Wednesday, April 4, 2018

New Easter Dress!

I was super lucky and got a ticket to go to Easter Mass at the Vatican!   One word of warning if you ever decide to try that - you will be in a crush.  The Italians do not believe in queuing or in crowd control.  At all.  Still, I was very happy to go and to be there in Saint Peter's square on Easter Sunday.

Of course, when one finds out they are going somewhere as special as the Vatican for the most holy day on the Christian calendar, you need a new outfit!  The teal jacket - which is unfortunately lopsided in the photo- is something I made back in 2014. I made a couple of dresses around the same time.

The floral dress is new.  One of the dresses I made around the time of the teal jacket, my purple knit sleeveless dress that I wear to work, I love.  Here is a linke to the original write up.   I know the pattern I used, Simplicity 9103, very well as I've used it several times since the purple dress. The problem was that I forgot to pack it when I moved. D'oh!

The pattern is basically three pieces, a front piece, cut on the fold, and two back pieces with a slight curve in the middle back. It's the curve in the back that gives the dress a very flattering shape to it.

Recently, I bought a few gazillion yards of knit fabric from a lady selling off her Grandma's stash. Almost all of it is 1960's/1970's. While some of it is pretty useless, some of it is really quite cool - or groovy. The floral is actually a very low pile velor knit. It looks like a brushed cotton knit and I think it does have some cotton in it. I fell in love with it and decided it had to be the Easter dress.

For the pattern, since I was dumb and didn't pack it with me to go to Italy, I just folded the purple dress while it was inside out, and traced along the seams on to brown packaging paper. I made sure to add seam allowances for places like the neckline where the seams weren't sticking out. I then cut out the cloned pattern pieces and used that as a base for my new dress.

I desperately wanted a ruffle at the bottom so I cut the dress about 5" shorter than I normally would and I cut out a couple of wide strips for the ruffle out of the floral knit fabric. Because the ruffler foot refused to work, I just played with the settings on my Singer Quantum and the "baste" stitch I used caused the fabric to automatically gather. I then easily sewed the gather to the bottom.

Once the dress was mostly sewn up - everything but the hem of the ruffle- I tried it on. I then marked out where I wanted the hemline to be, cut about a 1/2" below that, and hemmed up the dress. Really, it only took maybe an hour to cut the dress out and sew it up.

The dress is very comfortable and goes much better with my summer shrugs but it was a bit too cold to wear those on Sunday. :-) I'm really happy with how the dress came out.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Bunratty Folk Park, Ireland part one

I'm going to start this off with one very simple request: if you ever get a change to go to Ireland, go to Bunratty.  Seriously, despite a problem with some mis-information by the interpretors, it is completely fabulous.   The biggest issue with Bunratty is they have no clue of what a gem they really have.   The castle and the grounds cover everything from the 15th up to the early 20th Century.  It's 500 years of history in one little park where you can peak back in time.   The castle, the homes, and many of the artifacts are all extant.

The problem is that the interpretors have zero idea of what they are talking about.  I think Bunratty got hit hard during the recession of '08 and is just starting to bounce back.  I recall the medieval banquet I went to uh....many, many years ago and it was very different from what it is now.  Not that it's bad now - it's definitely better than the Medieval Times in the U.S. but only just.

Some issues - the costuming.  Okay, granted, that's the first thing I would notice.  The castle was built in the mid 15th Century.  The garments the actors and actresses wore were want-to-be-16th Century.  I get that you need garments that can be used by other actors and can be cleaned easily but there are plenty of garments from that range that fit the bill that don't involve zippers up the back.   ...Or panne velvet. 

Really, I think hoppelande gowns or even just really basic sideless surcotes (which were worn for festive occasions up into the 16th Century) over a-tunics would be perfect for the actressess.  The sideless will fit pretty much any size and the a-tunics are very easy to make.  Making them out of linen and wool - to show off what would have been worn in Ireland anyway- would also look stunning.  For the men, a short hoppelande or a liene with hosen would look nice.

The second problem was the entire dinner.  Don't get me wrong - it was delicious- but BBQ ribs with tomato sauce (they gave me mine without the sauce) and potato soup are pretty distinctly post period for the castle.  It's clear they wanted to give a 15th/16th vibe.  The potato was introduced from the New World in the 16th C - but you don't see many recipes for it until the later half.  Even then, it's more baked potato stuff.  The tomato isn't commonly eaten until the late 18th/early 19th C.

