Sunday, May 31, 2020

Dastardly Doll Project- Wood carving

This last week I worked on hand carving the hands and feet of my 1/2 scale doll. Luckily the weather was better, able it sit outside and get some sun while carving. The head, hands, and feet are made out of Basswood.

Which Basswood is the North American species of the Linden, genus Tilia family of trees. In Europe, Linden is referred to as Lime wood and has the same reputation for ease of hand-carving. Lime wood is not at all related to the citrus tree or fruit. There can be hybrid species of Linden, since the flowers contain both male and female parts. These trees grow to 20 - 40 feet tall and feature a soft carvable light-weight wood with little noticeable grain. (wikipedia-Tilia)

Linden wood was a classic wood used in Germany for centuries. In the middle ages it was popular for elaborate altar pieces by Veit Stoss and Tilman Riemenschneider to name a few. This wood is notable in marionette-puppet making and carving. Having a fine, light grain and comparatively light in weight. it has been used for centuries for this purpose, despite modern alternatives. (wikipedia-Tilia)

With all that good wood information out of the way. I am going to go through my method step by step for making the hands and feet.

 First, I divided a large carving block of basswood 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" x 6" into four sections with handsaw, then in half total of 8 pieces.

  Second, drilled a 1/4" hole for the anchors to the appendages. Taking into consideration the placement of the dowel, would be where it would join the wrist or ankle. I traced the circumference of these joints so I had a line to carve to that would not to make the wrist and ankle odd.

Third, carved the general shapes with my flexcut hand carving knife. Using my own hands and feet for shape reference. Also take into account the direction of the grain of the wood, as certain angles are easier or more difficult depending on which way one carves.

Fourth, after the carving was complete, I sanded the hand and feet. Making sure to be careful with the fingers and toes. 

It took about 2 hours per hand and foot.  Still have more work yet to do. These hands and feet will get a few coats of gesso then some gouche or tempra paint then sealer.


THL Marrin O'Cadhla

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Dastardly Doll Woodworking

Well, I was able to pull out the wood-carving knives. Made quite the pile of wood chips, while roughly shaping the arms and legs of the doll. The arms and legs are made out of 1 3/8" poplar dowels in heartwood,. These dowels are cut down into 9" lengths top and bottom parts, so the arms and legs would be 18" in total length. The forearms were cut down by 3" to accommodate the length of the hands, to keep body proportions even. These were surprisingly easy to shape with the woodcarving knives. The wooden arms and legs including folding joints at the elbows, hips, knees. The wooden pins are 1/4" poplar dowel cut down to one inch length for the elbows and knees and are 2" wooden pins for the hands and feet. There is a 5/8" dowel for the neck to body connection and for the shoulders, these are heavy used and stressed area and needed more wood for support. Pruning shears are a great alternative for cutting dowels.  This was 3 hours of work one evening. I am researching about the shoulder joints of there is an easier way to have movement in two directions and not just one direction as planned.

The head, hands and feet are being carved separately. I plan on making shoes also for this doll. In addition to a wig, hat and other minor accessories. Although the finishing touches will be in a separate post.

The body was made from two sold cork yoga blocks, originally were going to be shoes but that project didn't pan out. 9"long by 5" wide by 6" deep. I used 1 and 1/4 yoga blocks to make the body of the doll, I cut the blocks with a hand saw and then shaped with knives and sanded. The body the measures, 15" from neck to bottom of torso. I will be adding more measures once the doll is unclothed.

After the body is assembled, certain parts will be painted, especially the head hands forearms shins and feet. I will leave the torso as is but may do some sealing of the cork, considering gesso. Gesso being a white paint and glue combination to make a smooth painting surface. I would need to use gesso in the painted wooden parts before laying any color on gouache possibly as a last step a sealer. I have more research on this before the final decision is made.

It’s great to see such progress made in a short period of time. Learning so much about the grain and texture of the woods I am using. It’s very interesting medium compared to clay. Less forgiving as mistakes are not always smoothed out. I am leaning towards simple sculpting for the head, hands, and feet. As I am a beginning wood carver and less likely to mess up. Especially I plan on painting the facial features in gouache anyway.

Decisions, decisions,

THL Marrin O’Cadhla 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Dastardly Doll Project

A collage of sewn and pressed pattern pieces for
a English Fitted Gown and French Kirtle.
Well things are underway with the doll project of epic proportions, literally and figuratively speaking.  The body of the doll is not further along yet, hoping to do some shaping soon. The weather will be good the next few days to do this outside. I would like to keep the dirt down to a minimum in the basement since I just cleaned.

