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Patterning updates

Not just of access to online resources but my own. I’m working on making them available on my website. However in this protracted process of trying to reconcile my digital archives of my life and research I’ve had multiple drives destroy my work. At this point I can’t tell which they are but I suspect it’s the ssd with firmware issues and the exfat formatted external ssd. The two drives I’m working from currently are in theory error free except I’m also finding images that have clearly been repaired as the lower half of them are either black or that rainbow effect I’m used to from Ye Olde Days of the net. You can tell the files are read top left to bottom right, like a scanner. This includes the scans of my 1/10 scale patterns I’ve taken of my own costumes.

Naturally will over 1M files this is adding to the burden and stress of not knowing what files to trust as I’d have to open every single one of them. I’ve managed to be able to read some PDFs that were corrupted and that’s been via a free app. So I’m not deleting my files that are so corrupted they can’t be opened yet I’m just keeping them aside. Consider how file names can be the reason apps won’t open them, especially those just missing a . before the extension or have file size on the end of the extension.

So I’m hoping that these broken files only have a tiny error like that at the start of the file so I can eventually properly repair them.

But yes.

Burying the lede here I am indeed do all this so I can get my own work better served on my own site with bigger images of my in progress and finished work as well as patterns.

I’ve just taken photos of my 16thC bodice support layers as they fit fairly easily on my cutting mat so I can easily trace them in either photoshop or Inkscape.

But yes I’m also working my way through my patterns developed from photographs of extant items- it’s a bit like my Waterfall pattern diagrams in taking into account distortion. Luckily my work with the tailoring and dressmaking books makes that possible. Consider my cheat guide for Victorian skirts- I took that directly from dressmaking books. Bodices have a really similar cheat- there are some hard measurements and there are some that are taken from the person. We don’t really do that. On the whole we use fabric very differently and we apply drafting systems that simply weren’t used for the same pieces.

And that’s true for each era I focus on. I think we’re used to the idea of cutting being one direction of evolution. So we judge differences from that as some kind of deviation rather than innovation. We certainly do when it comes to the rise of dressmaking. We forget that not only were the early dressmakers excluded from tailoring archives they weren’t allowed to make the same garments. This means not being able to reverse engineer what tailors did.

And tailors would harass and even destroy the entire workshops of dressmakers even in the 18thC when full protections had been in place for a long time. So I think we forget how backed into a corner they were in terms of patterning. In terms of construction.

We dismiss the stitching as not being high quality yet I’ve seen the stitching of many 16th-17thC garments made by tailors and they are the mix you’d expect when apprentices do a fair bit of the non destructive work. Dressmakers also hired apprentices and so they leave their mark too.


I’ve been wanting to write about this time except all this tech fail and destruction has been taking up a lot of my time. Not to mention I’m still recovering from my Achilles Tendinopathy. And yes, still grieving losing Carlo. I’m finding myself avoiding sitting on the sofa where he was and staying out of my room.

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Finally some success

I had at one point decided to take all my own references out of my year by year photo archives but I think I need to keep them in that one place. It’s a record of what I knew and when. I’ve done the same with my costume photos. And I’ve found a huge lot of heavily corrupted files. I can’t tell which drive they came from. It might be the external drive it may be the drive with multiple failures. I’m checking both today. But it’s entire folders including my scanned patterns of my own work.

I also need to get some batch conversion/renaming going if I want to get my website not only back to the state it was before but better. It’s in theory a good thing to do over winter but it’s a bit chilly so I’m going to warm up while my hardrives get scanned in the background.

It’s just all very hard as my site was broken in to (nope, not through my credentials) so soon after Boo died, and now all of this while we were giving palliative care for Carlo.

So it’s all very overwhelming.

I do have so many beautiful photos of them. And of friends and family.

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Cut my Cote review

Oh this desperately needs to be reprinted. I requested it as an interloan, and not every library has that function nor do all libraries do interloans outside of selected systems. I’ve known about it for some time, of course, but I never really needed it for my focus. But, yes, working my way through the interpretations of what a mantua is meant I needed it to really understand where those theories came from.

Which brings me back to the importance of reprinting Cut my Cote.

We all know, now, how difficult it was for Janet Arnold to get her publishers to understand the actual needs of those using her works. Colour photos, pattern pieces laid out and *not* overlapping.

But this was far from uncommon.

Blanche Payne’s work had her pattern diagrams removed in the so called expanded version because the publishers didn’t see the need for patterns as other books had them too.

Not those patterns though! And I’m pretty sure the cost of the first edition on the second hand market should have the publisher fighting for the right to do the same justice to her work that the School For Historical Dress has done for Arnold. Payne’s records exist and I suspect include far more than made it into her book.

