Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Somehow or another I have managed to actually start a very small, itty bitty business!  And the Christmas rush has been driving me nuts!  That's what they don't tell you about working for yourself...it's all "you can set your hours" (not mentioning that they will be 7 days a week) or "you can work in you PJs" (because you won't have time to put on real pants).  November was a good first month, December has been even better, and I'm hoping to keep the ball rolling into the New Year now that I have some product ideas that people seem to actually want.  Yay!

Not that this has anything to do with this particular blog.  :)  Except that I am thinking about doing some hand dyed rovings, so that's sort of relevent.  Kind of.

Anyway...I am exhausted!  And totally ba-humbuging the whole holiday thing.  Tomorrow should be the last day for orders I *must* get mailed, so then I can rest a little, maybe bake some cookies and try to get into the Christmas spirit, or at least into the I-don't-want-cry-I'm-so-tired spirit.  Then maybe, just maybe, I will have time to actually make something new for 12th Night. 

I ordered some really gorgeous new wools from Fabric.com last week (? I think?) when they were on sale for $4.99 a yard.  Of course, I feel so fat and repulsive right now, the idea of making a dress out of such pretty fabric seems terribly wasteful, and I do have my blue linen houp I can wear.  Maybe with the new hat I've been planning. 

We'll see.

First, a nap.  And some eggnog, heavy on the rum! :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our new baby

I've been fairly busy the last couple of weeks working on things for my fledgling business, trying to get stock made up, filling orders, and coming up with new things to try.  That hasn't let a lot of time or energy for historical sewing, but I'm hoping that once things settle down a bit I'll be able to establish some sort of new routine.  It doesn't help that now that I'm fairly certain that I *can* weave, my loom room has been taken over by the newest addition to the household, the as-yet-nameless kitten.  The DH wants to call her Patches, but I have an aversion to naming animals silly words rather than actual names.  She was called Ellie at the pound, but that's the name of a friends dog, so that won't do.  Right now I'm leaning towards Annie.  So far we've been calling her Miss. Kitty Fantastico until we come up with a real name.

It's been a rough fall.  Ok, to be honest it's been a rough year or two but I think the last couple of months have really been wearing on me.  Not being able to get out of the house since the the surgery and having so much trouble doing even basic things, on top of the pain, the cat dying, and everything else has just got me down.  Usually I try not to post about personal things here, but part of my lack of productivity and progress with some of my projects is that I'm feeling really discouraged in general.  Working so hard and seeing so little return for it is frustrating, and it seems like that's what I've been doing on all fronts lately.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rewind please?

What a miserable week.  I went to California for a jewelry show last week, something totally outside the scope of this particular blog but I've been trying to see if I can make profitable over the last few months.  The show did not go well, but I'm not really sure why.  It didn't seem like any of the vendors there were selling much, so as far as a learning experience goes it was kind of not that helpful. 

Business matters aside, the trip sort of went down hill from there. Trying to get home on Sunday, the plane I was supposed tot ake out of LAX developed some sort of water leak and the flight got canceled, leaving me stuck in LA for 11 extra hours, with another 5 hour layover in Miami.  When I did finally get home Monday afternoon (only 17 hours late and not having slept or eaten properly) I found my cat sitting on the living room floor in a puddle of her own urine and unable to stand up.  The vet did what she could but she (the cat, not the vet) ended up having to be put to sleep yesterday morning.  According to the DH Maya (the cat) had been  acting strangely for the last couple of days and he hadn't seen her move on her own since before Saturday.  I feel awful that I wasn't there for her, not that I could have done anything.  Poor old kitty.

Anyway, the trip wasn't a total fiber waste.  I did stop by Village Spinning Weaving and get some more Gotland for my never-ending warp spinning project.  I'm trying to spin up enough to weave either an apron dress or one of the short sleeves Greenland dresses.  So far I have 3 shades of Gotland for the warp, but I think if I warp carefully that won't be a problem.  I will need to make sure I get all the same color wool for the weft or I'm going to have a crazy checked dress.  I also got some bamboo to try out for tablet weaving.  It's much less expensive than silk, making it less scary to work with and get wrong, but has a fairly similar hand so it should (I hope) work up better than the cotton I have been using for the London bands.  I want to make a filet, similar to the one in the MOL book with the bits of fake hair still attached.  That particular band did not work at all well with the cotton so hopefully the bamboo will improve things.  Once I get the hang of things a little better I will move on to silk, I'm just not brave enough yet to spend that kind of money on a learning project.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hat problem solved!

Maybe anyway...

The stiffening issue for my truncated hennin style hat has been really bothering me.  I was trolling around the forums on Ravelry today for no particular reason (avoiding packing/laundry/cleaning) and stumbled across a post about some earlier period Spanish hats called toca.  The relevant point is that they were stiffened with paper!  Vellum to be exact, and there actually is one extant!  Hurray!  There is a good paper about recreating one here.  The vellum makes so much more sense to me, especially after looking at the Spanish hats and the similarity in shape (somewhere between the hennin and a bishops miter).

That being said, I think using paper is not the best plan for durability sake and I don't really know if I want to try to track down vellum, so I will probably still use buckram.  At least I now I have a better idea of some plausible base materials though, and that makes me feel better.  I'm not making a modern substitution blindly. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011


I need a new dress form.  I have one.  She is lovely.  She is about 100 years old (literally, we can roughly date her to 1910 or so), which has it's uses but has a lot of draw backs too.  The silhouette is all wrong for modern bodies and and I'm not really willing to corset her or pin into her to reshape her.  Because she is old.  I'd like to stop using her she will last longer as an antique and get a new, more adjustable, right-shaped dress form.  The adjustable thing is important as I am really trying to loose some of the weight I have gained since my car accident, and now that I'm in the post-op world that should start getting easier rather than progressively harder.  Plus I do sew for other people, in a small space, so the adjustable thing would come in handy when working for clients (so long as they fit within the size range for the form).

I've seen some forms at my local Hancock and Joann's which look like they would be ok for my current purposes priced at around $100, depending on the current sale.  I think they are made by Dritz.  Has anyone had any experience with these?  Are they a total waste of money?  They don't like like they would hold up a 45 pound houppeland terribly well on the adjustable stand, but I would think some clever use of PVC pipe would solve that problem.  I've never found an adjustable stand that *would* hold up such a gown (at least not for long), even when I had the luxury of using industrial forms.

Monday, October 24, 2011

More hat pondering

Petrus Christus, after 1460, Portrait of a Young Girl
So I've been poking around at all the Burgundian hat pages I can find (not too many, sad to say, though there are a few) and the current generally accepted "right" way to make these things seems to be willow, cane or some other basketry method as opposed to stiffed fabric.  Huh.  I suppose this makes as much sense as another else, we know they knew how to weave straw, we know they wove straw into hats, so why not?  Of course, we also know they made felt and fabric hats and some of them (like the Phrygian style caps and loaf hats) are pretty architectural so I'm not really 100% convinced, but lacking any extant hats to look at, it's as good an argument as any.

What bothers me about this argument though is that many, if not all, of these cone type hats seem to be covered with fabric (though I can think of one that sort of looks like woven ribbons or a basket type surface, it's hard to tell).  Covering woven straw or reeds with delicate fabric seems like a bad plan, as the straw would wear through some of the clearly very delicate cloth that's on these hats. Sure, you can pad it out to protect the cloth, but that makes for a pretty chunky looking hat.

I don't know.  I have a lot of buckram so since I have that to hand and am not entering that hat in an A&S competition, I'm going to use that for the first version of the hat.  I've always loved the simplicity of the hat in the Christus portrait, and the neck drape is all kinds of fun, so I might go with that look instead of the more formal gold thing in the original painting I'm basing the actual dress on.  The black hat strikes me as less formal somehow, which I think would work better with my wool gown.  The dates on the paintings are close enough that I don't think it will be a problem, plus the hats are very similar in shape and sitting in the same position on the head (the gold hat is a little more rounded in shape) so the style doesn't seem to have changed much.

One other interesting structural mystery about these hats is the loop.  What are they for?  What are they attached to?  You can see in the Memling picture here, showing ladies with loops but no hats, that the loops appear to be attached to headbands or something attached to the hair, not the hat.  It might be that the hat sits over the loop/headband thing and attaches to it, with the loop acting as a counterbalance.  This makes a certain amount of sense to me.  When I was in college, I had to do a theatrical version of a horned hennin as part of my senior project and it was very difficult to counterbalance.  I solved the problem with some creative shaping in the back of the hat, which looked ok but prevented me from turning my neck in certain directions.  That same semester we had to make these big bubble-shaped head pieces based on the same hennin idea and solved the problem with little close fitting caps that went under the whole mess, so perhaps the loop-band is serving the same purpose. 

Duchie Award!

I was reward to checking on all the blogs I like to follow today by finding out that Edyth at The Completely Dressed Anachronist nominated me for a Duchie Award!  I now feel shamed into actually sewing something historical this week, not just making knitting needle cases and taking naps (why oh why am I so sleepy?!)

Anyway, the rules for receiving the Duchie Award are to post on your blog, in any order:

  1. Five things you love about historical costuming
  2. At least three blogs to pass the Duchie Award onto
  3. A link back to the blogger who awarded you the Duchie
 Starting from the top...five things I love about historical costuming.  Just five?  
Cloths as experimental archeology - I think is this is more obvious as applied to medieval and earlier clothing, but the same can be said for later periods of fashion as well, but you get a better sense of how people actually lived when you try to live in their clothing.  Literally walking a mile in their shoes gives you a whole new insight into how it was to live/sleep/eat as an Elizabethan, Victorian, Roman or whatever.
Attention to detail - Unless you are lucky enough to wear couture, modern clothing is mass produced usually in sweatshops.  The finishing is sloppy at best.  Sewing allows me to focus on the detail work, finishing things properly.  Historical sewing opens up a whole new level of detail, not just finishing the seams and paying attention to details of fit, but doing it in different ways than we use today.
Gotta love a challenge - Everything about period costuming, from researching to pattern drafting to sourcing materials is challenging.  Some things are certainly easier to do than others, but there is always a way to make it better, more authentic.  Even a simple tunic can be a huge challenge if I want it to be, and that keeps me interested in what I'm doing.
Playing with colors - In real life I wear jeans and a lot of grey, browns and black.  Sometimes I get crazy and throw some pink in there, maybe burgundy.  When I create historical costumes I get to put aside what modern tastes say are fashionable, what "goes" and get creative.  I can wear goose-turd green and pink and red all at the same time.  Or crazy striped fabric that gives most people a headache, or red shoes with yellow stockings and blue garters.  And this is fashionable.  Plus I get to figure out how to do all this with plants, and that's just plain old cool.
Geek out!!- The best thing, if I have to pick just one best thing, about all of this, if that I get to geek out on stuff that I'm interested in.  I like pretty things and playing dress-up, but I also like the technical parts of all this and figuring things out.  It turns out there are people, and sort of a lot of them, out there who  are just as geeky as me about weave structure and sheep breeds and dye materials and how to set a sleeve as I am.

And lastly (because I already did #3 at the very top), my nominees,

Demode - because Kendra is amazing.  She makes beautiful cloths (not costumes, cloths) and does excellent research.  Her focus is later period that what I've been doing of late, but it's still inspiring and I know where to go when I get around to making an 18th century gown!

The Costumers Closet - again with the mostly later period than me stuff, but the work is beautiful and really inspiring!  I appreciate that she  posts a lot of in-progress pictures so we can see how she's putting things together, something I aspire to do more faithfully.

Katie Jacobs - Lovely work, again later period, but more importantly she posts how-tos and sourcing tips, and other great information useful if you going to actually *wear* some of the cloths you have made to a reenactment.  She gets the looks head-to-toe, which so many people miss.

Monday, October 10, 2011

12th Night Planning

I've spent the better part of the weekend being productive for the first time in what feels like a hundred years.  It was wonderful.  I made cornhole bags (don't ask), knitting needle cases, finished some embarrassingly backed up work from over the summer, and redesigned my jewelry web site.  I've spent a huge amount of time at the sewing machine and the ironing board, and my leg does not hurt.  Hurray!  Sure, I got tired, but I lasted longer that I would have even before the surgery for we're on the right track.

