I'm starching the silk for my 12th Night ruff today, after weeks of laborious experimentation into different starches. (check for tag = starching if you are curious/can't remember) The whole point is to make a new ruff similar to this one:
Incidentally, this is a painting of Elizabeth Fitzgerald, daughter of the ninth Earl of Kildare. This makes my husband, Earl Cathyn Fitzgerald of Kildare inordinately pleased. Anyway... as I scrutinized this painting, in conjunction with my reading on ruff construction in Janet Arnold's latest how-to, I saw that the ruff she diagrammed which looked closest to the one I wanted to make was a triple-layer ruff. Three layers of fabric, plus lace at the ends. So I looked closer at Elizabeth Fitzgerald (lucky I took a really, really good picture when I was last at the National Gallery of Ireland) and saw that her ruff is clearly at least two layers. The figure-eights on the top layer are clearly NOT attached to the figure-eights on the bottom layer. The picture I took is good enough that I'm able to zoom in very close in iPhoto and see that there are, in fact, two distinct layers of figure-eights.
Cool! I've never made a two-layer ruff before!
Oh, and the silk is currently drying after a starch-bath this morning:
Which means I'll probably have to either dig out another length of silk and do the starch-bath procedure all over again, or find that I don't have any more (can't remember right now whether I have more on hand), order some, wait a week, etc. I can't recommend the starch bath method I used this morning, as it was very cumbersome, messy and resulted in a clumpy mess - it is almost impossible to smooth out the starch on that much silk and get it all even. I see now why they starched after making up the ruff, however it's pretty much impossible using modern materials. They were using gold lace made of real gold which has a very high melting point (1950°F), whereas while I may yearn to make my ruffs with real gold lace, it ain't gonna happen, even if I could find it. Were I to try making the ruff THEN setting it, I would merely melt my faux-gold lace into a polymer mess. C'est la vie - Christal tastes, Chandon budget.
I recognize that I may go through this entire process, only to find that the way I used to make them, while not an exact reproduction of period methods, will give the same result for significantly smaller investment of time. That's why I bother, I guess, to find out if the shortcuts are really producing an accurate facsimile of the real thing. If I find that this ruff is indistinguishable from the old way, then at least I know exactly what I'm trading for the time I'd be saving.