Monday, April 3, 2017

100 Day Art Challenge 2017 - First 5 Days

Flirting with my Muse.

The Objective: 
Do 100 Days of Art in any preferred medium(s). This does NOT mean back-to-back days. Document your art "process" by taking/posting pics of each project and posting a little info about it (the process, any challenges, any pitfalls, etc.) in at least the West Kingdom A&S and your Principality A&S Facebook pages. This INCLUDES research/writing/documentation or what I call "falling down the rabbit hole". Talk about that part of the process too.

The Timeline:
Begin March Crown, end October Crown. This is a comfortable 6 month timeline. No pressure deadlines unless you set them for yourself. You are accountable to no-one but yourself on this. But posting helps keep you accountable to yourself.

Day 1:
I finished the block on the chessboard with the squares. I then did a whole block with the 8-point stars (that was a super fast piece). Began work on a Greek Key pattern.
I also decided this challenge would be the perfect time to focus on the 16th century doublet I started for Hubster last summer. I found it in the mess of sewing stuff since we moved. I tried it on him again to gauge some things. We decided that the back was, indeed, too short. Consult with my Laurel and my Laurel proxy (her fiance) via text message determined that it is located at the proper waist location for Hubster, but I will go ahead and increase the back length a little since he's not comfortable with it where it is. Then I took the whole thing apart. This required finding my seam ripper. Why do I never have a seam ripper when I need one?

Day 2: 
Went to A&S night and spent 90 minutes working only on the Greek Key pattern block. Sometimes the chessboard blocks take a little time. Sometimes they take a long time. This was one of those blocks. You'd think I'd get a block that was already started finished during this time. And yes I did socialize, but I didn't really budge from my spot on the couch next to the good light. I just kept stitching while others were bitching (kibitzing, gossiping, whatevs). I decided I needed to remind people about the scale of my work that I'm doing. So I included a dime.
The I decided the dime wasn't quite conveying the tiny tiny intricate work I'm doing on these chessboard sampler blocks. So I got out Hubster's sliding gauge. Would you look at that?! Each arch in the Greek Key pattern is 2 mm tall. 2 mother-f***ing millimeters!!! Please respect the work that goes into hand embroidery. Or I will hunt you down! And I will destroy you...2 mm at a time!

Day 3 - no pictures, just lots of research
Today was spent in researching a sewing technique that is essential to the fit of the doublet. Pad Stitch. I spent a couple of hours reading, rereading, watching videos, image looking. I can't quite wrap my brains around the pad stitch. Will most likely have to suck it up and just try on some scrap fabrics once I cut the doublet out of the canvas, wool, and linen. In the mean time, here are some of my research links:
Rory Duffy
This lady on YouTube
Mathew Gnagy (whose book The Modern Maker is what I'm following along with to make the doublet)

Day 4:
I went to JoAnn Fabrics to pick up the wool felt I needed for the padding in the doublet. Awesomeness was purchasing online for in-store pick up. There was a line, but when Micheila came up to help at the register, she let me cut the whole line since I wasn't buying anything more than the fabric I ordered and already paid for. The little old biddies who were complaining about the long wait were all chagrined when I got to cut the line. Nya nya.

Finished the Greek Key pattern block on the blackwork sampler. Did a block that looked rather like a stained glass window. Started a snail block. Love the snails. They're super cute. They will eventually be alternating direction.
 Also, laid out the pieces of Hubster's doublet and prepped for cutting out. But you turn your back for one second and "helpers" come and help. Not helping Poppy!!! Got all the pieces cut from the linen outer fabric and from the canvas interlining. Also cut the wool felt for the should padding on the front and back pieces.

Day 5:
I spent a little bit of time trying to work pad stitching. It's actually kind of amazing how the shape forms from the stitches. The nice thing about the pad stitched pieces I was working is that they are not on the outer fashion fabric so I didn't have to worry about how small the stitches were on the back. All parts of my stitching will be covered by the outer fabric and inner lining.
Hopefully this video links.
I also started some thread wrapped buttons (which I'll be teaching a class on soon for Shire A&S night) and did some more work on the snail block.

