Friday, January 28, 2011

My Apologies in Advance

Our internet has cut out at home, and I have no idea when it may kick on again, so if you don't see a post from me on Sunday- blame the internets!

When I am finally online again, I'll be introducing a new blog feature (still working on a name for it) that I hope you'll find helpful and enjoy. Until then, have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I spent most of this past week working on a hood for Dearg. The outside is a dark crimson red wool and the lining is a brighter red linen. It's complete, though he'd like a little bit of decorative trim along the inner hem around the face. It's ready for him to wear, though. I've got some photos of it, but I'm hoping that someone can take a picture of him next weekend when he's wearing it at Better War Through Archery to share with you.

The black and white linen thread for my garb quest arrived on Friday- very exciting! We have plenty of beeswax around the house, so Dearg made me a little cake of it to use with the thread. The linen is also on the way, all but the lining for the fitted dress. I have some rust colored linen that I may use for that instead, just to save money. That leaves just the wool for the kirtle and hood (plus the thread for the hood), but that will have to wait until I've got more money.

I'm a little distracted at the moment by the idea of putting a period sewing kit together. Now would be the perfect time, since I have the perfect opportunity to use all the tools with my garb quest. It would add one more level of authenticity to the project. I'm still researching what to have (not so much because I don't know what tools to include, but because I want to pick the right things/styles for the 15th century.) I found this page from the West Kingdom Needleworkers Guild incredibly helpful for getting me started down the right path. Dearg's been doing a lot of work with antler, so I've asked him to make a few of the items for me, but I may try my hand at making them myself if he doesn't get around to it soon.

I've been reading many articles for my documentation, many of which aren't necessarily directly related to what I'm actually doing. It's nice to expand my knowledge base, though. I'm sure it's information that will become useful at some point.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Garb Quest and Misc. Items

Well, I would have been happy to report that my hose pattern is done, but I screwed it up. Not surprising, which is why I wanted to do a pattern first! There were too many things to figure out at once, but what ultimately messed it up was that I fitted them once, removed them to make sure I could get them on and off, then didn't get them in the right place once they were back on. Thinking that I'd just not fitted them enough the first time around, I fitted them more and made them too small!

I was trying to do a pattern from Medieval Tailor's Assistant with gussets, but I think I'll do a different version with no gussets. Racaire's red wool hose were a version of the non-gusset type and turned out great. Plus, I think they're better suited to my patterning abilities, which are definitely at the beginner level.

I wasn't able to get any white linen at Joann's, and the only neutral colored linen was a dark gray that there wasn't enough of. I got the gray anyway, almost 3 yards, not sure what I could do with it. It may become a Viking apron dress. My mom made a heraldic tablet-woven trim, but I never had anything to put it on. There might be just enough to decorate the top of an apron dress.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately. I've picked up several books from the library, including a few volumes of Medieval Clothing and Textiles, and a couple of other similar clothing/textile article collections. Not all of it is useful for my garb project in particular, but it's been helpful for just general knowledge about the 15th century.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Garb Quest - Fabric Choices

I've made my final fabric choices! After looking at my options, I decided that I really did like the ginger linen. It has a golden tone to it that saves it from looking like burlap. I also decided on a pretty blue linen for the lining of the navy wool for the kirtle instead of my original choice of gray.

I can't order everything right now, but I've chosen some pretty affordable fabrics. The linens will come from and the wools and linen thread will be from Wm. Booth Draper. The most expensive item (based on per yard cost) will be the red wool for the hood. As this is scarlet colored and of a very fine quality, the higher cost is actually pretty accurate for the 15th century as well, when a full year's wages would have been required to purchase enough scarlet wool just to make a hood! There's a very interesting article about the switch of the preferred "luxury" color from scarlet to black in the 15th century in Medieval Clothing and Textiles Volume 3 called The Anti-Red Shift - To the Dark Side: Colour Changes in Flemish Luxury Woollens, 1300-1550 by John H. Munro. In it, Munro provides some valuable information about the relative cost of these so-called luxury fabrics. Such information has been truly helpful in determining the material limits of my persona in terms of economics.

I'm hoping that I can find a suitable white linen for the smock on sale at Joann's this weekend to save a bit more money. If I can also find a nice linen to use as the lining for the fitted under dress, instead of the natural colored linen I picked out online, I'm will to make a compromise there in terms of color for the sake of price.

Now that the business of choosing fabrics is out of the way, I can move on to creating patterns. I think I'll start with the hose, since I already have that material (just need thread). I'm fairly sure I'm going to use one of the patterns found in The Medieval Tailor's Assistant, but I obviously want to do some tests first, since I only have one shot at cutting the wool, and I don't have a particularly good track record for getting things right the first time....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fun in Garb

I love stuff like this. I wish there was more of it around!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Garb Quest - Swatches

As promised, let me introduce you to My Garb Quest:

This shows the outfit as it will appear in the A&S entry (except for the apron). The colors are not finalized, however, but they are close to my idea. The key to success with any project is research, and I'm not just talking documentation. This is a major undertaking, and I can't afford to make a poor choice with materials and colors, so, since I'm waiting for books from the library for more research into the history of these items, I'm evaluating my material options.

I've got a lot of swatches I'm reviewing, with 2 more sets still on the way, to make sure that I'm getting exactly what I need. At the moment, I've got two blue wools in contention for the kirtle. One is a deep blue-green and the other is a traditional navy. I've also been looking at scarlet wools for the hood. Once I saw the larger swatch of the ginger linen, I decided it's not going to work for this project. Though it's a nice color, it's a bit too drab, especially next to the deep blue and bright red. I think a more gold-toned color is in order, but I haven't found one I like yet.

I also have samples of linen thread weights to make sure I know exactly what to expect when I order the spools. I'm glad I did, not because I changed my mind about the ones I wanted to order, but because I confirmed my choices. In other words, I realized I had a better sense of thread weights than I thought I did!

If all my swatches show up next week, I should be able to make a final decision by next Sunday then place an order for at least some of the materials (the thread definitely, since I can't start anything until I have that).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

12th Night

I know that not all groups celebrate 12th Night in this manner, but we generally exchange gifts. We attempt to make the gifts appropriate for the SCA- things fitting our personas- as opposed to modern "Christmas" gifts. This year, mom gave me enough gray wool and linen for a new wool dress!

The wool is an absolutely beautiful shade of light-charcoal gray, and the linen is a perfectly complimentary dove gray. I stopped in to the local Joann's, which is moving so everything is on sale (75% off!), and picked up a spool of gray cotton thread for it. Though I plan to use linen thread for my garb quest, which will be hand sewn, I use 100% mercanized cotton for machine sewing- which I usually do for sewing the garment together, then I complete the finishing by hand. While at Joann's I picked up 5 yards of 90 in. wide muslin for pattern making, a spool of white silk thread- which you can never have enough of on hand if you make a lot of veils like me, and a yard of brown striped linen I found in the remnant bin. Not sure what I'm going to do with that, but you know how it goes. Someday it will "speak" to me.

As for the gray, however, I do have a few ideas. I've always liked the "Christine de Pisan" dress, which is a simple fitted gown with attached tippets (I call them "flaps"). I think the gray wool would be lovely in this format, which is just a little earlier than my year range of 1435-1445, and it would be perfect to wear with the furry black Tres Riches hat I've been looking for an excuse to make. The other option is actually a two-piece outfit. It's a tiny detail from the The Saint John Altarpiece, but with a closer look, you can see that the maid of the guest wears a black sleeveless overgown (with a fur lining) and a gray fitted dress underneath. I think this outfit is practical and pretty. I'd skip the fur and use the dove gray linen instead, then wear it with a long sleeve linen fitted dress, maybe the one I create for the garb quest, or the rust-colored one I still need a lining for.

I'm going to have to think on this. I like both dresses, so it's one of those tough calls- what would be better for the fabric? I think I really like the idea of the sleeveless because it would be a match across a century to my mom's early 14th century sideless surcoat, which she made out of a mottled gray. On the other hand, the flap-sleeve overgown would be just as functional, but give me a slightly higher-class option (my persona falls within the same economic class as Christine de Pisan). It's a matter of utility versus appearance.

I was only able to give one 12th Night gift this year. I did a small illumination for my mom that's a family portrait of sorts. It shows her and I with the children, then Dearg and my (mundane) brother are represented by a longbow (Dearg) and a shield with the colors of the US Border Patrol (my brother).

And, not that it really matters, but I'm holding Kara and Mom's holding Lee. I don't actually have a dress that color, but it seemed to work better with the composition than any of the colors of dress I actually have. You may recognize the two headdresses though [1, 2].

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Garb Quest - Final Breakdown

One of the primary questions I had to ask myself in regards to my garb quest was whether it was better to create a high-class (read "fancy") outfit in keeping with my time period, or to create something that was more appropriate for the daily needs of my persona. It wasn't a difficult question to answer, really. An outfit that I'll actually get use out of just makes more sense, but I can't deny that the tendency to create "showy" garb for A&S is a strong one. A costume with all the bells and whistles certainly dazzles more than garments with none of the extra detailing. The point, however, is not to dazzle. The point is to create an outfit with as much authenticity and craftsmanship as possible based on the criteria. My persona has more of a need for sensible daily garb than a fancy gown, so, for the entry portion of the garb quest, I'm going to focus on creating beautiful, well-made, sensible clothing without compromising who my persona is.

If I understand the criteria correctly, only the main garments of the outfit will be judged on an individual level. Then the accessories I choose to include in my display must be explained, and will only be critiqued as far as their appropriateness is concerned- not their actual construction. So, the first step was identifying what items are involved. To do this, I drew some pictures, which I will post as each item group comes up. (They still need to be scanned in at this point). The pictures show the layers of mid-15th century clothing as my research to date has indicated. My drawings go from the bottom-most layer (undergarments) to the top-most and "richest" layer (houppelande). This final layer will not be part of the entry, but will be part of the quest. The garment items that I considered the judged portion of the entry are:
  • Smock- a calf-length white linen garment, often referred to as a "chemise" in the SCA.
  • Hose & garters - black wool fitted hose (just below the knee in length) with white linen garters.Align Right
  • Huvet - I have begun using the term that Camilla Louise Dahl and Isis Sturtewagen discussed in their article, The Cap of Saint Birgitta. The term "Saint Birgitta's Cap", on this blog at least, should be used to indicate that specific extant piece, while the term "huvet" will be used for any linen cap of a similar variety to the SBC. This will be white linen.
  • Supportive Dress - a linen dress of the "Gothic Fitted Dress" type. This will be ginger brown linen lined with a natural-colored linen.
  • Kirtle - a wool overdress based on the pattern of the supportive dress. This will be a navy blue wool lined with dark gray or black linen.
  • Open Hood - a 15th century woman's hood with a liripipe. Scarlet red wool, lined with matching red linen.
Then, the accessories to go with the outfit will include:
  • leather shoes
  • leather belt
  • veil pins
  • apron
  • scarf - I'm still trying to find out the correct term for this, but it's a lightweight neck-scarf that can often be seen in many period images.
  • pouch
The end result should look very similar to the maid in the St. John Altarpiece, with additional items and other alterations according to my persona and the time period (roughly 1445).

The items of the final layer replace the kirtle and hood to create a look more appropriate to being a hostess or for leaving the home. These are a fur-trimmed wool houppelande and a horn & veil headdress (which I've been wanting to make for several years now). The houppelande will most resemble those found in this version of La Decameron in its simplicity, but the construction will be taken from clearer examples such as this detail from The Decent from the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden. Color is still unknown, but gray rabbit is most likely for the fur trimming and either olive green or royal blue wool for the exterior. A beautiful woad blue wool/silk blend is also in the running, though I previously ruled out silk for my persona. A case could be made, however, for the blend, especially with the woad instead if indigo dye color. There will also be a walnut/iron dyed silk tablet woven belt and black poulaines. I am considering both of these items as either inheritance or purchased as used- both very period ways to acquire clothing a bit more expensive than your means if made from scratch for you. In addition, I'm on the lookout for silver or gold rings appropriate to my class and time period.

As I'm sure you can see, I have much to accomplish in the next two years. I've started organizing my documentation, but there is still a lot of information to find out for all of these items. I'm collecting materials as I have them, but I'll need to purchase linen thread before I can begin producing anything. The creation process won't be as straight-forward as it's been for me in the past. All my steps must be documented and all my decisions accounted for. Not all this will end up on the blog, but I intend to keep my readers in the loop on this project (mainly for support, I must admit.)

It will be a fun process, but it will be a lot of work. If all goes according to plan, the result will be well worth the time, energy and expense.