Memetastic day

Just redraw this skirt, I said.

It’ll be easy, I said.

It’s already been reconstructed, I said.

I was able to get it to work eventually, but mostly through the ability to see the piecing. Which reminds me, I really need to do an article on the misuse of terms used to describe piecing. What’s great is that it’s simply a chapter in the book I’m already writing. So it’s likely I’ll be able to do each chapter like this online first because if the last few years have really brought home is that I want my ripples to last longer than me, not end before I do.

Wow, that went to a bleak place fast. But it is why it’s been so hard to decide what to focus on first.

The weight of why I need to do this feels so disproportionate to what I’m doing in the last processes of research. But it’s because I do have so much research for context.

And there I go again, about ready to write to publish a chapter and my mind started asking what style guide I’m going to use, what graphics program? It’s a bit of a mess I’m still untangling.

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Okay. I have finally decided on how to cut and how to line and what sleeves I want for my 1530s Spanish/Portuguese Court frock.

I’ve been sharing on instagram thanks to the new ability to use the browser version. So a bit of a summary. I’m trying to recreate a gown from one of the Nassau tapestries of Mencia de Mendoza. This cartoon is one of a very few depictions of these cloth of gold gowns that include the length of the over sleeves and even, maybe, a waist seam- or very small fold at the waist.

The portraits that include this kind of gown include Eleanora of Austria and her attendants and include more details around the neckline and higher. With two portraits of Mencia in non gold gowns there is quite a lot of information.

It’s just possible to see the hint of a trandazo in a few so that’s great. So bonnet, cofia, and tranzado. I love stacked headgear and with jewels there is even more fun.

The gown is probably a brial, there is a waist seam but the skirt is smooth. This suggests a cut with only a minimal amount of fabric through the waist and maybe a lot of fullness at the hem.

There are some hints in art that suggest a few different degrees of fit and length of the bodices.

I’m trying to work my way through some of Hispanic Costume at the same time.

I have some more references of portraits and the sleeves later. But I think I have enough to do another pattern theory test.

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Adding value

As we have the wonderful Hispanic Costume as well as many reenactors doing Spanish fashion of the first half of the 1500s I’ve been just neatly putting my research into folders but I think I may have picked up on something not really widely appreciated. The problem is in where and how to share that.

I also have to get the courage to cut my fabric full stop.

It’s pretty daunting to be honest.

And just like my Anne of Cleves research it’s about starting with what is out there, crediting where needed and then taking people on my journey which actually isn’t a single path.

So my two BIG folders are about Anne (language, people, portraits, other art forms, social activities, roles… it’s a lot) and tailoring (manuals, masterpiece works, extant garments, guild documents) overlap so much.

But gold brocade is very much a fabric that has very different properties so that the weft causes big soft folds across, and disagonal cuts make the edge very mobile vertically.

So I need a stabilising fabric and a lot of tacks and basting to keep it to the shape and size I want.

So I need to do one more test run of my pattern which might change.

So maybe a post on the evolution of this particular gown is in the making. Because it sort of skims through and around past research.

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Research and making help

I’ve been only really able to anything in small chunks of the day so research winds up dominating as it’s less demanding than making on my hands. But I’ve done enough to start writing up and I’m just meeting so many mental and physical barriers that I’m feeling so lost. Yet the pattern diagram immediately to my left is just so clear, so easy to use, that I’m feeling even worse for not managing to articulate that.

So I might just get my past patterning help back up, as it is, and maybe with some links to original resources.

I really want to explain the different between “French” and “American” systems in the 19thC as the French system is so good, so good, that I’m switched to it for my 19thC gowns.

It’s not yet 1pm but I desperately need, and have done for a few hours now, actual rest with some dermal patches- heat and diclofenac, on my back and hands.

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My current stresses are interfering with my ability to know if what I’m doing is beneficial and also wondering what it is that people like about what I share. As a researcher I know that my fancy frocks are not just pretty but that in the eras I study it is a very specific set of skills that not every master tailor was allowed to do.

I really like to teach in person but my experience is that there is a gulf between what I normally have at my fingertips at home and what I can bring physically. So you would think all this time at home would be great, but it hasn’t really worked out.

My desire to make another gold frock is in part because I found evidence in the visual record of what tailors were making and what limitations there were. They actually persist right into the timeframe of the Spanish tailoring manuals.

I want to make the frock to prove my thesis but I need to formalise my thesis in order to make the frock.

I’m also aware of how much I need to transfer from my Instagram to here because to be honest it’s so easy to record and share progress.

