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Category: Medieval

In Progress: Cecilie’s Bliaut

In Progress: Cecilie’s Bliaut

Not exactly SCA related, but sort of tangentially appropriate. My friend Cecilie works at Sherwood Forest Faire here in Austin, and she commissioned me to make her a 12th century bliaut with pendant sleeves, like this one that Racaire made. She bought a lovely blue linen in herringbone twill, and instead of taking time away from her body schedule to embroider the collar and armbands, opted to go with a beautiful blue and gold synthetic brocade.
It's that time of year again.

Although polyester brocade is famously difficult to work with, it was in fact easier than this ridiculously slithery linen. SO MUCH BIAS STRETCH. I was lucky to have vertical lines where the herringbone meets to be able to cut accurately one way. (Bran thinks the whole thing is much better served as a cat bed anyway).
Cecilie's Bliaut The look of this fabric is so gorgeous though. It’s worth it. Almost. I finally learnt the trick of cutting it, which was to make all the vertical cuts and swish the linen kind of up in the air, letting the cut edge settle on its own parallel to the straight edge of my table, and then cut the horizontal lines after that. I am SO GLAD for rectangular construction in bliauts. Cecilie's Bliaut

The neckline is a slit faced in brocade and then topstitched (well-behaved it might be, but this brocade still doesn’t want to iron flat) down. I’d thought about couching some faux gold thread over the top stitching, but it disappears against that lux fabric.

Cecilie's Bliaut Current progress: Sleeves and gussets attached, neckline faced, side gores added. I still have to add the armbands at the elbow seam, but I want to make sure I don’t have to shorten the sleeves first. Then the center front and back gores will be inserted and the sides of the torso will be taken in while the dress is on Cecilie, to ensure the best fit. I’m excited to see it on her!

Cecilie's Bliaut

Cantigas de Santa Maria Pouches, Part Two

Cantigas de Santa Maria Pouches, Part Two

When last we left our project, I’d finished up the embroidery on the first pouch, and I’d sketched out the diamonds on the yellow linen (the last of the linen from my Byzantine dress [have I seriously not blogged that either?! What is WRONG with me?], except for what I’ve held back for lining the cuffs, whenever they get finished).  . Digression aside, I basically marked equal spaces along each edge and connected them, leaving me with a lovely diamond grid to embroider.   . I only did one line of chain stitch. Since the overall motif was much denser than the other pouch, I didn’t think it needed bolder lines. Here it is all finished, ready to be sewn up.  . I lined both pouches (but forgot the take pictures) with coordinating linen by laying the pieces right sides together and machine sewing at the seam allowances. I clipped the curve of the cover flap and then turned them right side out and pressed, not unlike the Double Eagle Pouch I made some time ago. But that braided finish is a pain in the neck, and I kind of hate doing it, no matter how fantastic it looks.  . So instead, what I decided to so was whipstitch the pouches closed with a thread that matches the outer fabric, so as not to be so noticeable, and then just do a decorative chainstitch along the edges of the join, to mimic the braid stitch without all the fuss. I did this on the dragon pouch too (technically after these were done, but I did blog that one first), because I really liked the effect.  Finishing up the edges of the pouch with chain stitch. I added long shoulder straps in the lining fabric, as shown in the manuscripts. The strap ends were doubled over to create a smaller footprint when attached to the pouches. The red ones were sewn to the back, and the blue ones were inserted into the pouch and sewn to the lining. I’m really pleased with the way they came out and I want to make a million more of them.  The embroidered pouches are all finished!

And the chest that Juan Carlos made for me? It’s beautiful! IMG_1714

Cantigas de Santa Maria Pouches, Part One

Cantigas de Santa Maria Pouches, Part One

For a while now, I’ve been wanting a six board chest, in which to keep my feast gear and other sundries at events. I have resigned to myself to the fact that I don’t have time to do all the things I want to do. And even more importantly, I don’t have to do the things I don’t have any interest in doing, even when the outcome of those activities is a thing I want or need. I am not a wood worker, and I don’t really want to cultivate those skills right now. So I put out a call-out to my reenactment friends, to see if any of them would be interested in doing an artisan trade.

