Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas in the Cloister

So there I was, on a pilgrimage to St James. The night was rainy and by the time I reached the cathedral, my hemline was sodden and so were my shoes and feet. Pilgrimage certainly strips one of comforts! There was also a brisk wind. I opened the heavy wooden door and the entryway was already full of people. I had arrived an hour early so I would have some time to myself to tour the cathedral, but no such luck!

I visited the Shrine of St Mary. This picture doesn't show the ceiling, which is painted with stars. There were only a few candles lit, so it was dark and cozy-feeling. A picture taken of me in here would have been a nice souvenir, but there was a sign requesting no photos, so I had to get this one off their website.

Of course no one else in attendance was time-traveling from the 14th century, only me, and the people there didn't seem to know what to make of me. The general consensus was voiced by one man, who said "So... are you like a super-serious kind of nun, or something?"

You mean in contrast to all those silly, I'm-only-in-it-for-the-weekends kind of nuns? I wondered. "No, I'm simply dressed as a person from Chaucer's England, in the 14th century."

Oh, so not a nun, but a bit weird, if not downright crazy. I kicked off my wet shoes and tucked my damp feet up into a drier, warmer part of my skirt. Having settled myself in, I pulled a linen bundle out of my bag and unwrapped it to partially reveal a small spiced cake studded with dried fruit and nuts. I broke off pieces and nibbled them while the pews around me filled with people. No one wanted to sit near the possibly crazy, possibly-a-nun lady eating in church. The rebel in me rose up and I pulled a mandarin orange out of my bag. The smell of rich spices and orange peel could not have been more Christmas-y. It was gorgeous.

The music started and it was lovely. The program had the Latin printed out with translations beside, so I followed along and made a mental note to take up my Latin lessons again. A tall fellow came in at the last moment and saw the empty spot next to me. He sat down and then looked at me, startled. He kept his hands folded neatly in his lap for the whole performance, and I noticed that if I looked in his direction, his spine would stiffen. Must have attended parochial school.

After the performance, I had more time to look around the cathedral. One woman asked if she could take my picture, so I struck an appropriate pose. "Now do something totally modern!" she said, giggling. So I obligingly withdrew my smart phone from my bag and sent Dave a text saying the concert was over and I'd be home in a bit. I have a feeling that picture is up on Pinterest somewhere. If you ever find it, send me a link!

I spoke with a French woman for about half an hour before we were shooed outside. She was fascinated by what I was wearing and gave me the loveliest compliment: "I love what you are doing, because you show such respect for the people that lived this way, by doing research and wanting to make everything right." I had never actually thought of it that way, but she's right -- that's what has always bothered me about people equating "middle ages" with "Lord of the Rings", or "medieval" with busty women falling out of corsets -- it doesn't seem respectful to the people of the time.

I ended my sojourn by viewing some illuminations done by Susan Bondurant before heading back out into the rain. I had gotten turned around while in the cathedral and had to walk around the block twice before I could figure out where I'd parked my car. My feet and hemline were completely soaked as I drove home, but I had had a wonderful time.

I wanted to include a video of the choir, but I can't seem to find any online except this one, and for some reason I can't get it to format so you'll have to click the link. There's no visual to it, just the audio track. Use your imagination, I guess. It's not from the performance I went to, but it'll give you an idea.

I doubt I'll be doing any more posts until after Christmas, so I hope you all have your favorite kind of holiday with your favorite people. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What's on MY head.

I decided to try wearing the wimple and veil under my hood, and was surprised that it was not terribly bulky. It was toasty warm, though -- the linen created many pockets for warm air to gather. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this was a standard procedure back in the day. See for yourself!

Wimple and veil with hood down for indoors...
...and with the hood up, ready for outdoor work or play!
I have no idea why my phone so drastically changed the color tones in those pictures -- I took them about a minute apart. The top one is a very good representation of the actual color of the hood. Don't I look all pink-cheeked and merry? It's because instead of saying "cheese" when I take a picture, I say "Whiskey!"

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What's on your head?

It's funny how I can read so much about 14th century clothing and yet still encounter problems while attempting to dress myself.  Here's the situation:

This Saturday night, the Medieval Women's Choir will be performing music written in the middle ages in cloisters in Germany, France, and Spain. It's going to be in a cathedral, it's going to be gorgeous, and I thought it would be fun to imagine myself a 14th century pilgrim stopping by on a cold winter night to rest my feet and enjoy the music.  I rather hope there is a place I can sit on the floor, but that's probably romanticizing things a bit much.

It's going to be about 45 Fahrenheit/ 7 Celsius. I have a pale brown wool dress with short sleeves that will probably be warm enough for indoors.

I have a dark brown tunic I could wear as an overdress. Do you suppose chilly ladies ever "borrowed" a tunic from their hubby when it got cold? It comes down past my knee and the colors are quite nice together. 

But the part I'm struggling most with is how to cover my head. In the summertime, my cap and straw hat or wimple and veil are perfect, but what do I wear in the cold? I have a medium brown woolen hood (What? I like brown!) but what do I wear under it? I'll want to push it back while I'm indoors, and I know my head should not be bare, especially in a church. Birgitta cap under the hood? Leave the hood up? Wear the wimple and veil under the hood? That would be awfully bulky. Perhaps there is another option I don't even know about? HELP!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

It's been a while. I KNOW.

I'm getting emails from y'all asking why there haven't been any new posts lately. I'm feeling like Sally Fields over here...

You want to know what I've been doing! You like me!

And now that Dave's birthday has come and gone, I can show you what I made for him this year.

It started when we went to Steamcon. Dave saw some double-breasted, military-style vests that he thought were pretty sharp. I looked at the serged seams (Yuk! Ptooey!)  and the cotton duck canvas they were made from and then the $130 they were asking and told him to save his money. "I can make you one of those."

Can you believe he doubted me? He did! I got the raised eyebrow! That sealed it right there -- I was making him a vest for his birthday.

Folkwear had the exact pattern I wanted, the Belgian Military Chef's Jacket. It was just a matter of leaving the sleeves off.

The problem with commercial patterns, for me, is that I rarely use them. Like, never. All the stuff I've made, I've drafted the patterns for myself, to fit me. I've never made anything fitted for Dave. And I've watched my mom and other people make enough things from patterns to know that the sizing can be really variable.

So I just made the size I thought would fit and did my best to work through the simple but wonky instructions -- which told me to hem the back pieces before attaching the front pieces, which I did because I figured they knew what they were talking about, but next time I'll wait and hem the whole jacket because as you'll see in the pictures, it was off by about an inch -- and hoped for the best.

It turned out acceptably well. There were a few things about it that I will do differently next time, but for a primary effort, I'd say it's not bad at all.

Here it's done except for that bottom hem being all uneven. Thank you, silly directions. I picked out the stitches and evened it out, but of course I didn't get a picture of that. D'oh!

The grey-green wool was a bargain at thrift. I got two yards for three bucks. And the lining was something that's been in my stash for about a year. I have about four yards of it and only paid five dollars. I have tons left, which is great, because I can use it to make more vests!

See those flat-felled seams? Don't they look nice? It's such a pleasure to make clothing that looks as nice on the inside as it does on the outside. Take that, serged seams! (Yuk! Ptooey!) The buttons were the most expensive part of the garment: three cards of buttons at $2.50 each, but I had a coupon for half off, so it was only about five dollars. Oh, and I had to buy a spool of thread. That was three dollars.

Total cost for making Dave a completely lovely double-breasted vest? Twelve bucks. Quite a savings over the $130 he would have paid at Steamcon. And it was higher quality in materials and workmanship. Win!

Too bad it didn't fit.

But now I can amend the pattern so that it will fit, and he said he'd like one in black, so... stay tuned to see how that one turns out -- after the new year, probably.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Winter warmth.

It's getting colder outside these days. This morning it was 34 Fahrenheit which is pretty darn brisk, and feels even colder because it's so damp here in the Pacific Northwest. Imp is wearing two blankets these days, one for warmth and one for water-resistance (although after 12 hours out in a steady drizzle, nothing really keeps the wet out.) and his formerly sleek coat is getting thick and soft. 

I'm thinking a lot about ways of keeping warm at the barn; I won't give up my weekly riding lessons just because it's getting colder! On the other hand, if I'm shivering and miserable, it will be hard to focus on instructions and that makes for a confused, unhappy horse. So what can I do to keep us both warm and comfortable?

First I made a quarter sheet for Imp, That's a blanket that extends all the way back to his tail, to keep his haunches warm. I used an old wool cloak I had appliqued a border onto and then decided wasn't really in period with my usual look, so it'd been hanging out in the closet. The cloth is a very heavy weight about a quarter inch thick. 

Imp helpfully swings his haunch away just as I snap the pic. But you get the idea.

I tried to think of a way that I could wear the cloak around my waist or something, so it would drape over Imp's rump and also keep my legs warm, but everything I imagined ended up getting tangled or slipping sideways or interfering with movement. Then I had a thought -- chaps! Well, actually, short chaps called "chinks". They only come to the knee and are usually made of leather. I've been secretly wanting a pair for ages because I think they look neat, but they are rather the mark of a working cowboy and I felt like if I just wore them for looks, I'd be teased a bit. If I made some for myself from the leftover cloak pieces, they'd provide extra warmth just where I needed it, and they'd be attractive and useful. 

In my leather stash, I pulled out a pair of tiny stirrup fenders I'd picked up for five bucks. They formed the top of my chinks and their straps made the belt part. I dyed them dark brown to match the rest of my gear and added some silver conchos just to be extra pretty. 

I still need to finish up some rivets and stitching before they'll be ready to ride in, but I'm already imagining Imp and I trotting through a field of falling snow looking very sharp.

