Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Disguising the modern

Modern things can really kill the atmosphere in a camp or around a fighting field.  We've all seen someone (probably even me) in a beautifully made, wonderfully period outfit, ruin the whole thing by pulling our a cell phone or putting on a pair of sunglasses, or pairing it with glaring white sneakers.  Some of these things can't be avoided for one reason or another, but we can certainly make an attempt to cover them up as much as possible.

To whit, I present my latest woodworking project, the wax tablet kindle.  We got the idea for this at our local 12th Night, when my laurel's husband and I saw one of the other local laurel's running around with an iPad.  I'd seen several people with tablet computers at the last library, taking notes and whatnot, and suggested that it would be really cool if we could somehow disguise these really obviously modern, but ever so useful things as wax tablets.  Really, that is what they are standing in for after all.  Fast forward a little to a couple of weeks ago when we saw this very idea adapted to iPhone cases at the last event we were at.  

It turns out these are really quite easy to make, if you have even the most basic of wood working skills.  This particular case was cut using a scroll saw to cut out a kindle shaped hole from a piece of 1/2 inch wood which I then glued to 1/4 inch backing, but you could just as easily build up the sides like a small box.  Using the scroll saw method, unless you are really good with a table saw and stripping down lengths of wood (which I am not) you are a bit limited in case size by the widths of thin lumber you can get.  I was only able to get 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch wood up to 6 inches wide, perfect for the kindle fire but only just barely.  For those of you interested in such things, I made this case out of poplar, stained it with a light coat of English chestnut stain and then used paste wax to finish it.

For the next one (cuz why not?) I want to make a sewn leather hinge that wraps around and closes with a buckle.  I think this will work better, even it making it is a bit more fiddly.  The DH wants one for his phone too, which is promising.  At least he is on board with the minimizing the modern plan!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Grain lines and gussets

I've finally started working on the G-63 for the DH, after a great deal of deliberation.  So far so good.  I got everything cut out yesterday and put the body of the gown together, only to discover after going back to Woven into the Earth that I had put the grain lines on the body of the gown in the wrong places.  If you look at the diagram to the right (a marked up version of Marc Carlson's pattern illustration) the reddish lines indicate where the straight grain or selvedge edges should be.  Arranged this way, the original has two straight edges down the front and two biased edges down the back, all other seams being the convention straight-to-bias. I got as far as getting two straight grain edges down the front, but ended up my bias-to-bais seams under the arm.  I'm chalking this up to a modern sense of the symmetrical, we tend to want to hide the odd seam out someplace we would view as unobtrusive, even if that does not make structural sense, as in this case. The whole thing would hang better arranged as the original was.  At least the gores are not terribly wide so the problem isn't very obvious, and I have learned something for next time.

In the process of putting this together I also realized it's basically a scaled down version of the Zhorelecky houppeland I posted about awhile back.  The similarity in drape is quite remarkable, and probably not something I would have picked up on right away if I had not just been talking about the houppeland this weekend and if I did not have it pulled out and handy for comparison.  The business with grain lines is really what gives both garments the beautiful rippled edges at the hem line, not a huge volume of fabric.

The other (and major) weirdness of the G-63 is the sleeve. It's very similar to the way the sleeve on the Charles du Blois cotte, at least in so far as there is a vertical seam cutting in two at the elbow.  The funky little gusset at the elbow was giving me fits, I understand why they used gussets at the armscye, but why the elbow?  Maybe whoever made this just ran out of fabric and this is the only way they could cut the sleeves? It wouldn't be unheard of, and it's not like we have a whole heap of sleeves from which to make well-grounded conclusions about tailoring at the time.  Well, I ran across this really great article article explaining the elbow hinge on the Charles du Blois cotte, and had a long conversation with Mathilde, and decided to do the sleeves with all it's gussets intact before I attempted to draft anything out.

Oh boy am I glad I did, and am I glad I went back to the book to check on the grain lines!  For a baggy sleeve, that little gusset makes a huge difference in how the whole thing hangs and how it will ultimately fit.  Because the armscye is so deep, the little tricks used to allow the arm to move in a very tight sleeve are actually needed to keep the whole garment hanging correctly, hence the hinged sleeve construction.  That little extra bit of bias stretch gives just enough movement in the elbow that, along with the added curve from the gusset, the whole sleeve stays in place when you move around even with a great big 25 inch (the same size at the original, the DH fits those measurements almost perfectly) arm opening.  So yay!  It's a very clever bit of shaping, the same sort of thing we do around bust lines today really, only applied to sleeves.  One wonders where all this sleeve fitting brilliance got lost, the way this sleeve is constructed is much more three-dimensional than a modern sleeve pattern, and this much better fitting and more functional.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sleeve sources

The sleeves for the 12 Hour dress are really simple - big rectangles with an s-curve cut into the top.  They probably should be a little narrower than they are, as cut there are 2 pleats just back of the top shoulder, which does not seem to be a typical style for women's sleeves of the period (1410 or thereabouts).  Whatever, it's not unheard of and it hangs well, which is really the main thing.

As far as sources, here are two.  There are more, but these are the on-line ones that I used:

April from the Les Tres Riches Heures du duc de Berry :

There is another very similar sleeve, but with dagged edges, in Bibl. de l’Arsenal, ms. 664. fol 47. which I cannot find a picture of to link to.  There is a picture of it here on page 7.

The 12 Hour Gown

Last Thursday I decided to drive up to the DC area for a an event in Fairfax with my laurel's husband.  After going through my pile'o'garb, I decided I didn't have anything to wear that would go with my new circlet and would attempt to make something suitable for an indoor, semi-dressy event on Friday.

So I did.

Picture Project Runway-gone-Medieval style madness, but I did it!  The red wool over-gown was started Friday morning and totally finished less than 12 hours later.  Nothing is glued or safety pined.  Granted, the seams are serged and I already had the base pattern from making the green linen kirtle, but I'm still pretty pleased with myself.  The only visible machine stitching on the outside of the gown are the buttonholes.

Unfortunately I have lost just enough weight since making the kirtle that it no longer supports me the way is should, so the whole thing will need to be taken in a bit sooner rather than later.  Also, the neckline on the overgown needs to come down a bit and I will eventually want to replace the buttons with something a bit more authentic (there are plain silver shank buttons on there now, not terrible but not quite up to standard either).  The green kirtle under this gown is the straight front pattern, which I find to be less flattering on my body than the curved front version.  I think I look about 4 months pregnant in it, no matter what I do to suck in my gut or stand straight.  This doesn't seem to be as noticeable in pictures of the curved front dress, but part of that may also be because that particular gown has a waist seem, which generally has a slimming effect on me at least.   Once I get the whole thing taken in, perhaps it will be a bit more flattering.