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.