Monday, April 30, 2012

The Queen's Jewels

I am sure that anyone reading this blog has watched or read some historical fiction based on Henry VIII's reign. Remember the huge deal the Queen's Jewels were? When looking at portraits of Henry's many queens, you start to see the same pendant, or pearls with settings show up again and again. Bellow are images from Henry VIII's court. The crown jewels from this time period probably look unlike anything you have seen on showtime or in the movies.

Necklace Grouping 1, Queens of England (Jane Seymour, Katherine Howard)

Necklace Grouping 2, Queens of England (Jane Seymour and Katherine Parr)

I am pairing up more portraits of Queens and their jewels, I have at least 2 other pieces i am tracing. Keep checking back.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Loose-bodied Kirtle

At chocolate revel last year i saw sever very well made, and worn, loose gowns. It is my understanding that these gowns started as surcotes in Spain. As Spanish influence grew in the 16th century their popularity spread. In England, they started as an informal dress you might wear at home or after court functions were done for the day. They also grew in popularity with those who were older and shying away from fashions which were growing more ridged and complicated. Another demographic this gowns were especially popular with were pregnant women. Some women would lace kirtles looser and adujest placards over their belly, others especially heading into the mid 1540's and later, might wear one of these dresses.

Queen Katharine Parr from the National Portrait Gallery, London, UK.

I have a loose gown that I use at camping events as a glorifieid coat to stay warm. Now I have been inspired to create a new one from scratch and the proper under gowns. I did a little research and decided to borrow my friend's pattern by Margo Anderson to work on my loose-bodied kirtle, aka loose kirtle. I cut out the detachable sleeves and front piece of the gown.

While I was home for a few months last fall I took the time to start embellishing the front piece and sleeves with couched gold thread, pearls, and yellow seed beads. Doesn't this fabric look amazing with the embelishment?

Yesterday I cut out the back and side panels of the gown. I used a simple cotton twill. I know that some people suggested that I use a cheep muslin, but I was concerned about the vast difference in weight between that and the upholstery fabric I have been working with. Then I progressed to spend the afternoon stitching the loose kirtle together. All of my construction sewing is complete, and my seems were finished with flat felled seams.  Today I am hemming this by hand and if I have time I will make binding for my neck and arm.
 The final step will be to make eyelets by hand. watch for the upcoming tutorial.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Final Reflection on the Tudor Project-- analysis on how to make this gown correct for 1530-36

So now that I have had some distance from my work with the Tudor Project, I want to fairly analyze my work on the Anne Boleyn  portrait reproduction.

The Research

I wish I'd had 6 more months to do research. In the months since our project completed more research on early Tudor garments has been published by the Tudor Tailor workshop in England. In addition to their new book, The Queen's Servants, I have found illuminations depicting French and Flemish court ladies in full length.  It is my belief that Anne would not have been wearing a hoop skirt as I did last fall. According to the Tudor Tailor shop hoops are not worn in England until the 1540's, putting them well out of what Anne was likely to be wearing. Incase you need further help to visualize the difference, take a glance at these two portraits of Princess Elizabeth. The portrait on the left is from a mural at Hampton Court. On the right there is a portrait which was painted later for King Edward VI, Elizabeth's brother.

(left) Princess Elizabeth, c. 1543-1547.  'The Family of Henry VIII', detail. Anon. Hampton Court Palace. © The Royal Collection.
(right) Princess Elizabeth, c. 1546-7. Attr. to William Scrots. Windsor Castle. © The Royal Collection.

The my other problem that could have been solved with more research was the gold embellishments around Anne's neckline. I only had a few weeks to try and figure them out and chose to use bead in their place.

Recently I started doing research on this again and hypothesized that these gold embellishments are beads covered in gold thread. For progress on this piece of research look at my post on thread covered buttons.

The Construction

My Smock--- My smock was a recycled muslin one from back in the day due to budget concerns at the time. I plan to construct a new one of handkerchief weight linen soon and then I will re-apply my embroidery  . I also need to cut the neck of my smock smaller than I did on this one.

Foundations--- No one in our project had time to make a proper foundation kirtle. Some ladies had boning put strait into their bodice. I chose to use tent canvas as an inner lining on my over gown and to wear my pair of bodies and half petticoat from another outfit. The skirt would occasionally slide an inch to display the waistband of the petticoat. I will remedy this by constructing a boned kirtle as shown in the Tudor Tailor.

