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.

Friday, April 15, 2016

You put the lime in the coconut. . . Um, why is there wool in my blender?

Fear not intrepid adventurers, this blender, like the crock pot, toaster oven, and immersion blender before it has gone on to weirder things than it was originally designed for. As flocking was originally a byproduct of the manufacturing of wool cloth (I'm going to assume from when the cloths were fulled and shaved, but I haven't found specific mention) it isn't something I can lay my hands on. Well, that is not precisely true. Flocking fiber is easily obtainable from woodworking suppliers as craftsmen use it to line boxes (look, no fabric Ma!) and cover duck decoys. It is, however, made of rayon and nylon fibers rather than the historical wool. I have ordered some to try out so I can compare the durability and texture of whatever madness I manage to make and what the pros sell. You can get a kit with the flocking fibers, the color matched adhesive, and a mini-flocker that pumps air. Amazon carries them so I should be getting one on my doorstep soon.
In the meantime, I wanted to try some ideas out. A few years ago I saw an episode of The Fabric of Britain focused on the history of wallpaper and there was this wonderful section on the 18th century fad of flocked wall paper as well as of its origins in 1634 when Jerome Lanyer received a patent for the manufacture of flocked paper in Engliand. Allyson McDermott walks Paul Martin through the historical process of making the stuff. There are supposed to be some clips at the link under the picture but the aren't currently working for me. It could be my geographical location so I included the link in case it works for others. I would really have loved to watch it again to refresh my memory. One thing that I do remember clearly, however is that Allyson has a giant box to shake the paper and fibers in.

That is important, because I have a feeling this is going to be a lot like glitter. It will never, ever go away. There's a traditional family Christmas story that was told by my mother as I was growing up of the first Christmas that she and my father had together in their little apartment. My mom decided to flock the tree. In the kitchen. She also decided to make paper Santas with bottoms made of folded magazines spray painted red. Another project she chose to take on in the kitchen. The red flocking was apparently a sight to behold and was still very decorative come spring. As it remained until they moved.

While it is lucky we own our own home and thus my genetic legacy of harebrained crafting ideas won't get me thrown out on the street, episodes like the time I poured candles and reconditioned our countertops with beeswax in the process have made my husband wary. So I guess I'm getting a box with a good lid before I do anything of any size. First experiments will therefore be little samples.

Deep breath. Here goes. I started by taking a wool remnant I had hanging around and cut it into little bits with scissors.

That gave me a start. Obviously no consistency and it's not nearly fine enough.
 I threw it in my Ninja and pulsed it for about 4 minutes. I knew that wasn't going to be nearly long enough, but I could see some of the smallest bits being fine enough and I have a limited amount of time while my twins are at Kindergarten, so there's a deadline I'm fighting.
 I put a stencil down and brushed glue onto a cream silk taffeta. As I said, not fine enough, and not enough of the fibers that are, but I'm seriously encouraged. I'm using a generic craft that dries clear since that's what I had and I'm testing the wool first. I will need a heavier bodied, slower driving glue and I want to try tinting it to deepen the color of the finished design. Excitingly though, I think this might actually work. I'm going to chop more wool today.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

$48,000 of fabric

Posthumous portrait of Eleonora in the Walters Collection Inscription: 'FALLIX.GRATIA.ET.VANA.EST.P / VLCHRITVDO' ('Favour is deceitful and beauty vain'; Proverbs XXXI, 30
 If you happen to have 45 minutes and any interest in Renaissance Italy or clothes, you should have a look at this video of a talk given at the Met by Dr. Sheila Barker.  Prunes, Pearls and Malara: Behind the Scenes of Bronzino's Double Portrait of Eleonora di Toledo and Giovanni de' Medici.

