31 December 2014

Gold Swiss/German Linen Kirtle

Bryn Gwlad's Candlemas event is a sight to behold.  It's just about my favorite event of the year.  It's primarily an indoor event, chock full of classes, A&S, music, and dancing.  The hall always looks amazing, the feast is lit by candlelight only, and heralds announce each course as a coordinated fleet of servers delivers food to the people who aren't up participating in the ball taking place at the front of the hall before the high tables...to live music.  *happy sigh*

It's also usually a themed event.  This year the theme is Landsknecht, on the road to war (Gulf Wars, in March).  Landsknecht dress, or at least German-styled clothing in general, is encouraged (but not mandatory).  Though I've sworn for five years that I'll never "go German," here is my first one, to wear during the day at the event.

It's based on the following two works by Diebold Schilling the Elder (Swiss, 1445-1485), and a couple of recreations I've seen online that I really love:

unknown, Schilling

Barbara Erlach and daughters,

In Nova Corpora

Sew Mill


The pattern is based on my usual cotehardie pattern.  It's rectangular construction with inset gores, and only the neckline and sleeves have been altered. (The sleeves are short because I'll be wearing a pair of over-sleeves with the dress for part of the day and working with my hands for most of the rest of it; they're cut as modern sleeves with the seam under the arm instead of behind it, which I did for speed as much as for the slightly baggier look they give to the shoulders).   I would really have liked a fuller, longer skirt; but I only had so much fabric to work with. 

The bodice of the dress is flat-lined in white linen; though it is also turned at the neckline/front opening.  The sleeves and skirt are unlined.  I wanted as few layers as possible for this outfit, since a hall full of people dancing, gaming, and milling about gets pretty hot;  I'll be working most of the day, attending dance classes, and wearing braies and a smock underneath this dress as well.  I'd rather not die of heat stroke before lunch.

A close-up of the front lacing after completion, during a test fit.

The lace is a silk twill tape from a stash of vintage notions I received from a friend several months ago.

There are no hooks or loops or holes for the lacing; rather, a thin, double-fold cotton bias tape is attached inside the edge of the front opening. The bias tape was attached with  line of decorative chevron stitches (machined) that run down the entire front opening edge, with gaps in the stitching to form loops in the bias tape through which the twill tape is threaded.

I was originally going to close the vertical slit with buttons or a hook; but I didn't have anything in my stash that wouldn't interfere with the belt I was going to wear with the dress.

(Sorry, the stitching looks horrible from the inside.  On the outside it's nice and even, and practically invisible on the gold linen).

With my newest Caerleon sleeves...which I made like a year ago and never posted to the blog. But I kinda love them.  :)


30 December 2014

Project Goals: A Check-In

Last September, I posted this about some changes I felt I needed to make in my project-ing habits (mostly for SCA, but also applicable to my mundane projects).

To wit:

  1. Limit the number of projects I take on at a time, so that I don't overload myself. 
  2. Establish expected delivery date before committing to a project.  Ditto project parameters. 
  3. Procrastination issues: 
    1. Work on each project for at least two hours per week - no putting things off til the last week. 
    2. Stop putting off things for myself, or mundane projects, until I "get my work done." It just stresses me out. 
  4. Clean up and put away my toys when I'm done with a project. 

How have I done? 

You know, I was paging back through my blog, and I came across that post, and I laughed out loud.  Sort of a barking sound, really.  But then I read it through, and really thought about it, and I think I've done pretty darned well in the past four months! 

All of 2014, really, has been an exercise in learning not to take on too much work at a time.  I've had a hard time learning to say "no" and "not right now," but I've done it.  I've learned to do that.  And it's done me a world of good. 

I think going into a project with clear expectations on my part and the part of my clients is doing us all a LOT of good.  My first question is, "When do you need it?", and then we get right down to drawing up some designs, setting expectations, and going over what's feasible and what's not - and THEN I accept, or I can I say that a project is more than I can take on right now; and there are always options at that point (check with me in a month, or, I'll let you know when I'm finished with X, or "Maybe you could ask Lady Whosit, she does this kind of thing far better than I").   I think this process is making me easier to work with. :) 

I'm no longer separating "fun" from "work" - it's all fun, that's why I do it! And I've found that having more than one project gives me relief when I need it.  Something's frustrating me to no end and I'm banging my head against the sewing machine aimlessly?  Switch projects to clear my head and lift my mood! It's great! 

And I AM cleaning up my toys at the end of a project.  My sewing room is usually pretty clean nowadays - no more walking in, throwing up my hands in disgust, and walking out again simply because I just cannot work in there the way it is.  Ditto my workshop in the garage.  It's come in extremely handy in the last couple of months as I've prepared my house in various ways for the addition of a roommate, too, and even in the moving and unpacking process.  

So, what's next? 

