Unpacking

I’ve tried – I’m not sure how successfully – to explain to friends and coworkers how Battlemoor* is like a family reunion and a major holiday and a professional conference all in one – the biggest thing of the year, a shared cultural phenomenon around which the rest of communal life and personal work and goals rotate.

The flip side of that is, putting everything back in order afterwards is more than just coming home from an event and putting stuff away. It’s a reflection on the entire year’s accomplishments, failures, learning, and losses; and on the coming year’s aspirations and fears. Unpacking, really unpacking, usually takes me about two weeks.

This year, I immediately needed the car’s hauling capacity for some work-related stuff, so the gear got more or less dumped in my living room to await my first day off.  I took my time working my way through it, pulling everything out of the storage closet where most of my camping gear goes, completely reorganizing, and thinking about how I want to be living my SCA life and how I want it to fit into my larger life in the future. I’m trying very hard not to fall into the trap of mindless forward movement for the sake of feeling like I’m moving forward; I want to thoughtfully craft and curate where I invest my social energy, how I spend my personal time on art and research, and how I present myself in the community. Part of that certainly is this blog, which has been woefully neglected for the last few years.


Battlemoor was a learning experience; it always is. I’ve learned a bit about how I camp alone this summer, and it’s been a revelation. I love camp cooking, but I love it for its own sake and for the experimental archaeology; I do not love it when other people are dependent upon me to feed them, and I downright resent it when I must cook in order to feed myself. So I won’t. There’s nothing I enjoy more at the lull of the day between the end of afternoon bustle and the start of court and parties than a croissant, a tin of smoked oysters or a handful of spiced cooked chicken, a little bit of cheese, some dried fruit, a glass of some fine adult beverage. A shady spot, a book, a comfortable chair – even more now that I’ve ditched the bag chair and bought a gorgeous Du Puy Creations Gothic x-chair that I can positively lounge in. Maybe a little sewing or a little nap.

I love my new popup and I’ll love it even more when I have the shell painted and and it looks like a tiny Spanish castle.

The setup and teardown system that Juan and I had was fantastic, but it’s pretty much fallen apart, and what I’m doing now is miserable. I’m putting some careful, thoughtful work into getting that infrastructure back into place to make everything easier. In some cases it means duplicating goods so that there’s less running around trying to remember everything (after 21 years in the SCA, I finally bought dedicated camp washcloths, sheets, and a can opener this year) and in some cases it’s about significantly downsizing, uncluttering and simplifying. The good news is that I have no rut, at this point, to pull myself out of. I’m questioning how I do everything.

Battlemoor was my last hurrah for a while; because of some other goals I’m working on (travel! homeownership!) my SCA budget is going to be extremely limited for a while. Like, $200 for the rest of 2019, which will go almost entirely to site fees and gas for actual events. That’s not to say I don’t have projects – oh, no! I’m swimming in supplies and stuff I need to be working on that I can move forward without any (further) material investment. In fact I have so many projects right now that I’m having a hard time focusing on them. I was massively overambitious in my Battlemoor project planning; I have quite a bit of stuff that wasn’t finished before I left (some “finished enough to wear” but still needs work; some did not go with me at all) and I think I’m going to just start on that stuff and see where I find myself when it’s all cleared away.

I want to be “doing” all the time, but I want to spend as little time as possible in deadline mode. I’m feeling an uncomfortable sense of urgency right now not because I have deadlines but just because I have so many unfinished projects dangling, so I just need to pick one and finish it, pick another and finish it. Forward movement, with focus and intention.

More of this in my life. 

Less of this. 


*Or Estrella/Pennsic/Gulf Wars/whatever your particular Big War is. Even folks who have the resources to routinely attend more than one war, I’ve found, seem to have the one “Big War” that is the emotional and spiritual center of gravity.

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Monday roundup: coming back

Slowly, slowly finding my way into something resembling a post-grad-school routine. Jocivus was lovely – both restful and exhausting, a good trial run for Battlemoor with modifications to my tent and tweaks to my camp, and lots of good conversations with people I don’t usually get to just sit and talk with. And Heralds and Scribes was a blast – the luncheon went almost perfectly (the chicken stew was late getting out by just about exactly the amount of time I was late getting on site – about twenty minutes – but everything else was go in advance of heralding lunch) and it was all delicious and well-received. I’ll do a separate post about the menu and presentation.

Working on: With Heralds and Scribes behind me, it’s All Battlemoor All The Time. I’m working on some new Spanish working class garb, I have a couple of classes to plan, and I plan to spend some time at the scriptorium. And of course my own encampment, which needs reviewed and restocked in light of what I learned at the three-day event.

