Monday, November 14, 2016

Peerage Cloak - Finished

It only took a few months.Well. At least it didn't take a full year.
Back in February I started planning a piece that would go on a peerage cloak. The recipient already had the peerage (and two more!), he just wanted to add the Order of Defense symbol to the cloak that displayed his Pelican and Knighthood. He also wanted it to be shiny.
I'd gotten somewhere in April, but as so often happens things came up, and I had taken on a project a bit more time consuming than I expected ( I would never.)

So we swing around the fall, and I decide that this cloak is getting done in time for the Rapier K&Q tournament, which lights a fire under me.

In the last post, so long ago, I had decided how I was going to create the chain. I was still a little worried that the wool would look unfinished next to the gold thread, but once I had the outline in place I think things really came together. And if I had tried to do the whole thing gold I think I would still be cursing about this project sometime next year.

Next I sketched in the swords. Even though my plan was to applique the swords on separately, I wanted to make sure they were the right size, so I just embroidered them directly inside the chain. I left off the extra fiddly details - the cross guards and swept hilts. There was no way I was going to be able to applique something that thin, so those were going on afterwards.
In hindsight, I think I should have just done the swords entirely on the cloak. I was trying to avoid pokey bits on the inside of the cloak as much as possible, and also trying to not carry around 20 lbs of fabric when I could help it, but I don't think it saved me any real time.

At this point I cut everything out with tiny scissors, leaving about a quarter inch of fabric around the edges. Then I spent so much time fray checking the back and tucking in all those edges. (So Period!) Because the edges were so narrow and the linen so fray-y, in that way only linen can be, I didn't trust things to not unravel if only the applique were holding it together.
I think this made the actual applique easier, but I'm not really sure.
The swords were thin enough that they were a real pain, and there wasn't enough embroidered material to fully cover the white on the edges. So in addition to adding the small details, I went around all the borders in a matching red wool. From a distance I don't think you can tell it's there, other than that the lines look much cleaner.
The sword blades are wobblier than I would like, but straighter than some other straight lines I've done in goldwork. Overall, once it's worn, I'm happy with the effect. Trying to take a nice picture of a pile of wool turns out to be kind of difficult.
Of course, I don't have a picture of it being worn, so you'll have to take my word for it for now.

I'm super excited to have this done and in the hands of its owner, and I learned a lot for next time.

Monday, October 24, 2016

King's and Queen's Rapier Champs

Lupold, Caine, Remy, and Malocchio receive words from their Majesties before the Final Four
I am not going to have as many words as several of my friends do, but I think it's important for me to have some.

Remy and Thomas in the final 8. 
I went into this tournament with a lot of good feelings. I haven't been posting about practices, but I've been fighting well at them, and making a lot of good progress. I was optimistic that, for once, my brain would match my skill and I wouldn't think myself out of the tournament.
And it turns out, my optimism was correct!
Lupold and Remy in the final 4, in the longest legged battle.
Mind you, I also worked for that brain. I warmed up in a real way, not just some practice bouts. I ran around the parking lot a bit, did eastern martial arts forms (which will get my blood moving and calm my mind), stretched a lot, and made sure to keep all of that up right until the very last moment. And then once the pools started, I tried to never stop moving. I resisted the urge to watch my brother or my cadet, who were both in neighboring pools. I had a sort of soft focus going on, and managed to have adrenaline, but (mostly) not get the shaky come down parts it.
I ended up winning 7 of 11 matches in my pool, and none of the losses were easy ones. I felt like the others in my pool were worried about me as an opponent. And more importantly, I felt like they should be.
I learned a variety of things from my losses, and will work all of that into my game. And although I was not able to get out of my pool, I was very happy with my performance.

And that was just the beginning of an astoundingly good day. The sweet sixteen was filled with people I care about, all doing wonderful things with swords, all being great people. I watched my brother, Malocchio, climb the ranks, alongside two good friends. I watched them ferociously fight each other, and love every second of it.

Malocchio and Lupold were in the finals together, and I couldn't help thinking about the years it took to get to this place, and watching the newer generation really come into its own. And Lupold won. And then, Malocchio was chosen as Queen's Champion. I'm told, with enthusiasm.
Malocchio and Remy fight in the final 8
And all throughout watching Malocchio win fight after fight I knew that he was going to be receiving a writ for the Order of Defense at the end of the day. And he definitely showed how much he deserved that.

In addition to all the expected tournament and court related goodness, I watched several moving ceremonies in which fencers I respect took on dependents. I'm certain that all of those pairings are going to go great places, and I can't wait to see what those places are.

Lupold defeats Caine in the final 8
I'm already looking forward to next year. Thanks to the rapier community for being awesome.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pennsic XLV

Pennsic was warm, and humid. But that didn't stop me from having a great time, and being very busy.

I went to command meetings with Countess Marguerite as the leaders of the Handsome Boys. These were generally fast and organized. And more often than not, the plans that were put in place by General Malocchio were very successful.

I moved a lot of hay bales, and so did many other people. Thank you to everyone who helped out with that - without you we would never have gotten to fight.

I went to a class on padded embroidery. The kit was fantastic, but the class was far too short to get to everything, and unfortunately the bits I'd hoped to see (detached button stitch around wire frames) were all at the end. Hopefully the kit will prove useful on its own.

I did some heralding, mostly behind the scenes, but I read a little.

I played music vaguely in public and it went ok, and want to see about starting to get involved playing music for dancing. Because who needs free time.

I fought my fellow Handsome Boys for our annual Handsomest Boy prize. I'm actually not terribly pleased with my fighting in that tournament, but the important part is that we continue to go together every year and celebrate the awesome people in our number. Congratulations to Urraka and Catalina!

I slogged through a long, late battle on Monday. I spent most of my time up at the castle with the Handsome Boy and Calivers, and generally speaking we had a delightful, friendly time. The flag traded hands in a way that we expected, but we were always able to get it back. We managed to not lose anyone to the heat - people took breaks, but no one was ever out for the battle.
I was occasionally sent further down the line the orchard, and helped with a good push, and stopped a break through in our line.
If not for the ridiculous holds and how late we started I would have come out of this battling feeling only good things about my performance and the performance of my unit.

