Sunday, October 22, 2017

On My Worktable

After the rush of getting things done for my elevation, I decided to just chill out for a bit, and turn my attention to some other areas of my life. Which of course resulted in a bit of a longer break from productivity than I intended. So now I'm like a car with a battery that needs to be recharged. Despite this, I do have a few projects on my table that I'm at least giving the sidelong glance to as I work my way back to a productive pace. Here's what's on my radar.

My Doppelganger challenge will end with Christmas Tourney in early December. (You can follow along with that on Facebook or Instagram.) Based on what I've got on my calendar, that means only 2 or 3 outfits left. I'm still feeling very happy with this project and I have learned a good deal along the way (I'll do a full recap when it's complete), but with the resources and time I have available, I'm not looking to make anything substantial for the Challenge before the year is out. (Unless I'm able to procure that certain special shade of green I've been pining for.) So for the most part, the projects on the top of my mind are those that I haven't been able to do this year. I'm also really interested and inspired to do some different types of projects moving into next year, which probably means that 2018 will, for me, have much more 14th century influence.

I had a nice-sized piece of blue herringbone wool left over from making my vigil dress, so I started brainstorming about some possible uses for it. I thought about maybe making a bag, which would have been a fun project, but that wasn't a particular need that I had. Then I remembered a recent event when I got a bit chilled in the evening. I haven't had a closed hood for many years, but having a warm hood around my neck is like the medieval equivalent of a scarf, and I love my scarves. It would certainly come in handy for events in the winter, or those cool Fall and Spring evenings when I'm camping. For inspiration, I decided to look at the hoods depicted in the mid-14th century Romance of Alexander. There are several occasions in the manuscript when the edges of hoods are detailed with decorative white lines. I sat down one day and drew out a few that caught my eye.

The one that I thought was the most interesting had little v's that I drew out as little hearts. They may not have been intended to look like hearts, but that's what my brain wanted them to be. I have been using a heart in conjunction with my heraldry in recent years (there's one on the badge I've submitted to the College of Heralds), so I liked the idea. There was also one with a wavy line that I liked, since the wavy fess is also an element of my heraldry. So I combined the two concepts for my own decorative design.

I took a look at what other materials I had on hand, and ultimately, after reviewing the options with some friends, I settled on using the remaining panel of oatmeal colored wool I had for the lining (which will make the hood nice and cozy), an off-white wool yarn for the embroidery, red wool for the buttons, and a red wool yarn edge treatment that I'll do either as the intertwined loop technique, or possibly a card-woven edge.

So far, I have cut out the herringbone and lining, and the blue shell is hand sewn together, with the bottom edge trimmed down. I will need to tack the seam allowances down before I can proceed with the embroidery.

Since the herringbone is directional, I ended up having to piece the liripipe together. The entire hood has a top center seam (I had to do the same thing with the herringbone square hood), so the liripipe is pretty much just a grid patchwork of panels. I probably could have done a better job lining things up with the herringbone pattern, but I'm not going to sweat it.

St. Jerome tempted by the dancing girls, fol. 186r, Belle Riches Heures du Jean de Berry, circa. 1405-09.
So, speaking of embroidery, when I was trying to make a decision on what dress to make for Coronation (before I was put on vigil), one of the ideas I really liked was to make an embroidered dress inspired by the dancing girls in the Belle Heures du Jean de Berry (fol. 186r), which is a very early 15th century manuscript (circa 1405-1409.) There are other examples of this horizontal decorative band on other dresses and in other manuscripts. Lady Malina has a number of them saved in her Embroidered Garments Pinterest Board. I have seen others make their own versions of this concept. Just yesterday, I came across this gray and red example from Impressum. Or this example from Diu Minnezit. Or the red version by Malina.

I have some options for this project. The first option is to rework my old navy blue wool dress. Through the years since making it, the wool of this dress has eased out considerably, and with weight changes, and plain old time passing, it's not the best looking item in my wardrobe. There's plenty of space in the dress to do a refitting, and the dark blue would make a great backdrop to the bands in either golden-yellow or white.

Option two is to use this mustard yellow wool from Dorr Mill that was gifted to me by a friend who couldn't use it. (The "Dark Gold" swatch on the site is not correct.) It's a weird color, and is nearly exactly the same tone as the gold wool I used for this dress (and this later rework.) It does have its own charm. If I use this fabric, I'd do the bands in either white or a darker color, possibly a blue or a red.

I think I'd end up with a really nice project either way, so it's hard to make a choice between the two options. If I choose the mustard yellow route, I've still got a blue dress in need of help. If I choose the blue dress, I've got a dress-worth of mustard yellow wool still sitting in my stash. These are the types of decision-making things that keep me up at night.

Also in my stash is the windowpane plaid wool I got back when I got the red worsted flannel that eventually became this cote. The wool pattern, blue and red lines that create a grid, is 14th century is style, so this is another project that moves me earlier on the fashion timescale. It should, however, be a relatively straightforward project that will give me some practice with working with patterned materials.

One project that's a pretty major item going into next year is a gambeson for a friend. The style is mid-14th century, and we've already created a pattern. I've got the linen and wool from him, and I'll be completing this arming garment by hand. The challenge will be to ensure that my hand sewing is top notch so that it will withstand being used in combat. I'll learn a great deal along the way with this project, so while it's not normally my practice to share that I make for others here on the blog, I think this will be an exception. There will be a journey here that I'd like to be able to bring you along with me on.

I've got things to finish up on my vigil and elevation clothing. The vigil dress still needs buttons on the sleeves. Then there's all those wreaths to applique on the Laurel dress. I needed to step away from those garments after the sprint to get them ready, but they can't sit around too long.

I'm also working on a special embroidery project that I'm keeping secret, as it's a gift. There's my leather pouch that I set aside that needs to be brought back up to the front burner eventually. I need a new belt that isn't green. I wish I had more progress and exciting things in the works to share, but I also have no regrets about stepping back and not worrying about things for a bit. Hopefully, though, getting these projects written out and shared will add just that much more to the push of motivation that I need right now.

Also, which would you choose? The blue or mustard yellow?


  1. I'd vote for the blue, since I always love the idea of tweaking old clothes to make them better for present needs.

  2. I agree with Anna, though the gold fabric is very pretty. But the blue looks wonderful on you, so reworking it would be a double win!

  3. I vote for blue also. I, too, love revamping my clothes. And it would give me great pleasure seeing you recreate a new fabulous dress from an old fabulous dress. I also vote for golden yellow bands.

  4. Blue is definitely your color. It would be such a period thing to remake the old dress. This is the perfect opportunity to rework it. I love the yellow but I have a feeling that you might need it for something else. I love yellow and blue together so the idea of yellow bands is very appealing.

    I am trying to follow your lead and be more thoughtful about my costuming.I have learned a lot from you, even when you don't feel like you are being productive, by writing out your thought process you are helping others. Thanks for keeping up your blog.

  5. I'd go with the blue as well :) 'cus blue. I'm working on that same dress currently but in Calontir colors. I have a dark purple fabric and using a gold silk thread. I was looking at Malina's Instagram where she posts a lot of her process pictures... it looks like she embroidered strips and placed them on the dress. I wonder if just stitching the pattern on the dress would be just as appropriate? -Maria