Sunday, July 19, 2020

so what is new with you?

It has been a long time since I had the time or inclination to blog. However now that things have slowed down, I seem to have plenty of both. While the current times are EXTREMELY stressful, I am grateful for the chance to slow down a bit and spend more time with my immediate family. 
    Rather than start new projects I have decided to finish up project that have been sitting unfinished. All that garb that was started and abandoned when it didn't get done before the event I had intended to wear it to, etc.      
    In the past few years I have become increasingly busy with costuming with local theater groups. My son is a fantastic dancer, singer and actor and has been doing as many different show with many different theaters and it is a way that I can spend time with him and help support the local arts. Of course now during the pandemic, there is nothing going on with theater. I have mostly been sewing face masks and Scrub hats for a local hospital and have taken a fashion illustration course over the summer on line at FIT. I have always sketched out my clothing designs, but as a theater costumer, I have had to SHOW my drawings to so many people. I am quite embarrassed at how poorly I draw.  But like any other art, the only way to get better is to practice so I have very much enjoyed my online class. I have also found a You Tuber who has great tutorials on Fashion Illustration.
    In March of this year, I had the honor of being the Author of the Compleat Anachronist no. 186. Medieval Fiber Study. I took my Medieval fiber study that I had displayed at previous A&S competitions and through the guidance of the amazing editor of the Compleat Anachronist, I was able to get it published and hopefully it will help others with their own fiber projects. 
    I had signed up to teach a class at Pennsic this year based on this research called "Fun with Fiber". I started teaching this class in conjunction with the A&S project as a chance for others to experience spinning many different types of medieval period fibers. Pennsic has been postponed and they are going to do a virtual Pennsic University. They asked all the teachers to make a video of their class. I originally was not going to do it, as the "fun" part of the class was hands on, but i thought it might benefit some people to show how I choose what tools to use when spinning the different fiber types and also give a bit of history of the different fibers. I even purchased a microphone for my digital camera to help with the video. I should have also purchased an extra battery, as mine ran out of juice halfway through the video. So I sit here, in garb, waiting for it to recharge so I can do rest of it. 
    If the video works out (and I don't completely hate it), I may continue to do videos for each different type of fiber I have to spin. I could give the history of the fiber and show how I am choosing to spin in. 
I had always wanted to do some video blogging, so we will see how it goes. It might be a nice way to get my A&S medieval fix. I have found it hard to attend virtual events and virtual court, as I am just so sad about not being able to get together, and being on Facebook is just so difficult right now. There is just to much hate and division and that is more than I can handle right now. 
    As with all other hard times in my life, crafting will see me through. Making music is difficult for me right now, it is hard to get the energy for it, even though I always feel better after spending some time practicing, I just can't muster the energy. It is much easier to sit in my craft room (now with air conditioning) listen to audio books and draw or sew. 
    I hope you are all safe and healthy and hopefully by this time next year we will all be in a much better place. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

How to keep your Veil on your head

Crafty Nara’s Tips for Keeping Your Veil On

Modern medievalists know that when it comes to garb, there is often a good reason that they “don’t make ‘em like they used to”. As modern humans we are used to stretchy fabrics and modern closures that help us keep our hats firmly on our head. But fear not! I have found some excellent period methods (and one modern one that stays hidden) that can help you wear your veil as comfortably as possible.

 I have tried these techniques on dry un-washed hair as well as on wet freshly washed hair and it works equally well. I like to run some gel through my hair in either case, just to keep the fly away wisps to a minimum.

Item 1 Hair Fence

 This is the secret to my veil success. This is what keeps your hair back out of your face and gives a stable foundation for the headband and veil to be fastened to. It works equally well on both thick and thin hair

It might take a couple of tries before you are comfortable using the hair fence, but it is worth the effort. If you plan on wearing earrings, put them on AFTER you put on your hair fence!!

