Monday, September 29, 2014

The Dream Realized

Cross-posted to my other blog, Growing Up Medieval (because it's that important to me.)

Earlier this month, at Harvest Days in Flaming Gryphon (Dayton, OH area), we were having a bad day.

We took all four kids, which isn't something we do very often (I've spoken about this before), and even though we were all on deck, I had a class to teach, and Ulfr, as Regional Archery Marshal, had a huge amount of business to conduct. The boys in particular, just didn't care about rules and boundaries and staying away from the archery range. My daughter, who is only recently potty-trained, had some obsession with going to the bathroom (a long walk from the range) every five minutes. As far as events go, it ranked pretty high up there on the suck scale.

It's hard, in the midst of those types of events, to find the good. Stuck in your own headspace of worrying that things aren't going well, and wondering why you can't gain control, you tend to overlook that there are experiences and moments happening that truly matter. There are conversations that happen that you know mean a tremendous amount, and you wish you could perhaps be a little less distracted for them. You struggle to maintain your composure as you try to make it past a group of people as your child runs circles around you, refusing to listen. When you get help in that moment, it's hard to relate how grateful you are, and how relieved you are that someone recognized your need and wasn't judging your parenting abilities.

It's hard to recognize that good things are happening when you're focused on what's not working.

But, despite everything that was sucking that day, something tremendous happened. Something tremendously good.

In the weeks prior, we'd assembled some new items for my daughter, a kirtle, a 14th century hood, a smocked apron, even a huvet. Her outfit was adorable, and she loved it. She was full of confidence, and for the first time that I could tell, she really seemed to understand that what we were doing was something special and unique; that events weren't just parties, but were an important part of who we were and what we believed in. She wasn't just dressed in pretty, girly clothes. She was part of something

When I was teaching my class, my mom took my daughter for a walk. Unlike her brothers, she had been mostly behaving and was borderline cocky as a result. As they walked, she admired the armor of fighters leaving the field, and even told a few as much. Never before had she seemed to notice or care about what was happening on the list fields, but now she appeared to not only care, but to recognize when a person's armor was different or somehow special. She was seeing the event with new eyes.

Then this happened:

Photo by the amazing Marissa Wheatley Williams

This is everything perfect and wonderful and right.

This is happiness and joy and a moment to be treasured, not just for the people involved, but for all of us.

This is The Dream.

On a day when my 4-year-old daughter's eyes started to see the world of our events with more clarity and understanding, the King, just being himself, saw her, just being herself, and created something perfect. And thankfully, Marissa, just being her talented self, caught it.

My daughter didn't walk away from that experience unchanged. Her language changed. She felt new ownership of the event, and a deep understanding of how she fit into it. When I asked her where she'd gotten the bracelet, she said "I got it from my King."

At the next event, Coronation this past weekend, my mother (it was just the two of them that day) witnessed the results of this moment. My daughter took every opportunity to not just see the fighting, but to watch it and attempt to understand it. She was not a bystander, as so many of our youth often become. She was at the event to BE AT THE EVENT. Not because she was carried along, but because it was her event to go to.

She recognized those she'd seen at Harvest Day, and even conversed with a Duke for a 2nd time. Fearless and confident, and joyfully a part of the day. I value whatever wisdom His Grace imparted to my daughter. I hope whatever impression it made on her lasts. I also hope the impression it made on him lasts as well. For it's not enough for these moments to happen and impact just one side. These are moments that shape the young children among us, and direct them to either love the Society or dismiss its importance in their lives. We owe it to ourselves to care about the impressions we leave on those still too young to participate in full.

So because a man took the chance to be a King to a little girl, and because the people around my pre-schooler stopped looking at her as just a child for just a moment, and acknowledged that she too was there to experience the magic of our community, my daughter is today a SCAdian.

My SCAdian daughter the morning of Coronation

Do I have high hopes that my daughter may someday sit on the throne, remembering with clarity the day our crazy garbed adventures finally made sense to her? Of course. But for now it's enough for me to see that she just "gets it"; to see that The Dream is hers to realize too.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

In-Progress: Ginger Linen 1400's Cotte

With all the stuff still on my project pile, I'm not entirely sure why I chose to start this particular dress. I think I just felt that it was time. Since I was a bit gun-ho about it, I didn't really document the first steps, so I apologize for the general lack of photos up to this point. Hopefully I've got enough that it all makes sense.

I did something a bit different with this dress than what I've done in the past. My typical dress pattern is four panels that are all slightly different. I would cut out the dress according to those panels, and then adjust on my body each time for a more perfect, entirely custom fit. For this dress, however, I decided to give a symmetrical pattern a try. The best fitting dress I have currently is my Red Rose Dress, so I laid that down on some paper and traced around it for an averaged pattern for the front and back- just two pattern pieces. This could have ended in disaster, but at the same time, I was entirely too curious to see what would happen to let the risk scare me.

This made the layout of the dress on my 5 yards of linen much less complicated. I was able to get the entire body of the dress cut out as 6 pieces (4 panels and two gores) with 6 cuts. The side gores are actually integrated into the skirt already to make the best use of the fabric. Again, that could ultimately end in disaster, since those seams will be bias-to-bias, and over time may warp.

I was surprised to find that the dress was much too large when I quickly assembled it and tried it on. Primarily, I'd provided too much at the sides of my front panels, and generally too much curve everywhere. I don't think this was faulty pattern copying (though I'm sure there is some of that), as much as working with much more elastic linen. I ended up removing about 2" at each side seam on the front panels, an inch+ on the shoulder seam on the back pieces, and several other curve adjustments on the center seams on both front and back. I did my best to ensure that these changes were still symmetrical, to keep my experiment going.

In terms of the experiment, there are some notable (and noticeable) ways that the symmetrical patterning does not function as well as the custom pattern. The first is at the front.

The center seam swerves just a bit at the top. I'm not as concerned by this, though, since I'll be finishing this seam with lacing, which will mostly conceal and correct this. I'm also getting a very slight amount of quad-boob, but that will change when I add sleeves. Could change for the better or the worse, though, so let's keep out fingers crossed on that one, shall we?

The other, more obvious issue is related. On the front side seams of my custom pattern, the bust curve is pronounced, especially on the left. This is the adjustment that positions my bust equally across my chest, putting my cleavage line in the right spot. Without that curve, the seam pulls forward, out of line. This is not ideal- the seam should be a nice straight line.

When I had a curve on that seam while in the adjustment phase, my boobs took advantage of it a bit too much, and I ended up with the wrong breast shape entirely. Getting the front tight enough to get the best fit caused this seam shifting as a side effect. To compensate without going to extremes, I removed most of the curve on the center front seam, turning it back into (practically) a straight seam. By not forcing my breasts to pick a side in the middle, they fill out across my chest ever-so-slightly-better, which is impossible to tell from the photo, but made a noticeable difference in the way it felt. Just trust me on that one.

This is something I've noticed in the past, and one of the ways I think large chested women should experiment when they are fitting their kirtles- start with a straight seam and add only the slightest S-curve (out over the breast, in just under it) if they feel a bit too flat. I know this goes against the popular opinion that a large bust needs a larger curve, but I think that's giving extremely large breasts too much license. I've proven that in my own efforts. The straighter my front seam (set at the right point- not too loose or too tight), the better my shape.The few dresses I have with straight seams that don't work are those in which the seam is too tight. I haven't given my bust enough room, so it breaks the line, or it's too loose, so the supportive curves at the side seams are undermined and don't have a chance to function properly.

On this dress, at this point, further adjustments to try to fix those side seam lines would probably do more harm than good. I'm getting the right amount of support, and my body curves are mostly correct for the style (for being plus size, anyway). Plus, as I said, it feels good.

This dress is a bottom layer dress, and will hopefully look something like this when complete:

I'll be doing long sleeves that slightly overlap my hand, finished with some brass buttons (which are actually plastic, but look pretty convincingly metallic.)

I can't go too wild with the length of the sleeves, or the fullness of the cuff, though, since I still have diapers to change, if you know what I mean. The linen is such a neutral color that I can wear it under any of my wool gowns without making a bold color statement. It's nice to be subtle sometimes.