Reading: I’m working my way slowly through the Norton Anthology of English Literature to fill some remedial gaps in my grad-level literature and book history and culture knowledge, and taking side trips along the way, and my current meander is The Complete Old English Poems by Craig Williamson. I have a thoroughly heathen indifference to the straight-up Biblical translations/retellings, and am largely skipping over them, but the original religious and secular poetry is really beautiful.

I read Heaney’s Beowulf last month, and on a recent weekend mini-vacation I read Edward Wilson-Lee’s absolutely delightful Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books, which is a must-read for anyone interested in the Italian and Spanish Renaissance, the early history of print culture and libraries, mad geekery, dysfunctional familes and dynastic politics, too-outrageous-for-fiction biography, or any combination thereof. There’s quite a lot early on about what’s-his-name, Hernando Colón’s dad, who sailed those ships to Cuba and Hispanola, but the story gets so much more interesting afterward.

Geeking out on: All the Spanish things. Just all of it. Between Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books and the garb I’m working on and getting fired up again about Motiño and Spanish onomastics and heraldry as I’m prepping the household name submission, and the Spanish language course I’m taking, I’m just immersing myself in it. It’s really exciting.

Next up: Well, Battlemoor. I’m teaching a couple of classes, and I really want to roll out the Spanish kit in keeping with the Don Quixote theme of the event and the establishment of el Taller, so that’s going to be my focus for the next six weeks.

I took a scribal assignment! Not for Battlemoor, but for later in the summer. I am chuffed about getting back into active scribal work.

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Monday roundup: end of winter break

My last semester of grad school starts on the 24th, so I have, basically, this past week and this upcoming week to enjoy the break and then it’s back to business. For fifteen weeks. I can do anything for fifteen weeks.

Working on: I’ve got things cooking a bunch of different burners, and I spent all of Sunday puttering around the apartment and poking at least a little at all of them, which was lovely.

The blackwork coif continues to progress. My Laurel is cleaning out her stash and sent me two boxes of fabric, from which I’ve completely filled up the bin of trash linen for my first batch of papermaking experiments; also in those boxes were a couple of yards of burgundy velveteen and charcoal polar fleece which I’ve cut out for a short cape in this style but closer to this length.

Good progress on the woodcut this week; the rough cut is done, it’s all just cleanup from here.

I’ve printed out the index of Motiño and started re-translating it because it’s been f*king five years since I even looked at it and that breaks my heart. Y’all, the index – the index – is sixteen pages, and it’s not a rush job this time, cranking the index out as a rough crib to pick recipes to start getting them tested for a looming feast. I’m taking it much more slowly and carefully, aiming for a page a day of index and a recipe a day thereafter – I probably won’t hit that during the semester, but I’ll certainly plug away at it as I can. At that rate, it’s about two years of work.

I got some good feedback on the household name documentation at populace meeting. I didn’t get any further revisions on it done this week, but I hope to next week.

And – this isn’t SCA per se and I’ll be posting more about it on the other blog, but it is food culturey and gifty – I gave away almost all of the half-quart preserve jars I had in my gift pantry at Twelfth Night with the intent of starting to build up that pantry again, and then Food In Jars went and started this business, and I posted on my Facebook flist about it and like HALF MY FLIST wants to play, which is so exciting! I already had some blood oranges for a new batch of blood orange liqueur, and I’m down to half of one jar of the grapefruit marmalade I made a few year’s back, so there’s my January entry.

Reading: I’m about two-thirds through Papermaking and getting quite a lot out of it, although of course the earlier chapters are most relevant – I’m now into the 18th/19th century stuff, which I’m reading at a pace just a smidgen deeper than skimming, and very much looking forward to the chapters about contemporary artisanal papermaking (“contemporary” being Arts and Crafts era – the book was originally published in 1943, at which point Hunter had been working in the book arts world for thirty years).

Geeking out on: LAPIS AND GOLD IS HERE . LAPIS AND GOLD IS HERE. Also, Elaine Wright’s other book, The Look of the Book: Manuscript Production in Shiraz, 1303-1452, also came in. I’ve barely got my teeth into them but I am mesmerized.

Next up: A lot of continuing on with the same projects. Coif, household name documentation, Motiño, woodblock.

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Monday roundup: new year, looking forward

Working on: Twelfth Night was FABULOUS. I finished everything I set out to finish and the outfit came together and looked smashing and felt great. Had some delightful conversations about possible collaborative projects, including a couple of tentative discussions about possible future feasts, so we’ll see if those firm up into real plans.

I got three coifs cut out and one assembled, and took it with me to start embroidering; I’m working it in red silk based on Lorraine Behrens’ Jane Seymour cuff. I got a band about an inch and a half by six inches done at the event, and puttered at it last night.

I filtered the hypocras and it is LOVELY and also STRONG. It definitely needs time to rest.

