Sunday, July 9, 2017

Secret Project REVEALED: A Laurel's Hood

we did a thing!

At last it can be told!  The item I alluded to in earlier posts, that I spent a chunk of this spring on, was presented to its recipient yesterday, so now I can tell you all about it.  

The request was for a 14th-century hood as part of Laurel regalia (in place of a cloak) for Stephan of Silverforge, which would be executed as a team effort between myself and my ronin-sister Ceinwen. We had a pretty free hand, modulo the information that he'd probably rather not something in traditional Laurel green, and that he likes wearing hoods in the wacky late-14th century "chaperon" style (this is where you put the face opening of the hood on top of your head like a hat, drape the mantle along your shoulder, and wrap the liripipe around your temples).  

Design Stage (March-early April)
BNF 1586, folio 56r
Since Stephan's arms are blue and silver/white, we figured to make the hood blue wool with a silver silk lining.  We then went all over the map with decorative design choices...fortunately, in an effort of self-preservation, backing away from the full-on goldwork and needle-painting idea before it got too entrenched in our brains...and agreed on a simple vinework pattern in a band along the lower edge of the hood as one often sees in manuscripts of the era. 
one of the Comminges laurel

Ceinwen's initial design sketch
For the wreaths themselves, well, now you know why I was so damn excited about finding those images of the St. Bernard de Comminges cope at the embroidery schola; at last we had solid documentation for 14th-century laurel wreaths!  Woo!  So Ceinwen took those photos and sketched them into a workable design.  The plan was that I'd make the hood, send it to her, and she'd fiddle the design size/orientation to work on the final size and angles of the hood's mantel.  We also considered adding stars and/or swords (elements from Stephan's arms) directly onto the rest of the hood, either as appliquè or as metal "spangles", but that was, as they say, a stretch goal. 

The other major design element, in light of the recipient's chaperon-style tendencies, was to cut the hood's liripipe as laurel leaves, so it would form an actual laurel wreath when he wrapped it around his head.  I'd never made a liripipe before, so why start with something boring and normal? 

Fabric-wise, I had ten yards of a handsome navy twill that I was hoping to use, but twill wasn't going to be a great choice for a cut liripipe unless we lined and/or finished every. single. stupid. leaf; and bugger that for a game of soldiers (and, at that, I'm not sure it was Done).  So, I ordered Wm. Booth's navy blue broadcloth, which, although rather a darker blue than we wanted, was perfect in the weight & behavior department.  I got some silvery-blue silk from the Garment District for the lining, and Ceinwen picked up an exquisite heavy navy blue silk for the embroidered band, and off we went[2]. 

warning: math ahead
Construction Stage (late April-early May)
I based the hood on D10597 of the Greenland finds, which was pretty exact to the proportions Stephan's lady had sent me from one of his current hoods.  I spent an uncomfortable couple of hours with math and many pencil marks converting the 2mm:1cm scale in "Medieval Garments Reconstructed" into Imperial measurements, but got there eventually.   The rest seemed pretty unremarkable--I made a muslin; tested it and it seemed OK; cut out hood & lining; sewed it all up[1], and did a bit of decorative top-stitching with a pale green silk; patted self smugly on the back; and then tried it on my dashing consort.

Whereupon I found the front was horribly, horribly poochy under the neck.  

This was my own stupid fault.  I tried to cut the front part in one to the same size as the pattern, without including the front gore, and it did not work at all.  THE PATTERN EXISTS FOR A REASON, IDIOT.  And them medievals don't shove in gores because they love doing extra seam work. 

After a requisite amount of self-flagellation, I calculated the gore size appropriate to the pattern, cut one out of muslin, opened the front seam sobbing at the destruction of my painstaking handiwork, and pinned the gore in.  It worked with only a little frobbing, thankfully, so I cut out fashion fabric & lining versions and got them sewn in.  (You still see some wrinkles; there will always be a little bit of that, unless you're doing a button-up hood that can be perfectly fitted to the wearer.)

So, the liripipe.  Some of the Greenland hoods, including D10597 have them (though they're all plain).  In most cases they're separate strips that attach to the back of the head, but in D10597's case there's a couple-inch liripipe "stub" on the back of the hood's body that the main liripipe strip is attached to; and since that would make my life considerably easier in any case, I cut the hood out that way, and left the stub open while I figured out how to attack the problem.  

tools of the trade
When you really suck at
drawing, grids help.
I started by looking at what remnants we have.  There are various scrap finds in London that are dagged; it's not clear whether they were liripipes or what, but some certainly could have been (Fig. 180 in Textiles and Clothing is a line drawing of a figure in Cambridge MS 61 f.1v, who's wearing a hood with a dagged liripipe), and the scale of fragment No. 248[3] seemed about right, so I started with its basic dimensions and worked to turn the basic diagonal "slit" dagges into laurel leaves.  (We do have a remnant of what appears to be an oak-leaf dagge, so a botanical motif is not far off.)   

I tried sketching laurel leaves after the embroidery I'd found, but this was working out poorly for me, so I got an actual bay laurel leaf out of the kitchen and traced around it.  Happily, this turned out to be exactly the right proportion for my liripipe!  I made a five-leaf-long repeat of the pattern (which is exactly one sheet of graph paper, imagine that) and cut out a test piece to see how it did. 

Answer: pretty well, actually.  

Emboldened by this success, I cut out the full length of liripipe (which worked out to about 40", as I recall).  Now, I'm not sure this is how it would have been done in period; I'm guessing a plain, thin, straight liripipe would have been all-in-one, but I haven't worked the math as to whether a more wasteful cut like this mightn't have been done in sections.  But I had the fabric, and this is not a poor man's hood, so let's be extravagant.  I cut it out and attached it tightly to the hood "stub", completing this phase of the project (though I was silly and finished the bottom hem of the hood, so we had to cut that open subsequently to attach the embroidery strip, bah).  I boxed it up and sent it along to Ceinwen.

Embroidery Stage (May-early July)
My first wreath.  About 15 hours'
work I think? I'm not very fast.
All I can say about this is, I do not look forward to my turn in the barrel for having to design an embroidery strip to hang neatly and evenly on a three-dimensional conical object, and Ceinwen did an amazing job making that happen (but I'll let her tell you about her process in her blog) (AHEM).  When the design was complete and the goldwork vines established, I went down to Ceinwen's and we did a marathon sweatshop to get the wreaths embroidered.  

Unfortunately we ran out of time, so couldn't add pearls or bezants or bells (yes. there are hoods with bells all over them.), but we got the job done on time for transport to the event.  We figure to steal it back later and fully execute our vision.  Especially the pearls.

As yet, no photos have emerged from the event, but I'll add action shots as they become available.

[1] yes, of course it's all hand-sewn
[2] this is somewhat compressed.  We had a lot of ordering of swatches and mailing them back and forth in here.
[3] acc. no. BC72 <3110/1> but it's not in the MoL's online collection nor can I find an image online because why would we want that

No comments:

Post a Comment