November 27, 2007

Surreality and progress


A dear old friend of my husband's is getting married this weekend in Atlantia (best wishes, Bronzey!), and my husband called to have a nice chat with her and tell her that he couldn't make it. He asked her if she had heard of A&S 50, and she proceeded to describe the project to him in fair detail. Then he told her it was my baby. Too weird.

I have far too much to do this month already, but I thought I should at least write down my to-do list for A&S 50 for 2008:
* establish, once and for all, if the database is editable by users, and find an alternative if it is not (the first half I can probably do now, but the second? Yeah, right.)

* write to the Kingdom MoASes, officially letting them know about the project, and what interested folks should do. Include press releases if folks want to use them in newsletters. (frighteningly, I've had about a half dozen requests!)

* get my stacks of email/paper contact info data uploaded onto the database

* post the files on persona creation, teaching, and documention guidelines to the website (since these seem to be among the few categories of info not already compiled elsewhere on the web).

* personally, work with some new resources I've just got on my persona development (Victoria County Histories ROCK!)

* also personally, pull SOMETHING together to enter into Northern Lights on March 1, while simultaneously putting together the second issue of our new regional newsletter for the same day.

This month though? Getting over the cold I picked up over T-day, finishing issue #1 of the newsletter (Peaks' Progress), finishing a quilt a dear friend asked me to finish for her just before she died so I can give it to her family for Christmas, and, of course, the regular hassles that come with December. Eight years sounds like a really long time, until I see just how much A&S stuff I have NOT gotten accomplished in the almost seven months to date. :\

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November 12, 2007



Enough folks have asked for the 'how do I run a Session' info that I have put it, and the corresponding Level Number System and Contact Info sheets, in the files section of the Yahoogroups.

I'm going to do my mass database updates (all the paper Contact Info forms I have), and the MOAS letters (to Kingdoms first, then EK MOASes) in January, and with other folks starting to run Sessions, we're just going to keep on growing!

Plans to change out the website are on indefinate hold, since the database on Yahoogroups works great, as does their file system. That said, anyone who wants to help me collect and organize handouts for the website itself is heartily invited to let me know! The one thing we do NOT have between the two systems is a facile threaded forum. Our web guru, Alexandr, has one on our proto-Joomla site, so there IS still motivation to make that happen at some point, but I'm feeling WAY less crunch about it now; unless we get someone on the project who WANTS to do the website (rather than Alexandr who is willing to help me do it), it will probably sit there until either a) our numbers/needs grow big enough that I have a pool of folks to beg for help, or b) we hit the 5 year mark, and my plans for online galleries demand it (if Yahoogroups doesn't have even better functionality by then though, I'll eat my coif!)

And, last but not least, can I just say how darned right spiffy it is read someones blog and see them mention that they are doing this cool thing they are really excited about, and how they are doing it for their A&S 50 Challenge??
Happy Albreda! :D

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October 24, 2007



I helped run Mimir's Well this last weekend, and it went really well, for a first time. One of my duties was to recruit teachers, and I begged and pleaded well enough that **4** Scribal Arts teachers came from Aethelmearc to share their wisdom with us, and one of them taught GILDING!!!!

Long-time readers may know that trying gilding with real gold has been one of my Challenge goals from the very beginning, and now I have done it! The real loose leaf wasn't all that different from using the fake loose leaf stuff, but the patent gold is on a paper backing which is just WAY easier to work with, although thinner, so you need to put more layers. Gee shucks. ;) (I loved that part!)

The part that I thought was the absolute NEATEST was trying different period sizes or glues, to get the first layer of gold to stick to the paper/vellum/etc - I tried period gesso, fish glue and garlic juice glue (which stank the most). It was AWESOME, and THL Mea the Bold of Aethelmearc, actually included recipes for all of them in her little booklet that she gave us! She even sent us home with our gold scraps to make shell gold with (mix real gold scraps with gum arabic)!

I learned a bucket, and can tick off another big item off my Challenge wishlist. Hurray!!!! No one came to the A&S 50 meeting, but I had so much to do, I was ok with it. Folks know where to find me anyway...

I also put embroidery, spinning, my first lampworking, and a whole bunch of illumination doodles in the exhibition (which I ran, and which went great!)

Now we're gearing up for next year, and the same teacher says she'll come back and teach how to make both period pigments and period gesso! (She even gifted our local scribes, in the form of me, with a box full of vials of period pigments! OOOOOHHH!!! I can't WAIT to try those out with the crew!!!! Mea - you ROCK!!!)

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October 15, 2007

Database Bliss!


Ok, so it isn't on the website, but we actually now have a searchable database for our Contact Info! Hurray! It is on the Yahoogroup site, and is working well. :)

I'm really excited about this, since a) it has been a real thorn in my side, and b) I feel that this is really the heart of the infrastructure that I can provide folks - the ability to discover and forge relationships with others who share their passions and who want to share their interests with others, across the shire, or across the Knowne World. Joy!

The new website may be, well, the old website, but just with more stuff. With the yahoogroup handling both the threaded forum and the database, I'm just not feeling the need to keep pulling my hair out over Joomla. I'm hoping we'll get a flashier site eventually, but the rush is OFF! Hurray!

And good timing, too. My husband, Owyn, had hernia surgery last week, and I'm helping to run our fist shire A&S and War College (Mimir's Well, see for details) this weekend, including doing all of the scheduling, a solid majority of the recruiting (indluding 4 OOK C&I teachers!), I'm running both the exhibition and the youth program, AND I'm running an A&S 50 session, natch! ;)

(I REALLY want to go to the gilding class I begged for someone to come teach, but probably won't get to.... ::pout::)

Not having the lack of a workable database hanging over my head is going to make for a MUCH nicer holiday season. I might even make some art! :P

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October 02, 2007

Over and Under


No, not weaving patterns, just over and under estimating the new website; underestimating how frustrating Joomla can be (how dumb is it that it doesn't automatically make text fit the space assigned to it?) and overestimating how much time my kids will allow me to work on it.

I know we have 7.5 years still, but I'm hoping that the Challenge will grow, and I *really* want us to have the infrastructure to grow into when we do. Websites just aren't my forte, and I'm donig my best not to let that stand in our way...

In better Challenge news, group projects are well underway, and overcoming fear of entering displays/competitions are forming an entire Challenge for another individual. Wow, wow, wow. I love hanging out with inspiring people!

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September 21, 2007

Canterbury Report and Recovery


Well, Wrong Way reports that Canterbury went very well (she got her Kingdom level Service award too, Congrats!) - and that a bunch of folks came by the A&S 50 booth, and that most of them were already on-board with the Challenge. Hurray! She also said that lots of other folks were interested in attending, but too busy RUNNING the event to get to attend. She plans to hold A&S 50 Sessions at some of their local events this fall, to give everyone a chance to get involved. All in all, good things! Thank you, Teresa Wrong Way Giani!

As it turns out, it was a VERY good call for me not to attend the event - I got sicker, my husband was down for 24 hours, and both of my kids got it too. Then we had a massive 'pack away that stuff from Pennsic, we have a houseguest coming' cleanup, and then he came, and it was wonderful, but tiring! My house looks FAR nicer, but the website? Not so much. I'm still recovering from it all, but hope to pick up the pace considerably this weekend, including a conference call with our webguru, Alaxandr. My goal at this point is to have the site up for Oct 1. It probably won't have either the forums or the Contact List database or its front end up yet, but every journey begins with a single step. Did you know that walking is considered to be a form of controlled falling? Sounds about right!

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September 13, 2007

How NOT to infect 50 people


I'm really bummed out, but it looks like I'm not going to Canterbury afterall; I'm sick. :( The A&S 50 Session WILL be happening though, with Teresa of the Wrong Way Giani running it! Hurray! (I LOVE LOVE LOVE adaptable people who can take something on at the last minute and run with it! I will also admit to being nervous about the first time someone else runs a session, but my trepidation is WAY down, now that I know that first person is going to be Wrong Way!)

I AM still really bummed out, though. I wanted to go the event, for starters - it looks REALLY cool (and I even dug around and found out that my sideless surcoats - made for Viking stuff - would have been tolerably ok for 14th Century!) - and I was looking forward to trying the Artisan's Row concept too. :( Hopefully they'll hold the event again next year, and I can get a second chance at it?

