Making a Heraldic Plushie

Winged Lioness Rampant
One of the silly things I’ve seen SCA members do is buy (or make) plushies of their Heraldry. Since my Heraldry is a silver winged cat, I doubt I’ll be able to buy an off-the-shelf plushie anytime soon.

After some thought, I realized I could just get a white cat plushie and find a similar bird or bat plushie to use for wings. Since Beanie Babies are small and made from similar materials, I was able to find a white cat and a swan on eBay cheaply. (When I posted about this on my FaceBook, someone mentioned the swan plushie is often given red sequins and presented to a new Pelican.)

A little work with a thread and needle, and I give you Argent, my Winged Lioness plushie. I also decided to make her a collar with my badge, since she should be identifiable as one of my possessions. Badges are the Heraldic equivalent of saying, “This is mine.”

 

Building a Brick Oven at Pennsic

Camp Crook’d Cat in on the Serengeti, on The Strand near the solar showers. The camp focuses on cooking period meals over a campfire and in a brick oven. These photos were taken on Setup Sunday of Pennsic 45.2016-08-01-10-57-14

Before the oven goes in, a wooden box is constructed and filled with dirt. This adds to fire safety and provides a level space to build the oven floor. The floor and roof are made from paving tiles, and the sides are built with brick.

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Making sure the floor is flat is critical for even cooking, so we use a carpenter’s level to check the paving stones’ alignment. We make sure to check each paving stone as it is added to the oven.

 

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Finally, the oven floor is complete. Note how the tiles butt against each other, with no cracks running the length of the oven.

 

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The first row of bricks for the oven walls are leveled, and carefully measured against the oven doors. Sometimes we can use doors for a few years.

 

 

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Because the Pennsic site is on top of a bed of clay, we can use clay and water to cement the bricks. Mudding the bricks is very similar to frosting a cake. As each row of brick is added, we check it with a level and use extra clay and small stones to ensure the walls are even.

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The third layer of bricks juts into the oven to form a shelf for trays of bread. Cakes, pies and other baked things also use these shelves.

 

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Every row requires verification that the oven is being built evenly. It’s annoying, but uneven ovens don’t bake at a constant temperature. (The one picture I wish I could share would show the walls having its alignment tested. This also helps the oven bake evenly.)2016-08-01-16-25-09

The top of the oven is completed with large paving stones. Mudded bricks cover the crack on the top of the oven, ensuring even heating throughout.

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Here’s the completed oven, waiting for logs to be shoved inside so it can heat. Doors at both ends make this part of the process easier and safer for the cooks.

Don’t Rush Sewing!

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One danger of sewing is rushing to finish a project. This can lead to all sorts of mistakes, from forgetting to press your seams with an iron to stabbing yourself with a needle. (Many crafters believe that a project isn’t “yours” until you’ve bled on it. My project goals include not having to use my First Aid kit.)

I’m going on a road trip in a few days, and I wanted to bring some projects to work on en route. One of the things on my to-make list is a Norse tunic to wear when I’m volunteering at Heralds’ Point. Most of my garb is blue with silver accents, but because author Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds wear all white, many Scadian Heralds do as well.

I have learned that the easiest way to construct a Norse T-tunic is to cut out the torso pieces, lay them flat, and complete the neck opening while the entire project is flat.

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In order to keep the fabric of the neck from fraying, I sew a rectangular piece of cloth that comes down to a point around the neck. All of my other projects have a contrasting color of fabric at the neck and cuffs, but this project is all about white fabric, blue train, and blue stitching in contrast to the white.

Because this tunic doesn’t have a contrasting collar, I didn’t  bother to stitch the under layer neatly before I added the trim. I didn’t notice how  irregular it was until after I’d finished stitching the trim. I considered removing all the stitching and redoing this properly.

I have chosen to keep the irregular neck. It is not only a useful reference point for my progression as a historical seamstress, but a way of showing newer sewers what not to do. The complexity of Scadian garments can be daunting to newcomers. I’m keeping this as a reminder that nobody becomes an expert without a few mistakes.

All About Paint

paint2Mundanely, I went to school for Architecture. I took a number of artistic classes including photography and painting. I fell in love with acrylic paint, which was fast-drying, easy to work with, and could be cleaned with water. I have artistic friends who swear by oil paint. (I tend to swear at oil paint because it takes days to dry!)

While acrylics were nice, they had a tendency to crack and chip if applied to a flexible surface. My LARP interests drew me to Liquitex Paint, which is flexible when dry. Panther Primitive Tents recommend Liquitex Paint for adding details to their canvas tents. They recommend  watering down the Liquitex to a ratio of three parts water to one part paint.

pursewipAlso, this stuff keeps indefinitely. Back in 2009, I was planning to attend the World Science Fiction Convention is Montreal. Author Seanan McGuire was also attending, and I’d been chatting with her via LiveJournal for about a year. I really wanted to make her a piece of Fan Art to thank her for making me giggle with silly posts. She said she loved the color orange and My Little Pony, so I painted a pony onto a purse I bought secondhand. This was the base coat: I’d printed a pony picture, cut it out, and traced the outline with paint.

pursedoneThis is the finished purse. I painted white highlights over Applejack’s hair, and added a black outline. This is exactly the same technique I use to paint heraldry onto shields. In fact, the bottle of yellow paint in this photo is the same one I’m using today. (The white bottle gave up its ghost for the Pennsic Heraldry Boards.)

Painting is fun; it’s like tracing with a brush. And if you mess up with Liquitex, just take a piece of damp paper towel to the bad section, remove the offending paint, and draw the lines again. Painting isn’t hard; it’s tricky. Knowing the tricks makes all the difference between the work of a novice verses a master.

List Tree Shields

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Twice a year in the spring and fall, each Kingdom in the SCA hosts Crown Tournament. This happens a few weeks after the Coronation of the new King and Queen, and determines who the next Prince and Princess will be. (My home, the East Kingdom, has not yet had a Queen by Right of Arms, or two monarchs of the same gender. Yet!)

Crown Tournaments will usually host between forty and eighty competitors and their consorts. Combatants are divided into pools, usually with the top two or four advancing to the next round. The period way to display who would be fighting where is to use list trees with small shields displaying the competitors’ arms.

This is when my work as an Armory Herald really makes a difference, and why it is so important for fighters to have Registered Devices with the SCA College of Heralds. While fighters are allowed to compete in Crown without registering their name and arms with the Heralds in the East Kingdom, they are strongly encouraged to register before the tournament.

Thorin

These are the arms of my consort, Lord Þórin Úlfsson: Azure, a dragon and a stallion combatant argent.

When he asked to fight for me at Crown Tournament in November, I insisted that he and I submit his name and arms as soon as possible. They are currently working their way through the registration process, and should pass before Pennsic 46.

This list tree shield is 10″ by 12″.

 

Wulf

In contrast, these are the arms of my friend and first Heavy List instructor, Baron Wulfhere of Stonemarche: Per fess argent and sable, a wolf’s head erased contourny and a clenched gauntlet counterchanged.

I made his a list tree shield because he left his at home  last Crown Tourney. I wanted to make sure that wouldn’t happen again. He may think I’m being silly, but I feel like arriving at the tournament without your shield tree is only slightly better than arriving without your helm!

Organizing and Presenting Arts and Sciences Research

Introduction

This class will cover six steps on how to gather, organize, and lay out Arts and Sciences presentations so viewers understand their research, process, and final product. Step one with cover gathering research materials, with suggestions of what to include. Step two will cover how to assemble images and text. Steps three and four focus on how to plan a layout using the Golden Rectangle. The final steps cover how to adjust the layout, and edit finalize the display.

Step 1: Gather Research Materials

Research is not a linear process. A scholar may start with a single article or book, and have their research encompass many volumes before a project is finished. The most important thing to present is the reference images that inspired the work.

When deciding what books or articles to include in the presentation, try the note card approach. Place all of the materials on a table, and write a sentence or reference point on an index card or sticky note for every piece of research that relates to the final product. The books with the most notes should be included.

Be careful with the notes. Having too much research can be overwhelming for viewers. Try to limit your project’s references to no more than three or four sources. Keep a full bibliography page on hand if additional information is requested.

Step 2: Gathering and Assembling Images

“A picture speaks a thousand words” is especially true of research. If the presentation is a piece of clothing, show the inspirational renaissance painting or the ancient garment from a peat bog. Viewers can easily see how close the final product is to the source materials. This is the time to use color print-outs or scans.

Not everything done in the past can be re-created in modern times. Lead was a common element used in paint, make-up, and feast gear in period. Modern science has demonstrated the dangers of lead, and other metals are substituted in its place. Note how safety, availability, and expense affected the final product.

Take pictures of the work-in-progress. If the final product is a painting, show the outline sketches, and how it looked as each layer was added. If the product is a garment, show how it as pinned. These details can help someone else create their own version.

Finally, don’t be afraid to show mistakes. If a thing was incorrectly measured or cut, note that, and show the correction. Document the process.

Step 3: Using the Golden Rectangle

The Golden Rectangle is a mathematical ratio found in nature and the proportions of the human body. This ratio is seen daily in 8.5 x 11” pieces of paper, among other things. 1

Ratios

The ratios of the golden rectangle determine the sizes of photographs, art prints, and most frame sizes available in any store.

Applying the golden ratio to larger or smaller layouts than 8.5 x 11” requires some proportional math. This process is called ‘cross multiply and divide,’ and can be used for finding an unknown length for either the larger or the smaller side.

XmultiplyStep 4: Laying out Your Research

The Golden Rectangle is more of a guideline than an actual rule. A thumbnail sketch showing relative locations is more important. Thumbnail sketches are quick drawings made in seconds. Make four or five thumbnails. The images below show an original design, its thumbnail sketch rearrangement, and the resulting information board.

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Step 5: Putting it All Together1page

This is an example of a single-sheet thumbnail sketch. The resulting board could be 11x17” or 24x36”. Each piece of information is surrounded by a box drawn with a dashed line to show how much room it needs.

This type of design is similar to a magazine page. It has a title, supporting text, and one or two of the most important points repeated in a larger font. Images are interspersed above and around the text.

The 10-foot rule is the most important part of board layout. Place your text and images on the board, walk about ten feet away, and look at the result. Details you miss when working up close become apparent from farther away.

Spread

A folded display is more versatile, and can be placed on a table instead of relying on a wall for support. Folded displays are more complicated to plan because the thumbnail sketches need to show both halves, but they can incorporate side-by-side comparisons easily.

Double-sided tape or spray adhesive are the best ways to attach printouts to boards. Single sided tape can stick the boards together during transport, and should only be used for single boards.

Step 6: Less is More: Editing

Stephen King’s advice for editing is that each draft should contain 10% fewer words. Write the documentation, have a good night’s sleep, and remove unnecessary words the next day. Focus on making project’s concept easy to understand. Understanding leads to engagement. Engaged viewers look for more information, and will appreciate the full depth of the project.

Conclusion

Organizing Arts and Sciences presentations is a complex, multi-step process. It requires assembling reference and process images and text that tell a story without overwhelming the viewer.

The first step requires gathering research materials, and choosing which sources to include. Next, images and descriptive text are assembled. The third and fourth steps are layout considerations, using the Golden Rectangle as a guideline. The final two steps involve looking at the almost complete project, and choosing how to streamline the information presented.

Suggested Reading

Architecture: Form, Space, and Order (2nd Edition) by Francis D.K. Ching ISBN: 978-0471286165

This book is useful because every page has a stunning visual layout. The second edition is out of date and has a lower price.

1 Images scanned from Architecture: Form, Space, and Order.

Sewing a Viking Cloak

VikingCloakThe first thing I entered in an Arts and Sciences competition was my möttull, a semicircular cloak. At the time I was fencing, and had seen other Carolingian fencers wearing short, wrist-length cloaks.

I prefer a circular or semicircular cloak to a square or rectangular cloak because a cloak with corners will have an uneven distribution of fabric weight at those corners.

Thor Ewing’s  Viking Clothing book mentions a reference to a semicircular cloak in the Kormáks saga, and suggests this cloak  design might have been introduced in the Viking age. This type of cloak was pinned at the shoulder.

This cloak was the first time I tried using embroidery floss for the running stitch that edges the garment. It’s such a simple thing, but I’m always touched when people compliment me on it.

VikingDrawingThe hardest part of making this cloak was remembering that the hood would not attach at the center of the neck opening. It felt very strange to me to have fabric extend past the edge of the hood. At Pennsic, I was surprised at how useful it was to choose to cover or free my right arm. If it was cold, I tucked the extra fabric around my body. When the day warmed, I could uncover my right arm and carry things or easily pull my  latest hand sewing project out of my bag.

I scanned this illustration from page 106 of Viking Clothing. It shows a figure from the Oseberg Tapestry wearing a wrapped, hooded cloak that exposes the right shoulder.