Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tres Riches Black Fur Hat Complete

I'm not sure why, but at a certain point I started avoiding getting my Tres Riches hat completed.  It's not at all that it was daunting- I just didn't have the urge to think about it.  I got over that, though, and finished it on Friday!

please excuse how tired I look!
Except for realizing that an over estimation of size was necessary after a few trials, the hat went together rather easily.  It's really just a tube of fur (faux), sewn into a ring.  It's capped in the center with a circle of black wool.  I opted for one of each of a yellow, white and pink plume, since that would probably be the most neutral for my wardrobe.  Wish I could figure out an easy way to make the feathers curl backward, similar to the original.  They might not seem so ridiculous that way.

It's ludicrously over-sized, but I don't think it's that far off from the scale shown in the original image.  And it's not really as though I would wear it for a whole day- it's best reserved for court (especially an outdoor spring court) or to wear upon arrival to an indoor event in the winter.

I don't have a single dress in my collection worthy of this hat right now, but the dress I've chosen to create for my garb quest will be suitable (though still not "right").  For now, it will just have to wait for that perfect debut opportunity.

Once again, I have a detailed page brewing for this to share on my new site, which is taking much longer to assemble than I expected.  But good things come to those who wait, you know.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Looking for that groove again

Life with four children has certainly been exciting thus far...and it's only been 12 days!  While Dearg and I were at the hospital welcoming Archer, Kara decided to start really walking.  We'd seen her first steps the week before, so we thankfully hadn't missed that.  So, one of our twins is now officially a toddler.  Lee's not too far behind- he'll stand up, but hasn't attempted the whole stepping thing yet.  They've both, however, gotten to the "Toddler's Rules of Possession" phase, which makes for a lot of frustrated yelling between them and Owen, who still thinks it's OK to pull toys away from them.  Archer is not at all disturbed by all this, though, and has been very easy on us.  Except for sleep.  His longest sleeping stretch is only 4 hours (not even really enough to qualify as missing a feeding.)  Since I'm nursing, however, this means that I really only get 2 hour periods throughout the day to do what I want to do.  Which is not conducive to getting "extra" projects done.

Right now I'm working on making a few items for Kara for Christmas, and I've started a German brick stitch project for her as well (it will be a small pouch).  I haven't touched my black fur hat in three weeks, and my apron linen has been patiently waiting for something other than a run through the wash to happen to it.  I feel so far behind, yet when I look at what I've accomplished lately, I've done quite a bit.  I'm particularly liking this new-found interest in doing fun easy mundane projects- they give me an opportunity to really focus on craftsmanship in small doses.

Right before going into the hospital, I finished a project I hadn't shared with you yet.  I wanted to keep it secret since it was going to be a gift.  Now that it's with its new owner, I can show you what I've been up to!

It's a veil pin case using a 14th century German cushion brick stitch pattern.  You can see the original here.  I completed the embroidery with pearl cotton, then finished it with linen on the inside.

I also had the opportunity with the case to use a fingerloop-like edge finishing technique.  There are a few places you can find instructions on how to do this, but I used Crafty Agatha's video tutorial.

This wasn't my only attempt at German brick stitch embroidery, but my previous tries at the "satin stitch" variety were not really successful (or I just haven't gotten back around to completing them).  This pattern uses a single stitch length, making it easier to focus on the overall pattern, rather than focusing on the stitch length of the particular stitch I'm in the middle of.
I gifted the completed case to Sarah Jane, author of the Romantic History blog, who I have had the immense pleasure of getting to know through our blogs and Facebook.  It's very nice to have projects come along that you know you'll be giving away, and when the recipient is someone you respect and admire for their own talents, it encourages you to strive that much harder to do the best you can on the item.  I'm jazzed that Sarah will have this veil pin case for many years to come, and maybe we'll get to see it in one of her lovely photos soon!

I've created a more thorough page for this project to be included in my new website.  Which is another thing on my plate that's having a hard time fitting into those 2-hour increments....

Monday, November 28, 2011


I'm not sure if I'd mentioned this before, but my husband and I had chosen to not find out the sex of baby #4.  We'd found out with Owen and the twins, so we figured that leaving that as a surprise would be a nice difference this time around.  In the weeks leading up to my scheduled C-section, we had pretty much decided on a girl's name, but a suitable boy's name completely eluded us.  Nothing seemed to fit.  Only a few days prior to going to the hospital, we were between 2 names, one of which was a very recent and quite random find.  Laying on the operating table, my body numb and the surgery just about to start, I turned to Dearg and stated this newest name firmly, still with no idea if it would be a moot point.  With a heave to my body, the doctor's voice range out- "Hope you wanted a boy!"  With a smile, Dearg looked down at me and said "Archer Patrick" in confirmation of our choice.

The photo above is pretty silly, but Archer lived up to his name a few hours later.  Dearg stepped to the bassinet to see that our newborn boy had positioned his arms and hands to look like he was holding a drawn bow.  Drawing in the missing pieces was just too cute to resist.  And if you follow the Zodiac, you might find it also interesting (and completely coincidental on our part) that his sign is Sagittarius- the Archer.

He is very much like Lee in looks (and also very much like Dearg) and is also pretty laid-back like his next oldest brother.  It's very odd to have only one newborn again, but it's refreshing (especially when it comes to the breastfeeding schedule!)  When we came home from the hospital, it was remarkable to us how large the twins were- before we left I still thought of them as babies- now they are HUGE!

There is an event this coming weekend, but it may be too soon for us to attempt to go.  If we do, he'll probably wear an hand-me-down outfit.  With 3 children growing up in garb (and my tendency to keep all of it) I just can't justify making new garb for him right now!

While I'm healing, I'll finish up my black fur hat, and if I feel like I've dropped down in weight enough, I'll get my new linen apron cut out and started.  There's always something to work on, even with a house full of kids!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Important Announcement

Concerning my separate website: My website domain and hosting are up for renewal at the beginning of December, and I have chosen to not renew them.  I decided that I'd like to switch hosts and domain names, but I've yet to find the hosting company I'd like to use.  I've considered switching to WordPress, but I like Blogger, and having both just seems too silly.  So, if you go to visit my website after December 3rd, it won't be there.  As soon as my new domain and site are up, I will, of course, post them here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mundane Sewing Projects

I decided a month or so ago that I wanted to complete a few mundane projects before the baby was born, and I wanted to specifically look for projects that would allow me to try techniques I had never taken a stab at before.  I found three projects that I really wanted to make, but offered three levels of effort: a nursing cover, a toiletries bag and a diaper bag.  I think they were successes in terms of the process, though there are a few things I could have improved.  I used three tutorials I found online (after some extensive looking!), and here are the results:

First, I made a toiletries bag, using some leftover gray wool and a cotton for the lining.  It's a good size for a whole mess of travel-sized toiletries.  It will also double as a quick-grab bag for diapers and a small bag of wipes.  I used a boxy bag tutorial and included a little handle.  The lining is hand sewn in.  I found on my second trip to the hospital that packing a bag of travel-size toiletries was SOOO much better than trying to get my full-sized items packed.  This way, I've got all the toiletries I need ready to go, and if I accidentally leave any at the hospital, it's no big deal.  I had never sewn a zipper on anything before- so that was the major challenge on this project.

The second project was a nursing cover, which I made using this tutorial.  The cover uses D-rings for the strap around the neck (which I hadn't sewn on before) and uses boning at the front center to keep the cover open at the top for easier viewing and air circulation.  The boning was interesting to work with.  I actually either didn't follow the directions exactly, or the directions had an error, and I had to pull the boning out of the casing to turn it around, because I'd already sewn the casing down.  That was interesting.  I did a very poor job of keeping my lines straight during sewing, so a close up isn't very pretty!  After trying to breast feed the twins at the hospital with no cover, and nurses and doctors always coming in and out of the room, I was really feeling the lack of privacy.  I decided that a nursing cover was definitely in order this time!