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Sorry, sore, tired, nothing magic

But I have genuinely started to find major commonalities across all tailoring manuals and that means my next step is really important. The El and Baras both really neatly fit into metrics. Really nicely.


Metrics is a division of 10s, 5s, and 2s for whole numbers, while the el and baras were mostly into halves, quarters, and thirds, with divisions of each.

My problem is that the nicest quad/graph paper is 5mm which then means each division would sit within such a large number and it would be hard to distinguish between 3 and 4.

But it really is a fantastic size that allows me to do 1/10 and 1/5 scale patterns that are really easy to recognise the cutting lines.

Imperial is worse to be honest. Despite being able to be divided into 2, 4, and 8 it’s how the thirds and sixths wind up as well as the actual dimensions of each unit.

I do have a better idea of how readily fashions were able to adapt across time and space, but it’s not really easy to explain how freeing it is even while extremely limiting!

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Lessons from a spoonie nest

Not a proper nest today, the sun is making my little desktop nook snuggly so I’ve got more of a throne vibe going on with a faux fur throw and cushions galore, which I am fine with.

But I’ve been trying to really explain why I am working so much on making what is really a personal pattern book able to be used by anyone whether whole or in part.

I’m pretty open about having a very well defined autoimmune disorder that is so destructive that had I developed it 10 years earlier I wouldn’t be able to walk now. But likewise the incredible difference biologic therapy causes also means that had I developed it 10 years later I might never have any erosion or pain.

It took over a decade to start the biologics, despite their safety and efficacy being very well known, and so I have a fair amount of damage I never should have if the advice from the research was followed, rather than forcing my my entire medical team to follow “Step Therapy” which is actually fail first. Not my failure, not my teams failure, the plan to save money failed me.

Essentially you try the cheapest therapy first and have to give it a trial period. If that doesn’t work you try the next cheapest but again with a defined trial period. Once you get to the biologics the cost is about the same, about $1k/week. My infusions require a day stay in hospital with a crew of nurses who do everything from admin, to obs, to administering. (The protocols of my first hospital were easy to know so I brought care packages, my newer has been harder but I’ve built up my care packages and

So I know how very limiting barriers are to quality of life.

So I’m not exactly out here gatekeeping or putting barriers up.

Going through the extant tailoring and dressmaking manuals that cover a few hundred years? Gatekeeping and barriers galore! But it’s still possible to take those works and poke holes in them.

One example is that many books from the 1860s-1880s allow for personalisation at the top of bust darts, but not at the bottom. So a broader bust was adjusted through darts that were on a more oblique angle than a narrower.

So I’m trying to express how the idealised figure was adapted for real bodies, but without the baggage so many of these instructions come with.

A big yikes to so much of those ~500years of writing.

As a side note, I’m now of an age I never really thought I’d get to, and have another 20 years if I’m lucky. Maybe more, depending on how much freedom I have in what keeps me safe and frankly alive.

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practice practice pratice

I’ve been working through every single pattern I can get my hands on, and transcribing them to metric. My pattern manual is intended to make them so easy to use that all you need to do is skim to get to what is needed. I’m very limited by how limited tailors were though. They had to work within the law in terms of their practice and in terms of what and how much fabric they were allowed to use based on both their practicing level and how much of any fabric was allowed to be used in any garment.

There is also an incredible document I need to track down because it was a demand that tailors outside of that country to made a brides garment be of the style (and social level) that would be expected once she arrived.

But the limitations had much more immediate effects on clients who physically did not fit within the narrowly defined limits of cloth. I don’t want to perpetuate that, nor give even a hint of validity to it in our lived context.

So my collection of portraits does help a lot in the structure of garments across a range of sizes and how that varies so much between not only countries but even cities. But not yet many adaptations of cutting diagrams. This is why I’m going through each pattern. There are a few, I want to know if the differences are universal or if they are to illustrate the first step of a series of grading.

And with my renewed eye for tailoring flow on effects I can even work out systems for creativity within the very rigid sumptuary and tailoring laws.

So my aim is to explain why these bottlenecks occur without telling people to follow them.

The aim of a Modular system is to do exactly that. Don’t like the skirt? Swap it out. Like the skirt but it doesn’t work as it is, I’ll offer alternative ways of using it to find a commercial pattern or book or other artisan.

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Three for one

I wound up spending a little more time converting the Vasquina cutting diagrams and incredibly that one diagram does appear to have engraving and printing errors as well as makes considerable compromise in cut by being so short! But really. All three in a single page? But that’s what seems to be going on.

