Saturday, August 20, 2016

Post-Pennsic Roundup; or, A Holiday in Cambodia

Disclaimer: we did not have elephants
This year's Pennsic was not as vacation-ish as most are for me.  We were blessed (?) with unusually high heat & humidity, to the tune of heat indices over 105 many days, alternating with monsoon downpours.  I'm not at my best (to put it mildly) in hot, sticky weather, and even less so when one has to be continually on the bounce to prevent the camp from floating away on a muddy river of fail.  And, most years there'll be a couple days like that here or there, which is OK and one can cope, but a steady progression of them is taxing.

Another issue--as noted previously, I had cut out a linen kirtle before leaving and I was bound and determined to get it finished in time to wear it for my Elizabethan Working Clothes class.  Now, if I'd been at home with no job to go to, this probably could have happened; but onsite, while managing a camp of 70 people, in a climate that completely nerfed my concentration...yeah. No.  So for the whole first week I was additionally stressed about a) not working on my dress in that moment, b) how slow I was going when I was working on my dress, or both.  Finally during the middle weekend, I let it go and admitted I wasn't going to get it finished, and I was able to actually start having some fun.  So, lesson learned: I will not take any project to war that I "need" to finish on a deadline.  It's vacation, dammit.

My A&S display, complete with very decorative
Baroness Chief of Staff.  
Thus, the down-sides.  On more positive notes, I taught two classes and I think both went well (even though about five times as many people showed up than I was prepared for); I showed The Big Damn Banner and the Flat Cap of Success at the A&S display, and I think I came off tolerably well; I fit the muslin pourpoint pattern to my client; and I paneled the Big Damn Banner at the Athena's Thimble meeting, where my guildmates honored me with a ranking of period competency in appliqué.  Another lesson learned: few people will do more than glance at a flat cap on its own, but if you display it on top of a skull, at least you'll get a second look and a giggle.

So that all happened; now I need to prioritize projects for the next couple of months.  I think it comes out something like this:

  1. Make up the linen version of the pourpoint commission; which breaks down
    1. make up just the lining, and do another fitting.  Adjust as necessary.
    2. Take a pattern of that version.
    3. Finish it, padding and all, and see how it fits; record all details for when we do the Real One.
  2. Finish the @*$! kirtle.
  3. Make up the partlet I cut out at the last minute and didn't do anything with.
  4. Complete all the lacing holes, and make lacing cords for, my consort's black linen suit.
I'm putting a tentative target date on these tasks of end of September; I think that's not too ambitious, particularly since only the pourpoint should be thinky work.  Though, if it continues being horribly hot, I may have to swap in making braies, hose, and a coif for Himself, so he can wear his Bocksten tunics to events in September with greater comfort.  I'm not trying to plan ahead any further than that at the moment, for the sake of my sanity. Though I'm really kinda hot-and-bothered to make a couple of drawn-thread napkins for our feast gear.

Oh. And. I, um, may have also committed to help create a small schola in Manhattan for sometime next spring.  Which mostly involves calling a lot of places to beg for space that won't cost the earth.  We'll see what happens.
 


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Forward Momentum

On, Teb! On!

As usual, the last couple of weeks before Pennsic pass in a frantic and occasionally gibbering haze; though this year I had the interesting experience of whiplashing between "oh, this is fine, really there isn't that much to do" and "AAAAAAAA I AM DOOMED".  Part of this was a classic own-goal; I spontaneously decided I had plenty of time to rig up a new dress for myself, namely a 1580s petticoat (something I have never made before, let me be clear) and got Beth to fit the bodice for me last Sunday.  

To be fair, I have the construction skills to do this, absolutely.  It's really the same technology as both my gamurra and my Florentine silk dress; it is not rocket science, or at least, the science all happens in the fitting/patterning.  And, a good chunk of it can be done by machine if I can get to that point before we leave.  However!  It's still a time investment and time is something that's in short supply.  Great thinking, Past Me.

Fortunately I got a good way down my checklist before that point.  My dashing consort has another linen Bocksten tunic and a pair of generic linen trousers (which I still experienced a few challenges with, ahem.  Let us just say that they are fashionably low-rise).  I re-did the lining of the Big Muckin' Banner and the pole loop is complete; there's still an issue with pull, which I'm advised is because I recut an old skirt to serve as the lining--a very period thing to do, yes, but it's on the bias which is doing Weird Things; I hope to finagle this with a lot of steam iron. (I may have to give up on the fringe trim, though.)  I have sourced ethically-obtained English magpie feathers to trim the Wee Flat Cap with, and a dozen tiny C-clamps for my tablet weaving class.  We have made approximately 11 lbs. of curries/stews and six dozen hand pies, which are vacuum-sealed and frozen for transport.  And, I have done most of the Land Agent/camp layout fooferaw.  

Drop-dead obligations remaining:
My brain when I think about
my class handout

  • assemble kits for tablet-weaving class (2 hours?)
  • make up muslin of pourpoint (2 hours?)
  • twiddle the banner's documentation (half-hour maybe)
  • write documentation for the flat cap (2-3 hours)
  • write the handout for the working-clothes class (AAAAAAA)

Would Like To Get Done Please Thank You:
  • The New Petticoat, which consists of--
    • pad-stitching the front bodice pieces (...six hours at current rates of work? reducible if I stop watching distracting movies)
    • assemble the bodice fashion fabric (~1 hour by machine)
    • assemble the bodice lining (~1 hour by machine)
    • attach lining to fashion fabric (μ) (depends on whether I bind it or just sew it) 
    • assemble the skirt (~1.5 hours by machine)
    • pleat the skirt (gah, I'm not good at pleating.  2-3 hours? And needs the iron.)
    • attach skirt to bodice (2 hours?)
    • eyelets (infinite handwork)
    • hem (infinite handwork)
  • Turn the hemmed piece of linen that was too small for an apron into a partlet
  • Make a couple more lacing cords
  • Fix at least one of the pairs of Venetians of Sorrow
  • Get a lacing strip into at least one of the jerkins
...I think there might be some compromises made.




Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Summer Is Icumen In, Lhude Sing Goddam




I began this post in an aura of some dissatisfaction and agitas about the length of my Gantt chart.  And yet!  In spite of spending the long (extra-long for me, since I took Friday off) holiday weekend at the shore and doing Sweet Fanny Adams on the sewing front, I've managed to:

  • cut out, assemble, refit (ahem), and finish the first Bocksten tunic for S.
  • hem the last three (yeah, there were two before) Queen's Favors
  • redo the gather stitches on the Wee Flat Cap, and frob the hatband & brim a little bit to see if I can fix it without cutting out whole new pieces
  • buy a stack of nice-lookin' linen for more tunics, a pair of pants, and also for the test run of Commission: Pourpoint
I also shopped for fringe trim for the Big Muckin' Banner, only to find that even the chintzy stuff is exceedingly dear, particularly at the quantities I'd need--

--and then, in the MIDDLE OF TYPING THIS POST, I realized that it was priced per yard (as trim usually is) and I was thinking in feet.  Four-and-a-half units costs rather less than 14 units.  To put it mildly.


So that happened.  I guess I'll be making another trip down to Daytona.

ANYWAYS

I'm feeling the pressure not just from the list of sewing tasks, but also because the heat is turned up all over.  My Land Agent/Slumlord rôle is about to click over from "occasional tasks" to "DO EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW"; work is becoming busy in a way that consumes rather a lot more of my brain-spoons; and the usual run of pre-Pennsic personal admin (packing lists, arranging cat care, making & vacuum-sealing a ton of pies, etc.) needs done as well.  Oh yes, and I still have to write my class handout.  And I should call my mom.  (Hi, Mom!)  Also it is now more than 90 of your Earth degrees and looks to stay that way for awhile; an environment I'm not at my best in, to put it mildly.

It's okay.  It's like this every year.  "The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster...strangely enough, it all turns out well."

How?





