abendgules: (knitting)
My first big order from Shetland wool brokers arrived this week, necessitating finding the right post office for picking up oversize packages.

A half-kilo of yarn and half-kilo of unspun stuffing, plus a couple of sample skeins of different 'heritage' yarns don't fit throught he mailslot, no way, no how.

Cue a 'missing Hackney' moment, where our nearest depot was a 5 minute walk; the Hyde depot for NW London is either a treacherous 20 min cycle uphill, or a 5 min bus + 20 min walk, plus n mins standing in line behind people who are waiting anxiously on packages they have to collect before their flights...

The 2ply jumper weight is finer than I thought, but it's spun assuming you're making fair isle sweaters that carry 2 strands at a time, thus doubling the thickness of the sweater.

I'll be using most of it for Elizabethan or Tudor flat fulled hats, following [livejournal.com profile] xrian's pattern, though I may try one in the reverse direction, starting at the brim not the peak. There was a recent weekend session w/ a historic knitter who taught brim-to-peak method, based on MoL collections, and that's Sally Pointer's preference too, and she knits a lot.

These types are fulled, though I'll use the lazy modern method of washing machine and hot dryer rather than recreating the medieval washerwoman with lye-damaged hands, as charming as it sounds.

At the same time I'm browsing for potential yarns for multicolour jumpers that are not all-wool, that are blends that might be more washable. I now have a file on DK, 4ply and sport weight yarns that knit on 3mm needles to 25+ st/inch, that won't break either the planet or the bank.

I'm open to suggestions from knowledgable knitters and fibre folk for favourite yarns for multicolour jumper knitting, either washable or hand-wash only.

I'm fighting the temptation to abandon my current project which is getting dull (1/2 hour per row!) in favour of knitting swatches to test the newly arrived yarn for fulling...must not...must...nottttttt...no more than 2 projects at once, already at maxiumum...m-u-s-t-n-o-t-y-i-e-l-d...
abendgules: (15thc_worker)
Knackered.
Worried about housing.
Don't know what will happen after end of March. See 'housing'.
Our favourite neighbours are moving - catsitting services lost. This neighbourhood is going to the dogs. Gotta move. See 'housing'.

Otherwise, some nice stuff happened in the past couple of weeks:

- 2 weekends ago: Dance workshop w/ Mary Collins: 16th c Italian. Hard work, totally awesome. Loved spending the weekend with HE Paul and Lady Anne.
- Last Friday: Afternoon lectures at MoL with curators about Cheapside Hoard. Very useful, very informative. Changed the way I saw the exhibit, literally. Have loads of notes and will try to post.
- Last Saturday: Taught calligraphy 'from scratch' for the first time, didn't fail completely, noone ran away. Still need to refine the teaching, but everyone successfully made letters. Very satisfying.

Sorely bummed I'm not attending Crown to see Margaret de May on vigil, at start of April. See 'housing'...
abendgules: (home sweet canvas home)
This weekend I discovered that you can leave your hardening soap too long before cutting it into bars. 1-2 days is ideal. 7 days is too long.

So folks getting my 'squire' soap will have charming and rustic soap chunks, rather than bars.

However, the honey soap that didn't harden very well because the trapped moisture enclosed in the molds kept it 'damp' emerged on Sat, and firmed up enough overnight that I could cut it up fairly neatly for further curing in the cupboard.

SO: from this we learn that plastic drink bottles don't make good moulds and trap moisture.

I shall have to ask my friends to eat more Pringles, or other junk food that comes in convenient waxy cardboard tubes, and keep the tubes for me. Any volunteers?

Once Robert is finished patterning armour with Cate, we're away to grocery shop, where I'm hoping to buy lard towards trying lard-based soaps. They're likely accurate for northern European medieval period - Castile soap, made w/ olive oil, was apparently an imported luxury.

Everything I've tried so far has been veg-based, and I'd like to try something animal based.

Lard is cheap, and comes from the grocery store already refined so no rendering required. I want to try it in smaller batches, to experiment with additives I have - pumice for one (can use up at least a couple of spoonsful of my lifetime's supply!), oatmeal for another.

On the successes front: I sorted making 'Galen's cold cream', mostly as described in S Pointer's book about historic beauty. I swapped almond oil for olive, and this time I warmed the oils more, to bring them closer to the temp of the wax, and then poured the oil into the wax, rather than other way round, and mixed them while quite warm, still in the double-boiler (or for me, the mixing container sitting in a pan of hot water).

Previous efforts were hit-and-miss: I got one perfect result, and one lumpy one, and one I had to throw out last year. This year, I got one lumpy-but-useable (not as heated) and two very good ones, with the extra warming of the oil. So now I know: keep oil and wax closer in temp while mixing, and pour into containers before it sets firm. AND: I have the quantities written down.

I now have over a dozen small bottles of medieval-plausible cold cream as gifties.

Today I also made up the paste for 2nd part of making Spanish leather - scented squares of leather that you put in sachets. You soak squares of leather in a paste of oils til dry, then stick them together with the second scented paste. I've folded them up, and squished them between some books. (Instructions say 'press flat til dry': if only we had some heavy books in the house...)

