Monday, September 29, 2014

The Dream Realized

Cross-posted to my other blog, The Compleatly Dressed Anachronist (because it's that important to me.)

Earlier this month, at Harvest Days in Flaming Gryphon (Dayton, OH area), we were having a bad day.

We took all four kids, which isn't something we do very often (I've spoken about this before), and even though we were all on deck, I had a class to teach, and Ulfr, as Regional Archery Marshal, had a huge amount of business to conduct. The boys in particular, just didn't care about rules and boundaries and staying away from the archery range. My daughter, who is only recently potty-trained, had some obsession with going to the bathroom (a long walk from the range) every five minutes. As far as events go, it ranked pretty high up there on the suck scale.

It's hard, in the midst of those types of events, to find the good. Stuck in your own headspace of worrying that things aren't going well, and wondering why you can't gain control, you tend to overlook that there are experiences and moments happening that truly matter. There are conversations that happen that you know mean a tremendous amount, and you wish you could perhaps be a little less distracted for them. You struggle to maintain your composure as you try to make it past a group of people as your child runs circles around you, refusing to listen. When you get help in that moment, it's hard to relate how grateful you are, and how relieved you are that someone recognized your need and wasn't judging your parenting abilities.

It's hard to recognize that good things are happening when you're focused on what's not working.

But, despite everything that was sucking that day, something tremendous happened. Something tremendously good.

In the weeks prior, we'd assembled some new items for my daughter, a kirtle, a 14th century hood, a smocked apron, even a huvet. Her outfit was adorable, and she loved it. She was full of confidence, and for the first time that I could tell, she really seemed to understand that what we were doing was something special and unique; that events weren't just parties, but were an important part of who we were and what we believed in. She wasn't just dressed in pretty, girly clothes. She was part of something

When I was teaching my class, my mom took my daughter for a walk. Unlike her brothers, she had been mostly behaving and was borderline cocky as a result. As they walked, she admired the armor of fighters leaving the field, and even told a few as much. Never before had she seemed to notice or care about what was happening on the list fields, but now she appeared to not only care, but to recognize when a person's armor was different or somehow special. She was seeing the event with new eyes.

Then this happened:

Photo by the amazing Marissa Wheatley Williams

This is everything perfect and wonderful and right.

This is happiness and joy and a moment to be treasured, not just for the people involved, but for all of us.

This is The Dream.

On a day when my 4-year-old daughter's eyes started to see the world of our events with more clarity and understanding, the King, just being himself, saw her, just being herself, and created something perfect. And thankfully, Marissa, just being her talented self, caught it.

My daughter didn't walk away from that experience unchanged. Her language changed. She felt new ownership of the event, and a deep understanding of how she fit into it. When I asked her where she'd gotten the bracelet, she said "I got it from my King."

At the next event, Coronation this past weekend, my mother (it was just the two of them that day) witnessed the results of this moment. My daughter took every opportunity to not just see the fighting, but to watch it and attempt to understand it. She was not a bystander, as so many of our youth often become. She was at the event to BE AT THE EVENT. Not because she was carried along, but because it was her event to go to.

She recognized those she'd seen at Harvest Day, and even conversed with a Duke for a 2nd time. Fearless and confident, and joyfully a part of the day. I value whatever wisdom His Grace imparted to my daughter. I hope whatever impression it made on her lasts. I also hope the impression it made on him lasts as well. For it's not enough for these moments to happen and impact just one side. These are moments that shape the young children among us, and direct them to either love the Society or dismiss its importance in their lives. We owe it to ourselves to care about the impressions we leave on those still too young to participate in full.

So because a man took the chance to be a King to a little girl, and because the people around my pre-schooler stopped looking at her as just a child for just a moment, and acknowledged that she too was there to experience the magic of our community, my daughter is today a SCAdian.

My SCAdian daughter the morning of Coronation

Do I have high hopes that my daughter may someday sit on the throne, remembering with clarity the day our crazy garbed adventures finally made sense to her? Of course. But for now it's enough for me to see that she just "gets it"; to see that The Dream is hers to realize too.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Getting Rid of the Day Camp

For the first time in several months, our schedules worked out in such a way that it was feasible to bring all four kids to the event this past weekend. Not entirely sure how that would work out, and even more unsure about the conditions of the event's new site, there was no small amount of trepidation about whether this was truly a good idea.

We'd gotten word that the event was intended to be held indoors and that there might not be much room for too many large day camps in the main area (a gym). Our day camp, with all four kids, doesn't tend to be small, so we made a conscious decision. We skipped the day camp.

