Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Scholehouse for the Needle Coif

Museum Number T.12-1948, Victoria and Albert Museum

A few years ago I posted some research on monochrome English embroidery. This was the kick off of a hand project I have been carrying around and working on periodically. In February of this year I finished my coif. This coif is made of the finest linen I could find and embroidered with silk died using period techniques which I purchased at Pennsic War. The extant examples were made from linen ground fabric and silk embroidery thread. Most of my embroidery was done using stem stitch  or satin stitch. The edge was treated with a long and short button hole stitch similar to that seen in some smocks and shirts of the time rather than with lace. 

My design was inspired by a Schole-House for the Needle, and two extent coifs. the design was transferred from paper to the coif using a period method of pattern transfer called prick and pounce. the little dots were then inked using a fabric safe pen.

I assembled the coif for wearing and then dressed my hair into a circle The coif drawstrings then are tied around these braids to create a poof seen in period art.

Related post:


Shoreleyker, Richard.

A schole-house for the needle: Produced from the original book printed in 1632 and now in the private collection of John and Elizabeth Mason. 

  • ISBN-10: 1872665721

Coif, Late 16th century. Accession number 64.101.1236, Metropolitan Museum of New York

Coif, 1570-1599. Museum number T.12-1948, Victoria and Albert Museum of London

Accession number 64.101.1236, Met Museum of Art, New York City

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Florentine Hairstyles in the mid 16th Century

Eleonora di Toledo had an iconic look which she altered very little during her lifetime. This statement applies to her hair styles as much as the iconic dress style she popularized in Tuscany. Through her life, Eleonora would wear a jeweled hair net over her hair. Her daughters and other members of the court can be seen without a net. Instead these ladies would have jewels or ribbons in their hair. This tutorial is to help you style your hair in the Florentine fashion of Eleonora's court. Let's begin!
Eleonora di Toledo by Bronzino. Currently at the National Gallery of Prague.
Painted shortly after her marriage to Duke Cosimo di Medici of Tuscany in 1539.

What you Need:
Needle and Thread
Hair Bodkin with 1/4 inch tape roughly 2 yards is plenty
Hair comb
Hair net

Elenonora di Toldedo by Bronzino in the Wallace Collection, London. 

How to:
Step 1. Comb out hair until smooth and part down center with your hair bodkin. Then twist bangs from your center part to above your ear. Use hair bodkin to assist taking portions and shaping twist. Secure twists behind your ears with needle and thread. Snip thread and repeat for other side. When finished these twists will frame the face.

Step 2. Braid tail of the twists into the remaining hair, and maintain your center part. Secure ends with needle and thread for each side.

Step 3. Position braids in a circle toward the back of your crown. Tuck braid tails under your braids

Step 4. Secure by sewing braids to the hair underneath  or using the hair bodkin and tape. I prefer tape as dark as my hair so I can reuse it for many years in this case. 

Step 5. Cover braids with  jeweled hairnet. I do not have one finished yet, but will post an update when that happens. 

Lady in Green by Alessandro Allori, 1560
San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California  1940.75

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Basic Turn Shoes

Shoes from the Museum of London's collection.

Paper and pencil for patterning
fabric pencil
1 foot square of thick veggie tan leather for sole- Mine are made of buffalo since I found a scrap to experiment with
1 foot square of thinner leather for shoe upper- I used goat skin
hole punch
exacto knife and cutting mat
leather needles
waxed thread

Step 1
First step to any of  project is having your plan, and in the case of  these shoes that is a pattern. My first step was tracing my foot onto a piece of paper and then drawing the shape of my shoe around it. Many of my friends who have tried to make their own shoes had toes that pinched, so my first pair are meant to have a wide toe as is seen on the examples from the Mary Rose. For the vamp and heel pieces I mocked them up with craft felt and paper to ensure I had the right shape.

