Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Big One, Update

I spoke about two weeks ago about a big project I have been planning for about a year. It's exciting to have a secret project under wraps, but you all have been pestering me so much to hear more details that I will relent and show you a few of my plans.

You saw the materials --the fine gold wool fabric, the crimson linen. There's black wool, too, and it all is going to work together in this:

A very rough sketch, but perhaps it will give you an idea of what is taking shape in my mind. To give you further ideas, I point you towards Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene Book I, canto 4:

Suddein vpriseth from her stately place
   The royall Dame, and for her coche doth call:
   All hurtlen forth, and she with Princely pace,
   As faire Aurora in her purple pall,
   Out of the East the dawning day doth call:
   So forth she comes: her brightnesse brode doth blaze;
   The heapes of people thronging in the hall,
   Do ride each other, vpon her to gaze:
Her glorious glitterand light doth all mens eyes amaze.

So forth she comes, and to her coche does clyme,
   Adorned all with gold, and girlonds gay,
   That seemd as fresh as Flora in her prime,
   And stroue to match, in royall rich array,
   Great Iunoes golden chaire, the which they say
   The Gods stand gazing on, when she does ride
   To Ioues high house through heauens bras-paued way
 Drawne of faire Pecocks, that excell in pride,
And full of Argus eyes their tailes dispredden wide. 

But this was drawne of six vnequall beasts,
On which her six sage Counsellours did ryde,
Taught to obay their bestiall beheasts,
With like conditions to their kinds applyde:

Monday, August 20, 2012

The new smock!

I thought that hand sewing a linen underdress would elicit more conversation on an airplane than it actually did. When I pulled it out on the first leg of our flight, the woman in the seat next to me exclaimed "Oh, look at you! What are you making?"

"A reproduction of a 14th century linen smock," I said, trying to keep from sounding boastful.

She took a sip of her tonic and lime and put her nose back into the Janet Evanovich romance she was reading.

And that was that. Well, what did I expect? And you know, if she had kept talking it probably would have just annoyed me. Instead I got to stitch in peace, like a little Tyrannosaurus Rex with my elbows crammed up close and my hands under my chin. I hate those tiny airline seats.

It was quick work to hem and whipstitch the smock together, and thanks to careful cutting, the sleeve cuffs and bottom hem landed on the pre-existing hem of the tablecloth and already had a nice finish on them.

The neckline is a bit lower
than my older one, but I like it .

Here you can see how I worked the existing pulled work into the smock design. And yes -- I cut the sleeves  into the body at an angle to save me the step of sewing in an underarm gusset.  

Details of the middle and lower hem.
Needs ironing!

I finished the smock faster than I thought I would, and then I didn't have any project to keep me busy on the flight home. And what a miserable flight it was! I think the air conditioning wasn't working properly. It was warm and stuffy, and the seats seemed even closer together than usual. Ugh. 

Now I'm home again, I've started work on the wimple and veil to go with my St. Birgitta's cap. Wait and see!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I'm headed to Utah in twelve hours, and so I should really be in bed getting some sleep. Instead, I've been working on a project to take on the plane so my busy hands have something productive to do. I cut that fancy tablecloth into smock-bits, faced the neckline, and pressed the seam-hems in. I'll stitch the hems and put it all together and come home with my fancy new smock.  It looks very liturgical.

I'll be back in five days. Until then, here is a video of baby goats  to amuse you.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

St Birgitta's Cap -- a seriously rambling post

Okay okay, finally a post showing something I've made. Thank you for your patience as I go on about faires and whatnot.

Here's where I started: Neulakko does it up right, very nice things. I was looking for directions on how to wrap/pin/wear a wimple and veil, and she makes it all very elegant and easy. Allright, I thought, I can do that. All I need are the pieces.

I have two very fine lightweight linen tablecloths. I need to make a new smock from one of them, and the other can be used for headgear, stockings, and suchlike. I used one whole day's worth of sewing time to determine which one I was going to make the smock from.

One tablecloth is very plain. In fact, I discovered while ironing it that it very likely isn't a tablecloth at all, but a true bedlinen -- a sheet! It had a wide hem at one edge and narrow hems on all the rest, and there's no channel for a rod, so it's not a curtain panel. It looks like someone -- perhaps another reenactor?-- wanted sheets of linen instead of the widely-available cotton or blends. Who knows. But it's about the size for a double bed, so there's a lot of nice fabric there that I can plunder for my new smock.

The other tablecloth has a design worked into it with embroidery and pulled threads.

Solid white is hard to get a good pic of, but I hope you can see the details.

I went round and round trying to figure out how to cut out my pattern pieces without wasting fabric, while saving as much of the embroidery as I could and placing it strategically on the bust, hemline, and sleeves.

Hold on, Wenny, I can hear you saying. This post is titled St Birgitta's Cap. Why are you going on about these tablecloths and your smock plans?

I'm getting there! Don't you see? Whichever one I make the smock from, the other one is for my cap, wimple, and veil!

