Monday, September 1, 2014

Commission: Sword Belt Spreader


Medieval sword belts were often made with many buckles so that they could strap down onto different sword sheaths and be re-used (if you had to make everything from scratch, you'd make sure it could be re-used, too!). In the Society for Creative Anachronism, which does medieval recreation, many rapier fighters use this type of sword belt.

Our rapiers are usually used without sheaths, though, as the large rubber safety tips on the ends of our blades make it difficult to make sheaths for them.  This causes problems when "sheathing" the rapiers into the sword belt: not only is it very annoying to thread the blade through each buckle, but then the swords sit loosely and rock uncomfortably as we walk. With my friend Lucien, I have designed a simple solution to these problems: a sword belt spreader.


The tube of stiff leather I designed spans the width of the buckles, which grip on to the spreader just as they would have gripped a medieval sword sheath.  Lucien has been using this for several months now.  He loves it.  He reports that it keeps the sword from rocking, makes it easy to draw and sheath his sword, and works wonderfully!


I started with a simple piece of thick veg-tanned leather.  I cut this into the correct size to make a tube that had a wide enough inner diameter to fit the rubber sword safety tip, and a thin enough outer diameter to fit inside the guard of Lucien's favorite sword.


Several specialty curved needles were used to make the stitches in this tight tube.  The tube was also dyed medium brown on the outside to go with the sword sheath.




Lucien is a happy customer!  I would be happy to make more custom sword belt spreaders for anyone who would like one.  Contact me.  :)

~Birke die Jägerin
Order of the Cavendish Knot
Dragon Army Pentamere XO
Leatherworker
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Expanded Notes on Rapier Fox & Hound

I was at Baron Wars, an SCA event, in June this year.  This is another great event for rapier melee - one of the best held near south-eastern Michigan all year, with about four dozen fencers fighting in the melee games in the morning.  Baron Wars is held at Fort Meigs near Toledo, Ohio, and is a fun event whether you want to hit people with swords, shoot some archery, do shopping at the many merchants, or just camp and hang out with lots of friends in a fun rustic environment.  For those who have never been, I highly recommend it.

The melee was run in part by our General Peter, and in part by the North Oaken Commander, Zatarra. They did a wonderful job setting up several interesting scenarios. Here I expand my previous notes on Fox and Hound with the new things I learned that day.

"Creepy Killer" Fox & Hound

Earlier this summer I talked about the melee game Fox & Hound, which is used to teach battlefield awareness and communication skills.  Quick synopsis of the mechanics of the game:

On the field: 1 fox and 2 hounds.  If a fox kills a hound, a new hound comes off the line to replace the one that died.  If the fox gets killed, though, the hound that killed the fox immediately becomes the new fox.  A new hound comes in off the line.

Go read my post from Border War to see more of my advice for succeeding at Fox & Hound. Running it again at Baron Wars brought out a few more tips, and also a fun twist on the game that the General put in called the "Creepy Killer" technique.

Tips learned from this game:
  • Communicate early and often! Lone hounds need to both yell for reinforcements quickly to get another hound to them off the line, and they need to talk to their teammates during the fighting.  You can work with your teammate better by telling them when to attack if you've bound the fox's blades. You can tell them to "move left" or "move right" in order to get the most advantageous spacing.  Coordinate!  It's effective!
  • Spacing:  Often the most effective spacing for two fencers attacking a lone fencer is to engage at roughly a 90 degree angle from you to your opponent to your teammate.  This means that you are both still in the front 180 of your opponent and they cannot afford to ignore either one of you.  It also means that you are far enough apart that the fox has to turn significantly to try and truly engage with either one of you.  Fencers untrained in this tend to fight too close to their teammate, which gives the fox more of "one bigger target" than "two separate targets."  Two separate targets is much more deadly!
  • Dead! Dead!  Yell "dead!" loudly when you die in a melee scenario.  Don't say "good" or "okay," like you often would in a one-on-one tournament.  Two reasons for this:
    • Your own teammates need to know that you're no longer there in order to make the best battle decisions.  They are often facing the same direction as you are, and everyone is wearing a mask (which muffles sound) in a chaotic environment - which means you should yell louder than you think you need to.
    • To alert your opponents to stop stabbing you!  Especially as one often raises their arms to indicate with their swords they are no longer alive, which exposes soft armpits - it can hurt to get repeatedly stabbed there.  Once your opponents register you are dead, though, they stop stabbing!
  • Don't ask your enemy for information!  Your enemy has no inclination to help you in a melee fight.  In fact, in large melees, it can occasionally be fun to trick your opponents with false commands if you make it into their backfield.  Thankfully, in a small fight like Fox & Hound, all of our fencers are honorable enough not to outright lie to our opponents' faces.  That doesn't mean that they will be forthcoming with helpful info, though!  The point of this: when coming in as a new hound off the line, don't ask who the fox is.  The fox has no reason to tell you, and it can get confusing when the other hound starts speaking.  Instead, ask your teammates for info about them and their strategies - which can start by asking who the hound is, because the hound will want to supply that information.