And then today at lunchtime, I whipped up a quick bit-warmer for Imp. It's widely advised that when it is cold, you should warm your horse's bit in your hands before putting it in his mouth. This sounds perfectly nice, but then my hands will be all cold from holding the metal! So I made a little pouch. I can put one of those hand-warmer packets in it (I usually keep some in my pockets when it's freezing out.) and wrap it around the bit while I put on Imp's saddle, and when I'm ready to put the bridle on, the bit will be all warmed up. I can take the wrap off and put it back in my pocket. No frosty fingers! 

I'm always happy to find a use for wool scraps. Some hook-and-eye closures keep it snug around the bit while I saddle up.  And the B monogram looks very sharp in red! 

Friday, November 15, 2013

More leatherwork

I told you I had made a breast collar for my friend Emily. I put the top coat of leather dye on it this morning and gave it a final polish, and now it's ready to go. And I took a picture for y'all. I'll get another of it on her horse some time soon, I hope. But for now you can take a look at my work.

I didn't have to buy a thing to make this; I used hardware from my stash, made the straps by re-purposing some heavy reins, and cut my own straps. Putting on buckles is pretty easy, and to think; I was worried it would be a hassle!

I find a great deal of satisfaction in cutting and stitching my own strap keepers -- those little leather circles that you tuck the end of a strap into so it doesn't flap.  Details are what take us into the realm of art, my friends.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Secretly busy!

I know it's been a long time, y'all. I've been busy with my day job and also, my hubby has been out of town since last Thursday. He's gone to the cigar convention he attends every year with his buddy, and I just love the timing of it because it gives me time to work on his birthday present without worrying about him walking in on me.

Yes, I've been enjoying five glorious days of "me time", doing whatever I feel like and hogging the whole bed to myself. I always start out saying I'm going to spend all my time at the barn with my horse, and I do, a bit, but then I find other projects to work on, too.

You'll have to wait until the end of the month to see what I've made for Dave.  But I finished up a dark brown wool Bocksten tunic for myself or to lend to a friend. I'm still deciding on if I want to put embroidery on the neckline or not. I can always do it at another time. The fabric is very soft and fine. I might end up wearing this around the house!

Then I cleaned up and repaired a saddle for my riding instructor. Her youngest student is eight years old, and a tiny little thing, so the saddle she uses is also small. The first time I saw it, I squealed with delight -- it looks like she stole it off the mechanical pony in front of the drugstore! The seat is about ten inches from horn to cantle and it looks like a toy, although it is a proper piece of equipment. I polished it up and put a few stitches in a tiny tear in one fender, then brushed up and vacuumed the fleece to get it nice and clean. For size comparison, here is Ivan playing cowboy.

For two nights I worked on Dave's present. More on that later, of course.

And then last night I got out my box of leather whatnots to see what I had that could be re-purposed into a breast collar for my friend Emily. Nothing fancy, she said, and I aim to please. A heavy pair of harness leather reins seemed just the thing, and my tin of hardwares offered up a few rings and buckles to answer my needs. It's so nice not to have to run to the store! It's just three simple straps, so it doesn't look like much by itself. I'll see if I can get a snap of it on her horse later.

And now it's time for me to get back to work. I really wish I could show you Dave's present. It's kind of a departure for me, something I haven't tried before, and I'm quite pleased with the results. More on that later!

Monday, October 28, 2013


A quick picture from last weekend's Steamcon V. I kinda wish I'd thought to take my name tag off, but it's a fine picture of us just the same.

"Dave, I think I see where you dropped your monocle!"
Photo credit goes to the fantastic Nate Zimmer, whose creativity makes me smile!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

More Steam!

I think I'm a little excited about my first con and my outfit. Know how I can tell? I keep making more things to go with it. Necessary things, though!

Like I suddenly realized that wearing a hoop skirt would mean I'd be getting drafts up my legs while I walked, and I'd be cold. I have long, over-the-knee socks that would help, but I didn't want my thighs to feel like chilled hams. Brr! I needed an undergarment. I was all set to make my own -- in fact, I had started stitching pink swiss-dotted material together, but then I looked at all the other things I have to do between now and Friday morning, and decided that it was time to lay down some money rather than work my fingers to the bone.

I bought a pair of pajama pants in the perfect colors and  rosebud design, cut and hemmed them to the proper length and ran some elastic through the cuffs. I stitched on some ribbon bows for a touch a fancy and ta-dah! -- a quick pair of bloomers.

Don't tell my mother I posted a picture of my knickers on the internet! 

See the shoes in that picture? The angle is not great, but those are three-inch heels. As a girl who usually wears sneakers and riding boots, I knew my feet would be likely to complain after a bit, and no one wants to have sore feet at a con. I think it's the most basic rule: Wear comfortable shoes.

But I am a rebel. And those shoes are so cute and perfect for this outfit!

My plan: to wear the heels and carry a pair of ballet flats in my bag to change into when the going gets tough. Then I looked at the little tapestry mini-carpetbag I had planned on using and realized that changing my shoes would mean carrying my heels in one hand for the rest of the day. And that tapestry mini-carpetbag really didn't go with the rest of my outfit, despite its steampunky cuteness. I needed a new bag. A big one! To the thrift stores!

