25 January 2015

Saving A Battered, Old Chair

THIS CHAIR has seen better days:

(all of these pics are halfway through sanding, to show just how much *crud* is in/on this wood)
Don't get me wrong, it's a good chair.  It's extremely well-made, sturdy, and not a joint is out of place, though it looks horrible.  What you're looking at is several years' worth of

  • rain/water damage
  • sun exposure/oxidation
  • corroded varnish
  • sweaty fighter butts (ewww)
Not only was the finish shot, but the wood was so swollen with weather and age in places that the chair wouldn't fully open OR close...rendering a really nice chair completely useless. 

I'll be honest, I was dreading the prospect of sanding allllll those pieces individually.  I guess the chair, or the Universe, or the Powers-That-Be heard me - because I could NOT get this thing apart to save my life.  I tried every tool at my disposal, got friends to help me, even tried to grind the hardware out, but it appears to have been made of naquadah-enhanced unobtanium, and sealed with black magic.  @_@  In the end I had to sand and stain this thing WHILE FULLY ASSEMBLED.  I'm here to tell you that was a bitch

BUT I got it done: 

(I could no longer feel my hands after this...and it still needed more sanding)

Here's the first coat of stain, applied very, very carefully, with a small brush and a lot of paper towels.  The chair is solid oak, and pretty well weathered and seasoned; still, I didn't want to chance the stain swelling the wood and undoing all the work I put into buffing down the seat pieces so that this thing would move properly again.  Rubbing stain into the wood with paper towels keeps too much stain from soaking in and swelling the wood, and it also gives you a LOT more control over the depth and amount of color.  

(oooh, aahhh)

After two more coats of stain, and several coats of spray poly-acrylic (for a low-tack, matte-sheen clearcoat, rather than a polyurethane which could stick in hot weather), it was finally done:

(The dark area of the back piece was severely stained, deep enough that I couldn't surface clean it out, or even sand it off the wood.  It's the same on the reverse of the piece; in fact, it's worse on the other side.  I have no idea what caused it, but, this was the best I could do with it). 

Sir John's and his lady Bridget's devices painted on the center of the back rest, in acrylic paint, and heavily clear-coated to prevent scratching.


10 January 2015

Now, About That Hat Situation

First of all, I needed a head covering for the daytime, to go with that gold Swiss dress I made.  I decided to make one of these:

(This is captioned as belonging to Whiljascorner.wordpress, but I can't find this post anywhere on Whilja's blog - my apologies to her, and if anyone can find a direct link, please comment here so I can give better credit).

Easy, soft, pretty, and easy to wear.

Bonus: looks fantastic with an old, shredded
Planet Fitness t-shirt

Here's mine.  

Lightweight, white muslin, cut into a circle about 20" diameter, with a band of the same fabric, and silk ribbon ties in back.

Gathering the circle onto the headband.

There's a piece about 4" wide in the center back that is not attached to the headband, that I just hemmed with a very tiny rolled hem.

I'm holding the back of the (coif? cap?)  up so you can see it's purpose:  the ties at the back of the headband tie underneath my hair, and the un-gathered back of the fabric circle kind of tucks up underneath it.

The design is similar to a St. Briget's (or Birgitta) cap, except for the width of the headband, and the length of the ties.

My non-SCA BFF/roommate asked me if I was
going to be working in a bakery at Candlemas. 

The 20" circle is plenty loose - enough that I could stuff a padded roll for a more haube-like look if I wanted to (hint: I don't. My head's a weird enough shape already, thank you).

This will work fine on its own; and it would also look great under a big, floppy hat, if I end up making one.

And then...

I decided, after seeing a number of beaded and embroidered coifs of similar design on various blogs, I decided to make a fancier one to wear with my Hapsburg gown:

This one's made of blue washed silk, machine-stitched in silver metallic thread.  I sewed the gathered circle onto a length of gray bias tape, then stitched it onto a headband of navy silk velvet ribbon, accented with a strip of narrow, silver, woven ribbon trim. The ties are a vintage rayon seam tape.

I will probably end up making some sort of hat to wear on top of it...but I haven't quite gotten there yet.  Stay tuned!


09 January 2015

A Belt!

Whaddaya do on a Friday night while watching TV and eating pizza with your BFF?  Make a belt!

1" silver-toned belt plaques from JoAnn Fabrics
An old leather belt, cut from 1.75" to 1", and wee holes poked in the ends
14" of 1/2" jewelry chain

Four with amethyst-colored glass, and four like this, with a little clear glass stone.

