Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Boudica Research

I am researching all (well more than one at least) of the female names on my project brief. With Boudica being from a time before cameras, or even, as far as a know, oil paint, there are know actual pictures of her from the time. It is all interpretation, and being the British heroine that she was, they are fairly romanticised - nobody wants an ugly heroin.
The main theme seems to be a belted tunic which neatly clings in all the right places - not something I have ever really know tunics to do, mainly being fairly sack-like woolly things.
Wikipedia describes her as having red hair to her waist, a harsh fiery voice, piercing glare, large golden necklace (perhaps a torc: a solid neck bangle), a many coloured tunic, and a thick cloak fastened by a brooch. I'm not really seeing where a corset comes into all this.

Her story is that her husband was the king of the Iceni settlement (now Norfolk), he allied with the Romans during his life because they paid him and it kept the peace. In his will he left Iceni jointly to Boudica and her daughters, and the Romans. I don't think that plan was every going to work. It didn't, the Romans claimed power, and Boudica formed a great army of Anglo-Saxons and fought back against them. There were many battles, but in the end Roman tactics won out, even though they were severely out numbered. Reports differ, but at this point Boudica either killed herself so she wasn't captured, or died of illness.
Boudica is pronounced so as the "bou" part rhymes with the "bow" of "bow and arrow". Though she has been called many different variations, the main other one being Boadicea. Her name literally translated, mean victory.

A section of the speech Boudica gave before her last battle:

"It is not as a woman descended from noble ancestry, but as one of the people that I am avenging lost freedom, my scourged body, the outraged chastity of my daughters. Roman lust has gone so far that not our very persons, nor even age or virginity are left unpolluted."

"But heaven is on the side of the righteous vengeance; a legion which dared to fight has perished; the rest are hiding themselves in their camp, or are thinking anxiously of flight. They will not sustain even the din and the shout of so many thousands, much less our charge and our blows.

"If you weigh well the strength of the armies, and the causes of the war, you will see that in this battle you must conquer or die. This is a woman's resolve. As for the men, they may live and be slaves!"

William Cowper even wrote a poem about her.


[Written 1780. Published 1782.]

WHEN the British warrior queen,
Bleeding from the Roman rods,
Sought, with an indignant mien,
Counsel of her country's gods,

Sage beneath a spreading oak
Sat the Druid, hoary chief;
Ev'ry burning word he spoke
Full of rage, and full of grief.

Princess! if our aged eyes
Weep upon thy matchless wrongs,
'Tis because resentment ties
All the terrors of our tongues.

"Rome shall perish—write that word
In the blood that she has spilt;
Perish, hopeless and abhorr'd,
Deep in ruin as in guilt.

Rome, for empire far renown'd,
Tramples on a thousand states;
Soon her pride shall kiss the ground—
Hark! the Gaul is at her gates!

Other Romans shall arise,
Heedless of a soldier's name;
Sounds, not arms, shall win the prize—
Harmony the path to fame.

Then the progeny that springs
From the forests of our land,
Arm'd with thunder, clad with wings,
Shall a wider world command.

Regions Cæsar never knew
Thy posterity shall sway,
Where his eagles never flew,
None invincible as they.

Such the bard's prophetic words,
Pregnant with celestial fire,
Bending, as he swept the chords
Of his sweet but awful lyre.

She, with all a monarch's pride,
Felt them in her bosom glow;
Rush'd to battle, fought, and died;
Dying, hurl'd them at the foe.

Ruffians, pitiless as proud,
Heav'n awards the vengeance due;
Empire is on us bestow'd,
Shame and ruin wait for you.

I am struggling to think of a way in which I could make this a really stand out project, without veering too far away from historical accuracy, because at the end of the day, even as queen, her clothes would have been fairly simple.
Would I get to make weapons?

An official project this time.

I finally got my project brief through for next term (which starts on Monday), if I'm honest it really isn't what I wanted. From what we gathered when picking modules we would pretty much be able to make any outfit we wanted as long as there was some form of corset it in. So I spent the summer (minus Ghana) researching fashion history, admittedly not something I even remotely view as a chore. I narrowed it down to an 18th Century pannier, preferably a riding habit, along these lines:

Lots of lovely embroidered buttons and beautiful cuffs.
I loved the skirts as well, not so much the really wide shelf-like, early Marie Antoinette style ones, but the looped up Robe a'la Polonaise:
From what I can tell though, the two aren't usually worn together, so my only worry was choosing between them. But now my brief has come through, and it looks like its out with those plans.


The Brief.

Students are required to select one well defined character, male or female, from the following range of established characters from narratives covering drama, opera and dance.

Male: Oberon, Mars, Falstaff, Prince Charming, Cyrano, Volpone, Toad of Toad Hall, The Ancient Mariner, Tartuffe, Beowolf.

Female: Titania, Boudica, Coppelia, Olympia, Tosca, Camille, Bride of Frankenstein, Carmen, Valkyrie, Dido.


