Thursday, September 24, 2020

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Comfy purple tie-on sleeves

 Last month I was chatting to a friend about how we might previously have thought that a global pandemic (and subsequent SCA shut-down) would be a great time to catch up on projects and get things done, and how surprised we were by how tired and unmotivated we were. We decided that we would try and motivate each other and challenged ourselves to complete a pair of sleeves each in a month.

The first step was the pattern. I had a nice comfy one that needed a bit of a tweak, but my friend didn't have a pattern. We had a fun Zoom session with me trying to help her draft a pattern by draping.

Next step was cutting out. I was lucky that I had some fabric set aside to make a set of sleeves. Two lots actually, which was lucky because I was tired when I cut the first pair out and I cut out two left sleeves. Ugh! I know better, but if I didn't do any cutting or sewing when tired, I would be getting even less done than I am now.

Take 2 and the sleeves were cut out along with a matching lining. I ran a machine zig-zag stitch around the edges and then sewed the seam.


Then I finger pressed the seams open and ran a little stab stitch along the inside to keep them open. 

(I cut this pattern wrong which is why the edges at the the of the seam don't match up. I trimmed it later.) 
I always find the next part tricky so I put the lining inside the sleeve the way it is supposed to look when finished, put a pin in at the top of the sleeve, and then turn the lining inside out. Then I pin around the top edge and machine sew it. I clip the curves so it sits better, and then turn right side out. Hopefully all the seams are hidden inside! Then I push a bone folder or blunt knitting needle along the seam from the inside so that nothing is tucked up, and then do a whip stitch along the top edge to stop the lining from rolling out with wear.

I lay the sleeve flat and pin the outer sleeve (fashion fabric) hem. It is important here to make sure that the inner lining is nice and smooth too with no bumps or folds. I use tiny stab stitch to sew it in place. Then I fold the lining hem under, leaving about 3 mm of the sleeve showing. I used to just marry the two edges together, but I was finding that the lining would often start to bubble out slightly after a bit of wear, especially if the lining was a different type or thickness of fabric.

At this point, the sleeve is ready for eyelets. I use eyelets because my Italian style gowns have a series of ties inside the top of the armhole. In period, it is more likely that a single lace was used on sleeves where visible ribbons or buttons weren't used, but I find multiple ties are very handy because I can take my sleeves off for pack-down at events when it starts to get a bit warm in garb. Honestly, at this stage of sleeve-making I usually mark out the holes for the eyelets and then put the sleeve in the To-Do pile indefinitely because I hate eyelets. (Hence the wisdom in doing the challenge with a friend.)

My eyelet holes correspond to where the ties on my dresses are. I make 5 eyelets (or sets of eyelets) which gives me some options with lacing. (With some pairs of sleeves, I only use 3 sets of laces and tuck the other two down inside the sleeves.) Having no ladies maid, fluctuating weight, and usually no-one to help me dress, my clothing has to be versatile.

This lot of eyelets is not the best that I have done, mainly because I haven't done any in so long and because I was rushing. But they work fine, and I got them done in a night. I actually wore the sleeves to a virtual online event. It was nice to be back in garb again and I was happy to have finished them. I like my 'comfy' sleeve pattern because it is not restrictive, unlike some of my tighter sleeves.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Spring Cleaning - Or Lack Thereof!

I have been really busy with study and officer duties lately, and have only had energy for the bare minimum when it comes to my daily A&S work. It is Spring here now, and I really should organise and tidy my stash and sewing areas, but that has not been happening. I have managed to start tidying my embroidery threads and floss stash..... I suppose that is better than nothing!
I am gradually swapping all the floss on plastic cards over to more historic-looking wooden ones, and matching up all those random floating skeins spread out amongst my sewing baskets and UnFinished Object piles.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Making the Purple patterned, Italian Style Caul

It has been a while since I posted a how-to on making a caul, so I thought I would share my technique. The photos and description refer specifically to the purple patterned caul that I finished recently, but my technique is pretty much the same for all my cauls, with minor changes to allow for different styles and head/hair sizes.

