In which I share a villanelle…

Last September, I took a class at the University of Atlantia entitled “Writing Villanelles Like a True Villain.” As part of the class, we were given an exercise to write a villanelle. I’m always up for trying new and difficult forms of poetry, so I took a stab at it. To make it extra new and difficult, I decided to try writing it in iambic pentameter (even though villanelles are typically all about the rhyme scheme and have no set rhythm.)

As I pursue the Bardic Arts, I’ll be sharing that process here on the blog, and so I present my first (but not last) villanelle!

For Jennifer, when I think of her

Whene’er I have a moment’s chance to sleep,
The red-winged blackbird sings his song so clear,
Your memory I cannot fail to keep.

The rains come swift. The currents running deep,
From streams that overstepped their banks, appear
Whene’er I have a moment’s chance to sleep.

The autumn leaves across the valley creep,
The seasons march, ne’er pausing year to year–
Your memory I cannot fail to keep–

It catches me. When snow is piled deep
And high around the door, I feel you here
Whene’er I have a moment’s chance to sleep.

The springtime comes, sheds green along the steep
Valley walls. I walk them with you near,
Your memory I cannot fail to keep.

I close your book, my eyes too dry to weep,
The words you wrote still echo in my ear.
Whene’er I have a moment’s chance to sleep,
Your memory I cannot fail to keep.

In which we make my spouse a gambeson…

Poof! You’re a gambeson!

No, not quite like that. Rather, my spouse has lately decided to seriously begin learning SCA heavy armored combat. He’s currently working around a shoulder injury, but he is pretty sure this is an activity he wants to pursue long term. The group we’re in has loaner armor, but he’s been wearing a sweatshirt (sometimes MY sweatshirt) and some pants under it. I decided that I would get him started collecting his own kit by making him a gambeson. So he could leave my sweatshirts alone.

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Resources

For this project, historical accuracy was less important than finding a pattern that I could easily create to fit him and that would fit my barely-more-than-rudimentary sewing skills. I found an Instructable by (username) Rune Cutter, entitled “How to Make an 11 Cent. Padded Gambeson.” That is, 11th Century, not the amount of money you will spend on this project. The step-by-step instructions seemed pretty clear, so I took into account the warning that you needed some basic sewing skills, and decided to try it.

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The Progress

Everything I needed for this project was available at Joann’s. I purchased several yards of quilted cotton, four packages of bias tape (only needed two), and some green thread to match. I already had pins, pens, rulers, etc. I bought heavy-duty needles for my sewing machine, but ended up not needing them.

IMG_0209Where I Followed the Instructions. I used Rune Cutter’s sketched pattern and dimensions to make the neck. The pattern is scaled for a 5’10” fighter; my spouse is 5’9″, but built like the tanks he used to command. I took Cutter’s advice and double-checked my pattern before cutting it out. I also used the general pattern shape, sleeve extensions, and the idea of using bias tape around the neck, sleeve ends and bottom of the gambeson. I found his instructions to be clear and understandable.

Where I Varied A Bit. This is how I double-checked the pattern. While the sketch shows some general measurements, I needed to take four more in order to get it sketched IMG_0239properly: my spouse’s waist, chest, arm scye and forearm. I added two inches of ease to the chest and waist, and probably could have added one more. After finishing the neckline, to include sewing the bias tape to finish the edge, I then pinned along the lines I drew on the cloth.  This allowed me to get him to try it on before I started sewing. If you’re doing this for someone other than your spouse, you could try basting it so you don’t stick them with a pin. Or not.

My sewing machine was packed away, so I started sewing the seam by hand. I don’t know why. I was just too lazy to pull the sewing machine out. That got old pretty quickly, so the next day, I got the sewing machine from its closet, threaded it up, and sewed the seam. Keep in mind, I hadn’t yet cut the fabric. I had my spouse try it on one more time, then I cut a quarter inch seam around the top layer and a half inch seam around the bottom layer. This allowed me to flat-fell the seams, which I did by hand. Some of the cotton was fraying even a short time after cutting, and the quilting was fluffing out, so finishing the seam this way seemed like a good idea.

One note–if you do the sleeve extensions in the Instructable, don’t forget to leave yourself a seam allowance. Like I did. Ugh. Re-cut. And this fabric is not cheap. I think I’m going to make a cowl out of the mistake.

IMG_0242Also, I think I got away with not needing the heavy duty needles because I didn’t stitch the bias tape over the fabric, except for the bottom where I sewed along the inside seam and then handstitched it down on the outside. This is how I’ve finished most of the quilts I’ve made, and this was a similar process.

 

Would I Make it Again?

Probably. This was a fairly easy project, and I would be happy to make one for a friend, as long as they bought the fabric for it. I might try tackling a more involved gambeson later, but for now, this will get him started. He hasn’t yet had a chance to fight in it–nursing a shoulder injury–but I’m looking forward to finding out how it feels when he’s moving in it, how it breathes, and how long it holds up after a few months of weekly practices. I’ll let you know!

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The Journey Begins…

This Website marks a turning point in my participation in the Society for Creative Anachronism. For the longest time, I’ve been content to attend events, try a few things, even try a few new things. But time constraints and Mundane obligations kept my participation desultory and at a kind of a low level enjoyment.

About two years ago, that changed. I found myself wanting to try to branch out and improve my skills, whether through learning how to compose music within the parameters of medieval and Renaissance composition, try writing poetry to the forms and structures of early stanzas, dive into theatrical performances, pick up a rapier, study Renaissance Germany, practice spinning fiber, and delving into the world of knitting really, really thin yarn on really, really skinny needles.

Actually, there’s not much that I won’t try out just once to see if it’s something I want to keep doing. On the other hand, I’m a writer, and frankly everything is research and fodder for future ideas.

I’m at the point where I want to start documenting and cataloguing, and making the information that I find available to others. Many gentlefolk in the SCA have made their studies and knowledge public, and I wish to try to offer the same. I don’t expect that I will update this on a specific schedule, but I will do my best to keep a record of what I’m up to in the SCA.

My plan is to use this blog to work through various projects, whether it be posting about making a pouch, trying the pre-literate stockings Chris Laning posted on Ravelry, making a fencing doublet, or adding articles to the annotated bibliographies. I’ll do my best to catalogue each post under its particular page, as well as tag each post with a particular category for easy searching.

I welcome comments, suggestions, feedback, etc., and if you would like to connect with me, you can shoot  me a note through the contact page. Welcome!

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.  — Albert Einstein

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