Over gown--- I am generally very happy with my gown. The shape of the back is modeled after a sketch by Holbein, and The Tudor Tailor. My hem was stiffened with felt, a 16th century practice. The skirt was lined so that I could attach my skirt to bodice by hand--- a period practice. My gown as a train, not one large enough for a member of the royal family, but it was enough to create an effect and for me to learn to maneuver in them. My placard is pinned in place, but I need to acquire better pins to that end. Faux fur for my sleeve lining was not only cheeper, but I did not want to use real skins for ethical reasons.

Accessories--- I ordered my "B" necklace from the UK. The other necklaces were made from pieces available at our local bead store. My fore sleeves (half sleeves) have seed beads which were not in use at this time, and I need to make them slightly narrower or add false poofs in my slashing. Finally I am happy with my French Hood. I patterned the hood myself, and did some research into that gold frill across the top. The best research I have seen suggests that it is attached to a coif i would wear under my hood, but in this state I was worried about having so many layers on my head to trap heat. As a result I chose to attach the frill directly to the brim of my hood.

Thank You again to everyone involved in the Tudor Project again. Also thank you to Johanna Garcia for allowing me to use a few pictures she took of my in my gown.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tudor Cookery at Hampton Court

Have you ever tried food from back in the 16th century? There are lots of manuscripts and cook books that have survived from this time period (relative to earlier periods). Hampton Court, the center of Henry VIII's court, today has period cooking demonstrations about once a month. Many of us in the States can't go and watch these demonstrations, but we can watch the videos posted by Royal Historic Places.

I plan to try their recipe for a "Tarte owte of Lent." It seems to be a savory cheese pie made of things you are not allowed to eat, in the 16th century, during Lent.

Please check them out, buy tickets for a demo, or just download pdf's of their period recipes for free! You can also follow them on Facebook and Youtube for more updates and videos.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thread Covered Buttons

Sixteenth century clothing has a multitude of closures. Sometimes garments were pinned in place such as ruffs or placards. Men would tie their hose to doublets to keep them up. Kirtles and doublets could be laced closed. But today we are discussing closures commonly used on doublets and jerkins, the thread covered button.

Boy with a Greyhound by Paolo Veronese, 1570's. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 There is documentation in, Janet Arnold's Pattern of Fashion 3, that these buttons could also be placed on garments as purely decorative pieces. A loose gown in Nurnberg is held closed by a series of these buttons with loops, but other buttons appear to have been added among the embroidery to create impact and flare.

Italian Camica (called "Blouse") Detail, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
We know from pieces in our modern museums that many men across Europe used thread covered buttons as a relatively inexpensive way to close there outer garments. With one skien of DMC Embroidery Floss, an embroidery needle, and some round wooden beads we can create buttons like these for modern uses. In period, silk or metal thread would be used instead of DMC Embroidery Floss to cover the beads. If it is avaliable to you, please try silk and comment about your results. I hope to try silk thread on this one day, but while I practice with my first sets and different styles I will use cheep cotton instead.

For this style I passed the needle through the bead hold and tied the bead onto the end of my length of floss. I then did 5, evenly spaced, button hole stitches around the beat and secured the thread to my first knot.These six wraps of thread become ribs or anchor points for the rest of your stitches Finally I passed the needle with thread first under the next rib, around the rib a second time to secure my stitch, and then repeat with the next rib. After 5 buttons I am averaging about 35 minutes a button, but I am hoping to get my time down to 20 minutes a piece soon.

Try to leave a long tail at the end of the button, or attach one by making a knot in some more floss, pushing the needle up into the bead, wrapping a  few stitches around one of your ribs again, and bringing the stitches back down. Attach these buttons to your garment using some shank stitching.

Works Referenced

Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion 3: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women c1560-          1620.  Hollywood: Quite Specific Media Group Ltd, 1985. Print.

Blouse, detail. 16th Century. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Archives. Web, 3 April 2012.

Caliari, Paolo. Boy with a Greyhound. 1570. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Archives. Web,             3 April 2012.

Malcolm- Davies, Jane and Ninya Mikhaila. The Tudor Tailor. Hollywood: Costume and Fashion Press,          2006. Print.

New ways to do visual research

I am thoroughly addicted to a new forum for research. Have any of you heard of the website Pintrest? is an online pin board that lets you save images and describe them in your own words. You can browse other people's images and boards or save images from any where on the web. My favorite part of using this is that all of these images are basically saved to a cloud network. If my computer crashes, none of my images saved to pintrest will  be lost. The only issue I have found is that some of these images have been too small to  be "pinned" or that the "pinning" tool has had problems transferring them over. Its not a regular problem, but it does happen. I started using this so much that I have create a second sister account just for 16th century research.

I encourage you to follow my pintrest boards and research I am in the process of writing up at: