tisdag 25 februari 2014

Wish I'd known

Having two wardrobes has been a hard thing for me. It takes a while getting used to the different styles and choices of material when you’re more used to beanies, sloppy jersey tops and biker boots. I’ve made a number of embarrassing mistakes during my career as a reenactor, the kind that’s hard to avoid even when you have nice friends who tell you what to make and how to wear it. This is my 2014 letter to my 2007 self:

"A time of grace and chivalry."

“Dear Anna,

I’ve already ranted about overly generous skirts and trains. Also, about the fact that sleeves that are too tight will cut off circulation, even if they seem fine while fitting – bending your arms will immediately tell you that skin-tight garments are reserved for people who do nothing but taunt the nearby peasants all day long. You’ve got the taunting down, now let’s move on to the basic fitting. 

Lacing in the back is horribly impractical and not very historically correct either, since you’re doing 14th century clothing. Lacing on basic shifts is just WTF. You might want to come across as the supposedly sexy larp elf you once imagined yourself to be, but back lacing comes with the added humiliation of not being able to dress yourself. And one day, you’ll be stressed out and in a hurry to get out of the tent, and there will be spiders and earwigs inside and a rampant cooking fire outside, and the softlens lacing-up one-on-one with that fake Aragorn dude you spotted yesterday will be totally ruined. 

Bonus feature for reenactors everywhere.
DO NOT squash and flick. It only gets worse.

 Windspeeds are directly related to the number of pins you need to secure your veil and the added whatnots that cover your throat and keep the whole bundle stuck to your head. Do resist the urge to tie your headband (or the strings of your St Bridget’s cap) as tightly as you can, especially over braided buns or other bumps on the skull, such as ears… It will give you a headache in no time, and hurts like a bitch when you take it off. The headwear makes you feel stupid? Don’t worry, it will pass. 

Socks are better made a little too large than a little too tight. The air pocket inside will provide added warmth, enable circulation and allow for some natural fulling from wear. You are not a size 4. 

Buttons on dresses meant to be worn undeneath other dresses are a complete waste of time. Not only are they totally fucking invisible – they will create a weird sort of “spine” on the front of the outer garment, and make it pucker.

You cannot for the life of you imagine what a laughing-stock the contrasting gores will be in a few years. You cannot. 

Tiny stitches are (sometimes) vastly overrated. Especially when sewing wool panels together. Your OCD will not pay off in this case. Repeat: Your OCD will not pay off. 

“Reasonable deduction” as source claim will cause more tears and arguments than the result is actually worth. For you, for everyone. What this means is that you will not look like an character out of Fable III or any incarnation of the Assassin’s creed dude. It seems the real people of the Middle Ages looked plain silly. In no way will you get away with imposing your larp-goth issues on an outfit while at the same time appearing historically correct. Just give it up. Learn to enjoy looking like a loser.    

Yours, you.”

söndag 23 februari 2014

Purple dress

In this issue: a little about my purple dress, the third one I made after plunging into the wool purgatory.

I got the fabric for this dress from Caroline L, a lovely, rather thin purple wool that I was too scared to cut without her help. I made it for the summer season of 2011, during which I was ridiculously pregnant, which is why it has side lacing and will always fit me, no matter how fat I get.

One cookie too many.
It seems I have a knack for being the size of a planet concurrently with the Battle of Wisby, it's like a cruel joke or something. I've missed the fighting twice now. Not fair. How can they keep picking years when I'm busy breeding?? However: this dress is still an honest-to-God UFO, after three seasons of fairly extensive wear, including another pregnancy in 2013 (good thing I made a preg outfit in the first place). The sleeves still lack buttonholes. See how they look a bit wide? They're just hanging there. The buttons are there, I just never do them up.

Fieldwear hints

A few years in the field have taught me that camp life is messy. There is a lot of cooking, fire tending, washing up and general outdoorsy stuff going on, and you get positively filthy in the process. My first shift had super-tight sleeves, to the point of cutting off circulation. (Blue hands are so 1340!) It took me precisely two minutes of wear to make up my mind never to try that one, ever again. All my shifts have sleeves that are wide enough that they can be rolled up, and fit the long wool sleeves of the dress inside the linen roll. This is absolutely mandatory when you're doing dishes behind the tent. And when rolling up your sleeves like this, it is more convenient to undo the buttons first. Since my sleeves are nearly always rolled up, buttonholes were the last of my concerns when finishing this dress in the first place. When I found I could do without them, it was no easy thing to force myself to sit down and do them - unlike many of my friends, I love the buttons but hate the buttonholes, not the other way around. Hence the dress is one of my more demanding UFOs, but everything else is fixed on it - I even bothered to finish the sleeves with heddle woven edges.

(The other fieldwear hint is to avoid long, luxurious hems and trains on dresses that you will wear when you work or move around a lot, say, when skipping about the more jubbly market stalls at Medeltidsveckan in Visby. Save princess-length dresses for banquets and larps where you're cast as the Queen of Huböblü, and can spend all day on your midget-encrusted Throne of Äwesome. Trust me on this - you will trip on an overly generous/long dress when you're on your way home from the Trix fire show in Nordergravar and are too busy ogling the nekkid firebreathers over your shoulder, or you'll pee on your voluminous skirts when you're too drunk to safely conduct yourself in a nearby Bajamaja - a feat that ought to be a fucking olympic event if you ask me. Don't be a princess. Skip the train.)

A few more notes on the above picture

The belt is wrong. It is really a man's belt, but if you're new to this and wondering, the answer is that I am out on a limb wearing a leather belt this wide.

I'm wearing the "slit swine ears"-braids at my temples, reasonably covered with a plain veil. They were all the rage in Albrechts Bössor a few years back (#micro-trends within reenactment communities), but now we've moved on to S:t Bridget's caps and frilled veils.