They smell delightful to me, but I'm biased.

Yesterday evening, I pressed and sewed loads of teeny bags in linen for scented sachets, and sewed up some lined bags for decorative purses. I like sewing them entirely by hand, but life is a bit too short, when I also fingerbraid the edges, and make the braided purse strings, and the beaded tassles. Hopefully recipients can overlook the machine-sewn internal seams.
abendgules: (well dang)
Last weekend I invested some time in kitchen chemistry making soap, towards Christmas gifts. It wasn't quite as smooth as working with a confident soapster like [livejournal.com profile] thorngrove last year, but I came away with two batches complete, and still enough materials for another batch.

I'm waffling over buying more supplies - I enjoyed the process, but don't know if I need Yet More Stuff (tm) in the crafts closet. [livejournal.com profile] thorngrove had stocks of excellent superfatting supplies like mango butter and ethical palm oil which could round out a basic batch of soap, where I'm trying to keep to things we can eat (olive, almond, and coconut oil) if I get bored of soaping.

My craft supplies also show my biases towards medieval themes - I don't have any 'modern' oils or scents or colour powders for variety...so everyone is getting plausibly medieval smellies.

I did have fun assembling the 'Spanish leather' scent paste, following Sally Pointer's example, which used generous amounts of the most medieval scents, to rub into squares of leather, which later get stitched into pouches. I hope they don't make any recipients break out in hives.

I'm hoping I can also grind up the last of the medieval scented powders that the splendid Lady Ynes made up, and give them out - they won't keep forever, and better we and others enjoy them.

I've debated donating smellies to the coronet or crown, but I don't want to trigger anyone's allergies - still thinking about it.

My safety tip from the weekend: don't start the project by smashing a mercury thermometer on the linoleum floor.

Not only are you down one useful tool, you then have to look up the instructions on how to clean up mercury without poisoning your household.

Fortunately, I work at a public health agency that has written guidance on this very subject...

The really, really important tip: do not try to vacuum mercury! You'll just end up toxifying your vacuum cleaner, and turning it into a device for making mercury droplets airborne.

Now we have to find out how our local council disposes of small quantities of toxic waste, as per the instructions.
abendgules: (clothing)
It's always charming to have answers to questions, but I'm certain this is the most e-mail I've received in reply to a simple question about sewing.

But it's great - I had no idea so many people used paper patterns.

I tend to think SCA sempstresses and tailors are self-taught, like me, from the T-tunic onward, a la Greyfells. I should remember we've all come from all corners...and Europeans (if not Britons) are far better at teaching their kids crafts and handwork skills in school than in Canada, so lots of people would graduate with 'real' sewing skills.

When I started sewing for SCA, the 'costume' end of the commerical paper pattern collection was for Hallowe'en only. But honestly, these are a long way from the Snow White and Cinderella outfits I remember - the bonnet's a bit odd, but otherwise fine.

Burda 7468 Middle Ages dress and bonnet and Burda 7977 Kirtle

A Simplicity Italian Renaissance gown - not my style, but recogniseable for the era.

Browsing the Burda site, there's a lot more costume options for adults, for every era - lots of 19th c style clothing, gothy steampunky clothing, Gibson Girl stuff. You can still find a wench bodice outfit if you want, but the selection is far better than it once was. There's even 16th c and 19th c corset patterns.

One source I hadn't known before is Margo's patterns, and I may be lashing out on at least one package (found a reseller in the UK who also carries RH).

One correspondent told me her favourite source is the German translation of Medieval Tailor's Assistant. Hopefully I'll get to tell Sarah Thurfeld of her success at the next MEDATS conference.

In the meantime - tomorrow I have another day off (using up leave at odd times, even during the crunch time, otherwise it expires). And I'm going to Weiss Gallery for the Tudor Child launch promotion. I've never been to the gallery, and I've got my copy in hand, so I can quiz the authors about the fabric sources. :-)
abendgules: (brocade)
The Tudor Child, written by Jane Huggett and Ninya Mikhaila, ed Jane Malcolm-Davies, is a delight. My copy arrived this week because I ordered in advance for a small discount. What a treat!

The same careful research, beautiful photos and well chosen examples go into this book as the previous ones, with a quick review of techniques familiar from the Tudor Tailor and the servants' books. It's the same page count and size as the Tudor Tailor - apparently it grew in the writing, from a small book to a sturdy one and took longer to assemble than planned.

Some highlights:
- photos of Ninya in two different high-Elizabethan outfits, non-pregnant and then at 7 months pregnant, to illustrate how existing outfits were modified to accommodate pregnancy (looser lacing, new plackets and stomachers) - she looks just like the portraits of pregnant women.

- photo series illustrating how to swaddle an infant (under 3 months) and the result is exactly as shown in portraits, with the baby looking eerily like a lifesize doll. Beautiful. The discussion of swaddling and of toilet training, is intriguing. Great outline of a 16th c layette set.