Sunday, June 26, 2016

The March of Progress; or, Life Is A Bowl Of Sour Cherries



I bought about this many.
The Bocksten tunic looks like
the T-tunics of yore, except that
it makes the shape with gores and
gussets, so it's not wasteful of fabric.
Since our last visit, we have had yet another jiggering of priorities, though minor in nature.  I had a long colloquy with my dashing consort, and he expressed his concerns about comfort in the light of the OMG DEATH BY FIRE climate that's being predicted for this summer, particularly since we are going for two full weeks (it being his first time for that[1], and only his second time going at all).  He's very worried that, even if made of the lightest materials and not fashionably tight, he'll be too hot in full Tudor glory.  So, we're de-prioritizing late-period shirts and doublets, raising the quota of T-tunics (well, probably they'll be Bocksten Man tunics, just so I don't twitch), and adding one pair of Standard Early Period Pants.  I'd still like to try my hand at a working-class Elizabethan doublet, to see if he's more comfortable in that, but it will be further down the food chain.  (It's also a higher-effort item.  Not only do I have to figure it out in the first place, but even the po' folks had interlining and stuff, so construction is more complicated and more time-consuming.)
Example of a
not-plaid bog dress

In the spirit of hitting the low-hanging fruit, I got the five camp sheet walls done, hooray.  It was a nice place to start the terrifying list, because although time-consuming and vaguely tedious, they aren't difficult.  Then, last night, I finished mending my existing bog schmata and finally--FINALLY--fit and finished the 2nd one I cut out three years ago.  (What's a bog dress?  As the term is used in these parts, it is a peplos-like garment made out of the loudest damn plaid you can find.  I am not clear if they are called such because examples have been pulled out of bogs, or because people down in the bog at Pennsic wear them, or because it is easy to throw on if you have to go to the bog in the middle of the night.  They are probably not period, at least as we make 'em, and they're definitely not right for any of the stuff I'm doing, but Goddamn are they convenient, particularly for early morning coffee time / going to the swimming hole / doing scut work / when it's stupid hot and you just can't face lacing up a gown.)  The acute reader will notice that my priority list nowhere mentioned bog dresses, and this is true, but a) I was also running a little bit scared about the OMG DEATH BY FIRE long-term forecast and b) it got one more thing that's been hanging around for ages out of Bucknard's Everfull Sewing Basket.  Also, it must be admitted, having a quick win is a good confidence booster.

I also spent a little time yesterday digging around the intarwubs for a free(ish) cloud application that can do Gantt charts and/or project plans with task dependencies.  This was insanely helpful during Colossus: The 19th Century Project[2], and I'm hoping that employing these tools will help control the brain-bees that are buzzing around in the back of my psyche waiting to strike.  It makes you feel like you've got a handle on the situation (whether you do or not, *ahem*), and also it's great for those overwhelmed moments when you are dithering/overwhelmed about what to do next--it shows you what tasks you have available, and you just pick one.  So, I'm giving Gantter a try.

The next several days are a whirlwind of social activity, and I have to spend some time in the kitchen because I have bought All The Sour Cherries In The World (since we're in the two weeks of the year where they're available) and I need to employ them before they go off; so there's not going to be much time for advancing the quest list.  But I hope to knock out the last two Queen's Favors, and maybe coax the weekly sewing circle into helping me assemble my tablet-weaving class kits.  *shifty look*  I may also be able to abuse the big oul' copiers at work to make a copy of the pourpoint pattern from the seminal work on the topic, so I'll be ready to start diddling it based on the client's measurements, from which I can then cut out a muslin.  (See?  Task dependencies!)

[1] Candidly, this will only be the 3rd time I've gone for two weeks.
[2] I wanted to upload my project plan for that, for the edification of others, but it looks like it got deleted off the project management tool at work.  Someone may have noticed it was there.  -_-;;;;;;

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Of Banners and Re-Prioritizations



Saturday, we had us a wee local event that we've run for the past couple of years.  (Well, I say "we"; mostly Beth, but I halp!)  The idea is to have a sewing-themed event at just the right period before Pennsic, so people can get help with their projects and/or learn new stuff with enough lead time to implement.  This year was more than usually chaotic, as everyone is covered in bees, but the immediate[1] matter[2] for me was to put together a class on history and styles of banners (with emphasis on what's useful / relevant in an SCA context).  As previously implied, I struggled with focus on this one, as I kept coming across interesting references that I wanted to track down; which in most cases to describe it as "falling down a rabbit hole" dramatically understates the nature of the transaction.


