Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Woodworking Gateway Drugs

We have some fabulously talented folks in our little Shire who are quite happy to share their skills. One such person---Heinrich's Squire, Maghnus---agreed to the wild and crazy plan of teaching a basic woodworking class. Since we are all trying to obtain our own ideal (read: more period) encampments, we voted for a simple 6 Board Chest as our July A&S project.

Our end product was intended to be a basic, utilitarian chest with enough storage space to contain feast gear for two people. Using the benches from the Saucy Wench as his inspiration, Maghnus proceeded to cut out box kits for each student... And engineered the boxes to withstand at least 250lbs of force. Maghnus is a wise man. These boxes will see some heavy duty service as storage, seating, and oh-my-God-I-can't-reach-that standing upon.

Here is the basic kit we all started with. The four sides were pre-cut and marked for notching and drilling, and the bottom of the box was cut to an approximate size. We had to use the band saw to remove pieces from the edges of each side (so they would sit together smoothly) and the drill press for where we would countersink the screws. The initial plan for the boxes was to have them held together with dowels, but time constraints and mass production (six chests!) did not allow for that level of nit-picky. Instead, the boxes are glued and screwed together, with enough depth to use "plugs" for the proper look. It worked fabulously!

While all of the boxes started with the same basic layout, we ended up with a lot of personalization. Two of us decided to cut an arch into the "leg" side of our boxes, which will help them sit a little more stable in the long run. My arch was done on the band saw with much sweating, swearing, and patience.
Bob did his arch by holding the board end against the heavy duty belt sander until he made a nice, gentle curve.
Tuireadh decided she liked the look of her dowels poking out just a bit, so she will not be sanding them flush like the rest of us have.
Flidais' box accidentally obtained an extra row of drill holes, and rather than start over, she decided she liked the look of an extra row of dowels!
One box went home in it's most basic form to be assembled later, and the final box was set up as the step-by-step display.
The most hectic stage of the building process was the fitting of the bottom board. As we were novice woodworkers and in such a froth to have a nearly finished chest, our projects were a little less than square. Each base was measured to fit the individual quirks we created and then carefully set in place to be secured.

Here is my project after a day in the shop... All glued, screwed, doweled, sanded, and waiting for the wood putty that forgives all wonky-cutting sins.

Putty says: Go forth and sin no more!!!

...And a sneak glance at what the finished project will sort of be like, with my Super Pitcher of Awesomeness for scale.

Tom, of Blood and Sawdust (BloodandSawdust.com), states that while extant pieces of basic painted furniture are difficult to come by, they are repeatedly referred to in wills and inventories of the period. Though recipes do exist for various paints, I opted to use the most basic and easily obtained means of coloring your world available to the medieval woman...

I ordered milk paint off the internet.

Just add water!

My color choices were a lovely selection of oxide and mineral based hues, and I chose a rich shade of pumpkin orange. Quelle suprise! Now, if you are looking for a durable, natural, non-toxic, bio-degradable, odor-free, user friendly, customizeable color... Then this is the one for you! Any 14th Century (or earlier) Joe Schmoe with milk, lime, and a little pigment could have made this paint and gotten his gaudy on to his little black heart's content.

The downside of milk paint? It does not deal well with being laid on thickly, as it will crack just a bit, and it dries completely flat in tone with subtle streaking. The folks at milkpaint.com state that this is the nature of milk paint, but it can be minimized by applying multiple layers of thinner paint. It will waterspot and pick up dirt if left unsealed. I chose to finish the interior of my chest with a clear, satin finish polyurethane, since I had a little bit left to get rid of. The outside is being treated with beeswax and burnishing.

The hinges have been sealed with a clear acrylic to slow down any rusting that may occur.

These are the nails for the hinges and are supposed to be hammered all the way through the wood, then cinched down on the inside. The nail ends will be covered up with a padded wool lining (can't have my feast gear getting chipped!) when the box is completely finished.

And now for another progress peek! The hinges are glued and nailed, and I'm just waiting for the next step.

These are the ring handles I've ordered...

I'm using newsprint here to pattern the interior of my box for a liner. The finished liner will have dividers for the dishes to stand within (using plastic canvas as the "core" within a flannel shell - washability is key here), sections for glasses/mugs, and perhaps a special spot for my Pitcher of Awesomeness.