Currently I have cut, sewed and pressed all the pattern pieces for the entire French Kirtle. This is constructed from the woven lozenge patterned silk, that I over-dyed red a few weeks ago. This is not an easy material to work with for both dying and sewing.
Silk ties for the front closures
of the English Fitted Gown 
As I am sewing, looking at adding some boning channels in side the bodice to give structure. I did interline it with wool for some added support and medium weight linen for the lining. Although I will not need as many reeds of boning, since I have a fully boned corset layer directly underneath.

Cut and pinned English Fitted Gown
pattern pieces 
 Additionally I have also cut, sewed, and pressed the pattern pieces for the English Fitted Gown. The woven lozenge patterned silk was particularly drapey and was trying to pool and warp the pattern pieces. So I had to pin and do some seam ripping and lots of steam pressing with mild starch to help keep shape. The herringbone patterned wool has some good structure so I didn't interline this piece, although looking into just a few bones of reed if needed for just a few areas. I am thinking the middle back sides and front closure areas on both garments.

English Fitted Gown
with tie closures
Drawing from the Tudor Tailor
I will post more progress as it is made. Hoping the holiday weekend will give me a burst of energy to work on the doll body more. As the sewing is definitely moving leaps and bounds forward. The woodworking no so much. I will have to do fittings soon with the attached appendages at least. So more to come on the doll construction.

Dastardly deeds done dirt cheap ;-)

THL Marrin O’Cadhla

In Memoriam...

My Mother's  Favorite Flower
Its with great sadness that I am writing you, the past few weeks have been personally difficult. My mother passed on 5/14/2020, surrounded by friends and family. Yesterday, in celebration of a well lived life we laid her to rest.  
There are few words to express the profound influence a mother has on her children. Even well into adulthood, their guiding hand is felt.  Although when our love ones transition into their after-life, they are never gone from us. They live always, in our minds and hearts.   Eileen Benfer Obituary



Friday, May 1, 2020

Found some Inspiration

Elizabeth Littleton
Lady Willoughby
Well more adventures on the home quarantine files. I am working on my doll project daily as there is limited things to do while one is at home, that don't make alot of mess or noise. Not that is really a requirement but I don't like to bust of of working and strait into something unless there is good reason and a plan. So since I am in planning stages, which means the plan is not well formulated yet.

Tudor Tailor
I was debating for some 48 hours the proper outfit for the new larger doll friend. Wanted something with some color, texture, and more than just black. So many formal portraits from the early Elizabethan age just go nuts with black with trim and texture.  We need some more color in our lives in gentry portraiture. So I chose the portrait of Elizabeth Littleton, Lady Willoughby from 1573. It has several features that fit my requirements. Loads of color, showing a checked red silk lining.
Tudor Tailor
Here I found out from those who viewed the original painting, the Tudor Tailor authors.  There seems to be an overlay over the red to make it more pink in color. So the theory is that a checked organza was over-layed the red material to give pattern and also texture. Although this is conjecture since its a painting of a formal portrait dress from the period. Although very plausible.

Fabric choices
and colors 
 So I have a pink silk lozenge pattern woven fabric. I am going to over dye it red to make it closer to the dark coral red pink than the current tea-berry pink it’s current color. I also have some ribbons that I will be also over dye that have points sewed on the ends. I won’t be doing an overly strong bath but definitely would like one to two shades redder closed from ballerina pink to coral pink.  For the under-gown and the outer fitted gown I am using a simpler material, a wool herringbone in a nice textured brown.  There was choice of a dark navy and grey a the tan with brown. Since we have warm colors in the red and pink the brown was more pleasing to the eye. Although definitely made of sturdy materials for these two pieces of clothing.

Fitted gown material
I ordered the supplies for all the wood carving for face feet and hands along with several books for reference. Faces are not easy not matter if you are drawing, sculpting or carving. So I want to make sure to get the features I want in the process. In the past I have done some wood carving but this will be an all new adventure for faces and hands. Going to need prayer and maybe a small miracle it turns out . Although I plan on taking my time to get things just right. Well going to sketch out the features of the clothes in the right colors and see what I like. Nice part is the planning because I can make and take time on decisions for the clothing layers since I have materials already.