I found nothing. Nothing. But then I remembered an old satchel-style bag I got years ago. Maybe I could remake it into something workable.

I didn't want to just hot-glue a handful of gears onto it and call it Steampunk, because sticking non-functional gears onto everything is kind of like putting a picture of a horse on your shirt and saying you're a cowboy. I took leftover fabric from my skirt, a brass peacock medallion, some paper fasteners, and soft leather scraps and thought about old trunks and hatboxes. Half an hour and some hot glue later, I had finished my bag, and I'm terrifically pleased with the result. Now I have a nice roomy bag to carry all my doodads, my flask of something sustaining, and my heels -- and it matches my outfit perfectly!

The bag itself is black, but I'm gonna hit it with a little brown spray paint (protecting the fabric flap from the spray, of course!) to make it look more aged and beat up. I think it's a total win!

Okay, now I swear I'm gonna stop making new accessories. I am, really. No, really. Only two days 'til Steamcon! I'll try to take loads of pictures to share here when I come back. In the meantime, have YOU ever been to a Steampunk event? Do you have any advice (besides comfortable shoes!) to share with a newcomer like me? 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Steamcon 2013

I'm headed to my very first convention, you guys, and it's a humdinger: Dave and I are attending Steamcon V this weekend!

We've only dabbled a bit in the local steampunk scene, so my costuming and research isn't as developed in the field as my middle ages stuff, but I have a few nice things -- like the ruffled skirt I made a while back, the one I call my "candybox skirt".  That skirt is the basis for what I'm calling my Steampunk Equestrienne outfit. Behold!

I got the burgundy jacket a year or so ago for three bucks and was going to tear it apart for use as a basic jacket pattern. Imagine my delight when I found how nicely it matched the stripey taffeta of the skirt! It had two big patch pockets on the front, but I took them off and I think it improved the look of the jacket greatly.

Leftover gold fabric from the underskirt makes an ascot and a pocket square. A basic white linen shirt goes underneath it all, with the collar turned up. A finishing touch of fancy is a cameo-style brooch I found (where else) at thrift, for only two dollars. I think it's hilarious.

There's a riding crop, and I have a tapestry bag that holds my brown leather riding gloves and a flask of something sustaining. I found a plain black felt bowler hat that fit me and was five bucks, so that was a good deal, but it seemed a bit lackluster. I tried tucking a small peacock feather into it, but that didn't seem right either. So I took a trip to the craft shop.

Ten dollars later I had some silk flowers, a decorative bird, some accessory feathers, and some tulle fabric. I fussed with them over the hat for a bit (pitching the kitten from my lap where she was "helping" at least a dozen times) and was delighted with my results. Look!

The colors look really bright in this pic because of the flash. They're actually much closer to the muted tones you see in the first, full-length shot. I think it's really effective!

I feel completely prepared to turn out smartly at Steamcon and you know what?  I've managed to avoid the top three steampunk tropes: gears, corsets, and goggles. How about that!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Okay, I really like this one!

We're planning on going back to Camlann Medieval Village for Yule, and I wanted Dave to have something new and festive to wear. I had originally decided to use this dark spruce-y green wool to make a dress for myself, but I knew it would look good on Dave so I pulled out his measurements and my scissors and started cutting. (For reasons unknown, my camera insists that this fabric is a medium grey. I thought that it was the fault of the flash, but no, the pictures I took in daylight are all pale, too. I'll try to get a better shot of the color later. I just really wanted to get a post up for y'all.)

Funny thing about those measurements. I've gotten so used to making close fitted garments for myself that I forgot that Dave's measurements were for his actual body, not for a garment.  So I was a bit dismayed when he tried it on and looked like a sausage! Also, he made some remark that cast doubt on my skills. He should know better than to do that when I have pins and scissors at hand. 

I needed to put some width in there somehow, but how? Finally I hit on the plan of taking out the 6" square underarm gussets and replacing them with kite-shaped ones. This would provide a little ease through the chest and I hoped that would do the trick. 

Nope. Better, but there was still some tightness through the waist. Fortunately I had made the side gores a bit too long and hadn't hemmed the bottom yet, so I took them out and raised them higher, overlapping the underarm gussets a bit, and got about three extra inches per side that way. Dave slipped the tunic over his head one last time and I crowed with delighted success.

This is the side, showing where the underarm gusset meets the skirt gore.
That little bit of overlap made all the difference!

I finished the bottom hem and did the embroidered trim while watching the Walking Dead season premier. I'm not a huge fan, but my friends were there and it was a fun time. I sorted through my stash of tapestry wool and tried all kinds of color combinations but Dave and I both liked this pale grey and cranberry look best. I worked the design freehand with a simple stem and cross stitches and I'm pleased with the results. 

The Xs aren't perfect, but they weren't meant to be.
I just wanted a little pop of color. 

I'm trying not to think what a pretty dress this would have made. Dave will be very handsome at Yule in his new green tunic, and I'll be so proud to show him off. Besides, I have five yards of a beautiful blue wool in the stash waiting to be a dress for me.

