Monthly Archives: September 2014

Saint Savina’s Cote

I want to make an easy-to-wear, late Medieval/early Renaissance dress to wear to Renaissance fairs, and since I’m at The Met a few times a month, I decided to go check out their Medieval & Renaissance art.

So here’s a depiction of Saint Savina, 1510-1520, France. It seems that artists of that time didn’t worry too much about the saints & Holy Family wearing historically accurate clothing, but would put them in medieval fashions, adding picturesque drapery. These medieval artists created a sartorial look for Christian icons, and it has become so accepted that nowadays, most nativity scenes have the Holy Family wearing some form of medieval clothing plus drapery.

The label for this statue reads that in Troyes, Saint Savina was depicted as a ‘youthful pilgrim’, with a characteristic staff, hat and bag. Maybe her appearance was based off of other pilgrims, or a stereotypical image of a pilgrim at the time. She’s also a saint, so she holds a gospel and a palm frond that symbolizes her martyrdom.

The long drapery is probably artistic license, but I think the bodice of the gown underneath is fairly contemporary. I’m assuming it’s a variation on the cote or cotte (sometimes called a cotehardie), a tightly-fitted gown worn underneath the looser robe, and over a chemise. It’s tightly fitted at the torso and has fairly narrow sleeves. The skirt is long with a decorated hem.

There’s some paint left on this statue, mostly red and a great blue-teal kind of color, which the cote was painted with.

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This cote has

1) a square, decorated neckline bound with a separate pice of cloth

2) no waist seam; the skirt flares from bodice pieces

3) either it’s lined with the lining turned over the outer edge, or the edges are bound

4) and the bodice is closed with about seven pins!

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That hat …

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A pretty utilitarian-looking shoe surrounded by reasonably impractical drapery.

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That great bag.

Now about those pins. The entire outfit seems, to me, to be a mix of practical clothing suitable for walking (a simple gown, plain shoes, a staff and a bag) and possibly exaggerated, possibly classically-inspired drapery. Which category do the pins fall into? I’m assuming they’re listed under the more practical heading.

I’m reminded of a good reenacting saying, though – be the common person, not the exception to the rule. If I have to go out of my way to try to explain this cote’s different front, is it really what most women wore, or is it an exception to the rule? I think lacing is probably the way to go for my own cote.


Wandering the Metropolitan Museum

When the guard says photos are okay, I’m in heaven.

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The Triumph of Fame from The Triumphs, Brussels, 1502-1504, wool and silk. The plaque says that this tapestry, or one very similar to it, was purchased by Isabella, queen of Castile and Aragon in 1504. It shows Fame conquering Death and the Fates with Christian imagery and long wavy hair.

Check these details out.

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Don’t they look like sunglasses?

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Proving that men have been doing that super unfortunate sandals-over-socks thing for a long time now.

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Supposedly these women are the Fates, all getting trampled by goodliness and virtue. The one in the front is wearing a dress that I LOVE – but the thing that’s really getting to me is her hair.

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I think I remember wearing this when I was 5.


How-To: Oiling a Singer Model 27

   This November, my Singer Model 27 turns 113 years old. Here’s how I’ve been keeping it running smoothly.

   After any restoration work, all a Model 27 really needs is continual oiling. It’s simple enough to oil yourself, and it’s all iron and steel, so you don’t have to worry about the oil reacting with plastic or electronic components. Hypothetically, if you dropped it in a huge vat of oil it would just smile.

   I use gun oil for my machines. I think it’s a good choice, because it’s meant for small machines that get dirty and work up heat. I’ve had no trouble with it. 

   Before you start, take out the needle, the shuttle and bobbin, and the felt disc on the spool pin. I’ve also taken my machine off the table, and removed the belt, one of the plates on the floor of the machine, and the bobbin winder: but you don’t need to do all that. 

When does my Model 27 need oiling?

    It needed oiling yesterday. And today, and tomorrow. And the day before yesterday and the day before that.

