Friday, January 31, 2014

Another new girdle

All my glass bead girdles are very heavy, so I decided to make a light-weight one. I already had some black wooden beads and some large bronze seed beads left over from another project. Then I found a bulk pack of bronze filigree spacer beads on special, so my colour combination was decided. Finally, I found some left-over pieces of black tiger tail wire in my beading box as well, so I was very happy.

Usually I play around with different combinations and patterns of beads before starting to string a girdle, but this time I knew what I wanted. I felt that three black wooden beads and then a bronze filigree bead would be ideal. The bronze seed beads would go in between each large bead.

I usually start at the ''dangly'' end of the girdle when stringing, and this time was no exception. I had two pieces of tiger tail which I threaded with three bronze crimps and a small bronze hook clasp. The hook clasp is at the bottom and allows the pomander or decorative element at the bottom to be changed to suit the garment or occasion. Once the crimps were closed, I started stringing the beads. The first part of the girdle was fiddly because the filigree beads had very small holes and the two pieces of tiger tail was a bit too much for them. I ended up using a bead reamer to enlarge the holes slightly.

This diagram shows the way I string my girdles. The bottom 'dangly' part of the girdle has two strings of tiger tail wire which separate at a central bead or finding to become the two 'arms' of the belt.

I was a little unsure what to do when I got to the junction part of the girdle as I did not have any more triangular bead findings. I didn't want to have to purchase anything specially for this project, so I raided my stash for usable items. I found these three options for the central bead/finding where the two pieces of tiger tail separate to go around the waist. I tried all three, but thought the agate bead looked the best.

Once the agate bead was strung and the two pieces of tiger tail separated, it was standard stringing again. When each waist piece was done, it was finished with a clasp or a piece of chain to allow adjustments in size.

I happened to have a bronze filigree heart charm that I salvaged years ago from a cheap necklace, and I added this to the bottom of the girdle. I hung the girdle up for a few days to get the kinks out of the tiger wire.

This was a quick and easy project and I am very happy with the result.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What I Am Reading At The Moment

Recently, someone asked me to post about what books I am reading at the moment.

Currently, I am reading the following

The Savage Garden - Mark Mills

"The Savage Garden is the second novel written by British author Mark Mills. Set in 1958, the story tells of Cambridge student Adam Strickland and his trip to Tuscany, Italy; which started off as a chance to study the old, Italian renaissance architecture of a garden owned by the aristocratic Docci family and results in Adam solving two murders: one from the 16th century and one just after World War II. His discoveries shake the entire lineage of the Docci clan including his love interest Antonella's life."

Text and image from:

The Shakespeare Secret - J. L. Carrell

"A modern serial killer - hunting an ancient secret. A woman is left to die as the rebuilt Globe theatre burns. Another woman is drowned like Ophelia, skirts swirling in the water. A professor has his throat slashed open on the steps of Washington’s Capitol building. A deadly serial killer is on the loose, modelling his murders on Shakespeare’s plays. But why is he killing? And how can he be stopped? A gripping, shocking page turner, The Shakespeare Secret masterfully combines modern murder and startling true revelations from the life of Shakespeare. It has been acclaimed as one of the most compulsively readable thrillers of recent years."

Text and image from:

Mary Boleyn The Great and Infamous Whore - Alison Weir

A full length biography of Anne's sister and Henry's mistress.

More information available at

The Samurai and the Courtesan - Lesley Downer

"1868: In the Floating World of Japan’s exotic pleasure quarters, sex is for sale and the only forbidden fruit is love. Hana is just seventeen when her husband leaves for war, leaving her alone and very vulnerable. When enemy soldiers attack her house she flees for her life across the shattered city of Tokyo and takes refuge in the Yoshiwara, its famous pleasure quarter. There she is forced to train as a courtesan."

Text and image from:

And I always refer to these Tudor Tailor books at least once or twice a week:

Images from and more information available from:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cranach Digital Archive

Readers with an interest in German art and clothing may find this reference useful -

This site is a great resource, but dangerous for costumers with lots to do. I have already seen lots of things that I would like to attempt to make!

Portrait of a Bride Attributed to Lucas Cranach the Elder

A Prince of Saxony c. 1517
Attributed to Lucas Cranach the Elder

A Princess of Saxony c. 1517
Attributed to Lucas Cranach the Elder

Female Saint with a Page c.1520

Portrait of Katharina of Bora
by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Lacing Holes and Boning

I am currently working on a purple Italian style gown. When it came time to bone the back (where the lacing is,) I found that I only had quite wide steel bones (approx. 11mm wide.) I used what I had, but was not very happy with how the lacing looked.

I think the wider bones make the lacing holes look too far apart and too wide.

So I took a chance and ordered thin flat steel and sprung steel bones from an ebay seller. They arrived today, and I am quite delighted!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Anne Boleyn Files link

Here is an interesting read about Catherine Howard and the Bill of Attainder against her -

Image from

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Seriously Drool-worthy Reproduction Elizabethan Shoes

You would all be aware of how often I end up drooling over reproduction historical shoes that are not in my time period. Well, finally I present some that are!