Step 2
Cut out pieces of shoes. Remember to make mirror of the shoe. Now is a great time to use punches or knives to apply any decorative slashing and punching. Each one of my shoes has 2 rows of small slashes. While wearing them I have learned that the more slashing or punch work you do the looser the vamp will fit. Be careful of overdoing it on a pattern that fit well before you slashed.

Step 3
Use clips to join upper pieces to sole and punch out holds for leather needles to go through. Stitch through shoes using 2 running stitches or a cordwaining stitch. Weave string into stitches. I placed the suede side to be walked on in hopes of better traction, remembering my ballet slippers as a child. Also like those slippers the suede is becoming shiny and slick from wear.

Step 4
Flip your shoe right side out. If leather is stiff, apply a little water with a damp sponge.

And there you have it! I am surprised it took me so long to try this relatively simple process. Go make some shoes and dance!I've had a lot of fun showing these off and now have plans for several other pairs with different bits of slashing or dyes.

Slashed Vamp from 16th century. Currently at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

Works consulted
Gardiner, Julie, Before the Mast: Life and Death aboard the Mary Rose, Oxbow Books,  2013.
Grew, Francis and Margrethe de Neergaard, Shoes and Pattens, Museum of London Books; 2001.
Museum of London Image # 002264. 
Metropolitan Museum of Art Accession # 29.158.893
Metropolitan Museum of Art Accession # 29.158.477

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Breaking the Ice in Ansteorra

Since March I have been living under the Sable Star of Ansteorra. My first event was the investiture of my Barony's new Baronesses for the Barony of Wiesenfeurer. All of my clothing was still created up and in transit so I dressed as an Imperial Roman lady with my Laurel. I would highly recommend Imperial Roman for anyone who needs quick and easy garb. If it had been cooler I would have used a woolen palla. Between work and unpacking I went to a few other events and have slowly started acclimating to the area.

Sitting at my booth between talking with people. 
Probably the highlight of my SCA experience since the move was traveling to Dallas for a local even called Laurel's Prize Tourney. This name confused me at first, but this event was a large artisan show case where Laurels come around and give helpful feedback. Some of the items I brought out include my hand sewn woolen kirtle, reed corsets, gable hoods, beaded jewelry, embroidery, muffs, and some borrowed hairdressing heads with Italian hair styles. I even got to dress a lady's hair when she came over to chat with me about different historical techniques. My class at kingdom Arts and Sciences Collegium was unfortunately cancelled when work sent me to Texas for 2 weeks.

Clothing from the 1520'a in Venice and English.
Thank you for your help setting up to all my friends and laurel who carpooled to the event with me. I got to meet lots of lovely people and helped spread some information on basic partlets, Tudor clothing, and hair dressing. Thank you Valley Copley for letting me use your photos of my display at Laurel's Prize Tourney here.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Trunks are Unpacked

Being released from my oath of fealty in Atenveldt. February 2016
After a year hiatus I am back to blogging about what I love! Thank you all for the kind requests for updates on my Strawberry Hill miniature project. I have completed the gable hood needed for the outfit and will post updated Gable Hood research in the coming weeks.

In other exciting news I have moved across the country for work. While I have missed my friends and companions from the Tudor Project, I am happy to share my information with new people in Oklahoma and Texas. My promotion at work has lead to me cancelling some classes, but I have more in the works. Stay posted for more info on classes this winter through the local SCA branches in Oklahoma City.

Site token for the Fall Coronation in Ansteora.
The SCA groups here have been warm and I am making new friends who love 16th century clothing on a regular basis, but a small part of my heart will always stay in Atenveldt where I "grew up" for lack of a better term. It was hard to keep my composure  as I was release of my fealty oath in February of this year to the crown of Atenveldt. At the time HRM Casca said,"This day our kingdom is a little poorer..but wherever you are we know that the Dream will happen." as reported by the Virtual Herald. Today I was given the opportunity  to swear a new oath to my new kingdom. 

