Preparation

There are a lot of steps to a project that many (myself included) don’t actually recognize as being part of the process. They’re the boring stuff before you get to the good stuff. The REAL stuff. In my brain, I always seem to assume those will take just a blink and then I’ll get to the chunk of the project that I love.

Ahh ha ha ha ha. Yeah. Laugh. You probably should point as well. Really, that’s bloody delusional. Even I think that it’s ridiculous when I stop and think about it. Yet, I find myself resenting the time it takes to wind a warp, sley a reed, thread heddles. I find myself grumpy at waiting for fabric to be pre-washed, at the tests and trials and muslins. That’s just preamble, I can’t wait to get to The Actual Craft ™.

It took me three days (around work and social and sore and life) to measure out thread, wind it onto a niddy noddy (which irritatingly went missing and required a hardware store trip), tie all my figure 8 ties and get to where I could consider getting this thread wet. Make notes, do plenty of math. No colour yet, just ready to get wet.

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Weigh out thread. Weigh out mordant. More notes, more math. Simmer and soak and rinse. No colour yet, just ready for colour.

Weigh out dyestuff, crush it, weigh it again, soak it. Simmer and filter and simmer again. Colour, but not on your thread yet.

Dunk in thread, simmer and wait and squeeze and dry and eventually wash and dry and admire. Colour! On thread!

Dear brain, those are a lot of steps that aren’t part of The Actual Craft ™, you are on crack. Enjoy the process!

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Snowy Challenge

I do more handwork than just SCA handwork (although precious little these days), but one place I still indulge is with a bit of lace knitting. (A few eyelets in 16th century knitting does not lace make, alas.) I know I will need ornaments for a lace exchange coming up this winter, and decided to make a well loved and favourite knitted snowflake pattern. (You can find it on Ravelry, of course. It is not a beginner pattern. It is fussy and requires a certain confidence in your stitch manipulation that takes some time to have. Not hard, per se, but requires some deftness.)

I’ve made it before in size 10 (aka super normal run of the mill available everywhere size) crochet cotton. This time I used size 30 and 2mm needles, as I wanted something smaller. Which was fine, it’s a perfectly nice snowflake, but still a bit big. So I got out the size 100 cotton and the 1 mm needles and then we fell into crazytown. I’ve been ‘accused’ of using sewing thread to knit with in the past, so I included it for scale in the picture of the threads. (Sorry that the thinner threads are hard to see, photography is not amongst my skills.)

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See? Totally bigger than sewing thread!

Knitting with size 100 thread is a stunning pain in the tush, and I loved every second of it. It’s thinner than anything I’ve knit with before, and I am going to say that a tiny fussy lace snowflake was a spectacularly stupid place to try it first, save that I love that little pattern and it’s short, so it was worth it. The two snowflakes are exactly the same pattern, with exactly the same number of stitches, only the thread and needle size is different.

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Now I just need to decide if I’m going to give both of them away, or if I’m going to keep one of them for myself!

Weaving

I have been bitten by the weaving bug something fierce, which considering quite how many non-weaving things are on the project to-do list is a little distressing. (Some of this might be productive procrastination from the to-do list.)

I had help from a friend getting the warp on, it was a mess (note to self.. learn how to not make a mess of the warp getting it from warping mill to loom.), but we got there.

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I snapped threads all over the place (vintage wool singles. It happens), and the first snapped warp thread I thought I was going to cry. I clung to my beginner book instructions and followed each step as if I was doing CPR and a life depended on my skills. (Fortunately, this was not actually the case.)

By the end of the warp, a snapped thread was a brief grumble, and a quick repair and back in business. My tension is a little wonky, and sometimes my beat isn’t even. Some of that will come out in wet finishing, and some of that will live forever as a ‘this is a beginner piece’ memento.

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Now, I have the weaving all done, and the ends woven in. It needs a bath, and hemming, and to be made into leg wraps for my best beloved. It feels good to finish a big challenging project again. Now I need to hurry though the to do list, so I can do more weaving!

QPT

Queen’s Prize Tourney, for those who don’t obsessively follow A&S events in every kingdom. A novice tourney in that only those with an Orion or no A&S award may enter and they require a sponsor to do so. The sponsor must have a Crucible (Grant level A&S award) or a Laurel and provides a token prize, as well as mentorship on the project.. however that looks. The prize (almost always) goes to someone who is not their sponsoree, which basically means this is a glorious Oprah Winfrey style of prize giving. (You get a prize! And You get a prize! And YOU get a prize!) The prizes are not supposed to be epic, they are a ‘hey, thanks for coming out’ little something.

Failures are welcome. Unfinished pieces are welcome. Pieces that you have gotten stuck on and need advice on are welcome. Masterpieces that you are super stoked and proud of are welcome.

