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.

lördag 1 februari 2014

The problem solver

In March, I will attend the opening of an exhibition at Historiska Museet in Stockholm, focused on the Battle of Wisby. My son has grown. My daughter has no reenactment clothes AT ALL. My mum is coming with me, geared up like the rest of us. I have tons of other work to do before it's time, and practically no time for making new stuff. Start the panic...

Maria came to the rescue as my problem solver and sent me a huge package in the mail - with an undertunic, a woolen tunic for my two-year old, and a pair of needlebound mittens that I once made myself - for her son, who is a couple of years older than mine. Thank you, sweetie!

The undertunic is PERFECT. I will use it to make a new pattern for a tiny, tiny cotehardie since the one enclosed in the mail was too small, and it will take only a tiny bit more work to make a new one from scratch than to adjust for a larger size. Mittens are neat to have at all times and in any case, and right now these are a particularly snug fit.

Actually, they were so popular
that he wore them for battle practice.
This means I still have to make a woolen tunic for my son, and an undertunic and woolen tunic for my daughter. Thank God we'll be indoors - the whole shebang with warm winter clothes for the little ones would be simply too much right now. Normally I would look forward to this kind of project, but these days there is NO time and NO energy left. Better get to it.

tisdag 21 januari 2014

Trying on a toile

Lucas is trying on a new toile for his liripipe hood. Just a blurry snapshot from our livingroom.

onsdag 15 januari 2014

Socks, in passing

Some UFOs receive less love than they deserve. There's nothing particularly wrong about these socks, other than the fact that they're such an early product that I misjudged the amount of yarn needed to finish them. By now I'm not even sure that I want them and I most certainly don't need them, but they make a fairly easy UFO to get rid of and are just too ugly to give away to some unsuspecting victim/recipient.

Like many other items in my yarn stash, this brown ball came with a back story that I have completely forgotten by now, despite my best intentions. It might be a plant dyed specimen from Maria. For some reason I had trouble finding another yarn of matching thickness, but at the fourth attempt found some handspun that might be some if the first I ever made. It's full of twist-locked slubs and rather uneven, but it'll do. The color combo makes me think of gingerbread. 

This is the season of crappy mobile pics - it's just too damn dark to get decent photos. At least we have electricity: in the Middle Ages you could spend an entire winter crafting in the dark and then you had to wait until spring to be able to actually see what you had made... So, surprise! Eh. 

Securing regrowth

BoW camp 2013, with Maja and Micke.

These days, one of my primary motivations for making period clothing is the opportunity to dress up my kids. The thought itself is more appealing than the actual work, since I hardly ever get around to it, but I really, really hope that I will be able to bring them to events when they are a bit older, not just right now when they're more like two very demanding pets that incidentally share my DNA.

I want to offer them this very special playground, with its own kind of enchantment, and I hope that they will approve of it for a few years before they initiate the mandatory revolt against dorky parent business and immerse themselves in team sports, things the old people Just Don't Get, and far cooler online games than those their parents play.


Today I do many things that I would have loved to do when I was maybe, like, five years old. Or fifteen. They just weren't available to me then, and it has taken me a long time to find them in the form of re-enactment. The crafting, the fighting, the learning process and the very special form of hanging out with others of a similar disposition makes me more enthusiastic than almost anything else (except maybe the 15th century books at the library where I work). I envy the kids I meet who are growing up inside the hobby. Sure, it probably has its measure of shame at some point, but still, what fifteen-year-old wouldn't like to get a proper sword for her birthday?

It was hard work bringing my son to Battle of Wisby 2013 as I was going alone and was 7 months pregnant. But it was worth it. If we have the opportunity to do the event again, I will make sure to bring him back, as I would have loved to go there myself when I was a kid (as I do now). Next time he will hopefully have grown into the hat.

Ignore the mother. Please.
From left: Mother, unborn little sister, baby son.

tisdag 14 januari 2014

Soled socks

I made these tiny needlebound socks for my son out of scrap yarns from the thriftshop, a small bag of plant dyed leftovers that had been sitting around since the 70's according to the labels still attached to them, with notes on the respective plants used. Some little old lady did this a long time ago, and I wish I could have told her that her work would finally result in a finished piece of work.

For Battle of Wisby 2013, Lucas borrowed a pair of shoes but ended up wearing these (or going barefoot) most of the time. I picked one of the soles from his everyday trainers (size 22) and traced them on the leather, then cut with kitchen scissors (this IS the orc variety). If you are as new to this as I am, don't forget to flip either the pattern sole or the leather itself to make one left and one right sole. I forgot, ending up with two left soles at first.

Since I am super lazy, I just used a hole puncher to make the holes around the edge of the sole, winging the distance between them. They are attached to the sock with waxed, double linen thread, no fuss. I greased the soles to keep the damp out, and then cheated hideously by spraying the upper part of the socks with waterproofer. Works, kind of. The good thing is that these are easy (and cheap) enough to make that I can keep up and make new ones almost every season if I have to. I'll make another pair for myself.

söndag 12 januari 2014

Kruseler - frilled veils

Why, History, why??
 Wearing medieval clothes takes some getting used to. After a while you ease into it, and I must say by now I really enjoy it not least because of the practical aspects. The veil in particular took me a lot of time to accept, though. Both for aesthetic and political reasons. In all fairness, everyone is made to suffer silly headwear in this hobby, and it makes me feel a whole lot better that the coif makes the guys look like village idiots across the board, not to mention the various felted hats (except Florian's) which all remind me of a certain rather offensive part of the male anatomy. But mainly the idea of displaying your face in what I consider to be a very unflattering way made me dislike the veil for the longest time, particularly in combination with the neck piece some of us wear with the veil itself.

Now, to up the ante: The frilled veil demands a whole new level of acceptance in the I Look Like An Idiot Department. Everyone else seems to pull theirs off beautifully, so I guess it't mostly in my head, but still...

I have seen and admired the wonderful, painstakingly counted and crafted honeycomb-type frills out there, especially those of Isis, of course. But I've resorted to the easier, unstructured version with a pleated strip of fabric mounted on a plain veil - I just don't have the patience to do it properly. This one, below, is for a friend, and also happens to be one of my UFOs.

A heap of Civil War bandages?
Since the frills I've made so far are completely detachable, I could theoretically change the plain veil part (or use the frill as a close-range weapon - the starch is really something!) but yeah, that will happen...

I asked for some hints regarding the starching process, (also, read the instructions in the box) and since I'm writing this for other nervous n00bs, I thought I'd share. Maria told me this: if you're letting the veil dry flat on a table, leave the frills hanging over the edge to avoid flattening on one side. Use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process, after shaping the folds with your fingers. The Verda starch I'm using has an adorable 50's packaging, and I should have been content to use the two-teaspoon mix instead of eight. The length of frills can be used to kill people, I swear. It feels more like trying to wrap a two-foot board around your face than wearing at item actually intended to be a piece of clothing.

måndag 6 januari 2014

Ufo wabbit

Next one up for finishing: a rabbit I started making for my son before he was born. Two and a half years later: ta-daa...

fredag 3 januari 2014

Brick stitch bitch

Wool and steel is what gives a Reenactor her power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together. This one, however, is not about wool but silk.

I've tried my hand at German brick stitch a few times, not least so I could buy the droolworthy yarns from Devere. At first I was a bit wary, I never thought I would have the patience to finish a piece, and I could really picture the hissyfits I would throw in the face of an irreversible, structural fault that would force me to abandon a near-finished pattern. Turns out, brick stitch has an even worse tetris potential than most other crafts, and since the designs are easy to either stel off the interwebz or create in a robotlike fashion, people without any real artistic skill (like me) can make their own and still pull it off.

Plus, you get to think of this guy EVERY time, and laugh.

We are never alone in our crafting. I have received a lot of inspiration from the lovely blogs of my friends and acquaintances, such as Medieval Silkwork, ...ur ett insnöat liv and the pages of some people who are completely unknown to me personally, like Racaire and Wymarc. This summer I attended a workshop on brick stitch in the Battle of Wisby camp, and that was my final excuse for a new kind of hoarding.

The Devere color charts are sort of tricky to get hold of since they're sold out right now, so I took some reference pics in decent light - I will have to give them back to Vix who kindly let me borrow them.

For starters I made a trial pattern on graph paper, and I made a HUNDRED mistakes in simply drawing it, so I'm glad I tried without the actual embroidery first. This page offers free graph paper for printing. I ended up making just the one panel, so I might turn it into a needle roll or a pincushion.

This is how it turned out.
Then I made two panels for a bag, and was instantly punished for my sloth: I figured, the less threads per cm in the linen weave, the less work, but this can apparently be overdone as the coverage suffered...

Damn you, lazy woman!

Maria tells me that smaller purses are usually double-sided, with embroidery on both sides. Larger bags may have just the one side worked, and the other plain, with maybe a picture motif. I really like the variety of options, picture motifs / geometric patterns or a combination of the two, with brick stitch as a filler in gaps between figures.

I'm really anxious about piecing the panels together and making the actual purse. Let's see if I can bring myself to make a blog post about the process further on.

torsdag 2 januari 2014

Paved with good intentions

For this year I've made a few feeble resolutions - mostly concerning what I should and shouldn't do regarding my fiber stash. One of them is to try and blog more about the stuff I've actually done, and I've decided to incorporate a few knitting and crochet projects in this blog as well. I don't want to start another blog dedicated to modern crafts, but I hope this addition doesn't scare away any of you hardcore wool nerds. Embrace the acrylic! Just, eh, not while reenacting. 

The rest of my list reads as follows:

 - I want to finish all my UFOs (UnFinished Objects). I think there are maybe five yarn-related ones and maybe ten or fifteen reenactment projects that deserve looking into. I had a very liberating experience going through my unfinished knitting and crochet projects, ripping/frogging some, reclaiming supposedly lost hooks and needles (and a wealth of tiny scissors), and even throwing a few sad, frustrating projects away (don't try to make large lace shawls in fuzzy yarn with plenty of halo).

- I want to try and shop my stash instead of expanding my hoarded materials. I have two excuses for simply hoarding rather than using up my stuff: I'm waiting to shrink a little more after my last pregnancy, and I want to make a new dress pattern. I've been making the same one for about five years now and I'm a bit tired of it. Making a new pattern is another of my resolutions.

 - I need to spin a total of at least one whole sheep this year. The herd in my closet have already reached their maximum amount. I can hear them bleating. Spin us! Spihihihihihihihn ussss! I got new spindles. I got materials for MAKING new spindles (coming up). I just need to get behind the mule. 

 - I will (should, really) not accept any more swap assignments or paid work before I've delivered ALL items previously promised to other people. And I would do well to actually make some stuff for myself before I take on more orders for others. 

- I will sell or donate any leftover second-best things I still have, in case I make new and better things that replace them well enough. (And certainly not bring these second-best things with me to camp and scatter them all over the place to make it look more like the exploded wardrobe of a runaway circus).

This is one of my recently finished crochet UFOs, a stashbuster version of Eva's shawl which I've made several versions of. The pattern is easy and frustration-free even for a choleric beginner like me. Here's the Ravelry link.