It’s been a while since I posted. Sorry about that. Things got weird for a while. They’re still weird, but I hope to be back on track soon. For instance, I’m already on the third-and-a-half re-fitting and re-making of that camisa (so depending on how you count half-finished re-fits, this is either version 4 or version 5) that I first had fitted in January. I mostly haven’t taken pictures, because they all start to look the same. “Look, a piece of white fabric! Look, a piece of white fabric pinned to another piece of white fabric! Look, a sewn seam!” I’m the one making these, so if I can’t tell them apart — I, who have had my fingers and mind focused on absolutely every inch of this fabric, every millimeter of this thread, every single safety pin — how would you? I think I should only post a picture when there’s something new to see or something new to learn from it.I will probably get so much wrong, but I’ll try to continue the exercise.
Alas, all this re-fitting of the same garment takes up a lot of time, but doesn’t yield a lot of information that I can figure out how to word. Basically all I’ve got is “Well, that didn’t work” and “That’s closer to fitting” and “Yep, back to not working.” So I’ve decided not to actually post anything about the camisa until I’m making what I sincerely hope will be the final version — the version from which I’ll copy all future versions.
I think I might benefit more from a “school” type setting now than I ever did while I was actually attending school. There’s something about going out of your home and into an environment where one is expected to learn, and make mistakes. There’s also something amazing about being able to spend a lot of time doing something, knowing that you won’t forget how to do it between one day and the next, because there’ll be constant repetition and reinforcement of skills and informations. I have two especial helpers who are amazingly skilled and amazingly patient. I really wish I could take formal classes from them both, meaning that I’d like to be able to pay them a living wage so that, in return, they could take leave of absence from their real jobs and just teach me, day in and day out, for a few months. Alas, I can’t afford to pay them what they’d need, let alone what they’re worth (which is even more), so they’ll have to keep their real jobs and I’ll have to continue going piecemeal and just doing my best. It’s slower going, but with enough time, online research, and practice, it might be just as effective. I hope.
My first helper is Dame Arianna Nunneschild, as she’s known in the SCA. I won’t call her gifted, because that makes it sound like all her ability came from some heavenly magic wand or something. She’s not gifted. Arianna is industrious. She works hard to do what she does, to learn what she’s learned, to produce the quality of work for which she is known. I hope I’ve mentioned her on this blog before, but if I haven’t, well, now I have. She graciously gave her time at a special garb patterning session this past winter (or, what passes for winter in southern California), fitting me and several other people for various types of garb.
I wish every person who ever needed to be fit for anything should have someone as skilled, dedicated, precise, kind, and adept at boob-wrasslin’ as Dame Arianna. And I wish you all good luck in finding such a person. She doesn’t have a whole lot of time to dedicate to me personally — something about a job, a husband, a whole lot of work that she does for others, a family, friends, a whole lot of work that she does for herself, and at some point the woman should be allowed to sleep as well — but when I do get to see her, boy, is it worth the drive to Los Angeles. I think of her as my main fitter and tailor/dressmaker, even though technically she’s not making my dresses, “just” patterning them. But believe me, she deserves the full title. Even in just being fitted by her, I learn a great deal that I’d never be able to learn by seeing someone else being fitted, watching Youtube videos about the process, or reading endless blogs and books. There’s something about feeling how your own body is being treated that can convey information I’d never have even thought to ask for; and she is simply amazing at doing it in a way that I find easy to learn from. If I have any successes at all in making clothes, ever, a great deal of the credit will be hers.
Su of the Silver Horn is the lovely individual who’s helping me so much in between visits with Dame Arianna. I know I’ve mentioned Aunt Su on this blog at least once. According to her, she has been sewing longer than I’ve been alive, and it really shows in the quality of her garb. She also makes costumes for several LARPers who participate in Labyrinth of Jareth, which is an LA-based LARP. I have no experience of it myself, but several really good costumers I know are participants. She’s made costumes for the individual who portrays Jareth, if that helps you picture her word-fame and skill level. Whenever I’m stuck and can’t figure out what steps to take next, I call on Aunt Su. Her long experience with clothing construction is a big help to me. Bless her, she never just does what she’d find easy — take the thing out of my hands, fix it, and hand it back. Sometimes I think she’d secretly like to do so. Heck, sometimes I’d secretly like to let her. But she and I respect each other enough that she’ll say “Here’s what you’re going to do,” and she tells me, or shows me, and then I proceed to actually do the thing. She’s a good teacher.
However, darn it all, she too has an actual job, so I can’t just commandeer her for a full week to come over, fit and re-fit me over and over, and sit and sew with me so I can ask her things. Not often, anyway. She sometimes did, before she took this job, and sometimes of an evening I can meet up with her and sew while she knits, and then she’s right there when I have a question that only takes a moment. (That’s the part that’s irritating — I have a question that can be answered in under 5 minutes, but to ask it I have to show the thing to someone who knows, let them look at it and feel it, and then tell me. But getting that 5 minutes of a person’s time is hard, y’all. Nobody wants to come over for 5 minutes, then go away for 2 hours till I need to ask them something again and then come back; and nobody wants me just popping into their home or office for 5 minutes, leaving for half a day, then coming back after lunch with another 5 minute query!) So, again, it’s going slowly… but it is going. I reassure myself of that at least once a day, even if it’s a day when I’m not actually working on the camisa. Eventually, it’ll be true.
Meanwhile, I do have a pretty big list of things I want to do, and in a more-or-less consistent order, as well as a pretty big list of things I can actually do without help. What I can do without help:
- Stitch-rip all the trim off of one of Su’s dresses. She has a beautiful Mongolian gown that she made for a much younger version of herself, and wants to adjust the pattern for her mature body and her tastes. Meanwhile, I suspect she’ll use different trim on the remake, and use this trim for something else
- Attempt to re-pattern a stocking. I tried one, but the way I fitted it, the toe points down as if I should be wearing high heels instead of looking like a person could stand flat-footed in the stocking. Medieval people didn’t wear pointy heels like modern people do. As well, I need to adjust the pattern of the upper foot/instep piece. Right now it’s joined with a curve to the main leg piece, but that’s causing the join to have a lot of puckering. It’s unattractive, and I’m pretty sure it’s placing strain on the fabric and the seam, so I want to change this to a proper pointed gore-like insertion.
- I’ve now got three under-caps that I can wear (thank you, Celynen of Stow on the Wold, for the most recent addition to that number! It’s so beautiful!). Now that I’ve made one (badly), bought one (wasn’t quite good enough to justify the expense), and received one (absolutely stunning), I have a good example to follow and a good idea of what not to do — from the one I made — so it’s time to make two more. That ought to be enough.
- In addition to the under-caps, two of which are of same style as the St. Birgitta Cap, I have one wimple and one veil. That doesn’t seem like nearly enough, so I plan to make a few more of each to round out the outfits and to keep the sun off my neck and shoulders.
- Glue together some bamboo sticks with beads on them, creating an ersatz bobbin lace making kit.
- Weave several yards of kumihimo lacings. They’re useful for so many things! Drawstrings for bags, dress lacings, hair bands, gift ribbons.
- Practice the scribal hands that I need to learn: Batarde, Beneventan, a pseudo-Russian hand I’ve been itching to try, a couple of different pseudo-Arabic hands I want to do, and a bit more practice with a pseudo-hand that I’ve created and want an excuse to use. Finish some assigned scrolls.
- Fix the sleeves on one of my tunics that was handed down to me by Aunt Su, whose hands and forearms are considerably more dainty than mine. I can’t roll them up or push them up in order to wash my hands or handle icky things, and that’s a problem. They need hooks and eyes.
- Make so much cheese.
That ought to keep me busy, in between the moments that I have a seamstress’s help in progressing with my camisa! And a busy D’vorah doesn’t bug the seamstresses as much, which will probably make them happier, too.