Our new life

Our stuff arrived a couple of weeks ago. It’s almost all unpacked and put away, save the books. Those require buying bookshelves, which requires some things to happen, like getting paid, getting moving expenses reimbursed, getting all of the deposits and whatnot back from our Texas life. Hopefully, there will be enough for a new couch!

Kevin is off teaching and settling into his new job well. I had high hopes for being a hausfrau, but work stuff has come up, and I’ve been swamped the whole time we’ve been in Savannah. Good in that it’s extra pay, a little disappointing because I had grand ideas of homemaking. Learning to make bread and having bluebirds help me get dressed in the morning will have to wait…

My wrist is still a mess, but insurance starts next week, so maybe I can get in some PT sessions to help knock out the problem (and hopefully continue to avoid surgery). I tempted fate and spent about ten minutes doing a little bit of simple sewing to test something and was in serious pain for a day and a half. So….all of my medieval arts are still out of the question. Mostly. I think I could do a little herb gardening, which I’m terribly excited about. It’s mild here and rains often, so I think I’ll have far more success than I did in Texas. It will be nice to have fresh herbs again! The giant basil plant I grew last year was wonderful to have around.

I’m playing with some simple collage journaling since it’s really easy on my hands and still pretty creative. I’m also back in the swing of interior design, which I haven’t done in years, even though I went to school for it. Having a new house and new life to prepare for is really fun, but designing spaces and homes is much more rewarding when you have a nice budget to work with. I’m trying to stay positive and not be disheartened by my half-empty box fortress house.

Once we’re a little more settled, I’m looking forward to hosting some crafts nights at the house, having people over, and maybe getting around to working with medieval cooking possibilities.

Summer Update

I’m still broken, but the wrist is definitely healing. It’s just going to take 5-6 months instead of a couple. Super frustrating to not have my creative outlets to de-stress, but I’m surviving by carrying sticky googly eyes in my purse and putting them in unexpected places. This is the most creative thing I’ve gotten to do:10464172_10203306980209058_7356033589910722038_n

 

It’s calabacitas rellenas – hollowed out squash stuffed with chopped seasoned pre-cooked meat in sauce (like enchilada sauce), covered with cheese, and popped into the oven. It’s delicious. It’s fast. It’s pretty healthy interior Mexican food that my husband actually likes, and best of all, I can make it without serious access to specialty ingredients that are everywhere in Texas and scarce in Georgia.

While we’re on the topic of delicious, I have found the most delicious tea for iced tea ever – providing you like chocolate and mint. I Brew What I Want tea is Loki themed, and it is so much greater than the sum of its parts would suggest. It’s mostly green tea with peppermint and some black cream tea, so you are free to drink vast quantities of it during the day and not be too wired on caffeine. Get some. (It’s probably fantastic hot, too. I just haven’t been motivated to put it to the test yet…)

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Summer is whizzing by, and it’s hard to believe that we’re going to be in the car on our way to Georgia in 11 days. I found a house I like a lot, and got to spend a week in Savannah getting to know my new city. It’s beautiful! And on the ocean! Check it out – beach, great old houses, amazing trees covered with moss… We lucked out in the professor job lottery big time. This is way more to my liking than New England.

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I broke myself

I finished out the reign’s final few weeks of work in an ever-increasing amount of pain. It seems that a full day in front of a computer for work followed by coming home to do handwork or calligraphy until one or two in the morning every single day for the better part of a year is bad for the nerves and soft tissues of the wrist and hand. So I’m strapped into a brace and forbidden from doing basically anything remotely artistic for at least two months. It’s maddening, and it’s only been a couple of weeks, which may not even count towards my months of rest because I was still doing things I could physically achieve while wearing the brace, like knitting! This is also forbidden, and I am a bad patient.

In the midst of this, we are packing to move away and doing a lot of travel. Just got pack from Paris last week, then we’re off to Alaska in June, to Savannah in July to find a place to live, then on the road to move at the close of July! In lieu of work I’m doing since it is forbidden, I’ll be sharing some of the photos of wonderful art and decorative objects of the Middle Ages we saw in Paris and the research they’re inspiring. I took the opportunity to focus on details of 15th c. costuming and things like patterning motifs from carvings that will translate well in calligraphic work, embroidery, and such.

Burgundian – why doesn’t anyone around here wear it?

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For the number of manuscripts and portraits out there featuring Burgundian gowns, it always surprises me that I see so few of them on people at events. They have the princess hats, they’re kind of the official mental picture of what medieval ladies wore, and they seem like they shouldn’t be that hard to put together. Maybe it’s just Ansteorra and our logical objections to wearing so many layers.