Hook-and-eye front closure made out of heavy silver wire

A better shot of the connections - just more heavy wire, rolled into jump rings
and then flattened, and the ends curled into the leather so they won't snag my dresses. 

Candlemas: IT'S FINISHED!!! (2/2)


Man, I gotta tellya, that skirt whupped my butt.  The skirt on the extant gown is cut as a full circle.  I tried for days to figure out how to do that with the two remaining curtain panels I had, but I just couldn't make it work.  In the end, I went with a panel-and-gore skirt, to make the best use of the fabric I had.  It means that the skirt isn't as full as I'd have liked, but it still looks and moves great (it's far fuller than it looks in the pics; my dress dummy is perched on the edge of the table, and some of the skirt had to be wadded up underneath it to make it look like it was standing up.  I reeeeally need to get around to building a stand for it!)

The skirt is pleated onto a hidden waistband attached underneath and behind the lower edge of the bodice...

I wrapped the red printed linen drapery fabric around a core of white upholstery
canvas, for stiffness and strength - the skirt is reeeally heavy! 

There's  a split in the front of the skirt - I'd originally wanted to conceal the waistband closure inside a deep pleat, but I didn't have enough fabric to pleat the skirt as fully as I'd wanted to.  So I split the front, and edged it in a narrow bias tape; the split sits pretty flat, and is completely hidden by the black belt when I have it on.

Too much/too thick fabric for pins?  Bobby pins. Thanks, Pinterest! 

All in all, though, I really like the way the dress came out.  It fits perfectly, and though it's heavy, it moves well, and is really comfortable.

Other Notes: 

  • I ended up not lining the skirt.  This dress is heavy enough, I didn't want to add any more weight to it.  I also didn't want to add yet another layer to the three I'll already be wearing at the event...which is indoors. 
  • I added a 3" trim of red upholstery velvet to the bottom of the entire skirt, to soften the lower edge and echo the wide, red silk trim on the neckline and sleeve cuffs. 
  • I still don't have a freeping hat!!!  D:  

Fully-dressed events pics in just a couple of weeks. :) 


08 January 2015

More Dresses For Candlemas: Blue and Black "Kampfrau"

This one's for my friend L. Ysabeau (for whom I made the russet silk bliaut back in October):

(modeled for us today by Violet, who still needs a stand, but it turns out
she works just fine for photo purposes perched on the corner of my cutting table)


  • Black and turquoise linen
  • Bodice lined in the same black linen
  • Cuffs and neckline trim interlined in a white pique cotton (shows behind  the slashing on the neckline)
  • Skirt cartridge-pleated to the bodice edge, and sewn on by hand. 
  • Neckline slashes tacked and stitched open by hand: 

Yesterday I finished this gown (I'd been in the middle of putting lacing hooks behind the front opening for like two weeks, for some reason. It took like maybe thirty minutes to finish), cleaned up my sewing room a bit, and started working on the waistband for the red Hapsburg gown.  More on that tomorrow! 

07 January 2015

The Headgear Discrepancy

In the Hungarian National Museum exhibit, the extant Hapsburg wedding gown is shown sans headgear. There's a white scarf or veil wrapped around the head of the display mannequin (as seen here); but no other head covering is shown - the focus is on the dress itself.  To my knowledge, there is no headgear that goes with that extant dress.

So, in researching the Hapsburg wedding gown for my red-and-white version, at some point along the way I decided that I'd make a truncated hennin to wear with it.  The decision was based on (a) the Hapsburg gown being a combination of Burgundian and German styling, and (b) I kept coming across portaits of Mary of Hungary/Hapsburg that were either German in styling or French.  A little bit more research and I would have realized that I was actually seeing portraits of two entirely different women!

Marie de Bourgone, Michel Pocher, c. 1490

The first is Marie de Bourgone, (1457-1482), daughter of Charles the bold and Duchess of Burgundy. This is the Mary of Burgundy so often depicted in classic Burgundian dress with the steepled hennin.

Hans Maler, 1520
The second is Mary of Austria, also called Mary of Hungary after her marriage to Louis II (for which event the "Hapsburg gown" was created), and Governor of the Netherlands after his death, as regent for her brother, Ferdinand I.  She's the daughter of Philip I and Joana "the Mad" of Castile, and the niece of Catherine of Aragon...and is no relation to Mary of Burgundy.