I did also reread the opening chapters and yes, rounding is to the nearest smallest fraction. These are 1/12, 1/8, 1/6, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 no 1/5 or 1/7 of 1/9.

Thus my sb (5/6) and ob (7/8) that I worked out would add together to make a non whole fraction and so is rounded to 7q. So the rounding is not due to curve but imperfect fractions.

There was a massive fine also for copyright infringers of this work so that remains a potential motive for keeping an error still. A massive fine that was divided between the plaintiff, the judge and the royal household.

But my other idea that the book would not be quite as needed by master tailors as much as their journeymen is also stated quite up front.

I had previously gone through the Saya and they are so much more formalised, perhaps not surprising.

I need a break but it was good practice.

I’ve also been filling in the gaps of my tailoring timeline so I need to prepare more preview images and get citing on maybe 30, 30(!!!), new inclusions.

What this also means is that I have to create some more cats by century and decade. It’s pretty draining and repetitive work but if I don’t have the (current) ability to change the view (details, grid etc) then at least I can help people find the nearest date range more easily.

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It’s a trap or multiple errors?

One of the first things we are warned about tailoring manuals is to not trust the diagrams- meaning the line art. Usually this is because the hand drawn manuals are very rough sketches indeed, and the printed works rely on being able to fit the diagram within set dimensions for the press.

I have digitised copies of the 1580 and 1589 books by Alcega (in my timeline of manuals) as well as the printed and translated physical copy. It’s very interesting to compare them side by side. Clearly the engraving was reused.

This diagram is actually reasonably well proportioned given the measurements- the length of the outline is nearly double the width and the indicated length is 2 baras, the width after folding is one baras.

The waist of the skirt front (lower right) is close to the indicated width of 1/3 of a baras (t) as it’s a little shy of 1/3 the width of the diagram. The length of the skirt front is pretty close to 1 1/4 baras (bq) by eye. And the skirt back waist width is a little shy of half the width- mm is iiim, or three finger widths narrower than 1/2 of a baras (m.)

The text explains the skirt is 1 1/4 baras high and the hem is 14 palmos- or quartos (q, or 1/4.) This would be 7 hand spans for a side front and side back.

I redrew the pattern as it appears in the recent reprint and translation and I wound up with the hem measurements as ob for the half back hem and sb for the half front hem. Added together it’s very close to 14 palmos/q after all!

That might reflect the kind of rounding done on the fabric which is something I do with my manual. I ignore pi and round to 3 and 6 for circular skirts. As fabric is not paper and we need to turn for hems it doesn’t make much difference, especially as I also then use a hand width (across the base of my fingers) for turnings and use the barest turn under for the hem (I’ll do a proper article about this as it’s wonderfully freeing.)

So what might be going on?

Clearly the second edition has a few more skipped areas, compared to the first. The most obvious is the nearly missing q of the bq length of the skirt front (lower right again.) And if you have the recent reprint of the 1589 book, you’ll find there is an additional error following the bq of the back skirt panel (upper left). Quite a big error as it looks like part of the letter j.

So it’s possible there are two more errors, but at the engraving stage. It’s possible the engraver flipped ob (baras minus 1/8) into bo (baras plus 1/8) for the back skirt hem, but they would have also missed entirely the s of sb (baras minus 1/6)the skirt front hem winds up close to being.

So two engraving errors and errors from using the potentially worn engravings are all possible here in a single diagram.

The question is were they left in deliberately like a trap street so that if the book is copied it’s easy to prove? Or accidentally- that is a lot to miss- or just left because a tailor of the time was supposed to know these all off by heart and they would just know where to annotate if being used in the workshop for journeymen.

Of interest is just how much compromise had to be made in the hem of these garments based on increasingly narrower and patterned fabric, and these too were memorised.

Not only are the side pieces increasingly broken up into smaller and overlapping pieces, but the hems get a little narrower. The waists rarely get narrower, usually by a few finger widths.

Even the above pattern is a compromise, but in height. The preferred length for both vasquina and saya skirt fronts is 1 1/2 baras (bm.) At this time anyway.

I’ve got myself a project from more than 40 years before these were printed but these and the hand written masterpiece books are all helping me use one of the most complicated fabrics I’ve ever bought.

I can’t use any of the extant works as they are but because all of them round to fairly large units of measurement it’s helping me figure out what is likely to have come before. And it all works in to my modular system- this is a much bigger work that I’ll also break up and publish as an article so that my own manual becomes much easier to use, and to ignore. The point of it is to be modular so that means being able to mix in modern patterning and any of the many systems and patterns.

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