That… did not go as expected.

So my last post (way back in mid-April, remember?) I talked about weaving silk. I laid out all my glorious plan for how this was going to go and how beautiful the finished project was going to be, ect. Well…

Problems:

  1. I miswarped the first time. So I tried to solve this problem by tying on additional warp when I approached the end of my first one.
  2. That was an epic failure. I needed to pull it all off the loom and rewarp like a smart not-corner-cutting person.
  3. Pearls take a long time to knot onto silk thread.
  4. Silk thread is super fine and does not want to form knots wide enough to not slide back out of the pearls.
  5. Sewing through stiffened linen is super hard guys. I don’t like it. Sewing around wire is also less than pleasant.
  6. Pleats are hard yo.

That being said”

I made my apprentice sister a french hood. Because I love her very much and she needed a hat just as glorious as the fancy dress she recently acquired AND something worthy of sitting atop her awesomeness. I think I came close and I really hope she likes it.

Materials 1/2 yard x 12in 54epi silk for the shell on the crescent and paste. 20×21 35epi silk veil. 1in x 40in 60epi silk ribbon (red). Roughly 1/2 yard of (commercial) linen for the lining and to stiffen for the interior structural bits. 10 ft of wire, 45 inches of 1cm freshwater pearls.

Total cost: ~$200 not counting time.

Total hours: sweet merciful Loki. I averaged 1in an hour weaving time and spent about 30 hours total warping. So 88 hours weaving/warping total. Sewing took about 10 hours. Knotting and applying the pearls took about 6 hours all told. Patterning/cutting materials/stiffening the linen was about 4-5 hours actual work. Let’s say 5, I tend to under state my labor.

88+10+6+5= 111 hours. Give or take.

For a hat. A really awesome hat.

DOCUMENTATION TIME:
French Hood

Created by Lady Ǣthelflied Brewbane

The design for this piece taken from a portrait of Anne Boleyn showing a black French hood trimmed in pearls and edged with an orangey red pleated ribbon.  I have chosen to recreate this hood in handwoven black silk taffeta, red silk satin ribbon, and cultured pearls.

Original ^18698950_1529308743760396_786930571_o

My recreation ^

We’ve found cloth ranging from 15 to 100 epi per Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450. In an effort to recreate this I aimed for 50 epi when weaving the covering, lining, veil, and ribbon. I have woven the covering, lining, and veil in a simple tabby weave to produce taffeta per  “Anatomy of the Abuses in England” (1583) by Phillip Stubbes:

… on toppe of these stately turrets (I meane their goodly heads wherin is more vanitie than true Philosophie now and than) stand their other capitall ornaments, as french hood, hat, cappe, kercher, and suche like; wheof some be of veluet, some of taffatie, some (but few) of woll, some of this fashion, some of that, and some of this color, some of that, according to the variable fantasies of their serpentine minds. And to such escesse is it growen, as every artifices wife (almost) wil not stick to goe in her hat of Veluet everye day, every marchants wyfe and meane Gentlewomen in her french-hood, and everye poore Cottagers Daughter in her taffatie hat, or els of woll at least, wel lined with silk, veluet or taffatie. …

The silk taffeta on the shell of the paste and crescent came out to a finished thread density of 54epi. The ribbon is an average of 60epi,  and the veil was woven at 35-40epi to allow for a lighter fabric.

A simple weave, and coarser thread count, would keep costs down in creation of this piece as well as speed production. As today, fashion follows the rich, and it is not out of the realm of possibility that a gentlewoman would commission a hood in the style of one worn by the queen. Therefore it would behoove an enterprising merchant to be able to produce one quickly and comparably cheaply.

The stiffened paste and crescent that forms the center shape of the hood is composed of three layers of heavy linen canvas.  These layers are edged in 14 gauge jewelry wire to help maintain the shape of the hood and support the weight of the veil. Though we have no surviving extant French Hoods we have found wire shaping for English Gable Hoods, the direct predecessor of the French Hood, making it safe to assume French Hoods would have been constructed in a similar fashion.

