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!  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

HSM Challenge #2--A Blue Iron Age Skirt, Completed!

Remember the last project about which I said, "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy'?  Well, I had another "battle plan" moment when I tried to make my Vendel period apron dress.  

After I had hemmed all the edges of my fabric and sewed it into a tube, it became brutally clear that the amount of fabric I have was simply too narrow to make a properly draped peplos for me to wear--unless I pinned it on only one shoulder, and I know of no archaeological support for a one-shouldered overdress in 7th-8th century Norway. 

But I quickly discovered that the tube was perfectly sized to make a long drawstring skirt, of the type found on the woman found in the bog at Huldremose.  That seemed appropriate to me, particularly since it has recently been discovered that the Huldremose plaid skirt was actually a  blue plaid, and not the brown plaid that it appears to be today.  

The Huldremose skirt has holes carefully made a little below the top edge of the skirt and a thong threaded through them to serve as a drawstring, but my blue fabric is too thin to tolerate such treatment.  So I settled for shortening and evening out the top edge of the tube by cutting off about three or four inches or so, folding down the edge and sewing it down to make a drawstring channel.  Then, I cut down and sewed the cut-off fabric piece into a drawstring using the same sewing technique that is used to make apron dress straps (i.e., cut a strip of fabric a bit longer  and about three times wider than you want the string to be, fold the sides inward, and whipstitch the two folded edges together so that the raw ends are enclosed inside; push the ends into the narrow tube you've created and stitch each end closed). 

So for the second time this year, I've completed a challenge with an item that isn't what I intended to make for the challenge.  Still, I'm happy with the skirt; that color is too lovely for the fabric to have continued to go unused.

HSM Challenge #2--Colour Challenge Blue

Fabric A yard of 60+ inch wide vintage wool fabric in a period twill weave.

PatternNone needed; this skirt, like the Huldremose skirt, is a tube with a drawstring at the top.

Year:   Sometime between 160 BCE and 340 CE.

Notions:   100% silk Gutermann thread in a similar blue shade.

How historically accurate is it?   Only somewhat.  The weave is period, the basic tube shape is period, and the color is not too unlike what might have been obtained with woad in period by a patient and skilled dyer.  But the original skirt didn't have a drawstring channel, and I've never heard of a period garment that used either a drawstring channel or used a cut-and-sewn strap for a drawstring.  So maybe 50-60%.

Hours to complete: About 2 1/2 hours, though I didn't keep track of my sewing time very closely.

First wornNot yet. I haven't even tried the skirt on; I've been too tired to do much as I'm fighting off what appears to be a bad cold.  Photographs will be coming soon (unless I've *really* screwed up and the skirt is unwearable).

Total costEffectively zero.  The fabric cost me less than $10 USD nearly 5 years ago, and I've had the silk thread for a long time from other projects.

EDIT:  (2/27/2015)  Huldremose is an early Iron Age find, a fact I keep forgetting, for some reason.  Since it's the inspiration for this costume item, I've corrected the title to reflect that fact.

EDIT:  (3/13/2015)   Corrected description of how I made my drawstring by deleting the word "four" and replacing it with the word "three", in boldface, in the description above.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Roman Buttons

Almost half a lifetime ago, I made myself a Roman tunic to wear as part of a costume for a live-action roleplaying game.  It was meant to be the kind of tunic where the top edge is fastened at intervals, so that bits of skin peep out between the edges.   Because I had no idea how such tunics were actually fastened, I simply sewed the edges together at intervals, and sewed shank buttons on top of the sewed portions for decoration.  

Pretty crude, right?  That's what I thought, and for at least the past 5 years I've been planning to remake the tunic to be more historically accurate.

A few weeks ago, however, I found (or, rather, re-found) a research article which suggests that my tunic may not have been quite as inaccurate as I'd thought.

The article is by Margarita Gleba and a colleague and it's available for free on here. To my embarassment, the article appeared in NESAT IX, and I had forgotten it.  Here's the full citation:
Gleba, M., and J. MacIntosh Turfa. “Digging for Archaeological Textiles in Museums: ‘New’ Finds in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology,” in Archäologische Textilfunde—Archaeological Textiles. Proceedings of the 9th North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles, 18–21 May, 2005, edited by A. Rast-Eicher and R. Windler, pp. 35-40. Näfels: Ragotti & Arioli Print, 2007.
The article is about turning up textile finds that have gotten buried in museum collections and, therefore, gone ignored.  One of the more interesting finds discussed in Ms. Gleba and Ms. Turfa's article is a set of 44 bronze domed objects, so unmistakably shank buttons that they are described that way in the article.  Thirty-seven (37) of them still have threads in the hole in the shank. Originally, the buttons were found among the personal effects of a young woman whose cremated remains were excavated in Vulci and were brought to Philadelphia in the late 19th century; the tomb from which the items came has been dated to c. 680 BCE.   The buttons are tiny; 5-7 mm in diameter and about 2 mm high. The thread is mineralized (i.e., the original fiber content has been replaced by mineral deposits from the metal), but microscopy indicates that the fiber originally was linen.  In addition, the article  mentions two other tomb finds in the University Museum's possession that included very similar buttons. Ms. Gleba and Ms. Turfa suggest that the buttons may have been used as decoration on clothing, particularly leather, given the thickness of the thread.

I'm not suggesting that the buttons rediscovered at the University Museum were used on a tunic--at 5 to 7 mm, they are too small for such use. However, the fact that these buttons have such a modern form shows that the Romans knew how to make such items, and might have made larger ones for tunics or other purposes.  That's why it's important to remember that absence of evidence is not proof of absence, and subsequent discoveries may show that some clothing technologies believed not to be available in a particular period were actually in use.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

HSM Challenge #2--Another Blue Apron Dress

My blue fabric
The February challenge for the Historical Sew Monthly is very simple--make something blue.

It has long been my intention to make the apron dress portion of my early Norwegian outfit from blue fabric, and I have some lovely blue wool that I bought years ago for the purpose.  The fabric in question is the same fabric I photographed my Roman necklace on, but the flash made the fabric look much lighter in shade than it really is.  The color is hard to describe.  It's too light to be a navy or a royal blue, and it doesn't have the green tinge of a teal.  However, it's not at all pastel, either. The photograph to the left (taken with the white wool for the shift I have yet to make for the same project) is pretty close to the true color.  I've used a up-sized piece of the above photograph for the background to this webpage.

There is no evidence that 7th or 8th century Norwegian overdresses had loops for brooches, so this project can be very simple.  All I'll need to do is measure a wide enough piece of my fabric to make a nicely draping peplos, sew it into a tube, hem the bottom and top, and voilà!  Another overdress.

I have never tried using tortoise brooches to fasten a peplos-style overdress.  It will definitely take some experimentation to locate the brooches in such a way that the dress will lie properly and look nice without loops, but I'm eager to try, especially since sewing such a dress should be pretty easy. I'm also thinking about purchasing another set of tortoise brooches, since early tortoise brooches were both smaller than their Viking era equivalents (about 2 inches/5 cm long) and very simply decorated or even plain.  Any suggestions as to where I can get such a pair of brooches cheap?

EDIT (2/4/2015):  This will be even easier than I thought--if it works at all. It turns out that I bought barely enough cloth (it was an Etsy bargain; the person was selling a vintage piece of a particular size, and that's what I bought) to go around my body comfortably while extending at least as far as my calves.  So the only choice I  have  now is how narrow to make the seam.  However, the best way to use the fabric would have me sewing selvage to selvage, so I can make the seam narrow without running the risk of having the cloth ravel.