Ghirlandaio Gown Dress Diary- Week 2
It's week 2 of my detailed dress diary for my latest big historical project, the Ghrilandaio Gown I'm making for the 8th Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge! This week I finished my camicia, got started on some of the accessories for my 4th layer, and did a lot of work on preparing the fabric for my giornea.
April 9: I worked on the first dress diary blog post and cut and clipped in place the neckband for my camicia. The neck opening is 42" around so it's going to be a lot of sewing!
April 10: I used a small running stitch to attach the neckband to the pleats, right sides together with raw edges touching. Then I finger-pressed the neckband up, and started using little whip stitches to attach every pleat to the folded edge of the neckband.
April 11: I got my package from Dharma Trading today which meant the last major part of my supplies were here (still waiting on some back ordered trim)! I got some undyed cotton velvet to use to line the hem of my giornea, as well as some fiber reactive dyes and soda ash for dyeing it to match the silk and silk/linen I bought for the giornea in NYC. It also contained the acrylic blocks for mounting my block printing stamps and the gold textile paint I'll be using for printing. I trimmed up my stamp as much as I felt comfortable (since there's a lot of little pieces) and attached it to the block with double sided tape. Then I started practice stamping, and well... practice makes perfect? The hard brayer/roller I was using wouldn't roll in my paint tray and then it seemed like the paint didn't want to stick to my stamp. This resulted in the very uneven test stamps on the left. I realized with less pressure, I could get the roller to roll more in the tray providing me with a more even application of paint, and the pigments stuck better to the stamp with less pressure. That resulted in the three test stamps on the right, not perfect but a big improvement. The manufacturer of the paint recommends using a foam brush to apply the paint to a stamp, so I think I'm going to try a normal mini paint roller instead of the hard brayer, next. And look at how beautifully the paint shines in the light!
April 12: I worked on fully enclosing the neckline binding on my camicia, by folding the remaining raw edge of the binding down to meet the raw edge of the pleating, and folding the entire piece down in half, trapping the pleats and raw edges of the band inside. Then it was again time to hold it down by whip stitching over every pleat! The wonder clips really are wonderful (pun intended) for this purpose: they stay in place, don't stab me, and I can sew below them and basically forget about them until I'm fully done.
Which is what I did because I actually finished the camicia tonight! And promptly tried it on over my gym clothes. I'm very excited to have the first layer of my outfit for IRCC done. I think I'll throw it in the wash a couple times to continue getting the fabric softened up because it's still a bit on the stiff side, drape wise.
Aaaand, because I don't know when to stop and just go to bed already, I broke out my handkerchief piece for my accessory layer I had prepared when cutting my camicia and boldly started on the drawn threadwork embroidery, without practicing at all. This hemstitch is pretty easy to work and it took me about 15 stitches to get my tensions down correctly, but I am already so pleased with how it is looking. Each 'knot' in the hem stitch will hold a little cluster of fringe after I finish the stitching and remove all the crosswise yarns which are sitting above the stitching in the photo below. This looks (and felt) like a pretty significant effort, but this hankie is huge! And I have to do all 4 sides! And the yarns in this fabric are tiny and not balanced for embroidery! So this is going to take me a while, but I plan to work on it in quiet moments and car rides and other times I can't devote to more intensive projects.
April 13: Last week I borrowed a soldering kit from my boyfriend's step-dad and so I decided it was time to break that out and have a fun Friday night getting crafty. The necklace I'm trying to recreate has two stones in settings, and 3 pearls hang from the bottom setting. I found tow settings I liked from Fire Mountain Gems but I couldn't find one which would allow me to hang the pearls, so I decided to solder on some small eye pins to hang the pearls off.
Technically, I'm using electrical solder as you need a torch and real silver wire to do proper jewelry soldering, but it did alright. The solder wanted to stick a lot more to the eye pins than it did to the actual setting but I eventually got all three stuck on, using clothesline hooks to hold the eye pins in place while I worked.
The findings I got had a variety of finishes, from antiqued gold to bright brass and I needed them to all look the same. It's easier to add antiquing than remove it so I decided to add patina to all the bright pieces using Swellegant patina, also from FMG. The problem I seemed to have, though, was the patina barely worked on the second stone setting I had while it worked too well on the decorative head pins I planned to use to hang the pearls on. In the end I managed to cut the brightness of the setting just enough and practiced putting just a hint of patina on the head pins until everything looked the way I wanted! I turned the tops of the head pins over the (Swarovski crystal) pearls so I could attach them to the eye pins and attached the two stone settings together with a jump ring, attaching the original haner from the large pendent onto the small one.