Goals for the upcoming months? Update you with the projects I have worked on through 2016, Re-cut some of my dress bodices to reflect the changes in my figure since starting this journey 7 years ago. Spend some serious time wrapping up projects before the end of the year to start 2017 with something fresh!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Costumes in Wolf Hall

Many of us who love historical costume were completely smitten with the production shots we saw before Wolf Hall aired earlier this year. Now the series is available for sale through PBS, BBC, and even national retailers like Target. With the popularity of this series I want to take a moment and give those new to Tudor fashions a few notes before you take everything in the series as gospel. This is one of the most accurately costumed historical dramas that I have seen in years. The color palate, cuts, underwear, and fabrics are impeccable. But don't forget to do your own research into the clothing as you make your own ensembles.

Odd Piece #1: French Hoods

  • I appreciate the costume designer here for acknowledging French hoods need veils. I doubt though that you will find a single portrait from the 1520's or 30's in England or France that uses fine silk chiffon. Typically you will see a solid black veil on the French and English hoods. Medals done in profile from the time period and illuminated manuscripts also suggest these are hats, not pretty head bands. 

Odd Piece #2: Infamous Cod Pieces

  • The internet was a buzz with interviews from the cast and production team about these being a choice. Yes the cod pieces in period were larger, but the designer didn't want to distract from the story. Modern audiences just can't seem to handle a good cod piece. 

Odd Piece #3 Wrinkled bodices.

  • Several of the productions shots on Anne's airy silk gowns that were build for Claire Foy show wrinkles across the front of the bodices. It does create a fun visual with the light playing with the fabric, but is not historically accurate. I have had this happen even with velvet if I don't use enough tension and pins on my placards. Practice makes perfect!

Great thing #1: Men have correct hats!

  • All of the men have beautiful hats. The designers put so much energy into sewing , knitting, or felting these hats from the correct materials they add a new dimension of texture to the screen. check out all of the different shapes which are specific to clergy, scholars, nobility, common people. The range is also stunning.

Great thing #2 Jewelry!

  • Many of these pieces were researched to extremes, and then used appropriately. Jewelry wasn't just thrown on anyone of rank to make them look wealthy. The designer uses it for impact and with class. The jewelry also has the correct styles for the period instead of being modern baroque jewelry from a costume jewelry shop. (Anne Boleyn still shouldn't be wearing earrings based on my research, but at least these are tasteful drop pearls typically.)

Great thing #3 Middle Class Clothing!

  • Very few productions show middle class clothing without disappearing into ren faire stereotypes. Thank you for doing research and even setting the primary styles of clothing on the middling sort back 10 years from the royal court, and in correct fabrics. Elizabeth Cromwell's costumes are actually my favorite of the whole production!

Great thing #4 Table manners

  • The actors and directors added a fun Easter egg into their stage business for well researched individuals. Take a gander at their table manners. Napkins are not in their laps but on shoulders or other easy to reach places and there are very few forks floating around. 

Great thing #5 Pregnancy Clothing

  • Woman of the time did not have clothing they only wore for pregnancy. There are styles that are more comfortable than others women may gravitate to, but most of the accommodations for the growing belly were done by lacing a garment looser, adding placards for modesty, or altering clothing. Anne's coronation scene shows her very pregnant, which is consistent with historical accounts. Rather than wearing a tent to hide the baby bump it is triumphantly displayed and the gown is pinned to the kirtle with a gap. Bravo!

Great thing #6 Pins
  • For ease of use there are so many times small details are over looked. Dressing pins are an essential part of the Tudor wardrobe. Everyone used them and they used them by the pound each year. Rather than stitching turn backed sleeves into place or solely wiring bonnets the wardrobe crew used period appropriate dressing pins. Thank you! I noticed and I appreciate it so much!


