Sunday, July 23, 2017

On Break

Just a quick note that I'll be taking a break from the blog for the next several weeks. I wasn't able to swing going to Pennsic War this year, but I hope all of you headed there have a fun and safe time. I'll be back to my regular posting schedule in late August.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

In Progress: Oatmeal Wool Hose

This project started when I pulled my in-progress wool sleeping tunic out, and decided that I didn't care for it. As the unfinished tunic sat around over the next month or so, I considered other uses for it. One evening, while talking to a friend about wish list items, I realized that I hadn't made wool hose in a very long time. I normally wear knitted wool or cotton socks. I like them, they are comfortable, and since I always had a problem with garters staying in place (until recently), the fact that they mostly stay where I need them to is a big bonus. They aren't, obviously, correct for an early 15th century townswoman. It didn't take much to convince me that the wool tunic should be recycled as hose.

When I finally got around to starting this project yesterday, I was looking for the easiest option to get finished hose quickly. I also wanted to focus more on the sewing than the patterning. I remembered that I'd pinned a quick hose tutorial from Maria at In deme jare Cristi some time ago, so I pulled that up and figured I'd give it a try. I won't belabor her method here- you should check out her post for that- but it took a little trial and error to pin myself in and make adjustments for the fact that my legs are not at all symmetrical.

Eventually, I ended up with a nice-fitting sock made of two pieces. The pattern is reversible to get me the right and left hose (one side of the pattern is the right, the other side is the left.)

With that figured out, I laid it out on the wool... and discovered that there wasn't enough to get the hose laid out on the bias. After a moment, I started to pull on the wool to see how springy it was in all directions. While the bias was definitely very elastic, pulling across the grain also revealed good stretch. I decided to go for it, and laid the pattern on the straight grain. I want to stress that this is only because the wool I'm using can stretch that way. Period hose, for the most part, were cut on the bias.

The brown pattern did not have seam allowance, so I eyeballed that as I cut the pieces out. I went with about a 1/4". The wool here is two layers (the front and back of the original tunic.) I probably could have ironed it first, according to that picture.

This project was an excuse to look at and recreate the technical sewing methods used on the hose in the London finds. I'm using white linen thread that I run through beeswax as I go.

On pages 155-56 of The Museum of London's Textiles and Clothing by Elizabeth Crowfoot, there is information about the seams and seam finishing used on the hose pieces. It's interesting that the hose had their own set of standard seam types.

The first is the way the back seam was constructed. First, the pieces were joined together using running stitch, or more likely, back stitch. Then the seam allowances were laid down on each side, and tacked into place with a running stitch worked on the outside. This is a common seam technique (I call it the "clean finish" here), but Crowfoot points out that only the hose seemed to use this seam finishing style. Which is interesting, since it's not a technically strong seam, and especially where the foot presses through the ankle as the hose are put on, I would think that a strong seam would be preferred. Tight, sturdy back stitching, however, probably really does do the trick well enough.

In the finds, several of the seams on the foot pieces were constructed with an overlapped technique, which also appears to be special (though perhaps not unique) to hose. In this seam, the two sides of the seam are laid one on top of the other. A running stitch tacks them together and secure the back side. Then a hemstitch is used on the other side to tack the other edge down on the outside of the hose. This only works with cloth that does not fray, such as the typical fulled wool used for hose. For my hose, I will use this technique on the joining seam that goes over the foot. On a future pair, I'll think through the process a bit more to be able to do the overlapping seam on the seams under the foot. For now, I'm fine with the seam treatment on the leg seam continuing all the way down to the toes.

To mark the left and right pieces on this spongy wool, and to make sure I knew which side of the cloth was the outside, I grabbed two different color threads and stitched them on each piece. Then made sure to write down which color belonged to which leg.

For the overlapping seam over the to of the foot, I carefully aligned the two pieces, pinning them into place as I went. When I do this seam type again, I think it would be helpful to baste a line on each piece where the seam should be to more easily line them up. The foot section in on the top, so the bottom edge of the leg section is pointed toward the toes on the underside. If that makes sense.

I used a tight running stitch, worked on the topside to secure the two pieces together. I could feel the edge of the leg piece on the bottom, so it was actually fairly easy to get the stitches to run just along that. I kept the stitches small and tight. Crowfoot says stitches were about 2-3mm average, but I felt even the 2mm was more visible than I'd prefer, so my stitches are more like 1-2mm.

After doing the running stitch all the way across, I realized that gave me a double-wide seam allowance at the top. I probably could have skipped cutting any seam allowance on one of the pieces, but it was just as easy to trim this in half.

Using a hemstitch, I tacked that raw edge down. This took a little more time, and the stitches were placed really close together to really capture that edge. The wool doesn't fray, but it isn't heavily fulled, so the cut edge is a bit delicate. Above is the finished seam from the outside (visible side). The more visible hem stitching is the upper part of the seam on the foot.

