All throughout the Middle Ages, men wore coifs to keep their hair clean and out of their face. In many illuminations, coifs are depicted in white or a natural color. Depending on one’s status during the Middle Ages would determine on how fine the cloth was for the coif. Finer white linens for the wealthy and peasants had rougher linens in natural colors.
I have been learning how to hand sew medieval clothing items using period-correct sewing tools lately. I recently got inspired by these images from the Rutland Psalter of 1260, men’s coifs with the stitches depicted.
The coifs appear to be a two-piece construction with a band across the back of the coif to cover the raw edges and a longer band across the front of the coif to cover the raw edges and act as the ties for under the chin.
I used The Medieval Tailors Assistant book for reference on cutting out the coif pattern and for stitches to use for construction of the coif. I used reproduction sewing needles and pins that were based off archeological digs in London. (I purchased them from The Fairytale Chest shop in Etsy.)
I chose a fine white linen and used white linen thread for sewing. Construction of the coif for me was pretty straightforward: sew the two pieces together down the center of the coif, finish the seams to hide the raw edges, and sew on the bands.
I found the linen easy to work with; it was easy for me to crease the seams and it held the creasing very well for me to sew. I used a backstitch to sew down the center of the coif seam. Next, using my fingers and natural body heat, I pressed open the seam, folded over the raw edges and used a simple whip stitch to tact them down.
Next was creating the bands for the back and front of the coif. I measured both front and back for the length needed, adding 12 inches on each side of the front band for the ties. I cut my bands a little over an inch wide. Again, using my fingers, I folded the bands in half, making a good crease in the linen as I went along the length of the band. Next, I opened the band and carefully pressed in the outer edges of the band to the center, making a good crease in the linen. Then I folded the band in half again, making it in the fashion of modern-day double-folded bias tape. I did not cut the bands on the bias as I felt this would make them too stretchy and the coif would not fit right. For the front band, I double folded in very small edges to hide the raw edges.
Opening the bands, I put them on the raw edges of the coif and sewed then on using a whip stitch that is shown in The Medieval Tailors Assistant book. For the front band, I closed the tie ends using the same whip stitch.
I found sewing with the reproduction needle mostly easy; however, as my body heat warmed up the brass, it bent the needle. I had to stop quite a lot to straighten out my needle. I also found that the needle and pins left bigger holes in the fabric compared to their modern counterparts. But I felt in the end of it all, the holes went away as I continued to work with the linen and felt that it didn’t change the outcome of the coif.
I still need to work on making my stitch work much better, but that will come with practice, practice and more practice! Hope you enjoyed reading about this project, I really did enjoy making the coif.
(Lady Isolda is apprenticed to Master Hrólfr Á Fjárfelli)
Tablet weaving by Viscountess Rosalinde Ashworth. Photo by Master Fridrikr Tomasson.
The autocrat of the FFF event in the Shire of Abhainn Ciach Ghlais has made the following announcement. More information about the event is available on the Kingdom website here.
While I was so looking forward to seeing you all, and I am extremely grateful that you were willing to offer your knowledge to FFF, I’m afraid that the hosts of FFF have decided, in light of increasing cases in the hosting county, that FFF should not be held in person this year. We will return to Sieg next year!
Instead, we will return to last year’s virtual format, and to November 20, so we all have time to catch our breath and prepare.
I hope to see you online, and in person next year,
Early medieval / Viking age jeans
Claim: A (Aprilis prima)
Material: 2/2 cotton twill with indigo dye (mouth-crotched by Uzbek nuns under water), buttons made of iron, rivets made of bronze
I know, I know … most of you will first of all wonder if I’m completely mad and crazy about this reconstruction. So let me first put a few theoretical considerations together:
1) Trousers itself are well documented by finds. Thorsberg, Damendorf, Skjoldehamn. Sufficient variations of the pattern can already be found here, so that today’s jeans cut seems quite possible as a creative excess.
2) Cotton as a basic material was known and available. In the Byzantine Varangian Guard (which consisted mostly of Scandinavian Vikings), part of the armor (the Bambakion) was made of cotton. So one can assume that returnees brought this back home with them as knowledge or as raw material.
3) Diagonal twill as the binding of the material was well-known and has been retained to this day.
4) Indigo as a dye has been used extensively in the eastern regions. So it seems completely conclusive that resourceful dyers also happily combined cotton and indigo. Even if this should not have been the case, a wonderfully stonewashed look can be achieved with the adequately documented and popular woad, which puts the fashionable understanding of the early medieval people in a completely new light.
5) Even the pockets of the jeans can theoretically be derived well. Just think of fragment H55 A from the harbour of Haithabu. The transfer of a tunic pocket to a pair of trousers can justifiably be seen as a masterpiece of tailoring at the time, and it should have been way ahead of its time.
6) Dozens of references can be found in Birka alone for buttons. Even if most of the specimens were cast from bronze, in view of the craftsmanship at the time, some can also be made of other metals. As a reference for the use of buttons on trousers, I would like to refer to the underpants find from Moscevaja Balka, which also already has a button for fastening.
7) Stabilizing the seam connections by means of rivets seems quite modern. However, this principle of the rivet with a counter washer on the back can already be observed in the knife sheaths of that time. It seems quite logical – especially in view of the extensive and long-term use of textiles at the time – that this process was also applied to trousers.
8) Jeans are even represented several times in contemporary iconographic representations. In various psalteries, men can be seen in tight-fitting blue legwear, which can be interpreted as nothing more than skinny jeans. Here, too, the fashion of the time shows clear parallels to modern times, and underlines the highly developed clothing style of the Northmen, often wrongly denigrated as ‘uncouth barbarians’ .
That’s the theory.
Now let’s get to the facts.
1) Old Norse knows the term ‘(Blá) önd súrsæt’, the ‘(blue) cotton trousers’.
2) In the Gallastríðið saga it says: “Gallíu er skipt í þrjá hluta, annar þeirra er byggður af Belgum, hinn af Aquitans og sá þriðji af þeim sem kallaðir eru Keltar á sínu tungumáli, á okkaru.”
In other words: “And before he left the house, Gollum the Magnificent put on the cotton trousers of the hard-working craftsmen so that he would be considered one of them in the future.”
3) In the ‘MS Cotton de Nimes’ (dated to the middle of the 10th century) there is a depiction of a man in blue trousers who is being carried by two others. Under his tunic, which has slipped up, you can see a patch pocket on the back of the exact shape and size that is used in today’s five-pocket jeans. (Image 1)
4) During the archaeological excavations in the port area of Birka, among other things, textile fragment W34 / L32 was found. A 2/2 cotton twill with remnants of an indigo dye. Here you can still see a double seam, which is reinforced by a bronze rivet. Right next to it is a round hole with neat edges that a second rivet would fit into. (Image 2)
5) In the hoard of Buttenheim there is an inconspicuous but very interesting pendant among numerous hacked silver. A so-called Anlaf-Guthfrithsson-Penny, a coin from the 10th century, which was first converted into a button with a long shaft (like in modern jeans) and later served as a pendant with a riveted eyelet. (Image 3)
6) One last hint is the work of the Swedish archaeologist Löb Strauss, which he published under the title “Effekten av jordnötssmör på jordrotationen”. Here he describes an almost perfectly preserved trouser find with all the characteristics of today’s jeans, which was found in 1834 in the bog near Riga by Jākobs Jufess and dated to the late Iron Age. (Image 4)
Based on all of these individual documents, the jeans I reconstructed are by no means a new and unknown item of clothing. Instead, the facts automatically condense into a compelling causality.
Because with all due respect to our ancestors – they weren’t stupid back then
I would like to close with a quote from my great Idol Harald Blauzahn: “Do not believe anything you find on the Internet, unless you have faked it yourself.”
/ Satire Off, and have a nice first April
Charles Bruns (via Viking Clothing on the Booke of Faces)
· Reach out to someone in your Shire, Canton, or Barony
· Cook a medieval recipe SCA Cooks on the Book of Faces
· Find your favorite SCA youtubers! Kingdom of Æthelmearc Virtual Resources, including populace YouTube channels
· Shop or leave a review for an SCA merchant that you like SCA Merchant Relief on the Book of Faces as well as the Æthelmearc Gazette archives for recently published articles on populace merchants
· Write an award recommendation for someone either in at local or Kingdom level Sylvan Kingdom of Æthelmearc Award Recommendation Form
· Reach out to that mundane friend that keeps posting “Cool!” on your SCA pictures and see if they are interested in learning more SCA Newcomer’s Portal
· Participate in one of the local, Kingdom or Society challenges (two birds with one stone on this option) Pandemic Portraits, an SCA photography challenge; also on the Book of Faces (and when you happen to come across one, please share with the Æthelmearc Arts & Sciences Book of Faces page!)
the possibilities are endless…
This 15 minutes is whatever you have the energy for – the only requirement is that you do something, anything! Complete 30 days (does not have to be consecutive) and you will earn a ‘war pay’ against the Plague.
