Monday, March 25, 2013

Playing with Henna....

So I have been busy in mudane life and otherwise occupied, the past several weeks... I have however have got my son's linen outer tunic washed several times and is waiting to dry to be cut out. I have learned how to turn a toe or heel when knitting socks, and I have learned how to play with Henna, and started on making a tapestry (more about that in the next post).

Playing with henna was fun! Henna has been used for centuries to dye skin and hair. The Henna I have is just the bulk herb, so I mixed my own paste, with lemon juice and water (The water should have been omitted  I had mixed it up with the hair dye recipe) to a thick yogurt consistency. After it sat for several hours to release the dye, I added a touch of tea tree, (to darken it) and table spoon of sugar (to make the paste smoother). I made a small cone out of one of the packing bags and a small straw, and used it to create some free hand designs on my hands. Above is a pic of this stage.

Henna paste -not my photo (NMP)
After about 45min I ended up flaking the henna off, I should have tried to keep it on my hand longer and try to seal it in for a darker color, but I was busy. Traditionally it would be left on all day or overnight. The henna had been a light reddish brown stain. I went to bed and woke up the next day to it being several shades darker, more of a solid brown, not quite as dark as the picture with the henna on my hand. The stain lasted about 2 weeks before being completely gone. If I would have omitted the water, let the henna mix sit longer, added a bit more tea tree, and sealed it to keep it on my hand longer, the henna would have been darker.

Before Natural blonde
I also used Henna in my hair. I made a paste with 300 grams of henna powder, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, and enough hot water to form a thick yogurt consistency and let it sit for 6 hours to release the dye. This ends up looking like a huge amount of mud to put in you hair, compared to chemical dyes, but you need enough for the thick paste to coat everything. Since I have thiner hair I was able to use less than the recommended amount, and this was just enough to evenly coat my hair.

Henna Mud in hair- NMP
Afterwards I slowly worked the paste into my
sectioned and damp hair starting at my roots. Making sure to coat every strand took almost 45 mins. I also used some chapstick around my hair line to prevent my skin and ears from dying. You should wear gloves otherwise your hands will also be red. I didn't have any gloves on hand so I had reddish hands for a few days, frequent washings will lighten it up quicker, but my finger nails are still dyed a reddish tone (5 weeks later), which is slowly growing out.  Then I wrapped my head in a plastic bag to hold in the heat for about three and a half hours. The henna smelled like spinach, with a touch of lemon, so much more pleasant than chemical dyes!

The Henna was harder to wash out than chemical dyes- it's ends up being a crusted mass of mud. It took over 45 mins in the shower to get clear water. Make sure to use a good conditioner while in the shower.

Henna after 4 days
After my hair was dry I was amazed at how soft my hair had felt. It also looked like I had coated my hair in bight shinny new copper before it has a chance to darken. In the sunlight my hair glowed! Henna darkens after a few days, especially if you do not use soap for a couple of days. Watch out because even on my second and third shower afterwards I would have red water at the start of my shower. Four days later my hair had darkened to the color on the right. I would have preferred a bit darker color, so next time I believe I will let it sit longer, plus it is my understanding that every time you dye your hair with henna it becomes darker and more natural. We'll see.
Messy Henna hair 5 weeks later

Now five almost six weeks later my hair has faded a bit, it is now a natural looking light auburn color, although it still can look like it is glowing sometimes in the bright sunlight!

This color has faded so much less than chemical color reds. Normally I dye my red hair darker than the henna did, and by the time six weeks go by the color is just a light strawberry blonde, just a touch more red than my natural color. Plus I have less split ends! So far the only downside is the fact that you can actually tell I have blonde roots....

A 14th century wedding

'Ich, take the to my weddid wyf, to haven and to holden, for fayrer, for fouler, for bettur, for wors, for richer, for porer, in seknesse and in helthe, fro, thys tyme forward, til dethe us departe, if holichurche will it orden: and therto I pliht the my treuthe'

'With this ring I the wedde, and this gold and selver i theyere, and with my bodi I the worschepe, and with all my worldy catel I the honour'

'Iche, take the to my weddid husband, to haven and to holden, for fayrer, for fouler, for better, for wors, for richer, for porer, in seknesse and in helthe, to be bondlich and buxom in bed and at burde tyl dethe us departe'

A good friend of mine is planning to have a fourteenth century wedding at the Pensic after next, so here is some research links for reference.

Great resource for info on medieval weddings

Some history about wedding dresses, but take with a grain of salt, (I have never seem an image of a cotehardie split up the middle)

Some wedding tradtions and how they orginated.

