A Variety of Research Articles

I read widely, and over time I amass a variety of articles relating to the history and clothing of the Low Countries. Here’s some that you may find interesting:

A biography of Mary, Duchess of Burgundy. Daughter of Charles the Bold, she ushered in the era that this blog focusses on, through shifting the focus of the culture of the Low Countries away from the French court and fashions towards the German court and fashions through her marriage to Maximilian, Holy Roman Emperor.

An article by An Moonen, a Dutch textiles historian and conservator on antique Dutch samplers (there’s also one in Dutch on antique household linens). She states that the earliest example we have of a sampler is a painting by Joos van Cleve in the 1520s (may need to keep an eye out for it). The earliest extant sampler is Friesian from 1572 (held in a private collection). The oldest dated sampler in a Museum is a whitework sampler from 1623 (held in the Open-Air Museum in Arnhem). She found that many of the recognisable region motifs still seen today came from pattern books printed in the early part of the 16th century, a useful piece of information when deciphering designs on clothing

Other interesting information from the article includes:

In 1540 the Dutch laundries requested that all linen and clothing to be washed had to be properly marked with the mark of the owner by means of initials, a number or even a date. Sometimes important items like sheets, pillowcases and shirts, of families of standing, had further decorations around the initials.

Also, on the subject of women’s domestic skills (not sure how relevant this is to the 1500s, but it seems intuitively related):

This linen, for trousseau and interior, was made by girls and women themselves at home or done by professional seamstresses. The possibility to be able to make the trousseau, was in the first instance learned and practised on a sampler, which was the first piece of work of a girl aged between 7 and 14 years.

When the child had finished the sampler, and at the same time had developed good skills in sewing and knitting, she would start on a darning sampler. By then she would have been in her teens. Technically a darning sampler is very difficult to make.

One had to have understanding of interweaving techniques to be able to make the plain weave, and several variations on twill weave. Satin darning hardly occurs in darning samplers.

The ability to sew and repair was then thought to be absolutely necessary for the development of a woman and for becoming a good housewife and mother.

Finally she has a page with links to textile museums around the world with, of course, a great list of Dutch textile museums.

Last, but certainly not least, a list of all of John Munro’s academic articles on the economic history of the Low Countries’ textile industries. This includes freely available articles on the shift from red to black as the colour of urban patriciate clothing in Flanders, articles on shifts in luxury woolen textiles consumption specifically Worsteds and Broadcloths, an article on Spanish Merino wool and its effect on the Flemish Nouvelle Draperies, and an article on the changing nature of textile manufacturing and towns in the Low Countries and England.

Sadly John passed away on 23rd December. That long list of articles above is a testament to the amazing and pioneering research he did in this space.

A week of mending (HSF14 #1)

The Historical Sew Fortnightly’s first challenge was a very gentle ease into the year: Mend and Make Do. I chose to mend, as there are always things to mend, and it gives me a headstart on my Festival preparation.

My initial plan was to mend the following items over my 2.5 week break from work:

  1. Add ties to my black partlet that goes with my brocaded transition gown and my 1480-90s green kirtle, to stop it gapping and riding up under kirtles (seen best in this image of my brocaded transition gown)
  2. Fix G’s waffenrock closures, fingerloop braid a tie with aglets on the end, and re-hem the sleeves in a thread that matches the garment
  3. Take the ruffle off my green kirtle, add in WAY more fabric, hem and re-attach
  4. Lengthen my chemise sleeves
  5. Take the sleeves off my 1490s mustard gown, re-cut the sleeve head as it’s too large and re-sew in
  6. Add buttons to the fly on G’s Venetians that I built last year and finish internal lining seams

Then I got sick. So sick that I spent a week glancing at the partlet, which just needed ties sewn into the edge, willing myself to pick it up and sew and I just… couldn’t. I knew I was on the mend when I happily picked it up and got it finished in 2 hours, then moved straight onto item 2.

Item 1: a partlet with ties added to hopefully reduce its desire to ride up when worn under a dress.  If this doesn't work I'm switching to hooks and eyes.

Item 1: a partlet with ties added to hopefully reduce its desire to ride up when worn under a dress. If this doesn’t work I’m switching to hooks and eyes.

A mended waffenrock. New eyelets made in the closure so it can be adjusted, new points braided with aglets.

A mended waffenrock. New eyelets made in the closure so it can be adjusted, new points braided with aglets.

So items 1 and 2 are done. I’m halfway through item 3, which needs to be done for an event on 2 February. Items 4 & 6 I will do before Festival in April, and item 5 can wait till later in the year as it’s not urgent.

