Saturday, 23 January 2016

A quilt of future past

For a long time I have dreamt of making a beautiful quilt as a bedspread for my bed. I think it started when I got one of my first books about sewing and half of it was about making quilts. At first I thought it would be simple to make a quilt. It couldn't be much harder than seeing what fabric you have at home, cut them up and make a quilt. Right? Then I started to understand that you need a lot of fabric to make a quilt, and if you want to make a full bedspread, well that's going to be a lot of squares to measure and cut.  Also it felt wrong to buy fabric in order to just cut it up for a quilt, when to me a quilt is something you make to reuse or at least repurpose old fabric. Then of course it would involve a lot of thinking about what colours and patterns to combine into the quilt. The laziness in me made it clear that I would probably never make a quilt.

Then last spring I came up with an idea. What if I cut out a piece of fabric from every sewing project I make and save them to make a quilt one day. This would mean that I wouldn't be buying fabric just for the quilt. I wouldn't have to plan the colours and patterns in advance, it would simply be a matter of what I end up with. I am also curious if I have a preference to work with certain colours and if there will be a dominating colour in the quilt.  I also really like the idea that by making a quilt out of scraps from my costume projects it will be a very personal quilt with a special story. Today when I took out the squares that I have made I definitely feel nostalgic about some of them.

These are my squares so far. I try to get two squares out of every fabric, but sometimes more if I really like the fabric, and sometimes I only get one square. I also don't cut squares from linen and cotton that I use for underwear or linings. I still have a long way to go before I can make a big bedspread quilt, but it gives me a bit of satisfaction every time I add a new square to the pile.

As for the size of the squares, it's quite random. I made a square from paper that just fit the first fabric that I cut, and then I use that square as a pattern for all the other pieces. I haven't even measured the size of them.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

16th century gown planning

I have said it in some previous posts, and maybe it's obvious if you read my latest post about 16th century working women, but my main project for the spring is a German renaissance gown. Early 16th century is my absolute favorite era in Swedish history, and there are quite a few interesting women around. One of the most fascinating is Kristina Gyllenstierna. She has quite a lengthy wiki-article, even if it's not particularly good. I'm really hoping that one day a modern historian will write a biography about her, unfortunately most of what's available about her is written pre-1950 and is steeped in nationalism and romanticism. Anyway if I want to make a gown based on what she could have worn that means a gown from the Swedish court, since she was queen in all but name, from around 1520. But what was Swedish court fashion back then?

This is actually the only available image of Kristina Gyllenstierna. It's not a portrait though, since it's on an altar piece that was produced in Antwerp, probably by an artist who had never seen her. Still it gives a good starting point of what was seen as fashionable at the time. And even if there might be differences in the fashion between Antwerp and Stockholm, they wouldn't have put the commisioner of the altar in something that was considered too outlandish. Still most of the gown is hidden under the cape, but at least you can that there is a voluminous skirt, a tight sleeve that goes all the way down to the hand, and to me the neckline looks more rounded than square.

Sweden at this time was dependent on the trade with Lübeck, and culturally integrated with northern Germany. So when lacking in portraits of Swedish women from around 1520 I instead chose to look at fashion from that area. I have put together at pinterest board with inspiration for the project, and here are some of the images

I love the gowns in the portraits of Lucas Cranach, they are after all even called Cranach gowns. This is Katarina of Mecklenburg, and Mecklenburg is a duchy on the Baltic coast, so it's within the area I'm looking for. Still this style is very much associated with the court of Saxony, which is a further bit south and Katarina was born as a duchess of Saxony. The defining parts of a Cranach gown to my eye seem to be the open bodice, with a lacing over a shift and the broad piece of embroidered cloth above the lacing, the "brusttuch", and crazily puffed and slashed sleeves. The sleeves on this gown aren't so crazy though.

This is a portrait of a young girl from Lübeck by Jacob van Utrecht and dated to 1520. Except for the colouration of the gown I liked the simple square neckline, and no lacing or brusttuch.

If I combine these three images I get a one coloured gown with a square neckline, a closed bodice and fairly tight sleeves, still I really want some slashing if I'm going to make German 16th century but I'm thinking just some slashing at the elbow, like the Cranach portrait above.

