Monday, 17 May 2010

Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, Where Have You Been?


My new project, as mentioned in my previous post, is well underway. I'm making a version of the outfit QE1 is wearing in her 1588 Armada portrait. Its a black velvet affair, covered in all manner of bows and fripperies. In the portrait the sleeves are white and covered with gold embroidery. Embroidery is not my forte so for the sleeves and partlet I've opted instead to use gold material with beading upon it.

The weave in the fabric kind of suggests a heart shape, so I've picked that out in tiny white pearls, with a dangly droplet at the bottom of each heart. In between the hearts I've got a blue glass bead (not quite able to run to sapphires at this stage)surrounded at the four compass points by large pearls. It looks lovely, even though I do occasionally have to retrieve the loose pearls from the gentle ministrations of my cat, who loves shiny pretties as much as I do. I was worried about authenticity because I couldn't find many Tudor examples of the heart shape being used, but Tudor Tailor Ninya was kind enough to send me some pictures of clothing which used the heart motif in the late 1500s, so all is well.

The sleeves themselves are 'verthingale', which means they are boned to stand massively proud of the wearer's arms. I had to push hoops of steel boning into pre-made slots to achieve this. On paper it looks completely simple, but in reality it took two of us and an awful lot of forceful language to get them into place. Unattached verthingale sleeves look like tipsy wizards hats, but I am pleased to report that they are now complete, as is the bodice of the gown and its lining, and today's task is to join them all together.

The bodice and skirts are made from black velvet, and will look super -eventually. In the meantime, the velvet sheds tiny black dots all over my house whenever I have to cut it. The dots look uncommonly like a mass of dead fleas. I do a lot of my cutting out on the living room floor where I am locked in a bitter struggle for rug-space with the cat. The cat usually wins. When the online purchase of velvet first arrived I was eager to get on with cutting out from my pattern pieces. I delivered the cat to the garden unceremoniously and reverently spread the roll of velvet out on the floor, covering about six square feet. I carefully chalked out the first piece; the back of the bodice, a shape roughly 30cm(1')square. I left the room for a second and returned moments later to find the cat back inside, nonchalantly washing, positioned most precisely not only on the brand new rolled out velvet, but sitting in the very centre of the single chalked-out bodice shape. A neat trail of tiny damp paw prints betrayed her path from the edge of the fabric.

She looked awfully pleased with herself. Like the cat that got the Queen, one might say...

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