Edited to get right of strange highlighting and add artwork

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Is it period garb?? Boy's Thorbjerg pants

Item- Child's brown Thorsbjerg Pants

Materials- Fabric- one yard of 60/40 linen/rayon blend
                Thread- 100% cotton

Time to complete- 11 hours, including cutting and fitting

Cost- About $4 (linen was on sale, plus a discount coupon)

seam placement
Sewing diagram

Cutting layout
These pants were cut out of one yard of brown linen rayon blend.  It was a bit hard wrapping my brain around how to cut the fabric to get the back to wrap around like the seam placement diagram, until I found the sewing diagram above right or another one. After playing tetris on my one yard of fabric I was able to get my cutting layout. 

My waist band ended up being two pieces because of space. I only have five belt loops even though the original had six, because I felt that six was excessive for the boy. All the seams are hand sewn and flat felled or hem stitched where appropriate with 100% cotton thread. See the construction section here for details... I choose the cotton thread because it flexes and moves in a similar way to linen, so less of the garment will be cut. The downside it that the only cotton thread I had is bright white. Whenever possible I kept very little thread showing on the right side of the garment.

front inside seams
seat inside seams
This cutting pattern ended up being way too baggy in the waist and the seat, to correct this I did end up putting one box pleat on each hip. And a few small tucks at the seat and crotch gusset seams. I also lowered the waist band folding the extra underneath and stab stitching it all down, making sure to that very little of my white thread showed on the outside, which corrected most of the bagginess. I choose to keep the excess fabric so that it can be let out as the boy grows.

first fitting- too baggy
Second fitting seat
In the second and final fitting the boy can ear the pants without a belt, but are still a bit baggy in the waist, and may slip if he wasn't wearing thermals underneath. The gussets in between the crotch seem to be a bit to wide  because the seat still puckers a bit, but is 100% better than the first fitting.
Close up

Notes, Thoughts, Observations-
Since this was my first time truly working with this pattern, I had cut things too big in the waist for the boy. I used the proportions in the diagrams above using his thigh measurement as a guide. Even with the initial pining I had significantly reduced the size of the gusset and seat, and shaved and extra on the leg pieces around the waist. I think that this pattern is more suited to someone with larger hips and more of a seat than my bean pole has. 

Also make sure the linen is washed in hot water and dried in the dryer several times before sewing the garment if it is going to unlined or worn by someone sensitive to the fabrics against the skin. I had pre-washed the fabric once, but it was still somewhat stiff, which is easier to sew with, but the boy complains it is scratchy. One bonus of washing it again and again after sewing it, is that the white cotton picked up more of the dye released by the fabric, so is much less noticeable.

Things I would do differently-
Well I would have pre-washed the fabric more than once to soften the fabric. I should have cut the pattern thinner to fit the boy better, this also would have allowed me to get a waist band in one piece. I would also try and find matching linen thread if my budget allowed, along with 100% linen. I think that the next time I do a pair of pants for him I will use the Skjoldehamn pattern since it seams easier to adjust for him.

What is period about it?
The fabric has the same weight, texture and color achievable in period. The Thorsbjerg pants are actually a diamond twill wool fabric, but many resources indicated that several different weights of linen are common. It is also hand sewn using several stitches that have been found in period garments. The Thorsbjerg finds have actually been dated to before SCA period between the first and third centuries A.D. Although there has been a crotch piece (scroll a quarter of the way down) of similar construction to the Thorsbjerg pants that was dated to the 10th century. Along with several carvings and other art depicting tight fitting pants. Making it feasible for this pattern to still be used in early period. Also the color of these pants was easily achieved, oak galls being common for browns. Although linen can be notoriously hard to dye, and often fades.

What isn't period About It?
Again like most of the garb I create I am limited in my fabric choices by funds. This fabric is a linen rayon blend. Rayon is considered a poor man's silk. It is fabricated from cellulose (wood pulp), so it is technically a natural fabric in the sense that it breathes, stretches moves, and originated from nature like other natural fabrics, although it has been artificially processed to achieve this. I am not sure that linen and silk were often combined within a fabric, I am still researching that. The cotton thread would be insanely expensive for northern Europe, and probably unheard of in the early period.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Early Period European Embroidery Examples

Here are a few of the extent embroidery pieces that have inspired the simplified embroidery design for the boy's tunic that I will soon be making.

Llagorse Textile 890's

The Clare Chausuble- English Embroided 1270's-1290's

Buckskin fragment 1200's

Maaseik embroidieries 9th-10th century Anglo Saxon

 Cuff and sketch from Queen Arnegunde 6th century Fankish Queen died in 570 buried St Denis near Paris

Cope English 1315-1335

Unknown coptic 7th to 12 century

Mammen Denmark  find

Egale Dalmica Austra 1330

Osbreg embroidery fragment

Detail from the 'Genesis' hanging. Calatunya, 11th Century
'Genesis' hanging. Details Calatunya, 11th Century

German or English 1200


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Poulaines research


Poulaines, 15th century France (probably), MFA Boston
Now Boston surprises me with even older shoes that still have velvet on them!