Also, the actors and actresses claimed that any cutlery other than a knife wasn't a thing which is blatantly false.  I'm not sure why that is even still a common myth.  We had to eat our soup without a spoon.  This goes directly against the Irish archeology finds in southern Ireland that include...wooden spoons. Now, this entire event could have been an excellent learning experience and still allowed the castle to get away without having spoons. Really, in the middle ages, people were expected to bring their own cutlery - to include spoons. Since we, as 21st guests, don't regularly keep our flatware on our persons, the "host" of the evening could declare that they don't have enough spoons for more than the household. Therefore, the guests will need to sop up their soup with the bread - which is what we pretty much did without anyone telling us too. Still, teaching about sopping up the soup and going into that part of history would be much more accurate and truthful than just saying spoons weren't a thing despite direct evidence against that.

As for forks, they aren't a thing until pretty late in the 16th c so it's doubtful they'd be a thing in Ireland for the time that the medieval banquet is trying to re-create. Still, providing a spoon and a knife and explaining about the archeology of Ireland would be beautiful.
Medieval Banquet Hall

A couple of days later, I went back to the folk park to get some better pictures of the castle (since I was an idiot and forgot my camera in my bag back in the B&B) as well as check out the rest of the park.  My memories of the park many years ago are a bit fuzzy but I do recall the 19th C village and the people dressed up talking about various aspects of pre and post famine Ireland. 

Bunratty Castle
I wanted to get photos of some of the tapestries in the castle and other antiques because, what Bunratty does have, is absolutely fabulous artifacts from the 15th ~18th Centuries.   When I went into the main hall, a gentleman was dressed up in far better 16th Century garb than I saw at the banquet.  However, what I heard him say made me cringe and I had to walk away. 

According to him, the Irish didn't have glass for windows until the 17th Century.   /facepalm   The way he said it, it made it sound like glass hadn't been invented yet.   I later had to explain to a few people that - no, glass is ancient.  Even the Romans had it.   I also eventually piped up a bit and did point out they had shutters on the archer windows.  It's not like our medieval ancestor let all the heat from the fireplace go out an open window in the middle of winter.  We have manuscripts from England, Germany, and Italy showing glass windows as early as the 14th Century.   

Now, you wouldn't want to glass over an archer's window because it would just get in the way.  Having shutters that come inside the window and covering the window with those fabulous heavy velvets or tapestries also kept the cold outside.   Despite what the gentleman said about it being very cold and how spoiled we are with our heating and a/c - it's just not that bad in the middle ages.  Anyone who has been camping in the winter knows a good fire will keep you pretty darn warm.  Add that having four walls and roof?  Well, I know I've been in power outages for as long as a week in winter.  A good fireplace, good curtains, and warm clothing will keep you plenty warm.   

The Great Hall
Another myth the gentleman spoke about that made me cringe was that, apparently, according to him, there were no vegetables or fruit in Ireland before Sir Walter Raleigh brought back the potato.  ....  I'm not joking.  That's what he said.

I guess carrots, turnips, onions, and apples which were common in England never made it across with all the nobles going back and forth? Of course, that's not the least bit true. The truth is that apples have been a part of Ireland for at least 3,000 years. In fact, crabapples, hazelnuts, and waterlily seeds were part of the mesolithic diet. So, they had fruit. Various types of cabbage were a thing since the Roman era (I mean, come on! Irish and boiled cabbage is almost more Irish that potatoes!!) with the Savoy cabbage being introduced in the late 16th century. The biggest part of the medieval Irish diet, however (which both this gentleman and the actors at the banquet overlooked) was cheese. Dairy was a huge part of the medieval Irish diet. Add that with some fish, bread, and apples...and I think they ate rather healthily in times when there wasn't a famine.

They certainly weren't just hunting elk and eating that - unlike what the gentleman said. Seriously, he said they only ate meat....which uh. No. Just no. Meat was actually pretty rare except for the rich. He mentioned that the Irish deer were smaller so there wasn't much meat. Really, he made out the medieval Irish to be small, starving, people who were constantly cold and died at 20. Yet, somehow, there are Irish today....

