Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Italian Renaissance Costume Challenge 4 Wrap Up

Yesterday was the closing date for Anabelle Wake's Italian Renaissance Costume Challenge 5. Part of me wishes I had signed up, but the practical side of my mind reassures me that life is a bit too busy to join the fun and games this year. Maybe next year. I also realized that I failed to share my final product of the IRCC4 here. I am honored to say I won 2nd place in the competition and received the designation "Best Handwork." My progress reports have been archived by Anabelle and the link below will take you to the archive.

What I learned!

My goal in making this dress was to create a dress patterned off of Elenora di Toledo's funeral dress as described by Janet Arnold in Patterns of Fashion. As a result I did lots of research into women's clothing from 1540-1560. One of the biggest changes this research yielded what the average silk fabric used in Europe usually around 20-22inches wide. I cut the dress with this in mind and used more period piecing techniques that I had previously. The result was a dress that was fitting closer to the way Bronzino's paintings depict, and I used 3 yards less fabric than I had originally planned. I even added a modest train to the gown because of the fabric surplus. I highly recommend all interested parties to examine the side gores used in the gown's skirt. I believe this is where I was able to save the most fabric. 
Another interesting detail I found while researching was the idea of padding my hem with felt. Because of the extremely light weight fabric I chose to avoid heat issues, this technique became a must. I have to say that I love my padded hems for a few reasons. 
  1. My hems stand out from my body. With light weight dresses it can be hard to get the volume depicted in art from the period. Padding your hems with felt will help give that fullness without more bulky underskirts.
  2. Skirts hang straight. Particularly with light weight silk, fabric has a tendency to crumple. These padded hems add just a bit of weight to help light weight fabrics hang straight. It has also reinforced my train so it does not deteriorate quickly . 
  3. Skirt hooks. I have started using skirt hooks to keep my trains up (more posts on skirt hooks to follow). The padding from the felt give my skirt hooks another layer to grip without damaging the delicate gold silk. 
Slashing was another technique I wanted to experiment with  for this outfit. The first thing i learned is there is more than one way to get the cuts you want. I originally my research made me want to try using chisels and a mallet to make my cuts. I quickly learned not all chisels are sharp enough to cut even delicate silk. My cut work was achieved using a mixture of rotary cutters and craft knives with lots of chalk marks on the wrong side of the fabric.

What would I do differently?

When I initially finished the dress for the competition last year my shoulder straps were about 1 inch too long for me. This created the wrinkles seen in the images for the competition. This problem has since been adjusted, but some weight redistribution can still cause wrinkles from time to time. These wrinkles may well be the nature of having a gown made of such light weight summer fabrics.Wearing the dress with a pair of bodies does smooth out most of the wrinkles. I did not put boning into the bodice it self because it was not detailed in the construction of the funeral dress. The funeral dress was worn with a velvet pair of bodies which may have smoothed the natural lines of the body.

After I completed the gold couching on my partlet I learned about starching before stitching. The silk chiffon I couched all of the handmade gold braid to was a monster to work with. If I had starched the chiffon first it would have held its shape better while I stitched away. Lesson for next time. Many of the paintings by Bronzino show a textured, sheer layer underneath the gold lattice patterns. It makes since to have fabric under the gold lattice because the it protects the gold threads from the bodies' oils and acids. Wearing the metal threads against the skin is also very uncomfortable. The wire filaments will scratch your skin throughout the day. 
While gold braiding will seamlessly disappear under the neckline of the bodice, 9mm fresh water pearls will not. I removed several fresh water pearls from lower intersections because they created bumps under the bodice.
After I finished this project I purchased a better bead reamer. Natural pearls are not always drilled with uniform holes. This is one reason they can be harder to work with. A bead reamer allows you to make the holes more uniform. In some cases it can take longer, but I feel having the natural glow of these pearls is worth the extra effort.