Sources:

Textiles and Clothing 1150 -1450 Elisabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland.

Museum of London Publication, 1992. 2001 Reprint.ISBIN 9-781-84383-239-3

 

The French Hood: What it is and is not Lady Alliette Delecourt mka Irina Lubomirska

http://frenchrenaissancecostume.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/The-French-Hood-notes-for-GNW.pdf Accessed 3/25/2017.

 

Anatomy of the Abuses in England in Shakespeare’s Youth A.D 1583 Phillip Stubbes.

https://archive.org/stream/phillipstubbessa000990mbp/phillipstubbessa000990mbp_djvu.txt Accessed on 3/25/2017.

 

Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

Norton Press, 1994. ISBIN 0-393-31348-4.

 

 

Fleece to White Belt: Post the second

Today we talk about fiber prep. Specifically washing fleece. I use a 100% modern method of washing fiber. Why? Because dish soap works well and is cheap, I have no desire to ferment urine, and I feel like it. This tutorial is assuming that you’ve purchased a raw and skirted fleece, as opposed to shearing the sheep yourself or buying a fleece that has not yet been skirted.

Skirting: cutting off the worst bits of the fleece, generally the underbelly, legs, and around the tail. These parts are the bits that get packed with mud, poop, straw, ect. They are also generally matted and gross. Skirting doesn’t waste wool, it saves sanity.

For the purposes of this project I bought 2.5 pounds of raw icelandic wool. Why Icelandic? Because it has the qualities I was looking for in a fleece, namely the long protective top coat and the short soft undercoat, this makes it appropriate for the type of spinning I’m doing. It’s also easy to spin and an arguably documentable breed. I say arguably since we’ve been continuing to improve fleece so even breeds labeled “primitive” don’t have the same kind of fleece they did in period. Nature of the beast.

My wool came to me like this:

buddle-of-joy

That’s one big bag of happy there folks.

Unbagged and spread out it looked more like this (ignore my toes):

raw-fleece

This is where you start to understand that just because you bought 2.5 pounds of wool does not mean you’ll get 2.5 pounds of clean fiber. All that yellow/brown/black? That’s all dirt and oil and lanolin. This is a white fleece. A lot of that weight is going to end up going down the drain.

Cleaning your fleece: Step 1. 

Acquire your materials. For me that looks like this:

materials

That’s a tote for washing, your wool, dish soap, and a couple of towels. Your tote should be sturdy and big enough to wash a decent amount of fleece. This tote (roughly 10-ish gallons) washes about .75 pounds of raw fleece at a time. You want space for water to penetrate ALL the wool so you don’t end up with raw pockets.

Step 2: Soap.

Fill your tote 3/4 of the way with hot soapy water. Add your fleece, making sure to press it under the water but not agitate. If you agitate it’ll felt. We don’t want that. Just gently shove it under the water and keep it submerged with as little handling as possible. Let it soak and let the soap do its thing.

soapy-bath

 

Step 3: Rinse

Gently remove your wool from the water (again trying to not agitate it) and dump your… well… soapy mud. Rinse out your tote to get rid of as much grit and gunk as you can from it and refill it with clean water that’s as close as you can get to the water you just dumped out. You want to try to maintain temperature to avoid felting. Gently (sensing a theme yet?) put your soapy wool into the clean water.

rinse

See how much cleaner it looks already? Side note: see all those flecks and bits of grass? That’s referred to as VM or veggie matter. Which is a very polite way of saying grass and sheep poop. Some people pick that all out before washing/carding/combing. I just pick it out as I comb because it doesn’t bug me. Sheep are animals that live outside. Sometimes outside comes in with them. Such is life.

Anyway you’re going to rise twice. So repeat this step.

Step 4: Wring

Carefully lift your now clean wool out of its second rinse. Let it drain as best you can before moving on.

Lay your wool flat on a towel like so:

lay-on-towel

Roll the towel up like a burrito:

Step on your wool-rito to press excess water out. Don’t rub it, just step directly down.

Step 5: Dry

Lay your wool out to dry. Preferably on a screen or something that lets air flow get to the entire fleece. This’ll let it dry faster and keep it from getting all mildewy. I, lacking such a set up, lay my wool out on dry towels and just flip it every so often.

clean-drying-wool

Here’s a side by side of a dirty lock with a clean lock after going through this:

raw-vs-washed-lock

Fleece to White Belt: Post the First

So Magnus (yes the same Magnus I made the haversack and wrote the boast for) contacted me about a week ago and asked if I would be willing to weave him a belt to fight in. He was, I’m sure, expecting me to use commercial yarn and just knock out a tabby woven belt.

He’s still learning about me dears, don’t laugh too hard.

Given that I’m, well, me I’ve decided to use this as an opportunity to process from raw fleece using as close to period tools and techniques as I can manage. His persona is close enough to mine that I can make an argument that the tools that are right for my persona in terms of spindle weight and materials would also be right for his, and that the process would be similar enough that I’m not going to be offensively wrong.

This is my project outline post, next post will be a picture heavy post regarding how I’m processing the fleece to get it ready to spin.

Project outline: Warning, Math.

I’m aiming for a finished length of 6 feet, that’s roughly an inch wide. According to what I’ve read so far a decent gauge to aim for is roughly 10 threads per cm or 25 threads an inch. So 25 cards wide will give me just over an inch wide belt (there’s a lot of ish here guys), that also gives me the nice round number of 100 warp threads (25 cards x 4 holes per card).

To account for take up and loom waste I’m warping 8 feet. If I have extra warp I’ll do a knotted fringe at the end.

So math for the warp:. 8 feet x 25 cards x 4 holes each = 800 feet x 2 in order to make 2 ply yarn = 1600 feet of singles. Or 534 yards. Well 533.3333 but we like whole yards.

In order to meet my goal of 25 threads per inch I’m aiming for 13 threads per inch in the weft (to account for the warp passing between each beat of the weft. Yes I’m fudging what counts as threads per inch but I can only spin so fine right now people.) That means I need 13 inches of weft to go 1 inch of warp. Or expressed another way 13 feet of weft for every foot I want to weave.

Math for weft: 13 x 8 = 104 feet or 35 yards. Well for accuracy sake it’s actually 34.6666 yards. But round numbers here people. Multiply that by 2 in order to make two ply and that gets us to 70 yards of warp.

Total yardage needed for a 6 foot long belt: 70 + 534 = 604 yards of yarn spun finer than lace weight. Or (because I’ve been giving feet for everything else) 1812 feet of yarn. For a 6 foot belt.

Process:

1.Buy icelandic fleece. Why icelandic? Because it’s got both the longer hair (that I want for the smooth, strong, yarn for this project) and the fluffy and warm under coat (which I will card and use to make Other Things). Why buy? Because I live in an apartment my loves and if I tried to buy a sheep my beloved Scarp would kill me in my sleep. Then eat said sheep. It’d be a justified killing.

2. Wash fleece. This is the step that is not being done in a documentable manner.  I don’t own the sheep so can’t run it though a stream and I’m NOT using urine to get through the lanolin. I’m cheating and using my bathtub and dish soap. I have limits. Those limits are fermenting pee for the sake of fleece cleaning. There’s the line. Right there.

3. Comb fleece. Remember the first post about cord, where I talked about the difference between worsted and woolen spinning? For this we again want the smooth and compact worsted type of yarn. That means I get to keep using the Death Combs.

4. Spin wool. I have a bottom whorl, soapstone spindle that I picked up at Pennsic. I forgot the actual weight on it, but it is an appropriate weight, style, and materials spindle for my persona. Therefore arguable for Magnus’s.

5. Actually weave the yarn. I’m card weaving this. Because it’s going to be a white on white pattern I’m limited in what I can actually document. Most card weaving I’ve seen tends to be colored. But colored defeats the purpose of a white belt. I think I’m going to just do a simple diamonds/lozenge pattern. I have time before I get to this step.

