Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Pockets in the 16th Century?

So if you are new to my blog, Hello! I took July off to focus on work and realities of covid life. Thanks for hanging in there. 

This week we are doing to cover 16th Soccocia and their role toward the origin of pockets. People need a place to carry and keep their small items as they walk around. In the middle ages you might have a pilgrim satchel or a belt pouch. Some women in the middle ages had the brilliant idea to stop wearing their money purses outside of their over gowns and instead would wear them between their kirtle/sottona layer and over gowns. This arrangement still gave you access to the purse, but made it harder for thieves to cut your purse strings and run. 

Fast forward to the 16th century and we find the heirs to this practice in socaccia. We have some visual evidence of these in mid to late 16th century art out of Italy. This is a detail of Alessandro Allori's,  Woman at her toilet, ca 1575-78. Currently in Florence, Church of Santa Maria Novella, Gaddi Chapel. 

Janet Arnold also writes about one found in the folds of Elenora di Toledo's funeral garments in Patterns of Fashion 3.

A few years ago I also came across this scrumptious example from  Spain  with enough gold work to be worth stealing on it's own if I were a cut purse. I have lost the information on the date of this piece. 

foto grande

My Soccocia 

With all that lovely inspiration of course my historical Belle cosplay needs a practical  Soccocia. My first step was picking a design for embroidery. It wouldn't make sense for Belle to have a ton of  gold embroidery on a pocket when she could be buying books. I instead decided on silk embroidery. The pattern is from the late 16th to early 17th century  The Schoole House of the Needle. Doesn't this fluer call out for Belle? 

My next steps in the process was to decide on the size I wanted. Based on my sources the size could range quite a bit. The must I had was making it large enough to comfortably  hold my cell phone. After establishing  size and depth of the slit into the pocket I drew the design free hand onto the pocket front with a washable pattern pencil.

I wish I had stopped more frequently to get photos of the embroidery as I went bit it truly only took a few days. One whole day was spent preparing some hand dyed silks I wanted to use which arrived in hanks rather than pre-wound cards.

The finished design in stem stitch, split stitch, and satin stitch is pretty, but I still wanted more impact. I was able to det these tiny brass plates which are historically correct sequins and stitched them on with waxed silk thread.

The pocket is lined in lightweight linen to give stability and protect the back of my embroidery. I then bound it with some straight cut strips of silk. 

The piece across the top is long enough to act as a tie around my waist so I don't have to worry about it attaching to stays.  On to the next portion, a camicia! For real time progress pictures check me out on Instagram. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Anotber Glow Up... 16th Italian Workshop

Last month a handful of us from the 16th Italian Workshop on Facebook  got together  (while physically apart) to make a glow up video. We are all missing events & were excited for a chance to play dress up for a bit. 

A huge shout out to Amber from DSA Threads for taking on the hits of editing. The video is beautiful  <3

I've listed websites for as many if the participants as I know if you want to check out their individual works. 

Other awesome people online!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Stays: Its ok to Grow & Change

This post could  also be called, "Its ok to grow & change your mind." 

It's hard to believe that I wrote my first blog about my first effigy corset 8 years ago. There has been a lot of changes, more detailed research, and better access to digital archives of historical clothing. I've loved watching the conversation evolve over time & learning what I can to contribute to the conversation. 

Last fall I had to make myself a new set of stays. My 5th set for me, in addition to everyone I've helped or made them for over the years. My previous sets are all still functional,  but my body shape has changed. Since living in Colorado I've dropped quite a bit of fluff, and my stays became so large on me they were no longer supportive & causing back pain.  

My new stays were made using the same method I had previously except I omitted the diagonal "whalebone" channel. They fit well. As the time I made them, I had a small front gap for negative ease or future weight loss. They are made out of a carnation pink silk which makes me giggle from historical connotations. I reinforced the eyelets down the front by working them around rings using silk button hole thread. These stays are very breathable being interlined with linen and boned with reeds. Even with these changes, these are not perfect  stays. 

