Friday, April 29, 2011

The finished Houppeland!

Here it is, in all it's smurfy glory!  I am really pleased with how this gown turned out.  The linen ended up working well, and the gown is very comfortable.  It's very, very blue, but oh well. 

I really need to make a wider belt and a better undergown/scarf/partlet thing for the neck area, but other than that I am quite happy.  As far as the neck filler-inner bit, I had a great deal of trouble with a straight cut scarf.  It kept bunching up funny.  I ended up using a square veil and folding it on the bias kerchief style, which worked well but looked quite bulky.  I think either a partlet type thing or a v-neck under shift will work better in future.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New projects

Labor day weekend will be a pretty major event for the SCA kingdom I'm currently living in - the 30 year celebration - so of course there will be an A&S competition.  We finally got the official word as what the competition format would be yesterday, and as I've been sitting here watching TV and hemming I've been mulling over what I might do for my Triathlon entry.  This one is particularly ugly in that I will actually have to do something from three different categories, not just two, so I can't really double up on anything and play to my strengths.  But then again, no one else can either so that sort of works out.

My current plan, given the time constraints and with some consideration to my A&S 50 goals, is as follows:
1. The eyelet brick stitch bag of doom
2. Perugia towel with hand-dyed indigo bits
3. lampwork glass rosary, of the seraphic variety (if I can manage to make that many beads that match)

All of these things date to the early part of the 15th century, which is just about perfect for my actual persona.

The only real issue here is the lampwork rosary.  Lampwork isn't exactly period, though you can apparently produce a period glass bead that way.  I know nothing about period glass work, or bead making in period or out, so this will be a new set of skills, but should be fun and interesting.  I do know they made rosaries out of glass, so that at least is not a problem.

Almost done!

The linen smurf houppeland is almost done!  The collar went together very smoothly yesterday, after some brief debate/argument with myself about how to shape the back.  The later Burgundian style gowns have a pointed collar in back, but as far as I can tell the houppelands do not.  Since this is a transitional style, I have no idea what's going on in back.  Looking at the artwork, it seems to me that the shawl collar is a sort of outgrowth of the fur lining - as the v-neck style starts to appear you see just a narrow bit of fur from the lining that gradually becomes wider and eventually you get a shawl collar.  It makes more sense to me at least for this to happen naturally by just turning things back, especially since in at least one of the examples I posted earlier it looked like there was a small stand-up fur collar on the gown, and the Zhorlecky houppeland has a stand-up collar as well.  So, the rounded back shawl collar won out and the dress is done.  Except for the hem.  I hate hems.  Instead of the hem, I made a small open hood to wear turban-style as seen in the Seven Sacraments alterpeice.  All I have left to do with that is finish stab stitching the edges.  Which I hate less than hemming.

Anyway, the plan for today is to hem the gown and finish the stab stitching on the open hood.  Because of my slight mistake in cutting the triangles, I ended up with less length than I had planed and am going to have to bind the hem for the gown to hit the ground in front.  This is fine, as most of the artwork seems to show the lining wrapping around the front of the hem anyway.  I'm doing this in linen rather than the velvet as the velvet will make the dress stand out funny around the bottom.  The linen should give just a little extra body though, which coupled with the under gown will make the whole thing hang quite nicely once it's on.

What you can't see from the pictures is that once I got the collar attached, I found that I won't need a hook and eye or any closures to keep the dress shut and neat in front!  Yay!  The only thing I loath more than hemming is sewing in hooks and eyes.  No idea what that's all about, but there it is.  The whole thing stays neatly in place with just the weight of the dress and the belt the hold it.  It's kind of a miracle.  I think it has to do with the triangles falling from the neck the way they do, but the weight of the gown is very evenly distributed and not at all cumbersome, unlike my full-circle cut houppeland.  I am going to need a wider and shorter belt to wear with this.  The current plan it to tablet weave something, but I'm not sure yet what.  I really like the wide red belt in the Seven Sacrements detail, but those of you in the SCA know that red belts can be problematic (less so on women in my current Kingdom than where I started out, but that's another subject)

Molly the dog thought I was trying to take pictures of her and kindly obliged by sitting still, for once, so for your edification:

Monday, April 25, 2011

A little progress and some sheep

I didn't get to spend as much time sewing over the weekend as I had hoped.  Saturday wasn't overly productive as I ended up getting dragged to the office by the hubbs after lunch, then vigil mass in the evening, which pretty well took care of the day.  All I did was fiddle with the back of neck, which I cut a little too wide.  Luckily the collar will cover my fix and now I know to cut the back narrower than I think it needs to be for next time.  Sunday I did manage to get the sleeves adjusted and sewn, the velvet cuffs attached, and one sleeve set in before we had to go to the in-laws for dinner and head up to Williamsburg for the Last Aikido Class of the Academic Year (and there was much rejoicing!).

I sewed the lining down on the one sleeves and took some pictures this morning.  What a difference the sleeve makes to the drape!  I really am pleased with how this is coming out.  For outdoor events, this should work out to being a very comfortable gown.

Here is the front view with the sleeve attached.  The center is still caving into the cavity of the dress form, but the draping is working out pretty well:

And the back.  You can see how the gown is folding and rippling better without the caving in issue, and also were I made a little tuck in each side of the neck to narrow it a bit:

On our way to aikido on Sunday we stopped by one of the sheep enclosures in the Williamsburg historic section.  Some of the Leicester longwools have lambed and the lambs were out.  I'm not sure if it's common to the breed, but the ewe's seem to have all twined this year.  There were 2 mamma sheep and 4 lambs in this particular enclosure.   One of the lambs was trying to chew on the a brick wall, which reminded me a little of my dog Molly (a Chihuahua mix who is famous for eating many strange non-food items, and also wasabi).  Sweaters-on-the-hoof are always fun to watch!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Houppeland progress

So far the houppeland is going very well!  Here you can see what it all looked like before I carved out the shoulder and neck shaping:

The back:
The front:

It's interesting to note that the shoulder seam really has to extend straight out from the neck with no slope at all or the gown won't hang and drape correctly.  You can see this in the diagrams of the original, but now I understand exactly why it was cut that way.  That perpendicular line is part of what makes the nice folds coming from the shoulders.  Cool, huh?

One other key thing I have learned is that the triangular gores really need to be blunted at the top so that they finish with a bit of width, rather than tapering to a point.  Again, you can see this on the original but it wasn't at all clear to me why this was so until I put the back together and everything came to a neat point.  I ended up without much of a neck opening.  Totally fixable, but the the next time around I will cut my triangles with a 1 1/2 straightened off end, and sew all the triangles together before I attach them to the shoulder and center sections (I did this for the front and it went much better).  I ended up losing a little length though, which means I have to do a bound edge for my hem.  This is fine, you can see something similar in lots of the artwork where it looks like the fur lining is pulled around the hem of the gown.

Since I took the pictures, I shaped the neck and armscyes, and put in a facing/lining for the top section and sewed the shoulders.    I am ready to sew the side seams, put in the sleeves and make the collar and cuffs.  My dress form in an antique and has kind of funky shoulders, so I'm having a hard time getting a good picture of what it look likes now (the dress keeps collapsing into the adjustable part of the shoulders on the form).

I've found a bit of new inspiration as well in the form of the Seven Sacraments Altarpiece by Rogier van der Weyden (the whole piece can be viewed here, there are quite a few wonderful houppelands in this particular alterpiece).  You can see in the detail pictures below two more houppelands of the general type I like, with some variation in the sleeve - both are narrower in the cuff, but still generally straight (rather than the bag type sleeve seen in earlier decades).  The lady in the turban-like hood with the book has the more transitional style collar with less pleating around the bust line, which is probably closer to what I'll end up with with this particular pattern.

The under-collar on the gold/brown gown is also quite interesting.   In later artwork there is a very transperant partlet type tying worn under some of the gowns, but a placket also shows.  This looks like it's either an under-gown or the precursor to the parlet.  What's interesting to me anyway is that there's no hint of a fitted gown (unlike the lady in the blue) or a placket.  So, either the white bit is covering the undergown, or something strange is going on under there. It seems more likely that the white bit would be covering the under-gown, given that the houppeland is fur lined and would be hard to clean, it seems like some sort of layer to keep body oils off the fur around the neck area would be a good idea.  There seems to be a similar sort of under-collar/parlet on the blue gown as well but worn under the under-gown.  I wonder if this is the chemise/smock or a separate partlet?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hiding from the scissors, redux

It took me a few days, but I finally got over my scissor-phobia and cut out the Zhorelecky houppeland.  Yay!  It wasn't nearly as bad as I had feared and actually went really quickly once I got going.  Given how many bits and pieces there are (18 pieces for the body of the gown, plus sleeves), I was surprised how quickly I got the whole thing cut out.

