Archive for the ‘16th Century’ Category

Bits of Largess

I’ve delivered the last largess parcels for this reign (basically, through Pennsic), and I made a bunch of little things to fill out the boxes. See, Their Royal Majesties commissioned a series of beautiful, historically accurate, hinged wood boxes to fill with gifts and give to the royalty they would be visiting or who would be visiting them. Each box was filled with a variety of period items handmade by the populace of the West Kingdom. As their largess coordinator, I collected things to fill the boxes with.

When I received the stockpile of Kingdom largess, I noticed we had a lot of stereotypically “feminine” items, such as needlebooks, pincushions, hand-woven dress trims, and tons of jewelery. Usually, we were giving largess to male / female pairs, so I made it my mission to collect and create more masculine or gender-neutral gift items. I had a lot more ideas than I ended up with time to make items, of course. But at least I got to a few, and they were all new kinds of projects so while they didn’t necessarily come out as planned, I definitely learned some skills :)

One project was seals for stamping wax, based on this Offbeat Bride tutorial. I used blank wood gaming pegs from Michael’s, which I painted in the heraldic colors of the recipient’s SCA territory (so blue and white for Oertha, yellow & black for Cynagua). The buttons I used came from an Etsy seller, & I think the rose button is the best one (there’s also a ‘pelican in its piety’ button, perfect for your OP friends!). The trick to finding the right button is it has to be metal, flat (not domed), and the design must be cut deeply but not *too* deeply. The demi-sun button I used (ideal for the West Kingdom populace badge) is cut a little too deep, so it works best if you don’t press the stamp too hard (which I wrote on the tag), otherwise, wax will get caught inside the button. I snipped the button shank off with wire clippers and filed the back smooth with a Dremel tool, then used E-6000 glue to affix the button to the wood.

The other new project was painting leather knife sheaths. I freehanded the swan from Cynagua’s poplace badge, and it looks OK, but not great. I muddied up the details around the head a little bit, even though I was using a very fine brush. The An Tir checkerboard worked out better, though that did require multiple days to dry in between taping off the squares. Would be sassier with the black lion in the center, but I think this still carries the idea well.

I also made dice game kits by printing out instructions for several period dice games on parchment paper and packing that up with some clay dice I bought from WK merchant Reannag Teine. We also had some lovely bottles of wine donated for largess, so I made bags out of scrap brocade fabric to both dress them up and help pad the bottles when packed in the wood boxes. I think the last bit I contributed was pairing some metal aglets donated by my friend Francis with some fingerloop braid cord that was in the largess stash — he showed me how to put the aglets on the cord tips. This made the shorter cord lengths more useful for lacing.

That’s it for largess for now, but not bad, because I’ve created 18 items out of the 27 I need to repay what I was given.


A Sonnet for the SCA

Recently, I entered an Arts and Sciences competition at an SCA event. The category was Performing Arts, Original Composition. So I wrote a sonnet in the Elizabethan form circa 1590s-1600 (commonly called the Shakespearean sonnet style, although as I showed in my documentation, he did not create this form, he simply popularized it). While I didn’t win anything, people in the audience enjoyed it. And my real goal is to use it as an example for an Arts and Sciences competition I’m running later in the year where the category is Performing Arts, Sonnet in a Period Style.

Here’s my poem:

To an Arts & Sciences Entrant, On Documentation

To document one’s art or sciences entry, it is not hard:
Simply tell how you made the thing, step by step.
Start with the period and place, this detail don’t discard.
Then describe your materials and tools, how you prepped —

Did you use modern machines or use your own hands?
Were historical materials available or out of reach?
Explain your reasoning, your research, what you planned.
We cannot read your mind, so your paper must speak.

It’s nice to include pictures that show the item in process,
But, even better, make note of the books and resources
That informed your research — history is the root of this contest!
Do tell us all what you studied, the classes, the courses.

Finally, please type up your documentation, copies make three,
So each judge can read. Now it wasn’t that hard, I don’t think, at least.



Queen’s Artisan Project Begins

In May, I was honored to be chosen as one of Queen Etaine’s artisans. In the SCA’s West Kingdom, the Queen’s Artisans are people (non-Laurels) recognized for their artistic ability and usually given some creative goal to work on during the reign. Since Etaine is a costuming Laurel, she had a very specific and exciting task in mind for us: She wanted all of her artisans to create new outfits for people in the Kingdom who are pillars of the arts and service communities but who have not had new garb in a long time.

