Family/Youth SCA Classes at Pennsic, Taught by Alexander!

18 August 2014

This year at Pennsic my 10-year-old son Alexander taught two classes in the family/youth track, which meant they were friendly to both kids and adults. Both classes were overfull and I promised to put the handouts and details online for those who didn’t get there in time for the materials or handouts. Please feel free to use the handouts for teaching your own classes — I only ask that you give credit to Alexander and that you comment here or drop me an e-mail to let me know.

Butter Making

Alexander’s butter making class was an extension of his A&S project for making butter this year. We brought our large wooden butter churn, as well as mini butter churns for each person. The mini churns were 8 oz. jelly jars with small holes drilled in the top. The mini dashers were made of dowels and small pine toy wheels available at Joanns, kept together with a little wood glue (we made the churns and dashers in advance). Cream is simply heavy whipping cream available at any grocery store — you need only about 1.5″ in the jar. It takes 10-20 minutes of churning to get butter with this size jar (time depends on how fast and consistently the churner works).

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The handout is a one-page PDF and it explains the two historic ways of making butter: Butter-Making

Note: If you do this activity, let butter churners know that it’s possible to churn too much and get a very smooshy butter. So when the cream starts to glob together and leave a watery substance (the buttermilk), open up the jar and pour off the buttermilk.

Leather Pouch Making

Folks can make a real leather pouch based on an actual find in Heddeby. Anyone can do it, though the very wee ones will probably need their parents help to thread the thongs through the holes. To prepare for this class, we actually cut out the leather circles and punched the holes with awls in advance so kids would not have to do this (see handout for details on this). So in the class all we did was have folks thread the thongs in the leather in the correct sequence then add small wooden beads to the end of the thongs.

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The handout is a one-page PDF and it explains how to cut the leather as well as how to thread it: leather-pouch-class

Note: If you teach this class, make sure your leather is not too thick to form into a pouch. Also make sure your thongs are strong enough not to break when pulled tight — some of the thongs we purchased at Pennsic broke when pulled.

Please let us know if you have any questions about these classes. Enjoy!

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Demo Tip Cards for SCA Chatelaines

14 July 2014

This weekend I organized a demo that involved 24 members of my Barony and countless members of the public. To support those helping at the demo, I made these simple “Everyone is a Chatelaine” cards, which I handed to each person as they signed in for the day. On one side are helpful reminders on how to interact with the public and potential new members, and on the other side is a list of days and dates so they can easily suggest a meeting, workshop, or practice to attend. This schedule side could also have been used as a schedule of the day’s events. I thought they were helpful, so I’m sharing them here for other chatelaines — here’s a fillable PDF you can use to personalize the cards for your own group: Everyone-Is-A-Chatelaine-Fillablephoto(201)

SCA Artisan Love: Gwenllian Annwyl (+ Cloisonné Tutorial)

8 July 2014

[This is the fourth in a series of articles on SCA artisans who inspire, teach, encourage, and/or make the Society a better place for us all! I learned so much through other artisans while preparing for the A&S Pentathlon, and now it is my turn to shine the love on them, learn more about their craft, and introduce them to you.]

gwenllian-artisan

Never underestimate the power of teaching. I first met Lady Gwenllian verch Rhydderch Annwyl at a class I taught on German costuming to the Barony of Red Spears. A few weeks later, as I was perusing the class list for Baron Wars, I saw this:

Gwenllian Annwyl – Intro to Cloisonné
Create a cloisonné enamel piece of your own! Students will be provided with materials to complete a piece. Class limit:15, Time: 3 hrs-ish, Age limit: 15 or with parent supervision, Cost: $20 – includes kit, handout, instructors materials, and use of kiln

I was intrigued by the idea of learning to craft and complete a cloisonné enamel piece, an art form I’ve long admired but felt must be particularly complicated. And she was bringing a kiln, too? This was simply too good not to try. And I did … and it was more amazing than I thought it would be. Gwenllian proved to be an excellent teacher, offering just enough information without overwhelming us, answering all questions cheerfully, and providing everything we needed to create beautiful cloisonne pendants.

And as it turns out, Gwenllian is well educated in the art of enameling. She graduated from Kent State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Jewelry/Metals/Enamelling, and continues to practice her skills today with cloisonne and decorative metalwork, including a few coronets. But her interests are not limited to these arts — she also enjoys costuming, brewing, calligraphy, illuminations, and heraldry. When I asked her who inspired her to learn more and push herself further, she named Mistress Cerridwyn verch Ioward for her attention to detail and her inspiration to research and pursue the answers to that all-important question,”How were things done in period?”

Not surprisingly, teaching is what Gwenllian loves most about her art. “Mine is an art that looks complicated, but can be fairly easily accomplished in a decent amount of time,” says Gwenllian. “When my students are just SO excited about this awesome shiny thing they’ve made and are just so proud of it, I LOVE it!” And that was certainly my experience — I was so enthralled with the pretty pendant I made in her class that I showed it to anyone and everyone who was willing to look!

Gwenllian’s favorite artifact created so far is the Byzantine-style cloisonné medallion she entered in this year’s Kingdom A&S Competition (and for which she took a first place). “It was a bit tedious,” she confesses, “but so satisfying. And it’s inspired me to do more pieces, try new and more period techniques of firing the enamels, and try to grind my own enamel powders.” Her medallion is really quite delightful, and looks remarkably like those that appeared on the original votive crown of Emperor Leo VI of Byzantium.

byzantine-medallion

To learn more about Gwennlian’s arts, be sure to visit her blog at http://hareandfox.blogspot.com. You’ll find excellent in-progress photos of her Byzantine medallion there. Gwenllian, who has received the Order of the Willow award, is apprenticed to Mistress Helewyse de Birkestad and plans to teach her Cloisonné Enameling class again at Pennsic 43 on August 4th at 5:00 pm and on August 6th at 4:00 pm, both in classroom 4—the class is most definitely worth the three hours and you’ll leave with a simply gorgeous piece of cloisonne with your own design!

