When my friend Hayley asked me if I'd help her daughter (and original Peak Princess model), Caitlin, to make a Tudor ruff for her Elizabethan themed school day next week I said no problem, imaginining I could concertina up a bit of the lining fabric I use for my dresses.
Then I started doing my research and started getting anxious. The marvellously ego boosting thing about children is that the have total faith in your skills. But there's nothing more crushing than a child's disappointment.
Various internet blogs suggested it was a 4 to 8 hour job & required some pretty specialist skills, not to mention materials like lace and horse hair.
Fortunately I stumbled upon Dawn's Costume Guide. I didn't have wired ribbon but I do use a lot of net which has the stiffness of starched lace.
I adapted Dawn's idea combining it with other patterns. Using my mannequin as a guide Caitlin decided she wanted a ruff that was 8 cm wide and stands 4cm tall - just fitting under her chin. My netting is 150cm wide. To give extra bulk and a smooth edge we cut 16cm strips and folded them lengthways. We made a 4cm piece of card as a folding guide...
...It was too springy and Caitlin was worried about the itchiness factor on the cut side so I ran the long side through the overlocker, though you could just using a running stitch on the machine or hand baste.
We folded up one (while turning fishfingers and trying not to let Otso the dog eat either the fish or pins). Rather than trying to do complicated maths, we measured it against my mannequin.
The inside of the ruff measured about 5 or 6cm. So we reckoned with Caitlin's neck measuring 30cm round that we needed about 5 lots of 150cm sewn together. I used a big darning needle that I use for sewing knitted seams and some strong linen thread to sew the overlocked edges of the pleats together.
Our guess-timate was right and even if we'd have been wrong we could have just added an extra one in.
According to Drea Lead's guide to making an Elizabethan ruff, authentic closed collar ruffs like those worn by Queen Elizabeth, were lined with starched linen. I improvised with the ivory double satin that I use for my Patty's Petticoats (named after Caitlin's grandma). It's soft and I have plenty of it and ties easily. Caitlin was still worried about itchiness so we actually ended up using 2 widths of 25cm one hand sewn to the top edge with trailing ribbons to tie the ruff plus an extra band sewn to the bottom edge. I basted them together in the middle.
Proud of our achivements, we were keen to show them off. My other half Nikalas Cook was down at our local pub, The Old Hall Inn, having a pint after an afternoon bike ride with our friend Paul Barton (one half of the talented graphic design Design Everything - his other half, Hannah, designed my new logo).
The 16th century Minstrel's Gallery provided the perfect backdrop for an impromptu photo shoot.
Spot the difference?
Can't wait to see the ruff with period costume dress next week.