CoBloWriMo ’17 Day 2 – Current Projects


This will be a quick post; in a shocking turn of events, I'm not actually working on very much right now! At least not in the way of sewing – my big effort this year has been learning to play the lute. Everyone who talks to me on a regular basis has heard me go on and on about it endlessly, and my poor housemates have had to deal with living with a beginning musician. I've done a lot of vocal music in my life, but never really any instrumental music, so this has been a VERY new experience for me. I'm currently learning out of a book, but I'm hoping in the next few months to find an actual human to learn from.

I chose the lute because it was a popular instrument in several of the periods that I'm interested in – my lute is a renaissance lute, good for late 16th and early 17th century music, and lute music continued to be popular through the 17th and 18th centuries as well (though the form of the lute changes a bit – more strings, weird necks, etc). I also chose it because it will be good to accompany myself singing. AND, best of all, there are lots of period images of women of all different social situations playing lutes.

(This is my lute outfit goal – totally doable with my red kirtle, I think!)

My actual current sewing project is making myself a lute strap. It's so uninteresting to look at unfinished that I won't even bother posting a picture of it (it's literally a strip of green silk that I've been hemming my hand for AGES), but what IS interesting is some of the images that I've been looking at for research. Most of them I didn't even have to find myself – someone on the internet has ALREADY put together a page of images of 17th and 18th century lute straps. Apparently there's lots of uncertainty about how some of these straps work – how long they were, how they were attached, etc. There's evidence for both a long strap worn over the shoulder like a modern guitar strap and a shorter tight strap made of stretchy animal gut (like what instrument strings were made of historically) that could be looped over a waistcoat button or pinned to the front of a lady's gown. I'm going for the former, since the materials are more easily accessible (and I like the look of the giant bows on the bottom of the lute!).

The strap I'm working on is olive green silk, so it will probably look very similar to this one.

That's what I'm working on right now! My other current project is a new smock for my Elizabethan outfit, which I'm hoping to finish in time for my trip to the New York Renaissance Faire in a few weeks.

Until next time!


CoBloWriMo 10 – Queensleeves


This summer I’m going into my third season in the cast of the New York Renaissance Faire.  I portray Frances Brooke, Baroness Cobham, Lady of the Bedchamber and Mistress of the Robes to Queen Elizabeth 1.  I was going to write this post about my own costume, but that might take some more planning and compiling.  Instead, this post is about another faire-related project that I love very much and am extremely proud of.

Queen Elizabeth 1’s actual birthday is September 7.  Last year, September 7 fell on a Faire day, so we made a big deal out of the Queen’s birthday, which included an elaborate ceremony where the courtiers presented the queen with gifts.  We know from extant New Year’s gift rolls that Lady Cobham always gave the Queen clothes, so I decided to make a pair of sleeves for the Queen’s birthday.  Luckily, my director wanted new sleeves for the Queen anyway, so I didn’t have to supply any of the materials!  Which was a good thing, because I ended up bejeweling the crap out of them.  My director had a general design in mind for them, and gave me fabrics that coordinated with the Queen’s gown, and then gave me free reign to decorate them as I like.  I’ve never decorated anything to the extent that these sleeves were decorated, and I did a lot of the work by hand.  I originally didn’t love how they looked with the rest of the gown but they grew on me and now I LOVE THEM.  So enjoy!

History Twins!  Also, so much stuff is happening!


Ok, news first!  I’m going to be doing all sorts of cool stuff in the next few months (and never sleeping!):

  • My thesis programs are up on the Merchant’s House website!  I’ll be Bridget Murphy the kitchen maid on St Patrick’s Day, and Julia Tredwell talking about etiquette on April 23 and talking about fashion on May 21.
  • I’m also helping out with the interactive kids’ tour on February 20, which is going to  be really really fun.  If you are interested in daily life in the 19th century and have access to a child, I suggest checking it out!
  • On April 24 I will be modeling my Tissot dress in the New York Nineteenth Century Society Extravaganza fashion show at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn.  Not a lot of info on this event yet, but I’ve really enjoyed the other NYNCS events that I’ve been to.
  • I am very excited to be participating in Fashioning Weeksville, an awesome program that will involve creating a costume for a new living history presentation at Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn.

Holy crap, right??  So much awesome stuff. When it rains it pours!

And now for something completely different: Remember my Ren Faire gown?  And St. Cecilia from 1568, who was wearing a very similar outfit?    

Well guess what!  I found another portrait that is even more eerily similar to my gown:

Right?  RIGHT???? This is basically exactly the same as my gown. And I’d never seen it before someone posted it as a one-off response to something on the Elizabethan Costume Facebook group maybe two weeks ago.  It’s like the time stream cracked open in a moment of perfect transference.

Or just a huge coincidence.  But hey. (Incidentally, anyone has any info about this painting please let me know – the Kunsthistoriches Museum webpage is really unhelpful).

