Sunday, March 23, 2014

In-Progress: Alms Purse Finishing Plans

I've been going through a bit of a project slump lately, and not much has really been happening worth writing about. The winter hasn't been great for us on the health front at home, and it's really cut into both our event time and our at-home production time.

I've been chipping away at my alms purse embroidery at a slow clip. I started the back panel with the remaining thread I had on the spools from the front while my new spools were en route. I wish I was further along, but at the same time, there's no due date, so no reason to rush.

The green linen will be the lining. It's not an exact match to the dark green I'll use on the front panel's background, but I think it suits the overall, verdant and feminine look just fine.

I'm still trying to determine colors for the other finishing bits, but I know I'll be using Rainbow Linen from Rainbow Gallery. I picked up a swatch chart to help me with that. There are also no exact color matches between Rainbow Gallery and Londonderry linens in the four main colors (bright green, dark green, blue and pink), so I'm favoring neutrals for the finishing elements.

I'm planning on following the finishing techniques like those on this purse from the Sens Cathedral (via La Cotte Simple's article on aumonieres). There's three parts: the edge finishing, the drawstring, and the hanging strap.

For the edge finishing, I'm going to attempt card weaving directly to the edge. I know how to do this in theory, and have wanted to try it. I'll probably do a practice piece first, just to get a bit into the learning curve a bit. The technique can be seen in the Museum of London's Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450, but instead of allowing the weaving to hang off the edge, the weft thread is stitched down on both edges of the woven band, securing it flat.

I think a single color band would work here, since the panels themselves are so vibrantly colored, but I'm not going to rule out a simple stripe. If I did just solid black for this, the edge would cap the other side of the front panel's outer frame (creating the black edge on the outside that matches the black outlining.) This would also allow the rather busy back panel to pop on its own, without having to visually compete with the edge.

An alternative is to use a brown to pull the brown used on the maiden's hair out as a neutral. The Rainbow Linen Dark Brown is slightly redder than the DMC Linen I used for her flowing locks. I don't think the brown would compete with the back panel, and may, in fact, help draw out the pink from that bright green.

Another choice is the use the Pale Taupe, which matches the figure's skin. I'm not in love with using it on its own, though. If a stripe is involved, this would probably be one of the colors.

Maybe a horizontal stripe of Pale Taupe and Rose, which is pretty close to the Cotton Candy Londonderry. Satisfyingly girly, actually, and so far the one option I like the most.

For the hanging strap, I'll be creating an inkle woven band (I'm so glad I discovered inkle weaving- I really enjoy it!) I've already picked out a pattern for it. It can be found in Ann Dixon's The Weaver's Inkle Weaving Dictionary in the Baltic-style bands.

I liked this one because it's related motif-wise to the blue band on the back panel. I may even remove some of the dots in the gap to bring that out even more. I'll aim for a strap between 1/4" and  3/8" wide. Here, I'm leaning toward using the Dark Brown for the background and either White or Pale Taupe for the pattern. The white on the back panel is really strong, so I don't want to ignore it in the finishing. Using it on the strap is an option.

Fingerloop braiding is my choice for the string. A sturdy option is the Round Lace of 5 Bowes. This will be a single color, especially if the edge finish is done in a stripe. White, brown or possibly black are all in the running here. I think my best bet is to complete everything else, then make my choice.

There should also be tassels involved, but I haven't given them much thought. Rather than placing them along the bottom of the purse, I think I'll see about incorporating them on the ends of the drawstrings.

All of this is, of course, still hinging on actually completing the embroidery on the two panels first. I'll get there eventually.

What do you think? What colors would you choose?

Thursday, March 6, 2014


I recently started using a new to-do app, and figured I'd learn how to use it by inserting all my upcoming SCA projects. One of the features of the app is to attach images and assign one as a "cover", like a Pinterest pin. So I started attaching the swatch images I had of the fabric I was going to use for each item. This turned my boring text to-do into a very visual map not only of my projects, but of the colors and materials I would be working with.

So I decided, in the spirit keeping things visual to add images to as many of the items as I could. And eventually, I decided to keep a running visual list of the garments I'd created. Within a few minutes, I had a line of images of each dress I've created from my charcoal gray wool kirtle in May of 2013 to my orange linen kirtle, completed last month.

It wasn't hard to see that between those two dresses, something of what I've learned has actually caught on. In fact, a whole lotta something has.

I find it interesting to realize that we can so easily work in a vacuum, never really noticing that we're improving. Sure, we celebrate the successes as they come, but we get so caught up in the mistakes we made that we don't think we've made any headway. It's all "one step forward, two steps back" in our heads. It honestly wasn't until seeing all my recent dresses lined up chronologically that I noticed that I really am moving forward.

I've certainly had my share of outward changes between these two dresses, and the two photos above most definitely display two different women (figuratively speaking, of course). For starters, there's obviously some weight gain, but that's barely scratching the surface. Baby weening, health issues, better shoes, triumphs, disappointments- all there between those two. Oh, and more gray hairs (which I honestly cherish. I've earned every single one.) But beyond the fact that I've changed, my skills have changed. The charcoal dress was sewn by machine with hand-sewn finishing, where the orange dress, and the blue hunting dress before it were entirely handsewn. The sleeves and shoulders on the charcoal dress fit very poorly. The sleeves and neckline are a bit wonky on the orange dress, it doesn't bind or pull or pinch in any way that hurts.

What struck me the most when I looked at my lined-up garb was the actual progression. Each garment's issues feed into the next garment's strengths. Gores gradually moved up to where they belonged, doing a steadily better job of working with my unruly "mothers abs". As I felt more confident in my tailoring, it showed in the risks I took by widening my necklines- removing all that supportive cloth from my shoulders, crossing my fingers that the fitting would keep my bust in place. And the difference in my bust shape as I progressed proved that I was right to challenge myself in such ways.

I think, as well, that I'm much more confident in my ability to look comfortably medieval. I compare the two photos above, and that confidence is clear to me. While I love my pink dress, and respect that I did the best I could with what I knew then, the Edyth in the orange dress is just more accurate. And though I see now a slight tone in that photo that is a bit boastful, I feel, in looking back, that it may be more warranted in that moment than I realized at the time. I'm progressing, and that's something to be proud of

If you've missed any of my dresses, you can check out a whole mess of photos over on my Flickr photostream.

(Also, in case there's any confusion, this is not a paid endorsement of any to-do apps. Because, you know, legal stuff.)