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.