Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Laurel Cloak - Embroidery

I hadn't really done any embroidery since I was a kid. As an elementary and middle-schooler, I had done a fair amount of cross-stitch and other embroidery, but somehow, even though it would be ideal as a decorative element for my Tudor and Elizabethan garb, I hadn't done any. So, it was time to jump back in to embroidery. I was quite interested in looking into the appropriate stitches for the period, etc, and figured that by the time I was done with this project, I'd either never want to pick up an embroidery needle again, or I'd want to jump into a new embroidery project soon! (spoiler alert - it ended up being the latter... I'm already think about an embroidered book cover and maybe a pouch).

The decoration on the main inspiration cloak is primarily couched cord.

Another cloak that Janet Arnold evaluated also incorporates satin applique with couched cord over the edges.

 But certainly, any of the basic embroidery stitches (running, stem, split, chain, etc) as well as other quite decorative stitches would have been appropriate. So I tested out a few of them to remember how they worked.

I also ordered a number of different embroidery threads from various suppliers to decide what colors and styles I liked. I found that I liked an embroidery thread called Trebizond for my couched thread, and Soie d'Alger for my split stitch down the center of each leaf. Once I did a calculation of how much I was going to need, I went to order the large quantities. Turns out - shops that carry embroidery thread don't keep a dozen of any one thing. Yikes! They could order large quantities, but it'd take about 3 weeks to arrive. I didn't have 3 weeks to wait before getting started. Luckily, there were several different suppliers online, each of whom had a couple of spools. I think that I bought up all the Trebizond out there in the color I needed!

I ended up deciding that I liked couched cord for my long edges of the embroidered sections, split stitch for the center of each leaf, stem stitch as the central stems, and applique with couched cord for the leaves. There were a LOT of leaves to cut and edge with beeswax to minimize fraying.

With the thread in hand, the leaves cut and edged in beeswax, and the cloak prepared - it was time to start embroidering. I completed the collar first, then moved onto the cloak. For each piece, I did some layouts first to decide the spacing and placement of the leaves.

The lining had to be trimmed and adjusted so that it allows the cloak to hang nicely without bunching or wrinkling.

Once the lining was sewing in, it was time for the laces. I used a fingerloop braiding technique for an eight-loop spiral braid. Cutting a full spool of embroidery thread into eight pieces gave me loops the correct size to end up with about a 20" lace.


Attaching the ties to the front of the cloak was the final step. Here are some photos of the completed cloak on my dress dummy and as worn by Ercc after the ceremony. I'm am thrilled with how it came out! It is so satisfying when you complete a project and it comes out exactly as you pictured it in your head!



And, in case anyone is interested in how long a project like this takes, I logged my hours.

Task Hours
Research 10
Testing patterns in miniature 4
Drafting full-size pattern 1
Cutting fabric 1
Test embroidery 1
Embroidery/applique/lining of collar 12
Cutting leaves 10
Beeswax edging of leaves 5
Long edge/center embroidery of cloak 35
Applying leaves with center embroidery 16
Couching leaves 35
Applying lining to cloak 8
Making/attaching ties and tassels 2
Total  140

Monday, November 23, 2015

Laurel Cloak - Construction

I actually wanted to blog this project as I went along, but the recipient didn't want to know the details about it until it was presented. So, now that it's been given to Ercc Glaison during his elevation to the Order of the Laurel, I'll give a synopsis here. I've already written up my documentation for it for next spring's A&S faire, and you can find that on my website.

So, pretty much as soon as Ercc was put on vigil for the Laurel, he asked me to both speak at his elevation as the populace speaker and to make his Laurel cloak. For the cloak, he wanted it to be late Elizabethan (to coordinate with the 1600-ish outfit that he was sewing for the elevation). He also didn't want it to be the style that many use - with a single large decorative item in the center of the cloak. I immediately knew exactly what the cloak had to look like. Basically, this:

This particular cloak is pieced in a way that is very efficient in fabric usage. You can see from the top view, when it is laid out, that the center section was cut to the width of the fabric, with the scraps being used to fill out the circle.

The Italian tailor's book by Juan de Alcega has patterns for this type of cloak. I tested some of them out in miniature.

Although I knew that Ercc would appreciate a cloak with this type of seaming, due to its period-correctness, I also knew it would seem wrong to the modern eye. Since I found another cloak whose piecing was in wedge-shaped sections that was also quite efficient on fabric as well as period correct, I went with that patterning instead. This cloak is made of wedge-shaped sections, which were cut without regard to nap. That is, some were cut right-side-up and some upside-down. That made it quite efficient in terms of fabric usage.

Janet Arnold patterned this cloak in Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Men and Women's Clothes 1560-1620. I scaled up her pattern and made some adjustments, since I didn't want it to be as long, etc.

I found a beautiful wool sateen gaberdine (basically, it is woven with satin weave - with long threads on the surface - but the word "satin" traditionally applies only to silk). The variation in sheen for the pieces cut right-side-up versus upside-down would be noticable if you looked for it, but not overwhelming. The color was what we would call "olive", but I felt that it probably approximated what the Elizabethans might have called "goose-turd green", which I knew Ercc would appreciate.

I hand-sewed the body and the lining pieces into their 3/4 circle shape and prepared for embroidery. I will talk about the embroidery in my next post.