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The award system sometimes brings out the worst in us

April 6, 2014

So here is another SCA related post with some thoughts on how things work in our society.
And this time my thoughts are related to our awards and what it sometimes does to us.
The whole thought with the awards is to encourage people to continue doing good things – to continue teaching, working so that we all can have fun, to continue fighting or archery or woodcarving – or whatever is your favorite SCA poison.
However – it is also easy to get blinded by it.
And to get to focused on it.

I know – it is easy for me to say that awards aren’t important – having a bunch of awards.
But here comes my question:
If you do things only for the awards – will you continue once you get the award?
Or once you have climbed all the steps and achieved the ultimate goal? When there is no more award to get?

To answer this question I think you need to ask yourself another question.
What if there weren’t any awards?
What would you be doing if there were no scrolls, no special bling and no cookies?
And I know – this is generalizing things a lot. Not all people hunt awards and sometimes one award can be really desired and will really make a whole lot of difference in someones motivation.
But from time to time I think it is healthy for all of us to stop and ask ourselves:
If there were no awards in the SCA – what would I do? Would I hold sewing meetings at my house? Would I volunteer to autocrat or to hold an office? Would I do bone carving or is it really textile arts that is my thing?
This could also be a good question to ask yourself when you are having an SCA low – because we all have those too.
If there wasn’t an award system and if we never got attention for what we were accomplishing, learning, doing or making – what would I find most fun? What is it that makes ME feel good about this hobby and what motivates me?
And the answers might not be the same every time you ask the question.
And our motivations might shift.
It is not always bad to want awards.
But when awards are the only thing that motivates you – I don’t think you will ever be satisfied or feel good about this hobby.

 

 

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Inspiration and plagiarism are two very different things

November 13, 2013

A short while ago I read a column from the New York Times with the title ”Slaves of the Internet, Unite”.
Being a journalist by profession and having many artist friends I know the subject of that column way to well.
Lots of writers and artists are asked to do original work for free and for what usually is called ”great exposure”.
This made me think a bit about the SCA too.
We have a wonderful way of sharing knowledge and helping each other find new sources and get more and new knowledge.
What gets me is the times when someone walks up to me or e-mails me and asks me to just hand over all my research.

And the reason they usually feel entitled to my research is because they have been asked to teach or they have been told they need to write up some documentation if they want to advance, and they really don’t know much about the subject because they have up to this point just been making pretty and lovely things but not really studied the field.
Their interest focus has been on making the items – not knowing how the items really were made, who used them and from what materials the items were made.
I am not saying this approach is wrong! Not everyone likes to do research.

Usually I don’t think the person asking me to hand over my research does it out of malice and I really think that they don’t understands what they are asking me to do.
I think we are so used to the sharing and helping in the SCA that we have lost parts of the respect for what goes in to doing the research.
Would you ever come up with the idea and offer to teach a class/hold a workshop on a subject that you have no or very little knowledge about at school or at work?
Would you ever – in the mundane world – ask someone else to write up your assignment to hand in to the teacher to get a grade?
I don’t think so. Unless you belong to the group of people that cut corners by plagiating someone elses work.
And if you are not ok with plagiarism in the mundane world – then you shouldn’t be ok with plagiarism in the SCA context.
Stealing is stealing. People will get upset.
Using someone elses research as a base for your own – that is ok. Just as it is in the mundane world.
But if you are not prepared to do some research on your own – don’t say yes to teaching a subject you do not know and don’t participate in A&S competitions where a proper documentation is required.

