Sunday, 20 July 2014

Raglan Preparations

For my last free weekend before Raglan, I've been terribly productive.

I posted previously about looking into a piece of extant blackwork embroidery, with an aim to using elements of it for a future project. That project reached a milestone this weekend as I completed the embroidery on the cuffs for a tudor style ladies shirt.

The embroidery is completed on two layers of thin cotton lawn, with custom dyed purple and natural coloured silk thread. The vines between the lillies is a silver metallic thread couched into place with a single strand of natural silk. The lillies themselves were outlined with split stitch in the purple silk, with the petals filled in with laid work in purple, with the petal underside done in natural, before both were overlaid with purple thread. The base of each lily was filled in with detached buttonhole stitch, while the buds were done in more laid work. The embroidery pieces are now being sewn into cuffs with a little ruffle and work on the collar has begun, so the project is looking well for its Raglan deadline.

But the weekend is also time for getting out the sewing machine! So in the company of a friend yesterday, I made good use of my time and finished off two new Italian style chemises based on the tutorial on Festive Attyre.  I used this tutorial on my last chemise (now made over two years ago, eep!) but this time, I was successful in getting the neckline finish to lie square. Though now I've gotten that down, I'm already eyeing up the edges and planning all sorts of trim. A row of embroidered suns to go with my heraldry perhaps?

And a wee little project completed on the side, just something to help me wind down in the evenings, I'm now the owner of a sparkly new dice bag! The pattern is the Dragon Egg dice bag from ravelry. Let's see how long this one lasts before it hides on me.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Red Apron

I hadn't settled on what I was going to do for the Under $10 challenge for a while, but with the countdown to Raglan marching away, it made sense to combine my to-do list with the challenge. I had wanted a new apron for some time, because even though there's one or two extant short aprons out there, in every picture I've seen, Italian aprons are worn as full length, and I just couldn't get over the wrongness in my head, so a full length apron was called for.

Aprons were a common accessory for the Italian woman, with very fine linen aprons for ladies such as the narrow, finely embroidered apron worn in the 1534 Portrait of a Young Woman by Parmigianino, and well preserved extant examples still available in museums today, such as these two lace and embroidered examples, from the as seen on the Realm of Venus and the Met museum sites respectively.

That said, while I want some day to have an apron as fine as the example above, a piece so elaborate would never fit come in under $10.  Thankfully, while the plainer aprons may have been worked into rags leaving us with no extant pieces, there's plenty of examples of plainer garments in art and plenty of examples available by Vincenzo Campi, such as The Fruit Seller, 1580, and Kitchen Scene, 1580-1590. 

Now, when I started this, I had planned to use my heavier white linen, but it went hiding and my red linen came to hand instead. Fair enough, as above, there's still plenty of precendent for coloured aprons in Italy. I decided to make a fairly wide apron, like the ones at appear in the pictures above, so I could make a workhorse of it. But it was when I was studying a detail from the kitchen scene above that I noticed something interesting.

The lady with the blue apron, bending over; there's not just one tie for the apron as we see in most extant examples, there two, to ensure the apron is held in place around her hips. I thought it a brilliant idea to stop a stray wind from catching the apron on furniture and pulling it completely out of the way and allowing the dress to be soiled. For someone as routinely clumsy as I, this was a must have!

The pictures of the finished item were kindly taken by milady Sela, but you'll have the excuse the modern clothes under the apron. The apron sits above ankle height, so it'll finish above the hem of most of my kirtles.

You may notice I chose to make up my ties, fingerloop woven linen thread as it happens, in two different colours. As I mentioned the clumsiness, this is to make sure I always tie the pairs of ties together right, and don't end up with a tangled mess at the end of the night. Ok, less likely to end up with a tangled mess. Or I can just make some more. 

The Challenge: HSF #13: Under $10
Fabric: : Red linen
Pattern: None really, just a simple rectangle of fabric with a rolled hem, and the bottom hem cut on the selvage to reduce sewing. 
Year: Anywhere in the 16th century
Notions: Cotton thread for sewing and linen thread for the closures.
How historically accurate is it? 95%.
Hours to complete: I think it was about 2 hours sewing, with another 30-40 minutes for the cord making.
First worn: Just for the pictures, but it'll be getting a lot of wear at the upcoming week long event.
Total cost: The linen cost only €4.50, and I used less than a metre, so that combined with the cotton and linen threads brings in the total at about €6.25 (or $8.45 for the sake of the challenge).

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Bottom's Transformation

I've been falling into bad habits again. The habits in question this time being the brain gremlins telling me that I can't post unfinished work, I must post only completed projects, and my hasn't it been a while since I posted, better get something finished quick!, which of course leads to more stress and less progress.

So here's a piece of progress I'm quite pleased with. As I may have mentioned before, in all too soon a time *gulp*, I will be performing as Nick Bottom (the weaver) in a Raglan production of Midsummer Night's Dream. And performing as Bottom requires a donkey mask! So under the wonderfully supportive eye of my beautiful assistant Lynn, I got started.

I wanted to make my mask with at least a nod to period mask manufacture, but as it turns out though, there's very little information on period mask making out there. Apart from rare "Visard" masks, used as sun protection for ladies of fair skin or the more elaborate Commedia dell'Arte still made with the same leather working principles, so I had to make things up as I went, hoping I was nodding in the right direction.

I started out with some reed which I'd originally bought for an experiment with a pair of stays a few years back, and I bound this together with cotton thread - I would have used linen thread but of course it decided to go walkabout on me again.

The mannequin head was just used for pictures, I sized each piece of reed to my own head before I tied it off, which was just as well as my own head proved to be a wee bit bigger. The first band sits around my head, slightly above my ears and the centre front point rests on my forehead. I added a band going side to side to support the first band in place, then a second, over length band going back to front that would also form the muzzle. A couple of rings rounded out the muzzle, and the basic structure was done.

The basic frame complete, I started to reinforce the joins with twists of papier-mâché. I promise for my next project  of this ilk I'll use a more period glue, but on this occasion I was still using diluted PVA or white glue. Time constraints and such.

Ears attached I began to weave additional strips of reed through the basic frame to build up the shape of the muzzle and head, including some additional paper strips across the ears to give them a mostly covered up look.

It was at this point, unfortunately, that period went right out the window and I had to resort to the hot glue gun to complete the next stage.  I wanted to fill in the mask in a way that kept it lightweight and wouldn't inhibit my voice projection, so I decided to line the frame with some sinamay, a fabric similar to buckram used in millinery, that I had laying around. At this point, one of the ears took on a strange cant from somewhere, but I dunno, it kind of adds to the character of the mask.

 After leaving the mask to for a day and a half, I painted over the outer surfaces with a burnt sienna poster paint. To paint the sinamay, I wanted down the paint and blew across the surface after brushing to ensure the holes wouldn't clog up.

And here she is so far (yes, the character is male, but the mask insists on being referred to as she). The mask still needs a short mane, and the eyes need to be outlined so the other actors have a focal point to interact with; at the moment I can see out just fine. There's a mini rehearsal tomorrow where I'll get to put it through it's paces and make sure it's up to the task, then it has a couple of coats of shellac in its future to seal it up and help make it a little more robust.