Tuesday, 10 February 2015

This year's big nerdy project

This is 20 meters of linen.

It's all intended for April's Historical Sew Monthly project, which I'm quite excited about. I'm going to make a linothorax.  If you're unfamiliar with this term*, the linothorax was a piece of body armour made of linen, which was used by the ancient Greeks and Etruscans.

The recent book by Gregory Aldrete, Scott Bartell, and Alicia Aldrete focuses on linen armour as used by Alexander the Great's army, and as you would hope it contains instructions and a pattern for the reader who wishes to make their own at home.  The authors have used research and practical experimentation to determine how linen armour might have been made, and whether it could have provided reasonable protection in battle.  It appears the linothorax worked a bit like kevlar in that it absorbed and dissipated the force of a blow, and it offered pretty good protection against the weaponry of the time.

Here's a picture of a chap wearing a linothorax:

Image found here.

If, like me, you have a Classics degree, you know that armour like this is pictured a lot in Greek art, which implies it was quite common.

Predictably, I bought the linen before I got to the part of the book that describes how much linen is required, and probably bought a lot more than I will actually need, but linen isn't cheap and I had to take advantage of The Fabric Warehouse's 40% off sale while it was on.  Yes, I could possibly have got the linen cheaper online somewhere, but with the Fabric Warehouse I know what I'm getting.  For one thing I know it is linen, and not some dodgy mystery blend.  It'll still have slightly different properties to ancient Greek linen, because it has been produced using modern industrial methods, but it's the closest I'm going to get on my budget.  It's is a medium-weight linen which is, I suspect, a reasonable approximation of what the ancient Greeks might have used.

*Strictly speaking, "linothorax" is an Anglicised version of the Greek term λίνος θώραξ  .

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Dorset buttons

Making thread buttons is a new skill for me, and I think they came out quite well.  These are a very simple design, of course, but I like them.  They remind me of Fortuna's Wheel, which in turn reminds me of A Confederacy of Dunces, and that makes me laugh.  And they are the same colour as the TARDIS.

I remember reading somewhere that thread buttons were the most common type of button used on 18th century outfits, but of course I've now forgotten where I read that.

My buttons are copies of an original example found here, and are quite simple to make.  They involve covering a metal ring (in this case a curtain tie-back ring) with thread using buttonhole stitch, then weaving a little pattern in the center of the ring.  I stuck to a simple design, but thread buttons could be incredibly elaborate like the ones shown here.

The Challenge: Blue.

Fabric: N/A.

Pattern: Copied from a picture.

Year: 18th century to early 19th century.

Notions: TARDIS-blue cotton embroidery thread and metal curtain tie-back rings.

How historically accurate is it?  Not really.  My construction technique is accurate, but the originals would have been made of linen or silk, not cotton, and the rings would have been brass.  Maybe 70% at best.

Hours to complete: Between 20 and 30 minutes for each button.  Apparently, some Dorset button makers could get through six or seven dozen buttons per day.

First worn: Not yet.  They have been put in my stash in anticipation of next month's challenge.

Total cost: About $17 all up.