Monday, March 27, 2017

100 Day Art Challenge 2017 - the lead up

A few of my friends did a 100 Day Art Challenge toward the end of last year in response to a fighter challenge called 100 Century Drill (wherein the fighters do 100 consecutive days of century drills - hitting 100 strikes on a training pell). For the artists, they posted on the various SCA artisan groups/their own pages the kinds of ways they were "arting and crafting."

I'm currently a Queen's Artisan for Her Western Majesty, Queen Zanobia. I've not really felt like I'm doing a "good job" as an artisan. I haven't been doing any research on anything new. I've not really been doing any of my art. I've not been teaching. I couldn't get to March Crown (or even send with someone else) my current projects to display for the populace. The only thing I've been working on is the blackwork sampler chessboard for the Publick House. Literally. I'm still working on game boards for the project that was meant to be a birthday gift last October. I'm sucking at this gift giving thing.

Now, the only other time I've been a royal artisan was during the last Cynaguan reign, for Princess Sylvie. Sylvie was recently made a Laurel right before her husband won the coronet of Cynagua. So she had a lot of ideas for her artisans in order to help promote the arts in the principality. We had a checklist of thing to do. . . I think I got them all done. Maybe I didn't succeed with "make something for yourself" because I usually do make most of my stuff for myself. I'm either crafting for largesse coffers of making garb for me. I did start on, but not finish, the doublet for Jon. That's something new.

So back to Queen's artisan. I was feeling a serious lack of direction and like I was being not a good artisan. I'm not doing anything of note really. Just working on the chessboard. I was also feeling really bummed about missing March Crown and about my place in SCA in general. Sort of sad-sack. My tenure as seneschal is coming to an end and I don't feel like I've done a very good job in running the shire; there's been many times when I think I've done more harm than good and just barely kept the thing together despite my best intentions. (There was a moment when I got an email from kingdom exchequer saying my shire -I'm- the reason we can't use paypal for transactions.) Long sob story short, I really feel like I'm just not present, not doing a good job, not being recognized for anything I do do.

So I wrote to my Laurel Counselor (who just happens to have been my Laurel's Laurel - so she's like my grandlaurel). The reason for this is two-fold. She's the Laurel Counselor for this reign and it's her duty to guide us artisans along our paths. My Laurel has also not been in the game as of late; she's often saying how she's just not feeling the SCA thing anymore and pulling away from the game (so when your own guide is lost, you don't ask them for direction).

"I'm very sorry to say that I don't think I've been a very good Queen's Artisan. I've done very little research or creation. I don't have a real direction with any art. I've not done any teaching nor have I even been to our local A&S nights and discussed art. My muse seems to be gone. I spend little time doing any artistic pursuits. And then I add to all of this the inability to get to events; I am lost.
"Do you have any advice for me or suggestions on what I might be able to do? What do I need to do to be able to really be a Queen's artisan?
"Thank you,

"Is real life being overwhelming? Work, family, other stuff? That can often chase away the muse. If that's the case, real life comes first. Find ways to deal with that or hang on and ride out whatever the crisis may be.

"I will often find my inspiration by immersing myself in art ... anything from pinterest to a museum. Another thing that works for me is picking something I've never done and giving it a try. I'm going to attempt the Kingdom A&S Championship (with the new format) this year and I'm doing all the entries outside my comfort zone (i.e. no food). Learning  a new skill, even if you may only use it once, can stretch and re-awaken the muse.

"Never let creativity become a chore. Her Majesty chose you to encourage you, not to scare or pressure you. We are all makers, it is part of what distinguishes humans from other animals. Your muse will return when you are ready for her. If that doesn't come until after Beltane, that's OK.

"I hope some of this is helpful. Please feel free to talk to me about this or anything else as much as you need.

Juana Isabella"

This was very much what I needed to hear at the time. You see, for those keeping track at home, it's hard for me to ask for help or to appear fallible. Even though I'm still a learner and unfinished. Which brings us back to the purpose of the post. Almost immediately afterward, my friend (and mega-artisan) Tusya decided to restart a 100 Day Art Challenge - a version 2.0 so to speak. She wants the artists and artisans of the Kingdom to just keep plying their crafts. And part of her initiative is that we even post the days when the craft goes wrong, or all we do is research, or maybe all we work on is boring stuff. She just asked that we work on our art for 100 days between March Crown and October Crown. It doesn't even have to be 100 consecutive days. We'll actually have about 6 months to get it completed.

So I took up the challenge.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Garbing baby - the beginning

SCA garb.
Vittorio (my fighter) and his wife are expecting their first baby. She doesn't play very much, but she's come to events a few times, especially our local ones. A couple of weeks ago, the first announcements of their baby shower started to be floated around on Facebook. They hadn't registerred for baby goods anywhere yet and when I pestered them for ideas, Vittorio asked for baby garb - little late period Italian baby garb specifically. Gillian (the wife) then chimed in that she wanted Welsh garb for their baby girl. Italian baby clothes will be so adorable because SQUEE! The Welsh clothes will be a little harder to make up because...well...the Welsh don't really have anything in the way of garb. So I think I might do some more Norse/Saxon type clothes for her.

This is going to be a place to put my ideas for the baby clothes. She's (because you've probably figured out baby is a girl by now) is due at the end of March/beginning of April. I bought some great red & gold fabric for the Italians. Also I got a green linen blend.

Some links I'm looking at: - love this page, using this for their articles on children this time but I used the smock/chemise pattern generator for my most recent chemise made in super sheer cotton gauze

Handy dandy charts on avg children's measurments

and of course, I'll ask the EC Bees on Facebook if they can share pics of babies in garb with me. And always, there's Pinterest and google searches.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Stupid weight loss (and the lack thereof)

I'm at a totally irritating weight plateau. I've lost and gained the same 5 lbs for the last 2 months. It makes me grumpy about weighing in. I have sworn I'm gonna redouble my loss efforts over the holiday season. I know I can do it. When I started Weight Watchers back in 2013, Mom & I started the first weekend in December. And I lost 8 pounds between then and Valentine's Day. So I know it's possible to lose over the holiday season. So, plan is now work really hard at making good food choices and getting exercise for the next 5 weeks (just starting right after I finish this cookie dough while sitting on the couch and blogging about how annoying not losing weight when I'm half-assing it is).
Another thing that's making me really grumpy about weight loss and going to meetings is not getting any props at my WW meetings. I lost almost 15 lbs between the beginning of August and mid-October. Did I get any 5 lb star stickers? NO! Not a stupid single sticker. Meanwhile there's a couple of women who get a ribbon's worth of 5 lb stickers every time they weigh in because they've lost "yet another 5 lbs" so our leader starts counting off 5, 10, 15, 20 . . . up to 60. UGH! Why is my little accumulated 14 lbs (a whole STONE I might add - I've lost an entire unit of weight measurement in England) not worth 2 stickers? This makes me grumpy. Why are my milestones not as important just because I haven't lost 60 lbs yet? Ya know, I think a big part of it is my leader and then staff at this particular WW. No one even made a big deal when I got through my booklet (and only missed 1 week out of the 16). I went to a meeting every single week for 4 months straight and no one noticed. Kind of like how I'm feeling about a lot of things in my life right now.
Now I'm sad. Stupid weight loss.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The napkins for the King & Queen

Finally getting around to posting on this. Previous mention of the napkins here. I had the napkins ready to go by the time of the Coronation at Purgatorio. However, I didn't get them into anyone's hands soon enough to get to the site in time (in my defense, school had just started about 2 weeks earlier). I was able to bring them to the October Crown tournament and deliver them in person.
So for my napkins for Alfar & Eilis, I took elements from their personal devices and embroidered them onto the blocks. I also learned a couple of new stitches for them. I mentioned this to Her Majesty when I presented them, but she seems to not really care very much about them. I got a brief "thank you" and I think I saw the napkins get put aside rather quickly. She gave me a rose for the effort though. That's nice.
His Majesty's device: for this a put one portcullis in the corner of the napkin. I worked it in Bayeux stitch with chain stitch for the chains. After finishing it, I fully realize that Bayeux stitch was the wrong one. The lines are just not big enough. I learned that Bayeux is better for covering larger areas. I also put the cross-gurgity in the other three corners, one in each color from his device. For these, I learned ladder stitch. This was nice because the ladders make a nice border edge that you don't need to do a stem or outline stitch for.
Unfortunately I can't find my pics of the crosses at this moment.

