29 October 2012

The Hand-Me-Down Burgundy Burgundian

Because GUESS WHAT!  A friend of mine says to me last  week, "Here, see if there's anything you want in this giant box of fabric and old costumes."  And what do I find there?  THIS! 

oh, and welcome to my kitchen. 

Is that not awesome?  It belonged to another friend, long ago, who gave it to the friend who gave it to me.  The fabric is a    b e a u t i f u l  color, hangs perfectly, is soft and comfy, and, while a bit warm for outdoor wear most of the year here (it's cotton), it'll be fantastic for Winter outdoor events, and lots of events indoors in the air conditioning.  The shape of it is lovely, too:  the skirt and body are voluminous and flowing, while the top fits my shoulders and bust perfectly.  The sleeves are a tiny bit baggy, and, um, a tad longer than I'd like them, hehe.

It needs a bit of work, though, a la Cinderella's makeover of her dated pink gown for the ball.  Those sleeves have to come up, and in.  The crotch of the neckline has some worn stitching and frayed edges that will need to be cleaned up; and that neckline needs a little privacy panel, too.

Some other ideas include: 

Chopping the sleeves and adding an under-sleeve in a complementary fabric.

Purchasing more black faux-fur and trimming the lower hem, or removing it entirely and replacing it with faux fur from a blanket I already have (that I bought for exactly this purpose, thinking of making a houppelande), and trimming the bottom, neck, and sleeves with white fur.

Obviously it'll need a belt of some kind as well.  I'll have to read more about this style.

And of course, there must be headgear.  I already have a simple black band with a pull-ring attached to it that I made for another look several months ago.

The very simplest thing I could do would be to drape a veil over it.  Or I could attempt to whomp up a hat.  By November 18th - the last, and biggest event of the season.  Hm.

And yeah, you don't even know how badly some part of me wants to gut this thing and turn it into a red version of the Mary of Habsburg dress.  But I shall resist!  I want a MoH gown, but I want to do it right, and from scratch.  Not as a reproduction or anything, but, well, not red.  :)


P.S. - today are my actual birthday.  *confetti and crap*


26 October 2012

We Interrupt This Blog Post For An Important OMFG!!!

Guess what this is?

The Squee 'Heard Round the World

If you guessed that this is me opening a gigantic box which I thought contained fabric and which turned out to be A NEW FREAKING SEWING MACHINE!!!!!  you'd be correct.

Turns out that a friend of mine for whom I do a LOT of SCA work for him and his fighting company, of which I'm a member (yeah, that guy) decided that he'd get me a span-damn-tacular birthday present as a thank-you for sewing for him and for his/our fighting company.   He told me that I'd be receiving a package of fabric in the mail, for just these reasons.  He even told me it would be arriving yesterday.  When I got home and saw the box, I couldn't imagine what could be in something that size - I've ordered some things I'm expecting this week, but nothing this big!  His name was on the outside, so I knew it had to be the fabric, but holy cow, how much fabric could be in a box this size?  And why on earth is there inflatable package cushioning in there for fabric??  Then I saw it.

don't you just want to pet it? 

It's a Singer Curvy (8770).
225 built-in stitches, including 7 buttonholes. Fully adjustable stitch length and width on any stitch. Single- and double-needle capacity. Automatic needle threader. Heavy duty metal frame (but the machine is very light).  Drop-in bobbin.  One-step buttonholer, which also lets you free-sew buttonholes yourself.  Comes with a zipper, blind hem, and satin stitch presser feet in addition to the regular one.  Adjustable feed dogs.  3-way adjustable deck/free-arm platform.  Seam ripper, cleaning brushes, dust cover.

watching it do the Greek key was *mesmerizing*

Here's a little sack-cloth linen sampler of just *18* of the 225 stitches, including me playing around with tension, length, and width as I was getting used to the machine.

This thing sews soooo smoothly.  It's comfortable, slips so easily, sews so quietly, and moves so smoothly that it's almost hypnotic to use (keep in mind that my eighteen year old Singer runs well but rough; and my Brother runs like a shopping cart in a gravel pit).