For right now, I'm 100% focused on getting ready for Candlemas in February.  After that, it's all about Gulf Wars in March (technically, I should have started that like three months ago, but that's another blog post for another day).  

Now that the Room of Requirement (i.e. having converted my gigantic master bedroom into a craft room for my roommate and I to share) is complete and functioning REALLY WELL, I find I'm actually working more quickly than I was before, and I have a lot more workspace in which to organize the various stages of project completion. Yay! 

A New Frontier

*deeeep breath before I up and say this out loud*

So I'm branching out into actual A&S competition.  For my whole, whopping five years in the SCA I've been perfectly content to work in the background, not calling attention to myself.  I had my reasons, and some of them still stand, to be honest.  Earlier this year a good friend convinced me to display at an A&S table - not compete, but display, which took the fear-of-judgment out of the equation.  A little, anyway.  And I discovered that it was TOTALLY FUN.  I discovered I actually want to start entering competitions, which, to be honest, freaks me out a little, LOL.  I've been lurking around A&S tables at events ever since, examining the process and expectations as well as the staggering and gorgeous array of talent this kingdom has to offer, and I find, I want to join in.  
So here goes nothin'. 

On Project Delivery

One thing I've noticed - I've always noticed, really, but it's been on my mind ever since BAM in November - is that I am absolute pants at delivering any sort of project closure on this blog, and it's driving me NUTS.  I'm only posting "after" or finished pictures of projects on this blog, seriously, like maybe thirty percent of the time, and that's not okay.  This blog is supposed to be a record, a reference for myself on future projects, and a way to show people what I do; and yet it's mostly a slapdash assortment of plans that look unfulfilled.  I HATE THAT SO MUCH.  I do so much more than what you see here! 

So my "New Year's resolution", if it's that, is to get serious about posting finished pictures and project wrap-up posts here, on  every project.
  • One problem is that I really don't have a good space in my home in which to photograph myself in my finished outfits.    
  • Another issue is that I'm in the habit of thinking, "Oh, it's okay - I'll get pictures at the event coming up" - and then I don't, because I'm too busy or I'm having too much fun to remember.  I ran around BAM with a camera in my hand and never once did it occur to me to hand it to someone and ask them to photograph me!  DERP. 
A friend of mine and I have ben discussing this issue, because we both do it, and have decided to get together at some point in the next few weeks for a joint fashion show and photo shoot, hehe.  That'll catch me up on projects for myself that I've already finished.  From there on out, though, I'll have to really stick to the concept of photography and blogging as the final stage of a project - not an afterthought. 

Oh, and one more thing. 

The other major point in that September post was a commitment to really doing a job on every project - no more working my butt off for other people and then half-assing the work I do for myself.  I'm proud to say that not only have I stuck to that, the ripple effects from that commitment have been a pleasant surprise. 

When you've been sewing for twenty-eight years, things get a little old hat.  And you start cutting corners just to get things DONE.  At least, I did. For a long time. And I was mad at myself for doing it - but I was so overloaded that, well, you know.  

So now I'm not doing that any more.  I'm paying way more attention to detail.  I'm feeling really proud of everything I do.  I'm really feeling that every project IS better than the last.  I'm suddenly excited about refining my current skills and making them even better, and turning out higher-quality work.  

I'm getting really interested in expanding my skill set as well.  I've been reading up on all sorts of new styles of historical dress, new embroidery methods, various types of weaving (I'll be inkle looming by the end of this week, in fact).  I'm also learning a bit about tailoring techniques from a that same A&S friend, and from some online reading I've been doing, and it's really exciting!  (I've always been a seamstress and a dressmaker; but until now I've never even understood that *tailoring* is a completely different discipline, and it's fascinating).  

The moral of the story:  

Never do anything half-assed. ALWAYS USE YOUR WHOLE ASS. 

And, of course: 

29 December 2014

And Now For Something Completely Different

Something I've been meaning to try for a long time:

20ga gold-colored copper wire.  The first one took two hours; the second forty minutes, hehe (because "the first one" involved two failed attempts before I figured out what I was doing).  And now that they're done...I'm NEVER EVER making a pair of these again.  WHAT a pain in the arse.

They're kind of...beginner-looking.  I'm not very practiced at working with long lengths of wire just yet.  But they'll do for a first effort, I think.

Yes, I just saw Battle of the Five Armies today, why do you ask?  Hee.

Now all I have to do is keep from losing these or messing them up between now and the ren faire in the Spring, LOL.


09 December 2014


I made a circlet!  It's the first one I've ever made, and my first major wire project, aside from small things like links and bead dangles.  Whee!  I saw something similar online and decided the pattern would make a nifty circlet.  Couldn't find a tutorial anywhere.  So I made my own as I went along. Enjoy.

