Thursday, September 29, 2011

ACC - Sottana

I have begun some preliminary work on my ACC Sottana, also often called an Italian Petticoat or Kirtle. To do so, I took my chocolate kirtle pattern, and modified it to have a more pointed waist, instead of curved. Since my inspiration portrait is of Eleanora di Toledo, it was a logical decision to make. The Pisa Gown, and Eleanora di Toledo's burial gown (both are extant gowns you can see here), both had a distinctive point in the front, so I used the burial gown pattern in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion for a basis on my lines.

It's hard to tell just by a picture of the pattern piece, but I'm confident that this will not only fit, but will be much more representative of the overall look I'm going for than the curved waistline.

I will not be wearing a separate corset beneath this gown, in the spirit of Eleanora's well known active lifestyle and the belief that she did not wear a stiffened pair of bodies. Anea has an excellent article on this topic on her website. I will, however be stiffening the bodice with boning and cotton canvas in order to maintain the clean lines and bust support my body needs. In period, bodices would have been stiffened with all manner of things, from cardboard to glue-stiffened linen (buckram).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I had a random crazy happenstance occur last night. A week or so ago, I was telling Justin about the handkerchiefs I inherited from my Great-Grandmother a few years ago when she passed. I had not seen those handkerchiefs for a number of years, and was rather upset by it. Somehow they had gotten misplaced in one of my many moves following the divorce.

Last night, in a search for watercolor markers, I found them. I cannot even express how happy I am to see these little gems again. Grandma always kept a handkerchief tucked in her blouse.

The polka dotted fabric they are laying on is also an piece of my inheritance - it's an old flour sack from once upon a time. The "W" is for Wilma.

I love how light and sheer this one is - so delicate, and very fine in quality.

I adore how they turned a simple rolled hem into this scalloped embroidered corner. I presume these were machine embroidered, but the quality is gorgeous. I don't know how old these are, but would guess from the 1980's, so not terribly vintage, but they do come from a lifetime of her habits.

I spent a great deal of time with her as I was growing up, but am ashamed about how little I actually know about her past. I recall being told she had a government job during the Great Depression, and I know she raised her children on a small dairy farm - a farm which I was sad to see sold when she passed. I used to chase her neighbor's peacocks all over that place. Mom tells me stories about visiting and watching the cows get milked when she was a child.

Anyway, I'm so very happy to have found these and thought I'd share how pretty they are.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Saccoccia Test

I made a saccoccia! This was basically a test, to figure out the best size, shape, etc for me, and to figure out a sewing method that would work for me.

I had a scrap of this modern dragonfly fabric, and decided that it would make a fun lining for a saccoccia... but he gold satin that was going to be the outer layer decided to be a total cow, and got demoted to lining. This dragonfly fabric was a birthday gift from Grifon's sister exactly six years ago. How fun is that?

The most amusing part? It matches my corset! Hah!

I used Serafina's construction techniques, and created a bias strip from my lining fabric to seal the top and then folded it over and sewed it down to create a casing in which to use for an apron string or a simple cord to tie around my waist under my skirts.

Next time I make one, I'll do a couple of things differently (aside from using better fabrics). I will decrease the slit by about an inch. I have small hands and this will still allow me easy access, while giving me a bit more cargo space, as it were. I would also like to try one of the more square-bottomed ones, just for fun.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

ACC - Camicia

For my Camicia pattern, I used the pattern outlined in Dorothy Burnham's Cut My Cote, which had further research and extrapolation as shown at Realm of Venus.

This camicia is made from a lightweight white linen from my stash.  It is not as light or high-quality of linen as I would have preferred, but given cost constraints, I went with it.  I was able to use a finer quality linen for the embroidery, from a small piece in my stash - there was simply not enough for the entire garment.
Completed Camicia (excuse the poor photo)
I initially was going to sew the camicia by machine. In fact, the sleeve seams were done by machine, but when I got to the point in which I would need to set in the gusset in the underarm, I switched gears and completed the rest of the camicia by hand. This was done to test my own hand-sewing skills, and to see how much control I could have.  I historically make a mess of gussets, and I had read how much easier it is by hand.
Hand-set Gusset

Using Laura Mellin's documented method of Elizabethan hand-sewing, I finished all seams first, and then connected the pieces with a tight whip stitch. The close-up photographs in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 4 clearly indicate this was a commonly practiced method of sewing in period. I was thrilled with how much control I had, particularly when setting the gussets, and it was nothing but a success.

Close-up of hand finished and whip-stitched seams

I gathered the camicia into a neckband, using a piece of blackwork as the front center part of the band which I completed. I did the blackwork in silk directly onto the linen by counting threads, in a pattern based on one from the 16th Century Italian Blackwork Sampler from the Victoria and Albert Museum. It's the blue one directly under the large red central voidwork pattern. (Bonus points for the embroidery matching my nails!)

Blackworked neckband

 After hand stitching the neckband into place and finishing the hem, I hand stitched lace at the sleeve cuff, rather than gathering the cuff into a band. This sleeve finish is shown in quite a few period portraits, such as Leandro Bassano's Portrait, Lucretia, c. 1570-80's.  I chose this sleeve finish simply because I have a camicia with a gathered sleeve already.  The lace was from my stash, and turned out to be almost exactly the right amount for this project - I only have about three inches left over!

Hand-Sewn inside seams

Lucretia by Bassano


Burnham, Dorothy K. "Cut My Cote." Royal Ontario Museum; Illustrated edition (1973)

Janet Arnold, "Patterns of Fashion 4." Macmillan, London, 2008.