How to Make a Cloisonné Pendant

cloisonne-pinterestThis step-by-step tutorial is based on Gwenllian’s class on June 21, 2014 — the photos and steps are those I took at the class. First, what is cloisonné’? The dictionary describes it as enamelwork in which colored areas are separated by thin metal bands fixed edgewise to the ground. The word enamel comes from the Old High German word smelzan (to smelt) via the Old French esmail. The ancient Egyptians applied enamels to pottery and stone objects, and sometimes jewelry, though the last less often than other ancient Middle Eastern cultures. The ancient Greeks, Celts, Georgians, and Chinese also used enamel on metal objects. Leading up to cloisonne in particular though, enamel was at its most important in European art history in the Middle Ages, beginning with the Late Romans and then the Byzantines who began to use cloisonné enamel in imitation of cloisonne inlays of precious stones (Faux stones?! Oh wait, we still do that today). This style was widely adopted by the “barbarian” peoples of Migration Period northern Europe. There are many examples of cloisonne that is very comparable to garnet inlay. The Byzantines then began to use cloisonne more freely to create images, which was also copied in Western Europe.

So let’s make something, shall we? It’s not as hard as it looks.

Cloisonné Enameling Materials:

 

Step-by-Step Instructions for Cloisonne Enameling:

Choose your design. Start by outlining your copper circle and then draw your design inside it. Keep things simple, as each line means a piece of copper wire. Note that you are not required to have wires around each spot of color, only wires between different colors — this means you can have a color/design to right to the edge without needing wire there.

cloisonne-design

Follow your chosen design above by bending and cutting the wire to match your lines. Use your pliers and wire cutters for this step. This takes some time to get right — be patient with yourself.

cloisonne-wire

Apply an light brushing of oil to the copper circle, then transfer the wire one piece at a time to the prepared surface of the copper. This will help keep the wires from shifting when you pick it up in the next step.

Fire your piece in the kiln to approximately 1800°F long enough for the clear enamel on the piece to soften enough so that the wires ‘sink’ into the surface. This enamel has a higher melting point, so the wires should not move while firing later colors.

cloisonne-kiln2

Allow time for the piece to cool sufficiently. The advantage of working with the smaller size is they take a shorter time to cool off. Mine took about 15-20 minutes.

cloisonne-wire-cooling

Mix some of an enamel with a small amount of Klyr-fire. Using a small paintbrush, carefully apply the enamel to your piece. Nudge the enamel into position as needed. Continue until you have the enamel colors placed on your piece up to the height of your wire, but not over it. The goal here is to create an even layer of enamel all over the piece, out to the edges. Do not try to cover the cloisons as you will accomplish this on the next few firings, and doing so can make the enamels jump the fence to where you don’t want them.

cloisonne-ready-to-color

Let the piece dry completely. Any moisture left may steam or even boil if placed in the kiln and can create issues with your piece. The piece can be placed on top of the kiln however, or in any other hot place to dry faster.

Fire the piece again once it is dry. Place the piece into the kiln and let it fire until the powdered enamel becomes smooth and glassy. Once done, remove the piece from the kiln and set aside to cool.

cloisonne-first-pass

Repeat steps 6-8 until you have built up enough layers for the surface to be even with the wires. My piece required three applications of enamel. Gwenllian says that another finishing technique is to build up the enamel just over the wire, and stone (sand) it all to one flat surface—start with a stone or coarse sandpaper, and build up to finer grits until it is smooth and polished. Please note this needs to be done as a wet-sanding method because of the glass.

cloisonne-cooling

At this point you also have the choice to let your edges keep the oxidized look from firing, or you can file or sand them to the clean copper again, this is up to personal preference. I chose to leave mine as they were since I’d applied the enamel all the way to the edges. You can now loop a bail through the hole and show off your piece.

Here is my completed cloisonne pendant!

cloisonne-pendant

Thank you for sharing your knowledge and passion with us all, Gwenllian!

Genoveva-Gwenllian

SCA Artisan Love: Lady Heodez (Plus an Easy Moisturizer Recipe)

23 June 2014

[This is the third in a series of articles on SCA artisans who inspire, teach, encourage, and/or make the Society a better place for us all! I learned so much through other artisans while preparing for the A&S Pentathlon, and now it is my turn to shine the love on them, learn more about their craft, and introduce them to you.]

heodez-artisan

Pumpkin water for wrinkles? Almond oil for softer skin? All this and more I’ve learned from Donna Heodez Sofonisba de Talento Minotto, who weaves her particular brand of magic in the time-honored art of herbcraft. Fascinated by cosmetics since the age of 12, Heodez is studying medieval and Renaissance cosmetics made by women through the ages. “I find the journals they left behind, often called ‘books of secrets,’ fascinating.” writes Heodez. “The wealth of beauty recipes out there is amazing.”

Learning how our ancestors created and applied cosmetics isn’t always easy, however. Most journals are not in English, meaning Heodez has to translate them for starters. Then comes the fun of figuring out quantities, which more than often are not listed. And let’s not forget that our ancestors didn’t always realize (or care about) the toxicity of their ingredients—the use of white lead for a fair face in the renaissance lead to disfigurement and death. To avoid subjecting us all to this particular recreation of the period, Heodez must research reasonable substitutes. She says, “The fun is in the figuring out, despite the frustration sometimes.”

So what is Heodez’s favorite discovery to date? She loves “discovering that we still have the same beauty concerns centuries later” as our for-bearers. Worrying about how we smell or about our gray hair is time eternal, apparently. Remedies for our present-day concerns were concocted and many of them actually work. And thus learning what worked for our great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother can work for us, too!

Making mouthwash from a 16th c. recipe

Making mouthwash from a 16th c. recipe

Lady Heodez’s cosmetic projects during the last two years are extensive, evident by her own modern-day Book of Secrets, the  Segreti del Pavone (“secrets of the peacock”) blog. Here you’ll find recipes for a wrinkle reducer, lavender perfume, hand whitener, underarm deodorant, rose soap, acne soap, blusher and lip color, diet drink, hangover remedy, velvet stiffener, cough drops, facial cream, shampoo, conditioner, face whitener, incense, hair remover, lip balm, astringent, mouthwash, grease stain remover, tooth whitener, and scented hair powder. This is a veritable pharmacopeia of wonders! Imagine yourself making a variety of Heodez’s beauty products for your next camping event to really take your immersion to a new level. This is one of my personal goals for Pennsic!

Heodez experiments with using the water from boiled dried peas to remove grease and oil spots from fabrics (it works!)

Heodez experiments with using the water from boiled dried peas to remove grease and oil spots from fabrics (it works!)

And I would be remiss in leaving out Heodez’s interest beyond cosmetics. She’s redacted recipes for stiffening velvet and making artificial pearls. I myself made fake pearls based on her recipe over a year ago — that was a fun adventure! Heodez also enjoys sewing, embroidery, and dance. She is an apprentice to Mistress Sarafina Sinclair.

Heodez is a fellow Midrealm A&S Pentathlon entrant, having won the Kingdom A&S Pentathlon last year and inspiring me to enter this year. She was also the Middle Kingdom Arts and Sciences Champion and the Middle Marches Baronial A&S Champion in 2013. She is a member of the Order of the Silver Oak. I personally feel her leaves shine green in all four seasons — if you agree with me, please do let Their Majesties know.

 

How to Make a Hand Softener/Moisturizer:

Lady Heodez shared a recipe for a hand softener from the late 16th century.  She says it was  very popular when she bring it to Craftperson’s Faires and Pennsic. It’s exceedingly simple to make. The recipe is from The English Huswife (which contains “The inward and outward Vertues which ought to be a in a compleate Woman”). Here’s how you do it:

1. Procure some almond oil (sweet), whole cloves, and a small glass jar. Historically you would have ground almonds to release their oil. I bought all from my local Whole Foods store.

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2. Fill your jar 3/4 full of almond oil, then place 2 or 3 whole cloves in the jar and seal it tightly.

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4. Place this jar in your sunniest windowsill for about four days.

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You have now created a hand softener which is lightly scented and long lasting.  You only need a small dab, so a little jar lasts a long time.  It also makes a wonderful facial moisturizer during the winter.  Almond oil does not clog the pores and is hypoallergenic.

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The oil has a lovely scent of cloves, but not at all overpowering. I’ve been applying the oil to my hands for several days now and they are indeed very soft! This little bottle will be going in my toilette kit for Pennsic!

Lady Heodez was nominated for this project by THL Philippa Montague, who wrote to me to say, “in addition to two pentathlons in two successive years, [Heodez] teaches classes and sends her students home with handfuls of samples and recipes. (The medieval bilberry deodorant was as startlingly effective as advertised, plus it didn’t freeze when everything else froze at Gulf Wars!)”. Would you like to nominate someone to be featured here? Leave a reply or contact me directly!

SCA Artisan Love: THL Eva vanOldeBroek (+ Beginner Sprang Tutorial)

8 June 2014

[This is the second in a series of articles on SCA artisans who inspire, teach, encourage, and/or make the Society a better place for us all! I learned so much through other artisans while preparing for the A&S Pentathlon, and now it is my turn to shine the love on them, learn more about their craft, and introduce them to you.]

eva-vanoldebroek

The Honorable Eva vanOldeBroek tells me she is “craft ADD,” but I beg to differ. Learning just one of her arts — sprang — took a considerable amount of focus and dedication on my part. I think a better term for this talented artisan would be “renaissance woman” of the A&S world! Her interests include the fiber arts, sprang, knitting, embroidering, sewing, weaving, calligraphy, illumination, sugar paste subtleties, and mead making!

eva-garterLady Eva hails from the Canton of Rimsholt in the Barony of Andelcrag some distance to the west of me and I first became aware of her arts through photographs. At several events last year, Eva wore the fretwork veil you can see in the photo above. It was absolutely lovely and instantly captivated me, making me curious about her. It wasn’t long before I began seeing her at events, always with a ready smile for me and anyone! Eventually I learned that Eva has been practicing her craft for over a dozen years in the SCA.  Eva started in the SCA in 2000, when she was first inspired to try inkle weaving by THL Cassandra of Glastonbury, who also introduced her to sprang years later. Artisans like Cassandra inspire Eva, who says, “I keep seeing such awesome new things that I just have to try them myself. There is always a growing list of skills I simply MUST have, mostly because I’ve seen someone doing really great work in it.”

When I asked Eva what her favorite project has been so far, she named her sprang garter that took a first place at Kingdom A&S last month. “The garter was a challenge, not just in actually braiding, but in figuring out the precise pattern,” says Eva. “There was a bit of trial and error before I decided on a technique that would closely match the original piece.” You can see a portion of the intricate sprang garter in the image above and a closeup to the right.

Eva really has a wide breadth of skills and knowledge. A look through her photo archive shows a fashion doll, a knitted beret, embroideries, a variety of Dutch headwear, fun sugarpaste projects, silk paintings, dozens of illuminated scrolls, and yards and yards of sprang. Here are just a few of her projects:

eva-embroidery eva-scroll eva-doll

You can see more of Eva’s work, and read about her projects and progress at her web site at http://evavano.dreamwidth.org. Eva was Andelcrag’s Baronial A&S Champion in  2009-2010, the recipient of the Order of the Evergreen, a consistent entrant and judge in our Midrealm A&S competitions, and a frequent teacher of classes on sprang and veils.

As I do, I asked Eva is there was something she could teach me. And as it happened, she was teaching a class that weekend in basic sprang. I took her excellent class and learned the basics. I went home, took photos of each step, and wrote down the directions so you could learn, too!

Beginner Sprang Tutorial (as taught by THL Eva van Oldebroek)

First, what is sprang? Sprang in a very old method of weaving (or braiding) threads together. Sprang looks a bit like netting or knitting in some forms, but sprang uses only warp threads — no weft. Sprang goes back to the Bronze Age and was still in use as late as the 16th century (and beyond). Eva told me that sprang can be used for garters, belts, hairnets, stockings, scarves, and other purposes where a flexible material is required. Working sprang reminds me a bit of a solo cat’s cradle game, if you remember that. Threads are pulled out and twist as you go along, creating an intriguing interlock.

