Saturday, 29 December 2012

Polo shirt adaptions

While avoiding work one afternoon, I stumbled upon a tutorial on how to make polo shirts more interesting. It was linked from Threadbanger, one of my many crafting-procrastination sites. It's by 'Mark your Mark' and you can find it here. I decided to give it a try, because I like the way my boy looks in a polo shirt and the Australian sun has bleached his only one to an unflattering grey colour. So after visiting my sister for her birthday, I popped into Kmart and made a few over my christmas break. (I have yet to find a place selling poloshirts for girls, without pockets, at decent prices - as soon as I do I'll make a heap for myself too. If I retain my enthusiasm, I might even make over a couple of business shirts).

They are rather easy to do, and I have plenty of fabric scraps that are suitable for this project. Though, I'll admit, I used this as an experience to rifle through Spotlights quilting section and bought some more fabric. I ended up making three for the boy. The first, a pirate placket and pirate pocket one unfortunatly was a little tight, Kmart's fault not mine. The second was a pirate placket and an applique skull and cross bones. The third was this:

A cute monster design, from which I made a pocket and placket (I love the way the monster on the placket peeks out at you). The pocket is a little too far to the left as I didn't get him to try it on while making it 'cause I made them for Christmas. The rest since then have been perfect. By rest, I mean I got a little carried away with the fabric stash and made a bunch of them. I have now opened an Etsy shop to divest myself of finished projects such as these. I'll be uploading random items that I've crafted and have no use for over the coming weeks. The hard part is taking good photos of the items and writing a description that isn't simply "It's done and I need the space, please buy it".

Saturday, 22 December 2012

UFO - Embroidered rainbow cushion

So this UFO has been around for about 9 years, I think I started working on it when I was living in Briarwood. This started as a practice piece so I could try some different embroidery styles before working on a quilt project in the planning. I browsed a number of embroidery dictionaries and attempted some of the stitches that I liked the look of. The embroidery has been complete for years, the two things holding up this project were the zip, and a cushion insert. I've never been very good at zips and it's only in the last few years that I've had a zipper foot for my machine. So this cushion has been buried in one of my unfinished project boxes for quite some time. I unburied it during the giant fabric sort of 2012 and have FINALLY finished it. The UFO originally had a border of calico with coloured corners but didn't fit the insert I bought from Spotlight so I unpicked it. The back is plain calico. I stumbled upon a zip tutorial via Pinterest which inspired me to finally finish this one...

Weave Stitch otherwise known as Queen Anne Stitch. Sewn on an angle to make following the curves easier. Each block is counter changed (i.e red with blue or green).

The finished cushion - yay!

addendum: I probably won't make another embroidery cushion. This one leaves the oddest imprints in my face when I sleep on it.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Kumihimo - a start

Last month I attended the Melbourne Bead show. I'm not really a fan of bead crafts, partly because I find it far to fiddley, and partly due to some of the hideous beaded 'fashion' items I've encountered over the years. Mostly I went to spend far too much money on seed pearls. I succeeded!

On my way out, I spotted a beautiful seed pearl necklace. It really caught my imagination as I suspect it was suposed to. Rather than buy it, I thought that I could just learn how to do it myself.

It looked something like this - simple yet lovely.

So, I went to the only store selling kumahimo kits and failed to buy the last one... yep, that's right. I stopped to browse some art glass beads on the way and when I arrived, someone had just bought the last one! -mutter-. So I ordered one and it arrived in the post a couple of weeks ago.  My kumahimo projects to date:

Created with 4 lengths of blue (3x strand cotton) and 4 lengths of red (3x strand cotton) embroidery thread. I bound off the ends in a loop with excess blue thread and attached both sides to a post. The blue beads dangle from a loop, thus the pendant is interchangeable. I suspect a single strand of a stronger cotton thread would work better (available in the wool section at Spotlight).

