Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wishing you all a Happy & Safe Hallowe'en~ May you be visited by many an enchanted spirit & take joy in each and every one!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

17th c Pair of Bodies Progress!!

I have been progressing nicely on this pair of bodies. I am making every effort to be as period correct as possible, and in nearly every minute of stitching, I keep thinking to myself, its really no wonder why men were the staymakers! One really does need a lot of strength in their hands~ I have overly strong hands, and mine are really feeling this every step of the way. Got the back boning channels stitched, and decided to only make 3 on each side of the back opening~ Dorthea's had 4, but this is a scaled down version, and I just didn't like the bulky look of 4 channels. The wide one next to the opening is for the lacing holes.

So next step, once all the channels are stitched, is to fill with your boning material. Whalebone, splints and bents(type of stiff grass) were all used in the 17th c as boning/ stiffening materials. I have plenty of whalebone, and I really would have liked to have used it, but its so darn brittle, it just cannot be cut. Perhaps it wasn't like that 200 years ago when it was harvested, but it sure is now, so I will save that for something with 1/4" channels, something I wont have to cut it down for. A person could also use hemp or jute twine to bone their channels as well, I have used both in later period corsets and it works wonderfully....but I wanted a really rigid, period correct look, so I am using bamboo for Marguarite's bodies. Above I have already cut a hardwood center busk, and bones the 3 channels each side of it. I used the pliers to nip the ends off right at the edge of the material. I was going to work from the center out, like I normally do, but since I had to still stitch the lower edges of the boning channels going up the side of the front panel, and I needed to actually be able to get my hand around the material to stitch it, I switched and did the side sections next.

This really worked out well, and I stitched the channels as I filled them, so the little pieces wouldn't slip out. I used bamboo BBQ skewers, and split them with my x~acto knife to the right thickness, then whittled the edges until they were the perfect fit for the channels. On the side pieces, I cut them to the exact angles top and bottom, then slipped them in, and stitched the baseline below them. Here is a hint when using any type wood material for your boning. Trust me, this will save you much time and effort! Before you fill the channel, first pre-fit or stretch it with something smooth~ I used a metal rod that was the exact size of my channels. Insert the metal rod all the way up to the tip of the channel...and it wont be easy! You will have to wiggle and jiggle it to separate the 2 layers of lining from each other....twisting is actually best, I found. This acts like a glove stretcher, and once you pull it out and insert your boning material, it will slip right in like butter.

This is the main reason why, if you are using a fragile fabric like silk or velvet for the outer layer, you want to have a backing fabric for it, so your boning doesn't pierce it, or grab a thread and make a run or hole. The boning is placed between the 2 linings, not up against the outer fabric. See my rubber gloves~ I am forever changed and love sewing with them on~ they help my sewing hand grasp the needle easily, and I wore one on my other hand while doing the boning, to help grab the bodies better, and they also kept any dirt and oil on my hand from getting ground into the fabric. One really has to get physical when boning a corset like this. I wont lie, there was some swearing involved......

Here is the above bamboo stitched into its channel. If you have angled channels, it really does make a huge difference to take the time and cut the angles in the boning material as well, so the entire channel is filled. If you leave the top and bottom of the boning straight across, it will look "hokey"....this is why I don't like to use steel boning, because it is so hard to cut.

Front panel fully boned~ woo hoo!

Trim the boning right to the edge, the binding will cover this, and keep them from popping out.

Inside. Next step is to stitch the lacing holes at the back opening~ don't fill the back boning channels yet~ it is easier to needle the eyelet holes first, then add the stiffness last.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A MUST see!!!!

If you are anywhere in the vicinity of Oxfordshire, simply must make the trek to Witney Antiques to see their current exhibit, "Wrought with the Needle" ~ an exhibit of outstanding English embroideries from 1590~1750 (and get this, many are for sale if you have a few hundred grand in the bottom of your purse) You can see and read more about it here on their website~ . I ordered a catalogue thru the mail and it got across the pond to me here in the US in a woppin 3 days! Ohhhhh my goodness, it is an absolute treat for the eyes to behold, with wonderful closeup views of embroidered jackets and coifs, mirror surrounds, bead work....if you have at all the slightest interest in early Jacobean, Elizabethan, or Stuart embroidery, you simply must must must have this book

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Front Channels completed!

