Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Madder and garters

 I decided to try my hand at natural dyeing some yarn. I used Dharma Trading' s ground madder with an alum mordant and this tutorial from their site.  I didn't buy nearly enough dyestuff and wasn't able to get enough of my wool dyed consistently the same color to do stockings with it as I intended. I do like the color since I adore oranges and this has a definite rusty orange to it.  And it is certainly right smack in the middle of the color madder is supposed to give. I ended up with a lot of slightly different, yet very pretty shades, so small projects are now the order of the day.

Conveniently, I had the perfect small project in mind: garters. I have done several types of garters over the years: macrame, blackworked bands, tablet woven, and strips of silk, I have also tried buckled ones of leather and random bits of ribbons and tapes grabbed at the last minute. They tend to slip down if I have them comfortable enough to wear without worrying about blood clots forming in my legs, untie, or just be too tight, so I have yet to find the perfect garter for me. I read rave reviews from people who had tried out knitted ones. There was much exclaiming of "They don't call it garter stitch for nothing!" So I decided to give it a shot. Thanks to the research of Daniel Rosen (Old England Grown New) and Christine Carnie of  The Sempster, I found two extant pieces to base my garters on. The Sempster's link will take you to her Facebook album on 16th century garters with the pair she knitted for Daniel as well as pictures of a fragment in the Museum of London (object number NN18752, dated 1500-1599. It is not part of their digital collection) and a garter found in Haddon Hall in an account book dated 1632. The Haddon Hall garter is about 1 1/2 inch wide and the Museum of London fragment has a large variety but is close to 6/8 of an inch, according to Ms. Carnie. She examined the Museum of London's piece up close but only was able to see the Haddon Hall through the glass case.

If you have a look at those pieces you'll notice they are pretty utilitarian and nothing like the patterned set of knitted silk garters done in the round with gorgeous tassels found at the MFA.  Those are still on my list but nothing that complex is going to fit into the project schedule this go around. Nor are my knitting skills quite there. There doesn't seem to be an end treatment on the Haddon Hall garter so I decided not to justify my normal tendency to over do things and to just go for plain bands. Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth.  Sportweight  yarn, 6 stitches per row.

This is one of the most tedious things I've ever done. I took them as my project over Memorial Day weekend camping with the kids. So there was plenty of time in the car and while sitting around to work on them. I'm not sure I would have got them done nearly as quickly if I had other distractions and the ability to switch to something more exciting.  But they do have a lot of grip and a lot of stretch so I am hopeful they will be a good idea.

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. 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.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Finished Elizabethan suit

 I need to get pictures rotated and there will hopefully be modeled pictures eventually, but I just wanted to make sure pictures of a complete object exist, since I'm terrible at remembering to do that. I also needed to make sure there was a blog today.

I did do one Eleonora dress activity. Mathew Gnagy (The Modern Maker) published his 16th Century Woolen Stocking Knitting Pattern today.  I have wanted to do the Eleonora stockings ever since IRCC I but I am not an expert knitter and the prospect of doing the 20+ stitches per inch has freaked me out. I've been practicing. I even got as far as swatching on 0000 needles. Swatching and panicking. I'm so unbearably slow at it. I knew I could do a plain pair of stockings with a modern heel in a lower gauge but have been hesitating. I bought the pattern and he included a much simplified version of the Eleonora stocking with a patterned band that looks similar to the top of the band on the burial socks, but not the wide cuff with eyelets. It does have the decorative stitches down the back. It also includes shaping for the bottom of the foot and heel more in line with extant stockings. It has enough of the feel of the stockings to make me happy, but I think they are much more achievable with my current knitting skills in the time allotted. I do need to get different yarn as my silk is much lighter than the sock yarn this is patterned for.

Known World Heraldry and Scribal Symposium is tomorrow, so I won't get really going again on the Eleonora project for another day, but I'm excited to get moving forward with it again.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The problem with making 25 buttons is that you have to make 25 button holes

I love making buttons. I do not, however, enjoy making button holes. I decided to do button loops instead, but that is still a lot of them when I made the deadline quite this tight.

Trim went on reasonably quickly, but it is still takes awhile to sew the stuff on by hand. I did "cheat" and buy it rather than make fingerloop braid as I had originally planned. Part of that was not finding a good metallic thread I could afford. I hope to have maybe figured that out for the Eleonora ribbon/trim. I have two silver threads to try out for that. But I had already bought 3 different Joann's out of this silver trim, so I went with it.

The doublet is wool with the crazy sparkle silver boucle in it and I was worried it would be too shiny after someone remarked "so should we call you Sparkles?" while I was fitting it, but I like it, even with yards and yards of silver trim. Once again, the poor recipient is just going to have to deal. Part of the reason I'm making it for free-- I get to do what I want.

As far as the other things I wanted to test out with this, I am so far pleased. I interfaced it in wool and did some steaming and shaping with the construction and I'm liking the control it gave me. I didn't try all the techniques I had hoped to, but baby steps are good, I guess.

I threw the jerkin on over it and I think I have the sizing done pretty well so they sit nicely. If anything, I could have shaped the side back seams with a bit more curve for a closer fit. Hard to tell without putting them on a real body, but I think they are going to hang pretty well.

The Venetians are basically constructed, I just need to finish the buttons on the fly, attach the hook and eye, hem them and decide if I should trim them or leave them alone. I won;t be getting the shirt done in time for Saturday, which is frustrating after all the time I spent on the embroidery for the cuffs, but after doing all the rest of the work on this by hand and hand embroidering it, I can't bring myself to doing it on the machine.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

I may just keep the hat

It is just a cheap felt hat I picked up at Halloween planning to cover it with fabric to make a tall hat, but the grey was a good match for the jerkin so I left it as is. I am a sucker for accessories and needed a break from the doublet trim. I stitched on a couple of cream ostrich plumes, a black one, a white feather pad and a couple of green/black rooster feathers. The side back of the hat is probably its best angle (which this isn't.)  The herald in question already has a hat he likes, so I'm not sure if he'll go for this one or not. If not, I'm keeping it. I have a silver velveteen I plan to make a doublet gown from and I have a set of purple suede hides I'm going to make my own leather jerkin from. I can make another hat for me if he likes this one, but if not, I can certainly integrate it into my wardrobe.

The doublet should be complete tomorrow-- just the trim on one sleeve left and the buttons to stitch on.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Buttons on and the leather jerkin is complete

Museum of London Object #118831
 Buttons in place and a little more decorative punching on the collar and I'm calling this finished.

I had considered doing a bit more paint on the skirting, but I think it looks just fine plain and I admit to being a little worried that if I add more, I'll mess it up. Sanding the paint lightly didn't do much to remove it and I don't want to get aggressive. The overwrought back panel isn't visible at all when worn, so the jerkin will just have to do as is.

I am rather pleased with the buttons and just how easy they were to do. The inspiration jerkin in the Museum of London has a leather thong running the length of the front opening. There are punched holes through which the shanks of the buttons are pushed and the thong is threaded through, holding them taut. It was much quicker to do this than stitching them in place. And the shank of my buttons just so happened to be the exact size as the punch I had been using all along. Although it is doubtful the jerkin will be worn buttoned closed, I still think the tiny line of buttons is lovely and it certainly finishes things off. Now I just need to finish the doublet and pants.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Ironing with a mallet

 This is one of those times I really wish I had a dress dummy so I could show off just how cool this is looking. The hanger in the corner by my fridge just doesn't quite cut it. I still have some fiddling with the collar and buttons, but the jerkin is pretty close to being done.