Oh well, at least the Session will still be happening at what I'm sure will be a VERY happening event! Hurray! Hmmm... maybe I can drag my laptop into bed with me and make some more progress on the website... presuming that my computer can't pick up my virus! ;)

To all of you heading to Canterbury this weekend, ENJOY! (and tell me all about it, so I can live vicariously!)

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September 10, 2007

Artisan's Row


I've been invited to present A&S 50 as part of an Artisan's Row at Crossroads to Canterbury this weekend, and, since the offer included use of someone's pop-up tent and the assurance that my lack of 14th Cent or even *period* chairs/tables, etc will be no problem, I accepted.

How it goes, I'll tell you next week! I'm going to bring some modern chairs and card tables (yuck) and I need to find more table cloths and blankets to throw over things so they look better. I'm going to have flowers on the table (if I remember to buy them!) and I'm hoping to do some baking later this week so we have munchies and lemonade during our chats. I'm going to have Contact List sheets and my spinning and an open door. That and an actual Session on the schedule (right before Court, but that couldn't be helped; maybe they'll run late), and that's all. I'm hoping folks will be dropping by over the course of the weekend; using the space to schmooze, hold informal mini-lessons, talk A&S, get excited and comfy.

It should be interesting! We are even going to try and camp right behind the booth so I can be in the booth and near my kids while they nap at the same time. I've never merchanted before, so sleeping 'on the strip' will be a new experience for me - I hope my girls don't make a ruckus at 3 AM and tick everyone off! Fortunately, my husband isn't fighting in the tourney, so he can help with the girls. I'm not going to be at the booth all of the time, just 'live' there. I'm hoping that folks are interested, but I might have to have 'hours' when I am open, just so I can get a break between waiting for folks to drop by.

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September 07, 2007



Forward momentum is officially happening! I've been working on our new site, both structure and content, and even - gasp - got into the studio yesterday, and set my first ever 14th Cent sleeves! (It was on an undergown, and I doubt I'll get an actual dress done for Crossroads to Canterbury, ie next weekend, so I probably won't even get to wear it, but *still*! And heck - it counts as a new thing too!!!)

And did I mention yet that we have a Yahoogroup now? Hurray! Folks are finding it, and are *starting* to chat some, so I'm feeling a bit less like things are languishing now. Random emails about folks' progress on their Challenges keep coming in, too, which can only be a good sign! :)

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August 30, 2007

Joomla Blues


I have a book. I have a host (hurray, Alexandr!) I even have some templates, and I rudimentary understanding of how modules work.

What I do NOT have is the gist of how to enter our data into the CMS itself... I know I am missing something really basic here; maybe I need some chocolate first.

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August 24, 2007

Butt in Gear


I've been trying to motivate since I got back from a family vacation on Tuesday. Note the word 'trying.' My girls have been grumpy/growth-spurting, and I'm splitting my remaining energy between catching up on my email/A&S 50 stuff and (finally) babyproofing our living room (the girls have had a bedroom size baby yard until now).

But today I WILL srite up that outline for our web guru, so we can get the ball rolling on the domain transfer. The public side of the project is much languishing right now for lack of the new site, so today I start to change that.

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August 16, 2007

Growing Pains


Well, we have an honest-to-God Web Guru helping get our new site up and running now, and he is even thinking of offering us FREE hosting - Joy! The downside? He says that transferring the domain name may take WEEKS.

Ok, ok, the forums are hardly *jumping*, but I better be able to figure out how to archive that data (namely those introductions!) so I can put it up, as is, on the new site. Meanwhile, this blog will be IT for the Challenge. Folks will be able to comment here (gasp), and I supposed I could put up a copy of the intro letter here for new folks who want to take a peak, but OY; talk about a long detour to a better highway!

Anyway, we have to figure out what we're doing first, so we're good for the meantime. I'll let you all know when things get rolling!

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August 12, 2007

Getting Stuck In


I've been home from War and the Pity Party/Post-Revel for about 20 hours now, and I've spent my day alternately working on web design issues and playing Civ 4 when I got frustrated with the former. Unpacking? Yeah, right.

I've gotten SIX people who have said that they'd help with website/database stuff, but I have to know what to ask them to help WITH, so I'm learning and diagramming, and panicing some more. I need nested pages, a new hosting service that I can't afford, forms and database to go with them for contact info entry, and, if possible, better forums (the ones we have are ok, just not great.)

I have a STACK of contact info data to enter, and I just really don't want to have to do it twice, plus my main web guru is really only available to help for the next 10 days, so I'm hopeful that we can get something accomplished in that time, and I can enter it all once on the NEW site, and be done with it. Content for that new site, including guidelines for running sessions, will be coming shortly thereafter, the guidelines by the end of the month for sure, even if I have to put them up on the old site, or even here, if the transition takes more than a couple of days.

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August 03, 2007

Hi ho hi ho its off to War we go...


Well, if we make it out of here before dark, I'll be happy. My stint as summer school teacher ends today, and I have NOT been able to prepare for War as much/as well as I would have liked. My girls don't have enough garb, and neither do I (not having been to War since before I had my girls means much of my garb no longer fits), and I haven't had the time to prep the history component of my Tapestry class as I wanted to (I still have the techniques part complete though, and that's the bulk of the class).

I suppose that no one is EVER completely ready for War, but with working the day I'm leaving for the first time (I give exams in an hour), AND taking children for the first time, AND, honestly, handing over of much of my control over the packing process to my husband... well, I'm nervous. I'm confident that we'll all survive as long as the weather stays reasonable, but otherwise? All bets are off.

One thing that I'm fairly certain will turn out ok? The A&S 50 meeting! Hurray! Hope to see you there - Mon, Aug 6, in AS 6, at 7 PM!!!

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July 30, 2007

Pre-pennsic lull (thank the gods)


It is a really good thing that the pre-pennsic activity lull is almost as well understood as Scadian time, or I'd be doomed. This is my last week teaching summer school, we have family coming in from out of town (to stay and catch an early flight), and, of course, the inevitable last minute sewing and packing for Pennsic.

As a result, the Challenge is taking a back seat for a week. I've got about a dozen folks to put on the contact list, and a Challenge to do list almost as long as my Pennsic sewing list, but it is just going to have to wait for late August.

Things on my Challenge to-do list include:
*Press release (so folks can stop copying the site's ENTIRE front page!)
*contact list update
*figure out/beg someone to help with getting contact info in a form system
*work on Laurel list (some day!)
*mass email folks from previous sessions about publishing their contact info
*write up details on how to run A&S 50 sesssions so others can start doing so
*work up organizational structure for the whole project
*remember, whenever I get too bogged down in the administration of it, that this Challenge is supposed to be fun, and go and do some of my own art to prove it...

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July 28, 2007

The Buzz


I've been hearing from lots of folks that they have been hearing about the Challenge on List X or Blog Y, so I googled the Challenge and read some blogs. Wow. Folks are copying the entire front page off the website into their blogs and newsletters. Folks are talking and talking and talking about this. Folks are feeling oddly guilty if they are NOT doing the Challenge.


One thing came up that I really feel needs addressing though; someone said that they didn't see the point in 'banging out' 50 things for some arbitrary target. I couldn't agree more! Our motto isn't "do 50 things and be done with it," but "to learn and share of our learning, and to create and share of our creation." If folks aren't taking, as their 50, those things that will *take their work to the next level,* well, I just feel like they are cheating themselves.

Likewise, the SHARING part of the Challenge is critical - any of us can work on 50 things in isolation, and feel good about it, but we'd miss the Community aspects of the Challenge - shared passion, shared discovery, shared support. Sometimes we'll be of equal experience, and can learn together; other times we can mentor each other, and, as my mother likes to say, we often find out what we do NOT know by trying to teach someone else, so everyone benefits in these relationships too. It is our Community that is our greatest strength, and the part that makes the SCA work - I doubt we'd be approaching AS 50 if we didn't love getting together so much...

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July 25, 2007

I need a team!


I'm thinking about how best to organize folks for the continueing development of the Challenge, and I'm working with a team model. One team for each Kingdom, an Admin team, and a team comprised of some of the heavy hitters of each of the others for Inter-Kingdom events and our big capstone exhibitions.

I'm also thinking about a timeline, with benchmark goals along the way, both to keep folks motivated, and to keep us all on track. I'm thinking that some big shindigs for "5 'til 50" would be a close enough goal that we could really start working on stuff now, rather than putting off the ideas of 'bigtime' for another five years or so, and would be ending just in time for us to start gearing up for 2015.

