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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Black Friday--Am I the only one?

For the first time EVER, I got up before the crack of dawn on Black Friday and headed out to do some shopping.

My experience:

Congested parking lots.
Sold out specials.
People dragging around hand carts loaded with plasma tv's. (who needs five plasma tv's, I ask?!)

My purchases: a couple of dvd's (savings $10), a hard drive on clearance (no additional savings) and two toys purchased at regular price.

My conclusion: It was NOT worth it! Never again.

How about you?


posted by Tawny Taylor at 1:28 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Costumes: Researching 16th Century Spanish Fashion

This year, I am planning on wearing two costumes to the Michigan Renaissance Festival: a black velvet Spanish style doublet gown and a black velvet Tudor style gown with over partlet and folded back sleeves. Two very different styles, both proving to be challenging for a number of reasons.

Once again, I'll emphasize the fact that I do not aspire to recreate garb using period methods or techniques. You won't see much handwork. I don't have the time or the patience. I even fiddle with cut and style a bit to appeal to my taste and fit my body--I have unique fitting challenges that make it difficult to achieve the typical Renaissance conical shape. So if you are looking for a resource for researching period methods, you've stumbled upon the wrong blog :) But if you're looking for inspiration, a little insight into fitting unusual body shapes, and overcoming challenges such as working with impossibly thin fabrics, and creating lush noble garb on a tight budget, you are in the right place.

Now, back to my research. In the case of the Spanish style gown, it was a challenge finding resources on the internet. It seems recreating Elizabethan English style gowns is most common. Which, of course, is part of the reason why I wanted to tackle a Spanish inspired costume. Another reason: Spanish style appears to incorporate more black, and the overall look is less busy, and with my sense of taste, I find the look chic. And finally, the doublet style gown fits me better and is more flattering.

Online Resources.
The bulk of my research was done on two websites:

Saya Espanola

This image of Isabella deValois is the main inspiration for my gown
(Sofonisba Anguissola, Portrait of Queen Isabel de Valois, 1563-65):
Close ups of sleeve and girdle detail

Some additional portraits
(Isabella de Valois--Sofonisba Anguissola, 1565 Click to view high res copy)
(Artist: Juan Pantoja de la Cruz, date unknown)

(Catalina Micaela, daughter of Carlos and Isabella. Click for High Res image)
(Isabel Clara Eugenia, daughter of Carlos and Isabella. Click for High Res image)

What I've come up with is a concept that resembles Isabella de Valois gown but doesn't replicate it. I'll be making a red silk kirtle with embroidered sleeves to give the look of Isabella's undersleeves, a high-collared black doublet with tone-on-tone embroidery to dress it up a smidge, a white high-collared cotton partlet, embroidered with gold, and featuring two rows of pleated ruffles (I am going to skip the neck ruff), and a black velvet skirt, again with coordinating tone-on-tone embroidery. I'll post pix of each piece as I complete them, beginning with the partlet, which I have already completed.

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, comments, links to additional research resources or suggestions for future blog posts, please comment. I welcome your feedback!


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posted by Tawny Taylor at 9:02 AM | 0 comments

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pimping a Diva!

This cover art makes me purrrrrrr :)

Centuries after the destruction of earth, several species of altered humans still survive. These shape-shifters are exciting and exotic creatures, and their human forms do little to mask their most primitive and passionate instincts...

Mahlia is a snow tigress in heat and now that her tiger king has returned to rule the planet Vesperi, she can no longer deny her desperate need to mate. She greets him as a woman, but their desire for sex is uncontrollable as they come together with a primal passion.

When Lady Katryn is called back to her home world to join Lord Nadir's harim, she is curious to learn more about her weredragon nature. What she discovers is a scorching eroticism that consumes her all over.

Dr. Sera Gibbons is one of only two human survivors after a five hundred year cryogenic freeze. Save by the merman Bretton Hahn, she savors the way her caresses her and makes her live out her wildest fantasies.

And if you want to get it online rather than going to a brick-and-mortar store, here are the links:
Barnes & Noble

posted by Tawny Taylor at 6:36 PM | 1 comments

Friday, November 21, 2008

Aspiring digital artists, this one's for you

A workshop offer from Anne Cain

From Anne's deviant art page:
I've been asked by a couple of friends and some folks here at SA if I've ever considered teaching some Photoshop techniques or making tutorials. So, I'm currently working out a workshop plan with three other extremely talented artists I'm sure most of you already know by way of their stunning book covers. We're talking about hosting web-shops on digital painting, making promotional items, photomanipping, etc.--all that good stuff.

How many of you would be interested in signing up for something like this? Raise your hands! :) These type of workshops usually run for $20-25 per person for a weekend full of art, art and more art. We still don't have a set date, but right now it's tentatively being scheduled for late-January, early-February.

For those who don't know, Anne Cain does cover art for Samhain Publishing.

