backwards to move forwards

I’m currently working my way through my research folders as traditional cataloguing simply is less useful when you are looking for portraits of women. If I’m lucky I’ll find a few out of hundreds of paintings in exhibition catalogues that are useful for my work.

So I’ve started to delete extra files. There are a few thousand, still. Okay. 20K images to sort through because I got freaked by the idea of having deleted files by accident. Turns out I did so this process is needed.

But there is now a folder of 2000+ images of paintings from late 15th to late 16thCs. I am pulling out all portraits regardless of region and then will group by region.

I still need to do this same work to the tailoring and extant items files.

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21 years today- post viral disease

We were doing our preview show, I was in my dream role (Beatrice) and I was feeling great despite having cold/flu like symptoms. I’d been walking to rehearsals most days (an hour partly uphill) and I’d been stunt training for a few months- building on what I learned at drama school while also pushing myself further. Perfect to practice really throwing myself behind the scenery for the “gulling” scene.

And I really did.

I don’t know why I didn’t walk the back way to the back door when I got home but I think it had been raining so it was two sets of stairs, wide balcony and a short path all slippery at this time of year.

So as I have nice core strength I tried to climb the fence but slipped. Just a short swing into the fence, but I felt like I pulled my wrists .

I wound up waking mum up

I went to bed.

And I woke up barely able to move.

I thought- how the heck did slipping while still holding on to the fence cause my knees and feet to swell, for my jaw and elbows to swell, why could I only lie flat because it felt like I was tearing myself trying to turn over? That’s really how painful it is, but not just inside joints all the tissue that connects to bone, all of it, it was like hot forks shredding my tendons and muscles. And oh how unstable joints are even while swollen and seized up.

Most people think of Rheumatoid Arthritis as something that happens slowly over time.

This really was overnight and my life was changed forever.

I wasn’t able to pull out of the show.

I have no idea how I managed this but I either saw my GP or A&E to get a script for 40mg prednisone for the next week. We took several blood tests including Rheumatoid Factor and ESR. My ESR was so bad that we knew it was inflammatory. My Rf started at about 38- hinted at possible RA. But in another month it was 118. It was devastating.

My first lab for Immunology at University was an ELISA array of blood from RA patients. And we studied all the systemic effects of RA including on the heart and lungs. And so I knew this was for life. Some people go into spontaneous remission- I have refractive RA. Very hard to treat.

Luckily I was able to get physio, including strapping for the next two weeks as I could give that date and time to ACC. I even have Xrays of my wrists and while swollen all my bone and joint spaces looked beautiful. If we ever do get to the stage of being able to 3D print bone scaffolds and use our own pluripotent cells to truly recreate our wrists and safely? We can do that thanks to these xrays.

But I still spent most of my day in bed in pain with a high fever and absolutely reliant on the prednisone.

I have a diary entry from the time and it’s really painful to read.

No one understood what was going on, and some didn’t believe me.

For what it’s worth, an acute on set is not that uncommon, but also joint erosion tends to come after systemic damage- heart, lungs especially.

But yes, this is a post viral disorder I’ve lived with now for 22 years.

Over time it’s got more complicated, it always feels like I’m playing catch up.

I have a great team of HCW who really do care. My GP, our practice nurses, our receptionists. My Rheumatologist, our Rheum. nurses, haem. day stay, all the nurses who look after us.

And my family and friends who help so much.

I faced my mortality in those first few weeks though.

It made me determined to survive.

But so too has all of the investment we have all put into getting me here and now.

I don’t want to waste that.

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Darn. I got to the pointy end of tidying of my physical folders and a costume jumped out at me as something I have anted to make for about 15 years, and could probably make as a farewell to epoxy.

Darn. Yes I know exactly how to make it.

I’d like to keep it a surprise, but it’s the first time in ages I’ve really gotten not just excited by a project- but I have a start to finish visual of how to make it. Even over winter. Especially over winter. It will allow large oil clay sculpting as the cold will allow for crisp clean lines which will be vital.

Maybe I can take parts for another project too.

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The 1660 schnittbuch at last!

I regularly do narrow and broad searches for tailor manuals I know exist as they have been written about, but finally, FINALLY, I found an open access copy of “Das Schnittbuch aus Bregenz” By Ingeborg Petrascheck-Heim!

The link takes you directly to the first page of the article, but I’ve been putting these into a timeline of links with little previews than can be seen here:

Interestingly like a lot of these 17th/early 18thC books there are some really old cuts included.

This includes bodice cutting that looks like a tube. We are familiar with this through the Schuster book which is also a later copy of an earlier work, Petraschek-Heim refers to this in “Die Meisterstückbüeher des Schneiderhandwerks in Innsbruck.”. These also appear in Koehler’s History of Costume.

I like to be able to link to the manuscripts themselves as well as the articles written about them but it’s not always easy. So I need to check all the links of the timeline as there have been a few changes to open access in different European countries so some links may be broken or need updating.

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distraction tidying is paying off

Stress has resulted in simply not making any project except research. And that has a very long, long, lead in to any reasonable results. But that process is also helping me to explain why we need a broad as well as narrow approach to pattern making and construction. In part because tailor guild books include patterns from past centuries, this is very obvious in Anduxar but I had in part ignored some patterns with a later date and am now broadening my focus in archives to the 18thC to look for guild documents. It’s a bit exhausting but my search for information on the distinction between a mantua and tailor made robes has lead to this same information.