The "Creepy Killer" twist gives two separate jobs to the two hounds in the fight.  The hound that reaches engagement with the fox first is automatically the "creep," also known as the "distractor."  The second hound, trailing behind the other, is the "killer."
  • Creep/Distrator: It is your job to stay alive and keep the fox occupied.  Don't bind the fox's blades, because then you have no defense left (your blades also being bound at the time).  Keep your blades moving to keep the fox's eyes on you!  Don't focus on killing the fox, because that raises the chances of dying yourself.  Just distract distract distract!  It can take a lot of practice to figure out how to just be a suitable nuisance on the outside of an opponent's range - it's not as simple as it sounds.
  • Silent Killer:  Don't make noise!  Practice coming up at an unobtrusive angle - walk calmly, swords in a non-threatening position (gently pointed towards the ground, perhaps), way out to the side of the fox, coming in towards her/him just inside their front 180.  You don't want to grab the fox's attention.  Your job is to let the creep/distractor distract the fox, and then kill from an angle - just as if you were zipping a line in a bigger melee fight.

This teaches two very important skills: how to distract opponents without dying yourself, and how to come up on opponents without being noticed.  

At Pennsic just a few weeks ago, I used the distracting method several times!  Whenever our line of fighters got weakened - there was only a few fighters on our side fighting a much larger line, and we were defending a target so we didn't want to be budged - I would use the distracting methods to make myself appear larger and more threatening. I did this by batting people's blades a lot out at the end of their range, all whilst yelling loudly and repeatedly for reinforcements (don't dismiss yelling as a suitable distraction device!  It intimidates people and holds their attention while making them pause!).  It gave our fighters just long enough time to get back from the resurrection line and make our line strong again.  Being able to distract and intimidate opponents can mean that your people get the crucial three-second delay they needed to get themselves back into formation or get to the right spots on the field.

I don't think I have to point out how useful it can be to learn how to approach opponents without being noticed.  Many battles have been won because fighters were able to demolish half a line of fencers by "zipping" or "zippering" it from the side, killing one fighter and then the next, because they were able to move unobtrusively and quickly.

More rapier notes to come in the future!
~Birke die Jägerin
Order of the Cavendish Knot
Dragon Army Pentamere XO
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Monday, August 25, 2014

Links Day!

I've been catching up on all the blog posts I've missed while off the grid at Pennsic.  When I came across Cation Designs's post on her My Neighbor Totoro shirt, I knew it was time to do another links day.


She also has a recent post on re-making a baby bouncer in a Totoro!  Go check out her blog - she's a high school science teacher, and many of her posts are either nerd-related or science-related.  I love reading everything she writes!

For those who think current baby-naming practices are really weird, this article will help you realize that names, too, are just trends that repeat with time.  Even the weird nature names (which I love) and the last-name-as-first-names - they have both been repeated in the past, even stranger than in the present.

This necklace hanger is made from simple materials from Lowe's - here is a tutorial!

Make sure you make your own Don't Panic bag out of a towel before you hitchhike across the galaxy!

Click here to read a funny list of "You Know You're in the SCA When..."

This fox scarf is adorable!  There's a tutorial and free pattern at Prudent Baby.

Bizarre and vulgar illustrations from illuminated medieval manuscripts.  Every time I see something like this, it makes me giggle.

Learn how to make quick, simple rope bowls with this tutorial!

Hope those were enjoyable!  See you Thursday.  :)  ~Kell
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Heart Patch Shoe Repair


In May I repaired this pair of shoes!  There was a tiny hole in the top of one of the shoes, and one of the buckle straps had broken.


