Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Theory About Spiral Tubes

About a week ago, I passed along a link to an article on about the historical use of tiny bronze spiral tubes as a clothing decoration.

My husband, who reads my blog posts via Google Plus even when they are extremely esoteric, found the idea of decorating one's clothing with woven-in metal bits prone to tarnish intriguing.  "How could you possibly clean them?" he asked me.

I observed that such ornamentation was almost certainly confined to one's best clothing, which would be seldom worn and carefully stored.  But he pointed out that likely over time the rings would tarnish badly, anyway, unless they were carefully cleaned from time to time, and they certainly could not be removed to do so.

For some reason, I remarked that spiral-ornamented garments were made from wool, and that perhaps the natural lanolin in the wool helped prevent tarnishing.

That's when my husband came out with the following theory.

Perhaps the owners of such spiral-laden garments buffed them the spirals, from time-to-time, with lanolined wool fabric or fleece.  Such a coating would be much more likely to protect the tubes from tarnish, and would not damage the fabric to which they were affixed.

The beauty of this theory, to me, is that its plausibility could easily be tested.  Make a garment (or even ornament a sample piece of wool) with spiral tubes.  Brush the tubes with a lanolined cloth, and store.  Make a control garment, or sample, and store it separately, without touching the tubes with lanolin.  Check both at intervals (every 6 months, say, for a year or two), and see whether the lanolin makes a difference to the amount of tarnish on the tubes.

That sounds like a great idea for a short paper.  I should perform the experiment and write it up some time.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Spiral Tubes

From Katrin Kania's blog I recently learned that there is a good, publicly available (but short) article on about the use of tiny, spiral bronze tubes to decorate clothing.

In general, though the time frame when such ornaments were used varies widely by region, the countries that have used this technique are those around the Baltic Sea. The article itself may be found here.  

Although the text is brief and general, there are some wonderful photographs accompanying the article of surviving finds with spiral tube decoration, some of which I have not seen elsewhere. This article and its photos are particularly recommended to those interested in Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, or Finnish clothing of the early to late Middle Ages.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

More Short Tutorials--Early Period

It's no secret to any of my readers that my favorite costume interests lie with the early period, which I think of as from the dawn of humanity until the high Middle Ages.  Today's crop of tutorials consists entirely of projects appropriate to early period costume.
  • From Jenn Culler's blog there are two simple and fun projects.  
    • First, a tutorial on how to make a peplos dress that hangs more appealingly than a pinned sheet of fabric (what's called a "bog dress" in the SCA). The technique is not documentably historical, but also cannot be ruled out on the basis of archaeological finds. 
    • Second, there is a tutorial for making a Bronze Age Dress based upon a design suggested in this article by Karina Grömer, Lise Bender Jørgensen and Helga Rösel-Mautendorfer. The article discusses different ways to recreate the clothing of a woman buried in a Middle Bronze Age grave in Winklarn, Austria.  (Other potential reconstructions of the Winklarn woman's costume are suggested in the article, for those who might be interested.)
  • From opusanglicanum there's a tutorial on how to stitch the acanthus motif from the Mammen find.   
  • From Ragnvaeig's LiveJournal there's a tutorial on how to stitch the linked circles motif from the Oseberg ship find.
  • And, finally, from Anna's blog, Anachronistic and Impulsive, there is good information on how to make ancient Roman garb for both men and woman. Note too the current post where Anna seeks donations because she and her husband are in financial difficulty due to unexpected calls on their savings. 
All of these projects would be good to work on during a hot summer, if it is summer where you live.  Enjoy exploring them!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Völva Costume--A Few Thoughts About The Cloak

Slowly, (especially since my spouse has a regular income again), I have begun to think about reviving long dormant costume projects.

I have been thinking about the cloak that I need to make for the völva costume.  My assumption, based upon other surviving garments of the same period and upon the description in Eric the Red's Saga (e.g., the fact that the völva's cloak has "straps") is that this cloak should be a semicircular cloak.  However, my last attempt to make a semicircular cloak, the Byzantine mantion I made some years ago, fits poorly and is hard to keep in position in wear.

I suspect, on the basis of the shapes of the surviving semicircular cloaks from the Viking age, that the fact that my mantion fits poorly does not mean its design is anachronistic.  Far from it; I'd bet that most semicircular cloaks in the early Middle Ages fit poorly, because a simple semi-circular design fails to take the protuberance of the shoulders into consideration.  It occurred to me that, if I want the cloak to be secure when simply tied on with long straps, I must do something about the shoulder problem. I would like to experiment with techniques that might make this cloak fit better, even if such techniques are not documentable to the Viking age.