I didn't just play around with it.  I put it to work on the new Samurai outfit I'm doing for Takuan, on the appliqué around the bottom of the pants.  I'm sorry, Old Singer, but, um, your services are no longer required.

So this is the computer.  The computer.  MY SEWING MACHINE HAS A COMPUTER.  Mkay. Sorry.  There's so much information in the booklet on how to use this thing, and the buttons don't really say anything (aside from the ABC one)...but it's actually very simple to operate.  For example, see the numbers on the LED screen (it's got an LED screen, you guys)?  Skip the first button.  The next two adjust the stitch width up and down, then the last two do the same thing for the length.  There's a stitch selector, and each of the patterns is numbered. There's a dual-needle selector, a mirror-image selector (yes, it will sew any one of those 225 stitches backwards for you), an "eraser" button to delete all settings and start over, and some quick-select buttons across the bottom.   Easy as pie.

As if this thing wasn't awesome enough...

  • it has a serging stitch that will - you guessed it - sew and overcast in the same pass, just like a serger machine.  
  • it has some embroidery stitches I've seen on Norse and Russian garb used to embellish seams and hem edges, that I had been going to do by hand.  
  • It won't do an eyelet all by itself, but two of the seven buttonhole stitches make keyhole buttonholes, the top part of which is basically an eyelet that just needs a wee bit of satin-stitching across one side to close it to a full circle.  So it's a two-step eyelet.  Guess what I don't have to do by hand anymore? 
  • it has a hand-stitched stitch that looks like...wait for it...a hand-stitched stitch.  Like this: 

I don't have to do that by hand anymore, either.  O_O

Anyway.  I'll quit gushing now.  LOL.  Yeah, right.  I probably won't shut up about this thing for weeks.  
Happy freaking birthday to me. :)  

Next week. Early present. :) 

25 October 2012

VIKING EPICSAUCE: Behind the Scenes (A Very Long Entry)

Today I'm going to talk about the process I used to make the Viking Casket, aka The A&S Project That Wouldn't Die, or The @$%#^%&!! Viking Box.

You guys know what Scope Creep is, right?  YEESH.  This was a nifty project to work on, don't get me wrong, but it ended up involving a LOT more work than I thought it would, and took a LOT longer than I thought it would, and was a LOT harder than I thought it would be.  I bled.

So, this was a $3 hobby store unfinished wooden box.   I really wanted to simulate the look and feel of ivory on the finished piece, but I wasn't sure how - clay? Jewelry plastic?  I'd never worked with either of those things.  I decided to go with what I knew: decorative painting and faux finishes.  There was a bit more to it than that, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

First I primed the box with white paint.  Then I went looking for designs, LOL.  I did a bit more research than simply finding two extant Viking caskets on a website somewhere;  I wanted to make this fit my recipient's persona as nicely as possible, so I learned about various styles of Viking carvings and art through the ages.  (And yes, I looked at more than Wikipedia, for you research nuts reading this).  The two designs I chose are in the Borre style of Viking animal carvings.  The oblong design on the top of the box is oblong for a reason - it's copied from a rather common style of Viking brooch. The other motif along the sides is based on some modern recreationist jewelry pieces I found that were themselves based on, I believe, extant horse tack hardware.  (And no, I don't have documentation on this, as only minimal docu was required for this project).  Anyway, I sized the images on my computer and printed them out to the scale I needed, and then traced them onto the box with sewing tracing paper.  Because the chalk from the paper was rubbing off like crazy, I traced over the lines with a pencil.  Which I should NOT have done.

I gold-leafed my nails, lol. 

Here's me doing the first round of carving the designs into the wood.  It's hard to tell, but because of the pencil marks, all the cut lines came out black.  I really wasn't happy with that, because it meant more work for me to correct it.  But first I also had to go back and bevel the edges of each cut to widen the marks and soften the edges.

Keep in mind, here, that I am not a wood-carver, and have NEVER carved wood before.  What was I saying earlier about sticking with what I knew?  Yeah.  I have no idea where the carving idea even came from.  Originally I was just going to straight-up trompe l'oeil this thing.