Patches don't need to be boring!  I added a patch in the shape of a heart.  It looks like it was deliberately made with the original shoes.  If anyone would like me to repair shoes or other leather gear, I will happily apply creative patches to not only repair your items, but upgrade them!


The bottom of the two buckles had a broken strap.  I replaced the strap with new leather.  I also re-glued the straps on the inside of the shoe, because all of them were peeling.


Contact me if you would like any leatherworking done!  Anyone else have examples of when they've repaired something in a creative manner?  I find that repairing things can often elevate them to a new level.  ~Kell
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Back from Vacation! Pennsic Dress! Garden! Etc!

Hello, internet!  I'm back from my blogging vacation, which means I should be putting out posts every Monday and Thursday again for a while.  :)  This post is a weird mishmash of things going on my life this week and updates from the past month or so.

First - I have somehow gotten almost twice as many page views in the past month, with me not blogging, as I had been getting before.  So welcome new people!  Yay!  I'm glad to have you around.

Pennsic Pictures!

Pennsic is the amazing two week camping SCA camping event I go to every year.  It's so wonderful.  Two weeks of living within a few minutes' walk of dozens of my friends and family - I love it.  There's also the giant rapier battles that I have the privilege of commanding (I'm Pentamere XO - a regional "executive officer" or second-in-command), which are just a blast.  I didn't take too many photos of Pennsic.  If you're curious, here's a great article - it's really long, but totally captures a lot of the magic of the place, even if you just want to glance at its photos.

I arrived on Friday evening of the first weekend, which is called "land grab," because the people in charge of each camping block divvy up the camping space early on Saturday morning (each person who registers with a camping block gives it 250 square feet).  Before land grab takes place, people camp out on the battlefield with their cars and trailers.  Someone had a Tardis trailer!




Here's my amazing region, Pentamere (LP Michigan)!  Someone had the brilliant idea of getting all the Pentamere rapier fighters to pose for a picture.  I'm so glad.  We certainly kicked major butt on the rapier field this war!  I'm so proud of Pentamere.


Someone sneakily got a picture of me commanding.


Another sneaky picture-taker!  Hanging out in camp in the evening when it's colder, I sometimes will put on my leather and fur hood.  I made it a couple years ago, and it is amazing!  Extremely comfortable and extremely warm.  I am surprised just how warm this keeps me.  The hood piece (which is down around my neck right now - it's a full hood) is lined with rabbit fur, and the edges of the piece are fox fur scraps.  I am currently working on a couple versions of this to go in my shop.  If you'd like to commission one in a particular style or color, please contact me!


Reading in camp!


Pennsic Tshirt Dress

Every year, there is a merchant at Pennsic that sells a new tshirt design.  Usually I've just looked out of curiousity and not purchased one.  I don't tend to wear tshirts, so it doesn't seem worth my money.  This year, though, the tshirt design is stupendous.  I adore it.  It tormented me all week, because I kept thinking about it, but also that I don't wear tshirts.  Two days before the end of Pennsic, the idea struck me as I was going to sleep - I would buy the largest tshirt size they had, and make it into a dress!

Here's a blurry photo of the original 5XL tshirt.


And the finished dress!  The entire dress is made out of the original tshirt, except for the black edging, which is a black knit remnant from my fabric stash.  I forgot to get a picture of the back of the dress - the design on the back is also really beautiful.


If you could look closely at the side triangles, there are a lot of seams there to make it fit the fabric.  I have a bare handful of tiny tiny scraps of red tshirt left!


Rough tutorial on how the dress was made:

  1. I took a tshirt I own that fits well (I do have a few) and folded it in half along the vertical center of the front.  Folding the Pennsic tshirt in half, I laid the other tshirt on top of it.  I marked the side seam with chalk from under the armpit to my waist, where I wanted the skirt to start flaring.  I used a tshirt for this step, not a tank top, because it's the same fabric type.  If you measure side seams with a ribbed knit tank top, the seams will be way off and it will be very frustrating (I speak from experience here...)
  2. I pinned the new sideseam with safety pins and tried it on (always try it on before cutting or sewing each step!).  After being satisfied, I sewed the side seams.  I didn't cut the excess fabric yet.
  3. I laid a favorite tank top over the Pennsic shirt (both folded down the center).  I marked the neckline and armholes with chalk and cut.  I continued cutting down from the armholes, down the already-sewn side seams, and then straight down the rest of the dress (so the front panels were rectangles from where the side seams end).  This left the remaining tshirt in big chunks of fabric.
  4. I unpicked the hem.  I wanted the extra inch of fabric that unpicking the original hem would give me!
  5. I measured all the remaining pieces of tshirt fabric I had, after cutting open the sleeves so they would lay flat.  I knew I wanted to make the dress about 6" longer (so I needed two blocks roughly 6" by 22", the bottom length of the front and back panels, hopefully in one piece for fewer visible seams in the dress).  I also knew that ideally I needed the side triangles to be at least 10" on the bottom, so I needed to be able to make a long rectangle that was 6" by twice the length of the side seams.  The side triangles would be created by cutting a long rectangle along the diagonal and sewing the 90 degree edges together - two right triangles coming together to make the isosceles triangle of the panel.  So to make a ~10" isosceles triangle, about a ~6" wide rectangle would bring two pieces together with enough seam allowances to do that.
  6. After all my futzing, I found that I could cut two the two front and back bottom panels in solid pieces with enough fabric left for the rest.  I then sewed together the rest to make the widest rectangle I could that was about 50" long (twice the side seam from waist to knee).  This ended up being about 8" wide, so I had even wider side triangles - this means more swing and poof to the skirt, yay!  This long rectangle was cut in half (two ~25" long rectangles), and then each cut along the diagonal, leaving four right triangles.  These triangles were sewn together at the 90 degree angles to create two isosceles triangles.
  7. The front and pack panels were sewn to the bottom of the front and back rectangles.
  8. The side triangles were sewn into the sides.
  9. A friend marked the hemline, and I cut it to be straight.
  10. All of the edges were bound in black knit fabric.  The neck and armholes were finished as in my favorite tank top tutorial.  The bottom hem was not stretched at all, but fit to size; otherwise, it was also sewn the same way.


Summary:
Fabric:  One Pennsic tshirt, size 5XL.  A remnant of black knit fabric from another project.
Notions:  None (unless you count red and black thread, which I already owned).
Hours:  Under 10.  I worked on it for three days, 2-3 hours each day, I believe.
Will you make it again?  YES.  It was enjoyable and fun, and I love the results!
Total cost:  $22 for the Pennsic tshirt.  Maybe another dollar worth of thread.
Final thoughts:  I adore this dress so much already.  I wore it for two days straight after I made it, because I didn't want to take it off.  It is so comfortable and easy to wear - just throw on a sports bra and the dress (I love tank-style tops, as sports bras as so comfy).  I have a bunch of tshirts sitting around that I've been meaning to make into other clothes, and I have the feeling they will be sewn together to make patchwork tank dresses just like this one.

Garden Update!

I've added a fence to my garden!  A bunny or something had demolished a few of my plants one week early in the process, and I wanted to prevent that from happening again.  I also weeded the garden for the second time all summer before setting up the fence.  Things seem to be growing just fine with me weeding every month or two, so I'm probably going to continue that.  Less work = Kelly more likely to keep gardening.


Also, my garden has started producing food!  It's so amazing.  I'm really in love with it right now.  Below you can see kale, arugula, and sage.  I have cooked with fresh sage and rosemary this week several times, and the food just tastes better.  I am starting to believe all the people who have told me that fresh herbs are better than dried.


Brussel sprouts!  These appear to still have a long way to go.  I'm curious to see how they turn out.


Tons of tomato plants!  There are also rosemary and basil plants along the bottom.


Below is just one day's harvest from my tomato plants.  I've been getting similar crops (5-15 small tomatoes, and 0-3 big tomatoes) every day for the past week.  Every day.  So awesome.


Chives!


Here's another day's tomato crop from this week.  Amazing!  I also had a great lunch a couple days ago, where I picked some arugula leaves and basil leaves, chopped them up along with a tomato, and sprinkled it all with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a little sugar (to offset the bitter of the arugula) - it was so delicious.  I adore that I can go pick just enough arugula for a salad or sandwich, and the plant will keep the rest of the leaves healthy (and not slowly rotting in my fridge).


