How to Starch a Ruff, part IV

part I--part II--part III

I had to repeat the whole process (top and bottom) to really set the starch. This was partly because while I was doing the bottom, liquid starch was seeping back into the top, getting it slightly soggy again. You can see here the difference the second time around the top made:

second time around the top

Here's what it looked like (upside-down) after I was done. (The gathers right next to the neckband were still damp.):


I let the ruff dry upside-down overnight so that when right-side up, it had a definite "lift." This caused it to cradle my face in a way that can be recognized in portraits of the medium-sized ruffs of the 1570s. Here is what it looked like right-side-up after drying overnight:

the finished product

Some notes: If you start with the starch still wet, this process will take two hours or so, and once you start, you can't stop. Be sure to line your work surface with wax paper or aluminum foil, and have a wet cloth, a dry cloth, and a bowl of water for continual de-starching of your fingers. Your iron will get dried and/or scorched starch on it during the process, but this is easy to clean off with water once the iron has cooled. If you feel you must do it during the process while the iron is hot, rub it briskly with a very wet wash cloth, and be careful not to burn your fingers! You can also let the starch dry completely before you begin, and then mist the ruff with enough water to soften it before you start setting the figure eights. This results in a much shorter process with less scorched starch on the iron, but the ruff will not be nearly as stiff. After experimenting with both methods, I've decided to compromise. I let the ruff dry about halfway before I start setting the figure eights.

Also, in case you are wondering how in the world you'll know what size figure-eights to make, here are my methods and revisions. This ruff is actually box pleated prior to being gathered onto the neckband. It was my theory that this would provide a guide by which I could make the figure-eights. It did, but it also hampered the expansion of the ruff, which has to spring almost immediately from tightly gathered to figure-eight to achieve the look found in period portraits. See the update (link below) for a ruff that is gathered without pleats.

Many thanks to Mistress Dorothea van der Zee (Dore') for taking the pictures and being extremely helpful throughout the process!


Update--the new ruff

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