For this caul, I started out with a circle of pre-washed and ironed fabric. I prefer natural fabrics because they tend to breathe better than synthetics and are not as hot or as much of a fire risk. In period, this type of headwear would most likely have been silk, linen or possibly a fine wool or cloth of gold or silver. Budget is an issue for me, so sale cotton is my go-to. I prefer fabrics with a bit of body so that the hat won't look too limp. I love the way cotton velveteen sits when made up in this style. This particular fabric is a quilting cotton that I picked up on sale last year. The printed gold pattern adds a bit of stiffness.
Cutting out a plain fabric with the same pattern
The size of the circle that you use as your pattern really depends on three things:
How pouffy you want your caul to be
How big your head is
How much hair you have.
This image gives you an idea of the size circle I prefer for my large head
I tend to prefer a pouffy caul because I can just plait my hair and shove it in there without worrying about elaborate hair -dos. It also allows for when my hair is long or short, thick or thin. I have quite a bit of variation in my hair depending on which medications I am on etc. so a bit of extra space works for me. I usually use a large wire ring that I think is designed to be a wreath base.

You also have an option to make your base fabric an ova shape rather than a rectangle. Doing an oval shape tends to result in a bit more fabric around the ear area which reminds me quite a lot of the cauls that sixteenth century German ladies are shown wearing.
Once you have decided on shape, cut out your pattern piece. You will also need to cut out a piece of fabric to make the band, if you are making it out of the same fabric. I usually make my band the same length as the measurement around the head vertically, with 0.5cm allowed for ease plus seam allowance. I make the piece double the width that I want plus seam allowance and just fold it in half, but you could make the inside/lining part out of a different fabric if you wanted to. (For instance, making the lining piece out of velveteen might help it grip the hair better.)

At this point, you will need to add any decorations such as beads, ribbons, etc. I added a gold bead in the centre of each main motif,
If you are not adding extra decoration, give it the fabric a press. I usually run a zigzag stitch around the edge on the machine also, just to give it a bit more strength.

Next, run nice, even stitches all the way around your circle panel to allow you to gather it up into the headband. I actually do my gathering stitches in two separate lots to make it easier to get the gathers 'just right'. I usually mark the centre of the circle perimeter at top and bottom and run my threads between those points. On this particular caul I decided to try something different and to not gather the section on the top of my head in front of where my jewelled billiments sit, to reduce the pouf level at that point. Don't make your stitches too big or your gathers will be correspondingly large and the hat will not sit nicely. I prefer smaller gathers.

You will also need to sew the headband part. If you have cut a single piece, you'll need to sew the ends together so it is a joined piece like a ring of fabric. Then fold it in half and fold the seam allowances under, pressing or finger-pressing as you go. (Some people make the band a little shorter than they need and pop a piece of elastic in between the ends of the band. This is (obviously) not historically accurate. I don't find it necessary as I use clips to keep the caul on. I have also seen the ends of the band hemmed individually and ties or ribbons attached to tie it onto the head.)

Once your headband is sewn, gently pull up the gathering stitches until the circle (or oval) of fabric is the same size as the band. This is the part where you start adjusting the gathers so they look nice and even. Just gently move the gathers around until they look even and the bulk of fabric is evenly distributed.
I pin my gathers into place and handsew them on the inside and the outside. You could do this by machine if you prefer, I just don't like seeing visible stitching.
Once the band is on, you could call the hat finished. I thought it was lacking something at this stage though, and so experimented with different types of trim and ribbon. I chose this thin metallic ribbon and hand sewed it on to finish off the band.
The last thing that I do is add a metal hair comb at the centre front, sewn into the band. Some of my cauls have a wig clip sewn in at around the ear point. If you decide to do this, experiment to find out where it sits comfortably. On others I have made a little buttonole loop behind the ear to slip a bobby pin/kirby grip through to help it hold in place. You may not need this, but I have very slippery, fly -away hair, so this works for me. (I love a netted caul, but by the end of the day I have bits sticking out all over the place, despite how much product I use.) This is also why I make my bands quite wide. I have used bias binding for bands to more accurately match the portraiture, but the bigger bands work better with my difficult hair.

There is quite a lot of variation in the size of cauls depending upon the decade, as these portraits suggest:
 Titian's La Shiavona (Portrait of a Lady) 1510 held by National Portrait Gallery UK. Image from:

Bellini's Portrait of a Naked Woman In Front Of Her Mirror c. 1515,  Image from:

Portrait of a Woman by Vincenzo Catena c. 1520
Image from:

I've been tempted to make a caul that sits further back on my head like these, but I'm not sure how comfortable I would find it. I like having the bulk sit higher up on my head and not feel like it is pulling my head back.
Portrait of a Venetian Woman c. 1505 by Albrecht Durer
Image from:

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Mamluk Counted Embroidery

I started a new embroidery challenge with my local group of SCA embroiderers last month after seeing Mistress Miriam's Mamluk embroidery class at Politarchopolis University. Mistress Miriam graciously shared her notes so that we all had a sound research base, and I've been quite excited about the opportunities for future projects. I want to do some non-counted pieces, but I thought that I should try some counted work first.