6. Polish the belt. Yes polish. I’m not fulling this, I’m hoping to spin and weave tightly enough to not have to. I’ve found references to using a polished rock or chunk of glass, heated up in hot water, to essentially iron fabric. I’m thinking of picking up a large glass paperweight and experimenting with finishing fabric off with it. In theory it’ll iron it smooth and add some shine/luster to the finished project. I mean, I could just use my actual modern iron, but if I’m going through all this work to get here it’d be a shame to stumble at the finish line.

Boast for the Knighting of Sir Magnus Refsson

Make a path for / Magnus Refsson
Ravenous flock / ravens, murder
Feasting in his footsteps/ faithful sword Thane
Dauntless defender / of dragon crown

Honor prizing / oathkeeper he
Weighs full well all / words and dealings.
Swift bright sword of / Ser Nikolai
Fells his foes as a / fox amid hens.

Red company’s / captain titled
Honored well with / order of vanguard
Displaying valor / dragon’s tooth earned.
Now kneels to throne/ knighthood attained.

This is done in Saxon verse which is (to be perfectly honest) not right for Magnus’s persona but it’s right for mine and I was the one speaking it. This was done as a boast to herald him into court. The original version was much less polished, as rough drafts tend to be.

Make clear path for / Magnus Refssen
Ravenously / ravens take to flight
Feasting in his / footsteps. Mighty
Defender of / fierce dragon crown
Swift sure sword of / sage Nikolai
Fells his foes as a/ fox amid hens
About the only line that got kept was the last line of verse 2, because his heraldry is a fox and Refssen is “son of the fox” so that imagery needed to stay. The rest of it? Well, let’s red pen this line by line.
Make clear path for /Magnus Refssen
The biggest issue with this line? The beat pattern makes the alliteration muddy. I needed to keep M as the alliteration since I was using his name as the second half line, which means I was pretty much stuck with Make as the first word. Clear needed to go away since it was another hammer beat and that made this way too front loaded.
Ravenously / ravens take to flight
My laurel has an issue with single word half lines. Which means I needed more words for the first half line. It was also pointed out that the imagery of birds taking flight didn’t work with the next line and we needed to make them land some how.
Feasting in his / footsteps. Mighty
This line is a hot metrical mess. Footsteps wants to be before the half line not after, and while wrapping phrases is a Thing in Saxon poetry the phrase generally starts at either the line break or the start of the second half line.
Defender of / fierce dragon crown
This was ok -ish as far as metrics. But clunky and awkward and really didn’t work well with the first word of the sentence being in the proceeding line.
Swift sure sword of / sage Nikolai
Again not bad, but the “of” wants to be part of the second half line, and using “sage” as a descriptor for someone you have never met and know next to nothing about is always a bit dicey.
Fells his foes as a / fox amid hens.
I love it, it’s perfect, I didn’t change a thing.
Other issues with the rough draft:
It was two lines and a verse too short. This is why we have editors people.

Wars of the Roses 2016

Let’s just get this out of the way now and then break this up by day. Roses was Hot. Too hot. Oppressively hot and muggy. Saturday was 95 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity in the mid 80%. Sunday was an almost cool feeling 90 degrees.

Saturday:

I got on site about 10-ish and hung out on the list field with niece until my friend turned up with his adorable not-my-dog that I got to puppysit all day. The rest of the afternoon was spent bouncing between my camp and watching the fighting/fencing until court. Note: due to the heat I was a very scandalous woman and only wore one layer. Also no veil (it’s gone walkabout) and no shoes. Niece of awesome shot a lot of archery in the morning before parking herself in camp under the camp shade with popcicles and water.

Saturday court:

I got to watch three people that have been working to try and teach me to fence get their silver rapier. I choose my teachers well. These were very, very well earned. I also got to watch a local woman, an amazingly talented local woman, get elevated to the order of the Laurel.

The highlight of court for me though?

My husband got his award of arms. Words were done by his teacher (Master Magnus) and are:

At the Flower-Clash, Skarphedinn inn havi was called before Kenric the king and Avelina the queen. A skald was called to speak on the man’s deeds. This is what was said.