- wonderfully thorough study of surviving portraiture and accounts, to support their discussion of what you dressed children in - what was considered the minimum requirements for even the poorest children. They now divide the discussion into lower, middle, and elite class needs. When you dress boys and girls the same, you can only distinguish them in portraits by their accessories - hats, belts, swords, and kerchiefs. For some portraits w/out named sitters, they just describe the figures as 'infant' or 'child', because there's no real telling them apart.

- Great quotes from the Lisle letters, of the 'tween' daughter (around 13) being fostered in Paris, writing to ask for money for 'things that you just don't need when living in England, but you, like, *totally* need if you're living in France'.

- pictures illustrating all the sets of clothes, including Master Paul's love-child! a boy dressed in tweedy breeches, woolly hose, a blue doublet and a flat cap. All he needs is a high-pitched giggle.

- knitting patterns! for hose with garter-stitch heels, a shirt (like the one in MoL, or in the painting of the Madonna knitting in the round), caps and mittens - a different mitten than the one in MoL! I was thrilled to see a different mitten option for knitters. All the items are very fine-gauge. I haven't read the patterns closely yet but am looking forward to doing so, because I have acres of double-knitting yarn to use up.

The patterns and line drawings look familiar from previous books (hose, doublets, gowns, kirtles) but are new - scaled to childrens' bodies and shapes.

The elite clothing patterns includes two of the best known Elizabethan child outfits: Edward Tudor as a boy, and Elizabeth Tudor as a teenager, in their respective finery.

And for those in the costume and filk-fan-con world - Teddy has a credit, as he and Ninya designed the fashion doll on the cover. I saw the doll, in fact, at Teddy and Tom's place, not realising it would be so prominent in the book. And there's a pattern for it.

Overall, the pictures of children in the reconstructions are a delight - a balance between careful sober portraits, imitating the originals, and children laughing and being children. The back cover shows a detail of a beautiful bodice and skirt on a child...who has her thumb in her mouth.

My only reservations - and these are quite small, given how much I like the book:
- the authors cite the 1560 Breugel painting 'children's games' several times - I wish there'd been one, single illustration of the whole painting. There are detail pics of different figures, but I'd love to see the whole.
- I've love a list of suppliers, to find out who provided what materials. The silks, brocades and velvets are just sumptuous, and I don't think I've ever seen the equivalent, so I'd love to know where to find them. Presumeably if you're a Tudor Tailor follower you know a lot of suppliers already, but I almost want cites at the bottom of the picture like in fashion magazines: Silk by Chatelaine silks, linen by Classic Textiles, hair model's own...

If you like clothes, knitting, or children, or some combination of these - it's worth the price of the book to have for yourself.
abendgules: (slope)
My 30 day slaked plaster will actually be 28 day plaster. Don't tell anyone, or they might kick me out of the plaster-slaking guild.

slaked paster xmas

Today's a workday for me, so this is probably the limit of my 30 day challenging today.

abendgules: (slope)

SO: freshly armed with beautifully finely-ground gesso, I tackled my next round of samples.

And I get a new problem.

Mistress Oriane had reminded me of working 'wet into wet' on gesso, rather than waiting for the gesso to dry before adding a new layer. This technique is important in other arts where you want to get a smooth even coating, like silk painting.

So I'm carefully doing the lines on my samples wet into wet, and very carefully keeping the rectangular areas wet with gesso for an even coat. It's a thinner gesso than before, but still workable. We're going swimmingly.

Then I leave it to dry... and come back to what looks like a volcanic surface. Sigh.

The pics are a bit blurry, but I think you can see the bubbles in the rectangles.

When I'd read about bubbles, I thought scribes had meant tiny pinhole bubbles that happen whe you mix something quickly and get air trapped in the mix.

These bubbles are not pinhole bubbles. I think they're from the surface buckling under the gesso layer, as it's drying, and the gesso pushing up while retaining its surface tension (rather than leaking outside the area).

gesso bubbles2

Unfortunately, by the time I reach them, they're dry and brittle. and crack when you touch them. They are not fixable with a fine pin.
gesso bubbles

The lines of gesso are fine - no extended surface area.

I'm sure this is a positive development, somehow.

I no longer have gritty gesso. I now have fine gesso, that doesn't bleed, which is good. It draws nicely in lines, which is also good.

But it needs...something. I'm not certain what. I wonder about re-wetting them, to see if they'll soften and sink.

Because it's not a complete loss, I'm thinking of sanding off the rectangles and recoating these areas.

Has anyone else fixed bubbles like this?  Sanding? rewetting? starting over?

I'm sooooooo glad these are not commissioned scrolls. I'd have packed it in on day 2 if I was under a deadline.

abendgules: (slope)
So on Christmas day, after my entry, I put the TV on Carols from King's and headed to the kitchen to test out my new toys, after re-reading the gesso instructions in The Gilded Page. I'd in fact read them, and started, on Christmas Eve, as the suggestion is that you start the glue base the night before.

Mistress Oriane having (rightly) taken me to task for the lumps and bumps in my previous gesso made me aware that I wasn't grinding enough - and rereading the instructions brought that home too. Hence, the muller, which brings grinding particle fineness to a new level.

Some things I tried:
- Per Oriane's recommendation, I both ground pigments and sugar (individually) in the mortar, then sieved these using cheesecloth. It's useful because you can then grind the bits that remain in the cloth some more.
- I cleaned all my tools like the muller, slab, and burnishers to remove grease from handling. Instructions recommended rubbing alcohol, but I used meths (known as 'the purple stuff in the cupboard' in our house, since I wasn't familiar with it by that name in Canada).
- The instructions recommend mixing the gesso in a bowl or mortar, then dividing it up to mull it, then grind each batch three times. This works out to a lot more grinding than my lightweight grinding and mixing had yielded before.

Using the muller, in a circular or figure-8 fashion the way all the instructions say, is a real pleasure in itself.

Next time I'll make a bigger patch. It's a bit of a letdown to work for an hour and half for a net result of about 2 teaspoons of gesso. But until I get one that works, there's no point in making larger quantities.

Scraping 'rested' gesso for more mulling. Finished batch is on the paper.
gesso xmas


gesso xmas 2

Slab is bijou, rather than useful.

gesso xmas 3

Trying to contain the mess...

gesso xmas 4

Some things I didn't know:

- I can generate a sound worse than nails on a blackboard, by scraping out my marble mortar and pestle with a plastic measuring spoon. Yeeeeech.
- I need a bigger slab for grinding. We have small medium and large marble slabs in our house, the largest being a base for soapstone carving. I'll have to clean up the medium one next time, because keeping all my runny ingredients on the small slab was a PITA.
- I also need some decent rubber or silicon spatulas. Scraping micro-quantities with a spoon gets old fast.
abendgules: (slope)
Found a short article about Ceninni's gesso on the Society of Gilders website. (PDF)

YouTube: I've left out the many examples of people using transfer leaf (US patent leaf) because that's not what's causing me grief.

Charles Douglas - best video I've found so far but very brief

Bethlehem icon school - water gilding an icon, very lovely, handling gold in whole sheets

How (not to) gold leaf - novices errors. Low quality video, Aussie narration.

Free online water gilding course - Lesson 4 is about actually handling the gold

Extensive series on making icons, including gilding and egg tempera - might be of interest. In Greek, w/ English subtitles

Another series, this time in Italian, about gilding wood decorations. The link is for the actual gold handling bit.


abendgules: (slope)
Unfortunately, the newest gesso...still doesn't seem to want to hold gold.
First pic - loose gold, followed by attempt of transfer gold.

When I managed to lift gesso with the transfer page...I gave it a rest.

2nd batch autumn2012 041

This is the bit where I was lifting gesso. Sigh.

2nd batch autumn2012 040

...and I managed to lift the loose gold I'd laid, cause it stuck to the transfer page.
2nd batch autumn2012 042

...so I let it rest today.

I think I still have to work out the best ways to handle loose gold. It's pretty maddening stuff.

Looked on YouTube for guidance, wanting to see how other people handle the gold itself.

It appears that on YouTube, 'gilding' to some people is applied to 1/12th miniatures; picture frames; icons; and motorcycles. Cause no motorcycle is complete without a gilded gastank. Who knew?

If anyone has some favourite links, I'd be glad of them.

ETA: forgot to mention - I did find a good example of burnishing and polishing the gesso before gilding. The person's gesso was clearly far harder than mine, to take a polish like that. He was using transfer gold, and got a far better shine on it than I thought possible.

So that was a good help - gesso has to be dry enough to polish. He also tended to use just one hard 'darth vader' breath to get enough warmth/humidity for the gesso.
abendgules: (scribing)
Second batch of gesso, painted onto more samples. I over-wetted my first button, so painted on a v thin layer, then added a second, then a third button, for additional layers of gesso.

2nd batch autumn2012 039
2nd batch autumn2012 037
2nd batch autumn2012 038

I did sand down the bumpiest bits, and scraped the edges to get them straight.
abendgules: (scribing)
Lady Kerttu has set a challenge to the scribes of Drachenwald, to take on a new skill or hand, and practice it for 30 days.

Her original challenge is on FB, and I am not, so I'm repeating what I've read on Dragonscribes.

My own challenge will be to improve my gilding skills. I've talked about it a lot, and it's time to quit yakkin' and just do it. It's holding back my ability to do the scrolls I want, because I'm continually working around my weak gilding.

SO, plans include:
  • second try at slaking plaster, this time armed with 5L of 'purified' water
  • using said slaked plaster in a gesso recipe recommended by Mistress Oriane (she is, of course, a confirmed gilder, and has tried many gessos, and this one, she says, has never failed her) - near-identical to the one on Mistress Yvianne's pages.
  • making some test pieces, probably bookmarks to go into the regalia
My starting point is a recent scroll (will post when it's presented), and flat gilding I've done over the summer. These pieces are, at this point, the best I can do, and I'm not happy with them.
abendgules: (penwork E)
More of my weekend not in Bath.