Subtle and handsome, just like my Dave. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A bit about a bit.

Just wanted to share a picture of the bit I picked up the other day for my horse. I found it at a local antique shop. Sometimes I wonder if the people running those shops have any idea of the real value of all the items they have. Old western bits are not as popularly collectible as, say, Hummel figurines, and I'm reasonably sure the guy in this shop just kinda squinted at this thing and made a guess.

He guessed wrong. I got it for a song. And I'm not gonna say where it was because someday he might have more, and I want to continue getting good deals there.

That's silver, folks. Silver.

This is an impressive piece of horseware, and it takes literally years of gentle, consistent training of both horse and rider before something like this can be used effectively and with respect.

My horse, Imp, is very well trained already, so my riding instructor (who spent years learning this technique, has over 40 years of experience, and has trained three horses completely through the 5-6 year process to carry this sort of bit) figures it will take about two years to get him to the point where he's ready. I am hoping that by the time he's ready, I am too!

P.S.  Yes, I am still making stuff. This blog is still about me making stuff. There will be a real post here by the weekend about actual stuff I've actually made with my own little hands and you guys, it's even 14th century stuff so please don't stop reading my blog just because my last few posts have been about horse gear, kittens, and how much I hate cheap embroidery frames.

P.P.S The kitten is really cute and a total handful. Just a moment ago I caught her swinging from the computer cables and she's really mad I made her stop. "Moxie" is the perfect name for her!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mom the Magnificent

I don't remember where we were going-- it if was a family trip to visit grandparents or what-- but I do remember my mom in the passenger seat with a sewing project spread over her knees. This may not have been unusual; perhaps my mom always did needlework on trips while my dad drove and I had just never noticed. But the size was an attention-getter; it was a spread for a double bed.

A few well-chosen colors of embroidery floss made up the simple design. I have no idea how long it took her to complete (I was in high school and had little attention for anything outside of my personal interests) but it must have been over a year. We both have the tendency to work on projects, stop, and return to them later -- even years later. I once took six years to complete a simple blackwork sampler, and I can imagine her saying to herself "We're going to be in the car how long? Hmm... maybe I'll finally work on that bedspread."  So many Xs. So much work! I never would have finished it, I'm sure. 

I came home from work on Thursday to find a big package on the kitchen stoop. Dave is always ordering stuff from Amazon, so I was surprised and delighted to see that it was for me -- and even more delighted to see that it came from my Aunt Ruth, my mother's older sister. Slicing the tape and opening the box, I saw the acorn pattern and instantly remembered the car trip. Oooh!

Our bed is a queen, so the cover doesn't drape perfectly, but my mom has stitched a long sleeve along one edge so it could be hung on a rod as a wall hanging. I'll find the perfect place for it (Maybe The Boy's room, once he's got his own place?) and display it proudly. Isn't it gorgeous?

Took about five seconds for our cat Bosco to hop up and begin applying a layer of cat hair to the surface. That's her job, after all. 

Details, and my mom's mark: MM86. That's 1986, back when I was a senior in high school and the earth's crust was still cooling. And I believe that is entirely hand-quilted, as well. 

(Mom? Can you add any information on how long this project took you?)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

We've got moxie!

I feel like I'm getting behind on posts, but I swear I have a good reason, and here it is --

She's slightly damp as the result of having a bath to rid her of fleas!

We got a new kitten on Friday, and I'm realizing again how babies of any kind tend to take up all the time and attention available. Just today we let her have more freedom in the house (she'd been quarantined in the bathroom until we were sure of her litterbox skills and could supervise her introduction to our other cat and dog) and she is ... well, just everywhere.  And into everything! We named her "Moxie" for her bold nature, but I'm wondering if "Mayhem" might not have been a better moniker.

Things should be back to what we call normal around here in a few days, and I'll have a new project to post. I'm almost done with a wool tunic for Dave, and I just need to take some pictures. So stay tuned for that!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It's Crap!

I bought myself a little treat today -- at least, it was meant to be a treat. I bought a small scroll frame, 4"x 8", to start work on a brick stitch needle case for myself. It cost ten bucks, and if you know me at all, that's quite a bit of money for me to pay, not to mention how unusual it is for me to buy something new, instead of waiting to find it at a thrift shop. But I was excited to start on this project tonight, and so I plonked down ten whole dollars and spent the rest of my workday happily anticipating getting started tonight.

I got home and I open the package and ... wow. What a disappointment.

First of all, one of the arms was visibly warped. Maybe once I had fitted it into the side pieces, the tension would have straightened it out, but that's not really the point, is it? It's only four pieces of wood, for crying out loud. For $10, I expect them to be straight.

Then we get into the slots in the dowels -- the ones I'm supposed to "slip fabric into" -- not likely! They've obviously not been sanded or smoothed in any way. It's just rough and horrible and waiting to snag the dickens out of my material! I got a splinter, y'all. I was going to take the pieces into my shop and sand them smooth, but then I thought, HEY. I paid ten bucks for this. I shouldn't have to do anything.