Maybe there’s a big secret I don’t know about why they’re awful – a friend did suggest that nobody wears them because they’re tied up with the post-plague aesthetic for making sure women look like they could be pregnant. However, people wear bliaut dresses with the belts doubled over, and that definitely makes all but the very thinnest among us look pregnant. My best guess is that we’re not entirely sure how they go together, so wearing them is fraught with “I’m doing it wrong and look dumb” anxiety. I get that – I look pretty dumb in this picture, but it’s from my first year, and people let me slide a lot on things. Although, that hennin is made with an Ikea lampshade, and some women were just thrilled with it. I felt good at the time, but now I’m embarrassed by it.

Fabric is a big deal when it comes to the 15th century. It looks like people live in clouds of fabric and have dresses so long you wonder how they walk anywhere. Maybe people get intimidated by the fact that fabric drape matters an awful lot for something like this and it’s a higher yardage count than many other styles of dress. Why does it matter so much? Just check out this picture of me in a hand-me-down Burgundian… It’s upholstery fabric, which has no real drape, so it creates unnecessary bulk. I’m cool with looking a little bit pregnant, but I’m not ok with looking like a circus tent. In all fairness, I’m not wearing the right stuff under it, I used the wrong thing for lacing rings, and they all popped open and ran away by the end of the night, and I think the belt would have helped a little. But… This would have worked far better in a nice mid-weight wool that could gather and drape without being bulky. The wisdom of experience!

These questions bother me a lot because it’s the style I’m most drawn to when I look through art. I really love the idea of pursuing a full wardrobe and set of skills for the time and place of my persona, but I don’t do that because I get daunted by making Burgundian gowns. Same goes for houppelandes for almost the exact same reason. Nobody wants to splurge on fabric when they’re reasonably sure they’re going to wind up not looking as good as they could have if they’d stuck with something simpler.

N8470041_JPEG_25_25DM - cropToday, I found this tree full of people, and it made me notice some things that would remove some barriers that keep people from making the gowns – namely the one where the materials used are silk and velvet and fur. Just look at the variety in this tree full of women dressed in the Burgundian style (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Français 202, fol. 9r). There are six hat styles, two varieties of dresses, and some interesting details re: the dress linings, collars, and the triangle parts across the bust. A couple look to be lined in fur, a couple in a contrasting fabric. Some have the plain black placket across the bust, but one has a red one with gold spiral lacing across it. Some backs look to be scooped lower than others.

Cursory research will show you a lot of conflict over each of these details, and while each argument has merit, I think they make for a lot of unnecessary worry about making the dress. While there are plenty of examples of these dresses being absurdly luxurious (heavy silk lined entirely in fur!), we have plenty more examples of them being worn by women of all social classes with a fair bit of variety. A placket pinned across the bust would account for all of those nearly identical necklines, but so would a dress underneath (ah, the kirtle… you make everything make sense).

It’s a dress that evolved from the houppelande, and you need to understand that for things to start clicking and stop worrying. What I’m talking about here is making clothes to wear, not making them for A&S projects. You’re on your own for A&S, kids. You should read Mistress Mathilde Bourette’s amazing presentation, Discovering the 15th Century V-Neck Gown: The Sexiest Bathrobe You’ll Ever Wear. She takes a lot of the mystery out of construction, has a ton of pictures, and is funny.

Having read through that, I feel like I could make myself a nice gown in something like wool, line it in a nice, heavy linen, and try starting out wearing 15th century styles for cooler weather or indoor events. They’re dramatic and romantic, even if they’re not exactly the most practical things to pack up and take to war. Maybe if I wear them, other people will start wearing them too.

New books!

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For Christmas, my parents and in-laws cleaned out my Amazon wish lists. I have an unexpected blessing of research materials and inspirations for scribal work and for costuming. Here’s a sampling:

Introduction to Manuscript Studies: this is a textbook for medieval studies that will answer just about every question I think I’ve ever had about understanding manuscripts and historical calligraphy – all the rules and abbreviations and explanations about the how’s and why’s of their manufacture, study, and interpretation. If you spend a lot of time poring over manuscripts in your research, this is a very handy book to have around.

Dress in Anglo-Saxon England: you can’t tell how thick this book is from the photo, but it’s quite the volume covering 5th-11th c. English costume from a variety of perspectives. Textiles, existing finds, garments, construction, social classes and anthropological roles of clothing, and information for those wishing to reconstruct them are all covered. What I know of these, the clothing is economical and easy to construct but elegant when properly fitted and given to being ornamented with embroidery and woven trim. A very good thing. I’m really looking forward to our move in the summer because I might have time to really dig in to this. I’ve read her research in some other books, and it was wonderful, revelatory work that brought some joy back into the drudgery of sewing.