The ‘judging’ is face to face and is specifically less about critique and more about discussion and coaching and generally becomes a glorious geekfest between the artisan and the three or so people who are knowledgable in that field. (or at least interested.. anyone can judge and many entrants are also judges.. myself included.) There are no scores. There’s no judge form where you have to come up with something to say about the details of the piece. You get to spend half an hour or so discussing what they loved, what went wrong (in some cases, what went horribly horribly wrong), and next steps. Sometimes folks want and need a lot of direction on next steps, sometimes we all just get to be super stoked on where the project is going next.

And yet, so many of us stress about it. Is our work good enough? Are people going to politely smile and privately think ‘goodness, I really thought his skills were better than that’? Are the judges going to be mean? What am I going to say for a whole /half hour/!? Is it perfect? It’s awful and no one is going to tell us that it’s awful.

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Reminder literally taped to my work monitor.

It is brutally hard to tell the brain weasels that whatever you’ve got, at whatever stage its at, is alright to peek out. It’s your creation, it’s part of you and letting others into the process, which is often more failure than success, is HARD. It’s making yourself vulnerable. It’s admitting that you’re not good at something (or for some people, it’s admitting that you ARE good at something).

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Samples pack small.

My naalbinding samples and I will be at QPT tomorrow. Little bits of things, with wonky parts and tension that can’t figure out if its coming or going, and a whole section that is starting to look pretty good, dammit! Like most people there, it’ll have a hidden side order of vulnerability and humility tucked under the documentation, peeking out warily. It’ll get showered with advice and love and creative energy from all sides, and it will be glorious. And I’ll even get a prize.

Arrogance

I have plenty of it, although it’s not polite or fashionable (especially as a woman) to admit it. Mine generally comes in the assumption that I can put string in its place. That in a battle between string and me, I will win. Be it in weaving it, or braiding it, or knitting it.. no matter what, I will triumph.

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Weaving after the initial fight.

And I will, eventually. I have with everything so far (There are things I am not as skilled at. There are things I don’t enjoy, but I get the basics eventually). Every time, however, I forget how hard the trip to get to the basics was.

I’m trying to work on my naalbinding for QPT, and my arrogance is biting me in the tush. I learned the very bare basics at Pennsic, and decided that of COURSE it was string, it’d be a walk in the park to get something done that I was happy to show at QPT.

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Before I made a mess of it.

Ha! The universe is laughing its arse off at me for that one. It’s a struggle for every stitch, and my QPT entry might yet be a smouldering heap of charred wool after a fit of pique. I’m quite sure that regular servings of humble pie are good for me at the very least!

 

Preserves (w. Onion Jam recipe)

Pardon the brief foray into modernity for a moment, but this seemed like the best place to stick a jam recipe that I’ve tried, rather enjoyed, and has been requested a few times. In theory, I can find it here again. So if you want period recipes, just avert your eyes and move along, but my SCA tasks were paused for an epic canning day. (Sour cherry jam, sour cherry jelly, cherry chutney, zucchini relish, lime marmalade and the one that everyone wants the recipe for: Caramelized Onion jam)

Caramelized Onion Jam

4 heads garlic

1 tsp oil

5 cups chopped onions

butter/oil

3/4 c cider vinegar

1/2 c lemon juice (bottled)

1/4 c balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 tsp ground mustard

1 tsp salt

3/4 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

6 cups sugar

1 pouch liquid pectin

Cut top off garlic heads, drizzle with oil. Bake at 400F for about 30 mins. Let cool.

In a dutch oven, saute onions in butter/oil for 30 – 40 mins until nicely browned. Squeeze roasted garlic into the pan, and stir in vinegars, lemon juice and spices. Bring to a rolling boil. Gradually add sugar, stirring constantly. Return to a boil for 3 mins.

Add pectin, bring back to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim foam as needed. Pour into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Cap and process for 10 mins in boiling water bath.

Makes approx 7 – 250 ml jars.

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Busy day!

Thinky Thoughts

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, sorry about that. There’s been more doing than writing about doing at least! There’s also be a lot of big thoughts, and questions, and as always, not nearly enough answers to said questions.

I’ve been working on a secret project that I can’t share yet, but provided me opportunity to refine skills that I’ve only recently been building. Apparently even under a deadline, I’m still a perfectionist, and that’s slow. Frustrating, but part of life, I suppose. It’s a pride thing, and I suspect that I’d of been less of a perfectionist on something made for myself than for someone else.

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Possibly a perfectionist for me too.

I’ve had to face the reality that my ‘wanna do’ list and my energy levels have very little to do with each other. I struggle eternally with trying to pretend to myself and the world that my chronic health concerns don’t give me pause. There’s the warring desire to present a facade of ‘I got this!’ and the reality of having to admit that sometimes, the day/week didn’t go as planned, and not enough got done and that the evening of laying on the couch with a hot pack wasn’t just lazy.

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HG Kitty went visiting!