A few months after the stays were done I got my copies of Patterns of Fashion 5 by the School of Historical Dress, Corsets: Historical Patterns and Techniques by Jill Salen, and Structuring Fashion from Bayerisches National Museum. Yes my mind has exploded a bit with new research  and it will probably be applied to future projects. I love my carnation colored stays. These remind me of how far I have come and, are just one stop on the journey of making historical stays. In my opinion, it's better to be excited by updated research than to work in absolutes and refuse to change.

Yes the brag book about my new stays is becoming a parable for our current situation in the United States. You might not always get it right the first try, but keep trying with an open heart. Be willing to make honest self evaluations, and commit to doing the research & work to improve. I'm committed to improving myself as a person and in my craft. Thank you to those having patience with me while I do the work in both aspects.  To paraphrase Cathy Hay, each project us going to teach you something new if you let it. I just didn't expect to be reexamining my own bias because of a supportive garment.  

Thank you to Rob Howe for the amazing photos of my carnation underwear.  Here is a LINK for more of his work. 

Patterns of Fashion 5 is available directly from the School of Historical Dress.

Structuring Fashion and Corsets are available online or possibly from your specialty book sellers.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Pass the Mug: An SCA Glow Up

I filmed this months ago while I was recovering from being sick. It has been a fun little editing project even if I left the camera tilted the wrong way. I learned how to correct it with my software but kept cutting off my own head in the process. Thank you to my friends in Ansteorra for this fun distraction. 

I hope you are all safe and healthy. I expect us to share lots of stories when we are together again. 

Just as a reminder, I am not an official spokes person for the SCA. To locate your local group you can go to www.sca.org or try Googling your town and SCA. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Durer's Venetian Lady 1505- A Necklace

Albrecht Durer, Portrait of a Young Venetian Woman, 1505

It is my understanding that this painting was produced on Albrecht Durer's visit to Venice in 1505, while he was studying the artistic techniques his Venetian contemporaries were using at the time. While the multiple rows of pearls can look intimidating, reproducing this necklace with modern jewelry making supplies is quite easy. I have strung this with silk thread, as it would have likely been at the time, but found it hear breaking when I eventually had a stand snap and I lost several tiny pearls. Empty plastic water bottles can be a great way to store broken necklaces waiting to be restrung in a pinch. 

I made one of these for a silent auction to benefit a friend.

- Nylon coated metal beading cable, a bit more than twice your finished length. 
- Needle nose pliers
- Wire cutters
- 4 crimping beads
- Necklace closure of your choice. 
- Black glass bi-cone beads
- 4 mm pearls
-Bead Reamer

  1. Cut 2 lengths of beading cable and attach to one side of closure with 1 crimping bead per cable and your pliers. 
  2. Thread 4 seed pearls on to each cable, using bead reamer to widen holes of pearls if necessary. These pearls should enclose the tails of your cables being attached to the closure. 
  3. Thread both cables through 1 bi-cone bead, and then 4 seed pearls onto each cable separately. Repeat this process until necklace is desired length. 
  4. Once necklace is the correct length, add 1 crimp bead per strand and secure stand to closure using crimp beads and pliers. Sometimes it is easier to threat the cable back through beads before closing crimping bead. 
  5. Trim away an excess beading cable with wire cutters.
  6. Go enjoy your necklace!
My recreation with modern methods.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Moving in the SCA

Lets have a chat about playing in the SCA in a modern US economy. In my 20s, I move around a lot. At first it was for college, then after College I followed the man I loved for his career, and then finally I moved for my own career a few times. With everyone safer at home and social distancing it has had me reflecting on what made my different SCA moves successful or not. In this post I'm hoping to share some unsolicited advice from someone who lived in 4 kingdoms over 13 years, and works in the self storage industry today helping hundreds of people move every year. 

My first Laurel's Prize Tournament in Ansteorra, 2016

1. Reach Out
I am incredibly introverted and reserved so I know how scary this first step can be. Before you start moving, but after you know it is going to happen, look up your new SCA branch and say hello. Most groups will have a page on Facebook or a website where you can start to learn more about that group, when they meet, their own unique culture, etc. The SCA doesn't pay for adds online so you will have to be proactive and make that first step. Remember that your group might be in transition themselves so give them a little time or a follow up email if you don't get a response. Sometimes links break. Local and Kingdom news letters can also be a wealth of information. 