One possibility would be to shape the relevant area of the cloak to my form with seams, stitched on the inside of the garment.  That could be worked out by pinning the seams first to check for fit.  I'm thinking that a few seams, radiating outward from (roughly) the center of the neck notch and reaching downward about 6 inches may work.  In that case, it might be possible to achieve a decent fit with  a simple circular neck-notch.

The idea would be to cut the neck notch and sew the fitting seams first.  Finishing the neck could be simple.  I am thinking of cutting a long piece of silk, a bit more than twice as wide as I want the "straps" to be.  The idea would be to use the strip to bind the neckline by placing the center of the silk strip against the back center of the neck notch, fold the fabric over each side of the neck notch, and stitch it down around the neckline. (Yes this will take some folding and tweaking, but might be worth it.)  Then stitch down the rest of the length of each strap, fold the edges inward and stitch together along the folds.  In other words, the silk strip would be fastened to the cloak all around the neckline, and the rest would serve as long straps.  That way, the straps would be unlikely to rip away from the cloak.  The sketch to the left above should give a better idea of what I mean.  (N.B.:  The two different pieces are not drawn to the same scale.)

This concept assumes, of course, that my piece of fabric is large enough to cut the cloak as a semicircle; I don't recall exactly how big it is.  If the fabric is not wide or long enough, it may make better sense to try to cut the cloak as a series of pie-shaped wedges and stitch them together to create a better-fitting shape.

If anyone has comments or thoughts about these ideas, please let me know in the comments.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Paths Less Traveled

It's the middle of Summer where I am, so I figured it was time for something completely different.

Here are links to some very interesting websites containing information about historical clothing that is off the beaten track of ancient Rome/migration period/medieval England and France/Renaissance etc. costume.  Most of the historical periods covered by the websites below are hard for the beginning researcher to find information about. They should help people wanting to explore truly different areas of clothing history, and at the very least they are interesting to read!

1.  Clothing in the Netherlands, 1480-1610:    Between the two of them, Margaret and Karinne show the rest of us how people in the Netherlands dressed between the late 15th and early 17th centuries. I first met Karinne through the now-defunct MedCos forums, and her skills have, if anything, improved since then. Go here to explore Margaret and Karinne's creations and research.

2.  Sarmatian Costume:  Here's an interesting alternative to all those Elizabethans, Vikings, and Romans:  a Sarmatian persona!  The Sarmatians are a Central Asian people who migrated into Southern Russia and the Balkans and settled there between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE.   Jess Miller-Camp's blog, Sarmatian in the SCA, has interesting information about her research into Sarmatian culture, including her work on Sarmatian costume.  You can find the blog here.

3.  Middle Byzantine:  You may be familiar with Timothy Dawson's Middle Byzantine site, Levantia, but Anna of Anachronistic and Impulsive, covers much of the same costuming ground from a somewhat different perspective.  The blog's home page is here.  As a side note:   Do not miss her post about making ancient Mesopotamian costumes for herself and her spouse!

4.  Medieval Korea:  This information about how a 16th century CE Gisaeng might have dressed is available due to the research skills of Rebecca Lucas LeGet.  Find it here.

5,  Medieval Japan:  There are a number of pages out there on medieval Japanese costume, but this one is fairly detailed and well-organized--for men's costume.  There are places for information about women's costume, but they have not been written yet.  You'll find the index here.

Enjoy the extra reading, and have a good summer (or winter, if you're in the Southern Hemisphere).

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Even More Diamond Twill Sources

Recently, I've found a few more sellers of diamond twill cloth on the Internet.

The Mulberry Dyer, a seller of natural dye substances and naturally dyed yarns and fabric in the United Kingdom, sells madder red, yellow, and blue diamond twill wool "off the peg" at £35 per meter and cochineal red, green, and black diamond twill wool for £45. Go here for the fabric purchase page. 

Plateau Imprints Archaeology and Heritage Consulting sells a diamond twill blend, 50/50 silk and wool, using dyed and woad-dyed fiber, from their Facebook page. A piece 70 cm by 200 cm costs £30.

Nornilla on Etsy sells fine diamond twill wool fabric for $45.51 USD per meter.  All of the fabrics of this type are two-toned and in the photographs appear to have a slight sheen.

Finally, and surprisingly, advertises two-toned diamond wool twill fabric for 400 Czech Koruna--about $17.00 USD--per meter! At that price, it's not surprising that they are currently sold out of this product.