    No really. It will take a few drops a day if you’re using it, and more every so often. This machine will work ok without all this attention, but it’ll really work well if it’s been oiled. 

How-to:

   The Model 27 has three oiling holes, all located in the top of the machine. Three or four drops in each hole are all that’s needed on a daily basis, for daily use. Spin the wheel as you’re adding oil. If the oil forms a bubble, poke it with a pin until it drains.

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The first hole is located very close to the join between the machine body and the belt cover.

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The second hole is right next to the spool pin, and should usually be covered by a little disc of felt or wool, to keep the spool from scratching the enamel.

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The third hole is on the arm proper, right up by the head/face.

Other points to oil:

The spot at the top of the head where the foot post and needle post come out (visible in the photo directly above): oil these liberally and flip the foot lever/spin the wheel a few times so the oil gets down into the workings. 

Any adjustment screw or nut: a drop is more than enough, then wipe off the excess. If you can take the screw out without the machine popping apart, do that; oil the threads and put the screw back in. 

For the thread tension contraption, don’t go crazy on the oil. It needs oiling, but it’s difficult to wipe down, and any oil left will get on your sewing thread. 

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The head of the machine with the faceplate removed.

   Inside the head of the machine is a good place to oil, especially if the machine will be sitting for a while. Take out the two screws and pop off the faceplate. All you need for this is a 1/4″ flat-blade screwdriver. This size works for most of the screws on a Model 27, so it’s nice to keep one handy. A 1/2″ flat-blade screwdriver fits the rest of the screws on the Model 27. 

   With the head open, drop the foot and spin the wheel. Whatever moves, oil the joint liberally and spin the wheel some more. Oil the upper part of a joint, then spin the wheel and let the oil work its way down.

   While you have the face plate off, you can take a small, stiff-bristled paintbrush and clean any lint out of the machine. The workings of the Model 27 are pretty enclosed and shouldn’t accumulate too much lint, but it’s nice to check anyway. 

   Notice that the body of the machine isn’t enameled where the faceplate joins the body; this area is bare metal which rusts easily and should be oiled a little before you put the plate back on. Wipe it down, and oil the screw threads too. You’ll be glad you did, next time you take the plate off.

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Inside the body

    Above: the oil holes at the top should direct oil right to most of the hinges inside the body of the machine. To get oil into the rest of the hinge here, you ned to turn the machine on its side, or to use a dropper with a long nose. Again, spin the wheel for a while to get the oil worked in. 

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Inside the head

    Above: this little door opens to show the end of the rotating inner arm, and the shoulder of the small arm that holds the thread. The hole in the top of the machine should direct oil to this spot, so all you really need to do is add a drop or two to the top of the shoulder of the little arm. 

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The undercarriage

    Above: every so often, you’ll need to drop oil on every joint underneath and spin the wheel for a few minutes. 

Storage:

    Now that you’ve oiled it, it’s probably going to seep oil for a little while. You have been warned.

    I wad paper towels up and pack the machine with the pads, and I set the whole thing on a rag or a few paper towels to catch any oil.

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    When you’re ready to sew again, take care to wipe all the oil from the outside of the machine and wherever the thread winds. It’s a nice idea to sew a few lines on a scrap of cloth before starting your actual project, then wipe the machine down again, just in case there’s more oil working its way out.

How much is too much?

     There’s really no such thing as over-oiling. It’s just a little wasteful, and it means that you’ll have more work to do wiping off the extra oil when you want to use the machine again. 

     If I’m not using the machine daily, I give it a good oiling once a month or so, and spin the wheel every few days to keep it from rusting in place. If I’m using it daily it gets a few drops every day, then a thorough oiling when I’m done. 

     And that’s how to keep the Model 27 spinning! Happy sewing! : D

More:

     A facsimile of the original Singer Model 27 manual, with instructions on how to oil the machine. 

     Another link to The Singer Sewing Machine Co. Manual for the Model 27 & 28. This version is newer and shows added motors on the machines. 

