Friday, June 24, 2011

Lacing points

A quick post to ask for some collective advice on lacing points or chapes...I need some for the end of my nice fingerlooped cords I've done for my new kirltes and don't have any.  I'm not sure where to get the thin craft metal to make them myself (I live in a craft store back-water, it's tragic) and the only place the I've found that sells them online domestically is Historic Enterprises and they were out of stock the other day when I checked (plus I'm not sure those are good ones?  They don't have pre-drilled sewing holes so that's a problem).

Anyway, I'm guessing I should be able to find some at Pennsic, but in the mean time, what to do so I can lace myself up?  Any thoughts or ideas?  Here's what I have so far:

  • Heat shrink tubing - actually had a little left over in my corset supply stash and it worked ok, except that one pulled off already.  I think this is fine as long as your eyelet to point ratio is not to snug.  It also won't shrink to a very sharp point which is sort of an issue for that one inevitable smaller-than-planned eyelet.
  • Thread wrap (any maybe nail polish) - this worked with just thread on a soutach lace I have, so far it seems like the best option, though I wonder if it would be sturdy enough on a fingerlooped cord
  • Lots of glue - might not hold together well over several lacings
  • Tape - won't hold up in the wash
  • Something else?
I know these aren't period, I just need to be able to lace the gown and tuck the end of the lace into the dress so I can get to the merchants and find what I need, so it's a stop-gap.

Does anyone know of any other online resources for getting these things?  I need some pretty small ones for the blue banded gown, the eyelets are small.  I did come across some European sites with nice selections but they didn't give diameter measurements, and the prices were kind of high so I'm not sure that's the best solution.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Some updates

What I week...I got some sort of Summer Plague and have been on antibiotics and generally miserable for the last week.  No fun at all.  I did manage to make it up to the William and Mary library last week as planned to get my alumni library card sorted out (yay for university library check out privileges!) and pick up some of the books I need for my 30 Year research before getting laid out by the Plague.  It's been slow going getting my notes taken on the books, but I'm finally starting to feel better so I should be able to get caught up over the next few days.

The blue banded kirtle is done done done and looks pretty good.  I even finished a new shift to wear with it.  I'll need at least one more shift to be ready for Pennsic, with the new one I only have two with long sleeves and that won't get me too far.  I decided to go ahead and modify the pattern to make a seamless straight-front kirtle as well, which is almost done.  Modifying the pattern wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, it turned out to pretty fiddly to fit myself but I think now I have the general idea figured out.  Fitting the gown itself was much easier than dealing with the pattern.  The whole sewing of the dress has been slow going, probably because I've been sick, but all I have left to do is the sleeves, hem, hand-finishing of the seams and the eyelets.

I did all my pattern work for both dresses in cotton muslin, as that's what I had on hand, and ended up having to take the actual linen dress in a whole lot.  Like over an inch.  I've been taking patterns off muslins for a long time so I'm sure I didn't make that big a mistake in copying off the pattern and adding seam allowances.  The only explanation I can come up with is that linen stretches a lot more than the muslin does.  Or at least this linen does.  Oh well, I suppose taking in the pattern would be a mistake, if I ever make a gown out of less stretchy fabric.

Once I get the straight front gown done, I have two more gowns to do as part of a fundraiser for our local barony (along with some underthings to go with them) before I can get back to my Pennsic sewing.  In the mean time, I've got to warp up some dishtowels for my mom's birthday present.  I'm going to do a waffle weave, not period as far as I know but I think she will like them. 

I've managed to get a few other small things done, fixing my green kermit hose and making the fingerlooped cords for my kirtles (and learning two new patterns too).  The cloak is cut out, and I've decided to finish at least the front and neck edges with a narrow silk facing like those seen in the MOL book, which I have cut out and ready to sew on.  That should stabilize the lettuce edge and curved bit around the neck.  The bottom hem I will just turn up and stitch.

So, lots to do!  Now to get better, these afternoon naps are really not helping with getting stuff done.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Research tips

When I was working on my undergraduate history degree my thesis adviser gave me lots of good advice.  In addition to "Alcohol lubricates the brain" the other tidbit that has stuck with me and proved to be invaluable is "serendipity is your most valuable research tool."  She was right then, I found many of my most helpful source material shelved next to the book I was actually looking for, and it's still true now in the internet age.  A case in point...

Back in collage when I was active in the SCA the first time around (in Berkeley) I came across a picture of a tomb brass in a book of a lady in a funny loose gown with buttons all down the front, a silly hat, and a little dog.  This gown fascinated me and seemed terribly comfortable for camping, so I worked with one of the local Laurels to come up with a plausible period method of drafting the pattern and made the dress.  Soon after that I stopped playing and put the dress away.  When I became active again, I pulled the dress out, but was unwilling to wear such an odd style without having the documentation for it to hand.  I just couldn't remember where I had seen the picture, who it was of, or any details about it, nor could I find it in any of my own books.  None of the research geeks in my new group had any ideas either when I tried to describe it, so I stuffed the dress away and moved on.

I was surfing around last night looking for images of cloaks and mantles, specifically 14th and 15th century cloaks and mantles, and I came across this site on 14th century ladies fashion, mostly from tomb monuments and brasses.  Scrolling down the page, what do I happen upon but Lady Maylns, from Chinnor Church in Oxfordshir!  The very same tomb brass that inspired my weird gown!  Yay!  So now I can wear my funny loose over gown with all the buttons again, and have yet another excuse to make a frilled veil. 

Score another one for serendipity. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More mantels

The kirtle being pretty much done (I have a few eyelets to finish yet, oh how I hates the eyelets), I've started looking at mantles.  I've got my half circle mantle cut out, and decided to do a little bit of shaping through the shoulders, just to make the thing sit better and stay on.  The pictures of women in mantles don't show a lot of bunching or folding in the back that you get if you don't shape the neck and shoulder (like what happens on a priest's cope), so I think it's a plausible thing to do.

Anyway, I'm in picture collecting made thing to decide how to treat the hems.  I don't want to do heavy embroidery as that seems to be a more ecclesiastical thing, and I also don't really want to do a full lining as the wool is quit heavy and the lining would just make the whole thing unbearable.  I'm leaning towards a wide interior facing of some sort, or maybe just a narrow edge binding in silk or really smooth linen.  So far, the narrow binding seems like a more plausible finish than the facing, though the facing would give me a buffer between the back of my neck and the wool of the cloak, not that wool bothers me much.

First, we have Gerard David's Marriage at Cana.  This picture makes me happy for a couple of reasons - there is a mantle on the bride, yes, AND Raymond's Quiet Press has a lovely reproduction of her cloak clasp, so that's a bonus.  But the lady in the front with the funny white hood (yay for a white hood!  The white hood is fun too) has a paternoster in her belt, and the seated woman facing her has a Perugia style towel used a lap napkin and a nifty circlet on her head - all things I'm working on in one way or another.  Plus there's some fun silly hat action going.  But back to the mantle.  It's clearly lines in white, but it sort of looks like the white lining is coming around the red fabric of the body and binding the edge a bit, which suggests the binding idea might be on the right track.

The funeral brass of Joan Skerne shows a similar style mantle with a similar style closure (and another spiff hat), but there's not enough detail on the brass to tell how the edge of the mantle was finished.  There really isn't enough detail any of the brasses I've been able to find to tell how the edge might have been finished, except to rule out major embroidery.  So I tent to think women wore simpler mantles.  It certaily makes scence to me that the sort of things that have survived, namely church vestments and the odd ceremonial rode, would be rather on the exceptional side and not the kind of thing one would wear every day, even if one was wealthy.  The way the mantle hangs on Joan suggests to me that it is at least somewhat shaped through the shoulders though - there is certainly neck shaping.  The cone neck you would end up with without shaping the neck would really get in the way of the hats and veils fashionable at the time.
We then have another guy from the Manesse Codex, who is a man but is wearing a cloak with a contrast lining and what appears to be some sort of contrast binding or trim a the edge.  It's a little to hard to tell if this is artistic license, done so you can see the folds of the cloth, or actually a bit of detail thrown in for good measure.   The fellow in the fur lined cloak also seems to have a bit of a white edging on his, which might just be the fur lining but could be some kind of binding/edging.  The detail isn't great in these manuscripts though so sometimes it's hard to tell what the artist is or is not getting at.  I've got to do a bit more digging around but from the what I can remember of the other painting I have seen, there's nothing much that's conclusive one way or the other.  I thought I saw something that looked pretty clearly like a line of trim or cord on outside of the mantle, just inside from the edge of the front opening, but I can't find the painting just now (figures).  
Doing something to the edge is definitely necessary, both to protect the wool from wear and to stabilize it.  It may be thick and well-fulled but it still wants to stretch itself all out of shape and a bit of something less mooshy will help the front edge keep it's shape and hang neatly without going all lettucy on me.  I just want to make sure it's as authentic a finish as it can be, somewhere in the back of my head I harbor not-so-secret thoughts about doing more serious reenacting one of these days (the kind with actual authenticity standards) and I don't want to have to re-do my whole kit if I can avoid it.  Plus, authenticity is fun!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Banded kirtle

Here is the banded kirtle (or so I've decided to call it) so far.  As was pointed out, the front should dip down a little bit to more closely match at least the air filter hat picture, and probably also the Descent from the Cross gown as well, though that one is at an odd angle so it's harder to tell.  I went with a square neck for this as that will work better under the gown this will eventually go under, and it also seemed a little easier to focus on one point of wierdness at a time (in this case the banding and the sleeve thing). The next iteration of this gown will have the dipped/sweetheart neck, now that I think I have the banding figured out.

