Author Archives: m d b

Burden has lifted

I’m now feeing quite free. It was very hard at first. But really I’m just back to where I have always been: reaching out from home to share to the world.

I’ve put projects on hold that didn’t allow me to participate locally. But I started this journey by making what I love and to just make then find a reason to wear them. Photoshoot in our back yard? Sure.

The problem is when I’m in one genre I’m unconsciously being judged by how much I do in other genres so my work is less appreciated. My peers regularly tell me to use a technique I do know about, and have known for decades. When I deviate and share that? It’s for other disabled people who also can’t use the standard technique. Abled people might find it useful too, but I’m giving an option and explaining why.

My hands are constantly giving feedback to my brain. It’s pain, of a few flavours, there is fizzing neural stuff, there is neuropathy, the sensation of air on my hands is fuzzy, I get pain and tingles when any part of my hand touches an edge or say my nails.

I need feedback of these tools to override the noise and lack of noise.

I’ve been experimenting how to do this for 20 years. So if I’ve got an adaptation, it’s been well tested.

I don’t share this because I’m angry, or to point fingers, but to hopefully just make a little change- pause before telling someone how to use a traditional technique and ask what you are missing or assuming. I’ve also absorbed some incredible traditional techniques from cultures that are not my own and they help me in my journey which is to ask why a technique became traditional and what the properties/advantages and disadvantages they offer.

And to be honest I’m not sure anyone does what I do, though not lately due to stress and health. Who knows how to make a suit of armour out of wet formed leather? And make yard tall SFX pieces? And uses 16thC pattern manuals as they were used, and 19thC dressmaking books as they were (hint both use very different fit and construction order, and very different intensities of effort- less precision in skirts for instance)? And sculpts at a small and large scale? And so on?

To help me with what feels so overwhelming in terms of projects I’m also making a 1/4 doll to drape on, especially for those that I really want to make but, you know, use >20m of fabric.

The very first will be Maleficent and Freya. Maleficent might actually be on my tiny artists mannequin as the original looks like it was about 40m. Wing testing though should be at 1/4 to avoid tiny errors becoming massive errors.

Freya will be first as a calico piece then paper to create the repeats. I have some otherwise perfect shot organza but it’s hot pink and blue (I think) so is lurking with my Bubble Gown inspired frock as an under layer.

This has to be made at 1/4 scale due to the sheer weight. I might wind up really mixing up these different solutions that have been around since the 1620s. Shoot. I want to make one of these so badly. To use the Leloir pattern and the information about how it was restored.

But as we don’t have extant items for them, I need to look to extant garments where we do: Robes de cour.

And then Robes de Style.

But then there is the Clover gown series, and all those fantastic movie costumes.

And all those incredible tulle gowns by Molly Goddard

As to my doll/form I’m using existing doll making patterns as a guide, because none really do what I need. But I have been inspired by particular artists so I need to sort that info for sharing.

She’ll be ball jointed with wooden beads, I just worked out what sizes I need so I’ve also just ordered beads big enough.

And I’ve been in my studio twice this week in a positive frame of mind so that’s been good.

Really good actually.

There is so much sadness that my Boo is no longer with me, as he kept me company. But I can’t stop doing what I love, but more than that I can’t stop doing what we loved doing together. I might have to bring some reminder of him with me when I go.

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I am making stuff

But it’s also a fantastic IG prompt month so I’ve been back in my files of progress of my costumes as well as essentially pressing, pressing pressing my fabric for my 1530s Spanish/Portugese court dress. The weight of the fabric is at the point I need to hang the skirt panels.

The good news is my fabric is cut as a section of a circle and all the work to line up the wefts has stabilised enough to be able to keep it folded up along the radial lines.

The hem is now even and the entire piece is now stretched so I have heaps of wiggle room to carefully restitch seams cut through and to baste through the joins.

I’m also working on my “bentgin” which is a wide very decorated necklace. Some match other jewelled pieces worn, some are statement pieces alone.

The thistle is a common motif in embroidery at the time so I found it interesting to find it in smithed work as well. The little ring of pearls are because the original used a very dense ring of fine wire with little bobbles on the end. You can see the alternating flowers by looking close to her shoulders- pinks just like Anne of Cleves had.

I’ve already made a set of jewels for my version of her striped gown, so I need to put them together on my new “shiltgin.” The neckline is so rigid that it pulls the softer part of the fabric out from under the gown and my new piece should do that easily.

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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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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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