French Illuminated Manuscripts in the J. Paul Getty Museum: this is a rich pictorial guide to some of the finest French manuscripts in the Getty’s collection. The photos are much better and larger than their online resources, and there are more images from some of the really cool manuscripts I’ve been wanting to see.

Inkle Weaver’s Pattern Directory: I’ve been trying to get my head around inkle patterns and weaving since it’s so speedy. This book has 400 patterns and has a spiral binding inside a hard cover so that it lays nice and flat while you work with it. The instructions are clear and easy, and there are things of all sorts of widths and complexities in here. Now, I just need to sort my loom out (grrr) so that I can make up yards and yards of splendid trim that I can put all over all sorts of things.

Crewel owl redo

I can’t get over disliking some choices I made on the owl, so I traced it again and started over. Ah, hindsight…

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A narrower color palette, more careful stitch effects, and a little more attention to detail are making me happier with this one so far. The owl design (and the deer before it) are from Urban Threads, which has both machine and hand embroidery patterns. I like a lot of the designs – they’re modern and more sophisticated than most needlework stuff available – and, best of all, their hand embroidery patterns are $1 apiece.

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I’ve got miles and miles of silk trim

The more I learn about construction methods, materials, and embellishment of Norse clothing, the more I fall in love with it. I think it’s the first style of clothing where I really enjoy the patterning and sewing process. I got a big stack of books from UT’s fine arts library and have been learning a lot.

Like that they used silk to trim garments rather than for whole cloth construction. They’d even unravel fabric for the fibers to weave trim! I have a fair bit of silk in rich, earthy colors left over from making fancy pillows for my mom. Not enough to make anything with, but too much to toss out. Turns out it’s perfect for cutting into endless strips to trim out the array of Norse clothes I’m churning out for our cold weather eventing season. Look at how gorgeous this coat is! Simple construction, simple running top stitch over the seams, but that silk makes it really special. I am all about garments with fast, simple construction that you can make look really stellar with an easy improvement.

 

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This seemed like a really good idea before I thought through how much measuring, cutting, and sewing it’s going to be for the husband’s new coat (he’s 6’8″). Or for the full skirts I favor. Blergh. It’s easier than weaving, though! And a heck of a lot cheaper than buying trim. We’ll see how the bias cut bits do after my little bias tape maker nozzle things come from Amazon.

Last night, I stitched some of the straight cut strips together to start binding the raw seams on Kevin’s coat. UGH you guys. This polar fleece lining is going to be the death of me. It was way too much for the silk to deal with and the strips were too narrow, and it took me over an hour to seam rip out one side of the coat front to get the silk off. The fleece is hell to sew through and puffy, so where the silk was too tightly stretched, it ripped like paper. Plain hems it is for that mess.

I’m going to try using them on the wool coat I made for myself. It’s much less bulky and evil. I definitely know that they’ll work well on linen and lighter wool. The main thing I learned is that I really need to not make a whole bunch of tiny stitches close together like a sewing machine makes since that essentially makes a perforated line for easy tearing. The tension shouldn’t be too tight either. It’s definitely something where I will try a scrap of silk and a scrap of ground fabric and adjust the settings on my machine before beginning on the garment.

 

The quest for SCA shoes

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SCA shoes are a conundrum. Period shoes are often incredibly uncomfortable, especially at busy events and wars where I easily walk a few miles a day. And they’re expensive. Peri-oid shoes are more comfortable and affordable, but they usually look wrong, won’t accommodate socks, and don’t stand up to a lot of standing and walking. I’m on entourage for the current reign, which means a lot of standing. One weekend on bad shoes and it was time to find a fix that works.

And then the light shone down and I found these: Alegria shoes. They’re professional shoes (read: for nurses, teachers, and hospitality industry people) that give great support for backs, knees and joints by molding to the shape of your foot, a la Birkentstocks. But they have a layer of memory foam so they feel good. The soles are too thick to look properly medieval, but they are slip resistant and curve gently up at the toe so you don’t trip yourself up when you’re moving quickly. They hold socks, have replaceable footbeds, a nice wide toe box like 15th c. shoes, and work with and without socks.

Save your pennies and pick some up. They make shoes for men and women – including boots! The pair I’m wearing is called Brown Magic and cost me $120. If they save me the need to hit the chiropractor a couple of times or a single massage, then they’ve paid for themselves.

King’s Gauntlets: Color

White on beige was boring me to death, so I started in on the red. I know that every hour I spend stitching is progress, but filling in the background goes faster than the white leaves and makes me feel like I’m finally getting somewhere on this! I may be procrastinating doing the goldwork for the V…

I think these are going to turn out wonderfully well in the end. I got great tips on this kind of finer embroidery and on making it ready for applique at the Laurel’s Prize Tournament this past weekend. Gotta love being able to avoid pitfalls before you even knew they existed…

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