My own pattern book now needs to be more like a journal in which the author collects patterns from across Europe. All of my pieces work together like extant manuals, and are easily matched to extant garments and the Spanish manuals. I need to properly read all the work by Katherine Barich and Marion McNealy on the measurements as the diagrams of the Austrian books as the books really rely more on the text than diagrams which seem to be more short form reminders of basic shapes than even the Spanish.

And then there is the huge numbers of central European tailor books. They are very cool. The extant items fold very easily into them.

Some books and items were last recorded in the 19thC and so I’m deeply grateful for all the archives and historical societies for their efforts in digitising and sharing so very much.

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Rock the Frock is coming back

With my much better filing system I’m able to dip into different eras and genres to share Frocks I am inspired by. I’m not going to lie it was extremely difficult and with my pain/fatigue levels I essentially have a small window to Do/Write/Make within is which I also have to plan day to day.

So today I have gone through some of the 19thC folders as I really want to be able to swap through those different styles.

But it is fatigue time so I need to take a bit of a time out with some heat on my back.

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website tidying

My apologies to anyone who got a notification that I have been fixing broken links on my site! I thought choosing “don’t automatically share” meant exactly that 😉 It’s all in aim of making my two sites easier to switch between but also to make it obvious when you are on my research site or my own costume site.

I’m quite excited by a few new-to-access but not-new articles that include a few images of tailor diagrams that look just like the stack of extant garments I’ve been trying to organise. For many there are multiple sites and physical books to properly cite and there are even photos taken by costume tourists that are so good that you can see stitches.

The diagrams are a bit.. well not to scale, but the measurements all fit into my own pattern book too 🙂

Unfortunately my fatigue is pretty bad, daylight savings ending hasn’t really be noticeable to me before, but this year, it’s very much messing with my internal clock.

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finally a thesis name

It’s taken much longer than I wanted, the entire year, to get my way through my digital archives to sort information by obvious subject matter. And I got myself lost in them. I got lost in them by looking for more information at the same time.

I also started to feel lost because there is just so much and I started to use tidying as a kind of distraction and so recently I’ve started to use puzzle books to distract instead. It’s helped a lot.

But finally, finally, I have the frame to fit all of that into a single thesis.

But really I needed that time for connections to be made, then tested, and if the connection remained it stuck, if not I left it in the background to find a better connection.

It hasn’t helped that I’ve done all of this from my PC.

My memory is written in 4 dimensions. I know the time of day and orientation to the sun. So to try and remember everything in my folders when I’m in the same spot day after day means I have forgotten a few things, and so the repetition of going through folders for side projects has helped.

So now it’s a matter of just writing and then taking a break because it’s pretty darn exciting.

It also means I’m back to working on some jewellery work.

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research the messy edition

I’ve managed to work my way through 48 garments or ensembles of extant gowns, robes, and bodices from 1515-1639, with about 50 more, and then so many hats. (There are a good 50 more suits, then there are the pearlwork textiles.) It’s taken months to sort my digital archives, and these are all intended to be webbed in a similar way to my North Rhine images, and the tailoring manuals so that eventually I can create some way to look up a tailor’s manual to find the closest matching extant garments and compare to images. I can do this as static pages, but I’m hoping to get a good search function. It really is more suited to a PC but I’ve now reached more than half of my site visitors using mobile devices. There is a lot of work that goes into making a site respond, and I recently had to fix some css that was broken by an update.

It’s very useful though.

There is a lot in there that reveal the very specific regional variation in cut that then allowed for variation within a region based on fabric and decorative choices.

All the extant garments are going to wind up in my own pattern book, so they will be adjusted to fit my system and I am working on the text to explain how different tailors manuals and garments show different ways to resize, and it’s a lot easier to do than explain. But I think it would help as the more ways you can use scale diagrams the better.

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small steps

I have been working on some small repair projects, because my confidence has eroded a lot since my fibro Dx. Actually even before because obviously pain and fatigue interfered with how much I could do. I’m down to barely being able to put together a blog post, thus my long patches of silence.

So far I’ve put Sooty back together (still actually sooty but clean and filling replaced.) Put the card holders back into our phone covers- soft vinyl and fabric glue, I really needed to have used some easy peel masking tape.

But today I will work on my sewing machine as there is an issue with the upper tension being way to strong. I need it at 1-3. So I need the repair manual for it. I think I have one already. It has grease rather than oil so I’m a bit nervous about cleaning too much, but there will be some vacuuming going on.

Going very slow and carefully. This involves taking the top of the arm off to then use a narrow Phillips to very carefully adjust two parts of the tension at once. I think it’s the spring that needs changing. It’s quite soft. Probably original to the 1980s. Photo is actually of a toy sewing machine. I actually had one, so it was exciting to find one online. It works btw. It need big batteries so if I get my confidence back up I might be able to work on the wiring to match a modern battery type?

I wish this was a service manual, but I’ve got it all cleaned. Slightly concerned there might be a screw loose in there, but tension is back to stabile on 4. I really need to take the plate off that sits over the dials as well. But for now it’s lint free, upper tension dial resettled. So yes. A break is needed.

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