Log in

Further Prick & Pounce Tests

I just finished another paper for Your Wardrobe Unlock'd the bulk of which was testing different pounce and fixatives to use with the prick and pounce technique when applied to dark fabrics... and now I'm filled with all sorts of ideas for further tests that ought to be done:

Further Pounces to Test (neither of which were really applicable to dark fabrics):

  • Lacis' blue transfer powder (what is that stuff made of?)

  • Cinnamon

Further Fixatives to Test (most of which weren't applicable to dark fabrics):

  • Clover White Marking Pen (available at Berlin Embroidery)

  • India ink

  • Ink pen

  • Mechanical pencil (not useable with current gray fabric...)

  • Medieval pigments: Lead white/ceruse (lead carbonate)

  • Medieval pigments: Bone white (calcium phosphate)

  • Medieval pigments: Chalk white (calcium carbonate)

  • Medieval pigments: Gypsum (calcium sulfate hydrate)

  • Medieval pigments: Lime white

Other Tests to Do:

  • Test Pounces on Velvet (does the adhesion of the pounce to the fabric change significantly?)

  • Test Pounces on Satin (ditto)

  • Test Fixatives+Embroidery though dry cleaning (do the watercolors blotch? Does the oil and acrylic really not bleed?)

Someday I'll actually finish another embroidery project, not just run tests for them... but I do feel closer to making the cloak for my Maciejowski outfit now that I've done this testing, and I've got the patterns for it all pricked and ready to go! :-) Just need to do the dry cleaning tests and do the further cloak analysis in the manuscript itself (and figure if there are any extant options except half circle cloaks, 'cause I really think that isn't what I'm seeing on the women... the pictures just aren't showing enough fullness...I'm actually starting to hypothesize that there are two styles of cloaks on the women: one that's just a rectangle and one that's shaped somewhat... but it's too early to say, I need more data to back up that assertion.)

Anyway, now that Thanksgiving's done and this paper's done I can get back to talking about 13th century sleeves ;-)
Despite there being a "cutting diagram" of the St. Elizabeth of Thuringia Gown, actually figuring out the pattern for the body of the dress turned out to be much more complicated then I expected, despite it's deceptively simple lines:
1230 ca Cutting Diagram for St Elisabeth of Thuringia Gown
Image from Marc Carlson's website, Some Clothing of the Middle Ages, "The Gown of St. Elizabeth of Thuringia"

First notice that there is no grainline indicated. For the front and back panels it's fairly obvious. But for the side gores, are they cut like modern gores (e.g. triangles where both sides are on the bias) or are they cut in the more fabric efficient way - where one side is on the straight of grain and the other is on the bias, such that when you cut out two, you're actually cutting a rectangle and then cutting the rectangle diagonally to create the gores? To try to address this question, I took a gander through Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns. Of course, this book is about the Greenland garments, and they are mostly 100-200 years younger than the St. Elizabeth of Thuringia Gown... so it's not the most applicable source -- however it is the only survey I know examining a bunch of medieval garments in enough detail to tell me if gores were usually cut with two bias edges or only one. Surprisingly I only found ONE garment with gores cut in the modern way, and that was a center-front and back gore on a child's garment. Every other gore in the book had one side cut on the straight of grain. So that's how I decided to cut my side gores.

The next question, was which side did the straight-of-grain gore-side go on? Should it match the straight-of-grain of the front and/or back pieces so the side seam was bias-to-bias or should they meet at the side so the side-front and side-back seams were straight-to-bias while the side seam was straight-to-straight? Again, going though Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns every tunic/gown with side gores had straight-to-bias on the side-front and side-back seams while the side seam was straight-to-straight.

The third problem to deal with was sizing. The measurements that are given on Marc Carlson's website are for the total garment, not on a piece-by-piece basis, so there's no real way to tell the general proportions for the size of the gores vis-a-vis the size of the front and back pieces - or even how large the front and back pieces are width-wise versus each other. Also, since we don't know the size of the woman wearing the garment, there is no way to guess the ratio of the garment measurements to the wearer's measurements in order to retain the drape and look when sizing it up to a modern body size. I could use the approximate loom width from the original garment, but since I expect as a modern over-weight woman I'm rather larger than the original wearer, doing so would not result in anything like the original drape of the garment on the original body...

So, here's where I had to start getting creative :-)
1) Based on Eva Andersson's page on her circa 1300 cotte (known in the SCA as Fru Aleydis) I wanted the side front seams to fall such that a nursing slit would be possible. Not that this will be applicable for me, but it seems like something that would matter to a medieval woman.

2) For simplicity I decided to assume that the front and back panels were the same width. (This is not true of the tunics in Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns but, many of them they are close, and none of them are exactly straight both front and back which complicates the calculation a lot.)

After fiddling a good bit, I decided that 18" was a good width for the front and back panels, with a 58" length.

3) To keep things simple I decided to make another assumption, that the fabric width I was playing with was actually 18" (there are no examples to substantiate anything like this assumption in Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns ...) However, I had no reasonable way to decide on the width of my gores, so simplicity won the day ;-) I decided that both my side front gores and my side back gores would also be cut from 58" x 18" width rectangles. The tops of the side back gores were then adjusted to shape after the triangles were cut out.

Here is the result:
St Elizabeth of Thuringia (Right) St Elizabeth of Thuringia (Left) St Elizabeth of Thuringia (Back)

I'll post a picture showing the drape of the front soon -- they were all too blurry to post... In case you're wondering regarding the ratio of the size of the garment to my body, my current bust measurement is 37" and hip is 39"
I've slowly been working on 13th century styles -- initially to experiment with different ways to cut the Maciejowski women's dresses (France, circa 1250) since my normal way of cutting a T-tunic (basically what Robin Netherton describes in her Tournaments Illuminated, Issue #141, Winter 2002 article "Where Did the Normans Get Their Sleeves?") looks nothing like the illustrations when they're belted. The folds at the waist are all wrong.

1250 Maciejowski Dresses T-Tunic Belted
Left: circa 1250 FRANCE, Maciejowski Bible, Folio 33v "David setting out to slay Nabal, who has refused him supplies, is met by Nabal's wife Abigail with much food and is appeased".
Right: my standard T-tunic, belted

I started my investigation by scrolling though Marc Carlson's website, Some Clothing of the Middle Ages and found that there are three extant (non-spanish, since Spain is weird ;-) ) women's dresses from roughly the right time period that make sense to experiment with for the Maciejowski dress:
There are also two others that fit into the time-period but I'm not sure are women's garments:So, I'm going to start with the first three, which are very interesting imo. They are cut very similarly: all three have side gores that go all the way up to the armhole, which from my experiments with chemises a couple years ago, noticeably changes the drape of the garment. Plus, the two gowns that still have sleeves (since St. Birgitta's Gown was made into a cloak, it's not clear if it once had sleeves or was a sleeveless overgown originally...) the sleeves aren't T-tunic sleeves -- they have curved armholes and shaped sleeve-heads (St. Birgitta's Gown has the curved armholes too, although in all cases the curve is not quite what a modern armseye looks like). Making the garments an interesting transition between absolute fabric-efficient T-tunic cutting and the body-fitting styles of the 14th century gothic fitted dresses.

Of course the Maciejowski dresses have the further complication of the odd sleeve slit to allow the arm to disengage from the sleeve:

circa 1250 FRANCE Maciejowski Bible, Folio 41v, "David sees Bathsheba bathing"

