Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Cushion Progress

This brick stitch book cushion is turning into quite the project.  I thought I had issues with the eyelets...

I think part of the problem is that thing is so large that it's hard to see if I've made any progress.  Framing or hooping this type of work does not work well for me, so I'm looking at the whole thing all the time, instead of a smaller area against which I can easily measure an hours progress.  Plus the way I tend to do the work, I lay out one color to establish the boarders of the pattern, then fill in the rest of the space one color at a time.  So even after hours and hours of work there is still a lot of white space.  The advantage though is that once I get the major pattern elements counted out the smaller bits go in much faster.  Especially with a larger scale pattern like this one, the counting and re-counting and picking out large areas because you miss-counted is a big part of the problem.

Anyway, I also need to take pictures of my work at more regular intervals, so this is what I've done.  What you see here is just over 55 hours of work.  I've now got the outlines of the whole pillow done, which is nice as I can get a better idea of how I am progressing with filling the individual diamond shapes in, and am over halfway done with the gold.  yay!  The blue sections are tricky, but once I get going with those they really are not so bad.  It's a matter of starting off in the right place and remembering from diamond to diamond what the right place is.

A few things that I've learned so far from this project (really I probably knew these things at some level but it always bears writing down for next time):

  • never ever under any circumstances trust that the pre-packaged piece of even-weave that claims to be right size for your project is (a) the right size, (b) square or (c) cut on the grain.  Check!  Pull threads! Finding you need to adjust after you have started stitching sucks.  Really I should I have known this but I got excited and now have a slightly wonky bottom edge, which will luckily sort itself out when I sew it into a cushion but still.
  • Once again, and this cannot be repeated enough, brick stitch uses a metric butt-ton of thread.  Buy 5 times as much as you think you need, at least, especially if your threads are dye-lot sensitiveness.
  • Also, cotton thread does not fill as nicely as silk so you will need to use more plys, which means more thread.  yay!  I'm working with 4 plys over 28 count evenweave.
  • Shorter length of thread give better coverage, there seems to be an issue of wear as you stitch as towards the end of a long bit of thread either there is more wear so the threads have gone bald or they get too twisted to cover nicely.  Very annoying, just cut the floss shorter.  Maybe no more than 20-22 inches?
  • Book cushions apparently also make excellent cat cushions, even in an unassembled state.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

More needle books

Because I've been getting nothing much major done like a champ (hey, it happens), here are two more Elizabethan needle books.  Hurrah for small projects!  Both ended up in largess baskets this past weekend, one for the new baron and baroness of our local group and one for the king and queen.

I like the purple pansy much better than the strawberry/butterfly combo.  Something about the colors on the butterfly just bother me.  Somehow it looks more like a moth.  I've a seem another style of butterfly that's more top-down that I like better, I think it might look less moth-like, or perhaps if I made a smaller body.  This is why I'm doing these practice pieces!

I think I might be brave enough to try a smallish sweete bag next. Nothing like the super elaborate totally gold-filled ones you see in many of the museums, more a scaled-down version of one of the jacket patterns.  I think that would be more realistic and more in keeping with most of the clothing I wear from that period anyway.  I really like the pansy, primrose and acorn motifs, so perhaps something working with those would be fun.  And also bees, those are fun to do too.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


One of the other reasons I've not been posting much in the last month is the little dude you see here.  Meet Atticus, the three-legged chihuahua.  I take no responsibility for the name, it's about the silliest thing you could call an 8 pound dog.  Atty is a rescue my husband found and decided we need to add to our pack, so we've been working with him and the other two dogs to integrate him into the house and re-potty train him.  It turns out his front leg was amputated only about a month before he came to live with us so he has had a rough go of it and a lot to adjust to in a pretty short time.

Aside from the potty training issues (which the neurotic cat decided to join in on, just for kicks, that was tons of fun to clean up), he's a sweet little guy and has been a great addition.  It amazes me how unfazed he is by the missing leg, he gets around just fine and I have yet to find something he can't do.  Three dogs is far more work than two though, which I was not expecting.  Two wasn't much more work than one, I wasn't expecting three to be this big a difference.  Suffice it to say that there is a lot more chaos and a lot more comedy in the house, but also a lot more puppy love so it's all worth it.

Except for possibly the insane amount of pee I've been cleaning up, that's just been gross.  I have literally tried every pee-cleaning and pee-deterring product at the local pet supply store.  I am the Crazy Pee Lady.

