Thursday, August 31, 2017

Remy's Vigil Book - The Embroidering Part 4

The center of the book cover! While I was working my way through all the goldwork on the main piece, I was also traveling around with this centerpiece. I did not take nearly as many progress shots of this, but it was pretty straightforward.
I started with silk backed with linen (you can see the basting stitches in the lower left corner of the pictures). Because this is white fabric, I could actually put the design directly on the fabric! I sketched the heraldry with a normal pencil, knowing that I would cover all the lines. I then used __________ silk thread in split stitches and filled everything in. The only part that was any more complicated than that was the wolf - in order to stop it from being a blog, I did a bit of silk shading. It's still mostly split stitches, but there are a few stitches that are "whatever fit and moved in the correct direction".

Once the silk portion was done I couched silver passing thread around all the shapes. I didn't want it to be the only non sparkling part of the book cover! This was easy enough to do for the straight lines, but the wolf and fleur-de-lis were rather more difficult. I used tweezers to make particularly sharp bends in the thread where it was needed. I also used a slightly less thick passing thread for those areas.

When the embroidery was done it was time to applique this piece onto the main piece. Pinning it in place didn't work very well - it was very thick - so it ended up slightly lopsided. I used white and blue thread to do the couching, so it wouldn't show. I then couched a looped wire around the outside of the shield. This was to finish covering the couching, as well as to even out the slightly off center shield. I specifically used the looped wire because it called to mind the thread used for the oval of the original piece.

You can also see the many spangles that were added to the piece now. I followed the basic positions of the original piece, but primarily used them in particularly open places in the design. I attached the spangles by used a piece of check purl as a bead to hold them on, which is how they were done on the original piece. Some of the areas around the shield ended up somewhat open, but not in a shape that would easily accept a spangle. In those places I used just a piece of the check purl to fill out the design.

A critique that I've heard of my previous goldwork pieces is that they aren't quite encrusted enough with metal to be properly period. This is a very valid comment - the goldwork that I'm trying to recreate goes far above and beyond what might be considered "tasteful" in our time. Generally I didn't go far enough in the past due to time constraints. This time I was bound and determined not to have any large open spaces! The last two bits of work I had to do before covering the book were also to fulfill that goal.

The space under the swords had been taunting me for some time. I didn't know what I wanted to do, but it certainly needed to be filled. I ended up with a basic design and some spangles there, which turned out fine, but it taught me that the parchment paper I use to transfer my design does more than give me lines to follow. It also keeps the passing thread up above the pile of the velvet, making the lines stand out much more. Now that I know that I'll try to avoid last minute line additions to future projects.

The other item I added was a border. The original piece almost completely filled the cover of the book, and had a border that was actually around the edge of the book cover. In this case the book was slightly larger than the design area, so I decided to put the border closer to the rest of the design and leave the very edge of the cover undecorated.

And now we're essentially done, but it still needs to be put on the actual book!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Remy's Vigil Book - The Embroidering Part 3

With the passing thread and eagle done, it was time to fill in all the empty spaces with bullion.
The gold is the same stuff I used to fill in the majority of the eagle, and the silver differs only in color.
In the original piece the filling was done at a variety of angles. Most often it was a 45 degree angle to the motif, but sometimes it was a straight line across. The most notable of the second type is the wide curling leaves near each corner.

There's not too much to actually say about this step in the process. I find it to be the most pleasant step, although is it repetitive: bring the thread up on one side of the shape, cut the bullion to the appropriate size (the hardest part by far), bring the thread down on the other side of the shape. Repeat ad nauseam. It's meditative, and is very good at flinging little bits of metal everywhere.

