Author Archives: mdb

Getting there

So with 48 entire tailors manuals from 1500-1760-ish yes. My own Manual has a place. And works. And will get you a garment that matches the era you want.

I did need to print out and move each useful plate around, and I suspect I know where Koehler got his interesting cut into the waist and gather diagram (a half yoke deal in a schaube.)

But because I did this before reading I’ve spotted that the author of one of the books tackling the mountain of manuals at one point thought circle skirts were rare in the 16thC.

Me? One of my earliest favourite extant garments was the Mary of Hungary gown- In Naomi Tarrant’s book- but as a Northern Renaissance enthusiast there are many portraits and other illustrated depictions. More recently digitised is the Swabish manual full of plain circle and fully pleated circle skirts.

I remember when I shared my theories about how to use a circle that it conflicted with advice for costuming in Landsknecht and renaissance faires alike (tube skirts.)

But yeah.

Modular frock baby! It works!

The sheer number of pages dedicated to how to cut a circle or half circle dominates over the number of patterns for garments with a waist seam, which dominate over gowns without one.

That does fit with my theory that separating body from waist was as much about saving fabric as it was changing the skillsets required for a full garment.

Apparently when entire garments had pinked and slashed surfaces that was a separate speciality and there are records of legal action taken when a tailor was a bit messy and accidentally cut through to other layers on the surface!

So yeah.

I’m kind of an outlier in that I do not like proportional systems because they are very modern. All these manuals are explicit that these are the amounts of fabric. And those measurements were as tightly regulated as now (especially standard scientific) just on a city by city basis.

But I’ve had to put my plans on hold for a few years now that included hands on workshops to explain the different sets of skills for each module and how to get the best bang for buck if you are investing your own time or money.

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tired but inspired

I have an adorable set of notebooks with a lama lying flat out on the bottom with those words above. Today I finally truly feel that.

I actually feel tired rather than fatigued and it’s actual bliss. I have missed this feeling because fatigue is more like my mind is running faster and faster but not getting anywhere and my body feels dragged along.

But no.

Today I woke with inspiration to turn two of my favourite OOK dolls into a ball jointed doll set.

I’ve already made a press mould of my favourite, and painted another OOK from her. So a proper silicone mould will be no trouble- especially if I’m willing to ease the glued down hair off.

But I also want to sketch our Bird of Paradise plant as the flowers go through a punk and goth stage and I’d love to capture these as they are full of texture and angles and with my set of woodless pencils I will have so much fun.

All of this is possible due to a set of circumstances that have made it possible to really think.

It’s so warm in the lounge due to the sun despite being chilly in the rest of the house. That is a kind of therapy as it means my muscles are warm and much more relaxed.

Fibro feels like it’s in my skin, so I may just have a short rest.

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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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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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Actual progress

I have managed to transfer my Anne of Cleves sleeve mock up! It took a bit longer than expected as a certain spotty cat thought that a single layer of paper was a better litter tray than the litter tray. Sadly my copy of Mary Saaler’s book on Anne was caught up in it- it was out because I wanted to reference the sleeves easily.

But the pattern has been replaced, and I am super happy with it. Really happy. It will be going into my pattern book.

This is obviously quite a small achievement but we have had a fair amount of stress the last three weeks which culminated in a nationwide alert for a Tsunami (the surge did arrive but was more of a marine disturbance.) The earthquake that trigger it was off shore at Rangitāhua (Kermadec Ilands, and luckily no one was there at the time) but there have been a rolling series of quakes and aftershocks alone the fault line. I’m far enough away to not feel them but other people who live closer or on it are.

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I am one of those people that really struggles with the smell and taste of coriander. What a lot of people don’t understand is that is is not a choice for many of us, it is mostly down to the receptors in our noses (and mouth I think.) But worse, it means that many detergents and perfumes are also overwhelming to us, over and above what most people experience*.

So when something smells or tastes of soap to me? It is not what most people experience as soapy taste or smell. I have to use something like mint and/or eucalyptus oil to act a bit like mouthwash for my nasal passages (side note it has made me really wonder what smelling salts actually were for!**) But it also means I am so frustrated about missing out on the joy of coriander and what it does to the balance of a dish, so that I have really tried to understand the context.

As someone who has to do a cost/benefit analysis of every moment of every day, I like to make sure I have a good stash of spices and herbs. There are times when fibro makes textures or flavours overwhelming, so I like to have some very bland protein (tofu, egg whites, chicken) that is very fast to cook, that can then also be made more interesting at other times by spices.

For umami I have a few kinds of soy sauce as well as maggi seasoning, for heat I have sirracha, and then spice pastes or powder mixes and then also individual spices and herbs.

But fresh coriander? It will never not fill all my nasal spaces with the sensation of being submerged in dishwashing soap. But I keep trying to understand it so that I can recreate my favourite dishes with something that comes close to what most people experience.

Most people experience the citrus notes, and that was a bit of a revelation! Sometimes citrus peel is also overwhelming in the soapy sensation, but I do still experience the citrus notes enough that it helps to understand the role of fresh coriander.