I may post instructions on how to do this simple twist pattern at a later point. I've been finding kumihimo is quite relaxing for watching the tv with and it's rather nice seeing the cord emerge as you twist.

Monday, 17 December 2012

UFO - Blackwork collar and cuffs

Finally finished this UFO.

I started working on this project when Edmund was king of Lochac, about 2 and a bit years ago. I do not have a late period persona, nor am I particularly skilled at making garb. I am however, really really good at starting projects that are either very time consuming OR beyond my skill level. Luckily, this was one of the former. While he was King, Edmund wore a beautiful white linen shirt which had some lovely blackwork cuffs. I suspect they were embroidered by Brooke (Ginger Mischief) as there was a small fox embroidered on the back of the neck. I liked it so much I thought I'd give it a try myself.

I hadn't really done blackwork before and I only dabble in embroidery so like most of my projects I jumped in without really researching all that much. I found a pattern chart online which had interlaced flur-de-lis which 'grew' from the top and the bottom of the fabric. I didn't really like it all that much and my embroidery tape wasn't thick enough to accommodate that pattern. So I got rid of the top line and inserted a rose pattern that I made up on the spot. I figured such a simple design wouldn't take me that long and I'd move onto something more complicated.


Two and a bit years later with intermittent sewing, I have FINALLY finished a full collar length with matching cuffs. I don't know what I'll use it for but I'm quite happy with the outcome. Though I sewed this using a small embroidery hoop I wasn't particularly good at keeping the tension right and the tape tended to bunch at times. My thread knots got tighter and smaller as I got less paranoid about the durability of the embroidery. You can see one of my early knots in the image below. The top strip is the good side up, the bottom strip is wrong side up.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

V&A's Indian Court Painting

 An Introduction to Indian Court Painting by Andrew Topsfield.
ISBN: 0112903835

This book provides a good introduction into Indian Court painting, mostly during the Mughul period. With 28 colour images, the book covers the evolution of iconogrphy and techniques. The author provides a good explanation of the social and cultural pressures resulting in the changes in the painters art form, such as the influence of various Muslim rulers and the introduction of Western styles. The images pictured in this book range from the 15th century to the 18th. Due to humidity and other destructive forces, very few painted works are available prior to the 17th century. The author does a good job at capturing the compelling nature of these miniatures. The book is divided into sections, the mughul school, painting in the Deccan and Rajput painting in Rajasthan to name a few. Each section contains some good background information on the region and major political influences on the art world. The author also provides a good list of further reading on this subject. All in all, a good starting point for someone viewing a Mughul painting exhibition or starting their research in this area.

From an SCA perspective, many of the images contained in this book are post 1660. The handful of images that are available are full of intricate detail. It is just unfortunately that this book is B4 size so many of the images are too small to see the full detail properly. Andrew has selected some wonderful representations from the V&A catelogue and displays his expertise with a well written background on the socio-political impacts on the art form. He provides a good basis for additional research and assists the reader by providing a solid "further reading" section.


My favorite image from this book. pg 10. The chaste monk avoids the lures of women. From the manuscript of the Uttaradhyayana Sutra, Cambay, Gujarat. c. 1450. I love the colour and detail of the womens outfits as well as the sense of movement and grace the artist has managed to give them.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A variety of fabrics from South Indian Paintings.

A small sample of the fabrics shown in South Indian Paintings by C Sivaramamurti.

7thc devi, The Pallava Kingdom (7th-9th c),  Panamalai. South Indian Paintings pg 48. The goddess Parvati watching the dance of her lord.I love the beautifully decorated umbrella depicted here. Even though much of the painting has gone, the detail of the fabric on her bent left leg shows a block print or embroidery of flowers.

Painted on palm leaf manuscripts, these images are paintings of the Hoysala (rulers, group period?). 12th century CE. The top leaf clearly shows to attendants wearing choli tops and different coloured lower garments (skirts / sari?). The bottom leaf shows the attendants dancing with the scarves or such from their belts. They both have a circular golden crown? at the back of the head and appear to be carrying flails/fans?

