Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Potential HSM Projects: 2017

The Dreamstress is continuing her popular web event, the Historical Sew Monthly:  a collection of historical clothing themes, a different one each month, to inspire interested costumers to make and compare suitable items.  Click on the "Historical Sew Monthly" image on the left-hand sidebar of my blog to be taken to a page that explains this web event in detail.

2016 was not a good costuming year for me.  I spent much of the spring ill and worried over taxes, and at the end of the summer our household income was dramatically slashed, which discouraged me from purchasing costuming materials for the projects I had originally meant to start. As a result, I made a few fitful attempts to start projects, but completed nothing.  However, our household's financial prospects for 2017 look rather better. Moreover, most of the HSM themes for 2017 fit well with several projects I have had planned, but never completed, in years past. The projects I would like to complete in 2017 I've listed below:  hopefully I'll have better success at project completion than I did last year.  The italicized sentences in the discussion that follows are quotes from the Dreamstress's description of each month's theme, which I've included only where the theme isn't obvious from the title.

January:  Firsts and Lasts.  Create either the first item in a new ensemble, or one last piece to put the final fillip on an outfit.  Either my plan for a sprang hair net (a final piece that could be worn with several of my Early Period outfits) or the hood for my völva costume (the first actual clothing item I will have made for this ensemble) would fit this theme, and I would like to do both this year.

My Hedeby dress
(Photo by my husband)
February:  Re-Make, Re-Use, Re-Fashion.  Some years ago, I made a Viking smokkr or apron dress from brown wool, using a pattern by Peter Beatson based on a find from Hedeby harbor (photograph on the right).  It was snug on me at the time--probably more snug in fit than any decent Viking woman would have worn her clothes.  Now, years later, it probably would not fit me at all; I have gained at least 15 pounds since I made the dress, mostly on the parts of my anatomy where the fit was originally the snuggest.  I would like to find some brown wool flannel, as close to the color and weight of the dress as possible, unpick the seams (or at least part of some of the seams), and see whether I can make the dress fit me properly.   If I can obtain a suitable wool fabric in a color close to the original brown, I could unpick appropriate seams and add gores to do the job (unfortunately, I no longer have enough of the original brown wool left).  I'm not sure I can get this done in February, but it's worth doing sometime in 2017, if I have enough time and find appropriate fabric.

March: The Great Outdoors.  The long, dark blue wool cloak that would be part of my völva costume is a natural fit for March's theme.

April:  Circles, Squares & Rectangles.  Many historical garments...use basic geometric shapes as their basis.  In this challenge make a garment made entirely of squares, rectangles and circles. Nearly every garment made before the 12th century (and many afterward) are based on squares, rectangles, and/or circles, including most of the items on my planned projects list.  The völva's hood would be a natural fit for this month's theme, as would the shift I intend to make for my Vendel period outfit.  The cloak, which I would make as a half-circle (pieced together from triangles if necessary) would also qualify.

May:  Literature.  My völva costume is, of course, an attempt to recreate the clothing of the traveling völva or wise woman described in Eric the Red's Saga, one of the literary masterpieces of the Viking age.  To have the costume complete, or nearly so, I would need to finish the hood, the cloak, and the wool shift by the end of May.  Unlikely, but a good objective.

June:  Metallics.  According to Eric the Red's Saga, the völva's cloak should be trimmed with "stones" set in metal. I have concluded that the stones would be set in wire-cradles made by a process resembling nalbinding. Again, I doubt I could finish this work by June, but it's very worth starting.

July:  Fashion Plate.  Since the Vikings didn't really have fashion plates in the modern sense, I have no clue how to proceed on this one.  I could try to make a costume based upon one of the Viking age pendants depicting a woman, but the details on those are pretty vague.  It may be something to consider, though.  One possibility would be to try to replicate the clothing on the figurine from Hårby, Denmark, since at least one scholar thinks that such figurines are symbolic figures rather than realistic, and on a certain level, the same is true of fashion plates, which depict the ideal figure contemplated by the styles of a particular period.  More on such a project below.

My Byzantine savanion
(Photo by my husband)
August:  Ridiculous.  Fashion is sometimes a little silly, and historical fashions can look particularly odd.  Make something that was considered outrageous in its own time, or is just utterly ridiculous to modern eyes.  I'm not sure what to do here, either.  The first Viking era items I thought of that fit into this description are men's wear (the extra-wide "puffy" Viking/Rus trousers for example), and I don't know any men who need clothing from that period.   I could make an argument, based in part upon the chess piece found by Elizabeth Heckett in County Meath, that in the latter part of the Viking age high-ranking women may have worn a wrapped linen headdress like the Byzantine one I completed years ago (which is arguably a bit ridiculous looking today), but (obviously) I have already made that item.  I need to think about this theme some more.

The "refugee" dress
September:  Seen Onscreen.  Be inspired by period fashions as shown onscreen...and recreate your favourite historical costume as a historically accurate period piece.  The only movie costume that ever inspired anything other than wry amusement in me from a historical costuming perspective is Eowyn's "refugee" costume from Lord of the Rings.  However, in my opinion that costume is more mid-to-late medieval in inspiration than Viking, and in any event, I'm not sure I'm inspired enough by it to try to design a historically accurate version.

But wait!  Eowyn's costume bears a surface resemblance to what we can see of the clothing on the Viking era figurine recently found in Hårby, Denmark.  That figurine shows a woman holding a sword and wearing an overgarment with no sleeves (or long sleeves?) and a deep V-shaped neckline. Yes, it's unclear at best how many different fabrics are included in the costume, but that's what makes recreation fun, right?

This is an interesting idea, though possibly it's not an idea I'm prepared to deal with this year.  I'll just pencil it in for now.

October:  Out of Your Comfort Zone.  Either my planned sprang hair net or my nalbinded mittens would qualify for this theme, and hopefully I can finish ONE of them by October!

November:  HSF Inspiration.    That is, make something inspired by someone else's HSM creation. I'll have to see what projects turn up on the HSM Facebook page, where costumers participating in the HSM (which used to be the Historical Sew Fortnightly, hence the difference in initials) post their creations.

December:  Go Wild.   You can interpret this challenge as an excuse to make something that incorporates animal print, or to simply make something wild and over the top.  The völva's hood is, according to the saga, lined with white catskin.  I will, of course, use fake fur, but that might be sufficient "animal" involvement to qualify.

So my list of potential projects is:
  • Remake my fitted brown wool apron dress [February]; 
  • Make a black wool hood lined with (fake!) catfur [January, April, December]; 
  • Make a blue wool cloak trimmed with stones set in wire frames [March, April, June];
  • Make a shift with the white wool I bought for the purpose years ago [April].
  • Make a reconstruction of the costume on the Hårby figurine [July, September]
  • Complete my nalbinded mittens [October]; 
  • Make a sprang hair net [October];
  • Complete the rest of the pieces of the völva costume [May].
Sounds like a plan to me!

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