Who Am I? And Why Am I Here?

Elewys of Finchingefeld, GdS, JdL
Barony of Aquaterra, Kingdom of An Tir

This is a place to which I may post my research, my experiments, my successes...and yes, my failures...for medieval re-creation and research on my never-ending quest to learn and revel in knowledge and experiences.

I am a lady of many times and many places. Currently using a 15th century English name, dressing in a 10th century Danish dress, and camping in a Mongolian round house. "Lost" doesn't even begin to describe my persona.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Because I Couldn't Possibly Wait for Summer...

...I went ahead and started on building the warp-weighted loom project today.  I consulted a BUNCH of web sites and looked for sources (books) that I could look to, but the newest books on warp-weighted looms is dated from the late 70s.

Broudy, Eric. The Book of Looms.  Brown University Press, 1979.
Broholm, H.C. and Hald, Margarethe. Costume in the Bronze Age in Denmark. Arnold Busck, 1940.
Hoffman, Marta. The Warp Weighted Loom. Robin and Russ Handweavers, 1974.
Trychkare, Tre. The Viking. Carver and Co., 1966.

Yeah.  And I looked for the Hoffman book, just out of curiosity.  I can get a used copy for $133.  Not happening on my budget.  I'll have to see if the Everett Public Library can get me a copy on inter-library loan.  There appear to be a couple of newer magazine articles, so I'll seek those out as well.  

There are a lot of web sites with some research (most based on the sources above) plus looking at extant pieces and experimenting with building their own.  There are differences with all of them, so other than the basic structure, there is a lot of room for experimentation and setting things up so it'll work for you.  I still need to do a little more research on weaving in general--I've only done inkle and card weaving, but this seems to be just a giant inkle loom.  There are possibilities for doing multiple sheds, though--this one I'm setting up to be a 4 shed loom, although the first couple of projects will be 2-shed only.  

Here is my process to building the prototype:
1.  Take two 2 x 4s--I would recommend using two hard wood boards for a "finished" look, although Douglas Fir is certainly more economical and lighter for transport...I grabbed two boards from the rafters, only to realize later that the darker board was, in fact, cedar.  Whoops!

2.  Cut two 2 x 4s to 7 feet long (84").  Other directions said keep the 2 x 4s at 8 feet long and use a stool to reach when weaving.  To that I say, "NO SIR!"  I'm clumsy enough and being only 5 feet tall, I don't need to risk injury.  Again, this is a prototype, so if it needs to be taller after experimenting with it, I can make it so next time.  I doubt it, though.  In fact, I'm thinking that I might be able to make it even shorter by cutting the bottom down another 6".

3.  Next, you take those 12" pieces that you cut off and make the "crotches".  These are the pieces that the top beam rests in while you weave.  It needs to be deep and wide enough for the rod to rest in.  Some directions suggest that you make it vaguely "S" shaped.  Vague, indeed.  Seems mostly stylistic, although the thinner end at the bottom makes it easier to attach to the boards with long screws.  These were shaped using the band saw...I love that toy!

4.  Here the rod is resting in the crotches.  The bottom of the crotch is 16" down from the top.

5.  The next step was about creating the shed rod.  The top beam and heddle rod I bought were 5' long, which determined the width of the frame.  60" long, taking away 4" on each side for overhang, I cut the shed rod 52".  I drilled one hole through and secured it with a bolt and wing nut.  These are meant to be taken apart for transport to events.  I also cut a thinner piece of wood for the top of the frame, simply for stability.  Similarly, I screwed it together with wing nut and bolt (they're WAAAY too long--I'll have to get shorter bolts the next time I'm out at the hardware store).

6.  Here she is, standing up!  I'm naming her Frigga, after the Goddess of weaving and wisdom.  There are a few more steps to complete my girl, but it's wintertime and it was just a few degrees above freezing outside.  

Frigga still needs heddle rods, heddle rod supports, and weights.  The heddle rods can be scavenged from scraps leftover from the yurt project.  They don't need to be particularly heavy and I have 3/4" sticks that are more than long enough.  I looked for pieces of 7/8" dowels at the hardware store, but they only had 4-foot lengths...I need 5 feet.  Figures.

The heddle rod supports will be shaped from scraps in the bin.  They need to be about 8-10" long and Y shaped.  I can use the band saw again and carve down the point to fit into the holes I'll be drilling on the frame.

Weights are going to be time consuming.  Some other weavers have used 1-pound bags of sand or stones for weights instead of clay circles.  I may go that route, also.  I'm also thinking that I may need to create some kind of support to make it free-standing and perhaps more stable.  This will be a blast to take with me to Ursulmas next year!

More work tomorrow!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A&S Plans Set in Motion

I've made quite a few beads!  Some are really nice!

And some are pretty ugly...they are rather experimental, so don't abuse the artist too much.  I was trying to make some Islamic Folded Beads, but found that they are tediously long to build and don't always turn out right. In other words, my skill level is not yet up to that standard.

I started another technique that involves using a pointy tool, much like a dental tool, but thicker and stronger.  I made the core of the bead then added stripes and dragged the tool over the surface of the glass, deforming the stripes, which looked very much like the folded beads, and took a fraction of the time.  Many of these turned out pretty cool, but others didn't do as well...a bit lumpy and coarse.  One had a fatal flaw that caused...well...

...sudden bead death.  I didn't get this one into the vermiculite fast enough, so it cooled down too quickly, causing stress fractures.  I could glue it back together, but there's no telling if other fractures might appear later.

The perle cotton tablet weaving is coming along.  I have about a yard done so far on this particular piece.  The threads are pretty fine (#8 DMC perle cotton, found at any fabric or craft store) and slick, which makes the cards turn so smoothly...like buttah!  The cost of materials is a bit higher, but not astronomically high.  We're talking about $12-15 spent for this project so far...maybe more if I need to use another $3 skein of thread for weft...instead of $5 for an entire project.  Yeah, it's about triple or quadruple, but still cheap for what it is.

My plans in the not-too-distant-future (say, summer) is to build something like this:
warp-weighted loom
It goes with my sheep-to-shawl plan.  You know...take the fleece from the sheep and turn it into a wearable garment.
1.  Make loom.
2.  Spin fibers.
3.  Weave into cloth.
4.  Full cloth.
5.  Make something from cloth, like a 10th century Danish apron dress.
If I can finish all that by next January, I can enter things into Kingdom Arts & Sciences.  I was told (by a supportive Laurel friend) to enter three things:  loom, woven stuff and beads.  I think I can do it...but I'm going to have to do some serious work over the summer.

This goes well with the advise I received from *another* Laurel friend, who said to stay within a particular scope of time/culture when you enter Kingdom-level contests.  In her experience, being "all over the map" doesn't show as well as being a bit more focused.

I'm thinking I should build a prototype of the loom first; try to build it out of really cheap materials, like 2" x 4" and 1" x 2", then make a more 'natural' product out of cut trees.  I can't even imagine what I'd need to do to cull trees from the neighborhood or out in the wilderness somewhere.  Maybe someone in the SCA has a piece of property they're willing to let me cut a tree from.  First things first...build the prototype.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

End of January Stuffs

The end of January is nigh upon us and I have several things to show...at least in beads and a bit of weaving.

First, there's me...I set up a table at Ursulmas where I made beads for the weekend.  While there was a demo display booth contest, there were significant limitations as to what I could do given that I was going to be actively demonstrating beadmaking.  Where the booth was located (unknown prior to set-up)?  What I can display that isn't flammable?  Is there a banner and how do I hang it?  I can't bring a tent or pop-up with a roof, so what can I bring for ambiance?  So many questions.  I brought the color copies of Callmer's beads and brought all the old beads I could find that I store in a small treasure box.  Unfortunately, there's a lot of old & ugly beads from my first months of bead making; I had strung them on dental floss and hung them over the treasure chest on the table.  I need to pull those aside and keep them somewhere else...like decorating the garden or something.  Some of my later beads were loose in the box, and the newest ones were strung on mandrils on the table.