The final project, and the most complex, was a diaper bag.  It's not really a diaper bag- it's more of a purse that's large enough to hold kid's stuff.  I used the Not Just Another Pretty Purse tutorial.  I made several modifcations to the pattern pieces (made the bottom and sides wider, and changed the shape of the inner pockets.)  Adding magnetic clasps, a key fob, an interior pocket with a zipper, AND piping (!) were the challenges on this one.  I discovered that, though I wouldn't call it "easy", sewing piping on is a lot of fun!  I used a thick flannel between the layers, but in retrospect, I probably should have also used a stiffening interfacing to prevent the sides from drooping so much.  There are three layers of plastic canvas in the false bottom, as well as a piece of cardboard placed under it, to try to keep the bottom stiff so the sides are forced to stay up a bit more.  The main purpose of this bag at the hospital is to hold the toiletry bag, the cover and some items for the baby (like the outfit he/she will wear home).  I'll also toss in a few items for me, though it's not large enough to hold my clothes for going home (I'll just leave those in the car and have Dearg bring them in when I'm ready for them.)  I'm interested to see how long it "lives" before it starts to fall apart!


I've got less than two weeks before my C-section, but I have a few random projects that I might pick up and work on a bit between now and then (like my new Tres Riches hat).  We'll see how much I can get done before the baby arrives!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tres Riches Fur Hat

I don't have any linen for the apron right now, but in the process of setting up the craft room at the new house, I came across the materials for a project I've been meaning to do for over a year now- the black fur hat from the April page of Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.

Now, if we're following the rules of research, it's pretty obvious that this hat is most likely a flight of fantasy.  I've personally never come across another hat like this (in this time period) and even in the Tres Riches calendar illuminations, it's a one-of-a-kind.  Doesn't stop me from wanting one, though!

Now that I've narrowed my persona down to about 1435, I have a renewed interest in headdress appropriate to that time period, even upper class pieces and fanciful concoctions like this one.  Plus, I found the piece of faux black fur in the remnant bin for only $3 and it's absolutely perfect!

I wrote out my thoughts on the construction of it yesterday, and I'm a little concerned that it might want to sit lower than the image, and I don't precisely know what to do about that, but I've got some ideas.  This is one of those nice prototype projects that help me think through construction issues and that's exactly what I need in preparation for really taking on my Garb Quest.  Even if it's a flop, I can learn from it, and since having the materials for it was a pretty random act of chance, I'm not really out anything for trying.

I'm almost done with the few modern sewing projects I've been working on (which I'll share when complete), so while I'm waiting for my order of linen for the apron, I think I'll make myself a silly fur hat!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

15th Century Apron

For a while now, I've given some thought to doing a new apron.  I have already tried my hand at smocked aprons (first doing it the wrong way, then doing it right but with a colored thread), and though I don't think that I've really gotten the hang of that method, it isn't actually appropriate for the 15th century.  Looking around, including over at Larsdatter.com, at a narrow span of years between 1420 and 1440, I've seen very little variation in apron types for women.  There is one primary type- a plain, long, wide apron with a waist tie- as well as a rarer type that uses a triangular piece on top that secures at the center chest in some fashion.  This later version seems to be pretty task-specific, so in terms of an apron for any use, the simpler apron is the better option.

It's kind of a bummer, really, that an appropriate apron isn't anything fancy, but it does present an opportunity to really take a look at craftsmanship applied to simple construction.

Most of the samples indicate that a wider apron was preferred, wrapping at least to the very sides of the hips.  One example is from the Tacuinum Sanitatis Butter illumination (pictured).  The apron's tie doesn't really look like a separate band.  It looks more like the top corners of the apron that have been elongated (through cutting or stretching them that way) to tie around the waist.

This doesn't really give me much to work with in terms of technical difficulty, unfortunately.  I'm wondering if I can also work in a bit of drawn work, like this, to achieve something slightly more special.  I've never attempted drawn work, but this seems fairly beginner level.

Not sure I have the linen on hand at the moment, but aprons were almost always white linen, so that shouldn't be difficult to obtain.  Plus I've got some modern sewing projects I need to do before the end of next month (for the baby).  And my website redesign, which I had to put on hold until we get a bit more settled in. 

Duchie Award

I just popped over to Romantic History and saw that not only did she receive a very well-deserved blogger award, the Duchie Award, she passed it along to me as well.  Thanks so much Sarah Jane!

The rules for receiving the Duchie Award are to post on your blog, in any order:
  1. Five things you love about historical costuming
  2. At least three blogs to pass the Duchie Award onto
  3. A link back to the blogger who awarded you the Duchie
Since I already gave a shout-out to Romantic History above, I suppose I could keep going backwards and pass the award on to three others next.  My picks are:

Medieval Threads- Whenever I read a new post from Heidi, I'm convinced that she's my reenacting soul sister.  She's always got a nifty project going on, and has a very wide range of crafty interests.  I love her creative approach to costuming problem-solving, and I've enjoyed watching her projects as they unfold.

A Most Peculiar Mademoiselle- Sarah has such a sophisticated way of approaching her projects, and the word that always comes to mind when I read her blog is "graceful".  She's a fellow mom-to-be (due soon, as I understand from what she's shared) so I've really enjoyed seeing how she's handled her pregnancy with her garb and all the neat baby items she's made.

Neulakko- Since coming across Elina's blog some time ago, it has become one of my standard inspirational go-to's.  She is a master seamstress, has a wonderfully engaging sense of humor and surprises me often with timely posts that always seem to somehow relate to things I'm currently working on or feeling.

Alright, so that leaves the 5 things I love about historical costuming.  This was actually tricky for me.  If you've been reading for a while you may have realized that I have something of a love-hate relationship with my garb.  It took me a moment to realize, however, that this was probably due more to my technical skills in terms of dress construction than what I really feel about historical costuming.  So here are the 5 things I came up with:
  1. Historical Costuming is iconic fashion that's easy to understand.  Though this blog is primarily about my attempts at making garb, my true focus is researching medieval fashion.  When you understand the context of fashion trends, you begin to see their logic.  While this still holds true to modern fashion, it's harder to see.  Looking back 500+ years, it's easier to see the way people used clothing for both practical and function purposes.
  2. The level of construction skills required for historical fashion require an appreciation for craftsmanship.  While I definitely feel that I lack in this area, I still love the challenge it poses.  We don't take quality and craftsmanship in our clothing as seriously in the modern world as we used to.  We typically equate quality with expense now, which was not the case in the past- even a peasant had well-made clothing.
  3. Historical clothing is more comfortable.  I can say that, though, only because my time period of choice doesn't require a corset!  Seriously, though, there's something infinitely more comfortable about a custom-made dress than any pair of jeans off the rack.
  4. Making historical clothing provides the perfect opportunity to use and appreciate natural materials.  This is something I've come to realize only in the past year, but I get a real feeling of satisfaction and luxury wearing linen or wool which completely overrides the comfort of cotton.
  5. There are very few patterns to follow, making historical costuming a great learning experience.  It may sometimes seem tedious to figure out the pattern on what should be a simple dress, but doing so provides not only that wonderful moment of "look what I made, it also provides the perfect outlet for creative ingenuity that might otherwise be wasted.  It's one thing to use a modern pattern and follow directions, it's completely different, and much more rewarding, to wing it and still come up with an awesome, period-accurate outfit.
So, there you have it- my response to the Duchie Award!  Thanks again to Sarah Jane for awarding it to me!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Checking In

We've moved to our new house, but we've still got a long way to go before the new craft room will be together and I can get my hands on my projects.  In the meantime, however, some fabric swatches from Wm. Booth Draper arrived... and I'm in love!

My eye was recently caught by the pink worsted wool on their website, and I wondered if it might be a new solution to my Garb Quest underkirtle.  As soon as I pulled the swatch out of the envelope, I knew I'd found my wool.  The color is a perfect rosy pink- not too bright, not too red.  It's got a great weight, as well.  Some worsted wools can end up being really thin in order to achieve a lighter weight.  This pink, however, is a good weight, but is also a solid weave.

Problem?  It's not cheap.  I know from my blue test dress that going with less than 5 yards is asking for trouble, so to get the minimum amount, we're talking $100 plus shipping and tax.  That's less than I spent on the blue wool (which the pink goes perfectly with), but I don't have that much money to spend on fabric right now.  So for the moment, at least, this gorgeous pink worsted wool will have to wait.

I also got a swatch of their "light colour'd" flannel.  I was concerned that it might be too heavy for my tastes, but it turned out to have a great heavy-looking texture in a fairly reasonable weight.  It, too, is pricey, but it would make a great addition to my wardrobe as an overkirtle.  I've been looking for the right kind of dress for this pretty, but plain tan wool, but so far nothing has spoken up.  I think it needs to be slightly utilitarian, but still something that elevates the simple color to something appropriate to the middle class.  I'll just have to keep my eyes open for inspiration.

I am still ironing out the changes to my website, but I've been making some subtle changes to this blog to go along with that.  You may have noticed a new link to my "Garb Quest", located in the top of the right sidebar.  I realized that I really needed a place to put the overall garb quest concept, for my readers' sake as well as my own.  I've also created a secondary blog, The Compleatly Dressed Fabric Stash, which you may have been linked to if you clicked on any of the "blue wool" links in my most recent posts.

These changes are mostly for more continuity and to help you stay on top of what I'm talking about, so I hope they make sense and help!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I need your feedback!

My new website is coming along fairly well.  I've had to stop working on it for long sittings so that we can get moved (admittedly I'm supposed to be packing right now, but I'm only able to do it in bursts).  I'm really excited about some of the organizational things I've come up with, and hopefully it makes adding new class notes easier in the future.  I've also been coming up with other ideas as I go to really use the web to my advantage.

Blogger recently updated and now I can track page views on the blog and see what is bringing people here.  I'm not surprised that Google searches are my number 1 traffic source, but what does surprise me is the search terms that are the top hitters.  Interestingly, 3 of the top 4 are topics that I have either posted little about or have to do with projects I haven't yet undertaken. 

I enjoy that this blog appears on Google (and there are some months when it feels like I'm all over Google- even under search terms I wouldn't think I'd show up under), but I do wonder if it's really to this blog's advantage.  I don't want to be exclusive, obviously, but I also don't want to inadvertently mislead anyone into believing that the information I share on this blog is anything more than my attempts at understanding medieval fashion for the purpose of recreation- not archeological research in the scholarly sense.  To that end, I find the links to this blog from other costumers' blogs (in blog rolls or links within posts) much more valuable in terms of my intended audience.

So, for those readers that come here often (and I'll let you decide what "often" means), please leave a comment to this post and let me know how you found The Compleatly Dressed Anachronist.  If it was a Google (or other engine) search, do you remember what your search term was, and did you use a website search or an image search?  If it was through another page, what page was it?  I appreciate any feedback you can give me- it will help me to understand the best course for future content and organization within this blog!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Event Recap & Dress Success

Summer event season is now over for me and the family- Harvest Day is typically the last hoorah before we pack up the camping gear.  We had not had an opportunity to take the twins to a camping event earlier in the year, so this was the first.  It did not go well.  It was pretty chilly Friday night and the twins aren't accustomed the having to sleep in their playpens. Somewhere around 2am, we brought them into the bed with us, but they did not like the air mattress any more than the playpens (though they clearly enjoyed how much warmer it was sleeping next to us).  The camp itself was not at all family friendly, and it was very difficult for us adults to actually fall asleep.  So, about 3am, we retreated to the van in the parking lot.  Dearg slept in the back with the twins and I stayed in the front so I could turn the heat on if it started getting chilly.  It wasn't ideal, and the twins still had issues, but we all got at least an hour of uninterrupted sleep sometime between 4 and 6am. During the day, it was hard for everyone to make it out of the camp, since we didn't have a day camp set up near the field, and it was a bit of a walk.  Owen was also being a stubborn 3 year old, which worked pretty quickly on everyone's nerves.

My class was during the first time slot, which is pretty tricky to have success with.  My first students were about 15 minutes late, and another group showed up about 10 minutes after that.  I rushed through everything to get it all in, but I don't think I missed any really important things.  Overall, I think it went very well (all things considered) and it is definitely a class I will teach again.  I'll be uploading the class notes when I re-do my website, so keep an eye out for that.  I think you'll like them- they're a coloring book!

What was really good about the event, however, was how successful my blue linen test dress ended up being.  I got it to a mostly-finished state Friday morning (finished enough to wear) but there's still work to be done on it.  I sewed the sleeves up, rather than doing the buttons, and there are no lacing eyelets (mom literally sewed me into the dress Saturday morning!)  There's also the finishing work on the sleeve and hem that still need to be done.  I do think, though, that I will open the sleeve seams back up and do the buttons.  And the eyelets. 

The fit was great!  It stretched, obviously, but even at the end of the day, it looked good.  And it was very comfortable.  There are a few adjustments to make: it ended up being a bit too long, so I need to turn the hem up a bit, and I think I may need to tighten the sleeves a little.  I'm pretty proud of myself, though, for finally achieving a dress that performed so well, looks good in photos, and was so easy to wear.  So, in terms of the end result (and not having anything to do with the test aspect of this dress) I count it as a success!

I didn't manage to get a good picture of my mom's outfit, but she and I inadvertently matched.  She wore her blue kirtle (a bit darker than mine) and her 14th century red hood.  It was kind of silly, but at the same time it was pretty neat that we were, as a pair, showing the same look in two different centuries.

I also scored an awesome deal on a very nice worsted wool- 5 yards for only $35!!  It's one of those great ambiguous colors that looks different depending on the setting- it's a greenish-brownish-gray.  Lightweight and smooth, too.  It will make a very nice kirtle... perhaps to go under an overkirtle made of this.

So, for the time being, I've got no projects other than my website update.  We're moving into a new house this month, so once I get my sewing stuff together and settled, I'll have a better idea of what to work on through the winter.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Garb Quest Extension

I've had to take several more step backward with my blue linen test dress than I expected, so I'm not entirely sure it will be ready for this weekend.  When I really stopped to look at the areas we identified that needed to be taken in after I'd worn it around for a bit, I realized that I had probably not gotten the sleeves positioned in the right place and that was the true culprit.  So I removed the sleeves and I also removed my finishing along the lacing edges, since that wasn't quite right either.  I decided to go ahead and wash it.  Here in a few minutes, I'll put it on, figure out how the armscye needs to be adjusted, and wear it for about an hour.

If it's going to be done for this weekend (and it really needs to be, because I don't really have any other long sleeve dresses) I'm not going to be able to do the handsewn finishing I'd intended.  I'm not actually worried about this, because the dress has already fulfilled its purpose- a test for my garb quest, to help be better understand the work involved in creating two dresses by hand.  The results?  I've failed the test. I'm not disappointed with myself- I didn't have any real expectations about my skill level prior to starting the blue dress- but I have realized what my garb quest has thus far taught me.

When I read back through some of by garb quest posts, I came across these two statements:
"...the bottom line is this: I need more experience with garment construction."
"The point is to create an outfit with as much authenticity and craftsmanship as possible based on the criteria." 