Thinking about all the choices,

THL Marrin O’Cadhla

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

18th Century Kit for Reenacting

Currently finishing up making an 18th century kit of clothing for reenacting. Following the Burnley and Trowbridge sew along series of videos on YouTube for some inspiration and instructions.  They started recording these videos just before the Covid-19 shutdown. So its been a nice weekly update to follow the next in the series of videos. They have 3 topics for Ladies: aprons, petticoats and pockets. They will be making more on making clothing for the top of a person soon, most of these videos are 3 part series. I completed the following; petticoat as styled in the 18th century with ties, a pair of embroidered pockets finished and a woolen apron with ties.

There are some items I have made that are not from the sew along videos. Those items are a linen shift, a set of stays which are overhauled for better fit, fitted wool jacket, linen pinner apron, embroidered stomacher, cotton under petticoat and an embroidered English bodice.

Purchased some leather ladies lachet shoes from Sampson Historical recently and also have a pair of  wooden clogs. So I do have some proper footwear. I will have to see about some good buckles to wear the shoes.

I have a cotton bonnet that will work for now. Although I want to research about styles of caps worn and see about finding a good linen one, or a pattern for making my own. As its easier since I have the time to sew and see about the materials. I do have a source for linen online but only want to buy when needed, trying to use these projects for stash busting.  I am done with the stays and soon can take some pictures to show. I did have an old cotton mob cap from years ago trip to Colonial Williamsburg, Va. Not sure if it has survived the years and several moves ago, would be nice if it did.

Hoping these can be worn in the Fall, depending if the Warrior Run Heritage Society will hold Heritage Days or not for 2020. We shall see what the future holds I will post some of these fashions as soon as I finish all the sewing and fixtures for the jacket and the bodice.

Finally got some tailoring supplies in the mail including some hair canvas and more fine linen, so more making is on the horizon. Reorganized my documentation into one binder, also put out my references in their own separate binder and labeled each. So that is done for some research housekeeping. In the same realm of research currently working on notes and measurements and scale for the 1/2 scale doll. Very excited since it seems I have most of my supplies on hand. So here is to hoping to get some linden wood for a head and hands and we can get started.

Goals are being met in record speed. Making of a new wooden friend will be happening soon.

Having fun with history,

Marrin O'Kealy

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Masterwork is Afoot

Full and 1/2 Scale Mannequins/ Dolls in Fashion

With all the new information I have available at my fingertips with the Foundations Revealed membership. I have so many projects in my head to try, although small scaled projects are my jam (Ms. Banner credit for her phrase). This was definitely worth the membership to just have all this great material to read. Plus a forum to ask questions, work on projects, and get feed back. Which in the end helps me to better improve my project planning, pattern making and overall costuming knowledge. In the planning and gathering materials phase at this time, which will be longer since travel is mitigated and the mail does take time.

1/4 scale model of Eleanor of Toledo
Italian Gown From Patterns of Fashion
The School of Historical Dress.
Back to Topic at hand, I noticed that several people try 1/2 scale paper patterns and eventually make miniatures fabric toiles to better understand the shapes and pattern behavior before working on a full scale clothing piece. Not sure if this practice comes from fashion school teaching, or if its roots go back much further. In some images of recent classes given at the School of Historical Dress, they seem to also use this method to help the students understand the shapes they are using and how they are supposed to behave. I love looking at all the pictures of the half scale work in the classes and want to better try my hand at it. They were scaling patterns up from Patterns of Fashion 3 and 5 by Janet Arnold.

Archduke Albert of Bavaria
Doll in the V&A
There was a project the School of Historical Dress did back in 2016 making 1/2 scale dressed dolls, representing Archduke Albert of Austria and Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia. These were hand-carved in lime wood (linden for the American version). The styling of the clothes were about 1615 and made from materials appropriate to aristocrats of the early seventeenth century. Skin out dress in separate layers. Linen smock, a satin pair of bodies, satin sleeves, Spanish farthingale, Velvet forepart, velvet gown for Isabella. Albert has a linen shirt, satin doublet, woolen hose and velvet cloak. Each doll also has to scale set of appropriate leather shoes. Truly little works of art made possible by a grant from the Early Dress and Textiles Network from the Arts and Humanities council and the doll are in the Learning Department of the V&A. 

Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia
Doll in the V&A
For someone who makes dolls like myself this is a curious cross over from doll scale to human scale.   I have one book An Illustrated Guide to the Dolls as used in Fashion that references large scale models life size sent commissioned by one Royal and consequently sent to another royal of a different court in the 1490's. Later these similar life size dolls to the Americas from France in the 18th century to allow women to rent the mannequin/ doll and take to to a tailor to order a dress to be made. When the gown was complete the doll/mannequin would be brought back from someone else to rent. I don't think this method of traveling fashion was created over night in the 18th century. This was evident of the trade of fashion dolls among the royal fashion elite of Europe since pre-16th century. Evidence of the inventory of Henry Viii, Inventory of Catherine de Medici, Inventory of Marie Queen of Scotts, and references in Inventory of Queen Elizabeth. 

