Monday, July 9, 2018

Ruminations on a Tableau


As I was planing some beautiful cherry (thank you, Brennon) this weekend for a table and benches, my father said something to me that made me go "Oh, duh."

You see, there's this beautiful trestle table from the 14th century that is still in existence. A friend of mine planned and recreated a few of them, then very generously provided me with his plans (thank you, Harvey!) In taking these plans to my father, the engineer (yes, that's where I get it from), he said, "Do you know why the table still exists? because nobody wanted to use the damn thing! It was pretty but it kept falling over!"

While I don't entirely agree that nobody wanted to use it, there is a good deal to be said for the instability of a table that's 24" wide, but has a 15" wide base. Certainly as a merchant's wife, Olivia would not have had an unusable table, or one so prone to falling over that it needed to be kept in a corner or against a wall somewhere. 

So, now to go back and find some designs from late-ish period tables that meet the needs of an active house without a disposable income. Perhaps a perusal of paintings would promote planning progress. I have some thoughts, but will need to ruminate a bit more.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Embroidery for Master Joel Messerer

Master Joel Messerer was elevated to the Order of the Pelican this weekend at The Sign of the Dancing Fox. As part of his elevation, I was asked to create an embroidered medallion for his cloak. The medallion art was taken from a scroll created for Master Joel's Pine (the Barony of Concordia's service award).

I was provided a photo of the art to be embroidered, a 6" square of cream wool, a 6" square of cream linen, red silk, and black silk. Due to a miscommunication, some of the other medallions were done on the linen side, while others were done on the wool side. To help with visual balance between the fabrics, I was asked to create my medallion with the linen square facing up. 

The first task was to transfer the design to the fabric. As the design was a different size than the requested circle, there were a few different options for this:
  • Resize the image and utilize a light box to trace the image.
  • Freehand the image on the fabric.
  • Grid the fabric and the design, and scale based on the grid lines.
As I am a mathematically-inclined individual, I chose the grid option. Below are the step-by-step instructions for the grid transfer. 
  1. Draw a vertical and a horizontal line through the center of the image. 
  2. Draw a vertical line halfway between the center line and the edge of the pattern. 
  3. Repeat this on the other side of the center line
  4. Draw a horizontal line halfway between the center line and the edge of the pattern.
  5. Repeat this on the other side of the center line.
  6. If you need more grid lines, continue drawing lines between the existing lines until you have the desired size grid squares. 
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 on the fabric. 
  8. Using the grid boxes as guides, draw the image on the fabric lightly, with pencil or fabric pen, making adjustments as necessary, to get the desired look. Remember the grids are not perfect, so you may need to make some minor adjustments to get the image to look right. 
  9. When you are satisfied with the image, go over it again with slightly darker lines. 
  10. Now you're ready to sew!
Personally, I find the grid method to be the easiest, as it breaks the image up into manageable chunks. Scaling with a light box can also be fairly simple if you are decent with scaling. Additionally, I chose to do this portion of the art as an approximation, as they would not have calculated perfection of reproductions in period. 

As the other embroideries were done entirely in split stitch, I used this stitch for conformity. Were I given an option, I would have likely chosen chain stitch for the circles, and split stitch for the design, as I prefer the look of chain stitch on circles. Below are the final front and back photos of the medallion. 


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

It's okay to say "No"

Olivia's thought for the moment:

Often, when I ask someone a question, I follow it up with "'No' is an acceptable answer."
  • Would you be able to help me with this project? "No" is an acceptable answer. 
  • Do you have a few minutes we can sit and talk? "No" is an acceptable answer. 
  • Would you be willing and able to take on this role at this event? "No" is an acceptable answer.
I've been told it's unnecessary for me to say that. But is it?

Generally, we are a society of helpers and doers. We want to be helpful. We want to be useful. So, when someone asks us for something, we want to say "Yes." We battle internally for a reason to say "No."

While some may simply ignore my post-script, many others hear it. It's important to me that people understand I will not be let down or disappointed if they say "No." Being honest about what you are willing and able to give from the very beginning, helps to keep from being unable to keep those promises or commitments later on.

The next time someone asks you to do something, really think about it. Are you truly able to commit to this? Are you able to give this the attention it needs? Before answering, remember that "No" IS an acceptable answer.

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Lily Pride Azure - Part 3: The Cognizance

Click here to read Part 2: The Gilding

There I was, sitting in the University at Albany library, with a stack of 12 or so books, and a picture in my head of what I was trying to find. The idea, as you may recall from Part 1: The Acquisition, was an overly ornate stomacher and forepart, with paned sleeves, an Elizabethan tall hat, and a train. I started with the first book, flipping through, scrutinizing each painting. looking at each detail of the gown: the overskirt, the forepart, the bodice, the partlet, the hat, the jewelry, the gloves. I looked at each detail, sure I would find documentation for this gown I had dreamed up. Painting after painting, book after book, and each time I found something resembling what I wanted, it was from late 1570's or later. I could not find a single picture with an ornate stomacher on a bodice from the 1560's. There were brocade or otherwise patterned jackets with adorned stomachers, paired with contrasting closed-front skirts. There were also split-front skirts with unadorned matching bodices.

Nothing. There was nothing that would document what I drew. I also quickly became cognizant of the fact that I do not own a single Court gown that actually fits my persona. I have to change every single Court gown I own, to make them accurate to my persona. Every. Single. Gown.

After closing the final book in my stack, and taking a moment to mourn this new realization, I picked up my pencil and began to redraw my gown. I took out the stomacher and replaced it with a triangular design of sharply contrasting trim¹, adorned with pearls and spangles. I also removed the tabs I had at the waist, as these were only seen on jackets. The Spanish sleeves also were removed. I added a 2nd layer of tabs at the shoulders¹. Finally, I added the same sharply contrasting trim from the bodice, to trim the split front and the hem of the skirt².

As this gown was being created for an event in the Barony of Concordia of the Snows, I designed the contrasting trim with a center bead and six beads surrounding it, as an allusion to the Concordian snowflake.

Next step: to create the remainder of the gown, in 5 weeks.

¹Roy Strong, The English Icon: Elizabethan & Jacobean Portraiture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969)
²Janet Arnold, Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd (Oxford: Routledge, 2015), 113

Thursday, June 15, 2017

An Immersive Interview

In April I was asked to assist Tacit Darby, and a team of individuals from the Middle Kingdom, with their project to compile information on immersion events. The plan was to collect interviews with people who have planned and executed immersion events, and compile  the data into a website to share with the Known World.

While the website has been put on hold, I'd like to share the article Tacit wrote up. Thank you to Tacit for her kind words and the work she did in putting this together. Hopefully many other immersion event stewards will be able to help with the information database!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Feast: Hall Layout

Several months prior to the The Feast of St. Nicholas, I invaded the library of Master G. Emerson True for information and sources. Having done a great deal of imagery research, I had an idea of how I wanted the Great Hall to feel, but I was lacking in layout specifics and sources. Master Emerson was invaluable in the planning and execution of the layout and service of The Feast.

After riffling through a great deal of books, I found the following excerpt, which perfectly described the picture in my mind.
Wooden trestles and boards... were laid out along one or both of the long sides of the Hall, while the high table stood on a raised dais at one end. At that table, the host and his family and special guests ate their meal.¹
The Banquet in the Pine Forest
Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510)
As the expected guest count exceeded what we could accommodate with the borrowed trestle tables, we opted to use the trestle tables for the Above the Salt seating, and the more readily available plastic folding tables for the Below the Salt and off-board seating. For High Table seating, Lord Harvey Wynegoode offered us the use of his brand new 16th century tables for the event. As tables in Tudor times were more heavy and sturdy, due to the Lord's ability to remain in one castle for their tenure¹, these were perfect!

The musician's gallery was typically set in a balcony, or second level at the foot of the Great Hall, when one was available.² As our site was an old church, it was built to accommodate the musician's gallery.

While stools and benches would have been appropriate seating for such a feast, we did not have access to a large number of these. As such, we opted for the limited number of wooded chairs the site provided, for the High Table and Above the salt seats, and the plastic folding chairs for the remaining seating.

The kitchen at our site was located in the basement. Accordingly, we would need a formal staging area. This staging area is called the buttery.
At the far end, opposite the dais, was built the carved wooden screen, with its doors onto the screens passage. This passage led from the kitchen and the buttery to the Hall.¹
Boards were also used in service of medieval feasts¹. These would be laid out with the platters and covered bowls filled, with the bounty of beautiful board to be enjoyed by the guests These boards would be carried from the buttery to the head of the Great hall, and placed on trestles for service. As we had a limited staff and were concerned with the stability of trestles, we chose to place the boards on more sturdy desks.
The Peasant Wedding
Pieter Bruegel (1567)
¹C Anne Wilson, The Appetite and the Eye (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991)
²Maggie Black, Medieval Cookery: Recipes & History (Swindon: English Heritage, 2003)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Lily Pride Azure - Part 2: The Gilding

Click here to read Part 1: The Acquisition.

In Part 1 of our journey, we learned I was able to acquire 8 yards of blue cotton velvet, 3.5 yards of synthetic, but deliciously rich green and gold brocade, and approximately 1.5 - 2 yards of silk satin for the gown. While not all of these are period appropriate, the period correct fabrics are not currently in my budget. 

Most people might start with construction of the gown, when working on a project of this magnitude. Not I. Instead, I decided to start with the show piece. I cut a piece large enough for a stomacher, of the synthetic, but deliciously rich green and gold brocade with a medallion piece to embroider. I chose a cream silk embroidery floss (splendor silk) that matched the luscious wedding gown silk for the embroidery. I chose a split stitch for the design. Split stitch can be found in extant examples in Opus Anglicanum and is thereby, period-appropriate for 1560 England. 

About 1/4 of the way through the design, I decided the deliciously rich gold was not gold enough. It needed spangles. 

Now is the moment I will take to give a brief history/fashion lesson(ish): spangles vs. paillettes vs. sequins. This topic has plagued fashion historians for some time, as, from what I have found, there is no truly globally accepted, definitive definition for any of these terms. Generally, what I have found is "sequins" covers the gamut of small sparkly adornments which are individually attached to garments and other pieces of decorative fabric. Sequins can be metal or plastic; they can be round or square, or any other shape; they can be flat a faceted. Spangles are usually round, flat, and most often made of metal (again, this is not universal). Paillettes are also typically round and flat, but can be made of any material. 
 Back to the task at hand. I ordered spangles from Hedgehog Handworks (I'm so sad they're closing!). I ordered sizes #12 and #14. I decided to put #12's at the end points and #14's at the intersecting points. It was a ton of work, but also a ton of sparkle. And this project is ALLL about sparkle!!! The center medallion has approximately 20g of gilt paillettes. It was worth every hour of work, every stitch. 

My next step would be the trim. But, before I create the trim, I aught to determine how much I would be needing. So, I suppose it's time to create the gown. Though, if I'm going to be creating the gown, I may as well compile the correct documentation. (Yes, I realize how backward this is...now!) I suppose it's time for a trip to the University at Albany Library.