The internet and the possibility to google just about anything and have someone else give us all the answers have made many of us lazy and made us think that well what the heck – I’ll just google it. And in the SCA – we sort of google by going to the person we know that knows the most about a subject.
Don’t get me wrong. We should share and we should help each other in the SCA.
But to ask someone who has spent YEARS on researching a subject to hand over all the research so that you yourself don’t have to do any work and then use that material for your own advancement and teaching – that is plain rude.
Some of my own research comes from material that I have gotten by contacting museums to get articles sent to me in languages like Czech, Polish and German and that I then have spent time on translating. Not to mention what work went into actually finding out that there was material to ask for…

In my work as a journalist I have to rely on other peoples information to get the basic understanding of a subject – but when I write the article – I do my own original piece.
Or when I see some other newspapers layout that is brilliant – I can of course lend the idea – but then adapt it for other content that suits my newspaper. I do not just take the entire subject and layout and do the exact same thing.
Inspiration and plagiarism are two very different things.
And this is what I wanted to get to.
I happily share my handouts.
I have posted a link to my LibraryThing where people can see all the books I own (or they will soon when I get the time to add the rest of the books) and hence see what books I have used to do my research. I like owning the books so I have invested quite a lot of money in my research materials.
I also happily teach.
I can even tell people in what book they can find the information they are looking for.
What I do NOT do – is to do the research for them.
I do not make handouts for others.
I also won’t put together classes for others.

If you want me to comment on your handout, your lecture structure and what you plan to bring up in your lecture – I will happily comment and help.
But you have to do the work yourself.
In the end – you will feel great about what you have accomplished and on top of that – you will have shown those who have done research in the same field before you, that you understand the hard work they have done and that you value their help.
So this is my SCA take on how I do not do original work for free for others.
I can help you, show you in the right direction – but the reading and writing I will not do for you.

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We all come from somewhere

September 19, 2013

Yesterday I went through a box with old pictures. And I found photos of me in my early SCA days wearing some of my very first medieval clothing. And I thought it might be good to make a post about the fact that we all begin somewhere.
Most of us have started this hobby while young and quite often a poor student.
Sometimes it is hard for new young members to remember that those who wear fantastic dresses out of silks and woolens they can only dream of – have been in that exact same situation.
So here are some of my early day clothing. When I was a poor student and when books on medieval clothing were almost impossible to find and fabrics were not something you could order online… ;)

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This is me as Vicerine of Nordmark at Double Wars 1997. Picture was taken by Inger Iona Bladh.
I was 22 years old and studied Behaivioral Science at the University. The dress is made of a viscose/linen blend woven in some sort of vine pattern. I loved this dress! It was sewn on machine, had a rather long train and was laced in the back where I had put in about 60 metal eyelets. The belt was made of rough linen and I had sewn on parts of cheap necklaces that I took apart and I used gold colored rope like trim and some semi precious stones to bling it up. Oh and no underdress… :)

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This is a dress I made during the reign as Vicerine of Nordmark. The Viceroy had a matching outfit.
It is a heraldic dress with the nordmark arms (per pale azure and sable, a chevron argent) made out of satin cotton.
All edges of the dress (hem, neckline and sleeves) were embroidered with cotton floss – just simple rather large crosses – and in between the embroidered crosses here were semi precious stones attached. And then I had the tipets out of regular sheet cotton. Everything was machine sewn. And still no underdress. :) And the necklace I am wearing is a ”Robin of Locksley” cross that were rather popular when the Robin Hood movie with Kevin Costner was brand new… ;)

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This is my very first all linen dress! Having Polish parents I got access to some cheap linen from Poland.
A friend of mine (the very talented EvaJohanna), had a bodice pattern that we all absolutely adored. It was cut in one piece and in times when corset like bodices and skirts and big poofy shirts were the thing this pattern was really the roar! I was so happy when I was given the pattern and was allowed to use it by its creator! And I figured it could also work if it was cut open in the back instead – so this dress is the reverse of the one piece front laced bodice – it is backlaced instead. :) And I used it to make an Italian style dress for an event in the town of Varberg where there was going to be a Crown Tourney and all the girls from my home Shire decided that the theme would be white so we would all have white dresses.
Under the bust I wore a linen belt laced in the back and embroidered with glass pearls in shapes I had seen in illuminated manuscripts. This picture was most likely taken at Double Wars 1998.

