11 March 2023

SCA: Glass Beads

 Before the pandemic, I got the awesome opportunity to learn to make glass beads with FIRE.  It's called lampworking or torchworking - it's where you melt glass rods over a very hot flame, and wrap the molten glass around a steel rod called a mandrel to form a glass bead.  It's utterly fascinating, and SO much fun - and it's historically accurate! Not only did the Vikings make beads in this way, but many other ancient cultures did as well.  

I was immediately hooked, and set about slowly amassing the supplies to set up a glass-working shop in my own garage.  In February of this year, I was afforded another opportunity to make glass beads in the same friend's workshop; and I finished collecting the supplies I needed to make beads at home.  Although it was simple enough at first, the learning curve was huge, and I'm in the process of making a LOT of beginner mistakes at the moment. 

That said, I'm coming along pretty well, I think.  I'm working on making my beads and smooth and round as possible, and beginning to work on creating enough beads to thoroughly re-work my Viking "festoon"bead strands.  I'm not nearly there yet, but I'm having a LOT of fun doing it.  

Here's a sampling of some of the beads I've made.  Most are tiny, some are messed up, but all of them have been a really awesome learning experience:  

09 March 2023

Regency-Adjacent: New Jewelry Box Just For Fun

Here's a little wooden jewelry box I just finished making, to house my Regency jewelry: 

It started life as a little $9 blank box from Michael's.  I stained it (Minxwax's "Special Walnut" and "Dark Walnut"), and then painted the insides, and painted the little vine/leaf design on the top and drawer front with gold leafing paint. 

The lid is clear (plexiglass), and shows all the little square compartments inside, so you can show off your nice pieces and the inside of the box, so I wanted a color that would pop against the golds and blues and corals of my jewelry.  

This, by the way, has no basis whatsoever in actual history - I've seen exactly *one* Regency-era jewelry box to date (it was green on the inside), but other than that, I have no idea how a real Regency-era jewelry box would have looked.  From what I know about furniture and accessories in the Regency, natural wood tones were a thing, as well as hand-painted details, so I went with that...but I have no research to point to for this project, I just wanted to make something pretty.   

05 February 2023

Regency: Mitts!

Mitts are neat.  After making the crocheted fingerless gloves last week, I decided I needed some longer, fabric ones.  You see them a lot in 18th and early 19th century costumes; they show up again later at various points in the Victorian ages, and are popular even now as crocheted and knitted "wrist warmers."  I’ve seen several Regency sets around the internet on museum site and on other blogs, and Fanny Dashwood wears black mitts to the wedding with her gorgeous half-mourning lavender outfit in Sense & Sensibility: 

Here are some extant mitts I found on various museum websites: 

Blue leather mitts, late 18th century or early 19th, Boston MFA

Embroidered/bejeweled mitts, early 19th century, MMOA

The first pair I made are a little wonky. I used the remainder of the green embroidered (polyester) taffeta fabric that I used for my green reticule. The fabric is very stiff, so they don’t conform well to my hands (even though they were cut on the bias), and the edges stand out a bit. I made these entirely by hand the other day when my power was out due to the ice storms: 

My second pair is made of cotton voile, very light and sheer, and they hug my hand very well. They were also cut on the bias, and this time I made them as tight as I dared. I made these a little longer, and re-shaped the hand and elbows a bit to correct those protruding edges. I sewed these on the machine with little tiny French seams, because of the way this fabric frays; and finished them by hand. I love the sheerness of the fabric here; I’m always secretly pleased when you can see my tattoos through my frilly white Regency things, hehe. 

You’ll notice I didn’t put any actual thumbs into this pattern  I admit to being a little afraid of them. Working with such tiny pieces and tight spaces is hard for my hands, and to be honest, I’m okay with just thumb holes. 

Because it cracks me up, I’d like to show you the paper pattern I made for these once I had them fitted properly: 

Don’t worry, there are no Cowboys fans in this house,  or even any football fans. I bought this paper as a gag to wrap a birthday gift in for a friend who hates the Cowboys, many years ago, and as I am currently out of pattern paper, well, you see what happened.  Wrapping paper is *horrible* for patterning, as it rips very easily and wants to curl, but you gotta make do where you can sometimes.  

31 January 2023

Regency: Crocheted Fingerless Gloves/Mitts

 I've been meaning to sew myself some [fabric] fingerless gloves/mitts for some time now, "whenever I get a minute" - whenever THAT might be.  You know?  

I did recently find the time to make these, though: 

These are crocheted, in #10 black cotton crochet thread.  There's no thumb, just a thumb hole, mostly because I was already 100% DONE with making itty bitty tiny things with itty bitty tiny thread and an itty bitty tiny hook (size B).   I love the way they came out, though. (In case anyone wants to know, each glove took me about 2.5 hours).  

Is crochet period for the Regency?  Eh, one could make the argument.  Crochet was developed as early as 1820; the first examples we have are crocheted purses from England.  It was originally called "Shepherd's knitting" because the crochet hook was called a Shepherd's hook, and could date 5-10 years earlier in England and Ireland, but nothing 100% documentable has been found.  So it's possible.  I was going off the idea of netted purses and gloves, and the possibility that someone, somewhere, might have crocheted instead of netting.  Maybe...?  

I made them to wear with a dress I haven't made yet. Isn't that always the way?  

27 January 2023

SCA: Return of the Cotehardie : A Dress Makeover

 I’m in love with my new 14thC bycocket, but I had nothing to wear with it to the next event. It’s been years since I busted out ye olde cotehardie - and while I am no longer young and thin, I’ve seen plenty of larger women rock a cote and look fabulous doing it, and so I shall be among them. 


I took a ride through all of my old costumes, and I found one that actually *almost* fit. Luckily, it had HUGE like 2” seam allowances from old alterations taken to make it smaller in previous years, and I was able to take almost all of it out and re-shape the dress so that it fit me again. Success!! 

The next problem was that it was pea green. It was a neat color, but totally the wrong tone for my skin - it makes me look really pink, and not in a good way. More like in a carbon monoxide poisoning way. So I overdyed it with Rit’s dark green, and voila - it came out a dark, warm, sort of hunter green: 

I order to spiff this dress up, and because the old polyester thread didn’t take the dye, I: 

  • removed all the visible hand and machine stitching and replaced it with hand stitching in the correct color 
  • removed the machined buttonholes and replaced them with hand stitched buttonholes 
  • removed the buttons and re-sewed them with dark green thread, since for some strange reason I had  originally attached them with orange jeans thread (see pic above)
  • removed the neckline binding and re-stitched it by hand, repairing a rip in the binding in the process

With the stitching and dyeing out of the way, it was time to make some new sleeves for this dress - it has half sleeves on it with long pendants, but I had no dress to wear underneath it. So I made a pair of half sleeves out of a blue cotton drapery fabric I had on hand, which I basted into the insides of the green short sleeves: 

 I also made a “medieval sports bra” sort of under-bodice thing out of the same fabric to wear underneath.  I had no modern or period contraption to make my bust look the appropriate shape and placement for this dress, and the dress itself, being unlined linen, would stretch out of shape as soon as it warmed up and not hold me correctly without supporting undergarments. So I made basically the sleeveless top half of a cotehardie out of the same fabric as the sleeves, which will support me, bring my waist in a little,  smooth out my back, and - along with the half sleeves - make it look like I’m wearing two layered dresses: 

All put together, it goes a little something like this: 

Bonus:  along with this dress and the blue bycocket I trimmed up last week, I made some new jewelry to go with it.  I had a purple and silver costume piece (plastic and pewter) which was badly tarnished and the plastic setting was chipped in a couple of places, so I took the whole thing apart and put the beads on new gold metal, and painted the plastic centerpiece setting with gold leafing paint to make it gold:  