Master Juan Carlos, a Laurel in my local Barony, let me know that he’d be willing to make a chest for me (I’d already seen and admired one that he made for himself, so I was excited) in exchange for a couple of embroidered pouches similar to those from the Cantigas de Santa Maria. I looked through the illuminations he sent me and settled on two designs. One like this, with a pouch flap and a neat rounded motif…

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And one like the yellow ones below, with no flap and a diamond design.  cantiga-maria-2 I picked out my colors (red and black on natural linen, and indigo blue on yellow) and sketched out my designs on the fabric. I decided to go with DMC Pearl Cotton, since I have a metric ton of it, it launders well (I try not to use delicate fibers unless I know who they are going to), and makes a nice bold clean line.
New handwork project, for Master Juan Carlos.

I decided on chain stitch, as it makes the boldest line with a single row of stitching, and the designs are all linear. I also started off using a hoop, but gave it up as I found it was more trouble than it was worth. This red and black design has the flap motif incorporated into the back; the pouch flap will fold over at the top of that line, halfway through the circle.
Working on my embroidery art trade tonight.

The pouch laid out, so you can see basically what it will look like when it’s all folded up.
. . . I finished up all the red, and then began the black, just embroidering another line right next to the one that had already been done.
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I really like how they look together; so bold and graphic.
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All finished up with the first embroidery, about to start on the second. Part two will be the second pouch embroidery and how I made them all up. Tune in Monday!

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Bliaut Modifications

Bliaut Modifications

A friend of mine, Mariana, gave me a whole bunch of her old garb. Which is so sweet, but seeing as she’s more than half a foot shorter than me, there needed to be some modifications made. This particular piece, a Spanish bliaut, is a lovely shade of sea-glass green, with navy blue velvet ribbon trim. I had some linen I had dyed a soft dusty rose pink, and decided to use it as a guard on the bottom, and to make arm bands to tie in that color to the rest of the dress. bliaut sleeve 1

I centered some leftover velvet ribbon in the bands as well, for some added visual interest. You can also catch a glimpse of the pink cord I finger looped for the side lacing too.
bliaut arms 2

This picture is ridiculously orange, but you can see the drape of the guard. It doesn’t follow the flare of the dress, but instead hangs straight down from the hem, so it looks funny hanging like that, but it’s not something that’s terribly noticeable when I’m wearing it.
finished bliaut1

Here the colors are truer, and you get a glimpse into the wreckage that is my work room. The bags are gone; I’d just culled my yarn stash and they were waiting to go away, and the rest of the detritus has been put away. I’ll try to get some pictures of me wearing it soon. finished bliaut 2

In Progress: New Red Hose

In Progress: New Red Hose

This weekend, and next week, I am from home on a trip. I hesitate to call it a vacation, as we are, this weekend, in Maryland for Edmund’s grandmother’s funeral (ave, Atlantia!). Next week we will be back on schedule for happy Thanksgiving visitation plans though, which should be more joyous.

One of the things I wanted to work on this year was the creation of some more foundational pieces for my wardrobe. Would you believe I only have one pair of hose? So on Monday, gearing up for a week and a half absence, I cut out two pairs of linen hose to handsew on the trip. Yeah, I’ve also had the hand sewing bug lately. I was going to make a woolen hood for a friend, but I didn’t have enough fabric. It will show up as a pair of warm sleeves instead, embroidered with some of the woolen embroidery thread I hand-dyed a while ago.