I ran through Tuesday's battle. The speed certainly made up for Monday's pain. Six total minutes fighting, with not a single hold. It was fast, it was furious, and I really enjoyed it. Being the defenders first was a little disheartening - they did it so quickly! We never got to rez! But it turns out that's just how the battle works. We did amazing when we were on the offense, and tore through their lines. And we did it 46 seconds faster than they did!
I think this could be a really fun battle to run several times in row. It's faster even than the field battle, and that could make for some interesting adjustments in tactics as you went.

I was really looking forward to the woods on Thursday, and was sad about all of the weather problems. I'm kind of glad we didn't do the backup battle, partially because I was done with moving hay bales by then. Next year, hopefully, we can get our woods on again.

I was frustrated by Friday's field battle. Our first run had a lot of small mistakes that added up. We spread out too much on our end, and we paid the price. The second run went much better, but we still couldn't pull it out. On the third go, the troops were moved around. It was now the Handsome Boys job to push instead of hold, and once again they pushed gloriously.

I did pickups with a lot of great people - although not as many as I may have liked. That's been a common theme I've heard.

I fought in the Ansteorra tournament. I didn't do as well as I would have liked, but I had good opponents (all from Ansteorra!) and good feedback. Primarily - watch my distance, and make sure I turn my hand all the way to seconda or quarta when gaining the blade. Both of these mistakes got me killed. Both of them are fixable.

I fought in the By the Book Tournament for the very first time. I used Fabris, of course, and I was doing quite well. Unfortunately, the heat of the day and some visible lightning caused all battlefield activities to be canceled before we could finish the tournament. Next year I'll definitely be doing this one again.

Best of all, I watched people I love and respect be recognized in a variety of ways. Lupold and Sorcha were brought into the OGR. Dionisio and Doroga were made OSRs. The Handsome Boys were recognized by induction to the Blue Tyger Legion (which will have its own post when I figure out the words).

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Vigil Book for Matthias

It's been a busy summer for me!
Once again I was asked to create a vigil book cover - this time for a friend who was getting his Knighthood!

The original design was based on the motifs that were going on a new tunic, also for the occasion. Those motifs were in turn based on the sorts of designs you would often find in German brick stitch as well as Austrian roof tiles.
Image from A Stitch Out of Time
The belt was an obvious choice, this being a knighting and all. No part of me wanted to try to embroider a unicorn in the time allotted to me, so my initial plan was to include shooting stars. Unfortunately I started to run out of time, and ultimately I was worried they would make things too busy, anyway.

I knew purple was a requirement for the ground fabric. I found a wonderful linen - thin enough to make a good cover while still hefty enough for the heavy embroidery I had in mind.
Because of the geometric nature of the design I decided to draw onto parchment paper so I could the lines exactly correct. It was, as usual, a pain to remove, and I'm not certain this time if it was the right route. It's harder to remove the paper from linen than it was from velvet or wool, where the pile helps get the paper off.

All the embroidery is silk - for the belt I used a few shades of Splendor, and the geometric portions were done using a thicker pearl thread that I got at Gulf Wars last year.
Non metal embroidery completed

Silk shading and gold work, while often found together, are not often found with German designs (that I've found. I admit I haven't looked very hard), but I thought it would look good - and would be an easy (in that I'm practiced at those methods) way to get a good looking book.

I'm very happy with how the shading came out - considering I only used three colors, I was worried it would end up too rigid looking. The belt did come out a little...non euclidean. I would change the shape of where it wraps around itself if I went back to do it again.

The biggest problem that I had with this was that the frame wasn't holding the center of the piece as tight as I would want. I had to retighten if regularly, and I still ended up with a lump in the middle of the belt, which you can see in the finished picture below.

For the goldwork I used passed thread as the buckled and the bits inside the geometric areas. I'm very happy with how the buckle came out. The gold on the end of the belt is pearl purl, slightly stretched out. I was originally planning on using normal purl or bullion for that area, but I didn't have any with quite the right color gold to match the passing thread I used. I like the effect, so I'm ok with making the last minute change.
It doesn't really show in the pictures, but the entire belt is outlined in a very thing wire twist, including inside the holes. I think this is most apparent in that the belt seems more smooth in the the final picture than with just the needle painting done.

And finally, the finished product!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Silver Wheel Medallion

This medallion was commissioned by Countess Marguerite to go to Magdelena Carminante at SCA 50 Year.

It's done in the same setting as the Maunche medallion I previously made using Splendor silks on linen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

50th Year Tapestry

Going on right now is the celebration of the 50th year of our Society. Sadly, I'm not able to attend, but by all accounts there's an amazing collection of history at the event.

One thing that's stuck out at me is that Lady Jadwiga Wlodzislawska of the Middle Kingdom accomplished an absolutely stunning piece of embroidery for the event.

Year III of the Tapestry depicts the creation of the East Kingdom

She took inspiration from the Bayeux Tapestry and created a 50 panel tapestry of her own, depicting events from each year of the Society's existence. The idea is amazing, the worksmanship and research that she put into it is unfathomable to me. I highly suggest that you go visit her website and see all the panels, and her writeups for them. All images in this post are from that website.

Year L of the tapestry was finished before the year began, but depicts the creation of Avacal and the Masters of Defense.
Lady Jadwiga is truly an inspiration. Thank you for this art!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Vigil Book for Heather Rose

I was asked to create a girdle book cover for a vigil book. It was my first request for a vigil book, and I was very excited!
Christina Jenevra de Carvalhal created the book itself, and very kindly gave me very detailed directions on how to make a girdle book. Up to this point I had only made your more generic book cover.

The linen that Jenevra chose was very nice to embroider on, although the positioning required by a girdle book was a little bit of a pain. It needed to be right near the bottom to make use of the selvage edge.

I was in a rush for this one, so progress pictures didn't happen with any regularity.