In other news, I have learned that the diamond twill wool sold by Stas Volobuev, who sells fabric from his Facebook page, has very small diamonds indeed.  The photograph I've seen appears to indicate that three diamond motifs can fit across the diameter of a U.S. penny (a length of a bit more than a centimeter).  My understanding is that the price is about $30.00 USD per meter, but you can always check with Stas yourself.

I still have my rose-red herringbone twill to make into an apron dress, but it's good to see that diamond twill is slowly becoming easier and cheaper to obtain.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Menswear of the Lombards

Paul the Deacon, from a period MS  Artist unknown
 MS from Laurentian Library, Plut.65.35, fol 34r
(Wikimedia Commons)
As I previously posted, I recently learned of, and obtained, an ePub copy of the following book:
Gordino, Yuri. Menswear of the Lombards. Reflections in the light of archeology, iconography and written sources. (Bookstone, Dec. 25, 2016).
The Lombards were a Germanic people who conquered and ruled substantial portions of Italy between the mid-sixth and late eighth centuries CE.

My only regret is that I do not have a printed, paper copy of this book instead of an electronic copy. The book is lavishly illustrated, mostly with photographs of reproduction fabric, weapons, accessories, and clothing from the Lombard culture between roughly 550 CE and 770 CE that are based upon the research in the book.  Many of the illustrations show reproductions in lovely, primary colors that look as though they were made with period-available dyes. Despite the book's title, some of the photographs show women in period Lombard clothing, as well as men.  It would be wonderful to see those images as color photographs printed on good paper. 

The book is so beautifully illustrated that it is difficult to focus on the text.  It would be wrong to consider either text or illustrations in isolation, however, because examination of period art forms a critical element of Mr. Gordino's conclusions.  According to Mr. Gordino, information about Lombard clothing has to be derived from multiple sources, including "archaeological data, written sources and iconographic evidence" since surviving items of clothing from the region are nonexistent and only small textile scraps have been recovered from archaeological sites.  Consequently, a number of sketches based upon the most important pieces of period art appear in the book as illustrations, highlighted to demonstrate information about particular garment types. The text also discusses clothing information from Paul the Deacon's history of the Lombards, which is a major source of information about the Lombards in general (see the image in the photograph above).  In addition, the author has reviewed the available evidence in light of what is known of other Germanic people's clothing during the period of the Lombards' rule, though little explicit discussion appears on this point.

For those who are familiar with the known information about contemporary Germanic races associated with other parts of Europe, the book's conclusions will not be surprising.  They include the following:
  • Lombard men typically wore undershirts and drawers made from linen.  The drawers were made with a drawstring with legs extending to just above the knee, like the underbreeches that appear in the art of the later Middle Ages in northern Europe.
  • The most commonly found weaves are tabby, herringbone twill, diamond twill, and repp. Higher status men tended to wear the diamond and herringbone twill weaves, which were dyed in bright colors.
  • There is some evidence for trousers as outerwear, decorated with a broad ornamental band at the hem.
  • There is also evidence that other men wore leg wrappings, as did the Anglo-Saxons and various northern European peoples.
  • Outer tunics were long-sleeved and A-shaped.  They came to about the knee and were decorated with broad bands of contrasting cloth, either in a straight line from shoulder to shoulder (including the neck area) or with a broad band from shoulder to shoulder and a perpendicular band starting from the neck and running down the middle of the torso to about the waist level.  
  • The outfit was completed with a short (no longer than to the hem of the tunic) cloak, fastened with a brooch on the right shoulder, with the opening exposing the right side of the body.  
  • There is evidence for two different types of hat:  a pillbox style, and a felted hat shaped like an inverted modern flowerpot with a small brim.  
  • There is also evidence that low, slipper-like shoes were worn by Lombard men.
The book concludes with an essay on the type of sword belt of which evidence is most often found in Lombard graves.  

Menswear of the Lombards has a few drawbacks.  It is short, especially given the breadth of subject matter covered. Possibly in consequence, long descriptions of the evidence or of the analysis leading to the author's conclusions do not appear.  In addition, the book is written in English, which judging from the grammatical constructions used does not appear to be the author's primary language.  Thus, it's important to read the text slowly at first, making frequent reference to the illustrations based upon the period art evidence in order to absorb the author's meaning.  There is a significant bibliography, but note that many of the sources listed are written in Italian.

In conclusion, Menswear of the Lombards is well-worth its modest EPub price for costumers and other amateur scholars interested in the region and period, though it is far from the final word about Lombard costume.