Tada!  Now I just need somewhere to wear this.  I'm posting this in the hopes that nobody I know is reading it, because I want this to be kind of a surprise - I've been a Viking ever since I came back to the SCA in 2018, and whenever I wear this ensemble will be the first time I've worn anything but Viking since then.  I can't wait to wear my new hat and dress!  :) 

15 January 2023

SCA: The Blue Bycocket

 So, I was at coronation yesterday, and a friend of mine busts out this huge box full of felt bycockets she’d made, and gives one to another friend who was sitting nearby.  And I said, “That’s f——-g cool! I want one!” AND Y’ALL, SHE UP AND GAVE ME A HAT.  It’s been years since I rocked The One True Century*, but I’ve always wanted a bycocket to play with - and now I had one. 

using sewing pins to mark the position of the future embroidery

It didn’t take me long to figure out how I wanted to dress it up.  It needed feathers, and I just happened to have a stash that included some teal McCaw, Blue Jay, and some lovely brown feathers that I’d picked up over the years. I bound them together with some teal ribbon and sewed the package together. 

feathers before securing them to the hat

Now for the body of the hat. It’s midnight blue, and what could be more perfect and more me than a nighttime full of stars?  I covered the crown of the hat in gold and silver embroidered stars, and teensy pearl beads: 

Next I used some of the leftover teal silk ribbon from other projects to cover the edge of the brim, and added a strip of some old blue and gold medallion jacquard trim that I had in my stash. I also found a fabulous giant button to use to set off the feather cluster. 

Tada!! A finished starry night bycocket.  I’m in love with it  and I can’t wait to get into what’s next - this hat has engendered a whole slew of new ideas as far as what to wear with it! 

* my friend JM calls it that, and I love the phrase.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my Viking and I always will, but 14thC rocks.  

09 January 2023

SCA: A Woven Hedeby Bag

 Had enough Hedeby bags yet?  Me, either.  Here's one that's a bit different: 

This one is woven of yarn.  I saw one made of naalbinding a couple of months ago, and decided I needed one.  I do not naalbind - I've tried multiple times, but I just CANNOT get the trick of it.  It's infuriating.  

I do, however, crochet.  After looking into the various naalbinding stitches that have been identified from extant finds, I found that a herringbone/chevron crochet stitch (a modified half-double stitch) approximates the Mammen stitch from Finland fairly well - you can find more info about that stitch, and lots of other info about naalbinding here: https://www.en.neulakintaat.fi/30

Mammen stitch example pic from  https://www.en.neulakintaat.fi/30

The crochet herringbone stitch was a bit tricky to learn; I learned from watching this YouTube video.  Here's a closeup of what my herringbone stitch looks like, for comparison to the above picture of naalbinding.  It's very similar, I think enough to pass: 

crochet herringbone stitch

I made a rectangle of about 20", and folded it in half and sewed the sides closed to make a square-ish bag about 9.5-10".  (I used a single chain stitch on the inside/wrong side to sew up the sides from the inside, then turned it right-side out).

The bag was made from bright green acrylic yarn (Caron Simply Soft in "Pistachio"), because that's what I had on hand at the time I decided to try this project.  After the basic rectangle was made, I over-dyed the whole thing with a dark blue Rit dye made for synthetic materials, because the original green was a bit too loud and bright for me.  The resulting color is a darker, more muted green, and I really like it.  

I did not line the bag with fabric or anything, because the weave of the herringbone stitch was so thick and close that I didn't feel it needed a lining.  

I made the handles out of a very thin scrap oak plank.  This time, rather than a curvy Hedeby design, I used the pointy Birka handle design - because I wanted something a bit different, but also because I thought the zigzag shape of the handles would look neat with the zigzag-looking herringbone stitch.   After cutting, shaping, and sanding, I finished the handles by applying a thin dark brown Minwax stain ("Special Walnut") and a coat of Polycrylic to seal the handles.  