I was told there was a banner for the Kingdom Lampworkers Guild, and it would be delivered Saturday morning.  I found the current banner design posted on the Lampworker's web site; the banner was made for a previous event, but the design was not fully vetted by the Heralds, so it is currently an unofficial banner (not passable, apparently).  Since the Lampworker's Guild does not have a device registered with the College of Heralds, I had some discussions with a couple of them at the event to come up with a new passable design.  In any case, the banner might not be understood by the public, so just to make it clear to passers-by, I made a lettered banner that simply reads:  "Lampworkers Guild" in a font called King Harold, matching the lettering from the Bayeux Tapestry.  I hung it using the packaging tape I had with me on the exposed pipes in the frigid hall.  It ended up being the only banner, as the Lampworker's banner ended up not arriving after all.

Although I didn't mean to be the exclusive lampworker working the booth, I was the only one there for more than half of the weekend; Aenor joined me for a while on Sunday, making a few beads in the frigid hall.  It was so cold on Sunday that the bead release was not drying and we walked around with our plastic buckets of vermiculite looking for a heat source.  The portable heaters outside were turned off to save fuel; they said they were only heating the building at night (which didn't make any sense--no one was in the building at night).  I dipped the mandrils and more than 90 minutes later, the bead release was still wet.  If you heat them using the flame, the stuff dries too quickly and either cracks or explodes off the mandril.

Because I had more than 16 hours of uninterrupted time to make beads, I was able to finish almost 40 beads over the weekend, using just under two tanks of propane--I was able to make several more after returning home.  I finished all the beads I needed for the Kingdom gifts to Caid and Glen Abhann--they're not due until July Coronation, so I got the Gold Star from the Guild head. :)  There are more than I need here, so I will send on the best 20 of each colorway.

Here are a few that I made over the weekend, in addition to the Caid and Glen Abhann beads...the four on the lower left were made as part of a commission for Jadwiga.  She chose six others that I failed to photograph before she came to pick them up.

I am also doing a little card weaving. I finished the weaving for Tyrssen of Middle Kingdom and warped up a new one on the loom.

I brought the loom with me to the event, but didn't do any during the weekend.  The booth next to mine was occupied by Demo Winners, Emma and Nigel, who covered their table with weaving and leatherworking items.  I placed my loom on the edge of the table, next to hers, to add to her display.  This one is strung up with Perle cotton, using just over four balls of strings--one yellow, one black, and two red--in #8 floss.  I had quite a time finding extra red floss, and ended up having to replace it with a readily-available color.  Red 666 was available during the holidays, apparently, but not later, but everyone was carrying Red 321.  I had to un-warp six cards, and I'll use those threads in a later project, I suppose.  While this is more expensive than using the cotton warp, the cost of materials is still under $20, it comes out lovely and shiny, and the cards turn smoothly.  I have a couple other projects in mind that I might try, using these threads as a substitute for silk.

I made a deal with a local lady to buy some roving from her that I will be turning into a sheep-to-shawl project.  I don't know what I'll be doing with the fabric or how much fabric the spinning will create, but I'll figure it out in a bit.  Probably more than a hat.  Maybe enough for sleeves or maybe an apron dress.  I'd love to try to make a warp-weighted loom, but somehow I don't think that'll get done this year.  Although....

More to come!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

12th Night, Goals & Inspirations

This Friday and Saturday, I went to Seattle to attend the 12th Night.  I arrived Friday at about 4 pm and got together with Aenor and Lianor.  We had dinner in the hotel restaurant, and our party got larger as the time went on.  We were joined by James, Tessa and her lord (whose name, regretfully, I have forgotten!).  It was a merry evening!

We went to Master Phaelen's vigil that night and I got an opportunity to speak with him and congratulate him on the elevation.  While I suppose it's traditional to keep the conversations between visitors and the candidates private, we eventually started talking about beads and his passion for the art really came through.  He gave me some great tips and I think his suggestions will really pick up my game.

I headed home around 12:30, arriving home just after 1 a.m.  On my way in, I grabbed my basket that contained my projects, my wallet and phone, and went to bed.  In the morning, I got up and opened my garage door to find my new (in-progress) flat cap sitting on the ground next to the car...dripping wet.  I swung the cap around (spin cycle) and then rolled it in bar towels to get most of the water out.  It was still wet for most of the day, but I was able to top-stitch the edges while sitting in court.  I wore it for just a little while to get my hair off my neck because it was so hot, but it looked funny.  I'll have to fiddle with it some, I think.  I later abandoned it and found a hair tie.  In court, I also sewed together a Viking cap and simple coif (finishing all the seam edges).  

The morning was supposed to have started with a 2 hour meeting, but I overslept a little and arrived on site late.  After weighing my options, I decided that my attendance at the meeting wasn't actually necessary, so I gave it a miss to have some breakfast instead.  I wanted to attend the Laurel Speed-Dating, which started very late (about 45 minutes late due to the Laurel meeting starting and ending late), but was really fun for the 15 minutes I was able to be there.  My "boss" of Ithra was there, too, so I knew that when she left, it was my cue to head out as well.  

So, what was the Laurel Speed Dating?  Well, it was an opportunity for artisans to have a 5 minute conversation with a Laurel to ask questions about anything, then on cue, each artisan would get up and move one seat to the left while the Laurels sat still.  Questions might include:  What is it like to be a Laurel?  What does it mean to you?  How many apprentices do you have?  Do you feel that being an apprentice will aid you on your quest to the Laurellate?  Do you have any advise for artisans on their journey to the Laurellate?  There were cue cards on the table for both sides, if you didn't have any questions on the top of your head, or if you were suddenly struck dumb by the pressure.  :)  I really only got to ask one or two questions of each of the three Laurels I spoke with, but got an opportunity to talk with Countess Elizabeth on the way to the Ithra meeting and later in the day, spoke with Mistress Alisaundra at length.  Since I asked similar questions of each of them, it was interesting to get different opinions and perspectives.  

I went to go sit in court, but it was so hot in my Tudor dress, that by the mid-afternoon, I had to go change into my warm-weather garb.  I went Turkish!  I really should have brought my indoor shoes, though--the water proof mocs are great for walking around in the rain, but indoors, they just make my feet sweat.  Bleh.

In the evening, Master Feran hosted a panel discussion with several Laurels (let's see if I can remember them all)--Master Gordon, Mistress Alisaundra, Mistress Alicia le Wilfulle, Master Feran, Duchess Dagmaer, and a former queen from Avacal...Inga?  It was a great discussion and had interesting points brought up and new perspectives to consider.  But it was something that Mistress Alisaundra said that really piqued my interest:  about the need for some artisans to have simple direction--for someone to tell them, "The Laurels who are watching you want to see you do X.  Go do that," rather than waiting for the person to have divine inspiration, like having it come to them in a dream.  Why make someone wait years to do something spontaneously, when all they need is a nudge?  That's exactly what I need; someone to nudge me in the right direction to move me along the path further.  After working towards the Peerage for 23 years and seeing so many other newcomers achieve it in far less time (7-10 years), I have to ask, "What am I doing wrong?  Or what am I NOT doing?"  

