Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Knitting for Bumps

The local weather here has not been kind to me of late. I don't generally do well in warm weather or local heatwaves (unless you count basking and dozing, but that's not going to get the sewing done). However, some of my crafting being time dependant, I've still gotten a few things finished recently.

First up is the Blue Jean Baby (blanket) from Ravelry. The pattern isn't currently available, but thankfully I had it saved from a previous version. The pattern calls for colour changes as you go through the rows, but I used an autumn coloured themed ball of King Cole Shine, and I'm delighted with the result.

The second blanket was Breezy Baby Blanket, also on Ravelry, made up with Tivoli and Hayfield DK yarns. I promise you, despite the riot of colour, there is actually a pattern of colour choices in there. Perhaps I should have planned the stripes out a little better, but I do like the randomness. Here's hoping the recipients like it too.

As you may also note, I think I may have discovered the trick to getting Suzie to pose for the camera. Finished knitwear seems to be irresistible to her...

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Partlets & Politics

This was supposed to have been my entry for the HSF #11: Politics of Fashion challenge, but I'm not entirely sure it qualifies. I haven't so much found a Here's my thoughts. 

Initially I thought about making myself a new partlet. It was something I needed for my court gown as well as being an extra accessory in the Peacock Challenge. So I got thinking about it, and well, it's an unusual garment. Unlike the Tudor style of partlet which is a heavier piece which fits over the dress and would warm the shoulders, the Italian partlet is a piece of sheer fabric that seems to draw attention more than it inspires modesty. The Anea Costumes website has a fantastic series of images (scroll down to the partlet entry) that show a simple evolution of the Italian partlet, from simple sheer shawl-like garment worn over the dress, before moving under the dress and being gradually more elaborately embroidered and decorated.In the evolution of this garment, off cited is a decree from Florence in 1464 the generous decolletage of the Italian style of dress be covered, and thanks to this website, I've finally been able to link that reference to Dan Brown's Virtue and Beauty: Renaissance Portraits of Women, 2001.

But here's my thinking on the issue. Italy of the 15th and 16th centuries was a collection of city states, all with a certain amount of independance from the other. Yes, the fashions of the various cities often followed each other closely, but why would a decree passed in Florence directly influence the city-state of Venice? And that got me thinking about sumptuary laws - laws introduced in various parts of the world to try and control the spending and fashion and hence the people. My initial research has found references to some laws, but mostly belonging to Florence or other northern Italian cities. And I just can't let this lie, I need to know more! Despite the fact that I don't speak the language (but I've already have offers of help with that), I've decided to try and follow this up. I may be in for a fools errand, and certainly it's going to take a while but I'm curious to see what I might find.
Oh yes, I did indeed make up the partlet, using some pre-embroidered old-gold coloured organza, with a golden-yellow ribbon whip stitched into place to fasten it. I based the pattern on my previous partlet, but modified so it would leave an open section to line up with the opening of my bodice. Unfortunately the first attempt wasn't quite right (and has also highlighted my need for period, supportive undergarments), but I have plans to make up more, a nice little collection of the pieces, just as soon as I have time...

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

New Bling

When the HSF Art challenge came up, there were plenty of things I wanted to make, but I wanted something I could make quickly. So I decided to treat myself to a new set of bling in the form of a couple of new necklaces. Now, much as I'd love to use real pearls and gemstones, without a real life patron, that's just not going to happen. Both necklaces are also slightly ahead of my period of study, but shush, we can fogive that of such pretty things.

My first neklace drew inspiration from Dürer's Portrait of a Young Venetian Woman, 1505. So I picked up set of glass beads and pearls, and set to making. My first attempt at making the "pearl and amethyst" necklace involved a much more modern bead weaving technique. I was happy with it until I made the matching bracelet for a friend (before she actually steals my shinies) using a more simple stringing technique.... so yes, that one was swiftly restrung and I'm much happier with the result.

If you'll pardon my lack of ability to pose, I'm quite happy with the end result. Bicone beads would have given a better visual result, but that'll have to wait for the next incarnation of the necklace.

