Fantastic Fabrics and Where to Find Them

Sunday 7 July, 10am-6pm

We are pleased to be presenting our next Thamesreach Masterclass.

The class will focus on fabrics, what to chose, what to avoid and how to make an informed compromise. We are excited to have Dame Margaret Wolseley who was elevated to the Order of the Laurel for her skill in creating historically plausible clothing from a range of cultures and eras as our teacher.

Dame Margaret’s particular research interest is early Tudor women’s dress, especially hats. She has also poured considerable research effort into late 15th century Venetian men’s costuming, where they actually have many lovely paintings to study.

As space for this class i limited, your place will only be confirmed once payment has reached Thamesreach.

Venue 24 Milton Park, London N6 5QA. Closest tube station Archway Station and Highgate Station. Has two friendly cats.

Price £20, including materials and a vegetarian lunch and tea. Please submit any allergies when booking

The class will cover what kinds of fabrics were, and were not, available in pre-1600 Europe. Using small swatches of diverse natural and synthetic materials, we will create and annotate fabric sample cards to take home. While assembling these, we will discuss:

  • The properties, both desirable and not, of natural and synthetic fibres
  • How fibres and fabrics were processed historically compared to today
  • The importance of selecting the correct weave and weight for the garment intended
  • Choosing fabrics for different purposes (fashion fabric, body linens, warmth layers, decorative edging, linings, interlinings, stiffening)
  • How trade routes, local production, sumptuary laws, and national pride affected the fabrics worn
  • Modern substitutes for historic fabrics
  • How to treat fabric before and after constructing garments
  • How to choose sewing threads
  • Colours they could have made, colours they couldn’t afford, and colours they actually wore
  • Patterns to embrace, patterns to avoid
  • How to interpret the fabrics in art
  • Books useful for delving more deeply into this topic
  • Reputable (and perhaps not so trustworthy) suppliers – please bring your own suggestions and experiences to share

Please contact the teacher in advance if you have a particular culture or time period of special interest. Students are also encouraged to bring swatches of fabrics that they would like to know how best to use.

Dame Margaret enjoys taking classes at the School of Historical Dress, whose teachers are leading researchers, authors and costume creators for 16th-18th century clothing. The initial version of this class was inspired by the samplers she brought home from some of these classes, and the desire to share this immeasurably significant piece of advice with costumiers throughout the SCA: if you want to avoid frustration, faking it, and even failure, USE THE RIGHT MATERIALS FOR THE JOB. However, Dame Margaret has no illusions of any modern recreationist being able to afford today the money that was historically devoted to the wardrobe of the nobility, and budget-friendly options will frequently be considered.

Dame Margaret has taught versions of this class at Atlantian University, Pennsic University, and privately in her own home. Both seasoned Laurels and sewing novices have taken and enjoyed the class; all levels of skill and experience are welcome. She is delighted to be able to expand the time allotted beyond the cramped confines of a two hour time block and looks forward to hearing about the diverse experiences of class participants. Come with ideas, goals, inspirations, questions, and stories of headaches – all will guide us as we learn how to improve our skill at purchasing fabric for historical costume construction.