Sleeve attachments. This is mostly a matter of personal preference. My cut work (slashed) sleeves attach to the gown using loops of ribbon that go around the jewels on my shoulder straps. Now that I have worn this style quite a bit I prefer the look of small bows around those jewels, even if I have to get assistance to put on the sleeves. When i eventually replace the loops for laces, I plan to make aglets from brass sheeting to dress up the edges of the laces.

Enjoying my dress with some costume jewelry sourced from Charming Charlie's.
Linen partlet was hand sewing on the way to Pennsic in 2013. 
I love this dress. In the last 6 months it has become a "go to" outfit for my reenacting wardrobe. The side-back lacing can be done on my own because of the spiral lacing, but almost anyone can assist with me getting dressed. The most complex part of wearing this ensemble is creating the correct hair styles. Usually I wear this with basic hair taping, but more complicated styles have been fun to experiment with. Because of the long lived popularity of this cut in Florence there is an abundance of accessories to create different looks for the same dress. This was also a time of prosperity in Tuscany, which makes finding source material on the style's variations easy.

I am extremely thankful to Melissa Jones for the late night pep talks and Anabelle Wake for giving me a playground to create in when my personal life did not allow me to create in the way I was used to.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Embroidery for Others.

Over the last several months members of the SCA have approached me and asked for help working on various embroidery projects. First I volunteered to embroider a stylized heart for a friend's elevation to the Order of the Laurel. The heart is worked in silk and sterling silver purl.
The fleur was filled with silver plated tube beads replicating bullion. The ground fabric of the design is on white linen. A band of hearts like these were appliqued along the hem of my friend's dress. Each heart was made by someone who touched her heart and assisted on the path she took in some way.

The next piece I worked on are for the Queen of Atenveldt's dress. I completed 4 1/2 suns in splendor used along the hem of her dress. This embroidery was done using DMC cotton floss on linen. Her Majesty wore this dress at grand court of Estrella War 2015 and at other important occasions. These suns were incorporated into a larger design by the Elizabethan Sweatshop in Phoenix, AZ.

The final piece completed this week was a roundel for my friend Rytchard's elevation to the Order of the Laurel. The design is of one of his service awards, the Gilded Heart of Ered Sul.  I was asked to embroider this motif in particular because of the amount of time I spent serving and living with that group in college. I worked on silk using silk thread. The design was transferred to the ground fabric using water soluble transfer film. This motif, and others like it, will be appliqued onto a gold Turkish coat.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Day with Da Vinci

The Tudor Project was invited to provide ambiance for two current exhibits at the Phoenix Art Museum on February 14-15, 2015. Everyone involved in The Tudor Project is honored and grateful that we have been invited to enhance the experience of museum goers in Phoenix, Arizona.

We wandered through the exhibition of Da Vinci's Leicester Codex listening to talks about the observations on pages of the famous notebook by local academics. Many of the observations in this codex are devoted to how Da Vinci thought water worked. I highly encourage everyone to go to the museum and see this exhibit. The codex is on loan from Bill Gates and will be here for a limited time. Remember there is no photography allowed in this exhibit! 

Mary Magdalene by Master of Astorga ca. 1500-1525.
Tempera and gilt on wooden panel.
We then wandered through the Mysteries from Europe exhibition which is filled with beautiful art from unidentified artists. The collection is filled with religious works and some secular. There is a wide time range on the works as well. Some of these sketches on display are reminiscent of works from the Tudor court. 

Myself dressed as Anne Bolyen
kneeling before a late 15th century
German saint.
Our final stop of the afternoon was the western are exhibits upstairs. I have been to this museum 3 times and never found my way into these galleries before. This should be seen as a compliment to the exhibits the Phoenix Art Museum has traveling through and the wonderfully fascinating galleries down stairs. Upstairs I found beautiful alter pieces, a carved saint, and more than a few allegories.

We will be returning to the museum on March 14-15, 2015. Please join us and be inspired by the beauty inside the Phoenix Art Museum. For more information on the exhibits, museum hours, and ticket information please visit Phoenix Art Museum Current Exhibits

Monday, March 2, 2015

Care and feeding of your Dressing Pins

Dull dressing pins needing some TLC. 
I have been raving to anyone who would listen about the dressing pins made by Irene Davis of The Treasury. After a few years of steady use my brass pins were getting dull. The Tudor focused group I play with called F.I.R.E. was starting to bend pins while dressing me and other ladies. I took this problem to to Irene, as the maker and asked about the card and feeding of my pins.

Problem 1- My pins are dull. what is the best way to sharpen them?
Answer- Don't use a metal file use sand paper. I tried a few different weights and a regular nail file for the bluntest pins. For sharper pins wet or dry sand paper of 400 grit works well. I just sharpened 32 pins this way in less than 2 hours. The technique will take time to get down.

Sharpening pin on sand paper strip.

Problem 2- My pin heads are coming loose.
Answer- Put down a piece of wood or an acrylic board used for leather tooling and smash the heads a few times. This should secure the pin heads in place again. Fix pinheads before sharpening pins for safety.

Problem 3- How to I make my pins shiny?
Answer- The two easiest ways to keep your pins shiny are polishing with either a jewelry cloth or with a few quick swipes of the 400 grit wet-dry sandpaper.

Problem 4- How do I store pins.
Answer- This is something I worked out for myself. Pin books made of wool felt are a convent way to keep your pins safe while you are not using them. Other people I know use pin cushions or small boxes for their pins too.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

New Reed Corset in Red

Every woman feels more feminine when she has pretty underwear. This thought inspired me to make another pair of bodies. My pair from 2012 are holding up beautifully, nothing needs to be replaced, but there are other styles I want to try. This pair uses a cherry wood busk I purchased several years ago down the center front, and two soft "cups" over the bust. In Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 3, Arnold describes a pair of bodies belonging to Dorothea Sabina von Neuberg. Dorothea's original pair of bodies was an ivory silk over linen and stiffened with whale bone. I do not need anything nearly as ridged so I have stuck with my reeds.Just like the effigy corset before there is a magical combination of heavy linen canvas to be covered in a decorative silk. I stuck with the basic pattern of my effigy corset because I primarily wanted to focus on the exotic bust treatment on Dorothea's stays. This pattern was elongated in the front by 1 inch compared to my previous pair of bodies. This is to accommodate the wooden busk in the center front. In the future I would be interested in carving my own busk. Most of the surviving busks from this time period are covered in small carved designs. 
There was a lot of trial and error that went into making these "cups over my bust. I am a larger busted woman, so the period "cup" measurements did not give a flattering look. The method of gauging cup size that worked the best for me was finding a soft cup, under-wire bra and tracing the shapes onto the pair of bodies.
Channels for the reeds were once again stitched using a machine. I saw no advantage to sewing the channels by hand. Each channel is approximately 3/8 of an inch wide. Prior to sewing the reed channels be sure to mark our your primary busk channel in the center front, and then your "cups."
All of my edges were bound in a powder blue silk I salvaged from a goodwill cocktail dress. I did this as an exercise in not wasting fabric. Little fabric would have been wasted at this time period because of the expense of fabric, especially imported silk. It was harder cutting my binding this way instead of using a new piece of silk. I do not recommend salvaging silk from old dresses as a fast solution, but it was cheep. Silk usually starts at $15.00 per yard, but I got this dress for $2.50. When weighing your options consider time verses money. At the time I was binding this corset I had more time than funding.
Once all of the garment pieces were sewn, stiffened, and bound, I used waxed silk thread and stitched the three pieces together. I used a whip stitch because these seams needed strength. Next I used an awl and hand worked the eyelets into the corset. The eyelets were bound in cotton embroidery floss because of the wide availability. Silk would work just as well and be the more period correct material for binding these eyelets. In the future, I strongly recommend working eyelets on supportive garments like these over metal lacing rings. The rings add strength to the holes, with little bulk. Evidence of this technique can been seen on Eleanora of Toledo's funeral dress, also in Patterns of Fashion 3. Arnold notes the corrosion stains at the lacing points where there once were lacing rings.

