Apr. 2nd, 2017

callistotoni: (Default)
... and musings on historical compromise.

Ever since I learned about the early-17th C smock in the V&A with the (now faded) pink animals and flowers embroidered on it*, I've wanted to make one for myself. The snails are soooo cute! The designs seem to mostly come from the Scholehause School for the Needle, which I have a copy of, and I actually like to do hand embroidery.

But I was never able or willing to put in the time and effort to make it happen. Even if the embroidery technique used is simple, there's a lot of it. I never thought I could commit the time to make it happen.

But now I have technology! I own machine embroidery (ME)-capable sewing machines! And low and behold, the designs used on the smock had been digitized for ME and were available for purchase!** I even had a deadline-excuse: as part of my 30-year-a-Laurel celebration I plan to have an Elizabethan Underwear Party.

Now, because I'm me and I'm a Laurel in the SCA for costuming, I found myself wondering about the "ethics" (for lack of a better term) of creating a copy/version of this extant historical garment using machine embroidery. I actually thought a lot about it. Since most of you who are reading this are in the SCA and/or also like to make historical clothing, I thought I'd share my conclusions and approach to making this smock:

1) First and foremost, if I wasn't going to use ME I wouldn't have made this smock at all. I just don't have the bandwidth. Given all the other demands on my life I've got limited time for sewing. Add to that, I've got other sewing projects on my plate, including commitments to sew for other people. Having the option of doing all of the embroidery by machine kicked this project into the realm of Doable In My Lifetime. And once this project got labeled Doable in my brain I was able to get the time scheduled and gather the materials to make it a reality.

2) I accepted that this smock was going to be a work of compromise. My reasoning went as follows:
  • I was going to copy the original smock as much as I could, but I was going to use my machine(s) when I thought it would not be obvious and would save the time necessary to keep the project Doable.
  • I was going to be wearing this at SCA events. I was not ever going to wear this smock to work at a more "rigorous" historical re-creation event, such as Kentwell in the UK.
  • Most of these SCA events would be camping, so the smock had to be made sturdily and be machine-washable.
Alright, how did this all play out?

Sewing approach:Read more... )

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