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Always a Maker

I consider it a blessing and a curse growing up with an artist for a mother.  My mom has been crafting since long before I was born, focusing on stained glass when I was young, and venturing into other avenues throughout the years.  From a young age, I wanted to make things.  I learned to sew when I was 8 or 9, and wanted my first project to be a sweatshirt.  I’m sure my mom tried to persuade me to make something easier, like a pillowcase or something, but I wanted a sweatshirt, so I was making a sweatshirt.  Which I still have, up in the attic.

My mom taught me a phrase that’s haunted me throughout the years…  Oh, you could make that!  And thus begun my journey to make ALL THE THINGS.  When I was young, it was little animals out of clay.  Then sewing bags, notebook covers, and pencil pouches for school.  After college, those long four years I was devoid of my sewing machine, I learned about a little thing called Pennsic.  Pennsic is an event run by the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group that reenacts the Middle Ages with battles, arts, cooking, and comradery.  Pennsic itself is a two-week reenactment event, which meant I had an excuse to sew again!  I needed two weeks worth of garb to wear!  I was finally inspired to start making things again.  I taught myself chainmail and started making my own jewelry.  I researched period clothing styles and tried to recreate them.  I taught myself how to crochet – knight helmets, stuffed dragons, stuffed animals for baby gifts.  I learned how to use an industrial sewing machine and started sewing yurts for my friend’s company.  New projects don’t worry me, I enjoy teaching myself new skills and new crafts.

Last Pennsic I discovered inkle weaving, and in the months since I have been weaving every day.  I’ve made belts and trim as gifts, woven straps for archery quivers, and even started making camera straps for a few people.  I’ve loved the challenge that weaving provides, and I’ve taught myself a lot of skills through the different weaving methods I’ve found.  One of which is patience.  Another is how to pay attention to what I’m doing so I can figure out how to fix it when I mess up.

I’m not just a weaver though.  I’m not just a crocheter.  Or a seamstress.  Or a jeweler.  I’m a maker.  I make a lot of things.  If someone asks me, “Can you make…” I usually cut them off with a “Yes.” before they can finish the question.  When someone asks me what I make, I usually answer “… yes?”  I make a lot of things.  If you can think of a thing, I’ve probably made it at least once.  This includes spear throwing catapults, 8-foot-tall yurts, and a chainmail shirt for a stuffed dragon.

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sewing

In A Normal World…

In a normal world, I would be at the beginning of Renaissance Faire season.  I would be working every weekend at my friend’s shop, hanging lanterns and talking about yurts.  If I wasn’t at the faire, I would be in the workshop, sewing yurts.  My entire faire season revolves around yurts.wp-1588987070228.jpg

In my “free time” I would be panic sewing for Pennsic, attending weekend SCA camping events, and weaving last-minute projects for A&S displays.  I would be checking my camping supplies and making sure I had enough sunscreen to last me through my day job and my weekend hobbies.

But this is no longer a normal world.

We are not allowed to gather.  We cannot have our weekend camping events.  Pennsic is cancelled.  And instead of sewing yurts or garb, I’m sewing masks.  Masks, masks, masks.  In the last five weeks, I have created over 300 masks, and I have more on my work table right now.  Adult masks, toddler masks.  Matching father/son masks.  Joke masks made of sparkly swimsuit material.

What hasn’t changed, however, is my sewing helpers.  They are *so* very helpful.

I’m even getting help right now, writing this post.

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So helpful.

Weaving

Aztec Storyboard

An SCA competition called St. Eligius caught my attention last fall as a good way to get a start in A&S competitions.  I had a plan for a weaving project for Bhakail’s Yule A&S competition that coming December, so I figured I could enter that piece in progress into St. Eligius.  It would be my first competition, so I was interested to see what it would be like, how I would be judged, and what the overall experience would be.

The event was both exactly like I imagined and also nothing like I could have pictured.  I have always enjoyed presenting things, from science fair projects in middle school to woven projects at SCA display tables at Pennsic.  I anticipated putting out my work, needing to be at my table for a certain amount of time answering questions, and spending the rest of my time wandering around and looking at everyone else’s projects.  Instead, I barely left my spot at the table – I was having way too much fun talking about my own work to everyone that had questions.

The idea for this woven piece came from the proposed theme for Bhakail’s A&S competition – “Winter Myths and Legends.”  Not wanting to just weave some Santa Clause faces on trim, I started a search for “winter legends” and came across the creation myth for the Aztec god of winter, Itzlacoliuhqui.  His creation story was interesting, and could be depicted fairly easily in pictographs much like one would see in archaeological rock art.  My academic background is in anthropology and archaeology, and I had spent a lot of time studying South America, so I found the idea of weaving this story even more intriguing as time went on.  I graphed out a story board and started weaving.