So like I said, I was going round and round -- rather like this post-- and I finally decided that I'd use the embroidered one for the smock, and if it didn't work out, then I'd like to have the other plain one to fall back on. It's not like I have time on the evening before the faire to whip up a cap, wimple and veil (and braids!) much less a new smock, and doggone it, there's nothing wrong with the coif I made a year ago so I'll just wear that. Heck, it's going to be so hot, and there's no shade there, I should just wear my straw hat and call it good. ...But the hat won't look right without my hair out of the way tucked under a cap first.

I decided I'd make the cap. I even found scraps of linen from when I made my first smock that were the perfect size for a cap. I spent about an hour scouring the internet for a pattern -- not because it's a tricky shape to figure out, but because I was unsure of dimensions. A lot of the sites I looked at were across the seas in Finland or Denmark and Google Translate helps, but technical instructions become somewhat muddled. Finally I just winged it, and it came out pretty close to perfect.

I know, I know. Blue bias tape. Not exactly period, right? Well, at eleven o'clock at night, I had no time to cut strips from my scraps of  matching linen, stitch them together to get a piece long enough, and press and stitch that. I used the bias tape knowing that no one at a ren faire would call me on it, as they'd all be too busy being pirates and wenches. And once I tried it on, you know, it's really kinda pretty. I had read (and of course I can't find it now!) that colored woven bands were sometimes used, so I think that when I make my next cap, I'll try that.  Next cap? Yes. Because the shape on this one was a little off, and was pouchy at the back of my head instead of down at the nape of my neck. Practice, y'see. Once I get it right, I'll post the pattern for y'all.

In the picture, my hair is in two braids looped up and pinned to the top of my head. My long, fine hair was not substantial enough to fill out the back of the cap, so I cheated and added a skein of brown wool. It can't be seen, and adds a nice plumpness.

Okay, now I have to go to work. I think I'll talk a bit about my Big Project in the next post, so stay tuned for that!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

We're back!

...and not even sunburned. That alone makes this year's ren faire a success. Well done, us!

I took one picture there, you guys. One. While we were watching the fire juggler, I saw some pennants at a nearby stall, painted with the word "Huzzah!" and I thought they were kinda cute, but not $15 cute. I could make one of those in an hour, I thought, and embroider it, and it'd be even better. So I took a picture. The pennants can barely be seen in the snapshot, so I won't post it here, but it was enough to remind me.  Can't you just see me at tournament, merrily waving my pennant? Maybe I'll put a little jingle bell on it or something. Love it.

I got my nerd on with the blacksmith...

Me: Good morrow, Master Smith!

Blacksmith: Good morrow, my good lady.

Me: Pray tell me, what is the purpose of this? (holding up an item from his table of wares)

BS: Ah, see, this has an acorn at the end-- that's a nut, yes? And here, a knot has been worked into the iron. So it's a "knotty nut".

Me: (blank stare.) ...I ...see?

BS: (smiling disingenuously) Here's two on a ring, with this piece here added, see how it's twisted like a screw?

Me: Aye...

BS: So, if one has this, one can ask if a person wants to fondle one's knotty nuts and screw.

Me: (feigned innocence with a suspicious arched eyebrow) Indeed?

BS: ..and good master Smith doesn't get in trouble, because it's just an innocent request. (jangles the ring invitingly)

Me: (bemused look) And why would one want to do that?

BS: You see, it's... (sighs heavily, maybe not used to explaining) Perhaps it's for crazy people. Yes?

Me: It well must be. I think just this salt spoon, today.

And so I bought this wee salt spoon to go with the silver viking ship salt cellar I got a while back that was missing its spoon. I put a nickel by it for size comparison:

Now it's time for work, again, so check back later for more tales from the faire, and a picture of my last-moment St Birgitta's cap!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

We only have 24 hours left to save the earth..!

Ahh, Flash Gordon. What a terrible, wonderful movie. Have you seen it? Pure 80s camp. That's where the title to this entry comes from, in case you're wondering why I mention it.

Anyway. Today we're headed to the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Festival. It's pirate weekend, and I'm not a big fan of pirates, but next weekend is fairy weekend and... well, at least pirates are real. I have a love/hate relationship with ren faires; I like dressing up in all my finery and seeing the events (especially the horses!) and shopping the vendors for bits of whatnot. But I can't hold my tongue when I see someone wearing a cotton print wench outfit with elastic pulled low to display boobs ratcheted into structural significance by a buckled leather corset. Usually there's a pirate near at hand, and both are flirting in horrific cockney accents.... but I'm getting away from my real topic, which is this: 24 hours before any given event, you can find me with my needle in hand, making myself the new piece of garb that I've decided I can't go without.

Last night was no exception. In fact, I had three projects I wanted to complete: Dave needed pockets (non-period, I know, but necessary) in his pants, I wanted to make cards promoting this blog to hand around, and I needed a St Birgitta's cap to wear under my straw hat.

Annnd I just realized that I have to go to work. More on this later, after the faire, probably. I'll have pictures to share! Until then, here's a look at my promotion card: