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!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Wenny has a party!

Do you ever have so many folds of wool in your stash that you start to feel greedy and that since you have so much, you should give a bunch of it away?

Yeah, me neither.

But I do have a lot, you guys, because of my buying practices. They're not normal. Most people's fabric buying probably goes: get idea, go to fabric store, buy fabric, make item, done. Because I get my fabric from thrift shops, my buying goes more like: see wool on a hanger, buy it, stash it, get idea, check stash for suitable yardage/color, make item, done. So I have a large stash of various sizes, weights, and colors.

It makes my husband crazy; I've almost completely taken over his "man room" with three dressers that have their drawers stuffed with folded fabric. Oh, and there are a dozen or more hangers with more folds hanging in the closet. It's all lovely stuff. Sometimes I go into the closet and just pet it, smoothing my hands over all the yummy wool. I leave the price tags on so I can exult all over again when I pull a piece for a project, eg: "Can you believe I only paid five dollars for this! There's three yards here!"

But things began to reach a critical limit this spring. I brought home five yards of a muted green and when I went to hang it up in the closet, a bolt of plum-colored cotton velveteen and a window fan tried to topple onto me, along with two shoeboxes full of ribbon and bobbins. And I was all out of hangers. And I could barely cram it alongside the others when I stole found a hanger in the bedroom closet.

So I decided to take a drastic measure. I invited eighteen friends to come on over, pick out some wool for themselves, and sit and sew with me for the afternoon. I made a chocolate bundt cake and a pitcher of lemonade. I spent the week leading up to the event gently watering the lawn in the evenings so the grass would be soft and green, not crispy and brown. I set up chairs and small tables under our pop-up and hung the Almighty Boar in place of pride. I set out a big table on the porch with stacks of folded wool, my two thread racks, shoeboxes of notions, scissors and thimbles and measuring tapes. I was all ready and nervous as anything. It was the first "Wenny Makes It -- with YOU!" party!

Two people showed up to make things. But we had such fun! I had planned on providing instruction for a Skjold hood, but my guests wanted to make bags, so they made bags and I worked on a hood for myself. The second round of lemonade had whiskey tipped into it because that's just the way sewing parties go at my place.

Here's Christy, putting a blanket stitched edge on her twill-pattern bag.
(You can see my boar bag by her elbow as an example)
Mayme was a complete novice to hand sewing, and I think she did very well!

My hood, before any of the decorative trim stitching.
The same hood, believe it or not, under indoor lighting. It's dark green with indigo blue trim.

I hope to have another "WMI-with YOU!" party again soon. You should come! (Free wool!)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Horse-y Doo-dads

If there's one thing horse owners like to talk about, it's their horse. "I have a horse..." is not considered a conversation stopper for nothing. Unless of course the person being addressed also has a horse, in which case the yammering begins, each equestrian desperately trying to look like they're paying attention while the other person speaks, while they're really just waiting for a pause to jump in with their own fascinating stories of how doggone cute/troublesome/smart/ their horse is.

I refuse to let my blog become a tiresome parade of horse-y posts. But I do make things for my horse, and since this blog is about me making things, here we go.

I've started using a hackamore on my horse, because I find the vaquero traditions fascinating. I realize most of you are not here looking for that sort of information, but in case you are, there's a very good book by Al Dunning that covers the history and method of proper hackamore horse training. There are three main parts to a hackamore: the bosal, the hanger, and the mecate.

I didn't make any of this; it's simply for illustration.
Bosals are usually made of braided rawhide and take more skill than I currently have, though I'd like to try making one someday.  I bought mine secondhand, and while it's nothing special, I like it and it works. I made my own hanger from latigo leather I had in my stash. The nice thing about it is that there's no hardware: no buckles or clips to fasten. You adjust and knot the leather to fit your horse, and then all you ever have to do is slip it over his nose and ears. Some hangers are just a strip of leather, some are fancied up a bit with braiding or "bleed knots" which is a method of working the leather in and out of slits cut in. I used bleed knots in a traditional design and I'm super happy with the results.

Mecates are traditionally made of horsehair. Modern retailers also offer nylon or cotton rope, which is popular with bright colors and easy care. I tried a nylon one that was gifted to me, and while it was nice and soft and worked okay, I wasn't happy with how slippery it was. My knots kept loosening, which is irritating at best and dangerous at worst. But I didn't have gobs of horsehair to braid, so what to do?  Then I hit on common gardening twine. Reasonably strong, with a rough look that mimicked horsehair -- great idea!

It took about 8 hours of measuring, twisting, doubling, and more twisting, but I finally ended up with a pretty good result. The only problem? It needed to be 22 feet long, and I only made 18 feet. I measured my initial strands out to 25 feet, thinking that three extra feet would be gracious plenty to allow for the twists, but apparently not. It's a beautiful thing, but it needs to be longer. I'd also like it to be a little thicker. I may revisit this once the blister on my index finger from twisting goes away.

Strands in progress... 

Finished mecate! 
Okay, it's WAY past my bedtime, so I'm gonna leave you here. I have more things to update, because it's been a busy couple of days, so check back soon for more stuff -- like pictures from the first Wenny Makes It -- With YOU! Garden Party!