Thursday, October 2, 2014

New Website

So, I've been busy recently with my website.  I had originally created it about ten years ago when I wanted to start a costuming business.  At the time, my primary focus was Halloween costumes.  In one of the first years, I sold 35 costumes over the course of two months.  Many of those were the cute Flower Baby costumes that I made many variations of.

For a number of years, I made a wide variety of costumes, primary for Halloween.  Some of them got rather repetitive - I had a surprising number of people who wanted baby Elvis or baby nuns!

Then I joined the SCA, and began to concentrate on Renaissance costuming.  Of course, just keeping my family of five in garb, especially for long events like Pennsic, meant that I was already sewing a lot.  I also did garb commissions, mostly for friends.  And eventually I decided that while I didn't mind keeping my hourly rate low for friends, I was tired of having to minimize my value for public commissions.  I raised my rates to $15-$20 per hour (which I still think is low, considering the skill required to do what I do - the people who mow lawns and clean homes in my neighborhood charge more).  For the custom requests I've gotten recently, I'll give them an estimate using that cost for my time, and not a single one has taken me up on a commission in several years.  So, I decided it's time to get rid of the Halloween costuming stuff, and concentrate on the SCA stuff.

I had recently learned Joomla to create a website for Harlie des Roches (Mistress Sarafina Sinclair in the SCA) when she started a sewing studio.  I decided to use that new platform to create a more updated website for myself.  I've made my Philippa information (classes, projects and wardrobe) the primary focus, and only included the Halloween and cosplay stuff under an "Other" category.  I'm happy with the new look and feel of my website.  I'm waiting for the DNS to switch over to point to the new site as I type this.

One thing I wasn't originally prepared for is that there are many people who have likely saved links to my class and project pages, or to my images.  Doing some searches to update the links, I found that many of my articles and images are linked on Pinterest or come up in Google searches.  I don't want to break those links and have people not be able to find me.  So, I'm going to have to leave my images out there and update my HTML documents to redirect into my Joomla site.  Hopefully I won't mess any of it up!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mini Scrolls for Battle of Bannockburn Demo

Recently, my shire was asked to assist with a demo at an event to commemorate the Battle of Bannockburn, to be held in the town of Bannockburn, IL.  Static A&S displays, demonstrations of period activities, heavy and rapier combat demos and many people in garb were planned for the day.  It was also mentioned that there would be a mock court at the end of the day, perhaps giving awards to "winners" of the day's combat in addition to thanking the coordinators of the event.

About two days before the event, I was planning what I could bring to do and how to interact with the public.  I warped up my inkle loom with some new yarn and cards, though I didn't end up using it since Acelina was there using her inkle loom.  I pre-cut some lengths of yarn to do some fingerloop braiding.  I figured I could be doing the braiding to give away to people, and possibly teach anyone who seemed particularly interested.  I actually think this would be a bigger draw in the future.  A number of people, seeing Acelina's woven trim and my fingerloop braids, referred to them as bracelets, and a couple girls even asked if they could have one.  I think that I should make up more braids in the future, specifically for giving away to the public.  It could lead into presenting the braiding as a period activity that still resonates today.

So, then it got into my head that if we were having mock court, we should have some mock scrolls.  I have several scroll blanks that I've made, as well as photos of scrolls that were completed and handed out as awards.  I took photos of these blanks and scrolls, removed any text that was in the photo, and then shrunk them to about 1/4 page size.  In some cases, I rotated and manipulated the designs into a landscape orientation, since I felt that would work better for the text that I had planned.

Then I took a sample sheet where I had practiced my gothic lettering, and scanned it into the computer.  I copied the best of each letter into a separate file, so that I had a hand-written alphabet from which to create text.

I didn't have time to run my idea by anyone else in the shire, so I simply decided to use some formal language to say "you were here".  I left room for a person's name to be added in calligraphy at the event.

I printed up many copies of these onto card stock and cut them out.  Each ended up about 3 1/2" by 5".  Finally, I made up labels with the name of our shire, with its website, as well as the SCA's website link.  I put a label on the back of each card.

At the demo, I set up at a table in the center of the pavilion of A&S displays.  I sat and worked on practicing my calligraphy, and as people came through I offered to write their name for them onto the cards.  Most people were amazed that I then did the calligraphy on the spot for them.  When appropriate, based on the individual's interest level, I also discussed the artwork of each scroll, explaining that these are custom pieces of art as well.  I showed the the original full-size scrolls in the cases of the scroll blanks I still had.  It would have been better if I was more prepared for this interaction - the scrolls could have been in a manageable display binder, along with the inspiration pieces they were based on.

At first, it was mostly a few children who wanted their names written out on something pretty that they could take with them.  But word spread as they walked around with their scrolls, and more and more people came over to the pavilion who hadn't previously wandered that way.  Quite a few of the scrolls that I ended up writing were clearly for adults.  My hope was that these would be more memorable, and less likely to find their way immediately into a trash bin than a small business card.  I don't know at this point whether there has been any follow-up contact from anyone who took home a scroll, but I'm hopeful that this technique could be quite useful at demos in the future.

I had also made some full-size copies of a few of my blanks onto card stock.  I got my first experience as a combat scribe, when I received the desired wording for our "thank you" to the coordinator at about 20 minutes before we wanted to give it out in our mock court.  That was also quite well received, and hopefully they will keep it and remember our group for future endeavors.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dragon hatchlings cake

So, a little diversion from costuming...

 My daughter, Elizabeth, loves dragons. Her "signature" craft is to make dragon hatchlings from Fimo clay to give to her friends as friendship tokens. For her birthday about a month ago, when we discussed what type of cake she wanted, she wasn't interested in a simple store-bought ice cream cake like her twin brother. No, she wanted dragon eggs.

We had started to come up with a plan when we heard about some upcoming Dragon Cake competitions at Coronation and Crown events. So, while we were working on the cakes for her birthday, we were also testing out techniques for a dragon cake competition.

I found a cake pan that is intended for making doll cakes using those half-barbie-dolls that you stick into the top of them. But, each shape was half of an egg, so we decided it would work out pretty well.
If I had seen this pan, I probably would have tried this instead. I think these would have ended up a more reasonable size. The others were pretty big.

For her birthday, Elizabeth wanted two chocolate cakes and two yellow cakes for her friends, based on which flavor they preferred. We used cake mix for these.

We've used fondant in the past for a few of their recent birthday cakes, and had always gone with pre-made fondant (we tried the Wilton brand, which was not great, and had moved on to the Satin Ice brand, which was better).  However, Elizabeth decided she wanted to try her hand at making fondant, so we found a recipe for marshmallow fondant.  It worked out pretty well, and was tastier and softer than the store-bought stuff.  We also made buttercream frosting from scratch (chocolate for the chocolate cakes, white chocolate for the yellow cakes).  We tested out draping the eggs in fondant versus dipping them in candy coating.  We also tried Wilton's Edible Decorating Dough, which I thought worked out pretty well. We also used some Wilton Gum Paste for a few of the items that needed to dry quite hard (like the dragon wings and a few skeleton/support pieces).

My sample egg, using dipped candy coating and decorating dough

Elizabeth's blue egg with green dragons, using fondant for the egg covering and the dragon

Elizabeth's purple egg with blue dragons, using fondant for the egg covering and the dragon.

Then it came time to make the dragon cake as an entry for the competition at Spring Crown. Since there was a youth category, Elizabeth wanted to enter that herself. So, although we had worked on the testing and birthday phase together, she did pretty much the whole competition entry herself. I wasn't even in the kitchen for the vast majority of it. She made the cakes from scratch, as well as the fondant and buttercream frosting. 

She decided that she didn't want to go with the edible decorating dough, since it didn't taste as good as the fondant. She did struggle with getting the dragon to hold its shape using the softer marshmallow fondant. She had originally planned on making a nearly full dragon to pop out of the top egg, but in the end she had to scale that back somewhat. I did need to help her a bit with draping the fondant onto the eggs, since it required more than two hands to drape, support, ease and trim the fondant. She used Wilton Pearl Dust mixed with lemon extract to paint the Midrealm Pale onto the eggs. I loved her last-minute idea to add a crown to the dragon that is at the top of the heap.

The final cake
"Hatching the New Dragon Prince of the Middle Kingdom"

She won the Youth category of the competition at Crown Tournament. I wasn't able to stay, so I don't know how many other cakes she competed against. But I think she did an awesome job!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

French Hood Instructions

I have written up instructions for creating my version of the French hood, as well as created a pattern that is available on my website. Hopefully some people will try it out and give me some feedback!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

French hood article

The main section of my French hood article, based on my A&S faire entry, is up on my website. I've got a few modifications to make - such as I got a few more good sources for information on period metalworking techniques this weekend. And I'll probably try to get a scale version of the pattern up in case anyone else wants to try it out. But, other than that, it's all up for people to take a look at. The article is here:

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Midlands A&S Faire

So, I clearly haven't done a pentathlon for this year. But I will! I truly plan to enter a pentathlon in NEXT year's A&S Faire! But, in the meantime, I created a great entry for this year's faire - a new French hood. Today was the Midlands A&S Faire, and I received a high first place for my entry. It's a great feeling when you're so happy and confident with your entry that you don't even get particularly flustered when you realize you've forgotten your documentation, and have to drive halfway home to meet up with your husband who is driving your documentation towards you! I also got to judge a couple of great projects, and saw several other really cool things. It was a very nice day.

So, I'll post shortly with the details of my project, and I'll try to get it up on my website for anyone who wants to try out my pattern. And I have already made a plan for most of the items for my pentathlon, so I'll get to work on blogging those projects too!