What I came to understand, through my blue linen test dress, is that failure is part of the process.  As I explained it to my mother- I don't want to enter the outfit next year and feel that it wasn't as good as it could be.  I need to go through the process of figuring out what's acceptable to the goals stated above and what isn't.  And so far, I don't have what it takes.

I've spent much of this past year focusing on research.  That's been fun, but that's not where I need improvement.  I already know (from the huvet) that I can do fine stitching by hand (just short of finishing details like buttonholes and eyelets.)  I also know from the blue dress that I can do flat finishing with running stitch on a long seam fairly well and quickly.  It's the actual construction and fitting of the dress that I fall short, and it's that overwhelming feeling of laziness that creeps in and tells me to be OK with less than perfect.  Turning to the work of others I find inspiring (some examples are here, here, here, and here), it's easy to hold my own attempts up to critical lens.  I don't want to fall into a self-pity spiral of "I'm not worthy", but I do want to be honest with myself.  Though I have my moments, all-in-all, my dress construction skills are mediocre. 

To that end, I am extending my garb quest deadline another year, so that I will enter it the spring of 2013, rather than next year.  Since I've only completed one item (the huvet), and it was only recently finished, I won't have any problems with everything being completed no more than 2 years prior to the entry.  There are some mundane reasons for this extension as well (pregnancy being only one), so for the time being, I'm putting the quest on hold to re-evaluate exactly how the quest will allow me to accomplish my original goals.

While I'm sorting that out, like I mentioned earlier this week, I've got some major plans for my website that I'll be putting together.  I also need to take a longer look at my fabric stash and make some decisions about how to use it and what more I might need.  Therefore, it may be pretty boring here after this weekend, but it won't be for a lack of progress.

BTW, I put the blue dress on about halfway through writing this, and it fit almost exactly as it had before.  I can already see where the arm holes are the problem (as well as one of the shoulder seams).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Handsome Little Man

I can't resist sharing this beautiful photo of Owen from this past weekend:

Thank you to Her Excellency Hypathia, Baroness of Fenix for the well-timed shot.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Gearing Up for Some Changes

I'll post later this week about the progress on my blue linen test dress.  For now, I'd just like to mention that I'm getting ready to do a major overhaul of my website (and probably this blog as well).  I realized this morning that I hadn't been keeping up with putting new notes online, so I've kind of got a backlog.  I've also been meaning to do a better job designing the site, since the one up now was sort of an experiment for me to learn a bit more about website coding, and it's got some issues.  I've got some fun ideas kicking around for the new site, so I'm excited to focus on that for a while and get-er-done.

Oh, and I made Kara a kirtle and open hood for this past weekend:

Lee was decked out in a new cotehardie and hose:

And Owen was his usual self:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

One step forward...two steps back

I sewed the sleeves onto the blue dress this afternoon, and when I put it back on for some photos, I discovered that something had gone wrong with the fit.  I had been wearing it when we started the manhunt for the camera the other day, and it had started to loosen up.  I believe that it fits so poorly now because of that.  There are too many areas that are now wrong, though, for me to try to fix myself.  So I'm recruiting the big guns for help- mom to the rescue!

This has actually enlightened something for me, though.  I've never had a dress so tight that I couldn't pull it off without unlacing it.  I'm wondering now if this has less to do with my narrow shoulders (as I previously thought) and more to do with the natural act of the fabric being too tight when I make the dress.  Giving the fabric a chance to stretch out by wearing it for a bit, I have an opportunity to make it tighter.  After I wash it, the next time I try putting it on, I'm likely to find no alternative but to actually use the lacing for its real purpose.

This is certainly turning out to be quite a lucrative test dress!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lost Camera

I was getting excited about how well my blue test dress was coming together, so I put it on (sans sleeves) to share with you.  I can't locate my camera though.  It may be lost for good.  The real bummer is that I hadn't taken any photos of the dress yet!   

So, you'll just have to take my word for it- the dress is coming along nicely!

EDIT: the camera has been found- a tricky toddler hid it from us!  I'll try getting some pictures of the blue dress posted later this week!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Getting things done

I've been plugging away at the blue test dress, and it's coming together fairly smoothly.  I'm glad I decided to do a test before going headlong into my garb quest kirtle since it's made me aware that 4 yards of 60" is barely enough for a long sleeve gown.  I only had enough fabric left after cutting the four panels for one gore!  I put it in the front seam, since that seemed to be the best place for it.  The fabric for the sleeves is the leftover triangular pieces left between the panels- also barely enough.  I think I've only got 4 yards of the rust linen for my garb quest, so (unless I want to change my mind about the color again!) I'll need to get at least another yard of the rust to have more than one gore.

I sewed the dress together, minus the sleeves, and went to finish the seams on the machine but ran into issues with my bobbin.  I was getting too frustrated with it, so it ended up sitting by the sewing machine for a few days, being ignored.  Eventually, however, I decided that I'd be better off just finishing them by hand, so I pulled out the finishing seam I'd started on the machine and plunked myself down on the chair with the thread and a needle.  I'm using a simple running stitch (using some 100% cotton thread) to flat fell the seams, so it's going fairly quickly (all things considered).

I've also got a tunic of Dearg's I'm trying to finish, since I've already passed the date I'd originally said I'd have it done by, and he finally called me out on it.  It's a long tunic- a very simple early Irish leine.  This is NOT the fake leine that you may find in a Google image search that's extremely loosely based on a 16th century illustration of some Irish soldiers.  Basically, it's the Irish idea of a kilt, but it's really just a fancy tunic.  Ideally, it would be highly decorated with embroidery all over, but I'm not that adventurous!  For now, I'm just flat felling the seams using a hemstitch to really give is substance and so that the finish stitching isn't that obvious from the outside.  I'm using #5 pearl cotton, since I had perfect color matches of that on hand.  Eventually I'll also be making a green linen jacket with an embroidered collar to go with it, but that will probably have to wait until I get my garb quest completed.

Once I finish all this finish stitching, I've got to draft the sleeves for the dress.  I know, in theory, how to do it, and it's not really all that scary, it's just so darn easy to goof up.  Plus I need to figure out how to do ensure that the sleeves can button properly (and exactly how many buttons/buttonholes I want to do).  Then it'll be time to do the eyelets for the lacing.  I'm thinking this project will come in just under the wire!

It's an extremely light dress, since the medium weight linen from Fabric-Store.com leans more to the light side than heavy.  This is another good reason for the test- the garb quest kirtle will definitely need to be lined.  I don't think I could get away with wearing this blue dress as a supportive dress on it's own, so I'll need to wear my old fitted dress under it.  If the linen wasn't blue, or was any lighter, I probably couldn't get away with having it unlined.

I'm also steadily completing the "notes" for my new class on 14th and 15th century Northern Gothic women's fashion.  It's fun doing the drawings, but I'm getting a little backed up on them while I try to break down the accompanying text to the basic info that makes sense with the images.  I had planned on having actual pieces of garb on hand to show, but I realized that would basically mean bringing my entire garb wardrobe with me, and that's just too much to pack!  If you'll be at Harvest Day, my class will be at 10am.

Alright, enough chit-chat.  Back to sewing!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Miss Me?

Shamefully, I have to admit I've done absolutely nothing on any projects for the past two weeks.  Several mundane-world things all happened at the same time, and I also haven't been interested in doing any hand-sewing lately.  I'm also holding out for a break from the heat- it hasn't been very conducive to productivity.  Especially being pregnant.

I've been working on something special for the next event.  I'll be teaching a class on 14th & 15th century women's clothing in France, Flanders and England, and I thought it would be nice to present the basics in a similar format to the drawings I did to visualize my garb quest.  So, in addition to actually pulling the text for the class together, I've got several fun little garb drawings to do. 