I love this mini series and can't wait for season 2 to hit the small screens. The research in the fine details shows through on the costumes and accessories. I will always encourage people to do their own research before hopping in to build one of these ensembles. This is one of the most historically accurate dramas for this period I have seen in many years, so if you need cinematic inspiration please do start here!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Strawberry Hill Kirtle and Foresleeves

Anne Boleyn by Lucas Horenbout
Strawberry Hill ID: sh-000468

My pattern for the kirtle was based on the Henrician kirtle in The Tudor Tailor. I constructed it using 2 layers of linen canvas and on outer layer of white silk. As an experiment I did not stiffen this kirtle with reeds or boning as the Tudor Tailor originally suggested. Now that I have worn the kirtle a few times I may change my mind and add channels for reeds to be inserted and stiffen the bodice front. This bodice does not feel as supportive as my previous kirtles. I will give this style without boning a few more chances though before I stitch in all of the channels required to apply reeds or boning. I hand stitched the side seams of the bodice using white silk and I bound the bottom of the kirtle in scraps of white silk.

All of the eyelets were worked by hand using an awl and metal rings. I chose to use the button hole stitch for working the eyelets, in cotton embroidery floss. These rings can be purchased through sites selling historical costume notions, but some drapery shops may have something similar as well. You will be looking for a solid metal ring the size you wish to make your eyelets.The button hole stitch makes they look very even and pretty.  I used white cotton embroidery floss because I already had enough to finish the eyelets.Patterns of Fashion. They were spaced in for spiral lacing to make it easier to use shorter laces. In period these would have been sewing using linen or silk. Janet Arnold discusses this technique for Eleanora de Toledo's dress in

Queen Jane Seymour
Has Holbein the Younger
The neckline of the kirtle appears to be decorated with gold pieces and pearls. I recreated the look with freshwater pearls and brass beads sewing to a removable band of white silk.  The size of the painting limits my ability to know exactly what these gold pieces look like. Some of them seem round and others have squared edges. After more research I believe these may be quatrefoil like pieces called ouches. Ouches were popular among many of the Tudor nobility.Here are the ouchs worn by Jane Seymour in the famous painting done by Has Holbein the Younger. When funds allow I will replace these beads with ouches. Most retailers selling these jewelry pieces ask for$5-10 USD. Given the time it took them to research and reproduce the pieces I  feel that is fair, just not something I can jump into today. I have had it suggested I make ouches from fimo clay, so I may explore the idea further and post a separate entry about my results.

Cutting in progress and finished bodice
The kirtle skirt has a decorative front panel made of light blue and yellow upholstery fabric, I then cut out the matching foresleeves. I was free to use any fabric I wished because the miniature does not go any lower than the rib cage on Anne Boleyn. the piece I selected reminds me of damask and velvet pieces from the period I have seen online. I built the kirtle in this order so I could use all of the scrap from the dress to build bands of fabric around the back hem of the kirtle. When I finished all of my piecing there was only a small pile of scrap that I had not used. Based on the readings I have done on period tailoring techniques, I believe this was keeping with the wish not to waste any fabric if possible. I didn't feel it was necessary to create a train on the kirtle as well. The gown worn over this kirtle will have a train and when the train is hooked up using skirt hooks the lower decorative edge of the kirtle will be visible. I used a cotton twill for the non-fashion fabric. It is sturdy and gave the skirt a better drape than muslin alone.
Small pile of scrap left from cutting decorative kirtle forepart and foresleeves. 
The foresleeves are lined in linen. with false puffs made of handkerchief linen. the edges of the sleeves are connected using some gold plated points made in the same fashion as the buttons I have made previously. These half sleeves will tie into the gown using hand made laces. This pattern was inspired by The Tudor Tailor, but based on some of my own research into different styles of foresleeves popular in the Tudor court. I do not attach my decorative cuffs to my foresleeves. Based on my research into undergarments from the time, I believe it is more likely that the decorative cuffs seen in paintings are attached to the woman's smock. I have been known to drip things onto my cuffs and keeping these attached to my smock gives them a chance to be regularly cleaned.