Look at it! Ugh. I was so mad, I wrote to the company and told them how disappointed I was. And I told them I would be telling you all, too -- so if you're ever in the craft store and you're looking at embroidery frames, steer clear of the ones that are packaged like this.  They're sold by a company called Kahoots, and I got this one at Michael's Crafts. I'll be returning it tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Anniversary Mini-Tapestry

I just realized that I never posted a pic for y'all of what I made my parents for their 50th wedding anniversary. So here it is!

That is just a terrible picture! How can it look so good on the camera and when I transfer it over, I realize what an over-exposed, blurry snap it is. Ugh. I apologize.

Haha, just now I thought to myself  "Oh, I'll just go take another one." But of course I can't. Because it's at my parents' house now, on the other side of the country!

I had a few lovely lines from Spenser that I wanted to embroider around the edges, but fitting the verse on was just impossible and I got frustrated and went through tons of printer paper trying to get things to fit right and be a decent, readable size, and finally I just wrote the verse on the card:

From that day forth, in peace and joyous bliss
They liv'd together long without debate;
Nor private jars, nor spite of enemies,
Could shake the safe assurance of their state.

Spenser, am I right? He's got a quote for everything.  I feel like I should tell you more about how I put the whole thing together, and the stitches I used, etc, but I have this terrible toothache that's turned into a infection-y sort of thing, and until I get into the dentist tomorrow afternoon, my brain is percolating in a delicate haze of painkillers that makes me a bit woozy. So I'm gonna go lie down. G'night! 

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Shirt for Dave

As we are planning to go back to Camlann for their Yule celebration, I felt I should make Dave a more period outfit. He's not so hung up on authenticity as I am, and I admit that in my love for him, I tend to add fanciful details to his things that aren't exactly in keeping with 14th century style.

Dave's only request was that I not make him braes and hose.

Thanks to the kind folks at Cloak and Daggered for this example picture.
Dave calls this the "saggy diaper butt" look, and says he'll refuse any attempt on my part to
force him into such nonsense. I bow to my lord's wishes. 
Now, I don't see what the problem is with this sexy, sexy way of dressing (although I'd think one's tush might feel a bit drafty not covered in wool like the legs are). My attempts to assure him that his nethers would be well covered by his tunic fell on deaf ears, and I know enough to choose my battles -- after all, he'll be the one driving us to Camlann! -- so he'll be wearing cotton tights under his kit, and as usual, if anyone wants to comment, well, then they can try to force him into hose.

Wait, this post is titled "A Shirt for Dave". Why am I going on about hose and Dave's tush? Back on topic this instant, madam!

What I am making Dave for Camlann is a traditional linen shirt and a woolen tunic. Shirt comes first: I pulled linen from my stash. Once I measured out, I realized the off-white stuff I had was not quite enough. I made the body, gores and gussets from that, and cut the sleeves from a scrap of white I had left over from making my wimple and veil. "No one will notice your sleeves and body don't match," I assured Dave. "You'll have your tunic on over it, and the color difference isn't that extreme." Dave looked uncertain. So I brewed up a quick tea bath and gave the sleeves a quick dip to get a closer match. They turned out matching perfectly.

As I ironed and cut and stitched, I noticed a few little stains. This happens when your linen source is secondhand tablecloths. I won't buy things with obvious dribs and drabs on them, but a speckle of this and that here and there is hard to avoid. I don't mind it on underthings. Like I say: it's not dirt, it's authenticity!

It took me two evenings, start to finish.

It's so nice to be able to work up such lovely, simple things. I wonder if the average housewife in the 14th century took any pleasure in making her family's clothing, or if it was just another chore? Of course things for babies, weddings, and fancy wear would be more likely to elicit a feeling of pride, but was there satisfaction in simple garments made well, too? I suppose it varied among individuals, just like today.

I'll be cutting the tunic from dark spruce-green wool and working on it during a vacation to visit my family this coming weekend. Until then, tell me: what have you sewn that pleases you most?  Share with us in the comments and I'd love it if you'd link pictures!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Actual conversation Dave and I had just now:

Me: Dude! You know where my tiara is?

Dave: No. Isn't it... (goes to look on bedroom bookshelf)

Me: That's what I thought, too, but it's not there.

Dave: Wait... (goes into computer room) ...It's in here.

Me: Oh, that's right. (taking it from him and nestling it on my head) I forgot. I had Wil Wheaton wearing it while he rode a shark.

Why was I looking for my tiara? Because my mother had just written to me saying that the anniversary weekend I'll be sharing with them and my brother was going to be quite casual, and she hoped I hadn't gone out and bought a new dress for the occasion. Which -- as I am the world's biggest jean-and-t-shirt wearer -- was completely unlikely, so I wrote her back saying I'd be sure to leave my elegant posh frock and tiara at home, then. 