Anyway, the theme for our kingdom's 12th Night is the Court of Maximilian I in 1500.  So, German.  Which sounds interesting, but not something I would be likely to wear again.  However my persona is Flemmish, so that's close enough, and I've been wanting to do this red gown forever, and it dates to 1450 so, again, close enough.  I have some red wool to make the gown out of, it's actually red shot with navy, kind of a tiny hounds-tooth, and ends up reading a really rich burgundy.  It's a little light, so I may have to line it, but I have some burgundy linen I can use for the lining.

The collar and cuffs look to have a very short pile, my guess is it's fur.  Finding a good low-pile fake fur is not going to be easy so I will probably just use velvet, hopefully in a silvery or cream color so it looks like the picture. 

I'm really *really* excited about the hat.  Especially since it isn't black.  It sort of looks like the crown might be rounded too, but that might be a trick of the veil.  I've got to decide how I want to build this thing, doing it with buckram will be easy enough but I'm not sure if that's how they were most likely made.  It could also be a felt form that's been decorated.  I doubt it's straw.  At least I know what I need to research.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rijksmuseum digital exhibition

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has launched a very cool digital exhibition called Accessorize.  It's in flash and sort of a bandwidth hog, it loads fine for me over FiOS but your mileage may vary depending on your ISP.  Anyway, it's worth whatever wait time!  The exhibition covered accessories from 1550 to 1950 and you can drill down in the images to an insane level of detail.  It's a bit late for my interests, but there are several pieces of gold work embroidery in the 1600-1650 section that are really stunning.  There's lots of great inspiration, who doesn't love goldwork?

Friday, September 30, 2011


So as you may have gathered I had surgery on my right hip about a month ago (late August, the day before Hurricane Irene came to town to be exact) and this has made much of my medieval crafting rather challenging for the last month.  Because I could not put any weight on the leg, I could not spin or weave or drive my car, nor have been able to sit in a normal upright position for much of the month.  The sitting part has been getting steadily better, I can now sit at the sewing machine for awhile anyway, though I have had to modify things at the ironing board so I can iron sitting down.  Trying to iron on crutches is about ridiculous as it sounds (I tried, I really did).  Staying in any one position for very long is still hard though, so I have not been making much progress on anything, which is is frustrating.

That should be changing though.  They cleared me to start putting weight on the leg last week, and today the doctor said I could drive!  Hurray!  Such a small thing, but being house-bound for over a month has been really challenging.  Just the psychological impact of knowing you can't go anywhere, never mind that you don't want to go anywhere or have anywhere to go, is pretty traumatizing.  Tomorrow I get to give it a try, we need to be sure I can stop the car quickly if I need to, but all indications are that it should be fine.  This also means I'm ok to spin at the wheel again, and work at the loom!  Yay!  So I can get back to working on the projects I want to be working on, at least in small bits.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Things have been a bit quiet around here for the past couple of weeks, partly because I've not been doing a whole lot of anything productive, and partly because I've been a bit distracted by a very off-topic project.  Outside of my historical crafty interests, I knit and make jewelry and am in the beginning stages of (hopefully) starting a small business selling some of these things (hence the etsy link you see on this site).  Well...my mom took one of the jewelry pieces to a group she belongs to in California and long story short I'm going to be selling at a trunk show in November.  Yay!  So I've been trying to get my inventory built up, get a website with a shopping cart together, and get business card and all that fun stuff together, all while still hoping around on crutches and unable to drive.  Oh, and also going to physical therapy three times a week.

You can see the fruits of my labor-so-far here, at www.follyandnonsense.com.  If nothing else, there is a picture of Molly, my dog, modeling one of my dog sweaters on the home page.  :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A&S 50: Nine: Learn to Weave – Basic Tabby Structure, Rigid Heddle Loom

Tabby, also called plain weave, is the most basic of weave structures and a great place to start for new weavers.  For my first weaving project, I decided I use to use the small 24 inch rigid heddle loom I already had, and work with tabby (partly because rigid heddles work best for tabby and partly because I had almost no prior weaving experience).

The basic structure is very simple.  The weft threads travel over every other warp thread, alternating each row to create the weave.  This can be achieved with finger manipulation or needle weaving, but the rigid heddle makes manipulating the warp threads much quicker and simpler, allowing the weaving to raise or lower the threads all in one motion.  The primary disadvantage to this style of loom (aside from having only one heddle or shaft) is that the heddle is free-floating and doubles as the beater, making it difficult to maintain an even beat and keep the selvedges straight.

The cloth was tabby woven using a rigid heddle loom at 10 DPI at the full loom width of 24 inches. After weaving, the cloth was fulled in a washing machine. Pre-fulling, the weave was quite open and relatively even, though some areas were packed more tightly than others (this was my first major weaving project and the first time I had worked with a wool warp, so there was a bit of a learning curve in this process). After fulling, the weave evened out a great deal and packed down considerably. By the end of the fulling and dyeing process, the warp and weft were barely visible and a compact, water repellent fabric had been produced, as can be seen in the finished piece. This is significantly thicker and denser than the cloth used in the extant Dublin caps, but will serve as a useful warm layer at cold and wet events.

The cloth used to make my Dublin-style Viking hood had been intended for another project, but due to excess shrinkage in the fulling and dyeing process was not suitable for my intended use (a later period hood). After making a pair of mittens out of part of the length of fabric, I had a piece left which was just large enough to make this cap if I placed the fold along the back of my head rather than across the top (kismet!). As conservation of resources seems within the spirit of the time period, this alteration of the basic pattern seems to be plausible if not entirely supported by the archeology in Dublin and Jorvik.

