Sunday, December 28, 2014

Further Hobbitses!

As the Hobbit party draws nearer, I realized I wasn't happy with the dark blue pinwale corduroy I had chosen for a cloak. I lined it with red satin and it's pretty, but it hasn't got that hobbit-y feel to it. It's too fancy. Back in the stash closet, I found a moss green wool, and by luck it coordinated beautifully with a jacquard trim I had picked up from the sale bin just a few days before for a dollar! By turning the hem up and covering the raw edge with the ribbon, I saved sewing time and put this together very quickly. 

I made the hood nice and deep, with a tassel on the end. I braided it, but I'm not sure about that, so I might undo it. There is a tiny brass bell tied into the tassel as well, for just a little jingle. Very merry! 

The closure at the neck is made from leather I stamped with acorns and a deer-hoof stamp on the border. I cut two buttons from one of my stash antlers, polished them with a little beeswax, and stitched them on. The leather buttonholes are a bit stiff, so I just slip it on over my head.

Next time I'll post my tutorial on how to make Hobbit feet!

Monday, December 22, 2014


A quickie project, this one was the result of finding just the right soft cozy flannel in the remnants bin at the fabric shop. For 58 cents, I couldn't pass it up -- it was the perfect color to make a little stuffed fox.

No pattern; I just kinda cut what I thought looked right and stitched it by hand while watching Christmas movies on Netflix. Embroidered eyes and nose, and a quickly crocheted sweater, and I was done.

He wasn't made for any particular reason or person, so I asked around my circle of friends and the next day he was off in the mail as a little gift for a friend's baby. I hope he's well-loved and provides lots of comfort and cozies.


Finally a little something I can show you, to prove I'm still making things-- but without ruining any holiday gift surprises.

Some friends of ours have recently returned home from a trip to New Zealand, and to mark the occasion (and the holidays) they are throwing a "New Year's Party of Special Magnificence" with a Hobbit theme. We just saw the movie a day or two ago, so I already was percolating with costuming ideas, but then to have this party come up -- well, it didn't take much to fan my enthusiasm into a flame!

New Year's isn't that far off, and I knew I wouldn't have time to cut out a fresh dirndl pattern, not to mention find appropriate fabrics. I wanted to use my stash as much as possible, and keep my spending to a minimum.

My starting point was a tweed vest I picked up at thrift for four dollars. It had a nice English look to it and I knew that pairing it with a skirt would save me having to fit a bodice.

I had a few yards of red wool in my stash (with the thrift price tag still attached: $5.99!) so I cut a simple gored skirt and whipped it up on my machine before dinnertime. I handstitched the hem because I think it looks better than a machined hem.  A hook-and-eye closure on the waistband finished the skirt. It looks great, fits perfectly and is quite flattering. As a nice bonus, it's something I could wear as part of my daily wardrobe.

I dug up a muslin chemise I made back before I even started this blog, shortened the sleeves with some red contrast stitching, and it became the perfect underblouse for my outfit.

The last bit I made was the apron. I used a cut off end from an old gold linen tablecloth. I used the finished edges to save me having to hem, pleated it, and used a bit of red hem facing folded over to finish the top and make the ties. A scrap of jacquard ribbon from my workbasket gave the apron an extra Hobbit-y touch.

So here's what I came up with and made in one night -- that's right, in about five hours!

First draping. I have red linen here for the skirt, but once I started measuring, there wasn't enough to make the skirt as full as I wanted to. The dark blue velveteen is going to be a hooded cloak, but I haven't got that made yet. That's tomorrow's project.

Getting there! The chemise sleeves still need to be cut back and stitched, but you can definitely see where I'm headed.

Done and done. So cheerful, and so comfortable! I just love it, and I know it'll be a big hit at the party. Stay tuned for next time, when I'll show you the cloak and a few other things I've made lately.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Swirly stitches!

In between holiday gifts I'm working on and the huge pile of tack I'm cleaning for clients, I haven't got much to show you this week. I am keeping busy making things, though! Here's something I can share:

I've discovered a yarn goldmine that thrills my thrifty little heart-- the local shop sells one pound bags of "mill ends" for $8. Mill ends are factory leftovers, so there's not much choice if you're looking for something particular, but I tend to go in with an open mind and have found some really nice stuff! My happiest find was a worsted-weight fiber in shades of blue, teal, and purple. I got five skeins in my one pound bag, and when I got it home and did a burn test, I found I was right -- it was wool! (Possibly a blend with another natural fiber. There was no melting, and it self-extinguished quickly.)  Soft and light, it was just what I had been looking for to make myself a little lap blanket.

I've been working the whole thing in half-double crochet, and I really like the swirly look -- it makes me think of ripples in water, or waves, or the aurora borealis.

The flash washed it out a little bit, but I wanted you all to be able to see the swirling stitches. Since this one is for me, I only work on it now and then between other (more important) gift projects. I was hoping it would be about four feet square when I got done, but I've just started my third skein and it's only about twenty inches wide. I'm definitely going to need another bag of that yarn. I hope I can find another one in the bins. If not, what will I do?? Probably fill in the middle with something that matches and then finish the end with another band of this wool, I guess. But I hope I don't have to!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Monk's Hood

Well, that was easy. This simple pattern took two nights, and would have only taken one but I ran out of yarn had to go get another skein.  My brain has this weird idea that one skein of any given yarn, provided it's of a standard size, should be plenty for any small project, especially if it's thick. Which is ridiculous, of course!

I didn't have a pattern per se for this project. I was still learning my stitches, so this is just a simple repetition of single crochet, skip a stitch, single crochet, skip, etc until it's what you want. I determined the length of my foundation chain by looping it around my neck until it felt about the right size. (As you can guess, I'm a very precise person.) The yarn is from the Deborah Norville line of Serenity Chunky Weight, a color called "After Dark". The picture of it on me is very close to the true color -- for once my camera didn't play up!

It's soft as anything, and warm without being heavy. I'm very pleased with it.

And now that it's November, you may notice my entries here becoming less frequent. This is not because I've stopped making things -- goodness, no-- but because the things I'm making are going to be gifts for the holidays, and I don't want to spoil any surprises!  I've still got my Manuscript Challenge tunic to work on, along with any number of little things I'll want to share with you, so it's not like I'm going to disappear.  I hope you also will have interesting, lively things to keep you busy during these cold times. Go have a cup of cocoa and I'll talk to you later!

Friday, October 31, 2014

(Insert crochet pun here)

Fall has arrived with a vengeance and for the last two weeks every day has been pretty much the same: grey and gusty, with rain -- sometimes real deluges, drumming on the roof and turning the streets to rivers. It's cold and nasty and when I get home from work each night, all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a blanket and a cup of cocoa and watch The Simpson's Halloween marathon on tv.

The MC tunic still needs a neckhole and one sleeve and gore attached, but (blame it on the rain) I've been crocheting instead. There's just something so cozy about working with wool. I've discovered that while I'm not a particular fan of crochet with standard yarn and a size H hook (which every beginner book told me was the perfect place to start) but if I have a nice chunky yarn, like Lion's "Jiffy" and a giant hook, it's much easier for me to see what I'm doing and oh my goodness, I took off like crazy.

I used up a few scraps left over from nalbinding to hone my nascent skills, and then I hit the craft shop because I wanted to make a saddle pad for my horse. You know, one of those easy, small, starter projects. When I realized how many skeins of Jiffy I was going to need (at $6 a skein!) and started looking for something a little cheaper, especially as I wasn't sure how it would turn out! I found Collegiate yarn in a big bin, only $8 for a skein the size of my head! I bought two in bright red and scampered home in the rain to make my start.

And you guys, it turned out great! I worked it in the round in what I thought was a single crochet. Later I learned that my "single crochet" was actually a slip stitch. Whups! But it worked up nice and thick and the diamond pattern is attractive, so I'm pleased with it.