I haven't done any counted embroidery since my early teens (I started cross-stitching at about age eleven) and I have already learned a lot. I have spent more time unpicking errors than actually stitching so far.
I have learned
* that I had a false appreciation of how good I actually am at counting
* the medication I was on has affected my eyesight more than I realised
* I shouldn't try and do counted work when I need to concentrate on something else
* my recollection of how much I dislike counted work was underrated 😃

It has been a very stressful week with multiple catastrophic technical issues (which is probably not the best time to work on this type of embroidery) so there have been a lot of errors. I have re-started a couple of times. The base fabric is a very loose weave, so the black thread has a tendency to slide under the base threads. To combat this I am working over two threads rather than one.

I am slightly further along than shown in this picture; I am onto the next line of embroidery (which now has an uneven motif in one corner). I decided to leave the wonky mistake in as a reminder to myself to concentrate.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Mask Making

Like a lot of people around the world now, I have been making masks in my spare time (and not the fun, Carnivale kind!) I'm still tweaking my pattern, but I'm pretty happy with them.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Applique Heraldic Banner for Indoor Use

I made this needle-turn applique banner last month for a friend's birthday:

This is an indoor banner. The base fabric is cotton and the ermines are made of gold felt surrounded by couched gold thread. The red and gold elements were sewn on by hand. The fringe trim is commercially produced.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Purple Italian-style Caul

I have been extremely busy with SCA Officer roles for the last several weeks so I've not had much time for any other SCA activities at home. One small thing that I managed to get finished was a purple caul that I started last year.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Bead Necklaces

A quick project that I worked on last week was some beading. I made these necklaces out of glass and natural gemstone beads, and they will be given as gifts.
These are strung on tigertail.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Giulia de' Medici - A Fascinating Life

Image and article reproduced from
Portrait of Maria Salviati de' Medici and Giulia de' Medici
Portrait of Maria Salviati de' Medici and Giulia de' Medici by Pontormo c.1539

"Pontormo (Jacopo Carucci, but known by the name of his birthplace, the town of Pontorme) was esteemed by the Medici family, rulers of Florence, for his ability to capture the individuality of his sitters, while emphasizing their aristocratic demeanor. Maria Salviati, as in other contemporary portraits of her, wears the clothes of mourning for her deceased husband, the famous military leader Giovanni delle Bande Nere de' Medici (d. 1526). The little girl holding her hand here is Giulia, a Medici relative who was raised in Maria's household after the murder of the child's father, Duke Alessandro de' Medici (1511-1537). As Alessandro was born of a liaison between a Medici cardinal and an African slave, this formal portrait is the first of a child of African ancestry in European art. Giulia grew up with all the status of a Medici and married another aristocrat. Descendents of hers are alive today.
By the nineteenth century, as the painting changed hands, the identity of the figures was lost. Toward the end of the century the painting surfaced again, identified as Vittoria Colonna, a famous Renaissance poet, widow, and friend of Michelangelo. Good portraits of the poet are known today and the widow in the Walters' painting is not her! Presumably because of Colonna's ongoing fame (and the difficulty for a potential buyer to check on such things then), the dealer thought this name would make the painting easier to sell. The problem is that Colonna had no children; so probably to make the painting consistent with its new name, the child was painted out.
Although the painting was acquired by Henry Walters in 1902, little attention was paid to it until after Walters' collection was bequeathed to the city of Baltimore in 1931 and the Walters Art Gallery was established. Then in 1937 the painting was x-rayed and cleaned, revealing the presence of a child. For years the proposed identification of the child was as Maria Salviati's only child, Cosimo de' Medici (1519-1574), who went on to become Grand Duke of Tuscany. According to this theory, Cosimo, as a young adult, commissioned this image of his mother and himself to honor her attention to his upbringing after his father's death. The problem with this solution is that the child is clearly a girl with her hair in braids and a girl's clothing.
 In the 1990s the scholar Gabrielle Langdon proposed that the child was actually Giulia. After her work came to our attention and considerable research was carried out to confirm this proposal, the identification was changed here at the Walters and the idea slowly began to take shape for a project that would eventually become the 2012 Walters' exhibtion "Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe". The accompanying publication, edited by Joaneath Spicer, is available as a free ebook" (available here:

12/31/1969 Examination examined for condition
12/31/1969 Examination examined for exhibition
12/31/1969 Treatment cleaned; x-ray
2/05/1937 Examination examined for condition
2/05/1937 Treatment cradle removed; x-ray
9/10/1940 Treatment coated; loss compensation; other
1/01/1953 Examination examined for condition
12/21/1960 Treatment other; surface cleaned
12/21/1960 Treatment cleaned; coated
1/26/1971 Treatment re-housed
3/01/1986 Treatment loss compensation; coated
12/04/1986 Examination examined for condition
12/04/1986 Treatment examined for condition; other; varnish removed or reduced
12/04/1986 Treatment cradle removed; examined for condition; inpainted; other; varnish removed or reduced
8/01/1987 Treatment cleaned; coated; loss compensation; other
8/01/1987 Treatment coated; inpainted; other; varnish removed or reduced
11/01/2000 Loan Consideration examined for loan
11/12/2000 Loan Consideration examined for loan
11/12/2000 Examination cradle removed; examined for loan
11/12/2000 Examination examined for loan
10/15/2003 Examination examined for loan
10/20/2003 Loan Consideration examined for loan
10/24/2011 Examination examined for loan

Undercover Stories in Art. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1980.

Going for Baroque. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1995-1996.

Highlights from the Collection. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1998-2001.

Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo's Ginevra de'Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women. National Gallery of Art, Washington. 2001-2002.

The Legacy of Michelangelo. Palazzo Strozzi, Firenze; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit. 2002-2003.

Pontormo, Bronzino, and the Medici: The Transformation of the Renaissance Portrait. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia. 2004-2005.

Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton. 2012-2013.

Excursions through the Collection: Portraiture, Adornment, and the Natural World. 2019-2020.

Medici Collections; Riccardo Romolo Riccardi, Palazzo Gualfonda, Florence, prior to 1612 [inventory of 1612, Florence, Archivio di Stato, Carte Riccardi, fil. 258, c.21r-23r, as "un quadro di br.a uno e mezzo della Sig.ra D. Maria Medici con una puttina per mano di Jacopa da Pontormo"] until after 1814 [Florence, Archivio di Stato, Carte Riccardi, fil. 278, as "no 147 un quadro rappresenta un ritratto di donna con una bambina"] [mode of acquisition unknown]; Don Marcello Massarenti Collection, Rome, prior to 1881 [mode of acquisition unknown] [1881 catalogue: no. 79; 1897 catalogue: no. 381, as Sebastiano del Piombo]; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1902, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.

Acquired by Henry Walters with the Massarenti Collection, 1902

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

UFOs and Making Cauls

As you probably know, I have been trying to work through my UnFinished Objects pile(s) while I am in isolation. I have been trying not to start anything new unless it is vital. The last few weeks I have been feeling like my crafting mojo is starting to come back and I have been getting a few things finished. Well, this week I was going through my storage tubs looking for some scarves as it is getting quite cold here. My berets and scarves are in modular tubs under the tubs I keep tie on-sleeves, partlets and girdles in. Rearranging the pile of clear tubs, something caught my eye. I opened the tub and saw these caul pieces. I remembered I had taught a mini-class on caul construction at an A&S night in 2018, and I had obviously put the tub away after the class with the pieces still in it - and totally forgot all about it.
I had to laugh; I just can't seem to escape the UFO pile! Hopefully I can get these finished over the next few weeks and they can be put in the caul tub completed. Also, I suspect that the universe might be reminding me that I need to do a big spring clean and re-organise everything. Hmmm, might wait til it is actually Spring!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Hem Finishing - Brown Dress

I have been working on the final stages of a brown tourney dress that I made early last year. I didn't finish it at the time I made it because I made an error with my Frixion marker that stained the bodice and I have been trying to find a way to fix it. The dress needed hemming, trim and tucks at the hem and some internal finishing and sleeve ties.