You can see on the front that the line from the facing and strap is extending right into the underarm, giving the effect of a raglan seam.  The sleeve is a normal sleeve shape, the trick to the raglan line is lining up the strap with the top facing bit and the armscye just right.  To make that work the front neckline has to be high enough but as it turns out once the girls are lifted up and well-supported the neckline will end up in the right place.

The back did not line up with the top facing quite as well - I need to shift it down to get it to line up right but by the time I realized it was not right fixing it would have been far more trouble than I can go through without extra fabric to re-cut anything if I need to.  I think if I think more about how I put the sleeve and facings and shoulder bands together I could avoid this issue next time, but again you can see where the raglan line is coming from.  It's just the shoulder strap.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how this has come out.  I still need to do the eyelets down the front and fingerloop a lacing cord, then once I can lace the whole thing up I can level the hem and finish it up.  The strap thing was fairly easy to work out and fit on myself, though it would have been easier to do some of the tweaking in back with an extra set of hands (duh).  One nice thing about this particular design is that you can get a really wide neck and still have useful and secure shoulder straps.  Even with the sleeves in and the skirt on, nothing is shifting around or slipping off and I still have a nice wide, open neckline, which will be nice with later houppelands and early Burgundian styles.

Medieval flashers

One of the things on my list to do before surgery in Septermber (and really, I need to get this done before Pennsic) is make a cloak.  So I was duitifully looking up pictures of ladies matles last night in between eylets, and came across the following page from the Manesse Codex:

If you look closely, you can totally see through the men's tunics. Good thing he seems to have all his proper under things on.

I wonder if they were being presented in a state of semi-undress, or if they really did wear semi-sheer tunics?  Either way, I'm not letting my husband see this one, he doesn't need to get any more strange ideas for hot events.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Supportive kirtle, attempt 1

In a fit of stubborn productivity, I managed to get my supportive kirtle fitted on myself!  I think I got the sleeve/shoulder strap thing sorted out too.  As you can see from the pictures, I need to rotate the sleeve cap back a little bit and add a little bit of width at the bicep (my poor chubby arms), but other than than I am happy with how everything is looking.  And I can move my arm!  Yay!  This is a huge step up from the last (somewhat) supportive dress I did which had numerous sleeve problems.  It's very hard to get and out of that dress.  This one should be much better.

The diagonal stitching line at the neck edge is where the strap attaches and where the facing will be at top neck edge.  So far, the plan is to attach the facing directly to the bodice.  That should work better than having it stick up from the main body of the bodice, and be easier to put together.  Plus it will serve to reinforce the edge a bit, which is all for the good. A  little more structural integrity at that top edge will help hold the girls in place, not that they are trying to escape or anything  but I'm planning to cook and do work in this gown so the sturdier the better.

My only real issue the whole thing is that I'm still not getting the raglan-ish line under the arm.  I think this might be because my neckline is lower than it should be, but the painting don't seem to be a whole lot higher than I have this in relation to the bust line.  Maybe I need to get the bust higher up for that to work?  The general idea that the underarm seam is somehow extending into the facing seam does seem to play out, if you look at the picture above, the problem is just where the neckline is, which is putting the facing seam lower down.  The back looks right anyway (I couldn't get a good picture of that with me in it).

As far as actually putting the whole thing together goes, I think I will sew the sleeve into the underarm then attach the shoulder straps and facings.  That's going to involve more handsewing in that area than I wanted to do, but it will look neater in the end.  The whole thing is now cut out, complete with trapezoidal skirt pieces and lining.  The plan is get the interior seams on the bodice machine stitched today, tweak the fit, and flat fell the seams by hand before I attach the skirt.  I'll probably just machine french seam the skirt, flat felling seems like overkill.

Friday, June 10, 2011

More kirtle fun

I think I've got the pattern for my supporting kirtle sorted out (all by myself too! yay! And no free-range boobs!) I've decided to give the funky shoulder strap thing I posted about a couple of weeks ago a try, as this is an interesting problem and I really do like the look of the facing/strap/whatever around the neck opening.

