Because of my busy, jet-setting schedule, I can't always answer every question posted to me individually, so for the more general questions that are of interest to everyone who reads Extreme Costuming, I'd like to introduce my assistant, Miss Izzy (assisted, on occasion, by the Attack Laurel Academy Dean, but we try not to let her answer letters too often).
Miz. Iz is a bit flighty at times, but she's here to provide serious (mostly) answers to the general questions asked in the guestbook. Some are site specific, some are more general costuming questions, but all of them are interesting to me. Hopefully, the answers will be interesting to you.
If you have questions, please e-mail me at elsworthy AT netzero DOT com, or ask me a question in the comments section in my blog. Put "Extreme Costuming web site question" in the title line. Who knows, I may devote a blog entry to your question!
Section 1 - General
Q. I love your article, and I want to print it out. May I?
A. Single copies of articles for personal use are fine, but please don't make multiple copies and give them to everyone you know - send them here instead! There is a glitch in the site html (not my glitch, the hosting site's) that means if you select the text and try to print it directly from the site, it will print several blank pages. If you want to print a personal copy, copy and paste the text to a word processing progamme, then print. Thank you for asking permission, and of course, all copyright still applies.
If you want to use the information as part of a class, please do not print out the whole article for a handout, but give the web site citiation. If you want to quote parts of articles, please contact me for permission, and if you cite me in an article of your own (which would, I admit, make me very happy), let me know.
Linking to this site is permitted (and, in almost every case, very welcome). Feel free to let me know if you link. I might just link back!
My pet lawyer and I thank you, and hope you get lots of useful information from the site.
Q. I love the Attack Laurel wreath! Can I use it for tattoos/jewelry/t-shirts/mugs/random things and give them to my friends?
A. Sorry, but please don't. I sell Attack Laurel wreath items in my Attack Laurel Campus Shop, and the design is copyrighted. Except for the people already granted permission in writing, the wreath is not free for use. Sorry. I'm really glad you like it, though - I'm very proud of it. You can buy Attack Laurel wreath brooches and pendants from AcanthusLeaf Designs.
Q. How do you manage to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome with so much handwork?
A. I take good care when I sew (though not as much care as my husband would like!). I suffer from chronic pain in my hands, arms, and back, so I've had to give up some things (like fencing and lifting heavy objects), but I can't give up my embroidery and handwork - it's too important to me (and I can't watch TV without something to work on at the same time). I try to make sure I don't hunch, that my light is good, and that I'm properly supported with pillows while I work. I keep a bright light over my shoulder so that I don't hunch over to see the work, and when I'm working on really fine stuff (i.e., I need to see the individual threads of the fabric), I wear a pair of sewing glasses.
Compression support gloves can help, but don't wear wrist braces with Velcro while you work - those little hooks can destroy thread!
Q. M. from Sweden asks: After reading though this homepage a few times I've started wondering how you measure how much time you spend on a project? Do you have a stop watch or do you write up what time it is when you start and when you end and add it all up or how?
A. I keep a log book for all my projects these days so that I can track the time spent, write notes to myself, and keep all the research for a project in one place. I started tracking the time on projects a couple of years ago because I got curious about exactly how much time I was spending on projects. I track the time per hour - as I get an hour of work done, I mark off a little dash on that day's log entry: [6/12/06 - ///] would be three hours. Since I'm used to keeping track of time for my medication dosage, it's second nature to me to track the hours.
I don't dock time for things that take less than a minute or two off the hour, but I do try to keep it honest. My final totals are accurate to within an hour or so.
Section 2 - Costume
this, too, can be yours!
New! Extreme Patterns is now on line!
Reconstructing History now carries the full line of Extreme Patterns coif embroidery patterns. All 20 designs, redacted from period sources. RH now has embroidery thread as well as tons of other goodies, so it's one stop shopping for embroiderers! Check them out!
Extreme Patterns are also available from Eadric The Potter, who sells them in his booth at events (check out his web site for his schedule). In addition, he has my knitted purses and linen or hemp lacing cords. Check his schedule, and check out his booth!
Q. L. from an undisclosed location writes: I would like to make a stiff/stand-up Elizabethan collar that extends from one shoulder around the back of my head to the other shoulder, like a fan. The ends of the collar would be attached to my dress. Where can I find out how to make this? Alternatively, do you know any Elizabethan costume sellers who might have this fan-like collar available for purchase?
A. As always, search engines are your friend. Pick any search engine, type in "standing collar", "ruff", or "16th century collar", and see what comes up.
The best example and pattern shape I've found is in the book The Tudor Tailor, which has a standing collar that looks really good. If you want to make it out of lace, then you'll need a supportasse and probably, starch. I've only made one standing collar, and I'd say they're slightly more difficult than a ruff, because they're more structured.
I'm afraid I don't know of any ready-made collars being sold, but that doesn't mean there aren't any out there. You can always try e-Bay or another site like it to see if anyone is selling something like it.
Q. K. from Ohio writes: Love the article on the favor glove. I am hoping to do some period glove embroidery--I can't make gloves, but have a decent source for vintage (1910-30s) handmades, which I am willing to use as grounds. Any suggestions on where to look for more embroidered examples besides the standard portraits?
Q. K. writes:Hello, I have been looking at your articles and galleries and noticed you refer to some items made of silk or satin. Is there a particular type of silk or satin that you use? I have read/heard that dupioni silk s not “correct” as there are too many slubs and irregularities. Much of the satin I see available seems to have too much of a sheen to it.