Here is a picture of the front of Marguarite's 17th c pair of bodies. I have finished stitching the front section of boning channels~ woo hoo! It was not the most exciting thing to stitch, rather boring actually.
Her is a view of the inside. I buried all my ends within the 2 lining layers, so nothing is up against the outer silk. Left the tails long on the bottom edge, as these will be covered over by the binding. I would really like to find a nice kid leather, but may use silk, haven't decided on that yet. Next comes stitching the channels at either side of the back opening, there are 4 each side, after a larger channel for the eyelet holes.

I will leave you with this awesome picture I took yesterday evening~ just LOOK at how huge the moon looks! (above the stack of hay in the center) I just love this time of the year.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

THANKYOU Trevette For the AWESOME TIP!!!!

Today I got an email from Trevette~ she writes

"Rachael, dear, I think you'll find it a lot easier to pull the needle through all those fabric layers if you grip the needle with a (deflated) balloon. Mine is gold, a DMC giveaway years ago, which I keep in my sewing basket, always handy for frequent use. I also keep one in my purse, car, kitchen junk drawer, etc, good for grabbing and opening all kinds of things "

What a fabulous idea~ THANKYOU SO MUCH Trevette! I didn't have any balloons, but I do have a box of latex gloves I keep for doctoring the animals and such, and it worked so well, I just cant hardly believe such a simple thing can make such a difference. My fingers don't hurt at all, and I no longer had to really grip my needle hard to pull it thru. I really like this idea of wearing the glove, as I don't have to pause my stitching to pick up the balloon if I needed it. I can feel the needle thru the latex just like I didn't even have a glove on. We dug the last of the potatoes and such today, and I was going to share pictures of that, but this was TOO GOOD to wait to tell you about! Stitched around 5 hours today, and could do another 5!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Now I REALLY know why stay~makers were mostly men.....

Uggg. My hands are so tired. I stitched 10 channels on Marguarite's pair of bodies today, and the 3 layers are just so thick....terrifically hard to needle thru and still get the tiny stitches I want. I wear a leather on my middle finger to push my needle(broke two today), but what are really sore, are my right thumb and forefinger, from having to grab the needle so tightly to pull it thru the layers. It actually feels quite good to pound the heck out of these keys. I first stitched the center busk pocket. I am using a masking tape of mark my place, instead of using a pen, or chalk. too messy. I stitched thru all layers, burying my knots in between the inner cotton and fustian lining.

You can see my stitches are not at all even as they should be, but I am managing to keep them small enough, and I actually like them uneven a little, it adds much character when looking at them up close, you can easily tell they are made by hand!

Next I drew out my line with a temporary pen....well, it is actually a water solulable quilt marking pen, thats really dry, and around 5+ years you can barely see the lines it makes, and they don't last long! he
I stitched this top line that defines the bust and the front area of the boning next. These two sets of stitching, are my baselines that everything else will flow off of. When stitching channels for any corset or stays or any era, always start in the middle and work outwards. You will avoid any wrinkles in doing so, and all will be nice and even and flat. One could be tempted to stitch the diagonal line going up the sides at this point too, but DONT!! This line of stitching will be last, and the most difficult, as it is stitched after the boning is fed into the channels. So for now, I'm going to relax and not stitch any more this evening....I think Ill go oogle over that staircase some more...I see the V&A has chairs right in front of the display, I am sure I'm not the only one who could sit and stare and daydream about them all day. Don't know what I'm talking about??? Well scroll down and follow the link in my last post!!

'maisons à pondalez'

I want to live in a Maison a Pondalez in Morlaix.....and gaze down upon my happy children from a staircase like this.....what a dream that would be

You can read about the one at the V&A here

Friday, October 15, 2010


Have you seen this jacket?? The above jacket is an old black and white of a c16teens embroidered jacket in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, Scotland. It is unique to me, for the pattern of the bluebells in its embroidery.... I have been researching colors for Marguarite's embroidered jacket, and would like to study them I know this jacket is included in the Burrell Collection book I have on order, so the Burrell jacket is not the one I am looking for.....this next one is!