But I don't want to tackle that in my initial tests of extant patterns, 'cause I mainly want to investigate the drape of the body of the dress, and try to stick fairly closely to the extant pattern... Plus, the fabric I have for my Maciejowski dress is cashmere... not something I want to use in test runs... I do, on the other hand, have a reasonable supply of white linen, and a length of royal blue linen in my stash that is currently un-allocated. Those may not be really appropriate period dress fabrics, but linen makes really useful Pennsic clothing! Plus, white and blue are Cleftlands' colors. So, I'm going to make test garb in the style of the Codex Manesse (German, 1300-1340): three different white linen undergowns using the three cutting patterns from the St. Elizabeth of Thuringia dress, St. Clare of Assisi dress and the St. Birgitta Gown. Plus a blue surcote with embroidered nebuly around the collar as a stand-in for the goldwork in the illumination 'cause I can always use more heraldic garb as baroness! (Someday I will make a proper wool Codex Manesse dress with goldwork... but first, the experiments! ;-) )

Here's an example of the Codex Manesse gown and surcote pairing -- so you see how the surcote will cover the experiments with the gown cutting. I'll adjust both to make them floor length for ease-of-wear at Pennsic.

1300-1340 GERMAN Codex Manesse, 64r Herr Dietmar von Ast (cropped)
1300-1340 GERMAN Codex Manesse, 64r Herr Dietmar von Ast

Altering the Dress Again...

I'm really tired of altering this dress... but when you loose a quarter of your body weight in a year, it's kinda inevitable -- and it's the only one of my gothic fitted dresses that even CAN be altered to my new size, so I suppose I should consider myself lucky... at least I have a dress that fits! (And I know, no one has any sympathy for my plight ;-) )
Anyway, here's the pictures:
1475 English Brugundian 2013 (sm Side) 1475 English Brugundian 2013 (sm Front) 1475 English Brugundian 2013 (sm Back)

The neckline's changed significantly... I like the neckline better from the last alteration I blogged about but I just couldn't achieve that, with the cut that was already there, the new chest size, and the need to be invisible underneath the V-neckline and placket of the overdress (the mockup of that is below). You can compare it to the necklines I was trying for here... it's not a perfect rendition, being just a bit too squared off, but not too bad, given that this is the 4th time I've significantly altered the dress!

1475 English Brugundian 2013 (sm Neckline with Placket)

Soon I'll move onto the brave new world of the overdress! ;-) 


My Mama sent me this poem today that she found here and it's so sweet that I just had to share :-)

by Joyce Ellen
one quarter of a century…
that's how long
I have had the
privilege of...
...mothering this sweet child
he was my first born
it was a new experience
i rocked the job
in the beginning
maybe even
thru the toddler years
once he reached school
i simply repeated
i had observed
i had been taught
and that's when my skills
started not being
so great
i look back now
with tears flowing down
my cheeks
i should have
wrapped my arms
around him more
and simply held him
i should have
just allowed him to be
to share what he wanted
to share
and shut up
i should have worried less
about what others thought
i should have learned that
as a mother
you put your own needs
behind his
i should have accepted
his choices
without criticism
and when i failed at that
i should have learned
to apologize
i should have told him
i love him
every single day
i know this
that's what
i'm yearning for
for me
the child within me
it's not too late
i'm still alive
and thankfully he's still
beside me


I finished something!!

I finally finished the underdress to my 1475 english burgundian! OK, so I finished it enough to wear it to Pennsic in 2011, but then I decided that the back neckline was a mistake, as the sleeves were falling off my shoulder points and I ripped it apart and it's been languishing in pieces in my sewing room ever since. But it's wearable again!! Of course, the back is something of a kludge... and it keeps wrinkling in annoying ways across the torso (next time I will just drape the dress from scratch rather than trying to take shortcuts by starting from a GFD I've already fit and then trying to adjust the fullness and styling :-S)  *sigh*

But here is the proof: Revised Underdress FrontRevised Underdress SideRevised Underdress Back

Sorry, but black does not photograph well... so you can't actually see the wrinkles and kludginess (lucky me ;-) ) ... Happily finishing means means I can move on to the much more interesting world of the overdress! :-D Of course, since I took short cuts with the underdress patterning, I'm left with the question of do I try to replicate the same patterning shortcut for the overdress (since I do not have a pattern of the actual underdress) or do I drape the overdress properly... I think I'm tempted to drape it properly. But that will take longer, and require help. *sigh*grumble* I wanna play NOW! ;-)

Bliauts and Side Lacing

I finally got my hands on a copy of Medieval Art Recent Perspectives. A Memorial Tribute to C.R. Dodwell. ed by Gale R. Owen-Crocker and Timothy Graham -- which contains the article "'Estroit vestu et menu costu': Evidence for the Construction of Twelfth-Century Dress" by Jennifer Harris. She puts together the best argument I've ever seen for side-lacing! It's a total slam dunk: from late 13th century eyelet hole fragments, to references in both 12th century medieval French and Middle High German romances, to tight lacing being attacked in the late 12th century on health grounds. Plus (of course) the references to seeing the chemise and/or skin through the lacing and the image of the "corseted"/laced devil (and no, she doesn't even mention the interpretation of the picture as a corset -- it's just that was how that particular picture was presented to me in my early exposer to it ;-) ).  The only thing she leaves out is the Angers Cathedral sculpture that actually shows side lacing... I would quote the argument for y'all, 'cause it's so beautifully put together -- but it goes on for 2 pages, and given the entire article is only 11 pages long, that seems inappropriate without the authors' permission... but it is FANTASTIC! :-D  *nom nom nom*

Sadly, I do not understand her argument about the construction of the sleeves nearly so well... I'm going to have to re-read and ponder it some more... I think I'm missing some critical background assumptions... :-(

Embroidery & Bliauts

So, I'm in the middle of a very tight deadline regarding painting silk banners for Her Highness for Coronation... So – what does that mean I find myself doing? Fanaticizing about NEW costuming projects I could be doing! (Quite silly I know!) Well, OK, it's not exactly a new idea -- I’m back to fanaticizing about a 12th century bliaut, which is an idea I’ve been fussing with for quite a while.

I’ve actually been doing sample embroidery bits for the project quite diligently for 18 months now! I have 21 different embroidery fibers tested :-D (I showed them off last weekend at Pounce/The Northern Oaken Craftsperson Fair, which was my promise to myself ‘cause I didn’t really do anything costume-related at Pennsic this year. PLUS Your Wardrobe Unlock’d will soon be publishing my article on them :-D). You’d think I’d be closer to actually choosing one to use for the bliaut, wouldn’t you? :-S I keep hoping I’m going to magically find a silk fiber that combines the ease of sewing with a twisted fiber with the vibrant shine of a flat silk, and is the perfect size such that the stitches just fade into the background leaving only the impression of the design. Oh, and that it’s perfectly soft to touch, lightweight on the ground fabric and malleable, lightfast, waterfast and OK to dry clean. I don’t ask for much. ;-) Besides, I’m obsessed and I keep ordering new embroidery floss to play with ;-) In fact, I just bought 4 more brands after talking with Serai… Sadly Eterna is pretty much out of business… but Serai’s description makes it sound like their MiniTwist might actually have been that perfect fiber… so I’m crossing my fingers that http://www.threadexpress.com/ (who btw ships INCREDIBLY slowly, so now I have to wait *whine*) actually still has the 4 colors I want in stock. *concentrated HOPE*

Of course, after doing so many samples already, I REALLY need to face the research issue that’s been a problem since the beginning: that I have not been able to find extant pieces from near the time period (3rd quarter of the 12th century) that are stylistically similar to the trim depicted in the various cathedral sculptures (Saint-Loup de Naud, Chartres, Angers, Notre Dame de Corbeil), much less any such pieces that were used to decorate clothing (preferably secular clothing, as long as I’m dreaming the impossible dream ;-) ) There ARE extant embroidery pieces from near the right time period; but they are figurative embroidery, showing scenes – so not really applicable for the highly geometric trim seen on the sculptures. This lack of evidence could suggest that my hypothesis that the sculptures are depicting embroidery is wrong; but given the general scarcity of evidence, I am hesitant to discard my hypothesis based only on that argument.