Another manuscript painting of the Hoysala, 12th Century. The top leaf shows two attendants draped in striped fabric saris while the bottom leaf shows imagry VERY similar to the previous image.

 Arjuna's archery contest. A Hoysala (12th Century) sculpture from Belur. The contestant wears a decorative belt with fabric elements very similar to the previous image.

Page 81, Figure 55. Vidyaranya's procession. From the Vijayanagara (14th - 17th century), a dominant power in the south. Painting is from the 15th century. Men appear to be wearing light coloured, mid calf trousers and feature decorative fabrics with stripes, and diamond patterns. Insufficient detail is available on the female in the pannier though I rather like the tassels and construction of her conveyance.

Page 82, Same mural as the above image painted on teh ceiling of Cirupaksha Temple, Vijayanagara, 15th C in Hampi. This is another image of Arjuna's archery contest. The image of interest is the woman on the right who appears to have a very detailed trim on her sari which is also flopped over a belt around her miiddle. It may cross her chest under her many gold necklace, it is hard to tell. The pallu also has intricate golden embroidery.

Monday, 10 December 2012

First Wife of Malkos Raga 1575 - 1600

First Wife of Malkos Raga, Folio from a Ragamala 1575 - 1600. Maharashtra Ahmadnagar Gauri Ragini, I found a nice high definition version of this on the LACMA collections website. 

The central figure (wife?) wears a golden / orange sari with zari hash embroidery and a maroon choli. Her pallu (decorated end of the sari) is decorated in gold and blue stripes and waves. The sari itself appears to be transluscent. Her golden skirt is decorated with red stripes, checks and swirl patterns.

The attendant to the left wears a golden sari with yellow and maroon stripes and bright dots (sequins or pearls maybe?) and a bright blue choli with gold crosses. Her pallu is decorated in bands of orange and blue with gold and silver stripes or hashmarks. A band of white is also visible with a red flower pattern embroidered upon it.. Her skirt matches the colour bands of the pallu but has simpler decoration, mainly stripes and checks.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

South Indian Paintings - a review

South Indian Paintings by C. Sivaramamurti. ISBN: 8123000529

South Indian Paintings is written by Calambur Sivaramamurti who has authored many books featuring artworks of the Indian subcontinent. This book, first printed in 1968, is an excellent product for its era. It contains many full colour images of a variety of paintings as well as black and white line drawings of the authors interpretation of damaged works. The authors starts with an In depth view of painting in India, the use of colour and the process of painting itself. He then presents the works of art, sorted by culture and time making direct comparisons of different locations where relevant. He starts with Vakataka (4th-6th century CE)  to the Mahratta (19th century). He wraps up with a list, and description, of the schools of Indian painting and their styles. As this book was printed in 1968, it lacks computer enhanced imagery however Sivaramamurti’s descriptions of the artworks and the themes within them make up for the lack of detail in earlier works. I only wish that books by Sivaramamurti were more easily available.

From an SCA perspective this book has some lovely reference images. The author provides a nice cultural background and explains the theme of each image presented which is highly useful. Though some of the images can be found on the internet they usually lack background information which Sivaramamurti provides in spades.

From a personal perspective, I was disheartened to find that there is only one image, 1/3rd of a page for Kakatiya (11th - 13th century), which is the area and time I'm currently interested in. The author does however mention the inaccessibility of the Tripueantakam temple, I'm hoping this has been rectified in the last 50 years since print.


The back cover of South Indian Paintings. A quick search turned up no reference to this image however the sari's worn by the women have a very pleasing selection of decorations, from geometrical to floral.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


I went to the Melbourne Bead Show a couple of weekends ago and spent far too much on garnet beads and pearls. Once I got home with my new treasurers I was inspired to make myself some new necklaces. I really wanted to string some pearls to go with my Cranach choker but I found I didn't quite have enough of the right size to make a string as long as I wanted. So I compromised and made some necklaces I'm quite happy with.