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I started weaving using the pick-up method, which would have been the preferred method of detail weaving at the time had the Aztecs included woven trim on their clothing.  In fact, they were so utilitarian with their fabric and clothing that decorative trim was rarely used, and usually only given as payment to the upper class.  I discovered that cotton was actually a period-accurate material in Mexico and South America at the time, but again was only used as offerings to the upper class.  Common fabric was woven out of yucca or palm fiber, which would be prohibitive for me to try to find, so I used cotton instead.

Pick-up weaving is a technique I had only tried once prior to this project, and my time was severely limited, so I decided to switch techniques and use double-faced double-weaving to get this band done.  Despite being a European weaving method, it is one I am more comfortable and practiced with so I felt more secure in using it to finish the project.  It went fairly smoothly after that, and I was able to present a significant amount of it at St. Eligius.

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My display at St. Eligius

My project gained a lot of interest for being “New World” as most A&S projects are Euro-centric.  I was able to speak to a lot of people about my interest in bringing attention to the textile history of the Americas and it seemed well-received.  And though I didn’t win anything in the competition, my project was called out in court as one the Baronesses of the area were particularly interested in.  A lot of people seemed to enjoy my writing style as well, and one gentle gave me her “populace choice” vote for “making her giggle” with my documentation wording.

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Tokens I was given for competing.

After I finished weaving the band, I went on to enter it into Bhakail’s competition in December and won, becoming the Barony’s new A&S champion for the year.  Despite having an extraordinarily difficult day for personal reasons, winning the baronial competition made me incredibly proud of the work I had done.

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Finished piece at Bhakail’s Yule A&S Competition

If you are interested in reading the documentation presented with this project, you can find it here: Itzlacoliuhqui Documentation.

Craft Craziness

It Takes a Pandemic…

… to actually get me to update my blog, apparently.

Well, it’s been almost a year since I’ve written anything here.  Life took several turns after my last posts, and updating this website was not at the top of my list of things to accomplish.  Now that my life has settled into something resembling calm, I suppose it’s time to put up some of the projects I’ve worked on recently.  Ironically, during a worldwide pandemic, I am the healthiest I’ve been since my last post, when I took a job at a daycare and started spending my time with a bunch of two-year-olds.  No time like the present to share what I’ve been up to!

Craft Craziness

Recent Crochet Projects

Every so often I get a break from the weaving bug and spend some time crocheting.  This year it was spurred by the auction to raise money for their Majesties of the East, where I donated two crocheted items – a dragon and an Infinity Gauntlet from the Marvel universe.  The latter was done mostly as a joke, someone asked online if anyone could make it and I decided to take the plunge.

Auction Dragon

One of the pieces I put up for auction was a custom-colored crocheted dragon.  A woman won the dragon and chose black and gray for her toddler.

Infinity Gauntlet

I have never made a glove before because of the difficulty involved, but when the opportunity came up to create an Infinity Gauntlet I decided to jump on it.  It took a lot of ripping and redoing, but eventually I finished it and shipped it off to the recipient.

Another Dragon

A friend of mine made a request for a dragon so I made another one in the same design as the auction dragon.

Baby Nephew Needs Presents!

Last winter I found out I would be an aunt for the first time, and that my new nephew’s room would be decorated in an animal theme.  After literally taking the project away from my mother, I was able to put together a few stuffed critters to decorate baby M’s room.

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Weaving

Recent Weaving Projects

It’s been a while since I’ve updated!  Here’s a bunch of things I’ve woven over the last few months…

Birka Trim

These two pieces were made for Their Majesties of the East Kingdom for Birka.  The costume contest theme was “superheroes” and Their Majesties decided on Nightcrawler and Emma Frost in a Viking style.  This pattern is actually based on a historical weaving pattern found in the Birka grave finds.

Estrella Trim

Every year I create trim for my Peer to bring with him to Estrella War, in the kingdom of Atenveldt.  He stays with the royal encampment and gives the trim to his hosts as a gift of thanks.  This is my third year making trim for him to bring, and this might be one of my favorite patterns I’ve woven.]

Fortune’s Favor Test Weave

When Her Majesty Fortune’s favor design came out, a friend of mine started working on a weaving pattern and asked me to test it out for her.  I wove it three different ways, following the pattern as written, and provided feedback to Lady Arabella, who wrote the pattern.

Pelican Bag Strap

When my friend Maistir Mael Eoin asked me to be his protege, I knew I wanted to make him a gift for my “belting” ceremony.  I found a pattern for a double-faced pattern for pelicans in a Peruvian style from an article about woven rugs (https://www2.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/articles/tw_6_4-03.pdf).  I attached this strap to a canvas bag so he can wear it around at events.

Tunic Trim

Also for Maistir Mael Eoin, trim for a tunic he was gifted for the holidays.  After an initial failure of a pattern I found on Pinterest, I chose a secondary pattern that closely matched the original and wove it in his colors.

Bells for Carillion

When Mistress Ty told me she would be invested as Baroness of Carillion, I asked if she wanted me to weave trim for her dress.  The only design that made sense?  Bells!  I wrote a pattern using 6-hole cards and wove 7 yards of trim for her. After sending it off, she decided to use it for Birka instead of Investiture, so hopefully I will see pictures of it after that!

Weaving

Why Do My Deer Look Like Moose?

In the Society for Creative Anachronism, the world is divided into kingdoms, which are then divided into baronies, shires, and cantons.  Recently, a shire close to me celebrated their first day as a barony – they had an Investiture ceremony to put a new Baron and Baroness in charge of the Barony of Buckland Cross.  Their device, the picture that represents their group, is of two deer.  I wanted to make a gift for their Excellencies to celebrate their first day as Baron and Baroness and came across a pattern someone from the West Kingdom created years ago of deer heads with antlers.  Perfect!

Not so much.

I warped this pattern in silk, my first time using silk for a weaving project, so I wanted to make sure it was perfect.  I started weaving.

Everything was wrong.

I got diamonds, Ws, and most confusingly, moose.  When I wove the pattern as written, the resulting shape came out distinctively moose-like, which was extremely frustrating.  I wanted to weave deer, not moose!  I tried my usual trick of reversing the turning directions, but to no avail.  I turned to my best resource – the internet.

Thanks to the help of a great friend, who helped me solve my issues through Facebook messenger and a variety of pictures, I was able to puzzle out the problems I was having with my pattern.  Turns out, pretty much everything I was doing needed to be flipped 180 degrees.  The pattern was showing up on the underside of the band (indicating that the strings on each card were threaded in the wrong order), the threading direction of each card had to be reversed, and I had to turn the cards two turns forward to completely change my starting position.

I don’t know how she was able to figure out these problems by looking at a couple pictures, but Lady Arabella did it, and I owe her the success of this project.  I still don’t understand how weaving this band could have been so difficult and caused so many problems after ensuring I warped the band exactly according to the pattern.  But alas, some things are meant to be mysteries.

I had a lot of help weaving this band, not only from people giving advice and suggestions online, but also from this little demon.  Meet Kubo, my new kitten and loom-eater.

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Craft Craziness · sewing · Weaving

A Little Crochet… A Little Sewing…

Sometimes I get to take a break from weaving and work on other projects.  This little crocheted blanket is a great example of that.  I love crocheting, but often my weaving projects take over and leave me with very little time to create other things.  A good friend contacted me about this blanket over a year ago, asking if I could make it for her daughter, who was born just recently at the time.

“Sure!  How hard could it be?”

Really hard.  It was really really hard.  Lots of tedious pieces, lots of stitches I had to learn.  In the end, it turned out great, and I’m really proud of it.  But it’ll be a long time before I tackle a project like this again.

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Interlocking hearts – each heart was crocheted separately and then sewn together into a chain.
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The blanket while blocking – stretching it out while damp in order to make it the right size and shape.

 

This fall I also had the opportunity to create something very special.  I work at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire as a merchant.  There is a feral cat colony on site, which they allow to stay to control the rodent population.  They capture, spay, and neuter when they can, but every so often a litter of kittens is born.  These babies are brought to the wonderful people who run the Forge – they are amazing and raise and foster these little fuzzes until they are old enough to adopt out.

I had the opportunity to adopt one of these babies this year, who I named Bastian.  The people at the Forge were kind enough to take care of him for the duration of the Faire, as I would be working seven days a week and would not have time to care for a new kitten.  Unfortunately, Bastian became very ill and passed away after only a week of me caring for him.  I had already started this project when all of this happened, and I was glad to be able to give this gift for all the care these amazing folk gave to my little fuzz while they could.