We can’t remember if we’ve already reblogged these, but they’re worth a look. Thicker soles on the heels? That’s new.

I sort of like this found pair- it has a slight heel to it and velvet uppers. Poulaines would help walking in long skirts, they have been on my list of things to eventually get/make for a long time...

Just some links for making Poulaines, mostly how to articale and what others have done. - Making of turn shoe poulaines - Poor mans poulaines- great way to generate a custom pattern

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Making soap

So what do I do on a day where the husband says "NO MORE SEWING!!!"
I make soap.

Soap making is something that was very medieval. Soap is simple- it made from mixing lye and fat. 

Simple soap used animal fats mixed with wood ashes, this soap was usually a grayish color, and very harsh. this soap would be used by peasants or for laundry. Traditionally lye for bathing soap was obtained from filtering water through ashes. The resulting water could be then concentrated by boiling it down. This could be very dangerous. Then olive oil was mixed with the lye water to create castile soap. Herbs and scents could then be added to this soap. Castile soap was generally made by guilds and was considered a luxury item, so was heavily taxed, that usually only the rich could afford. 

Some History links about soap-

So here is how I made soap. I have made soap several times before being involved in the SCA, due to my SLS allergies, and still do so about once a year, so this is not a new process for me. I am not exactly sure if medieval soap would be made the same way or not, I need to do more research, But I do know that medieval lye did not come in nice neat 16 oz crystals that I will be working with. This website is an excellent starting place if you choose to make your own soap.

So here is a pic of some of my ingredients. I used olive oil (plain-not virgin or extra virgin), Coconut oil,  rendered deer tallow (not in the picture) and some small amounts of coco butter and shea butter.  The coconut, and the coco/shea butters would probably not have been commonly used in period. I have used them to improve lather, moisturize, and to make sure the soap doesn't melt so quickly in the shower. They also quicken the time spent stirring.

 I measured the weight of all my oils individuality, then inputted the information into a lye calculator to determine how much lye, water and oils I need. Since my lye had become one big chunk from the moisture in the air, I had to add some canola oil to use the whole pound of lye. A very general estimate is for every 2 lbs (32 oz) of fats- 4oz of lye crystals and 8 to 12 oz of water are needed. I had a large batch, 120 oz of oil, a 16 oz container of lye and about 35 oz of water. This makes sure there is about 5% extra oils to make sure the soap is not harsh. This is called super fating  I wouldn't go over 10% super fat otherwise soap be soft, will melt easily and may go rancid. A lye calculator would probably not have been used in period, but I am sure that there were general rules of thumb that were followed.

So after I have all my ingredients weighed out, I put my fats and oils into a stainless steel pot and turn the heat on med/low to melt the tallow and warm them. Make sure this is big enough to eventually hold the lye and water. DO NOT use aluminum anything, the soap making process will corrode and pit the aluminum, while turning the soap grey.

While the oils are warming up add the lye to the cold water. Gently stir until crystals are dissolved. 

Caution- Make sure you are not using aluminum or plastic! Use gloves and eye protection. Lye is very caustic and will cause burns. It also becomes very hot very quickly so start with cold water, and it will melt some types of plastic. Make sure you are always pouring the lye into the water, otherwise you can get explosive reactions. If you do get lye on you rinse with cold water, hot water will cause pores to open and create worse burns. 

Also it is recommended that any utensils used for soaping not be used for food. Although in all fairness I do not. In fact my soaping supplies stay the cleanest in the house. Although I would not recommend this if using wooden utensils.

When the oils are melted and the lye dissolved let them both cool. The lye should be about 90 degrees and the fats slightly warmer at 100 to 120 degrees. I usually test this by touching the outside of the container- the fat should be hot but not burning to the touch and the lye just slightly cooler. 

Then slowly pour the lye mixture into the oils/fats. Lightly mix. The oils should go from a clear golden color to an opaque cashew color. (you should still have gloves on at this point)

Then you stir, and stir and stir some more. How long you stir depends on which fats and oils are used. Animal fats general set up much quicker, where as pure olive oil may have to be stirred for days by hand. I had stirred this batch for about 30 mins by hand before resorting to my immersion mixer.

As you stir you should notice the soap getting slightly thicker and lighter in color. 

After about 10 Minutes with the hand mixer my soap reached the trace stage. Trace is just like what it sounds like lifting up your soon leaves a slight raised trace on the surface. The whole mixture is almost white and resembles freshly mixed instant pudding. Stop Stirring. NOW.

Another picture without the flash where you can see the trace better. This is the point where you can add scent oils, colored waxes or herbs to the mixture. (melted crayon pieces are cheap and easy colorants if you have children) Be cautioned that sometimes these items make the soap set up much quicker. Then pour into molds. The molds should be food grade if clear plastic. I have used cardboard  and wood lined with wax paper. Oiled pvc tubes have been used by others for round soaps. At this point in time it is safe to touch the raw soap with your hands, although it is still harsh.

