The 10% Challenge

One of the people I like and respect immensely in the SCA is my friend Jarl Ullr Amaranthson.  I got to know Ullr when he started dating my dear friend AnneLyse and I later had the honor of bring in their wedding party.

Ullr is well known for his commitment to being as authentic to his chosen persona as possible.  And one of the things he challenges his associates to do is something he calls the 10% challenge.  The theory is pretty simple.  Often, when we consider upgrading our kit, we can get so overwhelmed with the big picture that we lock up and don’t move forward at all.  I have been guilty of this, and one of the things I have found in being a new peer is that I am even more susceptible to it, because Oh, god, person to be looked up to, people watching me, panic!  Ahem.  Right then.

Ullr’s challenge encourages people to focus on the small things.  For example, what are you eating with?  Is your feast gear built around a modern utensil set?  What kind of utensils would your Persona have used?  Upgrading that one thing is the 10%.  Then when it’s done, you take a moment, and appreciate your accomplishment.  Then ask, what’s next.

Currently, cash is tight in our household as my husband ends his GA position and works on finishing his thesis.  He’s job hunting, so we don’t have a lot of disposable income for the big upgrades we want to make. (Hello, Pavillion!  Sigh.  Someday.)  So, how do you do 10% when you don’t have a lot of cash handy?

My answer came to me recently while I was working on repacking my usual event kit and organizing the chaos that was my weekend necessities totes.  In one box, some of my jewelry had tangled up and around some beading pliers (I think they’ve been there since Pennsic), with bobby pins and hair ties.  Lots of bobby pins and hair ties.  These are the things that I am most likely to get on the road without or destroy, and I probably buy, on average, a pack of each every other month.  Which is kinda crazy.  That is a lot of elastic and plastic and…

So I asked myself, self, what would Aline have actually used to fix her hair? For answers, I started looking at the blogs of medievalists I admire, and I found a great one by a Laurel in Drachenwald on what she uses in her hair styling kit.  The nice thing about her suggestions is that I already have a lot of it handy.  Always a plus when trying to upgrade on a budget.  There are a couple of places I will differentiate though.  For one, I have found that while I can use a good thing wool thread to get my hair to stay where it ought, it doesn’t generally last in the ends of my braids as a fixative.  What I have found that works is 3-4″ strips of 1/4 wide, thin sueded leather.  For me, I get a better hold and staying time that way.  Leather can also be gilded pretty easily, making it a more decorative choice.  And it makes sense to me that leather workers would want to sell as much of a hide as possible.  These little strips are something I could see a housewife or lady buying in a handful at an inexpensive price.  Rather like hair bands and bobby pins today.

So, this weekend, I’ll be pulling those modern elastics and bobby pins out of my kit and making an initial round of replacements.  Hopefully, in the next few weeks, I can get most of this hair styling kit assembled and added to my regular travel set.

It’s a small step to be sure, but it’s 10% better than it was.  What will be your next 10%


The Black Cotehardie- Finished!

I got the black cotehardie done by the grace of God, and a friend who was willing to hem the last 1.5 feet of it while I set up someone’s vigil.  Overall, I am happy with it (especially the body fit).  The only real mistake I see to it is that in trimming the hem to even it, I forgot the fact that hips add more vertical lift from front and rear protrudence.  So the side gores feel kinda short.  I do, however, have some long strips of velvet left, and I may add some around the bottom to lengthen it and then re-hem.

Overall, though, I am happy with it.  I think it will look good with the over gowns I have planned for it soon.


Project: The Black Velvet Cotehardie

So, one thing I have always told people is that just because an artisan is good at one thing, they may not be good at all the things.  Unless you are my now former Laurel, who is freakish that way.  😀

I have also always joked that I love working in food, because to me, it is way more forgiving than, saw, fabric.  Did I cut that vegetable up wrong?  I can probably use it anyway.  Did I cut that piece too small?  Well, bleep.

However, one of the things that has come out of receiving my own Laurel is that I am paranoid about my level of dress.  Its one thing when I am working in the kitchen, but for speaking in court, I kinda feel the need to look good.  And I can’t keep wearing my lovely coronation dress forever (because Wool is awesome for winter, but at that weight, probably not for this climate…in June).

I saw a really lovely piece done by a European reenactor, with a velvet lady’s cotehardie and a silk sideless surcoat with bezants.  I happened to have the rest of the lovely black cotton velvet I used to make Alarich’s dagged sleeve cotehardie for my elevation, and a lovely moss green silk, so I decided to give it a go.

I patterned using Duchess Magdalena’s curved front cotehardie instruction, making a lining slopper out of a nice white and black checked linen.  Once I got the adjustment on that where I wanted it, I cut out and started sewing the velvet.  I ended up hand sewing the thing, since I started it at a friend’s house on project weekend and I didn’t take my machine.

The nice thing about it was that so far, everything has gone together easily.  (This is not usually my experience with fabric).  The lining basted in neatly.  The gore placement hits right, and the gores themselves are laying beautifully.  The sleeves fit the armscye the first time in with very little adjustment.  The neckline and edging has been easy.

The only downside was that I came down pretty sick last week, and lost a week of working on it.  So, the sideless isn’t started yet.  However, even with other things needing my attention tonight, I should be able to easily knock out the remaining needed work (23 more button holes and the bottom hem) tonight with no problems.  So yay, new dress for me tomorrow.  It will still need some seam finishing work after that, but it can wait.

The sideless is going onto the back burner for the moment.  At the end of the month there is a Italian carnival themed event, and trying to keep to my goal of dressing in my own century, I am going to create an over cote based on the second dancer on the left in this image from Andrea di Bonaiuto da Firenze, painted on the frescoes of the Spanish chapel at Santa Maria Novella in Firenze.

Dancers from the second panel of the "The Way of Salvation" by Andrea di Bonaiuto da Firenze in the Spanish Chapel of Santa Maria Novella in Firenze, Italy.

Dancers from the second panel of the “The Way of Salvation” by Andrea di Bonaiuto da Firenze in the Spanish Chapel of Santa Maria Novella in Firenze, Italy.

After that, I will come back to the Sideless and try to get it done for Kingdom A&S.

Contemplating Medieval Lent, 2015

Last year, the husband and I attempted to do an experiment around Medieval Lent.  It was a last minute decision (not the week before, but close), and we had a lot of exceptions (new world foods were fine, if we were otherwise keeping to the no meat/eggs/dairy strictures; allowing a cheat trade for our one non-lenten feast day a week, etc).  We had a lot of life hit around the mid-point and the whole thing kind of crashed.

Coming in to this year, I have a little more time to think about it.  Alarich is willing to try again if I want to, and I have over a month of planning/prep time.  If we do it again (and I am not 100% sure that we will), I think our guidelines will be as follows:

1) Sticking to old world foods and period recipes as much as possible.  I am already looking through my cook books and compiling a list of possible recipes.

2) Keep the Sunday as feast day idea.  We aren’t 100% sure they did this in Medieval Lent, but we were both a lot happier having one feast day a week where we could have what we wanted.  It usually became our “Let’s have date night” night.  It also makes the calendar count for Lent work (Lent starts on the 18th of February and Runs through, according to the count down, Thursday the 2nd, which gives us 44 days instead of 40).

3) We will eat a normal number of meals.  In period, they would have likely done one meal, and possibly a collation (or, for laborers, a breakfast).  However, Alarich has modern health issues that require regular meals.  And my employees shouldn’t have to deal with me when I am Hangry.

4) The Feast of the Annunciation will be a Feast Day (it’s Alarich’s birthday, and it will be celebrated).

So, like I said, we are thinking about it.  I think we will probably make the call closer to Carnivale whether we will actually do it or not.  It will likely depend on what things look like as I work through the prep process.

My Vigil and Elevation, in 1500 words or less.

So, at Kris Kinder in the Kingdom of Calontir, I sat vigil during the day in preparation for evening court and my elevation to the Order of the Laurel.  In true me fashion, I was working on some stuff until late Friday evening, but I had gotten everything done in time to be abed before Midnight.

My parents made the trip up to see the event, which was neat.  It was my father’s first event and my mother’s third-ish (she had previously been to a local revel of the Barony in the city they live in when I was younger, and to an event where I did feast, where she worked in the kitchen all day).  They had a really good time, and did some Christmas shopping while they were at it.

My vigil began around 9:45.  The room decorations where handled by my Laurel, Baroness Fionnuala, with help from friends.  Food was coordinated by HE Katrei.  Calontir does a very formal putting on vigil ceremony for all candidates for the peerage.  This really is a lovely tradition, because it promotes a sense unity among the three peerages.  I can’t reveal the details, but it was a very moving experience.

The vigil itself was interesting.  I was warned that I might receive weird advice or be told odd things, but that didn’t really happen.  I had a lot of conversations that made me think, and more that made me laugh and smile.  I had the chance to discuss what it means to take associates, to swear fealty or not, balancing the expectations of peerage with the fun of the SCA, avoiding burn out, and so much more.  It was also deeply touching to see how many people came specifically to see me (I am looking at my friends from Ansteorra and Gleann Abhann- thank you for making the trip).  I also received a number of really beautiful gifts, which can be seen here.

My vigil ended around 4 and I had some time to freshen up.  I chose to wear my elevation dress all day, so we straightened that up, and I touched up my hair and make up (my mother, who was a hairdresser in her younger days, helped me get an awesome corona braid hair style for the day).

Then we snuck back into the back of court.  Kris Kinder always has a LOT of business, and this year was no exception. Their Majesties did about an hour of business, concluding with now Sir Cai Dubghlas’s knighting, and then called a brief intermission.  They resumed, and I got to see some really awesome things happen, including a Queen’s Endorsement of Distinction for Chivalry to a very worthy archer, and three Calontir Lilies awarded to wonderfully worthy artisans (The Lily is the Calontir GOA in the field of Arts- in this case, costuming, dance, and costuming).  Congratulations Helena, Wulfram, and Tamar!

And then, my Laurel was called into court.  Nerves hit me for the first time, and the mantra in my head as I prepared to go forward was “Don’t trip, don’t pass out, don’t throw up on the Crown.”  I was proceeded into court by Lady Sibilla Swaine and Lord Osgar of Grimfells, my apprentice siblings, bearing a banner made by Sibilla. My husband HL Alarich escorted me to the stage without incident, and I managed to make it to the kneeler pillows without faux pas. One of the beauties of this site is that it has really great accoustics, so I could hear all my speakers really well.  HE Elianor de Morland spoke for the Order of the Laurel, Halvgrimr Riddari spoke for the Order of Chivalry, and HE Katrei Grunenberg spoke for the Order of the Pelican.  My member of the populace was Hl Konstantia Kaloethina.  My Laurel was then call upon to release me from her service, which she did, taking back the belt she apprenticed me with and joking how in every swan’s life, it’s time to kick the cygnet out of the next (her heraldic charge is a black swan).

I was then invested with my insginia of the order.  HE Beorhtlic Folcwinesone of Ansteorra, who is my husband’s laurel, spoke on the medallion, which was made by my husband with a silver chain made by my apprentice brother Osgar.  Then HE Catalina de Arazuri presented the cloak, made by HE Elianor, and talking about the reminders of the weight of peerage.  Next, HE Mirabel Wynne presented the wreath, which was made by my Laurel, HE Fionnuala.  At that point, it was time to take my oath.  With the help of HE Andixos Seljukroctonis, I tweaked the traditional laurel’s oath, and then Drx translated it into Latin.  I had intended to memorize it (and still need to), but luckily Master Rhodri, who is the Crown Herald, was able to prompt me.

The text, in Latin and English:

Nunc Coronae et Regno Calontiris homagium do et fidem obligo. Ius solemne ita ut effigies, leges et mores nostrae Societatis sustineam, fideliter Coronam et Regnum defendam et extollam, iustitiam tuear et scientiam colam, aliquibus qui petant, artem et disciplinam impertiam, et semper perpetuo dignam sertae Laureae esse do.  Verbo et facto iuro, Aline Swynbroke, Domina Laureae.

(Here do I give homage and swear fealty to the Crown and Kingdom of Calontir. I herewith give my solemn oath to support the ideals, laws, and customs of our Society, to Loyally defend and uphold the Crown and Kingdom, to champion justice and foster knowledge, to share my art and knowledge with any who seek it, and to ever and always strive to be worthy of the Laurel Wreath. By word and deed, thus swear I, Aline Swynbroke.)

Finally, my charter of award was presented.  HE Mirabel created it, and while she is an amazing scribe and illuminator, she also like’s to push herself, and push the definition of “scrolls”.  What I received was a beautiful apothecary’s chest that she had found and painted for me, with the text of the charter, by HRM Gwen, on top, and gorgeous painted details all around it.  Inside, it was loaded with little spices and jars of spices from HRM Gwen.  I was awe struck.  At that point, the order was encourage to escort me out of the presence as the newest Mistress of the Laurel, as they had some final business.

The charter text says: “On the 13th day of December in the reign of King Agamemnon I and Queen Gwen there came into their court a petition from the good men and women of the Worshipful Order of the Laurel, and they presented to the Crown one Aline Sywnbroke, craftswoman, elected by them to be a Mistress of her art, due to her excellence in cooking, research, and various diverse arts, &c.  On which day the same Aline was sworn into this Worshipful Order of the Laurel to the good and faithful control of her said arts by sparing no one through love or oppressing no one through hate, and by presenting shortcomings and victories which they found in the said arts to the crown and laureate, &c.

By our hand and seal this 13th day of December, AS 49.

Agamemnon, Rex   Gwen, Regina”.

I got a number of whilwind hugs, and then got to see HE Avraham receive an incredibly well deserved augmentation of arms for his many, many good works, the most recent of which was building and giving away 30 wood chairs to people who would promise to banish bag chairs from their SCA experience, in order to help people up their game.  Augmentations are very rare in Calontir, and it is considered a great honor to receive one.

After that court ended, and there was more hugging, and people coming to inspect my charter and insignia.  We then ran back to the rental and got food for Mom (she was wiped out tired) before Dad, Alarich, and I headed to the small pot luck shindig hosted by Katrei and TK for the out of town Ansteorrans (they have both traveled much in that Kingdom and knew most of that party).  After spending a few hours there, Alarich and I dropped my father back at the rental and headed to the official party post revel at Rhodri’s for a couple hours.  We finally made it home around 2.

It was an absolutely amazing day, and the hard work of countless people made it magical for me.  I have tried to name as many people as I could, but I know I am missing many of them.  Suffice to say, I deeply appreciate everyone who helped make it so very special for me.

Sincerely, in Service,

Magistra Aline Swynbroke

What’s in a Title…

So, one of the things I have been thinking about as I approach my elevation next month is how I will style my name after.  Titles can be kind of fraught things, and using one takes…practice.  Perhaps a little back story.

The first award most of us who start the SCA as adults (or adult-ish persons…I started playing at around age 16 locally in the Barony in my hometown) is the Award of Arms, or AoA, which lets a person style themselves as Lord or Lady SCA Name.  Usually this is an exciting event in the life of a new SCA member.  Unfortunately, for a select few of us, the experience of getting your AoA is poorly handled, and it becomes something emotionally fraught.  When I received mine, there was a lot of…weirdness involved which left me feeling less like I had received it on the merits and more like I was a pawn in a game of wider politics.  It wasn’t happy.  I went home and cried on the phone to my now husband.  And on his advice, I stuck the scroll in a drawer and ignored it.  For years.  So I didn’t tend to use the title Lady Aline at all, at least until later, when I received other awards that bore an AoA if the recipient didn’t already have one.

It also has always felt a little bit weird to introduce myself as Lady Aline in person to people.  I’m Aline.  (And occasionally in writing, Alien or Alime if I am tired and typing overly fast..).  Then I received my Grant of Arms as part of being made a member of the Order of the Silver Hammer, and I became Honorable Lady Aline.  Which just seemed…weirder.  So while I tend to write my letters as HL Aline Swynbroke, when I meet people, I am usually still just Aline.

Now, though, I’m being elevated to the Laurel, and as people keep telling me, everything changes.  I’ll be a Peer of the Kingdom, and the Society.  I’ll be someone people look up to.  Expectations will change.

Now, I suspect that when introducing myself, I’ll still be just Aline.  Because old habits die hard, and at the end of the day, that’s who I am.  However, I will need to start signing things with a title, and I’ll probably be getting introduced by it by others as well.

The standard English title for a female member of the Order of the Laurel is Mistress, which is fine.  It works perfectly well, since Aline is English born and bred.  However, Aline is also learned and traveled, and based on her marriage to a German mercenary (thanks, Edward, Prince of Wales), she is probably living on the continent somewhere.  So, the other option is to use the Latin, Magistra.  I like the sound of the title in Latin, and it matches will with what I am doing with my fealty oath (which will be in Latin).

So, it’s something to think about.  And I could always alternate.  But it definitely falls under “Gee, I never thought about needing to think about that before.”

Dressing the Part

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I am being elevated to the Order of the Laurel (the SCA’s highest award for Arts and Sciences).  My elevation is happening in December.

Traditionally, one makes or has made new clothes when one gets elevated.  Currently, Duchess Aislinn, the most recent member of the Laurel before my announcement, is working on a dress for me.  It’s based off this late 14th century style:

From a Tacuinim Sanitatis manuscript from Lombardy, late 14th c.

From a Tacuinim Sanitatis manuscript from Lombardy, late 14th c.

Right now, I think we are just dagging the sleeves, not the bottom.  The gown will be a a soft, sage tone green fulled wool, with a vivid blue silk lining in the sleeves.

I have an sleeveless undergown that I am going to make some pinner sleeves for that is supportive, and an shift.

I am also working on making new stockings and shoes.

Not sure yet what I am doing with my hair.