Flax vs Spindle, Round one

So the next obvious portable part of the Big Stupid Project(tm) (BSP) is to get the flax spun up for the strap. I’m sure there’s many who would say that wood carving is totally portable, but not gonna lie, I’m still working up the nerve to figure out what to do with wood, so spinning. I can spin.

It has been a very long time since I spun flax. Long enough that those same brain weasels that are having a heyday with the notion of wood carving made a stab at freaking out about the flax. Which is, by the by, patently ridiculous. I’ve spun flax before, it wasn’t amazing, but it was possible, and that was easily 15 or more years ago, and I’m a helluva better spinner now!

So in a bid to ignore the rest of my to-do list (productive procrastination ftw!), I poured some water into a dish, grabbed flax and spindle and off we went.

Flax can be spun either wet or dry, although wet spun flax is generally considered to be smoother and stronger. We’re not talking soggy here, but wet fingers smoothing over the flax and little dribbles end up everywhere. There is also popular assumption that flax must be spun S-twist (it’s Traditional! For Reasons! Because the flax plant likes to twist around things clockwise!), but as the archeological record shows that no one told the Norse that, they spun it Z. My habits are to spin Z and ply S, and that’s what the flax is getting too.


My flax is exceptionally dry and brittle, it’s been hanging out in stash for I have no clue how long, and it’s still closer to winter humidity than summer humidity around here. Flax staple length can be measured in feet rather than a small handful of inches. It has all the quirks of long staple spinning, all the irritation of silk’s desire to catch on everything, all the obnoxious of unending fuzzies like mohair, all the lack of felting like cotton (Why do you catch on everything EXCEPT when I’m trying to connect a broken spot!?), and all the stubborn cussedness of linen. (That last one.. not exactly surprising).


I got thread!

In an effort to try and tame the flax a bit, I poured some water in the bottom of a plastic bucket, stuck the flax in a tupperware container and floated the tupperware in the bucket, the lid pinned down by a C-clamp. (Feel free to envy my high class fibre tools.  Between toy wheel spindles, pvc pipe niddy noddies and various buckets, boxes and dowels, a fully functional spinning set up is under 10 bucks and a little time with a saw.) I haven’t had time to try spinning my humidified flax yet, but just the feel of it is so much nicer, for that alone, it’s totally worth the bucket trouble. Mother nature seems to be insistent on trying to keep my flax more damp for me by providing unendingly rainy weather, but honestly.. sunny and dry any time now.. I am happy with the bucket tactic!


Flax in its tupperware.

The next task is to try and spin a little less fuzzy and a bit thicker. The prospect of weaving with sewing thread is one that I’m willing to do, but not excited to do. Hopefully practice makes for more perfect, or even just less sucktastic.

Snowy Challenge

I do more handwork than just SCA handwork (although precious little these days), but one place I still indulge is with a bit of lace knitting. (A few eyelets in 16th century knitting does not lace make, alas.) I know I will need ornaments for a lace exchange coming up this winter, and decided to make a well loved and favourite knitted snowflake pattern. (You can find it on Ravelry, of course. It is not a beginner pattern. It is fussy and requires a certain confidence in your stitch manipulation that takes some time to have. Not hard, per se, but requires some deftness.)

I’ve made it before in size 10 (aka super normal run of the mill available everywhere size) crochet cotton. This time I used size 30 and 2mm needles, as I wanted something smaller. Which was fine, it’s a perfectly nice snowflake, but still a bit big. So I got out the size 100 cotton and the 1 mm needles and then we fell into crazytown. I’ve been ‘accused’ of using sewing thread to knit with in the past, so I included it for scale in the picture of the threads. (Sorry that the thinner threads are hard to see, photography is not amongst my skills.)

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See? Totally bigger than sewing thread!

Knitting with size 100 thread is a stunning pain in the tush, and I loved every second of it. It’s thinner than anything I’ve knit with before, and I am going to say that a tiny fussy lace snowflake was a spectacularly stupid place to try it first, save that I love that little pattern and it’s short, so it was worth it. The two snowflakes are exactly the same pattern, with exactly the same number of stitches, only the thread and needle size is different.

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Now I just need to decide if I’m going to give both of them away, or if I’m going to keep one of them for myself!

Thinky Thoughts

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, sorry about that. There’s been more doing than writing about doing at least! There’s also be a lot of big thoughts, and questions, and as always, not nearly enough answers to said questions.

I’ve been working on a secret project that I can’t share yet, but provided me opportunity to refine skills that I’ve only recently been building. Apparently even under a deadline, I’m still a perfectionist, and that’s slow. Frustrating, but part of life, I suppose. It’s a pride thing, and I suspect that I’d of been less of a perfectionist on something made for myself than for someone else.


Possibly a perfectionist for me too.

I’ve had to face the reality that my ‘wanna do’ list and my energy levels have very little to do with each other. I struggle eternally with trying to pretend to myself and the world that my chronic health concerns don’t give me pause. There’s the warring desire to present a facade of ‘I got this!’ and the reality of having to admit that sometimes, the day/week didn’t go as planned, and not enough got done and that the evening of laying on the couch with a hot pack wasn’t just lazy.


HG Kitty went visiting!

Which is a longwinded way of saying that I’m heading into a baronial event weekend without finishing everything I’d hoped to, and trying to have a zen moment. Because at the end of the day, there will be people, and laughter and singing and sharing and it will be so much more than the embroidery I didn’t finish, or the regalia that didn’t get updated.

Fian and Fool and habits, oh my!

I’m still toddling along on my 100 days of A&S (Yes, the hashtag looks like 100 days of sofas which makes everyone happy #100daysofAS ), but as it reads like an ongoing battle between shirt sewing, eyelet making  and knitting, it’s not that exciting to report.

More interesting is that it’s purpose is to build habits. Little bit a day, gets it into the routine and makes it automatic. A small group of us decided that A&S is already solidly in our habits (seriously? 100 days of A&S is still like telling me I need to breathe for 100 days in a row. Well /duh/), but we could all use a little less chaos in our homes and decided on 100 Days of Home. Same rules (10 mins is the baseline, a little is better than none), although as one’s home is not generally quite as portable as A&S is, use your judgement on camping weekends.


Gratuitous cute cat photo

Of which this coming weekend is the first! (Look at that smooth segue. XD) Fruits of Our Labour is this weekend. It’s a weekend of camping and practicum and while I know that I say all the A&S focused events are ‘one of my favourites’, I think Fool might be my favourite. It’s relaxed, there’s classes, there’s camping and time to sit and talk and everyone is a buzz with learning new things and you get to watch the Ah ha! moments spark all /over/ the place. I love every bit of it. I’m leading a discussion on painted floor cloths, and hoping to drop in to a few classes (I’m not signed up for anything, I learned early that I love the casual roaming and talking too much to overcommit) and of course bringing enough projects with me that we could be stranded there for a month and I wouldn’t make much of a dent in what I have with me. Still, one needs options! (Specifically weaving, knitting, embroidery, and whatever other random crap is in my basket)

My garb challenge was accepted by the Fian (see earlier post for a description of what that is), so after we survive Crown (stewarding the event) this blog might well become all garb, all the time. (possibly with a whole lot of hate for eyelets. I hope to come to terms with them eventually, but this is not that time.) I have no illusions that I am going to have garb I’m happy with on the first attempt. It’s iterative progress, and I’ve got a few more chunks of crappy clothing to work through before I start being happy. (happier). Crappy garb, ahoy!

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Messy, but functional.

White Wolf Fian

So I took the plunge and submitted a proposal to the fian group again. (Challenge order in Ealdormere, go read about it here.) My last attempt ended in a haze of stress and fakery (stress was mine, the fakery was not mine, but the item I was trying to copy.) This time, I took a step back and looked at my own skills and the places I needed to suck it up and acquire myself some accountability.


It’s fairly well sad that I do so much stuff with string, but cannot clothe myself. I know there are people who enjoy doing it, but I’ve never really given it a good solid try. I get frustrated because I suck at it, and then I (metaphorically) table flip and stomp off and shove it in a corner forever. (I never claimed it was a mature or reasonable reaction). So for the next not quite a year, I don’t get to leave it in the corner forever. I have to pull it back out and actually make myself learn from my mistakes and screw ups and frustrations and either fix it, or do it again. Probably both.

The fian hasn’t accepted my challenge yet, so it might yet change (or be rejected completely, but none of the questions coming back have implied that they hate it), but I kept it simple. (I’ve a couple other things going on in my life over the next year.) One late period linen dress and chemise. Probably Venetian, possibly English. Hand sewn and entered into KA&S 2018 for feedback.

There’s a lot of challenge in what sounds like a super simple fian challenge. I don’t cope well with stuff I don’t ‘get’ quickly. I have to face a lot of body image challenges in clothing myself. It’ll be good for me, even if I’m not expecting it to be a ‘fun’ challenge per se.

I also reserve the right to start bribing (begging, bartering, paying) other people to sew all the rest of my garb forever more after KA&S 2018. <grin>


This is either a bonus Tuesday post, or a ‘pretend this was last Friday’ post. Take your pick. 🙂

We spent the weekend at CostumeCon 35. Our second CostumeCon (the second time its been in Toronto, what a coincidence), and while the last one was a little overwhelming (in a good way) and we spent all our time in panels cause we basically knew a couple people there slightly, this one had such a different feel.

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Now, I’ll put forth here a reminder. Garb is not my A&S. My sewing skills are adequate, but require someone to say ‘sew from here to here, go’. My tailoring skills do not exist. Making things fit on bodies is a miraculous mystery. Making things fit on the body you intended? That there is black magic and probably required some sort of shady deal in a ritual circle.

It is for costumers of all stripes. From ‘I gathered up weird crap at thrift stores to look like X’ to ‘I obsessively and lovingly recreated my favourite character down to the last rivet out of pop boxes and glue’ to performance art in wearable form to historical recreations and every permutation and combination therein.

It’s the sort of place where walking up to someone and gushing about their wings/boots/embroidery/seams/laser gun/skirt is normal. (Not so different from SCA in that way). It is also the sort of place where you walk away going ‘I CAN DO ANYTHING!’ (okay, perhaps just me). Reality will kick in later, but for now the inspiration to make amazing things wildly outstrips my actual skills.

The funny thing about skills, however, is that you can gain those. Some easier than others, but it’s possible. The trick is not to let the gap take over.  I suppose I have some sewing to do.

A wee diversion

I know the blog is called ‘Adventures in A&S’ and that generally implies that the handwork in question is at least vaguely SCA period appropriate. Not so much this time. I’ve been working on a bit of knitted lace, and that’s solidly post 1600 by a couple hundred years. (A few eyelets in a stocking does not lace make, don’t even try. If you want to debate it, bring your sources and I’ll be DELIGHTED, but so far? No dice.)

In any case, in a moment of questionable wisdom, I signed up for an exchange on a lace group I’m part of. The requirement was a bookmark, any style of lace, in the mail by June 1. (When I signed up, I didn’t realize that May would contain ALL THE THINGS, nor did I fully process that ‘in the mail by June 1’ meant ‘finished in May’ and not June.) It is not an SCA lace group, it’s not even an historical lace group, which means I could indulge in my original lace love, knitted lace.

Knitted lace is often the red-headed stepchild of the lace world. We’re new (only a couple hundred years of history), our lace is generally pretty accessible, and as most knitters consider lace weight yarn to be ‘rather thin’, the lace is coarse by bobbin lace standards. (Don’t get your knickers in a twist, a well knit lace weight wool shawl is just stunningly ethereal and gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the same sort of thing at all.)

Which is how I ended up knitting two bookmarks. One is at a fairly typical knitted doily gauge (Perle 16 cotton on 1.5 mm needles) and the other is at something closer to what I might use for bobbin lace (60/2 silk on 1.0 mm needles).  Knitted lace looks like a curled up pile of dental floss before you block it, see?

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A quick bath and a little bit of thread bondage later, everyone looks much better.

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Pinned to an inch of their lives

Generally most pieces once they’ve been dried all pinned out are willing to stay. (I think they’re scared to move by that point.) Even the silk was willing to play along and stay put while they got tasselled.

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Amusingly, when I went to get the foam cushion I do most of my small piece blocking on, I pulled it down from on top of the shelves in the craft room and found a doily pinned out on it. That I have no recollection of knitting, nor blocking. So hey, bonus doily!

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Bonus doily!

Now I just need to get the bookmarks in the mail and get back to work on everything ELSE that has a deadline. It was a lovely little diversion though.

Comfort Knitting

There’s always some sort of handwork that is just pure comfort. Much like comfort foods, when you’re a string person, there’s some flavour of project that relaxes rather than frustrates, that your fingers do automatically and it soothes the savage beast. For some this might be crocheting endless granny squares. For others, it’s knitting socks, or cross stitch or inkle weaving. For me? It’s knitted lace.

Someone on FB very aptly put it as ‘this has been a week of Mondays’, and it feels that way. Nothing dire went wrong, but nothing amazing went right either, and the ‘this will never end’ endless stream of white in all my current projects on top of spring snow and I couldn’t face it anymore. Break out the comfort knitting.