I came across this picture which threw a bit of a wrench into things though:
The detail is taken from the Braque Family Triptych, another van der Weyden, dated about 1450.  If you look closely at the shoulder area, it looks like she's working the raglan sleeve seam again, but also a shoulder seam running down the top of the sleeve of the kirlte.  Which is weird.  This funny top seam doesn't extent into the shoulder strap section as far as I can tell, so it might just be some strange piecing in the sleeve?  But there's a bit of white shift poking out, so maybe the kirtle is sleeveless and the seam is the shoulder seam and the strap is just a facing?

As far as the shoulder strap idea goes, that's working out pretty well so far.  I'm actually getting something fairly close to the raglan type line at the underarm, where the armscye scoops up to the strap.  It's not as pronounced on my pattern but if I were to raise to neckline up a bit it would be (or at least it could be if I fiddle with things a bit, I'll take some pictures later once I have things as point where it's descent). 

I'm trying to decide what the best way to attach the facing at the top of the bodice to the strap and the main body of the bodice is - so far the bodice has a smooth line across the top until it dips down for the armscye.  I think the easiest way to attach the straps so it looks neat and like the pictures would be to make up the top facing bit with the straps attached to that and sew them on to the top of the bodice as a single piece to finish the neck, then attach the sleeve.  Or, put another way, treat the band at the top of the bodice as an actual facing and not as an extension of the bodice.  It might be easier to put the sleeve in first, then sew in the facing and the shoulder band.  Huh.  Now I've confused myself. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Largess Napkins

I'm not quite sure what possessed me to volunteer to do this but I've decided to weave a pair of napkins for the Pennsic largess basket this year.  I think I was partly inspired by our kingdom having gotten Caid, which is where I went to my very first ever SCA event back when I was still a wide-eyed high school kid.  So it's a little bit nostalgic, and really, how many napkins do I need? 

The napkins are being woven in cottolin, as I had some and it looks nice and is easy to take care of, in natural and a weird sort of light grass green that I'm really not fond of by itself.  It's working up very nicely though.  I'm still surprised by what colors do when you weave with them.  The draft is the rosette twill from Northern European Textiles (which can be found here).  I'll be writing up more extensive documentation on the draft when I'm done, as this is part of my A&S 50 list too, but so far it's going very well.  I managed to get the loom threaded without any mistakes, and my first attempt at using a floating selvedge is going pretty well (if a little slowly at first).

Here's the start of my actual weaving:
The slight lumpiness in the closeup seems to be resolving itself as I'm weaving, I didn't have my warp under quite enough tension when I started weaving and the result is what you see.  The bit I have woven since I took these pictures is much more even and smooth.  I think once everything comes off the loom and gets washed it will even out just fine.  I have found that I need to be much more careful when I am weaving this as the pattern and colors show mistakes very clearly, and since I'm presenting these to foreign royalty and all we can't have too many obvious errors.  As I did with the elevation towel, I made my warp long enough that I should be able to pick the better of 3 or 4 napkins once I am done though.

It turns out this weave is quite similar to the diamond patterned background used on several of the Perugia towels, so this is turning out to be good practice for my next big project.  Warping up the fine linen for that still scares me a little bit, but I think I can manage.  I just have to find some good movies to watch on the laptop while I'm threading and I'll be fine.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Finished Roman!

I wore the new Roman for half a day at Sapphire last weekend, but it got a proper first-day-out this weekend at our local Baronial Birthday event.  I still need to make a tunica interior, and I think I am going to turn the Pink-Palla-of-Doom I wore at Sapphire with a silk palla.  The smaller silk veil I wore this weekend was much more comfortable and moved better.  Plus I don't look like Hello Kitty Roman Matron.

Overall the gown did very well.  I had some problems with my mamillare (the bust band that keeps the girls from going all free-range on me, like chickens).  I found this page today, which is from a class at Pennsic a couple of years ago, and I think I've been wrapping it backwards.  This morning I decided to test out the start in front method and so far it working much better.  The girls can't get out the top of the band and nothing seems to be shifting downwards, which was the problem over the weekend.  Yay!

For the stolla, I want to get some better hardware for the straps.  The current version just has purchased trim sewn on, some of the artwork looks like there is jewelry of some kind holding the gown together at the shoulders.  One looks like large round buttons or small brooches, which would be a nice option and give me different ways of wearing the stolla since I could pin the pleats however I wanted that day.  The Pink Palla of Doom is going to become a tunica I think, which I could wear as a stolla if I wanted to go the Hello Kitty route.  Once I make a couple of tunica interiors I will have pretty decent Roman wardrobe for those hot humid events!