Yeap, he did the whole life expectancy thing. While life expectancy was lower before, well, antibiotics, it didn't mean you dropped dead at 30. Nor did it mean that a bunch of people were dying at 30. Rather, a LOT of people died before they got to be five years old and a lot of people died when they were in their mid to late 60s. You get an average life expectancy of 30 from that. Yes, more women died in childbirth than they do today - but the rate (thank you Dublinia for getting right!) was 15% of women died in childbirth. Not exactly the 50/50 chance that many people make it out to be.

Another aspect that the gentleman said that rubbed be the wrong way was that women were second class citizens in Ireland and were expected to just sit around and have ten children, with a couple of male heirs maybe making it to adulthood. I mean, just look at Grace O'Malley who is still considered one of the greatest pirate Queens in history. She had control over her own lands, ships, and got such a reputation as a pirate, that Queen Elizabeth of England demanded an audience with her. Also, Grace had three kids - not ten.

Okay, so pretty much everything he said was a myth. The Irish weren't always cold, starving, and dying - although there were famines. Women weren't just baby factories - they had more rights than their English counterparts. And the Irish had veggies and fruit. I mean...seriously! Cabbage! /sigh

Anyway, on to the beauty that is Bunratty castle itself.

The pantry is right off the main hall.  Amazingly, they actually have this pretty accurate for the late 15th/early 16th C.   It's basically slightly poorer version of what King Henry VIII would have had.  Also, those look like water fowl hanging up to be prepared - not small starving deer.   /headdesk
Late 15th Century/early 16th C tapestry on one of the walls in the great hall.  Luckily, my camera got an excellent shot of them.
Late 16th Century tapestry.  This one was the best preserved of the lot.  

A lovely gothic window.  The windows appear to be a mix of glass from various time periods put together with some modern methods.  Really, most of the glass was quite lovely up close but was all recreations of other pieces.
This bed.  Let me tell you how much I love this bedroom.  The bedspread is a bit blurry but is is, in fact, early 17th Century Jacobean embroidery.  Real.  Not a recreation.   And the canopy?
Oh the canopy....
I got as close as I dared to get a good close up of the polychrome embroidery on the purple silk.   Yes, it is a real late 16th/early 17th Century embroidery piece - most likely Italian.   A similar style of embroidery is at the Hermitage and seen in in this embroidery pattern book form 1608.  

Another fabulous bedroom with 16th and 17th C artifacts
The upper hall
A 16th Century Gentleman
15th Century original floor tiles
This photo is hard to see but I wanted to show how hard it was to see the next beauty.  It's in the corner, to the right.  See the cross?  Okay, the next beauty is inside the glass case...
See that embroidery?  I know it's difficult - there was no way to get close to it as the room was roped off.  However, the embroidery style?  This green velvet chasuble has early 15th Century Embroidery all over it.   *dies*   Did I mention that the Bunratty Folk park have no clue what they really have?   This is evidence of that...  This poor chasuble is back in a corner where no one can see it properly and yet early 15th Century embroidery?!?

It was like that through out the entire castle.   In my next post on the Folk Park, I'll actually get to the folk park.  :-)   One item I do remember of the original banquet I went to ...err..a while ago, I'd like them to bring the snuff boxes back.  They had them many years ago and I remember trying it.  Let's just say, I didn't have sinus issues for weeks afterwards!   :-)

Monday, February 12, 2018

A quick short cape for Carnivale

One of my co-workers wanted to come with me to Venice. I told her, if she came, I would make her a quick cape or surcote - something that wasn't very difficult to put together but would look carnivalish. We bought 2 meters of poly/rayon white moire and 6 meters of orange cotton trim. She wanted orange because her mask is orange. :-)

The cape itself is pretty simple. I did a basic circle cape with a rectangle for the hood that was then gathered in the 18th C style. Really, since she wanted a short cape, I drew out the circle from the center of the fold of the fabric to 32", using my marker and my measuring table like a compass. Once it was cut out, I cut a small circle at the neckline area to give it a neckline and I cut the front opening because the fabric was a huge circle of fabric. With the leftover piece of fabric, I cut out a long enough rectangle to fit over the head. I think it was about 19" by 23" just so I'd have enough of a seam allowance. With the hood, I sewed one long side of the rectangle first by rolling the fabric over a couple of times so that the edges would be enclosed by I could get a ribbon through it. I put the ribbon through, gathering a lot of the material towards the middle but leaving the last 3" on either side ungathered. I then sewed up these 3~4" so there is just a small hole in the back where all the fabric is gathered. I then stitched the front so there were no raw edges as well.