Step 1: Unhook your hair fence and position it so the closure will be in the back of your head. Alternately you can close the hair fence around your neck in the front and spin it around to have the closure in back. Either way you want to have the closure in the back having it on top can cause it to unhook while pushing it on.

Step 2: Push back the hair fence so it pushed all the hair back. Take care to move the fence over your ears. Once you have the fence over your ears, make sure to place it back into your hair so it can grip that hair too .

 Step 3: Position the fence so it is just a few inches back from your hairline and only far back enough from your ears to be comfortable.

Item2: Linen Headband

The linen headband hides the hair fence and gives the veil a base fabric that can be pinned to for added stability. I use a linen headband regardless of the material my veil is made of. Linen helps absorb sweat and the texture helps keep a silk veil from slipping as much.

Step 1: Using the hair fence as a guide, bring the headband around your head and tie it behind your head. I have made my headbands to be shorter than the actual circumference of my head, so you can get it really snug using the ties.

Step 2: After it is tied arrange the headband, so it is completely covering the hair fence.

Item 3: Veil Pins

Pins will keep your veil in place. You could use small straight pins if you want them to be discreet, but I never pass up a chance to add some bling. Longer pins give more stability because you can run them through the fabric more times.

Step 1: take your veil of choice and position it where you would like it lay on your head

Step 2: add 2-3 pins and pin the veil through the linen headband, and back through the veil

These items above will keep your veil in place. You can add a circlet or coronet for extra decoration and stability, but they should not be relied upon to keep your veil where you want. Over the course of the day you will probably have to remove the pins and veil and re tie your headband, so it is snug fitting again. This is especially true if you have a very long, or heavy veil. But having to adjust 1 or 2 times during a day is a LOT better than constantly fighting with a veil that is slipping off your head.

I hope you find my veil tips useful. You can email me with comments and questions at

You can find all these accessories at my website

Thanks to Lady Lydia for being my Lovely Veil Model

Peace, Love & Happiness

Crafty Nara 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Finding my Focus

It seems that more has been happening for me in the past 3 years of my A&S journey than had happened in the previous 20 years combined. I have always been passionate, committed and hard working when it came to the arts and sciences. I also always put  research at the center point of all my projects, so looking back I have to wonder what has changed for me? I don't have to look far to find the answer.
One conversation I had changed everything for me. That conversation was the one that helped me find my focus, and once I found out what I should focus on, everything else about my A&S work immediately fell into place and the path I needed to take became very clear to me. The funny thing was, I never knew that not having a focus was the problem that was holding me back.
Many years ago I asked my good friend-and Medieval Aunt-Aurelia to help me find someone to apprentice to in the SCA. I wanted to take my sewing and embroidery to the next level and I felt stuck. I didn't know how to get deeper into research and being self taught I felt I wasn't getting any better on my own anymore. This was before Facebook and I was really discouraged by the Yahoo groups, I hated asking questions on them since there were always some unhelpful people who dominated the group. I was at the time more active in Acre than I was in the SCA and I didn't know many East Kingdom Laurels. Aurelia and I though we should focus on my work on Middle Eastern garb and we were not able to come up with anyone. We decided to let the matter rest and the both of us would keep our eyes and ears open and we knew the right person would eventually be made known to us. At the time my son was just a toddler and then we moved to a new state and I wound up taking a few steps back from medievalism.
About 5 or 6 years ago I really was able to become more active in A&S again and I went to a University event that my Auntie Aurelia was also at. She introduced me to Lady Caterina and told her I was looking for guidance on my A&S work. That day I had attended my very first Athena's thimble meeting and I confessed to her that I had been too nervous to panel the embroidered favor I had made. She made me feel comfortable enough to show it to her and she gave me some very nice feedback and encouraged me to panel it in the future.
After that first meeting our paths crossed often, and the more I talked with Caterina the more I found that we had a very similar approach to A&S and even though she was more skilled and experienced than me, I found it so easy to talk to her about it. I found myself often seeking her advice, and it was her advice that she gave me about 3 years ago that changed everything for me.
We were at a New Years Eve party and we were talking about the first A&S project and my problem with deciding on what to do next. I was unsure if I should work on a garb project or an embroidery project. She suggested I should focus on my fiber arts, She said that was my strongest art and my biggest passion. That statement made so much sense, yet was not something I could have seen myself. I was still thinking about this conversation for days afterwards and suddenly I had a very clear plan in place. I had several A&S project ideas as well as classes that I could teach based on each project. I had always struggled with the fact that I liked to do so many different crafts, but when I looked at it from the perspective as a fiber artist, they didn't seem that different at all. Suddenly spinning, sewing, embroidery and knitting were all just branches of the main focus of fiber.
It was not long before I had decided that my next project would be the period fiber study project, which was really more of a research paper that had some handspun and woven visual aids. I also realized I was so much more confident about my fiber work and it was so much easier to talk about it to other people. Once I realized that fiber study was at the core of what I did it all became so clear.
I knew that I had found the teacher for me, but was I the student for her? She had only recently become a Laurel and I didn't want to push the idea of her taking me on as a student. It took another year of getting to know each other for both of us to realized it was the right thing for both of us to do. I could not be happier with the decision and I feel studying under Padrona Caterina is exactly what I needed to move forward. Together I think we will do some great things.

Fleece to Frock-Black Welsh Mountain sheep -project Wrap up

The last time I updated this project was during the Pennsic 42 Display post, but I wanted to give my final thoughts on the project. Now that I have started working on the follow up to this project I am finally going to put this project to rest.

I hesitate to call this project a "failure", even though I was not able to achieve my goal of creating a dress from raw fiber.

Many mistakes were made in the execution of this project, but in the long run I cannot consider it a failure because so much was learned in the process.

Here are the obstacles I encountered that caused the project to be abandoned. These lessons were learned the hard way and of course now looking back it seems that I should have known better. At least I know the same mistakes will not be made next time.

1. I really underestimated how much fiber I would need to create the yardage needed to make a dress. When I started this project I was not a weaver and had no idea how to calculate the yardage needed for a warp and weft. I also had no ide how much yarn I could get from a single Black Welsh Sheep's fleece.

2. Fleece quality varies A LOT from sheep to sheep and from flock to flock. Wool from fleeces need to mixed together BEFORE you spin if you want to get a homogeneous yarn. I tried to spin more yarn from a different fleece and the quality was so completely different from the first one.

3. Black Welsh Sheep are really rare and it is super hard to find fleeces for sale. Fiber festivals really favor white sheep fleeces. Most color fleeces I found came from Shetland sheep, or Jacob sheep. I have never seen a Black Welsh Fleece for sale at the festivals I go to and the one Black Welsh breeder I met never sold the fleeces before, they just had them as meat sheep. I need to find a good source of fiber before I try to make another garment from Black Welsh Sheep (and I really do want to make another one).

4. Since this was my first A&S project I was super excited to get started actually making the dress so I started wool prep and spinning before I started the researching textile construction. BIG MISTAKE! I learned way too late that I should be using singles for the warp and weft and the yarn I was spinning was way too thick to be anything but heavy duty outerwear (or a rug). Also in the 14th century combing was much more popular than carding which was the fiber technique I had done. Now that I have several years of A&S projects under my belt I know it is much better to do the bulk of your research before starting construction. There are many important decisions you need to make before starting and often once you start working it is too late to change the way you are working.

When I was done weaving and fulling I had about 4 yards of 18 inch wide fabric which is not nearly enough for the dress I had planned on making. I am not going to lie, I was crushed when I realized the project couldn't continue. It was months before I could even think about what I was going to do with the fiber I had created. I still haven't really finished sewing the hood I made instead. I still need to add the buttons, and I will probably make some kind of pilgrims bag to go along with it.

I displayed the unfinished hood at the Known World A&S Display at Pennsic 45. I spent so much time explaining what went wrong, and what I would do differently that I decided not to display this project anymore. I have started a new dress project (I call it Fleece to Frock II ). This time I am doing the research up front. I have 6 big beautiful Jacob Fleeces washed and ready to be combed. I will be happy when I finally finish up the last bit of the hood and bag and I can put this all behind me and just enjoy the finished product of this very long journey. I am happily looking forward to starting a new project with hopefully a better outcome.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

2nd Annual A&S War Point at Pennsic XLV
About 1 year ago I returned to the work force (huzzah!!!). Unfortunately I spend 100% of my workday sitting in front of a computer which makes me not want to do that while I am home. Add to that the fact that 7 months ago I went and became the Princess of Acre and that means that while I have been doing lots and lots of crafting, I haven't been blogging about it.
I am finally starting to feel like my life is getting into a sort of routine, so I hope to be able to get in the habit of writing again. One of my biggest motivations for this is all of the A&S displays and competitions I have been to over the past year. I really enjoy seeing how others create and enjoy reading about it on their blogs.
I have been home from Pennsic XLV a little more than a week and I am still trying to wrap my brain around the wonderful A&S experience I had. Sunday of war week was the Knowne World A&S display. I remember 2 year ago being so frightened of showing my work. I had such a wonderful time that I couldn't wait to do it again. I had originally planned to display my medieval fiber study that I showed for the first time at the Quest A&S champions competition and St Elegius A&S competition. Much to my surprise I was selected by their Majesties f the East to compete on their team for the A&S warpoint!!!They decided this year to choose from the people who had won at A&S competitions and my win at St. Elegius in Dragonship Haven made me eligible. I decided if I was going to be showing the fiber study at the warpoint competition on Thursday, I shouldn't also show it on Sunday. I was left with the dilemma about what I should show on Sunday. I didn't really want to miss out on the display since it is such a great way to interact with other artisans and I have come to feel that it is our responsibility to share our knowledge with the populace just as the cooks share their craft by cooking feasts and the calligraphers share by making scrolls. I never really finished my fleece to frock project. I had become really disheartened after I had realized I didn't have enough fabric to make the dress. Also I had made so many mistakes in the making of the fabric that I felt it was better to just go forward than trying to fix what had already been done. Still I wanted to at least bring closure to the project by making a pair of 14th century hoods out of the fabric I had made. I had 2 weeks, surely I could full the fabric, brush and cut the nap, cut out and hand-sew hoods in that time. No problem!
So there I was at the A&S display on Sunday trying to finish sewing the lining to the ONE hood I had cut out. I gave up trying to sew and discuss the project and just talked with the people who visited my display and all the surrounding artisans. I am so happy that this year they put all the East Kingdom fiber people together!! We had a great time swapping info and drooling all over each others projects. As much fun as I was having I was a bit nervous about displaying on Thursday and having to stand there and answer questions. I was nervous about having to deal with some people who might be jealous about having not been asked and might be a bit unkind about my work. I was happy when Mistress Amy came by to ask if I had any questions about Thursday and I told her my concerns. She let me know that the competition was anonymous and they didn't want us to stick around. I was so relieved!!!! So now all I had to worry about was waking up in time to get there at 8am, especially since the Acre party was Wednesday night.
It turns out the hard part was not getting up, but going to sleep! I was so excited about the warpoint and we had fantastic bardic going on in camp until 1:45am, even though I had gone to bed at 12:30am I couldn't fall asleep. My loyal husband, Frederick woke up with me at 6:30am and helped me set up my display. We were there at 8am sharp and helped to set up the hall. Since it was going to be anonymous, we each were given a number. I chose 24 (my favorite) and had my choice of tables to set up at. We also were able to pick a hand made cup that was going to be used for the judging beads to be placed in and we got to keep it as a souvenir and thank you for being in the competition.
After I set up I was able to talk briefly with an amazing artisan I had met on Sunday who was telling me all about her research on Teasels and she had actually made a teasel cross that she has used for raising the nap on fiber. She has also made a great wheel and wool combs and she was just amazing!!! I looked around at some of the other displays and tried not to get in anyone's way while they set up. There was some seriously amazing displays there, I could hardly believe that I had been chosen to display alongside these magnificent artists. I had decided not to come back to the hall until the voting was over so that I would not see how many beads I had (or had not) received. To me the biggest honor was to be there in the first place. After everyone had set up we were able to vote. Everyone got 3 beads for which they could vote for their 3 favorite. It was impossible to pick 3 out of all of that, so I went with my 3 favorite research projects and even that was a hard choice.
I stuck to my promise to myself and did not return to the hall until 3pm when they wanted us to return and stand by our displays for an hour so that we could talk to anyone who wished to asked questions. By then all the judging had ended and I have many wonderful conversations. I was happy to see that I had also received some really awesome tokens too! The East wound up wining the day by less than 100 points. The King of Aethelmearc and the Queen of the East gave an excellent speech to all of the artisans and it was an excellent way to end such a fabulous experience.
I hope you all someday get a chance to participate in it, or at least go and see it when it happens next year. You will be blown away, I guarantee it!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Linen Fiber Part I