I used a empty cereal box for a large amount of unscented soap, and two smaller molds for scented soap to which I added some vitamin E for my itchy skin. I also used a bit of green food coloring (which the lye discolored into a earthy red/ dusky pink) to help tell apart the scents later. I had waited too long to get my soap into the molds, (or over stirred it) so I ended up spooning it into the molds, so my soap will not be quite as smooth and may have a few air bubbles. 

After pouring into the mold you may cover it with a towel for 24 hours, although I generally don't. During this time the soap may put off a lot of heat (just warm to the touch not hot) as it sets up. 

After a day or two the soap should be able to be unmolded and cut into bars. The surface may look somewhat chalky. Make sure it is solid all the through or hasn't separated. If it has separated, it can be remelted (slow heat with some more water) remixed, and set out to cure again. Batched soap can almost always be salvaged, although remelted soap has a slightly different texture. Using an immersion blender helps to prevent separation. 

After cut into bars the soap should be stacked in a way air can circulate around them and stored in a cool dry place for at least 4 weeks. The longer the soap cures the less harsh it will be.  Be forewarned that soaps with lots of excess fats/oil can and will go rancid, if in a warm place, they also will melt. A very unpleasant mess.

Some finished soaps from a couple of years ago. I estimate that this batch of soap cost me about $35, (mostly because the olive oil was on sale and the tallow free) and will yield about 40 four oz bars. On average it costs me about $1.25 per 4oz bar of soap, more if I use organic ingredients. 

I often will shread a bar up to make laundry soap. ( One quick note about the laundy soap recipe- Using distilled water with the laundry soap make it gel up very nicely, some hard waters will not gel otherwise)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Is It period Garb??- Child's striped pants

Item- Child's striped pants                                                 Materials- fabric- 100% cotton left over from husband pants. Thread- el cheapo poly cotton blend on a huge spool. Draw string- velvet ribbon from great grandma's ribbon stash.                                             Time to complete- About 6 hours                                                                             Cost-  Maybe 5 cents for thread 

These pants are simply constructed. It was created from left over cotton from another project. The fabric was already cut into 4 large tapered triangles. I cut the points off of the bottoms, and near the top. The bottoms were cut just to be a couple inches larger than the boy's ankle, which gave just enough height to reach his waist. The extras that were cut off were used as crotch gussets. 

The whole garment was then hand sewn using the same techniques as in the green tunic. I had a black velvet ribbon hemmed inside the waistband to act as a drawstring.

The white diagram at the right shows the general layout of the seams. Because this ended up being very very baggy in the waist I put in four large box pleats, (the red and orange lines in the diagram) before I hemmed the waistband. These pleats made it so there was less bulk at the front when the child tightened the drawstring, but still allows for maximum movement. Plus it was a time saver to redoing all the finished seams in the crotch and sides. 

Notes, Thoughts and Observations- 
Important- when hand sewing make sure you baste your garment together and try it on before you finish all the seams... Because you will not want to rip out finished seams that took you almost two hours to complete....

Things I would do differently-
I would make the legs straiter and a bit longer if I would have had the fabric to do so. This would have made the waist a bit smaller and the ankles a bit bigger. As is the way it was cut I would have only needed a small diamond gusset at the crotch for my bean pole child. Because of the room at the ankles and where the waist sits there is not a whole lot of upwards growth space. As is I will be adding a couple of inches to the ankles, because after watching my son run around in them for the last hour, I have realized that they show plenty of skin if he sits or brings his knees up, even though they are perfect when standing. Most of these things are due to fabric limitations.

One major thing I should have done was to baste the garment together and had the child try it on before finishing the seams. I would have been able to remove bulk from the waist that way. I should have undone my seams, removed the extra fabric, and refinished them instead of putting in the pleats. But I could not bring myself to redo that much work for a child's pants.

What Is period about it?
Well the hand sewing techniques are period, there was known to be yellow dye in viking times. There have been found pants with more than one color, so it is not to unfeasible to have narrow stripes. The fit may be a bit to baggy for viking pants, but I would expect to see a child's garment with some space for growth in period. Although there is evidence for strait legged pants- Damendorf trousers, Skjoldehamn trousers,

What isn't Period about it? 

The fabric is cotton, which is again is rare if not non exsistant in Viking Europe, wool linen and silk were all found. The crotch gusset is much simpler than than many extent trousers. Also black was very hard to achieve, so black stripes may not be feasible, although a very dark blue/black could have been achieved.

But all in all not a bad pair of light weight pants for playing at summer camping events, and considering the price I am not complaining. The out fit is semi-plausible  The child is happy and he won't go naked at events.