I pleated the hood to the neckline and used some of the leftover fabric from around where the cape was cut as bias tape for the neckline. Again, no raw edges showing. I then hemmed the rest of the cape and added the orange trim. I had just enough to go down the front and along the hem line. I was hoping to have enough for the hood as well but, eh, whatever. She was very pleased with her little cape. :-)

Saturday, February 10, 2018

1510s/Early 1520's Venetian gown with velvet sleeves

First, a few of the inspiration images:
Lucrezia di Baccio del Fede, the Artist's Wife - Andrea del Sarto, 1513

1510's Photo Taken in Padua

The volumonous sleeve that tapered to the wrist was common in both the Venice and Florentine regions. The sleeve is so easy to make as well. I love making them - seriously, the ones in the pictures below took maybe 25 minutes from cut to sewing up on the machine to handsewing the cuff. I like the idea of having sleeves that I can change or even take off completely - particularly in the summer when it can be cool in the morning and burning in the afternoon.

At this point, the bodice waistline is still pretty high. This makes it easy to change out the style with just some sleeve changes and maybe a few other accessories. Add an overdress and it's 20 years earlier. Add gauntles instead and an apron front and back, it's 10 year earlier. The high waistline style is also pretty easy to make and it looks pretty decent as well.

I'll eventually add additional ties to the back but this gown is out of strawberry pink brocade. I got it from either Pennsic or Fabricmart, I'm not too sure. I made gown for 12th Night and didn't have enough scraps yet to make sleeves. A day or two ago, the fabric I ordered from SyFabrics came in. I ordered an assorted lot of cotton velvet with the idea of either trims or sleeves depending on the pieces. Some of the pieces were actually surprisingly large - as in 3 yards! The sleeves came from a little under a yard piece that was 60" wide, I believe.

Pattern: For the dress, I used the McCall's pattern as a base.

I only used the bodice back and front. To make it more accurate, I drafted out the darts and then lifted the front of the dress because ummm...the neckline of the original is super low. Because I originally cut out a much larger pattern size than I am now, I also resized the pattern down. I ended up having to cut a few inches off but, eh, at least I didn't have to figure out the whole underarm drawing thing because I really, truly suck at that when it comes to drafting your own patterns.

The sleeves are my own pattern, however. Really, it's a super simple design. I made a trapezoid that looked like it swallowed a pomegranate.

I apologize for my poor paint skills. I started with a basic trapezoid - the length is the length of your arm from your wrist to the shoulder joint. The wrist length is actually the circumference of the widest part of your hand plus at least an inch for seam allowance and some movement. Typically, this is the base of the thumb part of your hand. The top of the sleeve is the measurement of the bicep area right around to the armpit. Once the trapezoid was drawn, I just "ballooned" the trapezoid from the 3/4 length area of a normal sleeve to the top of the sleeve. In order to make sure both sides were cut exactly the same, I cut one side first, folded the cut side over, and then cut along the same line.

This is what I wore to Venice for Carnival. :-)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Everything you need to know about garbing you learned in Kindergarten part 5! Easy patterns and other useful info.

Below is a list of various patterns online for free. Many of these are pretty easy to cut if you can cut out squares, rectangles, and something close to triangle. Medieval clothing was not always complicated. A basic tunic with a belt really does work for a wide variety of periods - it's the way the neckline is done and the trims or embroidery that change.

A classic and very good pattern.  I still use a similar pattern for my chemises.   
Still one of the best patterns out there.   Just input your measurements and you'll get a fabulous pattern for your own smock or t-tunic!
Another fabulous Italian chemise pattern.  Really, if you use wide enough widths, you don't need the side gores.
This one is a classic and still the way I make a-line tunics.  This is perfect for a lot of different periods without only slight variations on the neckline, sleeve width, and length.

Pretty much anything from Elizabethan Costume will be good and fabulous.   If you are at all into the Elizabethan era, USE her website.  