So I hear you thinking, "Where are these goals you speak of?  Where's the inspiration?"  I've started creating a list of challenges for myself this year.  These include:
  • Completing a Scholar Rank Costumer's Guild challenge.  While the costumer's guild may be in hiatus, I will go ahead and work on it anyway.  My first and second attempts will be both Tudor woman and Viking man--I have plans to make costumes for both (for myself and my husband).  Technically, a person participating in a scholar rank challenge doesn't need to present all 15 items at once, so I could do them in tandem.  I wonder if anyone has ever done that before?
  • I would like to make some arrangements for the Aquaterra Costumer's Guild to fill in to promote and administer challenges, and maybe even host costumer gatherings at Kingdom events.  I have proposed such a thing to the A&S officer and the head of the Baronial Costumer's guild, and I would, of course, be assisting in this endeavor, which is not only meant to serve the populace, but could also serve as hours towards the Scholar rank.  The question now remains--do I approach former leaders of the guild, or write a polite request directly to Their Majesties?  I think I'll start with HL Isabel & Mistress Isolde, since they seem to have been the movers and shakers just before it went on hiatus.
  • Build a loom based on a pattern I bought several years ago.  It doesn't have to be perfect, just usable.  I already have a rigid heddle meant to be used with this pattern...I just need the frame.
  • Sheep to shawl project.  This is something that has intrigued me for some time.  I know how to spin.  I know the basics of how to weave.  I know how to sew.  I want to put all those together and do a start-to-finish project.  (thus the incentive to build the aforementioned loom).  I may need to learn how to full the fabric manually and block it before I cut it into anything.
  • Make cheese.  There's a guy down south (I want to say Three Mountains area?) who makes cheese from ordinary ingredients from the store.  I'd love to try that.
  • Make rush lights.  Based on the Tudor Monastic Farm episodes YouTube.  Aenor (my co-conspirator) and I love these various series and would like to do some anthropological experiments.  I've wanted to try to make a wattle fence for some time but lacked the yard for it.  Maybe this is an experiment I could attempt with Yvette since I know her landlady. :)
  • Teach more--already have one class coming up in February at the Midhaven session, but I hope to do more in the coming months as the opportunity arises.  As a Chancellor, I know that the best bet is to reach out to the Chancellors and autocrats who are arranging classes.  
  • Prepare for a 12th Night display in the A&S room, and *maybe* a single entry in Kingdom A&S.  Big step for me...but Aenor did it and I can lean on her to share her experiences.
I may not be able to finish all of these this year, especially with other projects and responsibilities that I have in my real life, but it's something to aim for.  

Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos during the weekend.  I usually take a couple dozen pictures of costumes and inspiration, but I didn't do that this time.  I didn't even see the guy that always dresses in the fabulous Elizabethan garb (whose name I don't know).  Ah, well.  I'll have to be forward and ask people about their methods and techniques when I see them at upcoming events.  It was impressed on us at the panel discussion that most Laurels are shy geeks who love to talk about their passions, but only if you ask them.  I'm not particularly shy, so I will make it a mission to approach them and geek out on art stuff with them one-on-one.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Long time...no...whatever.

I can hardly believe that it's been 8 months since I posted last.  I've done quite a lot of stuff lately, but I'm not always good about posting about it.

The last couple of days, for example, I've made a pair of under-trouse, and have another one partially assembled.  I also made a body block (muslin) for an English early-Tudor gown/kirtle/waistcoat.  I hope to make all of these things in the next few weeks.  The gown I would like to finish before 12th Night...now just to figure out what I'm going to be making it out of--I have some beautiful peacock blue linen or some tawny-beige lightweight wool (possibly a blend).  I'm thinking of going with the blue and making the waistcoat from the beige--I'll have lots left over, so I can also make something else, like a Turkish coat or Apron dress, too.

I finished the Turkish entari that I was working on earlier--you can't see much of it here, but it is nice.  Very comfortable, hangs well, and I put my own woven buttons on it that I made.

Going backwards in my posted photos on Facebook (which is like reading backwards in a diary), I've done a lot of bead-making; these ones for the Lampworkers Guild to be given as gifts to the Kingdoms of Drachenwald and Calontir:

Made a bunch for my own fun or for commission:

Dyed some yarn with pomegranate peels (alum mordant):

Did some more beads for the guild from 6 months ago or so (a few of these were made by a friend, but I couldn't tell you which ones now):

Did just a little embroidery at an Ithra...just for fun:

And painted a ceramic mug...which broke almost immediately:

I'll try to post some more pics in the next few days as I finish things up before 12th Night.