Author Archives: Michaela de Bruce

Gelderlander update

Apparently I decided I didn’t need as much blue wool as I would actually need so yet again I’m experiencing delays. I think I only have an issue with the sleeves which should actually be easier than I keep thinking once I get the wide crimson velveteen guarding sorted. PHEW! It’s not obvious from any artwork so I’m combining so many sources to figure out what the sleeve outers should look like.

I had to though cut the skirt panels on the fold and so lost 10cm each panel which means I also wasted so much calico that it’s very embarassing.

The layers are pressed and carefully folded so I can have a rest and then put each panel on the table to baste and trim.

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Pearls- part 1

Well. That’s a bit of an unexpected turn. I’ve been collecting bits and pieces about artificial pearls as I have projects where I use them and wanted to know if glass or plastic carry the properties they would have.

But now I’ve managed to digitise and translate sections of one of the most important works on North Rhine clothing and I find this:

“If one also considers their high prices, it is clear that the countless pearls listed in Cologne in the 15th century are largely imitations.”

Are they though? They are suggested as being Venetian glass which I’m pretty sure was even more expensive. But I also know that the glass industry in Cologne were reproducing Venetian glass so it is possible. But then I’d also expect the inventories to state this.

But I’m always reviewing my own theories so to the glass trade information I have.

So first, yes copying, but without the techniques to de-green glass, but there were techniques to add iridescence and it really is very beautiful.

Becher auf Fuß mit Nuppendekor | 1546/1550
Aus Monschau, gefunden 1931 in der Burg Montjoie (Eifel)

Köln, Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln, Inv.-Nr. F 522

So in theory these skills should transfer. But what about the evidence it did?

I can’t find it.

The source is J Faulk who wrote in the middle of the 19thC and he didn’t cite his source.

If we look through the trades, pearls feature heavily in the goldsmiths records. They also feature in the “Wappenstickerei” records (including a series of letters threatening legal action.)

It’s hard to find records of glassworkers but if we go back to the inventories then we do find a lot of pearls that are carefully counted. We also find fake gold in the form of silver that is gilded. So if pearls were fake then they would be described as such.

The visual record also seems to support pearls as markers of sumptuary laws. You wouldn’t be recorded breaking these laws, but on top of this the visual record seems to follow the massive economic loss that occurred in the later half of the 16thC.

I know!

I hope this helps explain just how wide you have to search for information for a seemingly niche topic.

But one of the reasons I’m interested in that fake pearls

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170 steps forward 340 steps back

There have been so many issues making it impossible to publish let alone work on costume projects that this title is no exaggeration. I’ve needed to digitise some older books but the OCR layer is only applied in one direction by my scanner so it’s been actually harder to fix than had I not applied it at all. But it was worth stripping it out and putting a new layer in as now I can do some boolean seaches to find what I miss in just reading them.

I actually read straight transcriptions better than I can modern German and Dutch.

The other massively draining issue is that I rely on thumbnails of my files and thanks to proprietary issues generating them for PDFs not just heavily impacts GPU but power consumption! It also means letting apps access my folders to do so. I think I’ve finally sorted one issue but I’ve also noticed harddrive space is filled up (temp files I think) then back to normal after shutting down and starting up again.

But combine all this with how little time each day I am able to focus and this kind of blog update is the result.

I need to make little blog updates like this though as little reminders of what I have done.

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Oh no lost files

In order to track the etymology of different headgear terms I wound up in some lovely sites for tracht worn now. But I’ve lost them all. I’m sure I saw pieces of a hauben on a frame that included breaks in the pattern to allow the back to fold in without losing so much work. It might be in my 9thC folder but I suspect I just didn’t save information thinking I’d find it more easily when I wasn’t tired.

Part of the reason I am doing this is because pattern shapes, support layers, materials, decoration really don’t offer clues as to what an item will be called unless you happen to know for sure via a dictionary of the time. But they do help identify time and place if there is a decent record and solid provenances for extant items.

I may have to start putting quote marks around the terms when I use translation software as this etymology issue means modern dictionaries can be very imprecise.

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Some much needed good news

It can be very difficult to be taken seriously when you work outside of academic circles and yet I’m incredibly pleased to say that what I have worked on untangling for the last 15 years or more is indeed taken seriously. And I feel so privileged when anyone looks at my content over my lack of credentials.

I’m not able to chose between arts and sciences because I think they are equally vital to understand Us as human beings. And so I do think it’s a strength to have rejected the pressure to choose. I’m also so very lucky that have dedicated so many years to formal study.

I’m not going to lie: I find styles and other publishing expectations to be very difficult. But there are ways to build on strengths and use open access sources for a good deal of the rest.

This does mean I’m taking my difficulty with my operating system a bit more seriously and am going to back up my research even further than I expected.

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Mini updates

I’m still having trouble with windows trying to create thumbnails of files in folders I simply have not been using. I know why it happens and I’m not happy about it, because it makes my research and tidying efforts so much harder than they need to be. Mr Carlo is faring much better. He still has his neuropathy, but the steroids have increased his quality of life. Today for instance he has lead me around the lounge several times, and even wombled his way past Fluffy who was perfectly fine with this.

He is limited, obviously, and he does have difficulty eating and drinking. It’s not that he isn’t hungry but that he forgets what food is. So I have to put a tiny dot right at the bottom of his nose and then quickly move food in when he licks it off. And then half way through he gets distracted cleaning his teeth, so I have to repeat this until he finally has some food.

He’s always had something related to this I think. To drink water he has to get his nose just on the surface of the water, then twitches then drinks it. So now he also twitches when he finally smells the food up close.

