Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Next HSM--More Headwear?

My taxes are finally done (which is why I haven't done any blogging since posting the photographs of the Greek headwrap), but April is now half-over, and I'm heading out of town next week for a long-weekend pleasure trip.  That doesn't leave much time for this month's Historical Sew Monthly ("HSM") challenge, even if I were enthusiastic about making a costume item based upon April's "War and Peace" theme. However, I do want to participate in the challenges for May and June, so I need to think about the types of projects that might be workable.

May's HSM theme is "Practicality." The cut-and-sewn wool stockings I've considered doing previously would still work for that challenge. However, I've had a different thought, in case that project turns out to be too involved for whatever comes up to disrupt my life in May.

Last year, Catrijn vanden Westhende of A Dressmaker's Workshop came up with a very simple method of making a 15th century cap.  The method requires only a small rectangle of linen, a suitable tie string, and a bit of straight hemming; she describes the method here.   I have all of those things and I think this would be a fun project to try.   This cap is very much within the "practicality" theme; it's a tidy, washable covering for one's hair that should be easy to put on and very stable once it's tied on.  So if a pair of stockings turns out to be too much for me to manage in May, I'll still have a project for that month.

As for June, that still seems to be the best time for me to finally "step out of my comfort zone" (the HSM theme for June) by teaching myself sprang and making myself a cap. 

If I follow through with these plans, that will make a total of three items of headwear for 2015 (so far).  But three pieces of headwear is better than doing no historical sewing at all!  Besides, I find I'm really liking the idea of projects that are quick and fun. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Greek Head Wrap, in wear

Front view
Rear view
Finally, here are some pictures showing my head wrap in wear, taken by my patient husband from all of the standard angles.  Because I don't have a hand mirror, I didn't have more than a vague idea how this style looks on me from the back or in full profile until I saw these photographs.  The weird yellow shadows are caused by the odd lighting in the hallway where the photographs are taken; please try to ignore them.

Having tried to put on the head wrap about half a dozen times and looked these photographs over, I have a number of observations that may be worth thinking about:

1.  The wool band I used is probably a bit wider than necessary, and is too wide for the resulting style to look like the images on ancient Greek pottery. It's about an inch and a half (roughly 4 cm) wide, and it should probably be no more than an inch wide (2.5 cm) to resemble the period images.  That argues for using a tablet woven band or a commercially woven wool tape in an appropriate size.

2.  It is critical that the tape be wool and that the fabric be linen or a cotton rough enough not to be slippery.  Using different fibers would make it likely that the wrap would slide off one's head, no matter how tightly it was tied.  The fact that wool is easily dyeable with period-available substances enhances the ornamental value of such a wrap, and further supports the use of wool for the purpose.

Left side
Right side
3.  It's clear from Stephens's video that you want a piece of cloth wide enough to go around your head with a few inches of overlap and long enough to wrap around your bun.  Other than that, the exact size probably comes down to individual preference.  Perhaps I should have made the fabric piece a bit shorter, but doing that would make it hard to position the wrap so that all of the bun is covered--and I think the wrap looks better that way.

4.  It's difficult to wrap the band tightly if you are putting the head wrap on your own hair, because it's difficult to flip the ends of the band around in a way that guarantees that the entire length of the band will continue to lie smoothly while you are flipping them.  That leads me to the conclusion that Greek women probably used a cloth bag with a band attached for this style, instead of a flat piece of cloth.  That way, it would be easier to keep the bun covered as you wrap the band.

5.  Once the wool is knotted, however, the wrap is quite stable even if the band isn't knotted tightly, and it tends to stay put even if the band is not double-knotted.  The stability is a tribute to the self-sticking qualities of wool, and shows that this would have been a very practical style for a busy Greek woman.

If I make another such wrap, I will use a thin, narrow, tablet-woven band instead of thick wool.  I believe the resulting wrap would look both more authentic and more beautiful that way.  Still, this was a quick, interesting, and educational project, and I'm glad I did it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

HSM #3--A Greek Head Wrap, Completed!

The head wrap, laid out before use
A few minutes of rustling through the boxes and piles that comprise my "stash", a few hours with needle and thread, and voilà!  A head wrap, as shown in the photograph to the left.  (Click on the photograph for a larger and more detailed view.)

I ended up whipstitching the raw edge of my wool band to the edge of the linen, and then flipping the band over and tacking it down onto the right side of the linen.  The lumpy-looking border, by the way, is the edge of the selvedge of the flannel; I left it as-is and chose to put it on the right side of the wrap because I think it's decorative, in its way.  In my opinion, the best way to decorate this kind of wool band would be to apply some simple embroidery--probably nothing more than a wavy line down the band, repeated in, say, in white, yellow and red. Unfortunately, I haven't done any serious embroidery in years, and tonight was not the time to start.  Perhaps the task of ornamenting the band will be a good subject for a subsequent HSM challenge, sometime.