In my continuing quest for medieval smellies, I tried making a second batch of moisturiser, with much better results. I was following Ynes' instructions, with help from Sally Pointer's historical beauty book which, on re-reading, is proving better than on first (somewhat disappointed) review. Pointer's recipe is for 'Galen's cold cream' - apparently little has changed since Roman times.

In fact, I now have a firm moisturiser almost identical to Boots' brand cold cream (the Boots version is petroleum-product based).

Homemade version contains:
- bleached beeswax (no, I don't know how it's bleached)
- almond oil
- rose water
- benzoin
- tiny drop of another essential oil whose name escapes me
- pinch of borax (another chemical ingredient no longer stocked routinely by chemists - just try to find it!)

Pointer's instructions of which order to make things helped, as did a hand mixer (we found a 'spare' in the loft recently, which is now my non-food cosmetics blender).

The borax, and the blender, were the two things I didn't use last time, and seem to have brought it from greasy and separated paste to beautifully smooth cream. I'm inordinately pleased with myself.

My next batch will be with low-grade olive oil (pomace), to see the difference. Bangla City, a big grocery store on Brick Lane, is a boon for ingredients; I'd never seen pomace for sale before.

One downside: cleaning warm oil and wax mix off kitchen surfaces is really fiddly.

Between soap, perfumes, and creams, I'm realising just how much we need oils, fats and waxes. It's amazing. I never thought hard about what went into my bathroom before.
abendgules: (15thc_worker)
On Saturday I got together with [livejournal.com profile] thorngrove, to learn the mysteries of the soapmaker.

I've been doing some reading linked to my current putter in medieval cosmetics, and soap falls into this category, albeit as a relatively late addition to the range of cosmetic products - and had mentioned I'd love to have a go. Luckily [livejournal.com profile] thorngrove proved, as always a terrific resource and teacher, as well as a fine hostess.

Soapmaking is essentially home chemistry, complete with goggles, face mask and gloves, to put caustic soda together with your choice of favourite fats, and then the smellies added at the last stage before pouring into moulds. 

With domestic servants on hand (in the form of crock pots, hand-held blender and digital thermometer) to make the fiddly bits easier, the whole process is way simpler than I ever expected, though it requires care and attention. If I had to guess at the temperature of the fats and the soda solution, and then stir the mix by hand for 'til trace', I might not be nearly as keen. Making medieval soap, from soda ash onward, would be just plain hard work.

The key step I learned was [livejournal.com profile] thorngrove's careful matching the temperatures of the two mixes (liquid fats and caustic soda solution).

The fat is slow to heat, but slow to lose its heat too. Adding soda to the water  for an alkali solution results in instant chemical heat - the solution goes from ambient temperature (11 deg C, sitting outside on the doorstep) to over 70 deg in the time the soda takes to dissolve.

But it's quick to lose its heat as well, so the remaining fiddly step was to get the slowly-warming fat and the quickly-cooling soda solution to the same temperature, then quickly mix them and whisk them with the blender.

I'll go back and re-read the instructions I've seen for making soap - but I didn't remember any mention of carefully matching temperatures of the two mixes, to give you the best chance of a smooth mix, and quick 'trace'.

We ended up trying out 4 different recipes for soap (one hot process, three cold process) most of which were left at her home to cure, while I took one batch home on the train...in a Pringles tin - the handy disposable mould! We'd planned five batches, but four proved a full day's work.

My sweetie, wonderfully, came out to the suburbs for the visit, and spent the afternoon ensconced on L's sofa, sipping wine (no visit is complete chez [livejournal.com profile] thorngrove without a bottle of red) and gorging on jewellery books from her excellent specialist library. 

I think we're all resolved to Do This More Often (tm). L has so many excellent tools, toys and materials, and all three of us want to make stuff (jewellery, mostly!); it's just a matter of picking the weekend to commit to it.
abendgules: (brocade)
15th c linen underwear from Lengberg Castle, East Tyrol, Austria

This talk was probably the highlight of the event, where we got to see hot new research, practically fresh out of the ground. Nothing like 500 year old undies to get textile historians excited...

Lots of people have seen the article in BBC history pages about the linen clothes found in this castle, and the article is pretty thorough, so you have the highlights already.

Beatrice's talk started with a timeline of the castle, covering its construction in late 12th century, and its longtime ownership by the archbishops of Saltzburg (not clear, I'm guessing it came with the job).

There was some remodelling done in the late 15th c, when a new storey was added, and the chapel was consecrated in 1485, which implies that the construction was complete - or the work on the new floor (what was previously the roof) was at least finished.

The new ceiling was vaulted, but the floor above it was flat - leaving a sort of triangular 3D space in the corners of the vaulting that was filled with dirt and organic matter, including the clothes. As far as she can tell, these are thrown-away scraps, discarded when they're fully used, and the dry stable conditions in the remaining fill has preserved the linen, but not the wool - the wool was eaten by moths.