I always love having history twin moments like this.  They provide unique insight to me as a modern person trying to recreate historical clothes in that they show that the choices I am making in color, cut, material, styling, accessorizing, etc are appropriate for someone who looked like me in period.  This is information that people were unlikely to write down, but very inportant for getting that truly authentic look.  So in this case, well done me!  I think now that I’ve found her I’m going to continue using her as inspiration – I love her hairstyle and jewelry, and the long pearl strand I wore for faire last year was really annoying.

I’ve done the history twin thing before – avid readers may remember my Tissot gown – and I’m doing it again for Bridget’s costume for my thesis: 

Painting : “The Jolly Washerwoman” (1851) by Lilly Martin Spencer, fabric is a reproduction from the collection of the Virginia Quilt Museum


Have you ever had a history twin?  Found your doppelgänger in a portrait or an old photograph?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Fashion Idioms


Dear readers,

I am heading off to the first weekend of rehearsals for the New York Renaissance Faire!  Huzzah!  I am very excited for the rehearsal process, last year I started part-way through the season and missed it.

Readers, this is where I need your help.  This year I am portraying the Queen’s Mistress of the Robes (which is going to be so, so fun).  In order to create her unique voice, I am collecting up as many fashion, sewing, and textile-related idioms as I can think of.  There are so many that we use in everyday speech (straight-laced, tight-knit, bursting at the seams, and infinitely more) that I cannot possibly think of them all myself.

So, readers, please comment with any fashion, sewing, or textile-related idioms you’d like to share!  I would love to hear from you!

Who I Am and Why I’m Here

This is my Markland heraldry, for which my blog is named: argent, a pair of scissors and in chief a mullet of five points gules.

This is my Markland heraldry, for which my blog is named: argent, a pair of scissors and in chief a mullet of five points gules.

I’m sitting on an Amtrak train from Williamsburg, VA back to New York City, and I’m looking forward to eight hours with nothing but my thoughts (and five back-episodes of TNT’s new show The Librarians, which I have been very much looking forward to watching!) which is a perfect time to focus on my fledgling blog.

First: my name is Mem.  You probably see my name in several places right on the front page on my blog.  This is not by accident.  Like many creative-types (and probably most humans), I have a bad tendency to compare myself to others who have have a much more established presence in my field than I do which sends me into a spiral of what’s-the-points and why-do-I-bothers.  As a way to combat this, I’m putting my name on things – a little self-branding, one could call it.  One of the goals of keeping this blog is to carve out a little corner of the internet that’s mine.

Second: I am currently a grad student at NYU.  I’m getting a dual masters in costume studies and library science.  I’m also the wardrobe supervisor for the Tisch Grad Acting program, and a Domestic Sites interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg (I worked there for a year and a half before starting grad school, and now I work there between semesters).  My undergrad degree is in costume design.  I love to learn new crafts and make things in my hands.

Third: this post is a daily task for Blogging 101, and in the task they gave us a list of questions to keep in mind.  Well, as you might be able to tell, I love lists.  So I am going to answer them in as a list.

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
    • As a costumer it’s always a good idea to keep documentation of what you work on.  But I’d also like to share my work and research with the larger historical costuming community, many of whom have blogs.  It seems like a good way to get some feedback and get my name out there.  And my family says they want a way to show off the stuff that I do, so.
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
    •  Costume history is going to be my main topic.  My main time periods are Elizabethan (late 16th-early 17th century) and mid-Victorian (1860s-1880s), but I also dabble in 18th century and Regency (early 19th century), and I do enjoy wearing 1950s clothes in normal life so a bit of that, too.  I’m going to share my progress on sewing projects that I’m working on – this will include mainly historical garments and accessories, but some modern ones, too, as well as experiments in other crafts like lacemaking and bookbinding.  I love cosplay and steampunk so those will (hopefully) come up as I make new costumes, too!  I’m also hoping to share research, and I’m going to challenge myself to share sketches.  I need to draw more.
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
    • As I mentioned before, I would love to connect with the larger historical costuming community.  Blogs seem to be the main medium for sharing projects and research, and many of the costumers I greatly admire have fantastic blogs (though I am starting to notice they’re mostly on blogspot!  Oops.  Wordpress blogs look nicer anyway).  I’d also love to connect with crafters, artisans, artists, cosplayers, Steampunk people, general geeks, and anyone with similar interests.  I’m in a few costuming/crafting Facebook groups and I lurk a lot but I need to be more active.  And I always love making new friends!
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?
    • I’m hoping to keep a portfolio of sorts, and documentation of the work I’m doing.  I’m just starting my costuming career, and before I can really build up any quantity, I think it’s a good idea to have a record of quality.

So!  There you have it!  Here I am.  (And I have seven more hours on the train!  And The Librarians!)