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posted by Tawny Taylor at 8:01 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Costumes: Story of a Renaissance Italian Bonnet

So, as some of you know, I make Renaissance garb for festival attendees and SCA members. I'll admit right here and now that my garments are very nicely made but they are NOT authentic. I use a sewing machine, serger, glue gun and modern jewelry glue to create my masterpieces, so if someone is looking for a seriously true-to-period garment, I encourage them to look elsewhere.

That said, I still love every garment I create. It's very much like writing--there's an excitement in starting a new project and when I'm through, I'm genuinely smitten with the end product :) Better yet, when a client receives his/her piece and emails me back with gushing praise, I feel a sense of joy, knowing I've made someone happy.

On to today's subject. The Italian bonnet.

What is an Italian bonnet?

Google the words "Italian bonnet" and you will find pictures of a wide variety of headwear, from a hat that I would call a flat cap to one that looks more like a caul or muffin cap. For my purposes, I label a round-brimmed, soft-crowned hat like this one: an Italian bonnet. Photo by Lynn McMasters.

The inspiration:
The costume I am currently making is a Spanish style doublet gown. Black velveteen, heavily embroidered, with jeweled brooches pinned down the front center. To a certain extent, the overall look will be similar to this portrait of Isabel de Valois, Queen Consort of Spain.

I have stumbled upon this photograph dozens of times over the past few years, as I've researched costumes for future Renaissance festivals, and I just love it. It's understated, chic, not garish or over-the-top, yet dignified and regal. It looks expensive, rich. However, due to limitations in my budget and skills, my costume will not be an exact replica. If I succeed, it will be similar enough to produce the same rich and expensive look while not forcing me to fast for the next eight months to buy materials :)

The pattern:

I have been useing Lynn McMasters' Italian Bonnet pattern to create the bonnets I've been selling on eBay, so I stuck with what I know and what I'm comfortable with. It took some time, but I've even become comfortable using the curved upholstery needle.

The materials:

Today, we're just talking about the hat. So, let's take a closer look.
To my eye, she is wearing a narrow-brimmed, soft-crowned bonnet and some kind of pearled wire net (or cage) on the back of her head. Really, you can't get a decent look at the back of her head, so this is a guess.

For my purposes, I've decided I need a caul instead. I have short hair and need to give the illusion of length. I could wear a hairpiece, and I have in the past, but they tend to be heavy and hot and I get a headache after a while. A caul is so much more comfortable, not to mention practical.

So I have decided to make a caul and bonnet.

Materials for the bonnet:
Cotton velveen
milliner's buckram
milliner's wire
Pellon craft innerfacing (heavy duty)
black cotton (to line the crown)
gold braid
black braid
gold embroidery thread and embroidery stabilizer (optional--I decided I wanted to embroider the crown).
red cabochons
glass pearls
jewelry wire

Materials for the caul
pre-strung craft pearls (yes, I cheated)
black velveteen fabric
black cotton for lining
felt (helps the caul keep its shape--skip if you have long hair)
brooch (I created one with the filigrees I used on the bonnet and a charm I already owned)

I won't go into step-by-step instructions on how to make the bonnet, since the pattern I recommended has those. The jeweled band, however, is my own design.
To create that, I glued red flat-back acrylic stones to the filigrees then ran jewelry wire through the tiny holes in the edges to secure them together. As you'll see, I alternated the placement of the stones to give it some visual interest. In addition, I placed two glass pearls between each filigree. At the end, I twisted the wires to secure. This is the first time I've tried to create anything like this and I'm very pleased with how it turned out.

The caul is quite simple. I embroider the material before cutting, to make sure the embroidery is in the center. Then I cut a large circle from the fabric, felt and lining and a 3 inch by roughly 24 inch band from the fabric. I baste the circles together, layered in this order (bottom to top): 1. lining (right side down), 2. felt, 3. velveteen (right side up). Then I run a loose gathering stitch all around the perimeter of the circle and pull to gather it, spreading the gathers evenly. I stitch the ends of the long rectangle to each other to create the band and sew one side of the rectangle (right sides facing together) to the edge of the gathered circle. Once that is done, I fold the band over to the inside and hand stitch the band to the inside, folding over the raw edges.

Finally, I hand-sewed the prestrung pearls. Later, I may apply more pearls to the caul, but for now, I'm pleased with the look. I prefer less ornamentation. With the costume being jeweled, embroidered and possibly pearled, I want each piece to balance each other well. Later, when everything else is finished, I may decide it needs more.

So that's it. My Italian bonnet. It still needs feathers. I'll add those later, but for now it's complete. As you can see, I didn't duplicate the portrait's bonnet. The jeweled band I made is taller and I didn't see the need for the pearls traveling up the bonnet's pleats.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? I'd love to hear them!

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posted by Tawny Taylor at 12:31 PM | 2 comments

Monday, November 17, 2008

Win a free poetry ebook!

"I can’t express how utterly wonderful this poetry collection is, from the excellent, lyrical word use to the theme of each poem, I really was, and still am, in awe of the fantastic talent that is Stephanie Sullivan." ~ Wilga Hill Boomerang of Cocktail Reviews. Rated 'The Whole Bottle'.