Friday, June 3, 2011

A&S 50 16: Learn Naalbinding: Oslo Stitch

Nalebinding (or naalbinding) is an ancient form of needlework related to and often mistaken for knitting and crochet. It is worked with a single needle and short sections of yarn which are stitched into looped to form a stretchy, dense fabric quit similar to knitting. Nalbinding was in use in Bronze Age Europe and was used by the Viking to make shoe liners, short socks and mittens.

Several variants of Nalbinding stitches are known to have been used in Viking Age Europe, the simplest of them being the Oslo stitch (so called for an eleventh century mitten worked in this stitch found in the Oslo excavations). This seems to have been a fairly common stitch and at least three extant mittens have been found worked in this manner. As this stitch is fairly simple, was commonly used, and I knew someone who could teach it me, I elected to learn this stitch first.

I had attempted to teach myself Nalbinding from a book and various text and illustration based instructions several years prior to this with very little success. My second attempt with a live instructor was more successful and after a few bumps I was able to produce a passable tube of nalbound fabric. After some problems with maintaining even tension, I was able to start on my first sock.

Viking age socks were more like shoe liners than modern socks, coming up only to the ankle. These would have provided an extra layer of warmth and padding over cloth stockings of some sort and under leather shoes. Surviving socks seem to have been constructed from the toe up, unlike my socks which I worked from the top down to simplify the starting row. I plan to work future socks in the more historically accurate toe-up manner once I am more comfortable with the techniques involved.

Walton, Penelope. Textiles, Cordage and Raw Fiber from 16-22 Coppergate. York Archeological Trust 1989.

Hald, Margrethe. Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials: A Comparative Study of Costume and Iron Age Textiles, trans. Jean Olsen. Archaeological-Historical Series Vol. XXI. Copenhagen: The National Museum of Denmark, 1980.

Schmitt, Larry.Lessons in Nalbinding: Mittens, Mittens, Mittens! Lawrence W. Schmitt, 1997

Schmitt, Larry.Lessons in Nalbinding: Scarves, Wimples and More. Lawrence W. Schmitt, 1999.

Priest-Dorman, Carolyn. Nalebinding Techniques in the Viking Age. ( Last accessed June 2, 2011.

Lewins, Shelagh. Nalbinding Socks: Methods of Construction ( Last accessed June 2, 2011.

For instruction on the actual stitch, YouTube is a great resource! Just do a search for “nalbinding” and you will find lots of helpful instructional videos, one of which will explain in a way that works for you. I found the videos available from to be helpful with Oslo stitch but there are many others.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Weekend report

This weekend I went to Sapphire Joust, a notoriously hot and humid event near Richmond.  Overall, it was fun, though my hip and leg gave me a lot of trouble and I ended up packing out earlier on Sunday than I had planned too.  Oh well, could have been worse.  I did some good shopping, talked with friends, and won the Arts and Sciences competition I had knit the Monmouth cap and mittens for!  yay!  The prize was a really gorgeous spindle, which was perfect for a "Best use of Raw Wool" competition.  This was the last competition I had as Baronial Champion, and it was nice to go out with a successful one.  I've posted a link to the documentation to the right, and will be writing up the pattern for the mitten in the next week or so.  The hat pattern, as I mentioned in my last post, needs some work, so that will be coming as soon as I get it worked out to my satisfaction.

I wore the green hose all day on Saturday, with mundane clogs, and they worked pretty well.  I need to re-cut the feet and take them in a little bit through the leg and ankle to meet with my own particular standards (which are a little OCD, I will admit), but they are comfortable and look pretty good as is.  Bias cutting the foot was definitely a mistake.  this might have worked in wool, but it make for way too much stretching in the linen, and lots of strange bunching around the ball of my foot.  Luckily it all sort of bunched up in a way that was not a problem in my shoe, but I can do better than that.

The blue houppeland was a big hit and looked great, even after a car trip and less than ideal storage in my tent.  And it was comfortable.  I wore it for late-afternoon court on Saturday, sitting in the sun and was quite comfortable.  The hood made for a very nice sun-shade when I flipped the brim forward, though I apparently looked a little bit like a Sith apprentice or something.

Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures, but I will be trotting my new Roman out next weekend for our local birthday event and will hopefully get some pictures of that then.  If I am feeling ambitions I may change into the houppland for feast and for court, but we shall see.

Now I must buckle down and finish the brick stitch bag for Pennsic, and get some more undies made so that if I am able to go (more on that later, I'm going in for hip surgery so that may get in the way of camping plans) I will have enough clothes.  And get my stuff for 30 Year done (definitely not going to that as my surgery is slated for the week before, but my entries will be there without me)