The border is whipped chain stitch with satin stitch hearts. This was very difficult to keep straight in the hoop, but I mostly succeeded. The laurel wreath is also satin stitch. The device is done in split stitch with satin stitch rabbits. I then outlined the hearts and outside lines in gold passing thread. With that done it still looked like something was missing, so I added some very non period flourishes with gold purl. The pieces are a little long, so I'm not entirely sure how some of them will hold up to hard use.
I had measured the the front of the book before starting the embroidery, but it still ended up just a smidge taller than the book. Luckily, on a girdle book that's less of a problem. If this were a normal book cover with the top and bottom folded down, I would have had to do some reworking.

One thing that I didn't think about until it was almost too late was that the book needed a closure of some sort. Jenevra's directions were very clear about designing the embroidery to take a closure into account, but of course I didn't look at those until the embroidery was all done. I ended up braiding some matching floss and attaching it at the spine. It's not the fanciest closure, but it does do the job.
The actual covering of the book could certainly have gone smoother, despite the excellent directions. Part of my trouble was just time crunch, but the rest was a learning experience.

Congratulations, Heather!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Fencing Catchup

I went down to the Southern Region Fencing Practice and much melee was had, as well as a qualifying tournament for champs.

In the tournament I was out in three, but my two losses were the first and second placers. I fought Antonio first, and didn't get as warmed up as I might have wanted to. I was using buckler, which may or may not have been a good choice. He got me under my right arm, which as we'll see is a pattern that I need to work on.
We fought again later (I kept buckler, because I wanted to experiment some) and things went ok.
I did other pickups that were also a lot of fun.
Melee was mostly me, Sorcha, and Urraka working together on the far edge. We did a couple of really good things, and a couple of times where we pushed too hard or not enough.

All in all, it was a great time and even though it was very far away, I'm glad we made the trip. Thanks for hosting, Southern Region!

I had a good practice the next Monday. I fought case with a dagger, which I usually try to avoid, and I actually did quite well. I always knew that buckler vs case was a crutch, I just wasn't too worried about getting rid of it. But I won't argue if I've managed to by accident.

Then Roses happened. I showed up very briefly (it was a busy weekend!) but I got to fight in the champs qualifier again, as well as the melee tryouts. This time I fought four fights before I was out, but both of my losses were again under my right arm - and only one of those was a lefty. I again fought the first and second place finishers. This time while I lost to the first place, I won against the second, and I am very excited about that. I had surprise on my side, but I made use of it.

Melees this time we were split up based on our units, so I was with Urraka and Katsu (for the event was very Handsome Boy light, and out Southern folks are going to fight with the South this year). The teams seemed pretty evenly matched - we would go back and forth on who won. We started near an end, and the other side steamrolled everyone during the first fight. They were extremely aggressive and we weren't remotely ready for it. After that we were in the middle, and had to make choices about whether to push or not. There was one time we should have pushed but instead did the stop and fence thing that is always awful, but we fixed that in future times. All in all, I was quite happy with how things went.

One thing that I noticed between the two tournaments was that my between fights time was very different. At the regional practice I tried to be all calm and not be distracted by anyone around me - which was helped by the fact that most of the people who might distract me were running the tournament. And by the third fight I was shaky and having adrenaline problems. At Roses there were a whole bunch of people that I was talking to and we would communally rest between the bouts. And even though it was ridiculously hot out, I didn't end up shaky or anything. Although I was definitely tired by the fourth fight.
I'm not entirely certain there's a causal relationship here. I also had much longer fights at the regional. But it's something I want to keep an eye on.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Peerage Cloak - The Embroidery Part I

I may have bit off more than I could chew, but luckily I haven't had an angry triple peer come busting down my door yet.
Partially it is time consuming - lots of plunging gold ends and such - but mostly I got all procrastinatey on it. But no more! I have projects coming down the pipeline, and I'd love to have this done before I need to worry about them (note that seems quite unlikely, but a girl can dream).

So, the padded links on the chain are done, and I am looking into ways to make the other links work without having to completely fill them in with gold. It looks nice to have it fully gold, but I don't think I have it in me to do.

So I tried some things out, and decided that I liked the look of satin stitch. I am using wool because all of the rest of the cloak is in wool.

I'm working with every other link at the moment in case I decide to mix things up or run low on thread. Better to make it look planned!
Eventually everything will be outlined in gold, but that is the last step - if I play my cards right, I can do it in one piece!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Practice Report - Lochleven Special Edition

The Lochleven practice this year was particularly melee-tastic. I'm okay with this, because the practice is always certain to have a good number and temperament of people to keep melee fun for hours. The only downside is that I did not get a lot of one on one fighting in.

We did some fox and hound drills for warm ups. This is a simple drill with three people - one person (fox) against two (hounds). If a hound kills the fox, they become the fox and new people cycle in. When the fox kills a hound the hound is immediately replaced.

We started with practicing zippering an opposing line. On the melee field you are engaged with the entire line if you are engaged with one person in that line. This means that if you can kill the person on the end and take their place, you can continue to kill down the line quite a ways before someone notices you. But this is only worthwhile if you have your line backing you up.
For the drill we created two lines of people who would fight with intent, but not take any hits from those across from them. One person would be outside the lines. At some point they would choose either line and start the zipper action. It was up to the opposing line to notice this, and follow in. It was also up to the line getting killed to try and recover from the action.
Observations from zippering -
     - The offensive line would win more often the defensive line. It is hard to recover from a good zipper (which is, of course, the point.)
     - The main way that the defensive line could recover was angle back as a line, removing the end (the weak part of the line) from the most dangerous part of the zipper. This could generally only be successfully done if the attackers hesitated.
     - The attackers could get in their own way. The initial zipperer needs to stay at a pretty significant angle to allow their friends to help without just blocking their path. Also, as the defensive line dies and gets shorter, the offensive line will inevitably push some people out. Those people can still be useful by screening or by going all the way around behind the defensive line (in the event that there are no reinforcements coming for them).

Like all drills, it only partially covered the experience of zippering, but I think people were more comfortable with it when we were done.