I worked pretty solid on it all day to finish the rest of the punching. Since this is has a deadline. I did most of the sewing on the machine using felled seams. I just stitched the two pieces together, trimmed one side as close to the stitching and stitched the long side down. As it is leather, no folding under, just stitch and trim close to that second seam. As the blog title suggests, I did pound the seam down a little with a mallet. Although that wasn't all that necessary.

If you compare this to the picture of the pieces from last night, you'll notice that the doublet skirting is quite a bit shorter. I decided it needed a trim once on. So I need to repaint the bottom and possibly put more punches in. I say possibly because my shoulders are saying nope to that idea and my hands are blistered from the punch. Even the spring loaded punch makes causes exhaustion when there are hundreds of punchings.

I still need to do some trim on the under doublet, so Ill let this sit for a day or two while I work on the other and give it some thought. I also probably need to sand the inside back to see if I can get rid of the paint. I was going to line this, but once I got it assembled it jut really was better without. And this way the holes create ventilation. The only reason left to line it is to hide the paint on the inside. Which can't be seen at all when it is worn. Even if left unbuttoned it doesn't show, but I'm still embarrassed by it.  I really hope sanding helps.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

I have to laugh

The Museum of London just wrote a blog article on the leather jerkin I'm using as inspiration for the one I posted about yesterday. And there are loads more images available now as well. I only mildly feel like the Universe is telling me what a crummy job I'm doing.
Actually, I'm feeling a bit less worried about how the jerkin is working out. My husband put the doublet on and I put the jerkin pieces on over that. If I cut down significantly on the trim I had planned for the doublet and keep it closer to a plain black wool, the crazy decoration on the jerkin looks nice rather than like it went to the carnival.

I also took the back piece, flipped it to the suede side and re did the branding and painting. No black makes a considerable difference, as does leaving the gold off the collar. I'm much happier with it now. There is one spot on the shoulder where the suede is a bit more textured than I'd prefer, but I think once worn it will even out.

Still lots of punching to do. My shoulders are complaining so I'll get back to it tomorrow.

Jacques le Moyne and La Clef des Champs

Watercolor of Strawberries and Emperor Moth by Le Moyne

I'm taking a break to celebrate my twins' 6th birthday, so not much of anything got done today. I did run across another book to add to my 16th century embroidery book obsession though. Most of the modelbuch don't really have more than a page or two of the animals and plants that we so often find in the extant pieces of embroideries. The animals, plants, and other pictorial scenes seem to come from other sources.  It was actually the other sources that lead me to the modelbuch in the  first place.

I got sucked into my fascination with the origins of 16th century patterns by reading Margaret Swain's The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots and then Michael Bath's Emblems for a Queen, the Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots. Many of the animals came from natural history illustrations. I got Gessner's Historiae Animalium and spent a great deal of time investigating the various emblem books that are part of the English Emblem Book Project. All of these are used as sources for embroidered pieces.  The book I ran across earlier this week seems to fill in a bit of the hole between these books published for other purposes and the ones published for embroidery. It is Jacques le Moyne's La Clef des Champs (The Key to the Meadow.) Published in 1586 in Blackfriar's in London. It is full of woodcuts of animals, flowers, and fruits, set out specifically for use as a pattern book. That makes it a bit different than Gessner and the emblem books since they were used and not intended for that specific purpose. Le Moyne specifically published his as a pattern book. The dedication to his patron,Lady Mary Sidney, puts forward the book to be of use to artists and craftspeople including goldsmiths, embroiderers, and tapestry makers.

It was certainly used for that. The deer here looks awful familiar. As does one of the monkeys and squirrel. Both the British Museum's copies are both pricked for embroidering. Wingfield Digby discusses Le Moyne in Elizabethan Embroidery on page 41.  I ran across the book because of a mention in "English Domestic Embroidery Patterns of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries" by J.L. Nevinson. The only complete edition is in the Oak Spring Garden Library in Upperville,Virginia but as mentioned, the British Museum has 2 copies and they published a facsimile back in the 1970's.