Portraits of this Mary are often of Mary as Governor of the Netherlands, after her first husband's death, and in these later portraits, her garb looks decidedly more German.

(There are a also couple of portaits of her wearing mourning dress, after her second husband's death, which looks like it's probably Tudor-y, but I haven't been able to track down sources for them other than or hobbyist blogs which have no documentation).

Why didn't I catch this?  Because all of my research was about the *dress*, not the woman herself.   There is a also, I've discovered, a LOT of confusion between the two out there on the internet, a lot of blogs and A&S papers and other sources which list incorrect names for both women and/or present both women as the same person.  It took some digging into the parentage and domain of both Marys to figure out which one was which.  ARGH.

So, now what? 

Man, I have no idea.  While the Hapsburg gown is, technically, contemporary to late Burgundian fashion, during which women were still wearing hennins, I *could* get away with it...but now I know I've been confusing my Marys, I feel like it's not the right hat for the dress.  And, of course,  I can find NO period portraits of her in a gown that looks like the actual Hapsburg wedding gown.

I don't have time to make a big ol' German hat.  And the Hapsburg gown isn't a big ol' German hat type of dress, anyway.

When I did my original research on the patterning and construction of the Hapsburg wedding gown, I found three others made by SCAdians on the web, and...none of them are wearing headgear at all in the photographs.


Anyway, in the meantime, I thought I'd share my research-fail with you, because I thought it was kinda funny.  I really should have clued in, earlier, to the fact that I might actually be looking at two different women!

Oh, yeah...

So, here's the truncated hennin that I made:

(this is my "seriously?!" face)
The hat is made of a double-layer of heavy cross-stitch fabric (because that's what I had), covered with some blue drapery fabric scraps that I adhered to the cross-stitch fabric with spray adhesive.  The drape across the front is black velveteen salvaged from an old coat.

I folded the point of the cone inward to blunt the end and add stability to the hat itself, which was pretty flimsy before I did that.

Inside the "brim", the edge of the blue drapery fabric is turned under the edge of the cross-stitch fabric and the raw edges covered with a strip of ribbon hot-glued and stitched in place by hand.

While it doesn't show well in the photo for whatever reason, my silk gauze veil is sheer enough that the color and pattern of the hennin shows through it.  I really like the effect.

Not bad for a little hat that I totally didn't need and don't have anything to wear with.  :P


06 January 2015

Candlemas: The Hapsburg Gown (1/2

This year, for Candlemas, I'm making a version of "The Hapsburg Wedding Gown", made for Mary of Austria, for her wedding to Louis II of Hungary in 1515.

I've wanted for years to make a version of this gown for myself, and in recent months, the most amazing fabric came to me.  It took me about a month of researching and planning an entirely different outfit for it, before I came across some old research on the Hapsburg gown and realized that it was finally time to do it.

Since Candlemas this year is German- (specifically Landsknecht-) themed, and I haven't been terribly interested in going full German, I settled on this as a compromise.  The gown's design, "...influenced by the leading fashion of Burgundia and the taste of the German renaissance," (says the Hungarian National Museum, where the gown is currently displayed), is a nice balance between German styling and...something I'd actually wear.  (I mean absolutely no disrespect, it's just not my thing).

And so...

The completed bodice, which doesn't fit my dummy, Violet, as well as it fits me. Violet needs some serious overhaul. 

The fabric is a printed drapery-weight linen, which came from...you guessed it: a trio of drapes passed to me by a friend, in a round of "Take what you want out of these boxes and then pass them on."  The background is sort of an ecru color, and the botanical designs are in shades of cherry red, and burgundy.  

Aside: the drapes had once hung in the home of a heavy smoker, and lemmetellya, it was some work getting it clean, but I managed it. Yay!  

The trim pieces are cut from a silk sari I'd owned for years (and once wore to a friend's Bollywood-themed wedding). 

Construction-wise,  I started with my Italian bodice pattern, since it had about the right shape and cut. I adjusted the arm scyes, since my Italian is cut to be worn sleeveless; and adjusted the neckline and front opening, which was actually far more challenging that I thought it would be. 

My bust is large and in charge.  That makes a flat, straight line from the shoulder to the waist, for a bodice cut like this, impossible.  These double-deez need a bit of a curve - but this is NOT a curved-edge look at all.

I started with fitting a mock-up with a straight front cut, then added some long, curved pieces to the front to fit my bust and put the front opening where it needed to be.  