Later when I tried it with the saddle, I discovered that even though it was the same dimension as the saddle pad I normally use, there's something in the property of crochet that is different. I need to make it two inches wider, and two inches shorter. That means tearing it all apart and starting over. (I know you're thinking "Couldn't you just give it a turn on the horse's back and use it that way?", but the answer is no. Then it's an  even worse fit.)  Good thing I don't mind repetitive tasks. It only took me three evenings to finish as is, and it's not like the rain will be stopping any time soon.

I started looking online for simple patterns; easy projects I could finish in a day or so using new stitches and techniques. Dave picked out the next skein (Collegiate again, because you get so much for the price!), a purple, grey, and black variegated yarn and I said I'd make him a scarf. That's when I discovered that I am just awful at turning corners! All raggedy-looking and uneven, ugh.

So I decided I'd go back to working in the round again and make an infinity scarf -- just a big loop you wind around your neck. I didn't notice that I'd gotten a twist in my starting chain but it turned out in my favor because I didn't have to count rows, a huge plus! I was crocheting a mobius strip! I did about eight rows of single crochet, then one row of half-double crochet, one row of double crochet, and I was done. Looking at the picture, you can see the way the pattern reverses itself in the center of the scarf, but I think it looks great. Not very masculine (sorry, Dave!)  but a nice learning piece and it'll make a good gift for someone.

So that's what I've been up to this week. Tonight is Halloween but I don't think we'll be getting many trick-or-treaters if this foul weather continues. I'll be finishing up a "Monk's Hood" cowl I'm making for myself from a soft, thick, forest green skein with a single crochet, skip stitch pattern. It's halfway done and going well so far, so stay tuned for pictures of that next time.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

MC: The Tunic

Tonight is the season premier of The Walking Dead. Following tradition, we will be attending a watching party hosted by our friends. As I can't sit still and watch tv without some busywork in my hands, I decided to begin the tunic portion of my Manuscript Challenge.

It's a pretty straightforward pattern, with three main parts: body, sleeves, and gores. I based my style on this Dalmatic tunic (click the bottom text to see the pattern) although my sleeve insets are square, not rounded, and my neckline doesn't have that little tail on it.

When we dyed this fabric, my friend pointed out a few spots where the dye hadn't taken as well for whatever reason. (Yes, this is the same fabric! Amazing what different lighting can do to a camera.) I tried to work around those few spots, or place there where they'd be least noticeable, but there was just nothing for it when it came to this sleeve -- the spot was going to be right in the middle of it. I compared both sides of the fabric and decided that the one side was less noticeable than the other, so that will help, and I'll be sure to place it so the spot is on the back of the arm and not the front. Thank goodness I'll have that flashy cloak to command all the attention; no one will notice these few pale spots. I hope.

The store didn't have much to offer in the way of silk thread. This blue doesn't match exactly, but it's very close. Notice how the fabric color is again very different from the other pictures!

The color in real life is an almost perfect match to the inspiration picture, so let's end with that image again here. Next you'll see of this tunic is when it's put together and I start the gold work for the sleeves and hem.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Quickie Project: Jodhpurs!

With Steamposium fast approaching and the local thrift chain stores full of costumes, inspiration is everywhere and I'm all too easy to sidetrack into little demi-projects. Yesterday I found a pair of vintage 1951 military field pants for six dollars that I thought could easily be made into a pair of jodhpurs.

Jodhpurs are those puffy-legged pants you see on British adventurers of a certain era, or old-school equestrians, or 1930s movie directors with megaphones. Like this:

Like a lot of vintage pants, they are high-waisted, sitting at the natural waist instead of the hips. That's what made the field pants I found so great -- they had a generous rise and fit at the waist.  They were also full through the seat and thighs, which I hoped would be enough to give that poofy look without me having to set in gores or anything.  I didn't get any "before" pictures because I was too excited and started cutting, but here's a link to a pair exactly the same, and a picture in case the link dies.