Le Moyne himself was an interesting person and has become a much more well known and important artist in the 20th Century as some of his watercolors were discovered in the 1960's. He was a French Huguenot. He was the cartographer sent by the Charles IX of France as part of an expedition to Florida in 1564-65. The drawings he made were burned during a Spanish attack of Fort Caroline and he redrew many from memory later. They include some of the first depictions of Florida Natives giving him a place in history for that. It is the beauty and detail of the watercolors that really give him his importance, however. He is one of the earliest and best botanical artists of the Sixteenth century. If you want revel in the delicacy and beauty of some of his watercolor, search Jacques Le Moyne at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The same search at the British Museum will turn up the woodcuts for La Clef des Champs as well as many of the woodcuts of the French expedition in Florida. I certainly enjoyed both.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Just so I have a list.

I realized I hadn't made an actual list of what I intend to do. Since I needed a blog for today, I decided this was as good of a time as any.

Toes up

Red "pope" shoes trimmed in black
Red silk stockings
Knitted garters
Drawers (not from evidence, but I'm more comfortable with them)
Linen camicia with lazy S blackwork
Red Velvet busti
stiffening for busti
hook and eyes for busti
petticoat skirt
fur lined sleeves
"enameled" buttons-- done
fitting dress mock up

flocked fabric for dress
linseed oil varnish tests
carve blocks
test stencil versus block
shaving flock
modern adhesive try
fingerloop braided lacings
doppia for train stiffening

woven diagonal ribbon in silver and gold

hairnet in tacked ribbon
hairnet in bobbin lace
partlet in better of the two

Cast pendant
short pearl necklace
long pearl necklace
earrings (look at extant hoops)
pearled tassel cascade
etched and enameled tassel head ruby substitute in bezel. Soldering
Set diamond, emerald and ruby substitute in cast quartafoil
braccone settings
large pearl in braccone setting
enameled links
rings to link-soldering

Rather a long list and not much of anything on the list is done. But, I'm progressing. I have the linen out for the camicia and am about to start on the blackwork. The flock is also coming along. I've got a gallon bag full so I can try out some varnish options. I'm swatching on the stockings to see if me knitting them at anything approaching gauge is possible, or if I will need to do a plainer pair in a larger knit. I'm also plugging along on the doublet and jerkin so I can cross those off the list and concentrate more of my time on this.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

When good clothing goes bad.

 I'm having a moment of serious anger at myself with this one. Nothing seems to be going how I want with this particular clothing item and it may end up in a time out. This is supposed to be the back of a leather jerkin based on this extant one in the Museum of London   See how beautifully subtle that is? I can't tell if the lines are tooled or branded, but they stand out nicely from the background. And the holes are shaped punches.  I bought some shaped punches in stars, hearts, diamonds, teardrops, and a dozenish other shapes.

First thing I did was cut out my doublet shape and take a ruler to it.  I drew the lines in with a pencil. That seemed to go reasonably well and I was impressed. Then, I took a soldering iron and went over the lines. When I finished that and touched it I was still reasonably happy. Then I let it sit for a bit.

And this is when the project turned. I pulled out the punches and realized that they were not even moderately sharp. Fifteen or so hits with a mallet and it kinda sorta went through. So, okay, sharpen them. I pulled out jewelers rouge and a hone and I thought I had it in hand. That didn't go as well as would be hoped. They were better, but still not working well enough to be a possibility for the hundreds of holes that needed to be made.

I do, however, have a Craftool Hand Press from Tandy Leather that I got awhile back to put round holes in my lamellar armor after yelling at how hard it was to do that many holes in that many plates. And I paid a lot of money for the convenience. So I figured that was a good solution. No stars or hears or diamonds, but there would be holes.