Which of course prompted the sudden perverse urge to show up at the airport wearing a tiara. And I do have one. I got it to wear to a Zombie Prom event or something a few years back. And yes, now it lives on Wil Wheaton riding a shark.

I am a troubled queen.
Oh wait, no. Not troubled.
Squinting in the bright sunlight. That's it. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Here, check this out while I make some more stuff to show you.

It's been a very busy weekend at work, but I hate to go very long without something new for you. I know you depend on my for your entertainment, and probably clap with delight every time you see I've posted something new!

I'm a bit late for everyone traveling to Wisby, or for Pennsic, but perhaps you can just squirrel this information away for your next trip, thanks to Ask the Past.

Ask the Past has a lot of interesting, amusing stuff to share about the way folks did things in the way-back-when. Get yourself a cuppa something and take a look around!

Think Geek used to have the perfect shirt to stash in the bottom of your bag or secretly wear under your tunic in case of emergency. I can't find it on their site now, though, so here's a picture of the text. You'll have to make your own!

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Fellow blogger Sofia linked me to Thomas de Beauchamp and his good wife Katherine's effigy and tomb in response to questions I had about laced garments in the 14th century. Besides being fascinating, it sent me scampering to my notebook to look up some notes I'd made a few weeks back about the very same couple. I'd been listening to The History Chicks' podcast about Tudor grandmothers (where they'd spoken about Katherine Mortimer) and when I heard the name "Beauchamp" I perked right up --because it's very similar to my last name! I'd wanted to remember to look up more about them, but as usual I'd become sidetracked by other things... so thank you, Sofia, for putting me back on track!

Now I have ideas in my head about outfitting Dave as Thomas de Beauchamp, complete with Order of the Garter outfit. Of course, I'd need at least one gigantic frilled veil to go anywhere with him. Wish I could find one good picture of Kate and Tom from above, frontal, so I could see if there's any family resemblance... 

Dave agrees that he would look simply stunning in that purple and gold hat. 

I'm being a bit silly, I'm afraid. I've had the deuce of a headcold for the last four days and I'm just getting to the point where I'm not blowing my nose every second and I almost feel human again. I'm not even terribly sure if this post makes much sense. Let's just write it off to the vicarious pleasure one gets when learning of a famous person that has the same name as oneself. I'd not want to actually be married to Thomas, there, though -- he and Katherine had fifteen children and I can't even manage to keep up with one mostly-grown boy, a dog and a cat! (And I own a washer and dryer!)  ... you know, I think maybe this cold is affecting me more than I thought. I best go lie down for a bit. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lacing vs. Buttons

I've set my historical garment-making focus pretty solidly in the 14th century. (With a few notable exceptions!) I find the clothing of that time was simple and attractive, with just enough accessorizing to be interesting instead of overwhelming. And I thought I was doing pretty well with my wardrobe: linen smocks, my linen parti-dress for when it's hot, and my wool dresses for when it's cooler, but then I was looking at Hibernaatiopesake's Wisby pictures and I realized something: 

I have spiral lacing on my dresses, and everyone else has buttons.

Now, I do have my one dark blue woolen gown (lined in gold linen and heavy as anything) that has buttons up the front and on the sleeves to the elbows. But the brown wool I made last fall is laced and now I'm wondering if I've made a mistake. Or maybe underdresses are laced, but overdresses are buttoned? (It can't be because everyone loves making buttonholes so much; those things are a pain in the tush!)

I also think the lacing goes down too far here. Fortunately, I was generous in my cutting and it's a bit loose. I can probably hem back the eyelets and put buttons on, and I have enough of the wool to make buttons. 

Or is it just a "recreationalism" that everyone has buttons? I know that trends occur in garb just like anywhere else, to a certain extent -- if one person has a cute little brick-stitched bag, soon everyone is making one. Maybe lacing and buttons is like that, and I'm just seeing more buttons now. 

Next up is a tunic for Dave, and there will be buttons. So... many...buttons... at least on the sleeves. Also, he needs a linen undershirt, too. I'm looking forward to many happy fall evenings, stitching lovely wool. 

Any information you can share on buttons vs. lacing in the comments section would be appreciated! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Pilgrimage, of sorts

I am just the kind of geek to Google the phrase "medieval village nearest me" in a fit of angst because I live in a country that has no medieval history and a girl's gotta dream, right? Fortunate for me that I did, though, because up popped Camlann Medieval Village only an hour and a half away!

There aren't many pictures on the website, which is a shame, but fortunately I found their Facebook page, and there are lots of pics there. Please go take a look -- they're pretty impressive!

After showing Dave the website and conferring about travel times and work schedules, we decided to make the trip and stay for the 12-course feast afterwards. I made sure our time-traveling clothes were clean and in good order and then felt the familiar itch in my thimble finger. Dave said a new bag ("With pockets!") would be nice to have, so I got some heavy green wool out and lined it with pale green linen. I tried a new edging technique I'd seen others do that I thought was cute, and in two evenings, Dave had a new bag.