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Double Wars 2000. I had moved away to study far away from my home Shire and I had also left the SCA. I started hanging out with a landsknecht re-enactment group and there everything had to be hand stitched. So This is me in my very first hand stitched landsknecht dress! At that time there were lots of ideas on how these dresses were constructed and most of those ideas were based on just trying to interpret woodcuts – and this was the result.
The dress is wool with raw silk behind the slashes in the skirt and the same raw silk is used in the jacket slashing and all was hand stitched with linen thread. I made hosen, a skirt, a shirt, a jacket, a slashed coif and a hat.
In 7 days.
I sewed all my time awake and slept possibly for 4 hours per night.

I do hope that this post puts a little perspective on development of the clothing in the SCA and also the fact that just because some people wear fancy dresses of expensive materials today, they might have started with polyester and cotton back when they were young and poor.
Now the access of information on medieval clothing was also very different and today the bar is much higher than it was back when I started playing, so new members of today most likely feel a lot more pressured to do accurate clothing than I did at the end of the 90’s.
But the bar is only so high as you set it yourself.

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Apprentice got elevated!

September 15, 2013

Last weekend, the 6:th of September, my apprentice Eva Grelsdotter was put on vigil by Their Majesties of Drachenwald to be elevated the next day for her art of cooking.
Of course this was all carefully prepared in secret by a lot of her friends and her husband to make sure that she got a perfect vigil and a perfect elevation. :)

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Eva in her vigil tent!

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The pies were made by Lady Sahra and Lady Åsa the evening before the vigil – and both recipes were carefully chosen from Evas own recipes! ;) We left space on the table for the gifts that Eva would get!

I can not even begin to express how happy I am for her and how proud I am of my very talented friend!
We gave her a laurel wreath as a vigil gift made by EvaJohanna Studios – another one of my very talented friends!

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Laurel wreath made by EvaJohanna Studios – known as Baroness Estrid in the SCA. Picture is also taken by her. She has a store on Etsy that I have linked to in this blog and she does take orders!

Evas vigil lasted until 3.30 in the morning and me and her husband escorted her from her vigil to get some rest.
In the morning we slept in and missed the Investiture of our new baronial couple which was a shame but the awesome and long vigil had really drained us of energy.
In the evening court Eva was elevated to the Order of the Laurel.
During that ceremony she was also given the scroll that I had illuminated for her and that Lady Magdalen carefully calligraphed!

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Illumination was based on the Neapolitan Luxury bible from 1360. The miniature shows Evas art to the left with a queen by a table and to the right is her vigil tent with a night sky since I know that Eva loves the night sky! I even checked in what phase the moon would be so it would match her vigil night.

If I would tell about everything that happened during the planning of her vigil and elevation and everything that happened at the event – this would make one really long blog post – so I will just end this little brag of my first apprentice who I am now proud to call my peer with a picture of us two together. After her elevation. :D

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Mistress Eva Grelsdotter and me – Meisterinne Katheryn Hebenstreitz! I also got the honor to speak for Eva as a laurel during her elevation ceremony. Something that I almost managed to do without starting to cry. But at the end of my speach – the tears of happiness came falling down … :) Picture taken by Mistress Lia de Thornegge.

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My new viking dress

June 24, 2013
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Me at Burg Ludwigstein in Witzenhausen, Germany, during the Drachenwald 20 Year Celebration in my new viking dress.

