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Sep. 3rd, 2011

Constructing a Hat

The tools and materials you need to make a hat are determined by the hat you are intending to make.
Some hats require framing
Some hats need a stiff base
Some hats require very little structure and don't need to hold a shape.

One thing I have found from all my reading and research is that there is no singular construction method that applies to all hats. Nor is there concensus about what method was used for each hat. Some resources say pasteboard, some say stiffened fabric, and some say wire.

I've had to reconsider my former opinion about hennins, and instead of a wire frame, I think a stiff base is the more likely foundation with the outer layer being glued on (*gasp* Yes, things were glued together in period). While I really like the Hennin I've made (see previous entry), I'm not certain that the wire frame provides the amount of support that the hat really needs. Or, perhaps I need to add more vertical supports...Can you see why this is frustrating?  Not only do I want the hat to look right, it has to feel right as well. It's sort of like picking up a mug, expecting the weight of glass, and spilling it down yourself because it's actually plastic and very lightweight.

Tudor Stuff

Since the hennin is finished, I decided to make a Tudor gown to go over the brown Kirtle I made earlier this year.
I had some beautiful black and bronze silk that I purchased 9 (!!) years ago and finally decided I needed to use it.

I didn't have enough fabric for the full mega-sleeves, or a train, so I opted for narrow cuffed sleeves lined in a reddish-orange (or orangish-red) silk taffeta.

You can't see the really nifty gold and red design of the forepart. The lighting in my sewing room sucks.

I also made a french hood to go with the gown, or perhaps I made the gown to go with the hat. It consists of a coif with a gold pleated frill (currently drying on my ironing board), a crown (or paste, depending on who you're using as a source) with a lower billiment (beads along the lower edge) and a black velveteen hood with an upper billiment (beads along the top edge).

I am so much happier with this hood than I was with the first one I made, and I think it will make the class I teach (when I teach it again) make a lot more sense.

I should get the outfit finished tomorrow....

Edit 9/8/11:

After trying the hood on and fussing with it, cursing at it, and going back to look at portraits....I decided to completely re-make it.
#1. The crown wasn't stiff enough. It was crinkly in a few places and just looked messy. I re-cut it and put it back together using chipboard. It looks much better now except I can't seem to generate enough steam to get it to shape correctly.
#2. I hated the coif. Really, really hated it. Coifs seem to be a sticking point for me because it's hard to fit one on your own head. Anyway, I went back to the books and started looking at portraits from 1514-1520 (ish). I can't see any evidence that one was worn. Now, that doesn't mean that they weren't, and I'm sure "something" was under the hat and over the hair...but I can't see it. So, I think I'm going to wear a smaller cap over my hair and skip the shaped coif all together. I have attached the goffered organza to the lower billament edge, and I think it'll be just fine. If I was making a 1530-1540 hood, everything would be different. In fact, the whole shape is different.

Jul. 18th, 2011

Blue Silk Hennin

And now.....what I truly love....HATS!!

I have the wonderful honor of making a truncated Hennin with a butterfly veil for the elevation of a friend of mine, and I am really excited about it.

A little Hennin history:

 It is thought that the Hennin was brought to France in the early 15th Century by Isabeau of Bavaria. There are tales of the Hennin reaching such great heights that the doors of the french palace had to be altered to accommodate them. Like most extreme fashion, there were sumptuary laws regarding the wearing of hennins, and the taller they were, the higher the status of the wearer. There was even a "hennin burning" sponsored by a priest to protest the sinful nature of this headwear, but by the next morning all the women who had thrown hats into the fire were sporting new hennins that were even taller.

The steeple hennin (princess cone hat) never became fashionable in England, but the truncated (cut short) Hennin did. The frontlets eventually became longer, the cone disappeared, and a gable was used to frame the face.

Hennin Construction:

Unlike clothing, extant hats are rare if not non-existant and so are their patterns. The construction methods used are lost to history and one can only extrapolate based on modern-era techniques.
Buckram, as we know it, was not used as a base for construction in period hats. I believe that most women's hats were constructed using wire framing techniques and then covered in a wadding or Domette type of padding. There was no rigid base (men's hats were different). The wadding was then covered by the ornamented outer fabric. This makes for a lighter hat, and something that could be taken apart and re-worked easily. It is MUCH easier to achieve some of the elaborate shapes seen in period portraits and manuscripts using this method.

How I've made this Hennin:

Going on my theory of lighter being better, I first made up the wire frame. 3 wire circles of diminishing circumference, joined to 6 supporting spines.

Next, I have pinned the batting to the frame, ready to stitch on.

Next, I will drape the outer fabric onto the frame and draft the shape,

transfer it to a flat pattern and  then finish the embellishment before I apply it to the frame. As you can see in the picture, the silk isn't enough to cover the wire shadows. I may need to add a second layer of batting. The silk isn't much to look at in this light, but it is a blue and black ribbed silk shot with gold. And you also have to imagine all the embroidery that's going to be on it....but you can't.....cause it's still in my head. :)

Since the outer fabric is a silk, I'll need to stabilize it with a bottom weight cotton before I start the embroidery. The interlining layer should add another layer of padding between the wires and make the finished product look smooth.

Edit: 8/15/11

All of the embroidery is done, and I am now attaching the velvet bands and gold trim.

The vines were made using a corded stem stitch. The design is stitched to the silk using a stem stitch and then a gold (2 threads) cord was wound around the design to add a little sparkle. I put a little star design at the ends of the swirls and added a small pearl.

