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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have some pretty talented friends. And sometimes they like the stuff I make, and I can barter for the stuff they make (which I like a lot better than my own). My current project is one of these barter pieces.
This story starts with a boy.
Well, I guess it kind of starts with the SCA – the reenactment group I fell into last year. I had known about these crazy people for years, but was always too shy to go to a social and meet people. Hooray social anxiety. But one day, my roommate and I decided to just go. And I’m so glad we did. I’ve met some of my absolute best friends through my local group (Waaaauuuggghhhh Bhakail!), and I met a pretty great guy that I happened to think was very handsome.
All I knew about him was that he was a cop, and he went to the movies a lot. While helping some SCAdians move into Philly, we got to talking, and found out we had a lot in common. So we hung out a couple times. He took me to the movies. We went on mystery dates. And we watched Buffy, which I had never seen before. Then he kissed me, and I was hooked. Dating a SCAdian is definitely different than dating anyone else. We both have a TON of garb/weapons/craft stuff, but we also have a common love for it, and appreciation of it.
Fast forward a year.
My Lord Cailin and I (because we’re fancy SCAdians who have our AoAs, so I can call him my Lord and he can call me his Lady… so fancy.) were talking about Pennsic, as we are wont to do, and I mentioned (again) how much I wanted to fight. I’d been watching the fighters for years, and I had picked up archery at a previous Pennsic, and it just seemed like something I’d like to try. But the cost of armoring up for War far exceeded my abilities, so I figured I’d spend a lot of time saving money so I could build my kit piece by piece.
He had other ideas.
After an EXHAUSTING day at a reenactment event, one where I received my AoA – an award showing that their Majesties saw the work I had done in the kingdom and officially recognized me as a member of the kingdom – I mentioned again how much fun Pennsic would be if I could fight. So Cailin brings out a huge duffel bag from his closet and tells me to open it. Inside is a full fighting kit. Helmet, armor, padding… everything I would need to take the field with him the following month.
I was stunned, to say the least. I asked him why he had done that for me. I couldn’t believe he had the ability to make this happen for me, something I had only ever considered as a “one day” kind of dream. He said the opportunity arose to purchase the armor, and he wanted me to have it so he could take the field with me and fight by my side.
“Yeah, but what does all this have to do with weaving something!?!” I hear you asking. I’m getting there, I promise.
I wrote a post about him gifting me the armor, and one of my incredibly talented musician friends, Siobhan, was inspired to write a song from my story. It brought me to tears. This was how I could repay Cailin for his kindness in gifting me my armor. And it didn’t hurt that our one-year anniversary was fast approaching. I asked my good friend Shoshana if she could use her amazing calligraphy skills to put it down on paper as a gift to him. And boy did she deliver.
The only way I could repay her for this amazing piece was to make her one of my own. So I started weaving. Months ago. I had to put it down for a while to finish some other projects… Then I tried to switch it to another loom… That failed, so I had to switch it back (10 days just to transfer it back and forth)… And now I’m well on my way to finishing it. It doesn’t help that it takes me five minutes to weave one inch, but hey, progress is progress.
There’s only so much you can show with a Facebook post. And since I lost a lot of my pictures when my phone decided to stop working, I should probably put them somewhere more permanent than Facebook. So they’ll go here! And maybe I’ll even remember to write once in a while!
My interest in weaving began as I approached the age of 13, preparing for my Bat Mitzvah, my mother and I decided to weave my tallis, or prayer shawl. I would wear it on the day I became a Bat Mitzvah, literally Daughter of the Commandments, in a special ceremony at the synagogue. I had seen my mom weaving in years prior to that, and I wanted to give it a try myself. We chose colors that had a special significance to Judaism and she embroidered sections of fabric that would be added to the woven tallis.
Fast forward a few years, and the SCA brought me right back to weaving, this time on an inkle loom. I had seen friends weaving on them leading up to Pennsic last year, and figured I’d invest in a loom and see what I could do with it. As soon as I finished my first plain weave piece, I was hooked. My loom is much more portable than my sewing machine, so I was able to bring it to work with me (nannying a lovely baby girl) and weave a bit every day.
After a few months, I challenged myself to progress to card weaving, also known as tablet weaving. Card weaving allows for much more intricate patterns than plain weaving. It also leads to more complicated weaving methods, such as double-faced and brocade weaving. With these, I can create custom pieces in whatever designs people like.
A long time ago I realized I could pick up crafts abnormally fast. While drawing portraits in art class baffled both my mind and my hands, if I was in front of a project I could “make” I was a happy camper. The first craft I remember learning was sewing. My mom sat me down at her old sewing machine and let me sew some straight lines. Soon after that, straight lines were no longer good enough, and I decided to sew a sweatshirt (because why do something easy like a pillowcase, right?).
Since those early days, sewing has become my primary craft occupation. While I may venture off into other crafts periodically, I always have piles and piles of sewing waiting for me. When I discovered the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism, medieval reenactment) my sewing took on a new level of importance. I research period-accurate sewing and pattern techniques, and then do my best to recreate them. I have also learned to love linen, and that Vikings were very good at creating clothes to keep themselves warm.
In this section you will find posts about my most exciting sewing adventures. And loving tirades about industrial sewing machines, pattern creation, and sergers becoming my new best friend.
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.