My newest Arts and Science project is a study of Medieval Fibers. My documentation will be a history of where and when the fiber was used and also how it was processed. I will have fibers, spun samples and woven samples to accompany all of the fibers I cover in the documentations. I will post about these fibers as I work on them. The original motivation for this project was to make a display of period fibers and I figured I might as well also make it an Arts and Science project. It has been a great learning experience and I have found out some really cool information. But of course the most fun is to work with the fibers.
So here is Flax which when it is woven will magically become Linen.
I would like to process my own small quantity of flax from scratch someday, but that will be another Arts and Science project entirely. For now I am using some commercially processed flax I purchased from Halcyon Yarn.

I purchased a pound of it and since it is a large quantity I have decided to spin it on my Ladybug wheel. I am wet spinning it, which means I am dipping my fingers in water to smooth out the fiber after I have drafted it. I am so surprised at how thin I am able to spin it. Spinning flax is quite a different experience from spinning wool. It feels like straw and you would think that it would be difficult to join the fibers to the spun single but it is actually pretty easy. I have been really enjoying working with it.

Singles ready for plying
Plied yarn with a quarter for reference
plied yarn is 17 WPI. It needs to be scoured then dyed.
I am going to set aside some of the unspun flax, along with 25 yards of spun linen and a small woven sample to go with the Arts and Science project. I plan to dye the rest of it up using synthetic dye (natural dye do not work as well on linen) and then weave up a small plaid table cloth.
I still have some more to spin then on to the dying and weaving. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mudthaw Embroidered Dress

Last year Lydia and I once again worked on garb for the Baron and Baroness of the Settmour Swamp. This time we did 12th century Bliauts. Lydia did the pattern work and most of the sewing and I did the hand sewn button holes and the embroidery around the facing for the Baroness.

The neck facing that Lydia measured out for me. This is what I would be embroidering on.

Three versions of the design that the Baroness liked. We decided to use the one on the far left.

I drew it out on paper first so that I could work out the turns in the pattern and make sure it was even on both sides.

I then put the paper pattern on a light box and put the fabric over it so I could trace through to the fabric using a pencil.

One thing I have learned is that making a sampler is not an option. You don't want to be trying your embroidery out for the first time on the finished piece. I actually did several different variations and this is the one we liked the best.

I started with an outline done in backstitch

Then I filled it in using split stitch.

The final facing

Attached to the dress

and from the back. The fabric must have stretched out while I was working on it, because in the end the facing was bigger then the neck of the dress. I tried to work it out when I hand sewed it to the dress, but I still had to put a pleat in the facing. I put it on the back of the dress and hopefully her veil will cover it and no one will be the wiser.