For the shift I will use the shift from Maria of Habsburg, also dated to 1520, as the main inspiration for the general shape.
I would prefer  to have a shift with a high, smocked collar. When we start getting portraits of women from Sweden and Denmark in the late 1520s and 1530s this seems to have been the favoured shape. Just like with my 18th century shift I run into the practical problem of not having enough fabric. I have a piece of fine linen that I want to use and it's simply not enough to make that kind of shift. I will try and make it as high as possible, and hopefully I can get it up to the neck so it looks like the shift in this portrait of Isabella of Austria, queen of Denmark 1515-1523.

My plan for the spring is to make a shift, an undergown and a gown. If I have time, and a suitable fabric, I would like some kind of headwear. At this stage I'm not going to go for accurate 16th century shoes or hose, that will depend on what opportunities I will have to wear the gown.

So that's the inspiration for my 16th century project. Now since I do know that court gowns aren't the most practical and it can be hard to get any uses for them I am also planning to make a gown that is more fitting a woman from a lower class. I would still use the shift and undergown that I make for this project, but then I would make a gown in wool, which ironically would make it more expensive than what I'm planning for the court gown but that's the nature of being able to use stash instead of having to buy new, high quality materials.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

German working women in the 16th century

Since I have decided to make a German 16th century gown this year I have started my research. One thing that is usually lamented is how hard it is to find pictures of working women, since it's mostly the nobility and allegorical figures that are painted in portraits and paintings.

Costuming might be my hobby, but mining history is what I work with for a living, and at the moment I'm spending most of my workdays preparing a big exhibition about mining in the 16th-to late 18th century. One of the challenges in history is that women are so often neglected, eventhough we know that they have been part of history. Today me and a colleague sat down and went through De Re Metallica by Agricola, with the quest to find as many examples of women as possible, and other things but we definitely kept our eyes open for women. De Re Metallica was published in 1556 and was the book about mining and metallurgy in the 16th and 17th century, basically until the Enlightenment started to look at the subject with more modern scientific eyes. It's filled with wonderfully detailed woodcuts about all kinds of work pertaining to mining and metallurgy. When we started to go through the work properly we fond quite a few women in the woodcuts. Interestingly enough I think I found the most women, possibly because I'm simply used to looking for costumes and examples of clothing.

Here follows quite a few working women from the 16th century, and their clothes. All the images are from the Project Gutenberg e-book of De Re Metallica I've then just cropped the images to just show the women.

 On page 268 we see three women working with sorting the ore. The woman to the left seems to be wearing a scoopnecked dress and an apron. The two women in the background seem to have covered their torsos in partlets or gollars. All women have braided hair that is held back by either a hairnet or some kind of band .

On page 289 we see another woman carrying a covered basked on her back. She's holding her hand on what is either the band holding the basked, or the neck guard. I think it's the basket though, since just above it you can see a line which is probably the neckline of the dress. She doesn't seem to be wearing a shift under it, since her cleavage is visible and there is no line indicating the edge of a shift. Her hair is braided and she has quite a nice hat, it probably serves as sun protection.
The same kind of hat, but from the front, can be seen on page 293. This woman is also wearing a low-cut scoop necked dress. Once again a bit of cleavage is hinted at, but she has a collar framing the lower part of her neck, so that would suggest that she's wearing a shift.
This woman sluicing on page 326 is wearing a dress with a square neckline and partlet. She has hiked up her skirt, showing that she wears a petticoat or kirtle under that is just as voluminous. Her hat has a different design from the rest of what's we've seen. Now in the text this picture is supposed to show mining in Lusitania, the old latin name for Portugal, so it's possible that her different hat and hiked up skirt is used to show that she's not German. For example on another woodcut showing male workers they are all wearing checkered pants, which I haven't seen in any of the woodcut showing German mines.

On page 332 there is this woman wasching. She is once again wearing a scoop necked dress, with her sleeves hitched up. You can't see any kind of shift. Her hair seems to have a braid that's wound with fabric and put up at the back of her hair.