So I punched bunches of holes in the jerkin. At which point I determined that the soldering iron lines just weren't showing up well. Its a result of using grey leather, but it is the right color heraldically and I got a killer deal ($15 a hide, which meant I only had to spend $45 on leather for this, this making it a possibility at all.)  So I figured gilding leather is a reasonable thing. Paint brush came out. There are some grooves there due to the soldering iron and the paint was catching them reasonably well. Not great and I wasn't totally sold, but it wasn't going to come off so I kept going. And then I painted the diamonds up top. And I hated them. So then I pulled out the black to fix it a bit. Yeah. That's where FAIL! happened.  But I kept going, because there didn't seem to be an option. Sigh.

Maybe I can sand it off. . .

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Herald Beautification project and dental pain

I'm still trying to finish up a project due at the end of this month, where I'm making a full suit of clothes for my Kingdom's Principle Herald. He had no choice in the matter, I just got a wild hair and decided I needed to make more menswear. Artemisia is hosting the Known World Heralds and Scribes Symposium, so making something for him came with a deadline (which is a necessity for me.)

 I've been stitching the lining in with my spare time, so not too much to see. I will probably be concentrating on it the rest of this week and next so I make faster progress which means less work on the Eleonora gown. Major construction of the doublet and Venetian trousers are done, I just need to stitch about half of the doublet lining in and put on the trim. I'm especially pleased with all the heraldic elements I am including. He has ermine in his device and I find the silver faux silk lining with embroidered spots to be reminiscent while not requiring me to carve and block print ermine spot on the lining, which was my original plan. I did blackwork cuffs for the shirt with elements from his device (dragons) and I'll probably show those tomorrow. I just need to get the cuffs and collar stitched on the shirt.

Today's other time suck was a visit to the dentist and a new crown. The pain in my jaw triggered a migraine so I really got very little done.  I've been curled up on the couch since about noon.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A rabbit hole full of adhesive


I was going to start testing glue ideas since there didn't seem to be that many options of plausible historical glues. But first, first, I figured I'd have a look at the history of wallpaper and see if I could find a little more information on Jerome Lanyer's 1635 patent to manufacture. I thought maybe I could find some more direction for what types of glues could be. I found Wallpaper,its History, Production, and Possibilities by Henry G. Dowling with a couple more clues about the early history of wallpapers. I did find out that Jerome Lanyer received his parent from Charles I on May 1, 1635 for a process he called "Londraindiana," and paid 10 (the book didn't specify 10 what) a year to keep the lucrative right to make flocked hangings. I found out that these were not printed on paper because paper wasn't strong enough. I also found the flock referred to as wool dust. I also found a date of 1620 for a French maker of flocked hangings called La Francois of Rouen.

From there I got pointed to a 1758 book on painting, enameling, and other techniques with recipes for paints,varnishes, sizes, etc, by Robert Dossie titled Handmaid to the Arts. There's an appendix to the two volumes called "On the Manufacturing of Paper Hangings" that is pointed to as the major source on early papers, including info on flocking.  He discusses alternating large and small knives for chopping wool rags into flock as well as the use of a mill. He also talks about the application of the flock: "Flock requires to be put on with the varnish." He suggests printing the varnish then removing the hanging to another table "to be strewed over with flock that is later to be gently compressed by a board or some other flat body, to make the varnish take better hold of it."

In the earlier sections on the gilding of bookbinding papers and leather, Dossie also has some information that should transfer. He mentions that the size is put on a wooden plate or block rather than on with a brush. In addition to both gold size, he mentions that, "the size should be thickened with as much yellow ocher and red lead as the proper working of the print will admit." The size is applied to the block by setting it evenly onto a cushion that has been evenly brushed with size." This technique is an accurate discussion of the color sieve or color box technique that is used by modern block printers where a felt pad is saturated with color and then put on a stretched membrane that floats on some starch. This ensures even and consistent uptake of the color as you can't press too hard without the force being dispersed.

From Dossie I took a detour to The Grove Encyclopedia of Materials and Techniques in Art by Gerald W.R. Ward where I found the cool box for shaking the paper is a late 18th, early 19th century innovation and the earlier flocking would have been done with a longer staple fiber, and by hand. It also mentions the adhesive made from boiled linseed oil and letharge (that's lead oxide folks.) Back to Dossie, I find recipes for varnish and sizes. There's a glover's size which is boiled scraps of leather, making a gelatin glue that would be used warm too, but it doesn't quite fit the "varnish" definition.

So then I went off looking for suggestions on how to make boiled linseed oil without getting lead poisoning. I found Indra Kneepken's Master's Thesis for the university of Amsterdam. "Understanding historical recipes for the modification of linseed oil: An experimental study in the properties of modified linseed oil for use as binding medium in early Northern European panel painting". It is 150 pages of fascinating. That has sent me off digging through multiple Medieval manuscripts of recipes and back into Cennini as well.

I guess that's the long winded way of letting you know that I've gotten nothing done today but a bunch of reading? And my glue experiments are going to wait until I give this a few more reads and look up a few more references. I think the answer is here. Not as straightforward as "use rabbit glue" or "try some glair," but i'm actually very happy about that. i didn't think those solutions were going to work and this very well may. i like it much better than just grabbing a jar of modern glue off the shelf and doing that.

Further reading:
"Color and Other Materials of Historic Wallpaper" by Catherine Lynn, Journal of the American Institute of Conservation, 1981
 Handmaid to the Arts by Robert Dossie, 1758. This link does not include the appendix, but there is a great deal of information on varnish and sizes that I am finding helpful

Monday, April 18, 2016

Plans for the rest of the jewelry

While I was squinting at closeups of Eleonora's jewelry, I ran across the motherlode of information and have to share it with you. Laura Marsolek, a bench jeweler and 2013 of Syracuse University with an interest in jewelry history just so happened to do her Honor's Capstone Project on the jewelry in Bronzino's double portrait. Even better, the paper (all 109 pages of info drenched goodness) is available free to the public.  Her third chapter is all about her own experience making a version of the belt section of the girdle (no drop or tassel,) the pendant and necklace, and a couple of dozen sleeve pins. The cherry on top? She has pictures of the recreation made using her modern knowledge and information gained from Cellini's treatise on goldwork. There are pictures in the thesis, but better ones on her commercial site. Please go drool.

While I wish I could just do my own version of her way, I unfortunately have no experience with the casting of bronze and don't know anyone locally who does. Nor do I have the ability to sink money into tools just now. So I will be making do with what I have. What I have is pewter casting equipment, purchased with prize money from IRCC II in fact, so it seems apropos to use them for this. I know several very talented pewterers to pester for advice, as well. I also have the tools and chemicals for acid etching brass, soldering stuff, and a whole lot of faux enamelling things.

So here's the current break down of my plans. First, the necklace. The pendant causes its own issues because it features a large laurel wreath. That makes it unlikely that I can wear it at any place I could wear the dress as it would be in an SCA context and I am not a Laurel and therefore can't wear the wreath.  This creates the problem of whether to do a different piece of jewelry or not. Conveniently, since there are 3 similar but different portraits, one comes with a solution. The Walter's portrait doesn't have the wreath. It is just the central quatrafoil setting with central diamond and pendant pearl. TrulyHats happens to carry a gold quatrafoil setting as part of the recent products Truly had made for her Katherine Parr reproduction. I thought I'd see if the large ouch would work. Or if it could be the base for some further embellishment. I plan to do the same thing with the quatrafoil settings that alternate in the girdle. Eleonora has diamonds and rubies as well as a single emerald cabachon. These alternate with 5 rosette links. The gems are in quatrafoils that are surrounded by cut branches called braccone. I think I can make the branch surround and solder them to the quatrafoils. The rosette links I'm going to cut out of sheet brass and acid etch, then enamel. The tassel head plan is also to cut it from brass, then hammer and solder it into the bell shape necessary and etch and enamel. As I'm a pearl freak, I already have far too many strands of 3mm freshwater pearls for the tassel.

There are 200 pearls in the necklaces (50 for the short one, 150 for the larger with further seed pearls between.) The number happens to correspond to the 200 Maria Salviati bought for her daughter-in-law . before the wedding. Those would have been some rather expensive saltwater pearls. As I don't have a Medici trying to bribe me to move to Tuscany, I'm settling for freshwater. It means mine won't be as large and beautifully matched. I do, however, have a box with like 100 strands of 9mm potato pearls, so the length isn't an issue. That will also be plenty left to pearl the partlet and hair net.

Tomorrow I'll be back to flock and glue. First up is the trial with egg as adhesive.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Eleonora buttons

I totally lucked out here. Having these buttons already in stash was one of the major reasons I decided to go ahead with doing the dress. They are such a distinctive button with a large size, rosette shape, and the pointy bit in the center. I think having them helps to reinforce that this is a version of a particular dress or at least of a particular family. Interestingly, the same buttons can be seen holding the sleeves onto the dress of Maria de Medici, the daughter of Eleonora and Cosimo I in the portrait done of her by Bronzino in 1550.

Whether that is because they were the actual buttons (or sleeve pins) used by Maria, or they were something from the artist's imagination is up for discussion. However, Cosimo I's inventory of 1566-72 has a listing for 193 gold rosettes enameled in grey, white, and black enamel that would have belonged to Eleonora. The number of them makes me think them the sort of thing that would have been used for "buttons." The portrait of Eleonora has 34 visible buttons on the left arm and another 8 on the right. We see all or some of three rows. The four panes of the sleeves mean there's another row of them not shown. All in all that means there's a lot of buttons.

There was a Kickstarter last year (August of 2015) by an SCA merchant who has experience having buttons made to order. it was one of the most painless projects I've ever done (and I'm sort of a Kickstarter junky.) The Kickstarter closed in August I had my buttons by October along with extra buttons, some aiglets and some lacing rings as a bonus.  I ended up with 125 buttons which should be enough to do the sleeves. Also luckily, as I am well known for not using things for projects even though they were bought for the project, I can buy more if I ever decide I need more since AvalonNatural on Etsy continues to sell them in both gold and silver.. YAY!

Il Giornale dell Arte

That's the good news. The eh news is that I really didn't like how shiny they were and how difficult it is to see the wonderful detailing on them. I just love the look of the quatrafoil heart and wanted to show it off.  So I decided that maybe I should patina them in some way. And then I got a really, really good look at the tassel on Eleonora's girdle. A company called Haltadefinizione scanned the painting in 2010 and had a live exhibit. Unfortunately, most of those pictures aren't accessible, but an art newspaper happened to publish this one. In it you can see the beautiful enameling on the head of the tassel. There are also bits of green and white enameling on the pendant of her necklace. I thought continuing the enamel through all the jewelry would be nice.

If I actually did enamel with the melting of glass, I would be foiled by the fact that you can't really enamel on just any metal because of the need to have a lower melting temp for the glass than your metal.  My buttons are a mystery alloy and I intend to etch brass for the tassel and possibly cast a pendant. with the mix of metals, I'd already researched options for the appearance of enamel that weren't glass. The best and easiest substitute available to my skill set: nail polish. The polymer enamel is easy to use, easy to obtain, cheap, and low stress. My local drug store had a bunch on sale for 49 cents in all kinds of colors and I have shopping/hoarding issues. I bought lots of colors so I'll be doing faux enamel for some time to come.

 I pulled out a finer paint brush and the reading glasses I use for embroidery and hit the low areas of my buttons with a bit of black nail polish. I also did the little "leaf" protrusions as well as the second of the three sections that make up the center point. I very much like the contrast. They pop against the silk and the design is much more visible. An hour or so of painting this morning got me 1/4 of the way finished. I should be done with the rest by the end of the day.

