Bringing up the Bodies – or Heads will roll

This week we’ve been finishing off some more of the schools’ project outfits. There’s only a couple of hats to make up and a few alterations to carry out. We’ve also continued making our models for displaying our work in the Great Chamber next week. 

The papier mâché heads have now dried out thoroughly and it’s quite satisfying to  pop the balloons and hear them peel away inside. The next step was to cover them with some muslin or thin linen over some strategically placed wadding for chins and cheekbones. They look great from the front but a little Frankenstein-like at the back…

The bodies are made from broom handles and a short bit of wood for the shoulders, covered with two pillows, supported by stands, including the bases of garden umbrellas and Christmas trees. Some of the heads need a little more attention to make them stay upright – that’s a job for Monday morning. It’s surprising how some of the pillow bodies need to lose weight already! 





Body building TCG style

We’re preparing for a display of our schools project outfits, so once again our workroom gained an air of Blue Peter about it. This time we more making bodies to tie in with the existing ones – broom handles and pillows etc. First of all were some papier mâché heads for the top of each to display the hats and headdresses. We added some features to make them look less like balloons, but they could look a little freaky.

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Now just waiting for them to dry while we work out what to do next.

Finished off a baby’s outfit, based on the John Dunch pattern in Tudor Child. It’s body, so far, is a couple of cushions…

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Surprise of the day came in the form of cake! Wonderfully made by one of the group, based on the mid Tudor blue noble lady’s dress for the schools’ project.

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Solution found!

Carrying on from the last post about attempting knitting, the best way forward appears to be to rope in more experienced knitters from among the volunteers at Trerice! This week one lady came in with 10 knitted coifs, yes ten, that she did over Christmas. Very impressed. She got it down by the end to three hours per hat and without the pattern!

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A regular of the Costume Group has undertaken knitting a thrum cap to go with our sailor’s outfit. I’ve been told it’s supposed to be very weather/water proof… I think a volunteer is needed to test it!

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This one looks odd, but more hat like (?) than the next photo which was possibly pulled too far on the stand and looks like some weird sea creature.

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Returning to safer ground, a gown for an adult lady, for the summer costume days, is under way. It’s turned into a group effort with various bits being stitched by different people. The skirt needs attaching to the bodice, some jewellery applied and a whole load of lacing holes are still to be done. It’s loosely based on portraits of Mary I in the 1550s and a portrait of Joan Tuckfield of Exeter in 1560.

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Knitting – better not give up the day job!

Succumbing to a clearance sale in Hobbycraft I bought a set of five double pointed needles and a ball of cheap wool, and thought it a good excuse to have a go at the knitted coif in Tudor Child. Just to clarify, I’m a complete novice at knitting, with not much idea about all the various stitches let alone reading a pattern! Thank goodness for YouTube!

The initial eagerness started to wane after the twentieth failed attempted to get started knitting with five needles. It was really tricky to see what was going on with two stitches on each needle, and everything ended up in a large knot several times. Not willing to quit, I thought it would be easier to start with four stitches on each needle – it was easier to see and keep it in the square formation, however there was quite a large hole in the middle. (There were a few too many holes in this attempt).

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Almost lost the will at one point when having to do 18 rows of the same thing, not helped by losing count on occasion. Just after this it all started to go a bit wrong reading the pattern… the knitting must have got turned inside out at one point so the last bit looks the reverse of the crown. Then confusion fell when creating the back and ear flaps, the opening became far too small, and K10 I later realised meant knit 10 stitches not 10 rows. By this point it seemed best to abandon ship! Somehow ended up with a holey flat cap type thing which may or may not be useable…

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Not wanting to be defeated I started again, and this time managed the two stitches on each needle at the beginning.

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It seemed a lot easier/clearer the second time around. Until near the end when you go from one ear flap to the other, which was a little unclear, but I made something up and it seems to have worked ok. There was one point doing the back that I used the wrong stitch and have ended up with an unintended ridge but I suppose it will help to distinguish the front and back for the wearer.

It was only when I finished I noticed various dropped stitches, although not so bad as the first attempt, which I’ve sewn up. The coif is supposed to be felted next, which if it works will hopefully hide any repairs that have been added, but I think the cheap wool was acrylic…

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Doh! New discovery in our old house

A few weeks ago the Great Hall at Trerice, which is only lit by sunlight through the 576 paned window, had just the right sort of light to pick up details in the plasterwork frieze. The frieze is runs around the two-storey room at ceiling height, so it is not often that much attention gets paid to it because it is so high up and the light’s not always very good. There’s been many times when we’ve seen it but not actually looked at it!

Closer inspection of the frieze came about when it was asked why Homer Simpson should be depicted in the plaster… doh! turns out it wasn’t Homer but a lady wearing something like Tudor dress and headwear.

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This one’s in the middle of the frieze on the Musicians’ Gallery wall, above the door from the Screens Passage to the Hall.