First up were 14-16 scraps of shirts, particularly pleated necklines - several examples of different pleating patterns with sewn-down facings. Some were possibly linings of gowns, where the wool gown has been eaten away. Since they are just fragments, all Beatrice can do is speculate on the shape of the rest of the garment, and who wore them. 

She did consider one scrap to be a makeshift bonnet; a rectangle knotted together on one side, as if to fit over someone's head, but the edges were unfinished and torn.

There was a scrap of sprang, sewn to a piece of linen, but there was no clue as to what it was for:  all she could say was the sprang had 48 threads in the warp.

There was a short piece of fingerloop braiding (15cm) that had three different patterns in it visible - as if someone was practicing their techniques, or demonstrating to someone else. 

There are 800-1000 fragments of leather, including 10-15 complete shoes - again, worn through and discarded.

The linens have been carbon-dated, and all the fabrics date to late 15th c, which matches the suggestion that the space in the floor was filled with rubbish during renovations ending in 1485.

As for the undies:

First up was the hipster/bikini shape of a single thickness of linene, an oblong with basically 4 sides, wider at one end than the other, with ties on either side. Beatrice was definitive on calling them men's undies, and there's some contemporary artwork showing men stripping off to bathe (or be baptised), going down to their skimpy underclothes.

There is no equivalent artwork showing ladies' knickers, and in fact she says she could only find a novelty image of a 16th c Venetian courtesan wearing bloomers - a completely different shape from these bikini-cut bottoms.

The centre part, where the bulgy bit would be on a gent, had been patched twice, with linen the same fineness or finer than the original fabric (12-14 threads/cm for originals, 18 threads/cm for 1st patch, 11-12 threads/cm for second). The triple thickness of fabric made the crotch thick and probably not very comfy.

She was pretty critical of some reconstructions available commercially online - double thickness fabric (which would be easier to sew on the machine and not leave obvious machine stitch lines) with very thick side ties - she figured you were better off making your own in an evening rather than pay reenactment-merchant prices. 

They did check for DNA evidence on the fabric, in the hopes of finding out if it had been worn by men or women...but the only DNA that came up was Beatrice's own, from handling the fabric.

On to the bras:

All these bras were in fragments - some more intact than others - so the best that you could say about the first one was that it was made of linen, Z spun, tabby weave, 17-18 threads/cm, with very basic needlelace on the bottom edge (2 rows of scallop shapes, filled out with buttonhole stitches), and fingerloop lace on other edges. This bra had been patched once in the cup.

The lace edge possibly makes the bottom edge stronger, and might keep it from stretching, and keep boobs from sliding down your front.

The one described as a 'longline bra' really does appear to fit down the torso, well below the bustline, and has wide shoulder straps. It no longer has a back piece, but the lacing at the edge suggests that the back would be almost as high as the front.

If you've seen Eleanor de Medici's gown in JA's patterns of fashion, you'll remember her bodice lacing lines were on her back, below her shoulder blades, and angled, rather than straight down at her sides - the back of this longline bra would have laced similarly. The reinforced edge might have had eyes on the lacing edge, which you'd run a lace through, rather than eyelets sewn through the fabric.

The cups in the longline bra were formed from two oval or almond-shaped pieces of linen, seamed vertically rather than horizontally (most seamed bras today are horizontally or diagonally seamed). There wasn't much indication on how they were they attached to the bodice. 

This piece was carbon dated to 1410 at the earliest.

The niftiest piece was a remnant that now looks like a halter top in the photo, because the straps are now tied together. What's left of the bodice is shaped a bit like a tiny bolero jacket - the front edges curve up, and the middle where your cleavage would be is gone.  But originally Beatrice thinks the bottom front edge would again have needlelace edging, and the cleavage space would have been filled with sprang - there are fragments attached to the two remaining fronts, with 120 warp threads. There's also obvious small sprang inserts on the straps (might sit high on front shoulder), and it's not clear if these are decorative or functional (finishing edges) or both. They look like small lace inserts.

Sprang does stretch - it might have allowed a bit of stretch across the bustline, where even cutting linen on the bias would not 'give' enough for comfort. However, all these pieces of sprang are made of linen, not wool or cotton. Spun linen yarn would not stretch much, especially as fine as this. (Beatrice's article has excellent drawings of the sprang patterns.)

Surviving pieces of sprang from medieval Europe aren't hugely common. I know of its use to make hairnets and stretchy cord bags, but I know almost nothing else. It's awesome to find it in a completely new area, for a completely unexpected use.

To support the sprang idea, Beatrice had slides of 15th and 16th c artwork, of the Virgin 'weaving on a narrow loom' - but if you know what a sprang loom looks like, it's more likely sprang than woven narrow wares. She put it side by side with a photo of 1950s European peasants working on sprang, and the resemblance was clear. She also had examples of sprang table linens, something I'd never heard of, from Switzerland, dated to 15th/16th c.