The sempstress used to be a fabulous website.  If you go to the archive page, click on any of the hats.  The links will take you to the patterns for the various 16th C styled hats.
Very basic but still quite good tutorial on how to make fabric covered buttons.  
The sideless surcote is one of my favorite patterns.  It's simple, it looks good, and it works for a wide variety of people.   I like making these for my "morning robe" at Pennsic.  This way, I wear this over a shift in the morning to get coffee and breakfast and don't have to get gowned up right away.  Also, it looks vaguely correct enough that no one questions it.  :-)  As to why I don't get gowned up right away - trying to do the laces without coffee is not recommended.  Ever.
This is the ultimate guide to the seam lines of a large variety of extant tunics.  If you are someone with intermediate skills or better, this is the page you want for historically accurate seam lines.  
I made this up as a pattern for a basic Turkish style coat what feels like a million years ago.  It still works although the seam lines are exactly correct.  
The ultimate guide to a Norse dress.  Lots of archeology as well as patterns.  If you have even a passing interest in Norse, this is an excellent read. 
Go to the tutorials on the website for some pretty good ideas on how to get a fitted gown.  Although it's older, it will still get you a decent pattern.
There are actually a lot of patterns and articles up but I have used the Houppeland pattern before.  Another excellent resource.

Fabric Stores

A few months ago, I created a list of fabric stores online that I'm familiar with. The list is located here. I typically use fabricmart anymore because they are still a "small" company with good prices. Their sales are amazing. I say "small" as in they aren't owned by Amazon or China. :-)

My biggest suggestion to anyone starting out with garbing is use plain fabrics.  I know the damask is pretty or the brocade but nothing screams modern like the wrong design.   You'll be a lot happier in the long term with a plain, single color silk than that pretty floral but completely 20th Century looking brocade.

Use trims!  Embroider!   Trims can be changed out if you don't like them later.  Just use woven trims - a lot of 1970's trims look more "correct" than some of our modern trims.  Just don't use fringe of any kind and you'll probably be okay. 

I hope all this information through this series of posts has been helpful.  If you have questions, please feel free to ask.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Everything you need to know about garbing you learned in Kindergarten part 4! Orange, Green, Brown, Pink and Purple!

I was thinking of splitting up these colors and doing a separate post just on pink and purple because of the mythology regarding those two colors.  It's really just sad how many people believe that purple was only worn by royalty and that pink isn't a period color.  The truth is that a specific dye to make purple was only allowed to be worn by a select few in England in the later Renaissance and that the word pink didn't come about to mean a specific color until after the SCA period.  They had pink, they just called it light red. 

Orange, green, and brown were all very, very common colors in the middle ages and renaissance.  Of course, most people are familiar with Sherwood Green thanks to a well beloved outlaw. The part most don't understand is how bright green could be.  As you will see lime green, safety cone orange, and every shade of brown you can imagine are perfectly period correct.

Orange: So safety cone orange. Orange is pretty easy to get with madder and saffron mixed together. I've also seen wool dyed with yellow onion skins turn pumpkin. Really, there are multiple ways to get orange depending on what dyes you have available.

Detail from The Luttrell Psalter, British Library Add MS 42130 (medieval manuscript,1325-1340), f54r

I love the above little guy. He has a lovely bright orange lining on his lavender garment (a color we'll come to in a bit) and green shoes!  He's colorful and, being an archer and lacking any ornamentations, he's not rich.  He's just a regular peasant and yet, he has access to some fabulous colors. 

The Marriage of the Virgin 1490 Luca Signorelli
I took the above photo myself in DC.  The orange you see is really quite...bright.  I'll cover the pinkish mauves and the vibrant greens as well soon.

1410 - The Book of the Queen - the Duke of True Love - by Master of the Cite Des Dames
In this one, we can see pretty much every color so you know that orange is a vibrant, safety cone, orange.  In the doorway, there is a blond guy with a red collar.  We also have the guy wearing primary color blue and the guy with the grey hat wearing a soft burgundy.  The tablecloth is a lovely green.  And then we have mister black and orange.   Very bright, can't miss it, orange.

Now, there are faded oranges and other associated orange colors.  In the previous post, I showed the madder dyed wool that was an orangy red.   However, with this, I want to show that bright, vibrant colors are not unknown.   If you want to wear safety cone orange, go for it!


Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia's Bible part V: 20/66 (14th c)

I love this manuscript for a variety of reasons.  One, the bubblegum pink - a color I'll come to in a bit.  However, the color I'd like to focus on bright lime green.  Yes, the faces look a little green but that's because of the oxidation of the copper that, originally, made the faces glow with a slight golden hue.   The lime green can be achieved using a slight bit of either woad or indigo and safflower or saffron.   In fact, before oxidation, indigo dyes fabric lime green.   When I showed the above image to my class a Pennsic, one guy's eyes nearly popped out of his head.  If the colors aren't ridiculously late 1980's bright to you, adjust your monitor.

