Acceptance, Book One of the Acceptance Series

For more than two thousand years, a small community of humans has lived in harmony with vampires, giving their blood and obedience in exchange for protection. And for all that time, it’s been a peaceful occupation.

When Kalyn Reid comes of age and pledges herself to the vampires, she has no reason to worry. She’s paired with Anselm for her training, and she couldn’t ask for a kinder, more patient mentor. She also couldn’t ask for anyone better-looking.

But before she has a chance to learn her new responsibilities–or get a date–her idyllic life goes up in flames. Without warning, the humans and vampires in her group are murdered by a strange new type of vampire and the few survivors are forced to flee.

Anselm and his brother, Micah, vow to hunt down the murderer, and they take Kalyn with them–thinking they can keep her safe. But when the killer finds them first, it’s they who must rely on her if any of them are to survive.

It reminded me of Game of Thrones, except with less incest and more vampires. - Author Michelle Proulx

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My PINK Cotehardie

I keep fighting to establish a routine in my life–like blogging once a week–but I keep getting distracted. Before, we lived far from our friends and family, and a good 30 minutes’ drive from the nearest city; it was easy to sit down and write a book or blog because there wasn’t much else to do. (That, and I had down time at work–something I never have now.) Now, we’re near almost all of our friends and my family, and everyone wants to visit with us, and when we’re not being social, we’re usually eating out or going to a movie (how novel!). And we’re also going to events again–now that we have money and live in a central location–and meetings and fighter practices.

At some point–surely–the new will wear off of us (and off the city) and we’ll go back to staying home most of the time. Then, maybe, I can blog again.

To catch up a little, I’ve been doing some serious sewing lately. I have gone to handsewing all of my clothing (with the exception of a quickie dress I’m making right now; I’m cheating and using knit velvet). One benefit to having high speed internet is that I have access to all sorts of new documentaries on Nextflix, Hulu, and YouTube; I love to watch (or more like listen) to documentaries while I work. It makes the project seem to go by faster, plus I learn stuff as I go. (The drawback to having high speed internet is CandyCrush.)DSCN0183

I made this pink dress like the yellow one I did last year. Here it is, inside out, on my dummy, with the lining partially attached. Unlike the yellow dress, which has a muslin lining, this one actually has a linen lining. And I don’t like it as well. Sure, it’s period-correct–unlike the muslin–but linen stretches. And when you sweat in it–as is wont to happen in Tennessee in the summer when it’s 90+ degrees outside–it stretches even more. Which means you end up with a lot less support in the bust at the end of the day and you start looking like you’ve melted–literally and figuratively.

I think I’m going to go back to muslin linings for all my dresses except the ones I enter into competitions. At the very least, no more linen linings in summer dresses; I think they’d do alright in the winter, but not the summer.

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Here is where the lining is sewn to the armhole. Check out that shoulder seam; it looks machine sewn. It’s not!

I really like half-lining or bodice-lining my dresses. It gives me the look of a lined dress without a lot of extra fabric. I learned to appreciate the beauty of a lined garment when I was at The Original Re-Enactor’s Market in England and everyone was wearing lined garments. However, it gets very hot in Tennessee. The first time I wore this dress, it was in the upper 90’s, with a heat index (thanks to the humidity that we have in abundance) of 104 (that’s 40 degrees Celsius for the non-Americans). When I lived in Ireland, by contrast, I wore a light jacket to the pub on the Fourth of July, made my mother mail me my flannel footie pajamas (which I wore all summer), and the hottest it got the entire time I was there was about 89 degrees (32 C). That lasted one week, then it went back to being comfortable pants and long-sleeve shirt weather.

And that was in Kilkenny, which is one of the driest, warmest parts of Ireland. I have a picture of me, in the middle of August–at the same time I would be melting in 95-degree, 80% humidity weather in Tennessee–wearing a zipped up coat and sitting huddled on a rock in the Burren on the west coast.

So, unfortunately, I can’t get away with wearing all the layers and linings that people in Europe can wear. Hence why I half-line.

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And here’s a picture of the sleeve. I learned my lesson from the yellow dress and flat-felled all my seams before I put in the lining.

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Here is is completed and right-side out. The vertical slits are called “fitchets.” This is the first time I’ve put any in a dress, and I have to say I like them. While they don’t have to be a contrasting color, I like the extra splash of color.

The yellow around the front of the dress and neckline is a tiny piece of braid made from embroidery floss. Despite my best ironing efforts, the lining wanted to roll up and show around the edges. On my yellow dress, this isn’t a problem because the lining is beige muslin and the linen is a pale yellow; you don’t notice it. But on this dress, the lining is a natural wheat color and it does show around the pink. So, in an effort to hide it, I braided the thread and sewed it onto the edges. This is meant to simulate the card-woven edges that were found on some woollen garments. (The purpose is to make sure the wool doesn’t fray on the edges and become fuzzy and ugly.)

While it was meant to be corrective, I ended up liking the bit of yellow trim around the edges. It gave it a very finished look.100_6710This purse was something of a first for me, too. I’ve made exactly one purse for myself and that was 11 years ago, when I first got into the SCA (and I almost never used it). Fitchets, however, make it a lot easier to wear a purse. Just tie on a belt under your dress, attach the purse and pull it through the hole. (If you expect cut-purses, though, you can keep it on the inside.)

The design on the purse is block-printed and I’ve never done that before (block-printing is period, although it seems to have been largely imported into Europe from the middle east and India–where it’s still done by hand today). I bought a block at the flea market in Nashville and this was the first time I tried to use it. It was harder to use than I expected; it wasn’t like using a sponge or rubber stamp. I guess the paint didn’t lay on the wood as well as it does on rubber, so it was hard to get the print to transfer without overloading it with paint and creating a blob instead. There was definitely a sweet spot that you had to hit with how much paint  you put on it. I found that putting my fabric on top of another piece of fabric–creating a soft work surface–helped. I guess the springiness of sponge or rubber helps transfer the pattern, too; since wood lacks this, you have to make up for it. Still, I made a number of impressions before I had one I was satisfied with (I used the second-best print for the backside of the purse).

In period, it’s unlikely that your purse would have matched your dress that well. It likely would have been made from a really nice fabric or embroidered, and most women would probably have only had one. So it ended up being worn with all your outfits, whether it matched, coordinated, or clashed spectacularly. (Although I’m not sure if medieval people had a sense of “clashing;” some of the combinations of color and prints you see in paintings really makes you wonder.)

I kind of don’t like how matchy-matchy the purse is, and yet I couldn’t think of anything else to make it out of that wouldn’t clash, and I hated the idea of clashing even worse. But if I do fitchets again–and I’m planning to in my next dress–I will probably make a purse that doesn’t match.

Speaking of my next dress, here’s the material for it:

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This is a light-blue and white Celtic key pattern. This is actually the reverse side. The front side is kind of a synthetic-looking chenille, but the back is a very heavy, nobbly cotton that passes for wool unless you touch it. It will make me a very nice, heavy winter dress (which I will like, since I get cold easily). I was just thinking that I might trim the neckline in white fur.

And, before I go, here is me wearing the pink dress. (Our camera lens was very dirty, so that’s why there’s a blur, even after I ran the pictures through Photoshop.)

Devious Altered

My yellow underdress is synthetic and barely stretches at all, so I managed to keep a decent-looking bustline all day at this particular event. But the first time I wore it, when it was so bloody hot, I wore a cotton gauze chemise under it that provided very little support on its own, and coupled with the stretchy linen, gave me what I termed the “melted birthday cake” look.

Good Picture Altered

In the 14th century, women often posed with their hands on their abdomens and their elbows pointed out. I learned, while wearing a sideless surcoat, that the reason for doing this is to allow the contours of the waist to be seen; if your arms are hanging down at your sides, it hides your curves and can make you look fatter. One of the reasons why I like the fitchets is that it gives you a place to put your hands, while creating that medieval silhouette. (Other people say that they’re nice in the winter for keeping your hands warm. I’ll find out in my next dress–especially if I trim the holes with fur. Mwahaha!)

The Five MOST DANGEROUS Weapons of the Middle Ages

In a recent Rolling Stone article, the following guns were named the most dangerous in America (based on how often they were used in a crime):

1. Pistols
2. Revolvers
3. Rifles
4. Shotguns
5. Derringers

Not to be outdone by the journalistic standards of Rolling Stone (and because you know I like medieval stuff), I have compiled a list of…

 The Five MOST DANGEROUS Weapons of the Middle Ages

 1. Swords

1. Swords  Swords are most commonly a double-edged weapon (although you may see single-sided, “saber” style blades in the middle east during this period). They differ from daggers (a type of knife) only by their length. There is no consensus as to where a long knife ends and a short sword begins, but swords are generally characterized by their usefulness in maiming and killing people, whereas knives tend to have less violent uses (such as cutting up meat). Swords were also worn as by the wealthy as a status symbol and a visible threat that kept 99% of the population repressed.Swords are most commonly a double-edged weapon (although you may see single-sided, “saber” style blades in the middle east during this period). They differ from daggers (a type of knife) only by their length. There is no consensus as to where a long knife ends and a short sword begins, but swords are generally characterized by their usefulness in maiming and killing people, whereas knives tend to have less violent uses (such as cutting up meat). Swords were also worn as by the wealthy as a status symbol and a visible threat that kept 99% of the population repressed.

 2. Arrows

archeryArrows could be used for hunting (which most medieval people did for sport rather than food acquisition), but they were most often used to deadly effect during wars. Crossbows (which shoot “bolts”) were so deadly that one medieval pope banned their use against “good Christians” (in typical medieval Christian supremacism, though, pagans, Jews, and Muslims were not protected by this ban). Possibly to get around this ban, the English invented a “long bow” which was like a regular bow, only longer. It proved to be even deadlier than the crossbow, thanks to its long range. Tens of thousands of French freedom fighters died in a hail of arrows from the English invaders during the “Hundred Years War.”

3. Poll weapons (including, pikes, halberds, poll axes, glaves, etc.)

Poll (or “pole”) weapons come in a variety of lethal configurations, but most of them consist of at least one bladed edge affixed to a long pole (although many also contain one or more spikes as well). Whereas swords were worn even during peacetime, and arrows were used for hunting, poll weapons were used solely on the battlefield and had no other purpose except to maim and kill—which they did horrifyingly well. Many of the gruesome injuries that are seen in medieval skulls come from these powerful weapons. In fact, the term “poll weapon” comes not from the pole that it was attached to, but from the fact that you were supposed to use it to strike your opponent on the head, or “poll.”

 4. Knives and daggers

knifeThese came in two forms: a single-edge knife and the double-edge dagger. Knives were typically used for practical purposes, such as eating meals, but daggers were commonly used as weapons. Both types were common among peasant criminals who were not allowed, by law, to own a sword–although the nobility also carried knives and daggers into battle where they might use them as a measure of last resort if they found themselves otherwise unarmed. After battles were over, however, these implements were frequently used to loot the corpses of the slain, cutting off armor, purses, and anything else of value.

5. Axes (short-handled)

BruceBattle-axes were popular in the early middle ages when primitive steel swords were too expensive even for many in the noble classes. Viking “berserkers” had a spine-tingling reputation for using axes to hack everyone—soldiers and innocent civilians alike—into bloody giblets. But even in the high middle ages, we see them used on battlefields as a back-up weapon for the nobility, or as a primary weapon for the conscripted peasant soldiers. Robert the Bruce famously struck Henry de Bohun at the Battle of Bannockburn with an ax—driving the blade through two iron helmets and the skull, before lodging it into the brain.

And rounding out the top ten:

6. Flails, ax handles, and other blunt objects
7. Pitchforks
8. Torches, Greek Fire, and other portable incendiary devices
9. Spears (this would have ranked #6, expect I had to factor in the Peasant’s Rebellion)
10. The Inquisition

Honorable Mention: War Horses. Heavy horse were often used to mow down opponents and break up enemy formations. However, while some people were undoubtedly killed by trampling, horses, by and large, only caused injuries, not direct death.

The One True Century

Here is another picture of me with my new ruffled veil–this time with the proper dress and hairstyle. I’m absolutely loving it!

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And a quick alternate with the flat ram’s horns.

 

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Medieval Combat Society Ruffleception! This German figure is wearing two veils–one on top of the other–similar to mine, then she has a wimple that has a matching ruffle around the bottom edge. I kind of like it.

Head of a Noble Woman(You know, I just realized I have my medieval face on: hooded eyes, pasted-on smile.)

 

Star-Spangled Fourth

In honor of the Fourth of July, I thought I would spend a little quality time with our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. Because it began life as a poem, and because of the time in which it was written, it can be almost as hard to understand as it is to sing. So let me set the mood a bit, then break it down so it can really be appreciated.


 

Imagine you are on a boat near the coastline, just as the sun is rising. Beginning the day before, and continuing all night, the British navy has shelled Fort McHenry, which guards the entrance into Baltimore’s harbor.

Washington BurnsThe British have already sacked Washington D.C. and set it ablaze. The First Lady, Dolly Madison, just barely managed to cram the presidential portraits—including that of George Washington—into her carriage and flee before the British arrived to destroy the White House.

Now, the Redcoats are poised to take Baltimore—one of the largest cities in America, and possibly its most important port. The loss of Baltimore will be catastrophic not just for morale and for the inhabitants who will lose everything they can’t carry out, but the loss of the port will make it difficult to resupply the American army and move troops.

All you can do is keep a helpless watch from a distance as the bombardment lasts all day and into the night.

FrancisScottKeyStarSpangledBanner,PercyMorgan,1913-500Oh, say, can you see,
By the dawn’s early light,

You don’t trust your eyesight—the light is dim, as the sun is just beginning to lighten the horizon, and the air is still thick with the smoke from black powder—so you ask the man standing beside you, hey, can you see…

What so proudly we hailed
At the twilight’s last gleaming?

The night before, as darkness fell, the last thing everyone saw was a huge American flag flying above the walls of the fort, defiantly proclaiming it to be in American hands. Now the question is: does the flag still fly? Is the fort still in American hands, or has it fallen, in the night, to the British?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars,
Through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched,
Were so gallantly streaming.

Our Flag Was Still There - Fort McHenry-700x600The fort’s commander, George Armistead, had commissioned the enormous flag as a show of defiance, saying that he wanted “a flag so large, the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance.” And it was towards the flag that the Brits aimed their long guns, trying to shell the fort into submission and cause the flag to be hauled down in surrender.

And the rockets’ red glare,
The bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night
That our flag was still there.

War_of_1812_Fort_McHenry_BombardmentAs the day turned to night, the fighting raged on. The British ships sent up red flares, trying to give their gunners enough light to see what they were doing and where their target was. And the light from those flares, and the exploding shells which rained down on the fort, provided little bursts of light, like flashes of lightning, showing that the flag was still yet flying over the fort.

Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free
And the home of the brave?

Does the flag still fly? Does the fort still hold? Have the British been kept out of Baltimore? The freedom of the young nation may well depend on that single fort.


There are actually three more verses to the song, although I’ve never heard anyone sing them, never learned them in school, and don’t know anyone who knows them.

The second verse (which you can find on Wikipedia) conveys the triumph of seeing the flag still flying over the fort. (The British, running low on ammunition and having accomplished nothing because their guns performed so poorly at that distance, would soon withdraw; the bombardment had lasted twenty-five hours.)

The third verse celebrates the victory and mocks the invaders who thought they could easily win.

The final verse is a great one (although it sounds horrible when sung; give it a try):

O thus be it ever,
when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home
and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace,
may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made
and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must,
when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto:
“In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free
and the home of the brave!

Have a happy Fourth of July!

My 14th Century Ruffled Veil

Well, we are officially moved and our house is officially sold! Now, on to the unpacking!

In the midst of all the chaos, I started a little project (because that’s what I do; I hoard projects like some people hoard plastic butter tubs) and I just finished it this evening.

DSCN0142This is my (faux) 14th century ruffled veil. It’s hard to see in the picture, but all of the ruffles are edged with gold thread. (That’s what makes edges look so obvious.)

There are, as far as I have researched, three different types of 14th century veils: random ruffles (as illustrated), starched rolls, and the honeycomb.  Of the random ruffles, there is the nebula veil and something which might not be a nebula veil.

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A 15th century nebula veil (by Van Eyck)

We’re almost positive that the nebula veil’s ruffles were made on the loom. The warp threads in the selvedges on either side of the fabric were loosely tensioned, while the rest of the fabric was tightly tensioned. This created a pucker or ruffle in the edge of the fabric. (One of my costume books has an essay on this subject and a recreation of the weaving technique; it works perfectly).

Nebula veils were woven out of silk or very fine linen and typically made a very narrow and thin ruffled edge. The veil would be several yards in length and it would be folded up so that multiple layers of the ruffles lay on top of one another, and that’s what created the “nebula” of ruffles around the face.

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This Beauchamp weeper’s veil most closely resembles mine.

However, there are some depictions of ruffled veils that don’t look like nebula veils because the ruffles are either quite deep (meaning they stand out from the face) or quite large. The weaving technique probably didn’t produce veils with that much ruffle. It is possible that a separate ruffle was sewn onto the veil and either gathered into a random ruffle or was starched into some sort of shape.

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The rolled edge.

It would appear that the sew-on-a-separate-ruffle was definitely the construction method for the rolled-edge veil. It would have then been starched into the rolls.

DSCF0688Katherine Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick, is wearing one of the more rare honeycomb-style veils. These were much more common in Germany than England. I have conjectured that they were made by smocking the middle fold of a piece of linen, then stuffed (to get that padded roll effect around the face). I have found someone else on the internet who shares that view. However, I have also seen two other people who create the same look by starching or stitching ruffles into shape.

In truth, we’re not exactly sure how they constructed most of their veils–or even if there was just one construction method for each variant. There are multiple ways to knit a sock; why not multiple ways to construct a veil?

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This medieval veil had the ruffles sewn into place, not gathered then stitched down. Also, the medieval examples use a woven tape, not a hemmed piece of fabric, like Cristiana and I used. This probably cut down on some of the thickness of the ruffles and may have made them stiffer and more likely to hold their shape.

For my veil, I used Cristiana de Huntington’s 10-hour Veil method. She calls it a cheat–because, instead of gathering the ruffle onto the veil and starching it, she sews it on so that it makes the rolls without a need to starch–but according to one of her documentary photos, ruffle edging could be sewn on so that it formed a distinctive shape (in this case, V’s) without the need for starch.

The nice thing about not needing to starch is that if you live in a humid climate (which Tennessee is), you don’t have to worry about your starch going limp and your ruffles falling out.

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Damnit, why didn’t mine look like that?

I will admit, my veil did not come out the way I intended (does any project, really?). Cristiana’s veils have a crisp, very obvious V-edge. When I did my first edge, it didn’t look like that at all. It might be that I didn’t sew it correctly, but, more likely, it’s because she was using a very crisp, stiff linen, whereas mine is a soft, garment linen.

When I put my first edge on, I still had gobs of edging left (I’m still not sure how I ended up with so much, since I followed the directions), so I said “what the heck,” and I did a second layer next to the first. Then another. Finally, on my fourth time across, I used up the last of my edging. So that’s how it came to be. And even if it didn’t come out looking like it was supposed to, it’s more or less constructed in a period fashion (even the gold trim on the edges is documentable), and it’s pretty; I can’t wait to wear it to an event.