Of the twelve caps and three remnants of caps studied in Heckett, nine of the caps and two of remnants are wool. All of the examples are tabby woven, with an even weave structure. All but one are classified as having an open weave. The wool caps are woven at a range of 12 to 23 warps per centimeter, with wefts ranging from 9 to 20 per centimeter. The cloth for all of the caps is lightweight and quite fine, and some of the silk is very delicate. At least some of the hoods seem to have been purpose-woven on narrow warps. All of the wool caps analyzed in Heckett have selvedges along two sides, while the silk caps all appear to have been cut to size from wider pieces of cloth. Most have not been analyzed for dye, but of those that have two were undyed, two showed traced of iron mordant.

Heckett, Elizabeth Wincott. Viking Age Headcoverings from Dublin. Royal Irish Academy, 2003.

Walton, Penelope Textiles, Cordage and Raw Fibre from 16-22 Coppergate,Council for British Archaeology, London, England 1989.

Viking Silk Cap, Yorkshire Museum (http://www.historyofyork.org.uk/themes/life-in-viking-york/viking-silk-cap).

Crowfoot, Elisabeth. Textiles and Clothing c.1150-c.1450. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London, 4. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1992.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A&S 50 Eight: Learn Tubular Tablet Weaving

For my second-ever tablet weaving project I decided to be ambitious (as usual) and challenge myself a bit by weaving tubular cords for small book bag. Such cords can be seen on a brick stitch pouch housed in the V&S and studied extensively by Master Richard Wymarc and several have been found used as seal tags and as strings for rosary beads (see Crowfoot and Myers).

The basic technique is quite simple - a few cards are threaded, usually all Z or all S, and all the weaving in carried out by always working from right to left (or left to right), carrying the weft thread under (or over) the work to create a tube. The band will spiral, or not, depending on which direction the weft is passed through the shed and whether you pass the weft over or under the band. Learning which combinations will produce the desired effect takes some experimentation, but a handy reference can be found in Cindy’s Myers article on the purse strings, at http://www.silkewerk.com/tabletweaving/tubular.html.

My purse strings suffer from some unwanted spiraling, which due to my lack of technical understanding at the time, I was not readily able to control. I now realize that the areas free of spiral alternating with spiral were likely due to changes in the direction the cards turned. Had I turned the cards consistently in one direction, or changed the way I passed the weft when I changed my turning direction, I would have had a more consistent cord. I am looking forward to experimenting more with this technique as the cords produced are quite attractive and could be useful for many purposes. Unlike fingerlooped cords, there is no restriction on the length of cord that may be worked so this would be an excellent way to produce miles and miles of lacing cords.

Crowfoot, Elizabeth. Textiles and Clothing, c.1150-1450 (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London). Boydell Press, 2001.

Myers, Cindy. Tubular Tablet-Weaving; Identifying and reconstructing the hanging cord from a 14th century embroidered purse. (http://www.silkewerk.com/tabletweaving/tubular.html) Last accessed Sept. 11, 2011. Originally published in Spring 2008 issue of TWIST.

Bag 8313-1863. 14th cen. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O115592/bag/

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Natural Dye Book

I actually have the first edition of Wild Color, by Jenny Dean, and was quite pleased this morning to find out that there is a new, revised edition out now as the first one had gone out of print. This is a wonderful introductory book on natural dyeing.  If you can only get one book on natural dyes, this would be the one to get!  This book has been indispensable for all my natural dying experiments.

That being said, the first edition had a few organizational issues which have hopefully been resolved in this new revision.  I'm tempted to order the new version myself just to find out, the book really is that useful.  A very nice chart telling you what mordants and assists work best with each plant is included on each page, with a color swatch giving you a general idea of what colors to expect from the plant, but in the first edition the key the symbols used was buried in a very strange place.  The problem is easily solved with a bookmark or post it, but finding that key in the first place (or when you lose your post it) can be quite aggravating. 

You also need to read all the general instructions first!  I know, I know, you want to jump right in and start working with that madder you got at Pennsic, but reading the general instructions at the start of the book will save you a huge amount of pain and suffering later on.  Then you can read up on the specifics of your dye plant, and get to work.  Dean does a good job of explaining the chemistry behind natural dying, and you need to have a basic understanding of this before you jump in.

For the history buffs, there is a short chapter on the history of dyeing at the start of the book that is a good starting off point for future research, but this is really a how-to book, not an academic one.  There is a lot of great historical information and period dye recipes available on the web to round out your A&S bibliography.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Not quite back

My Greenland hood project and the finished lattice bag were picked up this morning and should be on their way to 30 Year where they will be included in the open A&S display on Sunday, rather than the triathlon on Saturday.  It's not quite what I was hoping for, but at least people will still get to see my work, and hopefully give me some feedback, which is the whole point.  And I am basically halfway there if I decide to do the pentathlon for KASF, which seems a whole lot less terrifying than it did last year at this time.  My Laurel suggested that I try weaving some actual yardage, which I think would be a great project for that if I can find something within the right time period.  Handweaving (at least on a 4 shaft loom) and the 15th century don't really go well together, unless I want to do more of the Greenland textiles.  I'll think of something interesting to do, I just need to do it soon!  With the holidays and all I want to get any big projects well in hand as soon as I can.

I'm terribly disappointed in myself for not being able to finish the documentation for the lampwork rosary I posted pictures of last week, but given how much pain I've been in since the surgery it's really not surprising.  I don't know what I was thinking, expecting to write anything decent (or at all) while hopped up on percocet.   Things are getting better though, so I expect the writing will start moving along soon.  In the mean time, I've been doing some fairly mindless and totally modern knitting in between naps.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Brief hiatus

I will be off-line, or at least not able to post much, for a bit as I am having my hip fixed this afternoon.  It's a very good thing, and means I will be able to go to the mall *and* the grocery store like a normal youngish person again without paying for it for 3 days after, and also maybe walk the dogs and go to camping events.  An uphill climb in my mobility rather than what I've been dealing with for the last two years sounds really wonderful.

Anyway, my plan, once I get off the drugs, is to get caught up on my A&S 50 documentation so hopefully I will be able to start posting that late next week.  In the mean time, here is a preview of the Franciscan Crown rosary I made using beads I made myself (at least I made the green glass beads).  If I can finish the documentation next week this will be one third of my entry for 50 year next weekend!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Really finally finished bag!