My initial layout involved the dishes fitting across the width of the chest, rather than down the length. With the manner in which my super spiff handles are attached, this may not work quite right. Long spikes just happen to protrude quite a ways into the chest's interior, and since I don't want to cut them or knock them over (they will be so much easier to put on another box later if I don't mess with the spikes now)? Plan B must be... Well... Planned. I think I will make the spikes part of the structure that holds the lining and dividers in place.

Friday, October 24, 2008

German Mutation

My German gown has undergone many revisions in it's young life. My inspiration for this gown came from Cracach's "The Feast Of Herod" c.1531. I especially liked the girl carrying Herod's head, of course!

I had intended to make it as my first 12th Night dress, but procrastination won that battle and I stayed home. I managed to complete the main body of the gown in April of the following year. I had to be sewn into it, but it was functional for La Prova Dura's first run. Lower sleeves (hehe, vambraces!) later replaced the little wrist cuffs I had been using to hold my chemise in place... Those were dashed out for the Action of the Low Countries muster. (Next time I do that event I MUST wear boy clothes and join in on the drills. Dressing as a girl = staying in camp and cooking.) I also added a sash and coif to the ensemble.

I thought the rule was "Once it's worn, it's garb and never worked on again!" but I was quite wrong. These are the Germans That Never End. I am now adding embroidery to the brocade sections. And beads. And more embroidery. Oh boy.

I should be working on fencing shirts right now...
Oh. And the top edge of the chemise does not actually show when I wear this. My derss form is not nearly as... pliable... as I am. Hehe. And I simply must make a hat to top this all off! *sigh* Darn projects of side-tracking goodness...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Loose Gown Project of Serendipity

Since I have oodles of time to decide on which gown to create for 12th Night (read**procrastinate till November), I have begun a side project. For ages now I have been wanting a Toss-it-on-and-dash-to-Court-looking-reasonably-dressed Loose Gown. Specificaly, the Woman's Loose Gown from the V&A Museum (c.1610ish, but I can excuse that) that is detailed in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion.

My fabric is one that I've had in the stash for a couple of years now, languishing away at the bottom of the stack (because it was a whopping $2 per yard, and who can pass that up?), with nothing on earth that matched the colors correctly. At least I thought nothing matched it, 'till I found scrap bits of burgundy silk I had bought from the remnants pile waaaaaaaay back when I was working my very first job at House of Fabrices. Perfect flipping match. Who knew?

For a while there it seemed like everyone in the West Kingdom had this fabric in the black and gold scheme, so I was a bit leery of making it up. I can now rest assured that I will only have one poor soul to wear matching garb with in the burgundy/gold combination, and since his brocade is made into a doublet and co-ordinating pluderhosen (a fabulous outfit that my Laurel made for his Pelican ceremony), I don't think it will be too obvious.

Complete match. And they were purchased more than fifteen years apart...

I used a combination of drafting, draping, and just plain eye-balling for patterning the yoke. Heh. This is the easy part.

My first sewing step after creating the yoke pattern was to cut it out of three different fabrics. The inner base---which will never be seen unless you attempt some astounding fabric origami to take a peek at it---is of wool (dyed to nearly the perfect shade by complete accident five years ago). I cut this layer without any seam allowance, since it is not for support but rather a means to keep the silk in it's correct dimensions and add a bit of warmth to the back of the shoulders without adding too much bulk. Here are the yoke pieces for the bottom-most wool layer. Front and back.

The garment Janet Arnold inspected had a foundation yoke of ivory fustian (linen warp, cotton weft) pad-stitched to a layer of coarse saffron-yellow linen. My next two layers are in the process of being pad-stitched together. I am using the burgundy silk as my top (which will be seen when the garment is laid open), with a black cotton/linen base for strength, and stitching it all together with a lovely silk floss in a shade called Rosewood.

Another strangely perfect match.

Each piece will be stitched to itself (wool/linen/silk) before being whipstitched together to form the yoke. Here are some BLURY close-up pictures of the pad-stitching, inside and out.

The little stitches will be visible from the inside of the garment (as they were in the original), but since the silks match in such a lovely way, it won't be too obvious.

My next step after the pad-stitching and yoke construction, will be to figure out my pleating configuration. My fabric is a good twenty inches wider than the pieced back of the original garment, so I can use a solid piece for my back if I wish. It will most certainly cut down on the ammount of sewing involved, and since I have decided to sew this by hand that will be a blessing. (Why not? I'll be sewing the pleats by hand, and I've already put so much time into the pad-stitches... What's another couple of long, straight seams?)