Fashion Dolls were used to show fashions in a particular season on regional areas, used by royalty for gifts in conjunction to alliances and marriage contracts. Although this source is the only one that talks about size. Queen Elizabeth Wardrobe Unlock'd references fashion dolls and has a quote from the Mistress of the Queens Wardrobe at the time Elizabeth Von Snakenborg to her sister on the continent. Plus it reference the Extant one in the Royal Swedish Armory but that is a much smaller one. The image of the portrait painting of Arabella Stuart age 2 from Hardwick Hall, holding her fashion doll. Although no reference to size is made in this area of the book.

In order to safely allow the layers to be removed, as this was a question in my last judging of my doll in the Kingdom Arts and Sciences Competition. A larger scale some thing 1/4 of 1/2 scale would need to be considered. I could make full scale but I want this more to be a doll than a mannequin. Although I feel any tailor worth their salt could take a pattern from a 1/2 scale and make it larger and make all the necessary adjustments to fit a person. Portability also needs to be taken in account. It would have been expensive to ship fashion dolls full size, although its been done according to my source.

The wooden dolls would have not been made by the tailor themselves. As the Guild system in Europe and England are well established now but were slightly at infancy in the late Medieval times. Each skilled job had a guild and there are new one made in England today. The dolls would have been commissioned from a trained woodworker of skill and warrant. So references to size; 1/2 scale would be 36" tall, 1/4 scale would be 18" tall. So the next dolls will be of considerable size. 

Yes I will be making the wood doll from scratch by my own hand. At this point in my gathering, I have a later pattern wood doll for reference. Although a jointed doll would have been needed to dress easier than just non jointed. So some newer skills will be on show besides my sewing embroidery, wig-making, painting and the like. I am gathering my hair for the wig as well. Woodworking/ woodcarving a new skill will be on display.Now to figure out the kind of likeness I want to make pre-16 England. This will also end up in the book of Dolls, because it has to have all the scales. 

Time to create the Masterpiece, 

THL Marrin O'Kealy

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Happy Easter

May your get out to smell the spring flowers in your yard. Hopefully see your favorite bunny from a safe distance. Keep healthy, safe, and Happy Easter one and all!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Foundations Revealed

Hoping to complete one
of these doll dress forms
my FR first project.
Besides looking into source materials about dress making from the early 1900 for my own wardrobe. Well before the quarantine began for Covid-19.  I began collecting long wool skirts and giving my wardrobe a more vintage style for the office. I hope to have a more complete wardrobe by the time I return to the office for my mundane desk job. Although I have a feeling work from home will be something I will look forward since the travel costs me 2 grand in gas a year.

Since being a self taught seamstress I feel there are steps I didn’t learn. Can’t learn what you don’t know and that my process is complete for my sewing skills. All be it sewing with the SCA for 16 years, I  want to sharpen my sewing skills and also learn more about tailoring. With any kind of lessons it’s important to me to have one on one enrichment as needed. So I purchased a Foundations Revealed membership during their advertised open enrollment.

This membership would be better than reading a book, for which I have a library. What this membership offers me is support to ask questions, some professionals giving instructions on projects to help achieve better results. Which will take my work to the next level quicker than the past. I had tried the book method for a long time and it works but slowly and not any easy access for questions.

Even if one doesn’t sign up there are loads of free reading material about a multitude of sewing topics. I am including a link to the page: Foundations Revealed I am going to get a Document on my computer for all my notes and set up for classes. Here is to never stop learning and perusing excellence.

Happy sewing,

THL Marrin O’Cadhla

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Home Cooking.. Well Sort Of..

I am working on some cosmetic recipes from the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Beauty. So today I mixed up some fat as in recipe mentioned with bees wax, spices and essential oils to make a Mareschal Pomatum. I have some more to add to my mix. Although I have my trusty mortal and pestle near by to grind up the rest of the spices and add the starch after I double boil the mixture to a liquid again. It smells great already. Today was going to be picking up other essentials anyway, so picked up the supplies to make the hair powder as well.

