Monthly Archives: January 2013

Period perfect?

Last night I had some great discussions with a few friends about what seemed like a zillion topics. One that stood out was the discussion on perfection, or more aptly: period perfect.

It started with a discussion about extant embroidered shock, the were not perfect. A hanging meant to be viewed 30 feet away did not have neat tiny stitches. The people making it were probably more concerned with getting it done.

We also talked about inventorying stitches: a modern concept. They wouldn’t have commissioned a piece and said “I want you to do it in this stitch”. They would have said ” I want an embroidered hood with gold, pearls ad my heraldry.” The crafts person would then make it in the technique they were trained to do, or what the design called for.

Okay I know, you are going to point out that there are certain techniques that are mentioned in period, but most of the time they refer to a style not a pacific stitch. Archeologists, Victorians, historians put most of the labels on things. If they did embroidery in both cross stitch and long arm cross stitch, does it matter which you use on your project if they may have been used interchangeably?

It’s like cooking with rabbit vs another protein. What did thy have? They I’d not say.. You can only make this if you have venison.

So how does this impact us? I think we are too focused on perfection or “period perfection” and not focused enough on the interpretation, exploration and understanding of period practices.

I read on a list recently that pearl purl ( a type of metal used in goldwork ) was not period, a form called lizardine was more correct. How do we know? One is flat metal wound up the other is round wire wound up. Why would both not have been used? Just because we don’t have extant examples, we don’t have extant examples of many things before the 17th century. It doesn’t meant thy dint exist, they may have just not survived.

We know from primary accounts that precious materials or items were picked off , cut apart, repurposed and were usually part of a household’s inventory. Also most of the items that survived from before the 1600’s were com churches, very wealthy / princely families. And those would have been the best of the best.

Now I am not saying its okay to run amok and start mixing forms, materials and designs and claiming its period. But I am suggesting that we step back a bit and not expect re-created items to be exact.

If they used silk, linen, or wool for an appliqué interchangeably does it matter which you use as long as it makes sense for the item? I am not saying go use silk appliqué on your 10th century Norse wool garment, because that may not make sense for a number of reasons. But for that appliquéd banner, look at what was used regionally and available and have fun.

As far as those perfect stitches. I am all for being judged on my work being museum perfect because let me tell you, they are usually own right sloppy.

Thanks Denise, Joe, Rick and Kandi

Attack of the black fuzzies

As I was getting ready for bed tonight I saw little bits of black scattered on the sheet. I was a bit worried.. The OMG what kind of bugs are invading my bed worried.. But as I got up the nerve to look at them I realized they were tiny tufts of velvet that had come off the gown. I also realize I was covered in them, rather like burrs you can get rid of.

My wonderful hubby, indulges my projects or rather he ignores the pins, threads, bits of gold purl and other assorted embroidery supplies that dominate the couch lately. Do I tell him the velvet attacks?

Anyhow, the fuzz fest was as a result of pulling the back of the gown off the frame to hang up on the dress form.

I promised patterns last week and pictures. So here they are.
To remind everyone. This is what I an making. Or using as my inspiration


These are a few pictures) here are a few from during its making.



Next pictures are trials of the draping process.
Trial number 4 at least. Attempting to work out the pleating.

This one from the side.

Here is a test “front” or back, not sure. The bodice ends up laid out across the grain. from the draping exercises it showed me that it allows the odd shaping around the front of the bust without cutting it into that shape, which didn’t make sense.

Here I have the back on the frame, embroidery in process:

The back completed, on the dress form, sleeved pined on to make sure it looks okay.


Next …..the front..

Inspiration, encouragement and friends

This post was lost before xmas, but I meant everything in here so i wanted to still post it.

Two weeks agoor so I wrote about project fatigue and ways to get past it. Today I want to talk about what has been important to me along the path: my friends and family. More importantly their support and encouragement.

While Hurricane Sandy roared around me for two days I got to hang out and do embroidery….a hardship i know, but it was that or read. Anyhow I completed phase one of the dress: the sleeve is finished ( pictures to come ). It was an odd feeling. I sat back, feeling very proud that I finished it and somewhat ahead of schedule. I was also a bit in awe of how nice it turned out and thought wow, if I had not been kicked in the butt to make something I would never have done this.

I have mentioned before that I had plans to do one years ago but was sidetracked and just not inspired. If it had not been for my friends, I still would still be “planning” instead of doing.

A few days ago I shared what I had done so far with one of my instigators. I was like a little kid again, showing my homework. ( however she does not get to hang it on her fridge). She made me feel embarrassed, shy but soo good. She showed it off on my behalf and of course I felt more embarrassed but man it felt good, all those wam fuzzies. I listened as a few of the men in our group said they had been following the progress and wanted to see it, ( course they also used it as a template for the things they think I will make them).

Further away I have a couple of friends that I chat with regularity, sharing the joy and heartache/ headache of projects. One friend in particular, we are both knee deep in projects and its good to talk it out. Encourage!

Picking up where I left off

I was reminded a few weeks ago (before the holidays) that I had not posted in a while. I promised I would after New Years. So.. here I am.

My absence was not really deliberate. Somewhere there are about 3 posts started that I never completed. I found out the hard way that a drafted post only saves on the device you are typing on, not on the blog itself. So when I went to finish them, they were not there, and I somehow couldn’t recreate what I was trying to say as eloquently. I will find them however and put them up in the very near future.

So where am I today with my various projects?

I did take a hiatus from the Swabian gown. I finished the sleeve, and needed to move onto the gown itself but I had not yet sorted out the pattern I was going to use. Instead of doing embroidery, I spent many hours on the web and buried in books looking at mid and late 15th and early 16th century pictures trying to determine cut of the gown I wanted to use. This is a huge problem when working from just portraits; you can’t see the rest of the garment!!!,

As of this writing, I have gone through about 8 yards of fabric, a few dozen broken pins and a couple rolls of duct tape fitting the dress form. Trial and error is slowly paying off, and I managed a plausable pattern on New Years Day, thanks to my daughter, who has for years suffered through fitting me. The reality is she knows how to fit garments, and does a good job at it (even though she doesn’t think so). I am going to devote a separate post to the garment fitting. I have to get the various pictures of the trial and errors off the camera.

I also took my own advice and did a mini project. A friend of mind had asked me to make her a small embroidered case for her phone. She knew the dress was my first priority, and was not in any hurry, but the case proved to be the perfect “break” piece. I will try to get an image up in the next few days.

The rest of my time was tied up in holiday prep, work and some vacation time with the family over Christmas.

Happy New Year!!