Final verdict on the new pair of bodies.
I have only worn it a few times so far but it is comfortable. I cannot lace myself because of where this pair of bodies laces and the wooden busk. Those who lace me in have requested i get points for my laces because these eyelets are smaller than those worked over the lacing rings. I cannot bend at the waist because of the busk either. It is a very different feeling that my other effigy pair of bodies with reeds and spring steel. The softer cups are nice when you do not want as much cleavage showing in your neckline.

If you have any questions please leave them in comments below or send me a private message. I would like to thank my Husband for taking the time out of his busy midterm schedule to take the two pictures of me wearing my red pair of bodies, and for lacing me in. I would also like to thank Melissa Jones for helping me to draft the original effigy corset pattern I altered to create this pair of bodies. For the curious minds out there, below is a link to my initial post about my reed effigy corset. Thank you for reading!


Turning Heads with The Realm of Venus

Venetian Woman in Mourning from Cesare Vecellio's Habiti Antichi Et Moderni.
Today Concluded another challenge from Bella at The Realm of Venus. This year's mini challenge was entitled: Turning Heads. Our theme was hair styles, hair jewelry, earrings, hats, cauls, make up, etc. As with all of your challenges I walk in with large dreams of projects to be done, and then scale them down as time allows. For more info on the challenge and to see how everyone's results are coming along please visit Bella's page for the results:

Giovanni Cariani, c1560s (?): Portrait of a Lady. Private Collections
My first piece is a pair of earrings made of gold filled items from the jewelry store. I was inspired by the dangling earrings seen in Venice between 1550 and 1570. The original "pendent" pieces of the earrings had some very non period elements which I snapped off and filed down. The dangling pieces are etched gold spacer beads on eye pins. I chose French ear wires to more closely duplicate the look of the period ear wires. 

My second piece is a pearl necklace. Venetian women loved their pearls. Many Venetian brides are painted with a short string of large pearls wrapped around their necks. This necklace is strung on beading silk cord and knotted on each pearl. I used 8-9 mm freshwater pearls and expect the period string will eventually stretch out or break. The knots between each pearl with prevent me from loosing too many. The hook closure I made by hand using gold filled wire and was inspired by hook and eye closures on clothing from the period.

Rolled hem and lace attachment
Piece number 3 took the most time out of all 3 items for your turning heads challenge. This veils is a rectangle of silk chiffon 138 cm by 146 cm. I used a rolled hem on the veil as seen in Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450. I used a fine steel sewing needle and silk thread to finish the edge. The lace is a machine made bobbin lace similar to those available at the time, but slightly wider than the normal lace used on veils. I applied the lace to the hem by floating silk sewing thread through the existing hem and stitching down the lace every centimeter. While this stitch is not discussed by Crowfoot, it was an effective solution which prevented exposing longer stitches to unnecessary abuse with long term wear. I secured the lace every 3 inches with a knot to prevent it from ripping off if caught on something. 
Veils are an essential piece of outerwear for a well born Venetian woman. Vecellio discusses the different ways veils are worn at length in his work Habiti Antichi Et Moderni. Typically in Venice, white veils were worn by young unmarried women and brides. Black veils are worn mostly by mature women and women in mourning.

A Courtesan and a respectable Venetian Woman. by Lucas D'Heere.

Crowfoot, Elisabeth, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland. "Sewing Techniques and Tailoring." Textiles and Clothing, C.1150-c.1450. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Boydell, 2012. 151-58. Print.

D'Heere, Lucas. Théâtre de tous les peuples et nations de la terre avec leurs habits et ornemens divers, tant anciens que modernes, diligemment depeints au naturel. Ghent University.

Vecellio, Cesare, Margaret F. Rosenthal, and Ann Rosalind. Jones. The Clothing of the Renaissance World: Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas: Cesare Vecellio's Habiti Antichi Et Moderni. London: Thames & Hudson, 2008. Print.