Sunday, December 17, 2017

Foreign Working, No Visa Required

This is before steaming, don't @-me
As previously noted, I was in a wait state on the pourpoint due to lack of thread[1] and so switched gears to start on my silk dress.  I'd assembled the body pieces from the waist up before I left for England; and it occurred to me that this silk packs down so small and light, I could easily take it along to work on--it's not like I was going over to tourist or party, and I knew there would be a lot of quiet visiting time where hand-work would be acceptable.  I prepped by cutting a whole bunch of appropriate sewing lengths of the linen thread I am using (60/2, if you care) and waxed & ironed them thoroughly, then wound them 'round a card to bring.  That, my usual sewing kit, and the gridded ruler & chalk was enough, and took up no more space than, e.g., my pajamas.  I'm happy to report that I return with the back and side gores fully assembled & attached.  I still hate gores, but I seem to be getting better at them.

I did also baste instead of pinning the pieces together for sewing. It feels weird in my head place--a little less so the more I went on, but it is not entirely resolved--and I haven't yet noticed any benefits in speed or accuracy for what I'm doing at present, but I'm going to keep on and see how things change (or don't).  

I had also meant to bring stuff for seam finishing, only then realizing I didn't actually have anything appropriate.  That is, I have silk threads of all kinds; but they are various types of embroidery rather than sewing thread, and although I've used some of them for seam finishes before, those were either for decorative purposes or on thick enough wool or linen that they could pass unnoticed.  I can't fudge it on this fabric, nope.  So I sent a Hail Mary order to Superior Threads for a couple of colorways and weights that I thought might do; and that at least I have found here waiting for me, yay.  C'mon, let's open the box together!

So, I got two spools of their Kimono Silk (100/2) and two of Tire Silk (50/2). Now I've got them out of the packet, I think either would do, but the 100/2 looks like a better bet (and is a closer color match as well).  My fabric is still so very crisp and sheen-ish that I'm going to have to be exceedingly skilful to not make the thread super-obvious, if that's even possible, which I'm not convinced of.  All I can say is, thank goodness I don't intend to wear this dress without an over-layer.

Apropos of which, I think I don't have a whelk's chance in a supernova in getting the brocade over-gown ready for February[2], so I'm letting my back-brain chew on how I can easily & quickly remake my very very old rust-red velvet sideless surcoat as an alternative. The color story would be good; I'd just need, I think, to bung in a lining[3]--scrap silk would do--and do something to ornament the neckline.  Obviously what it should have is a strip of narrow gold-work embroidery trim, but possibly a good-looking storebought trim could pass. But it'd be no more than an afternoon's work, anyways, I should think.
Sock #1 Action Shot

On the knitting front, I have gotten past the heel of Sock #2, hooray for long flights. 

[1] (...which still hasn't arrived, I find?  WTF?) 
[2] more fucking buttonholes
[3] this would also contain those stupid little cotton pills that get everywhere when you're working with cotton velvet

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Respawning After Some Life Disruptions

it was a very good vacation

I have been off the grid for a bit here on account of rather a lot of travel; we were on vacation (in California, which is beautiful and has much going for it, but not a lot of medieval interest), but then there was a sudden trip to the UK for unhappy reasons[1], and between those things and emotional drain and trying to catch up at work and the beginning of holiday wharrgarbl, my art has had to take rather a back-seat for a time[2].

I pulled myself back in harness last week and got cracking on the pourpoint's buttonholes again, only to run out of thread all of a sudden. -_-  I've ordered more, and it should be here in another few days, but in the interim I thought it might be good to get moving on the silk under-dress I cut out two months ago.  I have already burbled some thoughts regarding this undertaking; and my resultant decision points are:
  • no lining,
  • hand-sew (and finish) the seams,
  • sewn, not buttoned, lower sleeves,
  • laced front closure.
The current internal conflict is whether to baste the pieces together first, rather than just pinning & sewing the seams directly.  I understand that's best medieval practice, and since I'm not actually up against the wall, I should maybe try doing things right for a change instead of listening to Whiny Impatient Me and just plunging in.  I am also going to wax the thread properly with the iron an' all.