The woman sitting down on page 340 wears a gown and a gollar. The line just below the shoulder to me at least indicate a sleeve roll. The deep pleats of the skirt suggest a more voluminous skirt than the other we have seen, possible with exception to the Lusitanian woman. The hair is braided, but put under what to me looks like some kind of a turban. There is no description of what she is doing, but to me it looks like she is controlling the ore. The rest of the picture is about sluicing. Could this be a woman of higher status than the other women we have seen? Maybe the more voluminous skirt and sleeve rolls sets her apart from the other working woman, and might it be that she's trusted to control the work? These last things are just speculation, but it's interesting to think about.

This woman on page 374 doesn't seem to have as much fabric in her skirt, and it's considerably shorter than the previous one. She is also wearing an apron to protecth her clothes.

An even shorter dress can be found on page 553, at first I wasn't even sure that it was a woman. The scoop necked dress and headwear can't be found on any men though.

I really like this other woman from page 553, sitting down for a rest. The tankard is not for her though, the text talks about beer being used to help with dissolving salt. She's barefoot. Interestingly to me it looks like her dress is sleevelss, and she's wearing a shortsleeved shift under it. There is also a line at the middle of her bodice that might indicate an opening/closure there. Her hair is braided and put up high on her head.

My favorite picture of all is also the final woodcut on page 591. The woman is quite in the middle of the woodcut and you can see her carrying a child in her arms. The dress has sleeverolls. She doesn't seem to be working, she could possibly carry something in her other hand. The rest of the picture shows a man sitting at a table in the direction she's heading to. Is it a wife coming with food or something to her husband?

Nonetheless this picture really shows that women, and children, were a natural part of even what's considered very traditional male working places. Sure most of the women that are seen are seen doing very simple things, mostly washing and carrying stuff, but they were there. They didn't just sit at home while their men were working. In poorer households it was necessary that all worked, a non-working wife was a luxury that no miner could afford.

So there you have it, examples of working women, and yes I am thinking about maybe recreating one of the woodcuts, we'll see.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

HSM2016 Challenge 1: Procrastination

The first challenge of the year is done. For this challenge I chose to do an 18th century shift/chemise. I have two shifts that I've used since I started to do historical costuming, one in linen and one in cotton. Since they were among the first things I did, and since they are supposed to be worn so that nobody can see them I never really cared what they looked like. Instead of hemming I just zigzagged the edges and the neckline was decided by a drawstring. Now the drawstring has its advantages, since that has made it possible for me to wear them with a wide variety of clothes, both Star Wars and historical, but it didn't look too good.

Some years ago I bought some linen with the plan to make a new shift, but shifts are boring, and the ones I had were decent enough and functional. I used the linen for other things, not the least the caps I did for HSM2015.

When the first challenge turned out to be procrastination I decided that I had procrastinated enough and it was time to finally make a new shift. Now I had used some of the fabric, but I managed to square off the uneven edges and I had a piece that was 110x190 cm. The problem was the length, so instead of the shift reaching almost to the knees I had to settle with one that just go the thighs. Still it would be long enough to serve as protection under the stays, so I figured it would be ok to make a short shift.

Since the pattern is a combination of squares I didn't use an exact pattern but I was inspired by the shift in Costume Close-up and the instructions from La Couturière Parisienne and Sharon Ann Burnston. The latter was especially used for reading up on getting a good neckline that didn't let the shift slide off the shoulders. One mistake I made, since I didn't use a pattern, was to make the underarm gussets too big so the shift is a bit bulky where the sleeves meet the main body.

Since this was still supposed to be a quick project I planned to sew it on machine. But since it was still holidays and I had enough time on my hands to sit in front of the TV I switched plans and decided to do it fully by hand, I even felled all the seams.

I wore it the first time for the winter photoshoot, but I hadn't hemmed it or finished the sleeve cuffs properly then.

It fit well enough at the neckline, but the bulk under the armpits made it a bit difficult to get the pierrot jacket on, since those sleeves are really tight.

I then procrastinated a bit before finally finishing the hem and cuffs as well.

What the item is: A shift

The Challenge: Procrastination

Materials: 190x110 cm linen

Pattern: Mostly the shift from Costume Close-up

Year: Late 18th century

Notions: Waxed linen thread

How historically accurate is it? I think the linen isn't quite fine enough to have been used for a fine shift, but maybe a simple one. Still somewhere around 90%.