(You can see the seam better here)

Once I was happy with the fit, I slit the center front bust to make the pattern piece lay flat.  When I cut the drapery fabric I did NOT include the seam you see in the mock-up pattern piece.  I stitched a dart into the front, just to get the front line and bust fit correct, and used it to mark a line across the center curve where the dart had been, to mark the fabric that needed to be cinched up:  

Then I gathered the area very tightly by hand.  This is a tailor's fitting trick I learned from a my friend Simona, who has been allowing me to observe and help a little bit with her amazing late-period doublets.  It's been very educational, and fun!  

There's a corresponding, albeit smaller, gathering at the armpit of the front pieces. The two gathered areas form sort of a boob-pocket that curves over the bust: 

The resulting fit is a straight line from shoulder to waist, and flat across the bust and midriff;  but the center front is curved enough to cover the bust and to stay in place: 

As you can see from the finished bodice picture, the gathering doesn't show at all once the trim and sleeves are in place, and I have a "flat" bodice that actually covers The Girls without falling off the sides or gapping in the center.

Other Construction Notes On This Bodice

  • The entire bodice is fully lined in an off-white muslin.  The body pieces are flat-lined, and seams opened and clean-finished.  The sleeve linings are stitched to cover the seams on the inside. 

  • The cuffs and neckline trim are interlined with the same muslin, since the silk is very lightweight and flimsy.  
  • The neckline trim is sewn to the bodice pieces on the inside, behind the bodice edge, and turned outward, and tacked down by hand around the outside edges. 

  • The sleeve cuffs were treated in almost the exact same way, except that they're extended from the end of the sleeve instead of wrapped around the edge of it.  The cuff itself is not as widely bell-shaped as I would have liked, but I do like the way they look.  They're soft enough, even with the interlining, to not restrict hand movement (the cuffs come down to the ends of my fingertips), and can be turned back easily so as not to be in the way (of eating, for example). 
  • The lower edge of the bodice will sit on top of the pleated skirt, once it's attached - you can see in this close-up photo on flickr that the bodice on the extant Hapsburg gown is treated the same way.  (The flickr poster's blog has even more excellent photos of the construction details of the Hapsburg gown, but somehow I lost the bookmark I had and I can't find the blog again! In any case, her flicker photos are just amazing). 
  • From drafting the pattern to finishing the bodice, this half of the gown has taken me just over a week to complete.  

I used one of my three 84x48" drapery panels on this bodice.   I have to say, I've been terrified to cut out the skirt, because this isn't a panel-and-gore skirt - it's a full circle.  The skirt on the extant gown is pieced, which is what I'd planned to do...but how?  While writing up this blog post, I happened across a cutting diagram I hadn't seen before, which actually answered all of my questions about cutting the skirt pieces.  With any luck, I'll have a skirt post, and a finished dress for you before too long. :) 

To be continued...


04 January 2015

S'mo Bling


A Pair of Belts

A pair of gold-colored metal clasps, on a velvet belt.
I colored the leaf detail in the clasps in with green nail polish.  

A pewter belt buckle, bought in 2011, which was kinda...bland.  I spray-painted it gold (the belt is wrapped in painters' tape in the before pic on the left), then colored in the recessed parts with a brown Sharpie marker.  Sharpies can do ANYTHING.  (I kinda hate the copper rivet, but it doesn't show when the belt is on.  This was, by the way, the first leather thing I ever made).  

Ye Olde Bag

Ever write a text, email, blog post - and then realize later that you never hit the 'send' button?  Yeah.  I thought I posted this in November, my bad.


Ever see those nifty cross-body satchels people carry in period art?  Like this:

Even elephants carry purses. 

Well, a friend of mine had a sheet of painted burlap fabric, done in little rectangular scenes of chivalry, love, and warfare; she thought they'd be great on bag flaps.  And I just happened to have purchased a *ton* of cotton Ikea curtains from a dance studio that was closing down a few months ago.  And so this happened:

Hee.  These designs are so cute.

Each one is approximately 10x14" when closed, with the top flap covering the front of the bag completely when flat.

For the most part I just satin-stitched over the edge of each picture to applique it onto the bag flaps; one or two of them are stitched a bit differently because of the way they'd been cut from the whole cloth.

By the way?  Screw sewing burlap ever again.  That was gross.

The body of the bags are just flat - no boxing or other shaping to give them extra volume.  If they were pillows, they'd be knife-edge pillows, but idk what the equivalent term in bag making would be.

I kept thinking, while making these, how tribbles are basically born pregnant, and just multiply when you're not looking.