I put them on and marked with chalk where my knee was and pinned along my calf to how tight I wanted the lower legs to fit.

I left the inseam alone and only removed fabric from the outside edge, to keep a more finished look. I basted the path I intended to cut and sew to make sure of the fit before proceeding and then, with crossed fingers for luck, I cut out and stitched the new outer leg seam. I left five inches of the cuffs entirely alone so I could figure out a buttoned flap to fasten the cuffs snugly.

They're not perfect-- I think I may take them a little higher up the knee -- but the fit is good, and when I put my hands in the pockets, they "poof" correctly. They could be a little fuller, but I'm not going to mess with that. They're fine for costume wear, and that's what I intend them for, so it's a good effort.

The nice thing about jods is their versatility. You can dress them up with a shirt and jacket, or down with a undershirt. Just like jeans, I guess. I tried a few things from my wardrobe to see how they looked.

I've also learned that snapping selfies with the timer gives me enough time to strike a pose, but not enough to work up a smile. Don't I look serious? Any suggestions on what to wear with my jods? Put them in the comments. Thanks!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Boy Makes It, too!

I have a son ("The Boy") and he makes music. Thought I'd post his new EP here for my friends to listen to. What a talented family I have! 

Seattle Steamposium 2014

This year's steampunk convention, the Steamposium, is next Saturday --a week away!-- and so I've brought out my outfit and checked to see if it needs any mends or freshening after hanging in the closet for a year.

Except for taking the waist by an inch (yay!) everything looks good. Then I remembered how last year I couldn't take off my jacket because *confession*  I had finished the skirt's waistband with pale green bias tape. (I was in a hurry, okay? I always meant to do it properly, but there's a lesson for you: do it right the first time!) The leather belt I threw around my waist to keep my skirt my from sliding down and to try to cover up the green didn't do a proper job and so I had to keep my jacket on and buttoned up so no one could see my shameful shortcut.

The ubiquitous steampunk corset is a trope I was trying avoid, sticking to my mantra of "No corset, no goggles, no pointless gears." I mean, let's show a little creativity, folks. Besides that, corsets never give me a proper curvy waistline; I'm built like a tree trunk. They just make me look like a fancier tree trunk.  I decided a wide belt would suit my needs and after considering leather I decided to see what I could do with scraps from my stash. It took me three hours on the sewing machine, cutting a modified version of my original corset pattern from a brocaded satin with a canvas backing for strength, nylon stays, and crimson velveteen binding. Six grommets fit out the back and a piece of black ribbon ties it all together, though I may change that for a bootlace or similar for easier tightening.

Here it is on Imogene. She's not got a squishy waist like mine, so I don't have it snug, but you can see the effect of it.  I've got the jacket flipped back so you can see most of it.

Mostly I'm going to have my jacket buttoned and no one will see the belt at all, but if I get hot it will be nice to be able to shrug it off, roll up my shirtsleeves, and not worry about anyone catching a peep of that green bias tape.

I'm thinking there will be a little more decoration on that belt, too -- maybe some buttons with chain swagged between them. We'll see.

I've got almost all the sequins done on the MC cloak, too. Next month I'll start work on the tunic, so stay tuned for that!

Friday, September 12, 2014

MC: Lady Elvis?

It's starting to cool off as fall sets in, which is good, because I can't handle many more 80-degree days sitting with a wool cloak thrown over my knees as I stitch on hundreds of sequins.

Stitching sequins isn't difficult work, but there sure are a lot of them and tying off after each one makes it hard to get into a rhythm. I'm almost out of red thread, too. I figured putting the shinies on this cloak would be a three-evening job at most. Boy, was I wrong.

And the little buggers have a nasty tendency to reflect my sewing light right into my eyes. Dave pointed out the other night that when I shift the cloak on my lap, the sequin reflections dance and swirl on the ceiling, giving an air of late-70s disco to the room. The cats think it's fantastic.

