Reticello smock: The beginning

I began playing in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) in 2002 and my love of 16th century clothing and lace came soon after.  A lovely woman (or evil depending on how you see it) introduced me to a book called Ruskin Lace, and after a month of chasing it down (it wasn’t available on Amazon back then) I had something to start with.  I also picked up The Needle-made Lace of Reticella.  Unfortunately the books incorporated almost the exact same methods and the couching technique just wasn’t producing satisfying results for me.  Sadly I put away my needle and linen thread for 10 years.

I don’t really remember what moved me to start collecting Italian books on lace, but they really opened my eyes to new techniques and I was much happier with the results.  Armed with a few practice pieces and a lot of adrenaline I decided to try my first real project in 2013.  Not just a project, but a competition piece and I had 6 weeks to finish it!

I had always loved this smock image from Old Lace, and had promised myself that I would make it when I was comfortable enough with lace.  I thought it would be perfect to tackle.  I know now that this timeline was insane for the project, but live an learn right?

I  had 2 problems immediately: the first was that there was no other existing images of this smock and the piece has long since disappeared and second was the style of smock didn’t work with my English clothing styles. This is more of an Italian style.

To address the first issue I magnified the image as much as a I could to get details of the pattern and edges of the work.  For the second I decided to only do the sleeves and would use a low neck smock from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 4 for the silhouette and pattern.  It was a good start!

I consulted every pattern book I had as well as my technique books to come up with a pattern that best fit what I saw in the image and would be able to produce and this is what I came up with:

lace pattern

In my next post I’ll talk about the materials and set up for the project.

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