07 June 2009


for the past few months, i've been busier than usual. i've been working part-time, on a contractual basis, at the wonderlab. mostly i've helped out with graphic design for exhibit labels, and some assistance with assembly of new exhibits. it's a lot of fun to get behind the scenes of one of cosmo's favorite spots in town, and he's always curious to know what i am up to when i go off to work.

i've been volunteering with middleway house, assisting with the new wings partnership, which is a fantastic project involving historic renovation of the coca-cola building, into a commercial kitchen/child care center/apartments, plus a new 3 story shelter for victims of domestic violence, next door. it is a green building project, which includes some roof gardening on the old building, a living roof on the new one, a courtyard garden, rain garden, cistern collecting roof run-off, solar panels, energy efficiency, operable windows, worm composting in the basement...exciting stuff! what a joy to be surrounded by such awesome women, in a supportive, feminist environment. can't think of a better place to get my architectural feet wet again.

i also took on a design project for a group of musicians, putting together a performance concerning music and culture in the time of shakespeare. they'll be performing in libraries this summer and, most likely, schools in the fall. they asked me to come up with a few pieces that would suggest the period, without being full-on costumes.

i'm not a seamstress, nor a costumer, but i hate to pass up a design challenge, especially for a friend. i made puffy sleeves for the women, padded shoulders for the men, a floppy hat, with a stiff brim (puzzled over that one for weeks), and breeches for the men--all from thrifted clothes and otherwise re-purposed fabric.

and. i. made. an elizabethan neck ruff.

what is a neck ruff? it's what you call those stuffy looking lace collars that we associate with shakespearian times. also referred to as cartwheel ruff, or head-on-a-plate.

at first i fussed around with folding paper, to make a mock up... i got some starch...but nothing i tried was working. then i found some instructions online that actually made sense to me (there were plenty that didn't) and i followed them precisely. after seven hours or so of tedious labor, i had a believable ruff. then i made a second one.

the trickiest part was dealing with two needles plus all that lace.

i had 15 yards of it, and didn't want to cut it until i knew how much it was going to take. so, i had to contend with it getting twisted, and just generally being in the way. once i got the hang of it though, it was nice work--slow, but pleasant.

the ruffs are decidedly a hit, they really make the whole look of the ensemble, if i do say so myself. and the musicians report that they can easily play their instruments while wearing them (a big plus).

i won't go into all the details of construction, since the instructions i used are readily available-- should you ever, for any reason, want to make a ruff. i have extra lace. i am considering making more to sell. though, to whom, i am not quite sure. maybe i can capture a niche market. is there such thing as elizabethan erotica?


bethany said...

theres a subculture in japan called "gothic lolita" OR "loligoth" that would totally love it - i think i saw an article about them in Bust magazine last year.. with a quick google search i came up with this: http://harajukus.blogspot.com/2008/10/japanese-fashion-gothic-lolita-style.html

but dont forget to check into your local costume shop with a sample, and just say theyre available on special order.

Anonymous said...

Boy, you have been super busy! I've been whiling my time away staring at the computer. You put me to shame.

Very cool neck ruff, BTW!

Malke said...

Ever since I read your post I have seen ruffs *everywhere*!!

Anna said...

Nice ruffs, but how about you cited the page you got your instructions from, hm? I'd say it's rudimentary manners, to do so.

cake said...

anna, you are right. my bad. i usually have a link for something like that, but i failed to that time. i'll go back and correct it. if you are the person who created that fabulous tutorial, many, MANY thanks to you. you got me through a tough challenge!