2. Talk to Your Friends
The 6 degrees of separation theory is alive an well in the SCA. You probably know someone who knows someone near by your new group if you start to ask around. I always like to see if I have a mutual acquaintance with my new groups to start a new conversation. This can be helpful when getting ready for your first event and want to know someone there, or if you are needing some help being introduced to your new friends. 

3. Pack with Care
This has to do with the nature of your move. Are you moving across country or is it more local? Will your items be stored in a warehouse or will you have access to them? How soon after the move do you want to go to events? What types of events?
Let me introduce you to the concept of "the first day box" and how it relates to the SCA. A first day box in moving is the big box you put everything you will need the first night you get into your new place because you may be too tired to unpack. Common things to put in there might be a pot and utensils to make pasta, bedding, ibuprofen, toilet paper,soap, paper towels and plates, etc. I like to label this box and have it be the last thing loaded on the truck so it is the first thing to come off. Allow me to suggest doing something similar for your SCA hobby. If you plan to event in your first few months in your new place searching through boxes can be stressful. Pack your favorite outfit and accessories as if you were going to an event, maybe some feast gear, a game or project, etc. This will let you be ready to go out and play with your new friends that much faster. Moving is stressful enough without depriving you of breaks for things you enjoy. 

4. Say your Good Byes
In the grand scheme of things, we are a rather small group  and you may have touched someone in a way that you are unaware of. If you can, pick a final event  in your current home and let people know this is their chance to say good bye. All that love can make leaving harder, but it could also lead to plans of your friends visiting you in your new home. Good byes are rarely forever in the SCA. Thanks to the internet and large regional events many of us can  stay in touch over the years.

5. Wear your Favorite Ensemble
This is a trick my laurel gave me. Wear your favorite outfit at your first event. No necessarily the most accurate, or the one with the most awards, the one that makes you happiest and most comfortable. This will help your own confidence as you walk around the event, and you will have something you can talk to others about. The people who think it is cool too will find you and say hi. 

6. Every Kingdom is Unique
If you are homesick it can be really hard to stay out of the "in my last kingdom we...." pit fall. Please remember that there are going to be things you love about your new group, and things you will miss about your old one. Its OK to feel this way, but its not OK to talk down to your new companions because it was better where you used to be. Take a look through local sumptuary laws for differences from your last group. Learn about the history and traditions that you are now a part of. Try and remember this is an adventure and not everyone will have had the same wider world view that you will have, and that is OK too. 

7. Volunteer/Teach
Volunteering to help with events, projects, or individuals at an event is a great way to meet someone. Many of my best friendships over the years have been formed under a parasol or over a pot of soup. You of course should not put more on your plate than you can handle, but do remember that volunteering is a great foot in the door. 

8. Teacher Relationships
After playing for a few years, many of us will have relationships with mentors and teachers from one discipline or another. This culture of mentor-ship is something about the SCA which I cherish, and each one of these relationships is going to be unique based on your discipline and goals. I have spoken the longer term players than myself the told me they returned their "belt" or severed the formal relationship in some way because one of the members moved away. With modern technologies that may not be necessary. Please discuss how your move will effect these relationships with all parties involved to make sure expectations and desires are clear going forward. I personally have chosen to keep the same laurel through my last 3 big moves. 

9. Try Something New
Have you been wanting to change your name, persona, etc? A Move can be a great time to do that. Your new group will likely not know you from your previous experiences giving you that chance to try on new interests and personas. 

10. You are now an Ambassador
In the middle ages, many courts would have visitors conveying words or interests from their home to a foreign power, creating alliances, etc.While it is not likely that you along will make or break the relationship between 2 kingdoms, it is worth remembering you are likely to be the  one of the only people someone knows to have moved from your old home to your new one. Your behavior can become a caricature of the region, so while your mannerisms are going to be different, remember that we are a society of grace and chivalry. 

As the economy starts to shift I hope that you can find some helpful advice in this article. While I am not officially writing for the SCA, I can speak to my experiences in membership over the years. Please comment below if you also have tips on moving and playing SCA. 