Hand-in-hand with our previous discovery that spending the day tied to our chairs was just a bad idea, the idea of eliminating that option altogether sounded, oddly, appealing. Without a setup, a comfy rug, chairs, tables, and heck even without banners and tablecloths, we were free to explore, interact with our friends, let the kids wander and discover, and never feel obligated to use the space we carved out for ourselves.

We knew we couldn't do it cold-turkey (so to speak). Certain things just need to be conveniently on hand (like diapers), and with no certainty about the event site, it probably wasn't the best idea to not have at least one chair, just in case the need to sit down in one came on strong. So we settled on a "basecamp" concept.

A tiny rug (I have posters that are larger than that thing) and a single folding chair. The rug really just provided a spot for the kids to identify where "our space" was. We also had a single basket with games, mugs and other event odds and ends in it, the bag my class materials were in, an a small cooler with our lunch. We didn't bring 4 extra cups for the kids, we didn't bring plates/bowls/utensils for lunch. Instead, since we're all currently healthy, we just shared the three adult's mugs. We used large rolls and bread bowls for our ploughman's lunches (and decided that was the best way to do it). When lunch rolled around, we filled our mugs up at the water fountain and found a quite spot outside for a picnic.

We divided and conquered. We made the rule with each other: except for a few brief times throughout the day, at no time was one adult to be stuck with all four kids. In fact, for the most part, I never really had more than two at a time. Our friends caught on and gladly watched a child for us if the need arose. This gave us and the kids the freedom to attend classes, shop at the merchants, and join the bardic tea house, and best of all, happily chat with friends on the edge of the list without being distracted by the antics of four little hooligans.

The kids enjoyed it as well. O highly appreciated being able to explore without the constant reminders to stay inside an imaginary boundary. It was clear that they felt a sense of ownership of the site and even of the event. More than pure spectators, more than simple wanders, they were a part of it. Passing adults stopped and interacted with them- acknowledging their garb, or how nice it was that they opened a door.

Only my youngest got cranky enough to whine. He's still young enough to need naps during the day, so the short snooze he took when he had Daddy took advantage of the chair we brought was an extremely necessary break. And we all spent moments at the rug, hanging out there for a few minutes periodicly to re-group and assess everyone's condition before exchanging kids and moving on.

It was tiring. We spent very little time sitting, relaxing. That took its toll by the time court rolled around, and we ended up leaving earlier than we'd have liked. (Thank goodness, however, that their Majesties have created a children's time outside court for just such a reason. All four ended up out there in the end.) Yet, the exhaustion we felt on the trip home was well earned. Instead of being tired because we'd spent the day herding the kids trying to keep them under a shade or on a rug, we were tired because we, collectively, finally got to really play our favorite game.

Will the day camp be forever banished? Probably not. When the summer sun requires shade, and having a cool drink on hand is essential, we'll be thankful for our day camp. But I bet you won't find us there very often anymore.

Monday, March 10, 2014

modern medieval family : Wagons

Often, event locations are situated away from parking areas, and more often that not, cars are prohibited from driving directly up to where you want to set up.  While we could all certainly do with the exercise of hauling our stuff load after load several yards at the start and end of each event, add kids into the mix, and you quickly realize you could use a little assistance.

Oseberg Cart, 9th Century, from

Wagons are a great addition to any family's kit.  In addition to giving you a convenient way to pull your kids around with you, they can greatly reduce the effort you put forth in setting up and taking down. The real bonus is that wagons (in general) are period!  A wide variety of wagons and hand carts are available for purchase. The crafty family could even try making their own.

Before making your wagon choice, think about your needs.  Take into account the following:
  • How "authentic" do you want to be?  If modern wagons are OK, that greatly increases availability.
  • How many children do you have that you will likely use the wagon for?
  • Would you like to use the wagon for hauling more than just kids at events (like your armor)?
  • Do you have room in your vehicle for a wagon, considering how much you already bring?
  • Will you reserve the wagon only for use at events? If so, where will you store it when not in use?
For our purposes today, we'll look primarily at wagons suited for child-hauling, then I'll share what we're using.

At events in general, you'll probably end up piling light-weight items into any wagon you have, like garb, banners, rugs, etc. when you're setting up and taking down, but while you're at the event, the wagon won't get much use beyond toting your children.  The easiest child-haulers to get your hands on are also mundane wagons, working as a toy for your children at home. They are by far the easiest to shop for, as they are available from almost any big-box store.

Classic Radio Flyer wagon from Retro Peddle Cars

The most obvious wagon is the one most of us grew up with- a Radio Flyer wagon.  You can find both the regular wagon and the "traveler" type (pictured above) in various places for a reasonable cost.  The authenticity here is obviously compromised, but there's nothing that says you can't do a fancy paint job (though you'd have to be willing to lose that tell-tale red).  Remember that the size of your average metal wagon is on the small side, which is great for packing in the car, but may limit its use in the long run if you have more than one child.