Hashtag #15forSCA to show what you are doing today! (Set your social media settings to global so that your hashtag can be shared.)
Greetings to all weavers, dyers, tailors, spinners, and textile workers of all persuasions!
The eighteenth annual Fiber, Fabric, & Fun (FF&F) will be held online, on its usual day of November 21, 2020. While we can’t bring you fighting, fencing, fishing, or feasting, we are planning for a day filled with fiber, fabric, and fun.
We are seeking Zoom-friendly classes on all aspects of textiles and clothing, from spinning the fiber to weaving the cloth, to embellishing the fabric, and constructing the garments (bonus points for things I’ve never even thought of).
The upcoming episode of ÆLive, airing on Saturday May 23 at 7 PM, will have a Norse theme.
To this end we want to have a segment in the show where we show pictures of Norse outfits that people here in Æthelmearc has worn or are wearing. So please send in pictures of yourself in Norse looking garb or armor.
A segment will be made where we feature these pictures, some or all of them as we see fit.
Due to the extenuating circumstances at this time, the Known World Rapier and Costuming Symposium has been postponed indefinitely. We would like to thank everyone who has shared their time and talents to bring us this far and also, please know we will certainly be hosting a Known World event in the future. Until then, please take care and stay safe!
The camicia displayed before you is a men’s undershirt shirt constructed in the style of the mid to late 16th century. Often crafted by women of the household for loved ones in the public eye, undergarments and other finely embroidered accessories of this type were cherished wardrobe pieces and suitable even as gifts for royalty. This shirt is specifically tailored for my partner and is based on extant patterns and period portraiture the spirit of this practice. I made it using period sewing techniques, such as cartridge pleating, and materials, such as linen thread and fabric. The embroidery is made from modern acrylic thread for cost-prohibitive reasons, but is extensively detailed with personal imagery (in this case referencing my partner’s heraldry) as would be typical a fine shirt of the era.
Introduction This undershirt was designed with my partner in mind and intended as a colorful addition to their SCA wardrobe. It is patterned on numerous 16th century extant pieces, primarily those discussed in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 4 and three pieces in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute collections in New York City. These historical pieces are unique in that fashion at this time began to favor a more gratuitous silhouette. It was customary to display one’s wealth by wearing more material and finery. Consequentially, sewing methods adapted to accommodate the practice of wearing textiles in bulk and it is during this period the technique of cartridge pleating became more prevalent, particularly with undergarments. These pieces also showcase a large amount of labor-intensive embroidery, which I feel has at least as much to tell us about the daily lives and values of the women who made them as the men who wore them. It is with great appreciation for the cultural weight of these garments that I undertake this project.
What is this thing and why it is interesting? Undershirts, shifts and chemises (or camicia in Italian) were worn as barrier between the body and the outer garments. These pieces of clothing were full and absorbent by design to serve as protection between the exterior layers from the wearer’s sweat and body soil. They were always made of vegetable fiber (Landini & Bruna, 125), likely because vegetable fiber is absorbent, easier to launder and breathes more comfortably than silk or wool. Underwear of this type were worn all over Europe and were donned by the working class and nobility alike. The finest pieces, such as the ones which have survived in the museum collections of our modern day, were made of the whitest, finest and most transparent linens. (Landini & Bruna, 125) Such items were embellished and maintained; decorated with colorful embroidery of silk or gilded thread. Some were adorned with cut-work and lace. All were gathered and fitted with as much excess and finery as could be afforded.
In the 1500’s a fine shirt was a gift both suitable for royalty or to one’s own family. (Arnold, 9) These pieces were traditionally made by women, either professionally contracted or as a service within the household. This task was common among both upper and working classes. Eustace Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador to the Tudor court during the reign of King Henry VIII shares one such anecdote in his writings wherein Queen Anne Boleyn threw a jealous fit over the right to make Henry’s undershirts (as opposed to the then out of favor Katherine of Aragon). One can conclude from this story that there is something more significant to this practice than standard women’s chores and was worth fighting over. Add to this, the fact that much of the labor-intensive embroidery was used to cover seams and were utilized in places which might never be viewed except in the most intimate of settings. I submit that these garments were Renaissance status symbols in their own right and true labors of love, often made specifically for the wearer by a woman close to them (a wife, a sister, or a mother). Further the act of making these pieces was a coveted duty, and a mark of virtue to be sought after in prospective wives.
Fabric In the medieval and renaissance Europe, linen was much different than the linen found in the modern day. Flax was harvested by hand which resulted in longer fibers and thus finer, more sheer fabric was possible. We know, based on portraiture that the upper class preferred linens that were as white and as sheer as possible. Landini (as I’ve cited earlier) agrees with this statement, but I would call attention to the fact that this source looks most closely at the wardrobes of Eleonora di Toledo. On the other hand, the Nils Sture shirt, scrutinized by Arnold, was described as being made of “firmly woven linen, which is quite coarse”. (Arnold, 68) This example, worn by Nils on the day of his death, was more likely every day wear rather than exceptional attire. I propose that at the very least, day to day upper-class menswear was somewhat more practical with regard to the quality of linen used. While the linen I have obtained may be of modern make and not the ideal optic white sought after by the nobility, it is of a weight and texture appropriate for regular wear and, more importantly, it’s what my partner wanted.
Pattern and Construction Looking closely across the surviving men’s shirts documented in Patterns of Fashion 4, of which she has done a wonderful job of extensively dissecting and documenting, I have noted that the widths of the body panel range from about 30-40”. I have estimated this figure given that Arnold does not note seam allowances. Thus, I set out to design my pattern with an assumption that my bolt of fabric came from a 40” wide loom (see Figure 1). Further, bearing in mind that linen (for me) is expensive, I opted for a design the utilizes as much fabric as possible with little waste. My pattern is mostly rectangular, relying on pleats to fit to the wearer rather than curved seams (see Figure 1.2 for pattern – image included). Given that undergarments were unlined, I joined all sections with felled seams in the fashion demonstrated by Arnold (Figure 2.1) though upon response to my inquiry from the MET, it seems that there was some variance in technique throughout the period. I opted to go the aforementioned technique as it only it recommended two passes of whip stitching along each seam (figure 2.1) as opposed to one pass and then another two lines of back-stitches to secure further (figure 2.2 – image included). One could argue the smock which employed this variation has held together admirably as a result, but I just don’t have the free time to duplicate it with deadlines looming.
Cartridge Pleats As I mentioned earlier, all fitting has been achieved in this design with pleating. For a garment of this make, cartridge pleating was the preferred method of gathering fabric because it is the most efficient approach to condensing large quantities of material. Cartridge pleating is achieved by lining up multiple running stitches perfectly so that when the support threads are pulled, the fabric folds up on itself like a fan. The compression rate for this method is variable based on the thickness and length of the fabric and spacing of pleats. Tighter spacing, and more material will result in tighter gathers, thus for the beginner’s class I teach on this technique, we begin by double rolling our linen first to make it easier to work with and scale up the spacing required for of our stitches. This approach of condensing fabric differs from other pleating techniques in that cartridge gathers are not fixed in place until they are finished, and that these gathers may be compressed or spaced out as needed to fit. The result thickens and stiffens the fabric and is suitable for the addition of collars, cuffs, neck and waistbands. Unlike smocking, which condenses fabric in the same way but then adds embroidery over top, the support threads (created by the running stitches) are left in place and the pleats are then further secured with an additional piece of linen. Historical pleats of this make were gathered by hand and were exceptionally tiny and evenly spaced.
As part of my research into the creation of this garment, I contacted the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York City order to get a better understanding for how these pleats were achieved. I was interested in three 16th century undergarments in their collection, all of which showcase cartridge pleating. I found that these gathers ranged from one to three pleats per 1/16th of an inch. (see figures 3.1-5.2: image 3.2 and 5.1 included). I have spent extensive time and research trying to duplicate pleating like this in previous projects and this piece is the first time I had actual scale references for these extant garments and garments like it. I now believe the tiniest of these gathers were achieved with a long piece of fine of linen with stitches no less than 1/16th of an inch wide. In the case of my project’s neckline, which would have to support a double thick collar, I have double rolled the linen first before pleating to give the seam some added integrity. However, all other pleats were achieved with a single piece of linen with the goal of duplicating this method faithfully.
Once gathered, it is necessary to finish the pleats by securing them in place. With the MET blouse, these pleats were carefully whip stitched to a double thick band of linen (Figure 3.2). For the MET shirt it appears the gathers are placed between a double thick wristband in which a double running stitch secured everything in place. (figure 5.1 and 5.2) For my partner’s shirt, I have chosen to backstitch the outside and whipstitch on the interior. I deemed this method most sturdy and aesthetically appealing.
Embroidery The embroidery on this shirt is heavily influenced by the extant in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (Figure 6.1 – image included). As is featured in this example, I have chosen to use button hole stitch to finish all the hems along the collar and cuffs. In period, this would have been done with silk thread, but I have used acrylic for to keep within budget and avoid bleeding with regular wear. This design also features a collar which is made from two pieces of separately embroidered linen panels as is best demonstrated in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum extant in Munich (Figure 6.2 – image included). For my project, I have made references to my partner’s heraldry along the exterior of this collar and intend to also decorate the interior at a later date.
It is interesting to note that most surviving pieces showcase some form of embroidery. Even in more practical examples, such as the Nils Sture shirt referenced earlier, (Figure 7.1 – image included, as well as image of entry) there is at the very least some white-work, or pulled thread detailing. Many more museum specimens display extensive decoration, often in places that would be invisible when worn. Setting aside the bias in our body of evidence that ensures such cherished heirlooms are more likely to survive, the fact remains that this type adornment is time consuming and labor intensive to create. Regardless of the fact that noble women may have had the time to devote to such effort, it is not easy work and many of these touches were hidden by exterior clothing. Further, these works of art would have been unknown to all but the wearer and those intimate to them. Where embroidery might cover a seam, or finish a neck slit, these ornaments would have been close to the heart. I found that during the course of adding these details on my own project I could not help but think of my intended and this process was meditative and fulfilling in its own way.
Buttons Many of these undergarments were secured with cord tie off, but there are a handful of examples which use buttons as well. Arnold documents at least two such examples including the MET blouse discussed earlier (Figure 8.1). The Museo del Tessuto in Prato also has a camicia in their collection which uses button wrist closures. (Figure 8.2). These buttons were made by wrapping silk around a wooden core and all feature a zigzag pattern across their axis. I have attempted many variations on this method but have yet to perfectly replicate this design. In light of this road block, I have instead replicated buttons from another garment from the same time period. However, I will continue efforts to replicate this design for future projects and may yet yield success in the 11th hour for this one.
Conclusion As a result of this project have acquired a greater appreciation and understanding for the women of the 16th century. In total, I estimate this project has taken me about 25+ hours of work and I could yet commit more. In this undertaking, I have become aware of my modern privilege and entitlement with regard to clothing production. Sewing, gathering and embroidering underwear is tremendously time consuming and labor intensive and I admit I did and still do wrestle with the idea of creating works of art which are not intended for public view. However, having put in these hours I recognize their value would argue that perhaps this makes these items all the more precious. When I tackle a project like this again, I’ll saving up to do it with finer textiles, such as long fiber linen and silk embroidery thread. At the very least, my materials should match my effort.
THL Fede de Fiore at the Kingdom Arts & Sciences Championship, discussing her entry with the jurors.
For a pdf of THL Fede’s documentation, as well as a complete collection of project and extant garments, please visit here.
Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion 4. (2008, London)
Landini, Roberta, and Niccoli, Bruna. Moda a Firenza: 1540-1580. (2005: Firenze)
With the Arabella Stuart doll entry I continue the journey of researching and recreating various period inspired toys, which have inspired me over the past decade. Though by far, my personal favorite has been spending time making dolls. Re-stepping in familiar territory, each project presents new challenges and skills never before attempted. This was one of my first projects in the SCA and its been a joy to finally recreate one as close as possible from a period masterpiece of art. The series of research is meant to be in-depth with the known depictions of dolls in 16th century art. Then it is to be meticulously recreated in period materials and methods. This is the third in a series of 10 dolls from these depictions.
In this article we shall discuss the layers of 16th century court clothing worn in 1577; comparing the portrait image represented to the construction of on the extant doll as previously researched. Observing the creative process and material choices for this project. Plus, discovering more representations of other fashion dolls in art around the world in the 16th century.
Extant Fashion Doll: The only extent one that physically survived the centuries supplies the core research on which all my other depictions are based. The extant doll is housed in the Livrustkammaren Museum (Royal Armory) in Stockholm, Sweden (see image). She is not a display item at this time and would most likely be in storage. So, with a little luck and the internet, I was able to locate some closeup images of the doll from “Isis Wardrobe” a personal internet blog. Some of these images are displayed on other sites like Pinterest, following the trail back to the museum website (see source 3 for the web address). I noticed this doll while turning the pages of my copy of “Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d” over a decade ago. This little doll is depicted in black and white, saddened there wasn’t a color picture in the book. Color pictures were not found untill recently on a persona blog “Isis Wardrobe” and subsequently on the Livrustkammaren Museum website.
Looking at the Livrustkammaren Museum Facebook page there is a small reference of the traveling of Fashion dolls “This modedocka, or pandora as they were called after the first woman in Greek mythology, must have been manufactured by Maria of Palatinate, Duchess of Södermanland, married to Duke Karl which eventually became Karl IX. Fashion Dolls were common in the business of fashion until the end of the 17th century and was a way to spread new trends before fashion journalism took its place. “Pandora traveled by horseback (?) to different countries and not just royalty and nobility was reached.” This is also referenced in the Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d about how the mode of fashion that traveled with the tailor’s trade. Later in this article the changing mode of fashion is discussed; how these did become a feature in art of children, an eventual evolution as a plaything and found in later inventory of the affluent.
The website of the museum supplied many useful pictures and much information. The recently added full color photos of this doll show at least 19 images in total. I also was able to obtain a list of the materials that the doll is made from, though it is difficult to locate some of them. Since either the type of material is no longer made, it called something else in modern times, or for the sheer translation issues into English. I was able to decipher as much as possible and through looking at prior inventory lists was able to figure out a reasonable kind of material. The doll has a steel wire armature body wrapped in silk and silk thread. (source 3) The extant doll has an elaborately embroidered muff with silver gold threads lined in gold silk. (source 3) Painstakingly detailed gold lace decorates the outer dress of lavender silk, including 3 petticoats; one pink silk lined, one gold velvet lined with silver lace, and an outer gown of purple silk lined gold lace trimmed and blue silk hem. (source 3) (See image illustrating the visible silk fabric, 3 petticoats with decoration and linings, also visible are the thread wrapped wire feet.)
From personal observation it is clear the feet are visible in one of the close-up photos on the blog “Isis Wardrobe”, and they look to be silk thread wrapped; unfortunately, closer inspection blurs the images. Her hands are not visible from any angle due to the muff; I tried blowing up the blog images to see if I could see a peek of something, but to not avail. The face seems to be an off-white or tan colored silk, the face is embroidered on and stretched over the stuffing base with some defining features for the chin and nose, I found by studying the 19 images from the museum website. (source 3)
Portrait of Arabella Stuart: From all this information about the extant doll as a basis then form a real object. Now we also have the portrait painting of Arabella Stuart from 1577 for our fashions for this doll (see close up of the portrait of Arabella Stuart age 23 months. The fashion doll held in left hand seems similar to images of Queen Elizabeth I of the time.) Looking at the image I think the portrait dolls is taller than the extant doll. Therefore, I made my replica about 10” tall. With all the details, I was able to begin the long process of project planning. This entails sourcing materials, pricing and budgeting. Though I also needed to look at the making process of this, how it was going to be done. So also follows; thread wrapping, running stitch, back stitch, couching stitch, whip stitch (wig).
Various techniques like gold-work, wire-work, sewing, and mild embroidery were implemented in constructing my replica. I sourced some handmade bobbin lace in a small enough scale without making miniature bobbin lace. Which I am in the process of learning the skill of making regular size lace. I just gained a book on making miniature versions for dolls. Which during the process would be an undertaking more than I could execute in the current time frame to have the project completed, at least at a semi respectable level. Although it is on the list of learning as my SCA journey continues to develop.
English 16th Century Court Clothing Features: After seeing the extant doll, I knew there needed to be proper preparation for such an undertaking. I noted a few items with major similarity with the extant doll, as the style of the sleeves, gown and fitting of the clothing. I also observed some features that would have been standard in the 16th century, like hair covering and neck ruff, which were not featured on the doll at all. So I made a small survey of the images similarly dressed to the extant doll including the layers that would be proper for the time period. Some of these images were more difficult to find as identifications changed when persons were identified as different individuals contemporary to the time. I identified as many from court life as possible. When I narrowed it down to a 30-year window, a regional trend in fashion became evident. I discovered similarities of a bedecked headdress, neck ruff, and decorated cuffs that were all in the versions of the portrait paintings I located.
