Thursday, August 16, 2012

More bra links

In an effort to *not* loose track of these link, here is a bit more material on the Lenberg bras and ladies undies in general:

BBC History article by Beatrix Nutz
More written sources from Medieval Silkwork
Another article by Nutz on the find

Boob wrangling!

Here is an interesting post with a great contemporary quote about 14th century bust supportive.  It's nice to have textual evidence for something bra-like as well as supportive gowns to fit in with all the great information that's been coming out about the Lenberg bras.

It's nice to know that boob wrangling was an issue for the ladies back then too.  Somehow knowing for certain that women weren't running around with things flapping in the wind back then makes me feel better.

Mary of Hungary smock progress

Well, saying "progress" might be a bit over-blown but I think I have figured out the stitching on the smock at any rate, which means I will shortly be able to make some real progress on the actual smock.

Close up of original shirt from A Flight of Fancy
The original smock has a deep band of embroidered pleats around the neckline, originally worked in silver thread which has now tarnished to black.  There are apparently similar bands at the cuffs, though I have thus far been unable to find any pictures of the cuff that might shed more light on the stitching.  Initially I had thought this might be some kind of smocking, which would have to be put on a supportive band to maintain the tight gathers seen on the original.  In doing more research on this, I now believe that the original was done with pattern darning over pleats.  Pattern darning gives a similar look to the stitching on the original (uniform, slightly raised stitching without any obvious diagonal lines) and it does not stretch which means the pleats will remain tight.

After a considerable amount of dickering around with pleats and graph paper, I think I have just about got the neckline design worked out!  You can see from the picture that pattern darning is giving nice, neat surface embroidery which still controlling all the pleated in fullness.  This will also let me pleat a lot more fabric into a smaller area, which makes sense given the dimensions of the original smock.  I've done the partial sample shown (I will finish it to show the full pattern) in black embroidery cotton, but I think it will work well in a metal thread.  Unlike true smocking, the thread is only traveling in one direction, which should be less damaging to the metal thread.

The only problem I have at this moment is that my pattern is coming out slightly smaller than the original (6 cm on the the original and I will be lucky to hit 4.5 on mine).  I suspect I have based my pattern on a smaller stitch length, so I might be able to enlarge it by working over 3 or 4 threads as a basic unit rather than 2.  I am not 100% sure I care about this, once I have a better idea of how the proportions of the whole thing will work on my body I can make up my mind.  Now that I have a chart to work from and some idea of how much space each row of pattern covers, enlarging it should not be too difficult.

Here you can see part of my daring pattern,
charted out on the smallest graph paper I could find.
Actually working the pattern is quite simple and progresses must faster than I thought it would.  Even though the lines of stitching have to be placed close together, as long as you are careful with your pleat counting it's not hard to do.  Using washable fabric marker to make the dots certainly does help, as you can see from the pictures it gives nice evenly spaced guidelines to keep the embroidery straight.  Washable marker is certainly not period, but as pencil does not wash out well and chalk rubs off easily, this is, to my mind at least, an acceptable compromise.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Soooo hot!

Well, not so hot today but it has been quite warm in these parts for the past few weeks, and as my workshop has no AC I have not been getting so much done.  I'm also really lacking in motivation, I don't feel very good about myself just now (body image issues being a big theme for me) and I feel like sewing anything for myself is a waste of resources.  Sigh.  So I've been canning my crop of tomatoes, knitting, watching the Olympics, and working on two quilt projects I've had sitting around forever.  And spinning some wool for a sweater project I've also had around forever.  At least I'm being somewhat productive.

Isis over at Medieval Silkwork posted a great summary and some fabulous notes about the Lengberg bras for those of you interested.  I've got some great ideas for underwear now, and a documentable plan for supporting the girls under the Mary of Hungary gown.  Now to just get past my current I-am-gross-and-unworthy issue.

For those of you who knit, I make and sell knitting needle cases and bags to keep myself in wool and linen.  I'm currently running a contest and looking for some feedback on potential new fabrics.  Vote for your favorite print and you could win a needle case!