Images courtesy of

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Fabulous Fur Mini-Challenge and Some Gratuitous Cute Animal Photos

You may be aware that southern Australia has been in the grip of a heat wave this week, with temperatures in South Australia reaching 46 degrees celsius + in some areas. I am registered as part of the Realm of Venus 'Fabulously Fashionable Fur' Mini-challenge ( but  really haven't been up to doing much sewing or doing anything with hot fluffy fur. So here are some gratuitous cute koala photos instead of work in progress shots! A few weeks ago I saw this little guy walking up my street. I hope he was going somewhere cool before the heat hit!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Fabulous 18th Century Hair

For those with an interest in later period costuming, or just an interest in amazing hairstyles, I heard about this book which is being developed for release:

Images and more information from

I was directed to this site by the lovely American Duchess -

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Laurel wreath cloak project applique

I am part of the embroiderer's guild of Lochac  ( ), and volunteered to do a piece of goldwork applique as part of a group project. The second half of last year was absolutely atrocious, with serious real life issues consuming my family. As I wrote a New Year's list of things I needed to achieve in the first quarter of 2014 I was horrified to realise that I hadn't completed the piece. I was also really nervous about starting it because it is not a technique that I am very good at or confident with, and that can be really intimidating (especially when the article is for someone else.)

However, procrastination has not won me any awards lately, so I took advantage of the public holiday and just started. Nike really is on the right track with their little motto. Once I got into the project, it became less intimidating. Perhaps it was the sparkly sparkly twist braid lulling me into a false sense of security, but I quite enjoyed working the piece. I did the laurel outlining on the first day and was pleased with the result.

I was more concerned about offsetting the two pieces of braid when doing the circles surrounding the laurel wreath. It is not perfect, but not absolutely awful either.

The finished piece still in the hoop

The double twist of gold braid was couched onto the silk with a single strand of yellow silk sewing thread.

I couldn't iron or block the piece - I will leave that to the experts in the WCoB
The piece has been sent to the designer to be added to the cloak. This piece was researched and designed by the talented Mistress Rowan Peregrynne.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Christmas Decoration Girdle

I generally try and avoid the post-Christmas sale frenzy, but last week I had to go into the city for an appointment. I came across a shop selling Christmas decorations for 75% off, and I picked up some bead garlands for just over $1 each with the intention of making a new girdle.

The bargain decorations that I picked up

I generally prefer gold to silver, so picking up such a bargain seemed like the garb gods wanted me to do something with silver (there were no gold bead garlands in the store.)

I started stringing the beads onto tiger tail beading wire, but I realised that the silver beads looked exactly like what they were - cheap plastic silver beads. They looked tarnished, and the gilt paint was wearing away in places. I knew that I would always look down and see that tatty tarnish and it would bother me. It would not be noticeable to others without a really close look, but I have learned that you always see the flaws in things you have made like they were framed in neon. So I pulled it all apart and started again.

My first attempt 

I am on a very tight budget, and I find that really good bargains are becoming harder and harder to find. So there is always a real dilemma with projects- do I cut that good fabric, or use those expensive beads, knowing that I will likely never be able to get any more? Factor in the error-factor (I always seem to bodge it up!) and it is very tempting to stick to the tatty beads and leave the 'good' ones for another project.

This time I decided to use the good beads. I had some lovely pinky-red glass beads embossed with little opaque dots in my stash, and thought they would be a nice contrast with the clear beads. I used large pearlised seed beads as spacers. I strung the beads at the tail end of the girdle onto two strands of tiger tail finished with crimps and a little hook. When the tail end was long enough, I added a silver triangular spacer bead of the type usually used to end those necklaces that have masses of beads all twisted together. The two strands of tiger tail wire went in the hole at the bottom and then separated out into two holes at the top. Then I kept stringing beads on either side and finished one side with a clip, the other with chain. This makes the girdle adjustable.

I am not sure what this type of bead/finding is called, but it is very handy for girdle making

I found a little filigree ball that I bought very cheaply previously at an outdoor market and clipped it on the end as the 'pomander'. The great advantage of having a hook or clasp on the end of the girdle is that you can change the decoration on the end to suit the occasion.

The end result

I love quick projects and I am really very happy with my bargain basement sparkly girdle!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fabric and Trim Dyeing

Just before Christmas I needed to pot dye a mundane shirt. I had some over-bright braid and trim that I thought I would throw in too. The gold braid seemed to be mostly cotton, but I was pretty sure that the lace and ric-rac braid were predominantly polyester.

The trim pre-dye
I dyed the shirt and the braids in a pot on the stove for about twenty minutes. I used some left over liquid dye (brown) and some powder dye in navy. The resulting colour was an aubergine brown. I rinsed the braid and shirt until the water ran clear.
The trim after dyeing

Although the result on the poly-blend braids is very subtle, I am happy with the result and much more likely to use the trim on garb now.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Juliet Cap

You may remember that I made a 'Juliet cap' some time ago to go with my early Italian Renaissance gowns.