I noted all the examples have a fitted bodice, most likely corseted, with metallic trim decoration and flowing pleated skirt. All the gowns are voluminous due to under layers, some split front some closed. All the clothing has decorated long sleeves; some with embroidery. The portraits show a decorated head covering, neck ruff, all have a lace decorated cuff at the end of the long sleeves. This small survey of court fashion over a period of time in the same country, shows there are some similarities between the decoration, style, and accessories about the time the doll would have been made. With such detail as seen in the extant doll photos, there is no way someone would have rushed in putting this together and achieve such quality. Plus, similar court fashion seems to have travelled to other countries similar to the fashions on the Arabella Stuart doll in England at about the same time from 1570’s (see image of Queen Elizabeth I- Pelican Portrait of circa 1575).
The layers of clothing would been as follows: shift (linen); corset (reed/whale bone); outer (silk fabric); petticoats ( silk); padded roll (bumroll); outer gown (red silk taffeta, gold silk slashed sleeves); neck ruff (starched linen); head covering (silk-net, pearls, gold wire); shoes (thread wrapped silk). This is based on the doll and based on the above English court wardrobe and layers of 16th century court dress.
Preparation Materials selection: When making selections for this project, I looked at the material list from the museum website. They are listed on the website as follows: taffeta, wire taffeta, silver wire (tip), silk (embroidery), silk on silk-embroidery, velvet-uncut, pearl velvet, lace, and gold thread. (source 3) Not sure if all of it is translated well enough in detail from Swedish, though it gave me a starting point.
I also looked at the colors and textures from the portrait doll and those influenced my choices: steel wire, twine, air dry clay, red dupioni silk fabric, burgundy tablet woven silk trim, red silk velvet ribbon, off white- silk organza, gold-silk chine, white, red, gold- silk thread, gold gilt wire-hard, smooth purl gold gilt no.8, rough purl gold gilt no. 8, gilt o’s 6mm size, seed pearls, gold embroidery twist, hide glue, gesso and gauche paint, wooden plague, linen fabric, cotton batting, wood and glass display case, doll stand. I looked at the prices and over the first three months of the year (2019) budgeted $300 for the materials, shipping, and sheer cost of some of the materials. I wanted it to really look like something for royalty and using as close as possible materials and not shy away from the precious metals.
And I wanted to address the color choices for this project, compared to the portrait doll. I wanted a deep red silk that had some body to it as based on the pictures. Plus, it needed to address the burgundy tones observed on the photos from the internet. I preferred to use a dupioni silk fabric since it has texture. This one is a very smooth weave, more than normally found easily. I wanted to show which bright colors the doll would have displayed as a new creation in the 16th Century.
The hide glue, also known as gelatin glue, I discovered a medieval recipe in The Compleat Anachronist issue 134 by Maya Heath. I needed glue not to just to secure the hairstyle, the hair needed to be dirty of sorts to behave correctly. I knew this information from having done this hairstyle many times and hair needs some oil and unwashed consistency to stick to itself. This glue was used on the washed human hair procured from a beauty supply store. It could maintain the hairstyle and also protect it from being snagged when sewing the silk hairnet with woven gold wire in it and securing the braids.
The Tudor Child pattern for dolls was used on this project. (source 2) I wanted to try this version, to give a nod to more peg like doll features that represent some earlier styles of fashion dolls. In this pattern there aren’t legs on this doll. Therefore, no stockings, shoes or garters are needed for her. Since I modeled after the Tudor Child doll pattern, this doll uses a wood round base inside the linen lining along with the cotton stuffing to hold everything upright instead. (source 2) Studying the portrait, I wanted to maintain the round conical shape of the skirts. I think there is something more sturdy there than two stuffed wired doll appendages. So that is a distinct difference than the extant in Sweden.
Crafting Process: I began with the accessories first, since they would be smaller and easier to travel with me. I kept the doll itself as a project at home most of the time, although towards the end I took it to work on breaks, lunch, and after work. I found this to be relaxing as well as another way of directing my thoughts to a better place. A therapy of sorts during the day at work.
My process of making the replica doll is as follows:
The body is made of linen fabric, stuffed with cotton batting (see image showing construction). The head and hands are hand sculpted from air-dry clay sealed with gesso (from hide glue and white gauche). The miniature bust is then painted with gauche paint to a natural skin-tone and features. The wig is a strawberry blonde human hair wig made from hair purchased at a beauty supply shop. Although I am still collecting my hair for future dolls.