This is the main part of it. I'm set on making a female corset, so that cuts out all the male characters.
Titania (Faerie queen from Shakespeare's Midsummer Nights Dream) would obviously be beautiful, and fun to do, but I feel like it is the obvious choice and the one that everyone wants to do, so, not one to be a sheep, that one is out.
I think Bride of Frankenstein is the next obvious choice for everyone after Titania, and I think I do "pretty" better than "monstery" that is out as well.
A couple of the characters are from operas and ballets, but the brief doesn't say if our designs would have to be suitable do play those kind of roles, or if we are just looking at the character in the context of the story. Especially in ballet this makes a big difference, I can't see an arabesque being performed in a crinoline.
Boudica and the Valkyries could be interesting, I'm initially thinking worked leather and fur. I think with the Valkyries being mythical there is a bit more room for interpretation than a person from history. And of course there are wings to play with.
All in all, I think I will have to put my 18th century plans in a little cupboard in my head to use later (the term after maybe), its a pity, but since I have resigned to that, I'm starting to get excited about the new stuff.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Putting it together

All those little pieces that I cut out and mounted are gradually coming together into one big piece. I had to wait for the busk to arrive in the post before I could start, and I eagerly got too it as soon as it did.
This is the most complicated corset I have attempted so far, it has some curves and shapes than I'm not used too, so I don't think I put it together in quite the order, or with the method, that I should. But I'm pretty pleased with it so far.
I got to use my boning channel tape because the bones don't sit on the seams like I'm used to. The inside is a bit patchwork, but I kind of like it.

I didn't get the gussety bit quite right, I didn't tuck the edge over far enough for it to be caught by the stitch line in a few places, so I invisible stitched it down.
The way the pattern is, whenever you have two pieces of fabric to join together, one piece will have a 1.5cm seam allowance, and the other piece will have a 0.5cm seam allowance. There must be a reason for this, maybe I should be boning the channels? But I just can't work out how it would work, so far I've been drawing in the seam allowance lines and carefully matching them up, but there has to be a better way to do it.

Monday, 20 September 2010

How does it end up needing so many pieces?

I've acquired a bunch of new historical corset patterns that I have just begun to work through., there is the slight problem however that they are in French. Second to English, French is my best language, however that is not saying much, and beyond being able to buy a croissant and tell my sister she is a lemon it is pretty limited. And when it comes down to nitty gritty pattern directions it is nil, pity really scene as this one is covered in lovely little notes which I'm sure would be really helpful if I knew what they were.
So anyway, I'm jumping in blind, and managed to get all the pieces cut, and mostly all mounted this evening. Its a six piece pattern, so with outer fabric (the flowery one), two layers of calico, and the liner (The blue and green bits), that's 24 individual pieces. I admit in advanced corset terms its not a ridiculous amount, but they do seem to be everywhere.

20 Years of Pattern

A definite advantage of my work (along with many others) is the pattern supply, Denise has been collecting them for about 20 years, so there are a lot.

Today we did a mass sort out of them all. And I have to say the slightly buried organiser side of me really enjoyed it. Especially putting the historical ones in date order.

Beginning to brave the 18th century

I have been researching 18th century clothing for ages now, and it was about time I actually did something about it. So when Denise found a free corset pattern on the internet from the 1700s I thought I would give it a go.
We had to alter the boning channels slightly because the only boning to hand was some 5mm artificial whale bone. The pattern was meant for reeds which are quite a bit thinner.
I used 2 layers of heavy black canvas. It always looks so neat at this stage, almost makes me not ant to touch it.
I sewed and boned the channels for each piece first before sewing it together. Not sure whether it was tiredness or me being generally haphazard, but this was a definitely not a get it right first time project. I managed to seal up 3 channels on one piece before putting the bones in, and they weren't even complicated channels.
Also I reeeeally need to service my poor sewing machine, its making a noise that almost makes me cringe to use it, far more clunks going on there than there should be.
Also my boning ran out before I finished so its lightly uneven, must remember next time that if I'm not sure if I have enough boning I need to add it evenly to each side, so it doesn't end up lopsided. There was enough for toile purposes though.

Didn't make it round to the back however, and I don't have an awl so it wan't laced up. It fitted pretty well however all things considered, just a little bit on the large side.

Monday, 13 September 2010

My first gusset

Today was about learning, I learnt one of the ways to take a pattern from an existing corset. Put it inside-out on a stand, and piece by piece lay paper of it and feel the edges, drawing and shuffling pins all the while. Its not particularly scientific, but it did work and was pretty simple, even with quite a curvy corset, I just had to be patient with it and keep checking. We tried using fabric to draw on first, but the stretch made it too inaccurate, a lack of tissue paper meant I actually used interfacing, unusual choice maybe, but it worked excellently.
Some of the pieces contained gussets - I've never made a corset with gussets before, they were actually pretty simple. When Denise had tinkered with the pattern to make it all neat and fitting, I cut the pieces out of courtil.
I stitched round the gusset slot (probably not the official name) with a large stitch, and used the stitch line as a guide to fold and press the raw edges under.
I then matched up the gusset, pinned it, and stitched it. Simples. Thanks to some wonderful pattern cutting it matched up perfectly.

I made the new pattern into a toile, and it worked really well. Its not fully boned, but the real thing is going to look lovely. It will be part of the costume that the wings are for.

Back and Busy

So I'm back from Ghana, after having an absolutely amazing time, and after a few days rest it was straight back into creativity mode. It feels so good to be making stuff again, the most sewing I did the entire time I was away was a bit of mending.
Denise had been working really hard on tunics while I was away, but there was still about 6 left, so I set to work on them. The basic shape is really simple, but with all the embroidery and edging and yolks we are lucky to finish 2 in a day. We make them in batches though, like a conveyor-belt system but without the conveyor-belt.
One of them had to be extra special, so I filled in the some of the machine embroidery with metallic thread satin stitch. It came out looking slightly evil, because of its now apparently glowing eyes, but I was pleased with it. The metallic thread was a lot thinner than the embroidery thread I am used to working with, so I had to be extra careful.
Here is one of the many tunics before it got sent off. They certainly are cosy.
Whilst I was tunicking, Denise was beavering away on a trail for a new project; wings! Lots of foam, contact glue and latex paint, stuff I haven't really ever used before, so it will be an interesting process to watch. One thing though, permanent pen absolutely loves to rub off foam onto arms.