Handmade aglets using gold plated beads and wire. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Strawberry Hill Miniature of Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn by Lucas Horenbout
Strawberry Hill ID: sh-000468
My newest Tudor project has been researching this portrait to reproduce it the image. Scholars have identified this as Anne Boleyn, from her time serving in the household of Catherine of Aragon. The gold frame now around the miniature identifying this miniature as Catherine was added in the 19th, century. This miniature also bares a good resemblance to Anne's commemorative medal which was struck in 1534, with a more fashion forward version of the English hood. This medal is now housed in the British Museum. Anne is known to have used her clothing to make political statements. During this period of history, people used their clothing to show alliances. Fashion was very political. Anne is famous today for her preferences for French fashions, manners, and politics. What is commonly overlooked or forgotten is that she was English first. Anne wanted to be seen as a virtuous, English Queen. To better fit this role for state appearances she could be seen in English fashions, unless she was trying to make a statement or flatter a foreign dignitary. I will be blogging about the progress on this gown as it is finished.

Lead Medal of Anne Boleyn as Queen of England, 1534
British Museum # M.9010
Links about the portrait:

Strawberry Hill Official Website
Miniature Online Through Yale University
Art History News Anne Boleyn Medal
British Museum Collections: Anne Boleyn Medal

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Silhouettes of History 2015

The costume department at Phoenix Comic Con hosted its second Silhouettes of History fashion show. The show was even larger this year than last year. I chose to model my red and gold Venetian gown. These photos were all taken by Patti Jo Collum, a member of the Costume Department staff. Thank you to the staff for another beautiful show.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Different Kind of Apprenticeship

Yesterday I went to an SCA event 4 1/2 hours from my home to watch a dear friend of my receive an award I have known he was destined for since I first met him almost 8 years ago. My people call moments like that stardust. It is something special to watch someone who has given so much time, talents, and self to a group to be recognized with their highest award in that area.
I also had a bit of stardust sprinkled on my head when the Queen of Atenveldt chose my display on 16th century corsetry and accessories as her favorite of the day. On my drive home I reflected on the experience and decided to post an edited version of an article I wrote for USITT Desert Conference's news letter about my experiences with costume and stardust in the SCA. I hope it warms a few hearts out there in cyberspace even a fraction as much as mine was warmed yesterday.