It's done!!  (picture me running/hobbling in circles flailing madly like Kermit and you will get a pretty good idea of my joy at typing that)  The purse strings are fingerlooped, the tassels are tassels, and the linings is all attached and finished off.  I'm really quite happy with how this turned out.  The finished relic bag represents about 135 hours of work in total, but overall I think it was worth the effort.

I may still make a separate hanging string, the first bag I made has one, and that seems to be a common arrangement of strings where strings or any sort have survived. Plus it would make it easier to hang off my belt if I decided to actually wear it as a pouch.  The only other change I may at some point make is to add the turks head knots to the tassels.  I've been trying to teach myself how to make them and can do ok with twine or yarn, but the small silk I used for the tassels is a bit too much.  If I can find something a little stiffer to work with that might help.  I can always add them later once I get the hang of it.

Bag finishing - in progress!

It's actually getting done, and I'm actually going to make it by the 30 year dead line!  Hurray!  I've got the lining put together and attached, the side seams stitched, and I'm 2/3rds of the way done with the braided seam finish.  The original bag looks like it had a tablet woven edge down the sides, but I'm not that confident with my tablet weaving, so I've opted to the edge finishing I know I can do neatly.  The top will get a narrow band of red silk folded over the raw edges, like I talked about in my last post.  That band will have worked eyelets to hold the purse strings.  Three tassels will finish off the bottom.

You can barely see from the pictures (or in person really) but the bag is faced with a mustard color silk.  My original plan had been to use a bright blue to show behind the eyelet holes, but when I looking at it the blue made the whole piece look a little dark and the eyelets didn't pop.  The mustard was much better.  The Hubs, who insists he is no good at these things, was a huge help.  He's actually really good at the whole color theory thing, even the medieval color theory, no matter what he says.

Here you can see a detail of the braided edging.  I'm really happy with how the red looks, it's a nice contrast and brings out the small touches of red I already had worked into the design.  I'm also very pleased with the pattern matching down the side seams, another feature you don't often see in the extant bags but to modern eyes not matching the pattern can be very off-putting.  It's funny sometimes, the things we worry so much about that they just didn't concern themselves with.

Because I know someone will want to know, this type of edge finish is really quite simple to do.  It's slow, and you have to be careful to work neatly, but it looks really sharp.  Apparently it was used on things other than these bags too, like Viking hoods and such, though I don't have the documentation for that myself.  There are a few differant ways to do it, but I follow these instructions.  My only additional tips are to try to make your loops as long as they need to be so you don't have to join new ones half way through, and to wind them onto bobbins.  The bobbins keep the extra thread neat, and give you some extra weight to keep the tension on the braid even, which is a huge help.  You also need to be careful as you work not to pull things tightly or you will distort the edge of your piece.

Edited to add:  I've been looking at the online images of the original bag to sort of drawstring placement and I think the top band is actually embroidered, not a sewn on ribbon or tablet weaving after all.  If you zoom in on some of the black and white photos, you can see pretty clear plain brick stitch where the holes for the purse strings are, and sections of the ground cloth showing through in places where the embroidery has worn away.  Unfortunately I placed my work on the fabric such that I could not do this, so I've gone with the band method seen in the V&S bag, but it is adds another set of options for finishing off the top.  The side of bag is presenting a more interesting set of questions.  It's hard to tell what's going on in the pictures but it kind of looks more like little buttons or knots running down the side of the bog than tablet weaving or a braided edge.  You can sort of see what I mean in the picture to the left, it's more clear on the zoom-able version on RICH website.  I'd love to get my hands (or at least my eyes) on the actual bag to see how this is all done, but that will have to wait.  In the mean time, I shall proceed as planned.  I'm kind of leaning towards leaving off the middle tassel at this point, but we'll see.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bag finishing

I've been mulling over how to finish my lattice bag for the last few days.  The embroidery itself took such a long time, I really don't want to kill the whole piece with poor finishing.  Some of the extant bags done in this particular style have the drawstrings threaded right through the embroidery, which is how I did the first bag I made, but the original lattice bag has some sort of band at the top that the strings go through.  It's hard to tell from  the pictures on line what this band is made from, so I'm trying to decide what will work best, look good, and still be true to the original. 

I had come across the bag to the left when I researching the first bag and I think I have my answer!  Yay!  It's rather roughly finished, but the top has a binding of ribbon or fabric that folds over the top edge and is whipped stitched down on the front of the bag.   It seems to have worked eyelets (boo) through which the strings would be threaded.  From the picture, it looks like the band was put on in one continuous loop after the bag was assembled, leaving only one seam in the band piece, but it's hard to tell for certain.  This particular bag is folded along the side edge rather than the bottom edge, so the construction is a little strange to begin with.

In digging through my fabric stash I found a big of dark red silk that sort of matches the silk I used for the red eyelets and the silk I have for the drawstrings and tassels (which don't exactly match each other but you can hardly tell).  It's not a perfect match, the silk fabric is a little more of a rust than a blue-red, which is what I used for the embroidery, but I don't think I'm going to find anything better in the shops locally.  The other red I have is way too bright, so the slightly rusty shade is probably going to be the best match.  I thought I had some burgundy china silk someplace but I can't find it anywhere.  Don't you hate that?  I've got one place left to look, then I can start on the finishing tomorrow afternoon!  Having a plan is good! 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Something completely different

I've been quite busy and productive this weekend, though not with anything textile or fiber related.  Yesterday the husband was at a martial arts clinic (I didn't go because of the injury which will be getting fixed in my upcoming surgery) so I stayed home and got caught up on some totally modern jewelry making and did laundry.  Today though, I canned jam!   I haven't made jam since grade school so this was fun and exciting and I feel like a clever and accomplished and terribly thrifty homemaker.  Even though since I had to actually buy the fruit, possibly it wasn't all that thrifty in the end.