These are my "carving tools".   I mentioned I'm not a wood carver, right?

  • butter knife
  • paring knife (I used the back of the blade, which required me to layer my fingers with several band-aids, a glove ,and wrap the blade of the knife in leather, since I had to press against the blade of the knife to control it!)
  • a small awl, which didn't work at awl
  • a crochet hook, which I actually used to trace the designs onto the box with the sewing paper
  • an X-Acto knife, which I used to make all the initial cuts, and which gave me a MASSIVE blister on top of a callous, which I didn't even know was possible.  I thought that's what callouses were *for*.  

there's kind of a sneak preview in this picture. 
Anyhoo, the next step, as I said, was to fix those black carved lines.  I wanted the finished effect here to be very warm, aged, but not dirty looking.  

Enter the first paint color:  Weird Tan (that's what I'm calling it).  It's a 99c generic acrylic craft paint.  I smashed it on with a small stippling brush to get it into all the lines, and then smoothed off the excess with a wet paper towel, which also served to "stain" the background a bit and make it look aged.  It accentuated the wood grain on the box a bit, but I liked the effect. 

top: another necessary part of this project - CAFFEINE

With the same paint, on a moist brush, I started painting in the background shadows of the designs etched into the sides.  

Since my carvings weren't very deep, I used paint to give the impression of a much more serious carving than I'm capable of delivering.  I really, really loved the way it came out.  

After the tan background and "shadows" came some highlights with plain white acrylic paint.  

Easy 2-step paint process?  Nope.  I actually went back over the design about three times with both colors, adding and shading and lightening, until I had a soft but obvious 3-D effect.  I paid special attention to the eyes and the ridges on the snake's (?) back, which were very pronounced in extant animal carvings. 

I love this paint, but I don't have brush cleaner.  
I used nail polish remover.  

Here's where it gets cheesy.  I really wanted to do the edging on this box in real metal - not that I work with metal, but hey, I don't carve wood, either.  At first I couldn't find gold-colored metal thin enough for this project.  Finally I found some sheets of stamping/etching metal in the jewelry section of my local Michael's, but (a) it was really expensive, and (b) it came in packages of 2 pieces each of gold, copper, and silver - I would have to have bought three packages, and then what would I do with the other colors??   And so we have:  popsicle sticks painted with Liquid Leaf gold leafing paint.  I'm not even kidding. 

The next step is where we go from plain ol' painted wood to faux-ivory finish.  It worked out so incredibly well, I'm actually impressed that I thought of it, although I have no clue why it even occurred to me to try it - it just did. 

Wood glue. 


You know what wood glue feels like when it dries; and how it has that sort of creamy, yellowy-clear sheen to it?  That's exactly what I wanted.  So, with a very soft, wide fan brush, I painted the entire box with wood glue.  The fan brush was so that I could sweep the glue on very evenly, without leaving streaks or ridges in the glue.  It wasn't hard to paint with, but it sure was different.  

After one smooth coat over the entire box, basically to seal and color it, I glued the popsicle sticks on.   Then I painted another coat of glue on each panel of the box individually, staying away from the very edges, to give the appearance of a slightly-raised panel.  

The glue fell into the cuts in the wood, just like I'd envisioned (thank goodness), and it really does feel smooth and hard, just like ivory or bone or horn.  The top of the box came out a leeetle bit more yellow than I wanted, but it does this nifty thing where it very gradually and evenly gets darker towards the center...just like an old natural material would, so, I'm actually pretty pleased with it. 

After that was dry, I used wood filler to putty the small gaps in between the pieces of popsicle stick, and then painted over all the trim with the gold leaf paint again, and then sealed the trim with Polycrylic. 

the inside is just painted purple. 
The "rivets" in the gold edging are actually the heads of teeny-tiny brass brads from the scrapbooking section of the craft store.  I looked high and low for gold nails or tacks of the right size, and they were nowhere to be found.  ARGH.  But these guys were just right.  The brad "stems" were far too flimsy to nail into the wood like nails, though.  I clipped them off with a toenail clippers (the only thing I had that was both strong enough to cut this thin metal, and small enough to get in there - scissors and nippers were far too large for the job), leaving about half a millimeter of stem on each one.  