The carpet is going to have to go.  As soon as we get the potty training sorted.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Manesse Codex Hat

I've been super busy this last month with all kind of baronial regalia ridiculousness, sewing for other people, and getting ready for a craft show which was last weekend, which has left precious little time for working on any of my fun (period) medieval stuff or updating my blog.  I am bad blogger but as things seem to be settling  down just a bit, that will hopefully be getting better.  I hope.

This weekend is out local baronial investiture and I am quite excited about it.  The couple who are being invested as out baron and baroness are really wonderful people, which is a big help, and the theme of the event is the Manesse Codex, which makes me happy as I've been wanting to do a gown from that period for a long time.   Mostly so I can make a silly hat.  Because really, it's all about the silly hats.  Somewhere along the line I lost my gorram mind and decided to hand-sew the whole thing, so this project has taken longer than I would have liked but it's finally at least wearable.  I still have some seam finishing to do on the undergown, but at least I can get out the door on Saturday without getting around to that if it doesn't happen.

Pictures of the gown itself will come later, but for now, the silly hat!  The pie-plate fillet or whatever you want to call it, is the (in my opinion) quintessential Manesse hat.  It's also fairly mysterious.  Some people have constructed these like coffee filters, some people just box-pleat a ruffle on the top of a band of linen, neither version looks anything like the fluted pie-edge you see in the illustrations.  I've also seen a range of thing used as understructure for the hat, from nothing at all, to lots of folded linen, to buckram, all of which have their issues.

Not being even remotely satisfied with any of the reconstructions of the hat I have seen, I decided to toss them all aside and start from scratch.  The main points I took into consideration were as follows:

  • the hat is a smooth, slightly flaring band that sits on the head with a ruffled thing around the edge
  • the band is stiff but does not appear to be terribly bulky
  • hats work better if they are light and the bands are not bulky.  Whatever material is used to keep this stiff should be as thin as possible, and flexible so as to conform to the head comfortable and not give one a headache while at the same time being strong around to support a veil as seen in some of the illustrations
  • the whole affair appears to be open at the top, but this could be wrong as suggested by at least one funeral effigy (don't have the source at the moment but I will find it and post it later)
  • materials available in period should be used as much as possible - i.e. natural fibers and natural stiffening agents.  They did have sizing afterall, so why not use it?
  • this whole thing looks an awful lot like a goffered viel, so using some of what we know about those from Isis's research might be a good idea
  • Needs to be easy to maintain in to actual real-world conditions

From this, it became clear very quickly that using layers of folded linen or nothing more than sized linen would not work at all, as the hat would be too bulky or too fragile.  Also, buckram seemed like an unsuitable option for the interior frame as the glues and sizings used to keep it stiff are too stiff and the edges really need to be wired in order of the thing to maintain it's shape.  So I opted to use felt.  Heavily fulled wool was certainly available in period, there are many contemporary illustrations of hats that appear to be made out of stiffly shaped wool, and it takes sizing well, so this seemed reasonable.  All I had on had was craft felt, so I didn't need to size anything but a simple fax seed or  gelatin sizing would have worked and both were available in period.  A glue would also work well.

The nice thing about the felt/wool option is that the whole frame of the hat is very lightweight, thin and flexible.  Plus you can steam it or press it if it gets bent out of shape, making the hat fairly resilient to actual wear.  I'm not sure about washing it if it gets really dirty, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.  I think spot-cleaning will work for everything except Pennsic levels of gross.

The frame was covered with linen, though it is possible the hats shown were covered in silk (the more I think about this the more likely I think it is they were silk, these look like rich ladies after all).  The ruffled edge is a strip of linen about 3.5 times as long as the top width of the hat,  folded over and box pleated to fit along the top edge of the hat.  Once sewn into place, the front covering of the hat was sewn down to conceal the raw edge of the pleated band.

I should have taken a picture of this step, since this is where what I did differs from what I've seen most people do.  Rather than just leave the box pleated edge sticking straight up, I stitched the bottom part of the pleat down to the front edge of the hat, about 1/4 of an inch down.  This is what gives the fun icing-like effect to the pleats.

When wearing the hat, you wear a chin-band, which not only keeps your hair in place but keeps the hat on remarkably well without any extra attachments needed.  I had initially thought I would need to pin the hat to the chin band at the sides, but I was able to run around the house, picking up the dogs and doing all kinds of things without anything slipping at all.  My hair is exceptionally slippery so I think people with easier to manage hair would have no problem with this coming off at all.

I will post pictures of the whole outfit on me after the weekend!