The rise of social media though has meant a lot of evidence of how much each work is appreciated and needed.

I really liked reading Cut my Cote, and the Royal Ontario Museum has really expanded on it through exhibits and a video which also lead well into the mantua origins. A fair bit of this talk for instance made its way into Patterns of Fashion.

I’ve been a bit stuck, still, trying to get my own archives sorted. Discovering that my newest drive is in exfat so apparently only meant to transfer files, but also has no journaling so if you lose power or connection you can brick the whole thing not to mention if you move files their image previews remain on the previous folder.

I have though I got around the pdf thumbnail issue which has also somehow given me thumbnails for other documents and I do like that.

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Elsa Mantua project

Of course. I’ve had so much bad luck with all my projects for the last few years so naturally I’ve made a bit of a hash of my mantua. I cut my lace to fit a narrow petticoat and I’m not happy with it. In order to patch the lace back together I need to temporarily baste it to some calico and in order to sew the lace to the petticoat I really need it to have an uneven number of panels.

So I have cut each full width down to half, unpicked the hem and inserted a half width into the front that is shorter than the rest of the panels.

The new Patterns of Fashion books help make sense of the original Janet Arnold article in Costume of my favourite mantua. And my mistakes in over compensating for length including upper flounce turns out to be perfectly fine for this.

I’ve even managed to keep a short piece of full width fabric to make the pleated yoke. I’m still working out what shape to make my foundation to help take the weight of all the lace. I was thinking of using the piece I cut from the bottom of my Marie Antoniette hoops seeing as it’s a bit too stretchy to control the steels.

But then again I have plenty of support materials from glazed cotton to linen canvas. So I should raid that stash box instead.

I wanted a simple project in which I’d mix historically accurate pattern with modern materials and stitching and have a lot of fun making an OTT stomacher, but like so many others I’m realising how much the seaming informs the outcome. I’m not investing too much in the petticoat as I have turned the seam allowances to the back and will do a mix of machine flat felling with hand sewing above the lace. But I do now need to consider the order of sewing for the robe itself. And I really should line the train. It needs to be a very light fabric and as this fabric is 100% acetate I think I need something nicer than most modern lining fabrics but not anything expensive either.

I have been also working on the research side of things because there really cannot be enough people sharing what they have learned.

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Mantua page updates

So far it’s essentially how I cut my Mantua, in two parts.

The first is an easy draft using modern fabric widths. and the other is how I cut mine on the floor. I originally posted that over on this blog but now that I’m working on the rest of it now (including stays) I really understand what is going on so I’m transferring those posts across, I’m trying to figure a way to make sure people don’t wind up in a redirecting loop. But I also don’t want to erase my original posts as they have little notes that are not needed in the final page.

So I also need to update my page on the drafts of known mantua now that I know I have them all. And I can use photos of picked pieces to create a draft of them. There are far more images of just the trains laid out than picked items but these can be partly inferred from the drafts that are from the same time.

I try to keep my research and my blog separate in part to make sure it’s easy for people to get to any page no more than two steps from anywhere they might have landed. It’s a realllllly old web development principle that’s actually even more important now with devices and the contraction of time people spend even around sites they enjoy. It’s also why my research site uses a really stable but basic child theme with functions straight from Core and so it rarely breaks while this one has several times. I do need to check what current mobile device screen sizes are because this contributes to time to paint and when that includes resizing everything to fit people can see the bare bones before the customisation. Luckily I can do that fairly easily. I can make tables change the number of cells across based on screen width. I don’t think I can plan well for devices rotated to landscape though. But it should work by using the closest size.

I did also find my photos of how I took a pattern of my Effigy stays to convert them to later stays, and I think I found the source I used to do that. I started getting worried I’d misinterpreted it but no. I’m good. I will want to add one of those little panels that curve at the waist. I need to stitch a finer tape around the new set, I would love to use my green leather for my Effigy stays but I do worry about the dye coming out. So I’m using the same heavier tape I originally used.

I really need a day to file allllllll the bones, but as I’ve used the same boning for both, and for my bobbinet corset and probably for my Elsa long line stays I think it’ll go faster than facing steel. I don’t need it for the Effigy and Mantua stays because they are both fully boned. I’m still working out how best to make it easy to wash all of these, and how to line up edges for the intended gowns.

I have two lovely busks with gold toned studs and loops and I really want to use them. I should be able to make removeable panels for everything metal. It’s just a matter of making sure the stitching and edges are secure. My very aggressive corset for my Bubble Gown needs a lot of steel so for that it’s a matter of making the upper binding secure and the lower easily picked to let them out. It might mean avoiding the channels when I sew the binding that’s pretty easy really. I can use the plastic boning as graduating support and for over the bust.

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what to do?

I’m at the point with my research to feel confident to give myself a break but I’m so behind in getting my North Rhine gear finished including some alterations. I’m deciding which frock to give tube sleeves and which to leave open. I think I could convert my startling orange to a shorter kirtle and make tube sleeves to my red linen.

These later costume albums might overstate brightness but it would make a fabulous version of this:

I just love the orange tube sleeves as they remind me of the tube sleeves worn by a figure in two of Leyden’s paintings:

Playing chess:

Watching fortune telling.

They do appear all over tapestries, longer usually. And oh they are so beautiful.

And there is this sculpture of Saint Cecelia with the same tube sleeves- her left arm goes through the cut, her right arm through the wrist.

Flemish School; Saint Cecilia; Trinity College, University of Oxford;

So much for lowlands, what about the North Rhine.

I cheated a bit in including Anna Tom Ring as she was further into Westphalia.

And the stained glass might have been restored. So much stained glass was dispersed when the French invaded. It’s good that it was all sold off rather than be destroyed but what a reality. Sadly the lack of understanding of North Rhine culture and dress means a lot of restoration inserted Flemish or German details that now wind up informing what we think of dress of the region.

And all of this of course comes back to my timeline being uploaded to wikipedia. It’s a kind of archive of my site that might survive me, and as there is full credit it’s not like researchers who need to date or fix a restoration can really easily find the timeline.

Anyway. I need to fix all my accessories and get photos. I really want to record my modular linen layers as they are based on extant items, and they make life so much easier in terms of comfort and ability to wash different layers differently.

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Progress? YES!

It’s so exciting to be able to post something positive! I’m doing so well with physio and orthotics that I’m *almost* able to walk on tip toe for a bit. Oh trust me this is exciting. It means neural connections are restoring and I’m rebuilding strength on the medial side of each leg (inner.) I’m even stretching deeper and I managed to jog intermittently!

I know I’m not recovered enough to do too much. The reality of Achilles tendinopathy, in general and bilateral especially, is the very disordered healing that follows. It’s a hot mess of inflammation, of influx of blood, of scarring, of thickening. So it’s too easy to reset from start if you get excited and try too hard.

But I can do heel raises on call, and if done quickly I guess I can do 10 reps? But I can feel my ankles do an arc between lower and upper calves engaging, so I am also doing some veeeery slow ones to specifically engage my inner quads. And oh look at that, those *burn* and I can even feel it up to my ribs!

So this is great, it means my efforts to try and limit my whole leg numbness (separate issue) by maintaining posture while sitting, and by raising my cushioned seating works in and each rehab, supports the other.

It’s meant I was able to update my other website and start to plan my “OMG, these are actually bloody amazing” page about English mantua. I can then use that to explain what I’ve gleaned from European gowns of the time.

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Now that I’ve got my mitts on PoF 1(updated) and 6 I can breathe a sigh of relief. The overlap in what I have been doing and what’s in these books reveals that yes I am in the right area of understanding.

Where I diverge is still of interest and still important. That’s a lot like where I am with my understanding of tailoring in the 16thC. Enough that matches that I can probably invest my time in what doesn’t rather than repeat it all.

It’s fun though when you name your “system” modular and finally read a snippet from a tailor who basically supports what you’ve been trying to express for 20 years. It’s also kind of funny to now have so many scaled patterns not just in colour but also with the fabric decoration overlaid. I’ve been using my old photocopies and prints of extant garments and tailoring and dressmaking books and colouring in each piece.

What I was doing though was to support my modular system so I have different colours for skirts, bodices, sleeves. It’s fascinating how fitted sleeves were almost unchanged from the 16thC right through to the late 19thC. And what that reveals, in much the way my work matching established work reveals, is how well they work. And you can then compare the extant pieces and the line art in manuals and recognise how far drafting takes you before individual fitting comes in.

I think I started all this because skirts tend to be the first thing recycled into church vestments or maybe cloaks and we’re lucky when the bodice and sleeves survive this process. It means my focus on frocks is heavily on how that happens. It’s one thing to be able to recycle fabric but how does the cut of the skirts influence how these new pieces are cut and assembled?

This also ties really deeply to my North Rhine research as gold yarn was a trade dominated by women. Said yarn was used for embroidery and passementerie and hand woven trim especially for said vestments. It was also exported to Italy in different qualities to be woven into fabric.