Landini, Roberta Orsi and Bruna Niccoli (2005) "Moda a Firenze 1540-1580. Lo stile di Eleonora di Toledo a la sua influenza", Edizioni Polistampa, Florence

Realm of Venus. 2005-2011. Extant Shifts/Camicie.

Realm of Venus. 2005-2011. How to sew a Venetian Camicia. 2011. Kat's Handsewn Linen Camicia. 2011. The Italian Camicia.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Birth of Awards

I had a bit of a funny realization this afternoon.

When a new Barony is created in the SCA, awards are thusly created by the Baronage to recognize their populace in various ways. I have had my hand in a good number of the premier scrolls (i.e. the very first recipient) for these new awards. Being the premier of an order is a pretty nifty thing, and I'm honored that I was able to be a part of that experience for the very deserving recipients of these awards.

Cero e Luce/Sero Luce, now called Gryphon and Candle, the Gryphon's Lair Arts and Sciences award:
Bethany of Windermere, Premier
Premier Sero e Luce, Bethany of Windermere

Flame of Pharos, the Gryphon's Lair Service award:
Meraud des Belles Feuilles, Premier
(I did the calligraphy only. Illumination is by Grifon de Radonvilliers.)
Flame of Pharos - Meraud des Belles Feuilles

Vesica Presul, Gryphon's Lair Rapier award:
Vilhelm Silberhammer, Premier
(Calligraphy only, Illumination by Bethany of Windermere.)
Vesica Presul

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ACC - Camicia

There will be much more on this later, but right now I'm testing my ability to post via my phone.

I've been working on a linen camicia, which will end up being 99% hand sewn. I started the sleeves by machine then switched gears when I became determined to have beautiful hand set gussets.

While the photos aren't the best quality, I'm thrilled with my first hand set/ hand sewn gussets, and have decided to finish the rest of the camicia by hand.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Period Clockwork Androids

I don't have much to report yet on the status of my ACC project, so I thought I'd share this crazy thing that I'm surprised I hadn't seen before.

The Blackbird Archive shared the rumors that this monk automaton, which is a very rare and very early example of European clock technology has a very interesting past:
"Tradition attributes his manufacture to one Juanelo Turriano, mechanician to Emperor Charles V. The story is told that the emperor's son King Philip II, praying at the bedside of a dying son of his own, promised a miracle for a miracle, if his child be spared. And when the child did indeed recover, Philip kept his bargain by having Turriano construct a miniature penitent homunculus."
The little clockwork monk c. 1560-1562 now resides in the Smithsonian (although no longer on display), and you can view him in action here:

Elizabeth King's fascinating Clockwork Prayer article delves into the history of the monk, the story about Emperor Charles V, the attribution of the automaton, and the historians involved, and unearths interesting things about the past and the validity of the story itself. (Go read it. It's long but well worth it.)

Whether Juanelo Turriano aka Gianello Torriano was actually the monk's maker or not (which seems to still be somewhat speculative as there are no recorded monk automatons in a royal inventory), he was known to be a brilliant clock maker and engineer in Charles V's employ. According to King,
"Today we know of the existence, around the world, of two other monk-like automata, and four lady musicians, all sharing the same basic chassis design and body mechanism, and all dated to the second half of the sixteenth century."
While I'm certainly not the person to do it, I think it would be amazing if someone took this concept and turned it in to an Arts and Sciences project in the SCA.

For those of you interested in post-SCA things, like you amazing 18th Century costumers out there, here's a gem for you: an android made for Marie Antoinette:

Creepy or awesome?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Muff - Complete

Completed Muff
This muff was made completely by hand with the exception of piecing some of the fur together by machine. This seam is virtually undetectable and is only there because of the nature of the fur I used, being re-purposed from an old coat and thus the shape was awkward to use.

Back side of Muff
Trims used were an elaborate goldwork vine on black velvet, layered with yellow braid, all used from my stash.

Close-Up of closures.  Black enamel and gold buttons from my stash

What the muff looks like when there's something in it

Close-Up of loops
Loops were made from cotton embroidery floss with a lucet. While lucet weaving is speculative during this period, it was almost certainly used in the Viking age based on archeological finds of bone and bronze lucet tools. No extant lucet cords exist. Other cording techniques were commonly used such as fingerloop braiding, plaiting, etc, with similar looking results, so I feel confident that the overall look and feel of my loops are accurate.

Fully lined in faux fur
I used faux fur simply because of how cost prohibitive real fur can be, particularly since my modern beliefs lean toward only using vintage fur rather than something new. I would have had to use different needles should it have been real, but otherwise the sewing techniques remained accurate to sewing real fur.

Overall, I'm very pleased with how this turned out, though if I were to do it again, I would have used an interlining out of canvas or trigger to give the tufted brocade a stiffer hand. This is purely because the goldwork trim makes the edges have a very stiff hand and so the non-trimmed areas contrast more than I'd prefer.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Productivity vs. Couch Lounging...

I have intellectually wanted to be productive on my projects, but physically felt "meh" when faced with the prospect of actually making progress. This doesn't bode well for the overall outcome. Hah!

For my muff, I did finish sewing down the trims and prepared the fur for lining by piecing together scraps of fur salvaged from the sleeve linings of an old coat, and stitching down strips of hem tape on the edges. I also created some cording for button loops with a lucet. I must say that I am quite happy with how rich in textures this is coming to be. I think it more than makes up for the simplicity of the fabric.

My boss insisted that I take tomorrow off (oh darn, twist my arm!), so I should be able to be more productive this weekend than I've been in a while.