It’s been a busy few months…

Since last writing something all the way back in August we’ve had some busy Costume Days, preparing for Halloween, the Christmas craft fair and even having a few days of holiday and life in the real world!

Halloween was rather crazy and very very busy. The plague came again to Trerice but this time it opened a portal to the Underworld and unleashed characters from Cornish folklore. There were lots of screams heard in the house, so goal achieved! There were about 400 people through in the first hour which must be a record for the place – I’ve never seen such queues! Thanks for everyone’s patience.

Halloween took place on the last weekend of the season, and we’ve now moved to winter opening at weekends only. As part of this a craft fair with items made by volunteers and staff at Trerice has been organised in November. In anticipation of this we started making dolls, generally inspired by our Tudor costumes, and made from the bags and bags of scrap material left over from making full-size outfits.

In addition to that we’ve made Tudor hats – Henry VII and Henry VIII styles – as well as French hoods, and Christmas decorations from used cotton reels (we’ve got through a lot this year!), ribbon and beads.

Next up is helping with decorations and things for Christmas needed for the first weekend in December. Then there’s always the ‘big list’ of items for next year to be going on with.

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First costume day of the summer holidays

Yesterday was an enjoyable costume day, relatively busy with steady numbers, and not too crazy. It was great to gave some new volunteers giving a hand and to be able to show them what we do. It's certainly true – the more the merrier – it's nice to be have time for a cuppa and keep up with demand from visitors. Hopefully we haven't scared them off!

Again, we had some lovely comments from visitors:

'Amazing. A real laugh and made me stand up taller…'

'Wonderful – great work to create the collection. Great fun had by all, many thanks!'

'I liked feeling like I'm really important.'

'…Thank you for volunteering your time for families to have a lovely experience making memories.'

We also used the occasion to showcase some of the work we've been doing in recent weeks, including the wall hanging inspired by the knot garden and Tudor-dressed rag dolls made from scraps, or cabbage, left over from making our full-sized outfits.

The doll in the blue and red uses up scraps from a similar outfit made for school groups, which is loosely based on a portrait of Mary FitzAlan, step-daughter of Mary Arundell of Lanherne.


The pattern for this doll comes from The Tudor Child, and the clothes are enlarged versions of patterns in the book. Each layer of clothing can be removed. The outfit is made up of a smock, petticoat, kirtle, gown, fore-sleeves, partlet, French hood and girdle.


The other two dolls were more informally made, more guess work than with a pattern. Each has various layers, which are also removable. The Elizabethan gent wears doublet and trunkhose, with a jerkin, ruff, cloak, shoes and a tall hat. Underneath he has hose and a shirt.

The Elizabethan lady wears a smock, stays, bum roll and farthingale, with a kirtle and partlet with a ruff over the top. On top of this is a gown with hanging sleeves. She has black velvet cap decorated with gold and pearl beads, and also has black velvet shoes over stockings tied up with ribbon garters. (She's gained facial features since this photo was taken)

Another busy week…

We’re looking forward to seeing the new wall hanging in Reception. Hopefully it will be on the wall soon.

 
Final adjustments were made to the Poldark-esque clothes for the murder mystery that took place on Saturday night, and we got ready for the second May Bank Holiday Costume Day.

                                                                               ~~~~~~
Today we had another Costume Day, which turned out to be a record breaker for us – 165 visitors dressed in 4 hours. Time to put our feet up for a bit! 

                A few of the visitors’ comments:

“A fantastic experience that was entertaining and informative. A huge thank you to all involved”.

         “Great idea! My 2 yr old didn’t want to take it off!”

“Amazing costumes. Came back twice! A great experience. Thank you”.

          “A lovely, fun and informative activity. We all enjoyed dressing up in the beautiful costumes. Thank you!”

Autumn for Trerice Costume Group

Since the summer costume days ended the group has been cleaning and mending clothes. Some of the outfits have been completely remodelled, such as a red English gown which was covered in snags and frayed ends and looked rather a mess. Using material from another pair of red curtains, the old gown was used as pattern to make a new one. The lining and puffed sleeves have been reused in the new version too. 

Our version of Tudor Tailor’s Mary Feilding which has been very popular has also shown signs of wear on the lining, which has become holey, and on the buttons. These have now been replaced and the garment has been given a new lease of life.

The front of the academic gown was looking very bobbly by the end of the summer. On closer inspection the front panels were inside out compared to the back and sleeves, so it was taken apart, turned around and rehemmed before putting it back together.

We discovered that ruffs can survive the washing machine. Some got quite grubby over the summer and after much debate on the best method of cleaning, it was decided to use a gentle wash with a lot of Vanish. We used some thin hair rollers to shape the ruffs as they dried, and don’t seem to have lost much of their stiffness.

In addition to repairs we have been making preparations for Halloween and revamping some of the Tudor banqueting costumes.

