Monday, November 21, 2011

Rough Guide to Ruffs - part 1

Hello there! Me again :D
I've got several tutorials ready, part-ready, or existing still mainly in the unsorted scary attic known as My Mind. In the past I've had a couple of projects printed in a miniatures magazine, but that's probably not going to happen anymore - the amount of preparation and thinking-time involved is immense! So I'm thinking of offering some of these ideas to my blogfriends. This all might be seen as a way of avoiding carrying on with my current little medieval weaver's house, and that would be true - it's languishing out of sight, but not unloved. So here's how I made an Elizabethan ruff. I had this written-up almost completely, so you 're going to get it all, including the introductory waffle :D

An Elizabethan ruff in 12th scale

The iconic accessory to Elizabethan dress, ruffs were worn by both men and women in England as well as all through Europe.
Ruffs were in vogue from the second half of the 16th century to the early 17th century, and their size, shape and settings (the way the edges were arranged) varied greatly during this time. Ruffs from Holland were known for their exceptionally fine fabric and delicacy of set. English ruffs tended to be larger with wide loose sets, the better for adding lace to the edge. English ones are much easier to make in 1:12!
The expense involved in these ruffs, including the labour of handspinning and handweaving the ultra-fine cloth and the lace, as well as the constant employment of those involved in washing and re-setting them, was frowned upon by the puritanically-minded. They called ruffs 'the cartwheels of the devil's chariot of pride', and starch 'the devil's liquor'. The rich, however, didn't care - if you had money, you flaunted it!
They can't have been comfortable to wear, and a shower of rain would ruin them until the next starching. Spoons sometimes had to have very long handles!
A clever laundress could set a ruff with starch and hot irons in many different ways - figure-of eight, inverted Vs, rounded sets, flat sets, multi-layered, etc. Coloured starch was popular in England - it could be coloured yellow, red, blue or purple, and more. A blue starch was often used to give the illusion of bright white, a practice which existed until recently with 'blue bags' in the rinse.
I have designed this ruff to include tiny beads in the underlayer. This helps to keep the sets, or pleats, consistent.

Materials needed for a plain white ruff
fabric - a 45cm square of finely woven white pure cotton
PVA glue
sharp pencil
long fine-edged ruler
graph paper with 2mm squares
white sewing cotton #40
beads - approx. 55 x 1.5mm colourless transparent
(- Mill Hill Beads #00161 recommended)
beading needle
fine sewing needle
needle threader (optional)
sharp scissors
fine sharp awl or large sharp needle
paper towel


'1.5mm bead' means that the bead measures 1.5mm along the centre hole. An easy way to measure them is to thread 10 of them together and this will measure 15mm.

Because fabrics may vary slightly in thickness, and beads may also vary slightly, this will affect the length of fabric and number of beads needed. It is best to cut the fabric longer than needed, rather than run short. It can be trimmed later to suit.

Working a sample first is recommended to get used to the method. Making the ruff requires very gentle handling throughout, so as not to stretch the bias fabric or risk fraying.

End of part 1.

Rough Guide to Ruffs - part 2

Continuing my enthralling little adventure in making uncomfortable neckwear for dolls.
Now read on . . .


Refer to the photos as you work.

Step 1
Prepare the fabric. It needs to be stiffened to hold its sets properly, and also to help avoid fraying.

Make up a solution of 1 part PVA glue to 20 parts water.
Soak the fabric in this, then squeeze to remove excess glue.
Place on a flat clean non-porous surface (glass, kitchen bench, etc), and stretch it out so the weave lies straight in both directions. Smooth and stretch the fabric as flat and straight as possible. Let it dry.

Step 2
The ruff is cut on the bias to prevent fraying.
Be sure that at all times you take care not to stretch the bias fabric or your ruff will be mis-shapen.

Your ruff will take a length of fabric about 55cm long, but cut as long a piece as possible to make sure you will have enough to play with.
Place a ruler across the fabric at an angle of 45 degrees.
Make a fold in the fabric along the ruler, then replace the ruler on top this fold and press down hard to fix the fold in place. Don't rub your fingers along the fabric fold as this will stretch it.
This fold line will be the neck edge of the ruff.