Eva’s classes include a simple starter kit consisting of a frame made of PVC pipes and two dowels upon which she’s already wound the yarn. But for those of you at home who cannot get to one of Eva’s classes, here is a materials list:

  • Basic cotton yarn
  • PVC pipe pieces with a diameter of 1 inch (two  2′foot long pipes,  two 12″ long pipes, and four connectors — you can buy these inexpensively at home improvement stores)
  • Two 12″ wood dowels
  • 10 wooden sticks (like the sort you can buy for kabobs)
  • Instructions (Basic Sprang Handout PDF)

1. To get started, suspend your two dowels to the top and bottom of your frame like shown below. Tie it securely, but make sure you can untie it easily later (i.e., slipknot) as you’ll want to adjust the tension.

sprang-frame

2. Now tie one end of your yarn to one end of one dowel, then begin wrapping the yarn (thread) around the two dowels in a figure-8 pattern, moving across. This is called warping. Continue until you have a good number of wraps — the one from Eva had 24 loops. When you’ve reached the end, tie the end off on the same dowel as your first tie.

sprang-frame-warped  sprang-frame-warped2

Note: Eva’s warp used two different colors, which was achieved by wrapping the center section separately in a different color.

2a. Check the tension on your warped threads. A lot of my problems were caused by the tension either being too loose or too tight. You want the threads to be stable enough to work with.

3. Now let’s organize our threads — insert one of your sticks into the top end of your threads, pulling the back ones forward and the front ones back alternately, as shown below. This really helped me get my threads separated!

spring-organize3

spring-organize

4. Now it’s time to sprang! You will be alternating two rows of twists. Starting with the first row, pull the two rightmost back threads forward and the one rightmost front thread back, in that order, like shown below. You can use a stick or your fingers — I preferred to use my fingers, but it was harder to take a photo of that.

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4a. Bring the next back thread forward and the next front thread backward. Repeat all across the row.

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4b. Insert a second stick in the same spot as the first, as shown here:

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4c. Push the lower stick all the way down to the bottom and the upper stick all the way up to the top, like this:

sprang-row1-dowel2

5. Now it’s time for the next row. This time instead of bringing the two rightmost back threads forward, you bring just the one rightmost back thread forward, like this:

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5a. Bring the next back thread forward and the next front thread backward. Repeat all across the row.

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5b. Insert another stick in the same spot and push the lower stick down and the upper stick up, just like in step 4c.

6. Continue alternating steps 4 and 5 until you run out of space (the twists will eventually meet in the middle), adjusting tension as necessary. If you lose your spot (forget whether you should start with two back threads or one back thread, just check to see how many threads you started with last time. In the photo below, you can see that I started with TWO threads on my last row (I’ve circled those two threads to make it easier to spot them), so my next row would start with one.

sprang-finding-place

7. As you work each row, check that you got it right before moving on. I often would skip/jump a thread by accident and need to start over. Here’s what that common mistake looks like so you can identify it:

sprang-finding-mistakes

8. When you get to the middle, Eva says you can either use a crochet hook and “chain stitch” the threads together, or run a thread through the center. I chose the latter.

sprang-middle-thread

9. Remove the sticks.

sprang-no-sticks

10. Cut a long length of yarn and carefully thread it through the top loops as you remove the top dowel. Repeat with another piece of yarn for the bottom dowel.

sprang-top-loops

11. You can leave it like this, or you can make your sprang into a pouch! To make a pouch, fold your piece in half in the middle (where you inserted that yarn in step 8), thread a large-eye needle with one end of the middle thread, and begin stitching up the sides through the loops on the ends. When you get to the top of the side, take several more stitches in the same spot then knot it securely. Repeat for the other side.

sprang-sidessprang-sides2sprang-sides3

11a. To turn the top strings into a drawstring, switch one of your top-loop strings so it enters/exits from the opposite side of the other string. This enables you to pull on both and tightly cinch the top.

sprang-pouch

Tada! A beginner sprang pouch! Many thanks to Eva for teaching me how to do this. If you would like to learn more about sprang, check out Eva’s Advanced Sprang Techniques page. Eva also recommends the Sprang email list at Sprang-subscribe@yahoogroups.com, which includes several useful files including a copy of a Sprang Chronology started in Collingwood but added to by Maedb ingen Dungaile (also found here http://www.florilegium.org/?http%3A//www.florilegium.org/files/TEXTILES/sprang-chrono-art.html), and a very thorough bibliography (also found here http://www.cs.vassar.edu/~capriest/sprangbib.html).

THL Eva is a student of Mistress Gytha Arnarsdottir (also known as Catherine of Chester) and resides in the Canton of Rimsholt.  You can reach her through her web site at http://evavano.dreamwidth.org/.

Please help share the love for A&S and the artisans who create it by sharing this post with your friends! And if you know of an artisan that deserves to be called out, please post here and spread the word-fame!

Tutorial: Simple Canvas Dayshade for Events (with or without wings)

2 June 2014

CanvasDayshadeTutorialHere’s how to make a simple canvas sunshade that is pretty easy to set up and take down. The benefit of this particular sunshade is that it has a sloped back wall, providing protection against sun, wind, and rain. It even gives you a bit of privacy, useful for when you just want to shut out the sight that modern road behind you. You can add on optional wings for more privacy, and if you do, you can drop the front and effectively close up the space.

