Monday, May 28, 2012

Bag update

I'm happy with how fast this embroidery is going. I finished off the horse's mane tonight while watching Casino Royale, and then as I was taking this picture, I had a sudden realization: the rider, who is meant to resemble me, looks like Wonder Woman or perhaps Supergirl. I assure you that this is totally unintentional, but I find it equal parts ridiculous and hilarious. Judge for yourself! 

Belt and Bag.

I forgot to show you my new belt, you guys!

The story behind it is this: I've been taking riding lessons, and my instructor believes in a very holistic method that involves not just actual sitting on the horse, but also grooming and stable care, as well as learning to use, store, and maintain tack (saddles, bridles, etc) correctly. Recently she handed me a bridle and set of reins that were dry, stiff, and coated in grimy dust. "Look at this," she said, tutting sadly. "A perfectly good bridle. Can you believe someone let it get this way? Take it home and clean and oil it." So I did.

Part of cleaning your equipment is checking it for wear or damage. I think this is good practice for anything, really, be it riding or sewing or camping, or whatever. So when I noticed during my soaping and oiling that one of the reins had a tear in it near one of the buckles, I showed it to my instructor, asking if it could be repaired.

"Nope," she said. "Throw it out. We'll get you another pair."

I stood there with the rein in my hand, hesitant to throw out what was perfectly good leather except for the one flaw.

"Trash!" she said. "It's not safe to use."

"Maybe I could make a dog collar or something..?" I said.

"Take it home then; it's yours. But I don't want it here."

Free leather! With pretty leather lacing! It's a good thing my lesson was over, or I'd have not been able to listen to instruction because of all the ideas whirling in my head. A new collar for Josie! Or a strap for my hunting horn! Or -- a new belt! Yes!

I gave it another coat of oil and tapped a few brass decorations on to give it a feminine look. Then I used some blue wool I had on hand to make cord, attaching it through holes in the leather's ends with a larks head knot. Tied into tasseled ends, and accented with a little red cord and just a bit of gold thread to make it pop, I think it's a very pretty and period-looking belt.

Dave says "How long til someone catches you in the tack room with a knife?" But he's only kidding. I mean, how many belts does one girl need?

Oh, and here's a picture of the work on my Bayeux-embroidered bag. Coming along very well, though next time I think I'll do the fill first, and the outline afterwards. I think it will look better.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bag it.

You heard me right, folks -- I'm making a bag. A useful pouch to hang from my belt and keep things in.

Oh, Wenny, I hear you say, Bags are so boring. I mean, what's the challenge in folding over a piece of cloth and stitching it to make a pocket?

The challenge is in the details, my friends! And in trying something new! And in putting a bit of yourself into everything you make!
See that dude in the middle on the black horse?
That's the guy I used. I flipped it
to face the other direction so it'd be looking forward when I wore the bag.

Here's what I have planned so far: a design adapted from the Bayeux tapestry featuring a person on a horse holding a falcon.

I changed the hair on the original fellow to a longer style so it would look a bit like me, and I chose a color for the horse that is very close to the color or my own horse, Barney. I don't have a falcon (Dave draws the line at me owning flying predators, apparently) but in a perfect world I would have a falcon, and his name would be Argus, so I wanted him in featured on the bag, too.

I outlined the figures in a simple stem stitch to get an idea of how the colors would look and I was very pleased, so now I'm going ahead and filling them in using the Bayeux stitch. I have never done this before, so I'm excited and nervous to see how it will turn out. Because it's a new technique for me, I'm taking my time, so don't expect to see the finished work for a while.

I'm using DMC floss, 3/6 strands to outline and fill. My background cloth is 28-count linen in a pale golden color. In this picture, I have done the major outlines and started the laid work on Barney's rump. Some sources say to outline first, some say to line it after the laid work is done. I can see benefits to both. I decided to stitch the inside details (saddle outline, face, etc) after filling the main parts. I think that will look neater. True to the Bayeux style, the offside legs of the horse are a different color, to show depth. They'll be done in a dark grey.

