Friday, August 29, 2014

Just a Quick Note: Rose Red Kirtle Photos

Just in case you were waiting on the edge of your seat all this time for them, I figured I'm mention that the "official" photos of my completed Rose Red Kirtle are now online. You can see the set on Facebook or Flickr. Or both. Whichever. I won't judge.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Manuscript Challenge

On Thursday, I shared on Facebook a link to Maria's blog, In Deme Jare Cristi, where she offers a "Manuscript Challenge". Her challenge is to pick an outfit from a colored, period manuscript image, and take the next year to recreate it. I've been referencing period images for creating my outfits a lot recently, so this is right up my alley.

Since color matching is a component to the challenge, I decided that I'd look for outfits that mostly matched fabric I either already have or that I knew I could obtain at a reasonably good price. I also decided that I should look for outfits that offered a challenge to make something I haven't before, or try a skill I don't normally get to try.

The first outfit that came to mind was one of my favorite Albrecht Dürer drawings of a woman from Nuremberg, circa 1475. When I was first researching 15th century garb, I briefly thought I'd settle on late 15th century German garb, and I've always liked this outfit.


This outfit offers a considerable amount of stuff and would definitely qualify as a challenge for me. I do not have these colors, but the dress could possibly be made from Wm. Booth's Natural Flannel. There's also fur, a multi-part headdress, a leather belt pouch, a goller, and a double pleated apron (which is actually already on my project list.) That's a lot. While not crossing it off the list, I decided to look for other options.

I went to Pinterest and started mining my collection of images there. Among the Le Decameron (BnF Arsenal MS 5070, reserve)images I've pinned, I located this lovely ensemble (fol. 145):


Here's a close up:


Her dress is a pretty typical early 15th century fitted gown, but it has gold trim on the neckline and wrists (which is not really typical). Then she has a gold hair net (which may be styled over buns of hair, but may also have a supportive underhat), and a bourelette padded roll hat with some type of brooch. I have navy blue wool that would work for the dress, then this Blue Stuff from Wm. Booth would work for the corresponding hat. I've never made a hairnet, but luckily one of the experts on that is in my local region, and it would be a good challenge. Making my own trim for this would also be something I haven't had must practice with.

Not content to settle on either of those just yet, I continued to look. Some time ago, I'd pinned this image into my Garb Ideas board:


It's Christine de Pizan as seen in The Queen's Book (BL Harley 4431), fol. 178. I like this image for several reasons, but the primary reason I saved it is because it's one of the few times we see Christine (who is, safe to say, a fashion icon in early 15th century manuscripts) wearing something other than blue. Granted she's got a blue underdress, but a gray gown is not something we see very often. And I LOOVE gray. She's wearing a fashionable bourgeois horned headdress, as well as something I've been trying to pattern- a fitted wimple. In this instance, the wimple is really the "challenging" component, as there isn't much to the outfit otherwise, but perfecting the look of the horned veiling is also a challenge. Mood Fabrics has a few light gray options, like this Pale Heather Suiting that would probably work. I already have the navy wool for the underdress, but I could also opt for a linen, like this True Navy linen from Fabrics-Store.com to make this a summer-appropriate outfit.

Material-wise, option #2 (Le Decameron) gives me the best option, since I would not need to purchase the gown material. The silk for the hairnet and trim, however, may add up. Option #1 (Dürer) would probably end up being to costliest, since I don't have anything that's the correct color for anything but the apron, plus there are leather and fur elements. As much as I've always wanted the Dürer outfit, I really can't justify that expense as I focus primarily on early 15th C. French, and this outfit is decidedly not that.

I like option #3, but I feel it falls slightly short on my personal stipulation that there has to be something truly challenging about the outfit I choose. It is an outfit that I believe I could accurately recreate, and I do certainly hope to have in my kit someday. Option #2, however, has challenging components, but I don't have a particular love of it (except for my general love of all things having to do with 15th century women's headdress.)

In the end, I have to go with my gut. Christine's style may be a standard, and may not hold many technical challenges, but it is a style that my persona would have worn, and I wanted to make this outfit anyway. I am able to make a wool "day dress" out of my navy wool that I will get use out of, as well as making a gown that I both want and need. The elements about the other options that I like can go onto my project list as single items.


As a final note, those of you that have been reading for a while may remember that I abandoned my old Garb Quest, which sounds an awful lot like this challenge. I brought that up with myself as well, and determined that since the point of the challenge is to end up looking like you stepped out of a manuscript, without having to document your material and technical choices, helps this feel to me like a fun project rather than a daunting exercise.

What about you? Are you willing to take the Manuscript Challenge? What outfit image(s) are inspiring you?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Why I Play in the SCA

For the 11th year in a row, I stayed home instead of going to Pennsic. Which is a real bummer, but this year, I think it's actually for the best. Back at the beginning of the year, I experienced one of those (thankfully rare) feelings of disillusionment with the SCA. I had one of those moments when you're really sure about who you are and where you are headed, but when you start to look around, you realized you weren't at all in that place, and you weren't at all that person. It's been, honestly, hard to regain my footing, which has also translated to feeling less interested and less inspired.

It's good, though, really. I think it's nice to step out from under the tent (if you will) to take a look around at what else there is to do. The Society has offered me hobbies I never dreamed I'd be capable of doing, and I love that, but looking in a different direction has reminded me that I'm a creative individual in the mundane world as well. I've taken on freelance design work that has been much more fulfilling than I imagined it would be. I've discovered pocket-style scrap booking, and I'm obsessively hooked. I've been doing origami, which I've always loved. I'm spending more evenings hanging out with my family instead of sewing. These are all extremely rewarding things that I would be completely missing out on if I was still super-focused on the SCA and my path within it.

Backing off a bit has also provided a valuable opportunity to reassess. Having mostly ditched my project list, and having missed two events in a row that I would have normally attended this summer, I'm pretty much "out of it". Which means that every time I come across a medieval-themed Facebook post or Pinterest pin that really captures my attention and makes me smile, I'm that much closer to seeing and understanding WHY I PLAY in the SCA. If I wasn't still finding these things while on this sabbatical, then I could be pretty certain that the Society holds nothing for me. Thankfully, I haven't found that to be the case. Instead, I see that authentic kits, handmade details, and medieval camping are all really important and interesting to me. It's also helped me to see what makes me not want to play, which has been helpful to analyze.

For years, I have been proud to have award scrolls to display on my wall. In fact, the combined scrolls awarded to the members in my house take up an entire wall. That's pretty cool, and several of the scrolls are absolute works of art. Early on in my mom's SCA career, she joined a household that encouraged advancement through martial and service activities. The theme of advancement became her default, and thus became mine when I started to play regularly. And since it was ours when I met my husband, it eventually, in some ways, became his as well. This was not the "next cookie" type of advancement, however, where you actively seek to gain higher and higher rank by choosing the path of least resistance, regardless of whether you really care for anything or anyone you deal with along the way. No, this concept of advancement is the idea that one's place in the SCA is defined by your rank and the awards you've received. That there are genuine "class" divisions, and your only goal, really, is to advance through them. Inadvertently, by buying into this, I had fooled myself into believing that a majority percentage of my worth in the Society was measured by how many awards I could hang on my wall.

That's not what I'm worth, and it's not how I should be defined (either by others or myself). Neither my worth, my skill, nor my passion can be calculated that way. And, honestly, if I've learned anything in these recent months, it's that those things don't need to be calculated at all.

My kit isn't flawlessly authentic, my skills aren't perfect, my talents aren't vast. I may be days away from an award or years, who knows? But I love this hobby.

I love sharing what I've learned and what I know. I love trying new things, and knowing that, in this hobby, they aren't actually even remotely new. I love pouring over inspiring period imagery and seeing things that completely make sense to me. I love collecting relevant books.


I love listening to medieval music, and the smell of incense and beeswax. I love playing period games with my friends.


I love eating the period food my husband makes over an open fire.


I love the sound of drums at night and the smell of tiki torches burning citronella oil. I love how excited my kids get when they see their new garb.


I love the way our pavilion comes together, and how patient our children are with the process.


I love the sound of the battle field during a melee, and the satisfying "thunk" of an arrow hitting a target.


I love all my hats and headdress, and I wish I had more excuses to wear them.


I love seeing others challenge themselves to make or learn or try something they found a source for. I love handmade things.


I love the way I feel in my garb, and the way my family looks in theirs, and I love knowing that I made them with my own hands.



Those award scrolls are coming down. They don't come close to reflecting anything of what I love, and why I play. Then I'll take a deep breath and assess my project list, not against the goals I had originally set for them, but against my real interest and desire to make and do those things. And I'm willing to bet that my skills, my talents, my abilities will grow exponentially when I stop comparing them against the made-up ruler of the award structure.

I play this hobby because it accepts me for who I am as well as who I want to pretend to be, and it doesn't require me to explain my choices. I play because it challenges me. I play because it's fun, and quirky, and nerdy. I play because I love all those things, I love history, and I love the stories it's given me.

I play because I'm just as much 15th Century Edyth Miller as I am 21st Century Janis Hurst.