See how absolutely similar they are???? Not in construction, but in embroidery pattern? This one is labeled as "The Suffolk Jacket"....and later, I found a far view color photo of it, but is now referred to as the "Bath Jacket". Must have been sold in the 1960s....anyway, I have gone to the Museum of Costume in Bath's website and cannot find it listed. I would very much like to compare the two embroidery patterns. So I am asking any of my readers if they know its accession number, and whereabouts? Leave me a comment or email me please if you have any clues!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

17th c Bodies....

I am finding 17th c bodies to be deceptively simple in construction. The pattern on Drea Leed's Online Corset generator is a single cool is that? The original ones were made of 3 pieces tho, each made separate and then whip stitched together to assemble. This was so that if a person's weight or proportion changed, they could simply unpick the sides, and add a different back piece, as alot of them were front closing. This front closing type leaves NO ROOM for adjustment, they must fit perfectly, and come tightly together in the front, with no space. I wonder if they laced them over a busk???? hmmmmmm.....that is an interesting thought isn't it?? In any case, Marguarite is a dollye, and hers need not be 100% accurate, which, on her smaller scale, is why I am not cutting this pattern into three pieces, I am leaving it one. Another interesting thing about 17th c corsets you all may not know, or realize, is that they are meant to give a rigid FRONT to the body, and so they are normally only boned in the front. They are supposed to be extremely comfortable to wear, if they are not, then you are not wearing the bodies correctly. They do not 'suck in' anything, no matter how tight you lace them, the small waste you see in paintings and the like, is merely an illusion created by the long extended front point.

I cut each of my 3 fabrics with no seam allowance, as they will be bound around all edges. If you are going to make one along with me, cut your pieces out on the straight of grain!

At first, I was going to use the stitching channels recommended on Drea's pattern generator, but after I got this far, decided I really didn't like the look of it. It has channels on the sides, that I have not observed at all on the Effigy or Dorthea bodies. Those both are boned in the front and very back only, so I decided to pattern my channels after the Dorthea bodies. I also realized, that 1/4 inch channels are just too large for the scale I am working at, they take up too much space, and just don't look right.

My daughter's school ruler is just the right size for my busk, so used it for reference, and as you can see, the 1/4 whalebones on the left in the picture are just way too large. No matter WHO tells you they can be easily cut, has no idea what so ever what they are talking about. You can cut them with scissors, but baleen is a brittle substance, and they crack along their 'own' matter how sharp your knife or scissors are. Trust me, I thought I would be able to cut them in half lengthwise, to use in 1/8 channels, but nope~ no can do Kimo~ Sabe! So now picture me ransacking the house, trying to think of something I could use....all my reed I have in various shapes, is all 1/4" and larger. Then I found a drawer of bamboo skewers.......mmmmmmm. I think they will work perfectly! They are tough as nails, absolutely rigid, and most importantly, small enough to give me the correct period look I am after~ note the pic of the Dorthea bodies I am modeling them after. If you enlarge it, you can see that using the larger whalebone, while being exactly period correct in substance, will not give me the correct form or ratio of boning channels per inch. And who knows, since there are only 2 surviving corsets of this era, I suppose someone could have used bamboo in one....perhaps!

This is my first draft of the placement of the boning channels, modeled after the Dorthea above. There will be 4 channels on each side of the back opening, just like the original, and 26 channels each side of the center busk. They will be shaped down below the bust cup, just like the original. Marguarite has a very flat chest, but likes very much the idea these will give, of her indeed having a little something there :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ink Tests & Final Fabrics for Bodies....

I will be inking my design for Marguarite's jacket by hand, with a metal nib. I'm not going to use an actual quill, cause honestly, I cant cut them at a consistent angle to get the same width of a line. They work well on a smooth paper, and in an up to down motion, but nothing else! HA! I have drawn on fabrics for years, so it doesn't bother me or make me nervous about messing up...but my normal India ink I always use, has recently been """"improved""", and is total crap as a result of said improvements. No more shellac used, and they have gone to a .....(gag) plastic base. blek I ordered a couple of bottles to try, actually the only two India inks that I could find that were being sold as WATERPROOF & PERMANENT. Well, as is normal these days, things are not what they are advertised as.....