     The Wikipedia page on early Singer models.

     More info on Singer vibrating shuttle models.


To (let it) be or not to (let it) be?

That’s always the question.

I have had a second tea gown hanging in storage for a few months now. It’s a little older than my first, and a little larger, too. It’s also been remade more times than my first one. I think it was made around 1900, remade in the early teens, and then re-remade sometime in the last few decades.

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I am hoping to get some better pictures this weekend, so stay tuned, I guess.

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The first incarnation had a longer, flared skirt (I can tell because the seams inside have been re-sewn, and the selvages show the original taper was much wider), and puffier sleeves (the insides of the arms have three ingenious horizontal tucks that persuade the puff to be larger and fuller to the back of the arm). The second incarnation had a narrower skirt, then, and the sleeves were a little longer and less poofy. The third incarnation just added snaps down the back and an ugly black ribbon through the lace at the neckline, creating a drawstring. 

I really do like that this dress has so much to tell. It’s been worn by two or three people in the last 100+ years, each leaving a mark. I would love to retain all that information, but then again, I’d love to repair the dress as well.

So to what point do I restore it? Do I even try? I’ve already removed the drawstring and I’m considering taking the snaps out. I can’t re-flare and lengthen the skirt, so it’s not going back to 1900. I could put the tucks back in the sleeves, but it won’t be complete without the longer skirt. 

Without a provenance, all this dress has is the story of alteration after alteration, owner after owner, for a hundred years. I may just wash it, repair the damage at the front (there’s a large tear, but it doesn’t show because it’s inside a pleat) and see how I feel about it. 


Excessive Fru-fru of the 1890s

In the late 19th century, women wore boas, made from lace, silk, and/or feathers. I guess it’s been obvious for others, but for me, I didn’t realize that these existed until recently – existed in reality, that is, and not as a part of polyester can-can costumes for Halloween. *gak*

This is one of my great-grandmothers, Elise. This picture was taken around 1896, in NYC. Elise is wearing a white boa, with flower-like lace ruffles at the shoulders and lengths of narrow tapes at each end. The color of her boa matches the shirt she’s wearing.

Wide shoulders were hugely fashionable during the mid-1890s, and it’s a little surprising to see that Elise is wearing a shirtwaist that doesn’t have gigot/leg-of-mutton sleeves – rather, she’s wearing the ‘bishop’ type sleeve, with fullness at the lower arm and wrist. It’s a nice visual reminder that not everybody wore massively puffed sleeves during this decade. That being said, her boa is placed around her shoulders, with the ruffle exactly where leg-of-mutton sleeves would begin. Visually, the boa is creating a similar silhouette.

Boas from the late 19th century seem to usually be the long, feathery type.

The image above is from England, and is dated 1892.

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The feather boa above is from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. So fluffy. The Met has handfuls of feather boas from this decade, in crazy colors like black, red, black, blue, black, pink, and black. I think they may have some in black, too.

Above: the Met has this boa too, which looks pretty similar to Elise’s boa, except it’s just the floofy part. This is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to Elise’s boa.

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And then there’s Mary, another of my great-grandmothers. She also lived in NYC, in Greenwich Village, in the 1890s. Her hairstyle, a bun with a curly puff of hair at the front, seem to have been most popular in the late 1880s and early 1890s. So I’m guessing that this picture was taken between 1888-1895.

In this picture she’s wearing a colored shirtwaist with little circular black appliqués on the folded collar, and what looks like either a boa (made from the same appliqués, maybe lace) or some sort of decoration on the front of her shirtwaist. Because it was the 1890s, and floofy, fluffy, fru-fru-y clothing was totally in.

I’m not entirely sure what Mary is wearing here; a boa or just a fancy shirtwaist. If she’s wearing a boa, it matches her shirt (like Elise’s) – but more than that, it is identical to the decoration on the collar. Maybe she had a boa specifically for a certain shirtwaist? I can believe that – if any decade had shirtwaists with matching boas, it would have been the 1890s, right?