With the neck piece I am making up for the UN-HC fact that the neck of the wool dress is actually more generously cut than that of the shift (error). You shouldn't be able to see the shift. Use pins to keep the whole ghost hoodie structure in place. Use lots of them.

In accordance with my UFO pledge this year, I'm finishing the buttonholes on this one. Hopefully, the sleeves still fit!

*Photo courtesy of Mikael Ranelius. Thank you! 

torsdag 6 februari 2014

Wedding gifts

These socks are for a friend and his son, part of a wedding gift for the whole family (the wife/mother got the frilled veil I wrote of a while ago). It's been a while since I made an effort to learn something new within needlebinding, but I have been surfing the wonderful resources online, such as the mindblowingly extensive Neulakintaat, the inspirational Facebook group Nålbindning, and Mervi's fantastic blog, in particular this post on how to make socks, in combination with this tutorial on how to make the round start she mentions. The round start is also explained here. I think I will try that for a while now, instead of the flat start I usually make. As you can see above, it has a tendency to twist even if the stitch itself isn't particularly problematic that way, but with long flat starts it still corkscrews away a little. The pale pink borders on the small socks are plant dyed with elderberry.

måndag 3 februari 2014

A parting gift

I made this for a friend at work who recently retired, a very special lady with an utterly dinstinguished taste in clothes (meaning I was a bit nervous about living up to it). I will miss her a lot - I feel I hardly had the time to get to know her before she left, and I wanted her to have something special to take with her.

This triangle scarf in Faerytale has a hyperbolic shell edge (perhaps the most forgiving edging technique since no one can ever really tell whether you were going for the hyperbole or not) and will hopefully fit nicely into her wardrobe. See you soon, Jelena!

söndag 2 februari 2014

The inept weaver

When I was in third grade, my crafts teacher allowed me to use the full-size loom in the school basement. It stood in a small back room next to the crafts classroom. I remember the smell in there, the dust and the weird, cold, fluorescent light. Like on so many other occasions, the tetris devil reared its hypnotic head. I spent the lunch breaks down there weaving, as soon as I had wiped the ketchup off my little snout I paddled down to the loom and had at it. In the end I had a rag carpet, half a meter wide - and about six meters long. It fit nowhere in our house. The hallway outside my mum's office was the only place I ever saw it laid out in its full length.

Since then, I have woven absolutely nothing. Tablet-woven bands do not count in this matter. I like the simplicity of a minimal toolkit. The needlebinding needle is my personal favorite - with that tiny item alone, you can make almost anything. I love the spindle above the spinning wheel. The needle above the sewing machine. And then there is, of course, my original toolbox love above all others: the alphabet. With just 28 characters that take up no space at all, or can be easily fitted into a pocket, we can shift the entire world.

Weaving, on the other hand, frightens me. Theoretically I could whittle a needlebinding needle from shit I find on the ground within the space of ten minutes, spend an afternoon with someone learning the basics and then tinker on my own to learn more. But I can't make a loom myself. I can't even really figure out how it works by looking at it. There is no way I could learn how to use it if left alone with it. It takes loads of material. There are instructions that you have to read or hear. The stakes seem just a little bit too high, especially for someone like me who can't even successfully detangle my iPhone headset.  

For the longest time I felt that weaving was something I would not bother with, that I would stop short of making my own fabric, and most certainly never ever buy a loom. Then, a few summers ago, I was given one as a gift. Fantastic! The universe supports my hoarding! I was genuinely thrilled, and the loom now awaits my time and courage, but it's there. In the meantime I've found a toy loom at a flea market, and decided to use it for learning purposes. If I could manage that, maybe the full-size version wouldn't seem so frightening after all.

Yeah. Right.
 Turns out, you have to know what you're doing even with a toy loom, unless you are prepared to use the pre-prepared cotton warp that comes with it. When you buy used toy looms like this one, from Brio, the warp is almost always an apocalyptic tangle of frustration and knots, you can really tell why they decided to get rid of it, like, "Muuuuuum! I can't get it to woooooork! Come and fix it!" and she's like, "WTF, you have to work on this for hours before you're able to grind out a stupid carpet for the doll house, let's toss it and go play with matches instead..." My extremely patient friend Vix spent hours rewarping this stupid little thing with wool yarn - extremely kind of her. Now I feel I have to honor her effort and finish the damn thing, one of my most dreaded UFOs this year.

So how come it turned into a UFO? Brio may know their way around when it comes to retro toys and little wagons and stuff like that, but they know shit about looms, apparently. The pitiful excuse for heddles included in this one are made from floppy cotton string, don't keep straight, weigh nothing and don't do a damn thing. Even with Vix's patient warping, the shed is practically nonexistent, making for a very slow and tedious workflow. I had to fix it to ever be able to finish even this puny scrap of fabric.
What would MacGyver do?
The slats (yeah, I'm out on a terminological limb here) that hold up the heddles needed to go higher than I could push them with the stupid turning crossbar at the top, so I made them a little bit taller by inserting drinking straws under the top section of the heddles. The slats had practically no weight in themselves and needed to be weighted down, so I scotch-taped some larp cutlery to the lower pair to make the heddles fall straight.

Ten points for trying, no points for style.

By now it's possible to create a minimal but workable shed, and I can actually produce a strip of fabric about 15 centimeters wide. The below picture makes it look like burlap or that kind of 1970s fabric wall coverings, "vävtapet" in Swedish - but it's actually a medium brown, sort of ashy rather nice color. Same weft as the warp for now, until I run out. Then I might use some scraps to get stripes. Can't wait to see if this could actually become something, will keep posting.

Yay! Looks itchy though.