Mark a pencil line 5mm from the fold. Open the fabric out and cut just inside this line so the pencil mark is cut away.
Cutting the first line

Mark another pencil line 14mm away from the other side of the fold. Do not cut it yet.

Step 3
Marking the sewing holes.
Prepare the graph paper by cutting it along one of the longest lines.

Pattern for punched holes, on a 2mm grid

The first row of holes (for the neck gathering thread) is punched at 4mm intervals, 2mm away from the folded edge. The second row of holes (for the beading thread) is punched at 4mm intervals to match the gathering thread, and at 8mm from the folded edge (6mm from the first row of holes). See photo.
Note: you could use pencil to mark the dots straight onto the fabric, but I found that it showed through the fabric, and there is a risk of it smudging with handling.

Punching the holes

Fold the paper towel several times to form a pad for making holes with the awl or needle. Place this on top of a bread board or cutting mat, as the holes will mark the working surface.
Place the folded fabric on top of this, then the graph paper, matching the edge to the fold.
Punch marker holes through all thicknesses all the way along the fabric, using the fine awl or large sharp needle.

Step 4

Remember to handle gently, being careful not stretch the fabric.

Threading the ruff - sample shown with coloured thread and beads for clarity

Thread the beading needle with a length of sewing thread 15cm longer than the length of the fabric. Make the knot about 10cm from the end (this end will be used to tie the ruff). Working from right to left, the knot should start at the back of the strip.
Starting about 15mm from the end of the strip, thread the beads as shown in the photo. Work until you have threaded 62 beads, ending with the thread exiting underneath.

Do not pull the thread tight yet - leave it flat in the fabric.
Sew a line of gathering stitches along the holes on the folded edge, taking in both layers, according to the diagram, until it is the same length as the beading thread.

Now cut the fabric 1mm inside the second pencil line, making the threaded strip 13mm wide.

Gently pull up and tighten both threads, taking care that the ruff folds are neat. The neck edge will pull up shorter than the beaded line.

End of part 2!

Rough Guide to Ruffs - part 3

Here's the final part in making an Elizabethan ruff

Step 5
Check the size.

Gathering the ruff and checking the size

Draw a circle with a 4cm diameter, and add a centre circle for the neck of 12mm diameter.
I recommend using a photocopy of the circle pattern - I drew my original pattern in pencil and it smudged the fabric.
Check to see if your ruff matches these circles.
The neck edge (the circumference of the 12mm circle) should measure 38mm.

Note: the beads and folded edge will sit underneath so that they don't show.

Troubleshooting Step 5:
If the size of your beads or the thickness of the fabric varies from the sample, your ruff will need to be adjusted to fit the circle -
If the outside edge is too long, remove some beads until it fits the circle.
If the outside edge is too short, add beads (adding gathering stitches at neck edge to match).

If the neck edge is too short, loosen the gathering thread until it fits, adjusting the folds evenly.
If the neck edge is just a little too long (maybe because you had to add beads or your fabric is thick), remove a few gathering threads (you will have to remove a corresponding length of beads to match) - the bead edge can then be slightly loosened evenly all round.
If the neck edge is far too long then the fabric is probably too thick. Re-make the ruff omitting the extra folded layer on the neck edge.

Whatever adjustments you may make, be sure that the thread ends from the gathering thread and the beading thread exit at the same point.

Step 6

The topside of the ruff

The underside of the ruff

When you are happy with your ruff, fasten the threads by tying. If you want your doll to wear it, make the knots so they can be undone. You can secure the knots with a tiny dab of glue if you wish. Trim any excess fabric from the ends on the underside. The gathering thread can be left long as a decorative tie with tiny beads or tassels on the ends.

Step 7 (optional)
Neck lining.
A piece of fabric can be glued neatly to the neck edge if desired. This may be necessary if you decided to have a raw unfolded edge as described in Step 5. Trim flush with neck edge to neaten. The neck edge is best done after the gathers are pulled tight and shaped in a circle, to avoid puckering on the neck band.

You can cut the bias strip on an angle shallower than 45 degrees, but there is more risk of having a frayed edge on your ruff.

If you want to rescue any waste fabric, it can be soaked in water then rinsed well to remove most of the glue.

Recommended reading:
Janet Arnold 'Patterns of Fashion 4'

That's all!