I had already strung a garnet and pearl necklace, and a sodalite and pearl necklace a couple of years ago (two on left). I quite liked these because I used small pearl spacers between the garnets and sodalite. I made these before I knew that knotting the string between the pearls stopped them rubbing together and breaking. Since I was out of pearl spacers I decided to make some similar necklaces I could wear as bracelets if I wanted. I used a three garnets, one pearl pattern and tied the string between each stone. I also used a goldish magnetic clasp that I had lying around. This turned out to be a mistake as I now cannot wear any other metallic necklace or earrings with this, as the clasp tries to attach to everything!

The new necklace (front) and the old necklace (back)

Next up was the sodalite necklace. I've used the last of my sodalite stock making a silver hairclip (it jingles nicely) so I substituted what I think might be apatite. The blue is slightly darker but still looks nice. As I didn't have much apatite, I went with three pearls and one apatite bead pattern. I re-used an old cylinder screw clasp as I didn't want to have another necklace that wants to bond to everything!

The new necklace (front) and old necklace (back)

I also have a small stockpile of stone beads that I bought online on a whim many years ago. I got some (probably man-made) chrysocolla type beads from a craft shop last time I visited America and I thought they'd be perfect for a leaf shaped (agate?) pendant bead. I'm really happy with how this one turned out. I can't stop stroking the agate when I wear it as the finish is so very smooth.

Chrysocolla, pearl and agate necklace.

The final necklace I made was actually inspired by a medieval portrait of a Woman by Lorenzo Costa (1460-1535). The original necklace appears to be made of pearls (or tapered gold cylinders) and onyx (or silver beads). It joins just before her neckline and splits off into two sections. This could end as a beaded tassel but I prefer to interpret it as a loop. Mostly because that makes stringing my beads MUCH easier.

Detail of a Portrait of a Woman by Lorenzo Costa.

My necklace is made of onyx and light pink pearls. It has two central focal beads, both onyx, and a simple hook and loop goldish clasp. Though I'm pleased with how this turned out, the lower focal bead is a little too large and it's weight pulls the loop into more of an oval than the circle I wanted. The angles suite the portrait though.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Samplers from V&A - a review

Samplers from Victoria and Albert Museum
Clare Browne and Jennifer Wearden
ISBN 10: 1851772901

This is a beautifully presented book showcases embroidery samplers listed chronologically from the 14th century to the 19th century. It contains 112 coloured images of embroidery and lacework from a variety of cultures (from English to Moroccan). A number of inserts showing additional details are included. The predominant stitches in each piece is listed in the index as is the museum accession number so interested parties can check the V&A website for additional images. In many cases, the images in this book are clearer than those available on the website. The authors introduction includes a brief but concise history of sampler work, highlighting some of the more interesting pieces in this collection. The back of this book includes a stitches and techniques section which examines all of the different techniques utilised in the samplers. The glossery also has some great black and white images showing how each stitch can be achieved. This book is a great inspiration and anyone interested in creating their own decorative embroidery work should purchase it. Only 45% relevant as SCA documentation.


Plate 3:. Linen embroidered with silk (like most of the samplers in this book). English, 1598.

From the V&A website regarding this example (information not available in the book):

This is the earliest dated British sampler to have survived, and its inscription commemorates the birth of a child, Alice Lee, two years earlier. Its maker, Jane Bostocke, who is known to have been a cousin of Alice's and was buried in the village where she lived, may have lived in the Lee family household. The motifs at the top of the sampler relate to their family crests. The sampler is from a period of transition in the practical use of such items - between the 16th century and earlier, when they served as a reference piece for a more or less experienced embroiderer, and what gradually became their nature in the 17th century: a method of measuring and recording the maker's skill.