I ought to be able to use the extant figurative embroideries to answer some of my research questions, like, “what type of silk thread was used (flat or twisted, and if twisted how tightly twisted)?” except I can’t find any books telling me this info! *grumble!* I’m lucky to get the info that it’s silk thread on a linen ground! I don’t really think that these heavily encrusted altarpieces/etc. can really be considered a good source for the materials used for garments; they’re just the only available extant source. *sigh* Do any of you know if the silk embroidery floss would’ve been twisted or flat? Most of the photos in my embroidery books just aren’t good enough for me to have a reliable sense of the sheen of the silks – so without seeing them in person I really can’t say which of my test samples best replicates the look. I can only say they all look extremely different from each other. I can’t say what look is actually trying to be achieved because photos aren’t reliable and my physical access to early embroidery fragments is limited :-(

On the other hand, it occurred to me yesterday – I am not LIMITED to visual sources to answer my questions. I just vastly PREFUR visual sources. This is because (a) I am a very slow reader, especially of non-fiction (and for me medieval literature counts as non-fiction, ‘cause even when it’s fictional I have the worst time parsing it!) and (b) I have been looking at fashion images for so long that “reading” them is second nature to me. So, I pulled up that go-to source that you’re not supposed to use for proper research (e.g. Wikipedia) and looked up 12th century French literature. OMG – it turns out that there is a HUGE number of works written in French between 1100 and 1250 (taking the 75 years before and after my preferred date of 1175). Just from the works listed on this page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_French_literature there were 62! Even filtering down to just those written (roughly) between 1160 and 1195 we’re still talking 28 works (books/romances/plays/etc).There may be a dearth of visual images – but there is a real plethora of textural ones!! Happily, some of these jillwheezul has already read and made the clothing notes available on the 12thcenturygarb yahoo list (Thank you!!) – but surprisingly, no one’s done that for Chrétien de Troyes works yet or the Lais of Marie de France (both of which I already own :-) – in fact, I actually started highlighting all the textile references in Chrétien de Troyes in highschool (uh… 20 years ago…) I just got distracted and only got through Erec and Enid before moving on to the next bright-‘n-shiny thing :-S

So that’s my new costuming project; Reading medieval romances, and taking notes on the fashion references :-) It’s got to be more interesting then tackling either Courtly Love Undressed or Weaving Narrative: Clothing in Twelfth-Century French Romance both of which keep defeating me every time I try to read ‘em. Not that I expect to find the answers to what sort of silk thread was used in the medieval romances; but you never know what answers are lurking if you don't look! :-)

Baronial News!!

All the frantic sewing I've been doing (and not posting about - 'cause, ya know, I've been like sewing) actually has a real oh-my-gosh-totally-soon deadline -- TRM choose Calum and I to succeed Milesent and Edward as the next Baron and Baroness of Cleftlands!


We step up on April 14th (eek!). I will be frantically busy, just as soon as I get home from Italy... (yes, I know, you all hate me and I totally deserve it ;-) )  So I suspect I won't catch up on all the grande assiette posts that I owe y'all until after that point -- but rest assured, I have been taking "in progress" photos, and I will be posting... just not in anything approaching "real time" :-)

Elizabethan Cinnamon Cane (no, really!)

I was browsing though the Fashioning the Early Modern website (fascinating stuff, btw) and ran into the 1540-1560 Cinnamon Cane:


And it occurred to me that scents (i.e. olfactory smells) are something that fantasy authors always leave out of their descriptions of conspicuous consumption in pseudo-medieval and pseudo-renaissance and even pseudo-rococo aristocratic cultures. Wouldn’t it be interesting if they included it? What a rich fantasy world that would be!

Just a thought. The idea of strutting around with a gigantic cinnamon stick has tickled my fancy. What if magic had smells and aristocrats carried pomanders to hide what they were doing and/or to baffle opponents? There ought to be a story there…*scheme*