Would you like to win a copy of Stephanie Sullivan's poetry ebook? Do you know a poetry lover who might enjoy a poetry ebook for Christmas? Then now is your chance to sign up for her giveaway! On Monday, November 24th, Stephanie will be awarding two lucky winners a copy of Tapestry Wings: Shades Of My Heart. All you have to do is leave a comment on her blog in this post with your name and email address OR you can email Stephanie directly at with your information.

Good luck to all who enter!

posted by Tawny Taylor at 2:10 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What's New...?

I know I've been a TOTAL slacker in the blogging department, but I've made a decision that'll make it TONS easier to keep my blog current, entertaining and chock full of useful information.

I'm going to start blogging more about costumes, costume making and costuming supplies. I hope you'll enjoy the many posts I have planned for the future!

Today, I thought I'd start with research...because that's what I'm currently doing for next year's Renaissance festival outfit. Our festival (I'm in Michigan) doesn't start until September, but I've learned I need to start way in advance if I'm going to have time to create the kind of costume I wish to have. Last year, I struggled to finish a hand-embroidered blackwork partlet. I was working on it every free minute I had, from May through September, and although it's gorgeous, it isn't exactly what I'd envisioned when I'd started.

This year, I want to wear hand-embroidered blackwork sleeves. We're talking hundreds of hours on each one. But I'm getting off topic.

Costume Research.

There are thousands of sources on the internet for researching Renaissance period costumes. There are blogs, costume journals, museum websites, and online portrait galleries.

Below is a list of some of my favorites. You'll notice I prefer to use portraits as references for my costume designs:

Wikipedia. Wonderful for finding high-res copies of portraits. If you know the name of a particular noble, you can find him/her, take a look at the portraits, click links to related nobles. Fabulous resource.

Saya Espanola--a site dedicated to 16th century Spanish costume design. Includes thumbnails and links to portraits of 16th century Spanish nobles as well as photos and links to extant garments. Highly recommended if you're looking for inspiration for a Spanish style Ren Fest costume.

Elizabethan Costume Reviews. A wonderful website featuring a database of Elizabethan period portraits and reviews, commentary about each one. The database is organized by decade, which is super-handy for making sure your costume includes the proper style of headwear, sleeve and bodice for the particular time period you wish to portray.

La Couturiere Parisienne
. A gorgeous site featuring 16th century portraits organized into three groupings as well as articles about using portraits for costume study/inspiration.

The Realm of Venus. An excellent website for researching Italian Renaissance costume design. Features a Wardrobe page with portraits, a workbox, library, and (one of my fave elements of this site) the Showcase, featuring costumes sewn by seamstresses all over the world. Gorgeous work, a lovely site and very easy to navigate.

That's it for now. I hope some of you find this post useful. Do you have additional websites to recommend? Please, add them in the comments. Thanks!

Wicked-Hot Erotic Fiction
Noble Garb Renaissance Fashion

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posted by Tawny Taylor at 11:35 AM | 0 comments

Monday, November 10, 2008

FREE Writing Workshop!

posted by Tawny Taylor at 9:05 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A book to put you in the mood...

for Christmas :)


Cara's Christmas Fantasy by Lauren Murphy

Genre: Contemporary Big Beautiful Woman

Heat Rating: Bonfire

Length: Long Story-17,000 words

Price: $3.75

With their marriage on rocky ground, will Mike’s passionate plans reignite Cara’s love?

Plagued by her weight gain, Cara’s self-esteem has taken a downward spiral. No longer feeling attractive she unknowingly pushes away the one thing she truly wants; her husband’s affections.

Mike considers himself to be an understanding man but enough is enough. He wants his old Cara back--the wild, vivacious woman he met and knows is waiting to be revived. His desire for her compels him to create a plan that will bring them closer together emotionally and sexually. But will Cara be able to open her mind and body to the man she loves or will she push him away for good?

Read a full excerpt here!

Available now here!

posted by Tawny Taylor at 10:02 AM | 0 comments

Friday, November 07, 2008

Available Today!

Release Date: 11/7/08
ISBN: 9781419918643
Publisher: Ellora's Cave
Genre: Paranormal BDSM, Menage

(click HERE to buy)

Raine Avery needs a job. Badly. So when she hears about a primo position she’s willing to overlook a few salacious rumors about the company’s owner, Tryphon Zade. But then she meets him, and it’s clear that at least two of those rumors are true.

He is the epitome of a wet dream.

And he is one controlling, possessive, dominating jerk.

Sons of the Twilight Tryphon and Bale Kincaid are looking for more than a well-qualified office manager. The Hunger has them in its agonizing grip. They need a woman for the Blood Bond. Raine is the perfect candidate, with her lush body, fiery red hair and temperament to match. She makes Tryphon burn, in a very good way, the submissive nature she suppresses calling to the Dom within him. But this Binding isn’t like any Bale and Tryphon have shared before. Their relationship is strained, and Raine fights Tryphon’s domination like a hellcat. But Tryphon is determined to not only prove his love for Bale but also tame Raine. She will learn the pleasure of complete submission.


posted by Tawny Taylor at 8:38 AM | 0 comments
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