Voiceless, but not Wordless

I lost my voice! None. Gone. Not even a little squeak. Allergens in southern Louisiana this year are worse than average. Maybe it was the alternating warm and really cold fronts moving through that have made all the blooming things bloom with a vengeance, but from what I hear, I am not the only one who has lost their voice from allergies.

I’m on day 4, and from the test this morning, I have a little bit back, but it may be a few more days or week or two until I can talk. Having Android’s version of Siri be my voice really creeps my husband out!

The good news is that I’ve been doing research. I’ve turned my focus from 14th century to "Viking" period clothing. Why? Because nearly the entire Kingdom of Gleann Abhann (my SCA kingdom) is some kind of Viking, Anglo-Saxon, Norman or other early period persona, and I became fascinated by what is real Viking garb and what is the SCA equivalent to horned helmets.

Interesting Research on a Friend’s Brooch

Interesting to me, at the very least.

My baby boy turned 8 this weekend, and his choice of celebration was to have his friends over for a pool party. Despite the cold weather of the last few weeks, about 15 kids braved the cold water and swam the afternoon away. All of this meant that I got to visit with my friends.

One had recently bought a brooch set at Gulf Wars from Raymond’s Quiet Press the previous week.

It’s a beautiful brooch set, but I didn’t recognize the style. The thought of it stayed at the back of my mind irritating me that I could not say where it was found. I figured it would be an easy look-up in one of my books on Birka, Hedeby or Osberg. It makes sense that much of the recreated jewelry would be from the big finds.

It wasn’t in any of them.

By chance, I happened across a catalog from an archaeology convention that took place in Riga, Latvia in 1896. Of course the catalog is in German! Perusing through the pages, I found it! There were not together in the catalog, but it was undeniable that these were the same.

You could download the catalog if you want. It has the nice pictures at the back. Link to the google book.

The brooch, item #491.5 in the catalog. It’s from what is modern day Salaspil, Latvia, and in 1896 they thought it was from 1200. The attachment, which is item #407, is from Kremon, Latvia, and they do not give a date. I’m sure if they dated it now, the original estimation could have been off by a couple of 100 years.

Looking through Raymond’s shop, (here’s where you can find the brooch) he has information on so many of his items. I wondered if he thought that if it was labeled at a Latvian piece, if less people would buy it. Just my curiosity.

Learning from Translating

I’ve spent a good part of the last week translating the chapter on the Birka girl’s new clothes from the book Birka Nu. At first, I was translating it simply because I want the information. I wanted to know what the writers were saying about the pretty pictures.

As I spent more and more time on this project, I began to see how much more I was learning by translating the original Swedish than I would have if I had found a translation already. First, there are many words specific to Viking garb that do not translate at all. Thus began the process if researching Swedish words and having to decipher what the word meant in relation to the Viking clothing or clothing in general. For example, what we call a gusset is not called a gusset in Swedish.

Then I would stumble upon compound words that were not common in the swedish language. In English, if we made a dress with linen, we would call it a linen dress. In Swedish, linen and dress would be one compound word, bringing a connection between the fabric and the garment even closer.

The hardest part has been figuring out what whole phrases mean. Although slang and colloquialisms aren’t often used in academic papers, there is a bit of both inherent in any language. An example is how often terms for the act of weaving fabric is used as a metaphor in many cultures. How people are woven into our lives. References to the Fates or Norns. Try looking for specific weaving phrases and see how many do not apply to making cloth.

A New Start

I believe in new starts! Always have.  And I love starting them myself.

It has been a crazy year.

My oldest daughter got married in an SCA / time-traveler wedding, and I sewed most of our side of the wedding party’s outfits. Found out that one of my best friends had been conning myself and a few other of my best friends for years (pretending to be dying of cancer among other, even worse, cons).  Wound up in the hospital in a delusional, painful state with a severe fever and kidney infection.   Discovered that I am not leadership material when I made a mess as president of my homeschool group, and then swallowed my ego and stepped down.  Drove across 1,600 across the country to work at a children’s camp to discover that some bad things were going on that involved the children. Drove back to have one of my main local social groups implode in a nasty ugly way.

So . . . it has bee a crazy, ugly year, but it has been a cluster of crazy years. That may simply be life.

I’m back to my projects and art and things I enjoy. Being back means having to decide whether or not to blog about my projects.

Over a year ago the wind left my blogging sails when a fellow blogger confronted me about using one of her pictures without asking permission or properly documenting where I had found it. I didn’t get defensive or angry. She was right.

In my enthusiasm and joy of sharing what I learn, I didn’t cite my references. It’s a newbie mistake, and one I should have known better than to make. At one point in my life, I was meticulous at referencing my sources. A decade and a half later, I have forgotten the lessons of always giving credit where credit is due.

I do not want to do that again. Honestly, I do not have the time to be such a meticulous note-taker on every picture and piece of information that gives me an idea or inspiration. On what I use in the documentation for my projects, in the hand-outs for my classes and in research papers, I note everything. For fun projects, however, if I take the time, between homeschooling 4 children, being an active part of our local homeschool group (though not as president!), wanting to be active in the SCA again, helping organize and run a Hogwarts’ themed children’s summer camp, and having an active social life and friends outside of all of that, I would have no time left for the projects.

I still will not again fail to give credit where it is deserved. After a great deal of thought, I came to two realistic options. I could stop blogging altogether and stop sharing my projects to anyone other than my close friends. Or I could share only what is mine to share: my own pictures of my work, my own sketches, my own thoughts and ideas. I can refer back to the original works, such as “this tunic was inspired by the guy on the right in folio 37r in the Manesse Codex,” but I won’t include photos that I did not take.

It is what it is. Maybe I will be less of a useful resource, but I’m hoping that by sharing my work, my mistakes and what I learn that someone out there will benefit and go on to make their own works.

Here’s to a new start!

Gulf Wars!!!

Less than a week until Gulf Wars starts. I don’t know whether to be excited or nervous. It’s been 3 years since I’ve been to a GW.  For the first time I am not manically sewing garb for myself and the family, but I can’t figure out if that’s because I have enough or I just don’t want to sew.

I have enough to cover the days that I will be there, and I think all of the kids do as well. I may be sewing an emergency tunic later this week, mostly for M., who has grown out of all of her younger garb and does not yet fit into mine.

Lately, I’m still working on  my blackwork sewing case. Ironically enough I lost the jar of needles I had to go into the case.

I finished my documentation for a 4 panel cotehardie. I still have to write it up, but all of the research is done.  It feels pretty solid.  I had to go back through my files to weed out my notes on any of the Greenland gowns as documentation. But between Queen Margarita’s golden gown, pictures from manuscripts and brass effigies, I think it’s good.

I’m helping hubby learn to sew – by machine, not hand. He’s made 2 under-tunics so far and we’ll work on a gambeson later this week. I’m tickled that he will at least know how to make some of the basic stuff.

Other than sorting through which SCA files I lost and didn’t lose, that’s been it.

Hope to see everyone at Gulf Wars.


Holidays can really suck the life out of you.  They aren’t always bad, but they are time consuming.  And getting sick afterwards seems to be standard for the last few years.  But I’m back!

The only major project I’ve been working on is a tunic for my oldest daughter’s guy. It was a Christmas present that I thought would not take me that long to make. 3 or 4 years ago, I could have whipped it out in an afternoon.  It’s not that my sewing has gotten slower, but that I insist on doing more by hand.  I would die a little inside if I had to machine sew a gusset into a tunic. Then, of course, I couldn’t make it without some embroidery.  As simple as the pattern was, it still took time.  All-in-all, about 35 to 40 hours worth of work went into it.

It’s time to reevaluate the projects I’m in currently and the ones I need to start soon.

  1. Pleatwork apron needs work so that I can re-enter it into A&S.  Since I missed Winter Wonders this weekend, I don’t know when the next Regional A&S will be.
  2. Finish my blackwork needle case.  Working on this little bugger has taught me that really detailed blackwork is a long, long, long term project.  Looks like that Elizabethan coif may be my Kingdom A&S entry for 2014.
  3. Hubby needs a new under-tunic and hosen. Heavy fighting really gives garb a much shorter lifespan. Now that he has chain-mail, its life will be a little less. Any future fighting tunics will be either very simple or all machine sewn.  He looks damn good on the fighting field, but it breaks my heart a little to see my tunic getting beat upon.
  4. Hubby also needs a gambeson.  Partly that’s to give his nice blue tunic a little longer of a life.  It’s good for padding too.
  5. I want a total of three nice everyday use dresses. Dresses that are wash and wear, will hide the dirt and, if it gets a little dinged up, will still look good.  One for cold weather and two for hot weather.   I’m trying really hard not to obsess on them being 100% period.   My red and black corduroy cotte is a good cold weather one. That leaves me making 2 hot weather cottes.
    1. Side laced cotte
    2. 4 paneled cotte
  6. I want a total of 3 court outfits. I have 2: my Flemish and my green and blue cotte. The dress I’m going to make will probably be my A&S entry for Kingdom.   I’m thinking of a 4 paneled cotte that’s complete with the underclothing that goes with it.  Costume review? Maybe. Or maybe static costume.
  7. Tudor peasant outfit for my 14 y.o.
  8. Early period outfit for my 16 y.o.
  9. Make sure all the kids have enough clothes for Gulf Wars.
  10. Work on polishing the hand-outs for a couple of classes I want to teach at GW.

