19 July 2009

Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes, Dies

Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes, Dies
You may remember that the other day I mentioned that he had pulled through his cancer treatments only to be stricken with meningitis. Alas, we have lost a giant. A great wordsmith, stylist and the arch-nemesis of the quotation mark... He will be missed.

18 July 2009

Crewel World II

In Crewel World part one (click to go there) I talked about a rapier carrier I made a long time ago. The design incised into the leather (shown above) is drawn from a tile in a cathedral somewhere. Sadly, I've long since lost the original picture the design was based upon as it was many years and a couple of computers ago. Nevertheless, the design has been re-cast in whole or in part on a great deal of the garb I've made since then.

Yesterday, I did it again. For the lid of the purse I'm making I brought the design into a more Elizabethan vine motif and coloring while maintaining the original cruciform arrangement of the elements.

The design was drawn onto the green canvas with a stick of graphite (you can still see some of the marks in the photo below) and backstitched over the marks with crewel yarn to give dimension to the embroidery. The backstitching was covered with satin stitch, and buttonhole stitch using linen and wool thread.

I chose a darker background color that the off-white used in the inspiration garment (and other very similar designs scattered through the Elizabethan world). This is because my hand will go into and out of the purse fairly often, making this an item that will be especially prone to getting dirty.

The aforementioned inspiration garment can be found here: http://www.plimoth.org/embroidery-blog/. The folks at Plimoth were re-creating a heavily embroidered late-period jacket entirely by hand. This entailed reconstructing unknown stitches and techniques. I say "were" because the funding for the project has been canceled owing to the current economic troubles. (The embroiders involved have vowed to continue despite the lack of funding, so there's hope.) Follow that link, you will be amazed.

17 July 2009

Site layout changes...

I spent the day embroidering a lid for my new belt purse and it's almost done. Photos will be posted soon along with the Manly Pursemaking Demo. (Don't worry, you won't have to embroider anything if you don't want to. I'll show you how to get around it!)

Blog Template Updates
So... the site template is all new.
What do you think?

Is it better? Is it worse? Be honest! Use the comments below because I've never had much luck with Blogger's "Poll" widget.

16 July 2009

These Truths I Hold To Be Self-Evident... Redux

Since we began our journey back in October of 2005 (a bit earlier for me, but that's when you joined me on the road) my feelings on several aspects of this art & craft have changed. The five central tenets of my costuming mantra have not... let us review:

1. Good garb feels natural when you’re wearing it.
2. Good garb won’t kill you to wear in the August heat.
3. Good garb is clothing you won’t hate putting on in the morning.
4. Good garb is just as durable as the other clothes in your closet (or better).
5. Good garb weighs style against wearability and strikes a healthy balance.

Over the years, I've added a few addendae to support and expand-upon the central philosphy...

Nomenclature: I like the word "Garb" and use it in part to differentiate between my everyday street clothes and what I make for reenactment and/or faire. Another period-correct word offered up by the venerable OED is "Duds". I use both, but mostly I call it 'garb' or 'clothing'. I generally shy away from "costume" because I don't like the immediate association with Halloween despite its literal definition.

Handsewing: I made this doublet entirely by hand so it's not a question of ability it's a matter of the best-application of a finite resource: time. I actually like handsewing now that I've accustomed my hand to it. But I lack the time for such efforts. So I will use handsewing when it suits my whims or if it would be too obvious otherwise. Long or turned seams usually go under the frantic needle of the hotrod.

Period Perfection: All of the clothing I make is based upon historical paintings and patterns (where possible). Unlike many who perspire over handsewing and 100% period fabrics, I tend to focus more on the overall “feel” and the correct “look” of a garment. This makes me a heretic in some circles. I am comfortable with that.

Garb Engineering: My wife is an engineer. Certain terms have bled into my sewing vernacular, like "Prototype" and "Beta Test".

All of the clothing I make is Action Garb.

If I could have one overall effect on the historical costuming community, it would be this: The items we are making were the everyday clothing of the people in the historical era we are portraying. (That's tenets #1 & 4 if you're playing along at home.)

People lived in the stuff we're imitating here. The chased lovers (and were chased by lovers if they were lucky), coddled children, fenced, swung from chandeliers, quaffed ales, guffawed hearty guffaws and generally lived full active lives in their clothes... their garb. Sometimes I think we forget that in our blind pursuit of what we allege to be 'period perfection'. It is possible to "be period" and be comfortable at the same time. Even in nobles. What good is garb that looks fabulous, is made of expensive period materials, and is as uncomfortable as the Iron Maiden? If you can't feed yourself, looking pretty won't do you any good. (We lose more nobles that way)

The best advice I can think of is... Don't fret so damn much. This is supposed to be fun. Attain the look. Make it wearable. Make it comfortable. Don't stay up nights worrying about it.

A thousand “Garb Snarks” just began gnashing their teeth as I wrote that, but it’s how I truly feel. (And stop that. It's bad for your teeth!)


15 July 2009

The DeMedici Suit

Wow. It's been a long time.

As you may recall, my renaissance faire ran afoul of the local color and ended up closing last year. Well, it's received some resuscitation and will reemerge this year in a new location (though sadly not the same beautiful forested location we had spent so much time and energy renovating for the canceled season., alas.)

All the same, we have returned, and with it returns my yen to complete these projects and plow ahead into the next round of garb construction!

The fact that I was entailed to perform a friend's Shakespearean-themed wedding certainly helped me get things done too.

You may remember (or you may not, it's been awhile) that I was working on a doublet & trunkhose faithful to the extant garments of Don Garzia de'Medici. These are clothing items which had the good fortune to cross paths with both the amazing Janet Arnold and whomever is responsible for the photos you can find posted here at The Realm of Venus. (I assume it's Bella's camera, bellissima as always.)

Well... two years later, it's done. I'll be detailing it here over the course of the next week or so in my usual manner.

Since the design for this one is essentially done for me
I got to skip directly to choosing colors (consult Page 54 of your copy of Patterns of Fashion for Janet's fantastic detailed drawings). The original deMedici garments were originally red silk which has faded to a dark rust color. I took Janet's description of that dark rust and ran straight to my favorite Moroni portrait: The unknown tailor pictured above. The white doublet and red paned slops make a wonderful contrast.

The Doublet:
Much of the doublet has already been blogged. The original idea behind this doublet was actually to make a doublet that I could show a (mostly) complete replication of some of the nubbier points of historical garment construction. It was used for stitching demos, notes on padding and stiffening, and some light embroidery.

The doublet fits better than this, I assure you. I had been ill for awhile before this photo was taken (giving me all sorts of time to do all that handsewing and embroidery) and I've thankfully gained-back the weight it was designed to cover. Think of this as a portrait in a plague year.

One of the small changes I made include elongating and re-structuring of the waist a bit. I have a very long torso and some tailoring was necessary to account for that with regard to the original garments. The line of the doubletwaist is therefore a bit less contoured in my doublet than the one in the museum.

The Trunkhose:
Slops, pumpkin pants, paynsied breeches, call them what you will. These you have not yet seen...

The fabrics are wool and linen in a dark russet, almost red. The color match is practically perfect for two fabrics that were purchased so far apart and from different retailers. The wool is on the lighter end of "coat weight" so call it a flannel for our purposes.

The colors echo the Moroni contrast between doublet and trunkhose nicely, I think.

In part because I ended up too close to my deadline (the wedding day) there is substantially less handsewing on the trunkhose and even the embroidery ended up being done by machine. I may go back over it at some point, but I might not because I rather like the way it turned out.

The backs of the panes are an identically-colored denim that I lucked out and found in the sewing room, just waiting for me to re-discover. Yes, three identically-colored fabrics in three different materials bought at three different times. Either it's fate or I'm just that incredibly boring...

Divinity is in the Details...
Or is it the devil?

I'm a big believer in small details piling up to make a better overall impression, even if the people you meet never notice them. I like embroidery done in the same color as the underlying fabric for this reason. Texture. Also little details like handmade buttons and leathergoods contribute to an overall difference between your garment and the next person's.

There are several things going on here that are often ignored or overlook at least at renaissance faire. I don't honestly know if it's just faire actors or reenactors in general, but men's doublets seem tobut rarely be pointed to the slops. The deGarcia garments are pointed all the way around and so are my renditions of them.

It's a bit like walking around wearing a jumpsuit, really and when you have to use the privy, one is well-advised to use the handicapped stall because you're going to need a bit of room to maneuver. I can see why they did it and I can see why we stopped doing it.

Belt loops are a boon to our civilization.

There are some snapshots from the wedding, of course, but the official pictures aren't in yet and naturally they will tend to focus on the Bride & Groom. So I plan to don the duds again soon and stage some photos. So stay tuned for better photos of the whole thing actually on my corpus.

Upcoming Demos...
  • Eyelets!
  • Points!
  • Making your own paned trunkhose pattern.
  • Constructing a codpiece (we had to discuss it sooner or later).
  • Better belts.
  • A most manly purse.
  • Less alliteration... ok, not really.
It's good to be back.
- Scott

14 July 2009

The blog has been idle, but I have not...

A lot has happened since last we met. I lost my father to cancer, which set me back quite a bit and threw just about everything into a cocked hat. Add to the fact that about nine months before he passed away, I was in a car accident and you get a bad year all the way around.

Nevertheless, I've found my bearings and come through. I hope you stuck with me through the long silence.

These are the things I've been up to recently...

I've been learning to mold and sculpt with leather. Allowing me to make some leather masks for dear friends and loved-ones for to conceal their identities mid-foolery:

Which is known far and wide as "The Bubble Mask" (bubbleblowing mechanism designed by my fair ladyfool, pictured). You can see Daf's Bubble Mask in action in the parade video at the bottom of this post.

They're getting more elaborate as I go along and experiment with the extremes of the leathern medium. I'm planning to play with the forms quite a bit. The forms will be historically inspired as any leather mask must be, but as you can see, I have my own take on things. The red and green masks, for instance, are quite goblinish. I'll post more as I make them.

I also made a snazzy new hats. When I'm feeling down I often start making hats. This hat is a pattern entirely my own and is quasi-period inspired. There's a "cockscomb" of bells down the centerline and the "ass's ears" are unabashedly curlicue (they're wired so I can move them around and they'll stay where I put them).

It isn't necessarily meant to be 100% accurate so much as draw attention when I'm promoting the faire at parades and the like.

I completed the suit of clothes I've been talking about and will post details on that soon. I hope to revive this blog in the near term with details and updates as I document that suit of duds and begin construction on my very period suit of noble silks.

I've also written another novel, painted my house, performed a wedding and started another blog specifically dealing with the things that occur to me about and while writing that updates at least three times a week if not more often.

This is our renfaire's participation in the annual Gig Harbor Maritime Festival parade... "Pirates of the Peninsula" was the theme of the event. You can see my new hat and Daf's bubble mask in action throughout the video.