Fabric Selection

 Linen:

Linen fabric used within Lord Grey’s Retinue must be 100% pure linen and not a blend. Plain weave please, until we can document otherwise. ***We only use bleached white or natural colored linen. We have not yet been able to document the use of any dyed/colored linen in England of 1471. (If you have any evidence to prove otherwise we would very much appreciate your sharing that information with us!)

The following items are *always* to be made of bleached white linen:

  • Men’s shirt’s and braies
  • Women’s smocks/shifts, tailed caps and head wraps
  • bed linens and table cloths

The following items may be made from either bleached white or natural linen:

  • Garment linings
  • Aprons
  • Storage bags.

Heavier weight natural linen is ideal for use in making bags and ticks (mattresses to stuff with straw).

We prefer to buy our linen from  Fabrics-store.com

(by following that link our group will get credit for your purchase)

For garments we most recommend using the IL019 (5.3 oz.) or 4C22 (7.1 oz.).  Be sure to buy the “bleached” white and not the “optic” white please.  The softened version is easier to work with.

For smaller personal bags any of the medium weights will do. Choose either the “mix natural” color or “Bleached white”.

For large bags and ticks we prefer the natural heavy IL090 (8 oz) in the “mix natural” color.I believe only the “softened” is available – which is fine because it is much easier to sew then the un-softened.

Our instincts want us to purchase the soft and lightweight linens for our undergarments but the heavier weights of linen will prove more durable after several washings. The more you wash linen the softer it gets – because the fibers break down and shed. You can make your linen items last much longer by not putting them in the dryer. It is ideal to line dry and iron as needed – if you can.

Linen costs between $10 and $14 per yard on average

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Wool:

All wool for use within Lord Grey’s Retinue must be 100% wool and not a blend with any other fiber please. This is not just for authenticity but for fire safety as well. Please check the fiber content of all fabrics before you purchase or use them. Do a burn test if possible: 100% wool will need to be held above the flame for a bit to catch fire, it will quickly self extinguish once it does catch, the smoke will smell of burning hair and the burnt edge will be soft and ashy.

Solid or heathered colors please – no patterned fabrics unless we can document and prove it’s common usage – (this is possible – just hard to prove. So we avoid it).

Colors: (Avoid super bright and fluorescent shades of any color. Though some extremely vivid shades are obtainable with historically accurate natural dyes of the period – they would have faded and lost it’s vibrancy very quickly. Generally the more muted, muddy or light colored the fabric – the more affordable the dye would have been)

  • Yellows – all shades are acceptable  
  • Peach & Pinks – all shades are acceptable
  • Orange & Brick –  all shades are acceptable
  • Reds – Avoid the “blue reds”. Reds of this time are achieved with madder dye. Madder produces orangey reds and not deep blood reds.
  • Purples & lavenders – Stick to the lighter shades, no bright royal purples.
  • Blues – Blue jean blues (light through dark) are best. Avoid bright turquoise shades.
  • Greens – all shades are acceptable (our research on green dyes is not yet complete)
  • Tan & Browns – all shades are acceptable
  • Grey – all shades are acceptable.
  • Black –  The most expensive dye, avoid it’s use except in small quantities such as accessories. Talk to us before you plan entire garments of black wool please.

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Choosing the correct 100% wool fabric is tough, especially if you are somewhat new to fabric shopping. You can always mail or bring swatches to Lara for advice. We can also mail you swatches to help you shop and identify wool weaves. I apologize for the complexity of selecting a correct wool fabric. It is difficult to simplify.

Types of wool which are preferred:

  • 100% wool “broadcloth” – a classic plain weave, comes in many weights. ideal.
  • 100% wool “flannel” – comes in either a plain or twill weave. Many weights.
  • 100% wool “Kersey” – lovely heavy twill weave fabric
  • Boiled wool – 100% wool in solid colors. For making hose. (*There is debate as to whether boiled wool is accurate to use, since it is a knit. When used in Men’s hose it gives a nicer fit and rips much less often than the regular wools.)

Types of wool which MAY be good choices, choose carefully:

  • wool “twill” – can vary greatly but the more simple and plain varieties are a great choice.
  • wool “coatings” – vary greatly. Coating is just a term suggesting it is of a heavier weight. It could be almost anything – choose carefully.
  • wool “Melton” – a good heavy weight wool – be sure it is 100% wool. Melton is often a blend of wool & nylon.

Worsted” wool should generally be avoided. Worsted wools are when the wool fiber is spun and made into a smoother yarn before the weaving process. This often makes for exceptionally fine and smooth fabric – especially lovely for modern suits and such. Perhaps the wealthiest of our gentle people may have a garment of such exceptionally fine cloth, perhaps. But not us regular folk. If you have a worsted wool which is not at all like a smooth modern suiting fabric – it may be ok to use. Send a swatch to Lara and we will talk about it.

Please do not buy any wool described as a “crepe” or “stretch”. 

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Where to buy wool:

Ordering wool online can be difficult since it is very hard to know the weave, fiber content and weight for absolute sure. If possible order a swatch or small cut of a fabric to test or submit for approval. I am very sorry that online retailers are not more accurate or specific, nearly half of the wool orders we have dealt with from assorted websites have proven to be other than represented.

However, there have been a few reliable online sources which we can recommend:

  •  Woolrich Fabrics – Their 5160 series of wools are 100% wool and an ideal 13 oz. weight ( not too heavy and not too light ). It fulls up very nicely when pre-shrunk/washed in hot water and a hot dryer. One big catch though, it is only sold wholesale by the 5 and 15-yard bolt (with a 15 yard total minimum purchase). As a group we place about one order per year. Lara has swatches if you would like to see the colors in person.
  • Wm. Booth Draper –  has some lovely 100% wool flannels and 100% wool broadcloths which would work very well for us.
  • Burnley & Trowbridge – lovely fabrics, watch the fiber content to be sure you choose one that is 100% wool
  • B. Black & Sons – Their 100% wool flannel is a good weight (10.5 – 11 oz)
  • Fabric Mart   Has some great prices and sales. However, watch the fiber content to be sure you choose one that is 100% wool and be aware that some of their fabrics sell out quickly and are not re-stocked.

Sources for Boiled wool (**always make sure it is “100% wool” and not a blend**):

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Cashmere, Pashmina, Angora and other fancy Animal wools:

Not at all period correct for England of 1471.

England’s main industry and main export of the 15th century was wool production.  While it is *possible* that someone somewhere may have purchased some fancy animal textiles elsewhere and traveled it back to England – it is not documentable and very unlikely to have landed in our part of the country or with our people.


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Silk:

We use very little silk fabric in Lord Greys Retinue. Yes, there was imported silk available in 1471 but the price was well beyond the means of those whom we most often portray.

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Brocades and Damasks:

We rarely use damasks or brocaded fabrics in Lord Grey’s for three reasons:

  1. It was not commonly used in clothing for average people. Most of the period images showing people wearing damasks and brocades are portrayals of saints or other extra-ordinary persons.
  2. The price was far beyond the means of those whom we most often portray
  3. Finding a historically accurate combination of weave pattern and fiber content is nearly impossible and often outrageously expensive if found.

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Cotton and Cotton Blends:

Cotton was not yet in common use in textile form in England of 1471. Raw cotton tufts were used for stuffing and padding.  (Research is ongoing on this subject. If you have any documentable contribution we would love to hear from you)

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If you are in the NYC area – a shopping day in the fabric district of NYC can be arranged with Lara. Lara can also mail you swatches of appropriate fabric types and weights – to assist you in shopping locally.