Dayshade Materials:

Here’s what you need to make this sunshade

  • Enough canvas to make a rectangle that is 120″ wide by 172″ long — you will need to piece lengths of canvas (use my tutorial on a felled seam to attach the lengths together) *
  • (Optional) Extra 60″ x 120″ of canvas for the privacy wings
  • Seven strong metal rings about 1″ in diameter (nine if you do the wings) — for reinforcing your hand-sewn grommets
  • Heavy cotton or linen thread and a long, strong needle — for sewing your hand-sewn grommets
  • One 2″ x 4″ x 132″ long wood ridge pole
  • Four 3″ x 3″ x 81″ long wood poles
  • Four 4″ long threaded bolts (to go into the end of your poles)
  • Seven 12″ long heavy-duty “nails” to use as tent stakes
  • Four 1/2″ cotton ropes
  • (Optional) Finials for the tops of the poles and paint for the poles/canvas (or just stain for the poles)

* Note on the canvas: If you only need sun protection, not rain protection, any outdoor-rated canvas will do. If you want your dayshade to keep the water off your head and belongings, however, you’ll need a heavy duty, water repellent 100% cotton canvas, such as 10 oz. Sunforger canvas. We do not recommend you use the canvas drop cloths from a hardware store unless you don’t mind getting wet!

 

Dayshade Pattern:

Here is the original plan of the various components of this sunshade (each set of gridelines represents one foot):

sloped-dayshade-pattern

 

Dayshade Instructions:

1. Cut your canvas as show in the pattern above. You’ll likely need to join several pieces of canvas to get a 120″ width (use my tutorial on a felled seam to attach the lengths together).

2. Hem all four sides of the main dayshade. We folded over the edge twice — a simple rolled hem — and stitched it on our sewing machine. Note that not all sewing machines can handle really heavy-duty canvas, so test yours out first. I used my ’90s era Kenmore sewing machine and went slowly.

3. Add grommets in each of the four corners, plus an extra one centered on the back edge. We do not recommend the brass grommets you can buy at the craft store — they will likely rip out (been there, done that). Instead, take the time to hand-sew your grommets. Use these directions, and sandwich in the metal ring between the canvas for extra reinforcement. Here’s what our grommets look like after plenty of use. Not pretty, but works great.

grommet

4. Cut your four poles to 81″ long and screw in a bolt to each end, making sure about 2″ of the bolt is sticking up. Make sure the bolt is small enough to easily go into your grommets made in step 3.

5. Cut your ridge pole to size (132″ long) and drill 1/2″ diameter holes roughly 6″ in on either side. Make sure your holes are large enough to allow the bolts inserted in step 4 to pass through.

6. If you want the optional privacy wings (we have not added ours yet), attach the longest side to the sides of the back sides of the day shade (use a flat fell seam again) and add grommets to the outer corners so you can stake them down or tie them to your poles.

7. If you want finials, find something appropriate at your local hardware store (or make something), drill a hole in the bottom that fits the end of your bolt, and stain/paint to look the way you want. Here’s one of our finials:

finial

That’s pretty much it!

 

Dayshade Setup:

1. Lay the dayshade on the ground, positioning the back edge where you want it to be.

2. Stake the back edge of the dayshade to the ground using the 12″ nails (or real iron tent stakes, if you have them).

3. Fold the front edge of the dayshade back, put the ridge pole on the ground in about the spot you want it, then fold the dayshade back over the ridge pole (it’s all still flat on the ground at this point).

4. Position the four poles on the ground around the corners of the dayshade.

5. Take a pole, insert it’s top bolt through the hole at the end of the ridge pole, then through the grommet in your canvas — stand it up, hook/tie a rope around the top, and stake it down. Repeat with the pole on the other side of the ridge pole. (We do this as a team — it’s much easier with two people.)

6. Insert the two front poles, attach the rope, and stake them down.

7. If you made finials, just put them over the top of your bolts in your poles (they stay on by gravity).

8. If you attached privacy wings, either tie the sides to the poles or stake the edges down through the grommets you added to each corner.

We use this sunshade at day-trip events — it sets up in about 10-15 minutes, and comes down in less time.

Here are some photos of the dayshade at events:

dayshade-red-dragon2 dayshade-red-dragon dayshadefront dayshadeback

We still plan to attach the wings, but as we have not yet, be aware that our pattern may not be perfect — we haven’t yet tested the wings. Looking at the angle of the dayshade when it is set up, it looks a bit more angled than we allowed for in our pattern. Yet that angle in the pattern should be correct, based on our calculations of the length of the top and back. So keep this in mind and your mileage may vary!

We have plans to pain the back of our dayshade since it provides such a nice big, blank canvas — we’re thinking something like this:

paint-idea

This is the heraldic shield on the back of Gregor’s cart and it incorporates the personal heraldry of our family, plus the German double-headed eagle. We shall see if we manage to do that!

If you have questions about the dayshade, please post here and we’ll do our best to help!

SCA Artisan Love: Halima, The Felting Lady

28 May 2014

[This is the first in a series of articles on SCA artisans who inspire, teach, encourage, and/or make the Society a better place for us all! I learned so much through other artisans while preparing for the A&S Pentathlon, and now it is my turn to shine the love on them, learn more about their craft, and introduce them to you.]


THL Sayyida Halima bint al-Rabi’i, or “Halima” as she is known by most, is the very first artisan I noticed as a newcomer to the SCA. Her work was on display at my first event, and I remember staring at it for a while trying to work out how on earth it was created. It mesmerized and confused and inspired me. What I now know is Halima is a felt artist who makes incredible works of art from wool.

So just what is felting? Felting, or more specifically wet felting which is Halima’s technique, is the process by which warm soapy water is applied to layers of animal hairs placed at 90 degree angles to one another. Wetting and soaping causes the scales on the fibers to open, while agitating them causes the fibers to latch onto each other ….creating felt! Here are some of the beautiful things Halima has made with wet felting:

“When making felt I feel that I am having a conversation with it and coaxing it into the form I want it to have,” writes Halima. “You have to be continually mindful of how the wool is reacting during the process and alter your actions accordingly, that is listening to what the wool tells you.”

So when Halima offered a felting hat class, I eagerly signed up to learn more. During the class I molded the fibers into a complete hat … and it was amazing! Here’s a quick summary of what Halima taught us that day for those curious how this felting thing actually works!

1. Cut out a resist (from cardboard in this case) slightly larger than the desired hat size.

2. Lay two layers of wool fibers over the resist in alternating directions (one going up/down, one going side-to-side). Allow the wool to extend a bit beyond the resist.