In March I decided I should finish the viking outfit I had started a rather long time ago by cutting out the under dress. Since the Kingdom of Drachenwald was having its 20 Year Celebration in June I figured that it would be nice to have something new for that occasion.
So from the beginning of March until the beginning of April I made an underdress from a herring bone twill natural linen, a dress out of a soft orange wool and an apron dress out of a naturally dyed and hand woven fabric that I got at Pennsic a few years ago. The weaver of the fabric has her own online store and you can find it here.
It turned out that I had bought a little bit to little of the hand woven fabric so a friend of mine who dyes and weaves offered to sell me a piece of a green fabric so that I would be able to keep the apron dress as naturally dyed and hand woven as possible. :)
The seams of the apron dress were then embroidered with Ösenstitch which is what in modern time is known as Vandyke stitch.
I used a naturally dyed filament silk that a friend of mine had dyed to pick up the orange from the dress. To cover the seam where I joined the purple and green fabrics after the apron dress turned out a bit short I learnt how to make viking whip cord and for that I used the same wool yarn as I used for the tablet woven band at the top of my apron dress and at the bottom of the sleeves on the orange dress.
At the top of the apron dress I wove a round band directly onto the fabric with a rigid heddle with the same wools as for the tablet weaving and whip cord. This saved some of the length of the dress as well since I didn’t have to hem the upper part of the apron dress.
The shoulder straps for the apron dress were sewn out of the same fabric as the majority of the apron dress. All linen was hand sewn with linen thread and all wool was hand sewn with silk thread.

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The underdress fabric and one of the seams.

The pattern I use for the linen underdress and this dress is very simple. Back and front are cut straight at the top and from the waist it starts flaring out to the hemline. I cut the front and back open in the middle and insert a gore. The sleeves are straight pieces that gets narrower towards the wrist. And I use square gores in the armpits.

The pattern I use for the linen underdress and this dress is very simple. Back and front are cut straight at the top and from the waist it starts flaring out to the hemline. I cut the front and back open in the middle and insert a gore. The sleeves are straight pieces that gets narrower towards the wrist. And I use square gores in the armpits.

 

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The cut of the apron dress. I use a 4 piece pattern that is from a Swedish website called Historiska Världar. Once cut out I still fit it so that it gives a nice silhouette.

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Before weaving the rounded braid onto the top of the apron dress I did a small practice piece just to figure out how the fabric and weaving behaves.

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The ösenstitch on the seams of the apron dress were made with naturally dyed filament silk.

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The top of the apron dress with the round woven edge and the very simple tablet woven band attached right to the rounded band.Image

After the basic dress was all done I wanted to make a front panel with lots of embellishments to make it suitable for such a big occasion as the 20 year celebration of my Kingdom.
Last summer we had bought a bunch of filament silk that we were going to dye. Now it turned out to be rather complicated to get all girls interested in the silk project in one spot so it ended up with our lovely dyeing godess doing all the work for us…
I created a pattern using some bits of the embroideries from the Mammen finds, and then I found inspiration for a vikingish Pelican and laurel wreath online and altered it to suit me.
I used split stitch for this embroidery. Now – I know that most of the Mammen finds are done with stem stitch but for some odd reason my hands refuse to make a neat stem stitch. Split stitch is also one of the oldest stitches and since my hands seem to be able to make that one – I chose to just roll with what I can make look nice. :)
The embroidery took about 3 weeks from start to finish. I had quite a lot of days off from work during that time but unfortunately I never bothered to write up all the hours.
Once the embroidery was done I moved on to learn how to make the posament decorations.
These decorations are almost exclusive to Birka and even there they are rather rare.
I had found a few websites mentioning them but there were no tutorials to be found.
I will mention the posaments only briefly here since the handout for the class I taught on the subject at Drachenwald 20 year Celebration is posted under the section for Documentation on this blog.
What I did was to look at pictures of the finds from Birka which can be found in this section of the Historical Museum in Stockholms website as well as the pictures on silberknoten.de
I
 stared at the pictures and tried and failed and tried and failed until I got it!
There was a lot of cursing in different languages – but finally I managed to figure it all out!
I ended up making 4 roundels that went on the embroidered piece, an edge decoration at the bottom of the front panel, a double threaded piece for the tablet woven band I put on my veil to use as decoration and a tie and two pieces that I put under some more of my tablet weaving at the top of the front panel. You can pretty much see my learning curve on the posament since I put everything I made on the outfit not wasting anything no matter how uneven it was.
Once the embroidery was sewn on to he panel I made some more whip cord to put as outline of the embroidered piece and I also used whip cord for the two small loops that are needed at the top to hang the front panel from the brooches.

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The last piece of posament that I made and that went on the tablet woven band of my veil/head wear.

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The front panel with embroidery, posament and tablet weaving but I hadn’t made the whip cord yet when I took this picture so that was still added to cover the seams where I attached the embroidered red wool. The front panel is made out of a dark purple wool. The green band is the tablet weaving I made for my veil and after this picture was taken it was put at the front edge of my head wear and the ends of the bands are used to tie the veil to my head.

So the final thing I did was to weave myself a belt. I had already started a rams horn patterned belt at one point but then I messed it all up and gave up. However my weaving godess friend was just about to publish a book on tablet weaving from the Finnish iron age that she co authored with a friend and she needed to practice her teaching in English and was kind enough to give me a pattern from the book before it was even printed so that she got to practice her teaching and I got an awesome pattern for my new belt!
The book is in Finnish and English and can be bought here.
And now I suddenly know how to even read the tablets while I weave!
The reason I chose a pattern from a different culture was that the new tortoise brooches my husband had given me to complete this new outfit are based on a find from Öland. The bead spreaders that the brooches come with are extremely influenced by Baltic tradition since the shape of the spreaders can be found in Baltic finds. So I figured that my outfit could be from Öland which is between Birka and the Baltic region and hence had influences from both places. :)

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My belt for the viking outfit. It was woven with 20 tablets and each repetition of the pattern took about 30 minutes to weave and was about 10 cm long. The final length is about 3 meters.

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Finnish iron age tablet weaving

June 10, 2013

So with just a little bit more than a week left for the Drachenwald 20 year celebration I am weaving myself a new belt for the viking outfit I have worked on since March.
And it is not just any pattern. A very talented friend of mine – Mervi whos blog you can find here – has co-authored a book on Finnish iron age tablet weaving that is to be released the 20th of June!
This summer she will travel some markets and teach the tablet weaving from the book so she needed a test subject to teach in English and lucky me – I got a pattern from the book before it was released! :)
I can not even begin to tell you how awesome this is and I went from not really understanding tablet weaving to actually understand what she means when she says that the tablets talk to you!
So here is my weaving this far:

Finnish iron age tablet weaving with 20 tablets. each repetition of the pattern takes me about 30 minutes to weave.

Finnish iron age tablet weaving with 20 tablets. each repetition of the pattern takes me about 30 minutes to weave.

The book is bilingual (Finnish/English) and available for preorder now!
Don’t get the Finnish scare you away – they take orders through e-mail as well if you don’t understand Finnish!

THE book on Finnish iron age tablet weaving!

THE book on Finnish iron age tablet weaving!

You can find more information and order the book here! Or write to salakirjat@gmail.com.

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Went nuts with knots

May 29, 2013

For those that might not know, The Kingdom of Drachenwald celebrates is 20:th anniversary as a Kingdom in June. For this occasion I had really grand plans – but as usual I had time to realize just one out of several imagined outfits.
However the one I chose to really work on was the one that challenged me the most since it was from a period I really knew very little about.
Now I can safely say that my knowledge has increased substantionally and I have learnt several new techniques along the way.
I will not post any pictures of the complete outfit until after the event (why ruin the possibility of a grand entrance?) but I wanted to give a little sneak peak into one of the new things I learnt.

The textile finds from Birka contained a great deal of metal thread ornaments called posament. It seems that there are rather few websites that bring up this technique and most of those that exist don’t share any secrets of the trade.
So I sat down and stared at pictures of the extant examples and of replicas others had made until I finally figured out how it works.
And just to push myself that extra bit I also promised to teach a class at the 20 year celebration on this technique.
After the event I will post about my whole outfit and also post the handout I am working on for the class – but for now I will leave you with this picture of a piece of posament I just finished today and that will be a part of my head wear for the new viking clothing.
The knotted band is about 42 cm long and about 1 cm wide so it is a lot tinyer than it looks like in this picture.
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