Remodelled dress

    The original dress

The waist of the original dress was ridiculously high for a 1570s outfit so the material of the original dress has become a skirt, stomacher, paned sleeves and headdress, combined with a new gown from donated curtains.

Now off to watch Tudor week on Bake Off! 

Murder most foul (or another way to use two pairs of curtains)

Amidst the usual Tudor clothes making we’ve been asked to make costumes for the Murder Mystery Evening at Trerice on 15 July. The whodunnit is set in 1768, the year of the last Lord Arundell’s death, which means jumping forward two centuries and researching a whole new era of clothes. Ever up for a challenge, this meant turning to Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion book 1 and trying to make head or tail of pattern books by Elizabeth Friendship, as well as looking at existing garments, portraits and other resources. 

Recycling some skirts that were lurking in a cupboard, with the addition of a Janet Arnold pattern for a suitable jacket, the chambermaid now awaits some linen accessories to finish off the outfit. 

There’s also a sack dress for a noble lady, with panniers, in progress, made from two pairs of curtains.


The panniers


The petticoat


Detail of petticoat waist, based on a surviving petticoat in the MET Museum??  Seemed like a good idea as it should reduce the bulk of material around the waist a bit. 


The robings over the top, with a bodice that closes in the front to have a foundation to pin the stomacher to – ideally there would be a corset but there might not be enough time to complete one, on top of everything else.


Back of the gown


Gown with stomacher balanced in place.

It’s looking something like they’re supposed to at this point but the front and the sleeves weren’t sitting quite right and I wasn’t happy with the back much either so it all came apart again. 

Out came the sleeves. 

Off came the piece at the back of the neck at the top of the pleats. 

Apart came the shoulder seams. 

Pleats unpicked and reordered slightly diffently. 

In went a back yoke piece that I didn’t understand previously why it was needed – now I did. When inserted it did actually make a difference to the front, because it affected the lie of the shoulder seams. 

Shoulders resewn and the front pleats realigned, everything sitting a lot better so far.

The sleeve flounces also went through a makeover. At first they were just one, lined, but this made them too heavy, so out came the unpicker again. Now with two flounces for each sleeve, out came the pinking shears to attack the edges, and one became smaller than the other to sit on top of its partner. The flounces were finished off with two layers of lace underneath before attaching them to the sleeves and then sewing the sleeves back on to the gown. 


The revamped dress:

The men’s costumes are still in mock-up stages, and seem a bit too long, so possibly back to the drawing board with those. 

For more details about the Murder Mystery Evening visit http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/events/302b7675-3f0b-4a51-a9c8-957f43858a2d/pages/details

Our new Hayloft collection

The DIY costume collection for the Hayloft is coming on a treat. These are the simplified, easy to put on dresses and doublets which can be worn without having help to dress (compared to those for costume days). All the outfits have been started and some even completed. Thoughts have now turned to cloaks and headwear. 

    
     

Happy New Year! 

A new year and new projects. 

(The resolution to post more often has almost been scuppered before getting started!)

Before Christmas we finally finished the set of school boy and school girl outfits for 5-7yrs. (yay!) 

 We’ve now started on some new quick-try-on outfits for the Hayloft for children. We’ve adapted the usual patterns to be open all the way down the back and secured with ties. There’ll be a couple of things for adults too, but it’ll be mostly for kids. (I wonder how long it’ll be before a grown man is wearing a 4yr old’s dress as a coat?! Maybe visitors will be too sensible this year.) 

There’ll also be some new items for costume days, dates of which are being sorted out, but the first this year is on Easter Monday. 

Some of the Costume Group at Christmas

After Christmas dancing

Hats, gloves and photos

One of the last hats to make for the schools’ project is a straw hat for a farm labourer. We picked up a bundle of plaited straw at the reenactment fair last year, but it’s taken a while to work out what to do as it didn’t come with instructions, leading to quite a lot of guess work. 

The straw was soaked in water first for a short while, before the end was curled around and sewn together. The straw was sewn in a spiral, flattening along the way, occasionally pausing to shape it over a mould – a bowl of a suitable size and shape. The brim was a continuation of the crown. Stones were used as weights to flatten it while it dried. 

   
 

Over 20 metres of linen thread was used to sew it together and there’s still enough straw left to make probably another two hats.     

Our skilled embroiderer and lace maker have been at it again. They have, barring a few sequins, finished the embroidered gloves using the pattern in Seventeenth Century Women’s dress patterns book 1. They look amazing! 

  
 

Another volunteer is making a headdress which includes a hair net with gold thread. After several trials of different types the final net is based on instructions for a parrot net. Still need to get a photo of it, but it looks very impressive.

Our next costume day is on Monday 25 May – it’s not just for kids, and has proved very popular with adults. Photos from the last event, on 4 May, have just gone on to the photo gallery.  

   

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!