That's a lot of my current updates!  My garden is thriving, I am continuing to sew neat things, and Pennsic was great.  It was still hard and pretty emotional at times, and I'm still struggling a little day to day now, but things are better this year than last year at this time.  I figured out last week how to add watermarks to my photos, so those will start showing up on blog photos soon.  That way, people can easily share my photos if they want to, and the watermark will show where they came from.  Things are slowly chugging along in the direction I want them to go.  My main mantra right now is patience - I keep wanting things to be great, right now, and my friends have been reminding me that I am doing wonderfully and I need to keep having patience.  Healing is a slow process.  Patience is good.  :)

Hope all is well for everyone out there!  Feel free to share neat things going on in your lives!  ~Kell
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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Vacation

I'm taking a vacation from blogging for a little while!  I have successfully blogged twice a week since February, and I hope to continue that when I resume blogging on Monday, August 18th.

There are a couple reasons for this.  First is that my life is quite stressful right now, grieving-wise.  July 4th, two years ago, is when DeForest and I went to the hospital.  July 15th is when he died.  Summers are very difficult for me, with weekly anniversaries of events, birthdays, memories, etc from the beginning of June through mid-August, and it's starting to take its toll.  This is all normal, and when my brain isn't gripped by depression or grief, I'm not worried about it.  It's just hard, and I've been finding it more and more difficult the past few weeks to make my blogging schedule.  Instead of breaking the schedule, I'm going to call it a holiday and deliberately not post regularly for a while.

After July 15th, it's less than two weeks until Pennsic, my annual two-week SCA camping trip.  Then I would like a week to recover from Pennsic, and I'll resume blogging on the 18th of August.  I may post in the meantime, but I may not.

See you in a month and a half!  I hope everyone has a lovely July.  ~Kelly


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Monday, June 30, 2014

AEthelmearc and Gleann Abhann Inkle Weaving

I am still slowly working on a set of inkle weaves based on all of the 19 Kingdoms of the SCA Known World.  Here are two weaves based on AEthelmearc and Gleann Abhann.

Kingdom of AEthelmearc

AEthelmearc is located in central/western Pennsylvania, western New York, and West Virginia.  The Pennsic War (officially between the East Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom) occurs on AEthelmearc land.


The weave for the Kingdom of AEthelmearc is a basketweave (or baltic) pick-up pattern based on the white escarbuncle in its heraldry.  This is my favorite form of pick-up weaving, and I've explained it in a few previous posts.  A couple of the pictures on those posts are currently distorted (my new blog layout is still doing wonky things to some of my pictures, and I haven't found the code that fixes it yet), so you can also just check out my class notes (PDF) to learn this form of pick-up weaving.

In the above pattern, the white is the normal resting pick-up strands, and the light red is where I have dropped the threads.  







Kingdom of Gleann Abhann


The Kingdom of Gleann Abhann covers the mundane (aka "modern" or "non-SCA") lands of Mississippi, Louisiana, most of Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee.  For their heraldy, I tried my first piece of brocade work!  Brocade weaving uses extra weft threads (the back-and-forth horizontal threads, not the long warp threads that go the length of the weave) to create a pattern on top of the warp threads.

Below is the pattern I sketched on inkle weaving paper to mimic the red and black heraldric background with a white ram rampant on it.


Unlike the nicely-drawn pattern above, brocade does not form a solid picture from line to line in the weaving, but leaves gaps between the lines.  I learned this as I played with the brocade.  Below you can see two different versions I made of this brocade pattern.  If I remember correctly (I wove this last fall), the bottom version, woven first, only has two brocade threads, and the top version has three.  I added an extra thread to try and thicken the brocade pattern to make the ram more recognizable.


You can also see how the brocade threads show up at the edges of the pattern.  This can made less noticeable if you have a woven border that matches the color of your brocade threads.  I started with two brocade threads to try and make it even, passing the threads through from opposite directions so that each side would show the same extra white.  When I added the third brocade thread, I made sure it was opposite the normal weft thread, so that there were two threads passing over each side on each pass of the shuttles.


The final result turned out fairly decent, I think.  Brocade is definitely not in my list of favorite things to do with weaving, though - it is very, very slow.  I am amazed when I see weaves that have brocade along the entire length of the piece, because that took a lot of work to make.  I'm sure I'll play with it some more in the future, but for now another brocade pattern has not yet struck my fancy.

Happy weaving!  ~Birke
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