Which is a longwinded way of saying that I’m heading into a baronial event weekend without finishing everything I’d hoped to, and trying to have a zen moment. Because at the end of the day, there will be people, and laughter and singing and sharing and it will be so much more than the embroidery I didn’t finish, or the regalia that didn’t get updated.

The Quest

This started out as a wee bit of silly on the 100 Days of A&S group on facebook, and now I’ve been doing it long enough that it’s become a Thing.

Let me give you an example, just so this makes more sense. This was today’s post:

Day 33: There was a pause in the Quest, or at least a detour. The directions to the Woolie Lands were clearly not accurate, or possibly those lands not nearly as fertile as one had remembered. Half! A mere HALF as much wool as one might expect! Most frustrating, and will require further exploration later. Fortunately the Hemming Mines were nearby, and provided (after a rolled hem on sheer nylon mishap) solace and comfort.

A fanciful way of describing the quest towards new garb, really. Keeps me amused if nothing else.

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Quince Tree the Second has flowers!

For those curious, I found only half the wool I thought I had for a viking coat, but did find a sheer piece of fabric to hem for a new veil that might be less heavy to wear than my linen veil. There’s also frequent and extended expeditions to Mending Mountain, which feels like one might never reach the peak of. We’ve visited the Pits of Eyelets (guess what I think of eyelets), and consulted Wise Tomes along the way.

That’s my current bit of silly going on, amongst a whole lot of plain sewing as I work up nerve and skill to get to more garb. It’s not a dramatic fian project, but it does keep me busy.

 

Fool 2017

This probably should have been a Tuesday post, but clearly I haven’t quite gotten to that whole ‘twice a week’ posting thing yet. Granted, this week is not the best week to try that sort of thing in.

Anyhow! Fool 2017. Fruits of our Labours, an all weekend A&S practicum camping event and basically my idea of amazing all in one cold and wet package. (cold and wet optional, but we had both this year.) There’s teaching and learning and early morning coffee (when the stove isn’t protesting the temperature and we notice that the coffee has actually brewed) and sleepy late night ramblings, singing in the tavern when its too cold and wet outside (complete with construction paper campfire). There’s creativity EVERYWHERE and you come home with a sense of:

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Which is a pretty awesome place to be, all things considered. I didn’t get to embrace the classes and teaching as much as I’d like this year, there was a lot of mental space being taken up with court and plans and a new position and Crown Tourney this weekend. I did manage to teach a class on painted floor cloths, and take a spinning class (Scottish spindles, and I sucked at it. My spindle went home with someone else, and good riddance), and do some drop in classes, and take a bread class. (Must feed Fred, come to think of it. Must FIND Fred hiding in a fridge full of Crown dinner prep). A group of people took rock and smelted iron out of it over the course of two days, which basically means I hang out with alchemists. Damn.

It certainly made doing my 100 Days of A&S really easy for that weekend, that’s for certain! Now I’m back to stretching skills (but it’s a surprise for someone, so no preview pictures).

Fian and Fool and habits, oh my!

I’m still toddling along on my 100 days of A&S (Yes, the hashtag looks like 100 days of sofas which makes everyone happy #100daysofAS ), but as it reads like an ongoing battle between shirt sewing, eyelet making  and knitting, it’s not that exciting to report.

More interesting is that it’s purpose is to build habits. Little bit a day, gets it into the routine and makes it automatic. A small group of us decided that A&S is already solidly in our habits (seriously? 100 days of A&S is still like telling me I need to breathe for 100 days in a row. Well /duh/), but we could all use a little less chaos in our homes and decided on 100 Days of Home. Same rules (10 mins is the baseline, a little is better than none), although as one’s home is not generally quite as portable as A&S is, use your judgement on camping weekends.

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Gratuitous cute cat photo

Of which this coming weekend is the first! (Look at that smooth segue. XD) Fruits of Our Labour is this weekend. It’s a weekend of camping and practicum and while I know that I say all the A&S focused events are ‘one of my favourites’, I think Fool might be my favourite. It’s relaxed, there’s classes, there’s camping and time to sit and talk and everyone is a buzz with learning new things and you get to watch the Ah ha! moments spark all /over/ the place. I love every bit of it. I’m leading a discussion on painted floor cloths, and hoping to drop in to a few classes (I’m not signed up for anything, I learned early that I love the casual roaming and talking too much to overcommit) and of course bringing enough projects with me that we could be stranded there for a month and I wouldn’t make much of a dent in what I have with me. Still, one needs options! (Specifically weaving, knitting, embroidery, and whatever other random crap is in my basket)

My garb challenge was accepted by the Fian (see earlier post for a description of what that is), so after we survive Crown (stewarding the event) this blog might well become all garb, all the time. (possibly with a whole lot of hate for eyelets. I hope to come to terms with them eventually, but this is not that time.) I have no illusions that I am going to have garb I’m happy with on the first attempt. It’s iterative progress, and I’ve got a few more chunks of crappy clothing to work through before I start being happy. (happier). Crappy garb, ahoy!

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Messy, but functional.