Fortunately, I can mix deadline work with comfort knitting this time. I need to have a bookmark out for a modern online guild exchange by June 1. The original plan was to use this to kick myself into progressing further in my bobbin lace, but best laid plans and deadlines and the Universe laughed, as it is so very often wont to do. Modern guilds, however, mean that my lace options open up dramatically and voila.. a knitted bookmark it shall be.

I figured I’d do a quick poke before I designed my own (if one can properly call the plan of ‘pick a nice edging, knit that until its long enough’ much in the way of design work), and found a rather lovely german pattern Blumenlesezeichen and some bright pink thread.

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(Because someone will ask: Finca perle cotton No. 16 that has been in stash approximately forever on 1.5 mm needles)

I’m about 40 rows in (don’t be too impressed, the rows are only 27 stitches long) and I feel better already.


These are moments when I muse on exactly what I’m using this blog for. Merely to present projects? Commentary and random thoughts? There’s approximately three people in the world who peek in now and then, so the reality of it is that I’m posting for me. My projects tend to be very long and slow, so if one is waiting for good progress pictures to post, or finished items, I’ll never post much of anything. Commentary and random thoughts, it is! Just scroll to the bottom if you’re here for project pictures.

Ealdormere had its Kingdom Arts & Sciences event this past weekend. It also happens to be my anniversary event. (I maintain that if I’d started at an event that wasn’t KA&S, where I didn’t walk into the room and pause and go ‘I have found my tribe’, I might not have stuck. I’m very grateful that I did.) I’ve entered pentathlon the last two years, and after winning last year, made a conscious and deliberate choice not to enter this year. (Then I had a miserable winter and didn’t get anything accomplished, so thanks Past Me for somehow knowing I wouldn’t have anything to enter anyhow.)

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HG Kitty and a still empty hall

We had 9 pentathlon entrants, which considering I was one of three and one of four adult entries in my two attempts seemed like a lot of pent entrants. This year each pent entrant was assigned a previous winner as a mentor to bounce questions off of (or in my case, to bother my entrant with questions about her progress). For some, it was probably entirely irrelevant if they were well familiar with pent and KA&S, I would think that for those entering for the first time, it would have been awesome. I know /I/ would have welcomed a mentor to keep me on track in that crazy last week or so when I was entering. There’s something far less intimidating about asking a single person who has agreed to be helpful stupid questions rather than posting stupid questions online. Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer to keep my stupid questions fairly well contained.

With that many pent entrants, the other entrants were a little thin on the ground numbers wise. As always, the quality of entries just blows me away. A&S is so often done at the kitchen table, in the work room, the basement. Some of us are fortunate to have portable projects (or forcibly make our projects portable), but the vast majority do not travel well at intermediate states, so there’s no preview of what folks are up to. (Other than, of course, some of us who overshare on social media. I’m pretty sure some folks out there know my projects better than I do.)

I will say that there was copious amounts of quality, but for me.. no one piece stood out as ‘wow, I can’t /even/ on how.. what.. I got nothing man’. Some of that is purely that I’ve now got a good handle of what to expect out of the artisans of this Kingdom, and I’m sorry to say, but you guys have set the ‘mind blowing’ bar really high. Some of that is that my own skills have evolved to where I can go ‘I see how that goes together. I mean, I cant /do/ it, but I know where to start (20 yrs ago would help), so I can admire your skill properly’. Which is WAY better for appreciation, but a little less on mind blowing. I prefer that, actually, if the truth be told. I would far rather appreciate the skill and talent with a level of comprehension rather than just be slack jawed mystified.

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Kitties hanging out on Magestra Nicolaa’s table

It did, however, have the usual effect that A&S events have upon me. It was more subtle this time (possibly the screaming my joints were doing drowned it out a bit), so I didnt feel the hum of creativity while I was there. Afterwards, however? The next day? Even now, four days later, The List is on fire, and the ‘omg, I wanna try!’ is strong. The plans for fian, or next year, or the year after are thick and plentiful. The glorious and delicious bit of project planning, when anything is yet possible, and there’s no ‘middle third’ slog yet weighing upon you. When you’re like ‘oh yeah, I can TOTALLY fit 5 yrs worth of projects into six months, and whip up a new late period outfit by the weekend!’. That is the magic of A&S events.

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Lace, totally in the slog portion

And then the reality of deadlines crashes down, and you sit at the lace pillow and count up the repeats left to go (118 as of posting) and you content yourself with just writing down all of those wonderful plans for /later/. June perhaps. Just in time to think of a QPT project.

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?