Picture of myself on my way to my first Outlands Coronation, May 2018

Friday, June 5, 2020

What is in my Sewing Box?

Locally I have become known for being able to help with emergency repairs  for my friends at events when we loose a button or catch a hem under foot. As a result some people asked that I put together a YouTube Video going over all of the items I carry around in my hand sewing box at events. The video is linked below if you are also curious. As I am still new to video editing I appreciate your patience while I get practice and grow. Also a not to Bernadette Banner for inspiring the angles for this video after a similar one she made last year and Chelsea for requesting I make a similar video. 

Comment Below and let me know what is in your sewing box. 

Monday, June 1, 2020

The American Duchess Cape Cult: Modern Monday

As a creative person, I do live in the modern world, and maintaining blogs for multiple time frames is exhausting at best. Going forward the first Monday of the month  will be "Modern Monday" and I will post about a project from after the 16th century. 

Our first project is my American Duchess Patreon Cape ca 1910. To help fight the covid 19 boredom the awesome folks at American Duchess made the cape pattern free on their Patreon page (link at bottom). Their Patreon members have access to other awesome patterns so it is worth checking out. I fell in love with this pattern and decided I was going to whip our up to fight the patriarchy  as the pattern is contemporary to the United States Suffragette movement. 

I made a mock up after scaling out the pattern to realize while it is a very adjustable pattern, it was scaled for a 38 inch bust and I am a 45 inch. The pattern thankfully is fairly simple to adjust for a larger bust.This is a great example of why we should always make a mock up. 

Below are some of my notes if you too have a larger bust & want to hack the pattern:

-I added 1 inch along all pattern piece edges to give me some ease for the velvet I decided to make my cape in, and it gave me 1/2 inch seam allowances. Remember that the original pattern is drafted without seam allowance!

- The front wrap pieces needed to be lengthened to accommodate my 45 inch bust . I added 8 inches to each front panel giving me an overlap in the back to secure the panels with a button and button hole behind my back. 

-As I lengthened the strap, I also adjusted the point of the darts 3 inches lower so they would stop around my bust point, not in my armpits.

-Another adjustment I would make on my front panels would be to widen them by 2 inches. I decided this after wearing my completed cape around for a few days since it wasn't as noticeable in the mock up fabric. As is, the straps did not fully reach under the bust as it does on several of the models and other makers who have played with the pattern. 

-Because I think collars should be dramatic, I wanted mine to flair out a bit more. I achieved this by pad stitching some wool felt into the underside of the collar to help keep the dramatic curve. 

- My cape is made from 2 cotton velvet curtains I found in the "as is" section of Ikea which I decided to up-cycle. If you are working with velvet, make sure you baste your seams rather than trusting pins. All of these curved construction seams like to crawl when working with velvet. 

I underestimated the time this cape would take. At first I thought it would be done in a day, maybe 2. The cape actually took double that to do all of the hand finishing and detail work I wanted to. 2 days to work on the pattern and mock ups, 2 days to do some machine sewing and hand finishing. Hopefully this will help speed up your own sewing adventures and to resize the pattern for a larger but with minimal headache.

American Duchess Patreon

Edits: Took down to fix some formatting issues and typos. Republished 1 hour later.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Easy Cartridge Pleating Videos

I recently put together some videos to demonstrate my favorite ways to attach my skirts to my bodices on 16th century gowns. Its a version of doing cartridge pleating where you pleat the fabric into the waist and sew. The major benefits of this is that you will always have even pleats without spending time measuring, marking on fabric, and basting. Compared to a mathematical, thread gathered cartridge pleat, these will be softer and more draped. I hope you enjoy the videos!

Over the next few weeks I will also be revamping my poor sleepy blog. For the most up to date project progress feel free to follow me on Instagram. @maridith.smith

Part 1: Setting up your garments for pleating

Part 2: Sewing the pleats


Friday, May 8, 2020

Italian Lace Apron

Hey there readers, 

For a few years I've been in love with the idea of what would Belle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast look like if translated through the eyes of 16th century Italy. My first post in this series is actually going to be a white apron for this outfit, and give you instructions on how to make your own. Enjoy! 

Use of Aprons in 16th century Italy

The basic apron style of a rectangle gathered with a waistband has not changed for
hundreds of years, and were popular with Italian women during the 16th century. Italians
seem to have viewed this as much more utilitarian than other places in Europe where
women were sitting in formal portraits with them. Italian women of the upper class only
seem to wear them in private. These aprons have lovely embroidery or expensive lace
worked into them. My goal in making mine was to continue to expand on my 16th century
woman’s toilet, where women wore them to help keep clothing clean while dressing hair
and applying cosmetics.

Working class women would wear aprons as a staple of their wardrobes, but seem to have

favored sturdier embroidery of red or black silk to decorate their aprons rather than lace.
As a design choice I have chosen to use a lace apron for Belle to keep with the white one
she wears in the first scenes of the movie, rather than going strictly by the social class the
rest of this outfit will be inspired by.

Alessandro Allori, Woman at her Toilet 1575-78, fresco, Florence, Church of Santa
Maria Novella, Gaddi chapel.


2 ply linen hand sewing thread
Beeswax cake
Sewing needle and pins
Bobbin lace
Narrowest edge 1 ½ yds
Middle insertion 4 ½ yds
Wide band 32 inches
Scallop edge 32 inches
Plain woven linen ¾ yds (approximately)


1. I used my scissors to even up my linen pieces. My apron was a stash busting project
made with scrap leftover from making underwear over the last few years. I picked a
lightweight linen to compliment the fine lace I was going to be using. My strips average 6
inches by 28 inches. There were 2 panels I left wider in the middle for added coverage while
applying powder, but all could be the same size as is in the original. I also cut off 2  strips
of linen to become apron strings 2 inches by 48 inches.

2. Hem the long sides of each panel and 1 short side. I used a Rolled him for my pieces. 

3. Cut middle insertion lace into 4 equal pieces so you don’t run out of lace mid panel.
Cut narrow edge lace in 2 equal pieces.

4.Apply narrow lace along the long edge of one of your linen panels. I used a running stitch
over my rolled hem with the edge of the lace extending past the linen. Do this on another
panel to mirror  the first  side done. I find it helpful to pin the lace to the linen as I work. 

5. Take the middle lace and one of the edged panels. Pin lace over the rolled him on the
opposite side. Tack lace down to seam through the picots (edge points). Follow this process
to attach each panel and middle insertion band ending with the panel that mirrors the first
with edging lace. Hem insertion lace as you work.


6.Take the wide band of lace and scallop edge and carefully whip stitch these together along

long edge to create  your decorative bottom band. Make sure the hem your shorter ends

7. Attach the lace band across the finished bottom edge of the apron using the same
technique as with the insertion lace. The more invisible your stitching the greater the effect. 

8. Run, even, gathering stitches across the raw edge of the apron and gather to your
preferred width. I personally liked 14 inches. 

9.Create apron strings by attaching the two linen strips together with a back stitch and finger
press seam open. I double folded linen to create a strip ½ inch wide and whip stitched the
bottom edge leaving a 14 inch gap in the middle to act as a binding for the top of the apron.
Ironing the linen strip will make this process easier.

10. Bind off the top of the apron gathers in the opening.I stitched apron to strings with a back

stitch and then a felling stitch to close the binding. 
Press and spin around in your new pretty apron! 

Inspiration and Final results

"Tabby linen with lacework, h 90cm, w 90cm, belt 87cm. Museo del Tessuto, Prato"

My completed Apron

Thank you for reading and I hope you have lots of fun exploring more aprons to make with your own outfits! 


Crowfoot, Elisabeth and Frances Prichard and Kay Staniland. Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450. 2012. ISBN 978-1-84383-29-3
Landini, Roberta Orsi and Bruna Niccoli. Moda a Firenze 1540-1580. 2005. 
 ISBN 88-8304-867-9
Wake, Anabelle. Extant Aprons. http://realmofvenus.renaissanceitaly.net/workbox/extapr.htm.
Accessed 1 April 2020