So far, I've make 3 pints of pickles using cucumbers from the garden, 7 half pint jars of mixed fruit jam from a recipe I cobbled together from a list of things Himself decided he wanted in his jam, 5 pints of plum jam, and a couple of jars of lemon sage mustard.  Tomorrow I'm going to do some pint jars of strawberries with the 4 pounds of berries I got on sale at the market.  Normally I wouldn't bother canning with berries from the regular grocery store, but they must have got a shipment of really fresh ones or something because these strawberries are really good.  I think we will have plenty of jam to last until next year, and a few jars to give away as gifts as well.

All this canning business has got me thinking about some of the period mustard recipes I've been playing around with.  Most of them are better if you age them awhile, so they would benefit from being pasteurized and sealed in a sterile jar.  I think I may try fiddling with some of the recipes so I can can a few of them and see how that works out.  It's not exactly period, but it's safer than period food storage methods and would be easier to transport to events.  Plus I wouldn't need to keep all the little jars and things in my fridge, I could just put them in the pantry.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Staffordshire Hoard in D.C.!

I just found this article about an exhibition of a selection of more than a hundred pieces from the Staffordshire Hoard which will be on display in D.C. at the National Geographic Museum from October 29, 2011 to March 4, 2012!  Yay!  That's only 3 hours from home, and conveniently after the major recovery period from my surgery later this month!  I should be able to walk through the museum with no problem!

If you are in to Anglo-Saxon stuff in general, and metal working in particular (go shiny bits!) this should be a really amazing exhibit, and not to be missed!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Finished bag

The lattice bag is done!  Hurray!  Thanks to over 120 hours of work starting in October of last year (I stopped keeping track for awhile after 96 hours, my best guess at this point is that it took about 125 hours), the major work is finished.  I still need to line and assemble to bag, and sort out how I will handle the cord band at the top, but that should not take more than another 8 or 10 hours of work.  I hope.

Anyway, the finished bag is about 5.5 inches wide and 11.5 inches tall.  It'll be folded in half, so when all is said and done the bag itself will be roughly square.  It will be finished with a band at the top and tassels at the bottom so the final effect will be slightly more rectangular.  There is a partial write-up on the bag availiable here as a PDF.  Once the whole thing is done, it will get it's own documentation.  Hopefully for Atlantia 30 Year, but as I will be having surgery a week before and thus not going myself I'm not stressing myself out about that. 

I've already started a new brick stitch project based on a German box cover.  This one is going to be a book cushion for the book which I won as a prize for the Greenland hood.  I actually started at the very end of April, got as far as picking threads and a little embroidery, and then did nothing until yesterday.  What you see below is about 10 to 12 hours worth of work, possibly as much as 15.  It's much slower going when you have nothing at all on the cloth and have to count out over bare threads with no reference points.  Whoever tries to tell you that counted thread work is easy has clearly never really tried it.

As far as the details of the project...again it's based on a 14th century box top and will eventually be a book cushion.  The piece is quite large, so I'm working it in cotton rather than silk, over 28 count linen.  So far I'm very happy with how it's turning out.  The pattern is much simpler to work than the lattice bag, being just basic brick stitch, so my only challenge is counting out a larger pattern repeat than I'm used to dealing with.  The first half-row of diamonds was quite a pain, but the the subsequent rows have been getting easier so I have hope.  Usually once you get one pattern laid down you don't have to look back at the chart so much, you can just refer to the work itself to see what's next and that makes things move along faster.  I am debating weather I want to try putting this in a frame or not, the excess cloth is really sort of a pain to deal with.  It's a large enough piece that the frame itself might get in my way too though, so I'm not sure.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lattice bag progress

I spent most of yesterday watching Season 1 of Doctor Who and working on purple eyelets, and what you see here is the result.  I'd say I got about 6 solid hours of work in on the bag, give or take.  Taking pictures actually helps, I can see how far I've come in a day (or an hour) which makes the work less tedious.  Filling in the corner also helped with the motivation, at least I can see now what the final bag will look like.

At the risk of sounding like a commercial, the OttLite is really helping.  Before, the grey squares were much slower going than the yellow ones.  They are still a little slower, but not by much.  The only place where I notice much of a drop off in speed is along the edges and in the corners, where it's harder to see some of the half stitches along the edges.  Had I thought about this, those squares should have been done in the yellow but oh well.  Picking up some speed is all for the good and I'm really happy with how this is looking it's all for the good.  With any luck, my next post will include a picture of the finished embroidery!  Hurray!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Poor mans Ott Light

I've been totally stalled on my eyelet brick stitch project, partly because other things keep getting in the way, but mainly because the light in my living room is pretty bad and it's hard to see the grey/silver lines I'm trying to work the eyelets in between.  I do ok in bright daylight, but there's only a couple of hours of good light a day so progress is limited my those hours being otherwise unoccupied.  Yesterday the hubs and I were at Michaels and he found Ott Light bulbs!  Who knew?  They also had inexpessive clip-on swing arm task lamps, so with my happy 40% coupon for about $35 I have a brand new, perfect for my work space, Ott light!  Yay!  It's a perfect solution, most of the lamps they make, aside from being hideously expensive, are ugly as sin and would not work well in the space we have (basically none).  With this, I can move the lamp or the little table it clipped to to whichever side of the sofa I'm sitting on and I'm good.  It's even reduced glare on the tv so we're all happier.  Working on the embroidery this morning, I seem to be making better progress with less annoyance and eye strain so I think this will help a lot. 

So that plan for today is to plug away on the lattice bag.  I've managed to make pretty good progress so far, chipping away at it bit by bit.  I figure at this point I have another 15 hours or solid work to go before the actual embroidery is done, then I have to do the finishing.  The original plan was to tablet weave the edging, but I'm leaning towards the braided edging I did on the first bad, as I already know how to do that and I know it will look well.  The only major issue I need to resolve is how to do finish the top edge.  The original bag seems to have a narrowish band of either tablet weaving or cloth at the top edge, through which the purse strings are threaded.  It could be more brick stitch, but the texture looks more like tablet weaving or something else to me.  So, do I weave a band and attach it?  Use fabric?  Or lace through the bag itself?  I think a band of red would look really pretty and bring out the red eyelets nicely, and I have a bit of red velvet that would work if I decide to use fabric.  Plus there is plenty of silk for the purse strings and trimming to weave a bit of an edging if I decide to go that route. 