Most of the figures are completely different, although those in the corners of the room, diagonally facing each other are very similar, but have minor differences. We’re in the process of researching more about them, and whether they are just generic images or have a stronger link to Trerice and the family who lived there. It might be very fanciful, but they could be portraits of the Arundell family…

We’ve been wondering if it’s possible to date the figures from the styles of clothes and hats they’re wearing.

Going clockwise around the room from the lady’s image, at 12 o’clock, the others are:

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This one’s in the other corner of that wall next to the window. Originally it was thought that it was a scary looking baby but it seems to have a beard, so could be an old man.

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This one’s on the side of the room with the window, opposite the fireplace (at about 4 o’clock). It has some similarities to the brass of Sir John Arundell in armour in Stratton Church.

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This one’s diagonally opposite its ‘twin’.

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This one’s in the centre of the frieze (at 6 o’clock to the lady’s image).

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This one’s diagonally opposite the similar one near the window.

The next two are above the fireplace, opposite the window, which might suggest a place of importance.

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The last is back on the first wall at the Musicans’ Gallery end, in the corner.

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We’re wondering if it’s possible to date them from their clothes and hairstyles?

Thanks to Emily Hide for the photos.

Schools’ project: a few more finishing touches

The finishing touches (almost) have been added to the mid Tudor noble lady’s gown – fore-sleeves and a girdle. Just need to finish the smock and create a hood to complete it.

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The brown late Tudor dress is getting closer to completion with a supporter or picadil for a ruff under way. Not satisfied with the result from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 4, (probably used the wrong fabric and glue) version number two, without glue, is being attempted from the Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns Book 2 (ed. Susan North and Jenny Tiramani) which so far is looking a lot tidier. It’s interesting to note that although both books examined the same object the patterns and instructions are quite different; the ability to x-ray items noticeably alters and revises views on the methods of how things were constructed.

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Each tab or picadil was cut out in card and paper clipped in place first to make sure they fitted together on the base.

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They were then cut out of the top fabric.

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After the top fabric was wrapped around each piece of card and sewn together they were folded in half and slotted over the base and sewn at the bottom.

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The underside neck bit was stitched – an attempt at stem stitch but a bit rusty – for decoration then attached to the picadils.

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The card neck piece was then attached before the top fabric was added over the top. The next step was to cover the join with ribbon – brown in this case to indicate it goes with the brown dress – all about the subtlety!

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After that the top fabric was added to the top side of the picadil.

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The two picadils together (the Janet Arnold pattern on the left).

A couple of fashionable ladies or so

Among the things being worked on at the moment are two outfits for noble ladies.

One is a mid Tudor noble lady, loosely based on a portrait of Mary FitzAlan, countess of Arundel, mixed with the Tudor Child‘s pattern for Princess Elizabeth’s gown.

Each layer has been made by a different person in the Costume Group. The outfit is made up of a padded petticoat, a kirtle and fore-sleeves, and a gown.

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The padded petticoat

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The kirtle

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After doing about 40 eyelet holes, on various outfits I didn’t fancy doing more, especially in velvet, so resorted to brass rings, which should be easier for children to thread up. There will be a placard over the top of the lacing.

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To finish it off we decided to add a partlet as well. Just waiting for the fore sleeves before getting a final photo.

The other is a late Tudor noble lady’s gown with hanging sleeve, complete with French farthingale and stays underneath. The next step is to make a suitable ruff and supporter.

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The foundation garments.

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With the petticoat over the top.

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The gown on top.

Also just completed, a mid-late gentlewoman’s gown and kirtle in red and black.

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More for the Schools’ Project

Some more outfits recently finished.

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Mid-late Tudor noble lady
It’s not bad what can be achieved by layering up ribbon and braid…

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Mid Tudor merchant

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Late Tudor gentlewoman

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Mid Tudor gentleman

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Late Tudor servant

Whodunit? – again!
On Friday Trerice was open in the evening from 6-9pm with the opportunity to investigate the murder of a conservation assistant. The volunteers are all suspects and the weapon is hidden somewhere around the house. Within minutes we managed to spook a few visitors with the rag stuffed body!

There are two more murder mystery evenings in the next couple of weeks followed by a spooky Halloween night.

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Shopped till we dropped!

Last weekend (or so – bit late posting!) a group of us from the Costume Group ventured across the Tamar to go to the International Living History Fair near Leicester. We stopped at the lovely Coughton Court on the way up and had a look around the house and garden. There were some interesting monuments in the church next door too, one of two of the Throckmorton family holding hands, and a brass of one lady who had over 100 grandchildren.

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At the Living History Fair it was a bit like kids in a sweet shop, and we were not sure where to start! We shopped for accessories for the schools’ project and costume days including belts, purses, hats and books.

We met the Tudor Tailor ladies and the folks of the Green Valley Farm and had some interesting chats, bringing back some useful ideas and tips to Cornwall.

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Our haul!