Next, I applied a 1/2 inch velvet trim to the spaces in-between the embroidery. I decided to use ribbon trim, rather than make my own because of convenience.

After applying the velvet, I realized that something else was needed to add a little texture, so I opted for a small gold trim. I think this adds just enough interest without going over-board, or taking away from the hand work.

Edit: August 16th, 2011

I finished the outer cover for the hennin. Here are some pictures of it pinned to the frame. Tomorrow I stitch it together and make the veil and wire supports.

Almost Last Edit: 8/17/11
I have temporarily attached the veil, to get an idea of what it will look like.

Doublet Update

I need to take some pictures...

Work is almost done on Sawyer's blue doublet. I have some buttons to sew on and sleeves to put on and then it's done. It has taken forever to finish, but hey...I have a 18 month-old.

Mar. 6th, 2011


I went to happygoth 's house on Saturday and draped the doublet pattern on her DH. I like it much better than my drafting attempts. The slops are going to be tricky since some of his measurements are off the sizing chart, but I think I'm smart enough to make it work. Making something for someone else is very stressful from an aesthetic standpoint. I want it to be perfect and everything he wanted and I just need to have the confidence in my abilities to know that I can make that happen. 

They took me to a fabulous pizza place,
Antico. www.anticopizza.it
it was the best pizza I've ever had. I loved the family style atmosphere.

And, to top off a great day, I finally got to try out the Coke Freestyle machine. My FIL's company made the nifty syrup containers inside it and ever since he told me about it I've been dying to try it out.

  I ended up getting a Diet Coke Orange....yummy. Orange Coke was originally sold in Russia and I think it beats that lime crap. You can also get (along with the traditional flavors: vanilla, cherry, lime) raspberry.

It seems silly to be excited about a drink machine, but when you can get 106 different products and flavors out of one place....I think it's cool.

Now I have to find another one to try something different. :)

Mar. 2nd, 2011

Happy Dance

I have learned so much today that I am giddy and very pleased with myself. I still have no idea if this new muslin will fit, but it will certainly not be for lack of trying. Note to self....you have to include the darts so you can then take them out.

The moulage was drafted and then copied to plastic so I could manipulate it without messing up the original. The pattern is based off of a Janet Arnold doublet that closely resembles the shape of the one he wants.
I realized that while I have had the Dead Body Book for a while, I have sorely underused it as a resource. Shame on me. I should probably take some pictures, but it really isn't that visually exciting yet. :)

Mar. 1st, 2011

Pattern Drafting

I've been working on a doublet for happygoth 's husband and have found myself beaten down by the dang thing. I don't have much experience in sewing for other people. I underestimated the convenience of having the person I need to fit living in the same house. I could pin and fit until my little heart was content. I'm still figuring out the technicalities of drafting my own patterns based on measurements. I just want to say....thank (insert favorite Deity here) for The Costume Technician's Handbook. If you don't own a copy, I highly recommend it.
I also learned not to rely on measurements taken by someone else, unless they've got a chart you've given them.

Anyway, if this draft doesn't work, I'm retaking the measurements.
If it comes out like it is pictured in my head, it will be spec-fab-tacu-lous.

Feb. 21st, 2011

Monday Ramblings

The event this weekend was a lot of fun despite my illness.
My apprentice sister received an OVO (Order of the Velvet Owl, an A&S polling order...very cool.) and considering her work, she absolutely deserves it.

It made me realize a few things about myself.
#1. I don't go out of my way to be "visible".
My fear of putting my foot in my mouth keeps me quiet most of the time.

#2. I haven't done anything "WOW" worthy.
Not from lack of imagination, mind you, I just have other projects that seem to take precedence.

#3. I have to pursue my art because I love it, not because someone else might love it.
I've known this one for a while, it just seems to be the hard one for me because I have to accept the possibility that my best is only mediocre in the eyes of another. I pursue this art because I love it, not necessarily because I'm good at it. It's scary to think that I might not be as artistic as I'd like to think I am.

#4. The SCA isn't a race or a competition with anyone other than myself, unless I choose it to be.

#5. I want my Laurel to be proud of me. I want to be proud of me.

Feb. 17th, 2011


I have a 13 month old little boy, so my sewing is curtailed during the day until he goes to bed. Usually, that gives me about 4 hours to get something accomplished.
I don't know if other people have this problem, but I have found a direct correlation between the hour and the quality of my sewing. Taking this into account, I have just finished 27 of the worst eyelets I have ever sewn...LOL
I am not, however, going to take them out and start over. I need this dress for the weekend, and I still have a hem to turn.

I'll post some pictures of it tomorrow.

I used Margo Anderson's tudor wardrobe pattern to make a brown linen kirtle with black velveteen bands.
I started this project many months ago and realized after I had it all together that my measurements were way off. I had to rip off the original bodice and re-size and cut a new one.

I like how this pattern went together, except there are some directions that seem out of order and it takes a bit of critical thinking to get it to work correctly.  The bodice (except for the boning channels) was sewn by hand, but the skirt was done by machine (I don't have the patience for really long seams).

Feb. 12th, 2011

Why Accidental?

I suppose I should explain why I think of myself as an accidental seamstress.

My Mother is an exceptional artist (of course, she won't admit that). She owned her own clothing store at 16 and to me, there's nothing she can't make. I grew up with the constant whir of the sewing machine in the background, but I wanted nothing...and I do mean NOTHING...to do with it. That was until I joined the SCA.

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