Sunday, September 15, 2019

The D-Shaped Veil--Doing It My Way

Last night, when my husband and cat were asleep, I went back to the D-shaped veil project and attempted to make more progress.

Progress was slow in coming.  I kept having a hard time seeing where to put the needle in for the best results.  Despite that, I managed to sew another 3 inches or so...

And then I realized that I was sewing  the hem on the wrong side.  That is, I was working the hem toward the front side--where everything would be visible when the veil was in wear.  And I had quite a few stitches (maybe 10-12 to the inch) to undo.

So I undid the stitches, and started all over again.  This time, I decided that learning how to do a rolled hem was not in the cards this time.  Or, at least, it was not in the cards with this fabric.  Instead, I did a tiny double-folded hem (a bit like the one on St. Louis's shirt, a 13th century CE linen tunic) and whip-stitched the bottom edge to the base fabric with tiny stitches with my matching gray thread.  This is coming out so much better!  Now about 8 inches of it are done.  

We'll see how I feel about this decision when I reach the curved part of the veil, though!*

* Photograph from Heather Rose Jones's essay "Another Look at St. Louis's Shirt". The essay can be found here. The photograph I linked to from the essay was taken by Stephen Bloch.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The D-Shaped Veil--How NOT to do a Rolled Hem

Tonight, I pressed and trimmed the fabric from Alison into a D-shape, and proceeded to commence making a rolled hem.  Three things instantly became apparent:

1.  The farther-apart your stitches are, the less likely it is that your rolled hem will "roll" properly;
2.  The size of your initial fold is not as critical as I thought at first; 
3.  If the fabric wants to fray, you really need to turn the raw edge under, and then stitch through that fold, as well as through the top fold.

After I started paying attention to these things, I started having some success with my hem. However, the stitching process was very slow, since the stitches did not look right if they were farther than about 2-3 mm apart.  It took about 20 minutes to do about an inch worth of stitching.

But at least now it's started, and can be picked up and proceeded with at will.  Hopefully, it won't take too long to complete.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The D-Shaped Veil--Beginnings of a Plan

Yesterday, I received in the mail a piece of wool gauze from commenter Alison, who had offered to send it to me so I could proceed with this project (thanks, Alison!).

Alison's fabric is a pale gray and just barely large enough for the shortish veil I'd planned to make.  I can only afford to snip off fragments to even out the edges before hemming it--and the hem will need to be narrow. 

Then, I did some experimenting with Eithni's directions, using a contrasting thread (since I planned to pull these stitches out and start over if the technique worked).  Eithni's tutorial concludes: "The finished hem will only show the tiny little stitches. The long stitches all get rolled into the middle of the seam!"

That's true, as far as it goes; the long parts of the stitch do get rolled into the middle of the seam.  But the ragged edges I need to cover tend to show, in lumps, at the bottom of the finished hem.  That's exactly what I was trying to avoid.

So I started looking on the Internet again, this time for techniques to produce rolled hems on fraying fabric.  I found this one on Laura Parker's blog.  Laura's technique involves taking the thread first through the fabric on the wrong side of the fabric, and then through the fold you have made, effectively pinning the fold to the place where you start your thread.  That's a really bad description, but Laura's photos make it clear what's going on.  It makes a somewhat thicker hem than I'd hoped, but maybe that's unavoidable with a fabric that frays.

I found a pale gray Gutterman silk thread that is an excellent match for the fabric's color.  I may be able to get started today.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Queen Victoria's Shoes and Petticoat

Recently, I posted a YouTube video from the Historic Royal Palaces channel about an Elsa Schiaparelli gown made for  Princess Alice, the Duchess of Gloucester. According to their  YouTube channel page, "Historic Royal Palaces is an independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle."

Late last week, I found two other videos on the same channel  about garments that had likely belonged to Queen Victoria. One of those two videos is about a pair of formal shoe boots in a pale  blue silk. The other was about a fine cotton petticoat. Both  garments are from the 1830s.  

The shoe video discusses conservation techniques used to  preserve the condition of the shoes and why they were chosen, while the petticoat video went into some detail about the petticoat's construction, including the fineness of the cotton lawn employed and the tiny waist gathers that using such a fine fabric made possible.

I have embedded both videos here. I think that these items are interesting to lovers of historical costume in general, but these two are of particular value to those interested in Western costume of the 1830s. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

A Late Iron Age Grave in Switzerland

Grave reconstruction including tree coffin.
[Reproduced in Archaeology News Network article.
Image from: Amt für Städtebau, 
City of Zurich]
A recent article from Archaeology News Network provides some fascinating information about a grave found in the city of Zurich, Switzerland, back in March 2017. The archaeologists have completed their evaluation of the find, the remains of a Celtic woman buried in a log coffin, which has been dated to around 200 BCE.

The remains yielded a substantial amount of information about the woman and the clothing in which she was buried.  They have ascertained that the woman was about 40 years old when she died, but had not done a lot of physical labor during her lifetime and had eaten a lot of starchy or sweetened foods.  Isotope analysis confirmed that she was from the Limmat Valley--what is now the Zurich area.

Analysis of the clothing remains further supports the view that she was wealthy.  Analysis of the textile, fur, leather and jewelry remains in the grave show that she was buried in a fine wool dress, fastened with T-shaped fibulae, a wool layer (possibly a cloak or overdress) over her dress, and a wool coat lined with sheepskin over that. The artists' renditions show her wearing a white veil, though the article does not explain what part of the find, if any, supports that deduction.  A strand of blue and yellow beads was worn over her chest, fastened by the fibulae.  