The worst part of it is, I'm not even half done yet! I still have to mark and set the sequins on the other half of the cloak. It's a good thing we've been given a year to finish this challenge. And here I thought I'd be done in no time. Ha! Ha ha!

On the plus side, the cloak looks amazing. I've never seen anything like this at an event, and I'm rather looking forward to showing it off like a medieval Elvis.

Dave asked who I was making this outfit for: myself, him, just to fit Imogene as a display piece, or to sell, or what?  I told him it was for me, of course. Is it odd that my Manuscript Challenge will be cross-dressing? Perhaps I should hire a model that looks a bit more like the guy in the drawing, instead of putting it on my thick-waisted, middle-aged female self. I guess in the time given I could shed a few pounds, but that still won't help when it comes to the beard. Hmm. Something to think about!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

MC: How's it look so far?

Well, I got the spangles in the mail on Friday and I stitched about one-third of them on that night. Not perfectly happy with the result, because the sequins flapped from their single stitch-hole. I bought a tiny hole punch so they can be anchored from two points and I think that will be much more pleasing.

The blue cloth draped there is the raw silk that my friend Sunny Jim helped me dye. I should have taken pictures of that party, but I was too busy stirring my fabric in the dye bath for an hour and a half. It turned out very well, and I think the color (which here looks a little yellowish, darn indoor light) is absolutely perfect. I'm excited to cut my tunic pieces and start stitching!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Armor, argh!

I'm just going to post a few notes about armor I've found so that I can find them all in one place again later.

The first is a picture: "Soldier wearing the lamellar klivanion cuirass and a straight spathion sword. Byzantine fresco of XIII century." 

This has some pretty good detailing; I can see the way the lamellae are laced together. Sort of. I mean, it's tiny, but I can squint... 

And there's some nice-looking stuff on this page. The "Lamellar Armor with Leather Strips" is particularly choice. 

And now I need to get some sleep. How much you wanna bet I dream of armor? Too much!

MC: All we need now is spots.

Finished hemming the cloak last night and put a fastener onto the collar. I'm very pleased with it and eagerly anticipate the arrival of the spangles. I've ordered them from a place in New York that is shipping them Priority, which I think means they should be here within three days. Hopefully they will be in my mailbox by Saturday afternoon, if not sooner. The tracking number on the package tells me where it is, but doesn't give an arrival estimate; very frustrating, haha.

The color is off because of the flash -- really orange-y. The red in the clasp picture is closer to what the actual fabric looks like.

The neck clasp is nothing special, just something I found in my stash. The inspiration picture isn't detailed enough for me to really see what our king has holding the cloth together there, so I used this piece and call it good until someone can offer up a better suggestion.

Tomorrow I'm meeting with a friend who will help me dye my six yards of cream-colored raw silk into a cerulean blue to make the tunic. I wanted to use woad, but couldn't find anyone that had experience to help me and I didn't want to risk spending big money and ruining my fabric. So we're using a fiber reactive procion dye from Dharma. I'm excited to see how it turns out!

A Free e-book!

Elina over at Neulakko has a link to a free download of a PDF e-book about Norse medieval garment reconstruction. This is a wonderful opportunity to add some knowledge to your library, filled with patterns and pictures of extant garments.  I've only glanced through it so far, but it looks amazing!

To get your free e-book download, just visit this page and click the "free book" heading.

Many thanks to Elina for sharing!

Monday, September 1, 2014

MC: Seeing spots!

The spots on the cloak needed a little consideration. Were they colored spots embroidered on? Appliqued circles of fabric? Metal spangles? I did a little sniffing around on Google and found a book called Needlework as Art, by Lady M. Alford. Project Gutenburg has it here. Figure 19 shows a variety of shapes in which laminae of gold were cut and used to adorn clothing. As gold has been used to adorn the clothing of the wealthy since before the time of Christ, I think it is entirely reasonable to interpret the yellow dots on this cape as gold spangles.