While I agree with Stephens that this style looks very much like the style shown on women on ancient Greek vases, that may be due in part to the fact that she demonstrated it on a woman with abundant, coarsely curly hair, a hair type that is more common in the Mediterranean region than it is where my ancestors came from.  My thinning, slightly wavy hair does not give the same impression, but the use of appropriately sized cloth makes it work as a hairstyle even though the shape of the wrap on my head and hair is a lot different than Stephens's inspiration images on ancient Greek pottery.  It's also possible, though, that the purpose of such a cloth head-wrap style was originally worn by older women with thinning hair, like me, who could no longer secure their hair adequately by simply wrapping a band around their pinned hair (the other style shown in Stephens's video). 

One of my commenters noted that the blue fabric remnants from my Iron Age skirt would look wonderful as part of such a head wrap. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any fragments from that cloth!  Did I throw them out in a fit of misplaced tidiness after completing the skirt? Probably. However, I had more than enough of the dark blue wool that I was planning to make into stockings to serve the purpose.  That wool is a bit thick for gracefully wrapping around my head, but I addressed that issue by washing it and drying it in the dryer to full it enough to minimize raveling and avoid having to hem it.  Wool tape would have been much better for this project because it's naturally thin while retaining wool's knack for sticking to itself, but I don't have any wool tape in my stash and, even if I had been able to obtain some before the end of March, buying some would have defeated the purpose of this challenge.

Hairstyling note:  Because my hair is thin, I would need a short bodkin (i.e., a straight, smooth, pointed-ended stick no more than about 3-4 inches or roughly 7-10 cm long) to fasten a bun that would not stick out way beyond the edges of the wrap and interfere with the wrap's drape.  Because I don't own such a short bodkin, I used a spare ponytail holder to wrap around the bun and keep it from unraveling while I tied the wrap in place. I think a bodkin would have held my hair more securely though.  Perhaps I'll improvise one out of a chopstick at some point.

HSM Challenge #3--Stashbusting

How long in stash?   The linen was only in stash about one year (it came from the leftover fabric for my bog blouse project last year). The blue wool flannel was purchased for a project at least as far back as about 2000, and thus is approximately 15 years old!

Fabric A scrap of linen, left over from my bog blouse project, cut and ripped to approximately 26 inches (roughly 45 cm) by 18 inches (about 66 cm), and a strip of dark blue wool flannel about 80 inches (roughly 200 cm) long. 

PatternBased upon Janet Stephens's video showing the ancient Greek "head wrap" style and my own measurements.  It's two rectangles--a short, squat linen rectangle and a long blue wool strip; not much of a pattern.

YearApproximately 450-400 BCE, based upon the identification given of the Greek images that appear in Ms. Stephens's video.

Notions:   100% blue silk Gutermann thread (for stitching the wool band to the linen), and some white Londonderry brand 60/3 linen thread (for hemming the linen wrap itself).

How historically accurate is it?   Only somewhat.  I handsewed the wrap, the fabric types used are period, and Ms. Stephens demonstrates in her video that this type of wrap results in an appearance that is a good match for images of women found in period art.  However, no such item has, to date, been found by archaeologists working in Greece so far as I am aware.    So about 50%-60% is an appropriate accuracy rating.

Hours to complete: About 10 minutes to locate the fabric, 5 to 10 minutes to cut it to shape, and about 2 1/2 hours to hem the linen and to sew the wool band to the linen.

First wornOnly to establish that I *can* use it as a head wrap.  I need a bit more practice in putting it on before I bother my spouse to take photographs of me in it to post on this blog.
Total costEffectively zero.  The fabric for the bog blouse I obtained for store credit, the flannel is from a piece I bought about 15 years ago, and the thread was originally bought for other projects.

Hopefully, I'll have enough time in a month sometime this year to make something that requires more challenge and more than an hour or two of work!  On the other hand, both the head wrap and last month's Iron Age skirt would make great one afternoon projects for anyone looking for such a thing.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Cheaper NESAT X

The published volumes from each North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles ("NESAT") contain wonderful information about costume-related archaeological finds, especially for early period costume, but the volumes themselves can be hard to obtain and are usually pricey when found.