Aside from the archeology, what really rounded out Beatrice's talk was the literature references - citations from German literature (and French) that I'd never heard of before - that describe women making breast-bags in their shirts, to hold sagging breasts, or to flatten breasts that are too big, when the medieval ideal is small, high and perky.

Eustache Deschamps (1346-1406) apparently wrote 'Balade sur les femmes qui troussent leurs tetins' ('Of women who bind up their boobs'). I'm hoping to find out more about him.

She also mentioned Henri de Mondeville (1306-1320 ish), a French doctor writing similar remarks, and a German writer Konrad Stolle (1480)  who moaned about women putting cups into their shirts - 'all indecent!' (unlike the days of his youth when people knew how to behave...) See the BBC article.

Doing literature searches is one area that practical history buffs (like SCA folk) are probably weaker on; some people have formal education in history or languages, but I'd say they were in the minority. We're red-hot on pictures, and will try lots of different ideas ourselves - but reading the poetry and books of the period is heavier going, and not our first option.

Beatrice proved to have an excellent sense of humour; bringing up evidence of medieval bras (400 years earlier than the first US patent), complete with lace (100 years before the best known examples) didn't go down easily with some professional costume geeks. Fortunately she could laugh at the people who assumed she'd gotten her dates wrong, that it was an elaborate hoax, that she didn't know what she was talking about, etc. - at least, could laugh now, especially after the carbon dating data came back confirming all items dated 1390-1485. She said she didn't really like requesting carbon dating, because it would require removing samples - but it's harder to argue with.

In the discussion afterward, Jenny Tiramani commented that these pieces looked home-made. They didn't have the look of professional linen-workers, such as sempstresses, broiderers. They have the feel of something you made for yourself, or for your family, as needed.

Personal musings (not part of the talk)

At the same time, the bras had touches of decorative work that we might call 'feminine', with the patterned sprang and the lace. So even though they're underclothes, and not made by professionals, these were still finished with care.

For me, it's perhaps akin to making your own menstrual pads, which women did routinely until commercial alternatives became common (and recycled-cloth pads have regained popularity for some women who are trying to reduce their contributions to landfill).

Perhaps until recently far more women made their own boob supports, as they needed them, from torso wraps to criss-cross slings (classical world solutions), to fitted 'shirts' with boob bags to stays, depending on social status, time of life, need, etc, and it's just our commercial culture that has specialised down to lingerie. It's also possibly the first time these scraps have survived and been recognised for what they are.

The first question at the lunchtable, amongst us, was, well, who's going to make one? :-)
abendgules: (Default)
Thank you all for feedback on the perfumery and smellies stuff. I've dropped a note to Isis about her sources. Small world - she has a link to frualeydis, who is an active SCA person in Nordmark.

Baldwins definitely seems a good source for some specific items, tied with Pans Pantry.

So I'm compiling a list of items I want, and comparison shopping.

Sourcing civet and musk oils is still proving elusive. Found it in one pagan-ritual supplies shop sold in 2-drachm bottles for ritual use, but it seemed far too cheap to be a good product.

Researches so far:
http://www.baldwins.co.uk/ (no civet, some musk products, lots of other useful items)
http://www.panspantry.co.uk/ (no civet or musk, but many other useful things)
http://www.amphora-retail.com/index.php (musk seems cheap, no civet)
http://www.hermitageoils.com/ (new civet absolute listed, no info about source though; no musk)
http://www.naturallythinking.com/ (no civet or musk) 
http://www.essentially-me.co.uk/extraits_botanical_musk.php?cat=21 (botanical musk fixative for perfume - out of stock)

Ordered and received the book about cosmetics by Sally Pointer (abebooks rocks  as usual). The survey of cosmetics through the ages seems quite good - the Viking, 'Dark Ages', and early medieval is (unsurprisingly) a bit light, lacking examples, particularly compared to the print-era options which is so thick with sources.

My one whine is that the author footnotes things that I'm not interested in, and leaves no references to things I do want to know more about (11th century manuscript of cosmetics citing 'Trotula' is mentioned three times, but is not footnoted! no source! argh).

I'd also hoped for a list of UK sources/shops; no such luck.

Pointer does mention a couple of interesting items though - 'Water of Hungary' may be the earliest alcohol-based scent, for home and person, dated to about 14th c (mainly rosemary scent, with other herbal options), and provides a recipe that looks perfectly do-able.

And the idea of scenting leather (soaking leather scraps in a perfume mix, then sewing it into small bags) is very promising, and worth persuing. I'd love to fence in scented gloves - (almost) anything could improve the smell of my fencing gloves.

Soap-making also looks easier than I thought; requires care because you're handling caustic chemicals, but otherwise perfectly do-able.

So: worth getting the book, but got fewer answers than I hoped.

I've checked with my sweetie, and he's ok with me possibly smelling out the house with this project...presumeably if I come away with more night-cap powder, all is good.

In chasing round the Intawebs, I discovered a forum of people whose hobby is apparently collecting commercial perfume. I thought I had a silly pastime (or bunch of pastimes, really) but wow, this group sounds like a marketer's dream.