I compared the size of the dots to the size of the man's hands and determined that they were approximately an inch wide and set about a hand's-width apart. I drew up a 1" block graph on some typing paper to determine what the spacing on my cloak should look like. The dots are offset, rather than in straight rows, and having this graph would help me determine how many of the shinies I need to order. (It's always more than you think. I have a completely random guess that I'll need about 200. Let's see how close my estimate was, once I get the spacing transferred to the actual fabric. Will I be way off?)

None of the local shops have sequins this large (30mm) so I'm ordering them online as soon as I get an accurate count -- allowing a few extra, of course, for the ones that hide themselves in the couch cushions while I'm sewing and to have replacements on hand for the future. 

Next weekend I may be meeting with a friend to dye the raw silk for the tunic. I'm very excited about that, and it's hard not to talk about it, but I'm saving that for an entry all on its own. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: I need 325 sequins! And of course they come in packets of 300, so I had to order two packets and will have a LOT left over. If anyone needs some big gold sequins, just holler. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Manuscript Challenge (MC): The cloak begins!

We have to start somewhere, and that gold-spangled cloak just would not wait. Based on the way it hangs, I believe it to be a half-circle cloak, so that is what I cut out of the red twill-weave wool from my stash. It will be unlined, except for a facing of red linen at the neckline -- a bit of artistic license to help the wool keep its shape and not become stretched out where it clasps at the throat.

The gold spangles are on order from Amazon and should be here soon. I'm using 30mm sequins and placing them approximately four inches apart. Stay tuned for that, but for now, a picture of the cloak hanging on Imogene, looking very similar in drape to the inspiration. I still need to hem the bottom. The front edges are cut on the selvage so they don't need to be turned and stitched.

I think it's a nice start.

Friday, August 29, 2014

It's a Lady's Prerogative to Change Her Mind.

I know it's foolish, and I know I'm setting myself up for a big headache, but doggone it, I cannot stop thinking about the Armenian king's outfit that I decided against in favor of the brown robe.  That brown robe and blue hood-- I've made oodles of things similar to that. There's no real challenge there, not really. But that Armenian king?  Look at him! 

That polka-dot robe! That chest armor! The blue tunic with gold trim! Seriously, the only thing that prevented me from choosing this for my challenge was the blue tunic, because I don't have any blue fabric. But today as I was trying to work up enthusiasm for the brown robe, I suddenly remembered the six yards of raw silk I have in a drawer. It's cream-colored, and it would be so very easy to dye it blue. The words "raw silk tunic" made me shiver with delight. So I've changed my challenge -- I'm going to go with the king, there, and we'll see how that goes! Good thing I have a year! 

Thursday, August 28, 2014


I have found my inspiration for the Manuscript Challenge. It took a lot longer than I thought it would. I wanted something different from what I normally make but I didn't want to get too intricate for fear of frustration/losing interest halfway. I looked through thousands of pictures online and in books. Here are some of the things I considered.

Anything in this picture would have been good. I was looking for things that I could make out of fabrics already in my stash, so the brown tunic and red stockings of the shepherd caught my eye. I figured I could do a blue overdye on some red wool to make the purple for the hood -- I read that was sometimes done back in the day to imitate the expensive purple that only the wealthy could afford to wear. But tunics and hoods are pretty basic, so I decided I'd keep looking.

This fellows jaunty red and green outfit with tan hose was another option. But again, it's just a tunic, really, and that's too easy.
In case you're wondering, yes, that critter is biting off his testicles. Although it looks like a wolf, it's actually meant to be a beaver. They were hunted for their testicles, which were said to have medicinal purposes. The crafty beaver, when pursued, would bite off his man-bits and leave them behind. The hunter, having gotten what he was after, would stop the chase. See how that fellow in red is holding testicles? See how the critter at the top of the page is scampering painfully away? Pure malarkey, of course. But it makes for an interesting discussion with your children at the museum.