Either way, I be very glad when this project is done.  I'm heartily sick of stitching eylets.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Two new books!

My darling husband bought me two new costuming books which came in the mail over the last couple of days.  Yay!  I've had time to look them over and am overall very pleased.  Here are my thoughts in case any one is contemplating purchasing one or both of these books.

Fashion in the Middle Ages by Margaret Scott is a slender volume but packed with lots of great illustrations and content.  The book is a companion to an exhibit on late medieval fashion as presented in illuminated manuscripts currently on display at the Getty in Los Angeles.  The author and curators do a great job explaining how manuscript illuminations can be used as sources for costumes and where they fail as reliable information, even comparing the illuminations to similar extant garments in a couple of cases.   She also talks about the typical visual cues and conventions used in the artwork and what they would have indicated to the viewers.  Overall, this is a great book.  There were quite a few illustrations I had not seen before and good details shots and explanations.   It's a great source of inspiration for the price, especially if you are interested in the high middle ages.

I had very high hopes for Illuminating Fashion.  This is a much larger book with literally TONS of wonderful illustrations, and like the Getty book is also a companion to a museum exhibit (this one at the Morgan Library in New York).  The book has a narrower focus, looking at France and the Netherlands from 1325 through 1515, once again using illuminated manuscripts as the main source.  The illustrations are great and there are enough of them in enough detail to justify the price, BUT the analysis is really rather poor.  It's pretty clear that the book was written by an art historian and not a costume historian.  The list of extant garments is incomplete, and the author makes some very strange and totally unsupported statements about construction that make this is a really bad source for a new costumer (things like the looser fitting sleeves of the 1330's being cut of a piece with the body of the gown, rather than cut separately and attached).  She also identifies an obviously fur-lined hood a frilled veil in one illustration.  Having so many wonderful illuminations with a narrow geographical focus laid out chronologically is really helpful and makes it much easier to see the rapid changes in fashion that were occurring during these years, so the book is a worthy addition if this is your area of interest, just be wary of the textual analysis.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Finished gowns

The commission gowns I did as a fundraiser for my local SCA group as finally done!  These took longer than I would have liked, my vacation got in the way a bit as did a major cold/flu/plague and some life interruptions on the clients end as well, but it's finally done!  I still owe her a shift and pair of hose, but those can get done after Pennsic.  With any luck I'll get the shift done while she is at Pennsic, and get the hose at least cut out so I can fit them when she gets back.

The kirtle is an oatmeal colored linen, with long sleeves that button to the elbow and spiral lacing up the front.  Right now the lace is just a piece of ribbon.  Eventually it will be a nice fingerlooped cord, the client has a friend who does this so I don't need to supply that.  The eyelets are all hand-bound and the bodice seams are hand finished.

The over gown buttons down the front and has angel wing or trump sleeves which fold back a bit at the wrist to expose the kirtle sleeves.  I ended up with some extra fabric in the sleeve head so rather than re-cutting the sleeves I made some small pleats in the back of the sleeves.  I haven't seen this done on women's fitted gowns, but I have seen it on men's and it actually made the sleeve hand rather nicely so I'm ok with the small bit of pleating.  It was a better solution that loosing length in the sleeves.  The seams are machine finished on the inside, and everything is hand finished on the outside.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Award and Worth

I've been tagged by Jessie over at Some Things I Have Made for the One Lovely Blog Award!  She had just found my blog and tagged me, which is very sweet and came on sort of the perfect day (it's been a rough couple of weeks).

So, I am supposed to give five facts about myself and tag someone else, so here goes:
  1. My undergraduate degree is in early modern British history, with a minor in costuming.  Pretty much Ren Faire.  
  2. I have two dogs and an evil cat.  The beagle is a step-dog, smelly and dumb as a box of rocks.  The Chihuahua is scary smart and eats literally everything.  Socks, shoes, mulch, wasabi, whatever, she eats it.  The cat is just mean and we all live in fear.  She also licks plastic bags, which is the most annoying things ever.   
  3. I love baking.  Love it.  Sadly, the hubs is not so into the fresh baked goodness and sees no point in home-baked bread.  I can't get my head around that one at all, but it puts a major crimp in my baking activities.  I can only eat so much bread on my own.
  4. Before I moved to Virginia and went to law school, I worked in software testing in the San Francisco area for about seven years.  Breaking stuff for a living was sort of fun, having the engineers fear me was the bomb.
  5. I am dyslexic.  This has made many things I have chosen to do in life more challenging, like law school, and probably blogging, but I love to read and write so I've done what I can to adapt.  Just don't even ask me to sound out a word, that drives me nuts.
I'm passing this along to Katie Jacobs, a costuming blog with a later period focus that I usually do these days, but she does lovely work and is very inspiring and to Arachne's Blog which focuses primarily on historical textile arts. 

On a totally random aside, I came across The House of Worth on Flickr, which if you are at all interested in 19th century clothing, Worth, or just pretty cloths in general you simply must check out.  There are some truly drool-worthy gowns and very good quality images in the collection.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Wrap front gowns?

I've been battling a nasty summer cold (no fun in a heat wave in Virginia) and haven't been overly productive since I got back from my trip to California.  I have been reading though.  While out at my parents house I found 4(!!) boxes of books from my undergrad days, mostly on Medieval and early modern history.  I picked out enough to fill two large flat rate boxes and shipped them home so they would be waiting for me when I got back.

One of the books I shipped is on the history of private life in the middle ages.  It's quite interesting, if you are into academic reading and social history (which I am).  But what got me really excited was the picture on the cover.  I can't find a citation for the cover image anywhere for some reason.  What you see here is a small version of the cover.  Amazon has a larger, though lower quality scan of the cover here Any ideas where this image comes from?  What's interesting to me is the two ladies in the back who appear to be wearing wrap front gowns.  The image to the right, a 15th century miniature by Jean Bourdichon seems to show a artisan's wife in a similar style dress (of course her arm is covering the bit of her gown that I really want to see, but she's also holding a distaff I'm ok with that).

