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A Few Hours At A Time

In, Press, Pull

By Kassandra CherryPublished 2 years ago 8 min read

I go set up at my recording booth, a quarter of the art room reserved for me, full of soundproofing foam and a cage of pvc pipe and grandmother’s quilts, because it has the best sound. I pull back the quilts to let in the light and plug in my web cam so my friends can actually see my face after such a long time apart.

We greet each other as we all filed into the call, chatting about our week recently and what exactly we were doing when we left off last time. Our characters had tracked a stolen artifact back to the lair of a group of insurgents looking to assassinate the Crown, so the her Highness personally asked us to guard their carriage on the way to a certain ceremony. She probably ended up regretting that a bit, after by Bardic Paladin pop-lock-and-dropped the enemy into position for our Warlock to shlorp them all up into the Hunger of Hadar so her patron could have a little snack. But then, Dnd is just a little chaotic like that.

In my lap is my current project, a fifteen pound, 13th century English dress made with upholstery fabric found for cheap in a garage sale and layered with a nice black linen on the inside to keep the rougher fabric from chafing me. The base is brown, interwoven with thick threads of red, green, blue, and gold, making something plain at first glance sumptuous on a closer look. The sleeves fall open past the shoulder, and I am hesitant to add the metal buttons burnished with the Tree of Life like I had planned. I’m not confident enough in my skills to keep from worrying about ruining the crushed green velvet I added to the inside, and it looks gorgeous already. The false sleeves underneath are a much airier cotton, yellow-gold printed with a period pattern with an anachronistic method. My costume director for the Faire okay’ed it, though, since it was such a small portion of the dress and easily hidden, which was honestly a relief. Two years overdue was two years too long.

This dress was meant to be finished for our local Medieval Faire before April, before the pandemic, along with many other projects that were half-way completed and left by the way-side. At the time, there was the depression of losing my pass-times and being isolated from my friends, but then there was also the grind of getting the work done so we could survive the times. It is only now that everything is relaxing and opening up again, and my friend decided to DM for a time instead of me, that I have the idle mental and hand time to put to the task.

All that was left to finish it was fifteen yards of trim for every inch of hem. Golden Celtic-knot dragons on brown the same as the dress, that would ring my collar, follow the fall of my sleeves, and trace the bottom of the heavy skirt and its four flowing gussets. Would it have saved time to machine sew the trim on? Certainly, but the layers of fabric were so thick and the embroidery in the trim so delicate that the force the machine would have had to use would have ruined the trim completely, when it could even pass under the foot.

So, when everyone’s ready and the game begins, I finish pinning the trim down and pick up my needle. In, press, pull – in, press, pull. Using my long nails as a thimble to push my thread through the upholstery, inch by inch, I tack the trim down. I get maybe a foot or two done by the end of the four or five hour game, but it is hard to measure. And once the bottom of the trim is secured, I do it all over again for the top of it. In, press, pull – in, press, pull.

By the time all fifteen feet of trim has been firmly sewn on, our character have murdered the despicable noble who kidnapped our Warrior’s fiancé to force her to marry him and stolen his title, rescued our Goblin Necromancer’s thought-to-be-dead brother and taken down the Elven Mafia that had captured him in the process, and installed our Aasimar Warlock as the princess of her country after recovering her memories of her past. A very productive few months, I have to say.

It’s all very worth it, to wear my finished dress to my first SCA event. What was meant to be a small local event for those who had vaccinated, sixty people expected in total, became a regional affair with over three hundred in attendance. It was hot, especially in a dress I designed to withstand the freezing Aprils our local Faire had suffered in the past few years, but not too bad. Everyone is all very excited to meet and chat, and I am just glad to note that I have full freedom of movement, and nothing tears or pinches throughout the day.

I didn’t win any awards for the dress, naturally, but it felt nice to fit in and have the immediate acceptance of everyone I met in the community. And it was nice to take an hour or two out to sit and finish out my friend’s cap while she was out on the field of combat, keeping my nervous hands busy. A simple blanket stitch to secure the cap to the brim – in, wrap the thread around the needle on the way out, pull, in, repeat. And when it was done we took it to an elder Valkyrie so she could attach a couple feathers to the side of it, piercing the quill before looping through the fabric and stitching it securely into place. The joy and pride she took to wearing that hat with was a lovely thing, and finally her outfit seemed to be complete.

Now I turn my attention to the other projects piled up in my closet. Namely, the fighting tunic I wanted to get done before Gulf Wars, so I could fight in the tourney and war games with the rest of my rapier fighting friends. It was my only regret at the SCA meet-up, that although my dress was finished, I couldn’t join my friends that I had come with on the practice field where they got to spar with the others outside of our local circle.

The fighting we do in the Society for Creative Anachronism isn’t like Olympic foil, where the duelists are trapped in a line, with their standardized foils and limited movements. We studied historic texts of how the rapier and other weapons were used in battle, and revived a living tradition that we pass down between dons and cadets. That also meant fighting in a round, rather than a line, and using off-hand weapons and guards – daggers, shields, cloaks, and the like. Of course we still use a face mask – no one wants to lose an eye – but to protect ourselves we also wear a metal gorget for our necks, tall leather boots and gloves, and puncture-resistant period clothes and hood that covered the rest of our body. A couple layers of linen is the most typical choice, but anything that could pass the drop-test – a 1/8th” pin dropped with 1.5 Joules of force – and didn’t contain plastics would do.

The friend I went with to the event is a stand-out sort. She made herself a hot-pink Italian doublet with a summer-yellow undershirt and poofy Italian pants in orange that tied just under the knee and sported nearly a hundred pleats. It’s out-there by design, so people would remember her, and functioned just as well to keep her safe besides.

My tunic, on the other hand, isn’t nearly so complex or eye-popping. It’s just a simple T-tunic, with one side brown with green trim and the other forest green with brown trim, meant to be reversible. I had long put the trim on each half of the tunic, so my only remaining problem was putting the two of them together.

My friend the DM had to have surgery, recently, and that meant no games for the near future. So, instead, I kipped myself at my desk in the living room and turned on Netflix. Again, I held my project in my lap as I flipped one tunic inside-out and started matching the hems together, while watching The Witcher slice and dice his way through his foes. I’ve only played the games to this point and not gotten to read the books so it was a little difficult to reconcile the start of the show with what I knew, but it was easier to sit through, and then became enjoyable, as I settled into the steady rhythm of in, press, pull. Again, I can’t use the machine, but this time it’s because I have two layers of hard, thick braided trim matched together on each side that I have to push through.

At least I don’t have to do fifteen yards of it this time.

There are a couple of other accessories I have half-finished to match with this tunic – a fighting hood and a bag with loops on the back so that it can fit on my belt that I have yet to buy. And there are also projects in mind that I’ve yet to start on – the breeches I’ll inevitably need since I can’t fight a tourney in jeans, and a gift that I will have to make the kind gentleman that is forging a new pommel for my rapier to correct its weight. It’s a little overwhelming to think of them all at once, as it is to think of all the work and household chores that need to get done over the course of a week or a month. So, I have to set them aside for a time and deal just with what’s in my lap at the moment, a few hours at a time.


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