This was me being a little silly. I thought it might be a laugh to make dragon pants for myself and top it with a tunic. From what I've read in various places, half-human, half-animal portrayals like this were meant to represent either demons or foreigners who were not Christians, their primitive beliefs betrayed by their animalistic, not-quite-human shapes. Travel over long distances in this time was rare for the common rural man, and a great deal of artistic license was taken by scribes to portray the people and animals that existed in faraway lands. I still might make this outfit someday. Imagine me showing up at Camlann in it!

This one was a strong temptation. That Armenian king looks awesome! What stopped me? Well, I haven't enough blue wool, so I'd have to buy some. I want to avoid that, since I have a closet full of perfectly nice wool I'd like to use up -- just not blue, since I made that last dress. The gold armor I was going to recreate in leather, and shine up with a little gold Rub'n'Buff, but I'd have to buy leather to have enough, and so I set this picture aside for another time.

Finally I chose this fellow in light brown. It's from a "comic strip" panel telling the story of St George and the Dragon. The robe of caramel-colored wool is generously cut with wide sleeves that ends in a snug cuff. There's a border at the cuffs and bottom hem that looks like a band of different material with an embroidered design. I'll probably make the border on the hood a less ornate version of the hem and cuff.

Okay, that's it for now. I need to figure out my pattern next, making sure to stay within the amount of fabric I have -- which may be more of a challenge than finding the perfect picture was!  Stay tuned!

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Manuscript Challenge

Maria of In Deme Jare Christi has put forth a challenge in which some of the bloggers I read are participating, and I think I'd like to join in the fun as well. It's called the Manuscript Challenge. The object is to choose a picture from the time period given and recreate a complete outfit from that picture.

Thank goodness I have a year to work in and a stash full of wool and linen yardage. I just need to find a picture with the colors I have available and I'm all set.

Here are the rules (in English) if you also want to take part.  And here is the Facebook page if you want to join officially and see everyone else's progress. You'll see me there, hopefully not embarrassing myself!

Stay tuned as I search for the perfect picture/outfit.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Aaaaaah! The anachronism!

I stopped watching Downton Abbey after the first season, because the stupid butler and ladies maid were so mean and conspiring that I just couldn't stand it. Maybe I'm just not cut out for modern drama shows; everyone is so mean or else naked. It's a problem. I much prefer the old 1970s BBC version of Upstairs, Downstairs.

A promotional picture from the upcoming season of DA was released recently and got a lot of attention for a glaring slip-up.  See it?

Egad! A plastic bottle on the mantlepiece! I hope the housemaid knows how to remove water stains from marble.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A foxy tote

Our town recently made plastic shopping bags illegal, so everyone is making the shift to reusable bags. I decided to make a nifty bag for myself so I would be more inclined to remember it and use it.

I had a piece of heavyweight bright orange linen that I wanted to use up. I got it at thrift (of course) for about three dollars, and it sat in a drawer for about a year because I kind of hate the color orange and I couldn't think of a single thing I wanted to make with it. Once I decided on that color, I got excited about fall and foxes. Then I found the perfect picture, and things just fell into place.

The perfect picture to work from.
I don't know who the artist is, but I would love to give them proper credit,
so if you know, please speak up! 

I don't do a lot of applique; this is maybe the third project of the sort I've ever done. Of course I had to find a really tricky, multi-layer image to work with, because I'm a sucker for punishment or something. I struggled a bit with how to transfer the picture to fabric before I suddenly realized I could just transfer it onto the fusible interfacing and then things just fell into place, literally. So here's what I've got so far:

Figuring out the layers and fabrics. "Fat quarters" from the craft shops quilting section were a big help, and I used some wool scraps that were in my stash.

The finer details, outlining, and face will be sewn in soon. I can't decide what color to make the rosehip-type flowers. In the original picture, they are gold, and I wonder if they won't be lost in the orange background. Hmm. We'll see.

I'm very pleased with the handles. I cut them out of leather and rolled and stitched them with sinew. Brass screwed fasteners hold them in place. Deluxe, and comfortable in the hand.

Yeah, I should probably have made him a little bigger. He's still very smart-looking, though, even without a proper face.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Now We Are Three.

I missed it by a few weeks, but it needs to be mentioned, even if I'm a bit late: "Wenny Makes It!" is pleased to celebrate three years of sharing creative adventures with you all! 

Thank you for reading, thank you for your comments, thank you for encouragement, advice, and sharing your own creative triumphs. Let's keep it up for another year, shall we? Yes!

A nice tunic solves everything.

As I've said in recent posts, I love Camlann Medieval Village. They have a terrific location, the look and feel of the place is very inviting, clean, and period-appropriate, and the people are friendly. Going there is a treat, but...

You knew there was going to be a "but", didn't you. I just have one thing I'd like to discuss.

Right as you enter the town gate, there's a clothier. To quote the website: "Here mayest thou rent medieval clothing to wear while during thy visit to Camlann.", and there are many visitors, mostly children, who take advantage of this opportunity to dress up. The great majority of the clothing offered looks like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Disney character clothing: synthetic fabrics, velvet cloaks, and princess dresses abound.

Children love dressing up, and I believe that young visitors would be happy to dress in a linen tunic. Clothing was just as important back then as it is now, and talking about the clothing that people wore would be educational and interesting to kids. A tunic would easily go over (and cover) the child's modern clothes. Add a simple belt and a hood or hat and you have a very nice outfit.

I feel they're doing kids a huge disservice by providing fantasy costumes instead of period clothing. It would be akin to the inn serving "ye olde chicken nuggets" on the menu. If you want to show what the middle ages were like by inviting guests to experience living history, providing nylon capes and plastic crowns is a huge failure.

And this ties in to the other issue I have -- volunteers in odd clothing. The parking lot attendents when we went were wearing modern clothing. That's fine for the parking lot, I suppose, though it would be nice if they had a shirt with "Camlann" or "Staff" on it so they look like they work there. I thought the woman pointing out where to park was just another visitor until she yelled at us.  There were a few volunteers on the archery range that looked like they were wearing LARP fantasy gear: leather tunics with lacing at the neck and tall leather moccasins. There are dresses made out of cotton upholstery fabric. You see a lot of circlets with flowers on them, or tulle draped off the back like a veil. Dave says Camlann's probably just happy to have volunteers and can't really make too many demands on what they wear. But again, by letting them wear these inaccurate clothes, Camlann is presenting a very distorted impression of what the middle ages were like. I can't imagine the people that run Camlann sit around and say "Well, most of our visitors don't know what medieval clothing actually looks like, so it's okay to wear whatever."

Tunics are so easy to make! One can easily be finished in an hour or two if sewn on machine -- I'm not even going to argue that they should be handsewn, that would be awesome but a bit much to expect for loaner costumes, I suppose. I can't think of any reason why there can't be a closet full of assorted tunics provided to make sure that volunteers look reasonably accurate in their portrayals.  This isn't a fun fair-- it's meant to be a living history museum. I think that carries with it a certain obligation for accuracy, and it's up to Camlann to hold to a standard -- especially if they are receiving grants or other financial help by promoting themselves as an educational enterprise.

I've decided I'm going to contact Camlann with my concerns, and see what they have to say. I have a closet full of scrap wool and linen; perhaps I can donate a few tunics to help their clothier offer more period-appropriate choices.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A winner! *Now with bonus pictures!*

of the needlebook and medieval pins! 
Please email me ( with your address so I can send you your prize, Mathilde.

This was a really fun project to put together, and I think the prize was well worth winning. But of course, I would, as I made it! Here's a few pictures of what Mathilde will be receiving in the mail. 

The book itself is made of a thick crimson wool.
The page inside is a lighter-weight navy blue wool, stitched in place with red silk thread. 

Black and pale gold wool are worked for the edge binding,
and a small brass bead tops the tassel for an extra touch of fancy.