But he’s chirpy again, which is so nice.

My sleep is shot but when isn’t it? Painsomnia and painmares alike. Painsomnia is when pain keeps you awake and painmares are when you do get to sleep and your dreams convert your physical distress into anxiety driven nightmares. It’s not a great combination as you just never get a break from the pain unless you actually are able to address the pain.


I’ve just exhausted myself getting some linen put away, Mr Carlo is asleep on the new rug, Mr Fluffy has snuck in to eat Mr Carlo’s biscuits, and Little Miss has had breakfast and even waited patiently in the hallway with Mr Fluffy proving that they can be united by a shared love of food. Mr Fluffy hasn’t liked the sachet catfood in years but because it’s Missy’s food… suddenly yes. It’s a good thing for them to not rely on one food because some of the shortages we have specifically been affected by has been cat food and kitty litter.

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Fall For Costume is back on

For the first time I’ve got mixed feeling looking back on my work for #FallForCostume. I think it’s because of what a struggle it is to make anything. That is once source of sadness and frustration. But the destruction of so many of my extraordinary patterning and stitching expertise by the environment has just been overwhelming.

What do I do with it all? I am just glad I’ve kept the card pattern pieces even though they take up so much room. It’s something at least.

Latex headpieces were a bit more durable but still not entirely. But yeah.

The armour is fine, even if glue delaminates the pieces are fine.

Some boots have also suffered the same fate.

So it’s a difficult time. I might just get them all on coat hangers in the studio so I don’t have to think too much about them.

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Slow progress but progress still

Something that’s a bit of a myth in the historical costuming world is that you can’t use allegorical images for clothing information. But it’s not entirely true. I’ve been building up a collection of instances where both saints and background figures are based on real people. This is not new, I’m trying to get the examples specific to women’s dress. While organising some folders into what I like versus strictly catalogued I spotted these two images clearly use the same figure.

The family portrait that includes the young woman in red is dated to 1502 and is by Hans Holbein the elder.

HANS HOLBEIN D. Ä. (1465-1524)
Epitaph der Schwestern Walther: Heilung des Besessenen, 1502

The second image is also by Hans Holbein the Elder and approximately the same date.

HANS HOLBEIN D. Ä. (1465-1524)
Kaisheimer Altar: Darbringung im Tempel, 1502

I had both in my folder for deeply scooped necklines like this which is probably most famously represented in Bianca Maria Sforza’s potrait by Strigel.

Kaiserin Bianca Maria di Galeazzo Maria Sforza (1472 – 1510), Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Gemäldegalerie

 I’m not going to lie, I’ve loved this gown since the time I only had low quality black and white prints to go by. So this may be what I make from the small amount of “Cranach” gold fabric I have. Oh no. No it’s okay, I can reuse my Heuke fabric into a ropa to go with my wool kirtle for a more comfy ensemble.

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Return of the Sluglets

Ummm… after a winter sans sluggies we had 3, yes 3, seek shelter from the rain last night. All pretty small maybe 6cm fully stretched, 4cm travel sized. But fast! Yeah fast slugs who knew? The one I rescued from the front door also looked at me. I rescued it using a piece of card and it zoomed to the edge and elevated the front half to look around and it turned to face me.
I’m not really prone to hyperbole but it was sufficiently creepy for me to go into said rain and throw the card and sluggie a little further onto the grass than I would normally. And it was upon returning that the third sluggie was found zipping over the front steps.
I did get more card to rescue/remove it to the grass but ummm.
Fluffy stepped on it.
I tried nudging it to get it to start to move, but…
Fluffy is now a, Absolute Unit.
A hefty chonker.
Sluglets don’t really stand a chance.

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hats, hats, across the board!

An upbeat title for what’s actually been a very tough week. I’ll get back to the title but I had to cancel my “Stickelchen” class. Barely a few hours before I needed to be asleep my pain levels were ramped up and despite being also fatigued I was no where near able to sleep. Horribly I’ve needed to recover as if I actually did do the class.

It’s hard to really explain fibro pain, despite being a classic patient in that I have a very strong and vivid memory and recall. So I should be able to articulate it better.

But if you’ve ever been in a situation where heavy machinery is used all day every day for a week then you know how noise and the deeper vibrations really drain your ability to concentrate and make you more aware of the noise not less.

The hyper stimulation that’s external is I think easier to understand, and respect, than when your nerves are doing it to themselves. But the effect on said nerves is still the same. They are firing overtime and no matter the cause the effect is the sensation that the external world has seeped into your blood and bone. You can’t shake it out. You can’t walk it off, and because so many of our senses are physically in our head and close to each other you find smell overbearing. Light is that much brighter. At least it’s fairly cheap and easy to gargle with mouth wash when taste starts getting in on the act.

But I’m taking this as an opportunity to further refine what I’ve been trying to articulate.

I have a timeframe in mind. And in the days since I’ve been working to make sure I’m properly utilising the work of researchers I need to rely on. For example I’m quoting from Textiler Hausrat and I’ve already found differences in translations I did a few years back and now.

I’ve got some more documents that are really patchily OCR ready which means I need a mix of A5 notebook compactness of terms to search for manually. OMG. Had I known this when I first accessed these I’d have already worked out where we have all gone wrong.

It helps that I can read these fairly easily. And much better than translation software for modern translations.

I am really excited by the prospect of both the research and making sides of all the hats. Especially given these were worn by my ancestors! Not the super OTT gold and pearlwork obviously, but Gelderland keeps springing surprises on me by how wonderfully Dutch and NRW influenced they are.

These two pages from the Codice de Trajes really do reveal this dual influence. And I love it.

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