Hours to complete: 12

First worn: for a photoshoot January 4

Total cost: It was all from my stash, and I bought so long ago that I can't remember the price of the fabric.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Planning ahead for 2016

So with all the looking back on 2015 posts done it's time to lock ahead to 2016 and what I'm planning to do.

The main costume event that I'm planning for, and might have a deadline for, is Star Wars Celebration in London in July. For that I would like to have an easy to pack and comfortable costume and my goal is to have finished an X-wing pilot costume until then. I picked up a helmet and chestbox in Anaheim last year so I have started to get stuff together for the costume. Most of the costume will be bought, I guess that's why I don't really feel a lot of inspiration, it feels so simple just being able to order things and then wait for delivery. Still the shopping list for the costume is fairly long, so I need to spread out the expenses over a few months.

Other Star Wars costumes I might do...I need to decide if I want to make a proper General Leia from TFA, or if I want to make the blue dress from TFA. This might have to do be decided by trooping opportunities ahead. There is also the Star Wars Rogue One film coming in December, but so far I haven't seen any photos that make me want to make a costume from it, but you never know.

For historical costumes I'm starting to feel that I'm getting the 18th century wardrobe that I want to have. I am still missing a pair of pocket hoops and a pet en l'air or robe à la francaise. I have the fabric for the pet already, and if I first make a pet I can then use my experiences to make a francaise later on.

Over the last few months I've started to seriously think about making an early 16th century German gown. I've loved this fashion for a long time, and I think the velvet that I dyed, but wasn't happy with the colour, for the gold handmaiden would be perfect for a Cranach gown. I need to see how much velvet there is, but I'm hoping it will be enough for a gown. There is a big medieval fair at the end of May in Leksand, so I'm thinking that would be a good deadline for that project.

And then there are the Historical Sew Monthly challenges for 2016,
  • January –  Procrastination  finish a garment you have been putting off finishing (a UFO or PHD) or make something you have been avoiding starting
I have some linen in the stash, and I really need at least one new 18th century chemise, but I've put off doing it since, well the ones I have make do, and it's boring to make chemises. So a chemise it is.
  • February – Tucks & Pleating – make a garment that features tucks and pleating for the shape or decoration
To start the 16th century gown I need a shift, and I want to make a smocked shift, meaning that I need to learn how to smock.
  • March – Protection – make something to protect yourself (from weather or injury) or your clothes (from soiling etc.)
No idea, but maybe an apron or a pair of mittens?
  • April – Gender-Bender – make an item for the opposite gender, or make an item with elements inspired by the fashions of the opposite gender
No idea here either.
  • May – Holes – sometimes the spaces between stuff are what makes a garment special.  Make a garment that is about holes, whether it is lace, slashing, eyelets, etc.
I want to finish the 16th century gown here, and go all in for slashed sleeves.
  • June – Travel – make a garment for travelling, or inspired by travel.
I'm thinking that maybe learn how to make a pair of gloves would fit with this.
  • July – Monochrome – make a garment in black, white, or any shade of grey in between.
No idea.
  • August – Pattern – make something in pattern, the bolder and wilder the better.
The fabric that I have for the pet en l'air is patterned, but it's not exactly bold or wild.
  • September – Historicism – Make a historical garment that was itself inspired by the fashions of another historical period.
No set plans.
  • October – Heroes – Make a garment inspired by your historical hero, or your historical costuming hero.
I would like to do a headwear for the 16th century gown for this, since I'm drawing inspiration for the whole project from an actual historical person.
  • November – Red – Make something in any shade of red.
Red is not my colour, I don't have anything red in my stash so I will need to buy some fabric for it.
  • December – Special Occasion: make something for a special event or a specific occasion, or that would have been worn to special event of specific occasion historically.
No idea

So by seeing this list it's pretty clear that I don't have much inspiration for the challenges this year, it was easier last year. I'm very happy that I did the full set of challenges in 2015, but I think in 2016 I won't stress about meeting them. I'm hoping to do as many as possible though, and I like how I've used the challenges to create smaller things and accessories and finishing touches. Those don't need to be planned far in advance either.