Iron-tower
of terrible power
crushes our foes,
his fearsome blows
breaking their ranks,
reddening the banks
of Gjöll – the raven
glutton-haven.

Thunder roars
rankle the boars
to run – a dog
drives through the fog
and the corpse-mud –
cowering from flood,
their hides bear brunt
of Har of the hunt.

Stalwart skilled Skarphedin
stands proud, and skull-laden

This beast of might,
bearing the light
touch of service,
settles the nervous
with gilded voice,
grasping the choice
of peace when force
the plainer recourse.

The wisdom of old –
the ancient gold
breaker’s advice –
to bear as ice
the weight of the world
with words furled –
feeds the rowan
a feast to grow in.

Stalwart skilled Skarphedin
stands humble, grace-laden

These things opposed –
proud-strong battle-oak
by fire disposed
to fulsome smoke –
speak of a man
of spear-knowledge
and knowledge-span
like spear-hall edge.

Praise-fit the ash
of ancient roots
that stands in boots
of Bragi and clash
of wounding-poles,
with winding trunk
that battled and sunk
the bravest of souls.

Stalwart skilled Skarphedin
stands – worthy of honor laden

Then all were called to remember the deeds of Skarphedinn and give him his due honor. It was the Time of Remembrance, fifty-one years after the Settling.

Scroll lovingly made by a very dear friend Katrusha Skomoroh.

Scarps AOA

That is goat hide. She did the calligraphy and illumination herself on goat hide. I love my friends, and our friends love my lord.

Saturday night:

This was the bardic competition. I got to judge. This was my first time judging any sort of competition and I hope that I was fair and in the same ballpark as my other two judges point wise. I got to see some really awesome performances, including several new people. I couldn’t be prouder of everyone who performed.

Sunday:

Spent the day hanging around camp with one notable exception: baronial heavy weapons champion. So the lay out for this was a bar fight. The fighters started out seated on stools around a table, on the tables were “cups” and daggers. When lay on was called the fighter had to grab a weapon (cup, dagger, table or stool legs) and beat everyone else to deal with them in two five minute fights with a mandatory hydration break in the middle. It was a blast to watch.

Beloved husband was fighting. At one point he did a forward roll, grabbed a dagger, and stabbed an opponent in the throat. It was fairly epic.

Beloved husband is now the baronial heavy champion for Concordia. I’m stupidly proud.

Niece shot more  archery and wandered merchants. Niece has found her niche and it is shooting. I’m proud.

Sunday court:

I boasted in the king and queen on about 2 minutes of warning. I’ve never ever heralded before, so that was never wracking. But hopefully I didn’t bobble as badly as I feel like I did and I did a halfway decent job. Note to self: prep an entrance piece and keep in my back pocket just in case I need to do that again.

Remember those three people who got silver rapiers? They were also all honored with the ram’s horn (baronial fencing award). Husband was called up to take his place as heavy weapons champion.

We also got a flash storm and had to suspend court since we were in a giant barn with a tin roof. Guys? I ran around in the rain, because it was a heat break. It was a lovely, wonderful, thing.

Sunday night:

Bossman and I went and performed the piece he wrote for coronation for their majesties since they were a bit busy the day we did it initially. I think they liked it, they paid us in mead and roses. So that was cool.

We wandered back to our camp to an unofficial bardic circle around our tiny fire bowl. It was awesome. There were awesome performers and I was within easy stumbling distance of my bed. I gave out a bunch of my awesome new bard beads.

I also discovered that my request to make accessibility porter a baronial position (and to hold that position) was approved at the last business meeting! It would have been nice to know that *before* told the baron he couldn’t charge me with anything since I’m not his bard, don’t live in his barony, and hold no official baronial position. Which is when they opted to tell me this had happened. I apparently have some face saving to do.

There was this one woman at the circle. She sat there all night, singing along with everything with a very lovely voice. But she never got up herself. I asked her why later, since bardic is something she very clearly enjoys.

The words that came out of her mouth were words I recognized, because they’re things I hear in my head every time I get up to perform.