I did both samples at the same time, on the same day, with the same pen, on the same fabric, a cotton muslin. Used the same nib. Everything was the same, except what I drew on the doodle, and the ink of coarse. After I finished and let both dry for 5 minutes, I ironed the heck out of them with a dry iron on highest setting to 'set' the ink. Let them cool and sit for half hour, then dunked them in the water. While they were below the surface, I massaged the piece in between my thumb and fingers, to see if any ink would run......well, as you can see~ it did! The one above is "Calli Jet Black India 010" by Daler Rowney. It is supposed to be both permanent and waterproof. This stuff smeared instantly , NO rubbing needed. As soon as it hit the water the ink lifted~ absolutely unacceptable. Cost for this 1 oz bottle, 5.00

Next was an ink from just up the way from me here in Golden Colorado~ Dr. Ph Martin's Black Star Waterproof India HICARB. Now when I dunked this one in the water, nothing I scrubbed the heck out of the sample, and still, nothing lifted, as you can see. So this is the ink I will be using, and its got a higher carbon content than most India inks, so is a bit blacker, much to my liking. 17th c inks had a very high carbon content as well. Cost of this 1 oz bottle, 9.00 ....and worth every penny
I have also made my final decisions on the fabrics I am going to use for Marguarite's bodies...and I am SO excited about them! Ya I'm a bit nerdy about it, I even made a little 3 min video for you to see. This is them below~ a goldenrod yellow silk shot with lavender for the outside, late 19th c 100% cotton sheeting for the backing of the silk on the front, and a FABULOUS mid-late 19th c handwoven fustian for the inner lining~ this stuff is so thick and heavy, its really awesome. I am going to stitch in the blue 100% cotton thread, and am pondering using the antique whalebone stays I have amassed over the years as a stiffener....I may use bents or reeds, haven't decided on those yet. Ill will be stitching up a sample soon.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Progress on my embroidery draft, and 17th c Bodies (corset)

Normally, I wait until I am done making something before I post it here, but when I do that, I leave out alot of details, and forget a lot too, so easiest for me is to just post a little, all the time :) I finished drafting my embroidery pattern for Marguarites inked jacket this past week....well, the reproduction of the coif pattern anyways. It was more difficult in parts, where the embroidery distorted the pattern I was working from. I ended up using the V& A Coif for the overall pattern, but filled in the details on many parts from the photo Wendy sent me, and actually, the Cowton & Tout has half a floral repeat that is beyond the edge on the coif, so I will fill that in as needed when I ink the design onto the jacket. I am keeping good track of actual time I spend 'doing' things (research NOT included), and I have 8 hr 15 min actual drawing time in drafting the coif pattern for my jacket. woo hoo!

I am waiting on more linen to come in the mail, and until that gets here, have been working on Marguarites Bodies. There are only a whopping two known extant 16-17th c bodies, Queen Elizabeth's Effigy at Westminster Abby wears a pair, dated by Janet Arnold to 1603, and then the pair worn by the Pfalzgrafin Dorthea Sabina Von Neuburg when she was buried in 1598 and is held at the National Museum in Munich. They are pictured below, and drafted in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion.

I really like the look of the Effigy bodies, but they are front closing, and for Marguarite, I want her to wear a back lacing style, so have gone with a hybrid of sorts~ I used Drea Leed's 'Custom Corset Pattern Generator'~ you can find it online at . It really is a handy tool~

(Ha~ dont comment on my recycled Dora wrapping paper~ I NEVER throw anything out!!! ) This is my altered draft using her pattern generator~ you plug in measurements, and it spits you out directions to draft your pattern~ REALLY slick. Of coarse dolly isn't totally 'proportionate like a human, so I altered it to fit her better. I wanted Marguarite's to have shoulder straps, so I added some using the Pfalzgrafin's as a guide

I also want unboned tabs, and so altered the curve up over the hip to a straighter line to accommodate them

I cut a larger trapezoid for the two on either side of the back opening, and then a smaller one for the middle, and a rectangular one that will be front most on each side~ I'm not bothering to bone them, as I don't think Marguarite will mind them digging into her hips a little...

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Our Growing Boy, & eBay Specials!

Isn't Blokey getting big? Ohh he is such and absolute b*a*B*y!! His back reaches up above my chest now. (see Kate behind him in the bucket?...shes one of my goats, and this is her normal position....) He is a full Simmental bull, and has no idea he is a cow creature...I think he thinks he's a dog. He really gets your attention when he comes a running at you, legs going everywhere, cause he wants to 'play' only defense, is my trusty brush and curry I keep at arms reach~ if hes in a mood or feeling a bit too frisky, I just whip out the brush and touch him anywhere with it, and he goes instantly into la-la land! I mean it, instantly!

