The Ninth Annual Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge

April 1 to July 31, 2019


Linda Thompson
Western Australia

Hi, I've been in the SCA for over thirteen years and usually do early period and England, though the last few years has seen me drift towards the beautiful Italian Renaissance and Eastern. I've tried the challenge twice but ill health usually forced me to bow out after the first month, though I did succeed in making a gorgeous saccoccia the first time. I'd say I'm still a bit of a novice and have only done a couple of renaissance before. Most of the materials will be coming out of my stash and what I collected for previous challenges, as I still haven't used it.

Hopefully, I'll end up making a compilation 1530-1550 style gown or something like this image (see right). My layers will be: 1. chemise and partlet; 2. underskirt and gown; 3. cape. Layer 4 / Accessories: any 4 of these - fan; flea fur / zibellino; muff / manizza; hair accessory and jewellery.


(Updates listed in reverse order)


Second Update: May Progress


Rule 1. Do not put things in safe places, as you won’t find them until months end.


Items started but not yet completed:

1. Underskirt / Falda

Hand sewn. I found my lovely mustard linen, washed it in warm water and put it in the dryer to ensure extermination of clothes/pantry moths. Shrinkage wasn't too bad (3.5m to 3.2m). I used full length and cut a waist width from another smaller length.

I began with a double length of stitches, using my thumb as a guide from the edge, once and then again, (stitches about 1cm apart). The second time the litany of under, over, under, over, under, over and gather through kept me from reversing the stitches.

Once the lines were done it was simple to lightly gather the waist and then pin the waist band to the gathers and sew across. I used linen thread I got from The Tudor Tailor shop and the handmade brass needle I got from a stall at The Battle of Hastings markets.



2. Headwear

There are numerous portraits that show pearl headbands and wrapped braids.

Anonymous Lady, c16th
Pulzone Scipione

1555-1560 from The Family Gaddi
Sofonisba Anguissola

Lady with book

Everything from my stash:
linen thread, size 8 glass pearls, size 10 gold beads, gold S-shaped spacers, cream ribbon.

On the left is without the spacers. It didn’t
hold right so I restarted, to include the spacers which I salvaged from an op shop necklace in my stash.

The completed headband, the first part of my headwear piece.


My hair isn’t long enough for banded braids, so I’m making a false hair piece. First task was combing out all the knots in the wig, which took a while.





First Update: April Progress

I spent the first half of April in hospital undergoing procedures, tests and being seriously stressed out, so I didn’t really get started until mid month.

I haven’t really made anything new for the last couple of years (started but not finished) so I began with something I thought was easy, the muff. Little did I know, nothing is ever easy or simple. Although from one point of perspective it did start out easy - everything came from the stash.


Item completed this month:

A Reversible Muff

The Italian muff became a fashionable item in the later part of the 16th century. There are listings for muffs (manizza in Italian, Snuffkyn or Snoskyn in English) in ladies wardrobes, being made of velvet, silk and embroidered with gold and silver thread, decorated with pearls and lined with fur.

There are several illustrations and portraits showing what appears to be a muff of tubular construction, some with fur at the ends and others with embroidery, though some of the patterns are indiscernible.


Half of my muff is based on this image from the portrait of Minerva Anguissola (Milwaukee Art Museum), 1564.


The other half is from the illustration above, taken from "Winter costume of Venetian noblewomen and wealthy ladies" in Cesare Vecellio's 'De gli Habiti antichi et moderni di Diverse Parti del Mondo,' 1589-90.


There is also this extant item in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, described as an Italian muff c1575-1600. Black silk velvet embroidered with gilt silver yarn, salmon silk lining filled with cotton batting.



My materials:

  • Purple velvet [which decided to play hide and seek when I put it in a safe place]
  • Brown/beige satin with gold/ silver embroidered motif [that I got in England]
  • Wool batting
  • Mink [which had developed a severe case of clothes moth and cat envy)
  • Beige/silver braid (just enough)
  • Silver knot buttons. [ from the English stash]
  • Silver embroidery thread
  • Black silk thread

This was entirely hand sewn. Simple start: cut rectangle master pattern, cut material to match. Sew the short sides together face to face (did I mention that I decided to make it reversible?)

When I couldn’t find the velvet I planned to use, I decided to make it from the satin. Then I found the velvet and since the satin was already cut but my design was for the velvet I went duh, use both and make it reversible.

Cut wool batting slightly shorter than the length and width. Place wool batting between velvet and satin and sew batting to velvet along the length. Turn to right sides.



I added the braid and buttons to the short edges couching with the silver embroidery thread, adding two loops to a side and buttons to the opposite, offset to each other. The ends I treated with a bit of melted beeswax to seal and prevent fraying.

I used a paper clip to keep the twist tight.

Truly lucked out, with just enough braid as I didn’t take the button loops into account when measuring.



Next were the mink pieces. They were looking a little ratty and I found clothes moths making a snack of them. I really wanted to use them and so removed the old silk lining and wool batting leaving the bias around the edges to use to sew onto the muff sides. I fumigated and then froze them for a couple of days before thawing and use.

With the nasties hopefully beyond resurrection I was able to sew the mink pieces to the sides and clean up the edges with a little bias tape. This did not go quite to plan as I ended up sewing one fur the wrong way and had to unpick and start again.



I was also taught a very important lesson at this time: do not ignore your cats' cuddle time. While playing (sewing) fur that is not them, they will get jealous and they will get revenge.

I ignored the warning signs. Both cats had given the mink a good sniff and batted at them a few times before walking away when the pieces didn’t respond. Persephone came back later for cuddle time and half climbed into my lap where she saw the mink on my lap, (being sewed to the muff) and looking at it and me before walking away. I didn’t think anything of it until this morning when the muff wasn’t where I left it. It took me over an hour to find out where she hid it, so I could get it finished.


The completed Italian muff (manizza). Reversible.


On a side note, I found the good linen I was planning on using last year and got it out of the stash. Unfortunately I left it near the sewing machine on the dining table with the rest of the material I’m planning to use. When I started to check on it for my partlet and chemise, I found that clothes moth larvae had invaded.


They were on the linen, silk velvet, silk for my sleeves and quilt cover for my dress. I spent a frantic half hour picking them off, fortunately there seems to be no holes in anything. I plan to wash everything anew and seal it all in a plastic container with a moth killer to fumigate and hope for the best.

Which means I’ll likely be working on more accessories during May.

Update: my material is safe. They were pantry moths not clothes moths, which is why there were no holes. Rewashed all and dried in hot dryer to kill eggs and any missed larvae. So I can start on the chemise and partlet this month.