A. Well, first of all, silk is a fiber, and satin is a fabric often made from silk. Silk can be woven and treated to create a number of different finished fabrics, and the quality of the silk fiber is what determines the quality of the finished fabric. In the case of Dupioni, the silk used is the shorter outer fibers of the cocoon, producing a slubbier but still sheeny fabric. However, Dupioni is not satin, it’s taffeta – a crisper silk fabric popular in the 16th century, prized for its architectural qualities (i.e., it makes a fantastic big skirt and isn’t as floppy as satin). Jen Thompson at Festive Attyre has an excellent article about the various qualities of silk fabrics coming out of Italy during the Renaissance. The fabric we call Dupioni is period, but not the highest level of silk available.
Second, in Elizabethan terms, there’s no such thing as too much sheen! The finest quality silk satin has a distinct and gorgeous high shine, and was greatly prized by the Elizabethans. Sir Thomas Gresham, the richest man in England during the second half of the 16th century, chose to have his portrait painted wearing a simple black satin doublet, which might seem rather plain today, but to an Elizabethan’s eyes would be incredibly fancy (and beyond most people's budget).
I use Dupioni of various levels of quality, as it most closely approximates the silk taffeta of the period (it is also woven in double-shot, or “changeable” colours, which is also very correct for the period). For the satins (when I choose to make satin outfits), I prefer using Bridal satin made from artificial fibers, as most of the silks satins available within my price range are too thin or not shiny enough to create the right look. Real high-quality silk satin is $50-100 a yard; you’re better off going with Dupioni taffeta, assured now, that it is, in fact, a period-looking fabric. Try for the less slubby stuff - the quality makes a difference.
I was later asked by a different person how I knew Dupioni was taffeta, and how it differed from modern silk taffeta.
The weave is what makes taffeta - a dense over-under weave (satin, by contrast, is woven with longer threads on top of the fabric so that the sheen of the silk is more obvious). The best uses a very fine thread that create a stiff, almost crackly fabric on the most expensive silk taffetas. Dupioni is a poor cousin to the finest silk taffetas, and the price per yard reflects the inferior silk from which it is created. Dupioni has a similar hand feel, but isn't as crisp, because the fibers are not as tightly woven, nor as long, but it is still taffeta.
Q. I love Elizabethan, but I have no idea how to get started! Where do I find fabric? Where do I find patterns? Can you help?
A. When getting started on something new, the internet is your friend - type "Elizabethan costuming" into any search engine, and you should get back hundreds (thousands - it's a popular subject) of results. The best place to start your research is Drea Leed's Elizabethan Costuming site - a compendium of research, articles, how-tos and pictures brought together from all over the 'Web. For costume patterns, Reconstructing History is the place to go for accurate patterns with in depth discussion of techniques, accessories, and trimmings.* For fabric, do a search of "fabric shopping", and you'll find lots of resources - my usual shop is Fabric.com, which has decently priced linen, wool, and silk.
*I am not responsible for what happens if you decide to buy a Halloween pattern from McCall's or Butterick.
Q. Is there any evidence that the coif was kept on with the use of a small comb sewn into the coif? They had hair combs back then, so is it possible?
A. No. They did have hair combs back then, but they were for de-lousing and combing hair, not attaching things to the head. What we have found through direct experimentation is that the coif was either fitted to the head, tied on with drawstrings around the hair, or worn over a forehead cloth. All of these methods work (I've used all of them with great success), and all of them work a lot better with the long hair that was common for women in the 16th century. In addition, a coif stays on better on hair that has not been recently washed - Elizabethan women did not wash their hair every day, or even every week - they brushed/combed debris from the hair and dry-toweled it with a linen cloth, then put it up in a bun/coil/braid. There is evidence that if hair is not washed, it will go through an unbearably greasy stage, then will balance itself out. It won't feel clean the way we're used to, but it won't be greasy and gross, either.
Understandably, this isn't something most people are willing to do, no matter how authentic they strive to be. While they didn't sew combs in their coifs, you can choose to do so - as long as you understand that it's a modern solution, not a period one. Alternatively, if the hair is put up, even if just in a pony tail, straight pins work fairly well at keeping the coif on, though not nearly as well as the tying method. See my article How to wear the Coif for more details.
Section 3 - Attack Laurel
Q. How can I get cool Attack Laurel Gear so that all may tremble in fear at my approach/identify my Sewer Apprentices as the scum they are/ mock all my friends?
Q. G. writes: Ahem. I note that attack laurels must wear silk sashes. Then you note that non-Euro attack laurels must wear wool. As an almost Levant personna [sic] (elected to be Andalusian just to fit better), might I point out that we would, in fact get silk, and get it ealier [sic] than you foolish Euros? No biscuit for you!
A. The Dean of the Academy** writes: You neglected to read the rules carefully enough – it doesn’t say silk isn’t period for non-European personas, it just says they have to wear wool. Why? Because we’re evil, and like to make people suffer. Did I mention it’s really scratchy wool? Besides, we don’t think you non-European types are capable of following the Attack Laurel rules, since you can’t even follow the guidelines of the SCA (or, in fact, actually read the rules accurately). If you had done your research correctly, you’d also have read the part that says “…if we pick you to be on the team, which we won’t”. As if we’d let a bunch of belly dancers and ninjas (who can’t even read) into the Academy. Pfft. *eye roll*
**Who is totally evil. We did warn you.
Text and images copyright L. Mellin, 2000-2008, except where noted. All rights reserved.