there is already citric acid in the mix. The color didn't take nearly as quickly as on the stove. I put in 15 packets to about 6 yards of fabric because that's what I had. I let it soak about 2 hours. Usually you know it is done because the water will be clear and all the color will have been absorbed by the fiber.

 There was still quite a bit of color in the water when I got impatient and just let the rest of the cycle run.  I think there was a lot more rayon in the fabric than reported (I think it was supposed to be 80/20) so it didn't take as well as would be hoped and it didn't full very much.  I was just going to call it and plan to redye, but once it finished I decided the color would be fine. It isn't as vibrant as I was planning for, but it should coordinate nicely with the robin's egg blue and orange sari I found in my sewing room that will become the palla for this outfit. Tomorrow's plan is to block print the edges in blue and orange  for further coordination. I also found a couple of packets of wine colored RIT hanging around in my cleaning cabinet and that's in the washer now with more of this same fabric (I think I got it for like $2 a yard, so I can't be too upset about the extra rayon.) Since the RIT is a multi-fabric dye, it'll probably take better to the mix of protein and plant fibers.

Just in case I need to point this out, Kool-aid and cake colors won''t work on non-protein fibers. They work great for wool, silk, hair, etc. They won't work on linen, cotton, rayon, and other vegetable fibers.