I simply glued them in place with more wood glue, and then tapped them in gently with a small hammer, so that the remaining stem on each head would grab the wood underneath and help it hold. 

Later, a friend of mine asked me why I hadn't just drilled tiny pilot holes and tapped in the brads with a bit of glue.  Genius!  I totally didn't even think of that.  

So, there you have it!  


24 October 2012


Post written August 15th, 2012

Several months ago, I joined a group on Facebook called "Noblesse Largesse,"  which is an inter-kingdom A&S swap.  You fill out a survey and send it in to the coordinator (she's a great lady, and the process is very safe).  All the surveys are mixed up somehow and re-assigned:  you receive someone's survey, and based on the information about their persona that they provided, you create a gift for them of some kind and mail it to them.  Meanwhile, someone out there is making something for you, too.

[Note:  there was a bit of a mix-up with shipping, and it was a long, long time before I received word that my craft had been received on the other end.   I didn't want to post this here until she'd seen it; it didn't seem right.  Plus, on the off-chance she came across this blog? Yeah.]

The person who was assigned to me was a woman in the Outlands with a 10th century Danish Viking persona, and whose personal heraldic colors are purple and silver.  Now, I know nothing about Viking stuff, aside from the fact that they seem to like wearing lots of bling on their apron dresses.  No, seriously, that was the sum total of my knowledge.

But I knew I liked to paint boxes (as you may recall).  Along the way in my initial research, I came across these beauties:

The Bamberg Casket, 11thC Denmark/Norway
walrus ivory and gilt bronze, carved in the Mammen style

The Cammin Casket, 11thC Denmark
elk ivory and gilt bronze, Mammen style carvings

Two beautiful pieces - to which I could never do justice.  But I decided to try my hand at a sort-of facsimile with modern hobby-store materials  (the swap craft must cost you no more than $25).  Here's my version:

I don't think that sucks at all.  :) 

It's wood, hand-carved, and then treated  to resemble/feel like carved ivory or bone.

The inside is purple, for my swap recipient! 

A little purple cushion, and some trinkets to go inside:
Angels, because that's part of her heraldic device
An M, for her first name
A key, which is a symbol of a Viking woman's rule over her home, 
and a couple of veil pins, because I have like a frillion of them.  

Tomorrow I'll show you how I did it.  :)

23 October 2012

Month(s) In Review

Damn, I forgot a month again.

August In Review: 

September In Review: 
And now if you'll excuse me, I have some more Japanese pants to make. 


22 October 2012

Vikings At the Battle of Ethandune

Back from the Battle of Ethandune in Bjornsborg, with pictures!  MAN those folks sure know how to throw an event.  I always have so much fun there.

Here's my Viking outfit, complete with a loom-woven belt made for me by a friend of mine, and a pair of silver concho brooches loaned to me by someone else (the ones I made the other day didn't work).

A shot of the hood(s) and jewelry:

During the course of the day Saturday, two friends of mine and I got together and "secretly" bought a new loom for the woman who made me the woven belt.  She'd had her eye on it, and a birthday recently, so, well, happy new loom!  (I say "secretly" because she totally caught us in the act when she came back to buy it for herself.  Whoops!)  That was so much fun. 

A bit later in the afternoon, I was disappointed to find that a pair of brass brooches I'd had my eye on had been sold.  I couldn't afford them, but I was going to ask the shop owner, who's a local and a friend of Vasilii's, if he would hold onto them for me - but no, they were gone.  Sigh. 

Turns out, the same three friends from the loom story had gone behind my back and bought me the brooches, because my birthday is next week.  Yay!  They're so pretty!  

(the key is also from the event. just a little something
I found. I absolutely love old keys).  