This is what it looks like when I create. 'Cause I'm an artist.
A blue and white border will complete the front of the bag, and then I'll sew it together with a blue linen lining. I have some leather I want to use so the bag can be strapped securely to my belt. I hate having a bag hanging by its strings, jostling and banging around while I walk.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wenny Longstockings!

I finally got around to making myself a pair of stockings.  If you look back a couple of months, you'll see my first attempt at making "hosen" for myself: just look for the bright green leg with the hot pink ribbon for a garter.   The initial try-on of that green sock was disappointing, and I set the project aside, deciding to come back to it at a later time with a fresh mind.

Consider this a teaser. I'll take some pics this afternoon and you can see how I did!

Super busy! I'm prolonging the tease and will get proper pics up tonight, for sure. Until then, here's a quick shot of the left sock.

Update, part 2!

Behold! I have made socks (and cute little ribbon garters to hold them up). The linen is nice and light for summertime wear but the fabric doesn't stretch in the same way wool does, so there's a little necessary looseness around the ankle to allow me to get my foot in. These are cut on the bias, so they hit all the curves and make my legs look absolutely dishy. Hey there, fellas!

The important thing to keep in mind when you're making stockings is this: a fat seam allowance. You want nice wide seams, because a skinny seam will be like a hard ridge under your foot. A wider seam is much more comfortable.

My seams are about half an inch across (that's about 1.3 cm to you metric folks!) so when I walk on them, I don't even notice. If you're hit with a sudden desire to make your own stockings, you should check out the pics on Racaire's website. Freshen your coffee now; you'll be there a while looking at all her beautiful things!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Action shot!

Bright sunlight in one's eyes does make one squint rather unattractively, doesn't it. And yet my husband assures me I'm lovely and takes a picture. He's the best!

It was almost 80 degrees this afternoon (that's 26 to you celsius folks) so linen was the perfect choice, cool and comfortable.

I hemmed the skirt a little short this time, but fortunately I left a wide hem and I can easily let it down another inch or two so it'll be perfect.

After leaving Mayfaire, we stopped by a local coffee shop for some drinks, and an elderly woman at one of the tables complimented my outfit. She told me I looked like I had stepped right out of the 14th century, and I told her that was exactly the look I was going for. I was amazed that she got the correct date like that, and asked her how she knew. "I don't know. You're just... 14th century!" So there's that, folks. 14th century: Nailed it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Just a bit of whinging.

Today's post is brought to you by the letter Y. As in "Y can't I find any good sources of 14th century girdles?" 

I've been getting a more solid idea of who my persona is: a dispossessed noblewomen who has lost her home and lands thanks to heavy taxes and farming out by Richard II to support his wars against Irish rebels. While she now lives in a reduced state, she still has a few nice things.

So I have this parti-colored gown that I have made, in keeping with the fashions of noble ladies at the time, and I want to make a belt (that's a "girdle" in medieval-speak) to go with it. My usual leather belt would be perfectly acceptable and serviceable, but sometimes a girl likes to have a touch of fancy, you know? Let's take a look at the interwebz, I say to myself, and see what we can find in the way of an embroidered girdle.

Why do I get the feeling this is not period?
And I'm here to tell you, folks: not much. Here's what happens when you search Google Image Search for anything including the word "medieval" -- you get a bunch of pictures from summertime Ren Faires (as if the Renaissance weren't a completely different time period!), a heaping helping of costume companies selling "authentic" Lord and Lady outfits (In your choice of colors, 100% cotton!), and some Lord of the Ring fan sites to top it off. Sprinkled in between are a few pictures from crafters' blogs with varying levels of attention to period details, and a handful of museum links to postage-stamp sized pictures.

Replace the word "medieval" with "14th Century" and you lose the LotR sites and half of the costume companies. Google helpfully adds an assortment of scantily-clad women draped over motorcycles, for some reason. Also, apparently there is some medieval-oid computer game that sells outfits/accessories for your avatar, so a series of back-achingly over-endowed cartoon girlies in what I call "wench gear" is also in the mix.

I'm sorry, you're probably saying, I stopped reading back when you said "Ren Faire". Have we gotten to the part about you making a belt, yet?