                                                                Sewing the seams flat
The hem tucks are tacked and then stitched down by hand
Applying trim at the hem
This is a project that I am working on amongst other things. I would like to add some shoulder puffs too, if I can find the leftover scraps from cutting out the bodice.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

White Partlet (Complete)

Here is another project from my UnFinished Object (UFO) pile that I recently finished. It is a partlet made from a fabric that has square holes finished with machine embroidery. It reminded me of a close netting style. It is cut in the collarless Italian style that I like to wear with my 1530's-1550's gowns.
I cut the fabric out to my standard partlet pattern. I did a small zigzag stitch by machine along all the raw piece edges and then sewed the shoulder and side seams with a straight stitch on the machine. Then I turned all the edges under and sewed them down with tiny stitches by hand.
The next step was to do a hem by hand on all the raw edges. It was a lot more  tedious than my normal partlet hemming because the fabric wanted to distort where the holes were, especially if any of the edges of the hole itself were exposed.
Not my best hemming work, but acceptable. One part that I am considering re-doing is the bit that sits near my collar bone. The hem size is consistent, but because of the way the holes are positioned, the hem sticks out a bit from under the holes. I'm not sure if it will be noticeable while wearing it or not. 
I have two re-working options; unpick and re-sew, or add lace. I do have some lace that I purchased specifically for this partlet, but I am not sure it needs it. When it is time to finally get garbed up again, I will try it on with an Italian gown and decide then. Until that time, I will keep pottering along, trying to finish things, and keep trying to resist the urge to start new projects.
This meme popped up on my social media feed this week, and was too relatable!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Heraldic Seahorse Napkin

I got the opportunity to take part in a couple of excellent online classes yesterday, and was able to practice my double running stitch. I finished embroidering my device on a napkin during the classes.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Partlet with Blue Knotted Embroidery (Complete)

I managed to get the blue knotwork partlet finished this week. This is another project which was postponed because I was not happy with how it was working out. I originally hoped that I would be able to use it as part of my suite of projects for my Heraldic Challenge work (details below) but the frettes were not as prominent as I had hoped. I also used this project as an opportunity to practice my double running stitch (Holbein stitch) and it did not turn out as smoothly as I would have liked. More practice needed!

This pattern was taken from Giovanni Ostaus' 1567 "La Vera Perfettione del Disegno" at
Cleaned image from: 
As always, I am indebted to Baroness Praxilla at Modelbuch Muse. Her page makes finding patterns so easy!
I think I will do some more patterns from this modelbuch in the future.

This partlet is a wide-fronted collarless partlet which was popular in Italy in the sixteenth century. Here are some progress photos on the development of the project:
All visible seams handssewn. I edge my fabric pieces with the machine before hand hemming to provide a bit of extra strength, especially as I usually machine wash my underpinnings.
I use a relatively wide hem, about 6 or 7mm.

The border edging of the embroidery on this chemise (held in the Museo del Tessuto, Prato), inspired the decorative edging at the centre front hem. Image from via Pinterest
 Similar decorative edging can be seen on this English coif c. 1610, held in the Glasgow museum. It is linen base fabric, embroidered in silk and gilt. Number 29.130
I was unsure as to which lace to use. In the end I chose a silver lace that I had overdyed with a blue-black dye to tone down the shade of gilt.
The base fabric on this one is cotton. Linen would be a better alternative but is expensive and hard to find where I live, whereas cotton is readily available and more affordable. Linen is MUCH nicer to embroider and sew though! Similarly, thread is cotton DMC embroidery floss; a more affordable alternative to the much nicer silk thread that I would prefer to use.

Heraldic Display Pentathlon Challenge CHALLENGE 2019-2020
Participants are challenged to create 5 (or more) items from the list below. Challenge runs from now until the 1st May 2020 (or the closest available garbed event.) Displays will be set up throughout the year to showcase the work of participants. At the end of the Challenge, the populace will vote for their favourite items and tokens will be awarded. Heraldry can be your own, or you can make something for a friend, or Guild etc. Be creative and enrich our game with your displays.
1. Banners, flags, pennants, standards and gonfalon etc.
2. Encampment equipment, furniture, tent screens etc.
3. Personal Adornment such as jewellery, favours, tabbards and clothing etc.
4. Equipment such as needlecases, napkins, crockery, water bottles etc.
5. Items for the Barony: any item(s) decorated with the Innilgard device to be donated to the Barony
This Challenge has been extended because face-to-face Lochac events have been suspended due to the Covid-19 crisis.