Thursday, June 25, 2009

Elizabethan Embroidery Pattern of Insanity

Color guide for the embroidery, with the stems of the flowers worked in metallic silver

The linework finished in Adobe Illustrator

The roughly traced and altered sketch

The original gauntlet, a photo from a V&A catalog
I'll count this as art on this here art blog, since it did involve a) drawing, b) Adobe products, and c) color, material, a finished flat image.

Anywho. For those of you who don't know, I'm all about historical costuming, and spend most of my off-work time sewing some such from some century or another. For my Elizabethan costume, I am in need (and want) of gloves for the couple Renaissance Faires that are cool or cold.
Elizabethan gloves are not like modern gloves. The hand part is relatively the same, but Elizabethan versions flare out at the wrist, forming a wide, open gauntlet that was decorated with lace, embroidery, and spangles. The flare was to so that the gloves could be put on over the sleeves, which were always complicated to untie/latch/button/hook, and always tight at the wrist. Under the sleeve was a shirt cuff with pleated or gathered ruffles. This too would have to be undone in order to get a tight-wristed glove on...and then all that re-attached, and then all re-undone if you wanted to take the gloves off! Simply not practical.

With all that gauntlet just sitting there like an open canvas, ladies and specialist began to decorate them with all manner of trimmings and whatnot. Several extant examples of embroidered Elizabethan gloves survive today, and are shockingly complicated and beautiful.

All that being said, I've endeavored to make my own pair. I will do this by adding a gauntlet onto an existing pair of store-bought gloves. The gauntlet will be embroidered by hand, using a polychromatic assortment of flosses, including metallic silver.
Original Elizabethan/Jacobean embroidery. See the spangles and the silver threads?

Yes, this is nuts, BUT it so happens that I will have a lot of idle time between now and the first of August, when I am to wear the gloves. A stupidly long road trip, and a round-trip flight from the West Coast to the Dirty South should provide me ample time to at least make a big dent in the work.

A little about the pattern - the original gauntlet shown in b&w is from the V&A. I hate squirrels, so I replaced them with my trademark owl. The pattern was sketched, then cleaned up in Illustrator, and the color guide done in Photoshop. The design will be embroidered twice, on the top sides of the gauntlets only, on a re-inforced ground of white linen/cotton blend. The circles on the pattern are as yet undecided. Some period examples show these as embroidered "tufts" or little lines to fill the negative space; other examples have them as single silver sequins, which is alluring to me. They could also be pearls or some other lovely bead. We'll have to see, but for now, one thing at a time!