Sunday, April 24, 2016

On My Worktable

Silk Clothing, Tacuinum Sanitatis, 15th century (BNF Latin 9333), fol 104r
I'm somewhat between projects at the moment. My new supportive chemise pattern is ready, but I'm hesitant to use the mid-weight linen I originally intended to use instead of a heavier weight linen, which I would need to purchase. I'm waffling here because I want to move forward with this project to be able to make the next item, but funds are needed elsewhere at the moment, so it may be a while before I can acquire different linen. The lure of instant gratification is quite strong.

I'm working on a gift project as well, which is a nice distraction, but involves eyelets, so there's definitely some procrastinating involved. It's a neat little garment that I hope to get some pictures of after its future owner receives it to share with you.

I finally got around to washing the white linen I've had sitting in a box waiting for me since February. Nothing like 10 yards of linen out on the drying line to make you feel like a true medieval costumer. For those who wonder, my linen washing method goes like this:
  1. I machine wash the linen with 1/4 the amount of liquid laundry soap the load size calls for. I will sometimes use my machine's delicate cycle for colored linens, or finer weights. For mid-weight white linen, I use the normal cycle. Cold water, slow spin. This softens the linen a good deal, but doesn't beat it up. If anything, it helps shed off lint or nubs from the threads.
  2. I'll then toss all linen into the dryer on the low heat setting, using the machine's delicate setting. This agitates it only a little and gets the majority of the wet out. It does shrink just a bit, but my feeling is that I'd rather shrink the linen before I make something, then shrink it later by accident (been there, done that).
  3. Most of the time, it won't be dry after one run through the machine. So I'll take it outside and hang it up on the line in the covered patio we have out back.
  4. In some cases, like this weekend, it's too wet for it to dry outside. In that case, I'll run it through the dryer again. The stuff I'm most concerned about gets the no heat setting. Everything else goes back in with the low heat. Since it was already brought to that temperature the first time I ran it through, it doesn't really shrink more. Different linens act differently throughout this process, so I never really set-it and forget-it. I use short cycles and monitor how "roughed up" the linen gets between each.
  5. For linens, the bottom line is that I don't really worry about it. I mostly use linen for items that will get sweaty and dirty and beat up, just as they did in period. These pieces are going to need to be washed, possibly often, so I feel like I'm giving the linen that crash course early on so that when it's a gross chemise or cap that I've worn it to an event on a hot August day, I can toss it in the laundry and not worry that it will be forever ruined by doing so because I was initially too soft on it. Of course, my machines may be different from yours. I have great delicate cycle options. Your mileage may vary.
Now that I have that linen washed, I can begin working on my new sleeping garb. You may recall that after Pennsic last year, I decided that I wanted to have a better solution for night time clothing. I didn't have much more of an idea beyond layering a wool garment over a linen garment, and having hose, braies, and a cap to maybe help with those especially cold nights. At some point, I decided that I would look at 14th century men's clothing for the solution, since women's pajamas was apparently not really a thing. I brainstormed through some ideas with my Laurel (who happens to be a man doing 14th century), and came up with a plan to make a thigh-length linen shirt and knee length wool tunic using simple straight-seam construction.

The shirt will be plain white linen. For the tunic, I chose the Oatmeal wool from Dorr Mill, which is soft and a very pretty color for an oatmeal heather. A few months back I finished up a pair of black wool hose I'd started ages ago for sleeping as well. They ended up a bit too tight in the foot to be comfortable for the day, but to keep my toes warm at night, they'll be perfect. I'll make a basic pair of garters using plain linen to tie them on. I'm still debating the braies, which may end up being simple shorts, and I think I'll make a new huvet-style cap that ties on, so that it stays put as I sleep.

from The Queen's Book (BL Harley 4431), circa 1414, fol. 178
I'm working toward completing my overdue Manuscript Challenge outfit, above. With my new pattern, I've decided to start that project over. My navy blue wool dress was originally supposed to be the cotte for that, but since it was the only piece that I managed to finish, and I've been wearing it, it's such an independent piece, that I'm not really interested in it being a part of that outfit anymore. So I purchased Darkest Blue and Dove Gray wool (below), also from Dorr Mill, to start that project over. After the chemise, the new blue cotte is next.

In the fall, I'd like to participate in an inter-kingdom A&S event focusing on demos and hands-on experiences (known commonly in the Middle Kingdom and elsewhere as an "artisan's row"). I've been consistently inspired by the period seamstress/tailor displays of Lady Malina, Elina of Neulakko, and Rosalie of Rosalie's Medieval Women, for many years now, and would like to see how I do at that level of display in the area of medieval dressmaking. The subject of tailoring and the acquisition of clothing in the middle ages is a topic I have found greatly fascinating, and to be able to combine that interest with my skills and passion for dressmaking sounds like a good time. There's a great deal of planning that goes into putting an artisan's row display together without feeling overwhelmed, but I'm excited to give it a whirl.

Me presenting my research, April 2, 2016. Photo by Master Cellach MacChormach.

Finally, I want to mention that, earlier this month, I presented the initial findings from the research into early 15th century French women's clothing that I began several years ago. I talked about my methods, how I looked at the data I collected, and then presented a slightly different look to women's clothing and class that what I shared back in January and February here on the blog in my "Basics of  French Women's Clothing 1400-1440" series. Long term, I intend to distill the information into a downloadable "Style Book" guide for anyone interested, but in the meantime, you can find the PDF of my slideshow and links to my Master Spreadsheet and all the manuscripts I used at

So that's what's on my table these days. When the warm spring weather isn't beckoning me toward other pursuits, that is.

1 comment:

  1. Hello! I'm new to the SCA (my first event is on May Day! Eeee!) and I've been reading your blog for the past few months. Your work is really extraordinary. I hope to one day reach the level of quality of your projects. Cheers!