Put some Halloweenies on eBay at my lowest prices e-v-e-r~ if you have ever wanted one, now is the time! After this week, they go back to full price in the ETSY store. Hope you all are enjoying Autumn's Splendor and the leaves changing....this is my favoritest time of year!

Margaret Layton & my inked c1630 jacket

I have of late been absolutely engrossed with research for my 17th c wardrobe I am making for Marguarite. I intend to make her an embroidered jacket, like the one above, worn by Margaret Layton c1620. This is a painting of her currently on display at the v&A, along with the extant jacket. You can see it here ... and then search by its accession number T.228-1994 . I am taking the Tudor & Stuart Gold Master Class to perfect my stitches, and help me decide which one I want to do for the scrolls...but while I am gathering my threads, and making up Marguerite's smock and bodies, I also decided that I would make her a mock up jacket, to be sure to get her fit perfect before spending a year on the embroidery....

I started out with something simple, but then thought if I am going to make up something, I am going to totally make it up right, period correct, well, as close as I can come to period correct. In my research, I came across a c1630 coif, also at the V& A, and the second I saw it, that was what I wanted my jacket to look like. What makes it so absolutely fabulous, is that it is printed...yes~ printed!!! Just the outlines have been embroidered in a gold wrapped silk. I have been totally transfixed by this little bit of cloth...I can barely think of nothing else. Here is a closeup

I had planed on taking what pattern was on the coif (a small cap that covers the back of the head), and then tiling the pattern and repeating it to fill in my jacket pieces....I didn't like the idea at all...cause I want to know what lies beyond the cut edges. I want to see the entire pattern! Being from the 17th century, and knowing that so terrifically little extant textiles from this era still exist, I figured I would never know the entire pattern (If there is anyone out there who knows of ANOTHER example of it, let me know!!)

Early last week, I was talking to Wendy Lewis, and ended up sending her the picture above, and come to find out, she knew that fabric too, but from a different piece! She sent me the photo below she took of it~ This one is also at the V&A, and is labeled as a cushion cover....but if you look close, that is a neckline center top, I KNOW it~ this is a cutting from what should have been a jacket made from this awesome bit of H*e*a*v*e*n on Earth. It is clearly the exact....exact same fabric~ WOO HOO! (click on pic to enlarge)

Now is this providence or what???? I was born to make this jacket, and there isn't a person around that could ever tell me otherwise. But the plot thickens... Wendy also told me she had a modern copy of this, called 'Animal Toile' printed by Cowton & Tout about 10 years ago or so. So she sent it to me to look at. I couldn't wait for it to get here...I thought, perfect, I can just trace it off and be on my way.....but of coarse, nothing is ever that easy.

This is the Cowton & Tout~ marvelous isn't it? At first glance, it looks to be pretty darn close...besides the scale greatly enlarged. I sat and began to try and count the repeat...but the more I looked at it, the more wicked confused I got. The design is 4 blocks of florals, each with an animal in them, and these are stacked on top of each other, and shifted over two. The first thing I looked for were the bunch of grapes, and the monkey...but hey, where are they? Nope~ no grapes, no monkey....and as I kept looking, no death and destruction that is in the original coif. Of the 4 floral designs, only 2 of them are in the coif as printed, the other two are a smathering of this and that, of things taken from different areas of the design, and just stuck there. Interesting. What I want to know, is where did Cowton & Tout copy their fabric from??? Is there another piece of this somewhere??? There must be, as the elements are nearly exact in copy, but just all messed up in design. and NO grapes!!! grrrrrr

Here is some of what I m talking about~ in this close view of the coif, see the hawk there has killed that bird, and is chomping on its lifeless neck and holding it up with one of its talons.....but in the reproduction...

as I was tracing it off, there is no lifeless bird here. It has been extracted from the view, and replaced with a pathetic little bug. As I kept looking, all sorts of neat details like this, that makes this design so 'going~on', have been removed, and replaced with a bunch of grass, or a bug.

All of that aside, it is still an interesting design, and I traced it off anyways, just to keep for reference. It totally reminds me of the game we used to play in Girl Scouts, where you whisper into ones ear, then she whispers into another's, and when the message gets back around, its no where near the same? I think that is what happened with this fabric.