The hair is styled carefully in a rounded rolled-form with a large netted bun in back, and gold silk twist along with coiled gilt gold wire woven into the head-covering. This took some of the longest to get right like the portrait image. Hide glue attached the wig to the clay head, needing lots of drying time at home. The image to the left shows the process before any accessories were added to the doll, you can see the linen arms wired to the body, and the wig drying. Great to see that the scale was working for the accessories created while at work. This can be problematic and I kept making sure it was still fitting to proportions.
The smaller parts were easy to transport in my purse. I assembled the ruff and cuffs first, then the miniature silk clothing. Added trims and decoration as much as could be done before sewing the clothing to the doll. The under-layers first, the shift, corset, padded roll and embroidered petticoat. From there I sewed the outer gown with back and running stitch, while taking care to not loosen the hair that had been styled so carefully.
The image (image on left with black dress & ruffs) shows the doll before the outer layer gown was added. You see the styled hair, the sleeves, accessories and under-layers. It is all set for the over dress and all the detail for completing the doll. It was a real joy to see all the pieces coming together to form a good quality replica doll. And knowing it is dressed from the skin out properly, even if you cannot see it. This kind of detail makes a good representation of 16th century fashion for the time, and adds to the overall purpose of the dolls as traveling fashion news for that time in history.
The image (image on right of red dress) shows the base decoration of the outer-gown. With beading on the bodice belted accessories, beaded hanging sleeves. You can see the decorated petticoat underneath. The gold silk slashed sleeves show behind the bobbin lace cuffs.
This became a very eye-catching piece, just like the inspirational portrait. Although this is not the end of the journey for me. On the portrait image of the doll there seemed to be a lozenge pattern laid gold-work, beading in those lozenges, and all this seemed metallic gold thread. There was difficulty finding a good quality image from the internet that had clearer details on the outer gown decoration. Recently obtained images show the gold-plated details of o’s that will have pearls centered inside. Also, rows of O’s of 6 mm hammered gold sewed on the skirt, shine when light hits from all directions. The pearl work will be done soon and will be freshwater versions since those are the easiest to obtain in the scale size needed.
I am working on a good laid gold-work twist that will help with the lozenge pattern. The laid work on the petticoat was troublesome in the smaller gauge so I am looking at something in a thicker composition that would be appropriate.
So far so good, and a sturdy based doll with shiny bedazzled gown, appropriate for court of Queen Elizabeth I in the 1570’s has been created. A fashion doll that could make a journey to a distant land to convey fashion, as ordered by Helena Von Snakenborg for her sister (source 1)
Lessons Learned: I definitely plan on many other projects like this again. There were challenges around every turn, I filled many pages of notes, including drawings, scale considerations, materials choices, technique notes, sources, picture details from limited sources. I also need to learn to make a more miniature lace version for future dolls. Although the learning process takes time, I don’t want to make a project without proper techniques represented well, even if not my own. I am happy with the basics I have learned in lace making and will strive to make an ever finer finished product. Luckily period artisans didn’t make every step by their own hand, so sourcing is not out of bounds.
If I had to do it all again, I would like to go to Hardwick Hall and take images of the actual painting instead of relying on the internet. Along with the V&A in London and other museums to see the paintings in person, firsthand accounts are ideal. At some-point in the future a visit to the Livrustkammaren Museum in Stockholm, Sweden is warranted. I looking forward to making the many versions of the dolls as seen on the other period paintings.
The Honorable Lady Mairin O’Cadhla explaining all about her elaborate Arabella Stuart Doll project at the Kingdom A&S Championship.
This article is an abbreviated version. For the complete Documentation please visit Mairin’s blog and click the link “Arabella Stuart Doll” under 16th century Documentation.
Arnold, Janet. “Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d”. Maney, London, England United Kingdom. 1988. Pages 107, 157-158, 248-fig 248 and fig 248A.
Huggett, Jane and Mikhaila, Ninya. “The Tudor Child- Clothing and Culture 1485-1625” Quite Specific Media Los Angeles, Ca-USA and London, England United Kingdom. 2013. Pages 49-50, 150-151.
“Costume Doll “Pandora”. Inventory# 77 (56:15) 260, 2016. Livrustkammaren Och Skoklosters. Slott Med Stiftelsen Hallway ska Museet.