19 October 2012

More "Viking" Bits and Pieces

"Viking" because, while these bits and pieces will be worn with a Viking costume, in the way these things are worn, they're just made of stuff I already had (and some beads given to me by a friend), which aren't necessarily period-appropriate, but, hey...I already had them, so, they were free.  And they're still pretty.  With any luck, they'll enhance the overall look and not be too glaringly modern-looking.

amber chips and red glass beads, with a little brass center piece
from the hobby store that I had on hand.  

for the front of my apron dress, made as one piece - the gold starbust plaques
will serve as the "brooches" that hold the dress together (these won't be weight-
bearing, they're far too flimsy.  Just decorative); with beaded chain swagged
acoss the chest, with amber, carnelian, citrine, green tourmaline, wood, and
 brass fittings.  Also a couple of little keys on a pin. 

12 October 2012


Not much to add today, but I have pics of me in the Viking hood - which I believe I said the other day was a Jorvik hood, but the Jorvik doens't have the point on the back.  The point makes this a Dublin hood.

I loved these so much that I made a purple one for myself - and then ended up making another purple one, and another white one, for a friend of mine, as a surprise from her boyfriend.  Hee!

Because I LIKE them layered like this.  The red one doesn't have ties, so I tied the white one back around it to keep them together, and back from my face (because, seriously, if I had ties swinging around my neck all day I'd either catch them on something and end up being killed by a paper shredder, or I'd rip the damned thing off and throw it in a fire).  

Doesn't look pointy and weird from the front, yay!  My hair's just loose under here; but when I wear it for the event next weekend, I plan to braid it all back from my face and collect the braids in the back - either knotted together or hanging free down the back.  Most people do side-braids, which I find very pretty and feminine...on them.  On me I just look like a 36 year old woman dressed up as a child for Halloween. 

Next stop:  jewelry!  The friend for whom I made the purple and white hoods is loaning me a pair of brooches, and has given me free run of her glass bead collection.  Whee! 


08 October 2012

Madylyne the Viking. Wait...what?


It's the Battle of Ethandune, ladies and gentlemen, thrown by those wacky folks down in Bjornsborg, and it's either Saxon or Viking for the attendees - Vasilii and I have chosen Viking. A few months ago I would swear I hated the whole Viking thing in the SCA, and that I would never, ever dress Viking myself.

And yet...

It's not that I dislike the Viking stuff, it's just that it all seemed so formulaic.  I knew there were different styles and eras of Scandinavian dress, but I'd only ever seen people do one...the same one, over, and over, and over, and over. Which, you know, you can't swing a cat at an event without hitting a cotehardie, so, um, moving on.

I didn't remotely have the money to pull off an entirely new outfit from scratch just for one event, so I improvised and scrounged, and managed an entire outfit out of things I already had:

The underdress is made from a pair of "natural" color linen curtains I had hanging in my craft room.

The blue "apron dress" is made from the leftover yardage from a blue outfit Vasilii and I have been making for him (I'll show you when he's finished with it).

The gray overcoat is from a pair of Ikea's RITVA curtains I had sitting around gathering cat hair. And the pair of hoods (shown here layered and tied back from the face, which is how I'll be wearing them) are remnants from the red cotehardie I made last year, and the white is from a lightweight linen blouse I picked up from the by-the-pound thrift store clearance center for literally like 20c last year and hadn't done anything with.

The gold-colored closure is...not remotely Viking-looking, but you know what?  It's what I had.

Ditto the copper necklace with amethyst glass beads.  I can't afford turtle brooches and layers of bling.  Besides - it's perfectly period to be poor, you know?

Either of these hoods can be worn alone, but I love them layered. I've seen absolutely no evidence that anyone layered these hoods, but I've seen evidence of just about everyone else doing it throughout SCA period, so I'm taking a leap of faith on this one, because I like the way it looks, so there.  :P

The event is in two weeks, so I'm pretty pleased with myself for getting this all finished over the weekend (the under-dress has been done for two weeks, actually, I used it as a nightgown at our Fall Baronial event).