It would be nice to have a new dress to wear at the event, so I'm putting my garb quest hose and smock on hold just to get the blue test dress done.  I've decided that I'm not going to to line it, except to line the hems for strength.  I need to make some adjustments to my straight front pattern (the one I developed for the grey wool dress), including making it work as a front-laced pattern with integrated skirt, instead of a waist-seam kirtle with no front seam.  There are also some adjustments to the arms, shoulders and neckline that need to be made.  Since this is just a test dress, I'll sew the major seams using the machine, but leave the button and buttonholes on the sleeves, and the eyelet holes for the lacing to do by hand.  Just need to figure out what thread I have that I can use for that.  I'll try to force myself to finish the seams too, since I'm fine with doing that with the machine as well. 

Hopefully I have enough fabric for long sleeves- I think I only have 4 yards of 60in linen- but if not, I may have enough to do some Christine de Pisan-type flap sleeves, fully lined with white linen.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


So, I had every intention of sewing my black wool hose this weekend, but that didn't exactly happen.  I cut the hose out and sewed the back seam on the legs of each using my black linen thread and a backstitch.  I realize now that I don't like backstitch very much.  I think I got spoiled by how well my running stitches hold on the huvet, that the backstitch just seems wasteful.  I used it, however, because the London hose fragments indicate that hose was one of the only typical uses for it.  So now I'm at the dreaded step- sewing in the 4 gussets.

I'll admit.  I've been procrastinating.  But I truly had planned to tackle those this weekend.  Except that on Saturday, I got it in my head that I needed to make new tunics for the twins.  So the entire afternoon was spent making one of those.  And I went a bit overboard.  Some time ago, I stopped really paying attention to the materials I use for my children's garb, pretty much because I only have linen, wool, or linen/cotton blend laying around in large enough remnants to use for kid's clothing.  I also picked up so may spools of silk thread when they were marked down to 75% off that I have more silk than cotton thread these days.  So I ended up using a natural colored 100% linen and a red silk thread for finish stitching.  And did the whole thing by hand.  Finished seams and all.  And if this blog has indicated anything about my sewing habits, finishing seams is not my forte.

Just my luck.  It ended up being a little too small for either of the twins.

But I'm proud of the effort I put into it, and now that I have a completely finished garment under my belt, I'm that much more likely to follow through on finishing seams from now on.  In fact, it ended up being such a nice little tunic, I'll be make a gift of it rather than holding onto it for baby #4.

That left me with today to do the gussets.  Then, sometime a bit before lunch, when I would have probably otherwise picked the hose up, Dearg press ganged me into converting an old long-sleeve tunic of his into a sleeveless one.  Since he's outside in the sun at the archery range most of the day, the sleeveless tunic is more comfortable for him.  The original tunic was the first one I'd made for him, and my craftsmanship left something to be desired.  Since I was removing the sleeves anyway, I ripped off the old collar and trim, re-cut the neckline, inserted a new collar piece and hand-stitched it all into place using both yellow silk thread and yellow pearl cotton.  It ended up with "wings", since the sleeves were no longer in place to weigh the shoulders down, but since he raises his arms up to shoot anyway, they'd stretch out that way in the long run.  Check out the transformation:

We'll see what next week brings.  If I can stop procrastinating, and focus on my own garb, it should bring a new pair of hose.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New Blog

This weekend I made the decision to close my other blog, The Anachronits' Encampment, due to a veritable lack of having anything to post there.  When I started it, we had a different financial situation, but shortly afterward, we had to channel our extra funds to other projects and improving our kit ended up being at the bottom of the pile.  I had really hoped for that blog to be successful, but it's difficult for anything that relies on money to be successful these days!  Thank you to all of you that supported it while it existed!

The decision to close that blog was also instigated by my desire to start another.  I'd like to introduce you to Growing Up Medieval, a new blog dedicated to the "lifestyle" of being an anachronistic family.  I will be sharing a wide range of things, including experience and advice, but also projects and inspiration.  I've outlined a few of my plans within the first post, and I expect to add more as the blog grows.

I know that my experiences with children at events aren't unique.  I hope that, by sharing my perspective as a parent with such an "unusual" hobby as medieval recreation, I can help other anachronists find the balance and fun in including children in our hobby.  There's an important line, however, that I also hope to show.  Our children, especially young ones like mine, must understand the difference between (in my case) the SCA world and the modern "real" world.  We all want our children to be well-liked at school, and helping to define the boundaries between our pretend world and the mundane world is a challenge and a requirement.  Growing Up Medieval, therefore, will approach child-rearing from the point of view of a modern family with a medieval hobby.

I'll begin posting regularly in mid-August (after giving everyone a chance to settle back in after Pennsic).  If you're a "modern medieval" parent, please check it out.  If you aren't, please share the link anyway!

I will, of course, also be maintaining this blog, but please bare with me over the next month as I get my ducks in a row between the two.  I don't have any projects to share with you this week (I focused on modern sewing this weekend), but I'll be starting my black wool hose this week.  Stay tuned for that!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Project Complete: Saint Birgitta's Cap

Throughout this project I've been referring to my new Saint Birgitta's cap as a "huvet". The term "huvet" is a French word that Camilla Luise Dahl & Isis Sturtewagen list among the many they located in their research into the possible origins of the extant linen cap now known as the "Saint Birgitta's Cap". Limiting the name of this type of headdress to an extant example doesn't do its somewhat ubiquitous presence in the Gothic period any justice. A huvet, being any number of a variety of linen caps belonging to women, is a term more open to individual interpretation, and, therefore, recreation. The huvet I have endeavored to create for my garb quest is similar in appearance to the Saint Birgitta's Cap, but it is not THE Saint Birgitta's Cap. It is Edyth Miller's Huvet, created through contextual research into my particular time period and class. I encourage all of you to think about your recreations (of any item) with this perspective- it's a great exercise in persona development.

I purposefully made the cap a little over-sized so that, come next spring when my hair is longer, it will not be too small when I wear it for my A&S entry. The cap is 3.5oz white (bleached) linen from Fabric-Store.com, and was sewn by hand using 100% linen thread (white, size 60/2) from Wm. Booth Draper (machine spun). The thread comes unwaxed, so I had to run each length of thread over a beeswax cake before sewing. The embroidery along the front binding is also linen, a slightly off-white, hand spun 16/2 thread, that I also manually waxed. My mother picked that up for me at an event from White Wolf and the Phoenix.

I closed the center seam instead of filling it with the woven herringbone stitch from the extant cap. I closed my previous attempt as well, but this time I did not add any decorative embroidery. The primary reason for this, in the context of my garb quest, is because it is intended to be worn as an undergarment, and going through the extra effort of applying embroidery to an unseen area of the cap would not have been appropriate.

The embroidery along the front binding is a modified herringbone stitch that I sewed through two layers of the binding on top as well as the cap itself. The stitching is then covered with the rest of the binding on the bottom (inside). This helps to keep the binding from shifting or twisting during wear.

One thing that I discovered as I went along is how critical the gap is at the end of the center seam. I originally left about a 3 inch gap, then stitched it shut, thinking that it was too large. When I finally got the binding in place and tried it on (before the loop itself was attached), I realized that I'd left no room for the cap to overlap in order to make it tight. That meant ripping out the stitching to open the gap back up. Turns out the my original gap was exactly right. We'll see when my hair is longer if this is still the case.

