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.