Step2 wagon from Amazon

A completely modern option, and one that's very popular at large camping events, like Pennsic War, is one of the many inexpensive plastic wagons, like those available from Step2 or Little Tikes.  These types are big, though, and will require a good portion of space in your car.  Periodize it a little by adding a removable canvas canopy and maybe painting it to look like a wooden wagon.  Or how about going with a red and white striped canopy, Viking-style shields lined along both sides, and sliding a stuffed, brown, "carved" sea moster head over the handle?  Or maybe a cover that looks like a dragon? If you plan to make use of the wagon outside of events, these sorts of wagons offer modern convenience, like storage in the seats.

Handmade wooden wagon (plan) from uBuilder Plans

Go more authentic with an all-wood wagon (though I think I would compromise on including all-terrain wheels instead of wood).  The style options with wooden wagons is a pretty broad range, especially if you make it yourself.  Keep in mind that, depending on your choice of wood and finishing, you may be limited in how much you can use an all-wood wagon (rain, anyone?)  If wood working isn't for you, consider commissioning a wagon from someone who works with wood in your local group.  Also think about making a soft insert (or throwing in a sheepskin) to make the ride a bit more comfortable for your kids.

With any wagon choice, try looking for "break-down" options, or wagons that can easily be worked into your packing arrangements.

We've recently begun using a utility wagon meant for yard work. It is heavy duty- not strictly a child-only type of wagon, and is obviously modern, but all four kids fit, and it has proven to be extremely useful when hauling our day camp to and from to the car from the far-out archery range.

Available from Amazon

We put a padded mat in the bottom, and with the fold-down sides it can also double as a bench in a pinch (and it has!). The kids take ownership of it at the event, but its somewhat cumbersome size helps to keep it nearby. They don't take it too far away and end up getting into any "Calvin and Hobbes"-style trouble.

So, have you tried any wagons with your kids at events? If so, what are you using, and how has your experience been?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

kid's garb blitz : taking a moment to buy more fabric

Well, it finally happened. I ran out of fabric. For kids' garb anyway. But that's probably a good thing, since I'm also ready to take a break on the Blitz. It's been incredibly productive, and there's still at least 2 items I'd like to make, but I need to take a moment, regroup, and get my materials in order.

So, as a recap, here's what the Blitz produced:

A wool kirtle for my 3-year old daughter.

A Rus-inspired yellow linen tunic for my 3-year old.

A plaid tunic for my almost-2 year old.

A 16th century coif and forehead cloth, and a pair of sleeves for my daughter.

A pink Elizabethan loose gown for my daughter.

A pair of brown linen Rus pants for my son.

So there you have it! Hope you've enjoyed my Kid's Garb Blitz, and I hope these projects have inspired or helped you with your kid's garb!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

kid's garb blitz : Rus Pants for 3 Year Old

So this was a pretty fun item to make. It took a few days of thought, but once I decided how to do it, this pair of Rus pants went together in a day.

The internet, unfortunately, is pretty sparse on this style of pant in terms of actually making them. I did find several great recreations, though, and in the end, I did located this site, which gave me the best idea for how the pieces of the pants should look, but I as still sort of on my own for determining exactly how to put them together.

The pants are made up of three primary pieces, as well as an additional piece added to the waistline. Two large panels for the thighs, two smaller, narrow pieces for the calves, and a square for a crotch gusset (sometimes referred to as a diamond gusset).

Because of my son's lanky measurements, the thigh pieces ended up nearly square. They fold around the outside of the legs, so that the seam is on the inside.

I wish I had a good mathematical way of figuring out this first measurement (from the waist point to the gusset insertion point), but truth be told, I ended up too low at first, then ended up too high the second time. Essentially, I measured from his waist in the front to his waist in the back between his legs, then divided that by 2, subtracted roughly half my gusset length (on the diagonal), and made sure to keep seam allowances. I believe the correct method is in that somewhere, but perhaps requires a little bit more precision in the math. I was able to correct my math with the waist band.

Regardless of the length it should be, the first step is to sew the front and back seams from the waist point to the gusset insertion point on both sides of the thigh pieces, sewing them together.

It's a good idea to knot the stitching off at the insertion end- it will help with getting good points on the gusset corners.

With the seams at the top away from you, fold one layer up at the knot point so that the two edges are perpendicular to each other. Lay the gusset onto this, lining up the edges.

Pin the gusset in place on the two edges. The pins at the top only go through the thigh layer and the gusset. The pins are acting as your third hand here, but make sure that the left most and the bottom most pins mark your seam allowance.