Here's the underside. The running stitch runs just inside the edge. There's so little raw edge left hanging that it's basically not there. I'm happy with the result, and I can see the value in a seam like this. It's well-contained, was easy to stitch, and the resulting seam has no bulk.

The next thing is to stitch the long underfoot and leg seam. I started that this morning. I'm using back stitch. While Crowfoot says running stitch may have also been used, she seemed to lean toward back stitch being the more likely choice. I also don't use back stitch very often (I maybe used it to attached some sleeves once), so in the spirit of doing things a bit differently, I think back stitch is the right way to go.

Looking ahead and the end, I'm considering the options for finishing the top hem. I cut it to just be a single fold hem, but laying in bed last night, I visualized possibly using some off-white wool yarn I have to stitch that hem down with a stem stitch, just for a subtle decorative touch. It will be up by my knee, above my garter, so if anyone happens to catch a glimpse that high up on my leg, they'll get a glimpse of something a little special. I mean besides my knee. 

Of course the real end result of all this is to get it stitched together and try it on to be sure the wool really does stretch enough for me. Let's keep our fingers crossed on that one.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Planning Your Garb Projects

I've been feeling lately that when it comes to making garments, I tend to go a bit on autopilot. I have a method that works that I'm fairly adept at, and while there's nothing wrong with that (practice makes perfect, as they say), it can get stale. It can also make it harder to discover better methods. Even a rut that's working well is still a rut. This has me thinking about the overall processes we use to go from not having a garment to having one. In recent years, I've seen the value in planning the high-level vision of my wardrobe, so it makes sense that there should be a second layer of planning below that- the planning involved within any given clothing project.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Women's Dress Colors in the 1415 "Comedies of Terence"

You may or may not recall my exploration back in December of 2015 into the prominent colors used on women's clothing in the 1432 "Le Decameron". Since that time, I've been meaning to do a follow-up, looking at a different manuscript. That time has finally come.

When we begin to really look at color across the period is to see that some manuscripts stuck to a fairly basic palette, while others explored the possibilities of color a bit more. What's interesting, though, is that the colors larger stick to the same palette, and "off" or mixed colors show up as only a small percentage of all the basic colors represented. Here's what I mean:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

On My Worktable

It feels lately like my project list has the hiccups. I've got the regular list of projects that builds up like normal, but then little projects pop in randomly out of nowhere, usually inspired by some experience at an event. This most often takes the form of repairs or easy updates. Occasionally, it is a project that may have been really low on the priority list that I realize I badly needed. At the moment, between events and not having any gowns in the works, I'm working on a real hodge-podge of things. Let's start with the little things I've already done.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Taking a Walk Into the Weeds

"Into the weeds" might be one of my favorite phrases in addition to being one of my favorite things to do on topics I'm passionate about. The idea of getting really deep into a subject, far beyond what's necessary for understanding the subject, is thrilling to a specialist like me. It's the whole reason I settled on a specific time and place for my persona, and why I love the research I do in that period. I know plenty of folks that do a bit of this and that, and many of them are quite good at all the things they put their varied efforts into. For me, though, being in the weeds is where the fun is.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Where and How I Store My Garb

I'm a garb horse, as you have probably figured out. While not every garment I've made for myself is still around or currently being used, I've still got a lot of clothing in fairly regularly event rotation. Add in headdress, shoes, and accessories, and there's a fairly sizable amount of stuff that needs a home.

Over the years, as my garb collection has grown, my solution for storing all of it has changed. There was a time, many many moons ago, when everything I had could fit in a smallish plastic tub. As I gained more garb, I went through phases where my stuff had no "home", which made things super frustrating when I wanted to pack for an event. Now, my garb and other personal kit items are stored in specific places, and finding things (assuming they were put away) has gotten a lot easier.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Project Complete: Pink Wool Open Hood

Two new hoods in two weeks? Wha??!

An open hood of the early 15th  century.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Project Complete: A 14th Century Square Hood

A fitted "square" hood with underarm straps from the late 14th Century.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

In Progress: White Leather Drawstring Pouch

In my effort to dive as deep into my collection of 563 images of women from French manuscripts of the early 15th century, I have started the process of looking beyond dress and headdress formats to the details and accessories that appear as well. Shoes, belts, aprons, and pouches are everyday personal items that show up through the image collection, and, unsurprisingly, appear to follow somewhat similar patterns of style differences among the classes as the gown and headdress types do. The more exciting thing about these types of details is that they show up in smaller, digestible quantities that offer us the chance to see all of the examples together for comparisons and categorization. The first accessory I did this with were the pouches.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Project Complete: Red Wool Cote


A supportive cote of wool suitable as the bottom or middle fashion layer for early 15th century outfits.