I then strung them all on a cotton cord and attached it to a hook and ring closure with fisherman knots, hiding the raw edges of the cord with large crimp beads. And finally, I used E6000 glue to glue in my stones into the settings, two beautiful red jasper cabochons.
The (first) necklace was complete! I have to make a set of them so I'll also be making a plain cord one. I think it looks pretty close to the original, don't you agree?
But I wasn't done being crafty! The jewelry making bug had hit so I got started on another one of my planned accessories, several rings. I used to be really into wire wrapping rings about 5-6 years ago and knew I wanted to use that method to make my rings, because I don't exactly have the equipment setup necessary to mold, cast, and finish my own. So I got out my ring mandrel, hammers, and gold tone wire that I still had laying around and got started on my first ring, based on the double ring you see on her pinky in the fresco.
I started with two wraps of wire and then secured the ends by wrapping them over each other on what would be the back. The gold wire was super stiff, maybe because it is pretty old but I was not happy with the tightness I got on the back wraps. This results in a ring much smaller than my pinky ring size of 3, but that is by design because I planned on flattening it all out with the metal hammer.
In wire wrapping, you use a metal hammer and a non metal hammer to harden and shape your rings, and the difference is the metal hammer will deform and flatten the metal of the wire while the non metal hammer (you can use wood or rubber, mine is rubber) will simply harden it. Flattening the metal makes the ring larger, so as I started to flatten my back connection the ring started to slide down the mandrel until it was at the correct size. At that point, I bent the two wraps of wire open to create the final look of the ring, and hammered them to harden them with the rubber mallet so they wouldn't bend back out of shape. In the end, I decided I liked the "hammered" metal look and went back over lightly tapping with the metal hammer to get the facets typical of hammered jewelry. Normally you would use a ball peen hammer for this but I can't find mine, so I relied on the curved edge of my normal hammer to create the effect.
Although we only see a couple rings in the fresco, her hands are covering each other and we know they were a very popular jewelry style and see rings with stones on many other Ghirlandaio portraits, and when I found these teeny tiny cabochon settings at FMG I knew I could use them to create wire wrapped stone rings without they 'nest' style of wire wrapping which I hate. I didn't take many pictures of the process, though, because the stiff wire gave me a devil of a time trying to get it to wrap through the links on the setting, and I broke the wire a couple times before I finally got it! I still want to make more (since I bought 3 colors of cabochons to try it with) but I will be buying new wire, first. Here you can see the front, side, and back views of the two rings I made. Not being able to get the wraps tight enough on the first ring made them flatten unevenly so I may be revisiting that ring again with new, more flexible wire. Even so, I'm very happy with both rings and had a lot of fun revisiting an old hobby!
Continuing my theme of trying "just one more thing!" before bed, I revisited my printing block for my giornea fabric, which hadn't been printing well using the hard brayer. The paint instructions page called for applying the paint to the stamp with a foam brush, so I decided to try a small foam paint roller instead. These ones turned out a lot better, even though the foam roller really drank up the paint like crazy.
April 14: During the day today I drove to Raleigh to do a photoshoot on my first Italian Renaissance outfit (stay tuned for the photos) so didn't have a ton of time to do stuff. When I got back, I decided to start dyeing the cotton velvet I bought to line the train of my giornea and help make it more durable.