The full article can be read here.  It is illustrated with artists' renditions of the woman's clothing and of the layout of her grave, as well as color photographs of the jewelry found in the grave.  It will be worth keeping an eye out for any scientific analyses that may be published about this find.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A D-Shaped Veil--Practical Considerations

Several years ago, I read a post by Elina on her blog, Neulakko, about a D-shaped veil she had made from wool. She described it as light, but so water repellent it tended to stay dry in damp (though not rainy) weather, and it hung as nicely as a linen veil. That post can be read here.  Lately, I've been looking into short projects to help ease myself into more regular costuming activities, so I've bumped the D-shaped veil project up a bunch of places on my list.

After reading the post, I decided I wanted a similar wool veil for myself.  I like the idea of a veil a lot, though the rectangular veils I have made over the years always looked more like I was balancing a rectangular placemat on my head instead of wearing a graceful veil.  A D-shaped veil, with the straight edge worn in the front, seemed like the ideal cut to eliminate the problems I've had with veil-making.

Unfortunately, I have another problem that a D-shaped cut, standing alone, will not solve.  A veil of light weight fabric requires a narrow hem--specifically, a rolled hem--and I have never succeeded in making a rolled hem that was not blocky, thick, and dorky-looking.  The problem is compounded when the garment in question has a rounded edge and is made from easily fraying fabric, such as a light wool.  Elina used wool muslin for her veil, and noted that it frayed a lot.  

Eithni's library of tutorials includes a tutorial on a magic veil hemming stitch that supposedly alleviates these problems.  It's a kind of hand-wrought zig-zag stitch that starts with folding your edge and directing every other stitch through the folded edge.  I have tried her technique before, with only mixed success.

Elina's own suggestion for easily frayed fabric is to make a 6 mm fold in the edge, stitch down the fold with stab stitches, and then make a rolled hem or other kind of hem of the remaining cloth. While that technique should control fraying effectively, it sounds as though it might result in a thick, blocky hem, and blockiness is part of what I am trying to avoid. (On the other hand, it would result in a hem of more even width and thickness than simply folding over the edge and whipstitching it down can achieve.)

I suspect the real knack to using Eithni's technique lies in figuring out where to put the fold and how deep to make it.  Moreover, that problem is compounded when the garment design requires you to hem a curved edge.

But before I can test any of my theories, I will need some suitable fabric for the project.  My thought is to use wool gauze or wool challis.  I've found several sources for wool challis in the $20-$25 per 1/2 yard range (which is what I'd want to get).  It's higher with shipping, of course, so I may wait to buy it until after our summer expenses have been dealt with.

EDIT:  (7/10/2019)  In light of a comment below about fabric available from Dharma Trading, I went back to that site and found a light silk-wool (63% silk / 37% wool) blend.  Part of the point of this project was to see how a purely wool fabric worked for me as a veil, but Dharma sells that silk-wool blend for only $14.75 a yard--MUCH cheaper than either the wool challis or the wool gauze that I found.  Queen Arengunde's remains have shown that a silk-wool blend was available, at least to the super-wealthy, in the very early Middle Ages.  Denver Fabrics once had some 100% wool gauzes as cheap as that, but their website shows that all of those fabrics are sold out!  Though I want to try the project on a pure wool fabric, the lower price for the Dharma silk-wool is very attractive to me, so I may still go with it.  Stay tuned.

EDIT:  (7/16/2019)  I found a source of wool challis on EBay that's about $14 (with shipping) for about a half yard, which is all I need.  I'd have already ordered it, but I'm heading out for vacation on Saturday, so I'm economizing on other expenses until after we return.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Seed Bead Opportunity!

As my regular readers may recall, I am slowly making a völva costume. I keep going back and forth about whether to make a necklace specifically for this project or repurpose a necklace  I already have.

The packets of beads I am seeking to re-sell.
While I've been dithering, I saw a vendor on Etsy who was selling glass beads "Size 4 mm".  This is a bit on the small side for the Viking era, but I figured I could find other beads I have that are not strung to use with the mix offered, which was lovely and colorful.  In addition, the price was very low for the item and shipping/postage combined, even though the vendor is based in Australia.  

I should have guessed, from the 15 gram weight estimate for 145 beads, what I would be getting.  But hope springs eternal, especially when the price listed is low.  The beads I received are seed beads, with a diameter closer to 1 or 2 mm each than 4 mm each in size--way too small to make a Viking era necklace or any necklace with the number of beads provided.  A picture of the little packets of beads, with a 10 cm scale bar above, appears with this post.   

I don't have a use for seed beads, pretty though these are.  But there are potential costuming and craft uses for seed beads, both modern and medieval (check out the Medieval Beads site for evidence of medieval seed bead use).  So rather than try to seek satisfaction for my total purchase after several months (USD $6.85, including the postage), I figured I'd try to re-sell the beads for what I paid ($2.00 USD), plus shipping to the buyer's address, wherever in the world it is.  In the US, that will almost certainly be the cost of mailing a first-class letter, because the beads are only 15 g in weight, and a first-class letter in the US is one ounce, which is about 28 g.  I have no idea how much it might be to other countries, but the item is so light it shouldn't be much; we should be able to figure it out.

For the modest amount of this item, it's probably easiest to pay me through Paypal.  E-mail me at cathyr19355 at gmail dot com with questions.  If you are interested in buying the beads, I'll give you the information to use to reach my Paypal account.