Her Majesty's device: for this I did the knot-work in the Hungarian braid stitch. It takes forever because it's fiddly, but I like the slightly raised line it makes. I put one of these in every corner of the napkin. Then I took her purple rose and worked that in Bayeux stitch. This looked a lot better than the portcullis on Alfar's napkin.
I entered the napkins in the Wreath of Athena competition at Crown. I have no idea how well I did. It's a populace vote competition and I find embroidery often doesn't "cut the mustard" since I think a lot of people think "oh I can do that." But the truth is, they don't and they won't put the time into it either. So meh. Sometimes people suck when it comes to crafting.

Here's a couple more pictures of me from the event. I spent the majority of the day hanging out in the salon with the needleworkers guild. it was nice to have an on the eric view of the tournament but stay in the shade. At one point the Youth Point kids came through. They were "pillaging" the different camps as part of their studies on the Vikings that weekend.

Heidi working on some gorgeous blacckwork.
Don't let that last pic fool you. I spent the day of Crown busily working on my own emboidery. I was working on blackwork sampler and some Hungarian braid stitch for the great game board project.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Dress for Dickens Faire (unders)

Dickens Fair is set in the early years of the reign of Queen Victoria. The fair specifically focuses on 1840s - 1860s. Last year I decided I would try to dress up and go for a day, but alas. There were a few issues with the underpinnings that put a halt to things (and then I went on to work on the Magpie Dress for last year's 12th Night Coronation).
I spent hours working on a new corset. I bought this sweet charming nursery print calico from JoAnn Fabrics and tirelessly pieced the whole thing together so that it was carrying the motif around the body of the corset. I was actually very pleased with the results. This is it just before binding the edges (with satin bias binding).
Then I started researching corded petticoats for the support structure of the skirt. After looking at several people's work on the Internet I decided to do the method of sandwiching the cording between two layers of muslin and spiral the cording up and around. This method was tiresome and infuriating. I promptly put the corded petticoat into the UFO pile to think about what it had done wrong. It sat in the corner for a very long time. In fact, I didn't get it out again until about 3 weeks ago and even then I took the whole damn thing apart. I decided to not do the spiral and instead did straight lines across the two panels (that I then sewed together with the serger because...workhorse). Even this took flippin' forever and I still had to do a lot of fiddly working to get the cotton cording to nestle up against the previous row of stitching. I was just about ready to die of frustration and embarrassment when I thought I'd give the double needle a try. This went so quickly that I declared loudly on Facebook "I HATE LEARNING" because [sigh]. Then I starched it with Sta-Flo and made a quick petticoat out of a full sheet.

Just prior to starting the petticoat this year, I made a new chemise. I bought some of the lightest weight sheer cotton tissue this summer with the exact purpose of either a new chemise or a new veil. Or maybe both. I think there might be enough. And while the chemise pattern is not the most accurate for 19th century (I used the free pattern generator from Elizabethan Costume Net), it works just fine. That pattern goes together super quickly and is sized for your measurements. I just put in a shorter sleeve length into the generator. I chose to flat fell all the seams to both enclose the raw edges and to give them a little bit more strength. When I say sheer, this fabric is SHEER!!! No shots of the front unless I'm in my's that sheer.

I taught a class (yeah yeah, I know I do that all the time)

I'm back. I've been focused on doing several things lately that have kept me from posting on the blog. Mainly, I've been adjusting to the new school site and teaching 3 classes I've never taught before. It's a bit terrifying to teach English when you've never taught it before and there's no real curriculum for you to go by. The drama class is going well. The ancient history class is what it is. 6th grade is the first time most students get any kind of history at all and I can teach my way out of a history curriculum wet paper bag in my sleep backwards (confident in that one). Must be doing something right though because I got my employment status changed from "temporary" to "permanent" last week. Oh yeah, I accepted that offer.