Perfecting my craftsmanship is a huge aspect of this garb quest, and the fine quality of this particular piece was a great way to set the bar for myself. I tried very hard to keep my stitches tight and even, and to make the entire cap a well-finished and sturdy piece. I don't feel the band is quite up to par, though. The stitching is good, but I only used two straight pins that I moved along the band as I went, and I realized a bit late that some ares of the band are wider than they should be, and there's also a twist in the band (which is very surprising, since I was trying to pay attention to that detail.) I do want to remove the band and do it again, but I'll have to save that until the end of the project, since I can't devote any more time to the huvet right now, or I'll risk not having the quest completed in time.

There is much more I can say about this cap, but I'll save it for the end of this project, when I make my complete documentation available. In the meantime, however, I would be happy to answer any specific questions you may have through this post's comments.

I'll be moving on to the black wool hose next, as well as a few minor projects laying around that I need to complete. Now that I have a successful pattern on the hose, though, I imagine they will come together fairly easily- knock on wood.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Internet Round-Up: July

This month's Internet Round-up focuses on some of the websites I enjoy browsing through when I need that extra boost of inspiration.

Most of these sites are personal websites of other folks doing medieval recreation, and all of them are involved in groups with stricter authenticity standards than the SCA. It can be helpful to use the resources provided by these more authentic groups to paint a picture of where you'd like to be in your own authenticity journey. I love getting lost in the photo galleries provided on these sites, and I imagine my next event with the beautiful clothing and kits these people have created. I'm thrilled that they don't mind the anachronism of cameras at their events so that we can get a glimpse into their worlds.

First is Diu Minnezit, the website of Jens Börner and Myriam Gateault. They recreate 1250, 1350 and 1475, with different personas in each year, and primarily deal with German recreation. Their site, not surprisingly, is in German, but Google Translate does an OK job of translating it. Along the side and top are several links (which are images and don't translate) that go to a wide range of information. Of particular interest is the "Galerie" link. In addition to sharing images from recent events, they also share photos (and some research) of the items in their kit (accessed using the links along the left after you click "Galerie".) Their events are often demos, which is good for us, because it means they show a lot of different crafts and goodies. I usually find my self pouring over every photo, looking at all the details going "ooooh- I'll take one of those, and those, and definitely that!"

The second is the page of Nina and Konrad who mainly recreate the 15th century and operate a merchant group called Jazwiec. They haven't updated for a while, but take a tour through their past event gallery for some great images. Nina also shares some of her documentation and crafts on the site as well.

I've only recently found the website of The Company of Saynt George (which several of these other folks are members of, btw), and I wish they had a branch in the US. The company is very much like a specialized, smaller, more authentic version of the SCA, focused very exclusively on the late Burgundian era (1460 -1480). They don't offer many photos on their website, but the site is very nicely organized and the blog is worth keeping an eye on.

Deventer Burgerscap is another specialized, small group of reenactors, this time focused on the late 14th century. They are members of the larger Die Landed Van Herwaert Over, a Dutch group, and they specialize in recreating the year 1370 in the German city of Deventer. They don't have too many photos on their main site, but they often post project and event photos on their blog. In addition, a few members also share photos on the Medieval Silkwork blog.

There are many other sites out there, and I suggest taking a look at Atlantia's A&S Links for Other Living History Groups, which are broken down according to the years represented.

Another good source, of course, is the hundreds of bloggers sharing their medieval recreations. You can start with any of the blogs I have listed in the right-hand sidebar, and literally spend hours surfing!

I'm thinking that next month we'll look at headdress resources. If you have any suggestions for future Internet Round-up topics you'd like to see, please let me know!

In other news, I've finished my huvet, but Dearg has the camera this weekend, so you'll have to wait until my regular Sunday post to see it!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Finishing Fingerloop Braid Laces with Beeswax

Recently, Heidi asked about alternative methods of finishing laces when aglets (metal lacing points) aren't available. I'd like to re-post my answer here with some additional information in response to a concern that was raised.

I finish all my fingerloop laces with beeswax. I don't know the true period, authenticity of using beeswax for this purpose, but it makes reasonable sense and it works.

With the ending knot still in place, dip the section before the knot (where you intend to cut) into the wax. Blow on it to cool it while you pull the lacing tight. Once the wax is cool and you can touch it, trim off the knot, leaving about a half-inch of wax at the cut end. Roll it in your fingers until it takes the pointed shape and the wax is set. The wax will spread up the lace a bit while you're working it. The beeswax stays pliable (unlike paraffin wax) but will hold the lacing together. If it starts to lose its point, simply rub it back into one with your fingers. I've never had to re-wax any of my laces- even my most used ones.

The concern that was raised was that the wax may liquify and stain your garb at hot summer events. It occured to me that others might have the same concern, so rather than answer it in a comment on someone else's blog, I though it deserved an answer on my own.

I can assure you that I don't have wax spots on my garb! (What sort of dimwit would I be if I kept using beeswax if it ruined all my garb?!) I tuck the end of the cord down inside my dress, next to my cleavage to keep it out of the way. It gets pretty warm in there, and I've never had the wax turn liquid. Even at hot summer events. It's not like there's a whole candle's worth of wax on it- it's just a light coating that's very thin. Plus, the oil and even trace amounts of dirt on your fingers rubs off on the wax as you work it into the point, effectively creating a coating on top of the wax.

Most times, your lacing ends aren't getting the kind of direct heat (like from a flame) that's likely to cause the wax to do much more than slightly soften, and since beeswax doesn't "sweat" like a piece of cheese might, there isn't a resulting stain. Remember that beeswax is not the same as paraffin wax- which is a petroleum byproduct- and beeswax has a higher melting point. In addition, consider that linen and silk hand-sewing threads are coated with beeswax to prevent them from fraying- if there was a chance that the wax could stain the fabric, that practice would have stopped long ago!

I'll also point out the my lace ends are always tuck in- hidden from view. The beeswax method isn't particularly aesthetic, so it's obviously not going to replace an aglet for dangling laces.

Obviously, there are always exceptions to every rule- I can only speak from personal experience. My mother also uses wax tipped laces and has also never had a melting or staining problem. However, I don't want anyone sending me nasty notes about how my beeswax method ruined their garb, so use this method at your own risk. Remember that you have to work the wax into a thin coating into the lace and up from the end. Do a test lace and wear it with an older piece of garb first to make sure the the beeswax points work for you. Treat your laces with respect- don't put them in a place in which the wax is close to its melting point. For me, the rare chance that my lace might stain my garb is worth the risk to save money- a pure, natural beeswax candle can be purchased from several different sources and one taper candle melted down into a votive can last for years if you reserve it for your laces. Just make sure that it's a chemical and preservative free beeswax.

If nothing else, it's worth a try in a pinch- you can always cut the waxed end of the lace off and try a different lacing point. But like I said, it works for me, it's how all my laces are finished, and until someone raised the concern, the wax melting and causing stains never even registered as an issue for me.

Not to mention that a little bit of warmed beeswax at your bosom would make a nice, subtle perfume!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Nothing to Report

This week was mostly reading and not much else, so I've got nothing to report project-wise. I've had a pretty mundane-heavy weekend, so all of the projects I intended to finish up before today haven't even been touched. I do have the huvet close to completion, though, so look for that next week!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Frustrated With Colors

It figures that the color I finally settle on for my underdress, Rust from Fabric-Store.com, is an impossible color to match. I need a silk yarn for the fingerlooped lacing. The closest I can locate is Rainbow Gallery's Elegance Silk in Pumpkin, which is much lighter than the fabric.

I also need silk thread for the finish stitching on the underdress. I'm completely in love with the linen thread I got from Wm. Booth Draper, which I've been using on the huvet, and that I'll be using for my (hidden) constriction stitching on everything else. They have a couple different red silk threads, and it looks like the closest match, the madder red, is available in the buttonhole twist. I'm not sure that the buttonhole twist is the best choice for the other finishing, though. I would settle for using a linen for the finishing of the seams and hems, and reserving the silk for the buttonholes and eyelets, but finding a color match in linen is proving difficult as well. Londonberry's Terra Cotta comes in a 50/3 weight, which would be suitable, but once again the color isn't a close match. The next darker, Redwood, is too red. Wm Booth's madder red in the linen is a bit too red also.

Then there's Au ver a Soie's Soie Gobelin, which is the perfect weight, but no one in the domestic US seems to sell color #614, which would be a near exact match.

Grumble. Grumble.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Garb Quest- Some Progress

I spent some time yesterday working on my huvet, and now it's ready for the embroidery along the front edge. I had already decided that I didn't want to do the diagonal stitches on the Saint Birgitta's cap, which Machteld reproduced recently. I thought perhaps a chevron stitch, done in two lines would be nice, but I couldn't find any real information about the stitch to date it to the 15th century. I settled on the herringbone stitch, which is pretty plain, but relatively easy. I don't like that the stitch is pretty loose, though. So when I was doing some sample stitches to help me make a decision, I randomly stitched across a few of the X's in the stitch to tack them down. It made the overall stitch look tighter, and also added a nice but simple flourish. So now I'm just brainstorming the best way to keep the stitches even without having to resort to marking up the linen or using more than the 8 straight pins I allotted myself for the garb quest.

This morning I decided to sacrifice one of my purple linen hose for the sake of a pattern. I marked out the changes I needed to make to the pattern while I wore it, then cut along my new lines. I uses a scrap piece of flannel and made a new mockup that I'll keep as my pattern. The fit is nice, though the ankle isn't as tight as I'd like. If I made it tighter, though, I won't be able to get my heel through when I put it on.

I really need to be meticulous when I sew the gussets on. I made the same mistake on both when I sewed the mockup together this morning- my stitches at the top were visible when I turned it inside out and flattened it. I think I'm stitching too far in at the top point. Sewing nice clean gussets is pretty important on the hose, so I'm thinking that I need to pull out some scraps and practice a few times.

Speaking of practice, I did a quick little button hole yesterday as well and it turned out really well. I've never done button holes by hand, so that's pretty encouraging. I made the hole itself too small, but the buttonhole stitch was nice and even. I'm not going to rest on that, though- I need to do some more practice. I also need to practice making the buttons. So maybe I'll just do the whole shebang- make the button, stitch it on, then sew the button holes. I'd rather take the time to practice on scraps than wing it and screw it up on the real deal.

The final project for this weekend is to get the measurements for the smock together, and maybe marked out on the linen. I've settled on the pattern, and since the smock is loose in the body, I need to get it done soon- before my baby belly really starts to get in the way. I already know that the gowns will have to wait (since I can't be guaranteed that my fitted pattern will still be right after I have the baby), so everything else needs to be done before December, including the accessories I've decided to make myself.

Productivity is nice- even if it only comes in spurts.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Conducting Research

A year ago, I received the Middle Kingdom's Order of the Silver Oak award which is given for beginner level skill in a science. My science was research- specifically the research I've done into women's period headwear, but I consider research in general to be my interest in the Society. Not too long ago, I sat in at a round table discussion on research at an event, and though it wasn't as lively as I think the moderators hoped it would be, it did raise a question I'd like to answer here. In the process of answering this question, I'd like to share with you my personal research perspective as well.

Q: How do you get to that point when you take all the "on paper" research you've done and turn it into action?

A: While it is true that research usually begins "on paper" or with your face planted in a book or two on the subject, the true value of research is that it brings about a scientific process that, in one way or another, requires experiment. That's why many branches of the SCA consider research to be a science instead of an art. Experiment doesn't always have to be a messy process (though it certainly can be in some cases, such as period cooking). Experiment in this case means something a bit more cerebral- finding a hypothesis and proving or negating it.

If you've truly been doing research, even just the "on paper" kind, you've probably already formulated at least one hypothesis. The trick is to recognize it. Fundamentally, you need to think about everything you've learned thus far in terms of provability (or at least acceptable theory). The best example I can give, which most SCA researchers will run across, is proving or disproving a statement made by someone else (scholar, historian, re-creator, me, etc.) that you've accepted as a workable hypothesis. For instance, perhaps you read somewhere, "Medieval sumptuary laws prohibited the wearing of cloth of gold by all but the royal family." This is a pretty reasonable statement, and seems to be a workable hypothesis. For all intents and purposes, you believe it. But what's the source for this statement? Did it come with a footnote or citation? How did the author of this statement arrive at it? If you can ask these questions about your hypothesis, and realize you don't have an answer to any one of them, your real research is at the starting gate.

In some cases, such as the example above, a hypothesis may be provable simply through more reading. In such instances, your reading would start to narrow in on primary or extant sources. (If it doesn't, you're not doing real research- you're just hobby reading.) You're not necessarily experimenting in this proving method, but you are employing a scientific processes nonetheless. You're locating at least one primary source for the hypothesis and verifying that it supports it.

In most cases, though, a more traditional form of experiment is required. Let's say you've formulated a hypothesis on your own, through reading and observation of primary artwork and extant examples, that goes something like: "The set-in sleeve as we recreate it today uses a greater curve amplitude than those used in during the 14th and 15th century." You've established your sources- many primary and a few others from scholarly publications, but actually proving it requires action. You must make a set in sleeve using the shallower curve your hypothesis suggests, and prove that it matches your primary sources.

If you've been doing research- true, hypothesis formulating research- and you haven't experienced a natural reaction to go into action, there's one of three things going on. 1) You're lazy; 2) You're not serious about your hypothesis; or 3) You're afraid of being proven wrong. All three of these are unpleasant, but are a reality. It can be hard to admit when you're being lazy, but if you've been making statements and perpetuating them without proving them simply because the proving process requires more effort than you want to invest, you've definitely taken a turn down the lazy path. I think it's safe to say that most people who haven't hit the action stage don't fit this category, but it's a very easy one to fall into, even if just for a short time.

The second inaction category, not being serious, is also easy to fall into, especially in a re-creation group like the SCA. Groups with a casual attitude about authenticity almost seem to encourage taking a non-serious approach to researching your topic of interest. That's not to say that good, quality, hypothesis proving research isn't recognized and rewarded. More to the point is that side-steps to your research that fit the general (or "popular") mentality are usually well-received if not well-researched. An example of this is: Your hypothesis has suggested that Norsemen used half-round cloth banners for the "heraldic" display of their time, but the popular thought among the Norse persona in your Kingdom is that the quarter-round banner is correct, so, because you're not serious about your hypothesis, you make a quarter-round banner instead.

The last one is probably the most populous, but not everyone has the same reason for being afraid of being proven wrong. Some people don't want to be proven wrong out of an overblown sense of ego. Those people are probably not reading this blog. They've formulated their hypothesis and they're running with it, unproven, because they decided that it works for them and there's no point in changing. These people are most likely falling in one or both of the other categories as well. The other people in this category, however, have more innocent reasons to be afraid. I find myself in this category every time I'm ready to prove my hypothesis with a piece of very expensive material. I don't want to be proven wrong because I don't want my money (and to a lesser extent, time) go to waste. It certainly does take a major amount of suck-it-up gusto to get out of this, but if you're not lazy and you're serious about your research, you'll do it. Another way to be in this category is simply out of a fear of embarrassment. No one likes to admit that they were wrong, and some people can take having to do so very much to heart. They best thing I can say to those people is this: if you've done all the work up to this point, and the only thing standing between you and proving you hypothesis is your inaction, have confidence in your research thus far. Explore all the other avenues you can (have you found primary sources that back you up?). If you have a body of research to support you, you lessen the chances that your hypothesis is a dud. Not only that, but all failure is an opportunity to learn- take what you can from your experiment and formulate a new hypothesis.