Next came doors! Doors are often the bane of fencing melees. We can't charge in our game, which makes a well made kill pocket difficult to counter. We set up a 9 foot door (about average for Pennsic) and put 7 or so people inside. Everyone else was on the outside. No one got any rezes. The task, of course, was simple - kill everyone on the other side of the door.
There was a learning curve for this drill. Breaking a kill pocket requires a delicate balance. You must be willing to sacrifice yourself - but only at the right time, and when you have support. You must be willing to throw yourself on swords - but without charging or bodily contact. You must all pile into the door and overwhelm your opponents - without getting in each other's way. A delicate, vicious, bruising, balance.
A certain amount of success comes from comfort level with that balance. There are definitely small scale tactics than can be used - shields make a good first rank, long weapons are good in the kill pocket, etc. But none of it matters if the attackers don't have comfort and trust in each other.

Then came larger scale melees. We did a simple 10 minute rez with one flag (since there were about 10 people on a team) with an undisclosed flag check. My team held the flag most of the time, and sure enough, we won that one.

We ran a small scale version of the new Pennsic War Point three times. We had three flags that needs to be captured by the offense, and each time they captured a flag their resurrection point moved to that flag, allowing for fast resurrections on their end. The defense started at the first flag and had to run back to their far rez point each time. It was a timed battle, to see who could capture all three flags the quickest. We were play testing it and finding kinks in the rules just as much as we were trying to teach the fighters how it would work. Our field was too small to get the full idea, but it seemed like it will be an interesting battle with a lot of new tactics when it is scaled up.

Bonus Monday practice!
After fighting with my buckler all Sunday for melees I decided it was buckler day at practice, too. I think it went pretty well. The buckler fighting that was working so well for me back in the fall (Fabris type dagger stnaces...but with buckler!) isn't working anymore, and I'm not certain what changed. But other techniques - more upright, weight back ones - are working better. Also, some of the dagger stances that I had barely touched in the fall were working - with sword in second or first instead of third.
I was being more aggressive. I fought Donovan near the end of the night and the first half we was wrecking me. I took a step back and tried to switch on(off?) my brain, and the difference was very obvious to both of us. The last few fights trended much more in my favor. I also fought Will Deth, who is a skilled and unique case fighter who has swords for miles. Last time I fought him, a week or two ago, it was with dagger and I was destroyed. This time I took buckler, and not only did it give me a better case defense (which I already knew) but I think knowing that upped my confidence and therefore my aggression. And all of those things added up to much better fights.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Knotwork Roses

I was asked to embroider two roses for Caoilfhoinn's decoronation garb. She was to be dressed in old Irish and have a cloak/shawl that I'm sure has a real name, but I don't know it.

The design was based on these fabrics. I used the same wool as the cloak is made from, intending for the roses to be appliqued on.

I wanted to use silk for this, but I wanted to use something with some fluffiness to it. Most of the silk I have is pretty fine, for needle painting and the like. My first thought was to use several strands of Splendor, but I couldn't find the right color yellow to match the trim that was going on the cloak.

Then I stumbled across Pepper Pot silk in my local needlework store, and they not only had a matching yellow, but also a matching blue! I win!

Pepper Pot is a fairly thick non divisible thread. It is super soft and squishy and I kind of just want to sleep on it.

Because I was using a thick wool for the ground fabric, I traced the pattern onto parchment paper and pinned it to the wool instead of trying to get the pattern directly on it. I knew I would be sad about it when I had to remove the paper but I think the trade off was worth it.

Roses in action.
Photo by Raziya Bint Rusa

My instructions were to make yellow flowers, with maybe some gold thread. I admit that I deviated slightly - I really want to get some blue in there! Of course, as any herald knows, red and blue don't have good contrast and would be difficult to see at a distance, so I just outlined it instead of trying to use blue in the flower.
The fluffiness of the thread worked against me. I ended up dividing the thread - even though it isn't intended to be divided, it does have three distinct strands. I used two of them for the small triangular areas.
I then sent them off to be appliqued to the garment. Both she and Brennan looked amazing at the event!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Rapier Catchup

I have been remiss in my fencing posts. I promise that I have continued to stab things.

There was a delightful seminar taught by Devon Boorman of Academie Duello. I practiced many things that I have previously learned - body mechanics and opposition and the like - and learned new things that I'm trying to integrate - new dagger guards, transports.

I have had ups and downs in practices. My brain is full of things that I'm trying to work on all at once, and I'm finding it difficult to pare that down - and the off switch has disappeared again. I'll need to find it before I get back into tournament season.

Last night's practice was on the "eh" side. I was thinking, and the things I was thinking about were fine, but I wasn't being aggressive at all and that cost me a lot. I was also getting lazy about my defensive guard - I end up in a bastard between Capo Ferro and Fabris if I'm not careful. I try to move between the two fluidly, but sometimes get stuck somewhere in the middle. Usually in a kind of hunch backed Capo Ferro. It's not great.

My spring is super busy with non-SCA things and so I'm going to miss a lot of the early spring fencing events - I already missed Mudthaw, and will also not be at Balfar's Challenge. But I'll pick up again soon.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Two Practices and a Rapier Academy

Fencing catchup!

Last weekend I made the long trek to New Jersey for the first (I think?) Rapier Academy! It was a gorgeous day, and the classes were varied and informative.

I started in a Fabris class that Firebow was teaching. For the most part it wasn't new information for me, so I played TA with some of the other fencers. I was a bit worried about stepping on the teacher's toes, but he seemed thankful for it, and I think it helped those fencers get something out of the class. Someday we will sit down and really talk about Fabris-y things, but Saturday was not that day. Too much else to do!

I fought a variety of people - one specifically asked me to Fabris it up, and that went fairly well. Particularly considering it was my warmup, I was surprised at how little my body complained.
I was later told by another opponent that my aggression was great. Which is good, because I have been specifically trying to put that back in my game after so much time spent on Fabris and blade work and etc etc. My other fights were very good, although I did nothing memorably good or bad during them.