I suppose my main concern with the pleats is that I would prefer to have the motif duplicated a closely as possible after sewing. If this proves to be too much of a headache, then it will have to be a series of even (but visually random in the brocade) pleats. We'll see what evolves. I also need to decide if I will be slashing the fabric at all (such as in the original) and if so, what pattern I would like to do. I do know that this will be embellished with beading and perhaps pearling. I have a choice of gold glass seed beads, small garnets, and two types of pearls... Tiny cream ones or some rather interesting larger olive green ones. The olive pearls are in the top left corner, the garnets are the bottom left, and the gold glass beads are in the top right corner.

This is my other choice for pearls. Maybe I'll use them in combination. Who can resist more pearls???

At the strong urgings of Miss Kiffiny, I do believe I will be wearing this garment for the first portion of the day at 12th Night. After all, the hotel will be our home for the weekend, and there is nothing improper in lounging around the Palazzo in half-dress. I'll have a bit more on than these ladies (camicia, petticoat, and bodies), but the idea is the same. Decadent loungewear to greet houseguests in. And I can have my hair preping for the evening's up-do without looking silly!

June 7th, 2008

Update: I've finished pad-stitching the back of the yoke (yipes, that took forever!), and I now have the front pieces to handle before putting things into a more cohesive whole. Luckily, the front sections are quite small in comparison to the back, so I might just have enough of my silk left to finish them. If not, then I can risk the dyelot change and go pick up another skein at the needlework shop.

Next is sewing the silk/linen-cotton layer onto the wool and whipping the shoulder seams together. Once this stage is complete, I can start fully obsessing over the back pleats and shoulder tabs. Oh! And trimming this monster. Will I stick with just beads? Or add in some decorative braid? And I'm still up in the air about slashing this. We'll see...

Of course, I now have grand plans for two more loose gowns. *le sigh* One can never have too many lounging ensembles!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

12th Night Plans

Here are my choices for 12th Night. I want to work on fitting issues that I've had in the past, and make something truly spectacular this time around. My first choice is this gown:

Color choice #1:
This is a silk taffeta (I can hear the swish-swish of the silk now!) from renaissancefabrics.net in an antique bronze. Or perhaps this lovely orange? I just can't resist orange...

I'm wanting to put as much detail into this project as possible, from the spiky-poke-your-eyes-out ruffs, to the sheer overlay on the skirt. If at all feasable, I'd like to even cover the (often missed) details of hair, shoes, and make-up. **Thank goodness the Venetians didn't make the same sort of cosmetics choices the Elizabethans did! Whew!**

My second choice is this gown:

I know the detail is a bit hard to see in this image. I like the closed front bodice (I already have two with ladder lacing, so this would be "new" to me), and the slightly less dangerous looking fitzy-bits. Perhaps I can meld the two? Closed bodice, sheer overlay, not-quite-so-spiky ruffs... Maybe I'll save this one for the hand-sewn project? I think a nice icy blue or a silver would be smashing. It could be my Snowflake Dress!

Let the planning begin!

All of this, of course, will be a dry run for my big project of the year. A complete ensemble---hand sewn only---from the skin out. *whew*

On a side note, here's another 12th Night possibility... The pink and black gown on the far left would be a fun one to have.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

On Pause!

Why did I think it was a good idea to start up a Blog for dress diaries just before Estrella War??? There's no darn time to post anything worth reading just yet, (I am sewing cotehardies like a mad woman since they can be layered and pack sooooooo much smaller than my late period stuff!) and I have to find my photos of the various project stages.

The Cupcake Venetians

I don't know about the rest of the world, but I tend to name my clothing. This particular dress (a peachy-pink and pale yellow brocade) has been dubbed "The Cupcake Dress" in honor of it's frosting-like hue.
Since I live in a small town, my options for suitable fabric are rather slim. Aside from the guessing game that is internet shopping, I have one store that carries interesting (In pattern as well as fiber content) fabric for the late period costumer... Home Fabrics & Rugs. While I have managed to get lucky with the occasional brocade, I must always keep in mind that I may very well be sewing a gown that matches someone's couch.
When I first found this fabric (A cotton/ick blend), I was under the impression that it shouldn't be too difficult to pattern match.
Silly me.
Not only is the pattern asymetrical, but it manages to run ever so slightly on a diagonal. By half an inch or so... Also, there was a bit of an issue with the selvedge edge. The brocade ended just shy of the motif's middle. Grrrrrr. For once I listened to that little voice of reason and gave up entirely on matching my patterns. All for the best, I assure you.