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.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Everything you need to know about garbing you learned in Kindergarten part 2! The Monochrome-ish addition!

Today, I want to tackle two myths at once: Our ancestors in the middle ages didn't have "real" white, it was more a natural cream color and Black was only for the rich because the dye was expensive/expensive to keep the fabric dyed, etc.


What the women are doing in the above image is washing the linen garments in a lye mixture and laying them out in the sun to dry. As the linked experiment by another individual shows, lye does an amazing job at bleaching. Also, using urine was well known to bleach things (the ammonia in it which we still use today) since the Classical Era. Catullus, the famous Roman poet, even wrote a scathing poem about it to a Egnatius. Although a lot of Roman technology was lost in the Fall of Rome around the 5th C, the use of urine for bleach wasn't one of them.

So with different types of bleach available, those living in Europe in the middle ages and Renaissance could very easily get their linen pretty darn white.

An important thing to keep in mind, all chemises, undies, and bras were normally bleached white. The one exception to this is the Irish Leine which is bright, bright yellow. There is some argument to whether the leine itself is a tunic or an undershirt but there is no argument over that it was yellow - a color we'll get to later.


The myth I've heard way, way too often is that Black was an expensive dye and it was difficult to keep clothing black because it fades as you wash it.

So, there are three things wrong with this. First in a list of 16 dyes black comes in at the 11th most expensive. So there goes that. In fact, there are several different ways to get a decent black dye to include walnut shells or acorns and alum.

However, you don't even need to dye wool black. Wool, being the most common fabric of the SCA period.

Meet my brother

Why people forget about natural black wool is completely beyond me. Did they not learn "ba ba black sheep?" in kindergarten? Do they not have a "black sheep" in the family? The term black sheep is so ubiquitous in Western Culture that is just seems obvious to me that they had to have black wool in the middle ages. After all, it's not like black sheep suddenly appeared in the early 18th Century with the nursery rhyme.

BNF Fr. 9, fol. 32v beginning of the 15th century

They may not have been as common as white wool sheep but black sheep were not unknown either. I've been to the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival - the wool can be pitch black. Yes, some may be sun dyed a bit but, really, you cut off the ends and have the super dark undercoat to spin up into black wool.

Also, even in the Greenland dig, mentioned earlier, most of the garments are made with white and black wool - just one is the weft and the other is the warp- to create neat patterns. They didn't have much, if any, natural dyes around in Greenland so they just used what they had which were the natural wool colors.

So, the third problem with the myth regarding the color black - that is somehow isn't colorfast for washing. Well, they didn't wash the outergarments, like dresses or doublets, as much as we do today. The chemise was meant to protect your clothing from you and you washed the chemise a lot (from one primary source reading, twice a week!). Think of the outfits of the medieval world like we would think of a coat or jacket today. You might wash it a couple of times a year but that's probably about it. Most people aren't stuffing their wool coat into the washer every week and neither did those living in the middle ages send their outfits to be washed often. Mostly, some spot cleaning is all that is needed.

Even if you have the dyed black rather than the natural black wool, you won't be washing it often so colorfast isn't quite a worry as the myth would lead you to believe.

Next, will be on Red, Yellow, and Blue!