The first is this pair of lovely crimson hose (the other is a pair of tawny-ginger colored ones). I am sewing the long seams with a tiny backstitch for quickness and strength. Believe it or not, it’s actually just as quick for me to sew backstitch as running, and I find it’s a sturdier seam. I’m using Gutermann silk sewing thread and a short, skinny quilting between for a needle.  Sewing Red Hose

When the seams are finished, I flat fell them to keep the raw edges of the linen from unraveling. Having had a doublet I made completely fray apart at the seams, I am fanatical now about finishing techniques. I cut one side of the seam allowance down by half, and fold the taller side over it, and then fold flat and whip stitch it down. It makes for a really sturdy, strong seam.
Sewing Red Hose

The linen, cut on the bias, makes for a lovely flat seam, even along curved seams like the instep.
Sewing Red Hose

I mistakenly managed to flat fell one of the seams so that the “ugly” side of the backstitch shows, but I don’t think it’s going to structurally impact the way the hosen wears, so I’m not worried about it.
Sewing Red Hose I’ve managed to finish one of the hosen so far (The top is hemmed with a running stitch; I forgot to grab a picture of it), and I’m looking forward to working on the next. I think my favorite part about these hose is that, combined with those garters I wove a while ago (that first picture shows the only other pair of hose I have, incidentally), they’re my colors!
Sewing Red Hose

In Progress: Bliaut Collar

In Progress: Bliaut Collar

Have I really not blogged about this beyond showing some samples? I know I’ve talked about it a BUNCH on the Facebook page (good reason to follow me there; I tend to post small updates on things that don’t make it to the blog as finished posts). It’s about time I did, then, since I’ve recently taken it up again.

When I made my twelfth century bliaut, I knew I wanted it to have a beautifully embroidered collar, a la Racaire’s lovely work. I did some research into pretty scroll-ish vines and found the tails of the mitre of Thomas a Beckett. I picked one singular motif (since they change in size from top to bottom) and played around with it in Photoshop until I had a template I liked. I printed it out (it’s so much bigger than I thought it would be!), and followed my prick-and-pounce technique to transfer the design to the red-orange linen I used on the lining of the bliaut.

Bliaut Collar Progress

Remember back in the day, when I bought these threads? I had it as my plan to use the green and purple for the embroidery on this collar. The lime green and red-orange is not an intuitive choice to the modern eye, but the medieval aesthetic is FULL of crazy color combinations. I started off using split stitch on the fill. I didn’t like how the clover-leaf finials were coming out, though, so I cut them out and redid that one there.
Bliaut Collar Progress

Here you can see the new clover finials, and the progress. I added in some additional ink lines in the middle of the Y-junctures of the vines, to help guide my stitch direction, which was a really handy thing to do.  Bliaut Collar Progress One side of the green all finished. It’s sitting at about 16:30 hours of work in that picture. 
Bliaut Collar Progress

I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with the border, so I bought a darker version of the green fill. At least, it looked like the same color, but when I stitched it on to test it, the border green looked SO much more yellow. So, that’s not gonna work. I cut it out and decided to go with the purple instead. Bliaut Collar Progress Finished up the stem-stitch outline on the vine here. I thought about doing the border in stem stitch too, but it actually looked better in split stitch. I’m still debating what to do in the center of the border squares, but I have a bit of time before I have to decide. I could do a satin stitch square, or a small square outline, a pearl in the center, or I could just leave it as it is. I’ll figure it out at the very end.
Bliaut Collar Progress About halfway done with the second side green stitching. Aaand, that’s where it sits for AGES. I got busy with other projects and put it on the back burner.
Bliaut Collar Progress

But I missed working on it, so I decided to devote at least ten minutes of embroidery time on it per day. I think I’ve worked more on it the last three days than I have in the last six months. I don’t think I’ve stitched less than an hour on it since I started working again.
Finished up the last green spiral where the embroidery sits now. Threaded up the needle to finish up the purple so I can advance it to the next bit.