While I'm very experienced in dyeing silk and wool with acid dyes on a stove top, I'm not so experienced with fiber reactive dyes for cotton or dyeing in a washing machine and so it kind of turned into a comedy of errors, but I didn't find much of it funny. First thing up I forgot to serge the ends of my velvet so it was fraying like crazy when I pre washed it and I had to go serge wet fabric. When I pre washed it there must have been some detergent or something left over in the machine because it was SO foamy and I had to do 3-4 rinse cycles just to get it to go away. I forgot I needed non-iodized salt, and all I had around the house was rock salt for making ice cream which is made to dissolve slowly, the opposite of what you need for dyeing! I needed 3 cups which seemed like a TON but I pulverized it in the blender to try to help it dissolve faster. Ice cream salt is not exactly pure or safe for eating so there was a lot of dirt and stuff in there that just never dissolved, and I had to throw it in the wash machine through a filter. The dye was difficult to dissolve because the peach color I had purchased actually had some purple dye in it, and purple dye is notorious for not dissolving well and I hadn't purchased any urea to help with that because I didn't think there would be any purple in there. My washing machine manual was ZERO help on trying to set the soak cycle, like it literally said "Auto soak soaks the fabric for a pre-determined amount of time" and then never mentioned what that time actually was (I figured out it was 15 minutes). The dyeing instructions from Dharma told you to stop and reset the cycle back on soak when you added the Soda Ash, but when I tried to do that on my machine it drained all the water taking my soda ash with it!
I was not happy.
The resulting color was very light because it hadn't got fixed to the fabric at all, but it also seemed very pink so on round two (cue blending more salt, filtering, fighting purple dye powder, etc) I added a bit of yellow dye to the mix in the hopes of achieving more peach. This time I said "f-it" and just threw the soda ash in at the wash cycle so it didn't drain the water and went to bed.
April 15: I woke up and went to check on my fabric and it was sopping wet! Maybe from the extra water I had to add with the salt but I don't know, I set it on another spin cycle and ate a brownie. After I dried it I compared it to my other giornea fabrics and it's not a great match. It's really hard to capture in photos but where the silk and silk/linen blend fabrics are decidedly more peach, the cotton velvet turned out bubble gum pink! I don't know what to do with it now. I could try to dye it again with more yellow, buy some urea and purple dye to add to it as well, or try to overdye with gray or something but I'm pretty stuck.
Even though I was frustrated I decided to run headfirst straight into the project with one of the biggest chances for disaster, block printing my silk for my giornea. My boyfriend did not think it was a good idea. I was encouraged though at how well the prints had turned out with the foam roller over the brayer and went to go do the arduous task of ironing my silk. As I finished my final pressing, I rolled the fabric up onto a cardboard tube to help keep it wrinkle free and manageable. We mopped the kitchen floor and laid out an old sheet to help protect the fabric, and I started thinking about placement, referencing the original fresco to help me out. My motif itself is roughly 3x4", and it's attached to a 4x6" block. I decided I wanted about that spacing vertically with a little more wider, meaning my space between prints would be 6x6". This turned out to be ideal, as the alternating spaces of 4" and 6" fit perfectly into the 56" width of the fabric. I cut some scrapbook paper into 6x6" squares to help me space my prints and, as is becoming a theme, dove right in without worrying about doing any more practice tests.
Every time I stamped, I placed a square of paper along the edge of my stamp, showing me the spacing for the next stamp. I worked two rows at a time, laying my next row of stamps along the top edge of the pieces of paper I had previously placed. It was working perfectly!
Every few rows I went and rinsed off my stamp to help keep the mess down. I wound up with a few less than ideal prints (most seemingly along the same edge of the fabric???) but overall I'm really happy with the look of it! After finishing my first sheet length I was even thinking "wow this is really fun, I would do this for projects in the future!" and then after finishing the second sheet length I was thinking "OMG how much freaking fabric do I have???" and after the third sheet length I had finished. My dog even managed to stay off the fabric, save for one defiant paw as if to say "I know what you don't want me to do and I want to let you know I will not do it because I love you, but I could if I wanted".
When I reached the end, I was only about 2" higher on one side than the other (I had squared the fabric on both sides before I started) which I think was a pretty good result considering my less than precise spacing methods and how much I relied on 'eyeballing' to get it right. And when you look down the diagonal of the motif, it looks awesome! The biggest surprise, though, was that I didn't even use the entirety of the 2.25 oz sample jar of paint I started with. The sponge roller may have soaked up a lot of paint at the beginning, but it certainly held onto it well! But there is the little (or big) matter of the 2- 8 oz jars I purchased to do the project- I don't think I'm EVER going to use that much paint! Time to look into Dharma's return policy...
To end the evening, my boyfriend and I sat down to watch a Harry Potter movie (I forgot how long The Goblet of Fire is!) and I relaxed by getting back to hem stitching my handkerchief. I finally made it all the way down one side and turned the corner! It's still taking forever.