Recently, as a little celebration of reaching the magic 100 number for followers I decided to have a small giveaway and the prize was a skein of silk. The first name drawn, Rose and Thistle was a long time follower and sadly didn't answer my email and announcement here. So after eight days we drew another name and Dianne Dudfield in New Zealand was the lucky recipient. Then out of the blue, or grand move across state lines, came Martha, our missing Rose and Thistle! I sent her a skein of silk as well. :)
I have enjoyed my email chats with both ladies, both weavers in diverse parts of the world. Martha besides weaving also enjoys a love of English history, in particular, the Elizabethan period. Well, so do I! Its part of my ethnic history being English by birth and curious by nature.
When I found out that Martha designs, sews and wears her own period costume I was (to quote my dear friend Lynnette) gobsmacked! The sheer amount of research, hard work and effort to be able to do this is simply stunning! They did not wear simple clothing! I have heard that the 'rich and well heeled' wore elaborate clothing to demonstrate their ability to afford what many could not; to also show that they need not work as we know it and have all their needs met by others who wore much more basic, rustic and less colourful garments. I have a book shelf with many books on the history of textiles: grave sites in Greenland, Viking grave finds from the 1950's complete with long boat and garments. A recent acquisition is one on Saxon medieval clothing that I'm working my way through. What am I going to do with this side interest? I'm not exactly sure, but Martha sure has it worked out! I asked her to be a guest on my blog and share with you what she does, and how she does it. So, with out further delay, here's Martha!My Elizabethan dresses on display in a shop window for the Christmas season; sorry it is not a great picture. The shop owner was intrigued that anyone could design and sew their own period correct dresses and thought my costumes would be interesting in her front window. This was my very first and only time displaying my work to the public.
To design a dress I research period painting and manuscripts taking bits and pieces of dresses I admire and then construct a dress of my own design. I use a technique known as draping, which basically means I drape muslin fabric on my own dress form for each piece of an outfit. I figure out the measurements needed for each item and construct a muslin of that garment to make sure it meets my design criteria and that the piece is as historically correct as I can make it. The muslin 'pattern pieces' are then used to cut out the fashion fabric which is then sewn as needed.
All pieces of an Elizabethan outfit are designed, fitted and sewn individually by me. Everything from the chemise, farthingale (hoop skirt), underskirt (over slip), forepart (the triangle decorative piece you see under the split skirt), over skirt, bodice, detachable sleeves and jewellery have been created to be as close to historically correct as I can achieve with modern fabrics and notions.
My husband and I dressed for a renaissance fair. I made all the clothing on both of us - the dress is made from a wonderful dark blue and silver brocade with lovely French inspired fleur de leis motif.
Although you cannot see it the forepart is heavily beaded with fresh water pearl beads, as are the detachable sleeves that are draping down behind my arms in this photo. The bodice is beaded with large fresh water pearls around the top and bottom of the bodice as well as the shoulder straps. There are large pearls encircling the bottom of my split skirt all around the hem. You can just see them above the black velvet hem guard. I imagine this photo was taken on a 90 + degree day as my detachable sleeves are pushed off behind my arms. Note the chemise with hand done black work embroidery on the collar ruff.
My husband and I enjoying a show at a renaissance fair. Again, I designed and created all the clothing we are wearing.
I named this dress 'La Cherri' - I designed it with lots of dark creamy garnet colored velveteen and gold toned brocade. If you look closely, you can just see the lovely gold and garnet sleeves and front pieces to the bodice. The bodice was a labor of love! It is covered in hundreds of small gold metal beads and tiny garnet beads. The beads glitter in the sun beautifully.
This is the very first Elizabethan dress I ever designed and created. It is made from red velveteen; there are eight full yards of velveteen in the hand done cartridge-pleated over skirt. Although the dress is very hot to wear to a renaissance fair in August, I do as it is not every day I get to dress up and wear beautiful clothes. The forepart is made from a lovely red and silver silk brocade and it beaded on the lower hem with large fresh water pearls and red cut garnet beads. The girdle and bodice jewellery are made from pearls and red beads. Note how dusty the black velvet hem guard is; this hem guard is period correct and really does protect the expensive fabric of the main skirt. Pretty smart invention don't you think?
Thank you Martha for taking time to gather pictures and text together and share with us all here! Making the muslin overlay sounds much like our sampling process before weaving! The 1860's gown and it's changeable burgundy and black is like the iridescent effect we weavers can create by mixing the right colours, fibres and sett. I understand fully the high cost and long task in weaving your own yardage for such beautiful gowns but perhaps areas like the forepart or the bodice would be fashioned from your own woven cloth?
This embroidery shows the Scottish thistle, the English Rose and the Irish Shamrock.