ETA: wiki link to Trotula
abendgules: (brocade)
One of my earliest medieval clothing (well really costuming) experiences was with velveteen - I was charmed by the prospect of making a 'push 'n shove' (basically an ahistorical low-cut bodice that would show off my assets), and made it in red velveteen.

I used one layer of fabric, and the pattern was based on a cotehardie pattern that [livejournal.com profile] buttongirl had made for me. I knew nothing of lining, edge finishing options or any other related skills. I stitched light boning casing to the seam allowance (already clipped).

I remember Helly saying, 'what lining are you using?' and me saying, 'lining?...' in a puzzled tone. It's astonishing I emerged with anything wearable.

Anyway: at the time, I shared a cream-coloured flat with Cat: cream walls, cream/grey carpet, cream linoleum, cream everthing. The red flecks of velveteen got everywhere; finally C asked me nicely to run the vacuum  as her cat Mittens looked like she was breaking out in some kind of pox. (I was going to anyway, but I'd hoped to put it off til I was fiinished sewing, and do it just once.)

This experience warned me off velveteen for nearly 15 years, til Anne and I made my big German gown, with mucho velveteeno: skirt, bodice and sleeves are all cotton velveteen (donated by [livejournal.com profile] thorngrove, made beautiful by Anne).

But honestly - I do not remember the acres of velveteen for that gown shedding even a fraction as much as the 1m? 1.5m? I've been working with for the past week. Both the silly hat, and the binding for the gown, are velveteen - leftovers of the German gown, in fact.

In case you're wondering, cutting up offcuts of velveteen into 3cm strips and stitching them together into one mondo binding strip is absolutely the most effective way of spreading velveteen flecks across the greatest area: lounge, kitchen, bedrooms, loo. Harley has velveteen lint in her toes.

This combined with the lint from the beautiful wool is creating industrial-level dustbunnies. These guys are ready to unionise, and are already holding meetings in the stairwell.

I was thinking of Cat, Mittens, and that velveteen bodice a lot this weekend, as I vacuumed velveteen lint for what felt like the n'th time...

The other b****er of working with black velveteen is that you cannot sew it after sundown. Our lighting is fairly good, but diffused, and I can't see what I'm stitching anymore without natural light.

It's similar for scribing - I try not to finish any painting by artificial light alone. I don't know if it's just light levels, or what quality it is about daylight, but I see all the mistakes in daylight that I can't see in indoor lighting.

I've only rarely handled real silk velvet (cotton velveteen is the affordable substitute). I'm suspicious of the 'silk' velvets in the shops, partly because they seem underpriced, partly because they feel so plastic-ey.

I understand that most items sold as silk velvet are either silk fabric and rayon pile, or vice versa (can't remember which way round).

Does anyone know where you find real, honest to goodness silk on silk velvet? I'm mostly just curious - after this project I'm off piled fabrics for another 15 yrs I think! - but I'd love to know what it really handles like, and how it's different from cotton.
abendgules: (womaninmotion)
Again, scrolling through Ed Yong's 'missing links' and he's pointed to a terrific article in the NYT called 'How companies learn your secrets'.

It's about marketing data, how and why we form habits, and how (large) companies are using your purchasing records to guess when you will change your habits and develop new ones - in this case, when you find out you're pregant.

There's also a sizeable discussion about forming, and reforming habits, learned from behavioural psych.

It's sad that most of this research is currently going into figuring out how to make us buy more products we don't need, rather than helping us make more significant decisions - forming healthier habits, challenge our kneejerk reactions that hurt us or others.

It says a lot about 'free will' - that we're not nearly as free as we think we are, and much more governed by internal habits than we care to think.

Anyway - I think the habit-forming discussion would be of interest to [livejournal.com profile] larmer and [livejournal.com profile] kes_zone - two of the most habit-forming people I know. :-)
abendgules: (Default)
...free largesse!
Yesterday we received a package from Fru Johanna aff Hukka -  beaded necklaces, and tokens to mark our drinking cups - kind of like wineglass charms, but they'd pass for rosary beads. It also came with a handwritten note, which was very sweet. What a thoughtful lady. 

Brain is swirling with 14th c ideas of clothing and hairstyles. There's a definite dearth of ladies wearing frilled headdresses and a coronet at the same time...but no shortage of wimples + coronets, happily.

Increasingly, I'm wondering how you cut a gown, with or without sleeves, to get a very flat horizontal neckline, and still have it perch on your shoulders. Many of the early-to-mid 14th c gowns really do look off-the-shoulder entirely, which makes it difficult to provide any internal bust support, unless you use bust binding, and don't use the gown for support at all. Either that, or else the style was limited to lissome yooff only. Which is possible.

Increasingly I'm noticing that the very fitted styles are on carefree dancing youths, rather than dignified rulers. There may be fitted gowns under the full rich gowns, but there's no way to know under all the folds.

While my head is full of largesse ideas and pretty 14th century gowns, my hands have to crack on with a new dress to wear for a coming wedding, several centuries' style later. Planning to haul the fabric, lining and pattern out this evening.

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