So back to the subject of the post. I've been continuing to do medievally things all these months. I even have a couple of posts partially written. Couldn't post them right when I began typing them up because they're for "sooper seekrit" projects that I was waiting to post to the general public until gifts were given to their recipients. Then I just stopped posting. But last weekend, I taught a class! Should be no big deal, right. It's what I do for a living. But this was at Collegium. It's an SCA event where we get together for a day and do lots and lots and lots of learning. I've been to a couple of them before (also the Arts & Sciences Tournament in the early summer which is a similar type of event) and I LOVE THIS EVENT. I love it because it's full of the people who I feel are serious about recreating the past. And since I'm an apprentice to a Laurel and part of that perrage's job is to teach and educate the populace about medieval stuff, I need to start thinking about these things - this teaching to other medievally people is real.

I was pretty much required to teach at this event. Now, first off, know that the SCA is a volunteer organization. No one was actually forcing me to teach at Collegium. But I'm a Princess's artisan to Her Highness of Cynagua and one of the things she asked us to do was to teach a class at an event and then discuss it with the other artisans afterward. Another reason was my Laurel basically gave me the imperative. I seem to remember the words falling from her mouth being "so collegium...we're not going to be at the event but you are teaching something." This was very matter-of-fact. The sky is blue, you are 37 years old, you are teaching at Collegium this year.

I taught the latchet shoe class. In fact, my handout was just a slightly less snarky version of the blog post. I wanted the class to be a make-and-take though so that people could leave with a pair of practical and fake footwear that give an illusion of the Renaissance. Too many times I see folks walking around in their running sneakers under their beautiful garb. While I was setting up, a couple of gentlemen came. I missed their names, but I gathered one was already an experienced leather-worker. They mentioned that they were interested in putting shoes on the feet of children. This is such a great idea! I even bought a couple of smallish sized shoes for the class (although not quite small enough - next year when we're at the height of summer season there will be more sizes available). Then as I was beginning, in walked a few of my friends from the Mists. I know that Cyn came because she had already expressed that she wasn't really into any of the classes happening that afternoon. I was grateful for the friendly face. Also, two more friendly faces, Elena and Cathyn tagged along. Now, Elena is already well-known for her gorgeous work in 16th century costuming. She already has gorgeous shoes. She doesn't need my fake latchet shoes made from canvas sneakers. And then Cilean came in too. So I had lots of people who are very 16th century enthusiasts enjoying the class and kibitzing with me. (I think one or two may have come as spies as well, but I'm glad for it - they're friendly spies so I hope they saw good things in my class). My points that I couldn't stress enough:

  1. the practicality of the shoes in the types of terrain we often find ourselves at for events (come to think about it, I didn't even mention the new permanent site but I bet it's muddy, lumpy ground too) 
  2.  the ease of how fast and inexpensive you can put someone into a period-esque shoe and ease the problem of bad footwear
  3. that it's a modern shoe and therefore supports your body in a way you're more comfortable with and can handle things like orthopedic insoles for better comfort
  4. more people need to wear 16th century garb
The best part. . . ! Elena, Cynthia, and Cathyn all made shoes!!! Cilean tried, but due to recent foot injury, my shoes didn't quite fit her comfortably on Saturday but she's excited to do so for this spring when we get back to tourney season again. (I will also point out that while I've seen gorgeous appropriate shoes on their feet before, both Cyn and Elena were wearing modern "period-looking" shoes because the weather was crappy and wet on Saturday and they didn't want to ruin their very expensive shoes - see PRACTICAL APPLICATION!). Then another gentleman came in while we were making shoes and he was wearing knee-breeches, hosen, and a nice pair of suede Vans shoes just like the ones we were converting. I convinced him to take scissors and seam ripper to his shoes and he left with a much more appropriate-looking shoe on his feet. See, a random guy came into my class and left looking more medievally than when he arrived. I've done a small favor for the kingdom I guess.

I still feel inadequacies when it comes to sharing my studies of costuming (and embroidery for that matter). I feel like there's nothing innovative or new that I can bring to the table. I'm learning, just like everyone else. There are so many more who know so much more than I. I'm not specialized. I'm not special. I've been reminded by many that everyone starts somewhere new; that I am probably "amazing and know so much" to someone who doesn't know at all. But why would those folks come to me when there are many more better sewists and costumers than I wandering about the kingdom. This is a hill I'm going to have to get over. Sooner rather than later I hope.

Coming up...the chat I had with two laurels about the path to the peerage.