My list is growing every  minute. I better get to work!

Soap Explorations and a Little about Pleats

Smocked Apron

First, I’m still working on my smocked apron. I put away my second mock-up and started on the real thing, mostly because Christmas Revel is NEXT week!  The gathering stitching is going slow, but I’m making tinier pleats and more rows – 12 rows of 3/8″ pleats as opposed to the 8 rows of 1/2″ pleats of the first mock-up.  Hand pleating is very tedious.

I used the yard stick on the cutting board method with dots instead of lines, hoping the blue water-soluble marker will wash out easier. Somehow though, maybe because I was talking with the family instead of fully concentrating on measuring, my dots are not lined up. After I did the pleating stitches on the first row, I realized the other rows of dots are not lined up.

Probably I should have pulled the one row out, water spritzed out all the dots and do it again possibly taping the edge of the fabric to the cutting board with architect’s tape. But no! I thought I would just eye-ball line it up by visually tracing the rows of weft threads from each row down to the next. Oh my!!! That took a while.

Late last night, after my husband and daughter got home from doing an SCA demo at ComicCon, I was just about done with all twelve rows of the pleat stitches, when they caught me with the cloth spread out on the bed, just staring at it. And they knew.

“No you are NOT going to pull all of those threads out and start all over again!!!”  I was still tempted.  The conversation then took a personal turn. I acquiesced to their suggestion just to go with it.

Of course my husband had to get in the last remark of “And don’t you blog about this either!”  Well, I have to win some part of the argument.

Yes, the pleating stitches are nice and nearly all even, which says a-lot considering that each row has about 80 pleats. Times that by 12.

BUT . . . it’s not perfect. I see it being off a warp thread or two here and there, and it just bugs me.  I did say I would go with it as is, so I’m going to do that. The smocking will start today.


Holiday Soap

I’ve been a soap-maker for about 12 years. Not the melt and pour kind, either. The fully gloved and goggled, playing with lye and fats, having a few battle scars and taking a few Silkwood showers (ala Meryl Streep)  kind of soap maker.  That last part was a long time ago.

There are two major methods of making soap from scratch. Cold process and hot process.

Cold process allows for more artistic play and makes a harder bar (hard bars lat longer), but it takes 6 weeks to cure before you can use it. By artistic, I mean this:

IMG_0121 and IMG_0122

I made these a couple of years ago. Pretty, huh?

Hot process soap is not as artistic and not as hard, but you can use it right away.

Which one is more medieval? Hot process – hands down.  I have soap recipes from the Middle Ages:  four 16th century, one 14th century and one 12th century.  To quote one, “Boil by itself until it is cooked down and reduced to thickness”  That’s hot-processed  (or HP) soap making.  One day, I’ll do a how-to on making soap using medieval recipes. Just not today.

I made some yesterday with my youngest daughter. We made 7 lbs: 2 lbs each of lavender and peppermint (all natural), 2 lbs of an artificial scent called “Christmas,” and 1 lb of unscented, for my middle daughter who hates smells.

Coming up in the next couple of weeks, I have a few soap gifting occasions. Although HP soap is ready to use right away, it’s best to let it sit so that the water can evaporate out and make it a harder bar. No one wants  mushy soap.

So I’m wondering if I can speed up that evaporation process by using the oven. Set the temperature to a low 170 degrees, put the soap in while still in the wooded molds, turn the oven off and let it sit overnight. I have not been able to find anyone in my soap making communities who has tried this evaporation method, which may mean that it’s a really bad idea. I’m willing to give it a go anyway.

Results will be posted tomorrow!