And How I Made Them
There is something missing when you’ve made this stunning new
frock and you put it on and your feeling great, but there is something missing,
a headdress. The top end of
Click on the above images to see more detailed photos of each of my Balzos.
The Balzo seems
to be synonymous with Italian dress of the 16th century.
Hair taping is lovely and veils are nice, the coif seems sometimes a bit
too understated. But a balzo seems to be a little bit better and finishes that
Italian outfit off a treat.
The Balzo is the one style that says ‘Italian’.
It feels more formal if you like to finish an Italian outfit with a Balzo.
This type has a
crown on which the padded roll is attached.
The hair appears to always worn up with this style of balzo.
You can buy
buckram crowns in shops around the place, or you can make your own if you have a
form. I choose not to use either of
I used the crown
of a felt hat from a second hand shop. Just
cut the brim off and away you go, you may have to trim the crown down a bit to
but that depends on your head size and shape.
My reasons for doing this were:
Price. It was
cheaper to do it this way. Costing about $3 - $10 aust for a second hand felt
Ease of use. It was
easier than trying to make a form; I don’t have a form to mould buckram on.
More authentic finish. This
could be debated as I did cover my base form.
I felt that a wool felt form was the most authentic form I could use.
If the felt crown was a bit too small I could always stretch it
out a bit after dampening it first.
After getting my
crown the right size and shape by adjusting it in front of a mirror, I then
stitched in hat wire around the edge of the crown.
This need only be a light tie wire if that is all you have as it is there
it help stop the hat loosing it’s shape.
Next cover the crown with fabric. Allow enough fabric to completely cover the crown with some
left over to tuck under.
To reduce the
amount of wrinkles I used the bias of my fabric as much as possible to stretch
it into shape and fit, pin as you go. There
will probably be a few wrinkles but they can be easily dispersed so that they
don’t really show. When you are
happy with the look of the covering stitch it down on the edges.
Turn the fabric under as you stitch down the covering fabric.
finished set it aside and start work on the padded roll.
The padded roll is tapered so that it is thickest at the front
and top and thinnest at the back, which sits at the bottom of the headdress.
Make a loop of
fairly heavy wire; copper is good and generally available, or even an old coat
hanger if that is all that comes to hand. Play
with the sizing a bit until you are happy with it; remember you have to pad up
over this wire. Do this in front of
a mirror and use your crown when making your estimates. After all, the crown and the padded roll have to be in
proportion to each other and the wearer.
Once you are
happy with your wire you can cover the wire with plastic florists tape.
This helps to stop rust and corrosion in the wire and the padding tends
to hold better to the wire this way.
Now begin padding it up. I
use the sheets of padding used for toys or quilting.
Pad up over the join first, and then a light cover all over the wires,
stitching down as you go along. The
padding shouldn’t be light and fluffy, rather it should be quite firm.
Work your way over the roll padding up and stitching down, as you go you
should keep checking the proportions with the crown and with your mirror, and
the taper. If you padded roll is
too big or too small you will be unhappy with the final results.
Padding completed, time to cover. Using the same fabric as the crown, and cut on the bias fit
the fabric over the roll. Use the
fact that it’s cut on the bias to stretch it into shape.
Again pin it as you go to help eliminate wrinkles and stitch down by had
when you are happy with the look. Ensure
all cut edges are on the inside of the roll.
If you have
another fabric, like netting you want to add to the balzo do this now that the
base parts are completed. Likewise
if you intend to incorporate some type of braid or cording, now would be a good
time to apply it. Also curled
ribbons and beading can be incorporated as decoration.
When all the fabric is in place and stitched down, attach the
padded roll to the crown. A curved
needle is best for this, as you have to stitch through the crown and the roll.
Try to keep the stitching as invisible as possible on the outer of the
balzo. The inside of the balzo doesn’t matter so much at this
Once the roll is
secured to the crown a lining should be stitched into the underside of the
crown. I use silk for mine and
would recommend nothing else.
Cut a piece of silk a little larger than the crown so that enough
is allowed for turn under of the edges. Pin
the lining into place. There is
going to be either small gathers or small pleats at the edge of the lining.
This is unavoidable. The
lining should be one centimetre from the edge of the crown so that it does not
show when being worn. Stitch the
lining into the under
turned covering fabric.
It is at this
point you need to decide how you are going to attach the balzo to your head.
Unlike the first design this balzo does sit on the head.
If you intend to use combs as I do you will have to sew them into the
balzo now. They can be at the front and back or, the sides.
I find that I still have to use hairpins to secure my balzo.
If you intend to
use pins only, you might like to consider the addition of a band of grosgrain
ribbon to the lining at this point. This
will enable you to have something for the hair pins to bite into.
finished the balzo you could pin or stitch a brooch or similar ornament into the
centre front of the padded roll.
All that is left
to do now is put on your Italian frock, all your beautiful gems, put your hair
up and finish it all of with your beautiful new balzo. Look in the mirror and you will see a beautiful Italian
renaissance lady looking back at you. Complete
This is just one style of Balzo. There are at least two other variants that I am aware of. As with most things in life this ns dot the definitive ‘how to’, only my recommendation based on my own experience and research.
All intellectual content, composition, layout, designs and photographs copyright 2007 to Deborah Lane © , 2003 to Deborah Murray © or Mistress Oonagh O'Neill ©. All Original renaissance art works and artefacts are not copyright to Deborah Lane, and are shown for educational use only. If you see something you'd really like to use, please contact me!