This is where it is right now. I’m almost done with the purple, and then I’ll advance it to the next, clear section to keep working. It’s gonna be daunting, I think, to see a whole new blank space (and to know that I probably have another three “blank” sections to go, not counting the sleeve sections, before this is finished), but I will persevere in my ten minutes a day resolution until it’s finished.  Bliaut neckline. 45:58 hours. Http://www.opuselenae.com Time invested so far: 45:58 hours.

Veil Pins

Veil Pins

I admit it, I’m a bit of a magpie. I love pretty, shiny things. Jewelry, goldwork embroidery, silk, you name it. Some of my favorite gifts and largesse have been veil pins, which feel my shiny addiction nicely.

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A local bead store was going out of business recently, and had a ton of items on super-discount, including some 3″ long stick pins, and some of the ladies in my local clothier’s guild bought a bunch of them to make veil pins for largesse.

I picked up a bunch too, but decided to cut them down a bit, as I feel 3″ is too long. The brass and black pins above are about that long and they stick out too far past the curve of my head when I wear them (I keep meaning to cut them down but I haven’t yet). After an afternoon of picking through my bead collection (Poppet “helped” too) and supergluing my fingers to each other, this was the result:

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Nine sets of veil pins (the first pair were gifts from the clothier’s guild), in various colors and shapes. I like my pins to be in sets of three, so I can pin on top of my head, as well as at either temple. Unfortunately, the bead store is closed now, which is a shame, since all I want to do is MAKE MORE! Luckily, I’ve sourced some more stickpins from Fire Mountain Gems at about $0.17 a pop, so I can indulge my new-found addiction. And make largesse. Sure. Largesse.

Super Secret Scroll: Finished!

Super Secret Scroll: Finished!

The scroll is finished, and the title was given this Saturday during court, so I can talk about it now. It’s a Court Barony scroll for Robert de Bray, and it was requested that I include a European dragon of some sort and his coat of arms, all in a vaguely 16th century style. I went through Pinterest looking for suitable medieval depictions of dragons and found this page from a German manuscript (c 1463-1476, so a little early, but I can’t resist a good versal).

Court Barony

I moved the verbal up to the top of the page, to start the words, and made the tail spiral down around the gold bar. I also lengthened the top border to go all the way to the other margin. I calligraphed the words in my standard blacklister gothic hand, but replaced the capitols with painted letters in blue and red, to match the manuscript.
Court Barony

I didn’t use period pigments on this scroll, because of the time consideration. I had two weeks from commission to delivery, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to re-do it if I ran into a problem. I used store-bought gouache, and the Majestic Gold pigment from Griffin Dyeworks. 
Court Barony

I wanted to include this picture of the coat-of-arms with a ruler for scale. The little dragon is an inch and a half tall. The details were painted with an insanely tiny liner brush. I am very proud of this wee guy, and the whole scroll, for that matter. 
Court Barony

Secret Scroll Border

Secret Scroll Border

I’m finished with the calligraphy part of the scroll, and have moved on the the painting portion. Here is the top border almost finished. The rest will have to wait til tomorrow in better light.

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Infallible Spell: Completed

Infallible Spell: Completed

Since this piece has been received (and approved!) by the commissioner, I can talk about this now. My friend Mel wanted a small piece showing the Infallible Spell for Beauty from CS Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Only the top part of the text was written in the book. The other words are crappily translated nonsense-Latin based on the spell performed in the movie version. That’s okay, though; it’s the Harry Potter principle. Spells don’t need to be real Latin, they just have to sound it.

Infallible Spell

I based this little piece (it’s 5″x7″) on an English Psalter from the latter half of the 15th century.  I had a really great time doing the whitework and shading. I used pigments from Griffin Dyeworks and Scribal Workshop. The gold is an imitation shell-gold (it’s bronze powder, I think) mixed with gum arabic and a little bit of glair.
Infallible Spell

I wanted there to be a representation of Aslan on the page, both because there was one mentioned in the book (he snarls at Lucy for contemplating using the spell) and as a reminder that even if you were use it, he would love you anyway. Infallible Spell