I think I have plenty decent linen thread to use for internal construction; will have to dig around to see if I've got an appropriate silk for eyelets, seam finishing, and the $&@! tablet-woven edge for the center front, but that's less urgent.  Oh yes, and silk scraps for facings, since I'm not lining it.

ugh it's 1:30pm already

[1] and shortly I shall be going again for similar reasons
[2] I did do some knitting on the plane(s).  And figured out how to do kitchener stitch without a tapestry needle.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Largely About Largesse

Largesse examples from the Citadel of the Southern Pass,
in Ansteorra.  

The original meaning of largesse is, coins thrown to the populace on some great occasion, such as a wedding or a coronation.  E.g., during the wedding of Mary Stuart to the future Fran├žois II (1558):

This is the best screencap I could find,
and it ain't great, but it's Col. Brandon
with a fistful of coins he's about to
throw to the crowd after his wedding.
(Sense and Sensibility, 1995)
"Then the heralds cried for a third time "Largesse!" and threw among the people a great number of gold and silver coins of all descriptions, as Henrys, ducats, crowns of the sun, pistolets, half-crowns, testons, and douzains.  Such a rush and outcry among the people followed, that nothing was ever heard like it, as they precipitated themselves one upon the other...During the offertory, pieces of gold and silver were again thrown among the people, in token of liberality and largesse."  (Lives of the Queens of Scotland, Agnes Strickland)

In the SCA context, though, it's taken on a meaning closer to the idea of tokens or gifts of favor (not favors, per se; I have a different rant about those)--a way for the Crown (or local barons, for that matter) to give an attaboy-in-passing, so to speak, outside of the formal awards & orders context, for any reason that moves them: you did them a service, you did something cool, they like your display or your performance or how you comport yourself on the field--any ol' thing.  This is a Great Idea and very medieval and I love it and I want to contribute to it.  But I have been perennially stuck on "how".

Disclaimer: I have some personal madness here; particularly I want to note that this madness is entirely personally-applied, and I do not have any mental wharrgarbl about anyone else's work or contributions but my own.

Very broadly speaking, it seems to me that there are two kinds of largesse; "high-end" (bigger or more expensive or more painstakingly crafted) one-off creations that might be given, for example, as gifts to other royalty; and the more, and understand that this is not said with any degree of denigration, "mass gift" items which are smaller and less expensive of money and effort to produce.   I haven't really been thinking about the high-end largesse, since I can barely keep up with my own big projects, but I should like to contribute to the other kind, the more so since there's more of a need for those.  But where I get stuck on is, what's appropriate for me to do?  For my craft, nearly everything I do is a hefty time investment, and I can't produce items quick enough to be useful in this context.

Well, let's cut to the nubbin of it: of course I could...if I wanted to machine sew / use non-period techniques / make other compromises.  For instance, one of the obvious items I thought of is to make small "relic"-size pouches.  None more medieval!  So appropriate, 
Relic purse from the Abbaye
de Saint-Maurice d'Agaune
and even useful!  Right the hell in my wheelhouse!  And you'd think, pretty quick to make...and you'd be right, generally speaking...but I have a bug up my butt about tablet-woven edges, and I'm still slow AF on that, so it'd take me an inefficient amount of time to finish even one, let alone several.  Is this stupid?  Will the recipient notice, or know, or care?  If my king gave me a nice little pouch to say "attagirl", would it bug me if the sides were sewn instead of having a tablet-woven edge? I'm pretty darn sure it wouldn't.[1]

I guess the core question is, what's the right balance between purity of work vs. actually producing things?  I am comfortable with that line for the various things I'm making for me, because I'm the only person it affects; but for largesse, it affects the honor of the Crown and the happiness of the recipient, neither of which I want to trifle with.  Possibly--yes, probably--I am overthinking the living shit out of this.  But I really don't want to create things that the Crown winces to give, or that the recipient winces to receive; and I don't where the generally accepted wince line is.

[1] Though if it was of neon green polyester with pink bunnies and a plastic draw cord, my eyebrow might rise more than somewhat.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

There I Fixed It: Advancing Sleeves by 100 Years

but in a good way, not like this

At the (comparatively) last minute, by which I mean "about a fortnight ago", I decided to go to Coronation yesterday; and it being a genteel and courtly event, I wanted to be dressed all fancy-like...which of course, as I have just shared with you, is something of an issue for me[1].  The best option was to wear my 1540s Florentine silk gown, but I was feeling unusually Fussy™ about the sleeves; they had been wrong from the start, which I realized the first day I wore the dress, and my unhappiness had finally got to the point where I could not even with them any more.

What about them?  Well, let me illustrate, and then I'll explain how we got there.

Here's me (and my lovely & talented ronin-sister)
from the front.  Looks pretty OK, right?

Here's me, same day, from the side.  WTAF NOPE NOPE

So what happened?  As per usual, it was me plunging into a new technology without fully grokking the fundamentals thereof--partially due to time pressure, and partially due to not understanding the questions before they needed answers.  More specifically, I hadn't taken in how sleeve tech evolved between the 15th and 16th centuries; my chain of thought ran something like "the bodice of this dress is really quite like a gamurra in final shape, it's just that the seams are different; so I can use the same sleeve design I used for my gamurre."  Well, in fact, nope.  The gamurra has an inset armscye, which means you have a pretty dramatic shape change on your sleeve to get the thing to fit and still give you decent movement; it is rather like a sine wave, with the peak being at the top of your shoulder.  However, the 16th century dress, in a lot of cases, the sleeve isn't really part of the dress; it's a separate instance that you tie or pin or sometimes tack on, so if you have a massive amount of fabric up top, stupid things happen (as you see above)[2].

Eleanora di Toledo,
by Bronzino
The obvious answer is "make some new sleeves", but I don't have any of that silk left, so I took thought to how I could best frob them to better effect.  Step 1: look at some actual portraits, idiot (which I share a few of here for your delectation).
Anonymous lady,
by Pier Francesco Foschi

Bia de'Medici,
by Bronzino
The commonality I noticed is these ruffly bits at the top of the sleeve, which from that point are then attached to the shoulder of the dress in some wise.  Since much of my problem was "an excess of fabric at the top of the sleeve", I felt I could make something of this.  Of course, by the time I'd internalized all this information, it was the night before the event...

I started by running a gathering stitch along the point of the sleeve where the shape started getting all dramatic, and drew it in to make the sleeve's circumference about correct for my arm width, and pinned that solid.  I still had a goodly amount of fabric upstream, so I finger-pressed that to make a second ridge, and played around with that on my arm to see how it looked.  It was the right size, came up to an acceptable place on my arm, and gave about the right effect, so I sewed it all down.  

Lacking ribbon in any workable color, I took some acid-green silk dupioni and cut strips of it to serve as the sleeve ties. It's fraying like whoa, which is annoying, but I expected it; and once it finally gets fringed enough to stop dropping threads everywhere it will have a nice effect, I think.   And I finished it in just enough time to get properly dressed for the event.  YAY TIMING

We utterly failed to get any action shots of it on me, but here's it off of me:

a slightly different bow style is probably in order too

In retrospect, I might have done better to combine that extra fabric into a single pouf or valance instead of the two ridges; that's probably closer to most of what we see; but the silk, although stiff, may not have had enough weight to maintain that on its own.  In any case, it looks 100% better when I'm wearing it, and I'm pleased with the result considering the strictures I was operating under.

[1] I did cut out the blue silk under-dress last week!  It is, as they say, a start.
[2] On some other occasions we've tacked the sleeve to the back as well, which makes it somewhat less awful, but it still isn't great--the silk sticks out in all kinds of ungraceful ways.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Get Your Glad Rags On


It's funny, I've made rather a lot of clothes for myself over the years, but the only fancy frocks have been late-period Italianate stuff--the quattrocento PURPLE!~ gamurra I made for Kamilla's Laureling, and the bronze-and-green Bronzino-ish sixteenth-century job I made for Kasia's Laureling.  I don't actually have anything north of really nice wool in my own chosen time period.  It is really time to correct that.

As previously noted, I have some heavenly blue silk for the underdress, and some cream-and-gold silk brocade for the overdress (which has just arrived safely, after hurricane delays[1]).  The pattern I used for my new pink linen dress this summer is close enough for jazz, and I can get help tweaking it further this weekend.  However!  I want to actually plan this out for a change, instead of just plowing forward, getting halfway through, and going "...oooer hadn't thought of that, herp derp".

Some topics currently in my thoughts:

  • Will I ever want to wear the blue dress by itself, i.e. without the (or an) overgown? 
    • this informs its closures and, potentially, ornamentation
    • presently thinking: no
  • Elbow or full sleeves for the overgown?
    • presently thinking: elbow, so one can see the blue underneath
  • Embellishments for the overgown?
    • pearls, gems, etc.  There's some evidence for that which we saw in the Opus Anglicanum exhibit, though that might have been associated with the embroideries, not underlying brocade patterns?
    • presently thinking: research it more
  • How to close the overgown?  Lacing, fabric buttons, metal buttons?
    • presently thinking: buttons, inclining towards fabric
      • ugh ugh ugh
  • Line both, neither, or either dress?
    • To be 100% accurate, the overgown and probably the underdress too would be fur-lined.  Not doin' that.
    • presently thinking: neither.  That much silk is going to be sweltering enough as it is, thanks.
  • How much matching up of the brocade do I need to do?
    • presently thinking: across center front and center back; and keep directionality on the gores; everything else is probably gravy
  • Tippets, Y/N?
    • presently thinking: research it more
  • Include machine stitching or do it all by hand?   *record scratch*
    • oooeee.  This enters the misty land of "done" vs "best".  I have clear delineations in other projects--if I'm making something for display, I'll hand-sew it all; if I just need basic clothes to cover one's fleshy bits, I'm fine to machine-stitch where possible--but this is neither the one nor the other. 
    • presently thinking: do it by hand.  But this could change if I suddenly grow a deadline.
And then there's the general need to up my accessories game: hair, veil, possibly belt, etc.  (Though I'm suddenly feeling that in a lot of images of super-fancy ladies, they aren't wearing belts?  Let's check that.)  And oh god my purse needs replacing, my current one being a "temporary kludge" enacted over ten years ago. 

I haven't lost sight of my main objective, i.e. getting the pourpoint out the door; indeed the left sleeve is now attached and has all its buttons, as well as a whole! three! buttonholes! *sob*; but I can work in parallel, and if I don't get moving on this now it'll never happen.

[1] Please donate if you can:
Hispanic Federation for Puerto Rico's recovery from Hurricane Maria

Global Giving's fund for Texas's recovery from Hurricane Harvey

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Slight Detour Into The Bridal Industry

Motif of ribbon flowers and old lace

I haven't done much historical sewing over the last couple of weeks; partially lack of spoons (the start of semester is always exhausting as all get-out), but chiefly because my needle efforts were concentrated on a Happy Event!  Namely, a wedding dress for a dear friend. 

Let me immediately disclaim any real kudos for this; the artistic genius and much of the execution was in other hands; I was, okay maybe not a plongeur but no higher than a commis, anyways.  But it was exciting and a lot of fun to be part of the project, and the result was not just beautiful in its own right, but completely perfect for the bride in question.  (And, in spite of it being executed entirely in colorways I just can't with, I loved the result.  Magic!)

you have no idea how long the
initial strip of tulle was
The dress is of two parts: an underlayer composed of a corset/longline bra attached to three petticoat layers of tulle (in pink, lavender, and INCREDIBLY SPARKLY GLITTERY silver-grey), and the dress itself of pink/lavender silk with a fine pink net over the bosom and upper arms.  The decorations on the dress were composed of lace motifs cut from the bride's mother's wedding dress and dyed pale grey (both by your humble correspondent); ribbon flowers of various shapes and sizes in pink, lavender, plum, storm grey, and rose, made by the bride herself; and a scattering of pearls, crystal beads, and crystals (grey, purple, and pink).  

In addition to the lace extraction as noted above, my contributions included endless gathering & stitching of miles of deeply annoying tulle; attaching same to the cotton underskirt lining; hemming the underskirt lining; stitching the top of the corset to its lining; a couple other small jobs I'm forgetting; but the most fun was placing and arranging the decorative elements on the dress.  It's all the same kind of fun as decorating a Christmas tree, only more so.

part way through the embellishment process
(with designer)

There were some late nights involved, but I didn't caaaaaare.  Everything about the project--the collaboration, the love, the vision, the outcome--was magical.  I'm so happy to have worked on it.

And, of course, the action shot:
happily ever after!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Post-Pennsic Catch-Up

I promise I'm nearly done with this JPG

Another Pennsic survived, and indeed enjoyed (unlike last year's Bataan Death March).  The weather was, on the whole, nearly perfect; we had a marked decrease in camp drama; our small co-prosperity sub-sphere worked together to correct some problems[1]; and I wasn't killing myself trying to get things done to a deadline...which may be why I actually got some things done.  Mind you, it is still rather a drain to be den mother, hall monitor, and assistant principal to 70 variably-situated people, and I am nearly ready to be done with it so I can enjoy my vacation as a free agent, so I'm hoping to train up a padawan to take over in a couple years.  But let's get to the arty stuff.

Stuff worked on/finished/set on fire:
On Wednesdays, we wear pink.
  • Partlet: Much to my joy, I found that Past Me had actually cut one out already.  I sewed it together and hemmed it in the field, and it was ready for my class Saturday morning, along with--
  • Elizabethan working kirtle: you know, the one I cut out last year and finally finished last month?  Was miles too big around my torso, and also the neckline is kind of verkachte.  Fortunately the partlet covered the latter, and my posse pinned the back seams more tightly so I didn't look like a complete goober.  So, there's some fix work to be done in the fall sewing. (I have more thoughts about the cut for a later post.)
  • Linen Gothic Fitted Dress: I finished it before leaving! other than the eyelets and hemming, which I also did in the field.  I'm particularly smug about it because I did the pattern adjustments on my own & on the fly, which is not at all easy, but my eye is clearly getting better at this.  It too is rather too big, but I'm not 100% sure that's wrong for a working dress; something else I shall expand on in a future post.
  • The Pourpoint: I got the new lower sleeves quilted & pinned before leaving, and I showed the beast in the A&S display, in pieces, as a work in progress (wherein I also got to work on it, at least a bit).  Now it's just $*@&# buttonholes all the way down.
  • Linen Trousers Mk. 2: the first time my dashing consort wore them, he split the seam at the back of the crotch gusset.  I hate pants.  Pants are stupid.
learn and fear these arms!
I also finally got to hang the banner I painted a couple months ago, which is another nice smug feeling.  It is rather a bodge job (I tacked some of the messy edging I'd cut away onto the top as fast-and-dirty ties), and it should really have a pole and all; but this worked for the moment (as it was, I only got it hung up on 2nd Monday) and I can improve it later.  

Speaking of improvements, I now have a list of them for our pavilion; most involve textile printing of some kind.  I missed the series of classes that The Subject Matter Expert was holding--not only was I up to my ass in camp foo, but you needed to bring some materials that I didn't have a prayer of getting together in time--but the Printed Textiles in the Middle Ages FB group is full of info and I am hoping to start with something small and not particularly important; namely covers for our camp coolers, because ugh.  When I have some confidence in the technique, I want to print a canvas floor for the pavilion[2], ideally to look like the tiled floors you see in all the 14th c. illuminations.  And on the non-textile front, we're planning to paint the pavilion poles (not in designs, just colors); and I picked up a plain white folding shelf unit to keep the tent's inside a little less of a rubbish tip, and I want to do some designs on that.  Maybe acanthus leaves, maybe armorial bits, we'll see.  

For the fall schedule, I'm keeping some flex in case I'm needed to help with a wedding dress that's set to launch next month; but the general prioritization looks like this:

1a) and the test version, too.  oh god more quilting
2) Do the small bits of mending required post-Pennsic.
3) Knock together a new pouch, as the one I made, guh, ten years ago? more? is crappy and falling apart and was only a kludge to begin with.  
4) *deep breath* Make myself a set of high fashion Gothic fitted dresses; the under-dress of the blue silk I got at Birka a few years ago, and the over-dress out of the silk and gold lampas l I just ordered from Sartor.  I need to make something for myself that isn't an experiment or a kludge job.  ...There might end up being pearls on it.  I'm just sayin'.

I'm not going to look past that point for now, but hovering in the parking lot is the bunch of really nice linen we also ordered from Sartor, because for next Pennsic my dashing consort is getting a full kit of Field Gothic.  Currently figuring a blue tunic and ochre hose, and once those are done I'll see what will go well as a hood (maybe a dark red).  And I do want to make him a full-on Modern Maker fancy 16th c. suit, too.

That'll do for awhile.

[2]  You might think that the next step after that is painting the pavilion itself, but I don't have a strong feeling of what exactly I'd want to do, so Imma let that marinade for awhile