One of the many cool banners
lost by Charles the Bold in 1472.
It's a tiny tiny standard, really,
though I don't know why it doesn't
have his usual motto ("Je lay
emprins") on it.
Ahem.  Anyways.  I produced a thing, and the feedback I got is that it's pretty good, and that I should teach it at Pennsic too.  I'm too late to get it in the hard copy course catalog, but a lot of people are using the online one in preference anyways, so...?  And we've decided, jobs willing, that we're definitely going to go for both weeks, so I could schedule this for the first week and not go completely batshit.   In all honesty, just as with the Elizabethan working clothes class, I feel as if I'm not doing anything super-genius, just collating and processing and contextualizing a whole bunch of data that's already out there, and couldn't anyone do this?  But on the other hand, it doesn't seem like Mister Anyone is, and the core idea is to make good information accessible to as many people as possible.  Maybe my business card should read "I Troll Through Garbage References On Pinterest So You Don't Have To". 

So, there's that job jobbed; but with only five weeks to go it's time to have a long hard think about my previously-expressed priority list.  I need to pare it down more than somewhat, particularly since some new elements are in play.  Without further ado, then, the revised edition, cast in the lingo of my workplace's Project Management Office:

ESSENTIAL
  • Kits for tablet-woven edge class
  • Handout for Elizabethan working clothes class
  • For my dashing consort:
    • 1-2 more shirts 
    • 1 grub-able T-tunic
    • 1 working (i.e., not form-fitted) Elizabethan doublet
  • Hem the five sheet walls for the camp
  • Hem the last two Queen's Favors and hand them the $*@& off
  • Redo the lining on the Big Damn Banner, so I can a) display it and b) send it back to the owner who has been remarkably kind about the whole thing
IMPORTANT
  • Muslin of a pourpoint for the commission I have alluded to
  • For my dashing consort:
    • Finish the wee flat cap
    • Ensmallen the 2 prs. Venetians that are too big
      • It's possible that I should frob one of them to sit at his hips, not at his waist, so he can wear it with just a jerkin.  It isn't Historically Accurate, but it'll be a lot more comfy for him if it's a stupid hot year.
    • Put lacing holes in all prs. Venetians
    • Many many lacing cords
NICE TO HAVE
  • For me:
    • 2-3 extra lacing cords (finger-looped or lucet)
    • Tablet-woven headband with fake braids 
    • Embiggen eyelets on some of my older gowns
    • an apron or two
    • A 16th-century working-class petticoat & smock
  • For S.:
    • Falling collar that can be pinned to shirts
    • More shirts
    • (He should have more clothes but I want to see how all the other stuff works out before planning the next round.)
  • Canvas-work butt-cushions for our X-chairs
  • SOME DAMN BANNERS.
I think I can do all of the Essential, maybe a couple of the Important, and I am pretty sure it drops off precipitately after that.

[1] I also ended up with five sheet walls for the Baronial encampment to hem, but never mind.
[2] And I registered two badges for myself!  I'm kinda smug about that, because it means I don't have to sketch hawks displayed on everything I want to heraldically pee on.  Dear Past Me: I hate you (even if your aesthetic taste is pretty good).

Sunday, June 12, 2016

We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Le Palais des Papes in Avignon, the largest intact Gothic palace in the world.
Which, alas, only refers to the buildings, not anything in them
The previous three weeks of radio silence have been the result of a) preparing for vacation, b) being on vacation, and c) recovering from vacation.  Said vacation was in Provence, a place I had never been; and it was lovely and magical and I didn't want to come home.  It was also chock-full of medieval architecture, including an entire abandoned village you can freely wander around, though regrettably no textiles or dec-arts remain anywhere (everything that may have survived the passage of time has been snarfed by bigger museums elsewhere).    Much to my sorrow, I could not diddle the travel plans in a workable way that permitted a stop at the endangered Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs in Lyon, which holds a lot of Clothing's Greatest Hits.  We did travel right past it, but it was not practical to jump out of the train going 100+ MPH. I may yet live to regret not trying it. 
But I can present a working reconstruction
of a 15th-century paper mill that's in
Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

I did get three more Queen's Favors embroidered on the plane, at least.  Should have been four, but that's the problem with watching superhero movies when you're trying to work; you just have to look at the really impressive bits (IYKWIM, AITYD!)

So, best vacation ever; also, point of self-aggrandizement, we did so much walking and climbing that I lost a pound and a half; but my re-entry into ordinary life and the realization of just how few weeks it is til Pennsic was rather like being thrown into a vat of icy water.  Which is mixed with angry bees.  During a lightning storm. In a spirit of complete candor, I will admit that back in April, I started waking up in the middle of the night with what I have since learned are panic attacks, and though they disappeared during vacation and I was all "hurray!  Is fixed!", they returned with a vengeance afterwards.  I have taken advice (medical and otherwise), and mitigation is in place, but the point of this is that I am permitting my hobby to have far too much of an emotional impact on my well-being...an issue that, by my observation, is far too common among us.  Please, take the time to think about this, and practice some self-care if you feel you might be doing the same.  IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE FUN.