I like the brownish color of the Mareschal mix for both the pomatum and the hair powder. The closer to hair colored cosmetics makes more sense for what I am trying to achieve with 16th century hair styles. This would be better for my hair than modern products without the heavy chemicals and other additives. Plus I could use this as a hair moisturizer for those days when I don’t wash my hair, which is a lot.  I have a feeling there were similar concoctions for hair and skin in the 16th century. Although I feel this later source is a good place to safely start.

My hair is naturally curly and thick, so combing is difficult and the ends like to split. It takes my hair twice as long to grow since it coils. My scalp and hair are dry so regular washing is problematic since it strips hair of its natural oils. So I had to adopt alternative methods to care for my hair way before it was popular to find natural methods for hair care. My hair took over a decade to grow below my shoulders. Currently it sits mid back and I only had the ends cut 4 years ago, prior that span I had not had it cut in 10 years. I needs the ends trimmed again but it’s super healthy and the snags only occur at the ends. The last hair dresser was impressed with my hair and how healthy it was for not being cut regularly. I told her my methods and she mentioned that it works keep it up.

So my goal is to make the hair powder this weekend and to finish off the minor details of the pomade mix.  The shoes as mentioned in my prior post are in the mail. Should be at my house by Monday. So lots to look forward to keeping things in a Tudor period slant as I can. Although it’s good to branch out and keep an eye on other time frames. It’s amazing when you can walk back the methods and the research. 

Be well and stay Safe,

THL Marrin O’Cadhla . 



Tudor Q and A

What is a Tudorosity?

A mashed combination of the words Tudor and Curiosity to create the word Tudorosity. Tudorosities is the plural form and the deffinition is as follows.

Tudorosity- an desire to learn or know anything about the Tudor dynasty assocated with years 1405 through 1603.

Most people ask my why I make the Tudor garb ?

I find the clothing of this era not only beautiful but also challenging to sew. There is much more care and purpose put into making garments and wearing garments in the Tudor Era. I love the look of Tudor so much I wanted to explore the way clothes were made back then and the subtle changes in fashion and styles of time.

How did you get started in this interesting hobby?

I started with art first, I love to draw, paint, and sculpt all the traditional fine arts. So being able to draw helps me visualize the looks I want to create in my garb. History has always been a huge interest of mine and I've had a knack for sewing since I was 6 years old. It all started with doll clothes and I learned cross stitch embroidery from my grandmother when I was little. I am self taught sewer, crochet, knitting, embroidery and tatting. My methods are learned from books mainly and there is still so much more to learn.

What is my favorite outfit and why?

It would be like picking a favorite out of one of my future children, its impossible. I love all my gown creations and really like the distinct differences in all the styles clothing I make for the Tudor Era.

Do you make the whole outfit including hat, shoes, and undergarments?

I do have a goal of making a complete Tudor from the skin out. As of right now I make 80% of my gowns and accessories. The shoes, corset, stockings, and petticoats are bought online and the petticoats are a close reproduction but not made by me. Though someday I plan on making a reed corset and petticoat to wear under my gowns, as well as other accessories.

How long does it take to make a gown?

It all depends on the type of gown I plan on making and the time period and class of the design. Generally if I work on it 8 hours a day on a sewing machine it will take 3 days to get the basics and another 5 days to do finish hand-sewing details and beading. So a week to a week and a half if working on it steady for that amount of time. I work a full-time job so it does take longer than a week to complete. I put over 40-100 hours per outfit depending on its complexity, its like its own full time job of sorts.

Do you make renaissance clothing for sale or custom orders?

No, due to new employment and changes in my lifestyle. Unfortunately, I have no time to support sewing for others. Though I recommend sewing lessons for those adventurous few. There are many fine folks who make and sell historical clothing. I suggest guidance with sew from many fine historical enthusiastic costumers out on the internet.

How long have you been making these elaborate costumes?

I have been in the Society of Creative Anachronism coming up on my 10th year. Active since 2004 working at demonstrations and volunteering when I could between working and other life's distractions. I really concentrated on Tudor sewing in 2007 and worked with patterns to learn proper fabrics, techniques, fit, and silhouette. I really enjoy the eras transition from a medieval form fitting layered cotterdie to the boned Tudor kirtle and then to structured Elizabethan clothing.

Lady Willoughby

Lady Willoughby

Tudor Rose

Tudor Rose

Peach Elizabethan Noble

Peach Elizabethan Noble

Tudor Rose

Tudor Rose

Mauve Waistcoat Elizabethan Gown

Mauve Waistcoat Elizabethan Gown

O’Kealy Heraldry

O’Kealy Heraldry