I feel like I'm getting off easy here and should be casting them myself. I figure I'll make up for it when I get to the girdle and pendant. Eleonora's jewelry was most likely made by Benvenuto Cellini (at least the buttons and girdle,) as he was the goldsmith that Cosimo I had on staff. Cellini wrote an autobiography as well as some treatise on goldwork and includes anecdotes about the Archduchess in his writings. I'll be talking more about his techniques as I approach the other jewelry. He was an amazingly talented artist as well as an entertaining character, so I'm enjoying reading both. Conveniently, his works are easily available in translation.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Lazy S pattern for the camicia

Plate from Vavassore "Corona di Racammi" originally published in 1530
I love the 100 or so books published in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries jam packed full of embroidery patterns. After spending a couple of years collecting links and hard copies of them it is always exciting to have a project to use them for.  I considered just selecting a random pattern from one of the modelbuch published before 1545 to embroider on the cuffs and neckline of my camicia. I was seriously tempted by several from Engelnuff. (Yes, I do have a favorite modelbuchlein. Yes, I realize that says something about me.) After taking the excuse to browse through modelbuch for a few hours, however,  I went back to what was depicted the portrait. I was actually a bit disappointed by that. Here's a reason to utilize all this other data and I'm just squinting at the portrait?

The camicia has a simple scroll pattern of Ss on their side. There are quite a few lazy S and simple scroll patterns in the earlier books and I had originally pulled 5 or 6 to look at with various levels of simplicity, including a couple that added a flower or a heart and a few that omitted the acanthus style flourish. After looking at them a time or two I decided not to use them. This one from Vavassore is pretty much a dead ringer for the portrait and once I'd decided to do the S style, it only seemed right to do the exact pattern. But you have to admit, being able to find the exact pattern is at least sort of a good use of far too much research, right?

Closeup from Anea's site
The biggest reason for settling on the lazy S was balance. The pattern is actually rather plain and compared to the hundreds of other choices. It is just an s on its side with a tiny amount of flourish. I think with the overblown presence of the dress fabric, that's probably a necessity visually. If the embroidery was polychrome or more figural like several of the borders I was tempted to do are, it would get lost against the dress. The camicia is a contrast to the scrollwork and texture of the dress. It is simple. The sleeves aren't even gathered at the cuff. I was surprised to notice them coming out of the bottom of the sleeve floppy and a bit rumpled looking with no cuff or gathered frill.  I think the counter balance of the organized pattern and the informal finish helps sell the dress. it's also refreshing to see in all the uptightness of the mannerist portrait and I like that.

The best view I can get of the top edge of the camicia is from the Detroit Institute of Art portrait, There are two versions of the double portrait, one in Uffizi Gallery in Florence, one in Detroit. There is also a third portrait of just Eleonora in the dress painted posthumously. It is in the Wallace Collection in London. The Detroit portrait isn't quite as finely done as the Uffizi. If you are interested in finding out more about the differences between the two double portraits and seeing how the workshop of Bronzino was more involved in the Detroit version, there's an interesting article from the Journal of the American Institute of Conservation authored by Serena Urry comparing the two portraits and pointing out paint burs that show how the background was done and the faces left for the master. It also points out mistakes in the pattern of the dress fabric as well as looking at the simplification of the embroidery so it looks less three dimensional as compared to the Uffizi portrait. The Detroit loses the acanthus flourish and is a great deal more boxy. The extant published modelbuch, Furm-oder Modelbuchlein by Schonsperger published in 1523 has a pattern very similar. (Top one of the 3, although the bottom is a nice lazy S as well.

I like the Uffizi version via Vavassone a  bit more I think. What I don't like nearly as much is that either way, the cuffs and top edge are my least favorite blackwork type-- counted and reversible. I rather detest counted blackwork and have sworn off it. The cuff is turned up with a fully visible pattern showing in all 3 portraits, however. It is most definitely reversible. Sigh. I guess getting the correct look for things is why I embroider in the first place.