I’m not good enough.

I can’t follow that.

No one wants to hear me.

I don’t have the right piece for this.

I can’t do this.

I have really bad stage fright.

It scares me.

It was trippy to hear my brain gremlins come out of someone else’s mouth. But? I know how to fight those particular gremlins. I asked her if she honestly didn’t want to perform or if she actually wanted to but talked herself out of it. She wanted to, it was obvious how badly she wanted to. But she had to say it, and admit it to herself that she wanted to, no matter how much the gremlins tried to talk her out of it.

She is my unofficial student now. I’m going to help her get the tools to beat the snot out of those brain gremlins. Because gremlins lie. She’s going to be awesome as soon as she works up the courage to get up and do it. And I’m already super proud of her for admitting she wants to.

Monday:

Monday was tear down. Nothing exciting happened.

Seven Simple Suggestions for SCA Soothsaying

Why Seven? Because in many cultures seven is an auspicious number, and if you’re going to talk about something like soothsaying? Go full superstition. Also the alliteration makes me happy.

What qualifications do I have to be espousing advice about this type of performance? Almost precisely none. I have done this twice, but this is what people have been asking me to explain, so we’re going to pretend I am vaguely expert shaped here loves.

1. Accept You’re Doing Something Weird And Own It.

Unlike more familiar forms of bardic (singing, story telling, poetry, ect) soothsaying isn’t something that is likely to turn up in most circles. It falls into this weird grey area of performance vs. claiming magic powers. The trick is to have utter confidence in your weird little art form.

There’s a fine line to walk here between hamming it up and taking what you’re doing seriously, and frankly that’s a balance you need to find every time you do this. Lets face it, cutting open a crochet rabbit and pulling out knitted entrails will never be a solemn event. It is hysterical and morbid all at once. Treat your performance with the level of gravitas you want the audience to have toward your prediction. Trust me, they will follow your lead. This is just weird enough that most people want to suspend their disbelief just long enough to see where you’re going with this.

2. Props Are Your Friend.

What separates soothsaying from any other style of performance? What you’re reading. Pick your omens, be they pebbles, water droplets, beans, sticks (all period), tarot (arguable for some parts of period), or if you want to go my route and rip open a fake bunny. Your props are what make you memorable. Use them. Otherwise you’re telling another story or reciting another poem.

3. Pick Your Style And Make A MadLibs Outline.

I do poetry when I read the omens. Guys? Composing poems whole cloth on the fly is hard. Really, really, stupidly, hard. Don’t do that to yourself, you’ve got nothing to prove. If you’re doing poems make yourself a handy fill in the blank template and, well, fill in the blanks. You’ve got more wiggle room if your style of delivery is more fluid prose. If you want to read omens in song please tell me, because I want to see that and I owe you a token.

4. Consider Your Audience and Venue.

This really should have been higher on the list, but this is more a default bardic suggestion rather than strictly soothsaying so it gets middle billing. It is not the wisest plan to predict a horrible, conflict filled reign with the brand new king and queen in attendance. The exception here is if they’ve approved it first and are using it as something to play off of. Trust your gut, if the little voice in the back of your head is suggesting this may be a poor prophesy for you to speak, listen to it. Predict something else.

5. Nostradamus Is Famous For A Reason.

Remember kids, specific prophesies have a higher fail rate than vague ones. If you want to build your reputation for being terrifyingly on point? Leave your words open to interpretation.

6. Predict the Predictable.

Both of the prophesies I have given in public were in regards to known events. The first was that Kenric and Avelina would take the throne of the East, easy peasy since I already knew their coronation date. And the second was about war brewing. Pennsic happens every year. If you’re predicting for a summer reign then predicting war is a safe bet, predicting for a winter reign? A reign of glorious peace. Take your local events and use them. Predict the rise of a new champion at the event before a baronial champ is chosen for something, predict a power exchange when an old baron or baroness steps down, ect.

You can predict wild, out there events and take a shot in the dark if you want to. If you’re wrong no one will care. But if you’re right? Welcome to a whole new reputation my dear.