A Different kind of Apprenticeship
Costuming in the Society for Creative Anachronism
Maridith Feher
                The Society for Creative Anachronism is one of the largest educational, non-profit groups in the country. I first joined this diverse group in 2007, and have maintained an active member ever since. Anyone who chooses to go to an event will first notice how ingrained costuming has become into the SCA. Individuals who arrive at events in modern clothing are jokingly called, “naked.” There is a wide range in types of clothing SCA members will study, and funding individuals can put into the clothing will vary. Another major factor in an individual’s attire is the skill levels they, or their friends, posses. My costuming through the SCA has been an amazing journey which has focused my techniques and skills in pre-17th century clothing.
Maestra Tatiana and her Husband.
In 2013, I entered into an apprenticeship with a woman called Maestra Tatiana. Within the SCA, she is recognized as my Laurel. Laurels are a group of individuals who have been recognized for their skills with arts and sciences from pre-17th century life. Our relationship is that of a student and teacher, but also an extended family I can call on when my personal life is in crisis. Unfortunately, just as I was moving into an easy travel distance Tatiana had to move out of state for work. Ten years ago this would have ended our association. With all of the tools available to us I still talk to my Laurel at least once a week and our connection keeps growing. During these chats, we discuss progress on my research projects, issues I may be having with a particular piece, and what is expected of a Laurel in the SCA.  Because of our unique geography problems I have also been adopted by a group of other Laurels who are mutual friends of Tatiana and I so I have someone local I can go to with immediate questions, go to events with, call me on being crazy, and advocate for me when necessary. Every Laurel-Apprentice relationship is a bit different. My Laurel no longer lives near me so, I have to be more self-motivated then some of my peers are.  Other Laurels will give their Apprentices projects and homework. My Laurel revels in my love of researching small details to better understand the larger picture.
One of my First SCA outfits with my Husband.
Photo at event in Phoenix, AZ. September 2008
With the burst of interest and research available within the SCA’s time line, a costuming Laurel is no longer someone who can make pretty and detailed clothing. Laurels are expected to research fabric fragments in public collections for types of weaves or fiber content. A costuming laurel should be skilled in period handwork techniques, and have other areas of interest to make them more approachable by the public.  If skill was all that was required to become a Laurel there would be droves of them within the SCA. Laurels are also expected to have a joy of learning and teaching their arts, and be a role model for others in the SCA to aspire toward. Any individual can research types of lace. A Laurel will learn the skill and then share their skills with others through teaching and making pieces to share with others. While the Laurel is teaching about that piece of lace they will also be researching and experimenting with period correct materials to find out how each fiber behaves.
Pair of Bodies made with help from Maestra Tatiana in 2012. Photo of their condition in 2015
My drive to learn is one of the reasons Tatiana and I have been drawn together. We met at a corsetry workshop she was teaching in Mesa, Arizona in 2012. She was impressed with my desire to learn and dedication to understanding the period correct techniques. I believe she was also flattered that I chose to drive 3 ½ hours to take her 4 hours class. We discussed period materials and patterning for hours, and she got my information so she could keep track of how my set turned out. I was curious about the period use of reeds as a stiffener and ordered some to experiment with. The resulting pair of bodies, based on Elizabeth I’s funeral effigy set, is comfortable, and shockingly durable for the type of wear they have been put through.  As one research project gives way to the next, my perception of clothing from this time frame has morphed in the last eight years.
Gold Florintine Gown
Worn at SCA event in Tucson, AZ
March 2015.
When Tatiana began looking for pictures of my work online she was shocked at my transformation. Several of my newer friends could not recognize the images of me in 2007. As our relationship grew I shared more research ideas and she would give me feedback. When you are not working as a group to achieve a look, I feel it is important to have someone to bounce ideas off. This may be a hangover from my time in the costume shop, but it works well for me. Not only am I making beautiful pieces of art; I am researching a piece of history and how it functioned within society.
The largest differences I have experienced between costume for the stage and the clothing worn in the SCA is the function. Stage costume is used to tell a story. The designers are sending a message with every piece of clothing an actor wears, or does not wear. Period stage costume of today rarely sees the kind of abuse a historical washerwoman would have put it through. Well researched and constructed clothing for the SCA can be used as a heraldic story board, but is usually a reflection of hours of research into a particular time frame. Theatrical costume is often built quickly; an entire cast will be clothed in a matter of weeks, and using the theatre’s budget.
Photo by Patti Jo Collum. March 2015
SCA clothing can take years to make, depending on the kinds of treatments being used. Take my Anne Boleyn portrait reconstruction as an example. I first started that dress in 2010 and it has grown and evolved with the research I have done in the last five years. The more research I did the more I realized that period techniques needed to be used and this increased the time I was spending on every aspect of the clothing.Some dresses are simply labor's of love because few could ever afford to pay an individual or group for the labor involved in any outfit. SCA members can spend over eighteen hours in their clothing doing a wide range of activity. My favorite moments in the SCA have been watching the historical research collide with theatrical pageantry.

I am a better costume technician as a result of my time within the SCA. I have been given a safe playground to experiment without the stress, usually, of needing a pieced on stage as soon as possible. If the experiment does not work, it is a learning experience I can build on to better understand how clothing was constructed at the time. I like to think of myself as a costume detective, on the hunt to understand and construct clothing Christina of Denmark or Cosimo de Medici would recognize. With every passing year I believe I get a step closer to my goal.