Long time no see! And “Easy vs. Accurate” Crafting.

Guys, life is crazy. Did you know? Who knew this and didn’t tell me? So these days, with school and family and sleep and let’s face it, World of Warcraft, I’ve managed not to make a post in months. How embarrassing. But this is the last day of Spring Break and I’m determined to do something productive that doesn’t involve cleaning. Before classes started in January, I was pretty sure I could not just juggle classes, homework, housework and meals, but have plenty of time for hobbies and relaxation time. I was entirely mistaken. I’ve had time for classes and homework. My grades are excellent. My house looks like a tornado happened, and I am not what anyone would call relaxed.

But on occasion, when I’m also doing two or three other things, I poke around at the idea of projects and plan for some long-term things that should hopefully give me lots to do when I do eventually have time to do things. Not the things I’m doing right now, but those other things that I’m not doing.

And in my online wanderings and project poking, I’ve run into a pair of ideas that seem to be completely opposite one another. I love the idea of creating a thing from scratch. From literally nothing, tada – SOMETHING. One video that I ran into during that research made my jaw drop and every gear in the machinery of my mind spin at top speed, racing around in glee.

This video is a start to finish “How to make your own bow” that involves things like creating the glue from animal hide, the bow from sapling on, the verdigris to protect your arrowhead, making the string, and on and on and on. Each thing started from the very beginning of it’s many components and built back up again into this amazing, literally hand-made item. How cool is that? The literal coolest, that’s how cool.

So, that is fabulous. The idea of making the things to make your things with from scratch is amazing, and of course, down to the core of it, historically a fantastic approach.
But that shit takes time. Growing a sapling of yew, because you think you’ll want to make a bow in 10 years is not something I’m likely to do. Hunting a rabbit for its hide to make glue from seems a little more likely. Using woodglue because it’s $3.50 at Lowes seems a little more likely still.

And that’s the second idea – easy and cheap. Get out there and get playing. Buy a cheap fiberglass bow and some pre-made aluminum and plastic arrows that fly fast and straight with no tweaking. Get a plastic bracer for 6 bucks and a pair of old motorcycle gloves you’ve had lying around for years. Tada, throw a tunic on and you are ready to shoot! So easy, so cheap, so little planning and stressing and space requirements and you can begin playing the game immediately. Not just archery, but Rapier and Armored combat, arts, even service, can be cheap and easy, so long as you’re not so overly concerned with historical accuracy or making something with your own two hands that you could reasonably have found if you went back in time.

I guess that the real problem I have here is that it seems that many people get stuck in the easy and cheap category and never decide to venture further. What do I mean by further? I mean looking up just how proper that side-laced Irish gown is, and making or buying a more accurate one. Maybe hearing that the painting technique you used on your shield is more 18th century when you dream of being a 12th century Viking. Or something as easy as lining your slap-dash arming cap with linen or silk instead of cotton quilting squares.

And then there’s the other side. I shudder to think of being thrown into that group.(Of course, no one would throw me in that group if they saw my collection of “vikingesque footwear” and my habitual clippied up hair-do) In that group are the people who will look down at a newbie for wearing cotton instead of linen, or linen instead of wool, who glare at the artistic people who dared create a pattern from the history books, but tweaked it a little to give a little nudge toward modern fashion. I imagine that sort of person finds no joy outside of her own kind.

For my own part, I dream of long-term projects that start with a couple sheep and some weeds and end with a glorious wool cloak. What I do, however, while money and time are tight, is find fleece on the cheap and throw it over my shoulder like it’s a fashion statement, stay warm, and have fun.

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Time to get Vikingesque! A bizarre take on historical fashion.

Everything we know about fashion came down from our mothers, and our mothers mothers. What if we had to figure it out ourselves, based on the stuff they left lying around when they were buried?

Lucky for us, Viking age remnants leave only a little to the imagination in the field of women’s clothing. A strap goes here, a belt was probably there, lovely metal clasps held everything together here. A glorious example of the accepted style can be found here, at Dilletant where research is done before cutting starts. Here’s an example of my own mostly-historical dresses:

Green Dress Coro

The umbrella and flip flops are not, as far as we know, period appropriate, but that’s the beauty of the SCA! You can see that the straps hold the brooches, which then hold a number of tools and the ever-present strings of beads and riches. Not every Viking age woman wore this type of dress, but every dress of the Viking age was similar in the amount of body it covered and layers of clothing are vital in a chilly environment. Undergarments were layered, an outer coat, cloaks, scarves and head wear in the form of wraps and hoods were de rigueur.