7. Have Fun.

Otherwise what’s the point?

Burn out and how to avoid it

Here’s the thing, I have a problem with wanting/needing to DO ALL THE THINGS. I’m not the only one who feels the need to hold myself to almost impossible standards. All my garb must be hand stitched/embellished/trimmed, all my trim must be handwoven, all my bardic pieces must either be written or adapted by me and I must have a new piece for every performance. Oh and I want to play mandolin, learn old English, and spin. All while having a full time job.

There are limited hours and energy to do everything. When you try do everything you end up burning yourself out and hating the whole deal. Instead of being fun, your hobby becomes a slog with one commitment after another after another until you forget why you wanted to do this in the first place.

So how do you avoid this?

Well, in some cases you can’t. IE  you’ve taken on a job that has certain requirements that need to be met. In that case you mark your calendar for when it ends and count days. HOWEVER! In most cases? Burn out is avoidable if you remember these three things:

  1. You are encouraged to ask for help.
  2. Your standards for yourself are higher than anyone else’s standards for you.
  3. This is your hobby not your livelihood.

You are encouraged to ask for help.

Please! If you need help organizing an event? Find a friend and ask them to help you. If you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to a specific art/craft/fight you can ask someone who knows. You do not have to try to learn everything on your own. You do not have to juggle everything. Know the phrase ‘many hands make light work’? Same deal.

This is hard. Especially for someone, like me, who is a wee bit of a control freak. You have to trust that the person you’re handing tasks off to is going to follow through. Without you losing your mind nagging them. Don’t do that. That’s rude.

Your standards for yourself are higher than anyone else’s standards for you.

No one at events is checking my seams to make sure they’re hand stitched. No one notices or cares if I flub a line or don’t have a new piece. The world will not end if I do not have handwoven trim on every dress or tunic. Does typing that make me twitch? Yes. Yes it does. But! It’s also true. No one will judge you for wearing last  year’s garb or having modern forks in your feast gear.

This is your hobby, not your livelihood.

I can not stress this one enough. Look, guys, a lot of us take the SCA very Very seriously. I’m certainly guilty of it. I love the SCA. I love that on any given weekend (or day with social media) I can surround myself with other people who are my flavor of geek, who appreciate the work that I’m doing, and actually understand why I’m excited about the differences between spinning with a period style drop spindle vs a modern one. This is the sort of thing that makes your coworkers eyes glaze over and mentally note to never ask how your weekend was ever again.

But, at the end of the day, we are a made up society with made up titles, and we all agree to pretend together. And that is a beautiful thing, but not worth your sanity. If you feel yourself starting to dread going to events, for whatever reason, or having the mental debate between work and SCA, you may want to step back for a bit and breathe. Repeat after me:

This is my hobby, not my livelihood.

Nothing will explode or crash and burn if you take some time for you. I took a two year hiatus because mundane life was exploding and trying to juggle that and SCA was a very Very poor life choice. The great thing about the SCA is that you can step back if you need to, and it’ll still be there when you’re ready to come back. Guys? We just collectively turned 50. I don’t think we’re going anywhere any time soon. Your mental and emotional health is more important than winning that tourney or getting your garb done perfectly.

My personal mantra: history has enough crispy Saxons.

Now, if you’ll all excuse me I’ve got some spinning to get done and a loom to warp and garb to cut.

Becoming a Dependent Or Not

Becoming a dependent or taking one is a big decision and not one that should be entered into lightly.

That being said let’s get this disclaimer out of the way now. This is another one of those “Aethelflied is a poor example of being smart, do this better than she did.” I lucked out with my Laurel. I picked him because I was new, I knew I wanted to be a bard, and he was the first bardic laurel I met. First laurel I met actually I think. I just kind of turned up and started poking him about being his apprentice before I really knew what that meant. Luckily it turned out to be a good fit. My Bossman is my Bossman and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. But this could have gone very, very, differently.