There were many command based classes happening, so I spent a lot of my afternoon doing Eastern Army things. I have no aspirations to climb any higher in the ranks than leading the Handsome Boys - but since the Handsome Boys have grown to be a very significant part of the army I want to be on top of what's going on there. Not to mention that my co headmaster/cadet brother is the General. So we talked a lot about getting more people involved and comfortable in melee, and then went over the war points.

Alys had a story time (and I also got to fight her, which was a lot of fun), which I thought was a great way to close out an event like this. Everyone loves to revel in nostalgia, and the newer folks got to learn SO MUCH. The rocking chair was a particularly nice touch.

There was no court, and there was a service at the church at 5, so we got out quite early and had a delicious dinner. It was worth a long day trip, definitely. Although I did tweak my elbow and have had to baby it for the last week.

On to the practices!
I used my short blade the whole time (see aforementioned arm babying). I still love that thing, but definitely had distance issues. I worked with Liadan on dagger stuff, and am interested in dagger parrying drills that people have found useful!
Despite my issues, I felt like I fought well.

Arm was still just a little twingy. I wore my elbow band and alternated my swords. I worked with Finn, specifically trying to get him back to using his offhand. On my side I was trying to morph between upright and bent stances smoothly. And only doing so when I intended to - I have a habit of lunging while in the low Fabris stance, and standing upright as I do so. Which makes a hole big enough that even Finn noticed it (and stabbed me in it.)
I fought Remy and felt really good about it. I don't have specifics, it just seemed to go better than normal.
I fought Xavier, and probably worked my arm harder than I should have. I had a spiral of not being able to control my blade as well as I'd like, and so working harder at it, which made me less able to. But other than that I felt pretty good. During the last fight when I realized that my arm was going to fall off/hurt itself, I managed to flip a switch to "murder quickly". I need to find that switch more often.
I also did a very little bit of drilling with Donovan doing single tempo dagger parries. This is an old hat drill, but this was the first time I tried to do it from a Fabris stance and OH GOD EVERYTHING WAS AWFUL. Nothing went where I wanted it to go. In upright stance it was fine. So, I suppose this means I know something I need to work on.

Monday, March 14, 2016

What do I do next?

I've been trying to decide what to make for my next Big A&S Project.

After making Elizabethan gloves and an Elizabethan book, I feel like I should continue my trend, and then someday I can have a whole Ridiculous Elizabethan Accessories display.

But they had so many potential accessories!

I could make a sweet bag!
, 16th century CE, Bag, Brocade, Elizabeth I  (1553-1603), Queen of England, Elizabethan period (1553-1603), Embroidery, Gold, Knitting, MEMORABILIA, Needlecraft, Renaissance, Sewing, TEXTILES:ALL
From Art Resource

Or a coif!
From Victoria & Albert Museum
Woman's off-white linen coif, with a point over the forehead, shaped at the cheek, and with a pleated detail at the crown. Embroidered in black silks and gold metallic yarns in a pattern of scrolling branches framing flower and fruit clusters among which birds, butterflies, snails and rabbits appear.
From Cooper Hewitt

Or this utterly ridiculous hat!
A man's cap with turned up cuff, of off-white linen embroidered in a pattern of rainbows arching over clouds with rain falling, with snails and caterpillars interspersed. In blue, green, yellow, red and pink silks and silver metallic yarns.
From Cooper Hewitt

From Reunion des Musees Nationaux
I also discovered that embroidered knife sheaths were a thing that were given at weddings. I'm not entirely certain that they were used by Elizabethans, but I am quite certain that I don't care. Because knives!

I would need to find someone willing to work with me on this one for the wooden base of it, though.

From Reunion des Musees Nationaux

There's also the question of style and supplies. I am intrigued by non counted blackwork. But I really really want to pursue a period needle painted design. I've found enough examples that I feel comfortable saying it existed, even if it wasn't common.
From Cora Ginsburg
From Isis' Wardrobe

 One thing I know I want to avoid is detached button hole...I don't know why, but I just don't really like how it looks. Which is unfortunate, since it's everywhere. And so while I should definitely learn it eventually, it will probably never make it onto a Big Project.
I need Opinions! Are there cool items I'm missing out on? Some extant piece that you think I'd be way into recreating? Anything here seem particularly awesome?

I am currently leaning toward either a blackwork coif or a sweetbag the takes makes use of all the sweet bird motifs I've found.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Practice Report

This past Monday I tried to get back to my roots and remind myself that when I'm not Working On Things I am capable of murdering my foes. It's a thing I have to do every once in awhile to beat back the frustration. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this problem. It hangs out next to The Plateau at parties and taunts everyone who ever wanted to be good at anything.
So, it seemed to work! I didn't fight a lot of people, but I felt good about the ones I did fight. I barely Fabrised at all, and when I did it was a mixed bag of results, so I need to continue working that. Which is, of course, something I already knew.

I got complimented on how I move, which felt good. And then I realized that's been happening with some regularity, even on the days when I feel kind of crappy about my fighting. So hooray! The problem is, I don't really get what they mean, if that makes sense. I believe them. I believe that I am moving in a way that is worthy of comment - part of me says that after 20+ years of assorted martial arts I damn well better be able to move.
But believing is different from fully understanding. I want to grok what I'm doing so that can play with it, and so that I can maybe teach it to others. The most obvious way I can think of to do this is to start recording myself (which is useful on so many levels and I have never made happen).

So that is now on the list of things to do.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Novice Schola - Teaching Time!

This weekend I went to Novice Schola for the very first time! I had three goals for the day: keep my cadet, who was autocratting her first event, sane and alive; play tour guide to a group of new people for whom this was their first/second event; teach one class and help teach another and have the students enjoy them!

Liadan did a great job autocratting, and the event seemed to go very smoothly. She had a lot of amazing helpers.

The new people took several classes and seemed to have a good time! They were relieved when I discovered that I did not need to go to court (although it turns out that Liadan got her baronial service award, but no one told me about it before hand :( ). I think they all came out of the day with new skills and a better idea of how the SCA does things.

And the classes!

First I assisted with an Italian fencing class that Remy <link> was running. We had a pretty good group - I think about 12 people with a wide variety of skill levels, from "never held a blade before" to "cadeted and otherwise fairly known in the community". I think that everyone got something out of the class - whether it was basic blade work or the specifics of Capo Ferro. Certainly they seemed to enjoy it. My only regret is that I had to leave a little early because my two classes were back to back. Luckily they had a woman would go around and give a 10 minute warning near the end of each block.

The second class I taught was my first official embroidery class! I took all the work I'm been doing recently and ran an intro to goldwork class. Of course, for being at a Novice Schola my class was full of everything but. I think the newest person had still be embroidering for well over a year. That was fine with me - I was prepared to teach the basics, but this left more time for the actual goldwork portion. I do wonder if that means the class was a little scary sounding for someone who hadn't ever embroidered before and if I can do something to help with that.

So with a full class, I carefully set aside the knowledge that several of these people had been embroidering for longer than I knew the SCA existed and pushed forward.

I handed out kits and had them set set up their hoop and trace their design while I babbled about historical goldwork. And I really did feel like I was babbling - I jumped around more than I wanted to. The handout was nicely divided into examples, and thread types, and embroidery terms. I think that works for the handout, but it certainly did not work for speaking. Which is fine, but I need to be more prepared for that next time. While I talked about the threads and styles I handed around the items that I've made throughout the years, including unfinished projects from classes I've taken. The Opus Angelicanum (side note: learn to say that without stumbling) seemed particularly helpful to see in person (and incomplete). There were some epiphanies about how the patterns are made in metal backgrounds.

I had all my metal threads too, and passed some of those around. I almost forgot to do that part. I think it would be better to start with those and the thread types and move onto the pretty objects afterwards.

Then we went into actual embroidering. I had given everyone one bobbin of metal thread, and offered a second strand to people who wanted to do two at a time (which was almost everyone). In the future I think I should just give two bobbins of metal thread from the get go. The free thread tended to get in the way.
In general the embroidery part seemed to go smoothly. The main sticking point was lack of time. I should have had them start while I was still talking - which I know, from my own class experiences, but I got focused. One of the students also suggested this, and of course she's correct. But we had time to talk about crossing points and corners, and thanks to that 10 minute warning I managed to talk about plunging right before the end. I usually plunge all the threads at the very end, but I should probably have them plunge their beginning thread during the class, so that we don't have a chance of missing this Very Important Part.
When we talked about turning corners all I had to help people was to say that it is difficult to keep the two threads parallel and to be careful. Well, almost as soon as I got home this showed up on my feed. It's a collection of tutorials for goldwork by Ruth O'Leary, and one thing she suggests is couching down each thread individually at the corner to keep them flat. Which is, of course, simple and brilliant. So if any of my students are here, I suggest that!

All in all, it was a great experience and I will be excited to do it again. I've also been thinking of what I could do for a 102 class - I might try to do a class on cutwork. At some point, far in the future.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Practice Report

I did not feel on my game most of the night.

I started off well against Donovan, but was faltering by the end of our pickups and never managed to get back on the horse.  He said that my energy seemed down. And since I mostly fought very fast, high energy people the rest of the night...that probably didn't help.

I've been doing a lot of focusing on opposition and technique and expanding my horizons and the like, and I think the base fighting style that got me here - get inside their range, fast, and don't let up - may be suffering. Some days it's there. Some days it's not. And those days don't always coincide with the days when I want it to be there (rather than when I'm working on other things anyway.)

That said, all of the fights I had were a lot of fun, even if they were frustrating. We had a lot of people there who are not normally around.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Peerage Cloak - The Planning

I've been asked to add the Order of Defense symbol to the peerage cloak of one of the East's premiers of the order. He just so happens to already be a Knight and a Pelican, and have a lovely wool cloak with those two symbols appliqued on the back. He wants to have a 6 inch MoD symbol added to the front of the cloak. And he wants it to be shiny!

Working on an already existing item of clothing is a new challenge for me. All the more so because it's giant and heavy and already has gorgeous embroidery on it. I had choices before me - work directly on the cloak, work on another piece of wool and applique it down, or work on another piece of linen and applique it down. I knew that the owner wanted the background of the symbol to be the base cloak, so with the applique options I would be mostly just be appliqueing the border - the swords for the actual symbol would be a different story.

I had sketched a wide variety of potential designs for the border, and a chain was chosen. This was one of the less complex designs, so that was nice. I didn't think about how much geometry would be going into drawing it to scale. I also got to draw it twice, because the first time the chains were too thick and completely overwhelmed the swords.

The swords in this picture are just a sketch to get an idea of the balance - they will end up thicker in the final version. The chain, however, is exactly what I will be tracing onto linen.

I drew a truncated chain first in order to test my goldwork plans. The solid link is padded by a piece of felt, because I thought that bit of dimension would look neat, and because it was an excuse to work on padding. I may regret this when I have to cut out 16 tiny pieces of felt, but we'll see.
One thing I learned from this practice piece is that I should plunge the ends after each line instead of when a space in entirely filled. It's hard to plunge where you intend with all the extra threads in the way.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Practice Report

For Monday and Thursday, because I am a slacker.

Monday I was not in a great space. For most of the night I felt like I was derping everywhere. Eventually I fought Kai, who was visiting us from the Midrealm, and that went much better and I think kicked everything into place. He does Destreza, so I tried to keep to Fabris, and it was a lot of fun.
I fought Liadan and we talked about having control of the blade before attacking. There was a pattern of counterpunching when I attacked, whether or not she had control, and at best that sort of thing results in a double kill. I think (Monday is far away and memories are hard) that I talked to her about knowing when to strike and when to get out of the way, but eventually this should progress into being able to regain control on the strike, so you can more often to the first and not the second.

Thursday I started out fighting Finn, and we talked about second intentions and redoubles.
I felt better than I did on Monday in my fighting, but still not as good as I'd like (are any of us ever as good as we'd like.) I fought a lot of people who like to Move - run away or circle endlessly. I need to get better at baiting the runners into attacks, because chasing them down rarely works for short little me. Of course, Lupold and I did some fights in very tiny list and suddenly the running dynamic shifts dramatically.

I also fought Thomas, who generally refused to let me get anywhere near his blade. Since so many people at practice have been focusing on opposition, a lot of us have gotten into styles where blade contact and such are the norm. It was interesting to fight someone who has not fallen into the habit. My opposition has been getting much better, but there's still only so much I can do about that sort of fight. I need to contemplate that some.

I need to do more drills. Fabris footwork. Voids.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Embroidery Schola

My home shire of Quintavia has thrown an embroidery schola in February for the last three years. This year was the biggest yet, in terms of classes and attendees! I imagine the good weather had something to do with it - this was the first year that we didn't have a ridiculous snow storm.

There were four class slots. I filled my first two and then spent the afternoon sitting and talking with friends while trying to finish a project from my second class. I succeeded!

First I took Elizabethan Gold Braid. With my newfound interest in goldwork, and my pattern (so far) of making Elizabethan era pieces, this was a no brainer. The teacher was very knowledgeable about the time period, and had obviously put a lot of effort into her creations. She had tried out almost all potential gold threads and made a wonderful chart of them, including their price, how good they are for laidwork, and how good they are for braiding. That chart alone is worth the class.

It took some time but I think I got the braid she was trying to teach - there are several other types to be tried. Starting the braid was by far the hardest part. After that it's just repetition.

I then went to a Lacis class. Lacis has always been a big mystery to me. I knew it involved netting but that was as far as my knowledge went.
There are apparently three types of stitches. We went over darning stitch, which was easy enough to figure out - it's just like weaving. Then we went over linen stitch, which involves weaving in both directions. I understand the theories, but I definitely need to practice that one a bit more - my turns weren't always the same, so going back through in the other direction didn't always work out.

We didn't get to loop stitch, which is just an airy decorative stitch, that looks more like needlelace. But I tried it anyway! Going in a straight line was easy enough. I never really figured out how to turn onto the next line.

I liked it better than I thought I would, although getting linen stitch right for any kind of complex shape might be more graphing then I want to do.

I put effort into finishing the Lacis before the Athena's Thimble panel so I could hopefully get working knowledge, but they gave me competency instead! Hooray for surprise leveling up.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Maunche Medallion

When the new awards came into existence, there was a call put out for award medallions. I started thinking about how I could make some - my only relevant skill is embroidery, and I haven't really liked the embroidered medallions I've seen so far. They are well made - but they're all counted, and counted isn't my style. So I went on a search for settings I could use and started experimenting!
I decided this was also a great time to try out some new embroidery styles, and practice the stitches I have a harder time with.

Despite the new awards being the catalyst for this, the first design I tried was a Maunche. I wanted to try padded satin stitch, and just so happened to already have the colors I needed.
I padded the M shape with cotton floss using split stitches, and then used Splendor silk for the satin stitches. I really like the look of it (the purple side came out much better than the yellow, even though I did it first. Maybe I got distracted.) The background is the same silk in split stitches.

I used a setting from Etsy for this first experiment. It comes in a variety of shapes. The setting seems pretty sturdy, and was easy enough to work with. I did need a little help from a thimble to bend down the pins in the back.

I didn't notice until after everything was finished and I took a nice high res picture that there are plenty of places the split stitching could be more full. Luckily, from a distance you can't tell. That's also when I noticed that it was a little crooked, but that was easily fixed.

My only worry now is if the satin stitch will be able to survive any length of time. The setting has a slightly convex shape to it, which looks very nice, but really puts that delicate stitching out there to catch on everything.

Monday, February 8, 2016

King's & Queen's A&S Champs Report

The beginning of my A&S token collection

This past weekend I participated in my first SCA Arts & Sciences competition. And because just so happened to be King's and Queen's Champs.

I have heard horror stories of A&S competition since I first got into the SCA. It didn't necessarily scare me away from A&S - I just took my time finding something I actually wanted to research - but it did make me extremely wary when I entered into the scene. I'm lucky in that the Eastern embroidery community is generally very supportive of new people, and even when providing criticism they have so far been quite kind to me. But I knew they weren't the only ones I would be interacting with if I started competing.

The competition changes slightly from year to year, but this year is took place in two rounds. The first round was completely closed - the judges went around to the ~30 displays without anyone else present, and you were not able to speak about your pieces. They had to stand on their own. This was very difficult for some people, who had stranger displays or whose writing was not as good. This was nice for my first competition, because I had nothing to be nervous about. There was nothing I could do once my things were set up. (Of course, it means when I'm in a more common competition and have to do a lot of talking it will be like the first time all over again.)
From that round they selected the top scores to move onto the next. They selected seven people. Each of them were given five minutes to talk to judges about their projects and convince the judges that they would be a good champion. I was not one of those people (nor did I expect to be) but several good friends were, and I am very proud of them!

My display was very simple. My gloves were stuffed so they would stand up, and my book was flat on the table. I brought the designs I had sketched and the test pieces I made before each piece, but they weren't labeled or anything. My documentation (gloves and book) was set in front. After seeing other people's displays I have some ideas for how to make things more engaging and visually interesting.

I went to sit with my display as soon as they let me, although I didn't get a lot of questions. I did get a lot of compliments, particularly on the gloves. And since the gloves now look very flawed to me, that was probably a good reminder. One of the judges came by to give me some pointers, which I really appreciated. Although he was trying to translate Embroiderer Speak, so hopefully I'll get to sit down with the judge that was actually in my area soon.

Between my observations and the feedback, next time I should:
  • Have summary docs displayed.
  • Show more process - example threads, glossary. 
  • Describe the test pieces better, point out which stitches and threads are which, encourage handling of them.
  • Bring a  separate table cover to really mark off my space rather than using the expanse of white.
  • Make a display board for the back - maybe the back corner, so that I can still sit behind it. Put a lot of the above bullet points on it, and pretty pictures.
My score ended up being significantly better than I expected, though! 19/25. I was banking on getting a solid C grade and managed significantly better than that.
We were scored on 5 things, each out of 5.

