Continuing the freshly-minted tradition of virtual sharing in these times of plague, the Kingdom Office of Arts & Sciences once again reached out to our fabulous Arts & Sciences Championship artisans. Through interviews for the Æthelmearc Gazette our artisans can share their work with the populace at large on a more personal level. Unlike the Virtual Queen’s Prize Tourney, which was run completely virtual, the Kingdom Championship is a juried competition, and included a week’s worth of face to face judging – with judges especially selected for their knowledge and background – as well as an online populace “meet and greet the artisans” before Kingdom court. Master Hrólfr and I, your Kingdom Arts & Sciences officers, enjoy these challenges of finding ways to inspire and motivate our artisans in these trying times and we are happy to see the Championship ran so smoothly! The Kingdom Championship would not have been nearly as successful without the extra-ordinary organizational skills of Master Hrólfr, the web development magic of Master Robert of Ferness and the zoom room wizardry of Lady Magdalena Txoperena and Baroness Amalie. Thank you for helping our artisans shine!
Today’s interview is with The Honorable Lady Kathryn MacLuing of the Barony of Blackstone Mountain, who entered the Kingdom of Æthelmearc Arts and Sciences Championship with her 10th century Saxon/Norman Outfit.
Could you tell me a little about you, your persona?
I am The Honorable Lady Kathryn MacLuing, Order of the Millrind, Order of the Sycamore, Order of the Keystone. While I started with my persona being a Scots from before Wallace’s Rebellion, I have flowed along the time stream wearing whatever caught my eye. However, there’s just something about the lines of the late 10th-early 11th Century gowns that I adore. So, is this something my persona would have worn? Other than the belt and veil I would not have worn gowns patterned this loose, but they did lead to the fitted kirtles and sideless surcotes of the mid-to-late 1200s that are my more usual garments. I did make a mistake creating a filet to go with the veil, that is a solid 1200’s invention. The veil would have been simply wrapped like a scarf around my head and neck, and at most a simple circlet worn over the top.
What inspired you to make your entry?
My inspiration was multi fold. First, I had seen online the Calontir Clothing Challenge, which called for the participants to make a full outfit of 4 different layers from the underclothing out. The 4th layer was to be an ‘Accessory’ created by a method other than sewing. No documentation was needed, and we were free to be as period or modern as we chose. The Challenge started October 1st, and will end January 31st with the judging. Other bonus challenges were added as the word spread. I believe I am the only one from Æthelmearc to participate. It helped that I was about to be laid off for Winter, and thought a project like this would give me something to do while I had all that spare time. I did not expect to be finished in only two months, but that’s how it worked out.
With the idea of three layers of clothing, I wanted something simple but showy. The 10th-11th Century chemise, kirtle, and cotehardie had those simple lines, but could be easily decorated with embroidery to make it stand out. Then, there was the bonus of card-weaving a belt, which was an idea I’d kicked around because I own a woven belt and wanted another. So, with a full stash of fabric to choose from, and the looming prospect of being laid off all winter, I chose to take up the challenge.
I did NOT expect the response when the outfit was finished, and all the calls for me to enter the Kingdom A&S. Having Laurels and Fleurs, even if they were old friends, pushing for me to enter the competition was both flattering and bemusing. To think people thought my work was good enough to enter the Kingdom Arts & Sciences Championship was awesome and terrifying in equal measure. So, they were my inspiration as well as thorns in my side until I said “OK! I’ll Do It!”.
Did the entry throw up any unexpected issues?
The errors started early, as I discovered that ALL of my dress patterns I owned were missing. I can only assume they were left months ago at the last “Stitch-n-Bitch” the Barony had, and are probably gone forever. Thankfully, Baroness Ceridwen de Skene came and helped take my measurements, and I was able to recreate things from the measurements and from laying out my other gowns to take patterns from. Of course, mis-measuring happens, and so the cotehardie needed additional gores, but that is a pattern I’ve rarely used and was recreating entirely from my memory of how it worked.
The belt was a real challenge. because I’d never tried card-weaving outside a couple demos. First, I did not own a loom, so I turned my cutting table upside down to string the warp over the legs. Then, there was a problem keeping the tension, which I tried to fix with weights, but it never quite got there. Due to the tension problems, the cards would catch on the threads next to them and didn’t turn correctly. On top of that came the more common errors of losing track of which turn I was on, was I going forward or back, etc. Even with those problems, I did manage to finish the belt within a week, working probably 3-4 hours a day on it. All credit to Baroness Ceridwen for making the cards and gifting them to me when I told her I wanted to try it.
Then, after I was prodded and convinced to enter the Æthelmearc A&S Championship, I had only 24 hours to document all the things I did as actual techniques, or find excuses why I didn’t do them like they would have been done. As I said, the Calontir Challenge did not ask for documentation, and gave us free reign to be only as period as we chose to be, and many of my techniques were more modern. If I had meant to enter the Kingdom A&S, I would have done the research first before touching any fabric (and probably wouldn’t have done the project).
I have never liked documentation, and Kingdom A&S would require a whole lot of it. I have run Baronial A&S, I have run Dirty Dozen Derbies, but I have never entered anything in any A&S competition that took more than a 3×5 card or one-page sheet of documentation. Thus, the 24 hour dash to try to prove at least a few of the things I’d done were period, and how the things I didn’t do exactly period were suitable changes.
Did you learn something specific, something you would do differently, or would recommend others to do again?
Research First, Document as you Go. Do not try to backtrack everything in less than 24 hours. Second thing I learned, from judges’ suggestions, were ways to mitigate the tension problems with card-weaving, things I’d not thought of like tying it to my waist and using my own body as a weight. As for my sudden need for patterns, there was a prize in the Calontir Challenge for using different patterns for creating your layers, so each layer was cut differently. If I do this again, I’d use just one pattern for all three dresses, and also use linen for all three layers, instead of a light cotton for the chemise. The color is perfect and it drapes well, but it’s definitely not period for the time and culture. I’d also look into light-weight wool for the cotehardie.
What did you think of the virtual face to face judging concept?
I think the online judging worked very well for me, because despite my years in the Society I still suffer from shyness when on the spot. Being at home and not spotlighted in the middle of a busy event calmed the anxiety. It also helped when I found that I knew three of the judges personally, so it wasn’t absolute strangers.
The feedback was excellent, in real time, and I will now call my sewing machine my ‘servant’ who takes care of the interior seams for me thanks to Mistress Graidhne Ni Ruaidh. The rubric was easy to understand, logical, and well-suited to the situation where judges could ‘look but not touch’.
I am very proud to say that I got a 3/6 overall score which was far better than I’d expected, and I’d have probably scored better with better documentation and more period construction. The judge’s explanations behind their scoring in their feedback was supportive and helpful, and made me feel good about entering.
What motivated you to enter the Kingdom Championship?
I want to point out, I did not intend to enter the Kingdom A&S Championships. This was an ‘just for fun’ project that was triggered by seeing an online competition, which wasn’t even in this Kingdom. This was a Winter Project, because I had a stash of fabric, time on my hands, and a Challenge to make something to add to my wardrobe. Plus, there was the bonus of learning a new skill.
I did not expect the reaction after I finished the outfit and started posting pictures to my Facebook page. I did not think it was worthy of the Kingdom Arts & Sciences Championship, and the reaction of friends who are Laurels and Fleurs was overwhelming. I still don’t know if I should thank my friends for pushing me into entering, or plot revenge (probably both 😀 ). I got a big thrill that so many people liked the outfit, and how many compliments I got on it. I am proud of my score, which was far more than I expected considering the flaws in it. I am actually thinking of trying to do it again, the Right Way, because of the positive feedback and reactions. But first, I have to restock my stash, and experiment with the card loom I was gifted for Christmas.
Are you interested in reading more about the entry after this appetizing interview? You can! All entries including documentation and images are available at the Kingdom Office of Arts and Sciences website.