We also have this image by my old friend Gerard David, which shows Mary Magdelan (in the cloak) wearing what might be a wrap front gown:
Unfortunately the clearest image I've found so far of this type of dress is the book cover I can't find any attribution for, but I'm intrigued.  The ladies in the book cover look like attendants, the artisans wife is clearly at work, so perhaps this is some kind of working overgown?     If I can find some more information about this style of dress, it would be a fun project.  I don't think I've seen anyone wearing a wrapped gown like this.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vacation Report

I'm back from vacation in Southern California!  I don't recommend air travel, Disneyland, or the Getty on a gimpy leg necessitating being pushed around like a luggage cart but it was still a good trip.  My fabric haul was mostly quilt related, so not really applicable to this blog, but I did get to visit the Getty Villa, which has a wonderful collection of Greek and Roman art, great for my collection of source material on Roman clothing!  Yay!  Of course, they also have lots of images on line but there's something about seeing the pieces in person and in life-size that makes all the difference.  Plus you can take pictures close up of whatever details you want and from odd angles. 

I haven't uploaded my pictures yet, so these are all from the Getty's website, but will give you some idea of what's in the collection and what I found particularily inspiring:

A Portrait of a Woman as a Cybele is quite large and striking.  I like how she has her palla draped leaving one arm bare, and the crown/diadem on her head (though that might be what sets her apart as a cybele).  Something about her pose in the gallery was quite relaxing and natural.  She just seemed comfortable, sitting there with her little critters.

Leda and the Swan not cloths, but her hair is pretty and for some reason I just love this piece.  It's not huge in person, but strikingly beautiful and amazingly well preserved.  Probably my most favorite sculpture in the villa.
Faustina the Elder another way to wear a palla, this time much more modestly.  In person, it looked like the palla was tucked into the belt of her tunica somehow, which made me feel vindicated as I have done that myself to control the inside end of palla.  I also like the hair piled up on top of her head.

Muse what you can't see from the museum's picture is that she's got her hair in a ponytail!  The gallery this statue was in had several other muse's in it and at least one other was also working the ponytail look, which made me very happy.  They both looked to have hair that hung to just below the shoulders, maybe the middle of the shoulder blades at the longest.  Very cool on several levels, though again since it's a muse and no a portrait it's hard to say if a normal person would ever wear her hair that way.
Roman Necklace this was probably my most favorite piece of jewelry in the collection, it looks like something you could get today in a better jewelry store.  They actually had a reproduction of it in the museum store ($250, which isn't really bad at all).  They have a pretty good collection of jewelry and such, which you can look at here.  Lots of rings, but there are some of lovely necklaces and burial diadems as well.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Waffle Towels

I managed to finished the waffle towels just in time to get them washed (to bring up the waffle weave texture and pre-shrink them)  and photographed before I had to get everything packed and ready to go for the surprise visit to California for my mom's birthday.  The actual surprise will be at lunch time today, then we're going on a boat to watch the fireworks from the water.  One of the nice things about being born on the 4th of July is everyone makes a big fuss about your birthday!

Anyway, here are the towels.  I used cottolin from Webs, working at 24 ends per inch.  This was my first experiment working with an actual pattern (which I modified a little bit of course!) and working with stripes of color.  I did change the stripes, adding more colors.  The original pattern would have just had the outside red stripe and one less cell of waffle in between.  I wanted to add more colors to go with her kitchen so I added the yellow and brown.  Once I get everything on the loom I realized it would have looked better with brown in between each stripe, not just in the middle, and that the whole striped section should have been placed another couple of cells in from the edge, but oh well.  Next time. 

The other interesting (?) feature of the towels is the hem.  The pattern called for a one inch band of tabby weave at each end of each towel to make the hem.  Which is all well and good and sounds just fine, until I realized that waffle weave draws in more on the loom than tabby does, and also shrinks up a huge amount more than tabby does.  This is what gives it the fun waffle texture.  So the band of tabby ends up making a weird wavy shape and sort of deforming the whole shape of the towel, which is pretty obvious in the pictures but not as bad when you see them in person.  Very annoying.  Next time I do this pattern I think I will leave off the tabby hem.  Or possibly double up the weft somehow so it draws in a bit rather than fanning out.

In other news, both of the supportive gowns I was working on for myself are totally done.  Yay!  I still need to get pictures, but that will have to wait till I am back home and I can get someone to photograph me in them.  I'm not going to be able to go to Pennsic after all so there won't be any event action shots for quite awhile (probably post-surgery).  I'm very happy will how they turned out and my ability to fit the things on myself. 

I also fixed my green hose, it turns out the major issue was having cut the foot portion on the bias.  One of the extant hose that I had based the pattern on was done this way but it turned out not to work well with the combination of my foot and fabric choice.  Turning the pattern piece back to the straight of the grain and taking the toe in a bit help tremendously.  Now I know I can be a lot more aggressive in my fitting of the hose and it will still be fine.  In fact it will fit better if I fit it more snugly to begin with.

The fundraiser project is going well (pictures, again, will be coming after I get home next week).  I'm doing more fitted gowns.  By all reports the client is very happy.  The supportive undergown is nearly done, I just have to finish the hem and sew in the eyelets.  There will be buttons and button holes down the sleeves, but the client is casting the buttons herself so that is going to have to wait till she has done the buttons.  I've brought that with me so I can hopefully get the eyelets done while I'm visiting with my parents this week. The overgown is cut out (except for the sleeves) and should go together pretty quickly.  That will be a button-front gown with modest trumpet sleeves, again with hand-cast buttons.  I've still got to do hose and a shift, which should go pretty quickly, then it's all done!  I'm hoping I can get her to wear a veil at least for pictures, even though that's not really her thing.  It will complete the whole thing so nicely.

It looks like my next project will also be a commission, this time Italian.  I'm  in research mode, trying to decide how long I think the various parts will take and how best to construct things so the client will (a) be comfortable (b) be supported in the gown and (c) be able to get dressed on her own, all the while looking like she stepped out of a portrait.  It looks like the gowns she likes close either down the side or in back, which makes putting on the supportive layer yourself next door to impossible.  So I'm thinking and plotting and coming up with options.