So, what do I mean by being a dependent? I view being a dependent as having a mentor, whether that mentor is a peer or not doesn’t really matter for the purposes of this post. There are four official classes of dependents – apprentice, protege, squire, and provost. Those are for when your mentor is already a peer (apprentice/laurel, protege/pelican, squire/knight, provost/master of defense). If your mentor isn’t already a peer what you call yourself is kind of decided on by mutual agreement (student, yoeman, man at arms, caddy, minion, ect) but for the rest of this post? You’re a student.

There are several questions we’re going to address, namely: What are the pros and cons of becoming a dependent? Why is this a big decision? Do I have to? What should I look for in a mentor? Should I take a dependent? What am I getting into here?

What are the pros and cons of becoming a dependent?

Lets start with the pros since I’m a good news first kinda girl. Having a mentor gives you someone invested in your progress, someone who will help you achieve your goals in the SCA to the best of their ability, it gives you name recognition, it gives you a cheerleader, a personal teacher, and someone to advocate for you. Having a mentor also gives you a brake peddle and reality checker. Yes this is a pro, trust me.

Cons: you are tied to this person. Pick a mentor that’s a bad fit and life goes downhill quick. You have name recognition, which means if anyone has a problem with your mentor (for whatever reason) that is likely to rub off on you. Some people may also find working primarily with one person limiting, particularly if that person is not as active as they used to be.

Why is this a big decision?

You will be working closely with your mentor for (in all likelihood) several years. Yes this is our hobby, but this is the person who is going to see you at your worst and your best. They get your rough drafts, first attempts at whatever craft, get to explain the mechanics of why that shot you’re trying to throw isn’t working, ect. My laurel is blessed for his patience. I don’t think he’s ever actually seen me cry over a piece, but he has been subjected to some pretty awful poetry. I’ve heard picking a mentor likened to getting married or becoming a foster child. There will be fights, disagreements, ect. Make sure you approach someone you can handle getting criticism from, since it’s their job to give it to you.

Do I have to?

NO! If you’re on a peerage track you may hear things like “If you want to become x you really need a peer”. But no, you don’t need to enter this kind of relationship if you don’t want to or don’t feel comfortable. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you need to be in a peer/dependent mentor/student relationship or else you’re not doing this right. There is no right. This is a hobby with made up titles.

What should I look for in a mentor?

First and foremost: look for someone you respect. Both for their work and skill, and that you respect as a person. Otherwise you won’t be able to trust that they A. know what they’re talking about when they give you feedback or B. want to take their advice.

Find someone you’re comfortable working with. You’re going to be working closely with them. Make sure you want to work with Them not just their name.

Find someone who is comfortable helping and teaching you. There are some awesome people out there, who know what they’re talking about, are lovely people, but aren’t comfortable teaching. Don’t ask them to step into a role that they’re uncomfortable in.

Now the other side of the coin:

Should I take a dependent?

Firstly examine your reasons for wanting to. Do you think you can help someone excel in their chosen craft? Or do you want a dependent because that’s what people who reach your level do? Remember this person will be working closely with you for some years. If you aren’t positive you’re ready to be responsible for someone like that, I’d politely decline. You don’t have to have dependents to be a “real” whomever.

Secondly is this person a good fit for you and yours? Your dependent will more than likely become a member of your SCA household, they will become SCA family. Is this someone you want to welcome into your household and family?

Thirdly, are you willing and able to advocate for this person? Part of being a mentor means (to me) pushing your dependent’s work into places where it will be seen and recognized. It also means both advocating for you dependents on polling lists, AND advocating against them if they aren’t ready.

Fourthly, how active are you? If you’re not as active as you used to be you may want to reconsider. Make sure you have the time to devote to this.

What am I getting into?

You’re getting into a mutual partnership. Which, like any other partnership, has give and take. You’re pushing and being pushed, guiding and being guided. You’re getting to watch and help someone else discover things that make them light up. You’re getting someone else whose achievements you get to be proud of. You’re getting a privilege and a responsibility.

Also, if you’re like my Bossman, a lot of bad poetry and polite ways to say “maybe you should look at editing this”.