3. Sprinkle/spray the wool with warm soapy water.

4. Lay a fabric netting over the wool and gently press it down to distribute the water and condense the wool.

5. Flip it all over (wool, resist, netting) and pull the wool around the edges.

6. Add more wool to the backside of the resist in the same alternating, 90-degree-angle fashion as step 2, so that each side now has two layers of wool. (You can add more wool, at 90 degree angles, for a thicker hat.)

7. Keep the wool thoroughly wet, but not too wet, and rub the wool on all sides in a circular motion to “felt” the wool. Keep the fabric netting on top of the wool to keep the wool in place and avoid having the wool stick to your hands. Rub the wool until it has felted to the point where it will not pull apart when pinched. This took a while!

8. Cut open the bottom of the felted wool and pull out the resist.

9. Place the hat on a towel and roll it up tightly around a stick, then roll it back and forth about a dozen times. Halima suggested using our feet to roll it! Unroll, re-roll in the opposite direction, and repeat. (This rolling presses out the creases and shrinks it in a controlled way.)

10. Place the hat on the hat block or a person’s head, then stretch over to smooth and mold into the shape desired.

11. Rinse the soap out of the hat, trim the edges, and allow to dry.

12. Wear your stylish hat! Here’s the hat I made in that class:

This was a just a quick description of what I learned from Halima — I recommend you take one of Halima’s classes to get your hands wet and soapy and felt something yourself! Check Halima’s web site at http://www.wanderingsheep.com/ for upcoming classes!

Halima also takes commissions and sells her creations in her Etsy shop and at at SCA events (I believe she’ll be at Border War). Here’s the beautiful bag I commissioned from her — I intended it to be a bag to hold a first-aid kit, but now I just use it for my all-purpose bag. I’ve been using it for two years now and look how lovely it remains! It holds its shape remarkably well.

Halima’s SCA A&S achievements include the Order of the Willow and Order of the Evergreen, as well as being selected as Cynnabar’s Baronial A&S Champion in 2010. Halima was the founder and event steward of Fiber Faire and Fiber Faire 2, which focused on the fiber arts! Halima also enters her creations at the Midrealm A&S competitions, one of which I recently had the opportunity to transport for her. Here is her 2014 A&S entry — three delightful bycocket hats!

THL Halima is a student of Master Henry Kersey of Devon and resides in the Barony of Cynnabar. You can reach her through her web site at http://www.wanderingsheep.com.

Please help share the love for A&S and the artisans who create it by sharing this post with your friends! And if you know of an artisan that deserves to be called out, please reply here and spread the word-fame!

The Midrealm A&S Pentathlon: My Journey, Misadventures, and Resolutions

27 May 2014

This tale starts with a bit of beeswax.

If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know I was in the SCA briefly in the ’90s. I made a dress, attended several events, flirted with dancing (and a couple guys), went to various meetings, and picked out a name (Katarina). I drifted away, as I had no real purpose or anchor to it. Fast forward to my friend Tracy’s 50th birthday — she’s still in the SCA and she invites me to an SCA event where her birthday will be celebrated. As I’m reading through the event web page (which we didn’t have back when I began in the SCA), I see there are Arts & Sciences challenges. ‘Ooh, this is a new aspect of the SCA I had not noticed before,’ I think to myself. The stars align and I decide to give the SCA another try: I paint a portrait with a fleur in it to enter into the challenge, I make a Tudor gown to wear, and off I go. I have a blast and win the challenge. Among the prizes I received was a biscuit of beeswax. I had no idea why it was a prize at the time, but it had a fleur de lys on it and it smelled good. Duchess AnneMarie re-introduced me to the SCA, and the A&S aspect pulled me in. I was hooked this time.

From that point on, I began making all the things! I think that first year I might have driven some of my fellow baronial members crazy with my incessant blog and Facebook posting of projects and photos. I was just SO happy to have an outlet for creativity. I learned about A&S displays and entered my first blackwork project in it several months after that first event. (I discovered the many uses of beeswax during my first blackwork project!) A couple of months later there was an A&S heraldry competition at a local event that I entered and won. I was having SO much fun! Then I learned that our Barony had an A&S champion. I even though was only six months in at this point, I entered the competition for that anyway. I had my blackwork, woodwork, my first tellerbarret hat, and silk heraldic cloak on display. I wasn’t selected as baronial champion, but something significant happened anyway (because that’s how this works, you know). Master RanthlfR said to me something like, “Great work! I can’t wait to see what you do for the Pentathlon.”

Pentathlon? What the heck is that?

I researched this “Pentathlon” thing and discovered that each year the Midrealm hosts A&S competitions. A Pentathlon is waaaaay out of my reach, I think, but maybe I could enter a thing in the competition. A thing turns into two things when I finish my blackwork caul and my red German goldwork gown (that beeswax got more use!). I get a practice run at entering an A&S competition with the Day at St. Catherine’s Cloister: Demystifying A&S Competitions event, the brainchild of the late Dame Margarete of Stirlingshire (to whom I am so grateful). I meet many people and learn so much. I enter the regional A&S faire, and the person who checks me in enthusiastically is THL Gunnar (our new Kingdom A&S champion) — he mentions that pentathlon word again as he had entered it the previous year. I win a first and second place at Regional and get to go on to Kingdom. My judges comments guide me, I make tweaks to my projects and documentation, and I receive two first places at Kingdom.

The entire A&S competition experience that first year was positive and uplifting. The competitions motivated me to tackle (and finish) difficult projects. The judging gave me genuine feedback from like-minded people who didn’t mind sitting and chatting with me about my passions. The awards encouraged me to continue. Through my judging I met Mistress Crespine and Master Cellach, neither of whom were recognized as Laurels at the time and who both inspire and encourage me to this day. And through the face-to-face time and the written comments — and the other entrants’ work on display — I learn more about the importance of research and communication of process and ideas.

And that bit of beeswax? Somehow I’d brought it with me to each A&S event, though why I cannot say now.