Another piece of the clothing puzzle is the Viking ages propensity for carving, and while they tended to carve mostly men and manly things, there are examples of women in the mix. Seen here is Mead Serving Woman, thought to be either a Valkyrie, or Freya or even Frigga herself.

MeadServingWomanWe can tell she’s wearing layers, and we can tell she’s probably got a shawl around her upper body. She appears to be wearing a tight sleeve, which we have found extant samples of.

And then, there’s this.

LOLNO

 

 

A unique and deeply confusing re-imagining of the old apron-dress that highlights a sheer, lightweight indoor garment, a dragging apron attached over the nipples and held together by cording at the waist. I’ll be honest – a little more sexiness would be great in my garb. I lament at least once a month how shapeless my apron dress looks to me, when I wear the one that is closest to period accurate. Then I put on the one with tucks and darts and remember that I can bring out the sexy in anything. 😉
However, this looks like what a complete stranger to the Viking closet would do if told to go put it on with no further instructions.

Even her well-reasoned arguments fall flat. One suggestion for the low-slung brooches is that in grave finds, the brooches are found lower in the chest cavity. The authors interpretation is this: “The clasps were probably worn in the middle of each breast. Traditionally this has been explained by the clasps having fallen down as the corpse rotted. That sounds like a prudish interpretation,” says Annika Larsson.”

On top of that uncomfortable seeming explanation is her assertion that the outer layer, or apron, was sewn to the top under-dress to drape down in a train and was all meant to be showcased indoors by the fire. Having camped SCA style for years, in many flavors of garb, the last thing I want to do is be near the fire, cooking or dancing or even just hanging out, with a train dragging behind me. In the closed quarters of a longhouse, the most lascivious of trains would probably quickly be destroyed by tramping feet and moisture, and the occasional dress fire would probably sate me of my need to be overly glamorous very soon. The main concept I believe the author is working with is the Oriental-Scandinavian merging of kept women with Viking age clothing and is forgetting one important thing – there were few people who did not work. Even the lady of the farm spent her days cooking, keeping the staff at work, tending to children and animals alike. A stationary decoration sitting prettily upon her pillow would be a rare thing indeed, and the minute her perky accessories began to falter, I imagine that sheer dress and dainty train were bundled up in a shapeless apron dress, tucked under a cloak and sent out to earn her keep as another pair of useful hands.

If you’ve got a rebuttal, let me know! I love historical clothing, and the interpretations are innumerable. A lively debate is always enjoyable and sometimes educational!

 

The Ghost in My Jump Drive

When recently moved, it was in a big, messy hurry. I packed everything I owned into boxes and unceremoniously threw them in a spare room in my parents house. For almost two years, I didn’t look back, eager eyes watching the horizon for the next big thing. Finally, while life is no less exciting, hectic or difficult, there’s time to take a breath and look at what was cast aside.

Long before that frantic move, I had saved a half-decade worth of pictures to a disk and tucked it away, confident that no matter where I went next, I would dig the drive out and use it. Instead, I uncovered it like an ancient relic, buried under a rubble of discarded shoes and ruined nail polish. Interested, but curiously unsettled. This disk holds a different persons entire life. I don’t remember putting these images there, I barely remember the days these pictures were taken.

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How odd that something so innocuous would unsettle me so much, that simple visions from a past life, just a few years ago, would bother me. My face, but younger, less lined, an easier smile. My hair, but what a horrible hair cut – and look, no rapidly growing grey streak! My family and my friends look out through the computer screen like ghosts, even though many of them are still close enough to touch, or at least call if I wanted.

Life has moved in a direction that the woman with my face in these pictures never dreamed of. I’m not her anymore, and like all of history, it’s hard to imagine I ever was. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just a part of life, and had I never frantically packed it away and had I looked at those images every day, I never would have noticed how much of a ghost my own past became to me.

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So I want to write. Maybe if I write it all down, it’ll stay real. Maybe I’ll remember how uncomfortable this chair is in a year, and how I can hear the wind beating sand against the window and can still taste sweet tea on my lips.

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Not everything I have to say is about Vikings, or history, or art, or anything. Sometimes, I want to say things just to know I’ve got a voice.