So I was pleased to see that Casemate Academic is selling a PDF copy of NESAT X (the one before the most recent volume, NESAT XI) for $48.00 USD. The page that PDF can be purchased from is here. This is possible because Casemate is the American affiliate of Oxbow Books, and Oxbow happens to be the publisher of NESAT X. 

Granted, $48.00 still may be a lot of money for one book, especially for a digital book.   But, in my opinion, it still represents an improvement over having to track down NESAT X by interlibrary loan (and having to return it before fully absorbing the information you've sought it out to find) or paying the much higher dead-tree price, so I figured I'd pass the information along.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

HSM #3--Another Last Minute Change of Plan

At the beginning of March, I planned to use some blue wool flannel from my fabric stash to make a pair of cut-and-sewn stockings for the "Stashbusting" challenge for the Historical Sew Monthly.

After that, there were more bouts of killer winter weather, several rush projects at work that ate into my weekends, and another round or two of strep throat.  As a result,  it is nearly the end of March and I have done no work on the planned stockings whatsoever.  Nada.  Zip.  Zero.

I was wondering whether I was going to have to give up on the Stashbusting challenge altogether, when I found the video shown to the right of this post, which is one of a series of tutorial videos by Janet Stephens, hairdressing archaeologist, demonstrating her theories on how hairstyles depicted in classical Roman and Greek art were achieved.

As I watched the video, it occurred to me that the headwrap used for the second hairstyle would be easy to make, even in the time I have available, and that I could make it with linen fabric that I have in my stash. Unfortunately, I don't have a long enough piece of wool ribbon in my stash, but I could sew a ribbon out of wool fabric that I do have available.  Perhaps even the remaining wool from the Iron Age skirt I made in February will serve.  I don't have spangles to sew onto the ribbon, but I'm not sure that I'd want any.  A patterned tablet-woven band would be ideal, but I definitely don't have time to weave one, and don't have suitable wool in my stash anyway.   It will be fun to try out the Greek hairstyles, too.

Hopefully, this project will prove too simple for Murphy's Law to interfere, and I'll have something to post here before the end of the month.  Watch this space!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

HSM #3--Stashbusting!

I was prepared to make my early Norwegian overdress/peplos for the Historical Sew Monthly's Stashbusting challenge until I discovered one unfortunate fact.  I no longer have 5 yards of dark blue flannel, because I used some of the fabric for my Byzantine mantion a while ago.  I found the scraps of it, along with the remaining straight piece I used as a non-sewn wrap last summer, earlier this week.  The straight piece is about two yards long--but that length isn't quite enough to make a nicely draped peplos overdress on me.

I still plan to make the overdress, but now I need to acquire fabric for it all over again--and that fact makes it ineligible for the "stashbusting" challenge.  The point of the "Stashbusting" challenge, after all, is to use up fabric and notions you already have--not to buy more fabric!

So I'm back to the idea of making cut-and-sewn stockings for the March clallenge.  I can still make some out of the badly dyed light blue wool I wrote about before--or I can use the scraps of my dark blue flannel.  I like the idea of using the dark blue fabric better; it's thinner fabric and likely to be more comfortable than the light blue fabric.  Although that may no longer be the case if I pre-wash the fabric, which I plan to do since stockings need to be washable.  Watch this space to see where I end up with this plan.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Blue Iron Age Skirt--In Living Color!

Fortunately, I did not have a second misadventure with my February project; the Iron Age skirt I made fits just fine.  I persuaded my wonderful husband, Eric, to take some photographs of me wearing it with the bog blouse I made for an HSF challenge last year; this is the photograph that worked best with this post.  Unfortunately, the weather here is far too cold for me to want to wear such thin garments outdoors, so the backgrounds are not even remotely authentic. 

It occurred to me after I wrote my previous post about this skirt that I *do* have a source of suitable blue wool for my peplos.  I bought 5 yards of blue wool flannel some years ago, to make a copy of the tunic shown in the Historiska Museet's Viking woman's costume reconstruction. As I wrote here a while ago, I ultimately decided not to imitate the Historiska Museet's tunic, but I did not find a different use for the fabric. Last summer, I cut an approximately two-yard-long piece of the flannel to use as an impromptu cloak for an improvised costume, and that piece should be long enough for my purposes. Even if it's not, I can get more than enough fabric from the remaining three yards.  March's HSM challenge is "Stashbusting", so such a use of my blue flannel should be ideal for March's project. Perhaps as the year wears on I'll have time to work on a project that requires more challenge to my skills. 

NOTE:  In my last post on the Huldremose skirt, I cited the Science Nordic article about Professor Mannering's recent work, which states that the lady's costume included "a petticoat of nettle."  Somehow, I missed that detail when I read the article the first time!