Monday, 20 December 2010

Threads, Linen and Sampler News


And so, I finally have my threads ready to begin my coif. I am using a mixture of Gilt Sylke Twist and Soie de Perle. I have tried to choose a palette that is appropriate to the era as well as to my own sensibilities. Some of the colours will only be used once in the design. Examples are the Azure GST, for butterfly wings, and the soft grey, for the snail. I have been thinking about using the new kit from Thistle Threads for my snail, instead of my own design, but have not made a decision yet. That kit uses some really interesting threads and techniques, and I may use it just because it is so cute.

linen kingston 55 I am torn about the linen. Somehow my Kingston crème 55 ct. linen managed to get misplaced during my cross-country move, so I had to replace it. I purchased some Kingston white 55 ct. from a friend who has closed her needle arts shop, and am fairly happy with it.

linen antique

My other option is an antique piece of fine white linen. They are comparable in quality, from what I can tell, but the antique piece is somewhat finer, and has less slubs. Not sure if that really matters or not, but am trying to decide which to use.

I have made some fairly good progress on the sampler for my Thistle Threads Elizabethan and Stuart Gold Work Master Course. I have found that I have run out of two of the threads though, and am not sure why. I am using only one strand, per the directions, and am using every bit of the thread that I am able to. I try to have the mindset that they are very rare and precious, and that I have to use every small bit that I can, in order to mimic the 16th and 17th century stitcher as closely as possible.

I am well pleased with my work so far, and with the exception of a place where I cut the thread too close, feel that I have done a passable job with it. I am going to have to go back into the large honeycomb in the top left of the sampler and re-do a small bit, in order to fix that tail end that worked its way loose, but it should not be too painful to deal with.

Here are some photos of my work so far. I am really keen on starting the gold soon!!!

sampler top left honeysuckle small honeysuckle and lower left motif pinke and top center motif pansy flame stitch

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

coif progress

I have been studying Elizabethan and Jacobean coifs for about seven years now, and it all started with a photo of a gold and black coif at the V&A. I was able to visit the museum, and actually had one on one time with that coif, and several others as well. Since my journey began, I have studied the embroidery techniques that I would need to master in order to be able to produce an embroidered coif appropriate to this period, and I feel that I am ready to proceed.

There is a lot of back story here, but I am not going to go into all of my research and findings at this point. I am, however, going to post some photos of my final design, which I have only recently finished. I started drawing this about five years ago, perhaps longer. I have kept all of my concept drawings, and my embroidery practice as I have progressed.

This is my final drawing in this form, but I am going to take this and transfer the design in black ink to clean, white paper. When the design is drawn on the linen, the plaited braid coils will be drawn in a single, center line, as opposed to the two sides that are shown now. I did that for spatial reasons. I felt I needed to be able to "see"how wide the coils would be, so that I could properly size the motifs to fit in and around them.

My coif design is an original. I did not want to reproduce one that is in a museum. I studied, learned, and took what I saw and then created my own pattern. I made up several coifs out of linen, in order to perfect the fit for my head, and then started drawing, and redrawing my coif. I now have my Kingston 55 count linen, my Soie de Perlee, beautiful spangles and gold and silver passing thread from Golden Threads, and most of the Gilt Sylke Twist that I need. I am only lacking a slate frame of the proper size, but I am working on that.

Here is my final version. Any comments are welcome.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Shevaun's bodice and cap begin to come together

I have been sick with a yucky plague since last week, but I did manage to get started on a couple of things for Shevaun.

Her bodice is going to close up the front with hooks and eyes. I am using a redding brown wool from England for her gown, about the same weight and texture as mine. Pictures will come later. Out of necessity she is probably going to wind up wearing an old smock of Emma's, because I do not know that I will have time to make one for her between now and the 13th.

We started with her stays, and used the Elizabethan costuming pattern generator. I realize that there is no documentable proof that this is an historically accurate reproduction of 16th century stays, but feel that in the interest of time that it is a very appropriate option. I used a heavy weight canvas, and used plastic boning.

When I started planning for these outfits I still had not found my Tudor Tailor patterns that I bought when I made our Kentwell outfits. I decided that I would have a go with the Reconstructing History pattern that is listed as Elizabethan Commonwomen's Clothing because I needed the patterns in a hurry and did not want to have to wait for copies of new TT patterns to arrive from the UK. I am really not ready just yet to give a review of that pattern, but wanted to be up front that I was not using the patterns I am most familiar with. Of course I found my TT patterns almost the same day that my new one arrived.

We started with her bodice pattern. I made the toile up using the pattern that was supposed to be a size 12, and according to the measurements should have fit her to a T. This just goes to show you that you should always, always, always do a toile before you cut into your fashion fabric. I took probably four inches out of the back, and more out of the sides as well as needing to adjust the bodice length. I made her corset, including the glaringly inaccurate metal grommet eyes (for durability and again in the interest of time), and made her toile yesterday.

Up next was her cap. I compared the pattern from the Tudor Tailor book for the Elizabethan cap with shaped forehead cloth, with the pieces that were in my Reconstructing History pattern, and they matched up pretty much the same. I double checked the head measurements, and went ahead and made the forehead cloth from bagged out linen and then made the cap. I did use buckram and millinery wire in the brim, and am more or less happy with how it has turned out. I just really do not see how on earth the thing is supposed to stay on your head. I guess I will pin it to the top of a braided style that I will do for her. I had thought maybe to do the double braid style shown in the TT book, but it won't fit properly into that tight caul at the back, so maybe a single braid that is brought up and around on the back of the head.

Next up should be her bodice, so we shall see where that goes.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

1570's English Commoner Outfit

I am working on an outfit for SCA use, mid to late sixteenth century in general design. Since I primarily focus on English, that is what I am going with now, though sewing clothes for a common woman is fairly new to me. My research over the past 15 years has been in the area of gentry women's clothing, so there have to be some shifts in the design, embellishment and fabrics used for this outfit as opposed to what I am used to working with. My goal is to create an outfit that would have been seen out and about on the streets of London, and I am happy to have this Lucas de Heere sketch to base my outfit on. The figure on the right is the basic design I am hoping to emulate. (A group of English London Ladies by Lucas de Heere, circa 1570 . Add. Ms. 28330, British Museum)

I am using a middle weight wool that I brought from England. My original intention for this was to do an outfit of this time period and social class, but it has taken me a while to get back into the swing of historical sewing for myself, so this project has sat on the back burner for a couple of years. The wool is not really rough faced, it is just coarser than what I am used to working with. I have generally used a fine wool, something along the lines of a gabardine. I have already washed this wool and it did great in the washer and dryer. Yay for me, because the cost of dry cleaning long dresses, even ones classified as costumes, has really become quite prohibitive.

As I am doing a middle class, or commoner, as opposed to gentry, none of my ruffs will work. So I have been fiddling around a bit with a strip of linen that is one yard long, trying to figure out exactly what I want to do with it. My goal is to have a ruff that is no wider than two inches, probably an inch and three quarters, and wrist ruffs that are equally modest, probably about an inch in depth. A woman in this socio-economic group would not have had a lot of expendable wealth, and it is very plausible that she would have put a bit of embroidery around the edge of her ruff for embellishment. As there is portrait evidence that buttonhole stitch was used in this manner, that is what I have chosen to do. I will be using a red silk by deVere yarns that I have used before and really enjoy working with.

I have been making ruffs for about fifteen years, and have used three different methods. My very first ruff was one that was run in accordian type pleats, from the top edge of the neckband to the bottom. I made several ruffs by this method. I have made four ruffs with the stacked box pleated method, such as is illustrated in Jean Hunniset's "Period Costume for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women's Dress, 1500-1800". Admittedly, I was unable to figure out the method by reading her book, and it was only through the kind generosity of Gina Hill that I was able to finally grasp what was really going on. The last method I have used is tiny cartridge pleated linen sewn to a neckband. In Janet Arnold's "Patterns of Fashion 4", the ruffs illustrated all show cartridge pleating to be the method used to attach them to the neckband, though not all of them have pleats that are sized consistently.

I decided to experiment, just to put them side by side, and to see how much fabric each method would use, and how the finished results would vary in appearance.

For my test, I took a one yard strip of linen, zig-zagged one long edge to stabilize it, hemmed the two short ends, and did a narrow, rolled hem on the other long edge. I encased a piece of fishing line type filament in the hem that was not going to be pleated.

First I tried the box pleated method, but as it was to be a ruff with a relatively small depth of ruffle,
I used only two sets of box pleats per stack, and I omitted the folding and double stacking step. I did not mark my one-quarter inch pleats and did them all free hand. In spite of my lack of precision in regards to the size of the pleats, this yielded a ruff with nicely turned figure of eights. The final size of the sample was seven inches.

Next, I tried the teeny cartridge pleats. My pleats were about one quarter inch across, so approximately one eighth of an inch in depth when gathered up. I drew the sample up until I felt it looked right, so this gave me a piece that was six and a half inches in length.

I think I have made the decision to go with the cartridge pleated ruff, but I am still working out some design issues. When I made Arilyn's ruff in 2oo8 for Kentwell, I turned under the selvage edge, gathered with cartridge pleats, and I attached them to the top edge of the neckband with a single stitch per pleat, so that the entire ruffle stood perpendicular to the neckband. I may be reading PoF4 wrong, but it looks to me like the ruffs made in the 16th century were all attached to the neckband and then the band was folded over to encase the edge of the ruffle, and then very carefully hemmed over it. This presents two dilemmas for me. Firstly, how to attach the gathered edge to the neckband if it is not finished in some way, for I foresee that edge coming unraveled very easily and not providing a stable base for the stitches that the ruffle would be pulling against. Miss Arnold does not make any notation about that edge being finished in any way, and it is obvious from her drawings that the selvages are actually on the short end of strips that are joined together to make up the length of the ruffle. Secondly, I feel that the resultant joining would be very thick and bulky. Not exactly sure how I am going to proceed from this point, but those are issues to ponder over and work through soon.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Catching up

One would assume, from the total lack of entries here, that my past year has been devoid of sewing projects, but in reality the opposite has been true. I have made a ball gown, wedding gown, formal gown, Regency outfit for a ten year old, a mid-nineteenth century frock for the same ten year old, a formal gown for the same lucky little girl, and managed to work on several 16th century embroidery projects as well. I am still working on my Thistle Threads master goldwork class, and hopefully will have some good progress to show for it soon.

My next project are three mid 16th century outfits for middle class women. Actually, one is for myself, one for my 20 year old, and of course the 10 year old gets a new one.

Since I am not doing gentry class for like the first time in my entire reenacting career, I have to make a new suit of ruffs. My three inch wide ruff with that gorgeous Barnett Lawson silver metal thread simply will not do. I will be posting photos of my progress.

Bess, this is for you. You make me feel so guilty because you are so good at keeping current with your journaling, while I am very lackadaisical in comparison. I promise to do better this year, starting today.