Item 3 in its current state. 5m of hem done, 1.5m to go, and then needs to be gathered and re-attached to the skirt.

Item 3 in its current state. 5m of hem done, 1.5m to go, and then needs to be gathered and re-attached to the skirt.

The challenge information

The Challenge: #1 Mend and Make Do

Fabric: linen ‘cabbage’ from the original dress to increase the size of the ruffle. I added in 5 widths of fabric to the original 2.5 lengths. This will be a full ruffle with tiny pleats as per the pictures.

Pattern: N/A

Year: 1490 & early 1500s

Notions: Cotton tape and cotton bias binding, crochet thread for the tie, and four metal aglets (our first attempt was too large for the holes I made)

How historically accurate is it? Overall 7/10. The shapes are right, and the seams are hand finished, but major seams are done with machine, and some closures on the waffenrock are blatantly modern (press studs! shock, horror!)

Hours to complete: 3 hours for items 1 and 2. Item 3 has already taken my more than 4 hours, with another 3ish hours to go I think

First worn: Not yet. Next event is 2 February so both items will likely get an outing there.

Total cost: mostly stash/items I had around the house. I needed to buy in more bias binding at $3.80AUD each = $7.20AUD. Aglets were 20c each, cabbage was probably a metre’s worth and I think I bought it for $14/metre, and I bought a kilometre of cotton tape last year, so that tape cost is negligible.

$22.00 in total.

Joining the Historical Sew Fortnightly in 2014

Last year Leimomi Oakes, aka The Dreamstress, created the Historical Sew Fortnightly (HSF). I thought about joining in last year, but being honest with myself (following some frank discussion with a costuming mentor) I decided I had other priorities. This year I’m in – for most of the challenges.

Leimomi posted all the challenges for the year yesterday, which really, really helps with planning items and fitting them into events that I know are coming up this year and that I already had sewing goals for. In particular:

  • Rowany Festival, 17-22 April
  • Rowany Baronial changeover, 3 May
  • Midwinter Coronation, 5-6 July
  • Cold War, end August
  • November Crown/ Fields of Gold, November
  • Yule Feast, early December

Some rules I’m setting myself for participating the HSF.

  1. Preparing for events is more important than participating in a challenge, making them work together is excellent.
  2. Life trumps sewing
  3. If I can’t make it work for within the framework of this blog and my specific research interests then I’m not participating in that challenge.
  4. Using a challenge as impetus to make something that’s been knocking around in my head for a few years is a good thing. I’m looking at “Tops and Toes” and “The Great Outdoors” here.

With this in mind I made a template for planning the challenges, which I printed out single-sided and will blue tack to a wall at home. Feel free to use the template if it will help you too.

Looking through the challenges, and keeping in mind the rules above I immediately knocked out the following challenges either because of competing event deadlines, or rule 3: #5-Bodice (Rule 1, 1 month to Festival); #6-Fairytale (Rule 3, also Rule 1); #14-Paisley & Plaid (Rule 3); #20-Alternative Universe (Rule 3).

I have ideas drafted for challenges 1-4, 7-9 as they fit with plans I already had for my Festival kit, and plans to finish the transition gown I was making for Yule Feast last year. First challenge results will be posted later this week.

Here’s to a creative and productive year!

Collection of extant material culture items

When researching what people wore in different times and places there are three sorts of evidence we can look at, textual descriptions, artistic representations and actual items that survive from the period of interest. The Museum Boijmans van Beuningen has made photos of a number of extant items available on its website.

Here, for your researching pleasure, are the items relevant to the period that this blog covers:

I also went through all of their images for this period, now posted to my pinterest boards.

I’ve been sick, so you get updated Pinterest boards

This year for Christmas I got some lovely things and one not so lovely thing – a week long flu virus. So instead of the 2.5 weeks of holiday I thought I had with some of that devoted to sewing projects, I ended up with a week less of it.

At least I could surf image databases while laid up on the couch, and pin them to my Pinterest boards. The Clothing of the Low Countries board now has a variety of images from the Museum Boijmans van Beuningan.

This also let me look at a variety of images in one hit and draw some conclusions, even in my foggy-brained state:

  1. Clothing of France and the Low Countries are very similar until about 1480 when they start to diverge, with the Low Countries attire becoming that interesting hybrid of French and German fashion, possibly as a result of Mary of Burgundy marrying Maximilian.
  2. Women’s stockings are predominantly black, not white.
  3. Pointed toe black ankle boots are relatively common for this period.

I’ve also created separate themed boards from some projects I’m working on in the next few months: