Sunday, June 3, 2012

New manizza or snoskyn

Muffs were popular accessories in Elizabethan England as well as Italy in the sixteenth century. They were a way of keeping your hands warm while demonstrating your wealth and stature through furs and fine fabrics. Queen Elizabeth I had several muffs (also called manizzas, snoskyns or countenances) and there is a record of Amyas Paulet purchasing a muff on her behalf in Paris in 1579 (Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlocked by Janet Arnold, p. 97).

Here are some examples of muffs in period:

From:  Vecellio's Costume Book


Lady Dressed in the French Fashion in Album Amicorum of a German Soldier 1595 from

Portrait of Eleanor Verney, Mrs William Palmer, c 1590 attributed to William Segar from

Detail from an embroidered valance at the V&A Museum as shown in 'Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlocked' by Janet Arnold, Pl 442, c.1588-1590

Image of Queen Elizabeth I in 'Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlocked'

Here is my first attempt at making a muff.


Here are my materials ready to start my first attempt at a manizza. The fabric is a cotton furnishing fabric and the fur is kangaroo.

In Australia, kangaroos are used for the pet and human meat trade. I found this kangaroo skin at an opportunity shop. I do not support the fur trade, but I do believe that it is disrespectful not to use everything possible of an animal that has been killed for food, so I didn't have a problem with using this fur to line my manizza. I realise that kangaroo fur is completely out of period for the SCA, but I felt that it was worth trying to see if it would be suitable. Areas of the fur were too coarse and hard, but the body of the fur was a lot softer than I expected (although it doesn't compare to rabbit fur.)

I actually liked the rear side of the fabric better, but I was worried that the threads were too loose and may catch on things.

The fabric, fur and satin ribbon

I sewed the fur to the rectangle of fabric, leaving a small section un-sewn to enable me to turn the 'bag' inside out.

Then I pinned the satin tape into position, mitre-ing the corners. Once the tape was secured with small hand stitches, I marked out where I wanted to attach the pearl beads and sewed them on.

Then I added the plain wooded buttons and corresponding simple button loops. Finally I hand sewed the gap in the bag to close it all up.

It is a relatively simple manizza, as far as they go, but I am happy with it. It is warm, not too heavy, and useful for both my Italian and Elizabethan clothes. I am pleased that I got a chance to test out how the kangaroo skin worked. I feel more confident now about tackling the lovely red fabric that I put aside for a future manizza. I am currently adding a metal loop to this one so I can hang it from a girdle chain.

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