The embroidery is worked in cross stitch and back stitch but there are examples of work in more complicated stitches showing that the back stitch was intended to be a grounding for further elaboration. Other stitches include satin, chain, ladder, buttonhole and detached buttonhole filling, couching in patterns, coral, speckling, two-side Italian cross, bullion and French knots and beadwork.

Sari I - complete

The weather was beautiful this weekend so I finally got a chance to wear my completed red stripe silk sari set to Stormhold's Monthly Bash. The sari fabric is 100% silk I bought from Spotlight for $10 (yay!) a number of years ago. It doesn't drape as nicely as I'd like but it's wonderfully light and simple.
It took me a while to get around to finishing of the edges of the sari and making a choli top to go with it. I completed the top last year... unfortunately, I've put on weight so I couldn't wear it this weekend. (I'm also not very good at shaped, supportive garmets yet) Instead, I whipped out one of my backup tops, a not-quite medieval, not-quite velvet (stretch) number in turquoise.
Accessories (very important): 20 gold plated bangles (from Dandenong), be-gemmed (imitation) necklace, earring and mangtikka set (from Footscray), and carnation headband. I unfortunately broke one of the earrings while taking it off, on the upside, I now have extra dangles to make more tikka's from.

I'm really happy with how the headband turned out. When I wear a plait, I frequently re-do it two or three times a day as I hate the whispy bits that eventually work their way free. After my flowered headband post I started working on a set of artificial flowers for my hair. This one was made from fake carnations (with the green sepal removed). I wrapped the headband in a cream ribbon and then hotglued the carnations on. I left lengths of ribbon dangling from the ends of the headband and tied additional carnations onto that. The idea was to braid the ribbon into my plait creating the 'covered in flowers' look and allowing me to avoid modern hair ties. Unfortunately it was too bulky for me wave in myself, and one of the flowers came off in the process. The headband keeps all the stray whispy bits from my face!
I might cut the ribbon off the headband and make the plait decorations an entirely separate piece. I still haven't gotten around to making a jasmine hair accessory, it's on the list though!

Things learnt: The green sepal is essential to keeping the carnation petals together. Hot glue can be used in it's place if you don't mind getting a few burns to your fingers when shaping the petals. Hot glue doesn't work for the braid bits though.

Note: Did you know there's an SCA India email list? I only found out this weekend! Excited!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

van Eyck by Till-Holger Borchert - A Review

van Eyck
Till-Holger Borcher
ISBN 10: 3822856878

Van Eyck is the painter behind the Arnolfini Portrait (1434) which depicts the wedding of a young couple in exquisite detail. His work features many portraits (my main reason for purchasing this book) and a number of religious pieces.  Though only 25 paintings can be attributed to van Eyck, this book details a chronological summary of the artists life and work. The author has also included a number of works that are termed ‘Eyckan’ which could be attributed to van Eyck. The author discusses the history of van Eyck’s style, his use of colour and light as well as his symbolism. Though my interest in this book is primarily in the pictures, the reasonably dense text provides some wonderfully supportive information. With 96 pages containing approximately 100 colour illustrations, I would heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in van Eyck’s work or history. For SCA types, the detail that van Eyck was able to paint is exquisite, the paintings make great references for jewellery and dress accessories.


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Goldhaube update

So I decided to start on the goldhaube I've been meaning to do for a while. I took a shortcut and used the semi-circle that I cut out at the early stages of my whitehaube. I have since couched on gold cord (acquired from Spotlight one Christmas). As you can see from the image below, couching perpendicular to the direction of the cord (cord on right running diagonally down to the right) resulted in a cord that sort of squiggled. After couching three cords thinking I'd improve with practice (it's my first time, see?) I changed my approach. I ended up couching along the twist of the cord. This has the benefit that it's harder to pick out my threads and the cords run straighter.

I then sewed on glass pearls to the junctions of the gold cord. It's nice to have a project where I can finally use the glass pearls I bought from Sunrise last time I was in Qld. During the pearling, I over-couched some of the more wibblie cords.

