Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A couple of pearled cloaks

I'm behind on projects that don't include my kids and Halloween, so I'm throwing another past project up. These are the cloaks that were originally made to go over the white outfits I posted last. Totally a case study for why picking the fabrics and design for an event 6 months before hand can be tricky. I was cold and wet and shivering in winter when I decided fully lined tunics and wool cloaks would be a great idea for wear in late June. It made for outfits that are fabulous, but weren't able to be worn as intended.

These are half circle cloaks with machine embroidery, hand applique, stenciled griffins, couched cord, beads, wooden bead frames, and a couple of hundred strands of freshwater pearls.  The motto of "Tridentata Gloriam" comes from our Kingdom song and is a reference to Artemisia being named for Artemisia Tridentata-- common sagebrush. I embroidered the letters on felt using my embroidery machine and then appliqued them in place. The griffins are done with a stencil from Wall Masque Stencil Co on Etsy. I had purchased it awhile back just because it was two griffins segreant (rampant, but with added wings) and I liked it. I just happened to be perfect for the project. I had considered block printing it. I sort of wish I had, just because it would have been a lot quicker than doing the highly detailed stencil, but it sure turned out nice this way. The wool is a heavy boucle and just gulped the paint. I used Versatex again, and went through three 4 oz jars on the two cloaks.

There are about 75-ish strands of 7-9mm potato shaped freshwater pearls on each cloak that are couched in place and then I took a gold colored soutache cord and couched it to the side of the pearls to help them pop a bit as well as to help straighten up the lines a bit. Using the real pearls sacrificed uniformity.  Between each Tridentata Gloriam on the curve, there is a wooden quatrafoil bead frame with large beads in them, to break up the text. Each cloak is lined in a black and gold ecclesiastical brocade as I knew they would be draped over the back of thrones and seen from the front as often as the back.

Obviously, not a difficult thing to sew as it is just a half circle. Just a lot of sewing and embellishment.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Appliqued griffins for Ronan and Clare

 I'm working on a tutorial for making a padded table for block printing, so in the meantime I figured I'd go back and fill in the gaps for what I did while I wasn't posting.

I spent about 6 months acting as Mistress of the Wardrobe for Mistress Clare de Lacey and Sir Ronan Geirson ta Rautalahti while they acted as Queen and King of Artemisia. In the process I made 8 outfits and a couple of cloaks.

This set here is the outfits I made for them in June to wear to Avacal's first Coronation. Because there were unusually warm temperatures in Avacal, these were first worn in September when Their Graces stepped down.

The base clothing is simple, so I went to town with the decoration. The basic tunic and cote are white linen lined in more white linen. I fulled the black wool leftover from cloaks I made to be worn over these and cut the applique from it.

It is hard to see in the pictures I have, but the appliques are layered, with each limb and the wings and feathers separate.  I then stitched them into place with a gold metallic similar to crochet thread.
They are blanket stitched to approximate the look of gold cord couched in place as would have been done for period applique. Both are trimmed with a black silk inkle trim I had made in Morocco. The beaks and other details were done with needlefelting. That technique is totally not historically accurate, but I didn't feel like I had time to do embroidery and I had painted other outfits so I wanted a different look for these.

As you can see from the hanging photo, the griffins are intended to face one another when Their Graces stand in front of the thrones facing the populace as a nod to the heraldry of our kingdom.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Spot printing and embroidering over it.

When I started this outfit in the past, I decided to do a plain camicia with embroidered neck and cuffs. I embroidered them with a pattern of griffins and mermaids taken from Giovanni Ostaus' Perfection of Design. While I love the cuffs and collar (and they still haven't found their way on to a camicia yet,) I think it is wrong for the outfit. The original plan was to have this be my Disney Challenge dress and to have the dress read as Ursula the SeaWitch. Therefore I was going to have the underdress be more purple and less pink. Since I'm going back to having it read like the portrait, the deep purple and green in the cuffs just seems a bit stronger and more noticeable than what I want to go with the pink painted on gold I'm now planning. Therefore, the new plan is to do a camicia with little spot motifs embroidered in gold.
As I'm currently playing with block printing, I think I will use the blocks to transfer the design and make certain it is consistent. This is an approach used in the 16th century. There are some examples of printed fabrics sold by printers for embroidering on. The two in the V&A show a variety of patterns. One is spot motifs that could be for embroidered slips or they could be used as is on a shift. The Vand A also has a smock with similar animals embroidered on it.  The other extant example is a coif that has been printed with flowers to shape with the printing visible. There is also a matching panel with the same design
that has been embroidered with black thread in a speckling stitch with added spangles.  

My plan is to use a small heartsease (pansy) stamp all over the linen for the camicia and then go back in with gold to match the spot motif in the portrait. It isn't quite the same pattern, but I like heartsease and they were a popular embroidered flower in the period (one of Elizabeth I's badges as well.)
I also happen to already own the cute little pansy stamp pictured first. I purchased it from Blockwallah on Etsy.
Using a supply already on hand wins in this case. Although I have to admit I am very temped by some of the cute animals in the extant panel. Or possibly a seeblatt.
I do have a small heart with some interior detailing and I may use that alternating with the pansy for the cuffs and collar. Or, possibly something more geometric. I'm going to have to do some tests to see what I like. I figure the spot printed camicia will make a nice project to work on at events, sort of like the little printed cross stitch kits I did as a kid that were my first exposure to embroidery.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Yup, this is still a good idea

I was going through pinned images I've been hoarding in anticipation of this build. Some of the best are from King Studios version. I don't agree with everything (they call it Isabella d'Este's dress) and I don't have all their resources, but seeing all the work they have into it is astounding. Right now the website is being finicky, so I'm posting a link to the cached version. King Studio  Also of interest is their documentation page. King Studio documentation

The thing that was most helpful to me was their drawing of the knotwork.  Nice even intertwined V's
Seeing it all out like that in an organized manner somehow makes it easier to contemplate couching the cord and cutting it out. It also helped me realize that my original thought (like 4 years ago) that I could cut strips and trim them and then weave them into the pattern just wasn't going to work. This is a faux strapwork, not an actual one.  Even better is looking at close-ups and seeing the scale of the knots. Two V's across the bodice isn't actually that bad. They are pretty large and cover space nicely. The only problem I am having is that I want to start the dress now and the size of the knot is going to need to be based on the size of the bodice. I am in a size flux after having a gastric bypass so I'm going to need to guess wildly what size I will be after I finish losing weight. I was thinking I wouldn't need to size the bodice for awhile because I could work on sleeves and the skirt.  Ah well, it won't be the end of the world if I miscalculate a little.

I ordered paint this morning for my silk. I know a lot of block printers in the SCA use regular acrylic or house paint, but I'm an ink snob and am deeply in love with Versatex screenprinting ink. It is more expensive than the other alternatives, but it is also lighter on the fabric and stays soft while still being a nice thick consistency that is a dream to paint with.  It holds up to washing and wear wonderfully. I shifted to it after having other whites flake off and ruin things and I wont go back to the inferior stuff. I ordered their pinks to see what colors are going to work on my gold silk. They don't have too many options in that color range, so I'm only cautiously hopeful. With the amount of fabric I need to cover I really hope to not have to custom mix color.

Yes, I just admitted to using totally non-period pigments. There was no mention of painting madder or anything. That's right. That is what I'm doing. Most people just buy fabric. I'm going to be okay with handpainting mine using modern chemicals. I have used carbon to make lampblack ink to print fabric with and that is going to be as far as I go. I don't want to try for a pink.

My gold cord is also going to be fake. :)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fantasia dei vinci

I know, long time no blog. Hopefully I'll go back and fill in some of the gaps, but right now I'm excited about the new project so I'm just going to charge on ahead.

Giulio Romano's portrait of Margherita Paleologo has been a fixation of mine for awhile now. I know lots of Italian persona's with equal obsession over some dress or other (often Eleonora de Toledo,) this one is mine. The style from the early 1530's isn't necessarily the most flattering one with the low chest, short bodice and giant sleeves that seem to be sliding off the shoulders, but there is just something about it. It demands attention and gives presence. And then there are is the crazy knotwork.

What the heck is going on with that? That was my first question. This dress doesn't look like anything else at first glance. I just had to know why there was a giant black net over the top of a perfectly sweet pink dress. The pink dress made sense. Pier Francesco di Jacobo Foschi painted another of my favorite 1530's dresses in pink with a black border. There is even a bit of some decorative knotwork in her girdle.

The crazy overdress on the Romano is very different. Even the fact that there IS an overdress is different. There had to be some reason for it. I found the reason in misidentifications of the portrait. Over and over again the Romano portrait is called a likeness of Isabella d'Este. As the sitter looked nothing like Isabella d'Este and Isabella d'Este was nowhere near the proper age for the sitter, there had to be a reason.

Turns out the reason is the pattern on the dress. The pattern is not something random, but instead is a heraldic divisa. That translates to device, but the original usage meant a little more so I'm using the original. Currently, the only use of divisa is for the interlaced ribbons attached to a bull in the ring identifying the breeder. The knotwork is something similar. It is a pattern created by Niccolo da Corregio at the behest of Isabella d'Este.

Isabella was a fashion trendsetter, and it is thanks to her that the balzo hat became a thing, but while she did popularize the knotwork pattern, it was still particularly hers. There's a letter from 1493 from her sister Beatrice asking for permission to use the pattern. While this portrait of Beatice by Ambrogio de Predis isn't specifically dated that year, I like to assume it is close, as the pattern finds its way on to the edges of her dress.
There must be a name to this thing if it is that special, right? Absolutely. It is called the fantasia dei vinci (I know, I'm bad at surprises and put it in the blog title. I wanted to be able to find this post in a search when my swiss cheese brain forgot stuff.) Surprisingly, the title has nothing to do with Leonardo. Vinci can be translated as win or conquer as well as being to bind or restrain. Additionally, it can refer to osiers (vinco,) a type of willow used for basketweaving. ( As the pattern was devised as sort of an imprese with punning part of the game, I'm sure all 3 meanings came into play.)

Now, as to why this very Isabella pattern finds its way onto someone that is not Isabella? The portrait was done of her daughter-in-law Margharita Paleologo on the occasion of her marriage to to Federico Gonzaga. Adding more to the symbols  are the phrases "vincolo d'amore" (bond of love) and "vincolo di sangue" (blood-tie.)  So, daughter-in-law dearest is all tied up in bonds of family and branded by her mother-in-law.

While I'm playing with how I'm going to adapt the design-- or just leave it as is, Ill leave you with a few examples of other people equally obsessed with this dress. I'm very much not the first to freak out about it and it turns up in art more than you'd think. The Pre-Raphaelites especially had a thing for it.

Vanity by Frank Cowper (1907) Royal Academy of Arts

Edward Burne-Jones Sidonis von Bork  1860

Venetian Ladies Listening to a Serenade, Frank Cowper

For further reading:

'From Mimesis to Fantasia: The Quattrocento Vocabulary of Creation, Inspiration and Genius in the Visual Arts' by Martin Kemp, Viator (Los Angeles,) VIII, 1977, pp 347-98