Adoration of the Shepherds,  San Vicente, Juan Vicente Macip (Juan de Juanes),  1525-30, Museo Diocesano de Segorbe, Castellón 
I love showing the shepherds because they weren't rich. If they are wearing the color, then pretty much anyone with a half way decent pay rate could afford it. Yes, in some paintings, they might be in their Sunday best but this is about what different stations could afford, not when they might wear it.

I have heard a myth about the green dye that I thought was odd the moment I heard it. According to the myth, green was not possible in itself without mixing weld and indigo or some other yellow and blue dye together. While it is possible - and was done to get Sherwood or Lincoln Green - my immediate reaction, upon hearing it was "Did the person that state this never mow their yard?" Anyone who has worked outside every knows one thing very quickly - grass stains are a nice yellow-green color and they are ridiculously hard to get out.  Also, foxglove which is native to Europe, produces a green dye bath. Verdigris which is oxidized copper was also used to make green dye. Basically, there are a ton of ways to get green dye naturally.
British Library MS Harley 4961, Late 11th/Early 12th C

The guy juggling is wearing a fabulous green cape and a lovely purple tunic.  If you look closely, you can also see he has red embroidery around the cuffs of his undertunic. 


Brown occurs naturally with wool.  There are brown sheep.  Leather is typically brown once it's been tanned.  

Breed of sheep that has been around since the 12th C
Walnut and acorn can be used to dye things brown as well as many, many other things.   However, despite all that, brown just wasn't all that popular of a color.  Reds, blues, greens - pretty much every single other color will pop up long before brown.  Now, there could be a couple of reasons for this: the paintings and manuscripts we have are almost always of people trying to look their best and brown wouldn't be your Sunday best for the most part.  The other reason is that people in the middle ages and Renaissance just found it boring.

Now, that's not to say there aren't any browns in period artwork - there are- but it's just not a popular color.  Red is far more common - and studies on medieval textiles bare this out.   In a study, almost two thirds of the medieval textiles tested were positive for madder.  Given that, I'm going with that medieval people just found brown boring.

 Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, apse fresco work of Andrea De Litio, Annunciation

Paris, BnF, MS fr. 5054. In father's hands Paris, 1485.
Valerius Maximus. Facta et Dicta Memorabilia. MS Harley 4375, fol. 179; French c. 1475. British Library, London. 

Pink: We've all heard the myth: Pink is not period. I always giggled at the idea until someone actually posted that pink wasn't period and ranted about ladies wearing it to the Renn Faire of all places. A few of us started showing her period artwork to which the lady responded "that's just because it's so old and the sun faded it. They really didn't have pink!" ....Why she couldn't get it through her head that if the sun faded the red to pink, they could have achieved that in period is still a bit beyond me. However, we then inundated her with at least 50 images of period artwork showing both pink and red together. Only after that did she relent.

Pink can be faded red. Linen dyed with boiled, acidic safflower can be bright, bubblegum pink. Really, it can be quite pink even with silk.  Of course, berries will also dye fibers various shades on pink.

Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia's Bible  1390s
1401-1500 Ms-5070 réserve Folio 25v

1401-1500 Ms-5070 réserve Folio 84r

Purple: Okay, the most common myth: Purple was reserved for royalty. The origin of this myth is from the Henrican and Elizabethan sumptuary laws. The actual text of the law is this:

None shall weare in his apparell any{ Silke of the colour of purpure.—Cloth of {golde, Tissue.—}But onlye the —{Kyng— Quene} {Kinges {Mother. Chyldren. Brethré & Sisters. Uncles & Auntes}and Except {Dukes & Marquesses, to be may weare in dublets and sleevelesse cotes, Cloth of Gold, of Tissue, not exceadyng. v. if. the yarde, and Purpure in mantelles of the Garter.

So what is purpure?  It's a very specific dye, also known as Tyrian Purple. It's made from snails blood. The dye itself could give the range from purple to red - it mostly came out as a maroon based on ancient and medieval paintings. It's the dye that is restricted, not the color. This is very important to understand. Purple and violet are considered two separate colors in the middle ages. We use them interchangeable today. You could, absolutely, overdye a madder garment with woad - and, as mentioned previous, this was done. Purple itself is not restricted, purpure or Tyrian Purple dye is. Also, this law only deals with England - different countries and areas of Europe had different rules.