Reading: The sad truth is I barely picked up a book this week; I’ve hit bed too exhausted to keep my eyes open, and I haven’t had any time outside of bedtime. Trying to change that this week. Lapis and Gold and The Look of the Book are both in transit on ILL, and I’m really looking forward to sitting down and looking at them.

Geeking out on: Packing for Twelfth Night meant going through my scads and scads of feast gear, some of which is packed up amongst other sentimental mementos and little-used specialty gear, and figuring out what to take for table setting, which was introspective and bittersweet. A lot of thinking about what to get back into use and how, what to repurpose, what to let go. It’s a neverending process, it seems.

Up next: I’m finding it much easier to work on things that involve sitting on my butt in front of the television, so handsewing and embroidery move forward but it’s a lot harder to carve out time for things that tie me to tools and a workspace – the woodblock project, machine sewing, and suchlike. I have enough handsewing right now to keep me busy for a month or two on small projects, so I’ll be cranking those out in due course, but I really, really want to make time and space for the other stuff too. I definitely want to try to get some scroll blanks blocked out and started this week.

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Monday Roundup: quiet year’s end

Working on: Continuing, from last week, on Twelfth Night stuff. I finished the embroidery on the pillbox hat last night (yay!) and have maybe an hour of sewing on the underdress and the assembly of the hat left, and then I’m done with this outfit.

While I was at the sewing machine doing interior construction seams on that dress, I also did the last couple of seams on a velvet flat cap; all that’s left on that now is closing the last interior seams and adding attachment points for feathers.

I’ve got a batch of what’s shaping up to be very good hypocras steeping and it needs to be filtered sometime this week, and a batch of apple cider that needs racked YESTERDAY (literally, I didn’t get to it yesterday).

Reading: Nothing SCA-related. (See the other blog tomorrow, though, for my first book review in months.) But I’m really looking forward to what I have lined up: Dard Hunter’s Papermaking and a stack of food history and food culture books.

Geeking out on: Not really a lot of geeking this week. A fair bit of low-key Pinterest skimming on various subjects, but mostly just sewing.

Up next: Last week’s “small stuff, mostly Spanish” is shaping up into an actual Project, as I’m thinking about the components of a Spanish outfit that I’ve already got or are low-hanging fruit to have a complete and ready-to-wear outfit.

  • Black and burgundy bodice: needs laces, probably 3-4 hours on the lucet.
  • Finishing the flat cap: not more than an hour of work
  • detaching the poorly conceived bodice from the perfectly acceptable skirt of the black dress and re-hanging the skirt on a waistband: probably 3 hours.
  • coif: probably 3 hours to assemble a plain one, plus 20-25 hours for a blackworked one.
  • Repairing one of John’s shirts (mainly buttons/ties): probably 2 hours.
  • Overgown: 2-3 hours of cutting and interior seam construction and then… I dunno. How much time is involved in finishing will depend on how silly I get with it.

So a lot of components, but each one represents only an evening or two, except for the blackworked coif and the overgown. I think I’ll get the overdress and two coifs cut out tomorrow, knock out this raft of little projects in between working on the overgown, including one plain coif so that I have something finished, and then take my time on the blackworked coif, and it will probably keep me lightly busy through January.

I also definitely want to do some work on the woodcut this week. A chunk of tomorrow is going to be reorganizing my desk, getting the sewing machine activity out of the way and the sewing machine put up for a while, and getting that surface on a woodworking footing. And I’d really like to spend some time doing some backend work on the blog.

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Monday Roundup: Twelfth Night or bust

Linksmų Kūčių!

It’s Christmas Eve, or, for us heathens with no small children or other compelling reasons to participate in the dominant cultural celebration, “a paid day off to do as I damn please.” And what I please is making art, reading, and cleaning my house. And quite actually literally opening packages of spices and silk just arrived from India.

Working on: Twelfth Night is looming. I got back from the post office ten minutes ago and the silk for the underdress  is already in the wash; I now have all the components of the kit in my hands. There’s not more than about 12 hours of embroidery left on the hat. I’ll finish, but it will be close, and I don’t have the leisure, really, of taking an evening off to do something else (or nothing at all). I don’t love that feeling. No deadlined projects for me for a little bit after this.

A library patron gave me a gallon and a half of hand-pressed fresh cider, and I’ve started a batch of hard cider from that, which is happily bubbling away on top of my fridge. And the spikenard and long pepper that just came in, along with spices I already had in the house, are going into a bottle of decent port for hypocras that I’ll start later today.

Reading: Making Books came in and damn, it’s spectacular. I absolutely recommend it as a foundational technique sourcebook.

Also reading Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s history of the relationship between astronomy/astrophysics and the military; the chapter I just finished is about the role of celestial navigation in the Renaissance world. In the course of cleaning up my RSS feeds and old bookmarks I found a couple of SCA and medievalist blogs I intended to follow and have now done so; next week or the week after I might do a blog roundup.

Geeking out on: Still processing Rembrandt and thinking about metalplate intaglio. I put some Arabic calligraphy and illumination books on ILL order and am super excited about those coming in – right now all I have on hand to work with for period pigments are the small amounts of paint I made in two colors at the class at Battlemoor, but single-color Arabic illumination is beautiful and appropriate, so that’s where I’m starting.

Up next: Small stuff, mostly Spanish. I have fabric set aside for three coifs (two unadorned, one with blackwork), I have a skirt that needs set into a new waistband, and I’d like to start the work of unpicking Juan’s caramel-and-chocolate doublet so I can refit it for me. Also, with Twelfth Night behind me, I’ll have time and leisure to do some scribal practice/scroll blanks, and work on the woodcut.

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Monday Roundup: goals-not-resolutions

One of our awesome Outlands artisans has started, on the Facebook page for the GOA-level arts order, posting a Monday “what are you working on?” prompt to encourage us to share, inspire, get inspired, encourage, and support each other. I’ve been participating for a few weeks now and found myself really actively looking forward to it.

I’m also thinking a lot about what I want 2019 to look like, and as I said on the other blog, I’m thinking about it as the Year of Finishing What I Start. I want to keep on track for long-term goals, I want to be intentional about what I volunteer for and what I commit to, and I want to be productive but also have fun. And I know that I do all of that better when I document, document, document. So I’m going to start posting my Monday prompt responses here, to keep a running tab on what I’ve got going on and where I’m headed.

My overarching goals for 2019 are:

  • Start building capacity for and mastery of block printing on fabric and paper using contemporary ink.
  • Start collecting materials and experimenting with papermaking and with period C&I.
  • Acquire 1 10×10 popup and mod it to use as a Taller Osorio classroom tent.
  • Get el Taller registered as a household.
  • Start building 16c Spanish garb kit.
  • Make incremental improvements to Central Asian and Baltic garb and ambience kits.
  • Some “giving back to the community” projects – gifts, largesse, prizes, scribal.
  • Maybe a feast?

Written out like that, it looks like a LOT, but actually, I already have a fair bit of this stuff. I’ve been working with period ink for a while now, and I have a pound of gum arabic on order  arrived and unpacked about ten minutes ago, and already have theoretical knowledge on making paints will be starting to acquire pigments nxxt, so it’s just a matter of getting some practice and experimentation in before I step up to do a scroll in period materials. I’ve got a couple of items of Spanish kit and fabric earmarked for a bunch more.

Working on: I’ve got things cooking on a couple of different burners right now.

My big project is a new Central Asian kit for Twelfth Night (Jan. 5th); the entari, trousers, and veil are done, I’m embroidering a hat right now, and waiting for fabric to arrive for the gömlek.

I’ve bought some birch boards and new carving tools and am working on a woodblock based on a ceramic painted tile from the Alhambra; this will be the floorcloth for the Taller Osorio classroom tent. And I’ve sent my household name and heraldry documentation to our baronial herald to take a look at in advance of submission in January.

Reading: Nothing SCA-ish right now, I’m trying to clear out my current library checkouts (current read: Ursula LeGuin’s final collection of essays) but I have set aside Dard Hunter’s Papermaking as the second book I’ll read in the new year, and have just purchased David Buchanan’s Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter and Making Books: A Guide to Creating Handcrafted Books from the London Centre for Book Arts.

Geeking out on: Rembrandt’s prints. Rembrandt is post-period obviously but not by all that much, and I’ve been to the Rembrandt: Painter as Printmaker exhibit at the Denver Art Museum three times in the past two weeks, getting something new out of each trip. I’m focused on woodblock work right now, but I want to do metalplate intaglio work at some point, and so I’m just soaking it all in.

Up next: It’s all Twelfth Night all the time right now. I have this hat to finish and underdress to make, I have gifts to make and organize. Once that stuff is done, I want to focus on the Spanish kit, and I’ve got a couple of low-hanging fruit projects: a skirt that’s already made, just needs the waistband re-hung; a flat cap that’s about 75% finished; a blackwork pattern picked out for a coif (and I will probably make several coifs in a batch, some for me, some to give away). I’ve also got some tablet weaving on the loom that I need to finish, as it’s a stalled project for a friend. All of that will likely keep me busy until school starts back up in late January.

This post is longer than most of the Monday posts will be; the goal is just maintaining a brief roundup and checkin each week. I’m excited. I’m having a lot of fun right now with everything I’m working on, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at Twelfth Night, I’m starting to feel like I’m getting my groove back.

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