I *LOVED* this idea the minute I heard it! And I had the perfect suggestion for who to make something for — my good friend Gianetta, a fantastic cooking Laurel who I’ve been saying I want to make a new outfit for for ages but I hadn’t gotten around to it. Hah, now, with a mandate and a deadline, I can do it!

The funny thing is, Gianetta does sew, but doesn’t enjoy it that much, she far prefers cooking. But she still buys fabric and trims, so she has quite the stash. Which meant that, when the project was announced, she was happy to throw a ton of fantastic materials at me. I had originally thought of making her a practical middle-class 16th-century linen kirtle based on Campi’s ‘Fruit Sellers’ painting because Gianetta is always mucking about in the kitchen. But she had some yummy silks and laces that demanded to become a far more elaborate outfit. Thus, we upgraded to a 16th-century Venetian gown.

At this week’s stitch ‘n bitch, we looked at a bunch of images, and it feels like we’re going for something around 1570s-80s, based on the bodice shape and the trimmings. She has so much gorgeous gold lace, I really must make a partlet with a big ruff, maybe sleeve ruffs too. Then I did some mockups and got a first pattern draft of the bodice that I’ll mockup in canvas with front-lacing for the next round of fitting. It’s going to be so much fun planning all the details of this outfit!

Here’s my Pinterest board of inspiration images, & below are some of the materials Gianetta earmarked for the gown.

gold & brown silk-blend damask

gold & brown silk-blend damask

wide gold lace

wide gold lace


Project: Repay Largess, Part 1

One key aspect of “largess” in the SCA is the generosity flowing from royalty to their subjects. To welcome visitors, to thank people, & to otherwise show appreciation & caring for others, small gifts are given by royalty at many occasions. They may purchase items to give out, but ideally, their court & artisans will make small period gifts so the royalty has a selection to choose from. Also, people often donate items throughout the reign.

At the Crosston Ball this February, their majesties King Obadiah & Queen Ascelin presented me with a lovely basket overflowing with largess as a thank-you for running the ball. I was pretty surprised, especially when I got home & looked at everything — I counted 27 items, including many pieces of fine needlework. First, I decided to distribute much of it to the committee who helped me run the ball (still working on this, as I haven’t had a chance to see all of them). Second, I promised to myself that I would make largess items to pay back each item I received. No time limit, but I’m going to try to deliver something at each kingdom event I attend.

Portrait miniature of Elizabethan little girl

Repro miniature of Elizabethan little girl

The first ones I’ve made are an Elizabethan portrait miniature reproduction & a pearl & gold necklace. I didn’t paint the miniature — I downloaded a high-resolution image from the Victoria & Albert Museum website (which anyone can do for personal use). It’s a portrait of a little girl painted by Isaac Oliver in 1590. I chose this because it could be a suitable gift to many people. Someone could wear it & say it’s their daughter, niece, cousin, or little sister.

I resized the image in PhotoShop, printed & cut it out, then I glued it to a brass frame that has a pinback (I have a bunch of these I’d bought on eBay for this purpose). I used E-6000 glue because it works great on metal, but you do have to let it dry overnight. Then I used a gold paint pen with a narrow tip to outline the portrait — this covers up the edge anywhere I didn’t cut perfectly evenly, plus it just looks fancy. The last step is to paint over the portrait with an acrylic sealant, which both protects the paper & gives it the brushstroked look of a real painting.

Pearl & gold necklace in Renaissance style

Pearl & gold necklace in Renaissance style

For the necklace, I used glass pearls & glass gold-colored beads from my stash. That’s where I discovered the gold & pearl pendant too. It’s strung on gold-colored Beadalon wire & has a gold metal clasp. I intended the necklace to have an Italian Renaissance style, but it could also be worn with Greek or Roman outfits.

I delivered these to Queen Ascelin at March Crown XLVII (tho’ I forgot to include my name with either of them, oh well). 25 more items to go!

(A few years ago, I made some velvet purses for largess; I’m not counting them in this number, but I could make more of those ones because I still have the patterns I drafted…)


Zimarra Mark 1.0

I completely failed to get photos on my own camera at 12th Night, but luckily friends took a few nice pictures of my new outfit. Here is my sleeveless zimarra worn with the 1530s gown (no, not historically accurate, but the combo looked nice for one event :), and I even whipped up a new square-necked smock to wear under the dress & embellished it with a little machine embroidery (did that on New Year’s Day).