The second necklace was inspired by Portrait of a Woman by Bastiano Mainardi, from the second half of the 15th century. Learning from the last experience, I continued with simple stringing, and tried not to worry about the fact that without modern jewellery wire, the beads just plain were not going to stay exactly where I wanted them to. As I made this I was a little worried about the weight; so many glass beads really add up. I used spare glass pearls from the previous project as spacer beads, and to to help make the cross for what I imagined was the focal point of the original necklace.

I love this one so much! It sits so perfectly in place, and I've already been commissioned to make another one in blue.

For both necklaces, I made up a simple wire clasp with gold wire. I decided on this course originally because in all my trawling of museums and their extant 16th century neck pieces, none of them were thoughtful enough to show any pictures of the clasp, detailed or no. However, based on the speculation that if they had hook and eye clasps in 1st and 2nd century(ish) jewellery, and were still using them in the 19th century, I think I'm safe to assume they were at least still in use in 15th and 16th centuries, even if that's not what was used on the original necklaces.

Now, one of the really interesting things I discovered about this project was in the research. I knew that the pearls industry was tightly regulated - in 1502, the production of false pearls in Venice was punishable by the loss of the right hand and a ten year exile, such was the city's reputation for real pearl work. But what surprised me was that coloured stones to imitate gem stones were also in abundance, being produced with glass, foils, or slivers of real gemstones; imitation diamonds were being cut from rock crystal or glass. Perhaps my necklaces weren't so inaccurate after all!

The Challenge: HSF #10: Art
Fabric: : None - glass beads and glass pearls with silk thread and gold wire.
Pattern: None, I devised the string pattern myself from observing the portraits.
Year: Conceivable as 16th century jewellery
Notions: Made my own jewellery clasps
How historically accurate is it? About 75%. The beads are undoubtly not produced with period methods and almost certainly the wrong cut for the period.
Hours to complete: 2-3 hours per necklace.
First worn: Festival of Fools, and I love them so.
Total cost: I haven't used up all of my supplies, but I don't want to work out the cost down to the last bead, so I'm going to put the price of this project at €32.

Jewellery - From Antiquity to the Present, Clare Phillips
A History of Jewllery 1100 - 1870, Joan Evans

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Preparing Fabric for Use

I didn't want to leave it too long without putting up a post, but I've not quite recovered from the weekend yet, so I thought I'd copy across a post I did recently for an upcoming garb workshop. This one is regarding fabric preparation, but I'll post the others here too.

When it comes to preparing your fabric, any time can be soon enough to start. But the question you may be asking yourself is, does my fabric need to be prewashed? Well, that depends. Some hold to a straight "yes, fabric should always be washed", but what about that expensive silk brocade, or metallic trim that can't see water for the sake of protecting it from tarnishing? Here's the approach I take:

Fabric should be washed on the basis of what it's going be to used for. Linens or wools that are destined for day garb that's going to end up seeing work in the kitchens, treking though muddy event sites or all sorts of crafting are going to be the workhorses of your wardrobe. These are going to need washing and lots of it to remove stains, so these fabrics should alsolutely be pre-washed, on as high a heat as possible. These days, when I buy large amounts of linen, the first thing I do when I get them home is prewash them, and then the fabric sits ready until it's needed.

I don't prewash all of my linen though. The linen used to line my brocade skirt with wasn't prewashed as I don't anticipate needing to expose that skirt to water, and similarly, the linen used as a base for my linen carboard was used straight off the bolt, as it were. Those were special examples though. So this is something to consider on a case by case basis.

When it comes to finer fabrics, such as silks and brocades, pre-washing may not be a good idea at all. Some silks stain when exposed to washing, and while water-marked silk was a desired look for some in some areas in the 15th and 16th centuries, chances are your washing machine won't co-operate by giving you a nice even pattern to work with. So again, this is a case by case basis. Silk stays probably won't see water as stays are rarely washed, but if you wanted to use silk for a chemise or shirt or similar items that will definitely have soap in their future, then pre-wash a small sample first to make sure it's safe to wash the entire piece.

All this was nicely summed up by a couple of people who posted on the group to say, you're basically not looking to give the fabric any special treatment; rather you want to treat the fabric as it will be treated during it's lifetime. It may be tempting to hot wash a wool to shrink it as much as it's going to be shrunk, but if the fabric is going to be embroidered, it's not going to see that treatment when worn.

If in doubt, wash a sample. And if you're still in doubt, please feel free to drop me an message to ask.