Measuring is for suckers.

So far in doing A&S in the last year, I have learned that I cannot, even with a ruler, cut a straight line. (Thank you bookbinding for teaching me that.) Today, I learned that even with measuring 18 thousand times and remeasuring, and calculating and then measuring again, I still can’t get it right.

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This is the current state of the fan. (Yes, so far behind I’m first in my own race, but we’ll ignore that minor detail for the moment.) The right hand side is a print out of my inspiration fake, I mean fan, that I’m aiming to follow along with. The left hand side is my stitched outer border and the start of the inner border, the ones surrounding the eyelets in the picture. Notice something? Say like the fact that I’m a good half inch off? Say like I’m far closer to those being inner borders than outer borders? What? And I’ve already pulled thread guides so I can’t just /declare/ them to be inner borders?

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Insult to injury, I got it right on the sides, just not top and bottom.

So the question became, as I put the project in a momentary time out of indecision. Am I utterly devoted to making an exact textile replica of a non textile item? Or am I looking at this and going ‘ah ha! I am going to make lace in the style that this was trying to fake.’

I think I’m pretty comfortable aiming for the later. I CAN’T make an exact replica, textiles and non textiles don’t work the same. So mine will be longer and narrower than the original. Alright then. The only real change is that the middle section won’t be quite as wide. That’s fine, I haven’t decided what’s going there yet anyhow.


Just getting madder and madder about madder! Oh wait, actually madder was pretty good to me, so that pun doesn’t work.

Anyhow, I figured I would share some of my pentathlon entries (because if you’re going to enter pent, you might as well milk it for all SORTS of blog entries!), and one of them was looking at madder.

I aimed to keep it more modern and scientific so that I (in theory) could have reproducible results. (Spoiler alert: Madder was not on board with that.) It was also an excellent excuse to finally buy the pH meter I’ve always wanted.

Yes seriously, I’ve always wanted one. Apparently you can take the woman out of the chem lab, but they continue to pine for toys.

I looked at pH (obviously, if I was going to justify the pH meter!), water (tap vs distilled), and a brief touch on different mordants. Everything was on the same 2 ply wool, and if I wasn’t specifically looking at mordants, it was all alum mordanted in the same batch.

This first picture has the mordants. I threw them all in the same pot, and I’m pretty sure there was mordant bleeding to make everything a bit sadder. The skein on the left is the alum control, the top right is iron and the bottom right is copper.

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This next picture is the different waters. Each column was the same chunk of dyestuff, simmered in succession to get different dye baths. So 10g of madder, simmered a while and then strained out, dye liquor 1. Take that same 10g of madder that I just strained out, simmer it again, strain it again: dye liquor 2. Take that same well simmered madder, simmer it AGAIN, strain it AGAIN: dye liquor 3. Far right is my tap water (standard city water), the left two are both distilled water. In theory they are /exactly the same/. Thank you madder for keeping things surprising.

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This last picture are the different acidities. I took one dye bath, and split it out into four jars. The top right is the control. Bottom right is citric acid (pH of 2.6). Top left used washing soda to bring the pH to basic (pH of 10.2) and the bottom left added ammonia to the dye bath. (pH 10.0)

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Basically every time I put photos on the blog, I am reminded that photography is not my strong suit. Apparently neither is clearing off the table before I take photos.

If you’re curious about my documentation, I’ve linked it here: Madder


Unsurprisingly, I follow a lot of mundane handwork groups and blogs and shops and stores as well as SCA ones. I did, afterall, arrive fully A&S’d to the SCA, even if my horizons broadened dramatically.

I was pleasantly surprised to find an utterly modern fibre site offering a free 7 day lucet course / challenge. Over at Stitch Diva Studios, they have a 7 day lucet challenge, for anyone interested.

I’ve read all of them, even if I’ve gotten paused on day 2. (Basic cord). What can I say? I like the basic cord! They do make it darn pretty by the end!

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Pent 1 vs Pent 2

After I posted my cross-border thoughts on pent, I had someone comment that based on the title, they figured I was going to post my thoughts on Pent 2015 vs Pent 2016. Which sounded like a darn fine idea, and I’m all for not letting good blog fodder go to waste. Good ideas are rare in my world! I gotta steal them where I can.

Some history, just to catch you up. KA&S 2014 was my first event in this go round of the SCA. (I attended a couple of events in the early 90s, it didn’t stick, I called mulligan and started again 20 yrs later.) My first entry in any form of A&S anything was QPT 2014 (novice tourney, sponsored by Crucibles and Laurels to provide mentorship.)

My second entry into A&S anything was KA&S 2014 and I entered Pentathlon. I had very little idea what I was doing, although I’d read everything I could find on the internet. Stressed over documentation (why is that so much more stressful than any 3 projects combined?) and was oh so very grateful it wasn’t all /that/ far from home when we arrived and a bag with 3 of my projects was still at home. (My spouse is a saint. Just saying.) As Pent 2016 was a 6 hr drive away, you can be certain I double and triple checked I had all five projects before we left.

I am going to say here, that I am new enough to Ealdormere that the style of pent entry that I discussed in the last blog post (face to face with judges, pent entires grouped as a whole etc etc) is the only way I’ve experienced A&S in Ealdormere. I know it’s not always been that way, but that’s all I’ve got.

Pent 2015 (Pent 1 for me. P1 for ease of typing) was nerve rattling, exhilarating, a bit of a blur and amazing. I took five items that I felt gave a fairly good overview of me as an artisan and presented them and then held my breath as I spent all day talking about them mostly with people I didn’t know. (Yet.) There was no theme. No connection between them beyond ‘things Lucia has done’. How to display them, and their documentation occurred to me as I was laying them out on the table and they looked lonely and flat. The day was a blur, especially after the adrenaline rush of forgotten things, and not /quite/ knowing what was going on. (Present an overview to the judges? Uhhh. Okay!) I didn’t expect to win, I wasn’t sad when I didn’t.

P2 was so much easier, and a bit harder all at once. I knew mostly what to expect, but I also felt I had the expectation (perhaps only in my own mind) that I needed to up my game from P1. I spent more time researching, more time finding connections between my items, pulling the group into a more cohesive entity. I’m not sure my work was all that much better, but I know I was a lot more confident in my research and my choices made.  I was also a lot more comfortable with the process, and I wasn’t meeting most of my judges for the very first time. It felt more like a conversation about my work, about choices and decisions and next steps. (And a bit of historical trivia quiz show, just to keep me humble.) Both of them felt like a step in the journey, P1 was an earlier pit stop, and P2 was a smidge further down that road.

I’ve enjoyed the hell out of entering pent both times. It’s not for everyone, and I am looking forward to not doing the pent freak out all through March of 2017. P3 is planned for 2018. I can’t let a pair of baronesses go unchallenged, now can I?

Pent vs Pent.

As a warning, this post is going to be long, light on pictures, and heavy on process geekery. I won’t be offended if you skip reading it. (Heck,  I won’t even know!)

It has been edited slightly to correct myself. The pent at Ice Dragon is in the Barony of Rhydderich Hael, not kingdom level in Aethelmaerc. Sorry for any confusion that caused, that’s all on me.

In a moment of brilliance (or stupidity), I determined that I could take my 5 entries from Ealdormere’s Pentathlon and turn around and enter them into the pentathlon at Ice Dragon two weeks later. I wanted to compare as directly as possible, so no change in documentation, no change in project state (other than the bread. I did bake new bread.)

The two experiences were very very different.

Ealdormere groups the five items together, to be displayed together. Items are pre-registered and documentation is submitted in advance to be forwarded to the judges. I think you have to have five actual items, but I can’t find that in the rules anywhere. There are no category requirements and items are not differentiated by the artisan’s award level. The artisan is with their work, meets with the judges for each piece and gives a quick overview to previous pent winners who decide as a collective who wins pentathlon. The artisan receives both comments and numerical scores on their judging forms.

Ice Dragon puts each entry into its category (cooking with cooking, embroidery with embroidery) and requires at least three categories be represented. Each category is further separated by the entrant’s award level (Orion and lower: Novice. Crucible: Intermediate: Laurels get their own category.) There is no pre-registration of items (only that you’ll be arriving at all, but that’s not required). Items may be entered in more than one category. (ie an embroidered dress could be entered both as clothing and needlework.) It is a blind judging, so no names or identification on any piece or on your documentation only an entrant number. There was four hours between setting up items on their respective tables and returning to pick them up again, judging happened in that time. Artisans only receive comment forms left with their entries, no numerical scores. Overall pent winner for each award level is determined by score total.

I’m vaguely remembering numbers here, but I believe Ealdormere had about 50 entries (individuals as well as 3 adult pentathlon and 1 child pent entry), and Ice Dragon had about 115 entries (I have no idea if all of those were pent entires or not). Considering our respective sizes of kingdom, Ealdormere might have a few A&S types. Go us. 🙂

In the interest of full disclosure, I won pentathlon in Ealdormere (along with four sponsored prizes). My knitted bag took second in novice fibre arts, and my counted sampler took first in novice needlework at Ice Dragon.

I hate blind judging. I’d never experienced it before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, and it was as frustrating as I feared. Basic questions that came back on the judging forms at ID could have been answered in the first 5 seconds of face to face judging (or often by opening my documentation.) The judge format at ID gave those poor judges not a whit of time to actually READ documentation, especially in the giant categories. My dye entry got an afterthought one liner comment at the bottom of my knitting comment form as the only sign it got judged at all. (Fibre arts took over two full tables. Most other categories didn’t fill a single table.)

In terms of comments and feedback, once I allowed for ID’s nightmare for their poor judges, it was about on par. E’s judges got to focus their comments far more, because I was right there, to answer the basic questions that I might have missed in the docs, or they wanted clarification on. I got useful comments from both kingdoms, I got unhelpful comments from both kingdoms. I got comments I disagree with (which is fine), I got unreasonably picky comments, and I got ‘nice work!’ sort of comments, which feeds the ego but isn’t helpful for growth. (Do not underestimate the value of a wee bit of ego feeding. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just like icing. Great to have, not a well balanced meal.)

Not receiving the numerical scores at ID made putting comments into context very challenging. Is this a minor note for improvement later, or was it a make or break issue for you? Not having met the judges also made it the same sort of hard to read as email critiques. Was that written tone supposed to be informational or hard line? Is this a ‘your basis for this work is wrong!’ or a ‘you are 99% there, here’s how to get that last 1% to get to amazing’.

Probably what I missed most was the camaraderie, however. Between artisans as we hung out by our work and got to geek out together. Between artisan and judge as they got to provide advice and direction and geek out together. I missed being able to put faces to work, to be able to start to recognize other artisans (especially when out of kingdom. I still can’t tell you who the Aethlemaerc A&S types are. I can now recognize some of their work, but not the awesome people behind it.) I really feel for the judges at ID, especially the ones for the big categories (fibre arts and needlework especially). That’s a lot of entries in a very short period of time. It has got to be gruelling and it makes the comments they left all the more impressive, for how little time they had to write them.

I suppose it’s more competitive, to have the blind judging, more fair in the scoring, but missing out on the people interactions was far more disappointing than not winning. I’m glad I did it, I got good things out of both, but I really did miss the personal touch.

If I’ve gotten details wrong, please do let me know.

It’s a trap!

I do wonder how many of you read that title and immediately thought of Admiral Ackbar? Just me? Never mind. 0ff2ac98d64c91b6fa1017b61f332dd0

Anyhow! What’s actually a trap, or more accurately a fake is the fan I was using as inspiration for the Fian challenge. Whoops. I spent the first chunk of my fian time working on getting my needle skills back up to snuff and then finally sat down to do my design work. Emailed the museum where it’s at to ask, as the info about it is sparse, and found out ‘oh that? Yeah. Glued together cut parchment and silk strips.’ (I may be paraphrasing the far more professional answer the lovely curator sent to me.)


Say what!? Not lace at all? A good fake? Well. Damn.

I had a bit of a think, and a bit more obsessive staring at portraits and I think I’ve come up with a plan b (which looks very much like plan a, honestly). Clearly, its trying to fake up lace. I mean CLEARLY. While there’s no real evidence for flag fans being entirely made of lace, there’s plenty of evidence for lace edges and embroidered middles. The jump from an embroidered middle to an embroidered middle with some cutwork embroidery is a gentle one, so I’m just going to keep on keeping on.

What I’m not going to keep doing, is using this as a ‘I want it to look like THIS!’ sort of guide, because needle lace on a linen ground is never going to look like this. It’s like expecting my calico to put on a sheep costume and actually look like a sheep. (Or actually wear the costume, but that’s entirely different.)

New fabric is in the mail, designs are hitting the graph paper and soon the testing and obsessive stitching can begin. I’m not sure what I want to put in that middle section, suggestions welcome!