I also kept thinking, "Holy crap, am I done yet??"

I assembly-lined this project, though, which made it go a bit faster and more precisely.  I cut everything out, then prepped the burlap piece edges, then made the straps, then all the fronts, then did all the final assembly.  It took about eighteen hours to do the entire set.

They were all distributed amongst the household/company at BAM in November.  And I'd like extra credit for not making a special prank-bag for our Fearless Leader.  He's so fun to mess with, but I kept it reasonably professional.  ;)

~ FIN ~

Heraldic Flags For Camp

This is a catch-up post from BAM - from November.  I promise, I'm trying to be better about posting follow-ups and finished project pictures. :)

So, we at Caerleon have been trying to figure out some camp-fencing ideas.  Nobody wants to keep people out, but you don't really want people just randomly walking through your campsite at events, either, you know?  Rather than going to the expense and trouble of building an actual fence, and having to pack, tote, assemble, and disassemble it at every event; or putting together a sheet wall, which IS useful if you're camped by a roadside, for controlling dust and traffic noise,  but walls you off from the rest of the world pretty effectively, I put a ropeline together to stake out around the camp.

First, I took a couple of white, cotton curtains, cut them into 12x14" blocks and painted the heraldic devices of some of our members onto them:

I used the same fabric-painting method I use for my other linen and cotton projects: a 3:1 mixture of acrylic craft paint and craft or fabric glue, with a few drops of water mixed in to make the paint flow and soak into the fabric better.  

I sewed each one to a blank backing of the same fabric, and left a rod pocket at the top of each one, like a curtain panel.  I also made up a bunch of plain flags in other colors.  All of them were then strung onto a plain hemp rope, which was strung from 36" wire plant stakes (spray painted gold) around our campsite at BAM: 

Yay, most of us! :D 

It was a pretty decent trial-run of the idea, and people liked the way it looked. It's definitely not a completed project, though: 

  1. 36" stakes are WAY too short, considering that nearly a foot of each stake is pushed into the ground, leaving not much to work with.  The ropeline ended up so low that it was almost more of a trip-hazard than anything.  The wire stakes were a stopgap measure, though - all of them will be replaced with taller, sturdier, wooden stakes before we go to Gulf Wars this year. 
  2. I only managed to get about a third of our devices painted onto flags by the time BAM rolled around.  By Gulf Wars I intend to have ALL of our devices going, as well as some bearing the actual Caerleon company device, to space in between each personal device. 

I'll be talking more about Gulf Wars preparations in the next couple of months.  I have a LOT of plans for the company campsite, some of them are even already in progress.  
Just have to get through Candlemas first.  :) 


I Came, I Saw, I Made My Own (II)

I have a bit of a Thing about pomegranates. I always have, and when I joined the SCA, I made the pomegranate my symbol.  It's on my heraldry, many of my personal items that I've made, like boxes and bags, and in a lot of my jewelry, too, in every way I can get it.

So when I saw this on Pinterest, I HAD TO HAVE IT:

22 carat, hollow beads with a pomegranate pendant
Persia, 500BC

It's far earlier than SCA-period; but it's still GORGEOUS.  And people have always loved antiques and ancient things, so, I'm going with it. ;) 

While I do a lot of beading and wire work, I have zero experience with casting jewelry - and no materials which which to do so.  But I've been meaning lately to learn to work with modeling clay, and I figured beads MUST be easy, and probably a decent starter project.  They were a wee bit more challenging that I thought, mostly having to do with getting the holes right, but they came out pretty well: 

I formed them around some sort of knitting tool (it was in a starter kit I was given once, but I never learned to knit, and I have no clue what it's supposed to be).  It sure made a great bead mandrel, though. It might be just as useful for knitting, but for now it's the first tool in my clay kit, hehe. 

About a third of the beads I made came apart when I tried to push a needle through them the first time.  I ended up making a second round of beads, and a bunch extra - and it's a good thing, too, because while stringing them up I realized that the first round was really not nearly as many as I needed!

After all were done and baked, I spray-painted them gold, and strung them on a length of embroidery floss.  I ended up spacing them out with green glass beads, because my clay beads weren't as pointed as the ones in the inspiration pic, and it looked weird having them all butted up against one another.

YAY!  I LOVE the way this came out! 

Here's the necklace on my dress dummy (Violet, who is in serious need of re-adustment, but we'll get to that in another post), along with a red...secret project...that I'll start discussing some time next week.

Stay tuned!