So to summarize here is my planned costume list of the year:

Star Wars
X-wing pilot
TFA Leia

16th century
16th century gown including underwear

18th century
pocket hoops
pet en l'air

Sunday, 3 January 2016

18th century winter photos

It's  time  for a last look back at  2015. I decided  to dress  up in as many of the things I  have made the last year. I ended up wearing 7 of the HSM challenges for example.

Let's  go from the inside out.

I'm  wearing my desert rose stays, my new small bumpad, my Kensington shoes and stockings from American Duchess and my sewing secrets pocket.

Then it's the brown pierrot jacket, the new pink petticoat and Demelza cap, worn with an old apron and neckerchief.

Finally since it's winter I added the blueberry muffins and cape to be able to go outside.

Friday, 1 January 2016

HSM 2015 recap

Even if we are into 2016 I'm not quite done with the 2015 recap yet. Now it's time to go through what I did for the HSM challenges.

I'm proud to say that I finished all the challenges, and in time as well. I even made one extra thing, so I did 13 HSM challenges. Going through my projects I can see that I haven't done much of really big projects that have fitted with the HSM challenges, but HSM is important for me to take the time and do those little extra things and accessories that are needed to complete a wardrobe, after all a costume is more than a bodice and petticoat. Not making a lot of big things also meant that I didn't stress too much about them, since I was sure that I could come up with something to do. HSM is also good for my stash, since I've mostly worked with stash material, and it's always good to make room for new fabrics. Right...

Going into 2015 here were my plans for the HSM:

#1 foundations - make a pair of 18th century stays
#2 blue - a muff
#3 stashbusting - ?
#4 war and peace - ?
#5 practicality - a petticoat or a shortgown
#6 out of your comfort zone - draping and making a pet en l'air
#7 accessorize - a fichu
#8 heirlooms and heritage - refit my folk costume
#9 brown - a pierrot jacket
#10 sewing secrets - ?
#11 silver screen - finish Queen Elsa
#12 re-do - ?

And here is what I did:

January - #1 foundations - The Desert Rose Stays


Even if they ended up a bit big in the bust, I still love the silhouette I get from them and will rely on them as my main 18th century stays.

February - #2 blue - the Blueberry muff

March - #3 stashbusting - The handmaiden cloche hat
I love this cloche. This is my most worn piece that I've made this year, and I've used it for everyday wear throughout the autumn.

April - #4 war and peace - the three quarter tricorne
If hat nr1 (the cloche) was my favorite project, this is probably my least favorite project. I was never happy with the result, and I'm definitely wondering if I'm ever going to wear it. Maybe it's salvageable with some trim.

May - #5 practicality - the Edwardian corset cover and shirtwaist
The hat I'm wearing was my third hat of the year, if you keep count.

June - #6 out of your comfort zone - a late 18th century bodice pattern
I didn't get time, or energy, to make the pet en l'air that I had planned, but I did take my time to draft a bodice pattern from scratch, so that I had something I could use for future 18th century garments.

July - #7 accessorize - The Daisy hat
I didn't make a fichu as planned instead for hat nr 4 of the year I remade the Edwardian hat into a big, really big, maybe too big, 18th century silk covered bergére hat.

August - #8 heirlooms and heritage - refitting my folk costume
I'm so happy that I now have a folk costume that actually fits, so I don't feel like a big cow wearing it.

September - #9 brown - the pierrot jacket
If the cloche hat was my most worn thing, this is probably my favorite of the year, even if I haven't worn it yet. I'm so happy with how it looks and fits.

October - #10 sewing secrets - the Dalecarlian pocket

I took the chance to hide some dye stains, hide a simpler and coarser fabric and embellish the pocket with some Dalecarlian runes, that most people today can't read. A lot of secrets in such a small little pocket.

November - #11 silver screen - the Demelza cap
Hat, or rather headwear, nr 5 was a small little practical but still stylish cap. Taking inspiration from the fact that you hardly ever see proper headwear in historical films or TV productions.

December - #12 re-do - a cap and the blueberry cape

The cap was headwear nr 5 and a well needed addition, so I can cover my hair instead of making a big hairdo when dressing in 18th century clothing, and the cap was a fun little project making use of the very last remnants of the cotton velvet that I had used for both the muff and tricorne earlier in the year.

So to summarize my HSM  year was a year of small projects, but I did finish them all. Now it's time to start planning what to do in 2016.