I filled in all the gold first, and then all the silver. Then it was onto spangles, which will be in the next post (but you can see they snuck unto the last picture!)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Remy's Vigil Book - The Embroidering Part 2

Once all of the passing thread was couched down it was time for the worst task: removing the paper used to transfer the design.
I have it down to a bit of a science at this point, but that doesn't make it terribly enjoyable. Using a chenille needle, scratch the paper to rip it. I start with the large open sections, and tear up whatever I can with my fingers once the needle starts the process. If you tear smoothly and slowly a lot of the lines will act as perforations and large chunks will easily be removed. (That part, at least, is satisfying). Next, I drag the needle along the lines in where the pieces are smaller, so they can be removed from the stitches without pulling on the threads too roughly. Once we get down to truly small pieces, tweezers are the way to go. I have some that are bent at the end have a thing and rounded end, so I can use them to poke and grab all sorts of things without damaging the stitches.
But oh, does it take awhile.
It's amazing the difference in how the piece looks once the metal threads are allowed to stand out on the velvet, rather than fading into the white paper, though.

The next item I tackled was the experimental portion of the project. I wanted to pad the Caliver's eagle with felt, which is far more complex a shape than any I've done before.
I experimented on some linen, trying different amounts of padding (all with gold colored felt) and different ways of laying the bullion down to get the right feather effect.
I ended up going with a method that had only the middle parts of the shape padded, with lots of unenclosed areas for feathering. This got a more curved effect than if I had tried to fill the entire shape with felt, and it also gave me some leeway on the edges where I couldn't completely fill the area.
Even with the reduced padding, I found it very difficult to fill the area. The curves were the hardest part - it was simply difficult to change the angles that way I needed to while still covering everything. And so, close up you can see that the bullion is cut quite irregularly, but I think the effect is fine when looking at it from a normal distance. It helps that the bird is maybe an inch and a half tall.
I do particularly like how the ends of the wings and tail worked. I like the little bits of a different bullion for interest, and that they really do end up looking feathery. The tail is also where the padding is most easily seen, unfortunately. I would reshape that if I were to do this again.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Pennsic 46 - A&S Experiences

Picture by LĂ©onete d'Angely
I was convinced that I should display my works at the populace display this Pennsic, despite the fact that it overlapped with Rapier Champs this year. One of the big things that managed to push me over the edge was that my friend and fellow Handsome Boy was willing to babysit my precious books (and that others also volunteered for that task!)
I arrived early to set everything up. There was a non zero amount of running around because of forgotten items (oops) but the organizers had given us plenty of time (about 2 hours), which I very much appreciated.
At the suggestion of Mistress Vienna, I had business cards set out (Staples has one day printing, it was great!). I had also put out a book for comments, since I wasn't going to be able to actually hear those. I'll probably put out the book every time, now, because memories are good to have.
My display consisted of the two goldwork book covers I've made, with their documentation, as well as some test pieces that I did. The test pieces were there to be fondled and looked at, since the books themselves are somewhat delicate. I had many thoughts on how to make a better display from my A&S Champs experience, but all I managed to follow up on was a cloth for my space. My next display or competition I'll try to add one of the more complex things (right now, a step by step sampler that people can handle is highest on my list.)

Not shown: the piece of chocolate I immediately ate
I sat with my items for a little bit before everything opened, when the displayers were all wandering around looking at each others things. Then I went to fight in champs, and finally returned about 5 minutes before the display closed. But even in those 5 minutes I managed to have great conversations and heard many nice things! It was worth it just for that. I also returned to pile of tokens and several comments in my book, all of which were also heart warming. I didn't get to thank individual people, but know that if you stopped to look, I appreciate it.

There were a couple of amazing services that occurred concurrently with this display that I wish I could have partaken in. First, there was a team of artisans who gave their time to give feedback and advice to interested participants on a one-on-one basis. I hope many people took advantage of this, since it's absolutely the best way to improve - especially if you want to compete! There was also some people who were offering appointments for free macro photography of pieces. I would have signed up for this in a heart beat, since I find taking pictures of my work quite challenging. I have my fingers crossed that this will happen next year as well, and that I won't have a conflict for it.

And a class!

There were several embroidery classes that I had my eye on this year, but I was only able to make it to one of them. But it was a great class, and I learned a new goldwork technique! The class was taught by Vavara Laska doch' Koudelka from Trimaris, and it was about couching over a card. The class was coming from the direction of Russian goldwork, but many cultures have used cards to raise up their embroidery, and to get very crisp lines. I find it in ecclesiastical embroidery particularly often.
As is the way with classes, we didn't remotely get to finish the little project, but I think I have a solid understanding of the technique, and the handout is very detailed. The actual technique is pretty straightforward, although it takes some finesse to get exactly right.
Now to decide what to do with it!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Device Pin Project Part 8

It's been awhile since I finished some of these. I completed two more right before Pennsic, and they had been sitting around for mooonths. I keep getting distracted by things, I guess.

I've finally started in on our good friends the Calivers.

Per pale purpure and vert, on a lozenge argent a rose proper.

Argent, a chevron between three fleurs-de-lys and on a chief azure a wolf passant argent
These were the first two that I did on linen instead of a thicker cotton. I did it because it's what I had to hand when I started them, but I think I'll stick to the cotton - or at least use heavier linen. These were a bit of a pain, and I don't think they look as nice on the pin. And it's certainly harder to hide little thread bits behind the thinner fabric.

Also, that wolf is on my hit list along with certain horses and greyhounds now.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Remy's Vigil Book - The Embroidering Part 1

After finishing the design of the goldwork cover, it was time to start with couching down the lines. The lines were couched using #368 matte gold wyre from Thistle Threads and #5 silver passing thread from Hedgehog Handworks (now out of business). I happened to have both of these threads already, and chose them based on size and quantity, and the fact that I had bullion that matched their color. They were slightly different to work with. The silver was slightly thicker and acted more like metal wire would.
Sometimes I don't take the best pictures of my work, but hopefully you get the idea here.

The lines were somewhat complex to work with. In the original piece, there are two threads that are paired, but often have split apart to go create sub designs, to return to each other. Often they cross over themselves. In order to get all of that straight I printed out a very high resolution corner of the design, and drew arrows on it to follow. Even with one corner blown up to a full 8x11 page there were some more densely crossing areas that ended up being mostly guesswork.

Gold passing thread so close to completed
Because the lines were so complex I wasn't able to actual couch down both threads at once, when they were next to each other. I didn't have two spools of the thread, and couldn't begin to guess how long a second piece would need to be. Instead when separated thread returned to each other I tried to couch the second in the same places as the first, often going over both threads to give the illusion that they were couched at the same time.

Once I had completed all the gold portions - which amounted to four large motifs in the corners, and two smaller ones on each long side - I moved onto the silver. There was much less passing thread to worry about this time, and none of the motifs were particularly complicated. The flower petals were a bit of a pain due to the small loops crossing over each other and generally not wanting to go where I told them to, but it was still nothing compared to the gold motifs.

After the silver was done I outlined the last few objects with sewing thread, just so that I could find them once the paper was removed. This included the eagle, the central shield, and hilts of the swords. All of these were going to be more complicated that just outlined in passing thread, so couldn't be done over the paper.

All the passing thread

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Pennsic 46 - War Points and Tournaments


I only managed to participate in two tournaments this year, but they were both good experiences. On Wednesday after the Woods Battle all of us folks who work from manuals trekked our way to the fencing field in order to fight in the By the Book tournament. Despite the wretched timing, I think there was a bigger turnout than last year, which was great! Because of the wretched timing, it ran up against the Edmund the Lame Memorial Tournament, and was changed from its normal round robin setup, which was less great.
There were three lists, each with about 10 people. We ended up fighting double elimination, just to get done in time for Eastern Court. I fought Rafael of the Thieves of Hearts first, and we had a close fight, but he eventually won. I followed that up by fighting Remy (a thing I definitely never do). This was particularly unfortunate since I don't think that my Fabris fighting is the best way for me to fight him (I don't have specific thoughts on the why of this, but I probably should develop some). I stuck by the point of the tournament and stayed within the realms of Fabris, and he did in fact defeat me.
I admit, I've never been more ok with getting out of a tournament quickly. A shower before court was calling my name.
It turned out sticking to Fabris as well as I could was definitely the right play. I ended up winning the prize for best showing the style I intended to! For this I (amusingly) acquired a new book on I33.

The other tournament I took part in was the Ladies' Tourney. 40 women came out to play for that one, which was amazing. Each list had 10 people - mine included both Rowan and Camille, but I got to fight 7 people who I didn't know, too. I had specifically decided to make it to this tournament so that I could be there for women fencers, and try to be a role model (it's still occasionally strange to think of myself as a role model, but I do realize it's true). So I made myself make conversation and be more gregarious than I might normally be in a tournament. It ended up being quite fun, and I had several good fights. I made it out of my pool into the single elimination, best two of three, final 8.
I fought Eirne from Eoldermere. I had never fought her before, and she was a unique combination of quite tall and very aggressive. She's also quite fast. I won the first pass, but she adjusted quickly to my own aggression and she daggered me the other two fights. I was particularly vulnerable to that style, since I was fighting buckler, and I applaud her quick learning in the fights.
She went on to fight in the finals against Isolde. They had some vicious (but courteous!) fights, and in the end Isolde won the day.
I was very glad to have fought in that tournament, and I'm likely to participate again.

War Points!

Tuesday, the longest day, and yet not as long as I was worried it would be. The weather I'm sure helped with that feeling. It was gorgeous.

There were four Field Battles, each worth a war point. The Handsome Boys were holding down the north side of the field. The intention was that we push through the other side, with the Thieves and the Calivers, and be the hammer to the anvil that was waiting on the other side of the field. When this was planned, there was a single caveat- that we probably wouldn't be able to do this if we ended up across from Atlantia. And of course, we did end up in that position, and we did not generally manage to break through. But we held out long enough for people to our south do turn into a hammer, and it was amazing. I know that the Southern Army was the hammer at times (and they were inducted into the Blue Tyger Legion for their efforts!), and Loch Levan was able to find an internal flank and open them like a can. We won all four runs, but we had to work for them. The army really came together for these fights.

The Ruins Battle was much the same as in previous years, although the flags seemed even more off centered than usual. The Handsome Boys spent the first two thirds of the battle smashing into the other side up by the castle. We tried to find holes all up and down their line, and down into the building, and while we had some good pushes we never managed to get through. We did keep them very busy, and so our compatriots to the south were able to take advantage and own the flags down there.
After we switched sides, taking and keeping the top two flags became much easier, thanks to the distance difference. I believe that I heard that we mostly retained the southern flags, too. So again, the army worked beautifully. 

Wednesday was the Woods Battle. Our job was flag three, which the enemy barely tried to touch. They had one push where they almost got to our flag, and then they never really tried again. We had skirmishers out in front of the line, and the other side didn't want to get past them. So our line did a great job, even if we did a lot of looking pretty. Sometimes it's exactly what a soldier needs to do.
The other two flags had much more pressure on them, but still came away successful. 

And last we had the Stronghold Battle on Friday. This first came into being last year, and was an interesting experiment, but ended up being a very small amount of fighting. Two changes this year made the entire war point much more fun - the defending team had an easier time rezzing, and we ran three times for each side. The times for the three runs were added, and the lower cumulative time won the war point.
The Purple side defended first. Handsome Boys were with the Thieves of Hearts on the right side. We would send some people forward to distract their line, and then stand for as long as we could. We had some issues with falling back with the rest of the army, and so we had to recover from a few gaps. But in the end we held them off for something like 6, 4, and 3 minutes (I don't have the specific times, unfortunately.) Good on them for adjusting and learning. This scenario really shows that sort of thing.
When we attacked, we were very aggressive. The flanks especially were told to push through and around, and each time one side or the other managed to do that. As our general, Remy carried a standard to whichever our closest rez point was so everyone could see how far we had gotten, and this was extremely useful.
I love this war point. I love the short, intense fighting, on both sides. I look forward to seeing it continue to morph and grow.

The Purple Army did a fantastic job all week, and it was an absolute pleasure to fight alongside you. Thank you also to the other side for for being skilled and courteous opponents.