Coronation trim

Alright, I’ve only been telling myself (and my teacher) that I was going to write this post since October. No big deal, right? Better late than never! so on to the story of the trim.

 

July: I moved to a new area, and didn’t know anyone. I put my SCA life on hold while I was getting used to my new job and new apartment. I wanted to get more involved with a local group, but didn’t think I could devote the time.

 

August: I was starting to feel burnout from my job already. All I did was work. I wasn’t allowed to see employees outside of work, and since all I did was work my pool for friends and people I could hang out with was minimal so I reached out to Facebook to see where my local group was. Turns out I had two options: go an hour north or an hour south. I already tried the group to the north, so I thought I would venture south to see what they were about. I was more than a little nervous, but when I got there, they welcomed me with open arms. The next week I attended a local craft night, where I met the talented Cateline La Broderesse. I had a small brick stitch project I was working on, and she explained that she did embroidery too. She told me how she was asked to work on the trim for the hems of the (then) prince and princess for their coronation and asked if I was interested in helping. I said sure!

 

September:

My first progress picture is from September third, so I’m assuming that was the first day I started.

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It seemed simple enough; a bunch of circles with a three inch diameter. 90+ inches of it. But circles, how hard could they be? The answer was that they were simple, yet time consuming. My first circle took me roughly two or three hours to do, and I had around twenty more to do. I put aside time from my schedule though to keep up with it, and was making good progress. Within three days I had three circles and one with the (then) princess’s badge.

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I had told myself that if I could do one circle a day I could be done by the beginning of October, which was when it was due. Then life got in the way. My work week increased from 50 hours a week to almost 75 hours a week. Before I knew it, it was the second to last week of September and I only had four and a half circles done. That’s when the embroidery marathon turned into a sprint. Coronation was October 3rd, and I had to be finished a few days prior to be able to mail it out so it could be attached to the garment. I started embroidering like my life depended on it. Whenever I was not doing something, I was embroidering. I had three days off in a row where I visited family in New Hampshire and all I did was work on trim (thank you mom, family, and friends, for dealing with me during this time!). I made progress though. What I was making was starting to look like trim.

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October:

October first came. The day I was supposed to mail it out. I spent the entire day embroidering, hoping I could finish before the post office closed. I wasn’t able to make it. I contacted the person in charge of the wardrobe, and asked if there was any way I could deliver it. Luckily I lived a short distance from the event and my mom drove me up while I added the finishing touches (such as the little “tail” that signified the end of the trim)

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and give it to him the night before the event. All in all I got 52″ done (from what I can remember) which was shy of the 90+ goal by a bit, but he worked some magic and on the day of coronation you would have never been able to tell that the trim was short.

 

I learned a lot from this project. It was the largest embroidery project I attempted so far to date (not including appliqués, which I consider sewing with embroidery as embellishment, as opposed to straight up embroidery) and even though golden circles haunted my dreams for weeks after, I’m glad I did it. I think it came out fantastic, and I would do it all over again if I could. I used a scroll frame for the first time, and loved it. I think I may need to do another project that involves it soon because I liked the portability it provided while being able to hold a lot of material to work on. I felt like I wasn’t stuck to one place like I tend to feel with a hoop or larger projects in general.

I got a good feel for the split stitch because of this project. Before I did this, I was relying on running, double running, and back stitch for a lot of my embroidery. Split was always a little bit of a problem for me because it either didn’t look right (tension issues) or it seemed to take a long time to fill a little area. Because of this project I am now able to whip up an embroidered outline in split stitch like a machine, which I have definitely done and will post about in the future. As for filling in an embroidered piece, I haven’t tried another project that involves being filled in, but I’m sure that when I do it I’ll be speedier and tidier with it.

 

The one major problem I had with this project was time management. I did good by making a plan to finish on time, but making a plan and doing the plan are two totally different things, and I feel that if I had followed my plan I would’ve been in better shape. Another problem I had was gold filament. It’s hard to tell in the pictures, but that yellow has gold filament that ran throughout the entire thing. It reflected light beautifully when it was in place, but getting it into place was a pain in the neck. It knotted, it twisted, it broke, and it did not follow the rules of average thread. I’m just glad that this project was silk on silk and not silk on linen or wool because I feel that trying to pull that filament through those fabrics would’ve been even worse.