The strap on my blue boar bag was pulling apart -- I really need to address the construction problems in that strap that make it so prone to failing -- and the braided edge on Dave's new bag was so cute that I just had to have one for myself, so I cut out a pale tan bag in a traditional shape and edged it with blue and brown. It was very quick -- only one night of stitching.

I wore my parti-colored dress with my linen cap and a straw hat to keep the sun off and felt very authentic. I even brought along my wimple and veil and some pins so I could change at mealtime and not have to wear my hat at the table.

So here we are, the very handsome couple. I seem to have inherited my mother's talent for having my mouth open in speech for pictures. I believe I was saying something about feeding the dog her dinner and we'd be home late.

I meant to take more pictures while we were there, but pulling out my camera felt weird and interrupted my relaxed immersion, so all I have to show is this snap Dave took of me speaking to the sheep.

He really was a lovely sheep. I plucked a few wild raspberries from a bush nearby and slipped them to him. This was met with happy delight and a protesting "BAAA!" as I walked away.

And this picture of my industrious man earning some groats by selling weed.

As you can tell by our happy, relaxed expressions, we had a really nice time. The feast in the Boar's Hede Inn that evening was tasty and delightful. I can't wait to go back again sometime -- and I think I'll bring a photographer along to get some good pictures for you all.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Norse Quickie

I bought a new trinket at the Oregon Country Fair this year. Just as we were walking to the gate to leave for home, I passed a craftsman hawking his wares from a small wagon and stopped to look. In talking to the fellow, I realized that he was the real deal: a metalsmith aware of period styles, a true artisan.  And as a bonus, it turns out he lives in my hometown!

Bill Dawson makes lovely, lovely things. He handed me strings of buttons that were extremely tempting, but in the end I bought a copper penannular brooch and got his card so I could visit him about buttons at another time.

Then I came home and had to make a proper cloak to wear the brooch on, as the stylized viking cloak I made a few years back has a clasp on it already. I also wanted something a bit more period in style. My stash had a perfect size herringbone wool in heather-y greys and browns. Rather than hem it, which I felt would look bulky on the heavy wool, I left the selvage edges be and did a quick chain stitch in wool twist up the cut edges in case they ever decided to start fraying.

I'm delighted with the subtle colors, and the copper brooch looks a treat on it, don't you think? I couldn't be more pleased. (That's not a corner, it's just a fold I made so you could see more of the stitching. And yes, I know my brooch is upside down in the pic. It was late and I was tired.)

I finished the green Skjold hood that I started making at the garden party last weekend and I think it's a bit small for me so I'll probably give it as a gift sometime, but that hood and this cloak have re-sparked my interest in those interesting Norse folk. I think I might make another run at some of their clothing. After all, I have all that wool, and winter is coming...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The final cart update.

This one really goes out to Dave, my wonderful husband. As I mentioned in my last post, his "man room" is being encroached upon by my sewing stash, a situation he deals with gallantly as long as I keep it tidy. He has been a bit more vocal about my leathercrafting workshop in the garage, though I try to be as orderly as possible. (Saddles just take up a lot of space!)  And then I start making noise about making a cart for the dog-- well, I think he knew he had to step in. Mostly because I have no woodworking experience to speak of, and while I might have a plan, putting it into effect would probably yield results most rickety, if not downright dangerous.

I have tried to check my headstrong ways and learn to ask for help when I need it. Dave appeared in the garage and started asking all the right leading questions to figure out what the cart in my head looked like. Then he valiantly wrestled the power tools out of my hands, and started measuring lumber and making pencil marks. I searched the internet for scrollwork trim designs -- the most important part of cart-building, I think!

An hour later, we had a plan, Dave had started on the cart bed and I was using a jig saw for the first time to cut out hearts and scallops. Just as I started to cuss because things were going lopsided, Dave reminded me I had a few clients to tend to, and said we'd work more on the cart together when I got home in a couple hours. Meanwhile, he'd run to the hardware store.

He works so hard to make me happy, you guys. I'm so lucky to have him. And look how handsome he is! I know you're all super jealous. It's the tattoos, right? And he has gorgeous legs from all the running he does.

When I got back, he'd sanded the cutouts I'd done and was getting ready to fit the wheels on. It was ready for its first test drive by dinnertime, and over the next two weeks we added some more scrollwork and a coat of paint, plus the side rails. We even added two iron hooks to the front, one for the bell, and one for the lantern.

My big contribution was painting the red and cream-colored floral trim. I don't do a lot of painting so my work is a little amateur, but I think that adds to the charm and authenticity of the piece. In this picture, I hadn't wiped away my guideline yet -- that's what the thin scratchy marks are. I was too excited to take a picture to wait until the paint was dry!

If I had been making this cart all by myself (my original intention), it would be wobbly and half done, I would be frustrated, and it would sit unfinished in the garage taking up space for maybe a year or two before I would get tired of looking at it and break it down or throw it out. But thanks to Dave, who knows when I need a hand, Josie and I have a beautiful little cart. 

Now all we need is an event to take it to, and you'll see pictures of the full effect: garb, dog, lantern -- the works!