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Bastian the shoulder-cat.
I created fleece pouches the little kittens could snuggle in on cold days.  Often the later weekends of Ren Faire season get quite chilly, and the Forge folk wear fleece pouches around their necks with the kittens inside so they can absorb some of the body heat to keep warm.  I wove the bands for the pouches and quickly sewed up some bags with fabric I knew they would enjoy.

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Busy Hands

It’s amazing how much I’ve created in such little free time…  A full time job, a weekend job, and SCA events have kept me very busy in the last few months.  It seems like all I’ve done recently is work and craft and try to sleep.

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Now on the loom – a design for the person who won my item in the latest East Kingdom auction.
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Primary and supplementary trim – Iron Bog Investiture – June 2018
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Primary Trim
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My first attempt at pick-up weaving.
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A simple trim to adorn a Pelican cloak – Iron Bog Investiture – June 2018
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Green Lantern trim, designed by me – spring 2018
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My first experience with hexagonal weaving cards – six strings instead of four.
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A gift for his Majesty of Atenveldt – Estrella War – February 2018
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Auction winnings from the first East Kingdom auction I participated in.
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This is actually my first period pattern piece – winter 2017/2018
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Made the tunic and trim – Yule – December 2017
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A rather complicated pattern, which I didn’t have time to finish.
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Just enough trim to go on the tunic I made for the boy.
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Hannukah presents for Mom and Grandma – Sheep Trim!
Weaving

Fit for a King and Queen

I usually bring my loom to SCA events, which makes a great conversation starter.  As an introvert, I find it easy to talk about my hobbies, but not always easy to broach the topic with someone new unless they say something first.  At River War last year, someone approached me while I was weaving and we got to talking about me possibly weaving for Their Majesties.  I was given the name of their garb coordinator and I sent her a message on facebook, thinking nothing would come of it.

Little did I know I would end up working on one of the most complicated weaving patterns I’d come across.

I had trouble from the start.  I warped the pattern according to the directions, but when I started weaving, it all came out wrong.  Aside from the pattern showing up on the underside of the warp, when I followed the pattern exactly, the design simply would not come out right.  I tried everything I could think of… triple checked my warp to make sure it was correct, turned the cards slowly and marked each line as I went…  Nothing would work.  It was late.  I was tired.  I decided, “You know what?  I’m just going to switch the turning pattern.  Everything that says ‘forwards’ is now going backwards.  What harm could it do at this point?”

Birka trim wrong

Well, it actually worked.  As bizarre as I thought it would be, turning the cards in the opposite directions fixed the pattern.  I blame this on the fact that I was watching Stranger Things while warping the pattern, and my loom decided it wanted to live in the Upside Down.  But that’s another story.

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I wove and wove and wove.  And when my hands wouldn’t grip and my arms hurt too much to lift, I wove at a slightly slower pace.  Battling chronic illness while crafting makes for some interesting innovation when your hands suddenly give out.

Finally, after two hard months of weaving, I had enough trim to send to their Majesties’ garb coordinator.  But I didn’t have enough for them *and* their kids and time was running out.  With a week left before my deadline, I warped up a quick and easy pattern, using the same diamond motif and colors, for the kids’ garb.  It looked great next to the more complicated pattern but took way less time and offered me no problems.

I was not able to attend A Market Day at Birka, where their Majesties would be wearing the trim I made, but I was able to find a few pictures online from a couple amazing SCAdian photographers.

Craft Craziness

Every Fencing Dragon Needs Chainmail

A year or so ago I stumbled upon a crochet pattern for a dragon.  If you know me, you know my love for dragons.  So I started making one.  I picked a yarn that reminded me of Monet, my favorite painter.  I had no particular need of a crocheted dragon, but I continued to make it because I enjoyed the challenge.  Then one of my dear friends saw me working on it one night and “squeed.”  Yes, literally.  Hands to her mouth, eyes widening, squealing ensued.  So when I was finished making it, I gifted it to her.  After all, I hardly need more stuffed animals, my bookshelves are crowded with enough other dragon paraphernalia already.

A few weeks after getting her dragon, Ysmay decided it was her fencing mascot, and it would live in her fencing bag.  Well, a fencing could hardly be a fencer if it had no armor.  So I started making a chainmail shirt for her.  Ysmay recently acquired her own chainmail shirt, so it was only fitting her dragon own one as well.

chainmail dragon

But just having a chainmail shirt would hardly complete this little lady’s fencing gear.  I got really bored one night and made her a cloak in the colors of Ysmay’s fencing family, the Tadcasters.  And so, the fencing dragon was adorned and ready to fight.  Next up, a sword.