[end PSA]

I had previously taken some pains to reduce the nebulous cloud of All The Work into actionable items; the problem is, that list is still a very long one, and not one I felt the least bit comfortable in my ability to finish.  Or even to start. Yesterday, I hacked on it yet further; for the upcoming week, the only thing I think about is Stuff That Has To Be Done For Next Saturday, which is:
  • Create my class (essential)
  • Figure out something to bring to the potluck (essential) (but could be delegated)
  • Hem the favors I've embroidered (important) 
    • (better still if I can do by Thurs and drop off to the local canton meeting, since they're batching delivery)
  • Redo the Tiny Tiny Flat Cap (nice to have, probably won't happen)
I started working on the class last night, and once again fell down the rabbit hole of trying to make it super-scholarly and documented.  No, stupid, that's not what this is. This is a brief survey of banners so people who have never done one before feel prepared to go out and make one of their own.  Stop chasing references to Charles the Bold's lost treasures and when the French Crown started hanging banners in Notre-Dame.  STAAAHHP.







Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Little Flat Cap Fail

Immediately after my previous update, I took action on my determination stated therein to make something tangible as a break from trying to digest vast quantities of information.  So, I dug out the flat cap pieces I cut out A YEAR AGO ahem and looked to see where I was at: which was, I had the fashion fabric (black wool) pieces and nothing else.  And indeed, now I think on it, where I'd gotten stuck previously was over-thinking what I should line it with.  Hello, own worst enemy.

It seems that silk linings for flat caps go pretty far down the social scale, so I dug out some scraps from my Extremely Purple Gamurra to use.  (This is not really an appropriate period choice, as the silk is a slubby dupione and the purple is way too optically bright, but I don't have any more appropriate scraps and I'm not cutting into virgin silk for a first-try project.  Also, S. likes purple.)  I cut out the matching lining pieces and started assembling.  The Tudor Tailor pattern is pretty straightforward and by the end of that day I had the crown basted and gathered and the hatband & lining attached on their appropriate sides.
Gathered crown, sitting on top of the unattached
brim.  Did I mention the lining was VERY PURPLE?

The next step is to attach the brim, but I wasn't feeling happy about it.  The wool is a very light, loose twill, and the silk is stiff for its weight but is also very light, and it all felt like it was going to be super-floppy even by flat cap standards.  I thought it best to reinforce that a little, so I dug out more scraps--dark brown cotton canvas that was part of the interlining for my 16th c. gown--and interlined the brim.  

Protip:  Do not try and retro-fit this into a brim & lining you have already sewn together.  Just fucking unpick it and do it right.  It will take a fraction of the time.  ASK ME HOW I KNOW.  
Looks great, doesn't it? 

Finally all the hurdles were overcome and everything was attached and I had something that, by gum, rather looked like a flat cap!  I did my victory lap around the living room and then had the recipient try it on--whereupon it perched on top of his head like an oversized fascinator.  Somehow, in spite of careful measurements, it came out about 2.5" too small for his head.  This is far too typical in my life.

I put the thing aside in disgust for about a week and dove into some pourpoint research (more about which later) before finally gritting my teeth and unpicking the pieces to see what had gone wrong.  Upon extracting the hatband and ironing it out, I measured it and it actually is the right size for his head. I guess what's happening here is that the extra volume caused by the gathers turns the perfect-sized hatband into a too-small one.  I think I don't have any choice but to cut a larger hatband & lining; I hope I don't have to cut out a new brim as well.  

I had even more antipathy for the whole thing after this realization so I put it to the side again, and I've just been knitting for the past week (at least the damn sock is nearly done; just in time for summer, as anticipated).  My attention's also been sucked away by Pennsic work (I'm the land agent/general factotum for a camp of about 70 people) and for an event I'm helping run next month where I volunteered to teach yet another class I haven't actually prepared for.  And I'm about to go on vacation, which is full of yay!, but I'm feeling time slipping away and I'm not feeling good about that at all.