Midwife Apron

Originally posted Sep 4, 2015

15th Century Apron - Eme's Compendium: 15th Century Apron - Eme's Compendium

This simple apron looked ideal for the messy, clumsy person I am.  I routinely ruin shirts by dripping and spattering all over them–usually something oily that never comes out–and I have realized the great importance of aprons.  I have a couple at home that I usually forget to use while making spaghetti and frying hamburger.  While camping, I get distressed trying to figure out how to prevent similar accidents from ruining my garb.

Aprons that tie at the waist are just not enough to protect my clothes.  Most people wouldn’t find this to be the case since most people are a lot taller than me.  The spatter zone is just below the waistline.  For me, however, the waistline is often below the cooking surface, so the apron serves only to wipe my hands after washing, or perhaps to aid in picking up hot things.  What I needed was something that extended higher than my waist.

I began doing searches and I found quite a few images of these types of aprons:

More of the odd "midwife" apron from a Saxon lineage book. Das Sächsische Stammbuch' [subtitled as:] 'Sammlung von Bildnissen sächsischer Fürsten, mit gereimtem Text; aus der Zeit von 1500 - 1546' is available online from the State University Library in Dresden: More of the odd "midwife" apron from a Saxon lineage book. Das Sächsische Stammbuch' [subtitled as:] 'Sammlung von Bildnissen sächsischer Fürsten, mit gereimtem Text; aus der Zeit von 1500 - 1546' is available online from the State University Library in Dresden

Das Sächsische Stammbuch’ [subtitled as:] ‘Sammlung von Bildnissen sächsischer Fürsten, mit gereimtem Text; aus der Zeit von 1500 – 1546’ is available online from the State University Library in Dresden

Apron. Late Middle Ages on the upper Rhine. I've made this apron for myself for event camping.: Apron. Late Middle Ages on the upper Rhine. I've made this apron for myself for event camping.

(Note only said:  Late Middle Ages on the upper Rhine)

Zwei Wunder aus der Kindheit des hl. Nikolaus Hans Traut Nurnberg, Ende 15.Jhr BNM-Munich Inv.NR MA 2789: Zwei Wunder aus der Kindheit des hl. Nikolaus Hans Traut Nurnberg, Ende 15.Jhr BNM-Munich Inv.NR MA 2789

Zwei Wunder aus der Kindheit des hl. Nikolaus Hans Traut Nurnberg, Ende 15.Jhr BNM-Munich Inv.NR MA 2789

c 1488 Century Apron, Detail of the birth of Mary. - Eme's Compendium: c 1488 Century Apron, Detail of the birth of Mary. - Eme's Compendium

15th Century Apron - Eme's Compendium... back view: 15th Century Apron - Eme's Compendium... back view

What I realized, after doing a little reading and observing similarities between images, is that all the women wearing these aprons are attending a woman giving birth.  Yep.  Midwife aprons.

Geburt Mariens Dieses Bild: 000400 Kunstwerk: Temperamalerei-Holz ; Einrichtung sakral ; Flügelaltar ; Frueauf Rueland der Jüngere Dokumentation: 1488 ; 1488 ; Wels ; Österreich ; Oberösterreich ; Stadtmuseum: Geburt Mariens Dieses Bild: 000400 Kunstwerk: Temperamalerei-Holz ; Einrichtung sakral ; Flügelaltar ; Frueauf Rueland der Jüngere Dokumentation: 1488 ; 1488 ; Wels ; Österreich ; Oberösterreich ; Stadtmuseum

Geburt Mariens Dieses Bild: 000078 Kunstwerk: Temperamalerei-Holz ; Einrichtung sakral ; Flügelaltar ; Meister von Mariapfarr ; Salzburg Dokumentation: 1495 ; 1505 ; Mariapfarr ; Österreich ; Salzburg ; Pfarrkirche: Geburt Mariens Dieses Bild: 000078 Kunstwerk: Temperamalerei-Holz ; Einrichtung sakral ; Flügelaltar ; Meister von Mariapfarr ; Salzburg Dokumentation: 1495 ; 1505 ; Mariapfarr ; Österreich ; Salzburg ; Pfarrkirche

Well, when you have a need…you make it work.

This is a terrible selfie…I can’t take full-body selfies.  I don’t have a full-length mirror or ridiculously long arms, so the bathroom mirror will have to do.  After doing some experimentation, I found that the width of fabric was not quite loose enough around my ample hips. I tried using just rectangles to add girth, but it just didn’t look right, so I added gores to the sides.   Now it looks very similar to the images I found.

This was a fun experiment and is almost ready to wear this weekend…just a little hemming at the bottom and it’s ready to go!

So how did I construct this?  Super EASY!  I had some yardage of medium weight linen–super soft and fairly thick (some of the images look like they might have been made from a fine linen, but I used what I had lying around).

I measured from my chest–just above the Girls–down to just below my knees or mid-shin.  (Keep in mind that I’m super-short, not just regular-short, and stand a whole whopping 60″ tall), and came up with 36″ as a good length.  You should measure yourself to get a number to fit your physique.

I lopped off a yard of the fabric–36″ x 60″ (width of fabric, or “WOF”).  I cut that piece down the fold, so I had two pieces of 36″ x 30″.  These will be the front and back panels of the apron.

Recall that I said that I was having difficulty with fitting this around my hips, so I added more fabric.  If you’re a particularly thin person, you may not require this next step.  To gain that extra fullness, I cut another piece of fabric 36″ x 28″, and cut that in half to make two 36″ x 14″ rectangles.  Each of those had to be cut in half *diagonally* to make four triangles.  These will be the gores on the sides.

Assembly is pretty straight forward:  sew a gore to each side of the two panels with the *bias edge* of the triangle on the straight of grain of the apron body.