I've also gotten two more outfits cut out and halfway put together, one of which is for a friend for the Battle of Ethandune event as well.  And tomorrow night I'm draping someone for a fitted kirtle pattern.  Whew!  Busy.

I'll tell you what, though, the past few weeks of researching for this outfit, learning how to draw up the patterns, fitting myself, and then finally making these pieces this weekend have convinced me of one thing:  I don't hate Viking.  I actually kinda love the look on me.  And it didn't start with this outfit, actually.  Back in August I did a Viking A&S project for someone - that'll be its own entry though.  Show you soon.

Anyhow, in my unrealistic little brain I keep seeing myself embroidering the seams on all three layers of this outfit in the next two weeks, but I'm guessing that's not going to happen, LOL.  Mostly because I kinda still hate embroidery most of the time.


03 October 2012

Time Out for a Mundane Dress. No, really!

Here's something I never do on this blog, but I had to share.   I can't help it:  I LOVE T-SHIRT HACKS.   I saw this one on Pinterest:

blog entry + how-to from the Pin  HERE 

And had to have it.   But that's not all I had to have.  I had to have a cute, sassy little black dress; but what I actually had was this:

pose and dress re-do also inspired in part by
The Refashionista
Now, before I go any further, let me note that my boyfriend took these pictures, and he's a giant.  I'm five-nine, people, and in these pictures I look like a stumpy little log with hardly any legs.  He's six-two, and taking these shots basically from his face-level.  I look silly. Heehee.

Anyway - how boring is this dress?  It makes my tits look saggy, and while it's comfy, it's just not remotely interesting.  There's no cleavage!  There's no shape! At least I took the short sleeves off of it years ago so it doesn't look out-and-out grandma-y.  But still.  It needed something.  It needed a lot of something.

First it needed to be either longer or shorter, and since I can't add length out of thin air:

I cut off about 7-9" and curved up the side to form a sort-of mans'-shirt slit on both sides at the knee.  Ish. 

And from the piece I cut off, I removed the original hemline, to use as a thin tie belt on the finished dress.

It's kinda awesome!  And my head is all weird!  Tall boyfriend!

The overall shape is much better now, the neckline is waaaay lower, which I love, the length is comfy, I love the tie belt, and...

 There's that cute little slit/curve in the side.  Yay!

"But Laura,"  you ask, "What about that braided neckline?"   

I did the braided neckline.  I cannot get a single picture of it to turn out.  Black fabric - whaddaya want, yanno?   But it looks COOL AS HELL.  You'll, um, just have to trust me.

I will note, mostly for myself, for next time, that the way that I cut the slits  in the fabric around the neckline for the "braid" (see the original tutorial here) made it very difficult to accomplish said braid.  I meant to try it on like a sock or something first to get a feel for it, but I got all gung-ho and just went for it.   I did two things, not "wrong", but that I'll change next time:

1.   The slits I cut were smallish (they look to be about 2.5" in the tutorial, and mine were at most an inch and a half), and too far apart in proportion to their length, which meant that the loops resulting from the slits had to stretch really far, which made them thin and tight and hard to work with, and also really small.

2.   I also graduated the size of the cuts  - smaller in the back and shoulders, gradually widening towards the front of the neckline, for a braid that gets bigger around the front and then tapers off again.  But since the slits were so small and the loops so tight, what I got was a braid about 3/4" in the front and barely as wide as a pencil in the back!

Also, with such a tight, small braid, even though it looks really awesome, it drew the fabric of the dress up a LOT.  You can see it above in the pic from the Pin/tutorial - how the braiding pulls and gathers the fabric?  It's a really lovely effect.  Except that it pulled the straps on my dress up so much that they're quite a bit narrower than they started out, and that's the only thing I'm not happy about.  But I can live with it.

(And yes, I tried un-braiding, thinking I'd just adjust the slits.  No dice: the fabric stretched so far and pulled so tight the first time that undoing it and doing it over would have just broken it in places.  I'll just make the slits bigger next time).

And oh yes, there will be a next time.  And if I can manage a decent pic of that braid, I'll post it.