I think I can use lemon peel (not pith, not juice) with dried coriander to get closer to the experience of most people. I have tried a few times and oh wow, so delicious.

But this also explains why I love the smell of lavender and roses! A lot of people hate them as they smell of perfume. But perfume to me is overwhelmingly of the soapy parts. So fresh lavender and fresh roses are a delight. Perfumes that are supposedly lavender and rose to me are soapy. And that probably means that people who are more immune to the soapy smells associate the experience with the floral notes.

Anyway, I’m currently sipping some Earl Grey tea with some lavender in a tea infuser and wondering what that experience is to most people. This is an attempt at recreating an Imperial Grey tea from a few years ago. I hoarded as many as I thought was reasonable but am now really missing that hug in a mug it offered. I do wonder if my tea fiend friends would like this as well. I know most of us love a specific cinnamon blend, but now I am asking myself if we experience that in the same way?

*There are other social factors, but I have genuinely tried so many ways and still am stuck. This is definitely made worse in a fibro flare, to the point even avocados wind up a truly negative experience.

**There are times I need to use these very volatile scents for sinus pain. It is usually due to inflammation of nasal passages (sinuses are connected via very fine channels, and the ends that start in nasal passages can be clogged with mucous or inflammation) and so it makes me really ask if people in the past used smelling salts for the same reason! We think of them in terms of rich white ladies who can’t handle reality, but what if it’s purely somatic?

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I finally have several patterns from manuals and extant garments in a format and folder to add to my pattern book. All require my own work to turn them into the actual shapes as would be marked out before fitting. I also need to find a way to help people use these patterns, I already call my entire system The Modular Frock but it still doesn’t quite convey just how differently we approach the entire process compared to a busy workshop with many people working on any part at a time.

But it is very exciting as the garments do absolutely match the patterns. And so that means some garments we do have in poor condition could probably be reversed engineered still, and that some garments that are extant could reflect missing patterns.

This will mean I need to be rigorous in citing within my book, and not simply copying either. So far my patterns compliment Alcega and Burguen (a rather more extensive book that is very easy to read) sleeves, simple bodices, skirts all match my own patterns almost exactly. My skirts include extra length for turnings, I use a hand width so that once the hem is turned there is a lot of room at the waist for length adjustments (whoops I forgot my shoes for instance) and to both resize the waist and to shift pleats to wherever is desired.

So right now I need to turn my basic bodice into the all in one bodices of Schuster and Kisszeben books. It will look a bit different as my book starts with the shapes, and then will explain layout for piecing etc. The Schuster one in particular does a kind of piecing that we would find unacceptable today.

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So having already had a tiny infection in one finger interfering with life, I have a second one on my opposite finger (I think a paper cut) that has done the same thing. Luckily I’m on antibiotics for my cough, and so I just need to let that process happen.

So there has not been a lot of doing but I have got my Anne of Cleves skirt pressed and am tacking the underlining to the shell. Just through the joints in the shell rather than everywhere, my hands just can’t. I want to preserve function for as long as possible, so that means stopping Doing or typing etc.

I’m also trying to get the rest of the pearls on the hat, and that is going to be very tough, but will be worth it. I have enough jewels as well- again pacing and it did take a year to get through bite by bite as it were.

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So excited

Yesterday I was able to have my second pulse of Rituximab- it’s getting really difficult finding a vein that has a nice clear 3-4cm straight- and wrote a lot while I was in hospital. A. Lot. A lot a lot.

All about clothing of Cleves.

I had also sorted my pattern book patterns, with my personal ones, to work out the order of my book, and I’m so much happier with how to go about that.

So today I got the rest of my mini patterns in one folder- all garments I have made, some patterns finalised, some rough as heck- and another folder of all my reasearch notes for costumes- including more rough sketch patterns- and finally my pattern book into another folder.

It’s a lot of work but it makes sense now.

My velveteen for my next pink Cleves gown arrived, as did the block of beeswax (yay! I can clean my bee shaped beeswax and keep it as it’s so pretty) and have already repaired our doorstop- a rhino made from heavy corduroy.


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Cleves frocks? CLEVES FROCKS!

I have a Thing for pink! Last week I was able to pick up 7m of a lovely fuchsia pink wool, enough for two frocks.

Now I do indeed have a pink Cleves frock, and I am sure I want to make another (with black guarding, then maybe take the raspberry velveteen of this pale pink, move it to a yellow silk, then use another gold fabric to guard the pale pink.)

But I am not sure what to do with the rest! I could remake one of the other two frocks above, or I could make my favourite Cranach frock ever.

Judith with the head of Holofernses, by Lucas Cranach

I adore everything about this particular version. And it would be lovely to finally make it.


But this is the portrait that inspired my second pink frock and that turn down collar and short sleeves make for a really easy to wear in summer frock!

I could in theory make all of these.

The linen mix fabric I’m using to line it all has mercerised warp threads. So it’s very glossy.

I also happen to have enough to line two pink wool frocks and then enough left over to make a self lined frock.

Most of my linen does not mimic the cvolour or texture in imagery, but my very cheap mix does.

It then really is a case off how many short sleeved pink frocks is enough?

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