Another, very popular source, for purple dye were the lichen dyes. There are several examples of lichen dyes which get a very grape-y purple. Several people have dyed with them in this modern age because you get a fabulous bright purple. The dye was used from at least the 9th century. There is some evidence that it was being used as early as the classical age.

Roman de la Rose, MS M.245 fol. 2v 
The above shows an older, clearly poorer woman wearing...lavender.  You can see the full page here that is comes from.  I've already posted a few images with lavender.  This one, the lady with holes and tears in her dress, shows that she's poor.  This busts the "purple is for royalty" myth.  Although, some might argue "well, she's not wearing purple purple!"
Tacuinum Sanitatis; early 15th Century Italian 
And the lady is wearing...purple!   
Image from an italian breviary,c. 1380
Very, very purple.  And the lady wearing purple above is not a queen.  She may be nobility, but not royalty.   

So wear purple!  Wear pretty much any color you please!  I've personally seen teals, pastels, and all sorts of crazy colors in artwork throughout the middle ages and Renaissance.  

If you'd like further information on natural dyes, I highly suggest this list. It goes by color and the dyes that can achieve that color. Not all are period correct for the SCA but enough are that it's an invaluable resource. You'll hear a lot about mordants if you do any natural dying. For alum, you can buy that at the store pretty cheaply. I used to get it from my local "Amish" market in the spices area. For iron, which was a popular mordant, just wait a couple of days for your SOS pad you use for cleaning pots to rust. It works beautifully. Different mordants will get you very different colors.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask.  The next and last section will be on free patterns for SCA garments available online.  

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Everything you need to know about garbing you learned in Kindergarten part 3! Primary Colors!

My own yarn that I dyed with Safflower on the left, madder on the right.  The middle one was a mix.  


Madder. Almost every single cultural group throughout the middle ages and Renaissance had access to madder. It's really the most common dye because it will grow pretty much anywhere.   It has a decent shelf life of about a year but, the fresher it is, the better and more "red" the color will be.  In the picture of my own dyeing attempts, the madder was getting towards the end of it's shelf life.  Still, I got some pretty nice orangy reds out of it, as you can see.
Early 13th Century Extant Pellote

14th Century Illumination

15th Century Illumination

Yellow: As mentioned in the previous post, the Irish loved saffron dyed (or safflower dyed) lienes. In the image above, I've used safflower. Weld also can be used and I have some weld dyed yarn. Weld tends to be "sunnier" yellows while safflower (And saffron) are more "lemony" yellows. Both can be quite bright. I have seen, in person, neon yellow from saffron. My own silk dress, dyed in safflower, is one shade removed from neon yellow. We are talking BRIGHT colors.

Codex Bodmer 1170-1200
14th Century Illumination

Jean Clouet (1485 -1541, French)
Blue: Indigo and woad were both prevalent throughout the middle ages. A study recently done on one of the first settlers of Iceland shows that her apron dress was dyed with Indigo. She passed away between 700-1100 A.D. There is a pretty good article on the Indigo and Woad already but there are a couple of details that need to be explored.

In the 15th and 16th C, when the ways to the east were opening up for Europe thanks to exploration and improved sea travel, indigo started to take over from the woad trade. Indigo is super easy to use and doesn't require quite the years of work that woad does. Many governments in Europe felt that indigo would cause woad to become extinct and cost woad dyers (and woad growers) to go out of business. To protect the interests of the woad dyers, some governments in Europe outlawed Indigo.

This tells us a couple of things - a) Indigo was pretty cheap in the later SCA period and b) you couldn't really tell the difference between woad dyed and indigo dyed. It's just the dyes stuff that is illegal, not the color. This is very important in the next post with purple.

2nd Quarter of the 14th Century
15th Century

13th Century

With these colors, you have...primary colors! In kindergarten, we should have all learned about the color wheel.
Taken from Color wheel artist

All you need is red, yellow, and blue to make up every single other color. Medieval people knew this, too! There has been scientific studies showing that madder was overdyed with a blue dye (woad or indigo) to get purple. This is based on testing of textiles from the mid 14th C. So, the idea that "well, that color didn't exist" isn't accurate. Some colors would be more common than others (madder red was very common) but very few colors were impossible to get the middle ages.  Seriously, as you'll see in the next post, safety cone orange is totally a medieval color.