The bottom line, and the short answer to the question, is this: Research requires action, namely through experimentation. If you're not turning "on paper" research into action, either you haven't formulated any hypothesis to work from yet, or you've fallen victim to one of the three inaction categories above.

I know this was kind of a serious one, thanks for sticking with me to the end!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Garb Quest - Fabric Choices...Once Again

I kinda let a week slip by there, didn't I? Sorry about that!

A large amount of my time these past two weeks has been spent on the research aspect of my Garb Quest and doing some initial edits to my roughly sketched out documentation. I find that I'm at a particularly interesting point in the compiling of my documentation that I know what needs to be said, but I need to locate a credible source to verify the statement. It's a lot of trolling around Google's Book search and checking to see if I can get certain books through my local library loan system. I'm taking anything I can get at this point that has anything remotely to do with any aspect of my quest, which has resulted in a few interesting diversions (such as a history of business in the middle ages). I have been surprised, however, by the very limited number of books dealing with medieval tailoring and sewing techniques. Every reference I've been able to locate though Google has lead me to the Museum of London "Textiles and Clothing" book. This can't be the only source for this information!

I have only written a small percentage of the documentation thus far, and I am continually making edits throughout, but it's turning out to be quite a treatise. My rough estimate, and not including any images, puts it around 50 pages when complete. That's a pretty hefty bit of documentation, and it's making me a bit worried. I can sometimes be verbose, and I've done a fair amount of editing already to try to stick with the barest editorializing, but I don't want to sacrifice my voice for the sake of a tidy little paper. I'm spending countless hours (and I've already dropped a pretty penny) on this project- it deserves as many pages as I can give it. I think I'll contact the Regional Minister of Arts & Sciences, though, and express my concern that, if I present the entry with a 50+ page long documentation, I'm going to get stuck with judges they could afford to "lose" for the day (as in they wouldn't make good judges for any other entry anyway), but that are not necessarily the best judges for the entry.

I have also given another thought to the colors of the dresses, based on some of the things my research has pointed out, and have reconsidered whether I should line the overkirtle or not. You might remember that I polled my readers a while back with the choice of a blue, pink or peach underdress, and the blue dress won. I was perfectly fine with the choice, as I was thinking that I would use the ginger linen as a lining for the navy blue wool, and that would create a color barrier between the two blues. I have since then realized that not lining the wool is both an acceptable alternative (based on the number of apparently unlined overkirtles found in period artwork), but also makes sense in terms of re-creation. If I don't line the wool, I have more of an opportunity to wear it during the year, rather than restricting it to just the cool months. If I don't line it, however, that eliminated the color barrier, and I'm not sure I can get behind a double blue outfit.

The original plan was to line the blue underdress with a rust-colored linen, but I recently decided that I didn't want to waste the rust as a lining. Plus, a natural linen would be more suitable for the lining of the underdress (another realiation derived from my research.) The ginger linen, though not a natural linen, would be suitable as a lining, as the color is easily achieved, and would have been fairly inexpensive. More than that, using a cheaply dyed linen would have been preferable to my persona over using an undyed linen, if for no other reason than because she could easily afford it.

So I was still stuck with two blue dresses. Then I decided to take a look at using the rust linen instead of the blue for the underdress. The rust has a very strong red hue, rather than being a more yellow-toned orange, but it contrasts against the navy in a nice way.

Going this route provides me with two good things. First, it allows me to finish the two dresses in two different ways. With the wool unlined, I can show my knowledge of seam finishing, while still showing that I know how to do a lining on the underdress. Second, I make better use of the colored linen, and even reduce the whole outfit by a layer.

I haven't been doing too much actual work on any of the pieces. I had to start over once again on the huvet, but I was getting frustrated at the odd shape of my own head that I had to put it down and work on something else for a while. I also haven't returned to the hose, figuring I'd better stick with one piece at a time. I think I'm comfortable with the huvet's shape now, though, so I'll get back to that and make it ready for the embroidered front binding and loop (which I still need to create). Before I do the band, though, I'll probably go back to the hose. That will give me an opportunity to find the exact embroidery technique I'd like to use on the band.

I've also done the preliminary pattern plan for the smock. I'm using compilation of a few patterns from The Medieval Tailor's Assistant. The body will be basic rectangular construction (with gores), but the sleeves will be a bit more tailored by using a lozenge gusset in the underarm, instead of the traditional square, and by cutting the shoulder seam on an angle toward the neck. The neckline will be pretty low and wide on that, which means I've got to be really careful. I don't have a good track record when it comes to cutting very specific necklines.

In my frustration with the huvet, I moved on to doing two mundane baby quilts for the twins I've been meaning to make (they're almost done- just need the bindings put on.) Then I started a new brick stitch embroidery that I'll reveal more about when it's complete. I need to be really diligent- I've got a few too many balls up in the air at the moment, and too many projects not getting finished. That's a dangerous cycle, you know.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Garb Performance

I took my camera yesterday with every intention of taking photos of my outfit, but alas, no pictures were taken. It was one of those events.

Very last minute we decided to day trip Spring Faire in Columbus instead of camp at Border Raids in Kentucky. We found out on Wednesday that there wasn't going to be archery at Border Raids, and since that was the primary activity Dearg wanted to do, it didn't make much sense to spend the money to go to an event he'd just sit around at. Spring Faire ended up begin a great choice, however, since there were several archers and three tournaments. Dearg won all three.

I spent most of the day chasing after Owen, who decided that he was hard of hearing and insisted on running toward the archery range or several yards away to find whichever one of us was missing. Therefore, though I'd brought several things to work on, I didn't work on any of them (except for a few stitches on a German brick stick I've had kicking around for a long time now.)

I did, however, discover a few things about the garb I'd worked on all week.

First, the lavender hose worked well (though my leather garters had an issue by the end of the day.) I did have a few instances when the seam at the bottom bothered me as I walked. I didn't get a blister, but I think that was pure luck. I did not finish the seams on the hose, and that was no doubt the issue. I think I may just go back in and tack the seam allowance down at the seam to keep it from bunching up. The wool hose probably won't have that same problem, but it's made me re-think going with the full sole instead to avoid the seam under the foot altogether. I wasn't able to get my black hose cut out before going, which is a good thing now. I'll need to go back to the drawing board on the pattern.

I was pretty accurate about the starching on the fretwork veil. I did not have an opportunity to re-starch it, so I knew that the center was going to collapse. By about 2 the very center 2 inches had completely flattened. By the end of the day, the rest of it was still open, but was no longer stiff. If it had been more humid, I'm sure they would have collapsed more. I think the issue was two fold. I did not lay on a thick enough layer of starch in the center and I think the starch needs to be more concentrated. If I put the liquid back on the stove and boiled it down a bit, that might do the trick.

I also wore the huvet under the veil. It was perfect. The bumps did effect the way the veil draped from the top of my head, but I'm probably the only person that noticed. I'm glad I finally upgraded. Since I didn't get my wool hose cut out, I cut out my second huvet attempt. I redrew the curve of my head with some chalk, then double checked it using my 15-minute huvet (which I know is right) before cutting out. So that's the project on my plate right now.

The sideless surcoat was nice. It's a little long, but I think a quick turn under on the hem will fix that. The top kind of had a mind of its own, but I don't think that would have been a problem if I were wearing a different dress. The neckline on my black dress is so wonky, if the surcoat wasn't centered on my shoulders everything looked off. It will be a nice piece of garb, though, during my pregnancy, since it's pretty accommodating.

Not sure what event I'll be going to next, so I'm going to go back to my regular pace for at least a bit. I'm still working on the hose, but since I have the huvet cut out, that's probably the main project I'll be working on. At least until I see something shiny.