I got the back sewn together this afternoon and I think the heavy linen is going work out pretty well.  Not perfectly, but because it's not a full-circle pattern and my bust is somewhat ample I'm not getting a huge amount of pleating above where the belt will sit anyway.  Once I get the shoulders fit properly and try it with the right under-dress this will of course change a bit and I may decide I need to line the front and back anyway, but so far I think it will fold and pleat well enough.  Next time I do this, I may end up cutting the gores a little wider, or using more of them to get more folds across the front.  

I should be able to get the rest of the dress sewn together tomorrow and take some pictures before I set in the sleeves and start fiddling around with the collar and such.   The plan is to get this done so I can test drive it at the next event I go to, which will either be Crown in two weeks, or maybe a school demo on the 29th if all goes well.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Afraid of the scissors

I've been staring at my cutting diagram for my blue linen houppeland for days now and hiding from the scissors.  It's not so much that I'm worried about the choice of fabric, or even the cutting diagram, it's this dress:

It's just a couple of years later than the wider sleeved red dress I posted about earlier but MUCH closer in style to the Burgundian gowns that the houppeland eventually morphed in to.  And I really like it.  It's pretty.  The neckline is nice, the sleeves are the perfect sort of tight for my chubby arms, and it will also keep fitting (I think) as I gradually shrink.  I keep coming back to this picture.  It might just be the red velvet, maybe it's the hat, but eventually I need this dress.

Looking at the paining, it appears that the fullness of the gown is starting a bit lower down than on the ginormous houp's of a few years earlier, giving a smoother fit over the bust area but still some fullness and soft gathering just above where the belt is controlling everything.  I think my same pattern layout will still work here, especially since I'm using linen and not a thicker wool or velvet like in the painting.  Since the neckline will get carved out a little differently, that should shift things and smoother it out in front the way I need it to, if I'm getting my head around all this right.  Of course, I can't see the back of the dress but I doubt it's got much pleating and folding above the belt in back either.

Maybe I need to go with a Greenland style cut for this shape? There's a good example of that approach on Matilda la Zouche's LJ which looks like it's hanging correctly for this style.  Or fiddle with the shape or placement of the triangles?  Or just dive end and see what I end up with?  I'll get either this one or the other one, either of which is good and wearable, and have learned something that will help with the next one in the process.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

More sheep

Here's a picture of Rome, the ram who I'm pretty sure provide my lovely hog island fleece.  He wasn't feeling too well the day we visited.

Some pictures of the alpaca and sheep shearing, just because they are fun.  The sheep shearing looked an awful lot like some of the locks and pins we use in aikido...who knew there was such a thing a sheep-jutsu?


Yesterday the Hubbs and I went to the Fancy Fiber Fiesta at Chippokes Plantation State Park in Surry, VA.  They had lots of alpaca farms visiting, and were doing alpaca shearing, which was interesting, but what got me really excited was the small flock of hog island sheep  that live at the park and are a permanent part of the Farm and Forestry Museum.  I got interested in rare breed sheep shortly after I got interested in spinning in the first place, and hog island are some of the rarest, plus they are an American rare breed.  And they are cute.  And the flock had had just had several lambs.  One of which was being bottle fed so was quite tame.  Rare sheep, plus lambs, plus a tame lamb!  It was the trifecta of sheepy-fun!  And to top it all off I scored a whole hog island fleece all for me!  Yay!  I'm pretty sure it came off the ram, given how big it is.  The lady who gave (Gave!! We gave them a nice donation) it to me was pretty sure it came from either him or the larger ewe, but once I unrolled it, the thing is huge.  And heavy.  So I'm pretty sure it's the ram.  His name is Romeo.  I'll post a picture of him as soon as it uploads from my phone.

Some of the sheep:
The fleece, partly unfolded, pre-skirting and pre-washing:

And an alpaca, because they are cute too:

The fleece is in pretty good shape.  It from last years shearing, so I need to get it skirted and washed, like, yesterday.  So far so good though.  It looks like they got the major poopy bits taken off so all I've been picking out so far is the really gross bits, VM, some feed corn (whatever, I guess someone was a sloppy eater), and really short cuts of wool that are just going to pill up.  I've got the fist load already washed up and drying and it looks quite nice.  I think it will need a second trip through the wash (I only did one wash and one rinse this time) and nearly all the yellowish color has come out leaving a nice snowy white fleece.  The staple length is about 4 inches, and the crimp is very fine and tight, similar to the shetland I was working with for the Greenland hood, but the hairs are not as fine.

I think it will work up into a nice soft, lofty yarn.   Right now, the plan is to drum card it and spin it with a short draw, aiming for a semi-worsted yarn.    I'm not sure if I want to use this for knitting or weaving yet, or maybe some of both.  I have enough, I should be able to some of both.  The breed isn't a Medieval sheep, but I think for most things no one other than me (and maybe 4 other crazy people) will care, so I could use it for an SCA weaving project.  Which means more singles for weaving.  I'm not sure how the drum-carding will effect the yarns suitability for warp though, it seems like a semi-worsted yarn might not be a sturdy as a true worsted.  I guess that's what wool-flavored jello is for!

I also got 8 ounces of really lovely alpaca sliver to make an ear-warmer headband thing for the Hubbs out of, and maybe some fingerless fliptop mittens as well, if he's really good.  I HATE making gloves, the little finger holes are a huge PITA, but he really wants gloves he can text in.  So, yeah.  At least it's only half a finger.  I love spinning alpaca.  I've just got to do this thicker than the spiderweb lace I usually end up with when I spin alpaca on auto-pilot.  Maybe a lower wheel ratio?  That's been working well for me on my warps, I at least have to pay more attention to what I'm doing and not rely totally on feel.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Time to sew!

My person in the the SCA was created all because of a painting, which is as good a reason as any I suppose but does sort of limit my clothing options if I want to be true to my inspiration.  It's all about the 1430's style houppelandes.  I was lucky enough to take a wonderful class on houppelandes at the last Atlantia university where I learned about an actual, real live extant houppelande!  No more of this theorizing about full circles with holes cut into them (which never made sense to me and didn't work right when I tried it anyway), now we Know.  Well, we Know at least how one was made, which is something.  See the houpeland of Jan Zhorelecky.  There is a line drawing of the pattern here which was included in the class handout but I'm not really sure where this originated as I can't find it in the Czech website.  Oh that I had a Tardis to translate all these languages for me!

Anyway.  Here is The Madgelen Reading, which I include because she is reason for my persona (late 14th cen/early 15th cen Flemmish):

A full length of the view of the dress I am currently aiming for:

A close-up view of something similar showing a possible collar option:

The thing to note here is that these gowns are clearly all wool or velvet.  And fur-lined. Totally unsuitable for wear in Virginia in the summer.  So.  Not so much going to be doing that.  A tropical wool would be perfectly comfortable, but I would have to line it in pretty substantial linen to get even close to the right drape, so rather than have a double layer and it still be too thin I'm just going to make this first experiment with the pattern in linen.  The lady in red's dress does not seem too substantial, so I think if I use some nice heavy-ish linen I already have and do a nice deep hem facing I should be ok.  Not perfect and not 100% authentic, but neither is wearing a houppeland in Virginia humidity.  The linen is a nice blue color, and I think I will do a collar and cuff facing in black velveteen.  That will give me some more bulk, look a little richer than more linen, and still be washable.

All that's left is to get myself a nice wide belt.  I have a black leather belt with nice pewter belt that I can use, but that's technically my husbands.  He doesn't wear it often, but I really should have a nice belt of my own for this.  Besides, it gives me an excuse to tablet weave something and go belt fitting shopping.  I've just got to decide what size silk to use, or if this silk and wool blend that I already have will work well for a belt.

Now I shall bust out my handy graph paper and figure out how I will cut this thing out. 

* updated to add that I got the cutting layout sorted out but I am now cranky at whoever at the local Hancock did my fabric cutting.  The 6 yards I had bought, which would have been enough, was cut so crookedly that I really only have 5 1/2 yards of fabric, which is barely enough.    Grr.  I think I can do this still.  If the measurements given for the original panel widths are correct, all will be well.  Otherwise I will end up with lots of narrow blue triangles.  And no sleeves.  I really do think a 204 inch hem is enough though.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More reflections on the hood project

Now that I've had time to think things through a little, here are some more thoughts on the hood project, most of which were the result of my conversation with the judges:

1. Changing your natural spinning direction and WPI is actually quite difficult.  I’m not sure if this is a mark of how poor a spinner I really am, but I tend to fall into a set thickness for my singles (and I would assume also twists per inch).  There is some variance for fiber type and preparation but I spin pretty consistently and automatically at one thread size.  Trying to vary that so the yarn can be used for some other defined purpose was much harder than I had thought it would be.  Throw into the mix changing twist direction and woo-boy!  The spinning for this project required a lot more thinking and concentration than I have become accustomed to giving over to the task.  It turns out that, for me at least, my fingers have gotten trained to feel twist build up and control the drafting process almost automatically, but only going in one direction.  Switching things up required going back a few steps and really paying attention to small details.

2. Spinning for knitting will tolerate a good deal more inconsistency than spinning for weaving.  I think this is particularly true when making a plied yarn, though as I have not yet tried to make a plied yarn that will eventually be a warp yarn I’m not 100% sure about this.  Weak spots in weaving, particularly for the warp, are really unforgiving since everything is under tension so it seems like what you can bury in your plies for a knitting yarn would still be a problem for your warps, rather than one ply reinforcing the other.

3. There are many fine opportunities for yarns to unspin (or overspin) themselves in the weaving process.  Hence the need for sizing, and careful winding-on of bobbins.  Once I figured this out my bobbin winding process improved considerably and with less unspinning.

On a related side note, pictures of the hand-bound book which was the prize can be found here (if Live Journal is working).  More about the lady who made the book can be found on her web site which has pictures of lots of truly awe-inspiring stuff!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Competition Report

It went well, really well!  As in, somehow, I won!  Hurray!  I'm sort of stunned by the whole thing.  I think I might have squeaked a little when I realized they were announcing I had won, and I know there were a lot of Kermit-arms from several directions.  Everyone worked really hard on their entry, so actually winning feels like a huge accomplishment.  And humbling.

Plus the prize was awesome.  The lady running the whole thing had hand-bound a book and done all kind of beautiful and amazing painting on the covers and along the edges of the pages.  It's really beautiful.  I need to make a bag and a book rest for it, a perfect a excuse to try another one of the brick stitch patterns I've been looking at actually.  I can't bring myself to make another bag, but a book rest would be perfect and worthy of the book.

Now I've got to finalize plans for the raw wool competition at Sapphire in May, which will be last at Baronial Champion, and get started on some woven napkins for a feast gear basket we'll be raffling off as a fundraiser for the barony at our upcoming birthday event.  Plus some tablet weaving (I need a couple of belts and filet for my veils along with a good Viking demo project) and some garb.  But mostly it should all be fun/display stuff for a little while.  I just need to finish the eyelet-bag-of-doom and I will have a nice display for Pennsic.  After that, I have no set plans for anything and that's a fine place to be.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hood is done!

And I mean really and truly done!  The documentation is linked to the right for those so inclined to weaving geekery.  Here is the final product:

I'm very happy with this how this came out.  The results of the Z/S experiment were not nearly as impressive to look at, but I think I have some ideas about the whole thing.  The short version is (and more on this later as I will do a separate write-up for my A&S 50 list) that there is really no difference in the visual appearance of the fabric when you have Z warp and S weft vs. Z warp and Z weft, BUT the Z/S combo seems to produce a loftier, fuller cloth that would presumably be warmer.  It *might* also be softer, but that particular result wasn't reproducible with the supplies I had on hand so I will have to do some more experimenting.  Oh darn.

Now I must get myself packed up for the weekend!  I'm feeling marginally less nervous about this thing now that it's all done and I've gotten a look at the whole project laid out on a table.