 

And as a final note, I felt spoiled while I was working on this project. It was my first time using silk thread on silk fabric. My current project is DMC cotton thread through linen, and I can tell the difference now. The silk glided like a hot knife going through butter, and the DMC feels like trying to use a spoon to slice refrigerated butter. Sure it’s possible, and it may even work, but it is much more difficult and you meet much more resistance. I’m going to have to think of a project that involves silk again in the future!

 

I do not have a good picture of the finished product, but if anyone does have a picture of it attached to the dress that I could use I will gladly post finished project update 🙂

 
 
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I think I’ve done it! A persona is born!

So as most people know, I’ve been part of the SCA since I was about seven or eight. In that time I’ve seen a lot of stunning personas, ranging from Egyptian to Elizabethan. In that time, I thought I would be happy with a 15th century persona. I loved the look of the cotehardies, and how you could dress it up but keep it simple at the same time. However there was something missing. I couldn’t quite place it. I kept bouncing around time periods like I had a time machine. I loved every outfit I made, but in each one there was just that one piece that was missing. I thought for sure I would be timeless (and not in a good way) and began to get used to the idea. That was until I saw it. The perfect balance of what I was looking for in all my clothing.

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Why this do you ask? What happened that made me say “yes this is it!” and jump up and down with glee?

All of these pictures were painted between the years 1504-1508. They all have a similar fit of a cotehardie, but fashion was heading towards a very different route, and that route’s name was Tudor. What I really love about this time is that deep down (and on the surface) I’ve always loved the look of Tudor, but did not have the patience or desire to make so many supportive garments.

With tudor there are the stiffened bodices, the farthingale, the two hours of dressing, and difficulty dressing alone. The pictures above definitely have the characteristics of tudor (the square necklines and large sleeves) but a fit similar to that of a cotehardie. Also around this time the farthingale was not widespread around England, which means that the skirts are so voluminous from the underdress and pleating, not much more.

It can be seen from the roundness of the chest in these pictures as well that stiffening was kept to a minimum, which means my machine doesn’t have to cry every time I try to stick two or three layers of canvas and/or denim like material through it. Another plus? the head coverings. I have very short hair and my under layers are shaved. This is not very medieval looking, so whenever I look at paintings, I try to take hair coverings into account. The fashion of the time for the very early 1500s works well for this, with the combination of long veil, and very little visible hair.

To me though, one of the most important reasons is that it can be simple and easy to wear every day, or it can be dressed up with brocades, furs, luxurious trims, incredible head coverings, and bling as far as the eye can see. I like the variability of it, and for someone like me who likes to make all the things, this is an important thing to factor in. Now that I have narrowed it down, I am starting to plan my first outfit for it, and can’t wait to show it off!

My newest creation!

Every once in a while I will sew for commission. At this point I put my focus on hats, hoods, and caps. I only focus on these items because they have a simple, non-fitted construction that can be decorated on a variety of levels. I don’t take commissions very often though due to my heavy workload. I want my sewing to be relaxing and fun so I pick what I’d like to do. This allows me to provide a quality product that I am proud of, instead of one that feels rushed. That brings me to my latest finished product!

I was reading through the SCA garb for sale page on facebook when I saw someone was looking for a Viking cap. “I can do that!” I told myself. Then I found out she wanted a Jorvik style cap which I had never done before. After looking at a picture of what she was looking for though I knew I could do it. I like a challenge and any opportunity to learn after all!

As a slight disclaimer I made this cap backwards. Usually I do research on what I’m going to make before I make it. At this point I rely on the Internet for my sources, which are usually secondary or tertiary, but some sources are better than none. This time however I went based off the picture I was shown, as well as other pinterest pictures. After the cap was done and I was thinking of making a post about the process, I really wanted to find research to back up what I did in case I wanted to make another one in the future. I had hoped that it would’ve been a simple thing but it turns out I was searching with the wrong terms. Every time I tried to look up “Jorvik cap” I saw caps with rounded edges, not pointed like the one I had made. “Oh no” I thought to myself. “I need to curve that edge to make the cap similar to the ones found at the Jorvik find” and then I saw a picture of an extant cap that had the same shape as the one I made. That cap was found at the Dublin find. While the caps are very similar between the two finds there are some distinct differences. In Jorvik the caps were usually made out of silk. The caps had a curved edge which means it was more fitted to the head. The ones found at the Dublin find however were made out of wool or linen it seems. They also had the point in the back. It is these two differences between the two that make me feel that the cap I made is more of a Dublin style cap than a Jorvik one.

In order to make the cap I cut a rectangle of fabric 9.5” wide by 26.25” long. I then folded the rectangle in half and sewed up one side using my machine. After finishing all the edges I had the basic form.

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I then asked her if she would like it embellished at all, and when she replied with a yes I was so excited! I got to try a new technique that I had never done, but had heard of it being done (I can’t seem to find the documentation on it, but I do know it’s out there, it just needs to be found again!). On the seam in the back I laid a piece of pearl cotton embroidery thread along the entire length, then went over it with green thread in a form of couching.

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This embellishments also strengthens the seam, which isn’t as big a deal on a hat that won’t have much stress at the seams but could come in handy in the future if I were making, say, an apron dress. I chose blue and green because I was shown a picture of the outfit this cap would be worn with and saw a bunch of beautiful blues, and just a hint of green. Plus the colors look so nice against the brown wool I used to make the cap.

On the bottom edge I used a herringbone stitch in the same blue pearl cotton. The herringbone stitch can be traced to the Birka find, so it is definitely within the realm of they could’ve had it.

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I tried doing a double herringbone stitch in the green as well, but decided against it because to my eye it was starting to look busy, and this was more of a casual cap. The only part that made me pause was when it came to the front edge. Do I continue with the herringbone stitch or do a simpler split stitch. Would all the different stitches make this cap look like an embroidery experiment, or would all herringbone look too busy and bulky? Finally I decided on doing a split stitch along the front edge because I felt the herringbone along the front and bottom edge would look too heavy and distract from everything else.

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Plus with the split stitch I could hide (or accentuate, depending how you look at it) the seam with decoration! Unfortunately I could not find any documentation for the split stitch in the Viking finds, but that is after only a quick look and not in depth searching, so it could very well be out there, waiting for me to re-discover it.

Once all the embroidery was done I had to make the cord that would act as the chin tie. In these caps, from what I found, the tie wasn’t attached to the corner of the cap, which hangs at just above the shoulders, but rather at chin level. After trying both ways on my test cap, I have to say that having the ties at the corners left the top part too loose and made it hang funky. With the ties at just below the chin there was a much more fitted look. I measured about 1.25” up from the corner and attached the ties there. Why 1.25? Because it looked right when I was placing the strap at various points. Plus when I tried it on my head mannequin it seemed to work so I wasn’t going to argue with any of that logic. I made the cord by braiding three strands of the pearl cotton together. It made for a very sturdy tie, and as a bonus it matched the rest of the cap perfectly!

This brings us to the final product. A cap that looks great and can be worn casually or as a little bit of a dress up, depending on the mood of the wearer!

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What would I do differently?

I would cut the rectangle a little bit wider so that it hid the face a little bit, but that is my personal preference of deep hoods and not one that everyone else would enjoy. I would do a test of the stitches I decided to use to see how the thread behaves. With this thread I had to use a tapestry needle, which has a rounded blunt edge. However I really needed a sharper needle to pierce through the thread itself, as I was having slight difficulty with actually splitting the thread, so it looks more like a stem stitch in some areas.

Last thoughts:

I really enjoyed making this, and think that this is the cap I will make for my own viking kit. It covers short hair well, covers the ears as well as most of the neck, so will do well for both keeping cool in the hot weather as well as keeping warm in the cold weather, depending on what it is made out of. Finally thank you to the new owner of this wonderful hat for letting me share these photos and also opening my eyes to new options of headwear.

(I will be back later to edit in some research footnotes. I just have to hunt down the ones that I used)

Blackwork Biscornu

I enjoy doing embroidery. It’s something mindless to do while watching TV. It’s also good for me as an in between projects project, something to do when my mind is bored with what I’m working on (which happens too much for my liking). Therefore I am starting a biscornu with a blackwork pattern on it. A biscornu is a pin cushion of sorts made out of two squares. I have not been able to find much medieval documentation for the biscornu but blackwork examples are rampant on artwork of the period, starting with Henry VIII.

I will be using a pattern out of the Ensamplario Atlantio book. There is a pdf download of the entire book that I am linking below.

http://string-or-nothing.com/2011/06/25/ensamplario-atlantio-blackwork-filling-collection-pdfs-for-download/

I chose to use this pattern

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due to the fact that a biscornu needs to have the center element clear and the design radiating towards the corners. Plus it’s mostly straight lines, which is much easier to embroider than curved edges. I think I am going to give this away as a gift when it is done, but since I haven’t made it yet who knows? I may like it too much to do something like that!

Viking: to decorate or not, that is the question

I have decided that this is the year I don’t rush outfits. After a (slight) breakdown at Birka over scrapping a dress at 2am and then waking up just to sew something in an hour so I’d have something to wear, I am going to start a wardrobe for myself so that i’ll always have something that I am proud of and would love to show off. I figure that while it is the SCA mentality that “It’s not a real event unless you are up sewing until 2am” it is not a mentality that suits me. Plus, life is too short to wear clothing you don’t like, right? That brings me to my first outfit of the year. I am planning on making a viking outfit. At Birka last year, I loved what I made. It didn’t take too long, I enjoyed every step of the way, and I got an awesome outfit that still gets compliments when I wear it.

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That is why I decided to make another one. However I am at the deciding point of how historically accurate would I like to get? My other outfit has two bears on it, who I have named Penelope and Winifred. I love those bears but in all of my researching I have come to the conclusion that it is more of an SCA-ism than a historical reality that appliqués such as those actually existed. Is there a way to incorporate the heavy decoration that I enjoy doing with historical accuracy that would spark the curiosity of those who would like to learn more to come up to me and ask questions? Lucky for me there might be!

In the Hedeby find there was a body of a woman whose dress showed two sets of fabric loops behind a set of brooches. The first set belonged to an outer dress, but the second set was a mystery. Some have speculated that the outer dress was really like a wrap dress, the first set belonging to the inner part of the dress and the second set belonging to the outer part. Others think though that the second set belonged to an apron that hung over the outer dress. Some pictures I have seen of possible recreations have shown this apron as a rectangular piece of fabric that is attached at the brooches and hangs in front of an outer dress that is open in the front. From various other finds it could be quite possible that these aprons were decorated using fabric strips and embroidery.

What does this mean though? It’s hard to say what women of the day wore exactly because there are no complete examples found. Grave sites are not kind to fabric, so we may never know, but we can extrapolate from artwork, finds at various archeological sites, and our own creative minds. At this point though there are many options to choose from that are all considered right until a different site tells us otherwise. I’m going to research all the various styles and choose the one that is right for me.

Sources I’ve found that have great information. I am not claiming I am an expert, and these are not the only sources one should use, but they are a good place to start for those who are curious (like me!): 1. http://vk.com/doc-60067110_249917469?dl=699761068edc1fda1a (This is a link to a download of a document. The information is about the various styles that may have existed) 2. http://thorsonandsvava.sccspirit.com/pdf_files/Viking_handout_women.pdf (a good general overview of the various layers and terminology) 3. http://www.tjurslakter.nl/viking%20apron-dress.pdf (shows various patterns for the different style) 4. http://www.cs.vassar.edu/~capriest/qdirtyvk.html (my go-to place to get general knowledge. Started me down the path of more research!)

Hello to those who are reading this!

I have decided to start a blog detailing my costuming work for the SCA. I have been a member of the organization for about 13 years and have decided to get more serious with my research and construction. I’m not going to be focused on one specific time period at the moment, more what strikes my fancy, but that’s how you find out what you like to do right? So stay tuned for sewing hijinks!