04 December 2017

Vikings and Garb

Since I keep forgetting that I actually have a blog, I don't think I've written about my ventures into the wonderful world of historical reenacting here. Earlier this year I finally joined a local Viking reenactment group. While we aren't SCA, a lot of the members are also SCA or have been SCA in the past, and Reik Felag (traveling fellowship) has done some events with the SCA in the past. I first heard about the group five or six years ago, while chatting with someone at the local (now defunct) Renaissance festival. I'd based my hastily cobbled-together costume on pictures of costumes that were more tenth century Viking than sixteenth century English renaissance. To be fair, the Renaissance festival wasn't the kind that's about historical accuracy. It was more fairy-tale Renaissance-inspired. Anyway, I was wandering around with a drop spindle and found myself at a booth featuring works from a couple different local artists and we started chatting. One of them suggested I check Reik Felag, but since I lived on the east side of the river at that time, and the group met on the west side (which meant getting there via transit would have taken at least 2 hours, one way), I had to say no.

Then we moved to the west side of the river and I decided to check out the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival. Reik Felag sets up a Viking trading village for the weekend of the festival and I got to see the group in action. My first email about joining vanished into the aether, and then I forgot to follow up, so I ended up not joining until this spring, shortly before this year's Midsummer Festival.

That gave me enough to put together my first Viking outfit with the basics. I made a shift/underdress and a smokkr/apron dress, found a pair of leather shoes that looked vaguely right, had a bit of an adventure sewing a leather belt pouch out of scrap leather, wove a belt, and hemmed a chunk of linen gauze for a head covering. And I had a blast.

Nerdery to the max!
I've since mostly been focused on research and other sewing projects, but as our Solstice festival is going to be in January (since everyone's busy during actual Solstice; also, I'm organizing our Yule thing and need to get going on it), and I wore my Viking outfit for Halloween, I figured it was time to start adding to the ensemble.

I started with a Skjoldehamn hood. The hood is based on one found on a body that was excavated from Skjold Harbour in Norway in 1936. The body and clothing were eventually dated to the late 11th century. The person was thought to be a man at first, but later tests suggest that they may have been a woman (though naturally this is not conclusive).

The Skjoldehamn hood and variations on it are a popular clothing item for Viking-era reenactors. It's a simple sewing project that lends itself well to showing off one's embroidery skills. While the original only had, so far as they can tell, small amounts of simple embroidery, this hasn't really stopped people from borrowing motifs from other Viking pieces and decorating their hoods with them. I chose to go simple, as my embroidery skills are just basic right now.

The hood itself is fairly simple in its construction - you need a long rectangle and a couple of squares and the seams are easy to work. I used a green wool and then lined it with natural-coloured linen. I whip-stitched around the hood opening and the hem, which follows what the original had. I used an arrowhead stitch in a mustard-yellow wool along the seams to both decorate and reinforce.

After that, I tweaked my shift a bit by adding some embroidery around the neckline and the cuffs. I didn't do much there because it's a very basic tunic and I plan to sew another one at some point that'll be made out of higher-quality material. I thought about weaving up some trim on my inkle loom but decided against it since I didn't want that much bulk around the neckline and the cuffs. I'm going to do some inkle-weaving to sew around the top of my apron dress, though.  

The last thing I've made recently is a Jorvik cap. This is based on a find from Jorvik (York) of a women's cap. The original was silk; I used linen as I couldn't track down easily accessible and affordable tabby-woven silk. The character I'm developing, Embla, is probably going to be based more in Sweden, a little earlier than the cap is dated to, but I needed something that stays on my head better than the wrap I improvised for Midsummer. Embla is a volva-in-training, a wisewoman, and as such she may not have worn anything like this. It's hard to say - we don't know if pre-Christian Norsewomen wore head coverings. It was common for Christian women to cover their heads, for both religious and practical reasons, but since clothing tends to rot away very quickly, the pre-Christian Vikings didn't leave much in the way of writings, and the sagas only mention clothing occaionally, we don't have enough archaeological finds or written sources to tell us whether or not Viking women covered their heads, let alone how they did. Extrapolating based on contemporary or near contemporary sources from neighbouring cultures is the best we can do for now. Those give us a few options for women's head coverings. The wrap I made for Midsummer (top picture) was one possibility. This cap is another.

So I hand-sewed this whole thing, and then embroidered around the edge with a herringbone stitch using some handspun silk. It's a bit slubby, which I liked, and the whole thing turned out well. It also stays on and doesn't slip off easily.

And that's it for now. I have made a couple rough attempts at learning to nalbind, and I'm going to start on a new smokkr for Yule this week. I'm going to make E. an outfit for Yule as well - undergown and smokkr. J. has agreed to let me dress him for the event so he's getting a tunic to wear over some of his dress pants, since I don't have enough time to hand-sew a pair of pants and make him a belt on top of all that, and straight-legged pants work for the time period. I should probably get started.

23 December 2016

In the Bleak Midwinter

 It's a couple days after the Winter Solstice and a couple days before Christmas. Our Christmas this year is quiet: just us, no traveling.

There's a little tree on the windowsill, and E. keeps taking the Nativity scene my grandmother gave me on adventures. Good thing they're sturdy. I played around with making a holly wreath, and put gardening gloves on my mental "to-get" list again. I have Christmas-themed bags for the Etsy shop cut out and ready to sew together, but I'm guessing they won't sell for a while given that the Christmas season is nearly over, so I'm not in a hurry to get them into the shop, since listings do cost a bit of money.

There's been snow, and ice, and then rain and slush. The temperature went down and then back up. We're back to snow right now, which makes me glad that we don't have many plans for the weekend, other than visiting J.'s grandmother, and the roads to her place are almost always clear. There's also the Christmas Eve service, late at night.

Christmas is that weird time of year. I like Christmas music, and movies, and the bright lights and decorations. I'm less enthused about the whole Santa Claus thing and while the story of the Nativity is nice, and familiar, it's less comfortable this year than it usually is. I love Christmas-time, and I have mixed feelings about it. So I listen to David Sedaris' "Santaland Diaries" and some of the more tongue-in-cheek essays about Christmas on This American Life, and I watch The Family Stone and brood over the whole Christmas thing, since I'm that sort of person.

In the end, it'll be a quiet day, with good food, and that most Christmassy of movies, Die Hard.

31 October 2016

Potato Chips

In November, I will be dusting off my TA skills and putting them to use in helping a friend with a class she's teaching on making box bags, also (apparently) known as Dopp bags (after the men's shaving kit bags). I made one, in fits and starts, over the course of a week, because I was feeling unfocused. I finished it on Monday morning and it didn't look so good. So I put together another one in less than an hour and it looked fabulous. Tuesday I did another one.

It's like I can't stop. Sure, I'm limited by the amount of interfacing and number of long enough zippers I have on hand right now, but they're fun to make, easy, and I feel very accomplished when I finish off the last of the hand-stitching on the inside. And the ones I'm making use up two fat quarters, one for the lining, one for the outer fabric. You can adjust the size up or down pretty easily, but I'm having fun with the fat quarter size, particularly because if I have fat quarters that are already cut, then the only things I have to cut out are the interfacing and the bits for the handle and tabs at the end.

Monday's messy one used dress plaid for the outer fabric, white cotton flannel for the lining, and light-weight interfacing on both sides. I goofed at the ends of the zippers and now have gaps there that need fixing, and didn't catch the tabs with the seaming, so I recycled them into Tuesday's bag instead. I'm thinking of just hanging onto it as-is for now and using it to remind the students that leaving half an inch unsewn at each zipper end is in the instructions for a reason. I'll tinker with it and fix it after.

Monday's not messy bag used plain cotton fat quarters and heavy-weight interfacing on both sides; tabs and handle made from leftover quilting cotton. I picked up a new zipper when I bought heavy-weight interfacing on Monday and used that here. 

Tuesday's was made with two cotton flannel fat quarters, heavy-weight interfacing on the outer fabric, light-weight interfacing on the lining; tabs and handle of the same quilting cotton as Monday's bag. The zipper's one of a handful I bought at a thrift shop ages ago.

Wednesday's was made with more cotton flannel fat quarters, since I'd bought a small bundle with  50% off coupon from Michael's. This time I tried heavy-weight interfacing on only the outer fabric, and no interfacing on the lining, to see the kind of results I got. The zipper was from the same batch as Tuesday's. It's nice having a chance to use up some of the zippers that have been lingering in my notions box for a while.

I have one more box bag almost finished; just the hand sewing left. That one was me tinkering with the size a little to use a slightly shorter zipper. I managed to goof up the top stitching on the zipper by catching the lining in the wrong place, so I had to pull out a seam and fix that, and then the rest of it went smoothly.

Then I decided to use up one of my short (9 inch) zippers to make a pouch-style bag like one I'd seen on Pinterest. I'd glanced through the tutorial a few days ago and then improvised from there and it turned out pretty well. Blue dinosaur flannel on the outside, lined with heavy-weight interfacing, some plain beige cotton on the inside, and a yellow zipper.

I may need to go get more interfacing. And zippers.

25 October 2016

Christian Romance Novels: My Introduction to the Genre

While I was rearranging some books on my bookshelves recently, I noticed that I still have a couple of Grace Livingston Hill novels. I've had them for years. I don't know why my mom gave me a couple of her books back when I was a pre-teen (I'd guess around eleven), but the end result was that Hill's novels were my go-to romance novels for a while when I was a teenager. I later branched out into more modern Christian romance novels and have since migrated into secular romance novels when I feel like reading something along those lines (thanks to my grandmother handing me a Nora Roberts trilogy right before I turned 20).

Grace Livingston Hill was one of those very prolific novelists (check her out on Goodreads; she has a serious number of titles credited to her), so the only thing that limited me from reading book after book after book was the number of books by her in the local library's collection. Her books are almost all overtly Christian, with a strong focus on conversion and redemption. Sure, some of her characters don't repent of their wicked ways, but many do. The books are "preachy," and certainly not the sort of thing I'm into now.

She had a very strong emphasis on having a "real" faith, rather than simply attending church. There was a lot about sin, and how we've all sinned and need to repent for it. Bright Arrows features a relatively sheltered wealthy young woman whose only living parent has recently died, as she comes across a book of her father's about sin and Jesus. She has a conversion to a more "active" faith, mentored by a young lawyer working the law firm her father employed. He gets to fall in love with her, and have a dream that Jesus has picked her out for him and he shouldn't be afraid to go and propose. She's been having fond feelings for him, too, particularly since he's by far the kindest and most ethical young man in her life, so she eagerly accepts. Happy ending. Well, except for her criminal relatives who rob her house early in the book and go on the lam. They both end up dead, no repentance scenes for them. One of her would-be boyfriends dies, too, but he has a dramatic come-to-Jesus moment a few moments before he succumbs to his injuries. Her other would-be boyfriend gets slapped a couple times for trying to take liberties and then banished from her house.

The other book on my shelf is Where Two Ways Met. A young man returns home from WWII, a little earlier than most soldiers (something about being wounded, I think), and takes a job at a financial firm. The boss' spoiled 17-year-old daughter takes a shine to him, because he's handsome, and also because a local pastor's daughter is spending time with him, and apparently spoiled young women are all about hot young former soldiers who teach Sunday school and are sort of dating pastor's daughters. She conceives a dramatic scheme to get her man; her father turns out to be a bit of a crook (Wall Street style) so the young man quits his job and goes to work for a more honest firm; the pastor's daughter gets to be in an exciting train wreck; and the young man and the pastor's daughter get engaged at the end of the story. Spoiled rich girl doesn't succeed in her scheme and is deeply pitied by the young man and the pastor's daughter. This was also the book where I first heard of chicken and waffles and thought the dish sounded weird since I never actually encountered it in real life until a couple years ago. I still find it a little weird.

I read a lot of these books, and the formula was usually the same, with main character becoming more fervent in his or her faith, falling in love with someone who was deeply worthy and having someone who was worldly and therefore unworldly tinker a bit with the romance, and then it all comes out in the end. Sometimes the antagonists reformed, sometimes they didn't. She didn't shy away from the seamier sides of life (seriously, one of her novels is called Blue Ruin), but she was never graphic about it, either. Her female characters do mostly epitomize the Madonna/whore dichotomy, but sometimes her male characters do as well.

Like a lot of romance novels, there are strong elements of wish-fulfillment present in many of the novels: characters finding a family when they had none, coming into money, falling in love with someone wealthy who happens to be wonderful. The spiritual side of life is considered important but the material side isn't neglected either, which is admittedly nice to see in a Christian setting, which can easily skew into favoring the spiritual over the physical.

I don't regret having read the books, and I don't really regret having them still on my shelf. I may gravitate to Lisa Kleypas and Nora Roberts when I want romance novels now, but once in a while, I pick one of these up and revisit them and the joy I had in them when I was an eleven-year-old who wanted life to be as neat and tidy as a story.

18 August 2016

Sunglasses Required

I'm no stranger to wearing sunglasses frequently. I pull them out for driving, for sunny days, and for migraines. Then I managed to do a dramatic trip and fall on a set of concrete stairs last weekend.

Now my sunglasses are even more crucial than usual. The concussion means that I tire easily, and that I'm prone to headaches. My doctor tells me it'll be two or three weeks before I'm back to normal. In the meantime, over-doing it means headaches and exhaustion. I even developed a migraine yesterday, on top of the rest of it. I can't drive right now, because it makes me too woozy. I'm avoiding alcohol since tossing that into the mix seems like a bad idea, and my approved pain medication is Tylenol, which helped with the migraine but doesn't seem to do much for the general headaches.

I was wearing sunglasses indoors at the library today, because it was look weird or have my head hurt more. I'll probably be doing the same thing in October/November because the seasonal change typically equals migraines.

J. is, as usual, making jokes about my head injury. E.'s not old enough to, so someone has to pick up the slack. Laughing at things helps, a bit. Sleep helps more, admittedly, and concussions come with some wild dreams. Other than interesting dreams, though, there are no perks to having a concussion. I recommend avoiding them whenever possible.

So for the next few weeks, my sunglasses are one of my most prized possessions, and woe betide anyone who tries to steal them. (Seriously, I will bring woe upon you if you make them disappear).

30 July 2016

On a lighter note...

Apparently I tend to switch back and forth between angsting and crafting on here. I suppose that's sort of what a blog's for, but I'm not sure if the angsty stuff is the best use of my time. It does serve to get the feelings out, and that's a hell of a lot more constructive than some of the other methods out there, but I don't know if it's actually worth putting on here or if I'd be better off just journaling.

I'm tinkering with beads lately, in the world of crafting. I signed up for a table at a local festival in September and now I'm in the process of making sure I have enough stock for the day. I have a lot of bracelets put together, and a bunch of glass bead necklaces of the random multi-coloured type, and I've been on a bottle pendant kick the last couple of weeks. I've been sticking dried flowers and sea shells and rock salt and other bits and pieces into little glass bottles, attaching wire to the corks, and then gluing the corks in.

My knitting group has provided feedback so I'm under orders to make a few more sets of earrings in a specific type, and I have a few ideas of things I want to try out. I have about six weeks to go, which is both exciting and terrifying. I'll be getting around to taking pictures at some point, so I'll share a few of those then.

22 July 2016

never-ending tragedy

It's hard, some days, especially after the last couple weeks,  to think about what's going on in the world without wanting to swear copiously, or bang my head against the wall, or just huddle in a ball on the floor. I'm currently far from most places where the world seems to be going to hell, but that doesn't mean I don't care.

And it's turned into a polarizing mess. I got into an actual shouting match with someone who called me up to yell at me about something I'd posted on social media. That was new, and it really sucked, especially when I realized that I wasn't the better person - I shouted back and it got more than a little nasty.

I have nightmares about Trump getting elected. The kind of nightmares that make me wonder if, in a few years, it'll even be safe for me to visit friends and family in the States like I do now. I already get twitchy visiting the States because the gun laws are so lax. The more sensible part of my psyche reminds me that borrowing trouble isn't worth it; I have enough to do as it is and don't need to fixate on worst-case scenario stuff that may not happen.

I've discovered that I fucking hate systemic racism and that it makes me really, really angry. I hated it before but being more aware of it just intensifies those feelings. I hate bombings and shootings and I just want people to stop killing each other already.

I don't really know where I'm going with this, but I suppose that's the point of writing this. Getting some of it out helps. The anxiety's been crappy, the depression's just there, and every time I check the news it gets worse, so then I feel worse. It's like it never stops.