I've also stitched down the rounded edge (not shown) to cover the ends of the gold cord.

Things left to do:
~ apply some form of band decoration, either with pearls or a chain of gold circles.
~ sew down the back band over the gold cord ends
~ gather the back band, securly
~ add some loops or something to help me pin this to my hair (though, I suspect if my hair is up in two buns, I won't need to pin the haube on)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Mamluk peacocks - Embroidery chart

Mamluk embroidery, 1250 - 1517. The original was linen embroidered with blue silk in pattern darning in running stitch.

Peacock from page 41 of "Embroideries and samplers from Islamic Egypt" by Marianne Ellis. Most (?) of the items come from the Ashmolean Museum The items cataloged in this book can also be seen here.

My first ever attempt at charting a pattern. Rather than make the 'weave' square, I have elongated the x axis as the original pattern was sewn over two threads of the ground fabric and the x direction was slightly wider than the y. I'm sure this has something to do with the tension / set up of the loom but this is an area where I completely lack for knowledge.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Illumination - November intent to contest I

An attempt at illuminating our intent to enter November Crown letter. The fine black ink lines aren't strait enough and I've screwed up the shading on some of the blue items so I'm not entirely happy with it. I'll be re-doing it with a light green as well as it looks to dark, and the green doesn't match the original close enough. Apart from that, this was an enjoyable learning project for shading. I might apply some of these techniques on my next plate project. Though here the base colour is dark, and when dry, shaded with two lighter colours which won't work with glaze pigments.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Cranach neckpiece finished

(above) testing design elements, I rather liked the purple flower but it's too modern.

I've been playing with ideas for a begemmed choker a-la Cranach for a while now. I've debated making one out of femo so I can get the detail right but it'll be almost impossible to make it fit properly. I ended up using a wine-purple velvet ribbon as my backing. I then sewed brass plated accents which I've been acquiring from Spotlight for some time now. I further decorated with some pale pink pearls. The choker will eventually have a clip at the back joining the two tear drop shapes. I quite like how this has turned out even though it's not entirely like the Cranach ones.

(below) the finished choker. The gold-ish accents are flimsy enough to bend to the curve of my neck.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Cream and purple T-Tunic Finished!

The cream and purple t-tunic didn't exactly go to plan. The initial idea was to use the cream wool blankets as the main body of the t-tunic and decorate with dark purple linen and embroidery. Unfortunately as you can see in the picture below, I didn't realise there were moth holes in the wool until after I'd cut out the tunic. I have darned the holes, somewhat messily because they don't teach you this stuff in school anymore, but it's not what I'd consider a 'good' tunic. So, instead of using the dark purple linen, I used the left over purple linen from the embroidery sampler experiment. I stitched the sleeve bands on like Dash requested just so I could see how effective the stitch is. It's annoyingly painful to do (I have no patience) and I don't think it looks all that good. I might try something else on the next tunic, a dark purple and black one. In the mean time, he has a warm t-tunic to hang out in near the fire.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Paisley Roundup II

I'm still collecting ideas for my aari work. Paisley type motifs seem to be very popular even though I haven't found all that many dependable documented items. These three are a little dodgy on the dates but are still quite nice.

An old Ajrakh block-printed piece from Sindh, Pakistan in the V&A collection. I haven't been able to find it myself. I'm not sure how 'old' is old. I like the circular motif even though it's not a paisley.

(Original) From Riches to Rags: Indian Block-Printed Textiles Traded to Egypt 13th- to 17th-century Indian cotton trade textiles found in Egyptian sites. I've replicated the 'tree motif' which is quite a nice paisley too.

 (Original) From Riches to Rags: Indian Block-Printed Textiles Traded to Egypt 13th- to 17th-century Indian cotton trade textiles found in Egyptian sites. A simple teardrop paisley.