At some point, I will add sleeves to the zimarra, since that’s how it really should be. But sleeveless worked with this gown, & it also looked nice later in the evening when I got hot & took off the gown & wore a different smock with very full sleeves, also with machine blackwork, plus a burgundy silk petticoat. I think I’ll add short sleeves to the zimarra so it can be flexible enough to wear in warm weather or cool with pinned-in lower sleeves. That will be Mark 2.0, watch for it.


Coat Progress

My coat for 12th Night is getting quite close to done. Needs hemming & a short collar. But I will probably go sleeveless at this point. See, I still have this crazy idea to wear it over the 1530s gown as more of a giornéa or perhaps it might be called a cioppa — either are types of loose overgowns worn by Italian women of the 15th-16th centuries, though I think the first one is typically open at the sides as well as the front, while the later is a more generic term. Anyway, it’s sewn, lined, the armcyes are finished off, & I even tacked two pockets into the lining, I also have some trim from The Stash plus toggles bought of eBay for down the center front.


Zimarra for 12th Night

I didn’t plan on making anything new to wear at 12th Night because I just made a nifty new 1530s dress for Collegium, so of course I wanted to wear that. But I was asked to join the court of Obidiah & Ascelin, and her royal highness requested a festive, wintery 16th-century theme for their coronation, specifically with hats & coats. How could I deny this honor? And besides, I’ve been wanting to make a zimarra — a loose, coat-like garment for Italian period dress — anyway, so I figured I could simply make one to go with my Italian gowns … perhaps even the 1530 dress, tho’ that’d be blurring the lines of historical accuracy a bit in the silhouette. I have some gorgeous deep red, white, & gold silk-cotton blend damask in The Stash which should be perfect for this, as well as a lot of gold trims. And maybe even faux fur. We shall see.

First, inspiration images!

These portraits show several of the things I’m going for: long, loose shape to go over a full gown; short or no sleeves to show the undergown’s sleeves; a variety of collar styles to choose from; fur lining &/or trim; gold &/or embroidered trims; & sticking to a general 1530s-1560s time frame. The basic shape is always the same — a loose overgown without a waist seam & generally the back is flat, without pleating (that appears to be a very late-16th-century addition & mostly in English & Dutch versions of loose gowns). The Italian version in this century tends to have sleeves (unlike the earlier giornea), whereas the English style of loose gowns seemed to be as often sleeved or sleeveless. However, for 12th Night, I may leave off the sleeves & make them later, depending on if I do wear this with the giganto-sleeved 1530s gown or something else.


An Experiment in Machine Embroidery

After owning a fancy new sewing machine that does embroidery for nearly half a year, I finally got around to testing said capabilities just this week. I was spurred on by two things: 1) I was finished with Collegium so I had time & 2) a new group popped up on Facebook devoted to historical machine embroidery. Coincidence? I think not!

The FB group mentioned several pages of free downloadable files of digitized blackwork (one & two) that come from the amazing work of the Blackwork Embroidery Archives (which have free patterns for those who wish to hand-embroider). I had previously looked on & found some fonts that I liked & a bat — since my SCA device features a bat, & my longterm goal is to put bats on all my household linens. So a-downloading I went.

Caveat: While both the free & purchased patterns are all fantastic to embroider (I’ll get to that in a minute), none of them display very well on my machine. Ugh, it’s kind of guesswork! While the designs preloaded on the machine show up crisp & clear on the LCD display, all of the downloaded ones appeared as either blobs or as sketchy connect-the-dots-like images. Updating the file names doesn’t help, since those don’t display. I have no idea how to fix this. I may have to take cameraphone pix & stitch out each pattern to make a sample book of all the downloaded files I like, then cross-reference that to the file number (since that displays). Anyway, do beware of this problem, at least if you have a Babylock machine, since it may be different with other file types.

That said, once I tested out some designs, WOW, how freakin’ cool??? Omg, I love it. See, I do not embroider by hand. I’ve tried, & I hated it. Most I ever did successfully was my initial. I did a fair amount of cross-stitch when I was a kid, but proper embroidery eluded me. And yes, many people have said if you can cross-stitch, you can do blackwork. But whatevs. I have a machine that can do this now!!! Holy crap, it’s amazing. It’s magic. It’s brilliant. It’s totally worth the money spent on the machine.

The hard part is the setup — you REALLY have to plan where you want the design, & then you have to keep fussing with the placement so that the repeat lines up. I sense a steep learning curve, plus each design is a little bit different. So no, I won’t have it down for a while.

I decided to make a square-necked smock as a test garment because I actually need one (all my smocks are round-necked, but I have several square-necked gowns). I copied one of my smocks for the pattern; it’s super-basic & sleeveless because sleeved undergarments irritate me. I made it in a soft, thin cotton, which I knew would not be ideal for embroidering (a heavier linen would be better), but linen feels like sandpaper on my skin. I don’t care how historically accurate it is, I’ve tried so many types, & unless it’s a blend with cotton or rayon, it rubs me raw. I’m so much more comfortable with cotton.

Of course, I made a rookie mistake that I knew the second after I made it: I cut everything out before embroidering! Doh. When embroidering near an edge, like a neckline, if you cut fabric away, you won’t have anything left to put inside the embroidery hoop. I usually bind the neck & arm edges of my smocks, so I cut it & then realized the problem. So I had to make a neckline facing just to give me enough fabric for hooping. Still didn’t have enough fabric to hoop the arm holes (tho’ I suppose I could have if I put sleeves on, but see above re: hating sleeves), so no embroidery there. Ah well, this is only a test.

Definitely a test … some misunderstanding of how the pattern fit within the hoop space meant that one side has poorly aligned motifs — let’s just call that the back. And the motifs aren’t as tightly closed as they should be on either side. Still, it’s kind of pretty & was a good, wearable experiment. Or it would be for someone else … because after I finished it, I found that somehow the smock is about two sizes too big for me! Yeah, even tho’ I copied it off a garment I’ve been wearing for years. I’m guessing that something in cutting the square neck & adding a facing instead of binding put off the measurements just enough to be slipping off my shoulders. Oh well — it was a learning experience! And the result can go to the garb exchange at 12th Night for another lady to wear.


1530s Gown a la Veronica Gambara

This is the gown I made to portray Veronica Gambara, the hostess of the “Feast in 1530s Correggio” at the SCA’s Collegium Occidentalis XLVII. I was running the event and wanted to cap off the day with a festive meal set in a specific time and place in history (which is not typically done in the West Kingdom of the Society for Creative Anachronism). With the great help and creativity of my dear friends, we turned a generic church room into a grand renaissance dining hall filled with candlelight, music, wine, and food. I played the widowed ruler of this small Italian city-state, a poetess and diplomat, known for inviting diverse peoples from foreign lands to her court — thus, quite appropriate for the somewhat unusual gathering of SCA dignitaries and people in 16th-century garb from various places who were at the event.

With the Correggio banners in the background

With the Correggio banners in the background

Trystan as Veronica Gambara

Trystan as Veronica Gambara


Nearly done with 1530s

1530s gown almost done

1530s gown almost done

I can’t believe how fast this gown went together! Ok, it didn’t hurt that I essentially had the patterns already done. But the sewing was all straightforward stuff, nothing complicated. Attaching the parts together was really just a lot of cartridge-pleating, which I find easy — well, tough on the fingers, and yes, blood was spilled, but that’s just because I was sewing through heavy fabric and I can’t stand using a thimble. Known issue.

There isn’t much trim to this gown, so it looks a bit spartan. Or is this what they call “simple elegance”? I just hand-sewed two lines of black grosgrain ribbon around the neck, somewhat like the inspiration portrait. Silk ribbon would have been nicer, but I didn’t have time to order any online and that’s not something I can find in local stores.

I was going to make a fancy balzo, but then I realized I had a funny little roll hat thing that I’d made and used as a demonstration for an SCA newcomer’s event to wear with a veil. It’s of questionable historical accuracy but looks kinda nice on, plus it’s of a burgundy brocade fabric that goes really well with this gown. Tip it around on the side and *ta da* balzo-esque appearance! I added a filigree gold piece and a ton of gold trim crisscrossed to bling it up. You’ll just have to wait until I have pix wearing it with the appropriate hairstyle.

Closeup of finished bodice

Closeup of finished bodice

Speaking of wearing it, I tried on the gown with a shirt (several different shirts, even) to get the look of the portrait and HATED IT. For one, every period shirt I have makes the forearms of these sleeves way too freakin’ tight. They fit fine without another layer under them, but all my shirts are too full-sleeved, even the ones that I cut slimmer to fit underneath gown sleeves. I think it’s just the stiffness of the velvet. But worse, the beautiful wide neckline and shoulders of this gown look AWFUL with a high-necked shirt/partlet underneath. It’s beyond prissy into absurdly layered. Maybe my physical proportions are so different from the tall, long-necked woman in the portrait or I cut the neckline of the gown differently. I don’t know. But the shirt/partlet thing did NOT work at all. Icky. At least I realized that now instead of the night of the event.

When I did have the gown on, I pinned the hem, since that was the last thing to sew. All that’s left after that is to figure out a fancy belt.

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