This will prevent stretching of that bias edge.  Here’s a great illustration, in case you aren’t familiar with some fabric terms:

Once you have all the gores sewn onto the apron body, you will sew the sides together.  Put front and back panels facing right sides together and sew up from the bottom about 20″.  Your measurement may vary, but it should connect together from the bottom hem to just below your hips.

Make a casing at the top of each panel and thread a lacing through the casings and tie the ends.  Then you just have to finish the seams and hem the bottom and you’re done!

2015 Arts Unframed 2 (2) 2015 Arts Unframed (2)

The Kirtle of DOOOOOOOOOM!

(Originally posted Sep 9, 2015)

OK… It’s not really doom-worthy, but it took a lot more adjustments than I thought it would in the end.

I was over at a Lorenzia’s place for an open house sewing day and was surprised with gifts of “door prizes!”  She had some linen that she bought and it was much darker than she thought, so she passed it on to me because I said I could probably use it for something.  That’s quite a nice gift!  It didn’t take me long to decide that I wanted to turn it into a kirtle.

I dug around for quite some time, poking around all the nooks and crannies and cupboards and boxes and buckets…and finally gave up looking for my pattern that I made earlier this summer for the Perfectly Period Feast.  I grabbed my old kirtle and drew up a new pattern based on that one, hoping that the measurements came out OK.  I laid it out and cut out the linen and sewed it together.  Then I took it in where it was extra loose and baggy, and while it still fits a bit loosely, it’s flattering and is quite comfortable.

Normally those wide scoop neck garments cause the shoulder straps to just slip down but this one didn’t.  The sleeves I made help immensely with that.  I was really surprised!  I had to make the sleeve pattern to fit the opening, which did not follow all the whoopy-sloopy patterns that you see for Elizabethan sleeve-making; they wouldn’t have fit the opening at all.  I just cut fabric like you would a t-shirt (90 degrees out from the dress), but trimmed it to fit the curve of the opening.  I can easily move and raise my arms and hug people, and it’s snug enough that it keeps the shoulder straps up, which would normally slide down *constantly* off of my slopey shoulders.  I do have to shorten the skirt in the front just a little–the fabric has stretched a little from hanging and there’s a little bit in the front that I keep stepping on.

I wore it to Crown this weekend and hoped to get a photo in it, but apparently I am elusive when it comes to photography equipment.  I always seem to be just a couple feet to the left or right of where the group shot is taken.  No idea why that is.  The only one I’ve seen so far is this one…and I’m in the shadows…and I’m not wearing the blue dress.

I did get my hubby to take a photo before I left for camping, so here it is:

He was sitting comfortably on the couch and didn’t want to get up, so you get the awkward angle and all the coats and things in the background.  I did get some feedback from a costume Laurel who said, “the kirtle looked great–especially the fit of the flare around the hips. From a distance when I saw you in the kitchen tent while I was standing at the edge of the eric, it really had the “just stepped out of a manuscript painting” feel.”

I admit it…I swooned at that comment!

Camping in cooler weather has given me cause to revisit my wardrobe and make a short list of things I need to make or remember to bring next time:

  • Hood (liripipe or other)
  • Tall socks (left my wool socks at home…dang it)
  • Sleeping cap
  • Surcoat (my grey and blue coat has gone on walkabout, but I need to make one that covers the v-neck anyway)
  • Another St. Brigitta cap (Aenor borrowed mine, and I think it fits her better!)

I also made a short list of things I want to add to my encampment, but will have to overhaul my bins and boxes to make sure it all fits and is collapsible.  Some of them include:

  • Wardrobe rack & dresser (nightstand?  Plastic drawers?)
  • Washstand and mirror
  • Kitchen stand/prep area (I have one that’s fairly modern–I have never packed it for SCA use, but I will in the future!)
  • Storage system for breakables (goblets, mugs, pitcher, etc.)  Maybe thick padded drawstring bags?
  • More rugs for the floor
  • Cloak hooks on center pole
  • Privacy curtain indoors
  • Propane oven….ooooo!  Fresh bread, pasties, meat pies…
  • Brazier.  I have one that folds up, but it’s kind of a pain in the butt, rusted, and very dirty to put away.

So I guess that’s my to-do list for the winter!

How to Run a Camp Kitchen

(Originally posted Sep 15, 2015)

or…Keeping the Wolves at Bay

The final camping event of the season has come and gone (for me, anyway), and now am taking some time to reflect on some of the happenings and thinking about how to prepare better for next year.  I’ve been camping for 25+ years, usually just cooking for myself or sharing a kitchen with my small family or a couple friends.  However, my household and the group I usually camp with is growing with the addition of new friends (and a couple kids), so like many growing households, we need to take notes on how things should be done while cooking for larger groups…or not.

Earlier this tourney season, I had a *Very Bad Experience* with a shared kitchen.  I was very happy to receive an offer to buy into a kitchen, which would require my help with cooking and cleaning, but greatly reduce the amount of things I needed to pack and prepare.  This seemed like a great alternative to hours of set up and cooking all my own meals.  However, at this event there are many things that went wrong–so comically wrong–that has made me wary of buying into a camp kitchen ever again.  While I’d love to share the whole grizzly tale with you, I do not find that it would benefit anyone by naming names (or dates or locations).  However, it does lend to beginning a list of parameters and tips for running a successful kitchen so we can all avoid these problems in the future.  You can parse some of the errors of the *Very Bad Experience* from the points I make forthwith.

These methods and tips can be helpful for running any size kitchen, whether it’s two people sharing food, or a sizable household, or even a kitchen serving the Royals and all of their Retinue.  It’s all a matter of scale.

To begin, there are at least four different groups involved in any kitchen that we’re talking about here.  The manager of the kitchen for the duration of the event, I’ll call the Lead.  Under the Lead are Head Chefs (could be one, if it’s a small kitchen or if there is only one person who is an adequate cook, or perhaps a few of them taking charge of various meals, which can be especially helpful for large kitchens).  These people will be the ones in charge of preparing each meal.  Anyone actively working in the kitchen is the Crew.  And there are those who buy into the plan, who may or may not be working in the kitchen at all; I’ll call these people the Patrons.

  1. As the Lead, your duties include meal planning with the chefs, shopping (or delegating that assignment), creating the work schedule, and collecting payment.  The Lead should also choose who will be the Head Chefs of each meal, preferably people you know well enough to understand their abilities, personalities, and leadership qualities.   Once you get on site, your job is to make sure the teams report in, that they all get a tour of the kitchen so they know where everything is, go over the final menu, ensure that things start on time and run smoothly, and fix problems as they arise.

Meal Planning is a complex issue.

  1. Be sure that you have your portions correct.  One loaf of bread is not going to make enough French toast to feed 20 hungry people.
  2. Test all recipes to be sure that it will come out as you want and that you have all the ingredients on your shopping list.
  3. If you are cooking for people with allergies & intolerances, be sure to communicate with those people to be sure you don’t have an issue with cross-contamination.  Don’t cook or prep the allergens on the same surface as the food that they can eat.  Illness and anaphylaxis are not good ways to spend an event weekend.
  4. Besides allergies, some patrons may have other dietary needs, such as avoiding red meat or sugar.  Adjusting menus can make patrons happy, but that doesn’t mean that the one vegetarian will dictate the menu for everyone else–it means that while everyone else is having roast beef and turkey sandwiches at lunch, they will have egg salad or peanut butter.
    • TIP:  Just like the lone vegetarian, don’t let YOUR dietary quirks dictate what everyone else eats; ask your Patrons for feedback.  Not everyone will want to eat low-fat, gluten-free, sugar-free rice cakes with organic garlic goat cheese…especially if it dramatically increases the cost of the meal plan.
  5. Similarly, if you are cooking for children, be sure to have simple, familiar fare to keep the young ones comfortable and pleasant to be around.
  6. Publish the menu well in advance so any problems can be identified before the shopping trip.
    • TIP:  Set up a Facebook page for that kitchen and invite Patrons to join the discussion.
    • Keeping a simple menu will minimize prep and the risk of ruining the food, keeps the patrons happy (especially kids!) and keeps the costs lower.
  7. The Lead should NOT cook every meal all weekend (or two weeks…).  In fact, ideally, the Lead, especially in a large kitchen, should not cook at all.  DELEGATE RESPONSIBILITY!
  8. Head Chefs and Crew need to divide up the responsibilities for prep, cooking, and clean up.  Make sure that the work assignments are communicated ahead of time and posted somewhere in the kitchen.
  9. For a large kitchen, I recommend having at least three Head Chefs:
    • Breakfast Chef: that early-riser who is annoyingly chipper and organized in the wee hours of the morning, even before coffee is served.
    • The Lunch Head Chef…or perhaps would be more appropriately called a Lunch Captain.  This is something that a less experienced (or terrible) cook that wants to help out somehow and can be safely relied upon to lay out lunch meat, cheese, condiments, and bread. Perhaps also mix up lemonade and iced tea.  If this is a Royal kitchen, this may also include making up plates to be delivered to the Royals, wherever they might be (in a meeting, watching the tourney, etc.)
    • A Dinner Chef and Crew can take on the big evening meal.  This chef will have to be very flexible to accommodate the fluctuations of schedules that always occur at events.  If you’re cooking for sitting Royalty, this is doubly true!  Make sure that food is hot and ready when they are.  Check with their staff to get the timing right.
  10. The Head Chef will report on time for prep and round up their Crew to assist.  Assign tasks to your Crew based on their abilities (a 5 minute team meeting can accomplish this), and accept help when offered.
  11. Trust your Crew to know what they’re doing, and be mindful of tasks that can be done to keep the crew busy.
    • TIP:  DON’T BE THE EVERYMAN!  Trying to do it all will only leave you tired, grumpy, and could drive away your Patrons (especially if your attention is diverted from your job and you burn the meal).  Designate one person to help with all the odd requests–the lemonade needs mixing; someone wants to borrow the lighter; someone else needs paper towels.  This is not the job of the Lead or the Head Chef.  Your team knows where it is, let them find it.  Worst case:  TELL them where it is and they’ll get it.  Stay focused on your task.
  12. The Lead and set up crew should arrive early on site.  The kitchen and all its food products should be there well before the first meal is to be served.  If you plan on providing dinner on set up night (Friday), be there when site opens, set up the kitchen first, and make the food available for the Patrons as they arrive on site.  Bring a crew to set up your sleeping quarters, if necessary.
    • TIP:  Set up night should be kept simple; try having soup and bread or another heat-and-serve meal instead of something complex.  Either way, it requires minimal kitchen use, can be prepared in advance and just warmed up on site and can be left to simmer while you set up your own camp (supervised by a member of your crew, of course).  As Patrons roll in, they can pop in for a quick bite when they arrive or during a break in their own set up.
  13. Make sure that there is a backup plan.  If the Chuck Wagon blows a tire, who will feed your Patrons until you can get there?  If you are running late, be sure to communicate with others who are already on site so they can spread the word.
    • TIP:  Be sure someone else in the household has a stove and Emergency Rations to feed people should you not be there in time.  Alternatively, be ready to reimburse everyone for a missed meal.  Don’t forget to apologize for being absent.  There may well be several people who counted on that food to be there and now they will have to source a meal from somewhere else, either through begging or buying.  Since food merchants are becoming more scarce, begging from friends may be more likely, or even leaving site.
  14. Post serving times so your Patrons know when to stop by for meals, and your Crew will know when to report to work.  Be mindful of your Patrons’ needs!  Is one of your Patrons part of the morning herald team? Helping at gate late at night and in need of a midnight snack?  Or a member of Retinue or Royalty?  Having a schedule and sticking to it will avoid confusion and heartache.
    1. Breakfast should be *served* at least 30 minutes to an hour before the day’s first meeting, which is usually 8 a.m.  That means getting things ready at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. and having food ready by 7:00-7:30.  At the very least, hot beverages (tea, hot chocolate, apple cider and coffee), fruit and some kind of bread product (muffins, bagels, etc.) should be available for those who have to grab-n-go before the normal breakfast hour.
    2. Lunch can be do-it-yourself sandwiches with all the condiments out for an hour or so midday, or make sure your Patrons know where to find all the meats, sides, and condiments for self-service.
    3. Dinner times may have to be flexible depending on court times or other activities.
      • TIP:  Posting mealtimes, again, is vitally important, especially if there’s a change in court schedules or other activities.  This posting board can include menus and ingredient lists, serving times, Crew assignments and schedules, as well as personal messages for each other. Communicate to your Chefs, Crew and Patrons so they know the plan!
  15. Cleanliness and Wash Stations
    1. All chefs should have food handler’s permits (if it were my kitchen, I would require it…but I’m a stickler for that sort of thing), and any crew handling food should get one or be familiar with the basics.
    2. NO smoking–not even those electronic smoking devices–in the kitchen.  Ever.  Seriously.  Ever.  While the e-smoking devices are not technically “smoke”, it’s one more thing to distract you from your duties and an unclean object that you handle in between food.  Take care of your nicotine habits before and after work, not during.
    3. Have a wash basin and hand soap (not just hand sanitizer goo) available for all Chefs, Crew and Patrons to use before touching any food.  We’re camping in a cow field, people.  Let’s keep things reasonably civilized.
    4. You must have a garbage can (or two) to scrape leftovers into and wash station available after meals.  Pots and pans (and anything SUPER dirty) washed last.  A rubber scraper can help get most of the chunks off before going into the wash basin.
    5. Cover the garbage and take bags to the dumpster as each bag fills to keep away flies, yellowjackets, and hungry carnivores.  Yes, we’re probably safe, but you know there are wild animals–notably bears, coyotes and cougars–not too far away, and they can easily smell those leftovers!
  16. Provide snacks, sides, and late-night nibbles for those who might need to fill in a little around the edges.
  17. Many hands make light work.  Everyone should work their shift and stay until it’s done and clean.

Frigga the Loom

Originally posted Sep 26, 2015

Warp Weighted Loom:

I decided to build a warp-weighted loom a couple years ago.  I consulted a BUNCH of web sites (and Pinterest) and looked for sources (books) that I could look to, but most of the books I could find on warp-weighted looms is dated from before 1980.

Barber, Elizabeth Wayland.  Women’s Work:  The First 20,000 Years. W. W. Norton & Company; 1995.
Broudy, Eric. The Book of Looms.  Brown University Press, 1979.
Broholm, H.C. and Hald, Margarethe. Costume in the Bronze Age in Denmark. Arnold Busck, 1940.
Hoffman, Marta. The Warp Weighted Loom. Robin and Russ Handweavers, 1974.
Trychkare, Tre. The Viking. Carver and Co., 1966.

Yeah.  I looked for the Hoffman book, just out of curiosity, but the cheapest I can find is a used copy for $133 ($195 for a hard copy).  Not happening on my budget.  I’ll have to see if I can get a copy on inter-library loan.  There appear to be a couple of newer magazine articles, so I’ll seek those out as well.

There are a lot of web sites with some research (most based on the sources above) plus looking at extant pieces and experimenting with building their own.  There are differences with all of them, so other than the basic structure, there is a lot of room for experimentation and setting things up so it’ll work for the weaver.  I still need to do a little more research on weaving in general–I’ve only done inkle and card weaving, but this seems to be just like a giant inkle loom.  There are possibilities for doing multiple sheds, although the first couple of projects will be 2-shed only.

The other thing to keep in mind with this is that it is meant to be taken apart for transport to events.  None of the joints are glued or permanently attached.

Identifying the parts of the loom are the first step to being able to build it.

Warp weighted loom 1777 Loom with warp and kljåstein character of Sæmundur Magnusson Holm, minister in Copenhagen 1777. Iceland.:

  1.  Upright
  2. Crotches
  3. Top stabilizing rod
  4. Warp beam
  5. Tensioner
  6. Warp threads
  7. Heddle rod
  8. More heddle rods
  9. Heddle Rod Support
  10. There are two things that are numbered 10…one is what looks like another heddle rod, the other is the finished weaving wrapped around the warp beam.
  11. Can’t find a number 11.
  12. Can’t find a number 12 either
  13. Warp weights
  14. Bundles of warps
  15. Chain stitched string to separate warp threads

(skipping 16-21)

22. Sword for beating

This was my process to building the prototype:

frigga 11

Take two 2 x 4s–I would recommend using two hard wood boards for a “finished” look, although Hemlock or Douglas Fir is certainly more economical and lighter for transport…I grabbed two boards from the rafters, only to realize later that the darker board was, in fact, cedar.  Low light in the garage…Whoops!

I was looking at several sets of directions in the process.  The first set said that I should cut two 2 x 4s to 7 feet long (84″).  Other directions said keep the 2 x 4s at 8 feet long and use a stool to reach when weaving (which I would likely need for the 7′ tall uprights as well).  To that I said, “What?!  Oh, heck no!”  I’m clumsy enough that I would likely fall off a stool, and being only 5 feet tall, I’d need a rather TALL stool for something 8 feet tall.  Or maybe some stilts.  I don’t need to risk injury on a super-size loom designed for a tall man.  At the time, I left it at the 7′ measurement, but later on, as I will explain in a minute, I decided that I really didn’t need to make it much taller than me.

Next, you take those 24″ pieces that you cut off and make the “crotches”, seen in the above image.  These are the pieces that the top beam rests in while you weave.  It needs to be deep and wide enough for the rod to rest in, and taper down on the end so it can be screwed into the wood.  Some directions suggest that you make it vaguely “S” shaped.  Vague, indeed.  Seems mostly stylistic, although the thinner end at the bottom makes it easier to attach to the boards with long screws.  These were shaped using the band saw…I love that toy!  The bottom of the crotch is 16″ down from the top of the upright leaving room for the top stabilizing rod.

.Frigga 3

The next step was creating the shed rod, which is the cross bar that sits about knee height made from a 1″ x 3″ board.  This rod separates the front and back warp yarns; the back yarns go over the front, and the front yarns go over the back.  It’ll all make sense later….  The top beam I bought is 5′ long, which determined the minimum width of the frame, but it also needed some overhang.  4″ on each side seemed adequate, so I cut the shed rod 52″.  I drilled one hole through and secured it with a bolt and wing nut.  I attached it right in the middle, then realized that it created a pivot point.  I added a second bolt at the top, but they’re still a little close.  I should put another one near the bottom and leave the center hole empty…next time, don’t drill the middle hole.

As I mentioned earlier, I attached a top stabilizing rod above the crotches.  Some of the looms I’ve seen don’t have them, but it also appeared that the warp beams were very robust, but narrower where it fitted into the crotches, creating its own stability.  For this project, however, I thought it was necessary to anchor it.  This was also cut to 52″ and bolted in…just one bolt at each end, attached with wing nuts for easy assembly.  Initially, I had the wing nuts to the back, like in this image, but the bolts were very long and scratching the walls, so I turned them around to the front.

Frigga 2

The heddle rod supports were shaped from scraps in the bin, I think cut from leftover 1″ x 3″ pieces.  They are about 8-10″ long and roughly Y shaped.  I used the band saw again to shape this piece.  I drilled a hole into the end and into the frame and used a piece of dowel to mount it onto the frame.  These, likewise, can be easily removed for transport.

The heddle rod was the next piece.  The plans I was following called for 7/8″ dowels, which I looked for at the hardware store, but they only had 4-foot lengths…I needed 5 feet.  I realized that these don’t need to be particularly heavy or strong, and I just happened to have 3/4″ sticks that are more than long enough (leftover from the yurt project).  More scavenging means more money savings for the prototype project!

For the warp beam, where you attach the selvage band, I bought a piece of 2″ doweling.  In some of the old-school looms I saw, like the one pictured above, the selvage band is sewn right onto a very large beam.  In other images, it’s sewn into a bar that is somehow attached to the beam.  I decided to attach a thin piece of wood into the dowel to sew the weaving onto.

Referring back to the Saami/Norwegian video of Mary Mikalsen Trollvik who was demonstrating how to set up the loom, she is weaving on a loom where the warp beam is at her head level.  The more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  Anything out of reach is just silly, so it was at this point that I decided that the top beam needed to be sitting at about 62″ instead of a ridiculous 78″.  I disassembled it and cut it to size.  Now she feels right.

Here she is, standing up!  Maybe it seems weird, but at this point, she was starting to feel alive!  She even told me her name.  Frigga, named after the Norse Goddess of weaving and wisdom.  There were a few more steps to complete my girl, but it was wintertime and it was just a few degrees above freezing in the garage, so this project was put on hold until warmer days.

Fast forward several months…

The Saami weaver, Mary Mikalsen Trollvik, started with a woven band with weft threads that become the warp threads of a woven piece.  I had a bunch of Fisherman’s wool that was given to me and this seemed like a great project to use that yarn.  I wove the selvage band, just the same way as Ms. Trollvik, and tied it onto a thin piece of wood–about 1/4″ thick and almost as long as the width between the uprights.  At first, I had just tied it onto the dowel, but eventually, I put a couple screws into it to keep it from sliding around.

Then I set it up in January 2015 at Ursulmas and worked on the set up for several hours over the weekend, in between making beads for passers-by.  By the end of the weekend, it was still no where near ready to weave on.

Frigga 8

One of the things I hadn’t figured out was weights for the warp-weighted part.  Ms. Trollvik and other Saami weavers use oblong rocks to weigh down the warp.  Coming up with easy to transport weights was a bit more time consuming (I was still working on them up until the day before the Arts Unframed event). I needed it to be the right weight, easy to take off of the loom during transport, and not too heavy overall.  Extant weights ranged from 1/2 lb. to 5 lbs.  In my research, other weavers said that they have used 1/2 lb to 1-pound bags of sand or gravel for weights instead of clay circles or rocks.  Some even used water bottles.  I decided to go with bags of gravel–easy to make, easy to add or subtract weight as needed, and cheap.

I started making muslin bags with 5″ x 12″ pieces of fabric, folded long ways to make 2 1/2″ x 12″ tubes with an opening in the middle.  I filled them with 1/2 lb. of pea gravel, evenly distributed into both ends, and hung it over the knotted lengths of yarn.  I was planning on leaving it open, but decided rather than end up having gravel spilling everywhere during transport, I sewed them closed.  I can always open it up and adjust as necessary.

Frigga 9

Heddles were made from Maysville cotton warp.  I thought this would be ideal since it would be less likely to get caught up in the wool fibers.  The warp yarns are from “natural” color wool yarn that a friend was giving away.  She got it from somewhere else and is allergic to wool and thought I’d get some use out of it.  Why, yes I can!!

So finally, at the end of September, nearly a year after starting this project, I took the loom to the Arts Unframed event in the Barony of Wyewood.  It took 3/4 of the day, but I got it up and running!  I had to chain stitch the strings (two chains, front and back), bundle the warp to make half as many bundles, and then put the heddles back on.

Here it is all set up and ready to weave!  You’ll now see that the back warps come forward through the heddles, then back behind the shed rod.  The front warps lay down on the front of the shed rod.  As you pull the heddle rod forward, the back warps come forward; you throw the weft, beat it into place, then put the heddle rod back.  The back warps will hang behind and you can throw the weft again and beat.

While I didn’t get a lot done on the weaving (only about 2″), it broke down easily into three long pieces and a box of rocks (weights).  It took about 10 minutes to take it apart and wrap it up in a sheet.  It looks like a mummy, which makes sense since it was secured in this fashion by an Egyptologist.

When I got it home, it set up again in less than 10 minutes.  I LOVE IT!  This makes it easily transportable and I look forward to taking it to events like Ursulmas or even an outdoor event in the summer (weather permitting).

You note that the warp is darker than the weft…I ran out of the natural yarn and had to switch to the white yarn.  I don’t know how many skeins I’ll need, and since Fred Meyer doesn’t appear to carry the yarn anymore, I may have to source more online, if need be.  The blue yarn, just so you know, is the same Fisherman’s yarn that I dunked into a Kool Aid dye.  Yep.  Kool Aid!

My plan is to (very soon) obtain some wood in a more natural and rustic state to make a loom that looks a little more like this:

an ICELANDIC LOOM for the Norse Encampment -Daily Life in the Viking Age circa 1000 AD at Vinland. The Viking Encampment living history prog...:

I hope you enjoyed reading about my venture into building a warp weighted loom!  If you are inspired to build your own, please send me a picture of your finished product!

Hats, Hats, Hats for Career Girls!

Originally published May 25th on my first blog, then Oct 1, 2015 on the more recent blog, and now here.

I discovered in my attempt to research fillets and barbettes, that  if you Google “Barbette” you come up with images of a drag queen from the 1920s.  Not exactly what I was looking for, but interesting nonetheless.

The next hat I made was a pleated fillet.

Directions I used from http://www.caitlinsclothing.com/

Step 1

Measure your head with a tape measure and add 1″.

Step 2

Set the tape measure on its edge on a sheet of buckram, so that it arcs from the selvage of the buckram to the cut side, straddling a corner. Using a pencil, trace this line.

Step 3

finding the radialMeasure from the corner of the buckram to a few points on the line to get an average measurement. Use this radial measurement to get an even circle-segment drawn on the buckram.

Step 4

Decide how tall the fillet should be. A good height is 2.5″. Add this number to the radial measurement, and again trace the curve onto the buckram.

Step 5

join the seamCut the buckram and join together at the short edge to make the fillet.

Step 6

To cover the coif with pleated fabric, cut out a strip of fabric twice your head measurement, and twice as wide as the fillet is tall, plus seam allowances. Iron this fabric into pleats before applying to the fillet.

Step 7

pleat the fabricPin the pleats onto the middle of the fillet’s band, all the way around. Carefully fold the pleated fabric over the top and bottom. The pleats may expand or contract because of the angle of the fillet. Pin securely, then baste the covering together on the inside of the fillet.

What goes underneath is the same smaller coif and a barbette.

After a bit of experimentation, I also made a St. Brigitta cap.  I’m not entirely happy with the fit–I think it’s too big.  I’ll have to keep experimenting.  I know I should have tucked all my hair into it, which would change the shape of the hat, too.


Out of the Dye Pot: Tansy & Alum

Originally published Oct 9, 2015

A couple of years ago, I was all anxious to try natural dyes.  I got a bunch of onion skins and made some lovely yarn!  I got some tumeric and made some more lovely yarn!  (Which is fugitive, by the way, so it fades over time).  I also tried a tansy dye project to see what would happen.  I picked tansy ragwort as well as common tansy to see if there was any difference, I tried the leaves separate from the buttons.  I even tried splashing a bit of ammonia into the dye bath…but I can’t find any of the images or results from that project.  I’m starting over and I hope to try other locally found things, like algae, apple leaves, and more, as well as ordering some other dye stuffs, like brazilwood, indigo and woad.  I also want to try to use some different mordants–all I’ve ever used so far is alum.  I found that it’s pretty easy to do iron, but it takes a couple of weeks to prep, so I’m going to work on that in the next week or so.

Today’s dye project was common tansy!

As the weather grows colder, I knew that if I wanted to do any tansy dyeing this year, I had to jump on it quickly.  I dropped the middle kid off at Scouts and found a bunch of tansy along the roadside across the way.  This is actually my photo…not a stock photo stolen off the internet.  Sometimes that scuzzy phone camera actually takes a good shot now and again!  Now, you should note that this is *common tansy* (Tanacetum vulgare), not Tansy Ragwort, (Senecio jacobaea), which is also amusingly called “Stinking Willie”.  Both are considered a noxious weed in Washington state, so there is no problem with me picking it along the roadsides.  (Then again, Himalayan blackberries are considered a noxious weed and no one is doing anything about those except happily picking the berries in August and September and cursing loudly when they snag their ankles on one of the runners.)

Here is the yarn I started with:  100 grams of KnitPicks Bare wool/nylon.  I usually prefer to use 100% wool yarn for these projects, just because it takes the dye so much better, but this is what I had on hand.  My plan is to use it to make some socks for SCA wear.  I prepped it by soaking it in a couple gallons of water with a half jar of alum and a quarter jar or so of cream of tartar (about 2 oz of alum and 1/2 oz of cream of tartar).

I ended up picking a grocery sack full of flowers in just 10-15 minutes.  I tried to avoid putting any leaves in the stew, thinking that it might turn the yarn a little more green, which even the stems may very well have.  Here are the buds simmering in the water.  I let it sit on the warm stove for about five hours.

Yarn test color–before and after
After posting it on Facebook, several people asked me why I was drying spaghetti on my faucet.

I took the very wet wool and placed it gently in the dye bath.  I removed most of the flowers before putting it in there, but I think next time, I might find a nylon or net bag to put all the vegetable matter in so I can easily remove it before putting in the fiber.  There are a few sticks and leaves still in the yarn.

In the end, it turned into a rather nice butter yellow–a little bit of the brown tones in it, but still quite lovely.

I soaked the yarn in the resulting bath for about an hour, keeping it warm, but not boiling.  Boiling can do horrible things to the color, like leave splotches on your yarn.  That’s not a good look.

The fun part of this is that it’s fairly easy to do, none of the ingredients are extremely toxic (although I wouldn’t recommend eating the tansy), and be sure to wash your hands after handling it.  It had been used as a medicinal herb in Medieval times, and is occasionally used on salads in some cultures, but the plant’s medicinal property, thujone, can cause miscarriage.  It is also a very effective insect repellent, and the herb can cause hallucinations, spasms, convulsions, and even death in large doses.  I have to admit that after making the dye in my kitchen with the windows open, I had a stomach ache and felt a bit queasy for a couple days.  So I would recommend using rubber gloves when handling it and use in a well-ventilated area.

Out of the Dye Pot: The Beginning of My Dyeing Journey

Originally posted Oct 13, 2015

Finding out how to do natural dyeing is part math and lots of chemistry.  After much scratching of my head, figuring out how much I have in dye stuffs vs. fiber and how much of the chemicals (alum, iron, etc.) to mix in to make a mordant….well, I kinda threw it out the window and said, “That looks about right!”  Unfortunately, that means I won’t be able to absolutely replicate what I did, but that’s not the goal just yet.  As a beginning alchemist, I’m happy getting any results at all!

I started my dye projects several years ago with onion skins.  I was at the grocery store early one morning and looked around the produce section for some dinner stuff.  I walked past the onion bin and said to myself, “What a mess!  Look at all those onion skins!”  Then the light bulb went off and I said, much more excitedly, “WOW!  LOOK AT ALL THOSE ONION SKINS!”  I grabbed a clear produce bag and started picking out all the skins and stuffing them in.  The produce jockey came over and said, “Thanks for doing my job!  What are you going to do with those?  Make soup?”  And I said, “No!  I’m going to dye yarn!”  We chatted for a few minutes and the produce guy said I could have the skins for free.  Later, I discovered that they normally don’t do that, so later when I’d gather skins, I’d also grab an onion and throw it in so I’d pay the “poundage” for the skins (which weigh virtually nothing).

I used alum and cream of tartar to dye all my first pieces, starting with a very bulky wool yarn that was 3-ply.  I un-plied it to make 3 regular size skeins of single-ply (yes, they were too beefy to be sock yarn; almost the weight of Cascade 220).

That onion skin yarn is on the left.  Going to the right, it is followed by tumeric (very fugitive–see how it’s fading in several spots?), Common tansy heads, Ragwort tansy (just to see if there was any difference), common tansy leaves (a bit more green), and some mysterious thing that I can’t remember.  Granted, the colors are not very pure and may have had not had the right vegetable matter to yarn ratio.  That will likely come with time.

All of these used alum and cream of tartar as the mordant and were done in 2010, so even though they’ve been in a box for several years, you can see that they’re mostly colorfast (with the exception of tumeric).

Out of the Dye Pot: Dogwood Fruit & Lessons in Chemistry

Originally posted Oct 14, 2015

It came to my attention the other day that my neighbor’s dogwood tree is producing fruit.  I’m sure I noticed before but never thought to ask anyone about it.  So, doing a little research, I found out this is a Korean Dogwood variety, and it turns out that that fruit–besides being edible–*supposedly* makes a nice dye stuff.

The sources that I saw online (which I think may have just been quoting each other) said that the berries themselves would make a lovely blue-green yarn.  Unfortunately, they didn’t say what kind of mordant they used*, so it was time to do a little experimentation.  I first mordanted my yarn with alum and cream of tartar.

*They also didn’t mention that there are several different varieties of Dogwood that produces fruit, including one that grows a blue fruit, that, like the Oregon Grape, may create the blue hues.

I picked up a bunch of berries off the ground and off the tree as high as I could reach (there are still plenty I couldn’t reach), and put them into the dye pot.  I let them simmer for a while, which made a rather orangey-tomato-red colored sauce.  I took a sample of yarn and dropped it in there just to see what color it would be.  It came out not blue or green, but a slightly orangy yellow.

Top yarn: the orangy-yellow Dogwood fruit yarn. I dunked into vinegar after pulling it out of the dye pot, which brightened the color just slightly; the white yarn is the undyed yarn, just for color reference; the other yellow is the common tansy yarn, again for a color reference.

A few days ago, I found a reference to making your own iron mordant by taking 2 parts water, 1 part vinegar and placing them into a glass jar and adding rusty nails.  “Well,” says I, “Let’s do that and see what happens!”  I found some rusty nails (thanks to a kind neighbor) and dropped them in the jar with the vinegar and water.  The recipe says you need to wait a week or two, but I didn’t have that kind of time for this project.

So continuing on with the experimental part, says I, “what would happen if I added iron to the bath?”  So after a couple hours, I shook the jar and poured most of the contents into the dye bath with the yarn.  I probably should have started small and added more later, but I figured it was a weak compound having only been sitting for a couple hours.

I checked the yarn a few minutes ago and looking in, it looks like grape jelly.

The yarn, on the other hand, looks like rather blah grey.  Not blue.  Not purple.  Not green.  Blah.  Maybe heather grey…just a hint of blue hue.

I will let it dry a bit and see if the color improves, but so far, you can color me unimpressed.

Out of the Dye Pot: Rhodies and Iron

Originally posted Oct 16, 2015

I thought I’d try a couple more dye experiments before the weather gets too nasty.  I hope I’ll be able to do some of this outside since indoor dye stuff can make you feel ill…as I learned from the tansy experiment.  Tansy has been used as an insect repellent, and when you cook it, it concentrates the smell and makes it difficult to tolerate.  Nausea is a side effect.  Yep.  I was feeling a bit queasy.

So today’s experiment comes from this article that I found:  http://www.allfiberarts.com/2011/how_dye_rhododendron.htm, the use of rhododendrons for dye materials.  It just so happened that a knew a lady who owns a house with some 50 year old rhodie plants in the yard.  I went over there and, not knowing how many I’d need, I trimmed off a sack full of leaves from the tree in the front yard.

Referring to the instructions, I cut up a bunch of the leaves, most into 1″ to 2″ pieces, putting them into a mesh bag to keep the yarn and foliage separate during the dye process.  This bag I set into a pot of cold water.  The smell was getting overwhelming, so I placed it on the deck overnight.  I only used about half the leaves that I picked.  I may try a second dye bath with a different mordant later.

Many leaves and flowers tend to result in a yellow yarn, which gets kind of boring, so I wanted to try for a green.  Using the instructions, I followed them to make an iron mordant.  Taking my rusty nail water, I poured about a cup and a half of the iron water into a bowl of tap water and set the wool yarn into it (about 100 yards taken off a large skein). [Yes, this plastic bowl is designated for dye stuff…never mix dye stuff and food stuff!]

To be continued….

Yawn!  Ahhh!  That was great restful night!  So I left the leaves soaking in the water overnight on the deck.  I peeked at it and it looked like a green-brown soup.  Not attractive, but it looked like it was doing something.

In order to avoid having the smells and the potential toxic stuff in the house, I decided that I’d use the grill outside.  I set the pot on the grill and set it on medium to get it warmed up.  Later, I set it up to high.  Since the lid was open, I was losing a lot of heat and it was pretty cold outside, so to compensate…even though the directions said to keep it under 200 degrees–so not a full boil.  I left it on the grill for about an hour, checking on it periodically to make sure it wasn’t boiling, and at that last check, I realized that there was no heat.  Ran out of gas.  Ah well, best laid plans.  I moved it inside and let it simmer on low for 30 minutes or so with the windows open and the vent fan on.

I took the yarn and drained most of the iron liquid off and gently set it into the dye bath.  I poked it with the spoon and put the bag of leaves on top, letting it simmer some more.  After about an hour, I took my first peek…

It’s going green!!  I let it sit for another hour or so, checked again, but it looks like it’s not getting any greener.  It’s drip-drying on the deck and appears to be a light olive green.  I love it!

I let the leaves steep all day and mordanted another 100 yards of wool in alum.  I dropped that in the pot, just to see if it would come out yellow…unless some of the iron residue is still in the pot, then I may end up with something green or green-yellow.  We’ll see what the morning brings!

Beads! Beads! Beads!

Originally posted Nov. 30, 2015 on my old blog.  Many thanks to my brother, Mike, for setting up this new blog site so photos will stop disappearing.


I have been working on making beads for the Known World Kingdoms over the past few weeks. This is a project that was taken on by the An Tir Lampworkers Guild several years ago. Twice a year, the lampworkers make 21 beads for each Kingdom in their Kingdom’s colors. 20 of those beads go to that Kingdom’s Queen, and the last one goes to the Queen of An Tir, who will have a string of 21 different beads. The Royals of An Tir then present these necklaces at the two big events in North America–Pennsic War in August and Estrella, the big one in Arizona in February.

Several years ago, I started by making one strand of beads for one kingdom. Then I did two kingdoms for a couple years as I gained confidence in my skill. This summer’s presentation in July had four strands made by me due to a shortfall in volunteers. This time around, the organizer who has historically done quite a lot of work, is ill, so I’ve been doing more to help pick up the slack.

I’m now working on the seventh kingdom (out of 20). I’m not as happy with this 6th Kingdom, only because good purple glass is difficult to find and make pretty. The Thai Orchid tends to look a little muddy. The Grape Ape looks a little too pastel. Pastel Purple looks pink. I’m thinking that the purple clear glass might be the way to go.

Here are the finished Calontir beads. I make a couple more than I needed, so I can pull out the ugly one…you can decide which one is the ugly one. There are several unsatisfactory ones in the bunch. I may make a few more just to have more options and give away the rest. I’ll give it a day or two to see if anyone else volunteers for another Kingdom before I start on more. The deadline is quickly approaching!

In the meantime, I’m also making and selling beads for the Bead Mama’s cancer bills. It’s not the medical stuff that needs covering, but all the other stuff–food, rent, utilities…you know, the luxuries. With a group of volunteers, we were able to cover some of these expenses and have promised to send her a small monthly stipend to help her out. It’s good to know that when things get tough, you’ve got friends to lend a hand.

Bead count is now at 8 Kingdoms:

I would like to stop now…I have other crafts and activities that need to take precedence.