I am NOT happy with the handles at all.  I have so far cut out my handles with my jigsaw, but this oak plank was too thin to support the stress of being worked with such a heavy tool, so I used only hand tools - namely, an old, rusted, dull coping saw and hacksaw, neither of which did a good job.  I messed up cutting one end of one handle so badly that I had to cut the other handle to match it so the error wouldn't be quite as obvious, but this meant I didn't have room on the handles to drill holes for a carrying strap.  So we'll call this my Hedeby Clutch, LOL.  

Why a woven yarn bag?  Why not? No actual bags like this have survived; all we have are the wooden handles, and contemporary/earlier Sami bags of a similar design to guide our guesses as to what the bags  may have looked like.  They could have been fabric, yarn, leather, who knows?  This was just a fun little experiment for me.  

Mistakes in the handles aside, I like the way this project came out overall, and I'll definitely do it again.  Coronation is this weekend; now I have a new thing to show my friends when I go.  :) 

06 December 2022

Regency: A Green Linen Capote Hat

Before the SCA took over my life at the beginning of October, I was working on a new hat for my Regency costumes.  It started out silly, which I'll tell you about, but first, here's the finished hat: 

First, in July, I bought a blank hat form from Etsy (Austentation) and trimmed it up in blue fabric/ribbon and LOTS of hot glue.  First mistake.  I hated it - it was overly frilly and girly, and I felt like a blue version of Strawberry Shortcake when I put it on.  NOPE.  I took it apart and removed all the hot glue from the straw with my iron and a scrap of fabric.  


What I wanted was something more subtle and graceful - like this ruched capote worn by Jennifer Ehle in the BBC Pride & Prejudice miniseries from 1995: 

The crown of the straw hat was too tall for that ruched soft fabric crown, so I cut part of it off and wrapped the edge in a bit of cotton bias tape to keep it from unravelling: 

(please excuse the hot glue, I removed it)

Next I created a mock-up of the fabric cover for the brim, and an 18" circle crown piece with some spare cotton sheeting I had on hand.  Once I got the fit right across the brim, I took apart the mock-up and used it as a pattern to cut out the pieces in a dark green linen (which I dyed; the linen used to be a light blue).  The linen was a bit limp for this application, and a good deal heavier than the blue fabric had been, and it sagged in places in an unattractive way, I ended up using the gray cotton mock-up pieces as a lining, to give the linen some stiffness: 

This time I sewed the pieces onto the hat with plain cotton sewing thread, rather than gluing them in place - it made the pieces lay flatter and more smoothly, and I should have done it in the first place, really, but I was too excited and in a rush with the blue. Oops.  I used a pad stitch to baste the brim cover in place around the base of the crown; and whip-stitched the turned edge of the crown piece to the brim cover, then pressed the crown piece outward over the stitching.

At first, I didn't like how it came out.  The fit around the edge of the brim was too loose, didn't look clean and smooth at all.  Also, the crown was too small, and wasn't fluffy enough.  I ended up taking the hat completely apart, re-stitching the brim edge so that it fit better, and cutting a new 22" circle for the crown so it would be large enough.  After altering the fabric pieces, I tacked on a green poly satin ribbon to the sides for ties:

I'm really happy with it now; it looks great, fits perfectly, and is a lot more understated than the frilly blue thing I first made.  The only thing is that now the crown is TOO big, and because of the limpness of the linen, it hangs in weird ways around the back of my head.  The hat still needs a lining to protect my hair;  I think when I do that, I'll stuff the crown of the hat with a bit of tulle or something to keep it poofed up a bit more so that it'll stay in place and not sag.  

I plan to wear this hat with my white Ikea dress and the green velour spencer jacket I made in 2021, if I ever get another chance to wear either:

So what's next?  I got some fabulous, FREE fabric the other day, and I'm working on a new Spencer jacket.  More soon!