  • Materials - 4 - Entry uses primarily period materials. Substitutions are reasonably explained, appropriate, and justifiable. Information is provided about period materials. Materials are appropriate to period.
  • Methods - 3 - Entry uses or emulates a combination of period and modern techniques. Techniques are justified and explained well in the documentation.
  • Execution and Artistry - 3 - Entry demonstrates a good degree of skill, workmanship, or artistic ability. The item functions as intended and is generally appropriate within its intended time and culture.
  • Depth or Scope - 4 - Piece demonstrates an advanced degree of execution, research, time, or commitment to produce.
  • Documentation - 5 - Excellent documentation. Primary and secondary sources are appropriate. Thought process and decisions are very well explained, document is easy to follow.
And for full posterity, the comments: "Good progression from the first to the second project. Process notes are excellent. Would like to see more fill in the patterns so they look busier."

The Documentation and Depth scores were particularly surprising. I figured my documentation was going to be barely acceptable. Turns out that the SCA does not hold us to the standards of advanced college courses, for which I will be forever thankful.

So I have two directions that I want to take my goldwork from here. On the technique side I want to try some padding. On the research side, I seem to have started a collection of Elizabethan accessories, and I feel like I should just keep adding to that. Combining this would be great, but I suppose I could do multiple things.
I've already started researching sweet bags, but I am open to other accessory ideas!

And in addition to all the A&S that day, there were also awards that went out to several good friends and fellow Handsome Boys. My cadet received a much deserved Queen's Order of Courtesy, and three friends got Maunches. I got to read them all (two were verse, and I think I did ok!). And I managed to keep Liadan from figuring out she was getting a QoC, due in part to her own obliviousness.

It was a good day.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Embroidered Book Cover - Finished Product

The book cover was finished on Wednesday, giving me a full day of rest before I actually had to bring it to A&S champs (which I'll talk about in a separate post).
I finished the twist border, including a line of gold passing thread along the long sides, just for interest. It's hard to see, even in person, but I like it.
In the end I decided that the red on the flowers was just going to be silk. I was out of steam. I like how it came out. Embroidering directly on the velvet had its challenges - you aren't always going into the fabric where you think you are - so there were some do overs throughout. But the red really adds interest to the piece.
The came actually turning it into a book cover, which I just kind of improvised. All the planning I did at the beginning was make sure the velvet and interfacing were big enough for the final form. I essentially ended up sewing the book into its dress, and it just barely closes. The inside edges are still unfinished - I'm not sure how to finish them without adding too much bulk.  

All in all, I am very happy with how this came out. I want to try more goldwork things.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Cover - The Embroidering Part 5

I didn't get as much embroidery done at Birka as I may have liked, and I certainly did get any done while sick. But I still think I'll finish...just with fewer embellishments than originally planning. I need to do the veins in the big flowers, and maybe a bit of gold on the long sides of the border (and obviously that last corner) and then I will call it done.

I haven't quite decided how I want to do the flowers. The description suggests that red silk was used but I can't see it that in the pictures I have, and it also looks like purl was involved. I may end up going with straight silk, because it's easiest. But ideally I want to figure out how they were combined.

Documentation for the gloves is done, but I've barely started on the docs for this. Why is A&S Champs this weekend? Aaah.


A slightly belated Birka report, because the plague this year was particularly awful. But now I am recovered! Mostly!

I didn't fence in the tournament at all this year. Waiting in line is not worth it to me compared to all the pickups that I can get.

I felt pretty good about how I was doing. I managed to Fabris for most of the the three hours - and my back didn't even complain. I also managed to work in the new guards I was talking about in the last post, and they worked quite well. I used the guard in second against a case fighter, felt very good about the outcome. Generally I use buckler against case fighters, but in this case I stuck with dagger and was still generally coming out on top. Now to pick the buckler up again and see if I can combine my powers.

I also fought against a buckler (with dagger) and managed to have a textbook shot to his forehead from prime. That was pretty great. It's so nice when historical things just work.

I admit that a lot of my fighting is a little fuzzy. Time and plague have that effect. But it was good.

In addition to fighting things, two cadets and a protege were taken, all involving people who are great. I can't wait to see what happens from the new relationships.

In non fencing news, I fiddled with someone, and in sort of public, and that was a lot of fun. Then I tried to jam with Tim and just utterly failed at playing. I think partially because our setup was poor - no music stand, not good chairs - but also didn't really warm up correctly. So I'll have to work on that if I want to play in public in the future.

It was a wonderful weekend, all in all. I hope everyone feels better soon.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Practice Report

I got to work directly with my cadet for the first time in awhile (schedules just haven't lined up).
Her ankle continues to be a problem, so we did some low intensity drilling. Handshots and opposition. She had brought someone from the Bergental practice to get authorized, so I watched the two of the drill for a little bit. It is very interesting to see the student of your student fight for the first time.

My first fight was a derp fest, but I manged to pull myself together. I tried to stick with Fabris for the most part - and my back is not upset at me, so I call that a win. My feet were not as under me as I would have liked, but that's just footwork drills.
I fought a left hander and tried to stick to Fabris, and he did find it challenging. I finally tried expanding my guard range in that fight, and I think it worked well.
Normally I hang in something like Fabris's plate 60.
Dagger out, sword low. Tips together.
Because I was fighting a lefty, my dagger was over much further than it would normally be - starting pre crossed instead of with the tips together. This was working ok, but was far from ideal (open left side, tangling my weapons). So I tried changing up the angle of my sword.
I realize that the guard I tried is losing in this plate. 
I lifted my sword into prima, keeping the tips together., which made me feel much more confident should my opponent attempt to go wide around my right side. It also naturally shifted the connection of my weapons a little bit to the left. I think it also helped that my opponent didn't really know what to do with it - who hangs out in prima, after all?
I will have to experiment more, of course.
The downside of the new guard is that I lose a lot of fine motion.

I also fought a relatively new fencer who has recently started into Destreza, and last time we fought he wrecked me in a number of ways that should not have happened. I have been practicing against Destreza, and also working on my patience (which fades pretty much the moment I stop thinking about it). Things went better this time, although the narrowing/transporting motion that I am trying to pick up is still not working in combat.