I entered the A&S competition the following year (my goldhaube), but my experience was a bit rockier, the going a little harder. I had put my goldhaube together much later than expected because of a death in the family, but I was determined to do it. I was fortunate that my goldhaube earned a first place. I began judging other entrants at Kingdom A&S this year also, and discovered that not everyone had the same positive attitude about the creation of A&S. My beliefs and conceptions were challenged, and I faltered a bit that day. I am indebted to Gregor and Mistress Crespine for their counsel, which helped me overcome this hurdle.

Later that day in court, I listened intently as the pentathlon entrants’ scores were read and I watched in wonder as THL Heodez De Talento Minotto won the pentathlon and became the new Kingdom A&S Champion. Their Majesties recognized her and she inspired us — and it wasn’t just me who felt that inspiration. While waiting in the line to get our certificates and judging sheets, I heard many people declare their intention to enter a pentathlon one day. “One day I’d like to enter a pentathlon,” I heard myself say. And it was true. What a challenge it would be to enter at least five items in four different divisions. And, to share my inner thoughts a bit here, I thought it would be cool to win. Many of us won first place awards that day, but only one person really stood out (at least for me) as the premier entrant — she won the Pentathlon, was recognized and congratulated by the Crown and assembled populace, and was made Kingdom Champion and recognized at all the events she attended as Champion. I am not ashamed to admit that I love being recognized by my peers. I think most of us do!

And this year? It was everything that came before that pushed me to enter this year. The challenges I’d encountered motivated me to do some deep research, get the answers written down, and share it with everyone through a research paper. And once I did that and had to submit it for the A&S competition so early, I didn’t stop — I just kept writing, researching, and creating until I found I had those five projects. I don’t mean to oversimplify it — I have been gently accused of “making it seem too easy.” It was definitely hard work with lots of frustration, complications, very late nights, and a fair amount of bloodshed (darn carving knives). My beeswax was used and abused! But I also stretched into new areas, learned new skills, and expanded my mind. It was a WONDERFULLY HARD challenge! But … I only entered the pentathlon to accomplish the challenge, not with the intention of winning. Had I been trying to win, I would have entered seven, not five, projects. I also would not have entered any write-in entries (like my research paper or play), as those are judged just once with no option of tweaking in between regional and Kingdom (and those judges comments go a long way toward improving a project). But so what? I’D ENTERED A PENTATHLON. It felt great and I was on top of the world. This was my first try and perhaps next year I’d enter with the goal of winning.

I had a great day at the regional competition, despite my lack of sleep — I was up all night sewing, my trusty beeswax in hand. I had been hoping to get at least second places on my projects so I could go to Kingdom. I was pleasantly surprised to discover I’d gotten four first places and one second place. And those first places had scores higher than any of my previous projects — there were even a few perfect scores, a possibility which had not even occurred to me. That was a great day! Much gratitude to my Regional-level judges: Mistress Melisant Saint-Clair, Lady Godelina Blaubloeme, Lady Catherine of Deva,  Master Odo de Eu, Artemesia Voltera, Master Nigellus le Haie, THL Sarai Tindall, Mistress Gianetta Andreini da Vincenza, Mistress Sarafina Sinclair, Mistress Tyzes “Zsof” Sofia, Baroness Frances Elizabeth Devereux, THL Eva von Oldebrook, Master Maximilian der Zauberer, and THL Halla of Mugmort.

So my projects went on as a Pentathlon entry to Kingdom A&S. I did some updates to my documentation and arrived feeling really relaxed — this was helped by the fact that I felt I had no hopes of winning, so there was no anxiety. With three other Pentathlon entries by highly skilled entrants, two of whom had previously entered the Pentathlon, my chances were very slim and I simply let go of all those hopes and fears that accompany such a competition. I did encounter one little bump when I came face-to-face with my challenge from the previous year, but I chose to address it directly and positively — all was resolved well. That challenge had motivated me to learn more and produce an entire research paper — how can I not see that as a good thing now?

Many, many thanks to my Kingdom judges: Master Cellach Mac Cormach, Lady Colette the Seamstress, Baroness Frances Elizabeth Devereux, Master Avery Austringer, Baroness Katayoun Al-Aurvataspa, THL Aasa Sorensdottir, THL Odile di Brienne, Mistress Anthoinette de Martel, and Mistress Cerridwen verch Ioreword.

(Beware: Rant/Constructive Criticism Ahead. If you dislike such things, skip to the next paragraph!) Despite all this, court that evening was a bit of an ordeal. It was long and hot, for starters. The two A&S champions were chosen early on in court, though without any fanfare and no heraldic announcement — I did not even know they were A&S champions until much later because I could not hear a single word of what was said despite sitting in the fifth row. I was happy to see THL Gunnarr Alfljot (the A&S Champion) and Genevieve of Sternfeld (the Youth A&S Champion) recognized! But even though the main focus of the day was Kingdom A&S, the awards were not announced until 75 minutes after the start of court. And I felt more time and attention was given to the various tournament winners of the day (small tournaments, not Crown Tournament) than to those who I felt were the real stars of the day — the entrants of the A&S competition who had worked so hard in the months and perhaps even years to get here. Due to the lack of time, only names and awards were announced and it was asked that applause be held until the end and the entrants did not go up to receive their certificates (they were given out at the back of the hall after court). I felt upset on the behalf of my fellow artisans — there was a distinct lack of focus and attention on the bestowing of the awards. I want to point out that I do not feel this was any fault of the competition organizers, whom impressed me greatly with their efforts and organization. I know this varies year to year, but should I ever have the power to change this, I would make the A&S competition results the centerpiece of court, with each entrant called up, given their certificate, and asked to remain standing in the front (if they are able) for their friends and family to applaud them and see their faces. Entering an A&S competition is the culmination of a great deal of research and hard work, and NEEDS to be celebrated for the future well-being of our Kingdom and its populace. Competitions motivate, inspire, and recognize individuals to do their best at one of the three pillars of our Society, the Arts & Sciences. The Pentathlon scores were the final piece of court business and — given everything — it just felt anti-climatic … and quite unlike last year. (Rant off.)

So when the Pentathlon awards were announced, I was shocked and humbled to discover I had won. It is important to note that the scores for the pentathlon entries were all very close — only six points differentiated them. This means we ALL did a phenomenal job and I just got lucky to be the one with the highest score. It is my greatest hope that all the pentathlon entrants feel a great sense of satisfaction of their accomplishment. Many congratulations to THL Gunnarr Alfljot, THL Heodez De Talento Minotto, and Lady Lynette de Warenne for their amazing achievement! And hoobah to all the Kingdom A&S competition entrants and to the competition organizers — especially Master Philippe and Mistress Crespine — to whom I am so grateful!

I’ve been asked if I will enter the Pentathlon again, and while I cannot see into the future, I suspect I will not. Why? Because as the Pentathlon Champion, I feel my role is to motivate and inspire others to pursue their ideas and enter the A&S competition. I’d like to see others enter and win, and as the Pentathlon is comes down to a competition between the entrants, I would not want to inadvertently stand in anyone’s way of winning. Honor before victory is more than the name of this blog.

To that end, I intend to shine the spotlight on other artisans in our Kingdom. There are so many amazingly talented people and I want to get to know them better and share their talents with the Middle Kingdom and Knowne World! Over the next year, I’ll be focusing more on these inspirational people, learning about their arts and sciences, and introducing them to you through my blogs (either here or over at GermanRenaissance.net, depending upon their field). Please bookmark my blogs and watch for links!

As for this year’s A&S projects, I have already posted the documentation for my pleatwork smock and my wooden doll over at GermanRenaissance.net, and my pleatwork research paper and 16th c. play will follow soon. I will also continuing the posting of my tutorials on the various projects. Thank you to everyone for your support, kind words, and encouragement!

My little beeswax talisman is not forgotten. It’s seen me through every fiber-related project I’ve done in this time. Somehow, I don’t know how, I’ve managed to avoid losing it. It’s a little worse for wear, but still works great! I think everyone who wants one should have one, and I’ll be making beeswax ornaments and talismans for fellow artisans I see doing wonderful things, whether it be at a display, competition, class, or simply somewhere out there. So don’t be surprised to see a little beeswax feather or winged heart find its way to you!

Norse Apron Dress (Smokkr): Instructions and Pattern (Easy, Fun, and Comfortable!)

17 September 2013

My autumn gold apron dress

When I was new to the SCA, the sitting queen of the Middle Kingdom was the lovely and wise Runa. Today she is a Duchess, but she will always be my first Queen. She is kind, very talented with the needle, and quintessentially Norse. When I think of Norse and Viking, I think of Runa. She has the most beautiful Norse apron dresses. So when I embarked on my Artisan Quest, I decided to make a version of Duchess Runa’s Apron Dress for myself! She graciously consented to share her pattern, and gave me permission to share it with you here.

Apron Dress Materials:

Linen or wool, approximately 3 yards (this depends on your measurements, see pattern below)

Apron Dress Pattern:

I’ve put Runa’s pattern into a handy PDF file, along with some of my notes. You can either download the full PDF, or simply click the image below for a closer view.

Runa's Norse Apron Dress Pattern (click for larger image)

Apron Dress Instructions:

1. Measure around your bust then divide by 3. Now add 1 inch for a seam allowance. This is measurement A.

2. Measure from your waist to where you want the dress to hit under your arm. This is measurement B.

3. Double measurement A to get measurement C.

4. Layout your material and mark it according to the diagram below (works for most fabrics and measurements) and cut. The areas in gray are scraps you can later use to make your straps or a cap.

5. To assemble, first sew the two smaller triangles marked with an * together to form the third gore. Then sew the pieces together in this order: top + gore + top + gore + top + gore. Now sew the first top to the last gore to finish it.

6. Straps can be made of the same material or you can use inkle or card woven trim.

Measurement Notes:

  • The length of your apron dress is really up to you! Apron dresses may be as short as knee-length or as long as floor-length. Your material width may determine how long it can be cut, too!
  • If your girth is larger than your bust, use that measurement for A instead.
  • Remember, you will not be wearing this dress alone. You’ll have at least one, if not two, underdresses beneath it. If you already have your underdress(es), wear them when you take measurement A.

Me with Runa, who is wearing a beautiful red apron dress!

My Notes:

  • There are no complete extant dresses like this surviving, so this is interpolation from fragments and historical texts. So don’t worry and have fun!
  • I used a felled seam to sew my pieces together because there is evidence that type of seam was used and I liked how it looked.  Check out http://nvg.org.au/documents/other/stitches.pdf to see the other seam techniques used.
  • Apron dress straps found attached to metal brooches in graves are generally 4mm-10mm (.16″-.4″) in width, of the same color and fabric as the dresses themselves.

The apron dress only took one day to cut and sew (and not even a full day at that)! It was easy and very comfortable to wear.

Once your apron dress is complete, you can embellish it with seam treatments, appliques, and/or jewelry. Those are topics for another blog post, though!

Many, many thanks to Duchess Runa for being such a wonderful inspiration!

Gregor and Genoveva at Vikings Come Home 2013

 

Fun with Norse/Viking Embroidery

6 September 2013

I’m preparing to attend Vikings Come Home on September 14 and we’re making our first, non-German garb. So what did I start with? The hat, of course! But just sewing stuff isn’t enough for me, oh no. I had to go and embroidery it, too. It’s so FUN to embroidery these stitches like herringbone, stem stitch, and chain stitch (all stitches known to exist on Norse era clothing). I have more to do, but I wanted to record my work so far:

Double herringbone stitch on a linen cap

The first image shows a double herringbone stitch, which I made using plain old DMC cotton floss (size 5). I’ve never worked with thread so large before (most of my blackwork is a single silk thread), so it goes very fast and is very satisfying.

Sleipner Norse Horse in Stem Stitch and Chain Stitch

This is Sleipner, Odin’s eight-legged horse done in stem stitch (horse body) and chain stitch (insides of the tail). Same color threads as the cap. Lovely autumn colors. The horse motif will go around the color of Gregor’s tunic, which is a dark red color that matches the dark red embroidery thread.

How to do the stem stitch

How to do the chain stitch

It goes really quite quick. I did the horse and the tail you see in a day and a half.

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