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.