Friday, April 29, 2011


Shibori is a Japanese term for a method used to dye fabric - to tie dye fabric. Shibori is an ancient technique used as early as the Nara period (710-785 AD), which is rumored to have come from India, and then to Japan through China. The basic idea was to create a design that resists dye by tying, folding, sewing, wrapping, etc.

There were many ways to accomplish this, and my purpose of writing about Shibori is not to give a history lesson or a tutorial on how this was done, as there are plenty of books on the subject and dying is not a skill I intend to delve into. My purpose today is simply to share the eye candy that this traditional technique can create.

It is interesting to note, however, that one technique of shibori was banned during the Edo period as being immorally wasteful, for a tier of spending about 30 years tying one garment.

After dying, threads used to tie the garments are carefully removed. This is obviously a delicate process as even a tiny tear could ruin months of work and the entire 12.5 yard bolt of fabric.

The below images were taken from a company that made shibori in a traditional manner, back when I was researching Japanese textiles and clothing about seven years ago. I believe this company was based out of California, but being terrible about such things, I didn't save their information, and can no longer find their website. If you know who they are, I'd love to be re-educated so I could credit them with their gorgeous work. Until then, enjoy the eye candy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Studying the Past

As a scribe, one of the most important things I did was create a tool for self reflection. I recommend that anyone who does scribal arts keep a record of every piece they do - scan it, take a picture of it, do whatever it takes so that you can look back and not only see a visible way to track your personal growth, but also to learn from your own mistakes.

I keep images of most of my work (not all - it's nearly impossible to get everything, particularly when there's a large number of on-site scrolls to be done in the SCA), in a Photobucket album. I also print these out in color and keep them in a binder for demonstrations and examples for others who are learning. It can be somewhat relieving for new scribes to look back at some of my old work and realize how far I came from my own "starting place."

So let's analyze some past mistakes, shall we?

Gryphon\'s Lair Arts and Sciences Champion

This is a piece based on the Visconti Hours that I did five years ago. I had to digitally splice several scans together in order to get the whole image (it was too large for the scanner), which is why the corners look odd. The original looked quite normal, I assure you.

There are several things I would do differently, if I could do it all over again. The medallions around the border, for example, are sloppy and uneven. I should have created a clean, measured model and duplicated that rather than "eyeball" it, particularly the blue flourishes around them. The straight red lines around the border were all free-handed. This wouldn't have necessarily been a problem because historically I had a very steady hand, but unbeknownst to me, I was showing some of the first symptoms of Graves Disease which include shaking hands. The second I noticed the wobbling lines, I should have used a ruler to ensure the lines were nice and straight.

I am still quite happy with the freehanded red flourishes and would do another piece like this just because doing those was so much fun.

The Visconti Book of Hours was made for Gian Galeazzo Visconti, ruler of Milan, c. 1370-1389.  The text was written by a brother Amadeus, and the illumination is by Giovannio de ‘Grassi, whose work is distinct for his architectural features, and his careful representation of animals and humans in which pink and blue tones are predominant.

Crinelli, Lorenzo  Treasures from the Italian Libraries.
Thames and Hudson Ltd., London and The Vendome Press, New York, 1997. pp 102-103

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sewing Helpers

It seems that most of the people I know who craft/sew have animal "helpers." I don't anymore, in that Sim-Sim would just as soon do a hit and run rather than hang out with me. I'm okay with that, given cat fur and fabric don't get along... and yes, I'm speaking from experience.

For as much as having furry intruders interrupting my work was disruptive and cost both time and frustration (hello, cat fur on everything), I still miss my babies.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Graphic Design

I think I'm done futzing with my blogger design for a while. I changed it so much recently I feel silly, but I wanted to put something up that was done by me, for me, rather than borrowing someone else's graphics. Being new to CSS and all things bloggery (yeah, it wasn't a word until now), it took me some time to make final decisions and get things set up in a way that makes me happy. The true test will be when I start looking at this thing from various computer screens and resolutions and find out how it looks on each. I sort of took a guess on the image size and hopefully it won't wrap all funny-like.

If you experience any odd things with my layout and background, please let me know so I can fix it!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

If Only...

If I had a reason to, I'd love to make these dresses:

Jean-Phillipe Worth evening dress ca. 1910 via The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Seriously. Go to the Met's website and zoom into the crazy beaded details of awesome.