It's helpful to have an understanding of origami for some of these steps. In this next step, you're going to flip the work by pushing the right side underneath.

Once everything is flipped, you will be looking at what was the back side with the two layers still splayed and the gusset flat over them on the bottom.

Now, starting at the exact point your first seam ends, sew along the edge to your bottom pin. If you flip it back over to how you started, this is what you should see:

With it still flipped over (gusset up), start at the top, where the gusset point is, down to your bottom pin on the other edge.

Once again, it's a good idea to knot all the ends of your stitch lines to keep everything secure.

Now, flip it over and look at your handiwork thus far. Your point should be sharp.

You'll see at this point that your other center seam, on the other side of the thigh pieces, it sort of hanging out saying "But what about me?"

Center everything up, lining up the center seams. You now need to match the other side of the gusset to the center seam on the top.

I found that the most accurate way of keeping everything lined up properly was to pin the gusset point (accounting for allowance) to the end of the center seam, directly on the seam. This keeps it on center, and helps the gusset pivot a bit to accomplish the next bit of origami.

First, choose a thigh to compete. Line the halves of the thigh piece together, as you normally would to get ready to sew the seam, but focus on lining the side of the gusset to the edge of the thigh.

Start, once again, exactly at one already sewn end point. In the photo above, you can see the original placement pin in the bottom corner of the gusset. You will need to end as precisely at that point as possible to hit the center seam, without overshooting it, as shown below.

It's important to really pay attention to where you start and stop. When I started the previous seam, I didn't correctly start (I was a single stitch away from the end). Below, you can see on the back side why this was a problem. Not having them lined up creates an undefined point that will pucker.

Luckily, on this particular seam, I could use the end point I just established (where the pin was) and see it again on this side so I could be sure to line it up.

There's now just one more side of the gusset to sew. Above, the unsewn gusset edge needs to be sewn to the thigh piece edge in the middle of the photo. You'll be able to tell which edge to sew to because of the placement of the center seam.

It won't necessarily go exactly where it needs to, so use pins to keep it in the right place. And this is what it should look like when the gusset is all sewn:

With the gusset sewn, it's now time to move on to the inner thigh seams. Another origami moment. Start by lining the two edges of the thigh piece up, and grasp near the gusset point.

Fold all the seam allowances together, even pinching the gusset allowances upward in between the two thigh allowances.

With the seam pinched tightly near the gusset point, pull on the gusset with your other hand to get the seam allowance to run straight, with the gusset forming a triangle. Then pin into place.

Then pin the rest of the seam.

Again, when you stitch this seam, make sure to start or end exactly on the previously sewn end point. After doing the same thing to the other thigh, your gusset is in place!

At this point, I finished the seams by machine. I don't recommend that on small pants like these, though, since it can get pretty tight. I just wanted to get them done, but didn't want to skip finishing them.

I attached the waist band, completing it with some elastic, and attached the calves (also finished by machine). The photos of those processes are in the Flickr set. The resulting pants look like this:

They ended up a bit long in the thighs, which means they really overhang the calves, but that's not all that wrong for the style.

They are a bit tight, in that calves, and do take some work to get on over his heel. If I need to, I can open the very bottoms up and add a tie, but he'll probably be totally grown out of them before I need to go that route.

You can see more construction and finished photos in the Flickr set!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

kid's garb blitz : Elizabethan Loose Gown

The final component to my daughter's winter garb is a loose gown. In this particular case, it's meant more for a jacket layer than a true gown, but it's styled after some of the Spanish loose gown looks.

I had hoped to use a piece of wool or otherwise similar material, but when it came time to make my selection, I really only had fleece available. In order to get the color, anyway. I knew all along that the loose gown had to be pink.

I really just winged this one, and I can see where I may have needed to do it differently, but it all made sense to me as I worked.

I started with a simple toile in roughly the correct shape/look. When I put it on her, I could see right away that the front panels had to be shaped differently. I decided to make the front panels essentially straight, rectangular panels, but kept the back angled at the skirt.

To create the poofy sleeves, I enlarged the sleeve head to be gathered into the arm hole.

I used the machine to sew it all up, to try to make quick work of it. For the record, that's the first time I ever sewed polar fleece.

I used black twill tape for a trim all the way around the hemmed edges. I hand sewed all that on, just because it felt like it was easier. I didn't have enough trim for both sleeves, but I did have enough to do a decorative treatment on the back.

All told, I love the entire outfit. There were things throughout the process that I'd like the opportunity to try again, but since she'll only fit in the outfit until next summer, I'm very pleased with it.

And more importantly, she loves it. What more could I ask for?

To see more photos, check out the Flickr set.