I'm staggered that I am already feeling such a heavy need for an administrative team. I just don't know enough about web based data entry and community software applications to solve some issues I see on the horizon: I can't keep inputting everyone's contact info in by hand (we need a form), we may need to move to a different forum provider (since I think this one could get chaotic fast), and I'm even a bit frustrated with my current CMS (I can't seem to nest pages; they either exist and are listed on the front page, or they can't exist, and even then they have numberstring URLs). I just don't know this stuff, and, quite frankly, don't have time to learn it - the backlog by the time I did would kill me, and probably the project. Momentum is everything, and right now the site is getting over 100 hits a day - I daren't do anything but keep on going for now, hoping for help. I'm going to post a note in the tech issues forum asking for assistants, and we'll see where that lands us.

I'm also forseeing needing help just keeping up with everything; even if a task is something that I DO know how to do, that doesn't mean that I have TIME - uploading pdfs, answering questions (I'm working on an FAQ, which should help enormously), keeping track of session records, moderating our online community, etc. I just can't do everything myself, and these are all opportunities for others to get more involved anyway, so why not let them?

Fortunately, I think that folks will be pretty understanding when I vanish for 2 weeks later this month - Pennsic is upon us, and I've gotten nothing done for it! I have expanded my tapestry class to 2 hours, and need to finish collecting my materials for that (including finishing my new loom, darn it!), I still have some warmer tunics and lighter pants to sew for my girls (and I dream of doing a period-cut dress for myself so I'm not teaching in t-tunics again!), and packing? Yeah, right. To top it off, I'm giving my final exam the day we are supposed to be leaving for the 13 hour drive, so... this should be interesting!

Coming home to my inbox afterward is looking like it is going to be even moreso!

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July 20, 2007

Riding the Tiger


The symbol of the most noble Kingdom of the East is a Tiger, and my husband has just said that I need to learn how to ride one. I was just about to go to bed, but found two letters in my mailbox; turns out one from someone who wants to start running A&S 50 sessions in her home Kingdom, and the other is from a Kingdom I have never even heard of before tonight (sad, but true.)

While these are both *amazing* things, since they mean that the project is growing and that folks are actually interested, it is making me panic a little bit too...

I have hoped that this would happen, but now that the Challenge has hit a growth spurt, I'm not really sure how to handle it. I have known that I'm going to need to let go of this to some extent to let it *run,* but I can't help but be afraid of where it might go without me there to guide it in person. It isn't like the Challenge is my adult child, capable of making decisions for itself; I would be letting other speak for ME. My concept, my goals... how do I know that other presenters will, well, get it *right?*

Obviously, others may have ideas that make the Challenge even better, but there is always that chance that I, and the project, will be grossly misrepresented. If someone ran an A&S session and stomped on someone's dream or inexperience, I would feel like I owed them an apology for letting that person speak for the project, but the project can't grow unless I DO let others speak for it.

Part of me wants to 'screen' people - get to know them a little before I 'approve' of their representing me. And, yet, I know that they wouldn't be representing ME (even though this WAS my baby), but the project, which belongs to all of us now. I guess I'm trying to figure out my role in the larger 'organization' now that it isn't completely housed under my one roof here in the Freehold.

One of my guiding principles behind the challenge is that no one can tell another person that they are doing the Challenge *wrong.* We each have our own independant goals, and I hope that the Challenge (and its community) will help many people to reach theirs. To that end, I guess I really just want to be the philosophical leader of the project - folks can work out paperworky stuff, meetings, exhibitions, etc as they like, and as would fit their communitiesand their needs, but the Philosophy behind the project; THAT I feel called to keep tabs on, even at a distance.

I don't want to manage, but I think that I need to guide. Now the question is HOW...

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July 18, 2007

Tally update and site results


GNE this last weekend was LOVELY. I got to camp with localish folks that I didn't know well and now do, and, ta da! I got to watch a new lovely friend be inducted into the order of the Maunche (Kingdom level A&S) - vivat Robert of Stonemarche, calligrapher, embroiderer, and new voice herald of the East! Hurray!

I also added to my Challenge tallies - I taught pre-1300 weave structures again, ran a Challenge session, and learned how to Viking wire weave!

The new website is doing well too, in large part thanks to the constructive critiques of those on the Apprentice List. If you haven't looked at it since today (7/18) go take a fresh peek, especially at the first page; I've clarified the details of the Challenge itself and have even added a new twist to the Breadth Challenge - the "complete persona package" - 50 different things that one's persona would know, have, or know how to do. I got the idea tangentally from my friend Ardenia, (who was, incidentally, the only person to complete Master Henry McQueen's Challenge at Northern Lights a few years ago) since she had basically entered a megapent with things that all went with her ME dancing (garb, food, performance, make-up, you name it).

I thought this new addition might help give folks some focus in their search for new things, and might provide a more satisfying collection when completed than 50 unrelated things might do. No requirement to do this, just an idea. ;)

Anyway, the new site has had going on 140 hits just in the last few days, which is just amazing! I'm not really sure though, how to get folks to participate in the forums. So far Angelique and Ysemay are the only folks who have, as Ysemay put it 'joined me out on [my] limb.' I have posted 'starter' threads on most of the topics, but folks just don't seem to be taking the bait... Ideas, as usual, are MOST welcome.

Most interesting thing about the project today? I've been asked if I am available to meet with Challengers at *ESTRELLA*! My complete lack of understanding of the geography of the Known World is decidedly period - I didn't know that meant ARIZONA, and I certainly didn't know that was in the Kingdom of Atenveldt! (if I even spelled that correctly!)

I hopes that this Challenge was going to take me places, but I didn't anticipate foreign lands! :)

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July 07, 2007

Announcing our Website!


I've been quiet, but I've been busy - we now have a Challenge website! It's still raw (like it needs original art!), but at least it is up, and, even better - it has forums! So... go check it out already!

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July 04, 2007

Tally update


As of this last weekend, and EK Northern Region War Camp, in the lovely Shire of Glenn Linn, I can add another class (I taught Keyhole Necklines again), another A&S 50 session (well attended!), another new thing (Lady Moreta showed me how to make Monk's Cord, but typing in such in google brings me anything BUT what I learned how to make), and another new piece of garb (a lovely green linen tunic for my girls that doesn't fit them - ack!- and so has been given to Lady Skya's lovely and as-yet-to-be-born Gwen).

I am *seriously* needing to find time in my day (after grading!) to do some garb sewing for the girls for war, and I'm scheduled to teach pre-1300 weave structures and run an A&S 50 session at Great North-Eastern War in Malagentia in less than two weeks (go Stonemarche!). I hope you'll join me there!

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Critical Mass


Folks are starting to notice this! People are telling me that they are taking the Challenge, folks are saying 'oh - you're the one doing that A&S 50 thing, right?', and there have been over 500 hits to this blog, and more than a handful of good gentles are showing up for my sessions, and others who can't make it are asking me about it at other times! Hurray!

My obsessive collecting of data (who knows what and wants to learn what, and where they live and how to contact them) is even starting to get people together, and is even encouraging some class planning! Hurray!

Sorry to blather, but I'm just really excited that A&S 50 is starting to move under its own power!

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June 29, 2007

What an A&S 50 Session *is*


I talk here about a lot of my goals for this Challenge, both as an artist, and as its facilitator, but what happens at the sessions I hold at various events?


* Networking - meeting folks who are interested in doing the Challenge and in supporting their fellow artists in taking their work to the next level, (whatever that level may be), and generally getting to know the people behind the work so we can pick each others brains.

*Brainstorming - new ideas for projects, new solutions for old problems, new ways of presenting our art and classes, who might be a good contact person for someone, ways to expand folks' exposure and understanding of A&S

*Info Exchange - resources of all sorts (supplies, teachers, books, websites, etc), as well as sharing experiences with entering/running A&S competitions and exhibits, getting new folks involved in A&S, teaching and running roundtables, etc

Where other classes focus on single subjects, A&S 50 sessions broaden the view, discussing the A&S and the A&S community in general; how to make it more accessible, supportive and fun for all.

I hope this helps, and I hope you will join us at a session coming to an event near you!

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June 26, 2007

Schedule craziness


I think I have mentioned before how my husband and I have taken to creating a written schedule of who has our toddler twins when at events, and how I'm teaching/attending classes around his fighting so we both get to do what we want to, and keep one parent with our girls at all times.

Well, life just got more interesting; I'm teaching summer school. I've been doing a lot of talking about teaching here, and now I get to go back and do it mundanely! They haven't had any students for me for the last two years, but I found out yesterday that my class for this year is a GO, and it starts TOMORROW. Yikes - my plans for creating art this summer have just gotten waylaid, since I still have laundry loads of garb to make for my husband and children before Pennsic, and have happily already committed to teaching at events all summer long.

Yes, happily. Projects for myself can all too easily get put off, but preparation for my classes, and art that I create for them, are promises made, and so I get to keep them, and thus promise myself that time, that energy. I *strongly* doubt that I would be counting on finding time to warp up a new, portable tapestry loom this summer if I hadn't said I'd teach it at Pennsic, but I did, so I have granted myself that opportunity.

BTW - I'm teaching Keyhole Necklines and running an A&S 50 session at Glenn Linn this coming weekend, and I'd love to meet any of you mystery people who seem to read this blog! Come introduce yourselves!!!

I love teaching of all sorts, and I'm thrilled to be doing it again every day, even if only for six weeks (we'll leave for Pennsic within hours of the final exam). Added bonus? My paycheck will mean that we aren't popping the buttons off our budget every time we gas up for an event...

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June 22, 2007



I have recently been invited to join the Apprentice list on Yahoo, even though I am not apprenticed to anyone. I had known about the list for some time, but, since it says apprentices only, I had never applied. I had thought this was a pretty clear cut issue, but I was wrong. Like many things in life, getting on this list without a Laurel is apparently a matter of who one knows, and/or how hard one is willing to promote oneself.

One of the things that came up on the list, and which I have heard folks discuss elsewhere, is *modesty.* One good gentle said that "modesty, however merited, is not a survival trait." I guess my not getting on the list before now is sort of a case in point, I hadn't put myself on their radar by applying, and so didn't get on before now. (I was invited to join by someone who vouched for me and my work, which was a lovely surprise!)

Modesty is a double-edged sword; if one doesn't put themselves forward, no one ever notices them, but putting oneself forward can be seen as, well, being too *forward.* No one wants to be the doormouse, but no one wants to be thought arrogant either.

Many folks don't offer to teach, or enter A&S competitions 'because they/their work isn't good enough.' Hey - your class might not get a standing ovation, but I have never been to a class and thought that the teacher should just shut up and go home; I have ALWAYS gotten something out of the classes I have attended, even if the teacher had never taught before. Enthusiasm for a subject goes a VERY long way, and many experienced teachers have, unfortunately, lost it through repitition...

Entering A&S competitions is tough. I avoid competition wherever possible, but how else can I get my work *seen*? I have entered exhibitions, where they have had them, but even then, I, like many others, fear being judged (even unofficially) and found wanting. Someone may think this is my being modest, but is it modest to honestly not find one's work worthy of presentation?

We are all our own worst critics, I know. Folks tell me that my work is decent, but... Yes, I want it seen, so I can get some feedback on it, but it still scares me. (I have gotten over my stagefright teaching or presenting something verbally, since I know I can guage the audience as perform, and adjust accordingly; not so much for a static piece on a display table, documentation neatly typed in a folder.)

Frank Llyod Wright is quoted as having said that he prefered "honest arrogance to hypocritical humility," and many folks who are honest about their level of work get chided for false modesty, but others who actively show their work/knowledge get called arrogant and worse.

The good gentles on the list didn't seem to have any pearls of wisdom to share on navigating this other than to just walk the sword - be honest about one's ability and experience, and take the lumps where they fall.

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Small beginnings...


I'm all about the baby steps. I want to try 50 new things over the next eight years, but how much 'trying' will make it count for me?

I figure this is up to me, the individual challenger, for each new task. I would LOVE to try lampworking in the period style, now that I have done it with modern MAPP gas torches, but I still counted my experience towards my goal.

Other things though? I don't know if weaving on my mini-warp weighted loom is going to count as one of my things, or just the beginning of one; weaving being one of my foci in the SCA. Likewise, I am currently tailoring my first shift to fit my unequal height shoulders (I got stuck being born), but probably won't say I have done tailoring until I have done an overdress as well.

But these distinctions are *strictly mine.* I think that the 8 people that I have introduced to drop spinning since May 1 could easily count that as a new thing for them, even though they only spun about 5 feet each. They may each want to do more before they really feel that they have 'tried' it though - as far as their interest and curiosity takes them is as far as they should go!

Not much progress on either my Challenge or the Laurel List this week, since I've been down with a bad cold since getting home from an incredibly relaxing time at Coldwood's Opening of the Inne; good food, better friends, and my Scadian home away from home. No classes, no court, lots of kids and dogs running about on the list after the fighters retired to the Inne.

Good times, even in the rain...

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June 15, 2007



Here I am, six weeks into my challenge, and this post has just garnered its *very first comment!* Hurray! Thank you for reading!

Actually, I *know* that folks are reading - my counter reads at over 350 hits, and they aren't -all- me. ;)

Really, folks, I'd love to hear what you think about all this, or how you found my site, or that I should put my energy into global peace or *whatever.*

If you don't want your thoughts immortalized in the blogosphere, you can drop me a line at instead. I won't say a word, honest!

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June 11, 2007

Official class listings incl Pensic


No one showed up for my A&S 50 session at Midsommer's this past weekend in the Barony of Stonemarche (NH), but I taught three little girls how to drop spin (= 8! Maybe I should try to get 50 people spinning!) during the timeslot, and I had several students for my keyhole neckline class, which went well!

I don't think it was much of a factor (if any) this weekend, but my classes were listed at Troll, and not in the official list either online or in the site handout. Many new teachers don't hear that folks are looking for teachers until late in the process, and then don't get their offerings in the official listings, and then, if few (or none!) show up for their classes, it can be a bit of a blow, and make them less likely to offer to teach again in future.

It seems that most of these calls for teachers only go out on the A&S specific lists, and, while it makes sense to ask those folks too, this leaves out the large majority of gentles who know something and may be willing to teach, but aren't on those lists for whatever reasons.

Yes, it would be more work to post these calls for teachers to the local Shire and Barony lists, but A) it could get more attention from prospective teachers and B) it could drum up conversation about A&S activities planned for your event on the local boards, likely leading to increases in attendance at whatever eventually gets scheduled.

Let me be clear though - I completely understand that some folks just CAN'T get their offers to teach in soon enough to be 'in the book' for a given event; just this last weekend for Midsommer my classes weren't in the book because I didn't know until too late that my husband would indeed have the weekend off from work.

Likewise, peoples' Pensic plans are often not firmed up until FAR after the May deadline to have their class offerings listed in the Pensic book. I have taught at every war I have attended (12? 13?) and I have NEVER been in the book, and this year will be no exception!

Classes added after the book goes to print have always been listed at the A&S booth at War, and in the daily newspaper (The Pensic Independant), but I have often missed hearing about a class until it is too late, and I try to keep myself informed of such things! What is a heatstroked/soggy Scadian to do?

Well, Master Asim, the Coordinater for Pensic University this year has classes posted online at the Pensic University site AND, best of all, *they will be updated with new additions about every two weeks until War!!!*

This means that I can still sign up to teach, and it can still be added to the list that many folks will be printing out before war so that they can schedule their activities during the often long drive. Not as good as being 'in the book', but a BIG improvement, and available before one gets to Troll!

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June 08, 2007

Multiple Points of Access


I'm a high school teacher mundanely, and one of the things I've learned is the importance of giving my students a way into the information; meeting them where they are, and giving them guideposts on how to get to where I need them to be. This is called having multiple points of access - many doors into the information.

Most of the SCA oldtimers I know (and a Duchess recently called me one of them - yikes!) like to make their garb 'more period.' Some newer folks are interested in the archaeologal evidence for this or that, but others just want to meet the requirement to wear something other than mundanes and get on with the game. Those folks start with loaner garb, and eventually make a few t-tunics. Good for them; sewing *at all* isn't a skill that many people have these days. T-tunics, period or not, are often a newcomer's first foray into SCA A&S.

Much of my purpose with this challenge is to build bridges between where people are, and where they might want to go. Fighter types know that practice pays off. Service types can, as Master Liam St. Liam so succinctly puts it 'carry stuff.' A&S types have a steeper curve, and few handholds along the way - we don't often see the Laurelate just hanging out in their kit, welcoming all to impromptu training sessions, and, even then, it is a big jump from a t-tunic to, well, anything else.

Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that folks can make a t-tunic, but they have trouble making what they feel are *nice looking* t-tunics, and their biggest issue seems to be with their necklines.

It might sound a little odd, but I consider giving someone the skillset to create a decent looking neckline to be opening the doors of A&S to them (like a gateway drug, but in a good way!) If someone can make a nice looking t-tunic, they often feel the confidence to try something that they feel is more complex, whether it actually is or not.

So, since lots of early period garb calls for a keyhole neckline, I'm working up a class on sewing keyhole necklines. They seem to intimidate and confuse lots of people (including a baroness I know), but really aren't all that difficult, as long as one pays attention. I'm presenting it this weekend at Midsommers in Stonemarche, and I'll let you know how it goes.

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June 07, 2007

History Lesson


I have always liked history, but, like many teenagers, much of what I learned in high school spilled out of my brain onto my final exam, and that was that.

Being in the SCA, I have learned much about history, but in a very scattered way - this dress pattern from then, that calligraphic hand from there, etc. I have learned what goes with which *culture* but really need to learn to connect the dots across the European continent and beyond.

So, I decided to hit the books. Names and dates are important, but they are just more dots, and I needed LINES; HOW things connect, and WHY.
Norman F Cantor's The Civilization of the Middle Ages seems to be fitting the bill; I'm about 20% through it, and I'm actually finding it hard to put down!

I've been reading about the tangled influences of Roman politics on the early Christain church, and about how Germanic legal practice set the stage for the later British Parliament. The man actually knows how to write so I want to read - I'm enjoying getting educated!

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June 05, 2007

Technological blues and EKU


I'm having trouble converting my paper handouts (tapestry technique and pre-1300 weave structures) into downloadable PDFs, but I'll get it eventually. Meanwhile, the Laurel List has had its own technological issues, including having to switch database software *after* having input all the names and dates of elevation I had available (243 of them); at least the names converted over from Open Office to Microsoft Works, and I finished re-inputting the dates this morning.

This blog might not be showing it, but lots of work is going on behind the scenes!

EKU this last weekend in the brand new shire of Wyndhame (Southern Vermont) was small, but *lovely*. Lots of one-on-one time with teachers, and the chance to dig in up to our elbows on hands-on activities. I went to classes on Anglo-Saxon pottery, A&S documentation for competitions, and peer-student relationships, and taught a class on pre-1300 weave structures (Class tally = 3), and held a brainstorming session with Erlan on A&S 50.

And (drumroll please) I tried something new (New things = 1)! Erlan taught a class on lampworking, and I actually got to play with molten glass and made two beads! (Insert picture here soon! Must... find... camera...) Now I just really want to know how they made beads in period... since I somehow doubt they had MAPP gas!

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June 01, 2007

Laurel List


I've been having some really interesting conversations lately about information exchange in the SCA, and one of the things that I have noticed is that there is this HUGE Laurel network out there, but unless one HAS a Laurel (ie, is an apprentice) one doesn't have any access to it (or even know who is out there), and the wealth of information they possess.

So... I went searching. I found the East Kingdom Mugshot Gallery , which is terrific (and has pictures!), but it only lists a few dozen folks. I haven't had a chance to see if such a thing exists for other Kingdoms yet.

Based on all of this, I am compiling my OWN Laurel List - who folks are, their home shire, their time period/culture, their specialties and any classes they regularly teach, and their apprentices (and THEIR specialties). The SCA is very much a WHO you know organization, and since the WHO often leads to the WHAT, I'm hopeful this list will be a good resource for linking up teachers/mentors and potential students.

Know a Laurel or are YOU a Laurel? Tell me about it, and I'll get them on my list! I'm just taking notes for now, but I'll get my data into a database as we go...

Another idea I had (and which apparently happens in other Kingdoms as a 'meet and greet') is a Laurel's Trunk Show - basically give Laurels about 30-60 minutes each to show their stuff, and talk about what they are working on. I see this as having two purposes: it would give the Laurelate the chance to show/talk about what they have been up to lately, and it would let the audience see who is who and doing what, and generally be inspired. A whole track at an event like this would be grand, but just a single timeslot at an EKU or Collegium would be amazing.

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My Challenge Tally through Pantheria XII


Ok, ok, no pictures, since I forgot to take any, and no new articles this week since I've been too busy getting my class together for EKU (pre-1300 weave structures). I WILL post pdfs of my tapestry handout, my weave structures handout, and the as-yet uncreated handout on nursing and baby garb/care in the SCA, but they will all have to wait until next week. Sorry!

I need to keep tabs on my Challenge progress though, since I'm officially making progress!


  1. Tapestry techniques at Pantheria XII
  2. Garb for Nursing and Babies at P XII

(I am not counting kids A&S that I am just back up on, and no A&S 50 sessions)

Garb: (not including retrofits or alterations) **Pictures to come when I get them out of the laundry!**

  1. new fighting pants for my husband (he looks much better now!)
  2. baby - purple Eura dress (a conjectured design that uses every inch of fabric and looks great - gores from ankle to wrist, and sleeves that form the neckline!)
  3. baby - green semi-Eura (I made gores from ankle to wrist, but regular sleeves)
  4. baby- beige/white stripe dress with tan yoke
  5. baby- beige/white stripe dress with tie closure
  6. baby- salmon linen-blend tabard
  7. baby- green plaid-front shift to match Daddy

New things:

.... nada. I taught five folks who had never spun before how to use a drop spindle, just informally in camp, though, and held my first A&S 50 session (and I do another one tomorrow), which went very well, so all is good. Plus, I got a handout on a Cloisonne class I didn't have time to attend, and hope to try it out someday. For those that don't know, that is the glass on metal technique that makes all of the cool medallions they hand out in court! Hurray!

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May 24, 2007

First Camping Event Frenzy!


I did not forget to post this week - I am just really busy getting ready for our first camping event of the season, and our first ever with children. Next week I'll have several posts for you to make up for it; on how the toddler garb I have made (six garments and counting) stands up, how the garb I have made and retrofitted for nursing works out, and the info shared at the roundtable I am hosting on Pregnancy, Nursing, and Babies in the SCA, plus I'll upload my Intro to Tapestry Techniques handout to my website for you to peruse, and I'll let you know how the first A&S50 gathering went!

Am I forgiven yet? ;)

What if I say I'll post a bunch of pictures too? My usual bribe/thank you is chocolate chip cookies, but I don't think broadband can carry them - yet!

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May 16, 2007

Class Coordinators


One of my personal challenges is to teach 50 classes, but, to do so, I need venues for my classes. The Good Gentles who coordinate classes, be they for demos or Kingdom Universities, are the heroes of the A&S world. I have three stories for you about their trials and tribulations:

I regularly teach at local events and Pennsic, but somehow I have never taught at a Kingdom University. I somehow had it in my head that the roster would be full of Laurels, and that the Chancellor would have no use for me; she asked me "are you KIDDING?", and that she would love to have me teach; it seems she doesn't have enough teachers! I am thrilled. We will see if she and my students are thrilled *after* my classes!

A local Lady is running a Collegium here in the fall, and I certainly hope that I can fill some teaching hole in her schedule. HER problem is that folks aren't telling her what they want to learn. Sometimes I know what I want to study, and can ask for it, but other times I see a class listed on the schedule and think "wow - I'd LOVE to learn that!" (One of the best classes I ever attended was completely on this kind of whim; all about folding letters in period appropriate ways; sort of like European origami with words! Even better? It was taught in persona! Hurray!)

Lastly, I have caused a MAJOR headache for the class coordinator of a Royal Progress we have coming up; I have become a scheduling nightmare. I consider myself a very adaptable and accomodating person generally (don't laugh!), but having a family is apparently changing that. Trying to coordinate things so that my husband can fight and my kids can always have a parent available AND I can teach more than one class is proving to be a real tangle, and *I'm* not the one trying to juggle the schedule! I really hope that the coordinator decides that my classes are worth the hassle I have caused her!

In summary,
* Let folks know what you are interested in and want to learn about; maybe your interest will be just the kick in the pants someone needs to get them to teach for the first time or to prepare a new class to meet your need

* Volunteer to teach, even if you haven't done it before, and even if you aren't an 'expert' on the subject. You you could host a roundtable, and create an opportunity for folks to share their experiences and knowledge with each other.

* People do have legitimate scheduling conflicts, but please be as accomodating as possible as to when and where you teach; not everyone can have the best room or time, and sometimes teaching means missing classes you would like to attend as a student, but, if everyone was super fussy, there wouldn't be many classes to attend in the first place. Offer to NOT teach if meeting your scheduling needs is becoming a real headache to the coordinator.

And, lastly, gentles usually thank the teacher of their classes, but not often the person who arranged for them; say thank you (or make a toast at feast, or write a letter to the Royals) for the efforts of your Class Coordinators. Even better: volunteer to be Class Coordinator yourself; offer to apprentice to someone, then take on a small event or series of workshops in your local group, you'll be helping to create learning opportunities for everyone!

Thank you Class Coordinators!

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May 13, 2007

Warp Weighted Loom


Somehow, in all my years of weaving, I have never woven on a warp weighted loom. I've woven on backstraps and two beams (primitive/early period looms), and on countermarches and Jacquards (fancy modern stuff), but never on the standard loom of North Western Europe, during early SCA period; my period.
Obviously, this needs rectifying. Part of my taking on the 50 New Things challenge is being able to afford it; therefore I made the little loom you see here from twigs from my overgrown suburban backyard. It is only about 15 inches tall (you can see my baseboard in the background), but I ought to be able to do some nice sampling on it when I am done; hopefully enough to make some nice pouches and maybe even sleeves for my girls.

For those of you who haven't tried weaving before, the biggest issue is keeping the warp threads (the ones that you set up first, and run the long way down a piece of fabric) evenly tight; if they aren't evenly tensioned, it is really hard (ig not downright impossible) to create smooth weaving, and some types of weaving (like tapestry) just won't work at all. On most looms, tensioning each thread equally is done by lots of trial and error, and is a real headache.
Warp weights tension small groups of threads (which still need to be tensioned equally within their groups) by using *gravity* to keep the groups even. Basically, one ties weights (soapstone or clay on big looms, but I used brass weights and lampworked beads on this one) to groups of warps and let gravity hold them down.
One can always thread the horizontal thread (called the weft) by counting over and unders and moving a needle, bobbin or shuttle loaded with the weft under and over the appropriate threads, but a faster way of not having to count the same patterns over and over again is calls for a heddle. A heddle is basically a stick that separates warp threads into groups; when lifted it picks up all of the threads that one needs to go under *at the same time,* making it much easier to pass one's bobbin under, and weave quickly. Several heddles can be used together, so that one can alternate which threads one goes over and under on each pass. Complicated arrangements of heddles allow one to create complicated patterns in one's weaving.
Some kinds of looms simplify this process by having what is called a 'natural shed.' The 'shed' is the space created by a heddle, between groups of threads, where one passes one's bobbin through to create the weaving. As one switches heddles (sometimes called harnesses), one creates different sheds. When a loom, in its normal position, has one group of warps separated from another so they form a shed, this is called a natural shed. On a warp-weighted loom, some of the threads hang straight down the back of the loom, while the others are kept in front of the bottom beam of the loom (the horizontal twig at the bottom of my loom above.) The space created between the groups is the natural shed; I don't need to do anything to create a space between them where I can pass my bobbin.
I DO need a heddle on my warp weighted loom though, and that is where I have run into problems. Since I need to be able to pull those warps hanging down to the back of the loom to the front to create a shed there (so I can go under them as well as over them), I need a heddle with strings that can reach the back of the loom. I can figure out how to do this, but I also want to be able to take this loom to events and not end up with it in tangles, so I need to make it snarl-resistant. That's my quandry, and I'll let you know how it goes.
(As soon as I have this sorted, I want to do some weaving, obviously, but then I want to do a little experimental archeology; warp weights on a horizontal loom, which have been done before, and warp weights thrown up over the top of the loom, so that one can actually start one's weaving at the BOTTOM; which would make tapestry weaving on it much easier. Needless to say, I have my work cut out for me. Good thing I have eight years to figure it out.)
You can see some good images of warp weighted looms here, where several New Zealanders have kindly shared their extensive experimentation with us. They have some nice illustrations of parts of the loom and the natural and created sheds about a third of the way down their site.
Note to more industrially inclined gentles: want to make a friend for life? Carve a weaver some loom parts, or make them some warp weights from either soapstone or clay. The only trick to making loom weights is that they have to be the SAME weight.

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Sharing the discovery process


At our local A&S gathering yesterday, we discussed how so many SCAdians work on something neat and new in solitude, or with just the advice of a mentor, and then 'unveil' their work to the Known World. I am all for the grand moment, and certainly the artists in question deserve that moment, but wouldn't it sometimes be fun to share the process of discovery with others who might be interested too?

I have been compiling a list of things I want to try as part of my 50 New Things challenge, and I plan to let folks in my area know when I am doing something, so they can come join me, if they want to.

Talking about period 'aqua' has some of us planning a communal dye day for example. We could have each done our own, but it would be more expensive (for those who lack dye pots, etc), less likely to get as many people involved (it is easier to go to a scheduled thing than to motivate oneself), and, lastly and most importantly, it will be both more fun and more educational to do it together. I am really looking forward to it!

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May 07, 2007

Maypole Directions


'Against May, Whitsunday, or other time, olde men and wives, run gadding over-night to the woods, groves, hills and mountains, where they spend all night in pleasant pastimes; and in the morning they return, bringing with them birch and branches of trees, to deck their assemblies withal. ... But the chiefest jewel they bring from thence is their May-Pole, which they have bring home with great veneration. ... They have twentie or fortie yoke of oxen, every oxe having a sweet nose-gay of flowers placed on the tip of his hornes, and these oxen drawe home this May-Pole (this stinking Ydol, rather), which is covered all over with floures and hearbs, bound round about with strings, from the top to the bottome, and sometime painted with variable coulours, with two or three hundred men, women and children following it with great devotion. And this being reared up ... then fall they to daunce about it, like as the heathen people did at the dedication of the Idols, wereof this is a perfect pattern, or rather the thing itself. I have heard it credibly reported (and that viva voce) by men of great gravitie and reputation, that of forty, threescore, or a hundred maides going to the wood over-night, there have scarcely the third of them returned home againe undefiled.' Phillip Stubbes in his "Anatomie of Abuses", 1583

Such was the late-SCA period view of the Pagan custom of Maypoles, and so it was apparently banned in many areas of Britain during the 16th century.

Good thing we recreate the time before that (Maypole dances began in the British Isles either before or during Roman occupation), since I *love* a good Maypole Dance!

I ran another one this last weekend, and thought others might like to know how, so here are directions!

RIBBONS: White and Red are traditional colors (birth and death), but you can choose your own. Just make sure the colors contrast so the weave shows up nicely. I make mine from 8-10 yards of 36" muslin (for a 15-20 foot pole). I split it down the middle, and throw half of it in the dyepot (1/3 bottle of RIT works well, and takes about an hour - follow the directions). Then I cut it into one inch wide ribbons (by folding it into one yard long sectiions and using a rotary blade.)

** Tricky Math: You need one ribbon per dancer, and need an odd number of dancers for each color of ribbon. (x=2y where x is the total number of dancers, and y is an odd number) That means you need 6, 10, 14, 18, 22, 26, or 30 dancers (keep adding 4 for more dancers), otherwise the weave WILL NOT WORK.

I recommend rolling your ribbons and securing them with rubber bands until in the hot little hands of the dancers, otherwise they will get **very** tangled.

POLE: Choose a straight, dead tree (so as not to cut live wood) about 15-20 feet tall, and no more than about 4 inches wide at the base. Trim side branches as close to the trunk as possible, and cut off any remaining roots. Haul to site of dance.

DANCE AREA: For 20-30 people, and a pole 15-20 feet tall, you will need a clear circle about 20 feet across. Soft soil or sand are preferable substrates. If you MUST do this inside (::shudder::) you can sometimes fit a shorter tree in a Christmas Tree stand, but you may want to place rocks on the legs to stabilize it.)
Dig your hole about 12 inches deep, but DO NOT put the pole in yet. Instead, place the TOP of the tree over the hole.

RIBBON RING: You CAN tie the ribbons to the pole directly, but I find that this just isn't worth it. I use a 2+ inch metal ring (you can use shower rings, macrame rings, napkin holders, horse tack, whatever will fit over the top of your tree with at least a 1/2 inch to spare to allow for knots). Unwind each of your ribbons about 12", and tie their ends to the ring, alternating red and white, then take the ring to the top of the tree, and secure it (I usally use another piece of fabric for this, but rubber bands work as well. CAREFULLY unfurl your ribbons so that they will be within reach when the pole is erected.

ERECTING THE POLE: (Yup, this is *supposed* to be phallic. May Day/Beltain is a fertility festival, after all. The pole is the male, the hole in the soil the female. You do the math about what the dancing represents.) Get your tallest person to stand over the hole, and line others along the tree to walk it up into position (use all males/male energies for this if you can). Tamp down the soil around the base of the now erected tree, and place stones or even a large person around the base to stabilize it (insert memories of Thorson holding 'his' pole here... lol).

DANCING: Assemble your two times an odd number of dancers. You can distribute ribbon colors by gender, if desired (white for female, red for male), but make sure that you have an odd and same number of each. Have dancers unfurl ribbons to a comfortable length (an extra can be kept in the hand), and stand alternating red and white around the circle. Have white dancers (ribbons, not race) face clockwise, and red dancers face counterclockwise. Each dancer should now be facing someone else with the opposite color ribbon. If you do not have enough dancers for all of your ribbons (but remember the math), simply cut those ribbons off, or allow them to hang down and be covered by the weaving to come; I do the latter, so late comers can join us (in groups of four to keep the math right).

Do not worry that the top of your pole is a complete tangled disaster, as this is to be expected. Get your drummers to start a tune with a nice steady beat, or clap for them in rhythm, as it really does help prevent traffic jams. Have the white dancers step to their lefts/the outside of the circle, and hold their ribbons high, while the red dancers pull their ribbons towards themselves and dance under the arm of the white dancer facing them. Everyone stands up, and does the opposite of what they just did; red steps out, and white ducks under. Continue until you have woven the ribbons down to about waist height, and tie them off (tie red to the white next to it, with the knots up close to the tree). Congratulate each other and thank your drummers and count how many nicely woven INCHES you have accomplished (I sometimes get 4-5 feet of nice weaving, but I've been leading these for a LONG time.)

If you have a nice straight pole, you can sometimes slide the knot right off the top of the pole. If not, either let it rot, or get a friendly neighborhood Pagan to burn it at Halloween/Samhain, according to custom (fertility gets burned and returned to the soil at the end of the harvest). Do NOT cut the weaving off, unless you HAVE to use the pole for something else, since undoing the weaving undoes the good fertility juju created by the dancing.

I hope this helps, and I'd love hear about your experiences!

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May 01, 2007

Dyeing FYI


My quest for Bayeux 'Aqua' is leading me a merry round, but I am finding some good dyeing resources that I thought I'd share: (Please suggest additions!)

Thora Sharptooth on Viking dyes
If you have a Viking persona and haven't yet discovered Thora's site, get your head out of the sand, good gentle. Here she lists plants known to be used in textiles available to Vikings between 800 and 1066 CE. She also reports that current thought is that regional color preferences prevailed in Viking lands, with reds predominating in the Danelaw, purples in Ireland, and blues and greens in Scandinavia proper. Also, that while flax doesn't usually take plant dyes well, woad apparently works wonders, and much blue linen may have in use.

An Educator's bag of classroom dyeing experiments makes me wish that I had had a teacher this interesting. This is NOT your usual dumbed-down chemistry in the classroom lesson, but rather contains some really useful looking step-by-step instructions, with explanations, on using a variety of dyestuffs, both medieval and Native American.

The Dye Woorkes by Drea Leed includes period dye recipes translated from many languages. She even gives the untranslated version of the recipes.

Dyes in History and Archeology
lists presentations given at meetings of this chemistry oriented group. A real treasure trove for those who want to chase elusive data across the web. Lots of tantalizing hints about period paints as well.

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And so I begin...


May 1, Beltane, has arrived, and, with it, AS 42. In theory, for the next eight years, I will try something new, on average, every 60 days.

I had thought that I would start with something I have more recent familiarity with, something relatively tidy and useful, something that wouldn't require me to spend any money right off the bat; I *thought* I'd be starting with making an illuminated scroll blank to send off to the Tiger Signet (East Kingdom scroll manager). I will probably still do this over the next couple of months, but it looks like it is going to be sharing the stage, at least sometime soon...

It looked innocent at first. A good gentlewoman has made a new cloak, and posted to our local list, wanting to know if aqua/teal was a period (13th cent Celt) color to use for her embroidery. I responded that an end-of-the-dyebath woad might be a more period choice. Another gentle questioned my dismissal of teal as period, citing the Bayeux tapestry. My first foray into images showed this UK link , and I thought she was onto something. Then I saw this, from the Frieze book , and I wasn't so sure. Not only is the aqua not aqua in the second image, but tunics seem to be completely different colors: reds swap with yellows and yellows swap with greens!

Not knowing what to do with this, but still in search of evidence of Northern European aqua dyed wool, I think I am going to have to hit the dyepot myself, with weld (yellow), madder (orangey red), and woad (Braveheart blue). This will be dredging my memory, messy, smelly, potentially toxic (since I'm going to need to play with mordants - the metal salts that make dyes bond with wool), and cost me some not-completely inconsiderable change since I have no supplies for it at all, and will hopefully be selling my garden (and the house that grows with it) before the end of the growing season, so I need to buy dyepot ready dyestuffs as well. Ah well.

In my websearching, I learned that there have been not only a number of recreations of the Bayeux Tapestry in many forms, (including paint, as the Shire of the Mountain Freehold helped with a few years past), but also new endings to replace the bit seemingly lost to ill-handling over the years.

Links to some of these endeavors include (please feel free to email me with additions):

Jan Messent's new ending (which she wrote "A Bayeux Tapetry Embroider's Story" about, currently out of print, from Madeira Press, UK. She also mentions naturally-dyed wools that they carry made by Renaissance Dyeing of Havorfordwest, but I unfortunately can't find any other info on these...)

Seagirt Tapestry a new rendition, made in the style of the Bayeux, depicting the history of the Shire of Seagirt, in the Kingdom of Antir

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April 30, 2007


We are familiar with pentathlons and decathlons in the SCA. It turns out that the word for an endurance event of 50 things would be called a quinquagintathlon.

I think that learning how to spell and say that could almost count as one of my 50 all by itself!

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April 29, 2007

Scribal Materials FYI


The roundtable I had planned for yesterday turned into more of a one-woman whirlwind through my materials. I thought I'd recap some of what I told the attendees, so that others might benefit:

Papers: obviously vellum or parchment (the real stuff, not the paper knockoff) would be grand, but grand comes at a price. I use Strathmore watercolor paper (90 lbs cold press), in both pads and sheets. I would NOT use Bristol board, since it is not chemically stable, and work I did on it 17 years ago is *already* degrading.


Cartridge: I love my Rotring set, but it cost me $50 US when I bought it 20 years ago, and the price has gone up since then. If you want a cartridge set (a good place to start), I would suggest the new Manuscript set that comes in a metal tin; I bought mine recently for $20 US. Both types of pens offer the alternative of a cartridge converter (basically a little siphon that allows one to use the non-clogging ink of their choice in one's cartridge pen), and the Manuscript set even comes with one. Nice bonus.

Dip: I am fairly new to dip pens. I have used copperplate pens (slightly post-period, to my knowledge) before, but have recently discovered the wonders of crow quills for outlining and defining my illumination work - NOT for calligraphy. I am pretty tough on my pens, so I opted for the extra stiff 107, instead of the standard 104. I love it, and have yet to have a splattering incident with it. Big plus here: including holder, it cost me $1.67 US just a few months ago.

Felt-tip: You couldn't make me use one of these if you paid me to; not even just for practicing a new hand. The drag of the nib across the paper, and the way the ink flows from the reservoir are just as much a part of learning a new hand as are the forms of the letters themselves. This is NOT a practice form worth trying, in my opinion. As far as using this type of pen exclusively, please just try to forget that such a possibility even exists - this would be akin to writing a scroll with a Sharpie. ::shudder::

Inks: I have tried many inks over the years, and have finally settled on Pelikan Black (their colored versions tend not to be light-fast, so I avoid them). This is a non-waterproof, non-clogging ink, and it works well in both my cartridge pens with a converter, and with my dip pens. Many waterproof black inks are lovely, but, personally, I find the constant struggle with inevitably clogged nibs to be a hassle.

Brushes: I use brushes made for acrylics for my gouaches; these are the ones with white plastic bristles. They are cheap (just a dollar or two US for a decent brush), and have one added benefit that I adore - I can see the color on my brush, and can tell thereby tell when I have gotten it clean. With water-soluable paints, this is NOT an insignificant thing; any paint residue left in my brush will combine with any new paint I put on my brush, and will change its color. Many scribes use a long number 10 brush (very skinny), but I prefer a wider brush whose tip I have bent to my exact personal angle; to each their own.

Paints: I use Windsor & Newton gouache, almost exclusively. Pricey, but worth it, since the depth of color is divine. I would recommend buying tubes separately, since not all of the colors in a set are ones are often used in period-style work. Jet black, ultramarine, and one of the whites (I'll let others fight about that, but I use zinc white without issue) are used throughout period, and form the core of my most used colors. I prefer early period work myself, so I have added yellow ochre, terre verte, alarizin red and crimson red (which I tend to mix since alar tends to be grainy, and crimson smooths *and* gives more of what the modern eye thinks of as red). For my terre verte, I am currently using Holbein gouache, which has a consistency more like acrylic paint, for those familiar with it. (Acrylics are plastic though, so don't even think about using them for scroll work, as they will peel and flake off.) Gum arabic can be added to any of the commercial gouaches to help with adhesion, if it becomes an issue.

Metal leaf: I am currently using Old World Art's imitation gold leafing kit, minus the sealant (toluene, in any form, is a NASTY solvent. I don't like cancer, and I don't like birth defects; I don't use it. Period.) My kit cost me $16 US when I bought it a few months ago, and came with 25 sheets of imitation gold leaf. Compare this with $50 US for 25 sheets of surface gold for the real stuff, with no sizing (adhesive) included. So far, so good, and it looks *far* better than any of the gold inks that I have tried. (I am looking for a good metalic gold paint for small areas post-painting though, if anyone can suggest something they have used with success. Edit: The East Kingdom Scribe's guide from 2004 suggests either Windsor & Newton or Pelikan metallic gold gouache.)

Other useful tools:

Paint wells: There are many period pieces showing paints in clamshells. This is lovely, and I will try this for looking better at events, but at home I use the little plastic caps off of insulin needles (not the long skinny orange ones, but the squat white ones); they are about 2 cm tall and 1 cm wide, and have a nice stable base on them, so they stand up well. I use a wide-mouth syringe (pilfered from my old chem lab) to put 2-3 drops of water into each cap about 10 minutes before I think I'll need them, and find that my pigments are nicely hydrated by the time I get to them. A few small mixing trays are useful as well, since I like to be able to see my pigments as I am mixing them up, and it is always a good idea to mix as much pigment as you think you will need for a given job (water-soluable paints can ALWAYS be reconstituted, but color matching is not as easy as it sounds).

Rulers and Shields: I like the gridded-off, see-through rulers made for quilting, as I can be assured that I am both aligned and working at right angles. I also use an old-school erasing shield (thin piece of metal with bits cut out) to help me erase stray pencil markings (or to frustratingly take out stray ink with a razor blade); my students this weekend, being from the post-word-processer era, had never seen such a thing, and marvelled at it. Proof positive that whatever's old will become new again!

Marking and sketching: I use either a mechanical pencil or woodless pure graphite pencil to mark out the details of my designs pre-inking, but I mark out my overall guidelines and rules with an embosser (cheap and easy to find, due to the scrapbooking craze), in emulation of the way this was done in period. I rarely have to erase anything anymore, since I only use pencil under areas that are going to be painted over anyway. Hurray!

* * *

Do you have other suggestions of things that have worked well for you? Please share them in a comment to this post, and please include how you used them, as varying contexts lead to varying results. Prices and links to sources would be divine, if you have those as well. Thank you!

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April 27, 2007

Scribal Resources FYI


I'm running a roundtable at Johnson College tomorrow, and thought I'd post some good scribal links here for folks to reference. I'll come back and add any great, new links I hear about.

The Morgan Library includes an *amazing* collection of high-resolution images from medieval manuscripts. You can look images up by era, provenance, or subject. Wow, wow, wow.

Gutenburg School for Scribes An excellent intro to illumination work, with step by step instructions for the absolute beginner.

Kingdom of Atlantia Scribal Arts is a lovely collection of links to era-specific exemplars, SCA exemplars, and articles on both period tecniques and their application in the SCA. Lots to digest!

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Join me!


The 50th Anniversary of the SCA is a thing to celebrate, and I'd love to make my personal project into a community event. If you or your group would like to join me, welcome! You can comment here, send me links to your site to include here, etc, so we can best figure out how to give each other some support. (Want to get 50 gentles in a web ring?)

Anyway, if others join me, I'd love to create an online exhibition of our work, or maybe even a travelling show to all the Kingdoms, however many we have in AS 50!

No idea what to work on? Here are some other ideas other I had:

  • 50 scrolls or scroll blanks for your (or even another!) local group
  • 50 entries in A&S competitions
  • 50 hours of A&S service - to your guild, to helping newbies garb up, to making reports for your group, to research for folks in your Shire, at Herald's Point, etc.
  • 50 new pieces of music to perform
  • 50 dance performances
  • 50 new folks in your A&S network (from outside your Kingdom?)
  • 50 bundles of herbs for chefs to incorporate into their feasts
  • 50 new dishes/drinks to cook/brew/prepare
  • 50 new links on your local groups website to sites of interest
  • 50 Collegia and Kingdom Universities to attend (ambitious!)
  • 50 new style variations in your scribal/embroidery repetoire
  • 50 new pieces of armor to suit up your local army
  • 50 pairs of shoes to plug the most glaring hole in most gentle's garb
  • 50 classes to either attend or teach
  • 50 articles/books to write, read or translate
  • 50 gentles you answer A&S questions for!

I'd like to invite groups to create goals as well. Some of my ideas, beyond the above, include:

  • 50 new decorated panels for your camp enclosure for War
  • 50 pieces of garb to make/collect for Gold Key (borrowing)
  • 50 bardic circles to host or classes to offer
  • 50 pieces to enter in A&S shows
  • 50 ways in which to make one's Household more period

Other ideas gratefully accepted; who knows what your comments here might inspire? Can you imagine if groups all over the Known World started churning out period footwear? Or teaching more classes than ever? (I'd be in heaven!)

While I'm at it, I'd like to point out that many of these activities could just as easily be part of a project called "the Service 50," and that is deliberate. Our Dream is not a solitary one; and sharing of my skills, time and knowledge are some of the greatest gifts that I have ever *received.* Most Scadians act this way as a matter of course, and that is one of the things that has made the SCA what it is today, and will soon have been for 50 years!

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8+ years to go....


So I'd better get started!

I have set myself the challenge of 50 Arts and Sciences projects before the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism - look up if you have no idea what I'm talking about) turns 50 years old on May 1, 2015. It might sound like a really long lead time, but that averages out to one new project every 2 months, which means that I'll be busy!

The way I see it, this challenge can break down into Breadth and Depth:

  • Breadth: 50 projects in 50 different styles, disciplines, subjects, etc., or,
  • Depth: 50 of one kind of project, more or less alike.

The former really appeals to me, because, as a Jane (or Brunhilda) of all trades, I love trying something new. The latter also appeals to me, since I would love to really explore one art/skill in depth.

So, silly me, I think I'll do *both.*

  • I am going to try 50 NEW things. Some might be completely new disciplines for me (like I'd like to learn how to do some rudimentary celestial navigation), while others might just be a further development of a skill/knowledge that I already have (like I'd really like to try gold leaf illumination work with REAL gold leaf instead of imitation.)

  • I am going to make 50 NEW pieces of garb. My twin one year old daughters will likely get most of these as they grow, but hopefully my husband and I will get some new stuff out of it, and hopefully I'll clothe another gentle or two in the process as well.

  • I will also try to teach 50 SCA classes. I have taught a variety of subjects over the years, and really don't want to stop doing so, even though I now have the added considerations of mothering small children at events. Plus, trying to get all those classes into only 8 years means I might have to go back to Pennsic in that time just to get them all in. >:)

Fortunately I have a bit of a breather before May 1, 2007/AS 42, and my official start of this project. Too bad that my sewing today and my teaching tomorrow won't count...

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