I've watched it obsessively over the last couple of years more than once. From it we learn that THE dress took more than 3 years to design and make. We are also told that the fabric cost 390 gold scudi for 46 bracha (about 27 meters.) A gold scudi has about 3.5 oz of gold in it. Just for kicks, you should know that the price of gold today is $1,228.30. It is difficult to translate money directly, especially as the cost of living then was about 20 times higher for luxury items like clothing and things we find easy to manufacture and purchase were more difficult while other items were vastly cheaper, but a ballpark is about $48,000 (Dr. Barkers number) for the fabric in coin value (not the value of the gold.) Eleonora chose this fabric from a selection of samples in July of 1540. She kept 10 bracha for her own dress and used the rest as gifts. For those keeping track, 1 bracchio equals 2 palmi. Or, for a bit more ease, a Florentine bracchio is .583 of a meter. A Venetian bracchio was .683-- just to make things more confusing.  That means a bracchio is about .638 of a yard. So, Eleonora's dress was made with about 6 1/3 yards of fabric.  So hey, she actually used less than 1/4 of the total fabric. Perhaps the fabric cost was probably closer to $12,000. Especially since her father sent her over 200 scudi two years after she sent some of the fabric to her sister as sort of a payment for gifts given.

I tend to buy 10 yards a dress, so I'm feeling rather profligate regarding my fabric use. Granted, Eleonora was closer to 5'3" and I'm 6'1." But, as I've learned in looking more closely at Algega and other tailor's books, my layouts aren't as tight as they should be and I make my skirts too full. I hope to remedy some of that with this project, but I do love a twirly skirt.

On the other hand, while I will not be spending $12,000 on my fabric, I will be spending a crap ton of time making it, so keeping the yardage to a minimum is probably a solid plan and I'll be doing some mockups of the dress. Part of that is also a sizing worry I've got. I had surgery last summer for weight loss and am down about 160 lbs. I've been stalled for a couple of months, but my size and shape are still in flux and I don't have a good tried and true pattern for me at this size. So I may figure out printing the fabric and let it rest a bit to wait until I can be sure it'll fit come August.

But, back to the fabric. I threw a few ideas out yesterday about possibly gilding or flocking. I'm also considering if whether a combination of techniques with some couching of gold threads might be in order. I'm not sure yet what is going to happen. Some testing is going to have to happen. In the meantime, lets talk about what techniques can be documented for block printers.

As we saw yesterday, regular block printing is definitely being used in Italy. When I did my first experiments with block printing clear back during IRCC II with what became my drawers and a soccacia I mentioned our good friend Cennino Cennini and the ever present Craftsman's Handbook. He discusses methods for block prints and painting fabric. Extant examples exist for the 16th century, like the LACMA piece I posted. Additionally, there become finer examples of printing on fabric with engraved plates via printing press. The other two examples I posted yesterday were done this way. I've been messing around with acid etching for the last couple of weeks and I may try out printing with a plate if I can get a way to get the pressure right. The other thing I want to try is flocked printing.
There are written references to this being used to create ecclesiastical textiles in Italy. I don't happen to have located any extant fabrics yet, but here is an example of a Danish fabric done in imitation of an Italian Velvet with wool flocking. It's held at the Danish National Museum. Go read Mathilde Girl Genius snippets about it and look at the pictures. There's also this fabulous French piece done with mica sprinkled over block printed glue in the V and A. It just so happens to be a dead ringer for an Italian cisele velvet used as an altar frontal. You can take a peek about half way down the page of extant fabrics Bella has posted.

I've got some hide glue on the way as well as carving materials to make large blocks so I can start testing out printing options. In the mean time I'll be drawing up sketches, squinting at the portrait, flipping through the entirely too many modelbuchs I have and trying figure out what embroidery design I'm doing for the camicia.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Goals are just dreams with deadlines, right?

I've got plenty of dreams, and not many goals, so looking for a deadline I signed up for the Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge this year. I was originally going to go with another inspiration pieces, but my friend Fia is hosting a black and gold challenge (Artemisia's kingdom colors) with a deadline in October, so I decided to pick something that would work for both.

The fabric is, of course, the one major issue in what is otherwise a beautiful, but reasonably straightforward, gown. The fabric is arresting and take your breath away. It is symbolic and iconic. Since this is one of the dresses that most Italian costumers take a run at at some point, I had already been keeping my eye out for what the fabric options were. There's the version from BonniePhantasm on Spoonflower that several costumers have been reasonably happy with. It is one of my backup plans but I wasn't real enamoured with it. I'm a tactile person and the best color and draping version of the fabric also happens to be the 100% polyester version. The other major option used by other seamstresses was the Sartor version that was woven in silk. They sold out almost instantly, and if I wanted it, I'd just have to order 50 meters to have them do another run. I feel doofy for not buying it when everyone else did, but at the time I wasn't as interested in the dress. Since, well, everyone does this dress. In hindsite, I sort of smack myself in the forehead, but it is what it is. Back to the present. I not only can't afford to have 50 meters printed, I don't love the silk enough to do it. There's no texture to it and they went with a really light gold and a beige background so it seems sort of washed out. It doesn't grab me like the painting. I'm also worried what it would do to my coloring and just how ghostlike and weird I'd look in it.

After the exact pattern versions were crossed off I got into the sorta kinda close territory. (I know-- I was doing the but, but NOOOOOOO lower lip quiver too. But this was over the course of a couple of years so I had time to adjust.) I started scoping out damasks and brocades and velvets and any other search term I could think of. I'm a fabric hoarder. I mean shopper, Yes, shopper, that's it. So I look at fabric sites on a consistent basis. I had the Eleonora gown in the back of my mind and kept an eye out for something that might work.  Robert Allen has a cut velvet that has the same sort of feel to it called Jeu De Balle. It is a 75% rayon 25% polyester with a nice drape. I have samples and it doesn't feel at all plasticy. I have sewn with several Robert Allen home dec fabrics and always been happy with them. I wasn't as happy with the $160+ a yard msrp, but I did find a remnant of about 4.5 yards for under $100. If I could possibly have gotten the trained dress out of that much fabric, I would have gone that direction.

I was reading Joe Thomas' article "Fabric and Dress in Bronzino's Portrait of Eleonor of Toledo and Her Son Giovanni," and he refers to a type of fabric Florence was known for called ferroneire because of its resemblance to ironwork. There were several other strapwork fabrics I considered because of that. Speaking of the article, that was one of the few things I took from it. Thomas fixates on the early 19th century assertion that Eleonora's burial dress is the same one from the painting and thus takes the statement that the burial dress is a satin with galloon trim in concert with the statement that it is the Bronzino dress and asserts that the fabric must be a satin with with floating wefts. Since the burial dress, as examined in excruciating detail by Janet Arnold with the conservation documented in a couple of hundred photographs on the Medici Archive for public view, is blatantly not a woven pattern, has embroidered bands of decoration, and was probably originally a green silk, the paper has some major flaws. (I'll come back to all those nifty photographs when I talk about patterning this thing. There's a picture of Janet wearing the muslin toile she made of the dress that makes me smile a lot.)

So, back to trying to decide if I should sell one of my children to finance large fabric purchases, discarding using a fabric that was close and picking something else, or just picking a different dress to do. I have bunches of other fabrics I could pull from stash. If I want to still do the black and gold themed thing I've got several bolt black cotton velvet. Or there's the 60 yards of black and gold ecclesiastical brocade I got in a killer deal. Then inspiration hit.
Object 09.50.1096 from The Met

I block print fabrics for fun.

There are several examples of Italian and Spanish block printed fabrics from the 16th Century. Like this one at the Met. And this one. This one in LACMA isn't as detailed, but it is also 16th century and Florentine.

I can make my own fabric! And it won't take forever and ever. I have a machine embroidery machine and the files to embroider the motifs are available from Etsy from Liuba at ArtEmbroideryDesign, so I considered that for a few minutes. Only a couple of minutes. Then I decided that would probably take all 4 months of the challenge since I have a smaller machine and it would make me crazy. And I couldn't even get an A&S project out of it. Not that block printing it will be super simple. There will be a reasonable challenge to get the registration correct for both placement and to accomplish the two clear colors and I've never carved blocks as large as the ones I'll need, but IRCC is all about challenge, right?

Now I have to decide if I want to gild the gold for my fabric. Or maybe try to do some flocking. There are examples of dimensional fabrics made by stamping with glue and then sprinkling it with wool fibers from the manufacturing of wool cloths. There are also some furnishing fabrics that used mica for color and sparkle. I'll post some of those examples in tomorrow's post (I'm going to try my traditional IRCC plan of posting daily and so am saving myself something to talk about.) Let the dreaming begin!