Dress ca. 1888 via Abiti Antichi

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Golden Maple Leaf - Maysun

I'm very excited to share this little gem. When I say little, I mean it. The overall dimensions (which I'm estimating with my poor memory), were about 3" x 5.5" or so. This was my first piece ever done on real parchment, and it was a scrap that I trimmed down to a rectangular shape. It was an interesting experience as parchment has a bit of a texture to it, which I wasn't necessarily expecting.

This is done in a pseudo-Arabic script, but is actually english. It reads: "Maysun nura al Ishfahani al Samarkandia is hereby made a member of the Order of the Golden Maple Leaf. So say We, Tummur and Saige King and Queen of Artemisia. October 16, AS XLV." (signed Timmur, Saige).

This wasn't based on any one specific piece, but extrapolated from several historical sources (see below) to obtain the correct feel, but more realistic for a fast turn-around and tiny work space.

Princeton University
National Library of Medicine (This page in particular)

I found many sources, and found it interesting that the pre-16th Century documents looked the same as the post - the traditional styles have not changed, at least not based on my very preliminary observations. I'd like to check into this further.

The above piece is very rudimentary and simplistic compared to the inspiration pieces, but my hands were a bit tied on the matter. I have, however, done a piece more accurate to the style, though the photograph of it does it no justice. Below is the Award of Arms for Ashlyn. The pseudo-Arabic script used for Ashlyn's is far more fantastical and crazy - Maysun's Maple Leaf is much more realistic.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Collegium this past Saturday was lovely. I got to hang out with my chickies, steal and snuggle babies, and learn fun new things. I had Serafina take pictures of my final product of the ginger linen dress, complete with sleeves. I'm now wishing I'd bothered to look in the mirror first, but here they are anyway.

And of course, for the world's viewing pleasure, is a photo of the spontaneous button-making class that Serafina taught.

Award of Arms - Lianor

This post is about four months late. I'm trying to be better about adding content, honest. Knowing that the lovely Lianor da Costa has an amazing knowledge and application of Spain and Spanish dress, I was disappointed in my own personal knowledge and inability to provide her with a scroll that would be more fitting her persona. This Award of Arms was done based on a page from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, though I did use colors with Spanish influence. This piece was presented at Solstice Court in Loch Salann in December 2010.
I layered Holbein brilliant gold gouache to give an appearance similar to gold leaf over gesso. This adds both a hint of sparkle as well as some texture to the piece. All other paint is Winsor and Newton gouache. Click the image to see it in more detail.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sleeves Done!

The Ginger dress is done at long last. Last night I opted to sew additional lacing rings to the shoulder straps, rather than sewing ribbons directly on it, so that I can change the color of the ribbons if I choose. This decision was somewhat based on the fact that I didn't find any fluttery ribbons on my quick jaunt to Hancock, let alone ones in the color I wanted. I was hoping for a springy color like butter yellow or salmon. I ended up with some eggshell twill tape. Not quite what I wanted.

At any rate, I can wear the sleeves now, and for some reason I have yet to take pictures of them. They are reversible!! I will be sure to obtain pictureness at Collegium. I will also be sporting my new laurel medallion which I commissioned from Deb at Time Travelling Traders.

I picked up some red coral beads as many portraits I've found are sporting lovely Italian beauties wearing coral bead necklaces. As jewelery making is outside my realm of expertise (and while I love it, I have to draw the line somewhere in my pursuit of hobbies), I will be commissioning the lovely Aine to help me come up with a way to wear said beads. She is brilliant, beautiful, and disgustingly talented. Everyone should go buy something from her right now.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ginger dress revisited

With Southern Regional Collegium coming up this weekend, I thought I'd better ensure I have something to wear. Weight fluctuations have rendered my garb wardrobe as a topic of annoyance, at best. So last night I pulled out my ginger and teal dress to find that I never did attach lacing in order to tie the sleeves on (oops). The one time I did wear this dress, I wore it Campi style with my smock sleeves rolled up.

Tonight I'm off to the fabric store to find some suitable twill tape or something, so I can finally call this project done. Oh, and yes, it still fits (woo!).

I will be doing a test-run on my new shoes at this event as well, which means I should go about finding some insoles so that I don't whine incessantly about foot pain by the end of the day.

In other news, I'm looking at getting assistance in building a tape double so that I can work solo instead of constantly dragging friends into my projects. Also, Sven's cousin will be visiting us for a month this summer, which means I'll need to make a tunic for him for Baron's War. Guess I should stop slacking, hm?