Right. That. Long story short: the only belts I've been able to find are leather ones similar to what I have only with the inclusion of silver bits, or metal chains circling the hips with a long end hanging down. Reputable sources mention embroidered girdles and ones made from woven or braided cord, but I've had no luck finding any examples.

It's increasingly difficult for me to discern what is actual period style, and what has become acceptable because it's pretty and therefore commonly seen. Any help? If you can recommend a website or book, please let me know in the comments!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

So... I get the parti-gown all done except for the bottom hem, right, and I try it on. It fits like a dream, you guys, snug in all the right places and the skirt nice and swishy. There's just one little problem: the lacing gaps and pulls and wrinkles. I guess the two layers of linen -- though strong enough -- just don't have what it takes to maintain a smooth line.

Easy enough to fix. I take some 2mm reed and stitch boning in between the hem edge and the eyelets. It's quick, and probably what would have been done in period to solve the problem. But since the reeds come in a giant roll, they have a little curl to them. I soaked them in water for a bit to ease that, and it helped, but not enough, and now my dress protrudes at the neckline and the waist like two tiny tents. To be fair, I have not tried it on my person. This is just how it looks on Imogene, my dressmaker's dummy. Perhaps when I lace myself in, the reeds will take up their tension as intended and stop fooling around. I hope so. If not, I plan to hit them with my iron on Heavy Steam and see if I can't persuade them to settle down.

I took a bad picture with my old cell phone just so you all could see the dress. This was taken before the boning was added. I have my square-necked white linen smock under it. I need to make another smock with a deeper, rounded neckline.The dress's neck hem looks uneven where it meets in the front, but it's not. That's just the crappy blurry picture.  I get my new phone on Tuesday, you guys, so photo quality around here will improve accordingly. Hooray!

Update: I steam-ironed the dickens out of the reed boning, and it's behaving itself nicely now. Now to get working on a belt!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Something Parti-something Something.

I've run out of "parti-" pun ideas. Now you know how far my creativity goes. But enough of that-- today we talk about sleeves.

If you look back in this blog, you will notice that my experience with sleeves is almost exclusively in regard to tunics. A tunic sleeve is pretty much the easiest thing in the world: a tube. All you really have to do it be sure it's wide enough to get your arm through. If it turns out too long, you fold it up in a cuff. Shorter than you wanted? Well, add a piece of trim, or a band of embroidered cloth or contrasting color. There's no fussing about the size or shape of the armhole (or armscyes, as tailors call them), you just cut out a rectangle, fold it over, and stitch it on.

The fanciest sleeve I've worked was the one for my blue gothic gown, the one with all the buttons. As if the buttons didn't make it challenging enough, I was trying out the Assiette-style construction on that one. There was a lot of fitting and fussing, and I don't recall exactly, but I think I sewed three trial sleeves before getting my pattern draft the way I wanted.

For this parti-colored dress, I chose a simple, short, straight sleeve. I took measurements from the bodice pattern I drafted and added a bit for the front because the armscye came in farther, and adjusted for the seam to be along the back of my arm, rather than underneath, and I made a mock-up and fitted it. Then I made a second trial sleeve and made more adjustments, and then I cut my fabric. On the bias, you guys, to give it a little ease for range of motion. I got fancy!

And it was all wrong. There was a pucker-y lump in the back that wouldn't press out. The seams never seemed to line up; they were always half an inch off -- or more!  I tore the sleeve off and decided that I'd move the seam back underneath the sleeve. It's more period that way anyhow. What was I thinking, to put it on the back? I cut another mock sleeve and stitched it on -- and the fit was still wrong.  Finally I tore out stitching where the fit seemed worst, and fiddled the sleeve this way and that until it was laying correctly and smoothly. I marked the changes and took the sleeve off to make a whole new pattern, and you know what?

It was basically a tube with a quarter-round end. I didn't have to make those silly adjustments for the front of the armscye -- in fact, that was what my biggest mistake had been. And when I cut my new sleeves, I didn't cut them on the bias, either. I cut them on grain, and they were fine.

Lesson learned? Sometimes things aren't nearly as hard as we make them.