I was very happy with how the original cap looked, but never 100% happy with how it fit my head. So, in October I played around with the original pattern and decided to make a new Juliet cap  to go with my black and purple un-corseted Italian style tourney dress.

The new cap was made of a scrap of black drill leftover from the dress, and a remnant of cotton for lining. Purple gimp braid was hand-sewn down and ornamented with small green-gold delica seed beads.
Wig clips were added so that I could hold the cap on without the need for ties or pins.

The finished cap

I was really very happy with this hat when I finished it. I like the way the delicate delica beads caught the light, giving a subtle sparkle. I really like using wig clips on hats so that I don't need to resort to uncomfortable ties. 
Unfortunately, the new design is not very flattering to my head shape, so it will be back to the drawing board - again!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Woven button tutorial - back-stitched buttons

As you may have seen in my last post, I have been making woven buttons recently. This time I actually remembered to take photos of the process so that people could learn this excellent technique from the photos. I will always be grateful to Lady Ysmay de la Mor who taught me this technique many years ago at a collegium.

First, start with a wooden bead of the size you want your button to be. Some beads are very rough inside the hole and this can snag and break your thread, so I have a bead reamer or circular fine file on hand to smooth rough edges.

Cut off a long piece of thread. I usually use crochet cotton because it covers well, is durable and comes in a range of colours, but I have also used embroidery silk and embroidery cotton floss. For a small button, I usually cut off about a metre and a half of thread. This is usually way too much and gets lots of snags, but leaves me with no worries that I will run out of thread part way through and leaves lots of thread left over to do a buttonhole loop at the bottom.

Find a medium size needle. Too big is unwieldy and too small will stop you threading the eye with crochet cotton. I like tapestry needles and crewel needles. Tapestry needles are good; because they are blunt there is less chance that you will accidentally go through a thread spoke rather than under it as you weave. Thread your needle with your thread and take the thread through the bead. Tie it off around the bead, making a 'spoke'. Don't tie it off ridiculously tightly, remember that you need to be able to put your threaded needle under the spoke. Gently pull the end of the thread and wiggle the knot inside the hole in the bead where it won't be seen.

Once you have knotted off your thread, wiggle the knot down inside the bead where it won't be seen

Make at least another five 'spokes' evenly around the bead. You don't need to tie these off. I like to work eight or ten spokes for a small bead but have done more. Some people work clockwise or anticlockwise, it is a personal choice.

Making the spokes. You can have an odd or even number.

I personally like ten spokes for this size bead. Try and get them fairly evenly spread out around the bead.

Take the thread up through the centre of the bead and work a stitch from the very edge of the hole to the next spoke. Take the thread under the spoke, over the top, and back under. This is the back-stitch. It accentuates the spines or spokes, giving a decorative raised effect. (If we used an over-stitch here, the button would have flat sides.)

Make sure that you weave under the spoke threads and be careful not to pierce them with the needle

Keep repeating the process over and over, all the way around. Make sure that you keep the tension fairly even and ensure that the threads are laying nice and flat and covering well to ensure no gaps show through. If you do this, you should be able to cover a white bead with dark thread and not worry about any white showing through.

At the beginning, it looks like a lumpy mess. Have faith; the spines will become more apparent as you work down the bead.

The raised effect over the spines is starting to be very visible

As I weave my thread through, I keep a finger or two looped through the long part to stop it twisting up. This is mainly because I use such a long thread and the crochet cotton really wants to snag after it has been woven around a few times. I tried beeswax to make it behave, but then the thread didn't sit as nicely or cover as well, so now I just keep a finger in the loop to reduce snags.

More than three quarters complete!

All the weaving is complete 

After some time, your bead will be covered. If you want to add decorations, now is the time. You can thread a small bead onto the thread and anchor it in the centre of the hole in the wooden bead or add a knot in the centre, add decorative over-spokes in another colour, or (my personal favourite!) add a fluffy tassel or pom-pom in the centre hole of the wooden bead in the Elizabethan style.

A woven button with a bead added on the top

An Elizabethan style button with a very short pom-pom or tassel decoration on top

When the bead is fully covered, I usually take the thread back down through the centre of the bead to the bottom. I turn the bead over and secure my thread through one of the now fully covered and raised spokes. Then I take the thread directly across to the other side of the hole (making a small loop) and secure the thread there. Then I take it back to the original stitch and secure it there again. This is the base of the shank (or loop) to sew it down. (Some people I know use the left over thread end to sew the button on, but I really like to a button-hole loop so that I can cut the buttons off easily for laundering. I just use normal sewing thread and sew the buttonhole shank onto the garment.)

Two loops across the hole which are secured and will be stitched over with buttonhole stitch to make the shank 

Don't make the shank base too tight. It needs to have a little but of give- you will be buttonhole-stitching across it to make the shank. When you have done this, secure your thread, knot off and take your thread through to a place on the shank where it is not obvious, and cut off the leftover thread. Then sit back and enjoy your handiwork!

Working the shank

Working the buttonhole bar or shank at the bottom of the button

The buttonhole stitched shank almost finished

The finished button showing the buttonhole bar or shank to stitch it on to clothing with

Two completed buttons