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The importance of digitised records

I’m still skirting outside my 16thC research because I need a little bit of distance from it. So I’m just trying to enjoy my mantua work. One of the questions is where did the term Mantua come from in the first place. This is where digitised records are so very important. One of the likely sources of the term is the French term “manteau.” So far so good. But neither term really brings up a lot of digitised books or archives.

But what if you realised the spelling of the time (late 17th-early 8thC) was very different. And it was “manto” and “mantoes.”

Try saying that out loud.

So I think the French connection is the stronger one than the embroiderers who migrated to England in Henry VIII’s reign from Mantua.

And it helps with connecting to the French fashion plates with the same early style.

I’ve been overlaying the patterns from the disparate sources but am hoping the expanded Patterns of Fashion 1 and new volume 6 does have all of them with much clearer lines and the new colour blocking. These are in various volumes of Costume, the little Museum of London book by Zillah Halls, History of Costume by Blanche Payne, Cut of Women’s Clothes by Nora Waugh.

I did also get a little further boost to what I believe is going on with them. One is from a written description from a book I already have, another is related to how fashions were communicated, and the last is my own timeline of dressmaking. I had to add back in some tailoring books and household books. The latter mostly deal with recipes and how to spot adulteration of foods and toiletries. The quality of digitalisation now means it’s easier to pick through the hundreds of close typed pages to find advice that I’ve otherwise missed out on.

But my timeline of patterns has probably tripled since I published it. And that covers from the 16thC to 2000s. It’s a lot to wrangle and I’m sure people wonder why I do it. But no one repository has all of them, and even when they do the coversheet rarely explains what you are getting. So my preview images are of the bodice at least and a full gown where possible. It really helps to illustrate just how much experimentation went on once dressmakers were responsible for most frocks. They had to get inventive because the tailors were really unhappy and kept their trade secrets secret.

And that is a preview of the kind of depth and breadth of research needed for context of any one era. And a hint as to how expanded my timeline and mantua pages are going to be.

I haven’t even touched on the different tools developed in the 19thC.

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Phoebe and her hot water bottles

This was a beloved story when I was young. It wasn’t just sweet it really touched on themes of identity when all the adults in her life kept giving her hot water bottles when really she wanted a puppy.

So when it came time to do a self directed piece for my Diploma of Performing Arts I knew I needed to reference it.

So for this piece we had to work to a time limit, we used tech for effect, and we needed music. I was stumped on the last. But I knew what I wanted to do with the space.

I wanted it filled with roses. Visual, scented, I wanted realistic ones, I had at least one book on gardening too.

I wanted to essentially be Phoebe but in my piece for me to have people keep giving me roses because that’s as much as they know about me. A mix of not knowing, and not wanting to know. And I really still needed music and I still needed a way to go from isn’t this lovely, she’s talking about her passion, to oh, this is actually bad.

At the time I was living about a 40min walk (maybe more, yes it was more, it was more than an hour) which gave me a lot of time to listen to the radio (yes) and play back lessons to practice singing. Nothing builds core strength and for a lifetime like speed walking and maintaining a smooth line in singing.

And one day I was listening to concert FM and it was some Early Music. It was 16thC French songs and dances and I settled in to listen. And you won’t believe the name of the album.

“Le Jardin De Melodies” by The King’s Noyse.

The garden of melodies.

Okay, so I keep listening and it’s Pavane and Galliarde “de la Battaille” and I’m loving it. Still doesn’t quite feel like what I need. It’s so close though. This mix of gentle and then passion. I could work with it. I’m just enjoying it anyway.

So we get to the “Almande / Saltarello” And hey this is nice. And then really quickly you feel like you’re slightly forward with the music. Then you get a bit of relief, then you fall forward again and… bang. Right into “Schiarazula Marazula”

I got goosepimples.

And the best part, is the music then starts to right itself. We’ve had this music that seemed so standard but felt wrong, to this music that startles with the instruments, but it feels like we’re coming back together.

So in my piece the Almande reflects external expectations, but it feels wrong, then the start of Schiarazula is my own recognition of how I’ve been part of the same expectations. As the music builds I started to look for anything but a rose, breaking them all up on stage. When the music pauses is the start of calmness and rebuilding, but by my own hand and imperfectly a rose that is now entirely my own. It’s about rebuilding and keeping what was good. The music builds faster again, but this time it feels like heading to new place.

PIAS represents the Harmonia Mundi label and they’ve created playlists of many albums including Le Jardin:


Also yes. If you’ve ever heard me sing anything at an SCA event it’s likely Helas Fautil. It took on a different meaning for me in 2016.

But my voice is classically trained and getting a vibrato let alone the ability to do trills was so very difficult that I’m not giving up the placement I use which also has protected my voice from wear.

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