Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Bed, Part 1

I felt there was a bad pun in the statement "I finally got around to making my bed" but at the moment (fortunately) it escapes me...

The bed is modelled on those in the Maciejowski Bible - it is painted and has rounded ends on the bedposts with the head end being taller than the foot. Other than that the construction was fairly much at my own discretion (and limited to the tools in mine and Dad's workshops!). I wanted a bed for shows, so it had to be portable; I decided that using mortice and tenon joints to fix the side pieces to the head and foot pieces would be appropriate as that joint was used in the period, and to have the mattress supported by a rope web would probably be fairly right (they haven't found any 'rope beds' from our period, and as you can see from the manuscript picture (from the Maciejowski Bible) little more than the legs show so it's hard to guess at the construction). Not wishing to rely wholly on the rope and my body weight to hold the bed together, the joints are also pinned by dowels (another period method), and the result is something that creaks a little when you first get onto it but is remarkably quiet once it's got some weight in it - even rolling over is a silent procedure!

The mattress in the pictures is the flock one (the feather one, which goes on top, is currently 'under construction'... I need to murder a few more pillows to get it comfortably full) which in itself was interesting to make. I started with a cotton duck (about the weight of mattress ticking but not black and white striped) cover more or less the size of the bed and stuffed about 10 kilos of wool into it (hence "flock"); I must note here that I've been collecting wool since 1991 when I took up re-enacting and spinning and had baskets and boxes of the stuff in varying degrees of usability for spinning - a lot of it is brown or grey (medieval folk favoured white - it dyed better) and some of it has been sitting there unwashed for nearly 20 years and is a little brittle, and some of it is clippings and sweepings and fairly grubby - vegetable matter and dags and such (and, as I found while teasing the pieces open prior to stuffing them in the mattress, a mummified mouse!). Having loosely stuffed the cover I sewed it shut and regarded the sausage shape before me. To flatten it out a bit I sewed through it (yay for the 10" doll-making needle!) with heavy linen thread from a leather reinforcing on the back to one on the front and then
tied it down tightly - 12 of these flattened it out adequately, as you can see from the photo.

So, I guess ATM I've only partly made my bed... the next step is to finish the feather mattress and then to create some voluminous sheets and a coverlet. Judging from MSS pics and the songs/poetry/stories of the day, the coverlet was an all-important piece of bedroom equipment - the words 'costly' and 'silk' frequently crop up... Mine will be of heavy red silk lined with mink from a 1950s calf-length coat donated by a rellie for that purpose.

And as I need it to be in working order next Saturday, I better get sewing!

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