First, the finished circlet: 

Here's how I did it: 

  1. I used 22ga copper wire for this.  The first thing I did was fold over the end so that it's not poke-y, because ow.  Also because it strengthens the loose end. 
  2. Then I curled the end into a round loop. 
  3. With a marker.  High tech, I know.  I hope you can keep up. (Dear Santa...)
  4. The second loop, next to the first. 
  5. I bent back the loose end of the wire, similar to how I started, then wrapped the wire around the marker again to loop into the next loop. 
  6. Seriously. Bailing pliers. This was my trial run for this design.  I'm getting myself some bailing pliers tomorrow so I can do the next one in, hopefully, half the time, and fewer broken fingernails. 
  7. Keep going. Forever. 
  8. Each loop is 1/2" in diameter.  The finished circlet, roughly 16" in diameter, took nearly thirty feet of wire, and about 2.5 hours to get to this point. 
  9. Finally, I pushed the marker back through each loop to round them all out and make them uniform in size and shape again.  Wire is bendy. 
  10. Then I made a ton of these little loopy guys. 
  11. Clip the loopy guys around two loops, and wrap them tight around, to hold the loops together.  After the wire is wrapped around the loops, press it flat with your pliers. (The pliers you DO actually own, not pictured). 
  12. The finished wrap.  This keeps the loops from shifting out of place, stretching (because up until this point, this thing was a giant spring), and getting bent out of shape. It also adds stiffness and stability to the entire piece. 
  13. I curled the folded ends back over on themselves, to form little spirals. 
  14. And just because, I glued some teeny (2mm?) glass rhinestones to each wrap joint.  
  15. The closure is simply that curled loose end from the beginning clipped through the closed round end at the other end of the circlet. 

Is it perfect?  Nope.  But it's sparkly.  And not bad for a first try, I think.  It's also too small for my head, LOL.  Circlet 2.0 will be better. :) 


08 December 2014

All About That Bling

A friend of a friend wrote a *brilliant* filk of "All About That Bass" not too long ago - I LMAO'd.  Only bit I can remember was that it was all about dat bling, and something about stick jocks not being able to tell a t-tunic from Tudor hose.  Died. Laughing.  Also, I can't get that filk out of my head while making SCA jewelry this week, hehe.


I Came, I Saw, I Made My Own: 

Theirs:  Roman, chalcedony and glass,
2nd century

Mine:  Angelite faceted donuts and glass seed beads

Theirs:  Viking Raven pendant, from

Mine: An amazeballs modern Raven pendant birthday
gift from 
my BFF, on a twisted wire hanger, attached
to a 
chain with silver spacers bent in half.  One is open, 

and forms the clasp that keeps the necklace closed. 

And then...

I'm working on a plaque belt.  Clockwise from top left: 
  • I found these mounts at Joann Fabrics. Half off, even! 
  • And I thought, hey, I have all this big chain...
  • I got as far as wiring the chain onto the first of the mounts, and I thought...nah. 
  • I think I'll bead in between instead.  That's a lot of beading. Oy. 
More soon. 


01 December 2014

Shelter From the Storm

I think everyone who's ever been to Gulf Wars in Gleann Abhann knows about the little white canvas parasols.  It seems every lady has one - they're affordable, pretty, not too modern-looking, and paintable.  I bought one a few years ago myself, and I painted it...and did a terrible job.  I knew I'd either need to replace it, or just re-cover it, but in the interim, I decided to see what it would look like if I spray-painted it to cover up the silliness that I had made:



Since BAM was going to be rainy (scratch that: it's always rainy at BAm), I went ahead and stripped the cover off the frame, cut out one of the sections, and copied it.  I made two adjustments to the pattern:  I straightened out the curve in the panel edge (see the yellow arrows in the first picture?), and I lengthened each panel so that my new parasol would have a bit of an apron to hang down, like the one in this painting: 

Marchesa Elena Grimaldi Cataneo,
Sir Anthony van Dyck, 1623

And this is my finished parasol:  

Just the little bit of change in the shape of the panels makes the thing feel HUGE.  There are tension issues with two of the struts (center picture, arrow), which are easily fixed by undoing the little keeper at the end of the strut and loosening the fabric.  

I spray painted the finial gold, and tacked down a green velvet ribbon to cover the raw edges of the fabric at the top.  The fabric itself is from an Ikea RITVA curtain panel - cotton, with a linen-esque weave.  I bought a big pile of them from my old dance studio in town when it shut down last month, and have been using the fabric for many things, from tablecloths to bags to flags (which we'll talk about later this week, tee-hee). 

And did it keep the rain off me?  You bet your ass it did. I used an entire can of Camp-Dry on this thing before I left for the event:  seams, then panels, then the whole thing again once it was dry, inside and out.  100% waterproof.  Yay!  It'll wear off over time, and when it does, I might try painting my device on it.  Or stars.  We'll see.